The DDR and Stasi Museums in Berlin

Day 22, Monday, September 16, 2019

Some of the subway stations in Berlin are quite grand, with their vaulted steel and glass ceilings, like the one we were at this morning.

I have finally begun drawing people on the subway.  It is often difficult to find a subject who won’t notice me drawing them. I like to use a Bic Fine Ballpoint pen for these subway drawings. A pen forces me to commit to what I put down, no erasing makes it challenging.

We are on our way to the DDR Museum, which is a museum about what life was like in East Berlin before the Wall fell. I wasn’t interested in going so Bob went to the museum and I found a place to sit and draw St. Mary’s Church.

Bob discovered a few interesting facts. The most surprising is that East Berliners were ardent nudists!   Four out of five East Germans regularly went sunbathing in the nude, as illustrated in this poster in the museum.

It isn’t such a surprise that the East Germans were hard drinkers.  Per capita consumption was the equivalent to 286 bottles of beer and 23 bottles of spirits. The men and women of East Germany could drink all-comers under the table!  This was a typical living room bar cabinet. We saw these Trabants on the way to the DDR museum.  While there Bob discovered that the cars’ bodies were made from a material called Duroplast.  This was a composite material made from cotton fleece and granulated phenol, which was heated under pressure and formed into a rigid component for use on the exteriors of the cars.While walking to a nearby park to draw I passed this store dedicated to the Ampelmann, the little character that lets pedestrians know when it is safe to walk. While I sat drawing the church I watched these young ladies walk out onto the nearby fountain for some photos. I quickly got my camera out because I knew what was going to happen next.
Surprise!!  I laughed so hard, as did all their friends! We had a picnic lunch and then headed to the Stasi Museum. This museum is located on the former grounds of the headquarters of the GDR State Security. We had a two hour tour that talked about how the lives of the East Germans were controlled, manipulated and repressed by the political police system of the former East Germany.  Seems like everyone was spying and informing on everyone else, and almost every aspect of people’s lives was controlled by the state.  It must have been impossible to trust anyone.  Most of the exhibits were like this office room below, not very interesting I thought, but our guide’s talk was very interesting. He told us anecdotes about his life as well as his parents and grandparents lives during this time.  I hung out at the back of our tour group and did some sketching of people in the tour while I listened.

There were hidden cameras everywhere in East Germany, documenting what people did, who they talked with and where they went.  Here are some hidden cameras in a bird house, behind a button, and in a watering can with a false bottom.

There were even hidden cameras in tree trunks to spy on people if they took walks in the forest!  The really sad and scary thing is that there are people today that think that a dictatorship government would be better than the democracy they now have. They think that they would just need better leaders and they would be better off.  It is hard to imagine that anyone could think going back to anything like this could be beneficial!

In the Magdalenenstrasse subway station on our way home we see a series of 20 large scale paintings done in a neo-expressionist style: angular, grim with bits of bright colour. They images, competed in 1986, portray the history of the workers movement in East Berlin.  Our guide at the Stasi Museum pointed out a painting in the museum by Wolfgang Frankenstein, who was one of the artists who made these murals,

 

 

Berlin Zoo

Day 20, Saturday, September 14, 2019

It is a beautiful sunny day, a perfect day to go to the zoo. I liked this large sculpture at the subway station near Potsdam Platz. It looks like wood but I think maybe it is cast to resemble wood.

We were here before but I wanted to get a photo of Bob with one foot in what used to be East Berlin and one foot in West Berlin. The cobble stone line marks where the Berlin Wall used to stand. Another view of the very unique Sony Centre. We catch the 100 Bus to the zoo near here. First stop at the Berlin Zoo is the Panda enclosure. Unfortunately we don’t get to see any real pandas but there is a video of Meng Meng and her new babies. You can watch it here.

