Monday, July 15, 2013

Seeing Through The Ashes

Cruising into the port of Naples, I was greeted by this early morning sight (above). I have to say it was an incredible vista to absorb while I practiced a few sun salutations and deep hip, hamstring and SI joint poses in preparation for our day trip and hike in Pompeii. Yoga on your balcony is quite a balance challenge!

Here is a brief history reminder of the city of Pompeii: From around 700 B.C. until the morning of August 24, 79 A.D., a little town consisting of about 20,000 residents lay at the foot of Mount Vesuvius in Italy. It was on that day that Mount Vesuvius erupted, destroyed Herculaneum and Pompeii. Preserved under ash, the cities lay buried for just over 1,600 years, their rediscovery provides a breathtaking glimpse into the daily life of the Roman Empire. I remember studying the Mount Vesuvius event in grade school and I was totally wrapped up in this period of history. There wasn’t any way I was going to miss walking through Pompeii, even if I had to pass up the Isle of Capri so I could experience the ruins. 
From port, we hopped on the bus with our tour guide ‘Nando, and began the journey into rediscovered city. ‘Nando (his nick name for Fernando) was a small statured, fit man with a booming Italian voice. It is very possible that he was in his mid 70’s, but looked and moved like someone in the early 50’s, now that’s Mediterranean lifestyle at work.

We arrived at the base of the city and ascended up the Umbrella Pine covered hills toward the walls of Pompeii. We walked down alleys, through courtyards and bath houses...we were walking the same streets and plazas that existed before the birth of Christ, that took a few moments to sink in. I was also taken by surprise by the level of city engineering and planning in Pompeii; storm drains, waste removal and rugged roads to handle the abrasiveness of chariots were all preserved for us to view in amazement.
‘Nando communicated far too many facts of Pompeii for me to ever recount, but there is one statement he made that has crossed my mind every day since that tour. “Looka et where ur feeta stend. Looka et where ur feeta walka.”  How have these words influenced me?
  • When I step on my mat, I hear ‘Nando and the underlying message of connecting with the earth and humanity.
  • When I am off my mat, am I walking with compassion and understanding of others’ ethnic, socioeconomic and religious differences?
  • Will I remember that if I am not present and conscious, any negative patterns or thoughts in the future will take me down the same path of unfortunate outcomes of the past-history repeating itself?
My friend Fernando gave much more than a tour and history lesson of an ancient city. His passion and reverence for his timeless countryside was evident as he meticulously shared it with the tour group. It was his body language and knowing glances that drew me in to the deeper essence of existence that he desired to express.  

Life Shared

Friday, July 5, 2013

Rr Rrrrrr Rrrrr Rome!

We flew in to Rome a day early to get a peek of it-believe me, you need about four days to see all the wonderful sights. After checking into our hotel, Brian and I were able to see the Coliseum. I want to say that the structure is what you imagine it to be and you are awestruck by the age and the size of this outdoor venue. National monuments need upkeep and repair too, and there were fortifications in progress while we were there (hence the fencing and scaffolding in the photos).

I do remember thinking that I really did not connect with the grounds or space, and I didn't have a 'feel good' sensation about the area. As we all know, there were some heinous acts committed during the rule of the Roman Empire, some took place here in the Coliseum.

We stopped for a drink and some time to take in the city life at a restaurant called CaffĂ© Martini. Our waiter (Giovanni) introduced us to some specialties of the house such as their tiramasu and Francesca wine from the hills surrounding Rome, in the towns of Frascati, Grottaferrata and Monteporzio Catone. We indulged in all of this while relaxing at a table on the sidewalk under the glorious sunshine.  

The locals in the caffĂ© as well as the staff were easy going and friendly, and I soon found out that most Romans were of this similar disposition. To me, the lovely persona of the Romans is an absolute contrast to what they are like behind the wheel or on a scooter/motorcycle. Life on the street is a hectic shrill of horns and skids, they drive like madmen. About every nine minutes you can hear and ambulance or police siren sounding in the distance and we witnessed several scooter accidents in our own district. There is a frantic, panicky energy to get somewhere "at all costs," I convey this observation as a PSA to not rent a scooter or motorcycle in Rome unless you are an accomplished rider. Even if you do cruise, I really would recommend taking a cab, the shuttle or walk to most of your sites. Why? Turnabouts and tiny alleys are dicey, while street plaques are set on the corner of buildings 15+ feet back from the street.

When a local recommends you go see a particular sight, give it a shot...even if it means having to skip a very popular sight. Giovanni told us to stop in at a very old church named the Basilica De San Pietro In Vincoli-just a few blocks away from the Coliseum. It was a very unassuming structure from the exterior (no marble, gargoyles or stained glass at the front of the church) and surrounded by large buildings. Feeling very "Angels and Demons," you had to know there was a church in this area or you would have walked right past it and never know it existed. There was an incredible treat inside: Michael Angelo's sculpture of Moses!  

The second recommendation came from the front desk manager of our hotel. He suggested that we stroll through Villa Borghese while we were waiting for our room to become available. To give you an idea of the scope of the park-it is the second largest public park in Europe.
Villa Borghese is a gorgeous, ancient feeling space with white gravel paths and towering trees that is connected to the Zoo, Borghese Gallery and numerous gardens and waterfalls. You felt like a native enjoying the outdoors with many other Romans, it is a beautiful union of nature and art in the middle of the city.  

We closed our tour of Rome by visiting amazing Vatican City and St. Peter's Basilica.Experiencing stillness and peace, I felt "collected" and prepared to board the Holland Noordam and begin my very first cruise.