Saturday, June 30, 2018

How summer can change everything

Once again my job took me far from home to the north of Finland. Last time I was there, for a longer time, it was winter. Although snow can transform everything into a pure and magical environment, it also gives a sort of melancholic look that can grab your heart and fill it with sorrow. This was, at least what happened to me when I visited the town of Raahe (if you remember the blog post of the 2/17/18).
Winter had his beautiful side indeed, but this time I was there in the middle of the summer, and I was overwhelmed by the difference. The town looked still quite lonely but in bright colors.
It was no more the grey, cold and sad place I used to know. This was a place full of vital energy and BEHOLD! There was the sea, the harbor.
Last time I was there, I was sure the sea was much farther than it actually is, and seeing the harbor just in the city, was something that surprised me a lot.
It was almost impossible to say that I was in the same place. Also, the statue of Mr. Pehr Brahe looked like he was smiling at the gorgeous view, it seemed like he could finally recall the reason why he wanted a city right there.
He was no more regretting his choice, and I bet this happens every summer when the place can finally show all its potential.
 This time, however, I will leave more the pictures I have taken speaking for me, because this little tiny place, deserves a lot of attention and love.

After some time of wandering around during my spare time I came across something that tells a lot about the way Finnish people are straightforward. I might have told you about their way of not being keen to small talk. They go directly to the point, and do not waste time in futile explanations.

 Here is a MUSEO, as you could see. What kind of museo you ask? Well that kind where you store interesting historical artifacts, they would reply. If you want to know more you'd better go inside and check by yourself.
To be precise there are other seven other museo in the town, and that makes you really want to go and see them all. This would not be a bad idea, particularly because in this way you can have the unique chance to understand how life was during the early years Finnish civilization. One artifact in particular will catch your attention, and that is an ancient prototype for a diving suit. It is called the "Gentleman" (for no reason, really).
It is dated 1700 entirely made with calf skin, the seams are sewn with a waxed thread and sealed with a mixture of pig's fat, tar and pitch. A visit to each and every museo, is highly suggested, because of the very interesting artifacts that can be found exposed there.
Again, for today this is it. I hope you enjoyed the tour and the great weather.
Stay tuned and see you next week!

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Midsummer in Finland with the Wandering Writer

If you think you have seen it all, and there is nothing so extreme you haven't experienced, but you haven't been in Finland for the celebrations of Midsummer, you must think twice.
First a little bit of history about the midsummer celebrations and meaning.
All the celebrations start with the Summer solstice, is the day with the longest period of daylight.
There is no way to determine when humanity started to realize this and celebrate it. However, the oldest relic that testifies the acknowledgment and therefore the celebrations, were found in Egypt, one hundred kilometers west of Abu Simbel in a place called "Nabta Playa."
The Midsummer played a vital role for life in Egypt as it was connected with the flooding cycle of the Nile.

However, all over the world, the summer solstice played a vital role in the life of the people. Whether it was connected with the flood cycle of the main river, with the harvest period, or with the connections between the underworld and the world of the livings, there isn't a place, which doesn't celebrate it.
During the centuries, the different religions have adapted the original pagan meanings to their own advantage and in the Christian world, the main celebration for this day is the St. John's day, in honour of the birth of the Saint John the Baptist.

In Scandinavia, the meaning gets mixed, and even though it is still called as the St. John's day (in Finland Juhannus), the reason for the celebrations are more connected with the pagan tradition.
The longest day of the year is what seems to be the most important to celebrate, and here in Helsinki, we are gathering a respectable 18:55 hours of daylight (not that the night gets that dark either!). 
People do not gather into the churches, as they all escape the city to spend the two days (midsummer eve and midsummer day) in the summer cottage or somewhere in the countryside.
In the cities, the traditional bonfires are lighted up, and people try to get the most out of the Summer.
Wow, this looks awesome, doesn't it?
And it would also be awesome if it weren't for the "curse of the Midsummer."
What does it mean?
It means that for the period before and after the solstice the weather is fair, but for the whole week of the celebrations, you might even have snow.
So much for the Summer Solstice, which resembles the winter one.
Yesterday, we had a nice storm that forced us to light up the fireplace (IN SUMMER!!)
Today the weather seems to be kinder, but the temperatures are still quite far from the summer ones.

