This blue marble

– and yet it spins


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Life as a lotus

bologna-5To the buddhists, the lotus is a symbol of purity and transcendence: its feet bathe in the muddy bottom of the pond while its flowers and often leaves, too, rise into the pure air above it all. It is a reminder that one can have one’s roots entangled in mud and mess while still keeping a clear and pure mind above it all.

As I walked around the botanical gardens of Bologna I thought of how my own feet were currently so deeply embedded in the mud and mess and madness of this world. And how it seemed that the level of mud was rising dangerously close to my head. With honesty to myself I admitted that my head was probably already covered in spatters of mud, messing with my mind.

It is easy to see one is messed up. It is much more difficult to pinpoint how, and what to do about it. I almost wrote “and how to get out”, but really, getting out never helps. It is all about getting in, and working it out from the inside. bologna-6This year I have been following a personal development plan which revolves around identifying negative energy inside and around me. One of its action points is to repeat to myself when needed, “I am not my emotions”. I have found myself repeating this mantra over and over again these past few months. Another action point is to KonMari incoming energies, impressions, and matters: sort them at the door and not letting every single one in. And if needed, put the newcomers in separate rooms, close the doors, and deal with them later. I have found that my mental rooms are nearing overcrowded.
bologna-4Robin Sharma says that because a lifetime is precious and finite, there is no time for negative emotions. At all. That thinking a negative thought is to waste the time it takes to think that thought. This may sound like a highly platonically theoretic view, but when I think of all the time I spent dealing with negative emotions the past year I could probably amass a few weeks of life better spent doing other things. For example fully enjoying the botanical gardens of Bologna.

A dear friend once criticized me for being too solution-oriented. For offering my help in solving a problem when she would rather just wallow and swim in it for some time, until perhaps a solution slowly emerged. She gently told me that not all people want help, because not all things can be helped. Her words hurt me so much that I could not bear to spend time with her for two years. Some years ago I learned that not all problems can be solved. Not immediately, and perhaps not ever. Accepting the company of a deep injury for the rest of my life was possibly the toughest lesson I have learned in life so far.

And so I continue to trudge on through this life with my feet in the mud. As long as I remember to stretch upwards into the clean air, keeping my head relatively pure and sane like the lotus, I will be alright. bologna-7(Bologna, Italy; July 2019)


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The Two Towers

bologna-1Bologna was once a Roman city. It is easy to see this from above: all streets lead to the central square (and one presumably to Rome). But Bologna is older than Rome: it was originally the home town of many Etruscans. bologna-3Each city has a local flavor of oddity. Bologna’s flavor is a penchant for building towers. Up to 100 towers in the late medieval ages, historians have concluded. Why? Who knows, but certainly one ruler would not have budgeted for all those towers so there must have been quite a few builders. Perhaps it was fashionable to have a tower in one’s backyard, ensuring that the family was viewed as having sufficient importance?

Today there are about a dozen smaller towers left and only two distinct, tall ones, aptly named the Due Torri or Two Towers. Yes, like the Tolkien book. I discovered that it is possible to stand near them and still not find them, thanks to the maze of Bolognese streets and Google Maps having the wrong coordinates for the location.

It is also possible to wear one’s lungs and muscles out before reaching the top. We passed quite a few tourists having a huffy and puffy pitstop on the winding wooden staircase inside the Asinelli tower. After all, an ascent of 97 meters and nearly 300 stairs is a decent workout.bologna-2(Bologna, Italy; July 2019)


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Bolognese

bologna-8We did not really plan to visit Bologna. It was never on any bucket list of ours. We knew of Bologna, of course – because of bolognese sauce. Who wouldn’t?

We were supposed to combine Austrian Alps with Italian beaches. Well, it turned out that return flights from all airports around Northern Italy were only available at expensive, high-season prices: Venice, Ljubljana, even Pula. But Bologna could help us get home with airmiles only, and the train connection from Salzburg was convenient. Hence: a long weekend in Bologna.bologna-9It turns out Bologna is the perfect city to get lost in for a weekend – literally lost. No map needed. The maze of old Roman streets contains the most quaint and interesting discoveries. And it is nearly impossible to encounter bad food in the old town area. I cannot understand why Bologna is not better advertised as a city break destination.  bologna-10(Bologna, Italy; July 2019)


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Just eat

bologna-12Oh, such a change: from wheat noodles and sauce, lard on rye bread, and very few non-meat options to an abundance of antipasti, tapenade, bread, and cheeses. Fresh gelato. Wonderfully fat green olives. Aioli. Salvation.bologna-13I find myself exposed to several “food capitals” this summer: I am still in San Sebastián, the city with the most Michelin stars; and writing about the food capital of Italy: Bologna. What else can one say but “go there and eat everything that’s put in front of you”? It is bound to be a success. bologna-11(Bologna, Italy; July 2019)


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Across the Alps

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Fortrezza? Bressanone? Chiusa? Not sure. Every little town has at least one chapel if not two, plus a monastery nearby.

The Alps and the Dolomites are quite magnificent when viewed from the train, as it crosses landscapes far away from highways. Five hours from Innsbruck to Bologna passed quickly by admiring the views – and bemoan the insufficient luggage storage space and noisy people on board the train.

(Italy; July 2019)


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Quick dip into Italy

AlpsSwoosh: across the Alps and into a way-too-fancy airport hotel where I spent a good 6 hours in a meeting. All I truly experienced of Italy was the sveltering heat outside and a plate of penne all’arabbiata.

Some crew and ground handling chaos later: swoosh back over the Alps again. Such is the life of an employee of a global company – until we run out of oil, or all the flying picks on my conscience too much.

(Over the Alps; June 2019)