a V@g's diary

Writing of witches and women

Following Medea’s path: secret Corinth

Tell me your secrets, Mountain. Why do I feel so attracted to you? Why do I feel the need of climbing your wall, risking of falling at every step, just to stand on your head for a moment, before going down, to the valley, again? What is this feeling? This obsession of mine? Tell me your secrets, Mountain. Why are you so beautiful? Why do I love your silence?
According to the myth, Medea buried her dead children at the Heraion of Perachora, the temple dedicated to Hera build on a small cove of the Perachora peninsula, on the Gulf of Corinth. The place is a doozy. The remains of the temple are scattered on a natural cove, shaped as an amphitheater. There is a small beach surrounded by the sea stacks, almost protected by the reef all around. The remains of the temples and the villas with bathing pools and fountains are hidden into a small bay facing the Corinth Gulf and looking at the coast of Peloponnesus, peaking among the distance on the other side. During a bright day of sun, from the lighthouse, at the top of the cape, one could see the Corinth’s canal and the cargo ships approaching it slowly, as a black spot on the silver sea.

If the myth talks about Medea, the history of the place tells a different tale. The site, that was composed by more than one temple and had an Oracle as well, was built around the 9 century BC and destroyed by Romans in the II century BC when general Mummius sacked Corinth during the war with the Achaean League.
Many things changed since then. Not the beauty. The view is breathtaking. The cape is a rocky line of rock scattered with green spots, and slotted in the sea. In front of me, I can see it climbing down until the bay and rising again, up to its very end, where a lighthouse is fighting alone – a tiny thing against the cloudy sky – with the roaring waves that down are screaming at the reef like blind harpies left to die on the foreshore. The coast, sharped and jagged, disappears in the distance, joining Attica and Peloponnesus, somewhere behind the horizon. A small staircase climbs down, following a line of cluster pines and cedarwoods, spaced out by small wooden rims, overlooking the bay.

the coast1
Everything is perfect, I feel I am standing in one of those places where is almost impossible taking a bad picture. The postcard landscape is doing the trick. After walking up and down the cape, we challenge ourselves with the mountain behind. In Greece as in Italy, Christians built churches and monastery wherever there was a pagan site. This is no exception. Sheltered among two mountain’s pinnacles the small church of Saint Nicholas is a white spot against the gray of the stones. The climb is not long: 3 km, from the parking lot to the sanctuary and back. Short, but hard. Some parts need to be done climbing, using the hands and whatever the mountain offers. Even bushes of thorns or dry pieces of deadwood. But as always, the starting is pleasant: a small path sneaking into a forest of cluster pines and bushes.
After climbing up, the weather turns bad. The rain is approaching. We go back to the cars and stop in Loutraki, for an early dinner.

the sea
The day is over and while we are going back to Athens, facing the rain and the air getting colder, my mind runs to Medea. I imagine her bending among the rocks of Perachora, burying something, deep in the ground. Maybe she was covering the bodies of her own kids, as the legend says. But maybe, just maybe, what she was letting go, was a part of her own soul. The naive, childish smile of her inner girl. She buried it, letting it goes, to become a woman, a queen, and a witch, ready to do whatever it would have taken, to survive and thrive.


Back to the wilds: traveling by foot, one step at a time…

The Pentelicus is red and gold this evening. Like a marshmallow ready to be eaten. From the window, I can see the rocks of the marble caves, shaped through the shades formed by the light of the dying day.

A cloud almost touches the summit of the mountain before flying away, taken by the wind that blows strong this evening. Not down here, in the valley, but up there, on the summit.


Sunday, I started walking again. I did the Odontotos trail. Not the one in the north, the other one. In Peloponnesus. The route is easy: flat and comfortable, almost sweet. It passes through a green valley, following a river on the side of the Kalavrita, through a series of gorges born by the constant licking and dripping of water and rainfall, mixed with the strength of springtime’s floods, when the river itself is young and runs fast. We – a group of 50 people – followed the railway from the beginning to the end: 17 km, done in 5 hours something of walking and picture taking, activities that we all shared not always in fair measures. During the trip, we passed bridges. We made friends. Friends for a day, still friends. A couple of signs, along the way, reminded us that even if the path looked easy, the danger was still possible. The water, in fact, was running wild, jumping and bumping from one rock to the other, through waterfall and rapids that would have smashed anything so unlucky to fall into their grasp.


