MC's Whispers

Whispering Silences

Archive for the tag “city”

Provincial lights

©Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Two years had already passed since she decided to leave the city for a provincial town.

She still remembered how much time and anguish she had experienced; her mind a whirlwind of thoughts pecking her brain with all the things that could go right or wrong.

It was hard to change your entire life. To exit the safety of your comfort zone, of everything you are used to and feel comfortable with. But if you don’t, if you never take the leap, you’ll never know where life can take you.

She never regretted having found the courage to alter everything.

Also part of Friday Fictioneers

Cat on fire

https://i.pinimg.com/originals/4d/fe/72/4dfe72a22311aacc45455cb8a90bed47.jpg

She sat on the balcony every morning among the plants breathing in the morning dew and fresh air. It felt nice being outdoors, even if this was on the third floor of a city-centre apartment. This was her ‘outside’.

The days passed calmly, as they do for an indoor cat.

But there was one day when something extraordinary happened.

Her housemates left early in the morning to “run errands”, as they told her. They reassured her they would be back soon as they had left their food baking in that square thing in the kitchen that heated up real fast and they called an ‘oven’.

It was hot that day. She realised it, as there was no fresh air, not even in the shade provided by the plants.

And all of a sudden, it happened.

Black smoke began filling up the house and causing an increasingly suffocating atmosphere.

She found it hard to breathe and snuck further behind the pots of the leafiest of plants. It didn’t work much, as the smoke intensified and there was a pungent smell that hurt her nostrils.

After a while, she heard commotion, but it wasn’t from inside the house. Her housemates had not yet returned.

And then, the sirens. Loud and shrieking, piercing her ears.

The door breaking open and five tall men, dressed heavily with helmets and bearing a long rubber hose that began to shoot out water. Voices shouting at all tones all at once, people moving in and out of the house, staring at her hiding behind the pots.

The smoke dispersed but the smell remained. She tried to go into the house to see who these people were and what happened, and that was when her housemates arrived and she could hear their voices break with agony.

One of them picked her up and clenched her in her arms. She said it was to reassure her that everything was all right and she was grateful nothing had happened to her. But the black cat knew that the hug served more as a comfort for her housemate, to loosen the tension and calm her nerves.

She had survived a fire.

To her housemates, she was the luckiest cat alive.

But to her, they were the lucky ones.

Il ritorno del grifo

1 DSC08984There are few cities that invite you back no matter how much time has passed. Cities where you spent a significant part of your life, your ‘formation years’ and which draw you back to inject in you every now and then that adolescent hope which you had when you first set foot there. Few cities actually have something new to offer every time you visit. And even fewer make you feel as if you arrive at home. Every time.

The highway ends and you can begin to sense the excitement creeping up inside you. As you turn on those winding roads lined with blooming green trees, you feel that you are returning somewhere familiar. 2 DSC09120And the moment you see that first building, that first location which springs a memory to mind, you know you’re there. Where you left a piece of your heart, a piece of yourself. At a place which is filled with experiences and a best friend who always awaits you with arms wide open. It’s a place where you have a family and it feels like home no matter how long it’s been since your last visit. All it takes is a couple of hours to rediscover it all and blend right back in, as if you never left. As if a part of you continues to live here, evolving along with the city and yearning to remain free, independent and energetic, just like your youthful self when you first arrived.

3 IMG_0746Perugia is a city that registers in your mind and heart. With historic medieval stone buildings, situated in the heart of Umbria at the centre of Italy, between Renaissance Florence and the capital Rome, Perugia is famous. It is a well-known cultural and artistic centre of Italy, rich in architecture.

It hosts arguably the best Italian language school for foreigners, while famous Popes, 4 IMG_0739as well as renowned actress Monica Bellucci (among others) were students at its university. The famous painter Pietro Vannucci, nicknamed Perugino, who was the teacher of famous Renaissance artist Raphael, was a native of Città della Pieve near Perugia, while famous painter Pinturicchio lived in Perugia. Also from Perugia was the famous architect Galeazzo Alessi.

5 DSC08995Situated in the Umbrian hills with an elevation of 493 metres, Perugia is a beautiful medieval city where you can go pretty much anywhere on foot. It is actually more convenient to walk rather than try to drive a car through the narrow winding roads, especially in the city centre.

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With so many uphills and downhills, it is also an ideal city to exercise naturally. Perugia is one of the rare cities that even require the presence of escalators and lifts – hundreds of steps exist throughout the city joining the different levels created due to its very particular geographic location.

