October 29, 2016

Ravenna

Press HERE to see a slideshow
of Ravenna (50+ photos).

Mosaic Couch along the Channel
Mosaic Couch on the Marina Channel IMG_1148

Mosaic Ceiling-Baptistery of Ariani

The Baptistery of Ariani IMG_1088

Mausoleum of Theodoric

Mausoleum of Theodoric IMG_1147

Last Sunday we traveled to Ravenna by train. We walked a half-mile to an apartment we had rented for the week. I think it is the nicest apartment so far and the least expensive in Italy. We quickly got settled. Our last apartment in Verona had no washing machine, so the first thing we did was wash clothes. For Americans you should know that clothes dryers really don't exist in most places outside the USA. So, we put them on a drying rack. Due to overcast and cool temperatures they had to dry inside for several days.

Like I said, it was cool and overcast from Sunday to Wednesday. Still we walked to the center on Monday. The local information office provided us with a lot of useful information. We did not do much more on Monday. We visited the tomb of Dante. Yes, after Dante was exiled from Florence, this was his home ground. He was buried here and Florence has been trying to get his remains back ever since. We had lunch in a cafeteria. Then we visited a large, local, active church. Ravenna is world famous for the mosaics found in its churches. This church had a large number of pieces that had been moved to the church. They were all very good

Tuesday, we started by heading to the Tomb of Theodoric. As we made our way in that direction we passed by a large, old military fortress that had been turned into a city park. It was really very cool. We decided to skip the tomb and go to the Basilica of Saint Vitale and the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia. Here we found the most astounding mosaics on the floors, walls and ceilings. When you see the pictures, keep on telling yourself "These are mosaic and not paintings." And they are from the 5th and 6th century. We did a bit more walking where we were checking out some small churches and the courtyards that every Italian block has hidden behind their buildings. We tried a bit of the local specialty, cappeletti with ragu. So, tasty! Finally we went to a concert in a local theater. We think they were older students from a local university, but that is not for sure. Betty recorded one of the movements that they played from the Symphony in D major by Haydn and Solomon, which was the better of the two recordings. She also got two minutes from the Kegelstatt Trio (W. A. Mozart). Here are links to two recordings of what we heard. This link was the better piece. And here is a link link to the other. Please give a listen to them.

Tugs Pulling Freighter

We really took Wednesday off, which was another cool overcast day. So, I will move on to warm and sunny Thursday. We visit a few more places in the center. We visited the Duomo of Ravenna. The Duomo was completed in the early 1700's. Then we visited the very old Neonian Baptistery, called the Baptistery Deli Ortodossi. Again the Mosaics were spectacular. We also visited a museum, whose contents mainly came from a church that collapsed three hundred years ago. After lunch we finally walked to the Tomb of Theodoric. The tomb is in a large public park so we took a break to rest and watch children enjoying the playground equipment.

Friday we did a day trip to Marina di Ravenna. This is a port about six miles from Ravenna that serves the city and the region around Ravenna. We took a walk in the woods. There was a problem with the trail. It was fenced so we could not cross to the main road unless we hiked to the next town. We had planned to go to a restaurant on the main road that was no more than 300 meters on the other side of the very high fence. Finally we came to an area that opened up into the woods. We headed toward the main road only to find backyard fences. Luckily one was low enough for us to get over it. We walked through their carport to a front yard gate. No, it would not open. So, up and over we went. Five minutes later we were on the main road and 100 meters from our restaurant. We ate a nice lunch and took the bus back to Ravenna.

Large Mosaic at Basilica of San Vitale
Basilica of San Vitale IMG_1633

Posted by bill at 01:37 PM | Comments (3)

October 22, 2016

Verona

Press HERE to see a slideshow
of Verona (80+ photos).

The Arena
The Arena IMG_0932

Church of Santa Anastasia

Church of Santa Anastasia IMG_0967

Outside Castelvecchio

Outside Castelvecchio IMG_1014

In case you forgot, Verona is the place where Romeo and Juliet met, fell in love, and died. Perhaps that is why it has become such an important tourist attraction. The large number of tourists, mostly Germans, totally surprised us.

We arrived on Sunday afternoon and made our way to a nice one-bedroom apartment. It has ended up being our most expensive booking on AirBnB, but given the popularity of Verona it was the best we could do. The manager of the flat was the Truly Agency. They were not totally prepared for us. We make it clear that we MUST have broadband internet. Once again there were problems, which were temporarily resolved the next day. Then the problem re-emerged and their solution was to move us to a different apartment. I use the word "move" rather loosely, we packed our own things, had to move food we had gotten for the week, then walked almost one mile to the agency, then another quarter-mile to the new apartment. Since then the place has been fine with a great internet connection.

