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The inn at Ursa Major

Time Travel

ITALY | Thursday, 15 May 2014 | Views [159] | Scholarship Entry

The Circus Maximus was once the greatest stadium in history. Now it's a sort of park in the centre of Rome. If you are near the Colosseum, you need to pass the arch of Constantine and cross a road before you reach the Circus. You can see the palatine hill and its ruins from the Circus, just beyond the line of parked cars. It seems rather unremarkable compared with the ruins of the forum a mere stone's throw away, there is no crumbling stone, no monument, no plaque. When I wandered in for the first time, a woman was casually walking her dog near me.

The ruins and museums of Rome are places of magic and learning, appreciated in quiet and personal contemplation. There, the most valuable and spectacular links to our past are kept behind glass for all to marvel at.
Yet the empty and unadorned Circus Maximus provides the secret to the real beauty of Rome: Not everything can be put into a glass box or cordoned off. As a result some of the most powerful experiences occur in the Italian capital's streets. To me the Circus Maximus was an absolute must-see, a hugely important historical site. To the locals it's a park. Rome is arguably the most important city in world history. To them, it's home.
Among the ruins of unimaginable consequence and relevance in world history, Romans get on with their lives. They work, they play, they walk their dogs. To travel there and breathe it in is to feel it. You can't get that feeling from a postcard.

If you listen closely enough you can actually hear Nero's chariot trundle past. You can hear the thousands upon thousands packing the stands and space around. You can feel the rush of wind against your face as another currus flies past. But unlike the nearby Colosseum where the hawkers and charlatans hassle tourists and obscure the view, the Circus is where a modern Roman woman walks her dog.

I travelled in time that day, as I stood in tracks of chariots and the crowd roared all around me. I travelled between times. I was momentarily transported into the past, even as the sounds of cars and Vespas passing on the road beckoned me back to the present. For a moment I wasn't a tourist, I was a Roman.

Tags: 2014 Travel Writing Scholarship - Euro Roadtrip

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