Salzburg Fortress (Festung Hohensalzburg)

Day 50, Monday, October 14, 2019

On our way to the Salzburg Fortress we pass a Steiff Store with their famous stuffed animals.  They are expensive, the polar bear sitting in front of the big standing bear is ‘only’ 299 euros, about $440.00 Canadian! The funicular makes short work of the steep climb to the fortress. The Hohensalzburg Fortress (Salzburg Fortress) was built in the 11th century by Archbishop Gebhard and is the largest unconquered fortress in Europe. The castle is 150 meters wide and 250 meters long, and the oldest part is over 900 years old. First stop at the Fortress is the top of one of the guard towers for a great view towards the mountains… overlooking the fortress… and of the old town of Salzburg.  That big square is where the Bio Fest was held yesterday.  You can see the golden globe with the man standing on top.  Right behind the square is the Salzburg Cathedral with the big dome, where we went to hear the choir yesterday morning. There are lots of huge doors and interesting corridors in the fortress. This wheel was dropped on prisoners in order to break their bones and cause internal damage.  If it didn’t kill them they were tied to it until they died an agonizing death.
The Salzburg Steir, or Salzburg Bull is a giant mechanical organ built in 1502. It still plays twice a day and is the last example of a Gothic organ to survive. The Stier is the oldest daily played automated musical instrument in the world.  It plays melodies from Haydn and Mozart every day after the glockenspiel chimes.  St. George’s Chapel has reliefs of the Apostles, made from marble.  We find a bench and have our lunch in the courtyard by the chapel.The fortress served as a garrison for the Erzherzog Rainer Regiment in 1682.  Erzherzog Rainer had quite the moustache!
There were watercolour paintings of the regiment over the years which I quite liked, and I thought the paper twists which held a musket ball and gunpowder were interesting. War has always been brutal… Austrian painter Karl Reisenbichler painted his fellow soldiers and portrayed images of death and suffering in WWI. We have seen a lot about war and death and suffering on this trip.  I think that this cabinet is probably the best way to use rifles I have seen! This is a view of the fortress tower we climbed when we first arrived. These large fortress rooms with their huge timbered ceilings are now a museums for armour and other items used for fighting.
This kitchen was reserved for food preparation for the Archbishop.  Note the little round hole in the wall on the left that was used to throw out rubbish and drain water.Medieval furnishings and some arches uncovered during renovations in 1998.  The arches were originally in an outside wall. The fortress was renovated and added to many times over the centuries.
The Regency Rooms are spectacular.  This is the Golden Hall with its ceilings painted blue and studded with golden balls to represent the sky and stars.  It served as a ballroom and today is used for recitals.  The golden Chamber was a smaller sitting room with a small library behind the door in the corner. It has a magnificent medieval tiled stove that warmed this living space and reception room. Interestingly, the bedroom was not heated.  We also learned that during the Middle Ages people slept in a semi-sitting position with many pillows because they believed that if they lay down they could suffocate. This position allowed them to have their weapons ready and attack any nighttime intruders. The doors were also low so that anyone coming in had to bend down when entering. Behind this little door is the toilet, which was very modern for medieval times. As we leave the Fortress there is a small Marionette Museum.  I love this collection of  tiny feet and shoes, and thought that these two marionettes were the most beautiful, well crafted ones here. There is a wall of marionettes, and several dioramas… and of course, a Sound of Music scene.
I think this huge well was connected to the cistern that was built within the fortress walls.  Now it is a giant wishing well. This is the entrance to the oldest part of the fortress, adjacent to the newest addition, an elevator. As we exit the fortress beside the bell tower,  we have a view of the watch tower we climbed at the beginning of out visit.  From the top we could not look over the sides to see how high up we were. At the bottom of the funicular we take advantage of the Love Grotto to ensure our love is everlasting!We have seen these chalk markings on many houses, church doors, businesses and shops in Germany and Austria.  I wondered what they meant.  A quick search on my ‘magic library’ and I find this quote.

“On the evening before Three Kings, traditionally there were prayers, blessed dried herbs would be burnt and their aromatic smell would fill the house. Doorways would be sprinkled with holy water and the master of the house would write with chalk C + M + B and the year above the house and barn door and say: ‘Caspar, Melchior, Balthasar, protect us again this year from the dangers of fire and water.’ C + M + B has traditionally been translated as Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar, however, according to the Church it stands for “Christus Mansionem Benedictat” (Christ bless this home).”   Now I know! On the bus home we can see the old medieval town walls. The ivy on a wall on our walk home looks like a giant red creature. 