Castle Scaligero in Sirmione
Castle Scaligero IMG_1071
Bill in Sirmione
Bill in Sirmione IMG_1607

We started with a visit to the city's central square, Piazza Bra, which has a Roman arena in the square. The next day we returned to the Piazza Bra. From there we walked to Piazza Erbe and on to the first of many churches. This one was the Duomo Cathedral of Santa Maria Matriculate. Before our week ended we visited many more. The best was the Church of Santa Anastasia. You will want to see our many photos of the churches.

One day we went to the Castelvecchio. Historically, the castle was mainly a military compound. Today, it is museum full of old, fairly uninteresting religious art. But the castle itself is beautiful with many battlements with crenellation. From the castle emerges a bridge of similar architectural forms that crossed the River Adige.

Yesterday, we took a day trip to Sirmione. Sirmione is on Lake Garda. We had heard that it was a popular place. We wrongly assumed that this would be a quiet little village with a few tourists. There were more than two thousand in a fairly small place. The area is thick with hotels and restaurants. We explored the peninsula for a few hours then stopped for a delightful lunch. I had several perch fillets from Lake Garda and Betty had a beautiful plate of lasagna. By the way, in Italy all sit-down restaurants have a cover charge of $2 to $4 per person. That means one does not stop for a coffee or even a beer, unless you plan on eating and drinking a lot. We have seen this from time-to-time in other places, but we always find the practice disgusting.

Tomorrow we will travel to Ravenna. You can expect a posting from Ravenna in a week.

Along the River Adige
Along the River Adige IMG_0930

Posted by bill at 04:58 AM | Comments (4)

October 18, 2016

Venice

Press HERE to see a slideshow
of Venice (90+ photos).

Bill Over the Grand Canal
Bill Over the Grand Canal IMG_1514

Betty on the Riva

Betty on the Riva IMG_1564

Another Canal

Canal IMG_0867

We traveled by train to the Mestre Station. I just want to rave about the Italian Train System. The system runs on time, is not expensive costing less than buses. Even stopping at many small cities, the time from Trieste to Mestre was less than two hours. We will use the trains through out our Italian journey.

We booked a room in Mestre for three nights. Mestre was once a separate town, but is now a large, on-land neighborhood of Venice. The room was nothing fancy but adequate with a private bath. The B&B provided something of a breakfast. We arrived on Thursday morning. We took the bus into the old city that everyone knows as Venice, arriving in the early afternoon after a 30-minute bus ride.

The weather was not great, being very overcast and a bit cool. We had about four hours to explore. We walked to Piazza San Marco often getting bit lost, while stopping along the way to walk into an ancient church or to view a little canal. We were getting turned around because Google maps just not work well in a city of very narrow walking streets with four-story thick walled buildings looming on each side of the street. On the Riva next to San Marco, we finally purchased a city map. Every other city will provide the visitor a map, but not in Venice. The map was EXTREMELY useful. As we were leaving Venice about 4 pm, the mist and the light rain began to fall.

The next day, Friday, it rained ALL day long. We took the day off, trying to stay warm and catch up on the news of the world.

Finally Saturday was a beautiful, warm, sunny day. We covered some of the same ground that we did on Wednesday. But we made it to several new parts of the old city. At the end of the day at 5:00 pm, we returned to the Church of San Rocco. Here we were greeted to an hour-long concert of organ, trumpet and a soprano.

On Sunday, we left the Mestre Station for a ride lasting a bit over one hour. We stopped in Verona, Where we will spend a week and which I will write more about next time.

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Gondola on the Riva
Gondola on the Riva IMG_0927

Posted by bill at 10:29 AM | Comments (3)

October 12, 2016

Trieste, Italy

Press HERE to see a slideshow
of Trieste (50+ photos).

Mr. Happy's Group - Alberto in Blue Plaid Shirt

Trieste is an Austrian town in the north of Italy. How can that be? For 500 years it was part of the Hapsburg Empire. The city was finally given to Italy in the early 1950's. The archetecture is dominated by 19th century Austrian styles.

We are couchsurfing here. It has given a chance to really know our host Alberto Contento, also known as Mr. Happy. He is an excellent singer. We have met several of his friends and some have become facebook friends.

While we are staying five nights, the weather has been far from perfect. One day we stayed in due to cold, rain and wind. One day we made it to the center, but quit roaming when the cold wind wore us out. We did take a LOT of pictures and we encouage you to see the slide show.

