Our Own Hop-On Hop-Off Tour of Berlin

Day 18, Thursday, September 12, 2019

First stop today is Potsdamer Platz which is an area that used to be the Dead Zone when the Berlin Wall was in place. After the wall came down these three skyscrapers were built and became the focal point for this new area.
There are some pieces of the Berlin Wall here and for some strange reason they are plastered with wads of chewing gum left by visitors. Notice behind the wall is the Canadian Embassy.
The display was very informative. Bob knows a lot more about the history of Berlin than I do so I found these panels quite interesting. This one shows the Dead Zone, which was the unoccupied area around the Berlin Wall, and the developed area now.
The cobbled line Bob is standing on is where the Berlin Wall used to be located. We walk to the Sony centre and find this interesting building that has part of an old hotel interior enclosed in glass as part of its exterior wall. Wow! This LEGO giraffe is the biggest giraffe I have ever seen… and Bob found a pretty huge Angry Bird! We make our own Hop-On Hop-Off tour by catching the #100 bus. First stop is the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. It was destroyed by the bombing in WWII and is now an anti-war memorial to peace and reconciliation. This is what the church used to look like.The little bit of the interior that remains is covered in beautiful mosaics… even the floor is completely decorated with mosaic tiles.  It must have been an incredibly beautiful church.Outside we see this memorial for the victims of a terrorist attack on December 19, 2016 on the steps of the Memorial Church,  A stolen truck was driven into the crowd at the Christmas Market and twelve people were killed and seventy were seriously injured. The names of the deceased are engraved on the steps and the bronze crack represents the fracture the attack inflicted on society.  It is like a scar and shows that healing and everyday life are possible, but we should not ignore or forget the scars we bear and what caused them.  We walk inside the Memorial Church and I am quite overcome.  Something about this space moved me to tears. It is unlike anything I have seen before. This Christ figure was beautiful. There is a concert here tonight and we sit for a while listening to the two organists practicing for tonight’s performance. You can see them in this photo.  To listen to the organ music click this link. The walls are made of 22,200 panes of stained glass and each pane is made of many individual glass pieces. The floor is covered in circles of many colours and sizes. It made me think that all those little pieces of glass and all the circles on the floor could represent people who have died and are memorialized in this church.The outside walls show how each piece of glass is embedded in mortar within each individual pane. The outside of this church gives no hint of the vibrant colours inside. We walk down the broad boulevard between the lanes of traffic. Here is a view looking back towards the bombed church.

We were looking for the KaDeWa department store. With over 60,000 square metres of selling space, it is the second largest department store in Europe after Harrods in London. We make our way up to the sixth floor and find a whole floor of yummy things to eat. Too bad there are no gluten, dairy and egg free options for me.

We have noticed that European men like colourful socks. Here is what fashionable girls are wearing in Berlin.  We continue our tour on a double decker bus.  This is the first time we have sat up front on the top of one of these busses. !t does give a different viewpoint. Bob notices something strange about this stop sign. We drive through the centre of a huge park and around this monument. The Victory Column with Victoria, the Goddess of Victory in the centre of the Tiergarten park is one of Berlin’s most famous landmarks.We drive past the spot where the old book market was yesterday. Bob did a bit of research and discovered that this is the University where Eisnstein and the Brothers Grimm taught and where Karl Marx and Friedrich Engles studied . It was also the site of the burning of thousands of books by the Nazis in 1933. Next stop is Alexanderplatz, a large public square and popular gathering place in Berlin. We find a bench for a tea break and witness a little drama unfolding behind us. It took eleven police officers over half an hour to move this fellow in handcuffs from beside the fence to the police wagon. There was lots of interviewing of bystanders and note taking but we don’t have a clue what it is all about. This is the view in front of us.I wanted to go to the top of the Berlin TV Tower but it cost €16 which is almost $24 each. That seemed a bit too much. The Neptune Fountain is is very ornate.

We manage to get on a bus going in the wrong direction on our way home, so we hop off and decide to take the subway instead. It is faster and easier to figure out than the bus system.

