By Yihan Huang
From the end of October to early November, we started our fieldtrip in Brussel. Apart from Belgium, we added Switzerland and Holland into our trip, therefore we got a chance to experience three European capitals. I would love to use short phrases to describe my whole, intuitive impressions of Geneva, Brussel and Amsterdam: Geneva is more like an international community, Brussels seems to be an unimaginable “separated-mixture”, while Amsterdam produces a lively, pleasant atmosphere – you can easily feel the happiness from the smiles on people’s face.
1. International Community, Geneva
Compared to Zurich, Geneva looked friendlier. To support tourism and encourage immigration, the government of Geneva asked all the hotels to provide a two-day public transportation travel pass to their customers. After lunch, we planned to go to the Red Cross Museum, but when we got off from the tram, walked in a path covering with yellow ginkgo leaves, we were unexpectedly attracted by the poster of Ariana Museum.
Ariana Museum has a pretty rich collection of European ceramics and ceramic portraits from the Middle Age to modern times – over 18,000 pieces work. We used to think that ceramic is the “patent” of China or Asia, but this time we learned the dramatic art of Europe. Interestingly, we were just in time for the Japanese culture exhibition in this museum, so we not only saw the treasures of Europe but also had a glimpse of Japanese traditional paintings, clothing and the tea ceremony. Japanese staff dressed in Kimono or Samurai, speaking fluent English, enthusiastically explained the items on display to visitors. Two types of culture – western and eastern one, historical and contemporary one, cleverly existing in the same space then reached a harmony, which to some extent presents the spirit of Geneva – Inclusive, generous and open-minded.
Yes, that was the most significant temperament of Geneva. Here on the street you would always find people of different accents, ethnics, countries and races. The “international elements” could be dated to Religion Reformation – When Calvin implemented protestant, Geneva became a refuge to those who were persecuted because of being against the old regime. Today, Geneva still remains the location of many international organizations. In this sense, the respect for diversity is deeply rooted in the history of Geneva society.
2. Separated Mixture, Brussels
Three days in Brussels were fully filled with intense schedule: The council of European Union, the European Parliament, the European Commission, European Journalism Center, etc. All the speakers had offered remarkable speeches and showed us what the institutions are, who work there and how they have been working. Nowadays, the boundaries among different forms of media have become increasingly blurred, all media could get their own channels and directly hit their audience on the Internet. For EU, it’s important to intervene the process of media production if they want to build a long-term relationship with the media.
However, I was mostly impressed by the German Speaking Community, as Alexander Homann expressed a mixed Belgium to us. There are two languages speaking in Belgium, and the French speaking part and the Dutch speaking part are just like two disconnected countries. They both have their own education system and their own ways to illustrate the history and the culture, which leads to the result that they seldom communicate. They don’t learn each other’s language, instead they choose Italian or Spanish as their second language. At this point, Belgium indeed differs from Switzerland – Though Switzerland has four official languages, the Swiss usually speak more than two languages. Concerning the media system, the evening news at 7:00 is broadcasted in Dutch and at 7:30 there would be a French version. There is no bilingual media all over the country because there is no market for that; meanwhile, the front pages of French speaking media and Dutch speaking media don’t deal with the same topics. “News is the first draft of history”, what happens in Belgium today will definitely reflect on the future. I am really curious how Belgium think of this phenomenon.
By the way, we bumped into Brussels strike during our stay there. Public transportation was completely paralyzed and we had to walk for an hour to arrive at the meeting point on time. One of my friend said when he was in the train station, he was shocked by the workers – they threw firecrackers and stones at his feet, some even burnt the cars aside. The next day, I read the information from the website, reporting the violence in the protest demonstration and I was thinking that if this had something to do with the lack of communication caused by language barrier. In a word, Brussels performed as a “separated mixture” to me.
3. Pleasant Kingdom, Amsterdam
In the Kingdom of Netherland, bicycles and parking lots for bicycles were almost everywhere. Families rode bicycles going across the roads on weekends, breathing the fresh air and enjoying the sunshine. Even in busy Amsterdam, people would slow down their pace.
Zaanse Schans and Van Gogh Museum were my favorite places in/near Amsterdam. In my opinion, both of them represented a pleasant life style. We took pictures with the windmill, the amazing clogs and the big cheese and had great fun in the countryside scenery. The pure nature was exactly what Van Gogh truly loved – he used to live deeply in the country and painted a peasant life. He focused on the life linked to the circle of sowing and harvesting, of life and death, trying to get closer to the essence of life and the peace of mind. I spent the whole afternoon in Van Gogh Museum, immersed in the gorgeous, complementary colors, and listened to all the letters about the impassioned Van Gogh. Like he wrote in a letter to his brother Theo, “looking at the painting should rest the mind, or rather, the imagination”, the most touching part of Holland lay in this kind of quiet, cozy environment.
Although the whole journey was a little bit tiring, it was rewarding in general. In December, we intend to visit Vienna as a fieldtrip and I’m ready to discover the uniqueness of the capital of Austria. Will it be fantastic? Let’s look forward.