“Today is yesterday’s victory, yesterday is tomorrow’s conquest, and tomorrow is today’s war. (Nadege Richards, Burning Bridges)
“Snippets of the Traveling Mind” returns this week with an eyewitness look at Rome on our recent overseas vacation. On this 42 day adventure, we visited 5 European countries by Eurail Pass interspersed with 3-4 day stays in Air B&Bs adjacent to convenient railway locations. Embarking from Southampton, England, we concluded our Autumn wanderings with a 16 day reposition cruise sailing the same northerly route as the ill-fated Titanic back to North America. Along the turbulent seas of this North Atlantic Sea route, we toured five, captivating destinations along the way. In upcoming blogs, I intend to provide a “present moment” perspective surrounding selected themes for all destinations visited on our journey. As usual, sensory impressions will predominate my writing with a dose of added history.
September 4-6 Rome Italy
Historical Museum of Liberation
Imagine entering a chamber of horrors in the middle of a bustling city where systematic tortures/executions took place regularly during Nazi Germany’s occupation of Italy during the final years of World War II. On my visit, I gasped at the sight of desperate fingernail scratchings on solitary confinement, cell walls with no light or air ducts. Imagine these condemned prisoners awaiting their inevitable deaths in such inhumane conditions by cruel, SS Gestapo hands. How coldly calculated such official orders displayed here were carried out to exterminate Jews, intellectuals and other perceived political opponents here. Such a sickening display of blatant ant-semitism/ violence would render nightmarish memories in my memory as I recalled in my later dreams the horrified faces of innocent victims who were offered no mercy in this vile den of death.
The ancient Colosseum towers over the ancient walls of the Roman Forum to showcase vivid evidence of the glorious games of gladiator fights, wild animal fights, slavery auctions, and public executions. As an enthusiastic stadium attendee of sporting events at home, I immediately sensed the excitement of over 50,000 spectators attending each game here in ancient times with bloodlust fever. Epitomizing such violent, Roman conquest for over 500 years, however, the crumbling walls of this ancient arena definitely cast an evil spell to me on this visit.
Walking gingerly along cobblestone streets, we eagerly sought refuge at this massive rotunda of Roman antiquity. Gazing skyward inside the great hole in the dome then, I felt a burst of positive energy realizing that it long represented a spiritual canopy of the Roman world beneath the “starry heavens.” Gazing at ornate crypts of the Italian monarchy lining the perimeter of the circular interior, I also sensed the immense power that emperors possessed historically in ancient Roman times.
A short train ride to the Mediterranean coastline, visions of Pompeii’s well preserved ruins came to mind as I entered the remnants of this ancient, Roman town. Yet this immense expanse of stone ruins set amongst the cool shade of Mediterranean pine trees along the mouth of the Tiber River was much more enjoyable to visit than Pompeii had been. With few tourists walking along the cobblestone paths and zero souvenir hawkers, “Ostia” in fact felt like a serene park. As we continued our curious trek along the mile long road called “Decuman” traversing the center of town. it suddenly felt real to me that I was experiencing the logic of classical Roman design and material prosperity of its citizens along this main path 2,000 years ago. I oddly then felt thankful that the surrounding silt/ mud from the surrounding river bed that had buried this ancient town for centuries now enabled this site to be preserved and later successfully excavated for my viewing today.
From past visits to Rome, I expected a mob scene gathering at this popular tourist gathering spot.Admiring the perfect symmetry of sculptured gods depicting abundance and salubrity as a backdrop to these crystal cool waters, I perceived happiness at lunchtime pervading the gathering crowd surrounding me. Placing my sweaty arms in these cool waters by chance, I would soon label this phenomenon, “Water Fountain Therapy.” How right it seemed then that I saw so many couples throw a coin or two into these mystical fountain waters to find romance or good fortune in their life. After witnessing the “dark” past of ancient Roman civilization on this visit, it felt enlightening that so many still believed here that “love conquers all.”