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!

Rijk Museum and Travelling Challenges

We spent more than six hours at the Rijk Museum today and although we didn’t see everything we did manage to see lots of fantastic art.  Image 2017-09-12 at 11.12 PMWe saw some of my favourites. It is always exciting to see, in person, paintings that I have admired in books for years…and I found some new favourites.  There were so many great Dutch artists that I have never seen before.This is the Gallery of Honour and at the far end is Rembrandt’s Night Watch.  Both Bob and I remember this painting from our last visit to the Rijk Museum over forty years ago.

Bob had downloaded a museum app so we had a bit of a treasure hunt following their 90 minute guide to see what the museum considered their top works of art. It was a bit of a whirlwind trip through the museum and we retreated to the gardens outside to have our lunch. Bob also had a little cat nap…DSC08917and I checked out the playful fountain.
Any idea what all these doors are?  Check at the end of the post for the answer.The museum is a nice mix of paintings, sculptures, furniture and other historical objects. I always like to look in the museum shops although I seldom buy much.  This book was pretty amazing though. The white gloves at the top of the page give an idea of its size, and only a bit more than €6,000!On the way home we are surprised at how few cars are on the roads.  It is after 5:30 and everyone is coming home from work, but so many people ride bikes that there just aren’t that many cars on the roads.But there are so many cyclists, of all ages.  Notice that no one wears helmets. Parents often carry two children on their bikes, one in front and one behind. I also saw several children standing up on a carrying rack above the back tire, holding on to their parent’s shoulders!  I tried to get photo of this but they fly by so quickly I wasn’t able to get one.  Now that didn’t look at all safe to me.Here are some more parents with babies in front. No helmets anywhere to be seen. So different from home.  Even the motorcyclists here go bare headed.

When we get home there is an email waiting for us that KLM has cancelled our flight tomorrow. Bob thought I was joking when I told him about it.  I don’t know what is going on but that is the second flight that we have had cancelled this trip and we have only been gone a week! Apparently there is a big wind storm expected tomorrow so they cancelled all their flights.  After a rather stressful three hours on the phone we manage to get rebooked but not until Thursday, so we have to stay another night here in Amsterdam and we lose one of our days in Zagreb, Croatia, which is our next stop.Too bad but that is the way it is.  We were lucky though as our current Airbnb host says that we can stay here one more night so we didn’t have to try to find somewhere else to stay.

Answer to the earlier question about the hallway of doors.

It is the women’s washroom.

 

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.

Wandering through Amsterdam


Saturday, September 9, 2017

The rain kept us home until after lunch, but when the sun finally peeked out we took a tram towards the museum district.  We had packed a picnic lunch so we sat in the sunshine near the Rijk Museum, people watching as we ate.  Seems like everyone was trying to get their photo taken on the ‘I am Amsterdam’ sign, but we passed right on by. I wasn’t sure I could manage to climb onto one of those letters.We wandered through the Rijk Museum gardens, admiring these great Dubuffet sculptures…before heading towards the Bloemenmarkt, or the Flower Market, which was our next stop. I couldn’t believe how many bulbs were for sale and some of them were absolutely enormous.   Right beside the Flower Market there were several cheese shops, which had samples for tasting. We tried several and they were all delicious so we bought a little pack  of several different cheeses for snacking later.I wasn’t joking when I said there are more bikes than cars. Here’s a view of the sidewalk near an intersection.  This is a normal sight, the sidewalks everywhere have rows and rows of bikes parked on them. Sometimes there is barely room to walk!
This is the view from one of the bridges over a canal. we are surprised at how long some of the houseboats are.  Most of the canals are lined with these houseboats, which are permanently parked and hooked up to water, sewer and electricity. Strangely, we never saw anyone actually on one of these houseboats.  Maybe they were hiding from all the tourists?We spent a couple pleasant hours walking up and down the side streets and canal streets, mostly just window shopping but we did pop into a shop or two, including this antique shop which was huge and packed with all sorts of interesting items.I couldn’t resist a photo into this shop, everything was piled all over. It was quite a jumbled mess.
Do you notice anything strange about this street of houses?

On our way towards the train station we stumbled upon Dam Square, a popular gathering place. There were people sitting, and walking everywhere, there were also cars, trams, horses and buggies, and little rickshaw vehicles being pulled by bikes, In other words, complete chaos! Sure was interesting people watching though.

This is the view looking back towards where we were sitting when I took the first photo from right beside the monument. Oh, and just a few more bikes.  Did I say they are parked everywhere?We decided to take a canal boat ride, so we spent an hour actually on the canals looking at all the buildings from another viewpoint. The tour also took us out into the harbour which was interesting.  It was just getting dark as our boat ride ended.We were both rather tired so we caught our tram home about 9:00 pm.

