It is hard to comprehend that I am sitting here in my kitchen on a Wednesday when I was playing in the waves of the Mediterranean Sea on Monday. We left zero margin and miraculously made every single connection. The Italian rail system is notoriously unreliable. On our way to Rome we had an hour and a half delay. If that had happened this week, our whole schedule would have been toast.
I am having difficulty wrapping my puny little mind around the events of this summer. This trip was not what we signed up for. I find some comfort in the, sometimes wrongly used, pacifier verse, Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called to according to his purpose”. The verse doesn’t apply to those who a: do not love God and/or b: are not called according to his purpose. Was this trip God’s calling for our family or did I ram-rod my agenda? I probably will not know the answer to that question, this side of eternity.
We all made it home in one piece, not permanently maimed or worse. That is something that I take great comfort in! I know a few fathers who have had the experience of having their kids involved in horrible car crashes and miraculously walk away from the wreckage. The overwhelming feeling is of thankfulness that the child wasn’t killed or severely injured. As time passes he may have tinges of guilt as he mourns the loss of the car. I am exceedingly grateful that Anna and Ella will be okay. It was truly Gods hand of protection and His provision of the right people being in the right place at the right time. It is with guilt that I mentally whine about the years of planning, saving and anticipation of this amazing cycling experience, only to turn out to be not much of a cycling experience at all. We still had an incredible experience and we met most of the objectives of the trip, namely: family bonding, exposure to different cultures and education-international travel fires new synapse in the old gray mater like none other.
Advise for other who may want to take on such an adventure:
1) buy travel insurance and make sure your medical insurance is international
2) try to travel in places or at times when the exchange rate is favorable. To use a Perotism “that giant sucking sound” was money coming out of our bank account.
3) When your kids are still sleeping with doll babies and stuffed animals, it is probably not a good idea to let them cycle independently. Although, I wouldn’t want to embarrass anyone by mentioning names but her initials are Sarah Kinsinger, is fifteen-years-old and she still likes to sleep with a frayed fragment of her baby blanket “bubby”.
Ella and Anna showed tremendous courage in the midst of their injuries. Sarah AKA “arms” was very patient and generally compassionate as she had to carry/feed/wash, more than her share. Benjamin was a master of getting dirty/climbing/bouncing off things/entertaining us. Last but not least, I need to give a shout out to Andrea, my life partner and companion. I am so thankful to have a beautiful wife that loves to play and is able to compliment me and bring reality to my dreams. She’s an amazing woman! Thanks to all who have kept up and prayed for us along the way. We feel loved.
Jay sent me some entries to do some catching up with, and to fill in some details. He asked me to insert them in chronological order. So please review the recent postings to make sure you haven’t missed anything. I’m inserting quite a few. As I type this it is very likely that the “Kinsinger European Adventure” has drawn to a close and they are home. My “secretarial” support will no longer be needed. Now we can all look forward to reading their personal reflections when they have time to post them.
Thanks for reading,
We finally shifted from adventure mode to vacation mode. We are in a place called Cinque Terre which is a resort area. Considered the Italian Riviera, but just barely. Cinque Terre literally means five cities, Cinque is five, Terre is land. Five distinct little cities, right along the coast, built literally into the cliff side. Fishing villages originally, with each city having its own personality. We have had fun travelling from city to city exploring, but our home base is here in Vernazza. Today Benjamin and I hiked from Corniglia to Vernazza. A nice little trail that runs along the sea-shore. Before these cities were connected they were kind of separate entities, and some what inbred. Everyone had to marry with in the community. They opened up a trail, I can’t remember exactly when, connecting each city by a foot path. Widened the opportunity, so to speak.
Vernazza is one of the cities that has a beach. There are really only two that have a beach, Vernazza is the smaller of the two. The kids have spent a lot of time swimming and playing at the beach. It has been very relaxing. It is a little bit pricey. We have learned a few tricks in our stay here in Europe. I think they have three price schemes. A price scheme for the locals, and that is lowest one. Then if you dine under one of their little umbrellas, or inside, there is a higher price scheme. In the middle is what they call take away. To give you an example, in Rome we went to a little cafe’ where the waiter seated us outside at one of those stereo-typical little tables. We had just a couple of cappuccinos and pastries and it was 14 euro. Next day we went to a different cafe’ and bellied up to the bar, so to speak, like the locals do. Had our cappuccinos and pastries and it was 4 euro. So a big difference there.
View from our balcony in Cinque Terre
The pieces of our final travel puzzle are falling into place. We have a place to stay lined up in a youth hostel tomorrow by the train station. Then we will be taking the train all day on Monday up to Frankfurt, Germany, which is our send off spot. About a 12 hour trip. We have a place to stay in the youth hostel that we began with in Frankfurt. Then Tuesday morning, bright and early, we board the plane and fly home.
