A longtime Plains resident known as “Grizz” stopped by the office and like many proud grandfathers, he wanted to share the exciting news and stories of his two granddaughters who are in college; Sara and Abagail Stefanatos. Both girls are attending Manchester University. Sara is studying Peace Studies, while Abagail is studying History. Both women went on two very different educational trips within this past year. “Grizz” brought the articles written by his granddaughters and several photos with him to the Clark Fork Valley Press. We all believe the stories should be shared with our readers. — Douglas Wilks
By ABAGAIL STEFANATOS
Special to the Valley Press
This January I went to nine countries in 18 days. I went with the Manchester University as a student in religious Classics class. I started off in Vienna, Austria. My class was there during their Christmas holiday so it was pretty amazing to see all the lights hung up in January. I also went to the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Slovenia, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, and Italy. I think overall the most memorable part of the trip was all the wonderful people I met. In Sarajevo, Bosnia I only spent a day there but I got to see where Franz Ferdinand was killed, the tunnel that was built during the war in the 1990s, and I met a shop owner who makes all the pieces in his shop by hand. The people in this city are so happy even though everywhere you look there are still signs of war. Bullet holes are all over the buildings, and they told stories about their experiences with the war.
Venice was a beautiful city. My class took a boat over to this city and we learned how the main church was built from thievery. The columns and statues used for the church were all stolen and brought to Venice. It also took over 200 years to decorate the church. There are mosaics that look like frescos and 24-karat gold everywhere. My group went across the Bridge of Sighs and saw what would become the prisoner’s last views of the city. The cells that these people were held seemed large but had to hold 20 people. It would have been uncomfortable for any prisoner to live in. I went on a gondola ride and saw some of the famous sites all lit up at night.
My favorite city was Rome. I spent three days in this ageless city. I went to Ostia Antica, or the ancient city of Rome. One thing I learned throughout this trip is the places of worship were always kept up more than any other building, so they were usually the buildings that were still intact. The churches were amazing. Ostia Antica may be mainly fallen stone or only parts of buildings nut they all told a story. You could see where the bathhouses once were and the people of Rome still go outside to theatre to have shows. My second day I went to Vatican City and the Colosseum. The Colosseum was the place I had always wanted to visit. I am a History major so I learn about Rome and the Collosseum comes up in class. This was the place where the gladiators fought the lions. The tour guide told my class that at one time 100 animals could be released underneath the stage. The stage would be covered in sand to absorb all the blood. The Colosseum was built with gates at each arch and if you were not of high status and wanted to watch the gladiators fight then you would have to stand at the top all day long. At the Vatican there were paintings everywhere and I was the outside of the Pope’s official apartment. St. peter’s Basilica was a sight to see and I think the thing I learned about al the ancient cities I visited was that they treasured art in all forms. This showed in St. Peter’s Basilica. The statues and paintings of different biblical scenes were remarkable. I ended my trip by going to the catacombs in Rome. I had seen where 16 Popes were buried along with other people from the ancient city. The catacombs were known for a resting place for the dead but they also served as places of worship. There are still religious ceremonies done down in the catacombs to this day.
I enjoyed each moment of my trip. From the first plane ride, to the bus rides, I made many new friends and met incredible people. The trip was for school but I learned to appreciate every moment because the people in some cities had gone through wars and it makes a person remember how grateful he or she is to live in a peaceful country. I now can say I have travelled out of the country and that I have seen some of the sites that I had been dreaming of visiting since I first started learning about them in elementary school. I hope to go back to all these places someday, but I will always be thankful for the opportunity I had with my university.