The Stolen Posts

Updates ended abruptly.

As if I was indefinitely floating down the Rhine. Never to be heard from again.

The truth of the matter is that I was loving traveling. I was loving tapping into the confident, independent explorer that had always been waiting just beneath the surface. I was living in the moment, often not knowing what was going to happen next. I had decided to avoid sitting in a hostel room with lousy internet and just breathe fresh adventures instead.

When I got back to London with a couple of weeks to spare before re-crossing the Atlantic, I would post and reminisce. Sit and relax with all the tea I could drink. My adventures would have ended, and life as I knew it prior to roaming would begin to come back to me. Recent events would seem like distant dreams.

If I learned anything while wandering – and I learned much – it was that the universe doesn’t care about your plans. Sometimes it has something else entirely mapped out, that you’ve been unknowingly building towards your whole life. London was not the end. It was just a new bend, a new twist to overcome.

Instead of checking into my hostel and getting to work writing and uploading three months of memories, I dropped off my bags and walked through Hyde Park. Kids played, dogs barked, and when I got back to my room, my computer was… GONE.

No one would ever see pictures of me in a vegetable patch, a black kitten sitting on my red basket full of tomatoes. Or the photos of my Australian acquaintances, swinging in the next rickety chair behind me as the bobbing lift swayed us up to the lookout point on the Isle of Capri. The top of Mount Vesuvius and the streets of Pompeii would once again be stories from high school Latin books. The hidden cliff path I hiked down in Cinque Terre and the rocky beach with smashing waves where the path ended would be for my eyes only. The artwork from the Biennale back in Venice, I would quickly forget. Milan, Turin, Napes, Genoa. And then there’s the graffiti I found in Berlin, the river and candy shops in Dussledorf, just seeing the streets of Neuss where my Dad is from, the cathedrals and new friends in Cologne, the museums and foggy streets in Amsterdam. So much was lost, and my work revolves around my computer, but my adventure was not over.

Fast forward a depressing week, a Thanksgiving spent alone, drinking a pint in a London pub, and a tube ride to a blues dance to take my mind off my missing machine. There, a handsome figure stood across the room and I asked him to dance.

Fast forward a cold night spent talking and kissing on London Bridge, goodbyes at the train station in the morning, a flight to the states, a flight back to London to see him, a visitor in my hometown, and a road-trip to our new apartment in Florida.

Fast forward a year from when my memories were stolen, and here I am, full of the warmest memories of all.

The adventure never ends.

UPDATE: This is what I posted on my new blog a while back… almost a year back in fact. I imported all of my old posts and the journey continues (after a long hiatus) here: www.startwithasketch.com/musings/ This current wordpress blog will soon disappear, so browse my new site if you want to keep in touch.

Spoiler: I’m still happily in Florida.

Thanks Natalie

Country Hopping

Aside

Endless adventures and just living in what seems to be an alternate reality have taken precedence over keeping the rest of the world up-to-date. I’ve left the foggy hills of Umbria in the country that I’ve called home for the last two months or so for the bustling cities of Germany where everyone seems to be frantically decorating for holiday celebrations and the openings of Christmas markets. Every time I hear a couple arguing in Italian in the streets, I actually find myself getting a little homesick. I’ll keep posting again as soon as there is a free moment to spare, but sedentary moments are few and far between.

Off to the Rhine!

 

(Exhuming Life) Rome: Day 2

I watched the train pull away with my mom and her bags safely loaded inside, hoping I had put her on the right train going to the right airport. I waited the entire time as it disappeared into the distance, all the while an excitement building up inside my chest. The rest of my trip would be me, my thoughts, and my overly heavy bags. I knew where I would be in a week or three, but had not even a vague idea where I would go after that.


It’s really exhilarating to think of “Italy” or “Europe” as your destination as opposed to having an unadaptable schedule to maintain. Taking this trip in the first place is finally scrapping the life-schedule I created back in high-school and have been adequately following ever since. Right about now I should be working my way up the ladder in a powerful advertising agency in New York. Instead, I’m following the whims of an older and very different person who wants to see what else is in the world and subsequently discover what my real priorities are before I plot out any more points on my map.

The unearthing began with Rome.

I checked into my new hostel on the other side of the train station where all of the Chinese export and cheap knock-off stores live. As I’d been nursing an injured knee since the hills of Montmartre in Paris that left me walking with a peg-leg over the bridges in Venice, I tried to force myself to lay down in the dorm for a while. The room was large and furniture scarce, only emphasizing this new solitude. I think I made it about fifteen minutes before I got stir crazy, wanting to see the Rome that was waiting just outside.

