Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Honeymoon!

The plane touched down at the crappiest airport that I have ever been in -- Rome Leonardo da Vinci Fiumicino -- at 10:30. Everyone on my flight stood at the indicated baggage claim carousel for about 20 minutes. There was a mystery. The same luggage went around and around and around but no one was taking any bags off. The police and the drug-sniffing dog were the only people who were not just off a plane. Asmus took a look at other carousels and came off empty handed. With no one to ask for help, we all stood there. After then more minutes, a big group of people just jogged away. I am in no need of a run co-ordinator, so I followed them. Three carousels away, our baggage was circling. I was braced for some Italian inefficiency but I didn't think it would come so soon. From my years of dealing with Italian businesses at Town & Country, I knew the Italian idea of quick is different than the American idea of quick.

It was about 11:30. We had our bags. I was starving. I am in Rome, so I grabbed chicken nuggets at an airport restaurant. Satisfied. We got some museum information and a tourist card from Rome tourism. Then we waded through men pushing shuttles to Rome to Taxis. Thirty minutes later, we were in out gorgeous home away from home, the Crowne Plaze Rome-St. Peter's.

Our room overlooking the empty outdoor pool was ready. We dropped our bags and headed out the door. We caught the bus right outside the hotel. I am the big solo traveler, so I was able to make it to the Colosseum. Asmus wasn't sure of the vague instructions, so he thought I found our way by luck. A calm discussion followed. I made it clear that luck didn't get me to the correct bus connection for the Colosseum, but paying attention to the instructions and the signs. I demand credit where credit is due.

I studied Latin in the fifth, sixth, ninth, tenth, eleventh and twelfth grades. After reading about the history of ancient Rome and Roman mythology, it was so exciting to be standing in front of it. The bus ride was exciting. The bus drive travels past ruins, statutes and monuments. All dot the landscape. They are not relegated to some special area. One block holds ruins, statutues, convenience stores and restaurants.

A panoramic view of the Colosseum with an overhead
view of the subterranean level, which was uncovered over time.
Directly in the foreground [the tan area in the bottom
of the photograph] is the space where the action took place.

The Colosseum is massive. It is daunting. My mind cannot understand how people could create such a structure without mechanized cranes, forklifts, elevators and electric tools in 80 A.D. The Colosseum could hold 50,000 people. Asmus and I did the audio tour. It was a pretty mysterious, too. You were supposed to start at certain points in the Colosseum. There was a basic map in the brochure but no signs on the Colosseum. At a few stops, we were not at the correct location but we just kept moving until the view matched the words.

Interesting trivia: There is no evidence that there were any fights with lions in the Colosseum.

The subterranean level of the Colosseum where slaves,
gladiators and animals were held and prayed.

In the Colosseum, like today's stadium, the wealthier citizens sat closer to the action; the Senators sat right next to the action. Like boxes at opera houses, the best seats had some disadvantages. Boxes have poor sightlines to the stage. The seat close to the action in the Colosseum were open to the sun; the seats in higher levels were protected by an awning.

The seats where Senators sat, which directly overlook the
platform where the games and fighting took place.

Being in the Colosseum in the awesome in the truest sense of the word. It inspired awe. I could feel the energies of the millions of people who visited the Colosseum for entertainment or enrichment. The Colosseum rocks.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Wedding!

Well, the big day came and went.

I am married.

I would recommend getting married in Germany to every American. There are no small details here. We rented a room at the Ahrensburg Castle. It is decorated nicely and the price of the room rental covers everything. There was no chair setup fee or anything annoying. I had no concerns about the venue.

Tio Pepe was already decorated nicely.
They asked us how we wanted the tables to look for the reception. When we arrived, the tables looked like our vision.

Germans do not have party favors at weddings and I did not want to choose party favors, so there were no party favors.

The wedding day was pretty much stress-free. Asmus, who is always looking for the gray cloud behind the silver lining, predicted stress and found it. He was nervous about saying vows that he had written. While I wa
s getting dressed, he sat on the couch and chugged cava. I got a little anxious when the cab came to take us the castle while I was writing my vows on notecards and putting on stockings. But that was the beginning and the end of the stress for me.

