Exploring Pula and the Amphitheatre

Day 16, Wednesday. September 20, 2017

Today was cloudy, but thankfully we didn’t have any rain.  It certainly makes a big difference in our enjoyment of the day and our walk about. This post will be a bit picture heavy, there are just so many interesting things to show you.

Pula’s old buildings are either very dilapidated looking and/or they have been colourfully painted. Here are a few of the streets we walked today.There are a few more people out and about today now that the rain has stopped.Loved these balconies with all the pots of plants. I think a gardener lives here!This is the biggest ship we have ever seen. it was way more than a block long and it is simply enormous!
We went into the Temple of Augustus, only 10 Kuna each, or $2.00 Canadian.  These huge feet were my favourite exhibit inside. They were incredibly detailed. That is my foot in black at the bottom of the picture to give an idea of their size.More narrow streets…
and interesting balconies. You must look up in these cities or you miss so much.Here are some interesting fishing boats. We noticed that they all had lots of lights for attracting the fish at night. We thought that this was illegal, but I guess it isn’t here?

We sat for a while in St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, enjoying the quiet simplicity of this cathedral. It is so different from all the very ornate churches we saw in Spain and Portugal on our last trip.I thought that the church’s Madonna was particularly beautiful This seems to be the church’s bell tower, but I am not certain about that. It is right in front of the church.Next stop is the Roman Amphitheatre that we walked around yesterday. It is the sixth largest amphitheater in the world. It held up to 20,000 spectators and was built in the 1st Century AD., so it is over 2,000 years old! Gladiatorial games were banished in the beginning of the 5th Century and after that it was neglected and gradually fell into ruin.Today this arena is used for festivals and performances in the summer months.Seems we were into ‘selfies’ today!Note the remains of an arched entrance in the foreground.There were rooms and chambers around the arena, some were used to hold wild beasts, and I am not sure what the others were used for. This animation video give a better idea of what the arena and the area around it looked like when it was intact.  The very beginning of the video looks fuzzy but it quickly gets better. Underneath the Amphitheater is a display about making olive oil with many ancient amphoras.Guess what I thought these look like?As we were leaving we saw a pair of lions guarding the entrance into the arena.Here is an artist’s print of the Arena as it is today.We found some more interesting streets to wander, and stopped for some tea and nourishment. All this sightseeing is hard work! We seem to walk between 13,000 to 16,000 steps each day according to my Fitbit. Just a few more steps than I usually walk at home.We climbed up to the Marine Museum but elected to walk around it rather than go inside.  There were some great views of the city and the Amphitheater..As we headed back to our car we were treated to the sights and smells of a little flower marketIt still seems bizarre to me that we can walk down a city street and there it is, a 2,000 year old Roman Amphitheater!

Zagreb, the Upper Town

Day 12, Thursday, September 16, 2017

This is the view out our window. It overlooks a busy street but our apartment is really fairly quiet.
We head for the Upper Town. Our location is central so we can walk pretty much anywhere we want to go. We were surprised to see a Terry Fox Run taking place.We take this funicular which is officially the shortest one in the world! In just a few moments we are in the Upper Town…
with great views over the over city of Zagreb.I don’t know if these are ethnic costumes, or if these three ladies are belly dancers. Either way they are dressed quite magnificently.Every once in a while we come upon a modern building that is quite surprising.  We are still amazed at the parking in Zagreb.This is St. Mark’s Church which was built in the 13th Century with the coat of arms of Dalmatia and Slavonia depicted in coloured tiles on the roof. We find a door that is open and stand inside a bit, listening to someone play the organ.Many of the buildings in Zagreb have beautiful ‘bones’ but are in need of a lot of repair and restoration.This ornate wrought iron fence protects the courtyard of the Department of Divine Worship and Teaching, whatever that might be?This is one of the rare sculptures of St. George after he has actually killed the dragon. The arched gate on the right is the Stone Gate.
This is the inside of the Stone Gate, the only town gate from the Middle Ages that is still intact. It is a shrine to the Virgin Mary. Here is more information  the Stone Gate if you are curious about the legend.  The little plaques on the walls are thanks for prayers answered. There was a steady stream of people coming here to pray, light candles, or leave bouquets of flowers.

We happen upon a wedding and stop along with other tourists to have a peek at the proceedings. The bride stands outside to welcome people and then enters the church with her flower girls ahead of her and her bridesmaids following behind. Quite different from  weddings in Canada.