Sometimes the best discoveries are ones not in tourist books. Down the street form the hostel was a pleasant little square I thought contained Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. I walked through the open gates, past the contemporary sculptures, up the steps of what I thought to be a church, and asked the tall man in the front if it was open. He smiled and said that it was with an undecipherable look on his face, then proceeded to take me to his desk inside, hand me an Italian brochure, and begin to give me a brief history of the aquarium, turned circus, turned house of architecture I had stumbled upon. Since I mentioned I had studied art he got excited and started telling me, with much exuberance, architectural details of the building he thought I would appreciate. I walked out a little wiser and made my way to the Ancient Center.

Palatine:

Roman Forum:
On my way back to the hostel for another knee-break, I figured I should check out the church I thought I had discovered that morning. Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore was a beautiful, huge cathedral. It took me a few minutes of wandering around and not finding a door to realize I had found the back side. I walked up the block and around the front to see the edifice in all its glory. Inside, the stain glass was glowing and the gold leaf glistened. Fifth century mosaics covered the walls and I could spot a shiny relic on a lower level that the few people in the church were flocking towards. I later found out that it was the Crypt of the Nativity, said to hold wood from the “holy crib” of Jesus. I snapped a few shots, headed home for a nap, then was out and exploring once again.

This time I headed out towards the Circus Maximus. There honestly wasn’t much there to see. Just a dusty ring contained by sloping ground. A few joggers ran laps, and I would have joined in just for the experience had I been able to do anything more than hobble. A dog played catch with the breeze on a mound in the center. And I found a comfortable place down some crumbling brick steps and under a willow tree to relax and watch the sun begin to set over Rome. As the daylight was dwindling, a man sat down near me on the steps with an African drum. Soon another man appeared and the concert began. As the two of them played, the rhythms reverberated off the slopes of Circus Maximus. Soon, more and more people walked up with drums and began to play. I stared off into the distance in hopes they would forget I was basically sitting in their drum circle, just listening. I hated to leave. I stole a photo of the growing crowd as I walked back up the steps, but my stealthy moves with my large camera didn’t work.  I was spotted and instead of capturing a good photo, I at least captured a piece of the memory.

The rest of the evening I just wandered, finding pieces of history down every street.

When I walked back to the metro in the dark, I could still hear the beating drums echoing behind me.

(An End of an Adventure) Rome: Day 1

Although spending two weeks traveling with a parental unit may not sound like a dream vacation, it was actually pretty wonderful. Of course, knowing that my journey continued after my mom flew home made the difficult moments a little easier, but I’m thoroughly glad I was able to spend time in Europe with my mom.

Reason being? She wouldn’t have made it to Europe if I weren’t going, and I know the art lover in her appreciated seeing all the sights we crammed in. We were friends exploring new territories… with one friend acting as the tour guide, luggage rack, and motivator from time to time.The last full day of our adventure together began with an early train to Rome, then seeing all that we could see in a day with what little energy we had left.

There was a long line to get into St. Peter’s Basilica, and there were ironically more line-hoppers in the Vatican than anywhere else we’d been, but the queue moved quickly and the church was more beautiful than I had imagined (pictures don’t capture it). Usually, extravagantly decorated churches feel a little self-righteous and make me a little uneasy, but St. Peter’s was awesome in every sense of the word. You felt little walking past the stone sculptures and paintings, then through the delicately painted arches, but in a good way… as if there was so much more to the universe than what was even possible to fathom. I tried to avoid noticing the mummified popes sprinkled around the edges, but they were unavoidable. There was also a bronzed sculpture, of Jesus I think, whose foot was rubbed down considerably as crowds lined up to get there picture taken stroking the worn toes.

Next on our hurried list was the Sistine Chapel. If you’ve been to Rome before you’re probably laughing at this point. The Sistine Chapel is not just right around the corner from St. Peter’s as a map would so sneakily trick you into believing. Geographically, I suppose that’s were it’s located, but the cunning people, who I begrudgingly wont call evil since we’re talking about the Vatican, who structured the little city decided it would be better to make visitors exit the Vatican, walk about a mile along a thirty foot high brick wall, then stand in a few hour line to enter the Vatican Museum. If this weren’t the last day of an over-museumed trip, maybe I could have appreciated the artwork contained within, but I was tired and my mother had caught a cold and was understandably a little cranky. After entering the museum, signs taunt you in the direction of the sought-after chapel, only to lead you through room after room of sculptures and tapestries. You have to walk through the entire museum first to get to the Sistine Chapel, which could take an hour or so to do even while ignoring most of the art. I think it was worth it, and I hope my mom will come to forgive me for dragging her through.

