Saturday, 4 August 2007

The soul of a city

We saw a movie yesterday, Resist, about the story of The Living Theatre company. One of the scenes of the film displayed a street ball in Rocchetta Ligure, a town in the Italian Piedmont, where the company happened to be having its site for a while. What stroke me was to realize that, even though I've never been to that town, I could recognize absolutely everything: the street lights, the dancing elderly couples, the music, the stage, the decorations. It could have been any town in Eastern Spain. And once again I thought "We are not different at all".

This thought comes to me quite often, in fact. Every time we meet a group of Italian tourists, every time we visit a Turkish shop or marketplace, every time we taste a Lebanese dish, we realise that somehow, all the shores of the Mediterranean, Málaga, Beirut, Genoa, Tunis, Valletta, Alexandria, Izmir, Palermo, Barcelona, ... are actually only a single one, a very old and wise shore that, still, makes all her peoples feel more comfortable in a loudly colourful Moroccan marketplace than in a black-tie Viennese Café.

The Mediterranean was the first superhighway in History, and the common goal of all peoples seafaring on it was trade. And with trade came along all cultural exchange between very diverse peoples: Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Persian, Phoenician, Jewish, Greek, Latin, Arab and Turkish cultures originated at its shores. The Mediterranean is, ultimately, where the Western civilization as we understand it today originated.

Trading routes bring variety, news, technologies, ideas, revolutions. And all this arrived at the point I consider is the center, the heart and soul of a city: its marketplace. And I do believe some of this soul is still alive and well in today's marketplaces. That's what made us such big fans of marketplaces everywhere.

Whenever we are in a city, if we really want to sense its beat, to hear its breathe, to see its heart, we visit a market. Because in a real marketplace you'll never feel like a stranger. Because you will see the actual people who do live there. Because you can tell about the openness of mind of its citizens just by sitting and looking around. That's why we love going to the Grünmarkt or the Schrannenmarkt in Salzburg. That's why we've been to the Naschmarkt in Vienna, to Portobello Road Market in London, to the Viktualienmarkt in Munich, to the Winterfeldtmarkt and the Kreuzberger Türkischermarkt in Berlin.

And once again confirming that theorem that says your home is what you know at worst, I must confess that I've never been to La Boqueria in Barcelona... But I plan to change that very soon!


Schokolade Madchen said...

I can get lost in the Viktualienmarkt for hours!

Tonicito said...

If you ever meet a guy passionately taking photos of vegetables in one of your walks through the Viktualienmarkt, that will be me! ;)