English Park, Munich

Day 55, Saturday, October 19, 2019

Bob is doing fantastic job finding things for us to see and do and organizing our days.  I just tag along, enjoying what he has planned.  It is supposed to be warm today so we pack a picnic lunch and make our way slowly towards English Garden.

First stop is the Church of The Holy Spirit.  Bob announces that it is decorated for Halloween, but no, it is decorated for a light art video installation and these are angel wings. We see lots of people carrying home these little pots of colourful heather from the street market. There are lots of people enjoying the day, and drinking  lots of beer, even though it isn’t that warm. I quite like this gaggle of geese but they are just a bit to big to fit into my suitcase! There are many charming small fountains in Munich, like this one of Ida Shumacker, a Bavarian actress and comedian who died in 1956.

Another little fountain and more people enjoying the afternoon. These colourful flowers are artichokes.  I had no idea they looked like this when they bloom! There are lots of flower and dried flower stands.  We pop into one of Munich’s beer gardens but it is cool today so there aren’t many people. I am sure it was a different story just a few weeks ago during Oktoberfest.  We were originally going to be in Munich during Oktoberfest but quickly changed our plans when we realized that.  More than six million people descend on Munich to drink beer and party…not anyplace we want to be! This house looks like it will soon be completely covered in ivy!

The Feldherrnhalle, or Field Marshall’s Hall, is where Hitler and his supporters fought with the police in 1923 during the Beer Hall Putsch.  Putsch means coup in German and the coup march began at a beer hall. 16 of Hitlers supporters were killed along with 4 policemen, and Hitler was arrested and sent to prison.
Another church!  The Theatine Church is all intricately carved white stone.
Here is a close up of some of the carving.  Notice all the little angels on the columns. We are almost at the English Gardens, when we decide to stop and have our lunch near this pavilion instead.  We listen to the violinist and watch this couple taking their wedding photos.By the time we finish our lunch it has warmed up and the sun is peeking through the clouds.  We continue on to the English Garden.  This is an enormous park created in 1789 in the style of an English country park, hence the name.

There are 78 km of paths so we only see a bit of the southern part of the park, which stretches all the way to the edge of the city!  The trees are huge. We climb up to the Monopteros, which was added to the park, along with the hill, in 1836.  There are some views of the city from the Monopteros. People play soccer, ride bikes, jog, picnic and even horse back ride in this park.  I wish it had a few more benches!  These geese like the park too.
On our way back to the metro we stop at yet another church.  St. Ludwig is another venue for the Angels installation I mentioned earlier.  Maybe we will be able to come back one evening and see it. St. Ludwig is home to the second largest altar fresco in the world. The large fresco of the Last Judgement (1836-1840), by the German painter Peter von Cornelius, measures almost 19 metres by 11.5 metres!  There is a service taking place so we are not able to get a close up look at this enormous fresco. Just before we catch the metro home we stop to visit this library.  The poster outside looks pretty grand…but other than the grand staircase, the inside is a bit of a disappointment.  Lots of study cubicles and hardly any books!  As in the library we visited in Berlin, no coats, laptop cases, backpacks or purses are allowed into the library and anything you do take in must be in a clear plastic bag.  Seems strange to me.

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.

St. Florian Monastery, Austria

Day 45, Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Time to move on to our next destination.  I took this picture because I know my mom will recognize the pot with blue designs beside the flowers.  She has one just like it.

