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Cobble Cobble (Stones)

29 Nov
I have an obsession.
(one of many).
 

It may seem random but it’s mine: Cobblestone Streets. There’s no doubt about it – I LOVE cobblestone streets. I love their uneven nature, their disproportionate looks, their splashes of color (even if faded by time), their romantic European charm and, most importantly, the fact that no single stone is the same.

Ever wonder where cobble stone streets came from? The thought occurred to me while spending the day in Soho, NYC this past Thanksgiving break:

According to our “trusty” source, Wikipedia, the word “cobblestone” is “derived from the very old English word ‘cob,'” which can mean “rounded lump.” Doesn’t sound terribly attractive, but, ironically enough, many cobblestone streets are some of the world’s most picturesque locations. Take a look:

Gamla stan, Stockholm – Sweden (source)

Boston, MA (Source)

St. Michael’s Mount, Cornwall – UK, photo  (that’s me in the green!)

Historically, cobblestone streets date back to the Roman empire and stretched all the way into the 19th century where they were reduced to a standard size of 4 inches – not for the comfort of humans but, instead, for the increased comfort of horses (so let’s not flatter ourselves). It was later in the 19th century, for the purpose of better drainage and with the invention of the car, that most remaining cobblestone streets were sadly paved over with asphalt. However, as with anything in life, the less there is of something – the more valuable it is. So, this Thanksgiving, while walking through Soho’s many alleyways, I was thankful for cobblestone streets. And, despite the fact that they may have been made for the convenience of horses – my love for them remains in tact.

Soho. NYC. Photo taken by me.

Till the next History lesson…

Sources: eHow, SharingTravelExperiences, Wikipedia

Romanticizing the Past – Ponderings, Gabs, and Tragic Realizations

4 Nov

Fuzzy Socks by Candlelight

Let’s take a break –

The East Coast has gone back in time and I’ve been wearing extra thick fuzzy socks. No, not for Halloween-I‘m talking about power outages and no heat. The culprit: Sandy.

Hurricane Sandy swept through the East Coast in the USA and, sadly, took a lot with it, including my romantic fantasies of the past. As much as I would like to deny it, my frail demeanor wouldn’t survive two days in cold, medieval, castle-adorn Europe. Forget about the plague, war, and famine – I’m talking about COLD and lack of electricity.

The idea of sitting in a cozy bed, warmed by heating pans while reading by candlelight and staring out an arched castle window is all very romantic in my head. But, having fearfully clambered up my house’s dark staircase, armed only with candlelight and wrought with visions of bumping into a an even more deranged manifestation of Freddy Krueger for the past two days, I welcome the 21st century with all its lights and technology and talk of an impending robot revolution with open arms. I like my comfort – I enjoy it. Generally speaking, I do enjoy my occasional fanciful thoughts about medieval life (being dressed in lavish gowns by maids every morning, playing archery with Robin Hood, eating dinner at the Roundtable, and learning how to sword fight) but I often forget about the many downsides of medieval living, like being born into a peasant family or bathing once a month or no internet.

While agonizing over these kinks in my fantastical visions of the past, I realized that we often romanticize what we do not know or cannot perfectly recall. We almost always fill the holes of uncertainty and ignorance with positive ideas of heroic acts of valor or mysterious novelties that make us happy or hopeful or nostalgic or whatever we may desire at that instance.  Not that this is anything new: some past so-called “heroes,” historic events and even our own personal memories have been distorted by the passage of time and our own desire for feeling good. This calls to question: how valuable is the truth? And, is it possible to have completely unbiased, factual information?

Living in the dark ages for the past few days helped me come to a certain realization: Sometimes, the idea is better than the reality. But, to what extent does this matter? After all, ideas are a source of inspiration as well as hope.  I never honestly believed that living in medieval times would genuinely be romantic (may be a little), but my ideas of those times and of the past in general offer me a method of escape as well as an appreciation for what I do have right now (like heat, electricity, and internet).  Sandy may have demolished my romantic fantasies of castle ridden medieval life, but, while wearing my extra thick fuzzy socks and researching castles and their history on the internet, Sandy has taught me an important lesson: Remember the past and enjoy its novelties, but don’t forget about what you have in the present either.
PS: I’m not sure if extra thick fuzzy socks would be readily available in medieval Europe.

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