Tuesday, March 05, 2013


Teenagers are supposed to go through a stage in which they exert their independence by rejecting societal norms. Or whatever. I think I skipped that one. During my NJC year, some of the students decided that all popular tourist attractions were overrated, and the best way to see a new city was to spend the day eating cheese in the park or discussing philosophy in some dingy back-alley cafe. I ate my fair share of cheese and participated in my fair share of philosophical discussions, and I even visited a dingy back-alley cafe or two, but not until I'd spent several quality hours admiring the Parthenon or the Colosseum or whatever the overrated attraction of the day happened to be.

Some of the kids had a particular thing against Churches. God was a fictional character, organised religion leads to war and strife, and didn't anyone realise that all this stuff is made up before they went and built such a big-arse place? That's what came out of one kid's mouth when he gazed up into St. Peter's Basilica.

I should note that most, if not all, of these kids have returned to Europe in the last ten years and posted photos of themselves on Facebook posing in all the usual tourist locations.

I have always figured that the best-loved tourist spots are probably famous for a reason. I like seeing in person the sights that I've only ever heard about or read about in books. Anyway, I never did get the rejecting societal norms thing. Going out of your way to do things differently from everyone else always seemed to me like a lot of work. Why not just do what you like, regardless of whether others do it too?

I embraced societal norms this weekend. I wandered about with a map in one hand and a camera around my neck. Among other places, I hit up Stephansdom. There were candles, big windows, and a shiny organ.

There were tourists, and there was much beauty. Afterwards, I prowled around the quieter backroads, and at lunchtime, I found myself in a small cafe. I didn't carry on any philosophical discussions, but I did engage in an intense internal debate over whether I was going to order the gulashsuppe or the club sandwich. Gulashsuppe won and is the new love of my life.

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