Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Summer

How’s your summer going? Mine’s pretty good so far (what, is it over already?!)

I resigned from a 9-5 (more like 8-8 actually) job in May and that started off the summer just right. Now I work from home, at my own pace, doing the things I love to do (Reiki healing, counselling, writing). Not that much money coming in so far, but luckily that’s not an imperative right now. And hopefully it’s just a matter of time before it starts flowing in... (C’mon, one can always hope.)

Apart from the freedom from the 9-5, one of the highlights of my summer has been a brief trip to Europe. I managed to do a bit of quite a few fun things. Visited some old haunts (mainly in Austria) and went to new towns (in Italy). Met up with a dear friend I hadn’t met in 10 years and with cousins I don’t see very often (we’re a bit of a scattered family). Attended an Italian-Indian wedding (hence the family reunion) in Verona, where I also took in some fabulous opera at the Arena, a huge old amphitheatre open to the skies.

Not only was the opera really good, it was a visual feast on a vast scale (much bigger than most opera houses, obviously). In fact Aida was so much of a visual feast that I couldn’t focus too well on the music and the singing! By contrast, Nabbuco had a somewhat minimalist set, but the music and singing were divine. And Carmen was just so much fun (despite the sad end).

Verona itself is a beautiful old town, somewhat overshadowed by the splendour of other Italian cities with their art treasures (Florence) and huge historical wonders (Pompeii). Verona can’t compete with those, it’s true, but it’s really quite a charming town. Just like Bergamo, known mainly for providing Milan’s “second airport.” (Many flights from within Europe seem to land here.) But it is stunningly beautiful, surrounded by hills, and steeped in history. Truly Italy is spoilt for riches. Oh, and one additional factor in favour of such towns: far, far fewer tourists.

This hit us (my husband and I) when we moved straight from Verona to Venice. Fabulous city, of course, and quite unique – but absolutely crawling with tourists! Well, yes, we were tourists too…
Travelling further, we took the train from Venice to Vienna, Austria. A friend who’s done this same journey described it so: at some point I noticed everything was neater, in straighter lines – the fields, the bales of hay… A bit exaggerated, but kind of true. Decades ago, when I lived in Vienna, travelling to Italy always felt like travelling half-way home to Asia. You get the picture.

Our most fun day in Austria was when we took the boat from Krems to Melk, in the Wachau valley. Green hills, often covered in vineyards, along the banks of the Danube, little villages with beautiful churches, and a ruined old castle on every hilltop (well, almost). And at the end of it all Stift Melk – a beautiful, yellow-exterior Baroque abbey on top of a hill overlooking the river. Lovely. Inside, the abbey is perhaps a bit too Baroque. The church that you come to at the end of your wanderings around the abbey is jaw-droppingly gold-covered. Not exactly elegant, and certainly nothing understated or subtle about it -- it stops you dead in your tracks as you enter. The church includes relics of unknown saints, something that’s always puzzled me. How do you figure someone’s a saint if you don’t know who they are? I’m sure there’s an explanation, but I didn’t know who to ask. Besides, I was busy hitching up my jaw again.

And now to sort through my 1,200 photos!


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  5. I remember the feeling of freedom when I left my last 9-5 job and went Europe. I have not returned to Asia since I did than and in a few days it will be my first full year here in Paris! Just thought I'd share with you.

    Anyway, when you do find yourself going around Europe, I suggest you go on:

    It has not failed me so far!!!