We have our picnic lunch on a bench near this fountain. It reminds me of the famous Manneken Pis fountain in Brussels. I love blue flowers and these are gorgeous, but no idea what they are called.  Does anyone know?
The Berlin Zoo is Germany’s oldest zoological garden and home to the world’s largest variety of species. Almost 20,000 animals of around 1,300 species live in the 33 hectare zoo. For some reason at least 19,000 of them were in hiding today!!  Here are some of the animals who were kind of enough to stay in view for us. This large male Mandrill monkey has formidable teeth. The Emperor Tamarin has to be one of the cutest monkeys I have ever seen. The baboons were tucked far away in the rocks but I zoomed in for a photo.This young man was engrossed in his book, and not interested in the animals at all. I tried to see what he was reading but the title was small and in German.
Bob found a friend.
This African porcupine was up nice and close, finishing off his lunch. Luckily the elephants were out and about. This is Victor, a 26 year old bull, and a female from his harem.
She came over to say hi, extending her trunk out towards me! I took lots of reference photos of the elephants and spent a bit of time sketching them live.

These are the other two females in Victor’s harem.  Each day he chooses who to hang out with in a separate enclosure.  The young elephant is Victor’s daughter. I love giraffes too, but they were a bit too far away to easily see and draw.Look carefully.  How many Asiatic Ibex can you spot in this photo?  Can you find all nine of them? When our oldest daughter was about three years old she kissed on of these Marmots on the nose!  He was standing up on a stone retaining wall and she just walked up to it and gave it a peck.  Kind of scared us though! In the hippo exhibit this big fellow opened his mouth wide and made a huge splash before sinking out of sight.  Perhaps his way of letting all the visitors know what he thought of them?  The Nyalas are interesting with their distinctive white stripes. There were several sloth bears but they were all in separate enclosures. Perhaps they aren’t very sociable. This fellow was pacing back and forth continuously. We saw several animals exhibiting repetitive behaviours which we know is a sign of stress from being in captivity.  That is hard to see but this zoo, like many others we have visited, is building bigger more natural habitats for their animals.  We also see attempts to keep animals engaged with different ways of offering them their food and ‘toys’ for them in their enclosures.  It is a trade off.  Without the protection and breeding programs of zoos some of these animals would perhaps be extinct. We saw lots of Gemsbok when we were in South Africa. It was amazing to see them in their natural habitat. I have soft spot in my heart for zebras. Just love their stripes!This was a new species for us, the Mountain Bongo.  Their legs seemed too small for the bulk of their bodies, but they were very striking, with their white stripes agains their reddish hides. There are only 100 of these animals left in the wild!  Interesting fact…the red pigment in their hides can bleed in the rain! I forgot to take a photo of the main gate when we arrived but took one of the side gate where we exited the zoo.

Slawenburg Raddusch, A Nordic Fort In Germany

Day 14, Sunday, September 8, 2019

We were both tired last night so we left our packing and cleaning until this morning. By noon we are on our way to Berlin. We stop at truck stop just before the Polish border to get lunch at a KFC and spend what Polish money we have left.  I have never seen so many trucks in one place! There are nine rows of trucks like this parked here. There are lots and lots of trucks on Polish highways! We pass by lots of trees that appear to be grown for timber. Their lower branches have been trimmed so that the trunks grow straight.Not far into Germany we stop at Slawenburg Raddusch, which is a reconstruction of a fort built by Slavic people in the 9th and 10th Centuries. It is surrounded by a moat for added protection.

There were about 40 of these forts in this area. They were used to store food supplies and act as places of refuge during attacks.