Berlin, Germany

Day 15, Monday, September 9

I am still not feeling well and spend the day in bed resting and watching a Netflix series. Bob binge watches a series on Netflix, reads and rests too. Guess we both needed a quiet day.

 

Day 16, Tuesday, September 10

Another quiet day, but I do manage a couple blog posts and we go out for much needed groceries.

Our Berlin bnb is on the fifth floor, without an elevator!  Every window we look out of we only see trees. It feels a bit like we are living in a treehouse. This is the view from our living room window. Day 17, Wednesday, September 11, 2019

We want to go to central Berlin, but first we need to figure out the public transportation system.  Finally figure out that there is a 7 day pass that gives unlimited travel on all the busses, metros and trains. There are beautiful big trees in our neighbourhood but I have no idea what kind they are. We also notice that the leaves have begun to fall so I guess summer is really over.

We caught the wrong train so we end up at the main train station, which is huge and modern looking. There is a big food court here where we have something to eat before we start exploring.The Parliament building has a huge dome on the top that requires a reservation to climb. We book a Friday tour and then find a nice park to sit and have tea and cookies.  I am moving a bit slow today so lots of rests are in order.

This is the Brandenburg Gate. It was built in 1791, and was modelled after the Acropolis in Athens. Hundreds of thousands of people celebrated before the Brandenburg Gate as the Berlin Wall fell on November 9th, 1989.  Since the end of the Cold War, the Gate has come to represent German unity and freedom.       We think these protestors were in support of the Chinese government’s actions in Hong Kong.
This huge wall garden was a colourful surprise. We walk to the Gendarmenmarkt which is an 18th century square used for gatherings and events. On either side there are two identical churches. The one in the photo is the German Cathedral, the Deutscher Dom. It was heavily bombed in the second World War and has been restored as a museum with displays on the parliamentary democracy of Germany.  Bob noticed this reflection in the door to the German Church of the identical French Church across the square. We went in for a look and somehow got separated. The place is a bit of a maze and I felt like I was never going to find Bob or my way out!  That did it for me… I went and waited outside and Bob had a look around. This photo he took shows some of the old building and the reconstructed concrete parts, and one of the crazy stairways that I got lost on!

A quick peek into the Konzerthaus where the Berlin Philharmonic plays. For some reason the lighting turned green when I took the photo. We both thought the seating looked rather uncomfortable. This is the French Cathedral directly opposite the German one. It was closed for renovation so no idea what was in there.There was outdoor market of old books, postcards and papers in front of the building below. There were some rather interesting erotic postcards from the early 1900’s!  We did better this time and found the right metro line to get home. 

 

 

Old Town in Wroclaw, Poland

Day 11, Thursday September 5, 2019.

Today is a much needed quiet day. For some reason I only slept a few hours last night so I stay home and rest and do a bit of blogging. Bob goes for a walk and scouts out the route to the Old Town for tomorrow. Here is our view from the apartment, with our white car in the parking lot. Bob is in there too, but you can barely see his head as he walks along the street behind the hedge. 

 

Day 12, Friday, September 6, 2019

On our walk to Wroclaw’s Old Town we cross one of its canals. It looks so peaceful here.

Soon we are approaching the old part of town. There are many places where we see the old and the new side by side. These two buildings were across from each other.
Here’s how big items get delivered!

Wroclaw Town Square, another huge square with beautiful buildings. These date back to the 1600’s!

The flower market.Wroclaw has an ever growing populations of gnomes.  In fact, our guidebook states “the little buggers are currently rumoured to be running rampant to the score of over 300 making it literally impossible for us to try to keep track of them!”  I think they are delightful and I am happy to make their acquaintance .

A view of the glass panel fountain … and more tenement houses in the town square. The interior of St. Mary Magdalene’s Church which dates from 1330. We climb 147 steps up to the walkway between the two towers. In times past women suspected of being witches were forced to cross this walkway (there were no railings then) and if they made it across safely they were branded as a witch. If they fell to their death, then they were innocent of the crime of being a witch! You certainly didn’t want to be accused of witchcraft!  I am very glad there are railings now and I meet another couple of gnomes. We have great views of the city from up here. Here is a view of the walkway, way up there between the two towers.There were steeples on these at one time, not sure if they were destroyed during the war? More ornate colourful buildings.
I wish I knew the recipe for the bubble mixture this guy was using! He made hundreds of bubbles at a time with his string between two sticks.  Kids had such fun chasing all the bubbles.We found quite a few more of these little fellows, on doorsteps, or tucked into corners.