Bob closes the door as we leave.  It is hard to see, but the picture on the wall is of the two old aunties who used to live here. I was going to take a close up of it and somehow forgot.
On the way to say goodbye to my friends the sheep I snapped a few more photos of the farm buildings.  There were certainly lots of interesting things to see here. Only the young fellow destined for the table came up to see me today.  The other two were playing shy. This shows how long the front of the house is.  The attic full of stuff ran almost the whole length of it.  On the far end was the smaller attic above the two bedrooms in the auntie’s house. Part of the route to St. Florian Monastery, which is our next stop, is a very narrow road through some woods.
The monastery is very large.  The stretch of red roof from the church to the front corner is 200 metres long.  It covers a corridor that runs its length. This is the fountain in the middle of the large courtyard. I am so excited…we actually get to go into a library.  This library has 150,000 books, 35,000 of which are in this one room. They are mainly books on Religion and History. You can see the bookcase door that opens to another room.  The spiral staircase to the second floor is in that room.  There are many more rooms full of books but we only get to visit this one.  We are told that this library is available for the public to use.  Wish I lived closer! I love the library ‘ladders’ used ot reach books on high shelves.  Heck, I pretty much love everything about this library! Later on during the tour we see this photo of Adolph Hiltler standing in the same place we had just stood.  It is a strange thought…that we were someplace that he was.Of course this library also has a magnificent ceiling.
Next we visit the Marble Ballroom which represents the colours of the Habsburg Monarchy, red, white and yellow. This is why I end up with a sore neck after sightseeing! Our guide pointed out some of the many fossils that are in the marble on the floors and walls.  I never thought of marble as being a stone the came from ancient oceans. The big ammonite was on the fireplace hearth, notice the toe of a shoe in the corner for scale. One of the many very ornate carved wooden doors in the monastery. The Monastery church is grand.  Lots of carved white stone and dark carved woodwork. The altar is decorated with bouquets of sunflowers. We have never seen drapery carved in stone in a church before.  Everything in this church looks so very well preserved, there are no broken or dirty bits.  In fact everywhere in this monastery is very well taken care of.  We wonder where the money to maintain a place this large comes from.  The church organ was built in 1774 and it is one of the largest working organs in Austria.  It is known as the Bruckner Organ as it was played by composer and organist Anton Bruckner. He had been a choir boy at the monastery, and he was the church organist, between 1848 and 1855. I do not know much about classical music so did not know anything about Anton Bruckner. He was a famous Austrian composer, organist, and music theorist best known for his symphonies and masses. On the floor directly below the organ is a memorial plaque and …in the crypt directly below this plaque is his sarcophagus.  His wish was to be buried here at St. Florian Monastery even though he lived and died in Vienna. Yes, those are bones behind the sarcophagus, the bones of over 6,000 people, dating back to the 4th century.  It is thought that the bones of St. Florian could possibly be in here.  A few more pictures of the 700 year old crypt which is still used today as a burial place for the monastery monks. The windows open to outside, there is no glass.  I wonder if this was so decomposing bodies were ventilated?We visit twelve guest rooms in the monastery.  These rooms have not been used since the mid 18th century and have been preserved as a museum.  These elaborately decorated rooms were reserved for royalty who might visit the monastery.  These doorways connect all the rooms. The red bedroom was reserved for Pope Pius VI, although he only spent one night here. The walls and chairs in this room are covered in matching tapestries.  There is a big masonry stove in each of these rooms.Each room is lavishly decorated.  The last two rooms are a shrine to Anton Bruckner. The photo shows him in his bed in his Vienna apartment.  He died in this bed, which is now on display here along with his other furniture.Remember those big masonry stoves in the royal apartments?  These metal doors in the hallway open to the inside of the stoves.  This is how the fires in the stoves were cared for by servants without bothering the apartment occupants. There are thirty monks at this monastery.  Only thirteen live here full time, the rest live in neighbouring parishes.  Over the last 950 years the monastery had 108 monks at its peak and only three at its lowest.  I am told that thirty monks is quite good ‘these days’.  There is one young monk, several in their fifties and sixties and the rest are older.  We see this monk as we are leaving and assume he is the one young one. The cemetery beside the church is the prettiest, most well cared for one we have ever visited. As we drive towards Salzburg we pass several huge piles of sugar beets in the fields.  Austria grows more than 3 million tonnes of sugar beets every year. Finally we find a safe place to pull off the road so I can get a photo of one of the fields of pumpkins we have seen along the way. We make a quick stop at Kremsmunster Monastery but it can only be visited by guided tours and we don’t have time.  The church is open and it is the only one we have seen that has tapestries wrapped around its pillars.Back on the road, from a distance, I thought this was another field of pumpkins or maybe squash, but they are sunflowers. Good thing the sun wasn’t shining or I would have wanted to stay much longer and take many more photos.  What a beautiful sight it was to see so many gorgeous sunflowers.