Going back to hike was the first step of my routine “do’s and don’ts” list. This year, I compiled the list in December but as usual, it took me a while to make the first move. Less than before, still a bit. Last year, three months (maybe more passed). This time, only a week. I am getting better.

I will go hiking again this Sunday, and I hope also the next one. My knee hurts a bit it is due more to yesterday’s boxing training than to the hike. The sunset’s red light on the Pentelicus now is gone and the mountain’s side is grey and is getting darker fast.

a door

I like that small cliff. I climbed it, in October. I reached its summit and it was my first greek one. I passed through its caves of white marble, the same marble that the ancients used to make the Acropolis. Pentelicus is majestic in its weirdness. It is bald and dry so that the white of the stones seems even more alien and bright against the brown of the dead grass and the blue of the sea peaking into the distance. Along the ascent, there was much to discover. Ancient chapels buried in the twilight, flaked doors opening on abandoned buildings, old warehouses and guard posts. Even an old dog, following us from the peak to town, for no other reason than our company. Other summits will follow this year. Maybe the Olympus itself. Still, Pentelicus was my first one, and it will always keep its place in my memory.

My 2018 manifesto… let’s start talking about how much I dislike Xmas first…

The holiday season is over. Finally. I know, I know. It is an old refrain. Like one of those songs, you remember the tune but you are not sure who sang them and when. I know, I am not alone when saying: Xmas sucks. Big time. Ok, ok… I know, that this is not a universal law. Obviously, a lot of people love Xmas. And a different lot of people don’t. I belong to those that don’t. Not all the time, at least.

See, I used to love Xmas when I was a child. Not just for the presents. Well, of course also for the presents. But the great thing was the feeling. The sense of belonging. Mine is a small family. My mother and my father have no brothers or sisters, so Xmas, for me, was always a matter of a handful of people. Me, my parents, my brother and our grandparents, one for a side. The father of my father and the mother of my mother. Xmas was the day of my ‘big’ family reunion, fancy food, and huge discussions.
Xmas was coffee in the morning with grandma and a treasure hunt for the presents later on, all around the house. And no chores. Or, at least, not so many as usual.

Now my family is far cause I am living abroad, and Xmas is just me and the cat. And is cool. But, different. The feeling of sharing is gone. Like my childhood. And even if the kid in me is still healthy and alive, some things cannot really be the same. I miss my family for Xmas. But more than ever, I miss having a strong and cheerful dad instead of an old, sweet and fragile man. I miss my grandmother, long gone. I miss the black hair of my mother, and her standing straight, next to me. I miss the game I was playing with my brother when we were closer than ever. Best friends, forever. I miss our family bookstore, the lights set up for the sales, the fake snow and the singing Santa Claus to whom kids were having fun taking the pants off, every single day. I miss the cold, and that sense of possibilities and trust that was like a blanket. Now, the world is scary. It is a dark place, full of questions with no answers. This is what I missed for Xmas. And this is why Xmas for me now sucks.

Sure, growing up is not so fancy as we used to think it would be. It is a mess. A riddle with no solution. And it is fine this way. Because, life is a big adventure and like all the adventures, there are dangers and monsters. And challenges. Never ending challenges. But there are also amazing places, incredible people and things to discover. It is a matter of choices and of points of view. And yeah, Xmas should be a moment of happiness and peace, a single instant of rest to be present. And maybe, I hate Xmas, cause I cannot really feel that ‘rest and peace’ anymore, or that sense of belonging I used to love. But I deeply love the rest of the year. Every, single day of it.


Now, to go back to Xmas, this year,  my family had a nice one. They told me they were all together, well … the three of them. They had fancy foods and some small baby fireworks in the garden. My brother was there. My parents were together. Old, more fragile than before, but alive. And still in love with each other. They are blessed. I tell them all the times: they are the richest on Earth. And deeply, even if they complain, they will never change to have each other for any amount of money. This is a blessing. My blessing. And I am grateful for it. And I also know that, if I look back, I should already feel like a survivor. I am not old, but many friends of mine are gone already. I faced loss and anger. And pain. I died and I was reborn, somehow. Maybe the secret to understanding life, as Bukowski was saying, to actually living it,  is dying first a couple of times. Metaphorically, obviously.