Salzburg Cathedral and Bio Fest

Day 49, Sunday, October 13, 2019

This morning we attend a service at the Salzburg Cathedral.  There is a choir at this service and we thought it would be a nice way to see the church, and hear the choir at the same time.  The inside of the church is magnificent.  No matter how many churches we visit, we still wonder at their ornate interiors.This short video gives you look at the church while listening to the choir. I draw while we listen to the service and choir.  Of course we can’t understand any of it! I was tempted to finish this drawing of the altar from a photo but in the end decided to leave it just as it was. The cathedral was badly damaged during the Second World War. But today is beautifully restored.  The ceilings are particularly ornate, this is the ceiling of one of the small side chapels. In the basement is a crypt with a small chapel, and its very own ghostly apparition that flies around the room!  Tough to catch its likeness in a photo but there it is on the back wall.

After the service we find a Bio Fair (Organic Fair) right around the corner.  There are people everywhere enjoying the sunshine, food and drinks.  Great people watching today! We have lunch here but are too full to have one of these giant donut-like pastries, which are served either with sauerkraut or sprinkled with sugar and filled with jam.We sit for awhile to listen to a band, which sang in English, and I did a quick sketch of the bass player.

There is an area for the kids to play…I think they must be scratchy after jumping in all that hay! Nearby is St. Peter’s Cemetery.  Cemeteries in Austria are very neat and beautifully kept.We learned that plots are rented in Austria and if the rent is not paid the bones are dug up and the plot is rented out to someone else.  The remains are either moved to a mass gravesite or dug up and buried deeper in the same plot and the headstone removed so that the plot can be reused!  The headstones are on the wall of the church for exactly this reason.  The rent on the plot was not paid so the grave was reused and the headstones were placed here.  This explains the many headstones we have seen on cemetery walls and other churches.

The von Trapp family (The Sound of Music) hid in this cemetery, in one of these vaults just before they escaped from Austria.
Bob insisted we needed a photo of me hiding in the cemetery!We almost miss seeing the catacombs dating from the 12th century.  Can you see the windows high up in the cliff above the cemetery?  Pay particular attention to the little door below the windows.  This is where Saint Maximus and 50 of his followers were thrown to their death in 477AD, because of their faith.This is one of the chapels carved out of the rock high in the cliff. A view of the graveyard through one of the windows as we climbed down from the stone chapels. Bob has a few more places for us to visit.  The Church of Our Lady dates from 1221 AD.  It was very dark everywhere except for right around the altar where there are soaring pillars and arched ceilings. Next is the Horse Fountain.  This fountain has a ramp (the white area on the right side of the photo) so that horses could walk right into the fountain to cool off. This fountain is just a bit smaller! Notice the dates on these buildings…1360 on the apricot coloured one and 1258 on the brown one.  I am amazed that these houses are this old. We see a very long line up… it is people lining up for ice cream!  Soft ice cream in a cup with a choice of fresh fruit and other toppings. I see this curious ‘wand’ and wonder where it is from.This is a view of the side of the Salzburg Cathedral.
We walk back through the Bio-Fest on our way home and now I know where the wand comes from.  These look like such fun to make.Walking past this house we notice a sign saying that this is where the creator of the song “Silent Night’ was born.One more church!.. with lots of paintings and a pretty green and white ceiling.  The skull was on a plaque near the door, and the little bronze plaques were in the square outside.  They mark the location where a person was arrested and taken to a concentration camp.  We looked for these in other cities but couldn’t find any.  It has the person’s name, date of birth, date of arrest, the name of the camp and their date of death.  

This sculpture is a popular destination for Mozart fans. The horse fountain in the square near the Salzburg Cathedral glows in the late afternoon sun. I thought tying them up was a clever way to deal with unruly tall grasses. In a yard near our Airbnb I spot these little rock gardens.  I might have to make one of these in our garden at home.  I am always collecting stones! The fall colours are brilliant in the late afternoon sun as we arrive home.

Schwechat to Hörsching, Austria

Day 41, Saturday, October 5

We planned some sightseeing along the way to our next destination.  First stop is the town of Krems.  We walk the old town, looking for a place to have our picnic lunch, but when we finally find a bench it starts to rain.  We eat our lunch under our umbrella and then it clears up enough for a little stroll down the main street of old town. It is a long street lined with mostly modern shops.  Not really what we were expecting. This is the gate that leads onto the shop lined street.  I do wonder why the geraniums grow so well here,  Everywhere in Germany and Austria there are window boxes spilling over with blossoms.  Mine at home don’t do nearly as well! We wander through the gate, and decide it is time to leave. I do see these lovely prints in a little window inside the gate.

