Rome

And The Poop Wins!

I think what might surprise people is what tourists remember of their city.  Yes, we see the pretty vistas and the beautiful buildings and the nice museums.  Then we see the real city and that is what we remember the most about your country.

Nicaragua has to be one of the dirtiest countries I have ever visited.  The trash was everywhere.  I also never once felt safe while in the country as a whole and Nicaragua is not on our list of countries we would return too.

In Panama you can walk the streets and have the person in front of you toss their trash right at your feet; to them the whole country is a trash can and someone else will clean it up.  Sadly, no one does.  Panama is a beautiful country and has things to see but cleaning the country will be a big undertaking.

Sarajaveo will long be remembered by me for its beggars and how much of a turn off it was to try to walk the streets.  I would have loved to have walked any street without being confronted by some pretty aggressive families begging for money, but that was not the case and Sarajaveo comes off my list of places I would return too.

Iquique, Chile will long be remembered by me for its charm along its waterfront and its attention to keeping families together along its beaches.  They have done an excellent job in creating a great family environment for everyone along its waterfront.  The rest of the city however is another story and the further you get from the waterfront the less safe the city streets become until you are in some neighborhoods that some gangsters might be afraid to go to.

Santiago, Chile was a real surprise.  Loved this city.  Loved its vibe, its great attractions and the streets were pretty clean as well.  Yep, this city stays on my list and I could see myself going here permanently.

Rome will always be the place where Mike got pick pocketed.  It will also be the place where we remember that we tried to tell the police more than once what happened and no one cared enough to take a crime report.  It is a shameful and disgusting way to treat tourists and we heard from residents it is pretty much the same for them so why would I ever want to return to this city.  I don’t’ and I won’t.

Torrevieja, Spain is turning into the dog poop capital of the world.  So many expats walk their dogs here and many more dog owners do not pick up the poop that their dogs leave behind.  It is a mine field out there on any given street on any given day.  You can’t look up and enjoy the scenery because you run the risk of stepping in dog poop almost immediately.  There is no block that is not covered in dog poop somewhere.  Frankly, it’s revolting.  There are campaigns and laws on the books now about dog owners being fined for allowing their dogs to poop on the streets and then not picking up that poop.  Not sure what good that does.

So while you think that your city tops the list of one of the most beautiful places on earth to live; next time look at your city as if for the first time and see what tourists might be saying about your city.  It’s not too late to fix those things that might be wrong with it; we haven’t been everywhere yet.  And when we visit we’ll be sure to let you know what we think of your city.  I mean, if I need a pooper scooper to visit your city; I don’t think I’m coming to visit.

Florence Lince

http://www.about.me/florencelince

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We No Longer Live in Oz

Or, The Yellow Brick Road is Not So Shiny Any More

I feel badly for my husband Mike.  When I met Mike he was living in the Pacific Northwest.  He was born and raised in Seattle and he lived with his front door unlocked when he slept.  It wasn’t something he did unconsciously he just never needed to lock his front door when he went out or when he was home.

Then I showed up and nearly had a coronary the first night I realized he was leaving the doors and windows unlocked.  I was born in New York and wouldn’t have dreamed of doing this ever.  I had then moved from New York to California and I lived through the terror of the many nights when the Hillside Strangler was lose and we not only locked windows and doors but in some cases we even nailed the windows shut. Mike wasn’t used to my need to lock everything up and he has always trusted those around him.  For me, people have to earn my trust.

Recently, the unthinkable happened to Mike and he was the target of a pickpocket ring while we were visiting Rome.  He was devastated.  It never even occurred to him that he had been targeted but after 12 seconds of watching the group and he interact I asked him if he still had his wallet and sure enough the little ‘bastards’ had lifted his wallet, and his faith in humanity, with it.

We have since had to have serious conversations on staying safe and not allowing others to target us.  I feel badly for him because this has caused him to have to question what people are saying to us and the validity of their questions and even made it harder to trust anyone.

Since his wallet was lifted we have twice more been targets but these times they got nothing and they realized we weren’t playing around.

The first time three kids wanted to help us with our luggage onto the train in Rome; again, they separated me and Mike and I knew immediately what they were doing so I yelled his name and they moved out of my way, but not before one of the girls was trying to open the zipper of my raincoat.

The next time was here in Madrid where a woman came up to Mike and started to ask him if he could help her.  With his hands still inside his pockets he told her he didn’t speak Spanish and couldn’t help.  She turned away disgusted.

