02 October 2005

a central clarity

anna was a big gigi fan. dennis, not so much, but he was her friend and told her he'd come down with her. today the two air force italians were leaving. it was a pleasure meeting them. both kicked and dennis' use of the word 'beautiful' kicked it the hardest.

having been to pompeii the day before, i was excited to visit the archaeological museum in naples where many of the authentic artifacts found during the excavation, including statues, mosaics, and household items had been moved. overall i wasn't incredibly impressed with the museum. like in rome i was seeking a central clarity which was not to be found.

posted by paul at Sun 02 Oct 2005 at 00:00:00 EST (-05:00) | comments (0)

01 October 2005

finally [] for myself


today i'd be traveling to pompeii, the ancient roman city buried by ash when vesuvius erupted in 79 ad, about half an hour away from naples. the hostel brochure recommended taking the sita company bus to pompeii. after a few wrong turns, i made it to the bus station around 1035 and bought a ticket for the 1100 bus (confirmed with the ticketing agent). 1100 comes... three buses are waiting to depart... none are going to pompeii. an australian family was waiting with me... the man approaches one of the bus drivers... 'no buses to pompeii. train.' hmm... that information seemed to conflict with the large bus schedules hung inside the station as well as the tickets that each of us held. finally we get an answer from another driver: '1130'. wait for half hour... 1130... again, no buses are going to pompeii. i let the australian deal with the drivers at 1100... my turn. i got on one of the buses sitting in the parking lot and started questioning the driver... when the language barried proved to be a problem, a sympathtic passenger who was listening to the (mostly one-sided) conversation approached the driver. the driver got out and consulted two other drivers... much discussion... finally the passenger tells me that the bus to pompeii leaves at 1200. i thanked him generously for his assistance. 1200... _finally_ the bus to pompeii.

pompeii is _much_ larger than i expected. truly city size. much of the city has yet to be excavated... this surprised me as well. still, so much work. rocks raised to provide crosswalks when the streets flooded as planned. public baths. two theatres. temples. an amphitheater. graffiti... the oldest yet. private gardens. frescos. mosaics. a bakery. presumbably wild dogs wandered the grounds aimlessly. plaster casts of bodies that had been buried by ash and then decayed, leaving hollow cavities.

i explored the city for five full hours, every minute captivating. all the while vesuvius loomed nearby. such an archaeological marvel. i first learned about pompeii when i was 11, sixth grade latin class. finally i'd seen it for myself.

posted by paul at Sat 01 Oct 2005 at 00:00:00 EST (-05:00) | comments (2)

30 September 2005

for blood and ash: killer

one stop remained on the european tour of blood: napoli, italia, home of my grandfather's family. for blood and pompeii, the roman city buried by volcanic ash when vesuvius erupted in 79 ad. for blood and ash: killer. they've all warned me about naples and as with other cities i've filed them all away in my head. given the number of warnings from reliable sources, i decided not to dismiss them entirely even though i believe that most victims are victims for a reason. i would take away those reasons. as the train neared the raining napoli warzone, i checked my equipment and reached into my bag, withdrew a tin of facepaint labeled 'don't fuck with me', and applied a generous portion.

i emerged calmly from the train station into the light rain and paused, a fierce piercing determination firing from my eyes as i scanned the area. the area didn't disappoint. cars and buses charged viciously on streets winding around a square littered with apparently abandoned construction equipment, horns screaming in a frightening frequency frenzy, restrained only by barriers and scrap pieces of metal strewn about in an almost random array of chaos. scooters threaded the larger vehicles in a furious abandon, seemingly unaffected by the obscuring rain. napoli's finest were patroling the sector; all aspects of the questionable were well represented waiting anxiously for someone to walk by with a victim sign taped to their back. and i was standing in the middle of it all acquiring satellites. i'd been fully briefed and the area didn't disappoint.

satellites acquired. the path led straight through the swirling crunching chaos. i knew this moment would come... the napoli street crossing. i'd been training for months... reading and rereading schematics manuals, running drills, spending countless hours in the simulator. but was i prepared? i rehearsed the plan in my mind one last time, summoned up the fire within, raised one foot into the air... and waited for an old lady to cross in front of me. bah! i did no such thing! i stepped right out into that raging traffic and walked deliberately across the street bringing the swirling crunching chaos to a complete screeching halt! [!POW!]

arrival in the hostel. the outer door was unlocked. inner door #1 was unlocked. elevator #1 didn't work. the doors opened, i got in... hit the appropriate button... no response. elevator #2: same thing. i doubted this was a coincidence; i obviously wasn't privy to the mystical secret of the elevators. surely no one actually climbs these stairs on a regular basis. up to floor seven (digression for american readers: the ground floor in european buildings is floor zero, not floor one; thus, to get to floor seven, i had to climb seven flights of stairs, not six like you american pansies). inner door #2 was locked. buzz, open.

let's just count those doors again... and this time let's pretend they were _all_ locked. okay...

1. outer door [dial in code, hostelguy says hello over the intercomm, you say hi, hostelguy buzzes the door open.]