Jokes aside, maybe, for this reason, I respect life but I deeply dislike Xmas. Her silly and cynic sense of humor, her way of putting things together. And I respect human beings as well. No matter who. No matter what. Cause, like me, they are traveling their own road. They make mistakes, they face challenges and somehow, broken or not, they survive. We are all the same. Different chapters of a book, appendices, handwritten small notes at the bottom of a page. We carry different messages, but at the end, we are going through the same Odyssey. We are all traveling to find Ithaca. Our own Ithaca. The real question is when we will find it, could we finally be happy there or like Ulysses, we will feel the urge to set sail again to reach the end of the world?

Happy new year.

Love V@g

From home to home…

Sometimes I feel empty like a white page. I am there, still, waiting for something. A word. A comma. Anything, really. This usually happens when I want (feel the need to) write something, but the thoughts are just too messy.

I suppose that the longer I live, the more time I need to elaborate, to analyze, whatever Miss Life throws at me. I need time to re-write the story in order to understand it better.

Well, let’s start saying that last week I was home. Well, here we are… this is the first problem. Where is home? My home is Athens. Isn’t it? Home is my small apartment in the city. Home is here. But it is also there. Italy, the North, a small village where nothing happens. A fistful of houses clasped all around a tower bell.

A place where the cemetery is larger than the town itself. And much more interesting, I would add. Small chapels, all tied up, with flower and candles. Like a picture that came out from Pinterest.

Now I mention the Cemetery because from there, a road takes you to the woods. And it is peculiar just cause, one of the older graves you can still see peeking out from the Romanic church back wall mentions a kid killed by the wolves, in woods, more than 100 years ago. The same road, the same woods along which I was spending my days running. Not that I met wolves or anything. Right now there are two km of fields before reaching out the canal and the border of the forest. But still, I found it poetic especially cause in Athens in every park and at whatever time I decide to go running there is always someone else who had the same idea. Once I went running the first of January at eight o’ clock and there were three other runners jumping around in the park. Now, in my village things are different. You can go running for an hour without crossing a runner, a car not even someone passing by.

Now, I love running. It is my meditation. I love the feeling of being so tired and focused on my breath: it empties my mind, allowing me to stop thinking. It is a relief. A blessing. And the cold was helping. You have to run to keep warm. If you stop, after five minutes, you start to feel the temperature. And minus 2 Celsius is freaking cold, trust me on this.

foglia gelataok

Running in the silence is weird and poetic. It is like having Earth all for yourself. There is nobody around, you can pretend to be all alone. All alone with your ghosts.

In Athens, memories are safely locked in the trunk of my past. There is no time for them, there is so much life to live. Here, things are different. There is nothing else but the past that comes and goes as it pleases, like an old friend or a crazy uncle. And, it is Xmas, so I suppose the past too has all rights of coming and visiting.

My little village is boring and grey. But the woods, the woods are wonderful. So green and messy and wild. Like me, somehow. Like my messy family. Like my life, this one and the one before.

canale ok

When I was there I spent my days running and reading. The book was “Journey at the end of the night” of Ferdinand Celine, a writer that I hate to love. He was one of those that taught God how to properly tell a story. Bukowsky said Celine was the best writer he had never read. But Celine was also a Nazi. He was a troubled man. He was sad and cynic. A nihilist. Whenever I read Celine I start to think that good and bad, right and wrong are not defined at all. We want them to be separated because we need to feel reassured. If “they” (the others, the different) are bad, we are the good ones. Nobody can mistake us for them. Nobody can think we are the same. Truth to be said things are never so easy. Right and wrong are two roommates sharing a soul. And they go along pretty well together.

Whenever I go back home I am forced to consider life as a whole. A messy whole that can be analyzed from many – different and sometimes opposite – points of view. In the woods, you need the wolves. Obviously, a deer would consider a wolf as the evil on four legs wearing a fur. But without the wolf, the woods will die. Too many deer. From the trees’ point of view, the wolf is a savior.

foresta ok

Now Italy is far and my village is lost in the memories of those days reading and running. Athens with its noise, the traffic, and the crowded public transportation is back into my life. Somewhere, deep in my memory, I hear the echo of a wolf howling in the shadow of the forest. And whenever I close my eyes I can smell the musk and the perfume of the undergrowth.

