DATE: 9:45:00 PM
We stop this pleasant programme, reading about my travels in god forsaken places, to bring you this special announcement about the author of these writings to be very pissed off about the state of history teaching in the USA!
I have a younger brother, high school age, and he showed me his History class lecture. If you don't know by now, I am very much interedted in Global History and the idea of the interconnection of civilisations. It is a proven fact that the course of the development of "Western" civilisation, as we were taught, was rather one sided and certainly very "Eurocentric". The 19th and 20th centuries patterns that the "civilisation" was nurtured in Greece, then went to Rome, and from there to Western Europe and the "Modern" world is obviously very short sighted. We now read the books that people like St. Thomas of Aquinas, Diederius Erasmus, and Baroch Espinoza wrote, and we know that they mentioned Averroes, Avicenna, and Farabi even more often that they mentioned Aristotle and Plato. We know that early publishing houses of Genoa and Venice published several editions of the books by the above mentioned philosophers, as well as scientists and mechanics such as Biruni, Ibn Haytham, Al Rhazes, and so many more. We know that the sum of the knowledge of Greece, Iran, Egypt, and India was absorbed by many scholars in West Asia, North Africa, and Spain, and it was transmitted to Renaissance European scholars.
Then, when I see that in a high school history book, the basis of a child's knowledge of history, the author expresses, and the teacher repeats, that Renaissance Italians learnt about the wisdom of Ancient Greeks from the Byzantines and that knowledge made the basis for the Enlightenment, without any mention of those I counted above and many like them, I get pissed. Not because I am a narrow minded regionalist, not becuase I want "glory" for my "culuture" (which one?), not because I am a hard-core Muslim (!!!), not because I think everything came from Iran, not because I am revisionist (what revision, read Erasmus yourselves!), but seriously because that is how it happened, and I am afraid that my brother is going to learn a one-sided, limited version of history, and he is going to have to repeat it in college, and he is going to not like it (history is boring!), because I don't like clash of civilisations (only one civilisation, and no clash!). We update our knowledge of electronics, computer science, biology, medicine, and almost everything else, why do we insist on reading a version of history that is itself history?
DATE: 2:45:00 PM
Back in the USA
No, not Paul McCartney style, just like myself. I got back to the US last night and I was glad to be able to sleep in my own bed again, although I miss my girlfriend, Europe, and everything else. I really hope I can find a job there and go back. We shall see!
I am sorry to have delayed the travel diary, but here we go again, Finnland this time. But first the ferry from Stockholm to Helsinki. By the way, you need to change the encoding of your browser to "Western European" to be able to read all the extra letters I am using for Swedish and Finnish.
Well, the ferry was great. In my opinion, it was one of the best parts of the journey. We started about 4 o'clock in the afternoon with a Viking Line ferry (a Finnish company, smaller than Silja Line, but cheaper). Finding the room was very easy: a small room with two beds, a bathroom, and a radio, but no windows (we were in the lower deck). It was great though, very comfortable and enjoyable. I don't suggest spending much time on more expensive cabins, since you are going to end up outside in the common areas most of the time anyway, so there is no need for a sea side cabin really.
We spent a good deal of afternoon on the upper deck, watching the Stockholm Archipelago as we sailed by. I would say if you want to see one thing in your life, it should be this Archipelago. I am not sure how to describe it, since it is impossible. I took some pictures, but it is simply stunning, that's all! Palaces, little houses, people enjoying their afternoon, and the beautiful sight of the iselands certainly made the whole trip worthwhile.
After dark, we went to our cabin, changed, and went up to eat something. Usually the ferry restaurants are rather expensive, but since we were not planning to spend much time or money in what others did (tax free shopping, drinking in the bars and clubs, etc.) we thought we ough it to ourselves to have a good dinner. There were several restaurants with mainly fish menues, and a barbecue place, as well as a buffet. We chose the barbecue and I think it was a nice choice! The rest of the night was spent walking around, looking at some of the performences, and then in the cabin. In the morning, we went to the buffet and had a grand breakfast, before heading down to the cabin to collect our bags and get ready for Helsinki.
Helsinki is a nice city, obviously on a fast pace to become modern, but still showing signs of old and antiquated things such as some street cars, untouristic neighbourhoods, and other things. The central area and the shopping streets are great and full. It is much smaller than Stockholm, but has a certain charm of its own. The Lutheran Church and the Senate Square are a great scene, as well as the Swedish Theater and the Orthodox Church. We spent the first day seeing things in the centre of the city, and then went off to see a friend of my girlfriend in the evening. It was a nice meeting during which we had some real Finnish dishes. But the most interesting part of the night was our efforts to find another old friend, and when we found her, we decided to see the famnous fortress of Helsinki (Suomenllinna or Sveaborg) with them in the following day. That place deserves another seperate entry!