There was some sort of celebration happening with lots of women wearing fancy outfits and some very interesting hats.

The two little houses in the corner called Hansel and Gretel are the only two houses left of streets that used to surround a cemetery. The cemetery closed in 1773.  I wonder where the graves went?The interior of St. Elizabeth church dates to the 14th century. It was severely damaged during the second world war and then by a fire in 1976.

So it’s stained glass windows are modern. This one is quite unique.

More colourful houses on a side street…
and more busy gnomes.

We stop at a sidewalk restaurant for lunch and now we are ‘those people’ who take pictures of their meals! My salmon with a balsamic reduction was delicious.  It was one of the best restaurant meals I have had and Bob enjoyed his sausage and potato pancakes with spinach .

At the university we visit an ornate lecture room… and an interesting collection of artifacts.  This is a chart for determining eye colour.

I love all the old wooden cabinets with all their drawers. The Music Hall is under restoration but we are allowed a peak inside. We. climb another 203 steps up the Math tower, which has displays along the way.  

These are beautiful old compasses, some dating back to the 1600’s.The top of the Math Tower…
and the views. Notice the very modern looking tower among the old.

Bob standing on the Meridian line which runs through this University,  This meridian line demarcates the 51st parallel which runs right through the Math Tower as well. I just love all the reflections of the old buildings in the glass walls of the modern new buildings! Churches here are either very ornate…or look like this. The late afternoon sun was shining through the windows casting everything in a lovely olden glow.

We stop for tea and cookies in this little garden with its Baroque well. Then we visit the market and buy some fruit. Food prices are very reasonable here. More reflections. We catch a trolley bus home. We haven’t seem many paved streets or sidewalks here. Most of the streets and sidewalks here are cobbled in one fashion or another. All the uneven footing is hard on the feet and ankles. We walked 16,700 steps today and climbed the equivalent of 31 floors!

Benedictine Abbey in Tyniec, Poland

Day 10, Wednesday September 4, 2019

We were too tired to even think about cleaning our bnb apartment and packing last night after the full day at Auschwitz so we did all that this morning. This meant a later start than usual but we are on our way to Wroclaw by 11:30. There was a lot of traffic, but there are lots of treed areas and parks along the way. I am happy Bob is driving and not me. My job is being the navigator, with the help of Google maps.

It is a half hour drive to the Benedictine Abbey in Tyniec, through the countryside and several small villages.This abbey was founded 975 years ago. It fell into ruin and was abandoned for 123 years. In 1939 it was transferred to 11 monks who began its restoration. This was hampered by WWII but today much of the abbey has been restored. There is still work to do and plans to have everything finished for the millennium celebration in 2044, when the abbey will be 1000 years old.The interior of the church shines with gilded statues and ornamentation. Notice the pulpit is in the shape of a boat.  We stop for dessert at a little outdoor cafe on the abbey grounds, some homemade pie, sherbet and Benedictine Brandy for Bob. This was our view. We enjoyed relaxing in this peaceful spot for a while, and the dessert was yummy. I think the structure on the right is a well but Bob thinks it is a wine press. We never did find out who was right. Back on the highway on our way to Wroclaw. We passed these domes before on our way to Krakow. They are connected by glass tunnels. No idea what it is, but it certainly looks interesting. Fields here are often bordered by a row of trees. I love their silhouettes against the sky. I snapped this as we drove by. We finally arrive at our apartment just as it gets dark and we are happy that it has a designated parking spot as there is absolutely no parking anywhere on the street.

 

 

Schindler’s Factory Museum, Krakow, Poland

Day 8, Monday, September 2, 2019

We should have pre-booked tickets for Schindler’s Factory Museum today and for Auschwitz tomorrow. There is a chance of getting last minute tickets at both of these sites so we are up early for our 45 minute walk to Schindler’s Factory today.  We arrive shortly after it opens at 8:30 and we are relieved to get tickets. It’s an interesting walk. Here is some street art we see on the way.

