One must begin somewhere and that is the curse. No single word or phrase ever presents itself as absolute, as beyond choice but as soon as the process of sifting through potential opening lines begins, the sense of arbitrariness starts to vanish. Though at the back of one’s mind one certainly forever wishes to pounce into the middle of things like a jaguar, to become instantaneously lost in a vast mythopoeic labyrinth that draws the reader in like the whiff of a hidden hoard of gold. On a perverso-abstract level I want as many beginnings as mathematically possible, I mean, as if on a winter’s night a traveler…a heavy, thick cloud of sentences, words slowly swirling down like particulate matter, blackening the reader in verbal soot… Aaaaaaah, well then.
If on a summer’s morning two travelers get on a train to Roma, bella Roma, they can expect a long sitting, delays and above all to come across many interesting performances from the human circus: clowns, tiger trainers, high-rope acts, the full-spectrum of folly. And so we did.
First however, to track back a third time through a maze in which only two steps have been taken, perhaps one turn… first, before attempting any literary rendition of the journey from Lucerna to Roma, I should dispose of the hoary sayings that could come to haunt us: All roads lead to Rome
How sweetly fateful this sounds but alas, we move through the globalized age where trips have become a few months’ savings matter, discount planes crisscross the sky and coaches venture into the depths of the province. In a certain regard the phrase holds as true as the one that all roads lead to Dirtwater, Nevada; they do. Rome’s status as the navel of the world is of course a thing of the past, a harmless nostalgia for the melancholy pleasure of it while indulged, is all.
The other exhausted cliché? Rome was not built in one day
Throw that one over board! Of course in a metropolis that thrives on the commercialization of its historical detritus, the dilapidation of its one-time glory, the materialization of its spirituality [Vatican] matters of construction will be given zero shrift. And anyway, no need to fool myself nor my dear readers on this count, I have come here as a, gulp, Tourist. Far from me is it to help construct anything given my status as designated consumer.
The same applies to: When in Rome, do as the Romani Romani do…
…please, nay, nein, bitte ned. All these anal apothegms apply best when one happens to be staying far away from Roma and wishes to sprinkle oneself with a bit of the dusty splendor of a fantasmatic Caput Mundi [bread, games, blood]. In this respect, we have (mer, themsimi) perhaps also come here to disabuse ourselves of all the rome-antic stereotypes haunting the chambers of our subjective imaginaria. Chambers chockablock with images from the superbly produced BBC/RAI series “Rome”, which heart-wrenchingly was finished off after just the second season, long before its time [Nightly prayers that DVD smash-hit sales will bring this series back to life]. Given our teleducation Sim&i wondered: What else is there but snacking on roasted pheasant and grapes for dinner, weaving intricate intrigues, vying for imperial power and showering foul fruit upon Gladiators on balmy summer nights?
So! Rid of banal ballast [the sayings] we can embark upon the journey proper of chronicling our experiences/adventures/anecdotes/trivia/gelati/ snapshots /joys&sorrows in the city of cities, the womb of metropoles or the cities’ city. Capich? Get with the program.
…But, but, but, what is actually happening….
All of this written down now and using yet different ink again [not to mention sitting on another train, the slow stitch from Zurich to Lucerne, all writing broken up into incoherent fragments of commuter time, a mosaic of reminiscences] I can at last set out to set down whatall has come to pass.
p.s.: yes, the “s” in the title is intentionally lower case 😉
 It shouldn’t just be yet. Stay your Readerly appetite a few paragraphs longer, bear with me you travelogue digestive tracts, for the attentive reader might have, with a certain disquiet & curiosity remarked the change of ink from page three to page four [that’s if you’ve sticky-fingered the priceless original]. Which, temporally speaking, was no small matter at all but instead, while only a flip of the page/line as the eyes read, marked the passage of 108 hours. That is, x-cluding our [inebriated, parental] night of arrival, the entire sojourn in Roma the Ravishing. Thus again the red, blood-soaked yarn is ripped and here we have no chronicle at all but a paltry retrospective, details fading out of memory’s eye as I write and you read. A summoned summary while outside the window a scorched, unspectacular Lazio, all poplars and acaciae, haycocks, maize-fields fading into forest [has to be seen] and ocre, crack-walled villages sneaking up hillsides flit by at 250 clicks an hours. I am sitting on the train home, writing. Inside me a premature drip of nostalgia, surprisingly acidic, has already begun. Hyperkinetic myself, I consider the marvel of time’s motion and resent it. I wish for everything to be one extended, deeply appreciated moment [of clarity].
As I write the train even increases its velocity to an improbable 300 k per h, past-gridlocked Italian traffic on the plane north of Bologna. I gaze out and across, dislike not being able to see the sea as I had imagined that it would be back home: lovely Mediterranean waves parallax-scrolling all the way to the horizon. It is true: as a Swiss Citizen one learns to complain on a high-level [and then even this saying, our own, we are kind of smugly happy with]. I digress, why not?
Zooming past the paralytic cars I wonder just how many times one, car-owner, needs to see Trenitalia swoosh past at incredible speed before one gets it: that public transport is the future, has always been. That one saves oneself a supertanker of grief and money by not saving up for a car but instead getting the year round ticket; the only downside being that you’ll have to learn to use a schedule, which is entirely doable. How many times?
I write then I study the landscape again, still hoping for a silver sliver of sea on the horizon or some edifying geographical formation to write about. After a while I accept the fact that the stretch between Milano and Roma is simply not particularly breath-taking. Except for that village, somewhere north of Rome, which appears to be constructed on a leveled hilltop. This alone would perhaps not arrest one’s gaze but then the city limits are steep cliffs that look every bit human-made, dropping down ten to twenty meters to the anyway steep hillslope. From the side we were approaching it was impossible to tell how exactly the villagers could get in and out of this fortress of a village other than a subterranean system of spiraling tunnels or chutes or ropes or ladders or all of these. And in this small town’s development its defensive strength was evidently its weakness too: trade/transportation must be a hassle and it could never grow beyond its vertiginous boundary. The other notable exception are the more northern lands: hills so stunningly dense-forested that the only expression which makes any sense is jungle, meaning you will make very little progress through it in the absence of a well-honed machete. High on the ridges of this arboreal landscape I could distinguish the light-brown boxes of those typical Northern Italian provincial estates: weather-beaten, earth-colored, full of hairline fissures and in an indescribable way organic, as though nature did not mind their presence, indeed considered them just another family member, overgrowing those houses with vines so lushly. However, the dark green hills were just brief visual snatches between the longer tunnels and given the celerity of the carriage, this lead to a farcical behavior pattern of us passengers: looking up to glimpse the rolling hillsides then dropping our sights again, in tunnels, to continue with our respective looks, then throwing our heads back again to get an eyeful of verdant scenery and just so back down into the pages, every few seconds, doing approx 300km/h, very much like parched Savannah animals at a shrinking waterhole careful of predators.