 

 

Strahov Monastery, Prague

Day 37, Tuesday, October 1, 2019

On the way to the Strahov Monastery we pass this memorial to the victims fo Communism.  It is dedicated to those who were executed and those whose lives were ruined by totalitarian despotism.  This sculpture makes us smile.  It appears to have a dog drinking dish at its bottom. Peering into a church courtyard we see this crucifix right beside a gift shop.  It seems strange to have an upscale gift shop in a church courtyard. Bob leads us down several little side streets to the John Lennon Wall.  Since the 1980s it has been filled with John Lennon-inspired graffiti, pieces of lyrics from Beatles’ songs, and other designs relating to local and global causes.We stop for a picnic lunch in this little park beside St. Charles Bridge… and sit on a dragon bench.
The streets in Prague are busy no matter where we go.  We wonder what they must be like during the summer months? It showers on and off as we arrive at the monastery.  Note the cobbled road.  All these uneven cobbled surfaces are quite hard on our feet and ankles. The Strahov Monastery was founded in 1143 and has many buildings and extensive gardens. First stop is the Strahov Library and I am delighted to find that there is an exhibit of Cabinets of Curiosities!  I love these cabinets and have several drawers at home with my own curiosities.  Perhaps I need to make my own Cabinet of Curiosities? Some of the contents are rather strange. We are told that this ‘might’ be a young dodo bird! These books are very unusual. This is a 68 volume Dendrological Library.  Dendrology is the science and study of wooded plants.  The covers of each volume are made of the wood of a particular tree, the spine has its name in Latin and German, and inside each volume are pieces of the roots, branches and twigs, as well as leaves, blossoms, fruit, and sometimes even insect pests.  As a paper artist and bookmaker, I find these unusual volumes fascinating and inspiring. Along the hallway between two magnificent libraries are display cases with very old volumes.  This 1632 woodcut first appeared in a compilation of English Alchemical texts.  This piece was printed by hand on Japanese hand made paper and the pass-partout, or mat, is covered in handmade marbled paper.   The John of Šellmberk’s Bible preserves the oldest translation of the Bible into the Czech language and dates from the 1400’s.  Notice how thick the volume is! This exquisite miniature book from the 15th century is only about 3″ x 4″ and would have belonged to a private citizen. A page from the Missale of Louka, 1483, illuminations from the Strahov Evangeliary, 860-865 AD and on the bottom right, a book for private use from the 15th century. The Theological Hall was built in the 1600’s and holds over 20,000 volumes. One whole wall is filled with various editions of the Bible, or its parts, in various languages. The ceiling depicts the life of the librarian.The Gothic wooden statue of St. John the Evangelist is holding a girdle book. Because the girdle book was a travel volume very few have survived.
There are several globes, both terrestrial and astronomical, in the centre of the room and the interesting device on the left is a book wheel from 1678 for the study and compilation of books.  The gear inside enabled the shelves to remain at the same angle when they are turned so that the books would not slide off the shelves. As magnificent as the Theological Hall is I think that the Philosophical Hall is even more impressive. This library, finished in 1794, is 32 metres long, 10 metres wide and 14 metres in height.  The ceiling painting, ‘The Spiritual Development of Mankind’, was created by a Viennese artist, and one assistant in just six months! The shelves of books in the gallery are only accessible from hidden spiral staircases in both corners, masked by false book spines.
The books are shelved two deep. At one time tourists were allowed to walk through the library but this caused too much humidity and put the paintings and volumes at risk.  Now we have to contend ourselves with peering in from the doorway.  Too bad but it is still wonderful to see these incredible libraries.The Philosophical Hall contains more than 50,000 volumes on Philosophy, all the sciences, history, law, and natural sciences. Next we visit the Convent Building which has galleries on two floors around this cloister with its unusual trapezoid pool.There is an exhibit of large restored paintings depicting the life of St. Norbert but they were difficult to see.  My neck got sore from looking up all the time. The ‘procession’ at the end of the room holds a reliquary with what appears to be part of St. Norbert’s skull. Another room has exhibits of beautifully embroidered church vestments and other liturgical objects including heavily jewelled monstrances. It does make me wonder just how much money the Catholic Church has? The second floor has a gallery around three sides of the cloister.   There were a few paintings I liked but most of them didn’t really impress either of us all that much. Bob notices another ornate old lock. As we leave the monastery grounds on our way to the Prague Funicular, we pass the 63.5 metre high Petrin Tower, which is reminiscent of the Eiffel Tower.  This tower was built in 1891, and is used as an observation tower as well as a transmission tower. The 383 metre long funicular takes us back down to Prague city streets. I didn’t get much of a view because some young people kindly jumped up to give me a seat, so instead of standing where I could see I sat all the way down!  The hazards of having grey hair! It has been a full day and we are happy to be home.  I had planned on going to life drawing again tonight, but we need to clean and pack for our trip to Vienna tomorrow so I decide not to go.