I never watched the movie ‘Schindler’s List’ because movies about terrible factual events  haunt me. We visited Dachau years ago when we travelled to Europe one summer with our young daughter. I still remember that day and I know that today and tomorrow will be difficult, but it is something that is important to do. This is one of the signs we read after entering the museum. Jewish people were hung along the train tracks for all to see.
Walking through this dark exhibit about the wall around the ghetto. It was thought that starving the Jewish people was an effective way to weaken and destroy the morale of the Jewish population, especially the young people.

Some of the exhibits as we walk through the museum. This shows the crowded conditions inside a home in the ghetto. The corridors are covered in articles and photographs. There is so much to see and read. More exhibits, this one of everyday life in Nazi occupied Krakow. …notice the armband that Jewish people had to wear so they could be identified as Jews. One of the camps.
A hiding place in the cellar of a house in Krakow. Even though it meant death for anyone found helping a Jew, by hiding them or even offering food or assistance of any kind. many of the Polish people did exactly that.  Oskar Schindler was one of these people. He really wasn’t a man of great character, he lied, cheated and stole what he could, but he was instrumental in saving the lives of 1200 Jews. He also treated the Jews working at his factory better than in any other factory or work camp. There are videos of survivors talking about their experiences during this time.  Some of the people that were saved by Oskar Schindler. Two of the survivors became doctors and one became a Supreme Court judge. Everything in this museum is difficult to watch and listen to, but we need to know and remember what happened. I have heard it said that we need to do this so history will never be repeated, but I wonder. There is so much hatred and racism in the world today that I can no longer believe that something like this will never happen again. It is frightening wondering what the future will bring. We stop for tea at the Modern Art Museum cafe. It gives us a chance to recover form the heavy content of the Schindler Museum.  On the way out I notice this vending machine. Notice the name of the drink it dispenses. I try out the cement bicycles… and Bob checks out an installation in a town square.  Interesting artwork in one of the shops we pass. We cross this pedestrian bridge over the river and we cannot decide how these sculpture stay right upright. They appear to be balancing on cables with no support wires yet somehow manage to stay right side up. We just can’t figure it out. Here is an interesting way to keep an old building while erecting a new modern one!  We stop in at a basilica near the old town which has a very impressive altar. I wonder if it is real gold on all these altars? OK, just did a bit of research and it appears that real gold foil is used. I always peak into open doorways. They are often not very attractive doors but they sometimes open on beautiful interior courtyards and gardens. A typical street side restaurant on our walk back to our apartment. More street art on the way home.

The sky is getting darker just as we enter the main old town square. This church has one of the most impressive altars in all of Poland but there is a service happening so we are not allowed in. There are lots of horse drawn carriages for hire. I was tempted but it really felt like the rain was coming. These are enormous, about a foot high and cost between $14 and $20 each! This guy tried to challenge Bob to a fight, but no luck, so… He tried to win me over!  An interesting sculpture of Jan Matejko who was a 19th-century painter native to Kraków.  He is renowned for his large oil-on-canvas paintings of historical events in Poland.  This street leads towards the train station with its huge attached shopping mall. One more church on the street just before the train station. It was dark inside except for the light shining on the altar. A typical building in Krakow old town… Juxtaposed with the interior of the train station shopping areas. It is huge, three floors with hundreds of very modern shops.

We pick up a few groceries for supper and head home, in the rain. It has been a long day, We walked 21,262 steps!  No wonder we are both tired.

Olomouc, Czech Republic on the way to Krakow, Poland

Day 5, Friday, August 30, 2019

We are driving to Krakow today and stop to visit Olomouc on the way. We find parking easily, which is always nice, and walk to the town square. One of the first buildings we pass has this charming little still life on a window sill. I wonder who put it there and how many people passing by notice and appreciate the effort?

