All Roads Lead to Rome

Rome, Italy

Throughout our European travels we have found evidence of the greatness of the Roman Empire; from Hadrian’s Wall in the misty isles of Britain as far as Ephesus on the Aegean shores of Turkey. Every church, every castle, and every European city we visited was built upon the foundations of Roman temples, forts, and towns. Roman language, culture, and technologies spread all across the western world and are still used today. Needless to say, I was ecstatic when at last we had arrived at the centre of it all, the birthplace of western civilisation, to which all roads once led: Rome.

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Christmas Eve and Tales of Brno

Christmas, Freedom Square, Brno, Czech

Having a weekend off from babysitting duty in Vienna, we were trying to figure out the best place to spend our Christmas holidays– and it had to be somewhere cheap because Austria was killing us! A fine thing about being in central Europe is that you’re rarely more than a couple hours away from the nearest border, Austria itself being closed in at all sides by Slovenia, Hungary, Slovakia, Germany and the Czech Republic (don’t forget Liechtenstein!). Surveying our choices, we decided it would be fun (and cheap) to take a couples’ vacation up to Brno, Czech, only a couple hours by bus from Vienna. Czech is a country we’ve visited before on our trip to Prague and Karlovy-Vary, and we were more than happy to return to its loving embrace.

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The Krampus Creeps through Salzburg

St. nicholas, Krampus, Salzburg

St. Nicholas consoling the children

When we arrived in Salzburg, Austria on Dec. 5th, Christmas had already come! The streets were lit up with brilliant lights and the smells of baked goods wafted deep into our senses. Around every corner Christmas carollers galore sang traditional tunes, accompanied by brass bands and accordion players. Mulled wine was being quaffed in sickening amounts and temporary stalls, set up in several of Salzburg’s squares, were selling a multitude of bees-wax candles, holiday decorations, and mountains of sugary sweets. Little did we know that all of these familiar festivities were leading up to something strange…. and possibly terrible.

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Dante’s Inferno in Slovenia

Tolmin Gorge Cave, Tolmin, Slovenia

“In the middle of the journey of our life I found myself within a dark woods where the straight way was lost.”
Dante Alighieri, The Inferno

From the top of Šentviška Gora Plateau, Ashleigh and I descended along a walking trail that had been altogether obscured by a passing storm. Felled trees littered the path like strewn match sticks and we had to scramble our way through like an obstacle course. We were staying with English expatriate Helpx hosts who lived in a terribly remote region of Slovenia, amidst the tiny settlement of Ponikve– a carpenter and a hairdresser who decided to make a new home in a strange country. Unable to get a ride, and with no other way to get off the mountain, we set off on our weekend adventure on foot in an attempt to get to the beautiful Tolmin Gorge, about 15 kilometres away.

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Walking the Streets of Troy

Brad Pitt’s Trojan Horse

          We leapt excitedly off the bus to find a familiar row of stalls and shops set up along the dusty road into the archaeological site of Troy.  Avoiding eye contact and all forms of acknowledgement we sped past the sellers waving cheap trinkets and prepared ourselves for an amazing journey through classical literature. Wow, I made that sound really boring.

The Illiad, one of the two epic poems attributed to Homer, is an ancient Greek story set during the Trojan War: the ten-year siege against the city of Troy. This is probably one of the greatest tales of all time, retold for centuries in the courts of kings and before the thrones of emperors, enjoyed by all and still a favourite of today. If you have seen the movie ‘Troy’, starring Brad Pitt, you should at least get the gist of the tale. Though Homer stirred many fantastical and outlandish deeds of mighty heroes and angry gods into this great legend, the Trojan War is believed to actually have occurred in the 12th century BC and the ruins of the ancient city of Troy still exist today. Continue reading

The Path of Cúchulainn

     

        A long time ago, sometime between about 600 and 150 BC, the Celtic people travelled across the sea from western Europe and invaded Ireland. The land was lush, green and beautiful, a much desired location for a new home, but another people had already settled in Ireland, and had been there for thousands of years. The Tuatha Dé Danann were recorded in Irish mythology as being a race with supernatural powers and god-like abilities. Whoever these people were they left their mark on the landscape, building enormous burial chambers and temples, erecting massive standing boulders, and leaving behind exquisite, scrolling carvings in stone, a style that is still duplicated today in Celtic art.

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Bifröst and the Footsteps of the Gods

Bifrost, Iceland

Bifröst, the bridge to Asgard.

These are the words from the journal of Nathanael Weirson:

“Bifröst seems to be everywhere. In every new place we visit in Iceland, Bifröst is already there, a glowing arch on the horizon. In the old legends it is said that Bifröst is composed of burning fire, the golden colour of the sun, growing grass, and running water. Scandinavians, once believers of the Norse religion, knew what we call a “rainbow” was really a bridge to the world of the gods.”

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