Rapid Mediterranean

Sure, visiting Italy, Greece and Turkey over 5 days is not a recipe for immersion. But surprisingly, what it did allow me to do was to make a rapid comparison of three of the world’s prominent ancient civilizations. And here is my 6 line primer on these three great cultures :)

The Roman civilization was obviously a martial empire and the one thing that stood out was its emphasis on physical discipline and organization. The Appian way, the Roman baths and of course the Colosseum speak of a people obsessed to physically building order.

The Greeks on the other hand (incidentally an older civilization from whom he Romans gathered much) were clearly more intellectually inclined. The Greeks, using a new tool called Reason, gave rise to many seminal intellectual developments including such gems as the notion of equality of men and the premise that ideas are more important than physically perceived reality.

What about Turkey? Turkey was the gateway through which more ancient human achievements of the East reached Greece and then over millennia onwards to the wider West. And in this process of creative transmission became one of the great cosmopolitan civilizations ever.

My European trip

(Theatre of Pompey)

Random phrases one picks up in life sometimes stay with you and keep playing in that background song of the mind. A few such words in my own little background ditty pull me to a Europe I want to explore.

The Ides of March : ‘Beware the Ides of March’ said a soothsayer to Julius Caeser. And sure enough on the 15th of March (the 15th day of a few months were called Ides by the ancient Romans), Caesar was assassinated in the Theatre of Pompey in Rome. There are many reasons to visit Rome, but for me personally, none as compelling as the vision of the soothsayer talking to Julius Caesar and the ensuing murder in one of classical buildings of ancient Rome.

Checkpoint Charlie : Some of the greatest ‘spy vs spy’ novels of my young days had an inevitable setting. Checkpoint Charlie, that brutal and brooding bridge separating communist Berlin from its capitalist part. Germany is not a country on my top list of holiday destinations – for some reason, I can never find a great enthusiasm for it. But the one thing that I would like to explore in Germany is Checkpoint Charlie and the peculiar psyche of a city torn apart by ideologies. It does seem to be one of those defining European things.

Frosted Fields of Juniper : Paul Simon sang -

…and when you ran to me

your cheeks flushed with the night

we walked on frosted fields of juniper and lamplight

i held your hand…

And no one one growing up in an urban (& the slightly westernised part of) Indian metro in the seventies and eighties could have escaped the good Paul. Nor did I. And have wanted to see ‘a frosted field of juniper’ ever since. Of course, once I figured out that Gin is made from Juniper berries, the idea kinda took firmer root (so to speak).

They grow in northern Europe and there is a little town in a quiet corner of Europe, where a granny’s house sits in the middle of a field of Juniper.

Anyone for my European trip?