Thursday, March 22, 2012

Ashley Sick

Ashley has come down with something not so nice last few days. Started on Tuesday morning and finally today it is letting up. Had a couple sick days from work, and couldn't really adventure too much around town. To be honest we were both happy for an excuse to hermit in the house for a while.
Did my best to nurse her back to health with cozy blankets and tea. Snapped a photo of her dozed off. So beautiful.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Galleria Borghese

We actually made 2 trips down to the Galleria Borghese, a boutique museum featuring the incredible personal collection of the Borghese family. The first trip, it was closed because of snow. So if you can't see the great sculpture, then you make it!

 We slipped and slid all the way through the gardens and finally made it to the CLOSED museum!
 The poor lemons were holding on, but shivering.
So, let's make this an interactive museum experience! Roll the snow...
 Sculpt the oddly shaped snowballs that the very wet snow caused...
 And you have a snow woman! The button eyes and carrot nose were given to use by a roman gentleman who saw us building a snowman. The leaves in her hair make her "roman".
I don't know? Do you think we are the next Bernini?

Sunday, March 4, 2012


The Pantheon - I have heard it mentioned. It seems to be something important, but I will be completely honest with you and say that when we decided to go and visit the Pantheon, I had no idea what I was looking for, or why we were seeing it.

After travelling this long, I am sorry to say, we are becoming somewhat disenchanted with the wonder of all these great buildings, and art, and culture. I can only stay in a state of awe for so long, and then everything tastes the same (even though I am fully aware that it isn't!)

However, sometimes not knowing about something before you see it makes the experience more spectacular. Expectations cannot be disappointed when they haven't yet come into being. 

 That is what happened with the Pantheon. Even from the outside I was thinking "Hey another Roman building. And look it has columns. Big columns that are the nicest I have seen, but really at the end of the day, just columns."
 And so we took some pictures with the big, beautiful columns. They are impressive - they are solid marble. Most columns in Rome were pieces stacked on each other, or just veneers. But these are the real thing. Ooh and aah at the pretty, massive marble columns.

 And this door was also very impressive. I was starting to loose my sense of ennui.
And then we got to the dome. Ennui is instantly replaced with Awe, wonder, and as Owen would say "What the crap for crap?!"
The Tourist information says that this dome is perfect in geometric proportions - a perfect sphere contained within a perfect cube. While I can appreciate that, it honestly doesn't make much of a difference to me. But I can tell you that the perfect is perceived. There is order here, and logic. 

 The marble on the floor was also beautiful - reminding us what all Roman buildings (which we see now only as ruins) must have been like.
 The Pantheon has been preserved because it was converted into a church - it has been in continuous use since it was built.


Rome - February 2012
There were a lot of disappointed tourists. For the first time in 50 years (I think?) Rome had snow. I certainly wasn't expecting it.  When I see pictures of people who have visited Rome, they are always in sundresses, searching for a spot of shade, eating gelato. I don't think we had any gelato. We had icy sidewalks.
Thankfully, we were in Rome long enough that we managed to see everything on our list. We talked to lots of people who were only around for a week or less, and weren't able to see much of anything. The Colosseum was open on one day the first week - we had tried to get in 2 previous days, and the next day (when we tried to go to the Forum) everything was closed again. My last comment on this is that compared to the Romans, people in Victoria handle snow very well. 

Being in the Colosseum was a very neat experience. I read (and re-read and re-read) a trilogy of books when I was younger called The Mark of the Lion. They were about Gladiators, and Christians who were thrown to the lions but survived. In this space, I wondered at the brutality of a civilization, and how what we enjoy is maybe not shaped by us, but by those around us. For instance—I enjoyed seeing the Colosseum. 

 It really is massive, and incredibly well designed. The entrance and exit flow allowed the entire arena (which held up to 50,000 spectators), could be emptied in 15 minutes.

This is a shot below the floor of the arena. Here is where the real show took place - wild animals were caged, gladiators and prisoners waited, elaborate stage set-ups would pop up. Theatre, and a well constructed and designed theatre at that. 

 Of course life or death was determined on the thumbs up or down - and I got a little caught up in the moment.
 Owen is ever compassionate and sticks to his guns - I love this man!

