No Photoshop, just Instagram

@chrispytine on Twitter and Instagram

Monday, September 30, 2013

Gladiator for a Day

The abundance and mindless display of violence, sex and gore in American drama Spartacus drew me to Rome to discover the history of the gladiators.
Beneath every inch of dust covered Rome lies history to be uncovered. Film is a very powerful medium. It is because i watched all 3 seasons of Spartacus, Gladiator and 300 that made my heart pound with excitement as i approach familiar names like Pompeii, Mt Vesuvius, Capua etc.
Without film, i would not have been able to conjour in my mind what the gladiator arena was like as the ruins of the Colosseum stand in front of me.

Captivated by the story of gladiators and unabashedly a boy at heart, i signed up for gladiator school.

I could not sleep the night before. I was worried i was going to oversleep, not find the place or be too tired for the grueling training. Gladiators were well fed with a high protein diet that consists of meat, fish, bread, cereals and vegetables. Other types of food included barley, dry fruits, cheese, goat milk, eggs and olive oil. I had to make do with a typical Italian breakfast en route to school; croissant and cappuccino.
Using the Roma pass that gives me unlimited public travel for 3 days (& jump queues at tourists sights), i managed to navigate myself and located the gladiator school in an obscure location that has nothing else around.
The name gladiator came from the sword they typically fight with, a gladius. It is as what we thought to be, that gladiators are made of slaves, criminals and prisoners of war who had no choice but to fight for the entertainment of the Republic. They were to die anyway and the enterprising Senate created a game of blood upon sand.

I greeted my lanista (owner of the school) as a new recruit, a novicius. He was dressed as a Roman solider.
As Peter gave me the lowdown of a gladiator's life, it dawned upon me what a mind play it was. For criminals, slaves or prisoners of war who were forced into this new life, to lead a gladiator's life could be more superior than the lower class of Romans and definitely better than execution with no fighting chance. If they survive 3-5 years as a gladiator fighting 2-3 bouts a year, these criminals, slaves or prisoners may walk free.
Walking away free because I won my fight.

Getting Roman citizenship.

Gladiators were given frequent massages, allowed hot and cold baths and provided with women slaves from the kitchens to satisfy sexual needs. They were treated well as they are valued commodity. 

So much of a valued commodity, that lanistas may even hang a dead gladiator like a cow, slit his throat and drain his blood to sell. Milking all of a gladiator's worth, there are Romans who would buy these veils to drink or rub on male and female private parts believing this would make them virile like a gladiator.
Men want to be like that, women want to lay with them.
Running away was not feasible as successful gladiators become famous like modern day celebrities. The fan worship, fame and glory along with rewards and purses of money also kept them from taking revenge on the Romans who forcefully raped and killed their wives and children.

I then tried on the various armors of a Roman soldier.
Working it like a top model.
Each helmet, shield and sword was a replica so i could feel the weight. I was taught to hold the shield and sword as a soldier would and explained the mechanics of holding the sword a certain way.
Dude on the left seems to say 'hey, give me back my stuff! I feel naked.'
Training for a novicius first concentrates on getting the new gladiator to the peak of fitness. A wooden training sword was handed to me. I was then taught the basics of sword fighting. 5 moves in attacking and 5 moves in defending.

As the crowd grew weary of the fights becoming predictable, the Senate had to invent new games. Thus came about the introduction of various helmets and weapons in the arena.
I had thought they were for decoration, like a costume for a better show. However, putting it on myself, i then understand it was the sick minds of the Romans to make the fight more bloody exciting.
Depending on what helmet or weapon given, your opponent will be matched equally. If you are fitted with a weapon that is light-weight, you will be fitted with a helmet that obstructs vision. Vice versa if you are handed a cumbersome weapon, you will have a light helmet with clear view.
from behind a helmet
Having had training in martial arts (with a few medals in my closet too), fighting like a gladiator wasn't too different from what i have learnt as a sport. However to feel the weight of a real gladius in my hand and sparring with it was surreal. I can only imagine it takes a certain strong wrist and arm to wield that sword to fight. 


Unaccustomed to the (common) overly Italian affection.
This was a LOL Kodak moment.
That sums up my history lesson, with a sword in hand under the unforgiving Roman sun. 

