Saturday, April 26, 2008

Trevi Fountain

In a city full of fountains, certain ones stand out for their lavishness and beauty. Of course, Trevi has a promise attached: throw in a coin (over your left shoulder) and you will return some day. Naturally, Trevi was crowded beyond belief. It was hard to get up close enough to throw in our coins--of course we did. OK, we were there on a Sunday afternoon, but I was astounded at how many folks congregated just to congregate, nearly unaware of the art in front of them.

Trevi is beautiful. Keep in mind that you can scarcely walk down a street without some remarkable sculpture decorating the corner, the intersection, a doorway, or another fountain--and you realize that to grab attention, the carving must be extraordinary. Quite simply, it is. Much of the base looks like raw jagged rocks springing up from the deep, water falls and cascades on multiple levels. Your attention is grabbed from all directions: Neptune top and center, humans, merpeople. winged horses, fish . . . It is overwhelming. No wonder it is attributed with the "power" to draw you back.

The fountains all over fascinated me. Bell and I had a little "fountain alert" whenever we passed one and we tried to photograph as many as we could. The profusion of water was impressive, especially coming from Africa where it is often in short supply for part of the year. Another instance of Roman engineering and ingenuity.

The Romans delight in their water displays. Many are lit at night which adds more atmosphere. Water is obviously appreciated everywhere--and valued. We were told with pride that we needn't buy bottled water, their water was good enough to drink. Many times we filled our bottles with city water. But water that quenched thirst for good--no, they didn't have any of that. Everywhere we drank, we got thirsty again.

And if the Romans are anything, they are thirsty.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Roman reflections

A photo from our first day in Rome: the three intrepid teens standing on the remnant of an ancient Roman spiral staircase. We are in the Palatine/Forum area which is full of ruins and remarkable sections of buildings and temples still standing: Titus's arch, for instance, and Caesar's tomb, which had fresh flowers on it.

Marble was the staple material and the varieties seemed endless. An especially beautiful purple marble, porphyry was imported from Egpyt and we were told that the Romans took all that there was. So the columns of this marble that we see in buildings today were all quarried back then. I shall attempt another photo with that marble. Interestingly, we found some of those precious columns in the cathedral of St. Mark's in Venice.

This expanse of archeological paradise is within sight of the Colosseum, the Circo Massimo, and Constantine's arch. It was almost too much to take in--such proximity and not enough time to absorb. We wandered through a maze of broken cornices, tombs, fallen columns and temples to speculated gods and goddesses. Although guides spoke authoritatively, we became aware that much of the information they pass on is guess work and educated opinions.

The avenue outside this area of excavations is lined with Romans famous and infamous. I took the requisite photos of Julius Caesar with Jess and Isabel in front and one with Luke. It was only after we had finished the photo op that we saw in Caesar's uplifted left hand, yes, a small, plastic child's sword. Unique Italian sense of humor?

This avenue, too, had the most human statues we saw congregated in one place. These people dress up in robes or costumes, paint their faces gold, black or white, and stand immobile until someone drops a coin in their tin can. Then they smile, wink, bow or whatever suits their persona. It's a living, I guess.

Ciao for now.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

home again, home again

My goodness, we have been home nearly a week, and I am finally getting back to the blog.

We had a wonderful trip from Italy to Joburg, marred only by Bell catching her pinky in the taxi door at the airport. Very painful. No ice. And every time we went through a security check, she had to dump her bottle of cold water (for soaking it) and refill on the other side. Odd sidelight: we flew Rome-Milan on our way out, had to go through immigration in order to sit in the airport awaiting our flight out to Emirates. A few folks in front of us had single entry visas and weren't allowed "back in"--and they hadn't even left Italy yet! Inscrutable are the ways of airport personnel.

We had a lay-over in Dubai from midnight to 4:40 a.m. so we were entitled to a meal at the Emirates restaurant. It remains our preferred airline, for obvious reasons. That airport is like rush hour at all hours. It bustled even in the wee morning hours.

The rental car Phil arranged for us was perfect and on our arrival in Joburg we drove up to Tshipise (6 hours) for a refreshing conference with our South African and Zimbabwean TEAMmates. Wonderful to see everyone again. They spoiled me on my birthday, too. We have a very special group of people there--the kids are really cool, too. I'm missing those chats in the warm baths under the starry skies each night.

We came home last Saturday. So why haven't I told you before? Well, we had to unpack. And the kids had to organize their end of this school year. So we are back on track with studies. If you enjoyed the European travelogue, don't stop coming to the blogl I intend to write snippets and reflections and even post photos now and then. As I look back, I realize I'm learning more in retrospect than I could at the time. Maybe I'm a slow learner, or just slowing down. Whatever, I have a great teacher up there.

Catch you in a few days! Thanks again for all our prayers--we weren't seriously ill or robbed the whole time.

Friday, April 4, 2008

back in Rome

Thank you all for prayers regarding our hotel in Rome. Although the travel agent who had booked the hotel was informed that Jolly Midas Hotel was overbooked for the night of the second, when we went and asked for a room for that night, we were given one. Only the Lord could have orchestrated that.

Rome is our final wrap-up stop before we head home tomorrow. We have had a chance to see some things we missed the first time around--taking a day trip to Ostia Antica. That is an ancient site on the mouth of where the Tiber used to be with amazing ruins. What makes ruins amazing? These because so much of them was intact (contrast to Pompeii) and how straight and organized the lay-out was, even way back then. Anyone who thinks Romans were obsessive about right angles and proper construction has good reason. They must have written the books on engineering.

We have enjoyed staying in a very jolly hotel (read very British). Although out of town a bit, the hotel has a shuttle into the city, so we were able to take advantage of that and still look around a bit. The highlight, of course, was seeing the DelBoccio's coming in from their cruise last night.

We are staying at the same hotel (in fact, we are honorary cruise members for this hotel) and have had a great time catching up with Jarm, Dan and the kids, Olivia and Mario. Their Steps of Paul Greek-Turkish cruise sounded wonderful. Today we were able to meet them outside St Peter's Basilica for lunch. What a treat.

We will be heading back to Africa tomorrow afternoon, so more details and ruminations of our trip will have to wait for our arrival in South Africa. We land on Sunday morning around 10 a.m., and then we rent a car and drive north to Tchipise. See if you can find that on google maps!

We have had a trip that has taught us many things, about ourselves and this wonderful world in which we live. Thanks for following along with us. We have needed your prayers and still do. Next week we will be in conference with our South African and Zimbabwean colleagues. Hopefully I can post you an update then.

Keep the prayers going,
ciao for now.