Standing on a terrace overlooking the city, high up on mons solis. It's my last day in the district of Apollo, and it's a beautiful day. Far warmer than usual for this time of year, the sun is shining bright.
Between here and the glittering skyscrapers of Thoth, nestled between the mountain and the hills near the coast is urbs lunae, the "city of the moon" sacred to Bast. It looks like a quaint residential district in comparison, lots of small white houses with painted green roofs.
The area is, not surprisingly, overrun with cats. Black statues of regal cats wearing Egyptian jewelry stand outside most buildings. Making my way to the traveler's hostel near the temple, I have to watch my step for fear of tripping over fearless strays darting between my legs.
In my room, I'm befriended by a gray tomcat I found sleeping on my bed, curled up in a ray of sunshine coming through the window. As soon as I sat down to write, he meowed and pawed at me until I let him sit in my lap.
The room is much better furnished than either of the others so far. It feels very homey; I've got a large carpet in the center of the room and thick, warm blankets on the bed. There are actually pictures on the walls, one gorgeous night-time shot of the moon bathing the city in a blue glow, and another I'm guessing is of the owner of the hostel's family. And a fireplace! No wood, though, so I'll probably have to pick some up tonight.
My last week in mons solis, and then off to the next district of the city. Today I decide to take a walk down via francesca, which I'm assured is an interesting location that must be visited by any tourist. It's a long street that meanders a bit near the top and bottom of the mountain, and runs straight down the middle. The closely packed houses and shops with their tall peaked roofs house a high density of the area's artists and radical thinkers, so I figure I can spend the day checking out the art galleries and such.
For lunch I stop in a fantastic little cafe, Café Diabolic. Delicious fries, cooked and seasoned to perfection. A sandwich jammed with so many ingredients I felt for sure it would overwhelm, but each played off the others exquisitely. My mouth didn't know what to do so it just went to happy. And the best coffee I've ever tasted in my life. I may not be able to go back to the coffee at home; I'll need to remember to bring some beans back with me.
It snowed the other day. Heavy, clumpy snow that stuck to everything and wrapped the city in a thick white blanket. Snow isn't uncommon here in the winter, but according to the residents this was more than they're used to.
Children played in the roads. As no cars were allowed on the street during the day (a law I understand was borrowed from ancient Rome), snowmen were stationed as guards at crossroads, and both children and adults were free to sled down the city streets. The wet snow made excellent snowballs and building material, and several wars broke out as I wandered around, enjoying the weather. Since no plows would clear the streets until after sunset, many shops and restaurants in the more out-of-the-way areas of the city were closed, which had the ironic effect of freeing up more people to be out and about.
As the day wore on and the cold started to seep through my layers, I popped into the nearest temple to warm up. Now, this particular temple was of a kind peculiar to this city – it's not consecrated to any god or pantheon in particular, and bears more in common to what we'd call a spa or a bathouse back home. But here, they're called temples, and the services offered therein are not entirely unspirtiual.
The air thick with steam and fragrant with incense, I was ushered into the changing room where I discared my cold, damp clothes for a linen robe, and got straight to relaxing. My visit to this city was anything but stressful, but this place was meant to free its patrons from every last tension, and I was determined to take advantage of it.
This particular temple was built around an old hot spring, which over the years was made into the centerpiece of a luxurious indoor/outdoor swimming pool. According to one of the priestesses, early in the history of the city, before the temple of Apollo was built & the city extended up the mountain, a wise seer lived here, and would tell people's futures and heal people's ailments with the help of the spring.
After a month taking in the merchant district, I decided it was time to move on. Now, certainly there was more to see, but I figured that if each district held a hostel similar to the one in which I was staying, I may as well spend some time in each of the districts.
The two districts bordering urbs serpentum to the south are two mountain peaks, part of the mountain range separating the unnamed city from the rest of the world. Much lower than that wall of rock, they're really more large hills than anything else. They are mons solis, the district of Apollo, whose temple overlooks all the rest of the city, and mons accipitris, devoted to Ra, the smaller of the two hills, but whose temple by no means less impressive. To the north are the imposing glass skyscrapers that surround Thoth's temple, urbs speculorum.
I opt for the south, figuring I can make my way around the city in a clockwise motion, which would put Apollo next on my list.
Checking in at the new hostel. It's much less crowded than the last.
The room here is nicer, as well. Still very spartan, no more than a bed and a desk, but it's neater and the two pieces of furniture are in better condition. Also, the view from my window is fantastic. There's even a porch. I can watch the sunrise, if I bother to wake up that early. The temple of Apollo is behind me, further up the mountain.
I'll check out the temple tomorrow. For now, I spend the rest of the day wandering around the streets, enjoying the scenery. Mons solis is far less busy than where I came from. The majority of people living here seem to be artist, poets and musicians. I stop in a coffeeshop and sit for a while, listining to a couple performers recite some of their poems. None of them are very good, to be honest, but they do seem more honest, less affected than I'm used to in the setting. It's nice.
At night, I sit out on my porch and review my stay so far. I can't believe it's already the first week of February. This last month went by far too fast, and I still have so much to see. But at the same time, I'm here. I never imagined I would actually make it here, but here I am. It's real. It's beautiful.