Nevertheless, Finnish people are used to it, and they do not really care. Stubbornly they will never give up their celebrations for no reason in the world. The original pagan tradition in Finland dedicates the day to the deity Ukko (the god of thunder).

He was the one who controlled the weather and particularly, the rain for a good harvest. Yes, Mr. Ukko might have not taken lightly the fact of being overshadowed by another religion, so he sends his bolts and rage upon us during the midsummer celebrations.
Perhaps we should try to find a way to make peace with the ancient Gods, and eventually, they will be kinder to us.
Well, hope you will have a great weekend and that you will enjoy the Summer solstice (or winter solstice if you live in the southern hemisphere) at its fullest.
Stay tuned!

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Love and death, a dangerous pair. The castle of Malaspina with the Wandering Writer

The story I am going to tell you this week is the tale of two different women. They didn't just live in different times, but they also had different characters and stories. Nevertheless, one thing bounds them together, and it is not only the fact that they lived in the same castle, but their destinies were bounded by love, one of the most dangerous feelings.
As first let me introduce a bit of the history of the castle, which is located in Fosdinovo in the northern part of Tuscany close to the sea. The castle location was extremely strategic as it could control the outlet to the sea of the valley. As usual, there is not an exact date for the building of the castle, but there is a document from the year 1084 that tells about a castle in the region of Fosdinovo. This first castle was acquired by the marquise Spinetta Malaspina in the year 1300 and the fortress walls to defend the castle were then erected.
After a short period, the feud was conquered by Castruccio Castrocane, Lord of Lucca, but his fortune didn't last long, and by the year 1334, the fortress returned definitely in possession of the Marquise of Malaspina, who enlarged the structure.
But let's go back to the stories of the two ghosts who seem to haunt the castle, the first one is the Countess Cristina Pallavicino, widow of Ippolito Malaspina, who was assassinated by his brother who wanted to get hold of the rich feud.
The countess is recalled as an extremely beautiful but ruthless woman. She used her beauty to entice her lovers in her bedroom to satisfy her sexual appetites. However, after she got what she was looking for, she used to kill her lovers by letting them fall on a well placed just in front of her bed. Some say it is just a legend other confirm this as the real fact. Truth is that the well is still present in the bedroom, although it has been recently sealed to avoid accidents. It seems like her ghost s still wandering in the castle, perhaps searching for new lovers, or to tell her version of the story. We will never know.
The other story belongs to a young woman Bianca Maria Aloisia Malaspina, who lived in the middle of the XVI century. Legend tells that she was betrothed to a noble gentleman, but at the age of 15 she fell in love with the stable boy and refused to marry.
The parents, disappointed by her behavior and not seeing any chance to divide the two lovers, decide to close her in a monastery and forget about her. We all know that love knows no boundaries, and she escaped the monastery to reach her beloved.
Blinded by rage and shame she was bringing to the family, his father decided to kill her lover and condemn her daughter to a terrible death. She was walled alive in one of the rooms in the cellar together with a dog, symbol of her loyal love and a boar, symbol of rebellion to the family. I know that is just insane, and even more crazy is how a family could do this to their beloved daughter (or any other human being, not to count the animals).
No wonder that her ghost is still haunting the place seeking revenge, or to find back her lost lover.
So here we have two very different stories, where love and death are the major players, a pair you should never bring together...

I leave you with some thoughts for this day, hoping you enjoyed the story and the castle, which is a great sight and deserves to be visited over and over.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

This is about my ghosts, those I have been growing up with.