I met Asmus December 14, 2007 at the wedding of my friend Isabel in Cologne, Germany. She was marrying Asmus's oldest friend, Matthias. Asmus and I barely spoke that day. During the evening of the 15th, we were left alone because Matthias started talking some people who were sh
aring a table with us at a brewhouse [Curiosity about the American inspired many questions directed to him about me.]. Asmus and I talked about the difference between American potato salad and German potato salad [None. They are the same thing.] and discussed the look of American currency. That led to my obsession with 30 Rock. Somehow that led to a kiss. That kiss led me to believe that Asmus was going to be in my life for a while. I knew. Despite his living in Germany and my living in New York. I knew. So getting married was no stress at all.

The stress came five days before the wedding. My older sister Lorie's passport had not arrived. I believe the government is always going to fail you. So I knew that she was not going to make it. Lorie and I have had decades of trouble but lately we have been getting along pretty well. I was pretty bummed that she was not going to be here. She waited and then she acted. She drove from northern Delaware to Washington D.C. to see about getting it. No luck. No sister at the wedding.

Fortunately, I did have my mother there. I haven't seen here si
nce September. Unfortunately she was sick. She had never been to Europe before, so I was nervous that she would hate it. She said her time was OK but you never know. She brought me a suitcase full of American treats that I requested -- several boxes of cake mixes, tubs of frosting, salad dressing, grits and Lawry's seasoned salt.

My mother and Asmus's family met officially at Asmus's parents house the day before the occasion. There was lively discussions and everyone ate all the fatty food that Asmus and I cooked. It was a success. Asmus's family
eat pretty healthy. Very little salt and fat but lots of organic food from local farmers. We served packaged pasta covered in a packaged spinach-and-gorgonzola sauce to which we added bacon. Oh yeah, there was a salad for the first course. The pasta was so bad for you but it tasted so good. Asmus older brother, Jakob; his mother and his father ate it and said it was delicious and did not mention the sheer danger of the meal. Mom liked it, too.

The wedding was at 5. Almost all of the guests were supposed to take a tour of the castle at 4:15. Asmus wanted to make things were setup correctly, so we got there at 4. We were the last people to arrive. Everyone was standing outside the castle when we pulled up. They were congratulating us and taking pictures. It was a bit overwhelming. At the risk of sounding ungrateful, I will admit that I planned to run the curling iron through my hair and freshen my makeup. That did not happen. I was getting hugged and helloed and then we had to take pictures. I am pretty anxious about what I look like in the photos. Pretty damn anxious.

Because my friends either didn't have the money or could not fly with young children, the only American in attendance was my mother. The Germans had never experienced someone saying their own vows. Asmus was worried about how his friends and family would react. I vowed to let him sleep late on the weekends and he vowed not to interrupt me when I talked. Asmus's older brother Christian served as officiant. During the service, he spoke of all the hurdles we had to overcome in order to be together.
Christian was nervous speaking in public but he soldiered through it all and was amazing. After the ceremony, three or four people said they cried, so my "strange" plans were not too outlandish.

At the end of the day, Asmus said, "I am so happy."

It was a good day. I am not a fan of ceremonies. However, I felt pure joy in publicly declaring my love and respect for Asmus in front of friends and family.

Isabel served as photographer. Asmus and I must sift through the 300 or so images she created for us. When we do that, the blog will have photographs from the wedding.

Here is the plate immediately after Asmus and I ate the last of
our wedding cake the day after the ceremony.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

London, part 3 - The City

London is more than a dirty city of concrete and brick. Here are few views of the city.

Here is a section of London called Hampstead. It is in north London and famous
for an expanse of open land called Hampstead Heath.

Here is the exterior of our apartment in the Dalston section of town.
Here is the view of central London from Hampstead Heath.

Here is another shot of central London from the Royal Observatory.

Here is the Tower Bridge at Dusk. Some mistakenly call this London Bridge. London Bridge is much uglier.

London, part 2 - The Prime Meridian

Here is the Prime Meridian, the imaginary line that cuts the world in half vertically. The official marker for the Prime Meridian is located at London's Royal Observatory.
This is the new Prime Meridian. It was created in 2000. Pretty artsy, huh?

On the ground, there is a list of major world cities and their longitudes.

Here is the old Prime Meridian. This is what I saw in 1994, the first time I came to London. It has been demoted. It lies behind a gate and there is no sign pointing toward its existence.