|Ponte S Angelo crossing the Tiber. Done in Panoramic and converted to black and white digitally.|
I'm not sure when she took this; it must have been early in the morning when it was quiet.
a young friend of Calista posting from Maissons-Laffitte, Ile de France, France.
When I read the above angst filled note scavenged from the digital graffiti-wall of Facebook, I miss being a parent so much it actually hurts. If this young woman were Calista I would tell her to just stop worrying about yesterday and tomorrow and just live the best way you can today. Certainly we should all learn from past mistakes and have ambitions for tomorrow, but none of us should spend even a moment worrying about either. The past is done and immutable and future possibilities are limitless; all any of us really has is the present. Do the best you can with every moment you are given and the future will take care of itself.
The young lady, a twenty year old prairie girl from Canada, is posting dispatches from France while the rest of us sit home here in Canada and dream of similar adventures. We dream while she goes out and lives her dream. I would say she is doing a great job of living and that is all any of us can do. In the end, everyone has the same destination, so all that counts is the journey. Life is the journey.
Most parents have a number of favourite memories of their children`s youth: baptisms and confirmations, commencements and graduations, celebrations and competitions, engagements and marriages. Today`s journal entry is going to be all about favourite memories that I don`t have: Calista`s trip to Italy and Greece in 2009 was her first great adventure away from Mom and Dad. The only memories Roni and I have of that trip come from stories half told and half remembered mumbled to us upon her return and hundreds of photographs. Her friends from school need not worry about any secrets about their adventures while living ``La Dolce Vita`` being divulged here. Calista would put 007 to shame when it came to being secretive.
|JT and Calista on the jet: I don't know if it is outward bound or|
returning home. I wonder if they knew if they were coming or going,
they were so exhausted both ways
What were we all thinking of anyway? Take a group of hormone-charged co-eds from the bleak Canadian prairies and crowd them into a jet spiriting them to the mysterious and exotic backside of the planet for ten days of non-stop adventure and we expected them to settle down and sleep. Really?
Needless to say, the majority of the group arrived in Rome looking like something the cat dragged in; half of them were physically sick while the other half were nearly comatose. As Calista told the story, the only student that survived the trip unscathed was her, living up to her childhood nick-name "The Road Warrior". Calista wanted to get out and see everything she could that first day and was audibly upset when she called us to announce that they had arrived. She had nobody to play "wing man" with her on any touring adventures and was going to have to relax and allow her classmates to recover. They settled on taking a quiet afternoon in the Piazza Navona. I remember thinking how I wish I could spend a quiet afternoon sipping coffee with the company of my daughter in the vibrant and historical Piazza Navona of Rome. Now that would have been a memory.
Piazza Navona has been a cultural centre of Rome since the first century of the Empire. At that time it had been an amphitheatre for athletic events, sometimes hosting the famous chariot races. The buildings that surround the large public square retain the oval arc of the original sporting grounds. In the middle ages the square had been flooded periodically to host mock naval battles for the entertainment of the masses. The actual name Piazza Navona is thought by some to spring from those ancient marine warfare re-enactments. The three famous fountains that line the centre of the Piazza mark the central axis of the original chariot track. At one end is the Fontana del Moro, designed by Giacomo della Porta, in the middle is Bernini's Fontana dei Quatro Fiumi, and at the far end is the Fontana del Nettuno (Neptune), also by della Porta. Calista spent much of the afternoon photographing the entire Piazza.
|Overlooking Piazza Navona: a little piece of Roman heaven. I dreamt of returning with Calista and Roni and renting a|
small walk-up on a classic Piazza and living the Roman life for just a little while.
|Bernini's fountain with my|
|S Agnese in Agone: classic Baroque commissioned|
by Pope Innocent X. I'm sure he was innocent of something.
|Obelisk commissioned by |
Domitian but included into
the Baroque fountain by Bernini
nearly 1500 years later.
|Fontana del Nettuna (Neptune) by della|
Porta. See a knock-off combo with the Quattro Fiumi
in Caesar's Palace, Las Vegas NV.
|Thought to be the original model for the|
EF Tours had the school group bedded down in a modern hotel in the suburbs of Rome. Calista said is was relatively good, but then she added "but who cares; I just need a place to sleep and shower". Her mother translated that as "Mom wouldn't like it". Typical of Calista, she woke every morning with the sun, beating the majority of her class-mates out of bed. She used her "free time" to track down elusive suburban photography subjects. Between the hotel grounds and a few choice opportunities while in transport on the bus, Calista managed to pop-off a few shots that were quite worthwhile, even if they were not "touristy".
|This grove of trees is so |
typical of Italy. I don't
know if they grow this way
or if they are groomed this way.