And when I talk about ghosts, be reassured that I mean those ghosts of people who once walked this Earth and, after their death, they didn't want to leave the place.
The place I am talking about is located in the center-northern part of Italy, not far from the border between Umbria and Tuscany.
A tiny town called Castiglion Fosco (only 200 inhabitants), which was named after a soldier Fuscus o Fuscius, who received the hamlet as a gift from the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire Otto II, as a reward for his participation in the campaign against the Saracen of Abdul Kasem in Calabria (southern Italy).  Fuscus' heirs established there and built a castle which was identified as of Castrum Filiorum Fusci (The castle of Fusci's sons). Now, that was the year 982 AD, and from that day until the time where my family got possession of the part of the castle under the Tower clock, a lot of time has passed by, and the history remains not really clear on how every family got its turn in its ownership.
Nevertheless, it is quite clear that between the thick and solid walls of the building, a lot has happened, which will remain unfortunately untold.
During my childhood, I have spent most of my time in that house, where my grandmother used to live. There I have spent summers and winters, growing with my sister and cousins.
As a child, I have always felt the presence of something or someone watching every move I made, particularly on the stairs that lead from the lower living room to the central part of the house. I remember I used to run on those stairs to avoid that feeling, or perhaps to feel safe that those hands I felt trying to reach me, as I climbed the upper floor wouldn't have the time to grab me.
I remember that none of us dared to go to the restroom in the night alone, we always went together or we called our grandmother, who would have laughed at our sensitivity. The house was quite big, and in the golden years, she used to host the whole family, my grandmother and grandfather, three children and the parents of my grandfather.
At that time she was living alone although my aunt and cousins were quite often there. We asked her whether she wasn't afraid of living alone in a place where those presences were easy to be sensed. She would have laughed "be afraid of those who are still living, not of those who are dead," she used to reply. Perhaps it was right, but after her death, nobody ever dared to remain in that house, and now it is abandoned. I didn't step into it in decades, and perhaps never will again.
I know you are wondering whether I have seen any of them. Well, those were quite shy ghosts, but indeed we saw, shadows at the windows that didn't belong to anyone, we definitely heard the sound of footsteps, when there was nobody in the house, and that constant presence of someone watching at us, like the owner of the house watching that his guests won't misbehave.
It was like there was no chance to be alone.
Perhaps I should write a memoir about the history of that house and of those people who lived within those walls; my family and cultural heritage.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

This ghost is asking for revenge - The Wandering Writer

Continuing a journey to the castles with particular stories.
The one I am going to tell you about the Catajo Castle (Castello del Catajo) which is in the surrounding of Padova (North Italy).
The castle was built around the year 1570 by Pio Enea I Obbizzi, an Italian marquise.
During the 1600-1700 the castle was expanded and acquired by the noble family of Asburgo-Este, dukes of Modena and Reggio. The property is nowadays a private property, but it is open to the public as a museum. The origin of the name "Catajo" is not really clear, and there are many theories about the real root, but those are nothing more than assumptions. Being private property, you can imagine that it is kept in its pristine splendor, and so it is. Walking through the halls, which ceilings are decorated with the most beautiful frescoes and the walls display stunning paintings, you can easily get lost in the admiration.
The history of the castle is very long, and the stories told from a generation to another are many, particularly those which involve violence. Nevertheless, there is one story that keeps telling about itself; the story of Lucrezia degli Obbizzi (1612-1654), wife of Enea II degli Obbizzi.
The story tells about her beauty, which attracted the morbid attention of a friend of her husband, Attilio Pavanello.

Lucrezia rejected on many occasions the attentions of Attilio, but it seemed that this instead of discouraging him, had the contrary effect, and one night he intruded in her bedroom and killed her with a razor.
The murder, due to its brutality, was a hot topic for a long time, and many books have been written about this woman and her terrible death.
Also, the facts bonded to her presence still haunting the castle, mainly the place where the monument dedicated to her is placed and the bedroom where the murder was consumed.
 I have personally not seen the ghost of Lucrezia, but many people can swear having seen her dressed in a blue dress together with unexplained phenomena.
The fact of believing or not, it is apparently up to each of us. This does not take away how fascinating the life, and particularly the death of this woman is since for many centuries chronicle has been speculating about her murder. It is also intriguing to understand that with all the murderous facts that eventually happened within the wall of the castle only this one reached us today, as the most important murder.
Perhaps it is all because of the ghost, or because an innocent dame was murdered because of her beauty, in a world where women were not sufficiently respected and were often victims of vicious men.
You might wish to add this castle to the places to be visited in Italy and the surroundings. Being the castle inside the National park of the Colli Euganei, (an historical site) I am sure you will find many other attractions, which will crown the experience with stunning nature, incredible history, beautiful little towns and as usual unforgettable food experience.
As usual, I will come back next week to tell something more, hoping you enjoyed my blog post and you will follow me on the next.
Have a great weekend!!

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