2. walk across a courtyard to inner door #1 [dial in the same code, hostelguy says hello over the intercomm, you say 'uh, yeah, it's me again.', hostelguy buzzes the door open.]

walk up seven flights of stairs after failing to successfully operate both elevators.

3. inner door #2 [you ring a doorbell, this time hostelguy has no intercomm to question who is ringing and must assume it is the person who has rung the two previous times, buzzes the door open.]

okay... three locked doors just to get to the reception. certainly there is a reason for these security measures. i decided to add an extra detachment of recon troops to my private detail. so, where was i?... ah... inner door #2 is open... i enter...

hostelguy enrico greets me warmly. first impression: enrico is supercool and i mean the supercoolest. 'what's the secret to the elevator, enrico?' 'it's coin operated. you have to pay 5 cents to use it.' [slap my forehead] of course. over the course of my conversation with enrico i learn that i'm lucky to have found accomodation in naples tonight... apparently a famous italian singer, gigi d'allesio, is in town giving a free outdoor concert. i arrived right on time. i got the details and planned to hit the concert later that evening. enrico directed me to my room... one floor up behind another locked door. the buzzer for this door was on a small remote control that only worked when pointed upwards at a precise angle and waved wildly from side to side. [click].

during dinner at a restaurant recommended by enrico, a young girl, maybe 9 or 10, walked up to me as i sat at an outside table and started pawing the table and mumbling something in italian. i ignored her for about 15 seconds before the waiter came by and shooed her away.

it was around 1800 when i finished dinner... i wasn't exactly sure when the concert would be starting, but i decided to head over and hang until the music started. after a few wrong turns, i found the piazza and planted myself on the first barrier. it looked like about 500 people had already gathered by the stage. soundchecks finished, the sun set, and more people showed up as i droned away resting on the barrier. i had no clue who gigi d'allesio was or what her music sounded like, but apparently naples took her music seriously... free concert, giant stage, five video screens, giant sound system. this was a big production. more waiting... more people. 1800... 1900... 2000... 2100... hours passed until finally gigi d'allesio made her big entrance to giant applause and much screaming. it was at that moment that i realized that gigi d'allesio was in fact a man and his music was frightfully michael.bolton.ish. yikes. an italian michael bolton singing michael.bolton.ish songs in italian as girls screamed and cried. i turned around for the first time in a few hours and realized that the _entire_ piazza behind me was filled with people [avi video: 3.24 mb]. wow. i'd seen video footage of shows like this but had never attended one. _wow_. i stood there for about a half an hour [avi video: 2.62 mb] before i could no longer deal with gigi bolton and had to split... 'scusi... scusi...' pushing my way through the mob behind me until i finally made it out. wow. cruised back to the hostel and chilled for a few hours before heading to bed.

tomorrow: pompeii.

over the course of the day i saw three vehicular oddities: 01: a scooter driving on the wrong side of the road, horn blaring, the driver wearing an expression of pure annoyance at having to deal with the (bah!) conformists who actually obeyed the most basic of traffic rules. 02: a car driving backwards down the street for far longer than a car should be driving backwards down the street. and 03: my personal favorite: a scooter driver with a mobile phone duct taped to the inside of his helmet, positioned correctly over the ear and mouth to permit conversation as he sped through napoli traffic.

posted by paul at Fri 30 Sep 2005 at 00:00:00 EST (-05:00) | comments (1)

29 September 2005

built over the grave

my second and last full day in rome and i took a walking tour in a different country, the vatican city.

the 1000 tour began at 1100 after an hour of transport on city transportation. idaho chris. the bridge of knockoff gucci bags and angels. out of a dream, the shining st. peter's basilica, the rock of the catholic faith, rose out of the ordinary within the welcoming hug of bernini's columns. the queue moved quickly, the guards didn't care that the metal detector beeped when i walked through, and once inside, i stood in awe absorbing all of the wonders of this amazing architectural and artistic achievement. spectacular doesn't begin to describe the building; you must walk inside to understand. built over the grave of st. peter, containing an exhumed pope, michelangelo's pieta, and religious relics. the miracle police nearby.

into the vatican museum and finally to the sistine chapel. again, spectacular doesn't begin to describe it. no words could. the hidden skull.

lamborghini just isn't what it used to be.

later that night, back at the hostel, i met four others from boston and became a local hero when i configured someone's computer to connect to the lan and allow live broadcast of the red sox game in rome.

posted by paul at Thu 29 Sep 2005 at 00:00:00 EST (-05:00) | comments (0)

28 September 2005

for what was buried beneath


despite the onset of a sickness no doubt derived from several hostelites in krakow, in my thoughts i was fully charged, if not in my heavy head, exploding with excitement to explore roma, but also exploding with congestion, her heaped with history, mounds of it, the epicenter of latin which i've studied for years, the one perfect language. and i was here in this place that has only been pictures and stories to this point. and now i was in the picture and story, if only a shadow or a word. yes, me. i'd be in italy for eleven days, two of those in rome, far less than i would have liked, but as an american without a visa i'm permitted to stay within the schengen zone for 90 days every 180 days and i'd already been within for 69. the remaining 21 would be split between italy and the netherlands; i'd be meeting matt in amsterdam on 18 october 2005. i think i'm one of the few who knows and respects international law. 'really? no, i think we can stay as long as we want.' wrong.