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?

The Wieliczka Salt Mines In Krakow, Poland

Day 6, Saturday, August 31, 2019

We had a quiet day today.  I rested and did some blogging and Bob checked out the train station and where to buy groceries.  He had a great idea, to use our empty carry on suitcase to haul our groceries. So mush easier than carrying heavy bags.

Day 7, Sunday, September 1, 2019

The Wieliczka Salt Mining Tour is on the agenda for today.  It is a twenty minute drive and we arrive early so we sit in a nearby park where it is cooler until it is time for our tour.  It is going to be 31° today, so going into a mine where the temperature is a constant 17° seems like a good idea. Immediately upon entering the mine we descend 54 flights of stairs, 380 steps down to the first level of the mine which is 64 meters deep. This photo is looking down the crack between the flights of stairs…and we were already almost halfway down when I took this! There are dioramas showing some of  the old mining techniques and machinery. These men are lifting ‘salt logs’ which weighed between 200 kg and 2 tonnes. The first shaft was sunk in 1280 and salt is still mined here today. The salt was formed 13 million years ago by an inland sea. The salt preserves the logs that are used for reinforcement. These are newer ones but we see others that are hundreds of years old. These sculptures are carved out of salt by the miners in the 20th century. These figures illustrate the legend of how the salt mines were discovered in Poland. Horses were used in the mines from the 16th century until 2002. Up to 350 horses worked and spent their whole lives underground. Interestingly, they did not go blind being in the darkness most of their lives. These horses operated a machine that moved the salt logs from one level to another. There are nine levels and 2 km of shafts and tunnels but we only visit about 1% of the mine. There are white seams of almost pure salt in some places.  Most of the salt mined was between 80-90% pure.  There are some strange creatures living in this mine. Stairs go down and down and down…there are 800 steps that we descend in all! Apparently gnomes make good miners! Looking down one of the long tunnels that we are not allowed to enter. Wow! This is St. Kinga’s Chapel. It is entirely constructed from the salt in the mine. Most of the stairs on our route are made of wood, but these two staircases we walk down are made of salt.The miners built over 40 chapels In the mine. It was very dangerous work so they would pray before their shift that they would be safe and then they would offer thanks before they went home. This representation of da Vinci’s last Supper is carved in salt, as are…  all the sculptures… the main altar. Even the chandeliers are made of salt crystals!

The floor looks like stone but is salt worn smooth by the millions of visitors to the mine.

An underground lake with scaffolding and stairs high above.

Another of the mine’s inhabitants!  This guy is a bit scarier than the little fellow we saw earlier:) This chamber connects the two levels of the mine and is 35 m. high. Because the roof is so high it needed to be strongly reinforced with all these high timbers. Another underground brine lake. The water in these lakes is 33% salt. Ocean water is only 3% salt. Luckily we do not climb this set of stairs! They disappear in to the darkness at the top of this chamber. One of the many long tunnels we walk through. At one time visitors rode boats through this part of the mine and were treated to a fireworks display 90 meters underground!  Today the mine has over 1.5 million visitors a year so it is impossible to still offer this experience. There is an underground banquet hall and restaurant. Another of the chapels we visited. A close up of the mine walls. We were invited to lick the walls, and taste the salt. We only licked our fingers and then touched the wall so we could taste the salt. I didn’t relish the thought of actually licking the walls!This enormous chamber is 135 meters below ground on the third of nine levels. The entire mine occupies about a 5 km x 5 km area. The ceiling here is 36 meters high and a Guinness World record was set here for an underground hot air balloon flight!

I was hoping to sketch underground but there just wasn’t the time, so I made notes instead, but I did sketch one of the tourists before we went underground.

On our way back to our car, these comical characters caught my eye, but there just isn’t room in my suitcase. 

