The Largest Wooden Church in Europe and Książ Castle, Poland

Day 13, Saturday September 7, 2019

I realized that I forgot to put a link to our apartment in Wroclaw so here it is for those of you who are curious about the apartments we are staying in. Yesterday I started not feeling very well with a bit of a sore throat and a very tight chest. We had planned on going to the zoo today but it is cool and raining so we decide to take little road trip instead. I didn’thave the energy to walk around a zoo in the rain today. The smaller highways are often lined with trees which I think are very picturesque.

First stop is…

A Unesco World Heritage site, the Lutheran Church of Peace in Swidnica was built in the mid-17th century and can hold up to 7,500 people. It was built without any nails.

“The Church of Peace was founded by virtue of the Peace of Westphalia which ended the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648). Before the war, the townsfolk of Świdnica were free to follow Luther’s ideas and Lutheran services were held in the town. When the war broke out, the Protestants were deprived of the right to have their own faith and their own churches.

However under the Peace of Westphalia, the Catholic emperor Ferdinand III of Habsburg was obliged by the Swedish to allow the Protestants… to build one so-called Church of Peace in each duchy.

The consent of the Habsburgs had many severe restrictions – the Protestants could only build their place of worship outside the town walls, it could not have any towers nor a belfry, and it could only be built from non-durable materials like wood, sand, straw, or clay. The building could not look like a church and the construction works could not last longer than a year.

Against all odds, the Protestants at the time displayed extraordinary resourcefulness. Even the poorest of the community brought something to the table, if only one wooden board. All social classes were involved in the construction process – the nobility, the burghers and the peasants.

The hard work paid off, as construction was completed on time and in 1657 the first service was held in the Church of Peace in Świdnica.” ~tourspoland.comWe walked into this church and we were amazed at the size and ornateness of the interior. This photo is looking towards the altar. The walls and ceilings are decorated with painted panels added after the construction of the church was completed in 1657. The back wall with the organ. A view of one of the sides of the church with it’s two tiers of balconies. The spaces between the wall timbers were filled with clay and wattle. The pulpit is extremely ornate. A view of part of the painted ceiling. I loved the old pews with their carved backs and worn seats.There is a cemetery surrounding the church. As we walked back to our car we passed this interesting door. Makes me curious about who lives here. Next stop on our day trip is the Książ Castle, the third largest castle in Poland which dates from the 13th century.  One of the the views from inside the castle.  The entrance buildings and front grounds of the castle. An old photo showing the castle atop an impressive rock cliff. It has been destroyed and rebuilt and expanded various times and in different styles (from Gothic to Baroque and neo-Classical). The latest family to reside there, was the Hochberg family, one of the richest and most influential families in Prussia. In the 14th century they transformed the original defensive castle into one of the most beautiful residences in this part of  Europe. The Hochbergs lived there for many generations, until 1941, when it was confiscated by the Nazis. Bob caught my reflection in this old mirror.
The Black Courtyard is decorated with the coats of arms of the castles many owners. We walked through many halls, some simple… and some very ornate. I suppose a castle with over 400 rooms needs lots of hallways and stairs, and we did climb lots of stairs. Another view out one of the castle windows of the Chestnut Terrace with four large chestnut trees. As always, we must remember to look up. So many of the ceilings are ornately decorated. There was an exhibit of blown glass in some of the rooms and another view down one of the many hallways.
We weren’t able to see the Last Supper when we were in Italy two years ago (we didn’t know you had to buy tickets far in advance) but there is a Da Vinci exhibit here in the castle with a replica. Not as good as the real thing but interesting none the less. There were replicas of many of Da Vinci’s paintings, including the Mona Lisa, and models of some of his inventions. Looking out one of the windows we get an idea of some of the renovations and reconstruction that has taken place over the centuries. It is quite a convoluted building. One of the restored and decorated rooms. The Nazis stripped the castle of its furnishings and paintings and it is just now being restored. A photo showing a much more elaborately decorated room than we see today. The Maximilian Room has been restored to its former glory. There is a balcony on either side, one for the prince’s apartments and one for the princess’s apartments, that overlook this elegant room. And what castle would be complete without a Japanese influenced room. They were very popular. “The castle became an important part of the Riese Project, for the Nazis. It was an elaborate plan to create an underground military industrial complex complete with tunnels, roads, rail links and subterranean arms factories. The castle itself is said to have been prepared as the new headquarters for Hitler. For this purpose, thousands of prisoners, many from concentration camps like Auschwitz, were used as slave labour. Towards the end of the war, with the Red Army approaching fast, the Nazis destroyed much of the complex. The destruction continued when the Red Army ousted the Nazis. The Nazis’ exact plans with the castle remain a mystery. Were they building a secret weapon? Did Hitler plan to use the castle as a personal bunker? Little is also known of the fate of the prisoners who built the underground complex, though one can only guess.” ~ Velvet Escape.com. It is thought that valuable works of art and other treasures may still be hidden underground in these tunnels. This a model of the underground tunnels. It is possible to tour the tunnels but we did not have time, or the energy to do that today,  As we finish the tour of the castle, we are led out to the gardens and terraces surrounding the castle. The grounds are beautifully maintained.An interesting view of the castle.
We have no idea what all these small arched nooks with their iron grates are. As we walk back to our car we pass a pond with blooming water lilies. 

Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camps, Poland

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

I knew today was going to be a long difficult day but neither of us had any idea how overwhelming it actually was. There is a lot of information on the history of these camps if you are interested. This plaque greets us at Auschwitz. We walk towards the entry gate down this aisle of photos and quotes from people who survived these camps. I was soon in tears, and we haven’t even entered the gates. A double row of electrified barbed wire surrounded the camp. The sign above the gate which translates to ‘Work Sets You Free’ was made by the prisoners and had a hidden message in it. They made the B upside down.

This is a long post with lots of photos but not much commentary. The images speak for themselves.

Before the ‘selection’.

All the prisoners in the top right corner of this photo were sent to their immediate deaths. 75% of the people who arrived at Auschwitz were sent to the gas chambers and murdered upon their arrival…men, women and children. The gas canisters used to administer the poisonous gas in the showers. Sorting the belongings of those who were sent to their deaths. The Germans kept the belongings and valuables of all who arrived in the camps. They were stored in warehouses and shipped out for the use of the German population. When the camps were going to be liberated, the Germans destroyed as much of the stored belongings as they could. This were just a bit of what they collected as most of it was destroyed.

Eyeglasses Prosthetic devices. All people with disabilities were sent to their death immediately. Pots and dishes, piled 8 feet deep. A whole wall of suitcases. Both sides of this long room were filled with shoes. Shoes of all sizes… men’s women’s, and children’s shoes.
We were not allowed to take photos in hall #5. This was the most difficult collection to view. A long room with two tonnes of women’s hair piled high all along one wall. It was so completely overwhelming and horrific. I was not the only one in tears with the horror of what this represented. It is so impossible to believe that people could do this to each other. The Germans sold bales of women’s hair to manufacturers of cloth and felt. This is only a small part of what was collected.The enormity of this is staggeringThe halls of one of the barracks were lined with photos of the prisoners, none of whom survived. After a while the Germans stopped taking photos of the prisoners. I think they just couldn’t keep up with it, there were so many. Some photos of prisoners when the camp was liberated by the Russians. There were three people to a bed in these barracks.
The Death Wall between barrack 10 and 11. Thousands of prisoners were executed against this wall. The windows on either side were covered so the other prisoners could not see what was happening.These panels are covered with names of the people from the Netherlands who died in this camp.  Here is a close up. The barracks. The doctors and their medical experiments, which were often done on twins. The crematorium. The gas chamber. And the furnaces where they burned 340 bodies every day. They couldn’t keep up so built bigger crematoriums at Auschwitz II-Birkenau. We leave Auschwitz I and after a lunch break catch a shuttle to Auschwitz II-Birkenau.

The entrance to this camp with the railroad that carried so many thousands to their deaths.

“Birkenau was the largest of the more than 40 camps and sub-camps that made up the Auschwitz complex. During its three years of operation, it had a range of functions. When construction began in October 1941, it was supposed to be a camp for 125 thousand prisoners of war. It opened as a branch of Auschwitz in March 1942, and served at the same time as a center for the extermination of the Jews. In its final phase, from 1944, it also became a place where prisoners were concentrated before being transferred to labor in German industry in the depths of the Third Reich

The majority—probably about 90%—of the victims of Auschwitz Concentration Camp died in Birkenau. This means approximately a million people. The majority, more than nine out of every ten, were Jews. A large proportion of the more than 70 thousand Poles who died or were killed in the Auschwitz complex perished in Birkenau. So did approximately 20 thousand Gypsies, in addition to Soviet POWs and prisoners of other nationalities.”