This Art Nouveau building seemed unusual here in Zagreb. It is the only one we have seen.

Bob wanted to go to the Casino at the Westin Hotel, as it was rated the best one in Croatia. His mom loved casinos, so this visit was for Baba.  We walked for fifteen minutes in the rain to get there only to discover that it was the tiniest casino we have ever been in. Maybe thirty slot machines and a few gambling tables. There were only ten people in the place, including us,  and we ended up winning 10 kunas, which is about $2!  Every time we wanted to cash out of a machine to try another one an attendant comes to pay out the money.  We think it is a strange system. Shortly after we walk home, in the rain, there is a huge thunder and lightning storm, with some very close lightning and a torrential downpour.  We are quite happy that we didn’t have to walk home in that!

Exploring Zagreb

Day 11 Friday September 15, 2017

It is cloudy and it rained during the night but there is no wind this morning so we head out to explore.  First stop was the Dolac Market, a huge outdoor market where vendors sell fruits, vegetables, meat and fish every day of the week.  There are red umbrellas over the stands and it is all very picturesque. We buy vegetables to make soup tonight and some fruit. We get our leeks and carrots from this baba, and the rest from several other vendors.Just a short walk from the Dulac Market is the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Nice that one of the towers is under construction but the scaffolding is wrapped in a photographic copy of the building underneath. This is so much more attractive than the generic construction tarps used at home.

The inside of the cathedral is magnificent. Construction started in the 11th century and additions and alterations were made over the next seven centuries.

Here are some photos of the church interior

Note the gold stars on the ceiling above the organ.

The faithful came to pray at this crypt, often just walking up and placing hands on the crypt while they prayed.

This shows a spire before and after restoration and the clock on the wall stopped at 7 hours 3 minutes and 3 seconds on the 9th of November, 1880 because of an earthquake that caused damage to the cathedral. The renovations today are a result of this earthquake as the repairs made after the earthquake did not fair well and have badly eroded. This photo shows some of the newly reconstructed columns and the old ones that are still waiting reconstruction
There were defensive walls built around the Cathedral in the 15th Century and there are little cottages built up against the wall.On the way back to our apartment we come across these fellows.  No idea why what they were doing or why they were dressed as caveman but they posed for photos for the tourists.
This big square has more market stalls and it is surrounded by majestic buildings. There is just so much to see here. This machine was pressing olive oil.  The green coilsl coming out were the waste and it was as hard as wood!
Here is another building shrouded in a construction covering. I really like them. We go back to our apartment for lunch and a little rest and then head back out for the afternoon.
There are a lot of parks in Zagreb and even though it is fall there are still lots of flowers in bloom. This is the Art Pavilion, originally constructed as the Croatian Pavilion for an Exhibition in Budapest in 1896. It was disassembled and then reconstructed here.We check out the Hotel Esplanade near the railway station, which was built for passengers of the Orient Express. We couldn’t afford to eat here but I did use the bathroom, which was very luxurious.
The Botanical Gardens. are next. The show greenhouse is under construction and reconstruction so we can’t visit it, but the rest of the gardens are very lovely. We enjoy our time walking along the garden paths checking out the flowers and trees. These are lotus flower seed heads…and these Santa Cruz water lily pads grow up to two meters across!  On the way home we see these cars parked half on the road and half on the street!

Our Extra Day In Amsterdam

Day 9, Wednesday, September 13, 2017

All of Holland was on a severe storm alert so that was why our flight was cancelled yesterday. I decided I was staying home today and catching up on my journal.  I love to journal when we travel but with blogging and journalling I sometimes get a bit behind. My blog has been giving me a bit of grief, some of the settings have changed, either I did it unknowingly or the site has been updated. Not sure which, but it is a nuisance, and it has been taking me much longer than it should to do each post.  I think I have sorted it out, but then a new challenge arises.  

I need good light to photograph my journal pages so I can’t do it when we get home late.  A scanner would be so much better but I can’t carry that around with me! When I can I draw on location but I also use my photos as reference when needed.

The view looking down from our third floor window into our neighbour’s yards.I worked on this page wile we waited in a cafe for our entrance time to the Van Gogh Museum.

What can I say, I just loved these little statues! 

Somehow I got this page out of order, I labeled it Saturday and then wrote Sunday’s activities on it.  White Out is handy in an art kit.

