Thursday, March 30, 2017

Hodgepodge 152/365 - Tourist

I have never been comfortable being a tourist. Some people—Germans and Dutch, for example (if I may generalize)—seem to do it with aplomb. Me, I always wish I spoke the language, and didn't have a telltale camera over my shoulder, and had a reason, besides mere curiosity, or the tyranny of a guidebook, for going where I go. I also wish I weren't so easily profiled, by one and all: the waiters standing outside restaurants wanting to coax tourists in for a meal; the Africans with their knock-off leather bags or selfie sticks or collapsible wooden bowls, for sale, a bargain!; the freelance guides standing outside the historic sites, who address me in English and German.

Though of course I know they're only guessing. They have no idea who I am. Not until I open my mouth, anyway. And generally the only word that comes out of it is "no." A fine Italian word.

One side of the Titus Arch
Today around noon I took off along the Tiber, heading ultimately for the Forum and Palatine Hill. Once there, I dutifully read about selected sights in Rick Steves's Rome 2017. I found the Vestal Virgins interesting. And the Arch of Titus, which commemorates the defeat of Judea in 70 c.e.—that one's meaningful because I was just at the site of the Second Temple, the destruction of which the arch celebrates and which led to the Diaspora. I enjoyed wandering up the hill, mainly because of the flowers that are bursting out.

But I have to admit: I'm a little weary of being a tourist. I'd like something more meaningful to do with my time.

A little voice whispers in my ear that I should be taking notes, scribbling ideas and impressions, trying to work something up for an essay. The voice is right: I should be doing that. But being a tourist seems to require all my energy. I'm only here now! Don't want to waste my time!

Whatever the hell that means. . . .

It's an interesting space of discomfort, one that I visit willingly when I travel by myself. Some days I do manage to lose myself in simply being in the present moment, being a tourist but at the same time not being a tourist, if that makes any sense. Just being, and absorbing, and perhaps growing. Other days—like today—I guess I feel a little homesick for my routine, my expected comforts (a pot of coffee! the ability to cook! a good hug!), and a sense of purpose.

But I've got another ten days of this touristing business. I'd better get with the program.

Here are some photos from today.

Part I: A walk along the Tiber, as far as Isola Tiberina.

Part II: Heading inland, looking for—and finding!—a geocache along the way. These Italian youths were practicing their lounging along with another consummate lounger at the Victor Emanuel Monument.

Part III: The Forum. Views looking west and east (note Colosseum and Titus Arch); Vestal Virgins' domicile (they had a couple of pools in their courtyard, and exemplary Virgins got busted).

Part IV: I was really digging on the bursting springtime: a candelabra plant, wisteria, the pink-flowered Judas tree (Cercis siliquastrum), and something that I saw in Israel as well that is not dill but looks very much like it.

Part V: The walk home, via the Victor Emanuel Monument (it does catch the eye), the Pantheon (I did not go in), a mural called "L'asino che vola," and finally a captivating art store that is so complete it sells pigments for making your own paint. I mean, seriously: that is amazing.

No comments:

Post a Comment