Birkenau is enormous. These two camps covered forty square miles! The railcars used to transport people to the concentration camps had no windows and no ventilation. Many died before they even reached the camp. Each of the chimneys you can see in the distance was part of a barrack. I counted close to two hundred barracks on one of the Birkenau signs. The Germans tried to destroy the camp once they knew they had lost the war. The view from the end of the rail line, looking back back towards the entrance gives an idea of how huge this camp was. The memorial to the victims of the Holocaust at the end of the rail line. These were the warehouses where the belongings of the prisoners were sorted and kept before being shipped out for use by the Germans. All that is left are the footings. A display of photos taken from the prisoners fills a large room. I didn’t understand this quote until I walked into the next room and read that the ashes of the people who were murdered in this camp were dumped in ponds and spread on the fields as fertilizer. Human ashes can still be found in these fields and ponds today.One of the four bigger crematoriums that was built to handle 4,400 corpses a day. The Germans blew up the crematoriums when they retreated to try to hide what they had been doing. There are only a few barracks remaining in Auschwitz II- Birkenau. Here is a plan of Birkenau. the area within the yellow square of the plan houses the remaining barracks.
These three tiered bunks held 6 to 8 prisoners each. There were 500 prisoners in each barrack, with no insulation or sanitary facilities. The interior of the Death Barrack.

At the end of the day we walk back to our car in silence. It has been an long emotional day, and we are both quite exhausted and overwhelmed by the experience.

Telč, Czech Republic UNESCO Site

Day 3, Wednesday, August 28, 2019

On the way from Prague to Brno we stop at Telč, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The drive took longer than anticipated due to the heavy traffic and road construction. We have never seen so many trucks on the highway anywhere else. Luckily the trucks stay in the right lane, because at one point we passed 85 trucks that were stuck in traffic and not moving at all! One of the many small towns we pass on the road to Telč.

The countryside is beautiful and not so different from home.The town square at Telč is a visual feast. Every house is painted differently, each one vying to outdo its neighbours in beauty. The well-conserved Renaissance and Baroque houses from the 14th century have high gables and arcades on the ground level which provide sheltered walkways and display areas for the ground floor shops. It also hides any modern signs and advertising from view on the square

There are two fountains in the centre of this large rectangular square with benches for relaxing, which we take advantage of. It was a great spot to enjoy some goodies from the local bakery and enjoy the sunshine. At the far end of the square we see the bell tower so of course we go see if is possible to climb to the top for a view of the town.The first 50 stone stairs are very narrow… but soon we are climbing another 100 steps on old wooden timber steps up to the bells. This bell is named Marie and she was cast in 1550 and weighs 950 kg! A bit more climbing and we are looking down on the two bells, Jacub and Marie, before climbing to the viewing platform at the top. The view from the top was wonderful. Telč is a very pretty town.

Next we take a tour of the underground tunnels and cellars of Telč. All the houses have underground cellars that were connected by tunnels. They were used to store food and supplies and as a place to hide if the town was attacked. There are 11 km of tunnels but only about 150 meters that we are allowed to visit. That is just fine as we have to bend at the waist and crouch to walk through the dark tunnels with only a flashlight to find our way. This crucifix was at the end of one dark tunnel . We were the only people on the tour who actually went and explored all the tunnels. Everyone else stayed in the larger rooms that were used for some displays and a short video about Telč. Back above ground we walked through the grounds of the palace. We didn’t have time to take a tour of the inside, but Bob got a chance to try wielding a sword. They are very heavy! We also met some interesting creatures. This ten year old python and… his 4 year old albino friend. This beautiful ironwork was on one of the doors of the palace. We visited our first (and certainly not our last) church, the Church of St. James the Greater which dates from 1273, but has been rebuilt many times since then.This panorama gives an idea of just how many houses line just one side of the square. They are all in a row, not in a curve as they appear in the photo. These houses continue on from the right side of the photo above. It is hot, 28° and we finally feel like it is summer. It was a cool wet summer at home so this is a nice change. 

A quick photo from the car on the way to Brno. There are lots of very brightly painted  houses here, and yellow and bright green houses are very common. I have no idea what this is supposed to be but it is certainly unusual. I wonder if someone lives here? We finally arrive in Brno, find our apartment but can’t figure out how to get into the building! Finally we message our host who comes down to meet us. It is a beautiful bnb apartment, the foyer alone is bigger than our whole place was in Prague!

