Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Explore Parma May 19

                                                              Current Day                      Trip to date

Distance traveled miles                               7.7                                      58.3

Gross Climb feet.                                       125                                       615

Net climb feet.                                               0                                          28

Song of the Day: Bob Dylan's Dream, by Bob Dylan

While riding on a train goin’ west
I fell asleep for to take my rest
I dreamed a dream that made me sad
Concerning myself and the first few friends I had

The song of the day combines two events from the day.  First, this morning, we took a 40 minute train ride from Piacenza to Parma.  Second, the tendency to have weird dreams when you are on a trip like this! Linda had a dream last night that some woman on the street was going to give her a new pair of high heeled shoes that she really wanted.  Linda was  wrestling with the question of whether she could fit these shoes in her backpack.  But then, she turned around and saw some other people trying to sell me a pair of yellow leather converse all-stars with polka dots....it was all very confusing and fortunately Linda woke up before she had to make any final decisions on the shoes!  Well, I can tell you, it's not just Linda, I have had equally strange dreams as well,  (although never about shoes...).

After an excellent breakfast at our hotel this morning, we walked down to the train station to catch the train to Parma.  We went to the kiosk to get the tickets, and noticed that they had two classes- a first class ticket was 9 euros and a 2nd class ticket was 6 euros.  We said, what the heck, let's go big today!  We had a very pleasant train ride to Parma, only to discover that we had been sitting in 2nd class the entire ride!  So much for the upgrade!

Parma is a town of about 180,000 people, with a large university presence.  It is a very clean, beautiful medieval city.

When we arrived in Parma, we immediately walked to our hotel, about half a mile from the train station.  The hotel is a small B&B, located on the second floor of a building.  You have to ring a bell at the entrance on the first floor.  We rang and rang the bell, but no one answered.  We had passed the Parma tourism agency on the way, and I suggested that we go there to see if they could help.  We asked the young woman at the counter if she could help us, perhaps to call the hotel, as we don't have a phone.  She looked at her colleague and said, "you will need to call your father."  Turns out, the colleague's dad owns the hotel we are staying in!  What are the odds?  In any case she called him, he came to meet us, and all was fixed up.  It is a very nice small hotel with only 4 rooms.  We have a nice balcony overlooking a courtyard.

Our friend Debby Barbero from Chico, who is married to Guido, a terrific Italian guy, affectionately refers to Linda as MoTe, short for Mother Terressa.  She is always making fun of Lunda for being so nice to everybody.  Well it is indeed true, Linda just can't help herself, she is a very nice person.  But on a more optimistic note, I would call this karma, because people are so often kind back to us.  And today was another good example. So, good deeds do payoff.

We decided to explore the many attractions in Parma, which basically come down to three categories: churches, museums and food stuff.  For such a relatively small town, Parma has an extraordinary number of churches, including a Cathederal and several other Churches that are almost as big.  Unfortunately, as this was Monday, all of the Museums were closed!  I guess knowledge needs to take a rest on Monday, but salvation is a 7 day a week job (although not between the hours of noon and 3, when even Salvation needs to take a break).

Amazingly, we still managed to walk almost 8 miles today exploring Parma.  It seemed like nothing though, as we were not wearing backpacks.

Last year, I commented on the many business models of the Catholic Church.  One of the places we visited today was the Baptistery, basically a very tall, one room building where they held baptisms. 


The cost of entry for this buildingis 6 euros. However, once you got inside, you needed to fork over another 2 euros if you want to learn anything about the building:

You might notice that the Catholics are utilizing a tried and true business strategy off"geographic" or "sku" expansion by offering this service in 4 different languages!

The churches were all very beautiful and large.  The amount of money the Catholics spent on Churches in the 15th and 16th centuries was quite something.  Perhaps the modern day analog is the amount the USA spends on defense...at least the Catholics saved a few lost souls with their money. 

We had an excellent lunch in Parma.  There were two women sitting next to us speaking English.  Turns out they were ex-pats, one from England and the other from the Bay Area.  They were talking about their children's international school and the challenges they were having.   We reassured them that they would not do any permanent damage to their children....that comes later....

We had an outstanding dinner last night, one of the best meals we have had.  We sat outdoors on the terrace of a stylish restaurant.  Linda surprised me by wearing a dress and a pair of dress shoes (now I understand why she is having dreams about shoes!). She said she decided to bring these dress items, as you can only do the  Eddie Bauer Mountain girl look for so long! The only annoying thing about the dinner was two guys sitting next to us, talking  loudly on the phone the whole meal.  Amazingly, they were also smoking cigarettes the entire meal, including while they were eating their food!

All in all, Parma was a very worthy side trip, and we look forward to coming back and exploring it more thoroughly.

Tomorrow, we will take an early morning train to Fiorenzuola, then walk 15 miles or so to Fidenza.   

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