mandag 17. desember 2018

Lean project

After a few lazy (and sick) days outside of Firenze, I hitched a ride with my sister and her family. They had rented an 8 seater, so I had the backseat to myself. Probably for the best, still being sick. We were all going to Pisa.
I thought about Pisa and the fact that the city is known for a engineering mistake. Must be a bit weird that this is what your city is known for. And it is even a tourist attraction. I had chosen a small hotel about 5 minutes from the leaning tower. I walked past the hotel entrance a few times before I actually found it. I entered, and an older guy greeted me. As soon as he understood I didn't speak any italian, he called for a younger girl who spoke some english. She was able to check me in, and took me up the stairs behind the reception. Past the kitchen, some bathrooms and such. My room was small and at the very top. The view was to the back yard. Nothing to write home about. But this was my final stop for the trip, so I didn't mind. After checking in, I left to meet my sister and her family, and some friends. We were going out to eat.
After eating a great pizza, we walked over to the tower. And yes. It was leaning. And after taking far too many pictures of the tower, I started checking out the church next to it. And I smiled when I realized that the church was also leaning. But the wall seemed like it had been fixed. That it was started to lean, and then somebody fixed it by packing in some more bricks to straighten it up.

The church beside the tower

Falling angel

To avoid the crowds, I decided to get up early. And the light when the Sun was rising was stunning. My non-pulizter-price-winning camera abilities of course failed to capture the light the way I wanted. But anyways. I loved the light and the colors.

Later in the morning, I went into the church and took some pictures. Like so many churches in Italy, this was also beautiful. With beautiful paintings and stunning artworks. 

After finishing the picture taking, I went to the airport to take the flight home. The Galileo Galileo airport. 

Ok. Soooo. This has been a good trip. Not a country that I usually would travel to. But sometimes, it is nice to just go to a western country. This is something on the other end of the scale from the country I went to in March; Afghanistan. But they both have things that I loved. Italy had all the beautiful old buildings, great food, great trains, and beautiful countryside. Maybe I will travel more to countries in Europe in the future. When my body is getting older and crispier... And my cognitive skills and attentiveness renders travelling to countries like Afghanistan a more dangerous endeavour than it already is.
Since I wrote most of this blog a long time after the trip, a lot of the small funny parts and encounters is long forgotten. So sorry about that. Hopefully, I will be better at writing as I go along on my next trips.

Hope you have enjoyed my trip descriptions.

Till next time, Merry Christmas!


torsdag 13. desember 2018

With a country on the side

After the wonderful last night with heavenly fireworks to mark my departure, I took a taxi back to the trainstation. I had tickets to Firenze. Or Florence as English-speaking peep call it. I love the Italian superfast trains. It took me from Rome to Firenze in around 1.5 hours. I was on my way to meet my family. My sister and her hubby was celebrating their birthdays in an eco-farm outside of Firenze.
I had planned to go into Firenze and check it out for a few hours before I took the local train to a small station close to the eco-farm. Unfortunately, though, my body had other plans. I had started heating up, and felt a fever coming. And my nose had started running. And my throat was sore. I was hoping this would pass. But when I walked outside in the heat, it became clear that even a small walk was out of the question. So I stayed in the cooler train station, and waited for the local train to depart.
i love taking the train. It is lovely to just sit there and enjoy the landscape passing by. Hearing the soft "ka-tacka-tanng----ka-tacka-tanng" from the rails.
The landscape opened up as we approached my stop. Hilly, wavy landskape. With fields of grapes or olive trees. Cypress trees. Just as I imagined it would be. I got off at the small station, and my brother-in-law picked me up in his rental car. He had his two sons with him. We went shopping, and had an ice-cream each. I was hoping it would soothe my throat. It did. For a while at least. Or maybe it was just that I wanted an ice-cream...
We had a great time at the farm. Eating delicious food. Relaxing. Except for me and my mom. We were both down and out with a strong fever. So unfortunately, I wasn't able to explore as much as I wanted. But maybe some other time. I did manage to get a longer walk before my fever got to high. Among the things they had on the farm was a windmill that allegedly was designed by Leonardo da Vinci himself. I loved the walk in this tranquil landscape. Balm for the soul after bustling cities.
Here are some of the few photos I did take.

The eco-farm

There were tons of frogs on the roads during the evenings

Leonardo da Vinci windmill

Church in a small village nearby

Grapes on the vine

Birthday dinner

Thunder and lightning

The last night in Rome, the "gods" put on a show. Thunder and lightning. As if to bid me farewell with the heavenly fireworks! I put up my camera, and snapped a few hundred photos. And when checking the photos afterwards, I managed to capture a few lightnings. Here are some of my best (click on the images to see them at max size):

onsdag 12. desember 2018

The empire strikes back

The roman empire lasted around 200 years (someone told me it was way longer than this). It expanded around the whole Mediterranean sea, and then some. Nowadays, some of the remains still...remains...
I had set off a full day to see as much as I could. I had been sitting the day before and found a route through Rome so I could see the main things. The Pantheon, the Colosseum and Forum Romana. There are a lot more stuff to be seen for sure, but I wanted to concentrate on these.
Of course, at first, I also wanted to see the tourist attractions, like the Spanish steps and the Trevi fountain. As always, I come across the unexpected. The things and sights I hadn't read about. And that might be the most interesting parts of travelling...
My route would take most of the day to finish, and it would be about a very long walk. I started out walking past Castel Sant Angelo. It looked interesting on the map, so I passed it since it was on the way to the Spanish Steps. It was an interesting structure, shaped like a star. I wasn't able to take any good pictures of it, but it was a good first "ruin". It was built in the second century. So about the time the Roman empire fell apart.