We are amazed at how huge the town square is. There aren’t very many people around but we imagine that in the peak tourist months it is probably much busierBob gets a couple pastries at the first bakery and we sit on a bench to eat them and watch the people walking by. It is hot again today, 29°.  I have heard that European flours are often tolerated by people with gluten sensitivities, so I have a couple bites. 
Doesn’t everyone want to ride on a turtle? I almost went right over backwards when I climbed on!
The Holy Trinity Column dominates the town square. “The column is dominated by gilded copper sculptures of the Holy Trinity accompanied by the archangel Gabriel on the top and the assumption of the Virgin beneath it. The base of the column, in three levels, is surrounded by 18 more stone sculptures of saints and 14 reliefs.” ~wikipedia. It even has a small chapel in the base. 

I said I want a flower column like this in my yard! We wonder what this shop sells? These figures were made out of straw. It was closed so we couldn’t go in to find out. We climb another bell tower in the Church of St. Michael just off the square. There wasn’t any place to see outside and get a view over the city, which was too bad. The same church had steps to a crypt so we went to explore,.. and we found this little shrine and a small pool of water. These ladies caught my eye.  St. Wenceslas Cathedral was originally built in 1131 and was rebuilt in the second half of the 13th century. The facade was renovated in 1999-2008. It is very impressive. Of course the interior is just as impressive. We visit Archdiocese Museum which is much more interesting than I had anticipated. It is only $3 Cad each and we probably spent a couple hours exploring. Each room was closed off by a door which was opened by an ‘older’ woman who then made sure that we saw every exhibit that was discussed on our audio guides. They opened and closed doors behind us, which was actually very helpful as it wasn’t easy to figure out which doors we were supposed to go through. I love the statues and paintings of the Virgin Mary. There is something very appealing about the way the artists depicted their faces. More fountains in the town square as we make our way back to our car. This bar catches my eye. I am sure I know this name and look it up. Sure enough, it is the name of a show on Netflix about a gang in England in the early 1900’s.When we cross the border into Poland we are surprised that there is no indication that we were leaving one country and entering another.  One of the interesting things about travelling is how different things are from home. Sometimes the differences are challenging and sometimes the differences make me smile. This is what I saw in the first bathroom I entered in Poland.

Bridges on the highway into Poland are certainly different.We were frustrated when our SIM card stops working once we cross the border. We were told it would work in all the countries we were visiting. We finally find a MacDonalds so we can contact our bnb host, who is waiting to hear from us. It is late when we finally make it to our new apartment, which wasn’t very easy to find in the dark, but we are here, and tomorrow will be a rest day for us.

Museo Nationale Romano and the Capuchin Crypts

Day 89, Saturday December 2, 2017

Saturday was a quiet rainy day. I worked on catching up on my blog and Bob went for groceries, several times! It isn’t easy to find what we need in one store so shopping sometimes requires several attempts to find everything on our list. I don’t know how Romans manage. Even something as simple as spinach is often not available.

Day 90, Sunday December 3, 2017

We thought today would be a bit quieter, just a little walk about but we ended up doing quite a bit. Bob found out that the four Museo Nationale Romano museums were free today so we thought we would visit the one near the train station. It was much bigger than we thought and we spent several hours there. This museum had lots of information on the history of writing and…lots of examples of writing on stone. What made it interesting was that all the pieces on exhibit had Italian and English translations. There were lots of informative videos and other kinds of information but it would have taken more than a day to do all that. There was a very interesting exhibit about the Fountain of Anna Perenna. Anna was an ancient nymph and the fountain was a place of magic. It was discovered in 1999 when work began on an underground parking facility. Many ‘magical’ objects were found in the well including several curses. This one is for a man called Cassianus who was cursed because he hired some women to rob the author of the curse. It shows a demon flanked with magical symbols. There were many curses on display as well as directions for casting spells.We tend to forget that ancient statues and reliefs were painted in bright colours. There was lots of pottery from settlements from the 9th to the 7th century B.C. The large pots held cremated remains.

