Posts tagged with “hermes”


Urbs serpentum is no place for a poor traveller on a strict budget. Were I a tourist looking for trinkets to bring back to my family and friends, there would be no better place. Around every corner is a merchant hawking his wares, from the extravagant to the disposable. The smell of exotic spices is inescapable. I make it a point to only bring enough money for food for the day, not only to avoid temptation, but to foil thieves. What I don't carry can't be stolen.

Hand in hand with sights and smells from every corner of the world goes language. It seems to me, wandering around the forum and commercial district that each merchant is speaking a different language. Some I recognize, some spark an inkling of familiarity that I can't quite place, and still others barely sound like words at all.

And internet cafes! At first I was surprised by them, if only because free internet access seemed at odds with the mercantile nature of the district, but of course Hermes is not only the god of merchants, but also messengers. Many of these cafes also offered courier services to deliver physical packages or would hold them for pickup by one of the various such services available in the area.

Rather than lose influence as the need for personal delivery of messages waned throughout history, here the followers of Hermes embraced the changing times. Their innate entrepreneurship allowed them to offer all sorts of services to facilitate communication using the technology of the times. Many of the shops showed signs of going through many iterations, some changing with the times so frequently I got the sense that I'd have to wrestle remodelers as soon as the next fad gained traction.


After settling in and spending a few days just getting a feel for the ebb and flow of the city, it was time to really begin. The first place I needed to see was the temple of Hermes.

Prominently located right in the middle of the forum, the temple of Hermes is a busy, loud place. You have to fight your way past hawkers, lucky merchants who were able to set up shop close to the entrance. Decidedly unlike the Christain story of Jesus of Nazareth's angry display at the temple, this temple is a den of thieves. Hermes, after all, is a god of messengers, merchants, and thieves.

Inside, it's all overt displays of wealth. The priests are all adorned in exotic finery, and clearly well-fed. Many of them come from wealthy merchant families, or I imagine are retired merchants themselves. Where elsewhere such displays would be a sign of a corrupt church, here they signify a thriving faith.

I don't stay long, however. I will have plenty of time during the coming year to study the architecture, religion and culture here. For now, I'm a tourist. I want to see as much as I can, get comfortable with the city.

For lunch, I stop at a small restaurant in the forum (chosen largely by the price of the menu; I am on a pretty tight budget). It appears to be some "fusion" place, Indo-Chino-Eurpoean or some combination. It's fantastic. Often, places like this try to hard to be creative, and while they may understand each cooking style individually, don't follow through or really understand how to blend them. Here, however, everything seems effortless, as if each dish was from a recipe that's been in the family for generations.

I tip well. It leaves me low on cash for the rest of the month, but it's worth it.