Those of you from the West likely did not experience the joys of Epcot as a child. What kind of parent would take you all the way to Florida when there was a perfectly good Disneyland over in California. Well, let me tell you, there is a difference. As an East Coaster, Epcot was always an integral part of any Disney World (not Land) trip despite the strong yearning for the fun rides of the Magic Kingdom instead of the highly educational so-called 'rides' such as the Innoventions Pavilion (yes, they make up new words, this is not a typo) or the National Treasures show featuring many dead Presidents lecturing about America's past. Not exactly what a child's vacation dreams are made of. However, I can't be too harsh with Epcot, as I always loved the country pavilions. Even at a very young age the travel bug was in me. However, not all country pavilions were created equal and it was generally agreed upon in the oh, I would say, 4th grade, that Mexico and Norway were the best, as they had the coolest rides. No, make that the fact they had rides at all. Sure it's fun to walk around a fake bazaar in little Morocco, or the streets of some Bavarian village, but a ride was gold. And no, I did not brainwash all my friends into agreeing upon Norway...they have a great ride, full of trolls and fierce storms at sea.
Well, children of the West, you don't need to journey back east to experience Epcot...I found out last weekend that Salt Lake has their very own little Epcot-esque park, the International Peace Gardens. Even though it was over 90 degrees, I ventured out to this park last weekend... all for the sake of your entertainment, and maybe a bit of my own too.
The International Peace Gardens are nestled next to the Jordan River in the Jordan Park, and very well maintained. The Gardens opened in 1947 by a hopeful group of women, the Salt Lake Council of Women. They installed a plaque which reads: "America bids the world to be done with the instruments of war and in the spirit of these gardens to cultivate the arts of peace." It was a time a great optimism, we can't blame them for that. So basically, they wanted to create a lovely garden that would bring together the countries of the world...at least those countries that happened to have at least one immigrant in Utah. So these women poked around the state and found as many local immigrants as possible, and asked them to design some sort of pavilion embodying their culture. These women were obviously warm-hearted...even offering the Germans and Japanese their own pavilions. They were serious about being done with war and apparently any bad feelings about the war too.
So I thought we could take a quick tour and I could point out my very favorite pavilions.
Enter...and instead of Mickey, you have this lovely lady greeting you...likely the head Councilwoman....or is it just 'peace'? Probably the head Councilwoman posing as 'peace'.
And of course there are many predictable pavilions, such as China:
But wait, I don't remember seeing onion domes featured in Japanese design...
India: (doesn't look much like Ben Kingsley though)
Anyway, Asia, you did a great job at creating pleasant and fairly accurate visions of your countries. Africa, I guess there were relatively few immigrants from your fair continent in those days, so the women decided to just give you one area all together. You all get along pretty well and the cultures are all pretty much the same right?
However, I must say Europe takes the cake in my view. Europe, you went all out. And who can't love the perfect replica of the Eiffel Tower...Gustave, this must make you proud.
Actually, I think the bench seating one is meant to use when contemplating the tower is actually much for French than the tower....
If I just sit on the bench and not look at the piddly tower, I might just be able to feel a bit French.
And Wales...isn't that the Guinness logo? Oh, no, that's right, the Guinness symbol faces the other way...this is the Irish national symbol, sorry. But I guess there's not much difference, right? And by the way, Pavilion is often meant to be more than one item.
Switzerland, you certainly pulled out the big guns...I guess in the 1940's there was a bit more money to go around than most of the other European nations. Sorry, lets not talk about the war. I must say this was one of my favorites. The Matterhorn in some sort of odd material that was likely once strikingly white! And the lovely Swiss chalet below....all to scale, well, better scale than the Eiffel Tower, but probably not quite accurate...
But one country and one coutry alone pulled out all the stops. Italy. What is there to say? Really, what?
Is this Italian dirt? An Italian sand box? Contemporary art perhaps? Are you being funny? Mocking the gardens? For a country so rich in culture, well, I actually was not disappointed. I loved the Italy 'pavilion' and it brought back fond memories of the EU Czech-commissioned sculpture by David Cerny displayed in Brussels last year. So, I must show you just a bit of it.
Did anyone get a chance to see this is person? I would have loved to, but I think many of the sculptures spent their life covered in black cloth to prevent any more insult to national pride. So, now for the back-story. When the Czechs gained the EU presidency last year, the president commissioned a Czech artist to create a sculpture to commemorate the event. Cerny put forth a proposal where 27 artists each from one of the EU nations would create a piece of artwork that would epitomize their country's culture. Sounds pretty similar to the Peace Gardens, huh? Anyway, the whole thing was a hoax/standard contemporary art of sorts...Cerny had no intention of hiring other artists. He instead, simply did all the works himself. And every work just plain mocked the particular country. And then he hung them all in a very public EU building. There was so outrage, disdain, anger, and some threats. Its understandable. While I find the whole thing rather amusing, I have the benefit of not having my country mocked. Norway has yet to have any interest in joining the mess that is called the EU. But Cerny was just having fun and being a contemporary artist...no need for death threats...
A quick taste:
Romania, Dracula's theme park:
France, on strike, no art today:
Bulgaria, the Turkish toilet (OK, so this is pretty offensive):
The Netherlands, underwater, only things left are the Islamic minarets:
And Spain, covered in concrete and scaffolding:
And what did Cerny come up with for Italy? Not dirt. Just football:
Alas, I was unable to see the above works, so I must content myself with the Salt Lake Peace Gardens. Have any of you locals had a chance to visit? I highly recommend it! See you next week!