A Travellerspoint blog

July 2019

#2 : Pilgrimage Starboard

Day1. Part 2.

sunny 25 °C
View Departure for Bologna on KrimFiction's travel map.

Dreams within a dream

My hometown of Rouyn-Noranda is situated on the western verge of the province of Quebec, in Canada. It is a small city of 43k citizens built alongside the Osisko Lake, where rich deposits of copper were discovered in 1917. Following their disclosure, ambitious prospectors from nearby regions converged in its marrow and the city experienced such a rapid grow that it even became the third metropolis of Quebec in 1930. Enclosing my birth town is the region of Abitibi-Témiscamingue which boasts itself today of an astounding population density of 2.5 inhabitants per km2, which makes it an ideal locus for outdoor activities, considering that almost its entirety still lies untamed, uncivilized and wild.

Rouyn-Noranda being remote from all nearby human civilization, it is possible to simply drive some 10km off its outskirts, in order to stargaze cozily atop tall boulders in a clearing of bedrock devoid of any pesky light pollution. If luck is on your side, and the planed overcasted sky gradually makes way to a clear star-studded one, then coerce a couple of your oldest companions into lending you their rusty telescope and beat-up car so that you too can experience for free the enthralling performance of the Universe's oldest show!

The summertime here unravels to old and young the beauties of The Milky Way in all their creamy wonders, with its plethora of swirling and quivering milk droplets; the earth's slow revolution acting as a celestial churn that produces buttery midnight snacks to satiate its occasional curious partakers. There is still so much more to observe, and so little time left! There's the mischievous Venus and Mars that embezzle, just like Cinderella once did, the dazzling image and radiant dress of stars for a night time. There's the constellation Cassiopeia, that comely whirl and writhe in her woe to form a wafting W amidst the Milky Way. There's the Summer Triangle, that tripartite star shape that tosses aside the tacit sweetheart Vega and Altair from their fated union's fruition. There's the...

Oh! A meteor! I should make a wish.

...

It is now 18 o'clock. I slowly rouse from my deathbed, lavishly perspiring in my room, now more akin to a kiln per fault of the oppressive sultriness originated from the opened curtain and three-quarter closed window of my alcove, that conceded untolled passage to the sun's beams for them to complete their 150 million kilometers one-way trip to the least touristical zone of the Solar System : my long hairy dangling legs. Notwithstanding the heat, the lustrous film of salty bodily fluid that covered my pristine body, and my ever still lingering liquor-induced nausea, I sprung to my feet and followed the impetus that gently joggled my timid heart of exploring the perilous new world of Bologna.

A quick perusal of the Wikipedia page describing Bologna had imparted me with the conceit that the city savored of a healthy mix betwixt carefree inhabitants - one quarter of which were students, probably aspiring to ambitions even paltrier than mine; a well inclusive cookery, betrothing the freshness and elegance of Mediterranean aliments with the greasy and comforting victuals peculiar of barbaric northern tribes; and multifarious cultural sights comprising tall leaning towers, intricate Gothic architectures, and art pieces sprinkled all around the city. This seemed to fare truly for now; at the end of a leisurely 40 minute stroll in the city's heart, amidst narrow, labyrinthine streets continuously thronging with belated undergraduates flouncing hither and thither to lucubrate their upcoming finals, I finally reached a square locally known as the Piazza delle Sette Chiese, which encompasses seven places of cults, one of which being the basilica of Santo Stefano built by the bishop San Petronio during the fifth century upon a temple of the goddess Isis, to replicate here in Bologna the Church of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.

The churches, crypt, chapel and courtyard of this square girdled some boisterous bars, where the local fraternity of Goliard drank wine unrestrained on terraces, celebrating some blasphemous cult whilst garbed in the antic attire and famous bicorne and feluche of their sacred order. These dissolute poets and drunkards were singing the values and courage of their spiritual ancestors, sometimes known as scholares vagantes, or clerici vagantes, who desisted their fealty to Christendom to advocate a life of adventures, literary prowess, and scholarly pursuit abroad, all of these without straying from the path of pleasures and revelry that guided their every deed. This pleasing scene formed a most sanctimonious sight, perfectly befitting the heathenism of the region of Emilia-Romagna.

I had that day thoroughly lost my way in the skein of roads quintessential of Italy's city hub after a bit less than 15 minutes of roving - my sense of direction being without any surprise practically nonexistent. I had took a left turn just outside of my apartment, followed by a sharp right, another left, two short successive rights in a small pedestrian street, to then proceed inside a general store across the street with the objective of buying an electrical adapter and a bike locker for the bicycle I planed on using for ulterior adventures. When I finally exited the shop with the two articles in hands, the landmarks I had previously noted were no longer present. The parked red Fiat, the walking gypsy with the purple dress, the gray bicycle, the common tree with no apparent distinguishing traits : all of these had been slyly swindled away from me! It was as if the shop had been teleported with me to another part of the city.