After the chapel, you are then forced to walk through a series of gift shops–some for the rich to buy a purse and others for the kids to snag a coloring book. Finally out and into the open air, we dragged ourselves to the Colosseum, admired for a little while, then headed home to our hostel. Despite our conditions, it was was quite amazing to stand in a place with so much history.

While my mom took it easy trying ward off any more cold, I made my way to a pizza party the hostel was hosting and sat down with some German kids off on a short trip who tried for about a minute to include me in a conversation before awkwardly sitting there, silently finishing their pizza, then leaving. Alone at a big table, I invited the nearest solitary figure I saw, also awkwardly eating his pizza at the pizza table. Sicilian Mike became my tour guide for the evening and the night culminated with him buying his girlfriend back home a teddy bear from the Hard Rock Cafe. Just good company, and pleasant conversation.

Although the end of this portion of the trip was pretty anticlimactic, I suppose that’s how any whirlwind sightseeing trip will leave you–with good memories and a need for another vacation.

Thankfully, I still had some adventures in store.

The Guggenheim

Thank you Lady Guggenheim!

The Peggy Guggenheim Collection on the grand canal in Venice is definitely worth a visit if you like 20th century artwork, or you want a break from all of the fraying tapestries and ancient sculptures that are plentiful in Italian museums. Seeing thick paint and gallery wrapped canvasses instead of gargantuan, distracting frames was really refreshing. In fact, one of my favorite parts of the museum was seeing which artists kept the sides of their canvasses clean and which ones were absolutely filthy.

The museum is actually an unfinished palace, although you wouldn’t know it while passing by on a vaporetto as it’s an understated white building, only one story high. Peggy Guggenheim purchased and lived in the partial palace which now holds her personal treasury of paintings and sculptures by artist’s whose careers she is responsible for furthering.

I first heard of her when I was a Jackson Pollock fanatic in high school. She took him from an art world reject to a praised artist to collect. And she too had quite a collection of Pollock’s for herself with more than a whole room devoted to him. There was a Francis Bacon over the staircase, a beautiful Mondrian on one wall, and a Kandinsky on another. It was hard to know where to look, even in such a small environment, with artist’s we call “masters” responsible for every painting in the building. The funny thing is that the reason we call many of the artists “masters” in the art world is because Peggy Guggenheim approved of them first.

One painting I didn’t remember seeing before. but really apprecciated was Magritte’s Empire of Light. It beautifully takes an everyday moment and makes it surreal, with the viewer unable to place the painted house in any particular time. Night and day are captured at once, and yet the painting still feels cohesive and oddly familiar. If I could have made it out of the museum alive I would have taken that painting out with me.

Since there was only time for one museum in Venice, I’m overjoyed that the slot went to the Guggenheim. On my next trip through town I will have to see the great Italian artwork that I missed in other exhibits, and the Biennale of contemporary art currently on display, but, once again, being surrounded by artwork that I find overwhelmingly inspirational, I had to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.

Venice: Day 2

The legendary city where streets are made of water and cute men row boats.

Venice was not exactly what I expected. I’ve heard about it for years and it has always been portrayed as a kind of paradise. The rich and famous venture there and the ordinary folk take romantic getaways on the gondolas. It really is a beautiful city. All you have to do is look down the canals to know why Venice draws crowds, but it really doesn’t feel like a functional city.

Venice was the first “tourist city” on our trip. The economy of most of the locals that walked down the streets was largely dependent on those of us who would call Venice home for a day or three. Every block was stuffed with souvenir stands, over-priced restaurants where no Italian would be caught eating, and lingerie shops. If you can get over being asked to buy something every few seconds and learn to ignore loud, complaining tourists who don’t understand that the world doesn’t revolve around them, Venice is actually a very pleasant place to stay. The streets are quaint, the canals, breathtaking, and the slower pace of Italy, relaxing.

I absolutely love deteriorating buildings, and I use them in my artwork frequently. Structures that stand firm despite obvious hardships really speak to me, and Venice has street after street full of rugged, beautiful edifices. There’s an obvious history to the city, and with a little digging, there is much to uncover.

After a day of sightseeing, and even escaping the main island on Venice for a while, I was able to walk the Venetian streets at night and see a side of the city that thankfully most tourists weren’t there to see. Ambling down the now still streets I could hear a family laughing at a local television show and a guitar playing in an upstairs room. I got lost in the alleys and was surrounded by the real Venice. Those seemingly insignificant sounds coming from every door I passed served as reminders that Venice still has a heartbeat. Knowing tourists hadn’t completely taken over was reassuring and I walked back home with a little more pep and smile on my face.