Next stop is the Dürnstein Castle.  The castle was built between 1140-1145 and in 1645 it was demolished by Swedish troops.

The castle became famous through the legend of Richard the Lionheart. The legend of Richard the Lionheart says that when he returned from the Crusades, the English King tore up the Austrian flag and refused to share his spoils of war with Leopold V.  As a consequence, Leopold V held King Richard prisoner in the castle from 1192 – 1193.

We can see the castle high above the town. While we are getting information on how to hike to the castle the clouds get very dark and threatening. But just as quickly they start to blow over and in less than ten minutes the sky is relatively clear. On the path towards town from the carpark we pass vineyards with lots of green grapes.  They look ready to pick. We find the path and start our climb…and it is definitely a climb!  I am so glad I have our hiking poles, they really help climbing these big uneven steps that seem to go on forever. A view of the town from a much needed little rest stop.These little blue bells are the same kind that I have growing at home. My oldest daughter brought me seeds from Dawson City many years ago and they grow quite happily in our flower garden.  This gorgeous blue beetle glistened indigo and cobalt with touches of turquoise. He, or perhaps she, was about the size of my thumbnail and paused in its travels long enough to let me take its photo.It is hard to see, but this old gentleman and his wife (you can just make out her bandaged leg and green skirt), were being helped down the trail by some kind hikers who stopped to help them.  We have no idea how they managed to get this far, as they were having difficulty walking here where the ground was fairly flat.  Someone at the bottom of the trail had told us to “Look out for two old Brits on the trail…I don’t think they are going to be able to get down and will need to stay up there!”  They were very fortunate that kind strangers stopped and came to their aid.  I think they will be exhausted by the time they make it down, or maybe they will need even more assistance? This sign explains what the castle used to look like.  We are able to make out a few of the areas but most of the castle has been destroyed. Some views of the castle.The views from the top are wonderful and well worth the climb.
We see a riverboat cruising by on the Danube far below. It is starting to get very windy up here. The valley is dotted with village after village as far as we can see.I was looking for Bob and couldn’t find him… till I looked up.
We wonder if this is where king Richard was kept prisoner?

No one knew where Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned. It is believed that Richard’s faithful minstrel, Blondel, travelled from castle to castle looking for his king. Richard was a poet and he wrote some of his own songs.  Blondel found King Richard in Dürnstein by singing a refrain from a song Richard had written which the prisoner then sang back.

Richard the Lionheart was finally released after the payment of a ransom of 150,000 silver marks.  Hmm, I wonder how much I need to pay to get this prisoner released? You can see the castle walls stretching all the way down to the town.

We are lucky enough to have a little impromptu concert.  I really need to learn how to edit video so these are raw footage, but you will hear a bit of what we heard. Here is another short clip. We head down to town on a different path, one which is a bit easier than the one we climbed up.  There are displays along the path explaining about the history of the Castle and King Richard the Lionheart. The path ends back in town. We see black grapes growing along the road and hanging on houses.  They are quite tasty. The castle walls go through the town all the way down to the river!
As we make our way towards Hörsching and our next Airbnb we pass lots of terraced hillsides where grapes are grown. Then we see a very large chair! The sky is quite dramatic and it is getting dark by the time we arrive in Hörsching, our home for the next three days.

Prague Castle

Day 36, Monday, September 30, 2019

Prague is filled with many beautiful buildings.  We pass this one on our way to the Prague Castle. We had a good laugh.  Bob thought that the two guards in the guard-boxes were wax mannequins.  They were so motionless!

St. Vitus Cathedral is the first place we visit inside the castle grounds.  Our eyes are immediately drawn to the beautiful stained glass windows, and then to the hordes of people!

This sculpture is about a third of the way down this very large cathedral. Everyone has entrance to the cathedral with their entrance ticket to the Castle but they are only allowed into about the entrance of the nave.  We bought the next level ticket so we could walk around the whole cathedral and see all the side chapels and the altar up close.

The stained glass windows, created by 20th century Czech artists, are some of the most beautiful we have seen.  Each window is unique and their intense colours flood the interior of this Gothic Cathedral. 

