We are crazy we humans. What is it that makes us do ridiculous things in public? We queue to twirl on the mosaic of a ball-less Bull in Milan’s galleria for good luck; we toss a coin over our right shoulder into the Trevi Fountain to ensure we will return to Rome one day? Do we believe? Whether or not we do, we still do it!
It’s human nature to want to attract good fortune, and surely a little rub here or twirl there can’t do any harm.
I freely admit I’ve rubbed and twirled my way around the world. In New York City I polished the hallowed bronze balls or the head of the Charging Bull. In Prague I rubbed more than my fair share bronze artefacts on the Charles Bridge: I rubbed the plaque showing the martyrdom of John of Nepomuk then nearby the plague of a shiny dog (which I later discovered had nothing to do with a ‘good fortune’ at all). In Florence, Italy’s Mercato Nouvo I rubbed the snout of Il Porcellino (translates as “the little pig” even though the porker is really a boar) and many years ago, when walking the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, Scotland, I rubbed the shiny big toe of the statue of Scottish philosopher David Hume.
This got me thinking maybe I should create a bucket list called “The Good Rub”.
When it comes to forbidden love, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet take the gold prize as the world’s most doomed lovers, yet, if you head to Verona, Italy, you will have luck in love simply by rubbing her breast. Yep, her breast! Juliet’s statue in Verona, Italy, stands in the courtyard beneath the balcony of her house. Strange, considering Juliet is a fictional character, so how could it be her house? Myth has it that anyone who rubs her right breast will receive good fortune and luck in their love life.
The Rooster on a Cat on a Dog on a Donkey in Riga, Latvia’s capital, is similar to the statue in its sister city, Bremen, Germany. Both sculptures are based on the Brothers Grimm story about these farm creatives who, mistreated and well past their prime, who go to Bremen for freedom and become musicians. Rub their noses and you’ll have good luck. Good luck indeed if you can reach the wattle on the rooster’s neck.
Have you ever tried rubbing the Buddha’s belly to enrich yourself? Having been to Hong Kong, China, and Thailand, I’ve lost count how many bellies I have rubbed. I once tickled the belly of the Laughing Buddha in Hangzhou, China, but I haven’t won Lotto yet. Maybe I didn’t tickle it correctly?
Talking bellies, I’m yet to rub the Fat Policeman’s belly located near St Stephen’s Basilica in Budapest, Hungary. Story goes that if you rub the jolly fellow’s stomach it will bring you good luck, particularly in love. Apparently, this portly policeman was said to be a lover of food and women. Apparently, the statue was immortalised during the 19th century because his belly symbolised the country’s hearty cuisine.
While you’re in Budapest, you may come across The Little Princess on the banks of the Danube. The story goes if you rub the Princess’s knees it will bring you luck and self-actualization (whatever that means?).
The capital of Slovakia, Bratislava, also boasts a ‘rub for luck’ statue. Chumil is a witty sculpture of hard-hatted man at work. There’s no good luck attached but it seems everyone wants to rub his hat?
We’ve been to Sweden a few times to stay with friends and yet I’d never heard about the statue of Margaretha Krook which stands outside Stockholm’s Drama Theatre. Even though she’s made of bronze, her belly is heated to 37 degrees ensuring theatre patrons can rub her belly for warmth while waiting outside for a performance.
In Paris, France, the Père Lachaise Cemetery is home to the tomb and reposed statue of French journalist Victor Noir. Superstition dictated if you rubbed the statue’s crotch area it would bring you love and fertility. These days the tomb is fenced off but maybe a photo would suffice? The cemetery is vast, and you can easily become waylaid, so find the location of this tomb first and head there before spending time leisurely wandering the site’s many avenues. We headed to Oscar Wilde’s tomb and decided we’ll return on another day.
I’d love to hear from anyone who can add to this list. Email me at email@example.com