We are in Rome, staying at the hotel Rosetta. The Coliseum is about 500 meters from our hotel, it is really a prime location. Yesterday we went to St. Peter’s cathedral, Vatican museum, and the Sistine chapel. Very awe-inspiring to say the least, and I’m hoping the kids will blog on the details about that.
What I want to talk about is what I call the Vespa ballet. I’m always the first one up every morning. So while everyone else is sleeping I like to go out on the town and watch what transpires. I am absolutely intrigued by the traffic here in Rome. Everyone told us before that it would be insane to try to drive here. It might be, but it is a beautiful thing to watch. Vespa is a brand of motorscooter. Vespa is to motor scooters what Kleenex is to facial tissues; the scooter may be made by Honda, Pugeot or Suzuki but everyone calls them “Vespas”. Vespa drivers range from teenagers to elderly They are all fearless, and they interact with the cars and buses in such a way that it is a beautiful thing to watch. Cars are used as shields as they turn into traffic. The center of the road is “their lane” as they fearlessly ride within inches of oncoming traffic. They whip around huge city buses and get in front of them at stop lights because they can accelerate quickly. I’m very impressed with the skill level of these scooter drivers. Ironically, as I’m dictating this blog, a fellow came down into the courtyard, put a full size suitcase in the foot rest gap between the handle bars and the seat. He draped his legs over the suitcase to hold it in place, and off he went. That’s very typical. You see people with all their groceries clamped between their legs. It is an amazing thing to watch. I am throughly entertained by it.
Michelangelo I have two questions for you. First question: Did you ever sleep? Second question: When you were carving the southerly region of the statue of David did you forget that he was Jewish?
Today we made our way to the Vatican Museum. We are learning a lot about Michelangelo. He was a prankster. As a teen-age apprentice he was given an original work and was asked to copy it. He carefully aged his parchment with smoke and did such a precise job of reproducing it that he returned his copy, rather than the original and his teacher did not notice difference. Only Michelangelo was able to discern which work was the original. Painting the ceiling of the Sistine chapel was an amazing physical feat. Michelangelo had to crane his neck, working with his arms overhead. That kind of posture is very hard to maintain. He did it for four years, pretty much dawn to dusk. He had an adversarial relationship with the Pope. He used to drop stuff on top of him when he came in to inspect his work. Michelangelo painted “The Last Judgment” which depicts the return of Christ and the subsequent separation of the saved and the dammed. He painted the image of the Pope on the dammed side of the fresco. Some say the frescos of Sistine chapel is are the greatest works of art work ever created. It is hard to argue with that. It is just stunning to see it in person.
St. Peter’s Basilica is Michelangelo’s most significant achievement as an architect. We climbed all the way to the tip-top of the dome. The stairs follow the contour of the dome. We had to lean sideways and suck in our gut in a few places. The view from the top of the dome, overlooking Rome was awesome. Within the Basilica is the “Pieta”, a statue of Mary holding the body of Jesus after he was crucified. The story goes that he did the work in secret and then snuck it in to the church. The next day everyone was raving about what a wonderful work of Christoforo Solari, “He out did himself!” The next day he carved the following inscription on the sash running across Mary’s breast: MICHEL ANGELUS BONAROTUS FLORENT FACIBAT (Michelangelo Buonarroti, Florentine, made this). This is the only work that Michelangelo ever signed. Michelangelo later regretted his passionate outburst of pride and determined to never again sign a work of his hands. Everywhere you look in Rome there’s a finger print of Michelangelo. From architecture, to sculptures, to paintings, it is all very interesting.
A lot of the places we have been to have organized tours. On these tours the guide usually holds a stick with a tassel on top. Sometimes this can be pretty annoying when you are there by yourself, and this big group comes barging in. Today we were on the other end of that. We decided to splurge and take advantage of a tour guide for the Roman Coliseum and the Roman Forum, with two different tour guides. We are really glad we did. The tour guide for the Coliseum was actually really good, but the guide for the Roman Forum was outstanding! Definitely worth the price of admission. He gave us the story of the origin of Rome, both the mythological, and the actual. Gave us a lot of background on Roman culture, especially back in the peak of the Roman empire. For example he talked about how the Emperor would host meals, and they would average 7 hours in length. Everyone would eat while lying on mattresses. The mattresses would form a semicircle with the Emperor in the center. There was a mountain of exotic food, many times more than was necessary, all to show how important the host was. They would basically gorge themselves, then walk over to the side, and tickle the back of their throat with feather to regurgitate all that they had eaten. Then they would go back and eat some more, and do this over, and over again. Today we would call that an eating disorder. As he said, and I agree with, it is a very good example of consumerism. He also talked about the politics, and the culture of Rome today. Everybody seems to hate the prime minister of Italy right now, and I’m not sure exactly why. I’m not tuned into Italian politics, but they are very angry with this man for some reason.