Here is a close up of some non-traditional stained glass windows. Perhaps my favourite is the window designed by Alphonse Mucha.  You may remember we saw his design drawing for this window at the Mucha Museum yesterday. The beautiful rose window on the entrance wall of the cathedral was completed in 1925 and took two years to complete.  The inscriptions on the stained glass tell the story of Creation as told in the Bible. This wooden panel from 1630 shows the St. Charles Bridge, built in 1403, that we visited on Saturday. The city doesn’t really look all that different, does it? St. Vitus is portrayed with a rooster by his side, because he was boiled to death in a pot with a rooster!  These saints all seem to have had horrible tortuous deaths.  St. Vitus never actually even visited this cathedral, but a relic, or pieces of his body, was brought here and the Cathedral was built to honour him. St John of Nepomuk’s tomb is an elaborate baroque silver tomb with angels supporting a draped canopy.  It is said to contain two tonnes of silver.  St. John is the patron saint of the Czechs.  In hte latter part of hte 14th century, King Wenseslas tortured John with fire and then gagged him, put him in a goatskin and had him thrown into the Vltava River! He later declared him a martyr.  So much for ‘Good’ King Wenceslas!  There are so many people visiting this cathedral that I had to take this photo looking back towards the tomb to get a decent shot. 

This interesting fellow perched up high lighting the way is on the corner of a balcony that leads to the King’s private chambers.  The King was able visit the church whenever he wants without being seen by others. This is the chapel dedicated to St. Wenceslas, the king and patron saint of all the Czech lands. The lower part of the walls are decorated with more than 1300 gems and the joints between them are covered with gold.  The walls are covered in frescoes and the relics of St. Wenceslas are kept in the red draped case.   As we are leaving, the sun comes out for a bit and shines through the stained glass windows casting coloured light into the cathedral.  Note the lady posing behind Bob.  We seem to see her everywhere we go today and she is always posing ‘just so’ for a photo.  I’m not sure her and her husband are even looking at the cathedral as anything but a backdrop for her photographs. As beautiful as this cathedral is, I still love some of the simpler details that are easy to overlook with all the grandeur surrounding us. A view of the Cathedral.  This front entrance isn’t used by tourists, we entered on the end of the cathedral behind the building with orange panels.since the 16th century, the Vladislav Hall in the Old Royal Place, was used for coronation festivities and banquets, knights’ tournaments and markets for luxurious goods.  The Vladislav Hall still is used for state functions.  It is an enormous room. The Old Palace contained the Land Rolls, where all matters regarding property rights and criminal law were recorded.  An interesting door handle. One room had chairs which are almost the same as the ones my Swiss  grandfather used to make, only he put more carving and decoration on his.The present day appearance of St. George’s Basilica dates to the reconstruction after a devastating fire in 1142.  Now it is used for short-term art exhibitions.

We visit St. Georges 12th century crypt and see this rather bizarre sculpture.  I did some research and discovered that it is “a Late Gothic Statue of Brigita, representing a dead and decaying girl´s body.  It is a symbol of impermanence.  A legend says that it was made by a sculptor, who killed his girlfriend and wanted to create her statue before he was executed.  However, he was only able to make it as a dead body, because of his despair.” ~.www.prague.cz On the way out we see this collection of relics, but have no idea who they are.  These relics seem a bit bizarre.   Not only was the poor person usually tortured and killed but then their bones were carted off, often to several different locations and  put on display.  Hmmm. This is the Golden Lane.  This lane of tiny houses was built against the northern wall of the castle. These tiny houses were occupied until World War II and have been preserved so that the character of this lane has not changed.  From 1916 to 1917 house No. 22 was inhabited by the writer Franz Kafka. The name of the Lane is derived from goldsmiths who used to live there.  I struck up a conversation with a gentleman who told me that he and his father were both goldsmiths and that the tools have not changed at all. He also said his father died young and that he quit because some of the processes involved are very toxic. The houses are tiny and have tiny doors. This was a fortune teller’s house whose predictions about the early fall of the Third Reich resulted in her being arrested and tortured to death by the Gestapo. An amateur historian who saved many copies of old films that were intended for disposal during the Second World War lived here.  We watch one film that showed scenes of Prague and this Golden Lane.  It looks much like it does today.We almost missed seeing a huge display of old armaments and armour.  It was quite interesting.  Some the swords have pistols built into them, or axes attached! And then there is the torture chamber.  These places give me the creeps.  It is just so hard ot think of people subjecting each other to such pain and terror.  Bob is standing beside an Iron Maiden, which has spikes inside just long enough to pierce the body and make sure that the person inside dies a slow painful death.  There are two spikes placed so that they will pierce the eyes of whoever is placed inside, and take a look at that chair!  It is enough to give me nightmares.After the torture chamber we see some great views of Prague… can you spot our TV Tower?  It is hard to miss.
As we leave the castle the changing of the guards marches past.  A couple of the guards have their hats blown off by the wind but they just keep marching, although they did smile!  It was crazy windy today and a bit cold so it was a good day to be inside.Walking past the Cathedral towards the exit I thought to look up, and yes, there were gargoyles!  I love gargoyles, in case you didn’t know. This shrub was near the exit.  I have no idea what it is and wonder if anyone else might know?