And when the sound fades everything is silence. Like it was while I was smoking in the cold on my parents’ balcony. There was not a sound. Not a car, a horn, a dog barking. Nothing at all. It was so quiet that I could clearly hear the rhythm of my heart and the breathing of my nostrils like they belonged to someone else.



Hidden Greece: hiking the Ephialtes’ path

We begin the hike entering a pine forest. The way is nothing more than a goat path, a light stripe of previous footsteps and tilled soil that climbs the mountainside.
We follow the trail along which Ephialtes, the traitor of Sparta, guided the Persians Army to defeat Leonidas and his 300 soldiers who, clung to the Thermopylae’s gulch, were blocking the way to Xerxe’s massive forces. Nothing remains of that canyon today. There is just a flatland of marsh and fields and closed factories that leads the eyes to the sea. The mountain, the Kallidromo, is still there. Silent, green, blind to whatever happens in the valley, down there. Everything else is just a shadow, like the marks left from the writing on the second sheet of a ream. It is just a whisper in the wind that constantly mismatches history and myth, reality and fantasy.
I look at the narrow path in front of me: the ascent is steep, almost vertical, surrounded by a claustrophobic battalion of trees’ logs, one attached to the other. I try to imagine an army passing through. But the idea just seems wrong. Weird. A myth. Still, this path is history, like everything in Greece. History, here, is a way of breathing, of living, not just a subject you learn at school.
The climb is hard. I am following the head of the group, pushing more and more against my lungs that are gasping for air.
We cross the main road and we quickly cut through the trees again: where we are welcomed by another steep path that runs ahead of us, in the dark. Up, on our heads, the leafy branches of the trees form a solid green roof through which just some sparse sun rays manage to pass. The dim – light is thick and humid. There is no wind, just a chilly air that smells of mushrooms and undergrowth. We climb up, wheezing, from stone to stone, from root to root, following that unstable ladder of brushwood and pebbles without thinking to anything else but the effort of making another step, and another after it until we splash in a lake of sun and light when we finally reach a gentle mountain neck right under the peak.
In the distance, we hear the gurgling of a not too far stream of water, hidden somewhere behind the wall of tall grass, dry cardoons and brambles into which Efialthes’ path slips in and us with it.

When we reach the creek, a postcard sight is waiting for us. The water pours down among the stones, crossing the valley in front of us until it reaches a gentle jump. It gurgles downs with a light waterfall reaching a basin built of rocks and mortar. On the side of this bowl that narrows down quickly, gently leading the stream back on its bed, there an old oak tree, a wooden giant with a large crown gliding from blond to a reddish autumn shade and thick roots, braided into the water.
Beauty sometimes is unexpected. Sudden like a perfect moment. We sit under the oak, listening to the stream that jingles around like a giggling child. Few words are spoken. Someone drinks. Someone else takes pictures. The majority just breathe and look around. For a moment, sat under that tree, we become part of that postcard as well. At least for that brief moment.
Every time I think about the idea of the time I can’t avoid recalling Seneca the Younger ‘s ‘Moral letters to Lucilius’. Time –
was writing Seneca – is the only richness belonging to men. And sadly it has an expiration date.
But there are moments, precious rare instant, in which we stop living in the past or worrying about the future and we start existing only in the present. That late morning, sitting under that oak was maybe one of them.
It doesn’t take long for the magic to break. We stand and we start walking again, entering the woods and leaping over the bald summit.
The terrain is changing while we start descending. According to the sign that greets us at the beginning of the trail would take 5 hours and a half to be completed. Right before beginning going downhill another sign is waiting for us. A rusty old signal standing in the middle of nothing, like a solitary sentinel left on guard in an abandoned fort: to the Thermopylae three hours to go. We are almost halfway.
Going down is always tricky. It is easier for the lungs, but hard on the legs. The knees hurt while trying to find balance on the steep path that runs quickly towards the sea. We follow what it seems to be the path of a river. It is muddy and rocky. It jumps and leaps constantly. From time to time we cross large spots of woods: the foliage covers the mud and makes walking uneasy and treacherous. Our feet slipper, finding and losing our stability while slowly making our way to the end of the path becomes a habit. We become clumsy tightrope walkers  limping in the stillness of the landscape.
We pass through a marsh of fallen trees and small ponds of still water covered in leaves and surrounded by bushes of red berries. We reach a small chapel and then a hunting shack. A peculiar place, a run-down hole with several dog houses outside, a grill, an old nicked table with several unpaired chairs all around and a flaked door with faltering handwritten written on top, ‘The king lives here’. The king is gone, the grill is off but in the woods far away there are echoes of shooting. Maybe, the king is somewhere hunting something. Maybe the king doesn’t even exist.

