Tuesday, 6 October 2009
Home again, home again
I am back home. Goodness me, it is a long journey. Having discovered that our flight was continuing to Christchurch, New Zealand, it became evident that there are people who live even further away from their destination than I do, and thus I felt quite sympathetic towards them.
It is good to be home. The reunion with Dr P has been very loving and pleasant and it is good to be able to tell him all about the trip. He missed me a lot. His family cared for him well, and apparently his grandson ate huge bowls of pasta with Bolognese sauce every night. Nothing else. (Sometimes I think boys are very strange.)
On the first flight out of Milan I was next to a man who lay down and slept for most of the flight, and snored very loudly the whole time. I felt like having a loud and hysterical tantrum, but my convent upbringing would not let me, so I had to lie there and just fume silently, as I envied him his remarkable capacity for sleep. I managed only about 4 or 5 hours for the entire journey, and last night woke after five hours. Obviously I am typing this while deeply asleep, but I am shortly going to bed, and hope that tomorrow morning I will have recovered from the admittedly fairly mild case of jet lag.
Somehow I imagined that on my return I could sit about idly and gather my forces, but of course life is not like that. My initial idea that we would go out for dinner faded as I realised it was a public holiday and that really fresh food might not be available. So I thawed some pea and ham soup and cooked some croutons and we feasted on that. Today I had to clean the refrigerator (yuk) and then go out and shop, and then lug it all inside.This was a relatively easy task, as I have been lugging my heavy suitcase up and down stairs on stations, and on and off several high steps on the various trains, so obviously this stood me in good stead for every day activities. Sometimes, as we did our little old ladies' act, a strong and helpful male would help and we were always most grateful. But why do so many stations not have lifts?
Our last stay was the Citta Alta of Bergamo, a most beautiful spot with stunningly beautiful buildings and a fascinating history. We walked all around it and came away with much information about its history, especially in the post-Napoleonic period when it became part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, and the political repression was extremely severe. A nice new law was introduced for crimes such as having a weapon, and people could be arrested, tried, convicted and executed within several hours. Horrific!
I took what probably amounts to a thousand photos in this city. On our last day we visited the Donizetti museum, and bought a ticket which gave us entry to several other places, including the large campanile (Campanone). When we turned up there, the lift was out of order, and it was still out of order the next time we tried. Thus, when we set out on our final ramble, I left my camera in the hotel, and having found that the lift was finally working, went up, climbed another 45 stairs and stepped into the most stunningly beautiful view, and there I was with no camera. Generally I take lots of photos of bell towers, for the edification of my friend the bell-ringer, but she is missing out on a photo of the Campanone's huge main bell.
We did visit the Citta Bassa, but did not manage to see much, and when we arrived at the Contemporary art Gallery, found that it was Art of a highly self-indulgent and pretentious kind. So we walked to the funiculare, leaving any other offerings to themselves.
We climbed the Rocca, from which the views were almost as spectacular, and followed an exceedingly suspicious cat around its walls. Bergamo seems always to be shrouded in mist, which never lifted.
Although we arrived in Rome, we departed from Milan, and so took the train to Milano Centrale Station, which has lifts (halleliua), and moving walkways, toilets, and a Left Luggage department. We deposited our luggage there, and then braved the Metro. We got out at Duomo, a trip which took a whole five minutes, and the doors opened and closed at every station in 12 seconds. We emerged from the Metro to see rise before us the most achingly beautiful building imaginable, the Duomo, which has been cleaned since I first saw it with my sister years ago, and it is light and pale and seems to be about to float away. Notwithstanding being searched on entry and reminded that no photos or filming were permitted in the interior, most people evidently think that such restrictions could not possibly apply to themselves, and so cameras were constantly flashing.
I must here engage in some cultural relativism. In Asia everyone takes off their shoes before entering a temple and women know not to try and shake a monk's hand (all these contaminating females!) and in mosques evidently sensitivity, courtesy and decorum govern behaviour. Why, then, do people feel it is acceptable to disturb Christian religious services, to pose for photos in churches, to take photos and video despite the prohibitions, eat and drink, and to kiss and fondle as well? It made me very cross: I feel we should respect our own history, culture and traditions. And other cultures should respect each other.
All in all, we had a wonderful time, and saw so many beautiful places, buildings, scenery and art, and enjoyed the immense courtesy and generosity of spirit of the people. We enjoyed each other's company, never had a cross word, had the freedom to do exactly as we pleased, without having to conform to a timetable. The weather was excellent, the hotels ranged from satisfactory to very good, the train trips were pleasant, with mere frissons of anxiety about whether we were on the right platform and on the right train, and the itinerary always interesting and the stays just long enough. I did a little shopping in Florence, following which I restrained myself with admirable self-discipline and merely window-shopped (ah! the gorgeous aquamarines and amethysts in Ferrara - they are all still there).
There were many special hours and places, and I will reflect on them and examine the photographs to preserve them in my memory. It is good to be home.
And now to bed!
Some photos next time, when my mind and body are less of a blur.