We are not a superstitious family at all, but we can’t resist any travel experience and will jump at the chance of joining the fun things tourists do for luck or some other reward as they travel the world. Here are some of these customs we have come across in our years of travelling the globe and had the chance to participate in.
Spinning on the Bull
Italy has provided us with many of these opportunities to gain good fortune. On the floor at Milan’s upmarket shopping arcade, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, there is a mosaic image of a bull. There is a curious tradition of placing your heel over the bull’s testicles and spinning, which is said to bring you luck. The correct way to do it is to place your heel into the well-worn hole where its testicles would be, and turn backwards three times. We noticed that many people were spinning around the wrong way or not three times, which obviously means no luck for them!
In Florence there is a bronze statue and fountain of a boar, called Il Porcellino (translates as ‘the piglet’). Visitors put a coin into the boar’s mouth, with the intent to let it fall through the grate below for good luck, followed by a rub of the boar’s snout to ensure a return to Florence. Our visit last April was our second visit, and it’s a place I would love to return to again, so let’s hope it works.
Spin Finger at Hagia Sophia
Inside Hagia Sophia Istanbul, Turkey, there’s a column where tourists perform an unusual ritual. You put their thumb in hole and spin a circle. Supposedly, if your finger gets wet, it means their wish will be fulfilled or their illnesses will be healed.
Mouth of Truth
The Mouth of Truth (Bocca della Verità) is a marble mask in Rome, Italy, which stands against the left wall of the portico of the Santa Maria in the Cosmedin church, at the Piazza della Bocca della Verità. Legend says that if you put your hand in the mouth and tell a lie, the Bocca (which is Italian for ‘mouth’) will bite your hand off. Rob tried it out in 2005, and still has his hand attached. When we visited recently the line was too long and we gave it a miss, which was unfortunate as we had specific questions prepared to test on the kids.
Kiss a frog
In the medieval City of Bruges in Belgium, there is a statue in Burg Square with a little frog hiding at the base. It’s said that when the person number 100,000 kisses the frog, it will turn into a prince or princess who will carry your backpack for you forever. We let Jetson do the kissing as that would be very handy for him. Now that’s more interesting than just a bit of luck or coming back again.
Water for Health
At the Kiyomizu Dera temple (which means “Pure Water Temple”) in Kyoto, Japan, the waters of nearby Otowa Waterfall are divided into three separate streams that fall into a pond. You can catch the water in a cup and have a drink, which is said to confer academic achievement, fortune in love or longevity, depending on which stream you drink from. Either way, you get a refreshing drink a fresh water.
A widespread belief is that if you hold your breath for the entire duration of a tunnel and make a wish, the wish will come true. We do this regularly, but in Switzerland, we met our match with the world’s longest train tunnel. The Gotthard base tunnel travels under the Swiss Alps for a whopping 57kms (35-miles) which took us over 20 minutes to get through. It was a great to be able to say we have been through that tunnel, but disappointing that we missed so much of that wonderful Swiss scenery.
Watching the Sunrise to start a New Year
Hatsuhinode is the name for the welcoming of the first sunrise of the New Year in Japan. The Japanese believe that it brings good fortune for the coming year. Watching the sunrise is a wonderful way to start any day, it can’t but make you smile and get you started on a productive day. We have been able to witness a few sunrises to welcome in a new year, but while travelling we often take the opportunity to see the sunrise and make a great start to a day exploring a new place.
Wishing wells come in all shapes and sizes. It is not just wells, any pond and fountain can become a ‘wishing well’ once a few coins are thrown in. Throw any coin and make a wish, and it will come true. My wish is that people in need will come at night to collect some coins.
Ask For Forgiveness
If all else fails, you can ask for help from a higher power by touching, kissing or rubbing a part of a religious statue. You will know of such a tradition when you see the highly polished part of the statute. If might help if you actually have some faith.
We Will Be Back
Apparently, if you throw a coin over your left shoulder into the Trevi fountain you will return to Rome. We were not the only ones doing it, which might explain the increasing crowds visiting Rome each year. That’s a lot of coins – we were glad to hear that the coins are collected and donated to charity. We threw a coin in 2005, and were back again in 2017, so maybe it works.
Our recent European holiday (April-July 2017) was filled with adventures, stolen and lost items, accidents, though an amazing time and fantastic memories. Despite occasional setbacks, we always feel lucky to have the opportunity to do such trips. Would we do it all again? According to the Trevi fountain, we may not have a choice.