I could no longer return inside the shop to ask for direction to the same helpful cashier I had discussed with for a bit. This was absolutely out of the question since I had parted from him on a remarkable footing with a clear and decisive "Ciao! Grazie!" indicating the closure of our previous interaction. My standing with a general store's clerk I would never meet again was at stake, I had to act on my own. I thus blindly followed my intuition and went starboard in the complete opposite direction of my home, skillfully and involuntarily avoiding every noteworthy sight on the way to find myself conclusively at the square previously depicted.

After another two hours of dispirited wandering, I haphazardly returned back home, feet bleeding and blistered per fault of the brand-new roman sandals I had had the brilliant idea of wearing; the sole of my feet being then like silk : still vestal and oblivious to the hardships of my new nomadic life. Not three meters away from my small haven, I met with my Airbnb host, the Sicilian gargoyle, who was just exiting his room with light luggage in hands. We eyed each other for a good 2 seconds without rustling one hem of our respective garment; I, too frightened to even breath; him, surveying the best possible way to devour my fragile self whole. I would have readily thrown myself down the stairs to prevent his sharp fangs and claws from piercing my soft tender loins, but alas his basiliscine gaze had already made stone of my flesh; I was naught but a sapid kebab petrified by the wickedness of this awe-inspiring apex predator.

He finally uttered in English : "Ke-erim...", which startled me into biting my own tong, "I be out to-onight AND to-omorrow... Ple-ease. Come... see here my friend." I uneasily toddled my way with him to the kitchen, where a stalwart and gallant man was sitting legs athwart, keenly reading the newspapers; perceiving wonders in these black and white symbols that I never supposed even existed. He took down his fine grey glasses, met my eyes with the genteel air of a duke and exuded me a warm and relaxed smile comparable to the one a proud father would bestow upon his only progeny who had for the first time single-handedly laced his own shoes. He was in his late twenties, wore a neat grey flannel trouser with a simple white shirt unbuttoned at the top, and frequented the gyms daily. That, I deduced owing to the towering muscular mass he displayed, which I conspicuously envied.

We lost ourselves in pleasant chatters for some time, interchangeably using English and Italian to our own mind's relish, discussing our respective occupations, penchants, dreams and objectives. Gladness filled my heart for having met so soon with someone I could without any doubt consider in no time a dear friend of mine. He imparted me with much-needed knowledge about the city's inner secrets, places of interest and forbidding districts I should avoid after dusk, where prowling hooligans accomplished petty crimes veiled in the guise of darkness. He continued his speech by relating me that Bologna was, in fact, quite infamous for its high number of bike-thefts owing, according to him, "to the black-people and migrants" that lived illegally in its poorest locality. He proceeded with renewed ardor in telling me that buying a used bike in Bologna was as easy as "[asking] the first black-man [I could] see in the streets of Piazza Verdi" for him to "sell [me] the bike he had stolen the day before". I was shocked that such a seemingly fine gentleman could prejudiced himself of such bigotry and vehement distrust for other human beings. Desiring not to mingle with a character of such a vile nature, I parted from him shortly after to return to my bedroom, deliberately severing the newborn stem of friendship that could have flourished between us into a splendid bouquet.

Excellent readers, I bid you farewell, and until next time!

Yours truly,

Krim

Posted by KrimFiction 15:02 Archived in Italy Tagged friend history church bologna italy lost stars literature airbnb Comments (1)

#1 : The Fall from Heaven

Day 1. Part 1

sunny 26 °C
View Departure for Bologna on KrimFiction's travel map.

Lost in Time

Something truly fascinating about the human mind is its aptitude for self-deceit. Incomprehensible actions are sometimes committed by the body for motives utterly beyond the psyche's immediate grasp. To brand such a supernatural process, words such as intuition, foresight or some inexplicable prescience of things come to mind, assuming in the first place that the unconscious part of our cognition is considered apt to adequately guide us through the vicissitudes of the unknown future. In the converse situation, where for obvious reasons the unconscious reasoning of our already dubious enough selves cannot be deemed a worthy torch-bearer of our destiny, the use of baser expressions such as following a blind hunch, absentmindedly throwing the dices of Fortune, or letting Providence do it's things can accurately describe its senseless proceeding. Whichever of these two options eventually guided my earnest self to the completion of an application form for an international research grant is unfortunately beyond the reach of my most strenuous speculations, enshrouded in the hereafter by the veils of Time.