The Roman Catacombs, Italy

Day 96, Saturday December 9, 2017

We get a wave from a friendly Santa this morning on our way to catch the bus to the catacombs.

We arrive at the San Sebastiano Catacombs only to find this note tacked to the door. Too bad they didn’t bother to update the website. We visited the San Sebastiano Basilica, at least that was open. The remains of Saint Sebastian were at one time buried in the catacombs below the church.

The basilica has a beautiful carved and painted wooden ceiling.We shelter in the entrance of the church and have our lunch then head down the Appian Way to the Villa di Massenzio. We ran out of time to visit here on our last visit to the Appian Way.  This structure was the triumphal entrance gate to the Circus that was on this site. A circus is a Roman chariot racing stadium. In the background is the Tomb of Cecilia Metella that we visited when we walked the Appian Way on Bob’s birthday .
A view of the Circus. There is a tomb here built by Emperor Maxentius. I make like a statue in one of the niches.

Walking back to the San Callisto Catacombs ,which were closed until 2:00, we see this tree being carved outside the San Sebastiano Basilica, which is in the background.Our tour of the San Callisto catacombs is fascinating. Twelve Christians were killed by Roman soldiers in this small chapel known as the Crypt of the Popes as five early popes were buried here.In the 20 km of tunnels spread over 20 acres, archaeologists have found the tombs of 16 early popes, dozens of martyrs and the remains of half a million Christians. No photos were allowed so these are photos of postcards I purchased in the gift shop.

The Crypt of St. Cecilia is the tomb a young woman who was martyred in the 3rd c. because she would not renounce Christianity. When her body was exhumed in 1599, more than a thousand years after her death, it was apparently perfectly preserved, as depicted in this statue.We decide to walk to the Domitilla Catacomb nearby. The catacombs of Domitilla are about 17 kilometers long and extending to a depth of around 30 meters. Our one hour tour only visits the little area highlighted in green at the top of the map.The tombs were carved into the tufa rock which was fairly soft. The oldest tombs are the ones higher up. When there was no more space left, the grave diggers lowered the floor level and put in more tombs.  The different levels are connected with staiways.

No photos are allowed but our guide, who happens to be the Director of the Catacombs, says it is OK if we take a few photos so I take advantage of his offer. Bodies were wrapped in shrouds, placed in the carved niches and then a cover was plastered over the opening of the niche. There are many very small niches as the infant mortality rate was very high. We see some bones in a few of the niches, but most of the bones where tourists visit have been moved because some of the tourists were talking home ‘souvenirs’.Our tour began and ended in this Basilica that was built at the end of the 4th century AD above the tomb of two martyrs, Nereus and Achilleus. Most of this Basilica is underground.  The top of a ventilation shaft is just visible in one of the fields above the catacombs.

We continue along the Appian Way, and end up walking all the way home which took almost an hour. I loved the light on these trees.

All Roads Lead To Rome

Day 82, Saturday November 25, 2017

The Appian Way was Europe’s first super highway. It is the reason for the saying “All roads lead to Rome.” Built in 312 B.C., it connected Rome with Capua (near Naples), running in a straight line for much of the way. Eventually it stretched over 600 kilometres to Brindisi, on the east coast of Italy. Today is Bob’s birthday and we are going to walk the Appian Way.

We take the metro and then a bus to the outskirts of Rome. Before we start our walk back into Rome we walk a bit further in the opposite direction to visit the Villa Dei Quintili. We buy our €5.00 tickets and when we walk up to the building below it is all locked up and under construction!

Turns out this isn’t the villa, and we need to walk along a dirt path behind this building for a ways to the ruins. The Villa Dei Quintili was the largest villa complex in the suburbs outside Rome. It was built by two brothers, who were later executed by Emperor Commodus who took over possession of their villa. It was then expanded and used by emperors until the 5th century. There are boardwalks in many areas but sometimes we are walking on the original mosaics floors! Hard to believe that this is allowed. There are baths here with a calidarium (hot water) and a frigidarium (cold water). Many of the rooms have remains of mosaics and floor tiles. A few even have traces of frescoes on the walls. 

