I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve walked through a museum or saw a statute of someone or walked through some area I was told to in a guidebook, and really had no appreciation for it and didn’t see what was so important. You can learn a lot by visiting, and hopefully after visiting the place you’ll know more than you went in knowing. However, there is something rewarding about reading something in a book and then seeing it in real life.
The fact is that when you’re traveling, you’re going to be going to a lot of museums full of artifacts, artwork and other historical information. That’s the nature of travel. If you don’t know anything about what you’re looking at, you might want to ask yourself why bother going? Why bother paying $30 to go to the Tower of London if you don’t even know what it is? Catch my drift?
For example, everyone has heard of Picasso. I used to think he was a terrible artist. Especially since people would make comments like, “my kid could do a better job than that.” Usually, referring to some of his classic Cubism pieces, which were the only ones I had ever seen. While I looked through one of my art history books, I noticed a beautiful painting of someone on their deathbed and noticed the artist was Pablo Picasso. I thought, “Wow. I didn’t know he could paint that well.” Honestly, I really had no idea how good he was. We visited the Picasso museum in Barcelona and it’s set up to go in chronological order from his oldest art to the newest. This man dabbled in practically every different type of art movement he was alive for. He started as a well-trained classic artist, painting church scenes and social scenes. As he got older, he basically moved around and tried different art techniques and movements of the day. So you’ll see that he dabbled with realism and impressionism. There were portraits, sculptures, sketches of street scenes in Paris, and of course his classic Cubism.
If I didn’t know that he at least had some other artwork, I probably would have passed on the museum because “he was such a bad artist.” And yet, to this day, that’s one of my favorite art museums I’ve ever visited. Seeing the artist from beginning to end and all the different types he did, was really impressive.
Make sure to actually read through some of your guidebooks for interesting facts and tidbits. I like to scroll through a town and just gaze at stuff, but having some information (whether it’s historical or simple statistics) can help enrich your experience.
Take for example this door that was in our guidebooks. Sure, you could wander around and find and wonder about it. However, in the book it talked about how this door bears a striking resemblance to a little place called the Shire. Indeed, many people believe that J. R. R. Tolkien found some of his inspiration for aspects of his Lord of the Rings stories from the small Cotswolds town of Moreton-in-Marsh.
You don’t have to know everything about a place, but some historical information and facts can enrich your experience. Instead of mindlessly looking at paintings and sculptures or buildings, consider doing a little light reading so you can actually know what you’re looking at.
Do you read up on the place you’re going? Did you learn something before you went that you never knew before, that actually made you excited to see it in real life?