Date: Monday, June 30, 2014 (for Sabbath, June 28, 2014)
Time: 10:25 am local time/4:25 am EST
Place: Vienna, Austria
Sabbath was, ideally, to be a restful, easygoing day, but thanks to the Three Stooges plus 1 (or Laurel and Hardy Squared) it was a bit of an adventure. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
We had church in front of one of the most famous churches in Florence: Santa Maria Novella. The front of the church is quite beautiful, but the façade dates later than the rest of the church. It has green accents around the edges. Our devotional was given by Chris Dant, who told the story of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits.
We went inside Santa Maria Novella, and were specifically told to find two pieces of art. The first was a very beautiful crucifix by Brunelleschi. The story goes that Michelangelo was walking past the church and saw the crucifix and dropped his packages because it was so incredibly lifelike and beautiful.
Also in the church was a painting of the Trinity by a man named Tomaso Guido, who was called Masaccio. The painting shows the Father and the Son, but you have to look very carefully to find the Spirit. It is depicted as a dove, but if you aren’t looking for it, the dove looks like part of the Father’s robe. It’s a very beautiful painting.
Another statue in the church was very disturbing to me, but I’m not really sure why. Kathy Goddard explained it to me, and it made more sense, but it still struck me as very odd. It was a statue of Christ in the tomb. We are used to seeing Him dead on the cross, but our art doesn’t depict him in the tomb. Theirs did, and it was the strangest thing to me.
As I was walking around, I saw a grave marker by the edge of the church, towards the front. It said Jacopo Peri, creatore del melodramma. This is the grave marker of the man who invented the opera genre, though we don’t have a complete score to it. The first complete opera we have is Orfeo by Monteverdi.
We were given a break for lunch, and we went out for one last Italian meal. I head that we were to be back with the group by 1 o’clock, but Laughlin and Goddard head 1:30. I deferred to them, though I shouldn’t have. We missed meeting up with the group for the train trip to Pisa.
Our group is very efficient, partially because we are all teachers (in some form or another). We all fanned out, leaving one at the center as a meeting point. We walked around the area, looking for them. I got Dr. Wohlers’ number from dad, and then when he didn’t answer I got Chris Dant’s number from Curtis. I texted him and we figured out that they had left us and had gone to Pisa. We decided to follow them, catching a train that left a few minutes later.
Once we were in Pisa we took a bus over to the leaning tower, which is the belfry (or campanella) of the Cathedral. In front of the church, and higher, and almost as large is the baptistery. Before we got there, the big group got to go into the baptistry, and they even did a demonstration of the acoustics. Unfortunately, I missed it.
We did get to go into the Cathedral, and I was very impressed by it. It was set up for tourists, but they came the closest (except maybe San Giorgio in Venice) to having some form of reverence, which I greatly appreciated. The front of the church had a medieval mosaic at the front which had been rediscovered during renovations in the 1958.
I got my picture taken in front of the Leaning Tower, but didn’t attempt to climb it. It was expensive, for one, and it is leaning over. I didn’t want to risk falling off it. I figured my weight at just the right place could drastically change the fragile balance it has and ruin a historical monument for everyone.
We took the train back to Florence, and then were dismissed for one more meal. We stopped at a grocery store and I bought a little bit of produce (I’ve been craving vegetables), then we went and ate sitting on the steps of San Lorenzo. It was a nice place to look out at the people walking. The people in the open-air market were closing up for the day, and banging very loudly, and at one point I think I heard a shot (though it could have been a firework), but I felt quite safe.
From there we went back to our hotel, collected our luggage, and went to the train station for a night train from Florence to Vienna. We were assigned couchettes (koo-shetts, a compartment with two sets of three-high berths), and I was with both Laughlins, Goddard, Joel, and Lisa. We were a good group. I was the one in charge of climbing up to the top berth and putting our luggage up on the rack. Then we made Kaiti and Lisa sleep up on the top. I was willing to let the older ladies have the bottom, but they offered it to me.
We all slept decently, though not stellarly. Others in our large group (the whiners) complained the next day about how bad they slept and how hot it was on the top. Lisa and Kaiti never said anything.
That’s about it for Sabbath. I’ll write about yesterday a little later on.
Love to all!
Date: Sunday, June 29, 2014 (for Friday, June 27, 2014)
Friday morning we took the train back to Rome to spend the day. We got off the train at Roma Centrali (the central train station in Rome) and then went to two or three art museums, all of which frown upon taking pictures, so they all sort of run together.