This is a model of the Museum. The large green square…is this courtyard  and the buildings around it house the museum. This was built in the 15th century. Bob found a few interesting statues here. The large animal heads are located around the fountain in the centre of the courtyard. There were also horse heads, a ram, a camel, an elephant and a rhinoceros!
The complex behind the courtyard is the Baths of Diocletian which were built in 300 A.D. They held 3,000 people! It was hard trying to take pictures as the baths are so enormous.
This room was somehow used as a water reservoir. 
Here is an aerial view taken from a film about the baths showing their location in modern day Rome. The big white building in the corner is the Termini train station.Here is a close up of the baths. The building with the cross in the lower left is the best preserved section of the baths. The tepiderium was restored and converted into a basilica using Michelangelo’s architectural designs in the 16th century. It is now the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiria. This sculpture is on the door to the Basilica.The basilica interior gives us a good idea what the interior of the baths would have looked like with all their decorated walls and ceilings.

The basilica is a place of worship, art and science. I liked this enormous head on display. It is about three feet long.

We find one more obelisk!Republic Piazza is beside the baths.  Many of Rome’s streets are cobbled and it has made for some very rough bus rides.

Another branch of Rome’s National Museums, the Palazzo Massimo is right beside the Republic Piazza so we decide to visit it as well. There are some wonderful works inside.  The Discus Thrower and…the Boxer at Rest are amazing and..this sculpture of a hermaphrodite is interesting.The massive Portonaccio Sarcophagus from 172 AD is unbelievable. It is five feet tall, and most of the complex intertwined carvings are still intact.
This room with garden frescoes was discovered in 1863. The frescoes were moved to the museum in 1951 as they were in danger of being damaged from water seepage. There are more well preserved frescoes from an Imperial Villa on the banks of the Tiber River.We still want to visit the Capuchin Crypts which are a short walk from the museum. Everywhere we walk in this city there are interesting buildings and piazzas.The sun is setting but there isn’t much traffic even though it is 5:30. I find that rather curious.There is a famous Caravaggio painting, St. Francis in Meditation, in the Capuchin museum. We visit the Capuchin Crypt but there is a strict no photo policy and I restrained myself and didn’t take a single photo. So, do check out this link for a trip through the crypt. It was certainly different. I liked it but Bob didn’t.

The church ‘Our Lady of the Conception’ is above the crypt and after a quick visit we are more than ready to go home. Our short day out turned into a bit of a marathon!

 

 

 

The Vatican, Rome

Day 87, Thursday November 30, 2017

We bought tickets online for the Vatican in order to avoid the long line-ups we have read about. Arriving at 10:00 we are able to enter right away, but so is everyone else. There are no lineups anywhere.

The map provided by the museum isn’t the best but between it, a Rick Steve’s travel app, and Bob’s navigational skills we manage to find our way around.  If you walk through all the galleries, it’s 7.5 km, or 4.5 miles long and yes we walked through all the galleries!

Be warned, this is a long post, so you might want to get a cup of something hot before you visit the Vatican Museums with us!

One of the first sculptures we see is this copy of Michelangelo’s Pieta. the original is now behind glass because it was badly damaged by a deranged man 45 years ago. I think this is the closest I will get to taking my photo with this incredibly beautiful statue.
We see many examples of Early Christian and Medieval art. Before this trip I didn’t have a lot of interest in this genre but I discovered that I am rather fascinated by depictions of the Madonna. We even saw a pregnant Madonna, the only one I have ever seen.Next stop was a huge room with several very large tapestries. They were so finely woven that they almost looked like paintings.

This very large angel from1666 was one of four preparatory straw and clay models for bronze castings by Bernini.A enormous collection of ancient sculptures, sarcophaguses, reliefs and  building parts was next. There was also a display of drawings, which I found interesting.  I speculate that there must have been a drawing workshop.
This is a floor mosaic that I remember seeing in books. I always liked the little mouse. The tiles are very small. I can almost feel the wind blowing these garments about.One of the reliefs on display.There is a large collection of vehicles used by Popes over the centuries.
We didn’t know that all papal vehicles come equipped with a throne!The Vatican has an extensive collection of Egyptian artifacts many of which are superior to the ones we saw in museums in Egypt! It is easy to forget that all these hieroglyphs were at one time bright painted like the inside of the coffin.The painted bas-relief fragment is from 2400 B.C.The Mummy of Taymen is from 750-525 B.C. We never saw anything like this in Egypt. It was fascinating, but I know this person never intended to be on display in a museum!There are many galleries of Greek, Etruscan and Roman artifacts and these which are from Syria-Palestine during the Neolithic period 8500-3000 B.C.