We find this huge fellow on our walk to the fort.  A 10 m wide wall was built in a circle.  Long oak beams were alternately stacked in a criss-crossed direction and the spaces between the logs were filled with earth and stones. The almost circular inner surface with a diameter of 36 m. originally contained a few small houses and four wells. This well is 40 feet deep. In the wells were found: ceramic fragments, knives, lance tips, whetstones, sledgehammers, bone skates, wooden mallets, spades and a rare, valuable brass bowl. The walls of this reconstructed fort use concrete, so the interior of the walls is  a museum where the artifacts found in this area are on display. We climb to the top of the wall which offers a great view of the surrounding landscape.  In the 1980s, this area was strip mined for coal.  Before the giant excavators ate their way through the landscape, archeologists found that the Slavs were not the first settlers in this place. Under the wall, Germanic remains from the 5th / 6th century were found. The earliest findings, however, date back to 2200 -800 B.C. Unfortunately the strip mining destroyed most of the archaeological remains in the area along with 50 villages that were here before the mining started. Imagine displacing all those people to mine coal! This model shows what the original fort would have looked like… and how it was constructed. The dirt used to fill the walls came from around the base of the fort and created the moat. The “Götze von Raddusch”, an idol from 926 A.D.,made from an oak split-beam with a head-like finish and a perforation in the chest area was found  in the excavation of the youngest well. This was a rare find. I thought these straight pins for sewing were pretty amazing, considering they are so ancient. Here is a view of part of the museum with its large display of pottery,,, and burial pits, where cremated remains were placed along burial gifts for the deceased. I was intrigued by the shapes of some of the pottery. All the pottery was made by hand without the aid of a potter’s wheel. I wonder what these pots were used for? The tour was great. We rented an audio guide for €1.5 and it was very well done. We got so much more out of the display because it. We managed to finish our visit through the museum just as it was closing at 6:00 pm. We see lots of wind-farms on our way to Berlin. We arrive in Berlin as it is getting dark and check into our home for the next two weeks.

 

Old Town in Wroclaw, Poland

Day 11, Thursday September 5, 2019.

Today is a much needed quiet day. For some reason I only slept a few hours last night so I stay home and rest and do a bit of blogging. Bob goes for a walk and scouts out the route to the Old Town for tomorrow. Here is our view from the apartment, with our white car in the parking lot. Bob is in there too, but you can barely see his head as he walks along the street behind the hedge. 

 

Day 12, Friday, September 6, 2019

On our walk to Wroclaw’s Old Town we cross one of its canals. It looks so peaceful here.

Soon we are approaching the old part of town. There are many places where we see the old and the new side by side. These two buildings were across from each other.
Here’s how big items get delivered!

Wroclaw Town Square, another huge square with beautiful buildings. These date back to the 1600’s!

The flower market.Wroclaw has an ever growing populations of gnomes.  In fact, our guidebook states “the little buggers are currently rumoured to be running rampant to the score of over 300 making it literally impossible for us to try to keep track of them!”  I think they are delightful and I am happy to make their acquaintance .

A view of the glass panel fountain … and more tenement houses in the town square. The interior of St. Mary Magdalene’s Church which dates from 1330. We climb 147 steps up to the walkway between the two towers. In times past women suspected of being witches were forced to cross this walkway (there were no railings then) and if they made it across safely they were branded as a witch. If they fell to their death, then they were innocent of the crime of being a witch! You certainly didn’t want to be accused of witchcraft!  I am very glad there are railings now and I meet another couple of gnomes. We have great views of the city from up here. Here is a view of the walkway, way up there between the two towers.There were steeples on these at one time, not sure if they were destroyed during the war? More ornate colourful buildings.
I wish I knew the recipe for the bubble mixture this guy was using! He made hundreds of bubbles at a time with his string between two sticks.  Kids had such fun chasing all the bubbles.We found quite a few more of these little fellows, on doorsteps, or tucked into corners.

There was some sort of celebration happening with lots of women wearing fancy outfits and some very interesting hats.

The two little houses in the corner called Hansel and Gretel are the only two houses left of streets that used to surround a cemetery. The cemetery closed in 1773.  I wonder where the graves went?The interior of St. Elizabeth church dates to the 14th century. It was severely damaged during the second world war and then by a fire in 1976.

So it’s stained glass windows are modern. This one is quite unique.

More colourful houses on a side street…
and more busy gnomes.

