Wednesday, June 06, 2007

A story from Boston...

I've been in Boston already a couple of times and I find it to be a very nice city with many stories to tell... one of these it's about Harvard!

Harvard University is in Cambridge, just a few stops away, on the Red subway line, from Boston Downtown, across Charles River.

When you walk out from the subway, you can see a very active square, full of tourists, students, researchers and just interesting people (see the picture below).

Then you walk into the very peaceful Parks of Harvard University, with many student dorms (architecturally nicer than the ones I'm used to see in Canada, Switzerland and complitely another World if compared to the ones I've seen in Slovakia and Croatia), and a huge library donated by the Mom of a Harvard student in the name of his son, who died in the Titanic in 1912.

In the middle of the Park, you can see Mr. Harvard's statue. You will recognize it because the statue is always surrounded by people taking pictures of it, taking pictures with it and touching the statue's foot (a bit like the Bull statue close to Wall St. in NY, always surrounded by tourists). Up to now, this is not very original, in every University around the World you will find statues representing the founders of this or that institute or school. Bur Mr. Harvard's statue is different.

Students (and tourist) usually touch Mr. Harvard's foot because this is supposed to help people to get their degree faster. As you can see, even in the middle of science and highly educated people, superstition still exists (or at least the "I don't believe, but let's do it just in case" attitude) :). This part of the story is still not something very original. Many universities have this type of tradition/superstition. An example is Pavia (where I was in April and where Dina, my little cousin studies to be a Doctor). Dina told me that, if you want to get your degree, you have never to look to Minerva's statue eyes (which is a huge statue in the middle of this academic town).

There is still something special about Mr. Harvard's statue... something that just the people who read their travel book know (rather than just looking at the pictures): Harvard's statue is not Harvard's statue. Let me explain:

Harvard's statues is known to be the three-lies statue: While under the statue is written "John Harvard, Founder, 1638". In reality:
  1. The statue is not modeled after John Harvard (there was no picture of him, so they used a model)
  2. Mr. Harvard did not found the university,
  3. The founding was in 1636 and not in 1938

This is one of the many stories from the city of Boston, (well, actually Cambridge, MA).



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