Today we visited a mini-Versailles. It was the House of Baron Pasquale Revoltella and the Revoltella Gallery of Modern Art. The visit was wonderful.

Again, please, watch the slideshow. Tomorrow we will be on our way to Venice.

Ships Preparing for the Barcolana Race
Preparing for Barcolana IMG_0744

Posted by bill at 12:40 PM | Comments (3)

October 07, 2016

Ljubljana

Press HERE to see a slideshow
of Ljubljana (50+ photos).

Riverside from Cobbler's Bridge
Riverside from Cobblers Bridge IMG_0659

Dancers in Tivoli Park

Dancers in Tivoli Park IMG_0666

Ljubljana from the Castle Grounds

Ljubljana from the Castle Grounds IMG_1436

Federico Del Vecchio with his Parents

Federico Del Vecchio IMG_0686

Ljubljana is the biggest city in one of the smallest countries in Europe, Slovenia. The city of 200,000 residents is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. We booked in for a week, which was a few days too many. We rented a flat in the best location in the city, on the city's original main street. This street and most of the most iconic streets in the city are paved with stones and are for pedestrians only. We paid a bit more for the location, but the apartment was near perfect for us. The only snaffu was during our first two days when we had pretty disfunctional internet service. It is better now but still not up to an acceptable speed.

Lake Bled
Lake Bled IMG_0701
Betty and the Church on the Island
Betty and the Church IMG_0713
Bled Castle and the Lake
Bled Castle IMG_0716
Bled Mother's Group
Bled Mothers Group IMG_1466

So, we spent the first few days wandering the streets and squares of the city. Several years ago they started banning traffic on many of the small streets in the city center. We are living on the old main street of the city, Mestni, and there is only bicycle and pedestrian traffic. Much of the archetecture comes from the work of Joze Plecnik. My favorite pieces of his work are the triple bridge, the city market and the river embankments near the triple bridge.

One day we made our way to the high point of the city, the city castle. The climb was very difficult as we are no longer spring chickens. From the ramparts we found some beautiful views of the city. Check out our slide show.

That same day we ate in very nice little restaurant whose name translates into the Second Violin. We sat at a table with strangers. First was two students from England, both were Twainese. They were just finishing up their degrees. One was moving back to Taiwan and the other not. When they were finished and we were still eating, Federico Del Vecchio and his parents asked if they could share our table. Federico is an Italian art student at university here in Ljubljana. He has studied and worked the world over. He told us this is the first time in 15 years his parents had been able to visit him where he was studying. We had a lovely conversation. Betty loves seeing the building and chuches and I love the conversations. We have both been getting what we like. I've got to say, I love that English has become the international language. Just about all travelers speak English. And huge portions of the world population between the ages of 12 and 60 speak English. And when you talk to those people you can learn so much.

On Thursday we traveled to the town of Bled, a nice little town on the shore of lovely little lake. In the lake is a small island where there is a large church. The lake has path along the shore that is a bit more than two miles around. About one-third the way round we stopped for coffee and a pastry. Here we met the local sparrows as they flew by and looked for food at our feet and on the table. At the adjoining table sat a half-dozen young mothers with four-month old children. They had initially met in a Facebook group and now they meet regulary for mutual support. We sat down with them to find out about the support system for Slovenian mothers. First, their healthcare and the births were taken care by the Slovenian government. One month before birth they begin a one-year maternity leave. During the first three months they are paid 100% of the normal wages and for the nine-months after that 90% of the normal pay. After one year of leave, they usually return to their jobs. Through the government they can get infant child care for about $230 USD per month. This is the sort of capitalism we need in the USA.

As we walked around the lake we met many fisherpeople, something we rarely see in Europe. Lake Bled has a reputation for have very large carp, up to 70 pounds. Most of the anglers were from Italy. When I finally got to taking a photo of two fisherman, they were from the Czech Republic. The other thing I learned from them is that the fishing license for foreigners lasting three days is $165 USD. They must be super dedicated fishermen.

From Michael Moore's documentary, "Where to Invade Next," we learned that university tuition is free in Slovenia. From three different students we verified that all undergraduate university students pay no tuition. By all I mean EVERYONE, including Americans. This happens in a country of two million people.

Today we are getting ready to leave on Saturday for Trieste. The stay has been quite pleasant, except for the irritation of a very unstable internet connection. This is a VERY beautiful city with good and friendly people.

Fountain at Center of Mestni Square
Mestni Square IMG_0676

Posted by bill at 05:34 AM | Comments (2)