Some of the major adjustments we have had to make include; we prop our luggage up against a wall and one of us stands with our backs to the luggage; we both walk with our hands in our pockets and even when people come up and try to ask for help or questions we leave our hands exactly in the pockets. The only thing in those pockets are now used Kleenex so I dare anyone to try and lift what they feel.  We don’t carry anything of value in open pockets.  We have zippered pockets all over all of our garments and we are both now wearing two coats with zippers everywhere and that still isn’t where the money is kept.

What distresses me the most however is the feeling of anger I feel now when we walk around; no longer can we talk freely with people.  Not being able to trust others until they earn this trust is hardest on Mike.  He has always been open and willing to chat with others about our lifestyle and where we have been and what we are doing.  Now we have to watch what we say and to whom; we have to watch others around us to see who is eyeing our luggage; we have to be careful with taxi drivers and where we use an ATM, and more.

The other day the taxi driver didn’t want to get out of the taxi to help us unload the luggage.  I told Mike to sit tight and I got out and unloaded the luggage.  Then I gave him the money for the cab fare.  Too many stories have been written about taxi drivers getting their fare and when the passengers get out they take off with the luggage hoping to score big.  Mike was wondering what I was doing and I had to explain it to him and again I felt badly that thinking the worst of people was part of my job in order to keep us safe and not victims.

I wish the world wasn’t like this.  I wish I could make things go back to the way they were before Mike met me and he didn’t need to lock his front door.  Unfortunately times have changed and this is the new world we live in.  So while we won’t stop traveling we will be more cautious with who we talk with and what we do.  Building relationships everyplace we go is what we do; building them and not being victims is what we must do.  So if we meet please don’t think badly of us if we take time to trust you; you see, the world has changed; we haven’t.  We are still the same warm and friendly people we have always been; we just wait to see if the people on the receiving end are worthy of that friendship.

Florence Lince

http://www.about.me/florencelince

Walk This Way

But Be Sure to Look Up, and Down, and All Around

For those of you who have never been to Vatican City and the Sistine Chapel this is first and foremost a post for you.

Transitioning from Croatia to Spain can take many forms.  I decided that we should visit the city of Rome for a week since my husband Mike had never been here before.  What I really wanted was to share some of my favorite places with him and Vatican City was at the top of this list.  I had to prepare him however.  I explained that one just doesn’t open the door to the Sistine Chapel and enter it; no; it takes time and patience and walking, lots and lots of walking to get to see some of the most famous works of art done by Italian master Michelangelo.  You must go up and down stairs to visit gallery after gallery of artwork.  You walk on floors covered in mosaics.  You walk in halls covered in tapestries and view ceilings covered in paintings and reliefs.  You glide past windows with carved wood work and you see statues and monuments and other priceless works of art in glass cases.  You wonder that so much beauty can be housed in one location and the more you walk the more overwhelmed you become.  It is pointless to try and caution someone about what lies ahead; it is overwhelming no matter how much you prepare.

After walking for almost three hours (two for the Sistine Chapel and one for St. Peter’s itself) my husband let out a long breath and said that which I knew; “it’s grandiose on a scale I’ve never experienced before.”  He is still processing all that he saw.

I have therefore created a movie slideshow of some of the sights one will see on your way to the Sistine Chapel and some of the highlights of St. Peter’s Basilica; truly one of the most spectacular symbols of Catholicism one will ever visit.  Photos inside the Sistine Chapel are no longer allowed so sadly those are not part of my presentation.

For those of you who have been to the Holy See hopefully the video will be a nice reminder of your visit and bring back some great memories. Enjoy.

Florence Lince

http://www.about.me/florencelince

The Secrets of Sibenik

Or If These Walls Could Talk

Anyone can get a guide book and a map and walk around a strange city.  The problem with this approach is that you are bound to miss something truly amazing and those guide books are only as good as the person who wrote them and how well they did their research.  Sometimes it is best to hire a guide to learn the secrets of a place that only a local would know.

On a beautiful winter day recently we did just this walking around the city of Sibenik with Tina Vickov, owner of Sibenik Plus Tourism Agency and Tina Bilus (a licensed guide for Sibenik County) who gave us some of the inside scoop on the city we have been calling home.  What we found out was that even after being here for several months we had more to learn.

The most famous landmark of Sibenik is the Cathedral of St. James (Sr. Jakov) that sits at the top of a staircase and affords a spectacular view of the waterfront.  On a bright and sunny day this view cannot be beat.  One of the greatest lies told about the Cathedral by tour guides who do not really know this city is that the bell tower where you hear the bells chiming from can no longer be seen.  In actuality there never was a bell tower and the bells you hear ringing on the hour are from a CD that plays over a loud speaker.