One of the comments Calista made to us in one of the two phone calls she managed to make (I guess phoning Mom and Dad was nearly as complicated as formulating the Theory of Relativity) was that every place she went and everywhere she looked history surrounded her. It amazed her that a building was considered relatively new if it was anything less than 200 years old. She said it gave her chills up her spine to climb the worn stone steps of an ancient church or temple and realise that the steps were actually bowed by the shuffling feet of untold numbers of pilgrims over two millenia of Roman occupation.
She felt truly humbled.
|It was the statue that caught her eye. I used the close up of|
this photo in my "Evolution" entry. It was a google search to
figure out what this building was: It's the Supreme Court.
|Old building on the grounds of the modern|
hotel; antiquity surrounded Calista in Rome.
I have no idea how that group covered as much ground as they did in one day; fast bus drivers and constant running probably was the essence of a very long April 12th.
It was quite a challenge mapping out Calista's day and adding captions to her photographs. Calista herself had added no captions to any of her pictures; they were just grouped into general folders and filed away on a disc. With the arrogance of youth, she assumed her memory would always suffice to fill in the blanks years later and, of course, it never occurred to her that she would die, leaving her mom and dad to fill in the blanks. I spent the better part of three days sleuthing through the photographs, adding titles to scenes I recognised and then applying principles of deduction to identify the rest.
I had some advantages that others may not have had in figuring out the where, when and how of her tour. First off, Rome is one of the premier tour destinations of the world, so there is an abundance of photographs of every notable building, fountain and monument from nearly every angle imaginable. Many of Calista's photographs mirrored or echoed published photographs and I was able to match them against references I have. Secondly, from the moment our family committed to sending our baby to the other side of the Earth, I dedicated myself to learning everything I could about her destination as only an obsessive-compulsive bibliophile like me can. I bought so many books on Italy, Rome and Greece that Roni finally forbade me to buy even one more book, even if it was a comic book. By the time Calista returned from Athens I was able to identify most of the famous tourist sites just on sight alone (and spout of a few pieces of useless trivia) from my reading. Finally there were a few choice locations that I had no hope of identifying on sight alone, so I had to apply pure deduction to pinpoint their location. The great Raymond Chandler, king of the penny-dreadful detective novel, would have been impressed.
|The mystery church with a gate full of locks.|
|The crowds at Trevi square on Easter Sunday in 2009. Taken seconds |
before the picture of Santi Vincenzo e Anastasio
The pace for Easter Sunday for the group was breathtaking. Going back to the time dating on the photographs, I was able to sketch out a very basic tour plan for that day: it appears to be nothing short of miraculous how much those kids actually covered. Calista was right I would have hated it with a passion. But I would have been there with her, and that would have made it alright.
|Trevi Fountain. Legend has it is that if a traveller want to return|
to Rome, the need only throw a coin into this fountain. I can only
hope that there is a "loonie" in that fountain that says Calista is
coming back to us to return to Rome
As far as I can see, the EF Tour group started in the early morning at the Coliseum, sitting at the eastern end of the ruins of the Roman Forum. After a fair bit of time touring and photographing the famous sporting theatre, Calista and her friends looped up through the Roman Forum. From the time stamps I see they spent perhaps only fifteen to twenty minutes there. They toured the ruins of perhaps the single most pivotal civilization in the last 3 thousand years in less than half an hour. How tragic. Continuing west by northwest, the students then mounted the Capatoline Hill to see the square that Michelangelo designed. From there I am pretty sure they just walked over to my favourite Roman building, the Pantheon, possibly the best preserved of the Roman buildings left from the days of the Empire. It was the one building I asked her to get photographs of and she did me proud.
|The Arch of Septimius Severus and|
Santi Lucae Martina. Septimius Severus
was an African who became Emperor by
being a great general. He didn't last long.
Very few emperors died naturally.
|the remains of the Basilica Aemelia, |
possibly the most ancient part of the Forum.
