Across the Palisade
Rome to Amsterdam; a travel diary
We stay on Via Pasquale Villari in an apartment with crumbling shutters and a wooden elevator, I feel the cool terracotta tiles under my barefeet as he makes us coffee on the stove. A short walk through Parco Del Colle Oppio and I can see the Colosseum appear through the cypress trees, its imposing presence. The Forum is another world completely, lost in time and preserved in the hot sun. Before turning the corner we can hear the gushing water from the Trevi fountain, we throw in a coin and a couple proposes. Overwhelmed by the beauty of the Vatican, every ceiling, wall and floor is covered in exquisite beauty found nowhere else. We are lucky enough to see Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel and crane our necks for as long as we can, before moving with the ushered crowd.
Our train leaves the italian suburbs and suddenly we are surrounded both sides by water, as if the tracks are floating on the waves. Venice is a maze of narrow alleyways, bridges and turquoise canals; a maze we do not mind getting lost in. We take a boat ride out on The Grand Canal and visit the busy and beautiful Piazza San Marco. We are treated at the Galleria Dell’accademia with endless artwork of Byzantine and Renaissance eras. We sip Bierra Morretti by the water’s edge. A gondola cuts through the water at night, we wait on the bridge and listen to the soft movement in the twilight.
Six hours in a Trenitalia carriage, we travel from Venice to Vienna through alpine mountains with snowy peaks. Everything in Wien seems to be illuminated ivory, clean and bright. Relaxing in the manicured grounds of the Museumsquartier, we spend hours in Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches and spy Bruegel’s Tower of Babel. Modern art by Chagall, Kiefer and Malevich in the Albertina moves me to tears quietly in the corridor.
We eat Sachertorte in Cafe Central where Freud, Trotsky and Lenin once dined. Our final moments in this beautiful city is spent up on the hill at the Belvedere Palace, looking out across the city and witness the famous Kiss in it’s halls.
Following the Danube we arrive in Budapest, a city defined by water. We spend the hottest day floating with tanned Hungarian bathers at Szechenyi and watched them play chess. Fountains shoot up into the sky on Margaret Island, both sides surrounded by the river, and the Music Well plays it's tune. We stop at the Shoes on the Danube sculpture outside the Hungarian Parliament Building, and looking over at Pest from The Fisherman’s Bastion we thought about the union of the two sides
We take the train across Slovakia to reach our next destination in the Czech Republic. The weather in Prague becomes stormy and brooding to match the gothic architecture evolving before us. The skeleton on the Astronomical Clock chimes its bell as we enter the bustling square. A visit to the Jewish Quarter makes my heart ache as we reflect upon our European history. We see the Rabbi and his son outside the cemetery and step inside the Spanish Synagogue, tilting our heads in awe to see fractals of golden Stars of David spinning from each corner. The sun begins to set on Golden Lane and illuminates the colours of the brick, we peek into the house Franz Kafka rented.
We cross the German border into Nuremberg, a truly picturesque Bavarian town with gingerbread style houses and winding streets. We take shelter from the showers and have the best sauerkraut and Kellerbier from clay steins. The streets are quiet and peaceful, but steeped in a dark history. It saddens me that such a beautiful place could have such a dark past, and we visit the Rally Grounds at Zeppelinfeld to see that they had been left to overgrow and fade away. We focus our attention on the views from Nuremberg Castle and take a quiet refuge in the Frauenkirche in the market square.
Amsterdam is a bustling change, the buildings painted in red and yellow match the tulips. We dodge oncoming bicycles and smell the cannabis hanging in the warm air. I elbow my way through the crowd to see The Milkmaid by Vermeer and meet the eyes of Rembrandt’s men in The Night Watch. We tour the works of Van Gogh and fill ourselves with haring sandwiches, fish kiebbling and stroopwafel from the market before it was time to go home.