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

Friday, December 4, 2015

Bob isn’t sure he wants to visit yet another church but I insist that we visit Antoni Guadi’s Sagrada Familia. This basilica is so huge it is really difficult to get a good photo.  These photos are from the Wikipedia information of the Sagrada Familia. This is the Passion Façade…800px-Barcelona_Temple_Expiatori_de_la_Sagrada_Fam_lia_(2050445207)…and here is the Nativity Façade. We purchased our tickets yesterday so we won’t have to wait in line, but we arrive a bit early so we walk around the exterior of the Cathedral until it is time for our entry.  I must warn you that I took 458 photos today!!  I am doing my best to only pick a few for today’s post but it is a difficult job.  The first stone was laid for this church in 1882 and it is scheduled to be completed in 2026!  Construction is now funded by the tourists who come to visit.1280px-Sagfampassion

Here are only a few of the sculptural details we saw as we walked around the church.Image-1There is so much history and information about this amazing church. This Sagrada Familia site has lots of information. The ‘History and Architecture’ and ‘The Basilica’ sections are presented in a simple format with lots of great pictures. The ‘Symbolic Visit’ in the Basilica Section gives great close up photos of the façade with brief descriptions and be sure to check out what the Sagrada Familia will look like when it is finally finished.

We arrived late morning, entering through the Passion Facade and the sun was shining through the green, blue and purple stained glass windows on the East side of the Church.  Our first view inside the Sagrada Familia was breathtaking. FullSizeRender

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We had booked a time to climb up the Nativity Tower so that was our first priority. There is an elevator up to the top of the tower which gave wonderful views of some of the other towers… Image-1

…and the City of Barcelona. When Gaudi was asked why he lavished so much care on the tops of the spires, where they are not easily seen, he answered: ‘The angels will see them.’Image-1

We had a choice of taking the elevator or the stone staircase down. So, of course we chose the staircase! At first the stairs spiral around the open centre of the tower but then they change into a narrow spiral staircase of 370 stone steps!Image-1

We find a place outside to eat our lunch and then visit the museum in the basement before continuing our visit inside the church.  This was an excellent decision as we learned so much about the construction and history of this incredible building. There were many working models ranging from small to very large.  Can you spot me in the reflection?Image-1

Models continue to be built and used daily as the church is still under construction. There were people on the scaffolding working on this one earlier.FullSizeRender_4Back upstairs and the sun has now moved around to the west side and it spills into the church in a riot of colour.  These photos have not been colour enhanced, and they do not even begin to compare with actually standing in the church and being bathed in a rainbow of colour.FullSizeRender_4FullSizeRender_5The pillars are meant to look like trees in a forest and the light to appear like dappled sunlight, but it is so much more than just that.FullSizeRender FullSizeRender_5

Looking up, there is so much to see here wherever we look.FullSizeRender_4

This view looks down the main aisle to the altar.  FullSizeRender_3 FullSizeRender_2

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The ceiling is not to be believed, and..Image-1

the doors are incredible too.  These are the Nativity Façade doors…Image-1

and the Passion Façade doors.Image-1We spent the entire day here, only leaving once it was starting to get dark outside.  I wanted to see the church with its inside lights on, but it was not nearly as spectacular as it was with the sun streaming through the stained glass windows.  I feel a bit sorry for all the people who are only now entering the church for their visit.  Although it is still very beautiful, they will never know what they have missed. Compare these photos with similar ones taken when the sun is shining. FullSizeRenderFullSizeRender

This model of the Sagrada Familia shows the finished views from all sides.  It is scheduled to be completed in 2026 and we would love to be able to return to Barcelona to see it in all its splendour. Who knows?Image-1

If you didn’t see this on the Sagrada Familia link provided earlier, you really must take a couple minutes to watch this video to see a computer simulation of the Sagrada Familia when all its towers are completed in 2026. It is phenomenal!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Los Alcázares

 

Wednesday November 25

Guess whose birthday it is today? DSC01421 - Version 2

We had a lovely leisurely day walking along the beach.  There aren’t many people here this time of the year so we had the beach pretty much to ourselves.DSC01433 - Version 2We did see a rather interesting sculpture on the beach but had no idea what it was supposed to represent.DSC01431After a long walk, we stopped at the far end of the beach for tea and tapas on the patio of an old hotel overlooking the ocean. Perhaps we could get used to this!DSC01428

On the way home we checked out local restaurants for a birthday dinner, but when we went back in the evening we discovered that the restaurants were closed for the season. We had checked out the menus posted outside but hadn’t noticed the closed signs on the doors so we headed back to our apartment for a home cooked birthday dinner. I had some pastries and candles for Bob’s birthday dessert but forgot all about matches…so he had to pretend to blow out his candles and make a wish.