We keep going: the sunset is not too far away and the path is still long. The woods leave the place to the ridge of the mountain. The mud is still there but this time we proceed more carefully because there are no trees or branches or bushes between us and whatever lies down. The cliff is impressive but we almost don’t see it, busy as we are, staring at the trail, at our feet, measuring the steps, the breath and the pressure of climbing down to the sea that lingers in the distance.
It’s almost dark when we reach Thermopylae, a small village not too far from Leonidas’ monuments. People are at home already, or they are going back there, with trucks full of crates. Some stray cats are leaving their holes jumping and running on an empty square. There are a café, a restaurant and a couple of kids chatting in a corner. And then, there is us, with our muddy boots, our backpacks, our noisy walking sticks. From time to time, an open door let us peek into the daily life of these people: we see tables and women all around them, moving their hands quickly on thick layers of dark olives.

A girl stops us asking if we are coming from the monastery. She sees the backpacks. We are hikers, she knows it. She asks us if we have seen her dog: she has lost it. She even shows us a picture. But with no luck. We haven’t seen it. She doesn’t seem sad, just less happy, less hopeful. She comes back inside, to the table where her family keeps working on the harvest while looking at her. A man, that outside is moving some crates from a truck to the porch, tells us he will go the following morning to look for the dog but he is not sure he’ll find it. The woods are thick. We greet them and we depart wishing him good luck. He’ll need it cause we saw them, we saw the woods and yeah, they are thick and treacherous like all the wild woods anywhere anytime.

We follow the main road to reach the parking lot where we left the cars. On the left side, the town slowly wanes. Cars are passing by, the Kallidromo is far, surrounded by the darkness of the night that has just fallen all over. Leonidas’ statue looks at us from the other side of the street. All around there is a smell of rotten eggs. The sulfur baths are not far. Athens is somewhere south, miles away.

I look back in the pitch dark where I imagine seeing the shape of the mountain. There, a lost dog is running in the woods, while the king is sleeping and the old oak is mourning along with the winds. There, among thick woods and mud and creeks, an unconcerned nature lies, and with her sleep, the ghost of Ephialtes, of all the Persians, of Leonidas, the 300 Spartans and whoever else walked that path and climb that mountain. In another universe, on another split of the space-time, our ghosts are there as well.


Hydra, an Aphrodite in white and blue

“Hydra is almost a bare rock of an island (…) There are only two colors: blue and white, and the white is whitewashed every day, down to the cobblestones in the street (…)”. In his book, “The Colossus of Maroussi” Henry Miller describes Greece as “a voyage into the light”, into the Earth inner blaze. An image, a collection of impressions aesthetically perfect, like “the very epitome of that flawless anarchy which supersedes (…) all the formal arrangements of the imagination (…)” And Hydra, with its wild beauty, embodies this perfection, like a pause, entered “in the musical score of creation by an expert calligrapher (…) one of those divine pauses which permit the musician, when he resumes the melody, to go forth again in a totally new direction”.

Henry Miller’s Hydra is a naked Aphrodite born from the foam of the sea, hidden in the never ending back and for of the waves.
The island is detached from Peloponnesus only by a spoonful of water. His past is long, like everything else in Greece. Known since the Third Millennium BC, was probably a maritime base for the kingdom of the peninsula. Abandoned during the Dorians invasions, came back to life in the 8 Century BC, repopulated by farmers and herders and since then – besides being mention a couple of times by Herodotus and Pausanias – remained at the margins of History.

