Lost: One Castle

 

Memory is a tricky thing and the older I get the truer that statement becomes. It’s not that I’m forgetful, it’s just that there’s too much to remember – trivia stored in the limited capacity of memory from decades of events and people and places. That’s one of the reasons I journal. Not for the eminent now, but for the future when the past is a shadowy impression at best.

I saw many castles in Europe in 1995 when I studied abroad on a University of Minnesota UROP (Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program) grant. But one was unique, spellbinding, and mildly disturbing.

Now and then when I revisit the memory of that time I’m there again, walking the cobblestone street up to soaring gray walls, through the massive gate, across a sun baked courtyard to the far edge where the mountainside dropped away, a vertical cliff.

The view from that vantage point remains indelibly imprinted, unforgettable. On a pinnacle of rock some distance below stood a structure, a castle in miniature. I was certain the round tower once held a willful princess who had been banished by the king to that forlorn aerie where she awaited rescue by her handsome prince or frog as the case may be. But the thing that made it eerily sinister was the fact that no visible means of accessing the mysterious place was apparent. It floated untethered from the land, a severed appendage.

I remember gazing into the chasm, sweating in the midday heat, trying to work it out. Why had the people in this 12th century town built a mini-castle on that impossible promontory and how had they gotten the materials out there to do it? Other queries flashed through my vivid imagining as well: Was it a prison? Were there underground tunnels to connect it with the main structure above? Was it an ascetic’s retreat? Was its purpose benign or malignant? So many questions!

After countless futile efforts to locate the lost castle, I gave up. Perhaps I’d fabricated it, chunked together bits and pieces of all the cathedrals and palaces I’d seen and created a fantasy. It’s the story I settled for but never fully believed.

Last night, scrabbling through old folders, I unearthed some pages from a journal documenting the last half of June, 2007. Why I brought them with me when I moved to Bali and ignored bins of notebooks filled with writings of other years, I don’t know. But I did. Fascinated, I began to read.

From Segesta, we headed toward the medieval town of Erice. That was the high point for me. It was stunning beyond belief! Cobblestone streets, well maintained though worn smooth from hundreds of years and thousands of footsteps, led to the castle itself. Looking over the edge of the walled precipice into the chasm below, was another turreted structure, much smaller but exquisite. It seemed suspended in mid air.

I caught my breath. My fingers flew to the keyboard. Castle in Erice, I typed into the salivating jaws of Google. And there it was, exactly as I had remembered it. I read the description and discovered the name I had never known: Castle of Venus. It hadn’t been the 1995 trip at all. It was twelve years later that I’d visited Erice in Sicily.

It feels as though I’ve discovered hidden treasure, or an item of great value that I thought was lost forever. My friends have lists of places they’ve yet to explore. They’re intent upon ticking them off one by one. But the pull for me is back to the sites I’ve seen and loved. The Adolphe Bridge in Luxembourg, Unmunsa, the cloud temple in South Korea, the Trulli houses of Alberobello, Materdomini and the unforgettable Hotel Albergo, San Genaro on the wildly romantic Amalfi Coast. And now heading the list is the long lost Castle of Venus in Erice, Sicily. It haunts me. I must return. I will.

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Still the Lucky Few
    Jul 29, 2018 @ 21:56:03

    I use journals to document my life, so to speak—memory fades as we grow older. It is so satisfying to open a journal we may have written 20 years ago and find some tidbit that solves something we have been puzzling about! Wish I had written more of them!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

    • writingforselfdiscovery
      Jul 29, 2018 @ 23:18:00

      My mother, 90 years old, journals every day. It’s really helpful when I call her and ask about her day. She rarely remembers what she’s done until I tell her to get her journal. Then as she reads it prompts other shorter term memories that had already faded.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

  2. Lucy
    Aug 02, 2018 @ 16:59:31

    I wish I could journal – I’ve tried several times, but it never sticks. How wonderful to be able to go back and discover all over again – and to find you how you were inspired and wrote about the experience so poetically.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  3. writingforselfdiscovery
    Aug 02, 2018 @ 17:38:47

    I think you’re either a person who enjoys recording the thoughts and activities of life as you live it or you’re not. I always have been. For me, with such a long recorded history, it’s fun to go back and read the really early stuff and see how much I’ve changed (or stayed the same!) Thanks for reading and commenting!

    Like

    Reply

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