7 DSC08989And the most exciting thing is that every strait around every winding corner leads to a magnificent scenery, a stone balcony full of colourful flowers smelling like spring and a series of steps that invite you to follow them to quench your curiosity.

Perugia is a city that inspires and encourages you to enjoy its elegant and interesting lifestyle to the fullest. 8 DSC09145It was only fitting therefore that the city chose as its protector during the Renaissance the mythological griffin – il grifo. With the head and wings of an eagle and the body of a lion, the griffin – found all over Perugia – is the city’s symbol, its emblem, its mascot, and during a football match, the city team’s nickname. It is associated with strength, courage and intelligence. The wings give it speed; the claws give it ferocious power – a proper combination of the king of beasts and the king of birds.

9 DSC09117Even more fascinating is the presence of an old city, buried when Pope III Farnese at the end of the ‘salt war’ in 1540 decided to build a fortress – Rocca Paolina – to keep the Perugians in line. Five levels high and symbolic of the papal domain, it encompassed an entire medieval neighbourhood, complete with houses, towers and streets. It was finally razed to the ground in 1860 and all that remains are the charming and unique basements, crossed through by escalators and used for cultural exhibitions.

No matter how long or how little you stay, 10 DSC09749there is always something new to discover – a small artisan shop, a tasty dish, a delicious drink. With festivals taking place all year round – be it Umbria Jazz in the summer (when the streets fill with music) or Eurochocolate in the winter (when the city is overflowing with chocolate) – the city invites tourists worldwide to discover the fascination of being a Perugino (and this is not only in reference to the famous Baci chocolates).

11 DSC09053In addition, few cities can boast an ideal balance between provincial traditions (the city’s population counts a mere 170,000) and technological progressions. With almost everyone in possession of a smartphone, the Umbria region even offers free Wi-Fi for two hours a day wherever you are in the city. Plus, the Perugini are avid recyclers – with containers separating waste found throughout the town, thus making the city exceptionally clean.

12 IMG_0735The best thing about a constant stroll up and down the city is that you return home tired but upbeat. Particularly since most of the high-ceiling houses here are naturally cooler inside than outside in the summer and in the winter do not require heaters to retain their warmth. This is when you truly feel fulfilled, when you are falling fast asleep in the warm embrace of a bed bigger and more comfortable than the one you usually lie in, to wake up refreshed, elated and safe of being among family.

13 DSC09057Then when the time comes you don’t want to leave. You already feel accustomed to this tranquil life, carefree and stress-free. Why return to the other side of reality? But departing will only make the next return taste sweeter. Because you will return. That is for certain.

 

N.B. All photos are mine taken in Perugia, Italy on 15-24 July 2014

 

Also part of Daily Prompt: Tourist Trap

Barry’s flight out

GoodfeathersIt was windy that day. Barry remembered it well. He lost three feathers in that whirlwind that took his town by literally a storm. It was the pain from the third feather being ruthlessly plucked out from his tail that made him take the decision. He was going to go to the city.

Life in a big city was not easy for a pigeon. It was not easy for anyone actually from what he witnessed. He had to fight off human scavengers near the dumpsters in search of food. And no matter how slowly you closed up onto someone sitting on a bench somewhere, they would for some reason “shoo” you away instead of throw you a breadcrumb or something. People in the city were rude. That is what Barry figured a few days after he took the giant flight to move out of his tiny town.

Expectations of course are not always met and Barry found himself in a situation quite different to what he had imagined. In the city you always risked being run over. By cars, by bicycles, motorbikes, rollerblades, even by these ‘people’ on foot. They didn’t care that you were trying to munch away on that big piece of bread you found lying on the floor, or that you were in a hurry to gulp it down before some other big pigeon of the ‘Goodfeathers’ clan came and grabbed it from you. No, all they cared about was that you were in their way. Half the times they didn’t even pay attention to you.

Of course the fact that Barry was quite small compared to the fat pigeons of the city, did not help his case either.

Barry found it rough in the city. There was too much noise, too many people, too many pigeons, and not enough food for all of them. And they were all too egocentric. He had been in the city for a week and had made no friends. Hardly anyone would talk to him at all. Instead he had been pushed over a branch he was sleeping on one night for ‘trespassing private territory’; he had a close encounter with a motorbike helmet; had an ‘unfortunate accident’ on a shiny car top that was parked underneath the tree he was taking a nap in and got violently yelled at; and had to wrestle for his daily crumbs with a whole bunch of pumped-up pigeons.