so two days, i decided to take a walking tour. i wanted _knowledge_. breakfast of bread and hard boiled eggs, a few false starts and then batteries charged, i grabbed a map and was out for a few hours of walking before meeting at the circo massimo.

i do my best to enter a city with a blankness. no expectations, no disappointment. but this was the heart of the empire and i wanted things to be perfect. i wanted clean excavations and signs with explanations, paths and fences and labels and directions, a central clarity, a cleanness. in general, i wanted things _sorted_ _out_. so unrealistic the list of wants, i realize; that's not what i got at all. what i got was a living city filled with thousands of today people living on top of and under and in and on and around, and i pressed on searching in desperation for what was buried beneath. my first destination was the colloseum, a gasp when i saw it and i stopped right there, thousands of years. but walking through the forum area, i could not believe that the entire area wasn't fully excavated and cleaned and studied. it seemed like what had been started had not been finished and at that point i just could not accept any excuse. this was a treasure chest that was waiting to be opened... _right here_... they'd found it and not opened it... they'd only peaked just a little. a heavy sigh, i walked on in disbelief.

at 1400 i met the tour group in the circo massimo, years ago a giant chariot race track, then covered, then uncovered by mussolini. in a city such as rome, i would have given anything for a private tour with a true expert, three full days of walking and details; alas my budget didn't permit such a private tour. enter spring, tour guide from texas, a dual major in italian and theater; i'd have preferred latin and italian history. she related the history of various sites as we walked around and while the content was rich with names and dates and interesting facts, i didn't appreciate her delivery, more of a rehearsed memorized reading [click] than a person transferring what they've learned over years of study. i tried to unfocus on the delivery, waiting for something to jump on, and soon there it was. the modern day roman manhole cover... spqr. _s_enatus _p_opulus_q_ue _r_omanus... see it? more interesting facts came later and after four hours of spring's monologues i felt like i'd learned several new things. the mouth of truth [additional info], mussolini's balcony [older pic from 1944], the dome of the pantheon, open to the air. the most important of what i learned is forgiveness. i learned that modern and ancient rome are completely entangled. the only hope of ever completely retrieving the past is by relocating all of the today people and pumping billions of dollars into archaeology, a virtual impossibility which is really a shame.

all the while i wished i had brushed up on my latin before coming. in fact, i'd wished the same far earlier in my travels. the one perfect language was found throughout all of europe. once i'd been able to read books in latin; unfortunately over the past ten years most of what i'd learned of the language has left me, now barely able to translate a single sentence. i will find it again and the next time i won't lose it.

back at the hostel, i used my sysadmin skills and my ethernet cable (first use) to get my computer on the network. tomorrow, another walking tour, the vatican city.

posted by paul at Wed 28 Sep 2005 at 00:00:00 EST (-05:00) | comments (2)

27 September 2005

darkness or no darkness, the darkest

happy birthday brad!

checked out and was out on the street shortly before 1000. mieszko and his dad arrived in the car and we were off back to their apartment.

the breakfast was perfect... omelette, sausage, tomatoes, ham, bread. wow.

before the airport, one more stop... la fragola for warsaw's best gelato. i had lemon, strawberry, and cherry. gigantic flavor.

airport... checked in and said my goodbyes [thank you again!].

poland is one of my new trip highlights. the people were so friendly, the cities were beautiful, and the food was great. i'll definitely be coming back.

two hours from warsaw to rome. arrival in italia at ciampino. a little airport on the edges outside of the circle. bus to the metro and metro to termini; quite possibly the most dirty metro of my travels to this point [see video below], certainly the first in which spraypaint covered the majority of window space to create a tightness of enclosure, the air wet and heavy, i wanted out. now. finally termini, the usual rush for the door, them: god don't let the metro leave with me still on it, me: the anxious mob of children, i hung back and waited and then rushed myself to find the out. at last into the air. i surveyed the scene, acquired satellites, and after one wrong way, i was on track to the yellow hostel.

she didn't have change and seemed overwhelmed; 90 cents in 2 cent coins, blah, she shorted me. 'i gave you 100 euro.' she handed me 30. 'right... two more.' she handed me two more. [CRACK], baby. the elevator could fit two people, no more. i was one and a half with the pack and we had to squeeze in. fifth floor, i unstrapped and unpacked and locked it all away and then went downstairs to meet dave for dinner. in the back in the corner by ourselves we had delicious bruschetta and lasagna washed down with the reddest of wines. had i not been feeling less than myself i would have gone out to explore rome, darkness or no darkness, the darkest, i was _in rome_ and she was calling me, but i was drained and feeling weak, so finally to bed. the top bunk is always more difficult than the bottom and no storage. a hot night on the courtyard; i thought about fire options while falling asleep.

video of the rome metro [1.35 mb] far from the most painted.

posted by paul at Tue 27 Sep 2005 at 00:00:00 EST (-05:00) | comments (0)