Herculaneum, Italy

Day 93, Wednesday December 6, 2017

We are up early to take the train to Herculaneum, which is another ancient town that was destroyed by the eruption of mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D.

We are a bit early for our train so we visit the church in Pompeii. Yes, another church! I should be tired of them but it seems that each one we visit is so different for the others that there is always something new and amazing to see.

The Shrine of the Blessed Virgin of the Holy Rosary is an international place of pilgrimage.  It is considered the most important shrine consecrated to Mary in Italy.  4 million pilgrims from all over the world visit here every year.

The church has many hallways and rooms covered in thousands of ex-votos. These devotional images were created in thanks for the fulfillment of vows by those who survived an illness or disaster because they prayed to the Virgin Mary. I keep seeing images in the marble. What do you see here?

Every town we pass on the way to Herculaneum is crowded with apartments. I think just about everyone in Italy who lives in urban areas must live in apartments.
We can see the smog over Naples. There seems to be more smog here than in Rome.Believe it or not, this is the ‘street’ that Google maps tells us to walk down to get to the archeological site.  It was long, narrow, dirty and full of garbage!This is our first view of Herculaneum. Unlike Pompeii, which was covered by about 4 meters of ash, Herculaneum was buried under more than 20 meters of mud, ash, and other pyroclastic material. This thick layer preserved wooden and other organic-based objects such as roofs, beds, doors, food and even skeletons.

Until these skeletons were discovered inside boat sheds near the shore of ancient Herculaneum it was thought that most of the residents escaped the town. However excavation of the boat sheds in 1981 revealed over 300 skeletons. It is thought that they were waiting for boats to take them to safety but they died before this could happen. Please take a look at this excellent five minute video from the Smithsonian which explains all about these skeletons.

I understand that the skeletons on display are replicas of the originals but they still make a powerful impact.
These walls were painted from dark orange-red changing to light yellow…and the column’s construction was interesting.There were more places for buying prepared food…and this is one of the many water fountains we saw both here and in Pompeii.Many beautiful mosaic floors were well preserved because they were covered with the hot mud that flowed down from Vesuvius.

This is part of a huge sport centre here which had a pool and areas for other types of recreation.Herculaneum is especially known for having well-preserved buildings with upper floors.It is possible to see carbonized charred wooden beams. doors and shutters…as well as railings and shelves inside the buildings.There are several of these ‘balconies’ along the streets.The College of the Augustales was an order of freemen dedicated to the Imperial Rulers of Rome. The big carbonized beams that supported the upper floor are still in place.

It is possible to see how the modern town of Ercolano was built on the buried remains of Herculaneum, and there is Mount Vesuvius in the background.More preserved areas. Unfortunately many of the largest and best preserved villas were closed to visitors today. It was disappointing but not much we can do about it. We read a sign that said that it was not possible to properly look after the site for many years, and that by the year 2000 two-thirds of the site was closed to visitors due to safety concerns. With the support of the Packard Humanities Institute, work is now ongoing to restore this site and reopen areas to visitors This building is particularly well-preserved…and has a carbonized bed inside.The doors in the back of this photo are the original wooden doors that were carbonized, which really just means to be changed to carbon by burning.Some of the villas were very grand and must have been incredibly beautiful homes.

We were able to peek into the entrances of the closed sites.

As we leave we look down on this ancient town one last time. The arched rooms in the bottom of the photo are the boathouses where the skeletons were found.I read that the peak of Vesuvius has been reforming and there is danger of another eruption sometime in the future. The volcano is closely monitored and the hope is that there would be enough warning to evacuate nearby residents if this happens. I wonder about that.We did find a longer but more appealing route back to the train station. We see some interesting graffiti along the way…and roads paved with large square stones, laundry hanging right on the sidewalk and streets, some interesting buildings, and finally we are at the train station just as the sun is setting.

So, to answer the question of what I saw in the marble, it was a cartoonish horse figure, standing up on its back legs looking straight out at me.

I forgot to post this video titled A Day In Pompeii yesterday. It is a reconstruction of what likely happened in Pompeii during the eruption. I found it helpful in trying to make sense of what we see now in Pompeii. Take a look if you are interested.