This all covers a huge area and it was all one villa. When it was first excavated it was thought to have been a town!Back on the Appian Way we are ready to start our walk towards Rome, on the same road that was used by Romans almost 2,000 years ago! We are going to walk in the footsteps Roman Emperors, merchants, saints and maybe even St.Peter! Julius Caesar travelled this road along with thousands of soldiers, and now we are too.
Romans did not allow anyone to be buried inside the city walls so many people were buried along the roads leading out of Rome. Wealthy people built impressive tombs for themselves. The remains of many of these tombs are visible today.  Sometimes there is as little as a mound of earth but there are also still quite impressive remains of the larger tombs.These are the original stones that were used to build this road. These stones were set upon a bed of gravel and cement. Lime cement was then used to fill the gaps between the stones and the road was said to have been so smooth that the joints between the rocks could not be felt. In the foreground the ruts made by ancient chariot and wagon wheels can be seen.One of the many ‘reconstructed’ tombs along the Appian Way…and a couple more.

The day started out cloudy and cold but the sun came out and warmed us up.There are many grand modern villas along the Appian Way. This is looking down just one of the many long tree-lined driveways we see along our walk.Getting closer to Rome. It is a bit tiring walking on these original paving stones. The cement that made the road smooth has long worn away. We saw lots of people bicycling along here and it looked bone jarring.                                 

This is a small archeaological area along the road that used to be a farmer’s field. Some of the floor mosaics show where they were damaged by the plows used to till the fields!Fall has arrived. The leaves here were a beautiful golden yellow.Inside the Tomb of Cecilia Metella, one of the best preserved tombs along the Appian way, there is an exhibit of modern sculpture by Paola Cream. I like this bird man…and these vessels. The exhibit sign said the show only runs until November 11th, but this is Rome and not everything is what it says it is.

This is the outside of the Tomb of Cecilia, who was noble woman in the 1st century B.C. Inside the hollow round tower is where her body is thought to have been buried.

That was our last stop of the day. The ruins are closed at 4:00 and we still have a a walk and then a bus and metro ride to get home. we ran out of time to visit the catacombs so we will have to return another day.

The Colosseum, Rome

Day 77, Monday November 20, 2017

Rome’s greatest amphitheater was commissioned in 72 AD by Emperor Vespasian, and we are visitng it today. There are a lot of people outside the Colosseum trying to sell us tickets, tours and trinkets. Our ticket from the Forum yesterday also gives us ‘skip the line’ entrance today. No waiting in long lines to buy tickets!It is a pretty spectacular place. The floor of the arena is gone so we can see the rooms beneath the arena that were used to hold the wild animals, prisoners, props and gladiators. 
Bob took some Classics courses in university but I bet he never thought he would get to see many of the places and buildings he read about so many years ago.These arches were made without mortar, just the keystone in the centre of the arch to hold it all up. Here they are almost 2,000 years later, still standing.Looking down into the internal corridors that allowed the large crowds to enter and exit the arena very quickly. The arena held 55,000 people, who were seated according to rank. The poorest citizens were seated high up at the to of the arena, but they were sheltered by a huge canvas awning that was supported by poles on the top of the arena. This is a site with lots of interesting information about the Colosseum. A small portion of the floor has been reconstructed on one end of the Colosseum. The arena floor would have been covered in a think layer of sand during events. In the opening games, which lasted 100 days in 80 AD, over 9,000 animals and 2,000 gladiators were killed!There are even some of the original marble steps.There is a museum area on the second level of the Colosseum with models, paintings, sculptures and other information about the arena. This model shows the internal corridors as well as how the seats fit over everything. It really helped me visualize what it would have looked like.This also showed a reconstruction of the arena  and what it looks like today.This little snuff box was one of the objects with images of the Colosseum. It was a mosaic image with the tiniest little pieces of mosaic I have ever seen. Part of the exterior wall of the colosseum collapsed during earthquakes in 847 and 1231 and this image shows the arena before reconstruction.
Here are a couple of views around the arena from the second level, where people standing.We spent a couple hours in the Colosseum and then walked north towards the Forum of Augustus, Trajan’s Forum and Trajan’s column. These ruins are right alongside a main road. In some cases, more modern buildings were removed so that these ruins could be excavatedBelow the 16th Century Church of San Giuseppe Dei Falgnai nearby is a small museum and the dungeon, which according to Christian legend, is where St. Peter and St. Paul were imprisoned before they were crucified. It was dark, wet and filthy. Prisoners were dropped into here through a grate in the floor above. We get to walk down the modern steps.Next we visit the National Monument of Victor Emmanuel II, which also has The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which we somehow didn’t see. We plan on coming back to this area so we will have to look for it then. We climb to a high terrace for some great views. Bob is convinced that this this is as high as we can get, but I am equally convinced that we can go higher. I am sure I saw people right up on the very top of this building when we were visiting the Forum a couple days ago..I was right! There is an elevator that takes us up to the rooftop for panoramic 360 degree views of Rome.Bob is trying to decide where things are…and I am just enjoying the view.We can see mountains in the distance, and there is some smog but not nearly as much as I expected. As the sun starts to set, the golden light on Rome’s buildings is beautiful. Notice the seagull. I think he is following us!There are twin statues on either end of the building that can be seen from many of Rome’s neighbourhoods.It is a long way down, and those people are standing on the first terrace we took photos from. The ground is much further below that, way down at the base of the building across the street.On our way down we stop once more at the terrace and take this photo of Trajan’s Column.By the time we reach ground level the sun has set and it is getting dark. Just as I am taking another photo o Trajan’s Column the lights come on!
The ruins look quite different all lit up. While we wait of our bus a street musician serenades us with lovely violin music.It has been a full day.We stop at our local grocery store on the way home, which is conveniently located right in the bottom of our apartment building. I just have to take a photo of these interesting looking cauliflowers.  