I finally got up the nerve to start sketching on the tram. This always seems intimidating to do but once I start it really isn’t so bad.  The young gentleman in the hoodie knew I was drawing him. When we got up to exit the tram I showed him the sketch and he smiled. Most people don’t really seem to mind all that much if they figure out what I am doing. I like to draw with a ballpoint pen, that way I am committed, and there is no erasing.

Quiet Rainy Day in Amsterdam

Monday, September 11, 2017

We were going to go to the Rijk Museum today but I needed a down day and it is windy and raining, so we decided to stay home have a quiet day instead. Yesterday we walked almost nine miles, and the equivalent of 25 flights of stairs, or so my Fitbit tells me!  No wonder I am tired.

Some friends and family are curious about our Airbnb apartments so I thought I would include a link to each one we stay at. If you are interested take a peek.     Airbnb

Here are a few photos that never made it into previous postings.This little sculpture was in the street right outside the Oude Kirk. Bob thought it a strange placement right outside a church and asked me what it meant.  How am I to know?Our apartment host is an artist who makes tiles that are for sale in museum shops. The kitchen ones are playful takes on antique tiles and they are mounted in her bathroom and kitchen. She also very generously gave us one as a gift.We saw this couple walking Saturday and as they passed by everyone started to cheer and clap.Now, we saw this fellow with his brand new tattoo two days ago at Dam Square and the strange thing ( other than why anyone would want this tattoo on their head) is that we saw him again two times yesterday, once in the afternoon and again in the evening.  What are the chances of that happening in as big and busy city as Amsterdam? I almost felt like we should say hi! I love people watching and Amsterdam is a great place for that.  I just wish I had a chance to draw or take a photo of some of the interesting faces we have seen.

Amsterdam’s Red Light District

Sunday, September 10, 2017

I don’t suppose a visit to Amsterdam would be complete without checking to see what the Red Light District is about. Because we were going to be out late tonight we had a nice relaxing morning and finally headed downtown early afternoon.  Our first stop was the Oude Kerk, or the Old Church, which is the oldest building in Amsterdam. This church took shape in phases from 1300 on. Over the centuries this church has functioned as a public space where citizens could meet, close transactions of any kind and listen to beautiful organ music.    

Today there was an art installation by Sarah van Sonsbeek, Check out the link to see more information about the show.    https://oudekerk.nl/en/programma/sarah-van-sonsbeeck/ The painted pillars lead your eyes up to the ceiling which is made of wood and was built by shipwrights. It looks like the upside down hulls boats. 
I loved this winding stairway which led high up to a little tiny door right near the ceiling.  Wish I knew where it led to.. Although most of the floor was cover with the gold blankets we were able to see some of the old tomb covers in the floor. Note the dates, 1590 and 1596.  I wondered about the family crest of a bird leg and wing. It seemed rather strange.

After a brief visit to a Buddhist shrine in China town we visited De Waag.  This building is only open today for a Open Monument Day which is held once a year.  It turns out that this building held the Anatomical theatre where  Rembrandt painted his famous ‘The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp’ in 1632.  

We were in the Anatomy Theater that was built just above where Rembrandt worked! That was quite amazing.

There were a lot of stairs to climb to get up to the theater…which was in the old watch Tower which used to be a gate in part of the wall that protected Amsterdam.There was a flea market outside so the bottom of the building is hidden. We were in the centre tower where the little yellow windows are. Rembrandt painted in the room below.We had a bite to eat and wandered about waiting for it to get dark and we were very surprised to see two huge Hudson Bays Stores, each four stories tall.The houses along here were old and beautiful. The Red Light District, not so beautiful.There are sex shows along both sides of the street.

Where ever there are red lights along the street, as in the right hand side of the above photo, there are very small rooms with doors opening onto the streets.  Inside each rooms is a chair or stool, a bed and a washroom, and a woman selling her body. The women stand or sit in the windows so that the men can inspect them and choose the woman they want to have sex with. You can just see the edge of one of these rooms at the base of the stairs.  The streets were packed with people, the majority of whom were men. We saw several men enter these little rooms, and then the curtains were drawn.  I found it all very sad, and felt for the women who were in this profession.  It is hard to believe that anyone would choose this line of work if they had other choices or opportunities available. The views of the canals gong home were much nicer than the streets of the Red Light District.