I was lucky enough to spend a week in Venice and a week in Dublin during April with my partner Elliot. (We also spent the week in Venice with longtime friends, a couple from New Jersey.) If you follow me on Facebook, you may recognize the photos above. I hope to share a few of my travel experiences in posts here over the next few weeks.
We encountered chill and rainy weather the first day in Venice but the rest of the trip was warm and sunny in Venice; the weather was a bit chilly in Dublin but fairly dry, although there was a brief and sudden hailstorm at one point!
Venice calls out for a novel to be set there. Parts of Ireland have already appeared in Come Hell or High Water and additional regions of Ireland will be the setting of the novel I am currently working on (Earth to Earth, Ashes to Ashes); there could easily be additional novels set in Ireland as well.
There was a surprising similarity between Dublin and Venice that I had not expected. Each city is beautiful, although in very different ways. Both have legends and ancient tales stalking the shadows of their streets. But both also depend on the water for their history and existence. Both were built on swamps and mud flats, although the ground beneath Dublin is somewhat more solid than that under Venice. Both feature a variety of fish and seafood in their traditional cuisines (making them perhaps strange places to go after the long weeks of no meat and only fish during Lent). 😉
We just got back to New York. I’m still unpacking and doing laundry. But I look forward to sharing more about this April 2017 trip with you in the next few weeks.
Traditionally on December 5th and 6th, St. Nicholas walks from house to house in the cities and villages of Alpine and Central Europe to admonish and laud young and old. In the Alpine regions, he is accompanied by a Krampus (an evil creature, a devil of sorts), who is going to punish the bad children and adults on St. Nicholas′ command. For the honest children he normally has little presents. In Prague and the Czech-speaking areas of Central Europe, the čert (a clearly demonic character) accompanies St. Nicholas.
In Come Hell or High Water, both St. Nicholas and his čert appear:
“It was commonly supposed [in 1356] that St. Nicholas, as he made his rounds bestowing gifts on children and the needy, was accompanied by both a tar-covered čert, a pitch-black devil, as well as a bright and glorious andel, an angel of light, who each argued for or against the worthiness of the recipient of the saint’s benefactions. The čert was always ready, at the slightest nod from the saint, to carry away the unworthy beggar or misbehaving child and–throughout the year–parents could always warn their children that they might be carried away by the čert….”
St. Nicholas himself is a Christian figure, the fourth century bishop of Myra. As son of a well-situated family, he started to help poor people who lived in deep poverty. He was supposed to have miraculous vigor and so he became patron of the seamen, children and poor people. (See a previous post about St. Nicholas and his care for the poor here.) In most modern versions of the St. Nicholas story, he is accompanied by a monster or servant (the Dutch describe his assistant as Black Peter) who punishes the bad children while Nicholas himself rewards the well-behaved children.
The figure of the Krampus is based on pre-Christian custom. The Krampusse not only punish the bad children but had the function at one time of driving out the winter devils and blizzard sprites. Originally the custom of the Krampus was spread over all of Austria but was forbidden by the Catholic Church during the Inquisition. It was prohibited by death to masquerade as a devil or an evil creature and so this custom only survived in some remote, inaccessible, regions of the Alps from where it slowly spread back across the western parts of Austria again. Today the Krampusse revels are especially popular in Salzburg. As many times as I have been to Salzburg, I have never been there during Krampusse-time; I would dearly love to be there to see the processions and parades of costumed characters in the streets.