Category Archives: Travel Journal

My Introduction to the Eternal City

The second I ascended the metro (subway) stairs into the busy Roman morning, I knew right away this was a city I would get lost in. And, in time, I realized that it was the perfect city to get lost in.

Around every corner, history, culture, color, life, and the very spirit of humanity itself, simply leaps out towards you and calls you to a undivided chorus of curiosity,  amazement, and joy. It is simply unfathomable that this city continues to breathe with the art and stone laid by Romulus and Remus themselves. The Eternal City serves not only as a tribute to the Romans, but seems to welcome every corner of the earth beneath its architectural and cultural canopy.

We in the west especially are specially indebted to this city that ‘saved’ us through the years from vandal, savage, and ignorance. Imagining the scientific, philosophical, and architectural genius  cultivated in its bosom over the years, we can almost picture Leo the Great in 452 AD imploring the powerful Attila the Hun to leave its unparalleled patrimony in peace.  The innumerable museums, churches, and art call us to contemplate the world outside ourselves and our present yearnings for self, demonstrating and reminding us that it is through our collective and cooperative pursuits that we gain immortality.

The city is simply a witness to beauty. Its cobbled and narrow streets burst with treasures ancient and modern. Electric trams and mopeds ring their bells while whizzing along streets paved long before Benjamin Franklin ever dreamt of sunlight. Children play marbles under trees; the same trees giving shade to an archeological dig where their fathers immemorial might have played with glass first made larger than beads.

Using elements as ubiquitous and primal as water, the venerated Bernini, among others,  works the marvelous gift that is baroque architecture into our hearts. (The featured photo for this page displays Bernini’s Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi with the glorious facade of the church of Sant’Agnese). Egyptian obelisks point majestically heavenward from rooftops and fountains, perhaps in an attempt to remind visitors of the city’s spiritual heritage. Crowned with the Christian cross, they serve as signs to the city’s papal guardians and benefactors, whose successors, the last of Europe’s absolute monarchs, sit on sovereign territory just a few feet away from my hostel window.

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To Rome! Vienna and Harry Potter

vienna to rome

I’d bet that this map, with its pretty little line and two city dots, looks like an entirely straight forward intra-European excursion. Maybe it  has you thinking it’s the route I took to get to Rome from my Viennese odyssey. Maybe you’re wondering why in the world I need to show you a map when everybody has Google?  Well, you’d be wrong the first two points because, although this map  presents a wonderful vision of our teleportation-beam-filled futures, it is nowhere near representative of a straightforward trek, nor is it the one I took. You’ll notice it involves four countries and crosses a body of water. Talk complex! If I’m not staying in your country for at least one day, I really don’t want to see all the marvelous sites without being able to touch, smell, or hear. Hmmph!

So, Rome through Milan it was. Why not some shorter route, you ask? Well, I think it was definitely a conspiracy to ruin my travel-high because my night train fiasco was hell on wheels. No, quite literally, everyone in my couchette almost died from either the abominable heat and  air deprivation! Of all the couchettes, my couchette was without working vents and was filled to maximum capacity. Well, my clean, lonely, well-ventilated  Budapest-Vienna  journey had spoiled me perfectly rotten and I was going to enter into the dreaded American-tourist-fuss-making mood. Then I realized there wasn’t anyone could do about that lone carriage that had sat in the sun all for a thousand years and chose to drown me in  a pool of sweat and insomnia. Everyone else was making the best of the situation and stood near the windows at intervals, so I eventually just did the same.

There was a bright side to this story though. I can’t prove I was there, and I can’t exactly pinpoint where “there” was, but believe me when I tell you, my train was flying hundreds of miles above the most beautiful valleys I have ever seen! Oh yeah, I should mention that by “flying,” I meant whizzing over stretches of train track laid across bridges that criss-crossed through openings in the mountainside. And…these bridges were supported by columns. Okay, I confess, I wasn’t actually flying, but it sure felt like it. I felt like Harry Potter on his way to Hogwarts for the first time. And like some muggle-obscuring spell,  I couldn’t get one steady shot as the lighting was never quite right and the train bolted along so fast, everything blurred.

Leaving the station in vienna
Leaving the station in vienna
Austrian Hillside
Austrian Hillside
Austrian Hillside
Austrian Hillside

Glenfinnan Viaduct, well known for Harry Potter fans, Highlands, Scotland (by loose_grip).
Glenfinnan Viaduct, well known for Harry Potter fans, Highlands, Scotland (by loose_grip).

“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that.” – Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone