When we met Karishma and Adrian in Italy, Adrian asked a simple, but an evocative question: What surprised us in Italy?
It was difficult to answer. These days we travel after so much research and have already been exposed to so much imagery of famous places that very few things can really surprise us.
Still, a few things did.
Capuchin Crypt in Rome
I knew there were burials there and had planned to visit it. But somehow, I hadn’t found out what the real attraction of the crypt was. And when I saw them, my mouth literally opened wide in surprise. The crypt is really elaborate artwork made with – ahem – human bones. Morbidly beautiful. I don’t know how it has the religious sanction. Isn’t human body supposed to be sacrosanct in Christianity? I need to read up on this.
The Unchanging Latin Script
A while back Jandré (a South African working and living in Madagascar) had sent me a message expressing surprise that the language Georgian had its own script. It didn’t surprise me at all. Then I realized that in India we are used to the fact that every language has its own script (actually, many don’t, but still enough of them do that you get that impression). Not so in other parts of the world. Latin, for example, is the common script for a variety of languages in a large part of Europe and also in many former colonies.
A related surprise I received on our Italy trip was the realization that the Latin script has not changed in 2000 years, and even more. You may not know the language, of course, but you can read the letters in the ancient inscriptions. I tried asking a guide about it, but she didn’t seem to understand my question and didn’t comprehend my surprise. In India, Sanskrit is written in a dozen different scripts, modern Kannada readers can’t read Halekannada, modern Hindi readers may not be able to read older versions of Nagari script, nobody other than experts can read Brahmi and Prinsep lost his mind and life in deciphering the older Brahmi script.
What kept Latin unchanging and constant, while Indian scripts mushroomed in all kinds of direction in the same period? If you know of a book I could read on this, please do recommend.
The colossal-ness of colossus statues
They did build big. Whether it was the buildings or the statues. Romans, and then the Renaissance folks inspired by the ancients. Sometimes only a foot or a hand of an emperor’s statue is available, but you can see what their size would mean for the entire statue. I had seen the images of many of the famous ones, but seeing the size for myself was awe-inducing.