Sunday, July 20, 2008

No Sleep Till Tallinn

First, to answer some comment queries:

1) The building behind me in the Forum video is the Rome city hall - still active and the residence of the mayor and city government. It's on Campidoglio, the original Capitoline hill where Rome allegedly began. The building does seem to be a Medieval structure built on top of ancient ruins, but then that's quite common in Rome. You'll see bits of millenia-old masonry sticking out of walls at random.

2) It's not a Hugh Laurie American accent, that's what I sound like at the moment. Since English was not always a primary language for me, I don't have an established accent; if I'm immersed in a culture long enough, I tend to pick up local speech patterns. Disturbingly, this happens not just with native-English regions; stay too long in Scandinavia and I start talking in the Swenglish pidgin. Mind you, I spend much more time writing English than speaking it, so I do have an accent beyond the American that I default to.

3) Hmph. I am against cover charges on philosophical grounds; the assumption is that I have to pay for the privilege of giving the establishment my business, which is a pretty fucking bold statement to be making, and let's face it, even in Rome few restaurants live up to it. I don't have anything against, say, a drinks minimum - if you take up space in a busy spot at rush hour, you shouldn't just be nursing a tap water, that falls under my general "don't be an asshole" policy, but Italian restaurants are a bit too eager to fleece you with auxiliary charges for my liking. Apparently the prices for the same foodstuffs are different not just for in-house or takeaway (which could be justified by the difference in waiters' salaries and cutlery washing costs), but for standing at the counter, sitting at a table, and sitting at a table outside. I have the same motivation for intensely disliking the American sales tax practice: it means that the price I see is not the price I pay, and that goes against my fundamental understanding of what is right and proper. It's not the expense that annoys me (although five Euro for a tin of iced tea is highway robbery); it's the mindfuck.

I've still got most of a day tomorrow, which I will probably spend ambling about and maybe looking at some of the shops - might as well; but I am happy to be heading home. Rome is an intriguing place, but it I haven't felt the same affinity with it as I have with, say, Stockholm. It's not an uncomfortable place for me, like Cologne or Berlin were, and it's a lot more comprehensible than London. My aversion is not just down to the heat either: I felt more at home in Jerusalem than I did here, and that was by far the most culturally alien place I've been yet. But it's not as stifling as Reykjavik either. Even as I am underwhelmed by Rome, it seems to have made every effort to accomodate me. (The quintessential Roman experience: watching an old silent movie being shown on an outdoor screen on the Isola Tiberina, standing on the Ponte Fabricio, while nursing a limone gelato.)

I saw a quote somewhere - I think it was by Verdi - "You can have the universe, if I can have Italy". Well, I understand the sentiment mate, but then again - you're welcome to it.


Giustino said...

You use British slang, but your accent is more American.

Jens-Olaf said...

Flasher I am working on it. I know there is research how Rome looks at the end of the empire 470/480, but more interesting is how it looks like around 600 and 800. And then we are at the beginning of European (modern) history. What did Charles the Great see. What was missing. One of his residences, Aachen, had 3000 inhabitants. But ideas for a new architecture came from Rome or Ravenna. 800, a good start to discuss what it means to be European.


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