At the first museum we went to, they had the very famous Roman copy of the Greek Discus Thrower, which does an amazing job of showing all of the musculature. It actually looks as if it could be moving and throwing the discus (which is basically a Frisbee). Standing next to it is another copy of the original (which has been lost for centuries). It looks like it would have been as grand, but is missing its head, and at least one arm.
Between the first and second museums Lisa lectured for a while about the relationship between the Roman Empire and the Christians. The Empire was made up of two different classes of people: the Patricians (wealthy, nobility) and the Plebeians (the working class). Suddenly the Plebes found themselves getting some say in how government worked.
The Christians had problems because they were seen as unpatriotic. The Romans would allow the people they conquered and ruled to continue to worship their local gods, but they demanded that they also worship the Emperor as a god. The Christians refused to do so, and were actually seen as atheistic by the Romans.
The Early Christians didn’t want to just have a religion that would grant them citizenship, but nothing more. They wanted to have a personal relationship with God, and with a community. The Romans worshipped out in the open, but Christians were much more reserved and worshiped in private. For all the Romans knew, they Christians were sacrificing babies or having orgies.
In the 300s or 400s Christianity became one of the official religions of Rome, but in doing that, they had to define themselves. What were their beliefs? What were their practices? Who were the heretics among them? Part of the rule was that worship had to be done in public (church) so that people could come in and see what was going on. This is a good parallel to how Adventists officially became a denomination. We needed to be on a list with the government so that our young men wouldn’t be drafted into the Civil War, or at least so they wouldn’t have to fight.
Between 300 and 1000 Christians had two major tasks: 1) they were missionaries, and 2) they had to learn to deal with authorities. During this time, however, there were those who felt that they should spend extensive time alone in prayer and meditation. They began to move out into the desert, but then began to move into groups. These were the beginnings of monasteries and convents.
Around 1000 the lay people, those who didn’t feel a call to be a nun, monk, priest, or hermit, wanted a way to be more holy themselves, so the Church gave them sacraments. Performing these sacraments (marriage, communion, and several others) literally made them holy (so they thought).
In the late 1400s and early 1500s the Church—run by popes and cardinals who were members of the Medici and other rich families—tried to become a stronger political entity, but by the mid-to-late 1500s it was a lost cause. The State won. St. Peter’s Basilica was a last ditch effort to be important.
Rome itself really wasn’t important at all between 500 and 1000, but it was still an example of a great empire. Charlemagne, Napoleon, and Hitler all tried to recreate the strength of the Roman Empire.
In Florence, where we stayed, there was a man named Sabonarola who called for reformation in the church. He is famous for his Bonfires of Reform, wherein artists—convicted of his message—threw their worldly pieces into the flames and never worked in that genre again.
There are two great legacies of Rome: 1) the arch with the rounded top. It is used heavily in Romanesque art. The second (2) is Roman Law. It was very complex, but was codified and became the basis of Church canon law, finally becoming the basis of most of the law in the Western world.
The second museum we went to was connected (in some way that I never did figure out) to the Roman baths. In it they had a lot of wonderful examples of early Christian iconography. This included the Chai-Ro (X-P) symbol for Christ, and a way to spell Christos in a design which doesn’t require you to lift your pen. Greg King knows how to do it, and I want to learn how.
The group went to St. Peter’s Basilica next, and I was very proud of how the Catholics have done at keeping a reverent feeling in the church. I still felt more like a tourist than a worshipper, but they did better than most (especially San Marco in Venice) at keeping a religious focus.
I have a picture of me standing on the spot where (according to tradition) Charlemagne was crowned by the Pope. Charlemagne wasn’t too happy about it, either. He had become the most powerful man in all Europe, then the Pope crowns him, which showed that he (the pope) was more important the Charlemagne.
Down the center aisle of St. Peter’s they have markers in the floor saying what size other important churches are. St. Peter’s is easily the largest Western Christian church, with St. Paul’s Cathedral in London coming second by probably 50 feet.
In St. Peter’s there is an anteroom chapel on the right side in the back. In it is a gorgeous statue by Michelangelo called the Pieta. It is a statue of Mary holding Jesus after they took him off the cross. It is absolutely elegant and beautiful, though not especially realistic to me. She looks calm and collected, though sad. I think she would show much more sadness and fear at that time.
The story goes that a very young Michelangelo carved this statue, and it was delivered one night. The next day Michelangelo was in the church, and he heard someone say that it couldn’t have been by Michelangelo. Hurt, he broke into the church that night, and carved his name into the statue, signing it. As soon as he knew what he had done, he was filled with remorse. That was the only piece of art (or at least religious art) that Michelangelo signed.
