La Cinque Terre
Arriving from Orvieto and Florence to my last part in Italy, these five little towns strung along another breathtaking coastline exceeded my expectations completely - I had seen this place on travel blogs and on Italian holiday sites and assumed the photographer was no doubt extremely talented with photo shop, a little village like that could only be in storybooks - I was surprised and of course delighted to find the rainbow colours of the towns and pastel hues of each of the houses built vertically into the cliff faces were just as unbelievable when I was standing amongst them.
Dinner looking over the beach here was one of those momentary glimpses into where you feel the most at peace, looking at yourself from the outside. I saw us sitting there with bowls of pesto and wine and the lines of striped umbrellas standing along the water and a smile on his face.
I wish we could have done this in each of the towns a million times and then realise we’ve ended up fulfilled and happy and life been lived like the grinning old Italian ladies and men who wander around and drive their little carts selling gelato and pizza.
There is still so much of the world to see but I am in love with Italy and its magnificent presence in the universe. For its experiences and adventure, and food and beautiful people, I’m sad to leave. I can only describe this small part of it, La Cinque Terre, a glorious and hidden gem - one
The Amalfi Coast and Isle of Capri
#the amalfi coast
#isle of Capri
Sometimes you need an experience where you question how the world could possibly exist so exquisitely, an experience where it physically breaks you down into tears at the sight of such beauty - I thought I appreciated the universes infinite wonders before - now there is a whole new level of awe and praise thanks to the time spent along the Italian coastline.
Sorrento, Positano, Ravello and Capri - each of these places unique in majesty and feeling, spread out and found in their burrows in the cliffs with deep bright blue water glistening like it does in paintings and postcards - its impossible to be sad here, unless of course like me you cry at the idea a place like this is real. The best part amongst too many to choose was the chair lift up to the top of Ana Capri, you go alone and in peace. It takes you to and just above cloud level and its like you’ve died and are an angel looking down on the place you’d only pray about spending your last hours in.
Sailing around the coastline with a view I won’t ever be able to put into words - him, and then the backdrop of a perfect paradise which comes close enough. I’ve said a few times before I should pinch myself but never really done so. As I was about to jump off the boat into the blue, I actually did - We are so blessed with this magical planet and this is a place that is the absolute epitome.
Rome & Pompeii
I will always be an immature teenage boy when it comes down to it - even when I’m supposed to be a big adult on my own travelling and sightseeing. The history of the founding of Rome and its ruins left behind, those at pompeii too, truly do outshine any thing they might offer today - I learnt so much about human history itself, being able to look at the things like the colloseum and imagine how they looked in the day and hearing stories of how they would have been used was incredible, the foundations of all of Europe essentially begun with the Romans but it was the smaller details of these rulers, unfortunately, that will stay with me - i now have a few favourite emperor’s to research when I get home, they were insane men with crazy fetishes and bizarre spontaneity - probably a lot like anyone else, these men just had the power and riches and glory to live them out. Caligula’s escapades were the most nutty and interesting, he once made his own horse a senator of Rome (in the pantheon, which was magnificent inside and entirely original), he once waged war on the sea god by sending hundreds of men into the ocean swinging their swords into the waves and firing arrows into the water - they (stole) many shells and pebbles from shore and declared they had won! The stories are fantastic. Tiberius was known to hold the first lottery draws for his city, prizes ranged from slaves, to colloseum tickets, to money, but also had a booby prize of death or torture. He would often throw coins from his balcony in generosity to his people, but would spice it up now and then for his own enjoyment and throw down poisonous snakes instead. They were incredibly crazy and feared and powerful men, they were brutal and incest, but I think their novelties as rulers were rather excellent. My favourite story of Tiberius was of his adventures in the blue grottos where he would take young boys and make them swim around underneath him in the water and nibble at his genitals.
Pompeii was amazing but again, its the doodles and penises that will come to mind before any volcanic eruption or buried city. Wandering about the remains there are stone penises and carvings of dicks EVERYWHERE. I thought okay, either someone is having a joke or there has been talented stone mason tourists with some spare dick shaped stones OR teenage boys back in the day were the same and drew dicks as graffiti everywhere and nothings changed? Finally learning why was a bit of a surprise really - nope none of the above - they would literally mount stone penises all over the city with it pointing in the direction of where you could find a brothel. The exact words of the tour guide was “we are all adults here, yes, the penises were an easy way for the men of Pompeii to follow and find their way to the whore houses”. Inside these brothels are ancient “menus” on the walls with more than basic medieval porn painted on the stone so men could choose what type of lady and postions he was into. I found it incredibly hard to remain straight faced but very interesting all the same. Now that I think about it I’m not that bothered by immaturity winning over my inner history nerd - I learnt so much even if it was about doodles and some insane men’s escapades.