Today, the island is a touristic destination, thanks to Miller and especially to Leonard Cohen that in the Sixties moved there falling in love with its peace and nature.
Its main town, simply known as Hydra Port, clusters about the harbor like an arena, a metaphor perhaps which looks at the not so distant – in space and time – theater of Epidaurus. Hydra is another amphitheater, made of squared little houses among which the voices of the fishermen get lost while leaving the shores to sail into the big blue of the Aegean Sea. There are no cars in Hydra but boats and donkeys. The island’s rocky and harsh beaches are often concealed behind small inlets of water, connected to the main town by meandered goat paths.
Hydra takes time: time to walk from the village to the banks, time to follow the line of the coast and the ups and downs of the hills, time to enjoy the nature and the wilderness of the place. And then, above all, Hydra is silence. A deep, ancient whisper of absence, like a song that is not forgotten nor completely recalled. A melody that is something in between. A feeling of belonging and deep, quiet happiness. “Just that feeling of being grown up, with somebody beautiful that you’re happy to be beside and all the world is in front of you.” as Leonard Cohen said in an interview by Kari Hesthamar of 2015.



There is a sense of freedom in Hydra, a peaceful abandonment, there is that longing of stillness that takes the sailor when he is far and that remains unfulfilled even when he goes back home, as a never-ending wanderlust. Cause the sea is there, with its deep blue and its mysteries: it calls us, whispering us to leave, to depart, to sail away. Maybe this is the magic of Hydra: there, for a moment, this murmur silences, letting the traveler gazing at the dawn from the sand. But it is just a moment, cause soon enough when the night will fall the urge to leave will come back again. “Like a bird on the wire, like a drunk in a midnight choir, I have tried in my way to be free”, sang Cohen. We all are like birds: looking at the sun and flying away, just to come back one day with even more story to recall. Hydra will be there, as it has always been.


The Pnyx: a tale of the ancient Gods

“I remind you of this, Athenians, because I want you to know and realize that, as no danger can assail you while you are on your guard, so if you are remiss no success can attend you.”

Demosthenes stated these words standing on the Speakers’ staircase of the Pnyx Hill 2400 years ago when he harangued the people of the city with his Philippics.
The place was mythical since his time.

On this sacred Hill Pericles, Aristides and Alcibiades, all spoke during the golden age of Athens. A small rocky place, right outside the city wall, facing the ancient Acropolis and the Agora as well, so that whoever was addressing to the people was also giving his word to the Gods.

Although only a handful of rocks is what remains of that forgotten arena, there you can still feel a deep sense of reverence and fealty. The old heroes are alive on the Pnyx: their presence lingers around the steps of the speakers’ stairs, into the veining of the ancient stones, among the thick branches of the olives trees that follow down the slope of the pike. They wait to be remembered or to be dismissed, while they attend the life of their city, yesterday as today as well, hidden in the shadows stretching slowly when the sun sets behind a glimpse of the shimmering Aegean Sea, peaking out in the distance.
Surrounded by parks, enclosed in the ring of the Classic Ancient Ruins of Athens, the Pnyx today is mostly reached by the locals climbing up there to admire the sunset far away from the hordes of tourists crowding together on the most known hill of Mars.
Still, if you reach the peak of the Pnyx at sunset, you will always meet some small groups of people sitting in silence with their back at the Acropolis, waiting for the dusk. A metaphor, maybe, of the place itself: where men in those ancient times were speaking to the city and to gods while facing the city as saying they were living their present and honoring their duties, but after all the harangues and the discussions, they were silently looking West, at the sea on which shores Athens made its fortune, built its past and hopefully will find its future.

Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishments, and no… it doesn’t come easy

