Years ago, I can remember being totally mesmerized when I heard the story of molten volcanic ash enveloping an entire city and its inhabitants. Approximately 2000 people living life were now preserved in their final moments for the ages. Mothers and fathers sitting at a table, little ones sleeping…these acts became their last on August 24, 79 A.D. EyeWitness To History.com relates an ancient voice from the past that reaches through time to relate these horrific events. The ash grew to be 16 feet and a once flourishing resort for the rich and famous of Rome with marketplaces, brothels, taverns, bathhouses and a 20,000 seat arena was totally silenced until 1748. The archaeologists found buildings intact, skeletons frozen in time, art and artifacts of every day life. Today, Pompeii draws thousands of tourists. One must past through about 15-20 vendors lining the entrance selling bottles of lemoncello, cameos carved from shells which may or may not be authentic and of course row after row of the famous winged penis which was the city symbol (who knew)! There was no McDonald’s in site though!! Despite all of the tourist trappings, every time I walk through Pompeii, it is truly one of those “pinch me now” moments. I wander through the homes, seeing mosaics and frescoes which are erotic and beautiful still visible after thousands of years. It is a bit surreal to come upon the few frozen remains still on display… the people who were so compelling to me years before. Many of the artifacts have been moved to the National Archaeological Museum in Naples and is so deserving of a visit. It is said that a third of the city still remains covered. In just a span of 4 years, I saw graves carved into stone that had just been unearthed. It continually gives me a reason to return so the story I heard sitting in a classroom may take on new layers of richness and intrigue.
I just returned from a wonderful trip throughout Italy. Spring is definitely the time to go with cool breezes and fewer crowds. Many people were on their way in for Easter services, while I was on my way out with an Easter story, one of life over death. Cinque Terre is an area of 5 beautiful and charming medieval towns. Tourists can walk a 12 mile footpath from town to town and be gifted with breath taking views. Last October though, devastating mud slides hit. Mad Mudslides is just one of the many videos on YouTube showing the degree of destruction. While there, my group was staying at the Cuccaro Club located at the top of the mountain. It was here I heard the story of courage, resilency and community. The hotel was built and run by three generations but the mudslides broke through the generational legacy. It was destroyed. As soon as the rains stopped, the townspeople from all over came to help the family dig out. Little by little, bit by bit, the hotel was restored. The day we arrived, was opening day! There was such a spirit there I cannot even begin to describe it. All the local people who helped dig out now came back to celebrate the reopening. It was an amazing experience to be able to be a part of this grand celebration and Tonya (the daughter) made us feel just like family rather than the total strangers we were. Nature is powerful but the human spirit has a resilency and strength that was able to prevail through it all and we could all party over that!
This trip was the first time I had ever heard of Kinder Eggs. They are popular throughout Europe but definitely banned from the US. Last year, Customs and Border Protection seized over 25,000 of them from people trying to bring them into the country. These are chocolate eggs that contain a toy inside…a puzzle, an airplane, a doll, etc. They can be found all over and are delicious. Many pastry shops had very large, hand decorated eggs in their windows and I was told they all had surprises inside! We just have scratch off lotteries and Cracker Jacks!
Lastly, when I arrived home, I was so happy to receive word that a new multi-faceted travel website, Dosojin, had just been launched. Dosojin refers to Shinto stone markers which are placed along village borders and street corners to protect the travelers from evil influences. This is the vision of four very talented and creative individuals and I feel so very privileged that they decided to feature my work as part of their launch. Stop by and sign up for the app… it will be a much used tool for anyone who travels. Best wishes to
the creators of Dosojin.
Copyright 2012 Frances Schwabenland. Images may not be copied, printed or otherwise disseminated without express written permission of Frances Schwabenland.