We stop at a sidewalk restaurant for lunch and now we are ‘those people’ who take pictures of their meals! My salmon with a balsamic reduction was delicious.  It was one of the best restaurant meals I have had and Bob enjoyed his sausage and potato pancakes with spinach .

At the university we visit an ornate lecture room… and an interesting collection of artifacts.  This is a chart for determining eye colour.

I love all the old wooden cabinets with all their drawers. The Music Hall is under restoration but we are allowed a peak inside. We. climb another 203 steps up the Math tower, which has displays along the way.  

These are beautiful old compasses, some dating back to the 1600’s.The top of the Math Tower…
and the views. Notice the very modern looking tower among the old.

Bob standing on the Meridian line which runs through this University,  This meridian line demarcates the 51st parallel which runs right through the Math Tower as well. I just love all the reflections of the old buildings in the glass walls of the modern new buildings! Churches here are either very ornate…or look like this. The late afternoon sun was shining through the windows casting everything in a lovely olden glow.

We stop for tea and cookies in this little garden with its Baroque well. Then we visit the market and buy some fruit. Food prices are very reasonable here. More reflections. We catch a trolley bus home. We haven’t seem many paved streets or sidewalks here. Most of the streets and sidewalks here are cobbled in one fashion or another. All the uneven footing is hard on the feet and ankles. We walked 16,700 steps today and climbed the equivalent of 31 floors!

We Are Home!

Day 99, Tuesday December 12, & Day 100, Wednesday December 2017

We now have one more day in Rome due to our flight cancellation. When Bob checked flights out of Amsterdam Tuesday morning, just to see what was happening, we discovered that our original flight to Amsterdam was “uncancelled”!  So if we hadn’t done what we are supposed to do and checked our flights the night before we would have saved ourselves a lot of grief and a very long travel day home.  Then to add insult to injury we get a reply to our request for a refund of the cancelled flight and we are told that the flight wasn’t cancelled! We are a no-show, so no refund!  We never thought to take a screenshot of the cancellation notice on the airline’s site, so we have no proof that it was showing as cancelled for six hours last night. Very frustrating!

We spend a quiet day at home and finish all our packing and cleaning of the apartment. The alarm is set for 4:00 am tomorrow morning so we can catch the 5:30 metro to the Termini train station .

Wednesday morning we arrive at the metro on time but our train is almost a half hour late! This is the first time we have had a late metro train. When we arrive at the train station we need to run to catch our train to the airport. The conductor sees us and waits for us, so we are lucky and thankful to be on our way to the airport.

Rome’s airport is very large so we are taken by bus to our plane.

Flying over the Alps…towards Germany…
and Munich
I didn’t know that houses in Germany were all white. It is very pretty.

We are delayed in Munich due to mechanical problems so we arrive in Rekyavik at the same time we were supposed to be boarding. We make a mad dash though the airport hoping we will not miss our flight. However when we arrive at the boarding dock we find that boarding is late, so now we get to wait in line for a while.

The rest of our flight was uneventful and we arrived home to find our good friends waiting  for us at the airport. It was a long 24 hour travel day and it is very good to be home. We certainly had some challenges this trip but in spite of that, we still had a wonderful holiday.

Adjusting to being home after such a long trip takes time so it took me a while to finish the last few days of the blog.  Thanks for following along with us. I hope you enjoyed the trip!

 

The Borghese Gallery, Rome

Day 95, Friday December 8, 2017

On our way to the Borghese Gallery today we see a truck double parked on a busy street. This is not unusual in Rome, but what caught my attention is that he was selling flowers from the back of his truck, and had no intention of moving any time soon.The Borghese Gallery was built in the early 1600’s.This informative five-minute video gives a bit of the history of the Villa and the artists as well as a tour through the gallery. We are very lucky there is a special Gian Lorenzo Bernini exhibit here in addition to all the other artwork usually on display. This 25th century silverpoint portrait was exquisite.The gallery is as interesting as the artwork it contains. All the doors are decorated.A familiar sculpture. We have seen copies of ‘the Boy with the Thorn’ in Paris and Florence. The Rape of Persephone (also known as The Rape of Proserpina) is amazing. I know this is carved from marble but Hades hand gripping Persephone’s leg looks like human flesh, it is so life-like. Oh, and in this context rape meant kidnapping. Oh and Bernini was 23 years old when he completed this masterpiece!The Villa is a piece of art in itself. Here are some of the rooms where the artwork is displayed. Now just imagine living in such a place!