One final birthday gift, the prettiest sunset we have seen yet on this trip.DSC01436

Cartagena, Spain

Wednesday, November 24, 2015

Cartagena was founded in 223 B.C. and was conquered by the Romans in 209 B.C.  It is just a half hour south of where we are staying.

The Ayuntamiento, or Town Hall of Cartagena is a beautiful marble building on the main street.DSC01301

The Naval Museum nearby was free and an interesting place to visit.  Both of us were impressed with the scale model ships, especially this huge one of an 18th century ship from the Royal Armada.
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This huge anchor was just begging to have its picture taken.DSC01395

The Zulo Sculpture by Victor Ochao is a very powerful memorial to victims of terrorism.  It is over 16 feet tall and weighs over two tons.  Very impressive.DSC01393We sat and had lunch on this bench overlooking the harbour before we continued exploring the city…DSC01411

but not before I took a moment for this photo. FullSizeRender

Part of the afternoon was spent exploring the Museum of the Roman Theatre of Cartagena.  The museum’s entrance is in a building near the Town Hall and is connected by a tunnel to this Roman theatre built in the 1st Century by Emperor Augustus.

Click here to see a video and virtual reality tour of the Theatre and Museum, as well as more information about the archaeological excavation of the theatre.FullSizeRender_2An aerial view shows where the theatre is located in relation to the theatre and gives a good indication of just how large it is.  The tunnel went from the building at the bottom of the picture, under the ruins of the Old Cathedral of Santa María la Vieja  into the theatre.FullSizeRender_4This photo showed what the theatre looked like before excavations were started in 1988.  The arched doorway of the Old Cathedral is visible in the before and after excavation photos. A lot of buildings were built over the seating area of the theatre and all of these were removed as excavations continued.FullSizeRender

FullSizeRender_4FullSizeRender_2There are a lot of buildings near the theatre that are under re-construction. It seems that the old façades are being kept but we aren’t sure what will be built behind them.Image-1

Conception Castle is a 12th Century fortress on top of the highest of the five hills in Cartagena. This fortress has been a Roman Temple, a Muslim Citadel , a medieval castle and during the Civil War it held the sirens that warned the city’s population of bombings. We climbed the hill to the Castle and were rewarded with amazing panoramic views of Cartagena,DSC01376 the port…FullSizeRender_3

and the old bull fighting arena. We had parked our car way down there!FullSizeRender_3A young man from the Philippines asked us to take his photo and then he took this one for us, as well as several more of us for himself as a ‘souvenir’. I thought I took lots of pictures but he sure had me beat!  FullSizeRender_5

One of the exhibits inside the fortress were several dioramas with these little animated computer generated figures that walked and interacted with each other.  I found them quite fascinating.FullSizeRender_2

On our way back to the car we pass this building which incorporated a very old building and a very new building.FullSizeRender_2  We saw some interesting graffiti, FullSizeRenderthis statue of of Cristóbal Colón, which is Spanish for Christopher Columbus,FullSizeRender_4and a rather clever sign for a coffee shop.FullSizeRender_3

Seville Cathedral and La Giralda

Friday November 6

The Seville Cathedral is the largest Gothic Cathedral in the world, the third largest Church in the world and has the largest, richest alter in the world! The sculpture in the courtyard is the bronze weathervane (giraldillo) portraying Faith that used to be on top of the tower, and from which the tower gets its name.  A replica replaces it on top of the tower.imageJust inside the door is an arial picture of the Cathedral which gives an idea of its immense size, and we are going to visit all of it!
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This link has some great pictures and easy to read information on the Cathedral.  Take a look, I think it is quite interesting (and it saves me lots of writing!)    http://www.sacred-destinations.com/spain/seville-cathedral

We enter the Cathedral and simply stand in awe.  It is hard to describe the feeling we have being in such a place.  The light is wonderful as there are three rows of stained glass windows, and the sun streams in casting jewels of colour over the immense stone columns. Interestingly I think that black and white photos capture the feeling of being in the Cathedral better than coloured photos.

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The organ here is enormous, perhaps the biggest we have seen and there are two parts to it, across from each other in the choir. These two pictures show the organ from the left and the right, this set up means that the pipes are visible on the front and back of each part of the organ.

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Here is one of the many beautiful stained glass windows.  I believe this one was from 1479.

imageThe Chapter House dome is elliptical and was built in the 1500’s.  It is perhaps the first elliptical dome ever built and I thought it was particularly beautiful.imageI read that the cathedral has 80 chapels, in which 500 masses were said daily in 1896. The altar is quite unbelievable.  It is carved in wood, covered in gold, and is 20 meters tall with 45 carved, polychromed biblical scenes.