Note how she used the columns to frame the arch.
classic photography technique
|Temple of Antoninus Pius|
and Faustina. This ancient
building was converted into
an active church.Note how she
used perspective to increase the
visual effect of the ancient building.
|Her version of a classic photo. She appears to have spent nearly|
two hours here and got an inordinate number of "cat pictures".
I guess there are all sorts of feral cats at the Coliseum and she
was feeling a bit homesick for her Dougie-cat.
|The roof of Palazzo Senatario with the statues of Castor and Pollux|
which flank the top of the cordonata that leads to the Piazza Campidoglio,
designed by the great Michelangelo.
|From the bottom of the cordonata|
you may instead choose to mount the
124 marble stairs to S Maria in Aracoeli.
|The entrance to the great Pantheon. The |
interior dome with it's oculi for light was my
special request. I shared that in my last journal
entry. She was the best daughter.
After a very short visit to the Pantheon, the tour whisked the kids away to Piazza S Pietro to see the Pope's Easter Address to the faithful. I asked Calista if she actually saw the Pope and her sarcastic reply was that there certainly was some guy dressed in white up on that balcony in front of St. Peter's Basilica, but from her vantage, looking across a sea of Easter Pilgrims from nearly 300 yards away, it could have been a monkey in a mitre hat for all she knew. ( She was quite resentful because the whole Easter business had precluded a visit to the Sistine Chapel, which happens to be the Pope's own church. Calista was never very tolerant of "pomp and circumstance")
|St. Peter's Basilica from across the Piazza Oblique. That might|
be the pope in the window. Or a monkey in a mitre
according to my little iconoclast.
The kids had been told they would not have time to tour St. Peter's Basilica by the time the Easter crowds had dispersed, so they did not bother dressing appropriately for a visit to any holy shrine, much less the high holy of the Roman Catholic faith. They had all worn shorts and no woman (or man for that matter) is entering that church flashing high thigh skin. Unfortunately, they were all caught short in that the pilgrim hoards dispersed from the Piazza S Pietro Oblique in record time and Calista and her friends suddenly had time to tour. Calista was not about to miss out on seeing works of art such as Michelangelo's Pieta, so she and three friends tracked down a street vendor who sold large scarfs that could be wrapped into a modest and reverential knee-covering skirts. My girl got to see that church in the end; she crowed her triumph against adversity on her return. She also told me I
would have hated the tour since they were never allowed to stop walking for even a moment; they were essentially herded like cattle through perhaps the most impressive religious building in the world. Her photographs suffered as a result of the movement.
|Michelangelo's Pieta. I purposely|
made it small to cover the blurring from
her walking and shooting in the subdued light.
|When scarfs become skirts. I'm not sure they are all that |
sheepish and I doubt this is the first time tourists have improvised.
That street vendor probably sold many of these large scarfs.
|The "Holy Door" is only |
opened once every 25 years. I
doubt she knew the significance.
|The obelisk at the centre of St. Peter's|
Square. Legend has it that Caesar's ashes
are buried at it's base and a relic of the
one true cross is embedded in it's tip.
Want to buy some ocean-front property
in Florida? Cheap?
The tours adventure in the Eternal City finished with a trip to the Trevi Fountain, presumably to cast coins in hopes of a return engagement. A classic author of the Victorian Era quipped that a person could spend a lifetime in Rome and still be surprised every day and Calista only had two short days to catch the scent of the city. We hoped to rectify that, but life is what you get and you rarely get what you want. Early the next morning the high school class piled onto their tour bus and headed south, past Naples and under the shadow of volcanic Vesuvius to tour the ruins of Pompeii.
Calista had very little to say about Pompeii; it's not that she didn't enjoy the tour so much as she was overwhelmed by the tour. Walking in a city uninhabited for thousands of years yet still practically pristine, the remains of active lives interrupted suddenly made her feel like she was intruding in some stranger's home. I can only remember two comments she made; both of them typical of Calista.
She had to show me the first "Beware of Dog" sign: a perfectly preserved mosaic placed at the entrance to a private courtyard. Calista could never pass up any reference to a pet. She also took great humour in the discomfort of the Italian tour guide as she searched desperately for a politically correct word for "brothel" as she discussed Pompeii's version of the "red-light district" with the teen-aged co-eds from the Canadian Catholic school. Most of Calista's mirth came from the fact she still had to fill in the blanks to one of her male class-mates with the term "whore-house" when it was clear that the heavily accented term "male pleasure house" was still flying over his head.
|She always had to find the stray dog|
or cat everywhere she went, even if it
was 2000 years old.
|Sunrise over Vesuvius, probably much as it appeared 2000 years |
ago by Pliny the Elder, without the volcanic plume no doubt.
|Maybe she did spend too much time |
looking at fashion magazines.
|I wonder how the tour-guide felt about |
them jacking around on ancient artifacts.