Siena, and the Museo della Carta e della Filigrana, Fabriano, Italy

Day 69, Sunday November 12, 2017

I really wanted to visit Fabriano and the Museo della Carta e della Filigrana, (Museum of Paper and Watermarks.) Fabriano is known internationally for its quality paper.The only day we could fit it in was Sunday afternoon so today we drove from Florence to Perugia with a short stop in Siena, and then on to Fabriano.

The drive from Florence to Siena was beautiful. Lots of rolling hills with little towns perched high on the hilltops. It is definitely autumn and the trees are turning colour, but as Bob said, it is like our September autumn, and it is November here.We enter Siena by walking though a gate in this wall. You can just see the arch of the top of the gate.We wanted to visit the Sienna Duomo but it is closed to tourists until 1:30. I ask the guard if we can visit for a quiet time to think about Baba and she lets us enter. There is a mass taking place so we sit and have some reflective time, listening to beautiful singing and the Italian sermon. This is the inside of the Duomo with its black and white striped marble pillars and incredible inlaid marble floors.We wander the  streets and pass this little gallery with all the horses. Quite appropriate for Siena as the Palio is held here twice a year. This is a bareback horse race that is held in the Piazza Del Campo. Check out the link for some great photos of this event. I toss a coin and make a wish in this ancient well, and admire the paintings on the ceiling which are outside and exposed to the elements.The streets are narrow with tall buildings on either side…with wonderful sights tucked away in courtyards and…at the end of this long sloping road we enter a large open square. It is the famous Piazza Del Campo where the Palio is takes place.We didn’t have a lot of time here as we need to be in Fabriano this afternoon so all too soon we head back towards our car, which is parked outside the old city. The buildings here are all beautiful shades of sienna and ochre. Loved the horse.There are great views.These six very long very steep escalators were a great help getting us up to and down from the old town. I was feeling a bit weary today and quite happy I didn’t have to climb all those hundreds of steps.  Here we are, leaving Siena, there are no flat roads here!We have time to check into our Airbnb and then drive to Fabriano, almost an hour away. Our tour of the paper mill was at 4:30. We arrived at 4:00, just in time to watch an English video about paper making as the tour was only in Italian!  I didn’t think to check that when I reserved way back in August, however, after our video a very nice woman gave us a tour in English! I think the fellow at the ticket office got her especially for us. She was great, very knowledgeable and very pleasant. This is a photo of her from a show that National Geographic made about the Fabriano Paper mills and paper making. I can’t remember her name, but she was very knowledgeable and spent quite a bit of time with us.We got to see the old hammer mills in operation and a master papermaker came and pulled some sheets of paper with watermarks to demonstrate the process. I just loved the old wooden press. It is just a bit bigger than the one I use at home when pressing my handmade paper. The museum has a fantastic collection of very old papers and papers with watermarks. Their Fabriano Mill makes watermarked paper for bank notes for several countries, but I most fascinated with their with chiaroscuro watermarks .

For those unfamiliar with watermarks, take a quick look at the link above which simply explains what they are and how they are made. For a more detailed explanation take a look at this link from the Museo della Carta e della Filigrana

I get myself a souvenir from our visit to Fabriano, a piece of paper with a watermark of two angels called Il Primo Bacio (The first Kiss) by William Bouguereau. I just need to decide how to display it, as the watermark only shows when it is held up to the light.

Image result for il primo bacio painting
There are a couple art shows in the hallways of the museum and I absolutely adored the work of Valentina Verlato.   This link takes you to her Italian website but if you type her name into Google you will have the option of translating the website into English. Of course, the photos on internet just don’t compare to the actual paintings.
As we left the museum the street lamps lit up the leaves above us.Day 70,  Monday November 13, 2017

We spend a quiet day at home. We have been travelling for ten weeks and I am just a bit tired. Bob did go out exploring the town of Perugia but most of the sites were closed today so he came home early.He did get some great views of Perugia which he said is ‘lots of steps!”

Tomorrow we are on our way to Rome!

Day 71, Tuesday November 14, 2017

Our drive to Rome went well and we arrived at our Airbnb early afternoon. We were very relieved that it is not a ‘smoking allowed’ apartment as that is what showed up when we checked our booking a couple of days ago. I was so worried that it would smell awful and that we would have to find another place at the last minute. It seems that the Airbnb site ‘updated’ and incorrectly listed the apartment as ‘Smoking Allowed.” This was also a surprise to our host who assured us that it was indeed a non smoking apartment. It is a lovely place and I think we are going to be very happy here for the next two weeks.

