April 2, 2011 9:49:00 PM
History is rich with stories of pilgrims. Sometimes they are fleeing religious persecution. They may be traveling toward Mecca, the shrine of a special saint, or even a battlefield.
There are many reasons to make a pilgrimage. Early travelers were motivated by the promise of a cure for disease or the absolution of sins. Often they were able to touch, or even kiss, relics associated with their patron saints. These artifacts were (allegedly) authentic bones, hair or clothing from the object of their adoration.
Although the destination is a noble goal, the pilgrims themselves also have appeal. After all, Juliet took one look at Romeo in his pilgrim costume and it was love at first sight. (Well, that one didn''t work out too well, but you get the picture.)
This time of year Columbus welcomes our pilgrims. They certainly have a much easier journey than their predecessors. No long, dusty roads trekked on bare feet for the contemporary explorer. Today they arrive in air-conditioned cars and huge motor coaches. They wear comfy clothes and all have shoes.
I have had the great fortune of living in two cities that are tourist meccas. Columbus and New Orleans have much in common. Both are beautiful, with a deeply-embedded history. Both have an elegance and refinement that is seldom seen today. These are cities worth the journey.
Visitors often have the feeling that this is a place apart from the "real" world. In some ways that may be true. But, in spite of appearances, we are a part of the modern world. And, we are unquestionably real.
Travelers act as if they think my two homes are a Disney-like creation, designed just for their photo ops. (I was once asked if the Mississippi was a man-made river.)
Some have the perception that in Columbus we have not advanced much since the mid-1800s. They find it hard to believe that we do not wear hoop skirts year-round, while sipping mint juleps on the veranda. If only life were that simple!
Most of the time we dress in up-to-date fashions from the malls and have jobs; ones that do not involve swigging icy cocktails out of frosted silver cups.
I suppose it is flattering to realize that other people find us so fascinating. We might see our visitors as equally remarkable if we viewed them in their natural habitat.
I am taking a small survey on desired pilgrimages. Where would you like to visit? I have always wanted to travel to Venice, because the Renaissance began there.
Some people tell me they would go to the beach, or camping. That is more of a vacation than a pilgrimage. A true pilgrimage is a journey that changes the traveler in some way. It is an expedition where perspective shifts a bit, and the one who experiences it is never quite the same.
Columbus welcomes our pilgrims with much enthusiasm and good wishes. We hope you enjoy our city, and see Mississippi in a wonderful new light. And, although Juliet had an unfortunate finale with her pilgrim, we hope you will return, and invite you to join us again next spring.
Adele Elliott, a New Orleans native, moved to Columbus after Hurricane Katrina.
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