I doubt Calista cared; she lived in the moment.
The Pompeii day ended with a fast transit of the southern end of the boot of Italy, down to the ancient port of Brindisi, situated at what would be the tip of a boot heel. They caught the ferry to make the night crossing of the Ionian Sea to Patras, Greece. Ferries became a big part of Calista's life when we moved west to BC, but this was the first time she had ever "been to sea". It turned out to be a bit more of an adventure than "the Road Warrior" wanted. In her classic understated, cynical way she summed the crossing up with the statement "You know you are in trouble when you see the ship's Captain praying over his rosary!"
|Adam and her hamming it up at the stern.|
Obviously late afternoon, before the clouds
rolled in and the wind picked up.
The idea of the night-crossing was that the tour-group would sleep on the ferry and arrive rested and ready to see the cradle of civilized democracy the following morning. Again, I wonder about the wisdom of crowding teen-agers into mass transportation and expecting them to sleep, but then, the way it played out, nobody slept that crossing, not even the sea-weary boat rats. A storm blew up out of the Mediterranean suddenly just at dusk and raged for most of the night. Either the crew of the ferry were taken unawares or they were incompetent because nothing was battened down in time and Calista found the remains of broken glasses, plates and cutlery strewn all over the mess hall the following morning. The students had all been assigned personal sleeping births, but those proved unusable since the tossing of the ship tended to launch the students unceremoniously out of their bunks and onto the floor without warning. Calista and and her cabin-mates finally settled for sleeping on the floor of a neighbouring cabin which was just the right size for them all to pile in like cord wood and brace each other from rolling too far. Calista made light of the crossing, but the fact that it was one of the few detailed accounts of the trip to make it home means that she was more than a little shook up by the marine version of a protracted earth-quake.
|As the wind built. This was the only|
decent picture of a long series; it's
hard to look good in gale-force winds.
Before this becomes just a running travelogue of a European Spring Break (quite different from a Spring Break in Florida), I will encapsulate the tour's two-day race across the Peloponnese, taking pit-stops to view the roots of our civilisation. They ran foot races at the original Olympia, stood in the crypt of Agamemnon, who launched the Trojan war, quoted from Shakespeare in the Greek Theatre at Epidaurus and dipped their toes into the cool winter Mediterranean while dreaming of the distant Greek Islands at Tolo. Two days after making landfall, they crossed the now obsolete Corinth Canal (started by decree of the mad Roman Emperor Nero but not completed for nearly 2000 years) and they had covered hundreds of miles across the rugged Peloponnese peninsula and witnessed thousands of years of antiquity. It was an exhausted bunch of teen-agers aching for a couple of days lodging in one hotel by the time they reached Athens.
|They ran foot races in the original Olympic|
Stadium after walking down this narrow lane that
once sported a vaulted stone roof.
|The temple of Zeus in ruins.|
I guess that destroys his credibility
as an all-powerful deity.
|The Palaestra: leave it to Calista to find the only gymnasium|
in the area and this one is decorated in purple, one of her colours.
|Mycenae: the Treasury of Atreus, aka:|
The Tomb of Agamemnon. The lintel stone
weighed 120 tonnes.
|The Lion Gate: erected 1300 BC or over 3000 years ago.|
Mycenae was one of the first sophisticated tactical citadels;
it still fell to attack eventually. Everything is eventual.
|Hamlet in Epidaurus (or maybe|
just a ribald limerick). Dates
from 4th century BC.
|And in the distance lie the fabled Greek Islands. They overnighted|
beach-side in Tolo before crossing onto the mainland on their way to
|Corinth Canal: started by Emperor|
Nero but not completed until !886. Some
things were beyond even Roman engineers.
