If you have an imagination that takes you from Ireland to the Italian Riviera, but a budget that doesn't stretch past Marblehead, don't despair. With careful research and lots of discount forms, you can summer in Europe at a minimal cost.
The most important thing to remember when searching for a cheap continental adventure is that you are a student. Eighteen-. 19- and 20-year-olds may be legally deprived of some privileges here, but their student status entitles them to travel at a cheaper rate to places where the wine flows freely.
The best bargain available is the International Student Identification Card(ISIC). For a vending-machine size photo, documented proof of your student status, and a six-dollar application fee, you get automatic travel insurance overseas, reduced prices on intra-European student travel, and special discounts on various tours and accommodations. You can pick one up at the Harvard Student Agencies(HSA) office in the basement of Thayer-B, or by writing to Council on International Educational Exchange, 205 East 42nd St., New York, N.Y. 10017.
Now that you're all geared up, don't let rumors of unreasonable airfares deter you. A round trip to England costs only a few dollars more than a jaunt to Chicago and back. But to take advantage of bargain prices, you must go when the airline says you can. Most cheap flights are standby; you get bumped when they fill up a flight with regular paying customers.
Once you get to Europe, you'll find that although the quality of youth hostels varies from city to city, they provide a thrifty alternative to hotels. Most places require International Youth Hostel Federation (IYHF) cards. One can be yours, for the price of $14. Write to: American Youth Hostels, Delaplane, Va. 22025.
Biking the French countryside is exhilarating, but you can also get revulsion and horror so that the viewer gradually lost his sensitivity to death.
"Was ist das? Was ist das?" The guard hunched over the sculptures, his hands on his knees, neck twisted to look at me. His eyes were full of amazement and disbelief. Even the gallery guards in Munich are consumed by the city's art. Munich produces little that is really new, but its citizens revel in what they have and overwhelm visitors with their enthusiasm.
In Florence, the Medicis left enough chapels, monuments and cathedrals to occupy and student of architecture for many weeks. Every day you can drive past Michelangelo's David on your way into the central square. The Basilica of Saint Lorenzo, so unreal in its beauty, stands nearby like a giant gingerbread house.
The Florentine schools of art today open their doors only to year-round students; there are not summer courses or lectures. Only the most talented Italian students can win a place in these academies, although any foreign student able to pay full tuition may attend.
In any case, the vast stores of Renaissance paintings in this city, defy casual study. The Uffizi Gallery contains one of Italy's largest collections of 14th and 15th century works--Botticini, Perugino Girlandaio, Albartonelli, Lippi, Uccello, and Roselli. No one hurries in the Uffizi, and some stand before a single painting, such as Botticelli's Pallade a il Centauro, for hours. Pallade, golden-haired and crowned with ivy, holds a centaur by the hair. She looks at his face with vivid sorrow; he hangs his head dolefully, mourning his entrapment with the lovely, longing adolescent.
Tourists flock to the Italian galleries, but they don't seem to get crowded. The religious subjects inspire silence. There is little alternative to the countless Madonnas, Annunciations, and Saint Sebastians; those with a low tolerance for Renaissance art may lose patience quickly in Florence.
Some exhibitions of foreign artists, mostly French and American, come to Florence. Last summer there were shows with the works of Chagall, Matisse, and Cezanne. But these painters don't seem to inspire originality in today's Florentine artists. Down on the Ponte Vecchio, an old open-air bridge, students, writers, and artists meet and converse. City toughs also show up, and nearly everyone sells drugs. Marijuana smoke hangs in the air above those who paint, draw, take photographs, read, or do nothing but watch the river. No one seems busy: after a while it will irritate an American. There is so much to learn from the past in Florence, but those of the present do little to help you uncover it during a short stay.
Brussels is a boring place to study art. It is boring in general. Each night tourists assemble in the Grand Place to watch a light show projected onto the magnificent 15th-century buildings that once housed the craft and trade guilds, as a sound track hums from loud speakers.
The Hotel de Ville houses some Flemish masterpieces by Van Orly and Janssens, but not enough to fill more than a day, and the overseers emphasize guided tours, discouraging lingerers. There is also a museum of modern art. Many inhabitants of the city consider its pride to be a statue of a young boy urinating on some ducks. It spouts real water. People buy thousands of plastic replicas and bring them home.
Paris remains the art capital of the modern world. Any week of the year you can choose from more than 100 museums, galleries, and exhibitions. The city abounds with talented artists, devoting their time to painting and sculpture. Galleries take chances with unknowns, although there are so many artists that it is still difficult to get a showing. Those still developing pack the art schools, including the famous Ecole des Beaux Arts and the Ecole de Louvre. The Ecole du Louvre, housed in the spacious museum along the Seine, even offers short summer sessions to the public for about $25 (all classes are conducted entirely in French).
After four-hour lectures every morning, students can spend the afternoon studying the monuments.