We descended this staircase to emerge …

in a very long hallway lined with over a thousand sculptures!There were several museum workers busy dusting and cleaning. I imagine that by the time they finish it must be time to start again.The gallery above opened into this one, lined with even more monumental statues. It simply takes my breath away.A Roman copy of a Greek original dating from the 2nd century A.D. The affection for the child is evident in the way he is held and regarded. I can’t imagine that something so life-like can be carved in stone.I am fascinated with the carved flowing robes. I have a hard time even drawing folds never mind chiseling them from stone.This is the Nile River God with another sculpture filled niche behind.

There is an outside courtyard with a covered display area all around the exterior walls. There we see the biggest toe. Can you imagine the size of the statue this once belonged to? That is my foot beside it.

There are many incredible statues on display…  but I am particularly drawn to these three. The Belvedere Apollo, the Belvedere Hermes, and the Laocoön. The Laocoön was unearthed during  Michelangelo’s time and it had a great influence on his work. 

This sculpture of the River God Arno was the inspiration for Michelangelo’s David in the Sistine Chapel.

The Belvedere Torso was also the inspiration for Michelangelo’s God in the Last Judgement in the Sistine Chapel.We need to remember to look up. The ceilings in these galleries are as incredible as the art work below them.The Hall of Muses with its magnificent dome, mosaic floor, statues of the nine muses from the 2nd century A.D. and the largest carved stone basin in the world.These statues are monumental! Oh, and we are walking on the beautiful old mosaic floor here too.
It looked like the statue was trying to give this rather bored looking guard something.These bronze hands decorated with gold buttons are from the 1st half of the 7th century B.C. I thought they looked like a modern work of art.More display rooms with ornate ceilings…and lots more pots and other artifacts. In fact there were many rooms like this. We walked through all of them but I have admit that after a while we didn’t even try to look at all the items.
I did love these two horse heads…and there were some great views of Rome from the Gallery windows.Bob is trying to figure out where we go next.Turns out it is this room, with even more sculptures and carved stone artifacts, and yet another incredible ceiling.We both remember seeing a copy of this little boy with his goose in the Louvre many years ago. Interesting that we see it here in Rome too.The Arazzi Gallery is a long hall with more tapestries on both sides.This tapestry has an optical illusion. As we walk by it appears as if Jesus’s eyes are following us and he even seems to move through the doorway. It is very strange.

The Gallery of Maps is astounding. It seems to go on forever. The walls are lined with huge maps of all of Italy but it is the ceiling that grabs our attention. It is covered with paintings and sculptures and ornate frames.The lighting makes the ceiling look golden in the photo above but this photo shows its true colours. I just don’t know what to say. Words are simple inadequate to describe this very, very long ceiling. It is almost unbelievable.
There are more galleries but we are getting very tired. We decided several hours ago that we need to come finish seeing everything another day. We make our way to the Sistine Chapel. We are so lucky, because it is late in the day there are not many people in the chapel. We find a seat along the wall and look up. There is so much to see. I think it is amazing that we are sitting here, in the Sistine Chapel looking at this masterpiece. We probably spend almost an hour here but it is time to go as we still need to visit St .Peters and see the Pieta.It is night when we leave the Vatican Museums. We go through the ‘secret passage’ that allows us to enter the basilica without having to line up and go through security again.There she is. The Pieta, in all her glory. After spending some time with the Pieta, we walk around the basilica. We wanted to visit the grotto beneath the church but it is already closed. I like the little dragon between the bottom two figures in the sculpture.
St. Peter’s right foot has been rubbed almost away by the touch of thousands of pilgrims over the centuries.
There is a mass taking place so we listen to the organ music and singing for bit before we finally head home. It has been long day. We spent 8 wonderful hours in the Vatican Museums but we are both very tired..

