Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Bari, Home of My Forefathers

I was not prepared for the emotional experience being here was to have on me. Part of the reason was because all that I had heard about Bari was negative. Press coverage relegated it to the pits of the earth with industrialization, dirty ports, and high crime rates. None of this proved to be true.

There was nary a moment when we did not feel safe. Even when approached by the, dare I admit it, Gypsy woman while we were in a church, did I feel threatened in any way. Just as hot as Budapest was when we left, the temperatures here were aided and abetted by the humidity coming off of the Adriatic Sea. 

Our first morning walk was needed to work off the breakfast at the hotel. We ventured to the nearest boulevard, only to find a demonstration heading down the street. At first it seemed that the marchers were cajoling bystanders into photographing their efforts, but the mood suddenly changed to one of disdain when an image was captured. The location was serendipitous as the tourism office was right around the corner. Bari is said to be a well kept secret that the Italians covet. As such, finding someone who spoke English was an adventure including the tourism office. One gentleman did speak some. When I told him I was trying to find information about my grandfather, he had a sudden mood swing rising with the speed of a space shuttle. One would have thought I was the returning son, not the descendent of one. He gave me the name and address of the official registry office where they would look up my grandfather's birth certificate. 

I couldn't have been happier if I had a just dropped some acid. All I could think about was this was the area where my grandfather learned to walk. This is where he first learned to speak. That was the extent of my early childhood revery as grandpa was 2 years old when the family set sail for the US. Knowing he was no prodigy, he could not have accomplished much here, but it was fun to daydream about the rest. Of course he was one of the younger of a herd of children, so I did have great aunts and uncles who had many more accomplishments. Tomorrow is the registry office. They close at 12:30.

The day was spent visiting churches, a major tourism attraction in Italy. What I truly treasure about church visits is the variety of artwork including the architecture, the paintings, stained glass, and statues. Each church has its own flavor of the neighborhood giving a little insight into where their alliances have been formed by what saint or supposed miracle. Just as most stores and restaurants, the churches close for the siesta hours of 1:30 to 4:30 pm. The conundrum is how to spend the time 'productively' so that one does not feel like it was wasted. Answer: find a piazza where there is one cafe open and suck down beers to beat the heat. More on the churches later.
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