Corniglia to Vernazza, Cinque Terre

Day 58, Wednesday November 1, 2017

Today we hike from the village of Corniglia, to Vernazza. We take the train to Corniglia and explore a bit before starting our hike. It doesn’t take too long as it is a small village with a population of only 150.

This is something we saw a lot of in Croatia and now in Italy as well. A nicely kept apartment right next to, or above, a deserted empty one. I wouldn’t want to live above a place that looked like this.Corniglia had interesting little side streets. I liked the way the sunlight lit this one.We had tea on a little terrace overlooking the ocean before we set out on our walk to Vernazza. Here is a view of the village with its terraced gardens from the beginning of our walk.
We are headed somewhere over and around this cliffs and we end up going right past the pink and blue houses in this photo.Here is a view looking back towards Corneglia, which is just visible on the cliff jutting out into the water.  We walked on the path in front of the white fence which is at about the same level as the town. That nasty blurry spot below the town is a dust speck inside my camera! Not happy about that!This large tree manages to grow out of the rock beside more old uneven steps. 

There are steep steps up to this abandoned house and I want to go explore. The steps are very crumbly and look unsafe so I reluctantly pass it by.Here Bob is carefully negotiating some really uneven steps. Simply by chance we have chosen the easiest direction to walk this section of the Cinque Terre path. We walk down steps for at least fifteen minutes and we are thankful that we didn’t have to climb all of them.We are heading towards that little tower in the distance, on the side of the hill just below the path that looks like a road.Bob took this at an interesting/strange angle, trying to show how the steps switchback down the hillside.This shows the short train track between two tunnels. The trains run mostly inside long tunnels to reach the villages in Cinque Terre.There are lots of cactus and a little shrine along the path…some pretty wildflowers…
and this. Any idea what these photos are all about? The strange machine is a clue.There is some ‘street art’ on the side of the check point booth near Vernazza.Finally we arrive at Vernessa, the same village we walked to yesterday from the other direction…and we pass this interesting shrine just as we enter the town. It even included a lobster carcass on the back wall!We climb even more steps up to the Castello Doria for some great panoramic views of the village. That is me up top.These are the stairs inside the tower. I am pretty tired by now and ready to head home but we stop for ice cream and sorbet first.Here is the main street of Vernezza, on our way to the train station.We stop for a quick visit to the Via del Amore, which is a short section of the Cinque Terre walk that used to go from Manarola to Riomaggiore. It has been closed for five years due to a rockslide so there is only a short 100 metre section open. Too bad, as it is would have been a half hour walk with great views right along the ocean. We will have to come back another day to check out the village. Somehow we have managed to log over 15,000 steps and 80 flights of stairs today and my body knows it!