In the not-so-immortal words of Calista, Athens is a "bit sketchy". By the time the Leboldus group made it to the cradle of western democracy, the sun had settled beyond the horizon and the streets of Athens were looking dark and ominous. Stray dogs, flea-bitten, half starved and likely mangy, roamed the streets looking for easy hand-outs and litter drifted everywhere in the evening breezes. The hotel they had reservations at lay at the end of a block-long lane-way too narrow for their full sized stage-coach, so they had to dismount and navigate the last 200 yards on foot, dragging their travel-distressed luggage behind with weary arms. The hotel itself proved to be quite nice if you could overlook the fact it had the smallest, slowest elevator ever built (though the antique elevator I rode in Nelson BC three years back was definitely in the running according to Calista). The kids were just happy to be settled for two consecutive days at the end of what had been a very busy trip.
|The Parthenon seen over the wall of |
the Acropolis. In Athens, birthplace of
democracy and the end of their tour.
It was Easter again since the Greeks
celebrate Greek Orthodox Easter.
Athens turned out to be Calista's favourite part of the entire tour. She managed to overlook the fact that it was dirty, crowded and for the most part in poor repair. To her the Greek section of the trip was insufficient and Calista felt that there was so much more to see in Greece that would pique her interest. In truth, her intention was always to repeat her European tour but to emphasise the Greek segment to a much greater degree. Of course that might have something to do with her very friendly reception by the Athenians.
Very quickly after landing in Rome, Calista realised that her dark complexion and exotic features endeared her to the Mediterranean citizens. Out in public, if the vendors did not see her EF Tours back pack or notice her painfully white compatriots, they often mistook her for a local. This mistaken assumption was a huge benefit in the crowded markets of Plaka, just north of the Parthenon. Calista quickly realised that if she went out shopping in the market with her friend JT Papandreos, who actually was Greek and looked it, she would not be bothered by the street vendors hawking for a sale. They just looked at the two distinctly Mediterranean looking kids and assumed they were local teen-agers out on a tear.
|JT and Calista: just "homies" hanging in the hood as far|
as the street vendors were concerned.
|Just goofing in the market in Plaka, a small shopping district|
just north and east of the Acropolis.
The last day in Greece Calista decided to take the optional tour of Delphi, home of the ancient oracles of Greece. North and west of Athens in the hills above the Gulf of Corinth, Calista enjoyed Delphi the most of all the places she visited in Greece. She took many pictures, but again, since she labelled so few I was left filling in the blanks by sifting through a tour book on Greece. Thank goodness the "Eyewitness Travel" books are so detailed and well illustrated. I just hope they are accurate. I guess its kind of like the oracles at Delphi: we won't know how correct they may be until we see for ourselves.
|Above the valley at Delphi. The Saskatchewan|
kids were all comfortable in summer clothes while
the locals thought it had been a cool spring.
|The stadium at Delphi. It hosted the Pythian|
Games and is considered exceptionally well preserved
The Greeks seemed to be all about sports and theatre.
|The theatre at Delphi.Seated 5000 people|
and it is 2500 years old.
|I had other pictures of classic Greek ruins, but this picture |
was classic Calista: flowers amid the ruins of Delphi.
Roni and I received our second and last long distance call from Europe as Calista waited in Athens International Airport to board the jet that would bring her home to us. It was a short call and, truthfully, my thrifty young daughter just could not bear to leave an outstanding amount on her calling card. In retrospect, I doubt she even threw any money in Trevi Fountain because that would be just wasteful. The tour group popped over the Alps into Frankfurt, then overnighted to Toronto and hopped that last jump into Regina running on nothing more than fumes in their teen-aged gas tanks. Calista managed a hug for her mom and me at the airport but saved her war stories until after a much needed nap in her home bed with her own Dougie-cat.
Calista brought home lots of keep sakes, but there is one special keep sake I want to tell you about. It is a silver pendant in the shape of a Greek column and has "Calista" written in Greek letters vertically. Of course, Calista is a Greek name selected because it means "most beautiful" and she was always the most beautiful thing in the world to Roni and I. That necklace was the first talisman that Roni attached herself to after the police finally left our house that horrible day. It hangs on Roni's neck most days even now, paired with her small silver pendant carrying a few grains of Calista. That small, inexpensive pendant purchased at a street kiosk in Athens will always be a treasure to Roni.
|Now there is a suspicious pair. She kept Adam close|
by for shade and reaching top shelves.
|Not hard to have a good laugh when you are with a good friend.|
|Adam to her left, JT to her right, there she is stuck in the|
middle of her friends. And oh, so happy. Thanks to everyone
that shared that time with her. It was her great adventure of her short life.