Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Italy | Venice | We Crociferi

I had intended to stay in Venice only three days, but once I was there I thought, what the heck, I am here, why rush off? I soon discovered, however, that the guesthouse where I was staying was all booked up and I could not keep my room any longer. Actually, after three days I was already tired of the place. It was located on an extremely quiet five-foot wide passageway, but this passageway opened out onto a busy shopping street lined with very upscale brand-name stores and white-tablecloth restaurants. There were no grocery stores or bakeries in the area and even the stand-at-the-counter coffee shops seemed expensive compared to other neighborhoods. While searching for new accommodations I noticed a place called We Crociferi in the Cannaregio district of Venice. The photo showed a huge white building in front on a long, narrow square. I realized I had walked by this building many times without realizing what it was. Apparently the building was an old monastery which had been refurbished and turned into a hotel. Sounded interesting, so I checked into this place.
We Crociferi on the right side of the square. Left of center is the entrance to the Church of the Gesuiti (Jesuits). (My photo; click on photos for enlargements.)
Church of the Gesuiti
Courtyard of the We Crociferi
Another view of the courtyard of the We Crociferi
Stairwells in the hotel; definitely a minimalist vibe
 Cafe in the hotel—more minimalism
The rooms were austere, but had great work desks and lights. Actually the rooms were originally designed as student digs.
The hotel was located just a few hundred feet from the Fondamente Nuove, a broad waterfront walkway along the northern lagoon.  The water-buses for the airport, the outlying islands, and other districts of the city all stop along the Fondamente Nove. Despite the hubbub on Fondamente Nuove the neighborhood is residential and surprising quiet. Just down the street from the square was a small grocery, obviously catering to locals, that had a good selection of cold cuts (a dozen or so different kinds of ham, salami, etc., a dozen or more kinds of cheese, and various fixings, plus fresh bread and rolls). A bit further on was a fruit and vegetable market with tangerines for one Euro a kilo and, thank goodness, pomegranates (I guess one could live without pomegranates but who would want to?).

A couple of more doors down was an even better find—a bulk wine store. The wine comes from huge glass jugs behind the counter. You bring your own bottle (used plastic water bottles are fine) or buy a plastic bottle for €.40 (42 cents US). The proprietor then siphons the wine into your bottle. A liter (1.05 quart) of Cabernet Franc costs €2.40 ($2.54); a liter of Pinot Noir €2.10. This, keep in mind, is in a city where a small glass of wine in even a scuzzy cantina costs four or five Euros, and you may have to stand to drink it; if you want to sit down it might cost six or seven Euros, and possibly even more in ritzier joints. And where even a lousy mug of watery beer costs three or four Euros, and that’s assuming you want to knock elbows with and get your shins kicked in by Low-Life Beer Drinkers. So the bulk wine is an incredible bargain in this notoriously expensive city. While I was there numerous neighborhood housewives were lining up for their daily liter. Wine is not a luxury for these people; it is a staple like bread or cornmeal. In the Venice of old even galley slaves got a daily ration of wine. Assured of provisions I settled into the We Crociferi.

Cyprus | Paphos | St. Paul’s Pillar

After an enlightening few days at We Crociferi in Venice I wandered on to Athens, Crete,  and Rhodes, before finally washing up in Larnaca, Cyprus.
 Cyprus (click on iamges for enlargements)
Statue of my man Xeno in Larnaca
After spending a day Getting Back In Touch With My Inner Stoic—as you probably know, Larnaca (then Kition) was the birthplace of the Greek philosopher Zeno (c.352 BC–c.255 BC), founder of Stoicism—I moved on to Paphos, at the western end of Cyprus Island. According to legend Aphrodite was born just up the coast from Paphos and I was eager to see her birthplace, but first I wandered by the church of Panagia Chrysopolitissa to see St. Paul’s Pillar.
Alleged route of Paul and Barnabas through Cyprus. This assumes they used roads built by the Romans to get from Salamis to Paphos. Their itinerary is not detailed in the Bible. 
Paul—he of Road To Damascus fame—and his sidekick Barnabas arrived on Cyprus in  45 or 46 AD, landing at Salamis, Barnabas’s birthplace. According to legend, they then proceeded to Kition, current-day Larnaca, where They Supposedly Met With Lazarus, who had washed up in Larnaca after Jesus of Nazareth, according to the Bible, had raised him from the dead. From Kition they moved along the coast to Paphos, where Paul was supposedly tied to a pillar and whipped for trying to preach Christianity to the locals. You will recall from your Bible studies that he mentions being whipped in Corinthians 2 11:24: “Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one,” but he does not say where. The pillar that Paul was tied to when he was whipped in Paphos—at least according to legend—still stands in front of the church of Panagia Chrysopolitissa.
 St. Paul’s Pillar (click on photos for enlargements)
 The Church of Panagia Chrysopolitissa, dating to about the fifteen century
 The church of Panagia Chrysopolitissa was built of the site of a much larger fourth century basilica. The columns of the old basilica can be seen here. This church was destroyed or heavily damaged by Arabs who invaded Cyprus in the eighth century. The graffiti that they carved on some of the columns can still be seen. 

Paul has of course gotten a lot of Bad Press lately:
“So because the Apostle Paul was a homophobic sexually insecure douchebag and authored the majority of the New Testament people are bound by his interpretation of bigoted hatred in order to fulfill the edict to live “‘good christian lives’”.
Aother Modern Commentator  considers him an insufferably misogynistic blowhard and gasbag who perverted the original teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. However, there is also the school of thought that maintains he was a secret Gnostic and that the books in the Bible which have given him such a bad name (especially Timothy II) are actually forgeries. For more on this tantalizing theory see Jesus and the Lost Goddess: The Secret Teachings of the Original Christians. For a debate of these various issues see Paul Behaving Badly: Was the Apostle a Racist, Chauvinist Jerk? If you want a novelistic treatment of Paphos at the time of Paul’s visit to the city see The Rose of Venus. The book is narrated by a follower of Aphrodite. Paul makes an appearance in the book and tries to convert the narrator to Christianity, but he, the narrator, is not convinced and remains true to the cult of Aphrodite to the end of his life.  Read the book to find out why.