The orange trees haven't minded the snow too much. 

The Egyptian Bazaar (ie: The Spice Market)

On our way back from the Grand Bazaar, we wandered back through the streets of fabric shops.(Seriously, streets and streets of beautiful fabric. Be still my beating heart!)
 There is a smaller Bazaar, called the Egyptian Bazaar, that sells mostly spices, herbs, meats, cheeses and lots of Turkish Delight. I think it is called that because originally all the spices came up through Egypt.
 I didn't even know what they all were! One of the nicest spices I have discovered is Sumac. It is a little lemony, a little tangy, and really nice in a lot of foods (salads, soups, chicken...)
 Dried nuts and fruits are beautifully displayed - why have candy or chips when these snacks are so easy to come by?
 All the bottles here are oils for herbal medicine, teas or scents. They were just beautiful!
 Sausages (all beef of course - almost all the food in Turkey is Halal, or in accordance with Muslim law.)
 Walking back over the bridge the fishermen were still out, and we caught the most spectacular sunset. It was gone about 5 seconds after this photo.

The Grand Bazaar - A day at the market

Last weekend we decided that a visit to the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul was in order. We heard stories of pick-pockets and aggressive salesmen, of tourist traps and kitschy souvenirs. I have to say though, I was quite impressed. Although it is evident that most of the trade is carried out for and with tourists, there remains a sense of authenticity and cultural tenacity.

We walked from our apartment across one of the many bridges of Istanbul. Hundreds of men were fishing on both sides of the bridge, chatting and drinking tea as they waited for their lines to tug.
We followed the crowds once we were on the other side of the bridge—weaving our way through shops and crowds it became clear to us that the Bazaar culture is alive and well. How else would the Turkish people shop? 

This Bazaar was completed in 1481, although it has been added to over the years. According Wikipedia, it has "over 4,000 shops which attract between 250,000 and half a million visitors daily". It is VERY easy to get lost inside, and don't even try to see everything. 
Thankfully, it is organized into districts - the rugs are in the center, their are 2 different corridors of fabrics, in another place to will find mostly ceramics. And there is the gold section - gold and jewels. 

This is my favorite photo from the day - the bolts and bolts of fabric - all the traditional patterns and weaves of Turkey. I could go crazy buying fabric in this city. I did buy some silk Ikat (Below).
From the Grand Bazaar we wondered over to the Spice Market. You will have to wait until the next post to see those pictures!

Friday, March 2, 2012

An Interesting Morning

Normal day in Istanbul. We get up, do our morning thing, and commute to work. Morning is mostly normal with some nice Turkish tea. Oh, I should blog about that. Anyway... Late afternoon rolls around, and so do 3 buses.
These buses aren't filled with school kids. Nope, they are filled with police officers. Not just any police officers. Machine gun toting officers. The 3 loads of em. Wanted to take more pictures, but have been warned many times about taking pictures of police, government buildings, and these sort of things. So snuck these ones.
Our theory is that the local stadium was putting on a football (soccer) game. Although Turkey is a democratic nation, the strong hand of the government isn't very far away. So what happened while you were at the office?

Working At Brandenburg Gate

This is something we should do more of. We packed up our computers and headed to Brandenburg Gate to work.
Possibly one of the biggest icons of Berlin. It was a former city gate, originally built as a peace offering, it was eventually turned into a victory arch.

There were a handful of people offering photo ops for a few euros. So we thought what the heck.
Getting the odd tourist shot is a good thing I reckon.
I went with the more classic shot. Ashley did the steam punk route with this odd fellow.
Found a classic bike with the gate in the background, couldn't resist that shot.
While we were working in the local coffee shop an ad-lib drama group came by. This was so very Berlin which made me smile.
Some of the fellow StarBucks patrons looks a little dazed and confused.
This was our front and centre view.
Worked for a little while longer until it started to hail/snow. What a great day.
Not a bad day at the office eh? Hooray for ChatterBlock!
Heading back home found another Bugatti Veyron.
After Wolfsburg this was the second one I got to see close up.
Found another random statue, and called it a day.