Day 72, Wednesday November 15, 2017

We spent a quiet day at home today, resting, organizing and planning what we will see and do in Rome.

Hilltop View of Florence

Day 67, Friday November 10, 2017

The Piazzale Michelangelo gives panoramic views over Frienze. We can see the bridges over the Arno River…The Duomo…and some of the ancient town walls. There is a copy of David here but it doesn’t have the same impact as the original.I love the feet on these old lampposts on the Piazzale. We visited this spot on our first trip to Firenze one hot summer night long ago.

Fall has officially arrived.We explore the streets in the Oltrarno area on the south side of the Arno River. There are lots of interesting little shops and art studios. We also see a lot of interesting street art in this part of Florence.The Ponte Vecchio is now the home of Firenze’s jewelry shops

We visit this little book binding shop…and see these very large albums in another shop window. I am so glad I bought my sketchbook in Venice. I haven’t seen another one with good drawing paper.We cross the Arno admiring the reflections on our walk to the train station to find bus to take us home.There are lots of interesting windows along the way.. and a garage that parks its cars one on top of the other!We were also lucky enough to see a murmuration of Starlings near the Santa Maria Novella train station.  It was getting dark so I didn’t get the best photo but there were thousands of birds flying above us, swirling, swooping in intricately coordinated patterns.  They were also very noisy as they settled into the trees for the night!

Cinque Terre, Italy

Day 57, Tuesday October 31, 2017

On our way to the train station to visit Cinque Terre we pass street cleaners who use the same ‘witchy’ brooms as they do in Paris. It seems especially appropriate today on Halloween.We are rather surprised that most of the train ride to the Cinque Terre villages is inside tunnels! I guess, in hindsight, that makes sense as these towns are only accessible by train, boat, or walking. We are visiting Monterosso al Mare, which is the town furthest away from La Spezia where we are staying.
Cloths for sale spread out on the sand. There were lots of sellers but not many buyers.We have seen a few Halloween decorations here and there but this is the only real pumpkin jack o’ lantern we have seen.This huge rock was a popular spot. We walked all along this beach… and through a narrow tunnel to reach the oldest historic part of town.
Monday is wash day and we see lots of laundry hanging outside windows.We have noticed that churches in Italy are all quite different from each other. When we were in Spain a couple of years ago the churches seemed much more alike than they do here. These four churches are all in Monterosso al Mare.We walk down this street on our way to find the footpath that leads to the next Cinque Terre village of Vernazza about 3.6 km away. 

We aren’t exactly sure what we were expecting but we were definitely surprised at how many steps are on this path. By the end of the day we calculate we have climbed about 1,420 steps!! and of course what goes up has to come down. That is a lot of climbing up and down! These photos were taken on flights of stairs that had between 200 and 350 steps all in a row. Yes, I had to stop several times to catch my breath and rest my legs, but I did it! I am rather proud of myself.The path is also fairly rough in places and sometimes only just over a foot in width. It was quite an adventure. About half way along the path we found an older gentleman making fresh orange juice for € 2.00 a glass which seemed like a bargain! It was delicious. Way down there is Monterosso where we started our hike.We saw this little rat on the path. He didn’t want to get out of the way, despite being prodded with my hiking pole. I didn’t think he looked very healthy which may explain his strange behaviour.We even crossed a cute bridge over a small creek.There is our destination, the village of Vernazza.We found these little cat houses along the trail along with big containers of food and instructions to fill the cat’s dishes if they were empty. Someone here really loves stray cats.Finally, we are almost at Vernazza, after 2 1/2 hours of climbing up and down, and down and up.It isn’t a very big village and has a population of less than 900 however the Cinque Terre villages see more than 2.4 million tourists a year!I love peeking inside doorways and today I was rewarded with this interesting collection.
We arrive in Vernazza in this narrow street but…we have to climb down one more long narrow set of stairs to reach the main piazza, or public square, where we find an ice cream shop for a much deserved treat. The fruit sorbet in Italy is amazing, so creamy and delicious.Children in Italian towns play in the squares or on the streets, or in small playgrounds. Green spaces are far and few between. I think about how different their childhoods are compared to children at home who spend so much of their time playing outside in grassy yards and parks.After watching the sun set over the we take the train and then a bus home. We need to get off our bus a couple stops early because an accident that has tied up all the traffic. Two young people on a motorcycle have had a collision with a car. It looks very serious as neither of them are moving and there are several ambulances on the scene. It is very sobering to think of how quickly life can change. 