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Alien Bar in Gruyére

I never would have thought i'll find this in Switzerland but i did. Found in Gruyére, one of my favourite medieval towns, perched right atop the hill of a cobble-stoned town is the Alien Bar.
Gruyere, cobble-stoned with castles.
The Swiss artist that is known for his Oscar winning designs for the 1980s classic film Alien converted a 4 storey chateau into a museum-bar that houses his work of 40 years. The HR Giger museum has an entry fee but the reception area has drawings and sculptures to browse for free. The museum doesn't just house Giger's film designs but also his work before he became famous for Alien as well as pieces he collects and artists he curates. However, if you are familiar with the classic film, you will not be shocked to find his work housed in this museum is as disturbing.
Museum reception.
The first time i found this unique bar, i could only cup my hands on the glass for a peep. There was a sign that said 'no photography except for guests'. I swing the doors open, pretending to look for someone inside, and sneakily took a pic. I vowed to return.
And i did, 8 months later. Despite it being a bar, it is only open till 8pm. Then again, it WOULD be strange if you find anything open after 6pm in Switzerland. Stepping into the bar transported me temporary into a mutated future civilization. The impressive architecture interior will make any Alien movie buff foam.
With the floor engraved with strange hieroglyphs, chairs looking like spinal cords and the entire 'cave' fitted with bone-coloured furniture, the architecture installation is awe inspiring.
The price of photography is chf 8 for a glass of bottled juice.
The seat is surprisingly pretty comfortable.
Gives my back bone good posture.
The vertebrae that runs across the entire ceiling, covering every inch of the pillars is a sight to behold.

I tried the alien coffee set. For CHF 14, you get a cappuccino in a goblet, a green liqueur, a mini Toblerone and  typical Swiss dessert meringue with cream. I had better meringue with cream elsewhere and Italy's coffee was definitely better
However, if you want to have swag material for Facebook and Instagram, the chf 14 is worthwhile to feel part of the new form of beings - a symbiosis of man and machine.
HR Giger Bar
Opening Hours
Apr-Oct daily 10am-8.30pm
Nov- Mar Mondays closed

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

48 hours in Brussels

The below collage pretty much sums up my Brussels experience. 
9am: Checked into Sablon, Brussel's most famous square lined with chocolatiers where chocolates are encased in display windows like jewels and sales staff pick them up for you in black satin gloves. I settled in Wittamer ordering 3 cakes and 1 coffee that came up to something like 30 euros. I had high expectations for them because i thought Belgium was well-known for its chocolate, waffles and pastries. Perhaps i was hitting the wrong spot but I left Brussels, disappointed with all 3.

11am: Started the Comic Strip Walk and collected them like cards in a game.  
The walk was a nice thing to do. It helps you cover a large portion of the city by walking. Be reminded to turn 360 when you find the spot marked on the map. Some aren't as obvious.
Visited the Belgium Comic Center where a large part of it is free to meddle around.
Doing the comic strip made us stumble upon areas and strange sights we wouldn't otherwise have. 
Statue of a severed hand with water resembling blood sprouting.
Expensive scented candles with abnormal aromas.
Fancy your place smelling like a church? Or how about a shoe?

7pm: Dinner was at Le Zinneke because they had 69 ways to eat mussels and it was recommended on TripAdvisor. It was a challenge finding it as it was the local neighbourhood and i wouldn't want to comment more on the restaurant because not only the menu nor the waitresses could explain in English, the service was  pretty bad. It was a 30 min wait to give our order and another 30 min for food. However, the mussels in white wine with cream was indeed good. The beef stew we had wasn't anything to write home (or here) about. Le Zinneke is worth going because the other mussel experience we had in the tourist center paled in comparison in taste AND the service was equally bad. Just don't go to Le Zinneke famished. 
9pm: We found people sitting and lying down on the cobble stoned ground at The Grand Palace. It must be nice, but we preferred to walk it. 
We then looked for the very famous Manneki Pis only to find it as small as the souvenir you can buy from tourist shops for your home garden.

Jeanneke Pis, the female version was wee (pun intended) bit more interesting.
She was even caged to either protect her dignity or the coins thrown by passer-bys with the wish to remain faithful to their lovers.
11pm: Hit the sack at Aloft Brussels, part of the Starwood group. Modern, new, colourful and close to a metro station, I had a very enjoyable stay at an extremely affordable price.
9am: Rise and shine, taking a 2 hour journey out of the city to Warnant to get on a railbike. It isn't as thrilling as i thought it would be but it was something different to do. Riding hands-free on an abandoned railway track, it was quite a workout.
Mussels in 69 ways, chocolates treated like jewels and a comic strip walk. Brussels, in 48.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...