Exploring Western Art in Paris, Amsterdam, and Berlin

Jun 27, 2018

by Alec Bigness '19
Edited for content and length

My Junior Journey to Paris, Amsterdam, and Berlin served a specific purpose – to see in person Western art masterpieces. I am so grateful I got to visit such a great lineup of cities. They surely did not disappoint! 

Ranging from the classical beauty of Paris to the tolerant charm of Berlin, each city possessed a distinct aura that I was more than happy to explore and soak in as a traveler. Apart from the cities themselves, the sheer amount of museums we visited was astounding. Having a class with Dr. Rich, we discussed great influential pieces from ancient art to contemporary works. To see the art in person that we had learned about created such a memorable experience, as our group was able to view a mélange of timeless artists like Manet, Monet, Da Vinci, Van Gogh, Picasso, Matisse – the list goes on and on. The impressive amount of museums scheduled was made easy to enjoy, as tickets were purchased and arranged beforehand. This made entering the museums streamlined and seamless, decreasing the stress as a visitor.

The famous Louvre Pyramid in front of the Louvre Museum.
The famous Louvre Pyramid in front of the Louvre Museum.

In Paris, we were was always met with a kind face wherever we traveled. It was a culture shock to see the amount of restaurants that would not serve tap water upon request, but we quickly adjusted by bringing a canister of water wherever we went. Overall, Paris and Amsterdam were great travel destinations. Berlin as a city felt more like home, boasting a younger scene that were creating interesting and tolerant destinations seemingly every night.

Each destination had a menagerie of food to be enjoyed, and it typically became better and more diverse the farther you moved out of the touristy areas. 

Group get-together and retrospective of the trip at a park near Museum Island in Berlin.
Group get-together and retrospective of the trip at a park near Museum Island in Berlin.

The three destinations all have their respective draw for tourism, but each should be visited to experience the culture and way of life. Any opportunity a person has to challenge their worldview should be taken immediately, and this trip was no exception. Not only were Paris, Amsterdam, and Berlin gorgeous and exciting to visit, they each had a culture and history that the natives held close to their hearts. To hear about the Berlin wall and the cold war during middle school was interesting, but to see and touch the wall that was still standing in the East Side gallery was a transcendent experience. I was able to see what a Western Berliner would have seen during the cold war wondering what lay on the other side. To understand this history and see present day Berlin and how unified the city is now was a living and breathing aspect of history.

Another reason to visit was of course the artwork. Almost all of the significant pieces of classical, baroque, and modern art were in Paris, along with some great contemporary art at the Pompidou center and Stedelijk museum. Berlin and Paris had amazing cuisine to offer, while the nightlife in Amsterdam and Berlin was exciting and interesting to visit from an outsider’s perspective. We did not just stay in the metropolises, as our group ventured out to Giverny and Versailles for a day trip. Seeing the luscious private garden of Monet compared to the grandiose and immense grounds of Louis the 14th was a great contrast.

Rijksmusuem, a Dutch national museum, in Amsterdam.
Rijksmusuem, a Dutch national museum, in Amsterdam.

Overall, my junior journey was a once in a lifetime experience and I am forever grateful for the opportunity to visit Europe for the first time. To be able to travel during college years is an amazing privilege, and it would not have been possible without the help of Florida Southern College. It is surreal to be recounting the events now sitting at home, because this trip had been on my mind throughout the whole year and was motivation to finish strong through last semester. I encourage whoever reads this to choose a Junior Journey that is right for them and sign up immediately because it will be an experience that most will never forget. It was truly a wonderful sequence of events and a fantastic way to kick off the summer.