In yesterday’s post look at the windows in the last picture of the boat. One of them is covered in black plastic and duct tape. Not what we expected to see on a boat that costs millions of dollars.

The Milan Duomo and Teatre La Scala

Day 54, Saturday October 28, 2017

On our way to the Duomo we come across a fashion photo shoot. This rather strange man with the oversized sweater and furry slippers was giving the model directions on what to do. He was very bossy!The Milano Duomo, or the Cathedral of Santa Maria Nascente, is one of the largest Gothic Churches in the world. It is very impressive.The view looking towards the altar. 
It is a bit overwhelming, placing my hands where so many other hands have worn the stone smooth and shiny over the centuries. There are 52 of these massive pillars.The stained glass windows are stunning, especially these ones behind the altar.I thought this sculpture was rather unusual. It is Saint Bartholomew, one of the twelve apostles, who was flayed alive and then beheaded. He is carrying his own skin!Looking down one of the side aisles. This church is very big!This is a copy of the Madonna of the Duomo. The original is on the highest point of the church.
There are many large paintings hanging in the church. Many of them look as though they need restoration work.Each of the pillars is topped by an ornately carved capital, and each one is unique.We go into the crypt of St. Charles Borromeo who lies in a crystal coffin below the altar. We  also visit the archeological area which was excavated under the plaza in front of the Duomo. The black and white photo shows an aerial view of the excavations before they were covered by a new plaza.Then we climb 250 steps up to the roof top terraces for a close up view of some of the churches 135 spires!The flying buttresses are beautiful as well as functional. This church is decorated with 3,400 statues, 135 gargoyles, and 700 figures in the marble reliefs, There are decorations everywhere, each one different from the rest. We were thrilled with this visit to the rooftop, but then…we discover that we get to climb even higher, to the very top of the church, 75 meters above the ground below! You can see the golden Madonna statue above us.The views are amazing but it is a bit hazy which is too bad. Apparently on a clear day you can see the Alps in the distance.Looking down at part of the plaza in front of the Duomo. Soon it is time to return the ground far below.This lion looks rather annoyed at all the pigeons who are perched all over him.We walk through the Vittorio Emanuele II Galleria which is lined with high fashion designer stores…on our way to the Teatro La Scala where we get to watch a little bit of a rehearsal, and then we visit the Theatre’s museum.The second floor of the museum is dedicated to Maria Callas and displays many of the beautiful costumes she wore while performing.Back to the Duomo for a couple more photos. Here I am in front of part of the incredible front door.The plaza in front of the church is a gathering place for tourists and locals alike.To really appreciate the size of the Milan Duomo you need to see a three-quarter view of the building..Next stop is the Duomo Museum, which has many of the original sculptures from the church.  They are slowly being replaced by copies so that the originals can be preserved.This room was incredible! The brown sculptures are terra cotta studies for marble sculptures.I love gargoyles so I was delighted to get a close up view of these before we leave the museum and head home.We have been exploring for 8 hours today and we are both tired.

The Doge’s Palace, Venice

Day 45, Thursday October 19, 2017

We take the bus into Venice this morning instead of the train, which is a better choice. It is only a short walk to the bus from our apartment in Mestre instead of a 20 minute walk to the train station. Our walk to the Doge’s Palace was interesting. Some of the narrow canals have mirrors to avoid collisions. Check out our reflections.

It is a ‘misty’ morning again.We stumbled across this art show and we were delighted to discover that several  St. Albert artists I know have their work in this exhibit. There is also some interesting modern art on display in gallery windows.One of the churches on our path to the palace had a show of musical instruments. Some were very old and there was also this ancient music book, hand written on vellum.It wouldn’t be Venice without gondoliers on the canals.I saw some marbled paper for sale, but it wasn’t anything exceptional.  My marbled papered and the paper my friends make is at least as nice and take a look at these prices!
While we were having our lunch we saw this bride and groom hurrying by.  It doesn’t look very romantic to me, and the bride had to hold her skirt up so it wouldn’t get dirty.The Doge’s Palace was the official residence of Venice’s rulers and was founded in the 9th Century. This is the interior courtyard. It is a very impressive building but we were not prepared for the over the top magnificence of the interior.  