He lived at a crossroads. Someone a generation before would never have dreamed of signing their religious art because it was a gift for God. A generation after him wouldn’t have thought twice about signing the work. That is the quandary I’m in when I sing a sacred song. I love to sing them, and try to do it for God’s glory. Unfortunately, though, when I do, it’s easy for me to start singing for my own glory. I understand how Michelangelo would have felt. He wanted recognition, but wanted to give the honor all to God.
From St. Peter’s Basilica we walked through quite a bit of Rome, passing the Trevie (sp?) Fountain, which was under constructing. We finally made our way to the Pantheon, which was built in about 30 BC by Agrippa to commemorate a great victory he had won. Around 100 AD it was rebuilt and repurposed into a Christian church, easily the oldest Christian church in history.
I went inside and was hoping to sing a little bit, but that wasn’t to be—there was a play going on. It was a 20th century take on a medieval morality play, loudly amplified, and done in Italian. It was a shame, too, because I would have liked a little bit more time to go through and enjoy the solitude I was hoping to find.
We walked past another church on the way to the fountain of the Four Rivers. That particular church was dedicated to St. Louis of the French. Beyond that, I didn’t pay enough attention, I guess, but there was a beautiful painting on the wall and a beautiful organ in the back.
We finally made it to the Piazza Navonna, Dr. Wohler’s favorite place in Rome. We stopped for a few minutes there at the Fountain of the Four Rivers, none of which I could accurately name. There were street musicians in the square, and just as we were leaving they began to play my theme song on the violin and accordion. So pretty.
We all walked a ways further until we came to a bus stop. We waited for the right bus for about half an hour, and when it came it was full. But Dr. Wohlers told us to get on, so another 26 people and backpacks squeezed onto the bus. We had been warned to hide our valuables because this was the pickpocket bus (but also the bus we had to take). We all did, with the exception of Kaiti Laughlin, whose phone was stolen. On the bright side, though, she is getting an upgrade when we get back.
It’s been a lot of fun, but also a lot of art museums. ☺. I’m tired right now, and I think I’ll lay down for a while. I’ll write about our Sabbath misadventures tomorrow. I don’t know when I’ll get to post this, but when I do, I will.
Love to all!
Date: Thursday, June 26, 2014
Time: 8:25 pm local time/2:25 pm EST
Place: Florence, Italy
Here’s my second blog post du jour, so hopefully I won’t bore you too badly. I even have high hopes of being able to post this one the same day that it was written.
This morning we had to be out by about 8 o’clock because we were due over at the Bargello museum, which, like the other two museums today, is an art museum. The building was a community center of some sort during the Renaissance, and then was turned into a prison during the eighteenth century.
The first thing I saw was a statue of three musicians, two of whom were playing sakbutts, which are early trombones. When composers of the Renaissance and early Baroque eras wanted to portray Hell in their music, they would use the sounds of sakbutts and oboes. I think that may be one of my favorite pieces of musical trivia.
The Bargello has an exhibit of historical statues of David. The famous statue of David came later in the day, but we got to enjoy these wonderful statues from several hundred years of history. These were wonderful ways to see how the styles had changed. Two of the Davids were at least partially clothed, but the third stands naked as a jaybird, except for what looks like a straw hat. They are all standing on Goliath’s severed head.
In the same hall as the David statues are the two contest scenes by Ghiberti and [someone else, who I can’t remember]. They made these squares to see who would get the contract to decorate the doors of the baptistery in front of Il Duomo. Personally, I preferred the square made by the loser.
There was a set of statues called Gli Ucceli (Lee ooh-chelly--the Birds). Included amongst the bird is a peacock, a rooster, an owl, and several other “normal” birds. They are absolutely beautiful statues, however, and very lifelike.
From the Bargello we made our way to the Uffizi Gallery, where we got to enjoy more art, this was mostly paintings (with a few statues thrown in for good measure). Included in the collection is a painting called the Birth of Venus, which is one of the first, if not the first, secular painting ever painted. It shows the goddess Venus coming out of a shell. I don’t quite understand the point of it, but it is very historically significant. It was after that point that artists began to feel free to make secular art.
Out on the roof of the Gallery (which, by the way is right across a small street from where we watch the fireworks a few nights ago) we had a wonderful view of the Dome of Il Duomo and also the Campanella (or bell tower). We also had a view of Dr. and Mrs. Wohlers enjoying the café, not the museum.
We were given a lunch break after the Uffizi gallery, and the four of us (along with John and Kim) decided to go over to the restaurant where the three adults (Laughlin, Goddard, and Diller) went to eat on Tuesday night. I got spaghetti with tomato sauce, and it was yummy. Not a very big portion, but it was enough, and so good!