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Christopher Columbus has a tomb here although other places also claim to have his remains. DNA testing is being carried out to determine if it is indeed Christopher Columbus who is interred here.

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Next we climb La Giralda, the belltower, which has 35 ramps which are wide enough so that two guards on horseback were able to climb to the top of the tower.  This link has more info on the Tower if you are interested

http://www.sacred-destinations.com/spain/seville-giralda

The views from the belltower make the climb very worthwhile. I have decided I like Belltowers very much.image image imageAfter our visit we make our way back to the tram to take us home.  The ice cream is displayed very attractively, we decide we will have to try some tomorrow.  I found a place that has sorbet, all natural ingredients, and no milk!imageOne last view of the tower.  The top level with the bells is where we stood.image

 

Sintra, Portugal

Saturday, October 24

Today we visit Sintra, a beautiful town in the foothills of Portugal’s Sintra Mountains, near Lisbon.  It is about a half hour car and train ride for us from our Caxias apartment. The Sintra National Palace is easily identified by its large twin chimneys.imageIt is about a half hour walk from the train station to the palace, in the drizzling rain.  I stop to visit with this cute little fellow. There are numerous statues all along the curving uphill walk to the palace.image

The palace is spectacular and one of its main features are the ceilings.  They are all ornately decorated.  This is the ceiling of the Swan Room, decorated with 27′ swans in different poses.image

The Magpie Room celebrates one of my favourite birds.  It dates back to the 15th Century and it has136 magpies, each holding the king’s banner in its beak and a white rose in its claws.

image  Bob liked the Galley Room whose domed ceiling is covered with 17th and 18th century seascapes and vessels of the naval  powers of the time, the Ottomans, Dutch, and Portuguese.image

The Blazons Hall ceiling has the Portuguese Royal Arms, the coats of arms of the eight children of King Manuel I and the coats of arms of the 72 most influential families of the kingdom.  The walls are covered with beautiful blue and white tiled scenes.  It is a stunning room.

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We spent about two hours in the palace and then found a quiet little reading room where we had a rest and ate our lunch.  It was raining so we weren’t in a rush to get back outside, but eventually we explore some of the streets and shops before our walk to the train.

Some of the shops are very small, like this one, which was only about four feet wide…image  and the streets are very narrow.image

Back at the train station parking lot I notice this wall of street art/graffiti.  It is much nicer than most of the graffiti we have seen and we have seen a lot of it.  Unfortunately most of it is pretty ugly and it is often defacing private property.imageThese morning glory vines are growing  on a wall near our Caxias apartment.  The ones we plant at home never grow anywhere near as wonderfully as these.image

Cascais and the Casino

Friday October 23

We drove to Cascais today, a town about a half hour west of where we are staying near Lisbon. We walked along the pedestrian streets and visited a few shops, but no purchases.  Everything I like is either too expensive or too big or fragile to get home.  The cobblestone street was a bit disorienting as it created a bit of an optical illusion.imageThere were some people on the beach making sand sculptures to earn a bit of money.imageWe walked down along the docks past the fishing boat area and then through the Cascais Marina, which were both in the shadow of ancient fortress walls.
image  The view from the Marina back towards town.imageWe passed this interesting house, or maybe a small castle? on our walk towards the Boca de Inferno.imageBoca de Inferno, or Hell’s Mouth, is an interesting cliff formation about a forty minute walk from Cascais.The pounding of the Atlantic Ocean on the cliffs chiseled out a small cave, which then collapsed. There is a walkway so it is visible from both sides.image image imageBob wanted me to take this picture, he said it reminded him of a jigsaw puzzle.imageThe fortress walls I mentioned earlier now house a hotel and a bunch of artist studios, which unfortunately were all closed, but this quaint little bookstore was open.imageIt was full of interesting things, including this unique piece of furniture, made of all sorts of recycled bits of wood.  My nephew in Portland has started woodworking and has buit some beautiful pieces. I thought he might like to see this.image

The courtyard also had a few different sculptures, including these giant binoculars.

imageWe walk back above the dock with all the fishing paraphernalia that we walked by earlier.imageWe found a nice bit of beach and spent an hour or so just relaxing, watching the waves and the people.imageOn the way home we stop at a Casino in Estoril.  It is supposed to be the biggest Casino in Europe, but we are only able to find half a floor of slot machines on the main floor, and the gaming tables are closed.  Our casinos at home seem bigger than this one…We spent a couple of hours, won some and lost some and in the end it cost us 10€. 
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