We start our tour by climbing the Golden Staircase, which is named for all the gold on its ceiling.We walked from room to room, each more ornate than the one before.The painting on the end wall is Paradise by Tintoretto and there are more than 500 figures represented. It is in the Sal del Maggior Consiglio, which is the largest room in Europe with a ceiling that is not supported by pillars.Can you see me?  This is a very big room!There is a museum here with over 2,000 weapons. I have a bit of a hard time with these displays. I wonder how many innocent people were killed with these swords and other weapons?
This is a weird view of the courtyard through the very old hand blown glass in the windows.We cross the bridge which connects the palace to the prison in the building beside it. There are two windows here where the prisoner’s would have their last views of the outside world. They were said to have sighed in despair and so the bridge was named the Bridge of Sighs.  This was their view, and mine today.

The prison cells are dark, cold and cramped with small heavy barred doors. Most of the cells have no outside light at all. Some of the cells still have the prisoner’s graffiti on the walls. I can only imagine the despair they felt being locked up in such a place.Back to the palace and our tour is almost over.  Just a few more photos.I like the whimsical lion over the doorway at the head of these stairs.On our way back to the bus I can’t resist taking a more pictures the canals.  I so hope the sun comes out at least for a day so I can get pictures with more light. The buildings are so old, with their patina of age, rust and peeling paint but somehow it just makes them even more appealing.



 

Lokrum Island

Today has two posts as I am catching up on our last day in Croatia and our first full day in Italy.

Day 40, Saturday October 14, 2017

When we arrived in the old town of Dubrovnik we were greeted by a marching band.First stop is Fort Revelin, a fortress that was built in 1462 outside the city walls to help protect Dubrovnik. The ground floor is the Dubrovnik Archaeological Museum which isn’t very big, just a  few smallish rooms, so it doesn’t take us long to see everything.On our way to the port I need to take a few more photos of Dubrovnik’s fantastic old buildings. There is just so much to see here.Here is a different view of the old town as we travel on the ferry to Lokrum Island, and yes, the water is really that blue!First stop on the island is the Benedictine Monastery complex, from the 15th Century where there is an authentic replica of the Iron Throne which was donated by the Game of Thrones. This photo makes me think of a quote on a card a friend gave me years ago. “Inside every woman is a queen, speak to the queen and she will answer!” There is a small museum here with some interesting videos about the filming of the series and a map of all the Croatian filming locations. 

The cloister of the Benedictine Monastery.We find a bench in the gardens for our lunch but need to share our food with the local peacocks and bunnies. I have never seen young peacocks before, and now here they are eating out of my hand!  They do like rice cakes. I don’t know how all the rabbits found their way here but there are lots of them everywhere,A walk along the shore takes us to these strange rock formations which are a favourite place for sun bathing and swimming.We walk across this natural stone bridge, rather carefully as it wasn’t terribly wide.The well of Charlotte, an oval stone pool, was once used for bathing  and perhaps for watering exotic plants but it is now all dried up. It looked like a site for secret ceremonies, accompanied by strange creatures.The Dead Sea, is a little salt water filled lake linked to the open sea.On our way to Fort Royal which is on the highest point of the island we pass some of these flowering yuccas and …
a tree that needed a hug.This photo of the Path of Paradise, or the Celestial Way, doesn’t really show how steep it is, but it is a very long uphill path to Fort Royale, also known as the Tower of Maximilian. Those are people way down at the bottom and we are still only about two thirds of the way to the top.The view from the top is worth the climb.  Those rocks people sunbathe on are way down  on the part of the island that sticks out into the sea.That is Dubrovnik in the distance and…Here is a close up of the old walled town and the walls we walked on…and here is the tower. I was surprised that we are able to go inside, and we both had a laugh when we saw the toilets which are on the top of the tower.Does anyone know what these fruits are?  They are about the size of a large cherry.There are peacocks everywhere on the island. They were imported from the Canary Islands about 150 years ago.The Botanical gardens were the location of the City of Qarth in the Game of Thrones but many of the plantings were damaged last winter by cold weather and high winds and it looks pretty sad now. Only the bigger sturdier plants seemed to have survived. It was actually a very disappointing botanical garden.Soon it is time to return to Dubrovnik. No one is allowed to spend the night on the island because it was cursed by Benedictine monks who were forced to leave the island  by a French Army General. They spent their last night there walking three times around the island with candles carried upside down so that the molten wax left a trail. As they walked they chanted “Whosoever claims Lokrum for his own personal pleasure shall be damned!” At dawn they left and the curse did its work. Every new owner of the island suffered misfortune of some kind including death, murder, bankruptcy, earthquakes, and shipwrecks. As we return to Dubrovnik we see lots of  boats heading out of the harbour.Here we are walking towards the entrance to the walled city…and we pass through the gate with its massive doors one last time. Although we spent a week here we could easily have spent even more time in this enchanting city.