Wood, slate, terracotta and plaster were used for this model of Bernini’s Four Rivers Fountain that we took pictures of in Piazza Navona.

Bernini was only 20 when he carved this sculpture of Aeneas, Anchises and Ascanius, which shows Aeneas carrying his elderly father and son from a burning Troy.

This Caravaggio painting, the Madonna of Palafrenieri was thought to be indecent when it was revealed and was removed from St. Peter’s Cathedral after only two days and was purchased by Cardinal Borghese.A famous Bernini sculpture, the Damned Soul.

This sculpture of Paolina Bonaparte, as the Venus Victorious, by Antonio Canova was completed in 1808 after she married into the Borghese family. The drapery is all carved in stone but it looks like real cloth. 
Bernini’s very determined David is magnificent.A quick peek at the gardens from one of the gallery windows.This fellow made me think of the winter weather we will be returning home to in a few days.

Apollo and Daphne is a Bernini sculpture that tells the story of Daphne being turned into a laurel tree to escape from Apollo. The details of her legs turning to bark and her fingers growing branches and leaves is remarkable.This Bernini painting was intriguing as there are visible traces of where Bernini painted a different hand. This is known as pentimento. On the ride home we see one more obelisk and another column. I think we might have managed to see most of the obelisks and columns in Rome. We also saw another stretch of the old Roman Aurelian Wall that protected Rome. These walls were 52 feet tall, 11 feet thick and had a square tower every 97 feet, which was 100 Roman feet. They are remarkably well preserved.

Pompeii, Italy

Day 92, Tuesday December 5, 2017

We start our visit to Pompeii with the colosseum which is the oldest surviving Roman amphitheatre. It had a capacity for 20,000 spectators. The Colosseum in Rome was built over a century later.

A display nearby had these 2,000 year old charred loafs of bread, dates and almonds.

One of the first houses we visit is called the House of Venus in the Shell because of a fresco on the end wall of the garden.

We are amazed at how well preserved and how brightly coloured the frescos on the walls are. I took almost 300 photos. There was so much to see and I want to remember it all. I won’t subject you to all those photos and I am not going to try to identify all the different houses by name with a lot of information. If I do that this post will never end! So just come for a walk through Pompeii with us, and see the sights.This was a fast food restaurant. Only the rich had their own kitchens, the rest of the people ate at these shops.Maintenance is an ongoing project here, along with new excavations. These structures were never intended to survive for 2,000 years and be exposed to not only the weather but also to the damage caused by 2.5 million visitors every year. In many areas we walk on the original mosaic floors!These big stepping stones kept pedestrians’ feet dry, as the streets were often used to dump sewage. Water from fountains overflowed onto the streets and helped to flush them clean.Tucked in to the corner of a house we see skeletons of some of the victims of the Mount Vesuvius eruption in 79 A.D. I felt quite emotional all day, walking through the streets and homes of the people who died here. I imagine the panic they must have felt when the volcano erupted.In the back room there are stairs to a second floor visible.

This is a view down into a room from a second floor. Most of the rooms in the houses were quite small, often between 7’x 7′ to about 10′ x10′, although the villas of the rich people also had some very large rooms.Some more well preserved frescos.  Red was the most expensive pigment so it was used by the wealthy.The decorated walls have some lovely small panels.One of the large rooms in a villa with a pool and an open skylight to collect rainwater.We find a high spot for some great views over Pompeii and have our lunch.

