It's been a while since my last entry, because I've been so busy, but I'm going to change that...the former not the latter. Since my last post I have crossed the threshold of no return; I'm now the ripe old age of 21. I think 21 may be the only birthday where you actually decline in maturity. And hey! Today's St. Luke's feast day! Double whammy! This past week has been loads of fun. Byake and I traveled to Cinqueterre, I celebrated 21 with Johnny, Cindy and Father Avram, I moved into my new apartment, and I've been pushing forward in classes. Technically, I should be in my Italian philosophy class, but alas, I am not because of the faulty transportation system. The Italians take a different attitude than Americans towards machinery. "Beh, we'll fix it when it breaks" (or more authentically, "Beh, lo riperemmo, quando si é romputo"). It's a wonderful attitude when you're the one assuming it, but when you're the one who was torn from the womb of your bed at 7:30 only to stand in the rain for 45 minutes and realize that there was no way that you could make it to your 8:30 class, then it's not so great.
This past weekend, Byake and I traveled to Cinqueterre, which is a constituency of five quaint villages on the coast of the Mediterranean. The villages only began to communicate with each other recently, and while it is a growing tourist attraction, Byake and I visited during the offseason and were able to avoid the stampede. We planned the trip just how every trip should be planned...with absolutely no planning. We didn't book a hostel and bought our train tickets at the terminal. After getting some dinner at the only restaurant open in all five villages, we sneaked on a train to the village with sandier beaches (because that was our bed for the night). Sleeping on the beach seemed like a great idea in theory, and it was until about 3 am when the temperature dipped below 50 degrees. Of course we had no blankets, and two pairs of jeans and three track jackets proved not enough to weather the night. But it was all ok, because we woke up to this sight.
We got in some much needed hiking between the villages, which begins with ever so treacherous Via Dell'Amore (Lovers' way), emphasis on the not treacherous at all. By the time that we reached the third village, Corniglia, we had brewed a lumberjack-sized hunger worthy of Paul Bunyan. Because we had no friendly villagers to put on butter skates and make us oversized pancakes, we had to settle for a small joint called Cecio. Oh by the way, when I say settle for, I mean couldn't have been happier. We ate on the completely empty patio that sat on a hill in front of the Mediterranean. The patio overlooked two other hills and watched them dive down to the face of the sea where they met at a single point. I could describe to you what we ate, but I think the picture says it all. Tuscany, the area around Cinqueterre, is revered for creating pesto and for its excellent white wine. I think this was the most relaxing meal I've ever had. We ate for 2 and a half hours, and only left because they were closing. With full bellies and copacetic spirits, Byake and I continued on our trek, only to find that our bodies seemed to like sitting on the patio much more than hiking. Not to be fools and disagree, Byake and I grabbed a train to the last village and laid on the beach. But fear not my dearest reader! For after our afternoon nap, we continued the hike back to the third village, and were able to watch the sun set on the Mediterranean. Intelligently, we booked a hostel for that night and stayed in a warm bed. Our trip home, though, was sullied by more Italian inefficiency, because our train broke down. Now you might be saying, "Wow, what are the chances?" Well, the answer is very high. This has happened to several people that I know, and people just get used to it I guess. We did make it home though, after nearly 8 hours on a train.
Before I move on, I snapped this picture of Byake to the left, and I think it bears a striking resemblance to this painting. It's by Caspar David Friedrich and it symbolizes man's imperious domination over nature. Don't they look similar? What say ye? Either way, I think it's safe to assume that this picture of Byake embodies unmitigated beauty.
On Monday afternoon I moved into my new apartment, which is working out really well. I share the apartment with two other people. They're kind of strange and are pictured here. They seem like nice enough people. There's only one room and it's sort of an all-purpose room. In one corner there's a mini fridge, which also functions as our dining room table. Next to the fridge is a toilet with a shower curtain around it for the bathroom, and in the other corner we all sleep on the ground in sleeping bags. There's a firepit in the middle of the room, because I guess the room doesn't have heating. And I hope that nobody believed that. Hahaha, no we all have our own rooms and mine is larger than the average room with a double bed, desk, tv, etc. I don't spend much time here and rarely run into the guy who owns the apartment, so it's all working out so far.
That night, I met up with Johnny, Cindy and Father Avram. It was great to see those guys! It gave me a little piece of home to celebrate on my birthday. We wandered around town for a bit and found one of the slews of nice restaurants in Rome. Il vino did flow. As did the great pasta. Also, I had my first potato since I got here, and while the Italians got nothin' on the Irish when it comes to potatoes, it was still a potato, and that appeased my red hair and freckles. We ate for about 3 hours, and I'm pretty sure I drank a whole bottle of wine myself. After some gelato and the Trevi fountain, we said goodbye. My friend and I were going to hit up the hot Italian discoteca with a group of people and revive disco, but it was too late, so he and I just went to an Irish bar and celebrated our heritage in a foreign land with some bad Irish beer.
This week I've also discovered just how many saints are buried here in Rome. The other day, I went to SS. Apostoli Church where St. Philip and St. James are buried, both disciples of Christ. There is a crypt in front of the altar that you would find in many churches in Rome, but this one is open to the public. It is an absolute gem. It's not a main tourist attraction, so when you walk down into the crypt, you're the only one there. It's almost eerie. And then as you walk down the stairs, right there is the tomb of St. Philip and St. James. It's unbelievable to think that you're standing on the same ground that these great followers of Christ stood 2000 years ago. Very humbling. I've also found that St. Ignatius of Antioch, and apostolic father of the Church and martyr is buried here, as well as St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, and St. Jerome, the first man to translate the Bible into Latin and introduce scripture into the Western world. That's not to mention the countless popes and other saints, whom I have not discovered, that are buried here.
This weekend, Byake and I are traveling to Sienna and Assisi, which should be very cool. We have a packed schedule of traveling over the next few weekends. This weekend is Sienna and Assisi, then either Prague or Germany, then Florence, the Milan and Lake Como, then Ireland or Venice, then Austria. Pretty sure Byake and I are gonna go snowboarding in the Alps. "I didn't know Luke snowboarded?" Well I don't. And neither does Byake. And that's why snowboarding in the Alps is a brilliant idea. I'm not sure if any of this post made sense, because I'm still shedding the cobwebs of sleep. In the future, I think I'm going to do smaller, more manageable posts, and do them more often. Stay tuned for virtual innovation!