"Aw crap, you gotta be kidding me," I said as I read the sign posted on the side of Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore.
Helen and I were at the head of a line worthy of any amusement park roller coaster ride to go up the duomo of the cathedral. The sign was a clear warning. Instead of "Guests who are elderly, pregnant, or with heart condition may not ride," it said, "Bitch, you best be in shape to haul your ass up these million steps to heaven."
"Okay, I can do this," I said, "Can't be any different from hiking Korean mountains."
Hiking in Korea isn't all that difficult when there are stairs neatly carved into the side of mountains. It's funny to see Koreans in full on hiking gear looking as if ready to climb Everest and watch them carry their backpacks and walking sticks up concrete steps. If I can take on stepping up to the summit of a mountain, a cathedral can't be that much harder.
I didn't need a walking stick. What I needed was a muscular descendant of Roman gods to carry me up those goddamn steps. How medieval monks managed to use them were beyond me. The only light emanating was from tiny circular windows that beamed through dark staircases. You were fucked if you suffered from claustrophobia as the stairs were only wide enough for people to pass through one at a time. If the space and number of steps finally cause an anxiety attack, it would take hours to locate and remove you from the spiraling stairs. Then you got that ever growing line of angry and impatient people waiting outside for you.
"Okay Helen, I gotta slow down," I said winded after step #346, "Just... gimme a sec... I'll take a picture."
We were almost there. I could feel it. The air felt fresher which gave us enough juice to power on. We climbed up a skinny ladder and finally stood at the top of the duomo. I'm not normally afraid of heights but couldn't help but to get that nervous butterfly sensation in your stomach that made you feel like you gotta crap your pants. I was quickly distracted by the red roofed view of the city spanning below. We sat and cooled our asses on the cold marble floor. It was a good feeling. If I can get a view like this after step climbing, who needs an elliptical machine at a sweaty gym?