There are temples,

marble floors,and a theatre which we thought was the main theatre in Pompeii. Then we discover this one…
with this practice area for the athletes and gladiators. This is a bit of info on the plaster casts of Pompeii.

These cast are in a house near where they were found. These casts of the victims of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius are powerful. Their features are clearly visible and their contorted postures reveal the moment of their deaths. I have been feeling emotional all day and seeing these body casts has a strong impact. 

The next building we enter is the Lupanaro (the brothel), named for the cries of the prostitutes calling to their customers. They were thought to sound like she wolves! There are paintings on the walls above the doorways that were thought to have been sort of menu of the services available.The rooms were small with short stone beds and pillows. They certainly don’t look very comfortable but they would have had with cloth mattress and pillows on top of the stone.
A bakery still has the stone mills that were used to grind wheat and…an oven that looks very much like a modern day pizza oven.The long, straight streets were lined with shops and rooms that we think must have been houses for the common people.One of the large houses has some rather startling imagery, however we discover that they are simply letting the viewer know that along with wealth, fertility was also necessary for true happiness.The Pompeiians were masters at faux painting. The walls of their homes were covered from top to bottom with paintings and faux architectural details and finishes.Looking into a courtyard.At the end of a street I notice a building closed to the public and go take peek into the windows. I am rather startled to find more body casts. A child is frozen in time, as is this dog  who is caught in the moment of his agonized death.We walk through a necropolis with tombs for the dead towards…  the House of Mysteries.The house is named for these frescoes. This is an interesting article about the frescoes.The floor is a different sort of mosaic. The surface is very even and smooth, and yes, we walk on this ancient floor too.

The wooden doors and shutters of the House of mysteries are petrified.As we head back towards the town of Pompeii we see Mount Vesuvius. I read up a bit on this volcano and it is expected to erupt again. I don’t think I would want to be living anywhere nearby, yet 3 million people live within 20 miles of Mount Vesuvius’ crater. There is an evacuation plan in effect in case of another eruption but I wonder how effective that would really be. This is an interesting posting about why people live so close to a volcano.As we leave the archeological area there are several large outdoor rooms filled with amphoras and other pieces of archeological finds.  In the midst of these there are some more body casts. I think it seems disrespectful to see them displayed this way. The sun is setting and the light rakes across the ruins…giving everything a golden glow.There is a bookstore and museum near the far entrance so we have look around before heading back through the park towards the entrance near our apartment. There are more body casts here. It is a strange feeling looking into the faces of people who died almost 2,000 years ago. We walk through another necropolis on the way back to where we started our day.
When we exit we notice that there is a building with even more body casts on display that we missed seeing this morning.Again I have the feeling that there is something not quite right about how these are displayed, but I don’t really know what would be a better way of doing it.

Rome to Pompeii

Day 91, Monday December 4, 2017

Bob wanted to take the high speed train from Rome to Pompeii to see what travelling 250 km per hour felt like but the schedule didn’t work for us, so we are taking the bus. I don’t mind, as we don’t have to transfer trains in Naples, and I like looking at the scenery. I think at 250 km per hour everything would be bit of a blur! There are lots and lots of greenhouses outside of Naples.

I see a mountain and then it dawns on me that this must be Mount Vesuvius!
Naples seems ‘grittier’ than Rome. At least the area we saw as we drove into the bus station seemed  rather run down and not all that clean.Near the bus station there were people selling clothes and other items on the sidewalk.

Like Rome, there is no parking anywhere. Take a look at this street, lined with cars on both sides with barely enough room for the bus to get through. We went down some strange roads to get back on the freeway. They looked like alleys lined with ramshackle buildings on one side and fancy hotels on the other.

Walking to our apartment in Pompeii we pass some tree pruners. They certainly mean business when they prune trees here!After we settle in to our new Airbnb we go for groceries and we get our first glimpse of the archeological site of Pompeii with Mount Vesuvius in the background. It is only two blocks from our apartment.

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..

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.