St. Mary’s Cathedral towers over the quaint town square, keeping a watchful eye over the city of Krakow. The Gothic church is crookedly nestled in the Western corner of the plaza. Its red-brown brick and asymmetrical steeples are each topped with an unique ornate cap- the righter most stacked with a single dome in the center and 4 smaller domes surrounding the larger, and the left, only slightly more interesting in view but much more so in purpose, climbs up into several pointed, decorated contraptions, as if it were reaching up to scratch the sky. It is this taller steeple that holds so much weight within the Polish culture. Every hour, on the hour, if you crane your neck and look up the height of the tower, you’d recognize a small, tube-shaped thing peak itself out of one of the long open windows so discretely that it would be impossible to notice if one weren’t paying attention. But, as you squint your eyes in attempt to make sense of the oddity, all questions are answered with what your eyes fail to capture but your ears so suddenly do: It is a trumpet, a melody that dances in the cool breeze and gently falls down onto the people, softly landing on shoulders, gliding under hats and into ears, filling the square with its modest yet elegant tune.
Sam, Helen, and I in the plaza in Krakow.
St. Mary’s Trumpet Call began in the early 1300’s and was primarily used for 2 things: A call at dawn and dusk to signify the opening and closing of city gates and to announce a spotted fire somewhere within the city. It later was used to commemorate each of the social classes as it would play a total of 4 times on the hour, each time facing out to the North, South, East, and finally the West. This latter tradition is still held today. However, the fact that the tune seems to end abruptly does not go unnoticed- the trumpeter does in fact cease to play in the middle of the tune. Tradition holds that in the early 1200’s (Though yes, the trumpet is thought to date to the 1300’s) a Mongol troop was spotted approaching the city. Though the gates were closed before the Tartars could get inside the city walls, the trumpeter was shot in the throat from outside the walls before he could complete the warning anthem signifying the approaching enemy. The Polish hold this story to be of great significance, and the anthem has stopped playing at the exact same note since.
One can learn a lot about a city based off of what they keep as tradition. The fact Mary’s trumpet call is sealed with the identity of Krakow is such a display of the embellished uniqueness that the 7th century city has to offer. The trumpeter seems to fit right in with the stone-walled castles, legends of dragons, and even the modern gentleness and charisma of Pope Saint John Paul II. It is fascinating to examine just how a single object can come to symbolize an entire culture. Thinking about the trumpet call opens the doors to ask important questions about our own culture, and others as well: What does this society hold to be important? What has stood through hundreds of years? Why is this particular thing so valued? It are these questions that can lead us to a greater understanding of history.
We ran up to the ocean as soon as we were off the boat.
I stand along the edge of Patras, Greece and watch the blueness of the waves push themselves onto the shore. They are rhythmically breathing: in and out, in and out. The crisp smell of the salt is as light and gentle as the blue water, and it playfully dances in the breeze that surrounds me. Mountains make themselves known in the distance. And then, as the water-polished rocks crunch under the weight of my steps, the sound of the breathing ocean begins to fade and I am soon surrounded with the sharp smell of greenness and the sound of a great buzzing of bees and positive singing of birds. The tall grass shimmers in the breeze! Bugs dart all around, full of energy and purpose! Sunlight pierces through my shirt and soaks into my skin! I look behind me: the mountains have descended into the atmosphere and the ocean now a single shade of royalty. I continue to make my way up, and soon it is all faded into the distance.
Last weekend I passed my time in Madrid, Spain, and let me tell you, it was one of the greatest places I’ve ever been. I know many would disagree with me, but hear me out.
Anyone who knows me even a little knows how much I love Dallas. The independent attitude and artistic vibe is so unique and has yet to be matched… until last weekend. Madrid was like a Spanish Dallas. A Spanish. Dallas. My favorite city in the world combined with the authenticity of the Spanish culture and language!? What more could I ask for?
Now I’ll admit that it takes a certain kind of person to really appreciate Dallas, Texas and probably Madrid, too. In these places graffiti is not gang signs or petty vandalism, it’s the product of a creative mind and artistic expression (yes, there is a difference). People don’tn stay out until 3 A.M. because they’re getting drunk or selling drugs (though there is a little of that too), it’s because they’re truly enjoying each other’s company at the only time of day they’re not all at work or in school. People are EVERYWHERE. Couples kiss on park benches. Friends laugh emphatically on the streets. Dogs trot alongside their owners and sniff every lamp post they pass.
I bought it.
A man eloquently plays the Spanish guitar underground in the metro station. His fingers dance across all the strings; the music resounds through the concrete tunnels.
An artist props his table up in La Plaza Mayor and studies not only the architecture, but the emotion of the buildings above him and frosts acrylic paint across the white canvas with his pallet knife, painting the essence of his city onto the fabric.
With the added bonus of churros con chocolate, sangria, and paella, you could take me back to Madrid any day. We could awe at the still life street performers and say no to las discotecas all over again, explore, and come to know it even better.
Until next time, chao, mis amigos.
Before I went to Rome someone told me that in the additional comments on the Roommate Request Form if wrote “A room with a view”, something might become of that.
They were right.
They say that on a clear day you can see the top of St. Peter’s Basilica.
I’d like to take a minute to capture my current awe at how absolutely wonderful I feel like I am being treated here and how, strangely enough, we are only experiencing what seems to be a standard of Italian culture.
The food served in the Mensa is cooked by a loving Italian couple and is absolutely delicious- all sorts of pan, pasta, meat and vegetables. I’ve only been here a week and have already been treated to two of some of the finest standard Italian 5 course meals and authentic Italian wine. And the coffee… anyone who knows me knows that I absolutely love coffee, and let me tell you, this is good stuff… dare I say it challenges Costa Rican cafe?
Our campus is on a working vineyard and has a small section of olive trees in the back. Unfortunately the grapes don’t bloom until the Fall, but it’s still a nice place to run. I can hear roosters crow, birds chirping, and dogs gossiping. There is a well recently excavated that dates back about 2,000 years. Rumors say it could be the one that Peter and Paul met at as they traveled through Rome.
As I sit here and write this, I silently gaze out the wide open window as the breeze pushes itself through the frame every now and then. It’s nice. I feel good.
Welcome to Due Santi.
Midwest City, Oklahoma
There is a part of me that believes that everyone has a sort of unacquainted love for coffee shops, and I’m not going to claim that I’m one of only a few who is so encompassed by the fresh, exotic coffee, easy music, local artwork, a wealth of books, and soft, old couches. Our human person can’t help but be at least a little drawn towards it.
I suppose I’m just one who takes that and runs with it.
Underground Coffee is maybe 2 minutes from my house, which makes it the perfect… place. The Underground has become my thinking place, my resting place, my homework, frantic-essay writing place, my catching-up-with-old-friends place and, ultimately, my place. With inexpensive coffee and an abundance of very exceptional house specials, there is always something new to try, though my go-to is simple: a regular 12-oz coffee with coconut (It’s a Tica thing).
Though there are countless numbers of coffee shops here in Dallas, there will always be days when my heart longs for the familiar feel of the Underground and it’s breathe-easy, everything-is-going-to-be-alright atmosphere. I am capable of giving Underground Coffee such an strong and gentle place in my heart because it is here that good conversations, honest thoughts, and real feelings have taken a hold of me and those whom I’m surrounded with. I’m sure you have those places for you too. Think about it. What does it look like? What does it smell like? Do you sit; do you stand? Who are you with? Do you write; do you pray; do you think; do you talk? What is it, exactly, about this place that makes it so unique, so special, so yours?
I’d love to meet you there.