The patron saint of Sibenik is St. Michael who is one of the three statues at the top of the Cathedral dome.  He stands with St. Philip and St. Nicholas.

The patron saint of Sibenik is St. Michael who is one of the three statues at the top of the Cathedral dome. He stands with St. Philip and St. Nicholas. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

What is true however is that the Cathedral made it onto the UNESCO World Heritage site because of two special factors.  One is in its construction.  There is not one nail, stud or other device holding the structure together.  There is also no plaster or glue or cement used to hold the cathedral together.  The stones used were carved by artisans in Split and then assembled here.  These pieces are interlocking and so tight that you couldn’t slip a piece of paper between the blocks.  It is an amazing architectural achievement considering the Cathedral was built in the early 14th Century.

There are hidden treasures all over the outside of this Cathedral.  You need to spend as much time exploring the outside as the inside.

There are hidden treasures all over the outside of this Cathedral. You need to spend as much time exploring the outside as the inside. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

The other unique feature of this church is found on the outside.  There are 75 ‘faces’ along the back arch.  What makes these faces unique is that they are carvings of local citizens of the town of Sibenik from that time period and not royalty or wealthy patrons of the arts.  It was the first example of sculptures of ordinary citizens.  What is also unique is that not one of the statues looks at one another, every one is made so that they are looking sideways or ahead or up but never at the looker or at another face on the wall.  It is an interesting portrait of what the locals looked like back in the 14th Century.

Some of the 'faces' that adorn the outside of the Cathedral.

Some of the ‘faces’ that adorn the outside of the Cathedral. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

In the same square as the Cathedral is a building with three columns.  The middle column is known as the Column of Shame.  It was attached to this column that those that broke the law would be bound so that the entire village could see their shame.  There are no markings or posters to this affect near the square.

The middle one is the Column of Shame

The middle one is the Column of Shame. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

The city of Sibenik was under Roman rule for over 400 years.  Wandering the streets you come upon this jut out in the wall of one building with the moniker, Amor De Cani (for the love of dogs) and yes, it is a well filled with water for the dogs that run around the city.  We have never seen it dry.

For The Love of Dogs

For The Love of Dogs © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Other Special Secrets of Sibenik

Always look up. These columns can be found on some of the buildings in Old Town Sibenik.  At the top of the columns sometimes you can find shields engraved.  This column tells you that the family who used to own the building were of nobility.

Always look up. These columns can be found on some of the buildings in Old Town Sibenik. At the top of the columns sometimes you can find shields engraved. This column tells you that the family who used to own the building were of nobility. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

One of Sibenik most famous artists is Ali Guberina.  He has had 39 exhibitions around the world and had been presented to Pope John Paul II after doing a sculpture of the Pope.

One of Sibenik most famous artists is Ali Guberina. He has had 39 exhibitions around the world and had been presented to Pope John Paul II after doing a sculpture of the Pope. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

There are 17 church's within the streets of the Old City of Sibenik. This one was given to the Orthodox Church by Napoleon.  It is only open during the summer for the tourists coming from Russia.

There are 17 church’s within the streets of the Old City of Sibenik. This one was given to the Orthodox Church by Napoleon. It is only open during the summer for the tourists coming from Russia. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

This was the first city water pipe in Sibenik. There used to be six of them scattered around the city.  This one still works.

This was the first city water pipe in Sibenik. There used to be six of them scattered around the city. This one still works. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

If you ask a local where "Greasy Street" is located they will know exactly where you are talking.  This street is where all of the butcher shops were located and where street vendors made food.  Today it is lined with clothing stores and cafes.  The stone walkway is really shiny however.

If you ask a local where “Greasy Street” is located they will know exactly where you are talking. This street is where all of the butcher shops were located and where street vendors made food. Today it is lined with clothing stores and cafes. The stone walkway is really shiny however. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

This appetizing little array consists of a bottle of liquor made with Maraska Cherries.  How famous are these local cherries?  This liquor was served on the Titanic.

This appetizing little array consists of a bottle of liquor made with Maraska Cherries. How famous are these local cherries? This liquor was served on the Titanic. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Not everyone has the luxury of time that we have to spend countless hours learning more about a place and walking the same streets over and over again only to discover something new every time we do so.  I get that.  But what good is a secret if you don’t tell anyone that secret!  I know these are no longer secrets now, which means we’ll just keep walking until we find more secrets…to share.

Florence Lince

www.6monthers.com