The Pope’s Angelus Blessing, Rome

Day 83, Sunday November 26, 2017

Every Sunday at noon is the Angelus Prayer, when Pope Francis speaks to those gathered in St. Peter’s Square. Today we are among the many who are here to see and hear the Pope. We thought we had a great spot right in front of St. Peter’s Basilica with a clear view of the central balcony…then Bob spotted something in the far away window of the building across the square. Oops, this is where the Pope appears, and we are quite far away.
At noon the Pope appears and with a friendly wave and a welcoming “Buongiorno”, to which the crowd replies “Buonjourno”, he begins the Angelus Prayer. 

Good thing I have a telephoto zoom on my camera! The Angelus ends with a blessing for everyone in the square and the blessing includes any religious objects that people have brought with them. The bells of St. Peter’s chime as the crowds begin to disperse. We have seen the Pope!Although the clouds were dark and threatening while we were waiting to see the Pope, by the time the Angelus is finished the sun is peeking through the clouds so we decide to stroll about. We head down the Via della Concillazione, the wide road that leads to St. Peter’s Square…and across the Ponte Sant’Angelo with a good view of the Castle Sant’ Angelo and the Tiber River. By the way, Romans pronounce it ‘teeber’ not ‘tiber.’One of the things I love about Rome, eye candy everywhere!We take a minute to pop into the Church of Santa Maria in Vallicella, known as the Chiesa Nuova, or New Church. A friendly lady comes to chat and gives us an audio guide tour.

The church celebrates the life and legacy of Saint Philip Neri, and this little side chapel is dedicated to him. He is also entombed there in a glass coffin. It is a bit strange to see so many bodies on display in churches here, it is not something we see at home. We wander back towards the Pantheon for photo of the obelisk in the centre of the fountain. I think we are getting close to seeing all the Egyptian obelisks in Rome. I will have to check, but I do know there is one more near by.I wanted a photo to show just how enormous the columns at the Pantheon are.Around the corner behind the Pantheon we find one more obelisk. Bernini designed the base for this one after it was discovered in excavations nearby in 1667.Back to the front of the Pantheon where the long line up has disappeared so we go in to see what it looks like in the daytime. The sun is shining through the oculus, but other than that the lighting isn’t much different than during the evening. We take another quick look around and we are on our way. People try to earn money in all sorts of ways in Rome. This young woman was sculpting sand puppies…and an artist asks to be adopted, but he was nowhere in sight when we walked by.Christmas decorations are making an appearance, and many stores use live evergreens in their decorations. I am curious and a closer look reveals that they are using Oasis, or floral foam, to keep the greens fresh. These displays smell so Christmassy when we walk by.A view down one of the main streets where we wait for our bus. Notice that there aren’t many cars at all. Also notice the gypsy lady prostrated on the sidewalk, begging. I can’t imagine this is an easy way to make money.

We pass Trevi Fountain with its hordes of people and decide it is time to head home.As you already know, I love looking down side streets and into courtyards.  I didn’t even notice the ‘street art’ on the do not enter sign until today when I was posting this.

This lovely apartment building with its garden balconies is on the corner near our own apartment.

St. Peter’s Basilica and the Pope

Day 80, Thursday November 23, 2017

Bob read that the Pope was doing a special mass for peace in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo at 5:30. We decided we would go to St. Peter’s and see if we could get in. There wasn’t much of a line up to get through security and soon we are in the Basilica. We make our way to the front of the crowd and take some photos of the altar, and the Swiss Guards who are responsible for the safety of the Pope.We had a little look around while waiting for something to happen at 5:30. This is looking towards the front doors of the Basilica, with a view of yet another magnificent ceiling.
We feel very small in this enormous cathedral .Everywhere we look there are statues and ornate gilded decorations.At 5:30 the mass starts but it is far from us, behind the main altar. There are guards keeping people back behind barriers, while only allowing a select few to enter.  When I zoom way in we see a statue of the Madonna which is part of this special mass. Bob thought he saw someone in white below the statue. Take a look at the link above. He is sure he saw the Pope.This photo shows the many rows of chairs that line the piazza in front of St. Peter’s for the Papal Audience that is held on Wednesdays.
As we walk further away we are able to see the dome on top of the cathedral.It is a bit of a walk to the metro but it is a nice night and there is lots to see along the way.