Then I walked past the Supreme Court. A beautiful and pictoresque building not far from the castel.

Then past a smal church, which was open. I walked inside and snapped a few photos.

And then I finally arrived at the Spanish Steps. And I know that a lot of people come here to sit down and take selfies. But I really don't get it. I mean, the stairs are nice, I guess. But it wasn't really that special. Other than they being famous and all. Maybe I was expecting too much. I don't know. I walked around. Trying to find an angle where their beauty or something would shine, but not even the fountain in front of it made me think it was worth the walk here. Maybe it's just me. Then again : Not maybe... Ok. Enough about that already. A couple of pictures :

I pulled out my phone and looked at the map. Trevi fountain next. On my way I stopped at a small shop and bought something cold to drink. It was HOT in Rome. And I had already been walking for a while. Just a short walk later, I came across this :

A genuine part of an old roman aquaduct. Yeah, I know I'm a nerd, but I just LOVE archeological sites. And really old stuff. So even if this was just a small piece, hehind a fence, I still smiled from my excitement.

Real old time aquaduct!!!!
After this little treat, I walked on the the Trevi fountain. Now that was what I was talking about! Gorgeous looking and monumental. And packed with peeps... I managed to find a few spots where I got most of the fountain peep free. Then I just sat there, looking at it. Enjoying it.

On my way to the Pantheon, I passed the following building. It looked like they had just placed a new building behind some old columns. Have no idea what they were originally a part of, but I love old stuff. So, naturally, I had to take some photos, and to touch it... Yeah, I know. "Look with my fingers"...

Pantheon. The temple of all gods. I have tried to find a year when it was built, but there seems to be disputes about that. But it has been rebuild a number of times. So the current one was build sometime between 109 and 127 A.D. Another magnificent structure. With a beautiful dome at the centre of it. With a hole in the roof, allegedly as the only source of light. And to drain the rain falling through the hole, the floor is arching slightly, with the center being the highest point.
It is humbling walking between the columns and then enter this massive structure. With its amazing echo and acoustics. Ginormous and wonderful. It was converted into a church around 609 A.D. And thus has a few "modern" statues. Several kings are buried here.

On my way to the Colosseum, I came across probably the biggest surprise of them all. And I had read nothing about it. I found this :

I thought this was an old building from the roman era, but after checking online, I realized this building was inaugerated in 1911 and finished in 1935... It is called Altare della Patria. Anyways. It was magnificent! Loved it! So monumental and gigantic my jaw literally dropped! I stood amazed in front of it for several minutes before I started taking any photos.
After this, I needed some food. So I found a small restaurant, and tried to order some food. The guy told me to sit down and wait for the food. After 10 minutes, a waitress came to my table and asked if I wanted food. I told her that I had already ordered. She walked over to the counter. After about half an hour, I still hadn't gotten any food. And she came back and asked if I had gotten any food. "Obviously not", I answered. "One moment!" she said and walked to the counter again. She returned. "Sorry sir, they cannot remember what you ordered. Could you order again?" At this point, I was tired of waiting. I shook my head and walked out. I bought some chocolate and went on my way towards the Colosseum. I know I should probably have bought tickets online before I came here, but I forgot. So when arriving, seeing the gigantic queues outside, I settled for walking around the building and taking photos.

Forum romana was next. I had already walked through the area on my way to the Collosseum. But now I wanted to look more closely at the ruins. Of course, the ruins where just that. Small pieces of old columns and such. Through the centuries, it has decayed like most things. But you do get a sense of the grandness of the buildings and the streets. I have been to many old archeoligical sites in the world, and they always fill me with wonder. I love to just sit and time-travel in my mind. Trying to comprehend what it must have been like living in that time. Walking through the streets. As a visitor or resident. Trying to imagine myself in the shoes of both princes and paupers. Trying to imagine what the slaves must have felt, building these magnificent constructions. The sounds. The smells.

The last stop of the day before heading back, was the old Circo Massimo, south-west of the Colosseum. This used to be a race track for racing horses and carriage. In addition to execution of people, and galdiator games. And most christians that were killed, were killed here. It is said to have the ability to hold several hundred thousand spectators. Sooo... Bread and circus. To keep people happy...
Today it is mostly just a grassy field. But it is still interesting to see. And when I arrived, it seemed like they were setting up stages to hold a concert there.

At this point, I was tired, thirsty and hungry. So I headed back to my hotel, and stopped a couple of times to buy some delicious Italian ice cream...