That night with the owl hooting under the full moon and the car horns filling out the silence that should have been, he decided to put an end to his city expedition.

Living in a city was exciting. But you had to be rough to endure life with such high adrenaline levels. Barry preferred the breeze of his town; the gossip he exchanged with his friends every morning, the fact that the neighbor had named all the pigeons that resided in the tree in his yard; and the silence that came together with nightfall. He would return to the city every now and then; everyone needs such a reality check, simply to appreciate the wonders they already have. “Better be great in a town, than ignored in a city” he thought as he made the flight home.

 

Enchantment by the river

DSC08009There are few cities in the world that enrapture you from the moment you enter their borders. Cities that overwhelm you with their distinct architecture, their harmonious environment and their cultural warmth. Strasbourg is one such city.

The capital of the Alsace region is situated on the borders between France and Germany and has over the years been the subject of dispute between these two great powers. IMG_0487Its historic city centre – the Grande Île– is surrounded by the river Ill flowing beneath the stunning 18th century bridges that are found throughout. It was classified a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1988, the first time such an honour was placed on an entire city centre.With its picturesque buildings, the city combines Germanic discipline and French finesse. It is a city that keeps you mesmerised with its stunning architecture, its scenic landscapes, and its breathtaking skylines.

DSC08121_CathedralThe Cathedral dominating over the city with its 142 metre spire was described by Victor Hugo as a “giant and delicate marvel”. Its appearance of carved-like stone make it a magnificent sight right in the heart of the centre in one of the busiest squares all year round.
Inside it is just as elegant with its colourful stained glass windows, and its Madonna vitro with a crown of stars on a blue background which inspired the European Union flag.

DSC08176_Astronomical ClockAnd there is the skillfully carved Pillar of Angels standing right next to the Astronomical Clock – a wonder of craftsmanship that every day at 12.30 features the twelve Apostles passing in front of Christ to receive His blessing, while a cock crows thrice.

DSC08575_Panoramic ViewAfter taking a spiralling 332 steps up the tower that literally take your breath away, you discover a view of the city that makes it all worth it.
DSC08102_Palais Rohan

Situated just opposite the Cathedral is the imposing Palais Rohan, formally an episcopal residence, which now hosts three museums: the State Apartments and Decorative Arts, the Fine Arts, and the Archaelogical Museum.

DSC08621_State ApartmentsWith Louis XV being the royal apartments’ first guest in the 18th century, the palace was built along the lines of Versailles.

 
But that is not the only thing that is reminiscent of the rest of France in Strasbourg. Petite France is the former tanners’ quarter which originally hosted a hospital treating patients with the “French disease” (syphilis) which was spread at the end of the 15thDSC08315_Petite France century. Now it is a prominent tourist destination for a drink and a traditional dish under the shade of the large trees, admiring the timber-framed charming houses interwoven with four canals.

 

IMG_0481_Ponts CouvertsBut the most majestic view of all is at the Ponts Couverts – the four Medieval Towers that served as fortification. The towers originally guarded the entrance to the city and were linked up by wooden bridges, protected by a roof until the 18th century.

 

IMG_0473_Barrage VaubanExactly opposite the bridge stands the Barrage Vauban, a barrage and lock designed in the 18th century to inundate the waterways of Strasbourg and defend the city in the event of a siege. In 1966 a panoramic terrace was built on top granting access to one of the most beautiful views of the city.

 
A walk along the river bank is essential as it reinvigorates the sense of nature that is usually lacking in big cities. Swans and ducks glide gracefully in the tranquil water, disturbed only by the occasional boat tour around the city.
DSC08507_Place de la Republique
The regal neo-Renaissance buildings around Place de la Republique – the Palais du Rhin, the National and University Library – appear all the more beautiful viewed among the colourful spring flowers, while the hundreds of youth in the city rush to the parks to absorb the cloudless sunlight.

Strasbourg encompasses the beauty of the countryside with the prestige of a DSC08033European capital as many EU institutions are situated here – most notably the European Parliament, the Court of Human Rights, the Ombudsman and the Council of Europe.

With only 273,000 inhabitants Strasbourg draws people of all ages from all around the world. A vibrant city and a lively atmosphere, it embraces you to its core and invites you to explore every corner of its fascinating culture. There is always something more to see from a European capital. And when it is as elegant, heart-warming and enchanting as Strasbourg, there is no doubt it will have you back sooner than you know it!

 

N.B. All photos are mine taken in Strasbourg on 9-13 April 2014.

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