The Vatican, Rome

Day 87, Thursday November 30, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

We descended this staircase to emerge …

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 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.  

The Forum, Rome

Day 76, Sunday November 19, 2017

Today we visit the Forum. On the way to finding a spot for a view over the Forum we visited the Basilica San Maria in Aracoeli.  There were chandeliers everywhere and while we were there the chandeliers were turned on…just for me!

This painting on the pillar looks very old. As we make our way to the Forum entrance I spot Romulus and Remus.We finally find a place to overlook the Forum while this fine feathered fellow takes a good look at us.There is a lot to see here, so just walk along with us. Looking back towards the entrance and the Arch of Septimius Severus.Wow, we are really here!Hard to believe we are standing where Romans lived and walked over 2,000 years ago.The courtyard of the Vestal Virgins. Girls were chosen at the age of ten and served until they were forty when they were handsomely rewarded and allowed to marry. However, if a woman lost her virginity, she was given a loaf of bread and then buried alive! Apparently this was not an uncommon occurrence.People standing on the Palatine overlooking the Forum.I want to go to the top of the white building with the two big statues on it for a great view of Rome. We will have to check that out another day.These are the original 2,000 year old stones that still pave the streets of the Forum.The Temple of Antonius and Faustina is now incorporated into the church of San Lorenzo.This is the side nave of the Basilica of Constantine and Maxentius. The largest building in the forum, it was as big as a football field but only one wall of it remains. A Basilica was not a church but a place used for the administration of justice and conducting business. It did however become a model for the great cathedrals and basilicas of Europe.The Arch of Titus erected in 81 AD to commemorate the sacking of Jerusalem.A panorama of the forum…and a selfie with the Colosseum in the distance.These three photos give a better look at the forum, starting at the north end… the centre with the gardens and house of the Vestal Virgins,,,and the south end with the huge Basilica of Constantine.OK, I am including these Palatine (Imperial Palace) info panels to save lots of writing. We were only able to see some of the Palatine as it was late in the afternoon and the site was closing.No idea what the two little houses were about.I love the tall pruned coniferous trees we see here and all over Rome.We catch the bus home near the Colosseum. There is a strong military presence everywhere in Rome, by all the major sites and in the Metro stations as well. I don’t mind having them there.

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.

Quiet Day in Firenze Italy

Day 63, Monday November 6, 2017

We are exactly halfway through our holiday and we have been having a really good time, but it is hard work too and I am starting to feel a bit weary.  Today I stayed home and Bob went out and about exploring. It was a grey day today with rain on and off so I think it was a good day to stay put. Here are a few more journal pages. The light wasn’t the best for photographing them but it will have to do.Strange how the pages look so different on the computer than they do in person. I don’t like them as well, the texture of the paper doesn’t show, sometimes the colour is a bit off,  and they tend to look ‘flatter’ that they really are.  I think perhaps if I was able to scan them they would look better but I can’t haul a scanner around with me! Too bad.I want to thank everyone who has taken the time to write a comment.  It is so nice to hear from readers of the blog. If you read a post perhaps you could take just moment to press the ‘Like’ button? I enjoy knowing that you liked the post.  Thanks.

Naval Museum, La Spezia, Italy

Day 59, Thursday November 2, 2017

This is the view from the little balcony at the back of our apartment. Take a look at the long stairway covered with grape vines up to the yellow house. Imagine climbing those stairs every day!The view from the balcony in the front of our apartment looking down the hill and…this is looking up the hill.  The town of La Spezia is built on hills and it is the closest bigger town to Cinque Terre. The trains leave frequently for the short trip to the ‘Five lands.’I stayed home today for some much needed rest after our two days of hiking the trails in Cinque Terre. I didn’t accomplish much, photographed my sketches of people on the bus and metro and did our laundry.

I never know how long I will have to draw before a person leaves. I drew the fellow playing the violin standing in front of me on the Milano metro, and had less than a minute before he moved on.Bob went for a long walk today to the Naval Museum by the harbour. He took these great photos of some mast heads. He knows how much I like dragons.More mast heads.They are also known as figureheads.This model of the Santa Maria, the ship that Columbus sailed to North America is about three feet long.

Yesterday’s photos of the netting in the trees shows how olives are harvested. The trees are shaken and the olives drop onto the netting. The strange little machine is how they move the harvest down the mountains and steep hills. It is loaded with olives, and runs on cogs, kind of like a roller coaster for olives!