Well, it hasn’t been too long since my last post, but the past two weeks have certainly been eventful. The first week was the Sicily trip, and last week was fall break, which I spent in Kassel, Germany. I really can’t be bothered recounting all of it, nor would it even be remotely interesting if I did. In the interest of wasting time when I should be studying for tomorrow’s Art History midterm, I’m going to write and see where it goes.
If I had to name three most memorable locations from the Sicily trip, those would be Paestum (on the bus trip down, of course), Agrigento, and Palermo. We arrived in Paestum in the evening, which makes for a great first impression of the town, as the two Doric temples glow pinkish-gold in the evening light. The beach was amazing, too; there’s nothing like swimming in the ocean after being cooped up in a bus all day. After the sunset, we had to go back to the hotel, but I returned to the beach at night for a long walk.
Agrigento involved another great beach experience, but more than that a great conversation out in the water. The hotel had an impressive garden with a view of the acropolis, on which two of the temples were illuminated at night. We stayed out there, just enjoying drinks and each other’s company. There’s nowhere in the world lonelier than a large group of people, but, that night, it was different.
Palermo was the last day, after a really trying, but worthwhile week. The city is a little shady in that typical port city sort of way, but I kind of like that. We had time for lunch on our own, so I walked around the city a little. Later, for the first time ever, we had as much time as we wanted to spend in the museum. I ended up staying until closing. Not intentionally. What happened was, I found a sarcophagus with a procession of Amazons on it. The really unusual thing about was that the Amazons were comforting Andromache as they passed her. There was a nice contrast of motion and stillness in the piece; the Amazons seem to move forward in their line, but Andromache, who is seated and holding the urn of Hector’s ashes, seems completely fixed, so that one’s gaze halts for a moment on her before continuing up to the front of the line. Moreover, an Amazon behind Penthesilea, who leads the procession with her horse, is standing in heroic contrapposto, in a position roughly opposite that of Andromache, seemingly creating a contrast between the unfortunate and the glorious aspects of war. Anyway, as luck would have it, my camera was out of batteries. So, I decided to make some quick sketches of certain parts of it, and that’s how I ended up staying until I got kicked out.
That night was the ferry ride to Naples. I spent a lot of it on top of the ferry, loving the sea and the stars. After a while, thunderclouds began to roll in, and I watched the lightning striking the water in the distance. It wasn’t completely a solitary experience; one of my classmates came up, and we talked for a while. After that, I joined some of our group in the lounge.
As a whole, the trip had a necessarily aspect, but it was truly wonderful, and it made a really deep impression on me. Since then, I’ve kind of hit one of those phases where I feel oddly dissociated from everything, but it isn’t necessarily a bad thing at all. It might just be a part of having a context-dependent personality; my sense of context has changed completely, so I, not really being anything myself, am just displaced. That is the state in which I passed my week in Kassel, and it’s also the one I’m still in now.
I should tell you, I fell in love in Kassel. With whom, fortasse requiris? With the tram voice. Seriously. You know those automatic voices on public transportation, the ones that tell you what the next stop is? Well, the tram voice in Kassel is unbelievable sexy. If you don’t believe me, go there and hear for yourself. I nearly died everytime she said, “nächste Halt: [insert location here].” She was just so full of hope – always looking to the future. It was truly an affair to remember. I thought there was going to be a throwdown when a girl, right in front of the tram route, ran up to me and asked, “Hast du Feuer?” As everyone in her group seemed to have a lit cigarette, and as I was wearing a rainbow hair ribbon that day (meaning is rigid on the Kassel scene), I was worried that my tram-voiced lover would think that the girl was hitting on me, but she is fortunately not the jealous type. My departue was difficult, but she is very experienced at moving on.
Another great part of my trip to Kassel was my visit to the Ottoneum, a natural history museum. There, I found out something shocking – Narwhals exist. Laugh at me all you want, but I always thought that they were mythical. Like every other kid, I wanted to be a marine biologist when I grew up, so I read lots of books on sea life, but I never read anything about a Narwhal. I’d only ever heard of them in North Pole stories. I guess I always figured they were like marine unicorns. Well, as the display of Narwhal horns (in addition to a vertebra) and the sign on the wall clarified, the Narwhal horn is the basis for the unicorn horn (by the way, it’s Einhorn in German – cute!). The sign had a whole section on unicorns. Apparently Pliny described them as part elephant and part horse, but only the horse part survived in the Middle Ages. Here is the best part, though: unicorns, when they were being pursued by bigger monsters, were believed to seek comfort with young maidens. The nice version of the story leaves it at that. Well, the alternative version of the story explains that unicorns seek out the maidens to use as bait, so their pursuers eat the girl instead. Niiice.
Those were just the highlights of my first trip to Germany. Kassel, being tourist-free, was a nice break from Rome. Nevertheless, I’m making my first week back worthwhile. Going down into the Forum of Augustus has definitely been the highlight, so far. If I want the week to turn out well, I’d better do well on the midterm tomorrow, so I’m off.


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