As pertains the reasons that lead me to aimlessly wander the hills and steeps of Italy this summer - which is a subject that still eludes me to this day - it is in my complete authority and grace to try to complete here and now its just and final excogitation; for I seem to have only grazed before this most cantankerous subject. The Krim's of times past left savory crumbles of a 3$ french baguette in their trail, which now permits the present Krim to follow accurately enough their meaningless peregrinations by eating said crumbles on the way to the truth. I have thus observed that they have erred in their endeavors as to follow the known pattern describing almost all human catastrophes in history, which is trying to accomplish something for the sole reason of having in one's possession the means necessary to its realization. And so it was that the snake bit its own tail : the Krims of times past were fueled by an unprecedented ennui and disdain for everything that surrounded them, which made them sought excitement in a sufficiently distant future to quench their immediate thirst for novelty without having to actually modify their erstwhile situation.

This precedent unruly prating of thoughts taking place inside my anxious brain was suddenly tamed by an otherworldly and feminine lull seemingly coming from the outer reach of the known universe. It seemed like a pleasant whispering of sort with an unintelligible meaning, placed in the form of an interrogation. It was indeed a question, left to fend for itself alone in the wild without any associated answer; two soulmates bound to different deserts of solitude, seeking forevermore the last piece of their innermost puzzle. The lack of a definite finality to this situation resonated in me : such reverberations thawed my previously frozen thoughts and offered me new views on the world, an essence of spiritual freedom that put my thoughts afloat in an ocean of peace and tranquility, all the while neglecting my erstwhile anxiety. My mind was positively fluttering along that vast body of water, aboard a sturdy wooden three-masts ship driven onward solely by the sporadic zephyrs of this most peaceable location, experiencing in the process a taste of paradise.

This respite was however quickly turned to ashes as the ship's second mate hallooed an Avast to the boatswain and seamen, who promptly halted the ship's progression by turning the ship leeward, hauling its mainsail, and dropping the anchor astern. At that moment, a sudden jerk of my left shoulder made me fall from heaven straight to the sharp jaws of reality, following in a similar manner the jagged events of the life of pitiable Lucifer. Opening at that moment my crusty eyes and putting away my bulky set of headphones, I felt, on my left, the insistent look of an airline hostess, maintaining a practiced, unequivocal smile, doubled with a most exacerbated look of disdain and contempt for men of my kind, who so happen to be dozing off during the assignment of lunch. In the end, I held her no grudge, as I was aware of the horrors of customer service. She probably had to repeat this vain procedure a dozen times per meals, repeating all the while the same riddle : "Mister, what do you wanna eat?".

Following my earlier rousing, I was distraught for a time, considering the proposed spicy falafel and chicken-pasta as two equally acceptable choices to sink myself again in a state of deep languor necessary to resume my previous train of thoughts. My final choice ended on the falafel, as the broad-shouldered Nigerian businessman on my left, and the baroque middle-aged French woman on my right had already chosen the chicken; striving to be unique being an important part of my nature. I had also reasoned that the gulping of a 25cl of the available red wine would drown significantly faster my troubled senses than any quantity of chicken or falafel could ever do, long-haul flights providing one of the only socially acceptable instances for day-drinking. Evidently, alcohol having never directly resolved any predicaments in the history of mankind, Its rapid consumption only left a gaping void in me, all the while destituting me of my reasoning and senses. I was truly a pathetic sight to behold.

It really did seem to me that going to Italy was a most terrible mistake. I was anxious, agitated, underprepared, my Italian was bearable but impractical and clunky, and I had realized by talking to an American at the customs that my English could also not be considered top-shelf quality. I deeply resented the actions of my bored past selves, for they had bequeathed me the crushing debts of their frivolous disposition, which I now had to defray up-front to a gritty loan shark armed with two wooden nunchakus. Being still once more in a shortage of worldly possessions, I could not bribe myself away from the nunchakus' direct hook to the jaw known as regret, followed by the smashing uppercut to the chin named discomfort, that left me K-O on the airplane for several hours, without so much as a singular neurochemical of happiness making its way to my tipsy brain.

Following my disembarkation of the plane, still groggy and disoriented per fault of my previously described morally reprehensible decisions, I took my first few steps outside of the airplane, to fully realize that the hourglass of my sheltered life in the suburbs of Sainte-Foy in Quebec had now officially trickled its last sand remnant. Eyes brimming with tears, I took my luggage in one hand and my courage in the other, and promptly looked for a taxi that could bring my scattered self to my Airbnb lodgings - to look for a bus in my condition seemed then tantamount to the fifth labour of Hercules.