Yesterday I read an article about success. The topic was well known: the writer stated that, instead of following our passions, to reach success, we should fall in love with the process. Passion is cheap. True, I agree. Passion alone is never enough. A mindful and focused attitude is what’s needed. Problem is, that even if this brain- frame is fundamental, if it’s alone,  in the long run, is not enough.
Let me explain. Falling in love with the process, whatever the process could be, is a kind of easy. Success (a career or whatever we want in the long term) is like a steep stair to climb. Falling in love with the process is like reaching the first floor. But by itself, it is not going to lead us up to the top. It is the stamina we need to break the sweat and keep going. Important? Yes, but not the only thing we need to fulfill whatever dream we have. Consistency is what we have to build right after. Not the kind of steadiness of going through the first 30 minutes on a running track. The one that gets you at the end of the race. The stubbornness of ignoring the pain, the decision of making fatigue your best friend. Consistency is hard to build. And it is even harder to keep. It is more or less like deciding to quit something (cigarette, alcohol, sugar or whatever). You can be consistent for one year, two or even more. Until the day you decide “I skip it this time”, but you already know, that it is never “just once”.
Reaching a goal is never easy. It takes time, hard work, patience, and stubbornness. And when I say time, I do not mean one or two months, but more often than not one or two decades. Perfection takes long hours working on a skill, improving strength and stamina as long as creativity and agility. Bolt did not win his first Olympic Medal after training a couple of months, the same thing for Muhammad Ali or whatever champion comes to your mind. Leonard Cohen practiced for years, until the day he died.
They all fall in love with the process and at the same time, they all decided to embrace the fatigue they were experiencing, that uncomfortable itch at the back of our head that hits us every time we start an activity requiring mental strength.
We could say consistency in the long term is accepting we will go through hard times, it is the opposite of following our passions actually: it is shutting our emotions out and reacting to whatever problems would come up only with logic and determination. To move forward along the path of success we have to welcome the downsides of the learning process and whatever loss, crisis, blues, frustration comes with them.
And we have to understand and accept that even if we do all that mentioned above, even if we embrace the pain of every effort we make, even if we keep going, there is still the possibility of not getting what we want. We could fail, and for reasons not connected to our performances at all.

To quote Winston Churchill: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts”.

There is no such a place as Budapest

The peaceful flowing of the Danube, carrying along its stories and moods, is the main character of Budapest. This double city, incorporating the towns of Buda, on the West side of the river, and Pest, on the East side, is considered one of the best places to live in Europe, for culture, art, and services. To me, Budapest is the music of Bela Bartok, the portrait of Emerence, beloved character of Magda Szabo’s novel, “The door”, and also the blues of the “Paul Street Boys”, youth novel written by Ferenc Molnar, one of the very first books I read during my childhood.
Furthermore, Budapest holds a special place in my heart because was the destination of my very first solo trip. An experience that today I regret I didn’t make before.

I have an endless record of sites and places which I would love to share, but, to be honest, I am afraid it will be long and boring, especially for you reading it. So, I opted for a shorter solution, a bucket list, almost a pocket index of experiences that somehow made my staying in Budapest one of the best travel for me so far.


  • The Danube with its bridges, its banks, its promenades, and parks
    Walking along the Danube is magical, I spent hours admiring the glare of the neoclassic buildings mirrored on the water, the lights of the bridges, the silhouettes of the boats going back and for, disclosed by the outburst of the cameras’ flashes. The Danube is the very soul of Budapest and its main glorified citizen.


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  •  The Great Synagogue and the ruin bars of District VII, the old Jewish Quarter    Now, those seem opposite topics, but I really enjoyed the contrast. The magnificence of the Great Synagogue, the silence of the gardens, and the peacefully solemn atmosphere held inside, among chandeliers and shiny wooden benches, opposed to the bohemian mood of the neighborhood with the chaotic, messy and colorful jumbles piled up in the ruins bars, today a hot – spot of the city nightlife.


  • The hills
    Two easy strolls: the first one, on the Buda Hill, famous for the old funicular of the city, up to the Fisherman Bastion and, further on, to the castle. The second, from the Danube, up to the top of the Gellert Hill, a longer but nicer path not too steep, surrounded by the shade of trees covering the slope of the ridge. And as a resting point, the Gellert Bath garden, with its arcade, fountains, and staircases.


  • Last but not least, the Great City Market
    Now, I have a thing for markets: they are usually one of the very first sites I go check when I visit a new city. I love the goodies, the spices, the smell of fruits and veggies, the colors covering the stalls. And in Budapest I wasn’t disappointed at all: the Great City Market is majestic. Realized between 1894 and 1896, is a neo-gothic building not too far from Liberty Bridge. Inside the market’s great hall, is coated in an elegant iron skeleton, encased in glass and red bricks, surrounded by boardwalks wrapped up with bars, street= food restaurants, and souvenir shops. The chitchatting of the tourists mingled with the locals is its final touch.



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