German from Stuttgart, she spoke fast yet calmly.
“When someone defends the integrity of an argument people usually assume that they agree with the opinion behind it. There’s an issue here: if people can’t separate these two things they can’t play the game of arguing, and then they lose because they don’t know how to defend and how to attack; they can’t tell what moves are available to them and to the opponent. In fact, they don’t even realize that they’re playing.”
She had this subtle, deadpan sarcastic tone that made it hard for me to tell when she was being serious or not:
“I do believe God is omnipotent, and I think there’s a simple reason he doesn’t intervene directly in people’s lives. You know when you read something incredibly ignorant in a random comment online, and then you start to write a reply, but then you stop and realize it’s not worth the trouble of arguing with a stranger that won’t change his mind anyway? This frustration, well… I think God is way past that already: he blocked us a long time ago and now worries about other stuff, like cute cat gifs or the latest memes.”
He told me his biggest mistake in life and how he felt about it:
“What I did is terrible, but I don’t regret it because at the time it seemed like my best bet. It just didn’t work out because of things I can’t control, but people only care about what actually happened, even if it was the least likely outcome. You see, the problem is that people judge themselves based on intentions but judge others based on actions.”
For the past 8 years, every day Palmiro crosses the Villa Borghese gardens during his lunch break.
“I insist on having lunch at home, with my family. Spending time with my children is important to raise them well and help my wife with their education, so for me the 15 minute walk through the park is a small price to pay. Of course I could drive home, but traffic nowadays is so bad that it would take longer, which is absurd. Quality of life in large cities is not as good as it used to be.”
Married for over 30 years, the couple comes back to the Blautopf every year to celebrate the anniversary of their first kiss, which took place there.
“The reflection of the sky on the water is incredible. I find it more beautiful than the sky itself, as strange as that may sound. The distortion and the water movements form a unique image of the sky, and that is almost as if it was a language, a particular way the water has to describe it, to relate to it. I think that’s fascinating. Sometimes we find beauty not by seeing something for what it is, but rather for how it is seen by someone else.” (Erna)
“The first time I brought her here she told me all of that and I didn’t understand a thing. I just nodded and said it was the deepest thing I had ever heard.” (Hans)
I found Sofia during a break from her job in the administration of Museo Correr, in Venice. She prefers to drink her coffee by the courtyard, where she can enjoy some peace away from the office and the tourists.
“Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful that Venice is so popular among tourists, because it’s good for the city, it’s good for the museum… the money you spend here keeps our economy going. But I admit I can’t stand two kinds of tourists: those who don’t behave in museums, of course, but then there’s also the easily impressed, who think everything is amazing. Not that they (referring to the second group) are bad people, but their naivity bothers me a lot. It’s as if they underestimate humanity and its capacity to create greatness.”
Dozens of people walked by her during the almost half an hour that I stood and watched, but no one seemed to acknowledge her existence. When I asked her why she was sitting there by herself, she answered with a disturbing kind of serenity:
“Because I want to be alone.”
Isla del Sol, Peru
It took some reassuring from her parents to get her to talk to me, but after she started she was very comfortable speaking her mind. They are French and were in Italy on vacation. Although she was enjoying the trip, she questions whether it is necessary to do it (some of it may have been lost in the parents’ translation).
“I like a lot all the things we saw, but I think we don’t have to travel. There’s a lot of cool things in movies. I like movies more, because there’s magic, there are things we don’t have in the real world. My dad says if you know it’s real it’s better, because we know the movie is just make-believe. But I don’t think so, because we see real and not real things the same way. It’s not like pretend food, that has no taste, or my bunny, who doesn’t jump like a real bunny. I like my bunny more like this, because if I had a real bunny my mom says I would have to take care of him and clean his poop.”