Aboard the taxi, I casually initiated a conversation - that I had practiced dozens of times in my head before - with the driver, an elderly Italian man with a grey mustache and a greyer woolen cap that covered his balding head, to practice the few sentences and courtesies I had previously learned in the classes "Italiano Elementare I-II' at my university. It came to a great shock to me that to truly understand a native-speaking coffee-guzzling Italian grandfather requires consuming in a voracious fire vast quantities of the wooden logs of concentration I so thoroughly lacked at the time. He would elegantly string colloquialism, regionalism and contractions I had never learned, without so much as taking a breather in-between. My naive instigation had endowed the old geezer with an endless supply of tales and stories to impart me.

After 10 minutes of awkwardly listening to the narration of the whereabouts of his fourteen years old grand-child Emma studying in Perugia - where I would at times boast this warm-hearted old-man's morale replying "Sicuramente!", "Perfetto!" and "Si, Si!" at every observable conversational checkpoint he would leave in his recountal, to his utmost joy and pleasure - the taxi finally pulled to the side of the road, just in front of my Airbnb quarters, in the historical center of Bologna. I handed him a 20€ bill to defray the cost of the travel - which was of an absurd 17.40€ - but since he had so thoroughly enjoyed my company during our short trip together, he handed me a 5€ bill, and would not accept any more money in return. I had learned something very useful that day.

With my luggage in hands, I found myself in front of an old three floor apartment guarded at its stairs by a rather small and churlish man that looked no older than 26. This remarkable gargoyle was discrepantly donned with a black double-breasted jacket overlaying a plain white shirt, neat pointed-toe Italian leather shoes, and rugged blue jeans; and was wrathfully texting on his brand-new Iphone Xr. His fierce display of resentment directed at his cellphone was incredibly intimidating to a tabula rasa soul devoid of any practical experience such as mine. My intuition - acquired in its entirety from movies, video-games, and Japanese animations - was screaming at the top of its imaginary lungs to keep afar from this disgruntled fellow, who shared an important similarity to the son of a Mafia boss from the B movie Mafia vs Ninja I had watched a month prior in order to immerse myself in the true, unadulterated Italian culture.

As I was walking in his direction, clumsily avoiding eye-contact by feigning admiring the beauty of the scenery, he began scrutinizing me for a second and suddenly erupted from his seat, clearing in a moment the thunder-storms of resentment that had inhabited his brows, to warmly greet me in a slow-paced English : "Ahhh! Ke-erim! It's ple-easure to meet yo-u... Ye-es! Fo-ollow me inside... Yo-ur room at the top floor. Ye-es! Fo-ollow me now." I managed to squirm some sheepish salutations in Italian before following the lion into the midst of his den. He introduced me to my 2.2m X 2m chamber, which was situated just outside of his apartment on the third floor. I was then bestowed three sets of keys to allow myself access to the apartment's main gate, my quarters, and the host's dwelling, which contained the amenities necessary to my survival. He then unceremoniously left me, having far more pressing matters to tend to.

After throwing my bags on the only available spot on the floor, I proceeded to accustom myself to my new environment. My room was small. Really small. It contained a small creaky bed, a small table, a small light, and for no valid reason an extraordinarily bulky cabinet that took half of the already limited space. On the rightmost wall could be found disparate photographs describing indiscriminate historic moment. There was a photography of Alcide De Gasperi, drinking wine in the company of an unknown figure; the popular photo of Che Guevara in all his revolutionary splendor; Marthin Luther King, at the climax of his speech "I Have a dream", A young revolutionist swinging a flower bouquet during a protestation, instead of the expected Molotov cocktail; The Italian Football team celebrating the victory at the 2006's World-Cup; Leonardo da Vinci's self-portrait alongside his renowned Vitruvian Man; The Pope Saint John Paul II absolving a kneeling nun; and 4 identical sketches, arranged in a vertical line, of a mysterious obese man, intently looking at me, the drawing's beholder. More on these suspicious quadruplets will be unraveled subsequently.

Opening the small windowpane permitted few beams of light and a nice summer breath to find their way inside my dark grotto but would at the same time invite as unwelcomed guests the turbulent noises of the passing and going of Fiats and Vespas taking place at the roundabout just below my room. The small bed being just before the small window, I had had to step on its small snugly mattress to realize the precedent feat. Having slept only an hour the preceding night, I could no longer resist the temptation of a minute of respite and laid down on its entirety, my long right leg dangling freely at its side. I had inadvertently left the window half-open, as to profit from neither of the advantages precedently described, but my body did not concern itself with these banalities nor for the fact that we were in the middle of the afternoon, and fell asleep a second after I had put my head on the small pillow. I peacefully dreamed of observing the stars during a tranquil summer night in my hometown of Rouyn-Noranda, blissfully unaware that my tragedy had in fact just begun.

Praiseworthy readers, thank you for being a part of my adventure!

Krim

Posted by KrimFiction 08:47 Archived in Italy Tagged taxi bologna plane italian literature story airbnb Comments (3)

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