Up, up, up the ziggurat

We have a few hours before the big semi-final against Spain, so I will distract myself from the anticipation hanging heavy in the air over Berlin with a thematic post on our recent trips. Today’s theme is: Things We Climbed.

If I ever come to visit you (a likely infliction for you, since I will happily travel to anywhere) please take me up your nearest climable item – a church, a hill, a tower…. Two things appeal to me about climbing to the top of things: the climbing and the top. Poor Aaron suffers through my mania for striding up and up and up. For inexplicable reasons, I take great pleasure in the physical act of climbing. Sometimes these tall ventures make you take the elevator, but I always choose the stairs where possible. I guess I feel more accomplished and more enmeshed in the experience if I can feel my own leg muscles conquering. Then after the journey, I love to be at the top and look down over wherever I’m visiting and see to the horizon.

Our clambors in Italy began at St. Peter’s Basilica. As in most places in Italy, we were never out of hearing distance of someone’s English, Spanish, or German speaking tour guide, so we always knew more or less the official highlights of wherever we were going. On the trek up to the top of St. Peter’s, I was mesmerized by the exquisite calf muscles of the tour guide in front of us. Clearly she makes this climb regularly. At St. Peter’s you first get a view of the inside of the church from the walkway inside the dome.


We're so high! And the marble floor is incredible!


Then you get to see all of Rome, including the snaking line that somehow grew to incredible, shadeless lengths after you waltzed through security in minutes. We could see the Pope’s private residence, the Tiber river, and the seven hills of Rome.


St. Peter's courtyard. All those tiny dots around the rim are people waiting in the sun.



In Siena, we went straight to the top of the bell tower attached to town hall.


Aaron says, "Climbing stairs is fun!"


Each building has its own idiosyncratic rules about climbing. Here, for instance, you are only allowed to bring your camera, not your backpack, water bottle, or even camera case. Just the camera. Aaron and I got special permission to retain our hats only because they have straps that keep them from blowing off in the wind. The top showed us the lovely central Campo and the full extent of the medieval town.

We got another view from the loge of the town hall. Aside: The vocabulary of travelling in Italy challenged me. Our guidebook said things like: “Do not miss the view from the Loge.” But what is a loge? This word came up again and again. At the cathedral in Siena, the sign at the door said, “Buy your tickets at the Loggia.” What is a loggia, and where might it be? In this case, it was behind the church. Without bothering to look it up, I have decided that a loggia is basically a covered porch. But this vocabulary problem persisted. “Look in the transept for this,” “the brackets Michelangelo designed here are particularly striking,” “Remarkably, there are no vaults supporting this dome.” Transept? Brackets? Vaults? What am I supposed to be appreciating here?

But back to the climbing. We spent a perfect evening eating sandwiches and drinking wine on the hill overlooking Florence.


Ponte Vecchio over the Arno


We climbed the dome of the Florence cathedral, notable for it’s single-file, but two-way traffic pattern. I almost died of claustrophobia on the way down, waiting in the dark, cramped space between the outer and inner domes for the file of upward climbers to end so that we could continue down.


No problem, I can walk like a parenthesis.


In Budapest, we climbed St. Stephen’s church,


Our guidebook photographer also climbed this dome.


and the two hills in Buda allowing us to look back across the Danube to Pest.


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