Scraps of memories scud across my mind as I move along in daily routines. As a couple was easing into the dining room beside me on the Splendor of the Seas, the husband greeted the crew member at the door with Dobre Vecer! (good evening!) I immediately asked him if they were from Slovakia and he said no, but the crew member at the door was teaching them a few words daily. That crew member turned out to be the second and less dramatic of the two sommeliers on board. When he glanced my way in the dining room, I mouthed, are you Slovak, to which he nodded, yes. In the same manner he asked me if I wanted wine and I shook my head no and it was clear that no further information would be exchanged, though my curiosity was peaked.
On the bus ride from Milan to Venice we stopped for lunch at combination deli, grocery store, lunch counter. Once I decided that I would buy a prosciutto sandwich on focaccia bread, I got into the line. A man of about fifty, for in spite of white hair, he had a youthful look, and a couple of piercings, stood behind me. He caught my eye as he was browsing in front of the sandwich selections and I didn’t want to stare, but could hardly take my eyes away. The white shoulder length hair was swept up straight and brushed slightly to the right as if by a breeze and stayed quite in place but did not look lacquered with spray. There were a few subtle touches of a lemon color in the coiffure. I was not brave enough to take a photo, and perhaps no need as I doubt I’ll soon forget the image.
Going back to the bus we found that the driver had opened and was serving tiny samples of lemoncello and for the few willing he added another liquor. Most of us tried the lemoncello, which was quite nice.
As the bus rolled along toward Turin I saw many fields that looked like the rice paddies of Asia with green stems about 8 or so inches high close together growing from a bed of water. Wikipedia confirms that rice is grown in northern Italy and is watered by the run off from the Alps.
Arriving in Turin the driver poured us out several blocks from the actual entrance where other pilgrims were lining up to see the Shroud or burial cloth purported to have been the wrapping that Jesus was buried in. For me the walk from the bus stop to the queue was a strenuous one and I tried to keep the bright colored jackets of others in our group within sight so I would not be totally lost. At a certain point I realized that someone had been walking behind me for a while and when I turned to look I found Dave, of the husband-wife team who run the travel agency who was making sure I got there.
The walk from the entrance is very long and is covered, which we appreciated since it was raining one of those all day soaker rains, and it was a slightly up hill grade which I found tiring and about half way to the actual church entrance one of the priests traveling with us told the volunteers along the way that I needed a wheel chair. I couldn’t argue and was wearing down, so I gratefully accepted the service of a slight and greying gentleman who got me into the chair and proceeded with great care and knowledge of the path. He got me right into the front row of people as they looked at the shroud and listened to the talk in English. When I tried to tip the kind volunteer he would not take it and proceeded to wheel me all the way to the end of the tour and back outside where others from the group had congregated, again I tried to give him some money and he refused to take it but kissed me on both cheeks and I returned those thoughtful kisses and thanked him kindly.