I want to eat your ass
Ha, oh wow well I hope you’re hungry - thanks to my european food safari i now have quite an ass.
Oh and I hope you like savoury - ive just gotten back from the beach - I’m rather salty!
The water literally glows in a pastal aqua hue, hypnotic almost, the way they lick up and down the edges of the buildings and canals, the faintest sound of it moving and flowing, I have never seen a more magnificent society nor marvelled at how these people have existed and functioned as a city, it is incredible. The gondoliers go by as if its nothing , which it isn’t to them I suppose, but to me it was like a whole new spectrum of colour every time. The venetian masks hang in every second window as does the distinctive murano glass work and Burano lace, the narrow passages and tiny alley ways criss and cross and merge into bridges over the water, hundreds of them linking in to a maze of mysterious but inviting walkways, they were lined with gelaterias and patisseries, and I was addicted to watching the life bustle through them. On the gondola everything goes quiet and the noise of the crowds in San Marco Piazza dull, its so peaceful sailing slowly under the bridges and discovering new places and areas only reachable by the water. So Magical and unreal.
‘Casa Villa Gardenia’ - in room called yellow, owned by a lady as sweet as the toffees left in the bowl by our bed - it makes all the difference when you feel welcomed and truly accommodated by your host - arriving in Italy and to Venezia was magical and warm and being greeted by the above quickly made this place my new favourite place on earth. Venice completely exceeded my imagination, it is wonderful.
Some experiences literally take the expression off of your face - Austria was breathtaking. I feel like I’m still recovering from the view, mist, fog, endless green and trees you imagined in your nighttime stories as a child. I don’t know if anyone else does this but - I always think about if I was a fairy where would I live, what would my little enchanted land be made of….this would be it. The forests and moss and wild green plants of every description growing upwards twisting and twining around rocks and tiny flowers dotting the vines and leafy branches. It was truly the image of every fairytale
I had always wanted to learn more about recent german history and the consolidation of Hitlers power and regimes, but more specifically I guess I was interested in understanding more about the holocaust itself. So deciding to visit the Dachau Concentration camp whilst in Munich, i did lots of reading up on it beforehand and research into its past but none of that could not have prepared me for the intensity of the place itself and the sobering reality of what atrocities went on there. It was painful to walk around the camp, there were pictures showing what it looked like in the day, and faces of the prisoners in striped cloth uniforms.
I stood inside the jail cell halls where these people were forced into labour, secluded from everything and fed 4 times a week. I walked through the barracks where they slept on wooden bunks in the freezing elements, I walked along the fence known as the death strip where ss guards ruthlessly shot down anyone trying to escape, I stood in rooms where brutal medical research was undertaken on these innocent humans and used like objects. - I stood in rooms where hundreds of dead bodies at a time where piled up waiting for the incinerators warming up next door while their skulls were stripped of any gold or silver fillings in their teeth. But the most intense place I stood was the room outside the gas chamber. This was where those still alive were undressed and walked into what was signed as the “bath house” and were told they were about to have a shower. I closed my eyes and imagined what ran through their mind, whether they knew what was coming and petrified, or whether they really were mislead and oblivious to the imminent horror about to take place. Inside the gas chamber there were spots where the fake shower heads would have been, concrete floors where so many would have suffered into a heap, but what affected me most was the scratch marks still visible on the walls from the prisoners as a last ditch scramble to escape the poison gas for one last breath.
I can’t even begin to explain the atmosphere and feeling leaving the camp, so eery and haunting, the echoes of our footsteps inside the entrance hall where thousands upon thousands arrived at what was unbeknown to them, their end.
The front gate reads “arbeit macht frei” which translates to “hard work gets you freedom” a false statement in the extreme and cruel start to what was now their living hell.
I don’t think I’ve ever been so disgusted in what humanity is capable of, but at the same time so greatful for what goodness is in the world in contrast to the evil. A plaque of many in the camp reads “never again” as a sort of statement or promise to the world that nothing like this will ever occur again.
I guess though, when I think about it now, the message on the entrance gate its not exactly a lie - they were eventually free from the hardship that had become their life but in the most unjust and horrific way imaginable.
When I arrived at the documentation and photos, and details of the liberation at long last, I couldn’t help but cry at the thought of them feeling indescribable relief, saviour, and freedom at last.