I promised my parents at their grave that I would honour their memory in a special way, and made sure that I do not succumb to tradition and flamboyance when it comes to their death anniversary. They both disdained ostentatious displays of food and superficial get-togethers, and my mother cringed each time at the thought of having to organise an event with a household of people. They were happy to serve and pray, ora et labora, and the less people involved, the better. There were even times they didn’t even involve me, and I only heard about it much later!
This strong sense of privacy influenced me in more ways than one, and the older I get, the more I lean towards these tendencies of my parents, to the extent that when I became a parent myself almost 20 years ago, I always asked my daughter whether she wanted a party or a trip. Never one to organise a party for myself, not even on my milestone birthdays, I chose instead to indulge with personal time with those that matter most in life to me.
So for my parents’ first death anniversary, and my 50th year, I decided to combine a few reasons and make it a very personal moment, devoid of a crowd and a celebration of a life shared, not death. The last two days have meant massive travel for my cat and me, as we embarked from Berlin to Assisi by train, plane and car. This is certainly not the first time for Champagne to fly, but our first time to travel together with her in the cabin, and everyone has been amused with her astronaut-like backpack – which, by the way, is truly airline-approved because Lufthansa, normally one of the fussiest airlines when it comes to flat-nosed pets, did not complain at all. On the contrary, the people at the check-in counter were so amused that they waved us through. Getting Madam through the security check was more exciting, since she had to be taken out of the backpack and be held while the bag went through the x-ray. She of course was ready to bolt and explore the airport, which affirms the excellent use of a harness and a leash!
Munich airport is not exactly the most exciting in the world, it is big, practical, with enough choices for food and drink, but I would avoid shopping there unless you don’t mind burning a hole in your wallet and credit card. The prices of coffee alone are already enough to give you a mild shock. But there is an Allianz Arena lounge, a replica of the football stadium in the city that resembles a giant metallic doughnut. This was a place where Champagne could come out of her backpack for a couple of hours and stretch her legs before the next flight.
Landing in Ancona was no great shakes. It is a small airport which reminded me of some of the provincial airports in Thailand, structurally intact, but nothing mind-boggling, except for the gorgeous weather that welcomed us, leaving the grey rain clouds of Germany behind.
There are two options to drive to Assisi from Acona, via the motorway that is faster but is an endless series of tunnels through the mountains, which drives the GPS absolutely nuts, or the scenic route which is bizarre zigzag that requires an extremely strong stomach.
The town of Assisi is up in the Perugian mountains and dates back to 1000 BC. St. Francis founded the Franciscan oder here in 1208, as well as the Order of the Poor Clares (Santa Clara). This is not a place for those with weak knees, bad hearts, and little stamina, no matter how strong your faith is, because it is nothing but exquisite narrow cobbled-stoned alleys and steps that go up and down at very sharp angles. Breathtaking in every sense of the word. It takes mad skills to drive around here, and if you ask me, a moped is a death wish on two wheels.
Assisi is not the place to search for the large, loud and bombastic like in Rome, and is definitely much smaller than Florence. That is not to say that the town is not full of treasures, and the quaint design of the alleys is an open invitation to get lost in prayer and introspection. If the town doesn’t do it for you, the spectacular mountain area will.