It started to rain again (and yes, my umbrella was in my bag, but it was back the room again). I didn’t buy a new umbrella again, though, because it wasn’t bad rain. Just nice enough to cool things down. It didn’t leave us muggy at all.
Our final museum was the Accademia, which houses the famous statue of David. I had been disappointed the day before at the Sistine chapel, so as I rounded the corner I was purposely letting myself down. But I wasn’t disappointed. It was an incredible statue. It looms probably at least fifteen feet tall, and it is just incredibly amazing and awe inspiring.
The Accademia also holds a musical instrument museum, which I enjoyed. Included in their collection were several Amati or Stradivari instruments, a lute with a built in keyboard, a three- and five-stringed double bass and five harpsichords. Unfortunately they were all unstrung, though, which meant that I couldn’t give an impromptu recital like I did in Vienna last year.
After I went through the musical instrument museum, I led Dr. Diller on a tour of it, since she doesn’t know much about music or music history. I tried to help it make more sense to her, which I think I did.
We decided to come back to the hotel after our visit to the Accademia was done for the day. The four of us quickly grabbed our laundry and walked a few blocks to the Laundromat, where we were all able to wash our clothes. Next time I must remember to double the number of shirts and pairs of underwear I bring on a trip.
I’ve just been enjoying the afternoon in the hotel room ever since. I’ve written a couple of blog posts now, I finished watching Follow Me, Boys, and I’ve listened to most of the Inventions by J. S. Bach. Maybe most important of all, I finally got to cut my fingernails! All-in-all a wonderful day in Florence!
Now, I want to hear from you! I miss you all! Write me and let me know what’s going on. Either send me an email, comment on this post, or visit my contact page.
Love to all!
Date: Thursday, June 26, 2014 (for Wednesday, June 26, 2014)
Time: 7:56 pm local time/1:56 pm EST
Place: Florence, Italy
I feel much better now! I have clean clothes, I’ve gotten my old blogs up, and (most importantly) I’ve cut my fingernails. I feel wonderful!
We got on the train fairly early yesterday and went to Rome, which is a decent city, but not my favorite place to visit. Our first stop was at the Flavian Amphitheatre, which we lovingly today call the Coliseum. It gets its name from the (now destroyed) colossal statue of Nero that was nearby. It could hold fifty thousand spectators to the gladiator fights. Dr. Wohlers told us that there were no recorded murders of Christians in this particular amphitheatre, but that there probably was at least one mock sea battle held there.
A few minutes after we got into the Coliseum it began to rain. After the first day in Switzerland I vowed that my umbrella wouldn’t leave my backpack, which it hadn’t. But I left my backpack in our hotel in Florence. So I bought another one (for E13) and the rain stopped before I could use it. I was not impressed.
The building is being restored and repaired, which brings up important questions. What is the role of preservation and restoration of historic sites and landmarks? Would it be better to not restore it at all? Or would it be best to tear it down and start again? Somewhere on the spectrum is the answer, but it is hard to find the right answer and then defend it.
After our trip to the Coliseum Dr. Wohlers took us into the Roman Senate, which, as best as I can tell, is a few acres of Roman ruins. We passed a few temples, and the place where Julius Caesar was stabbed to death. There hasn’t been much done in the line of restoration in this area, so there’s not much to see.
At the beginning of the area there is a Triumphal Arch (which looks like the Arc du Triomphe in Paris) through which the Roman soldiers were allowed to march after winning a war. Inside the Arch is a relief statue of victorious Romans bringing back furniture from the Temple in Jerusalem.
Joel, Dr. Laughlin, Kaiti, and I had our traditional picnic lunch (Nutella or Peanut Butter sandwiches or a combination thereof). We bought drinks and tried to sit down in a little restaurant to eat, but we were very rudely chased out of the area. So we stood at the tables in front of the restaurant and made our sandwiches, which were very yummy!
Our next (and final) stop of the day was the Vatican Museum (which includes the Sistine Chapel). Dr. Wohlers got us to the right place, and pointed us in the right direction, but somehow I managed to go the wrong way. Luckily for me, though, Dr. Diller was also headed the wrong way. We stayed together and had a lovely time looking through the amazing wealth of art housed in the Vatican museum.
They weren’t very keen on photos being taken, so I didn’t even bother. I will say that it is absolutely incredible how much art is owned by the Church. There were statues dating for thousands of years, paintings worth millions, and everything in between. My favorite part of the tour was not the Sistine Chapel (it was too crowded and I just couldn’t get a feel for it—it deserves more time than I was given), but the extremely long hallway dedicated solely to old maps. Most of them were close enough up that I couldn’t place them, but a few (like the one of Venice) were very recognizable. The beauty and sheer number were just amazing.
After finishing our tour of the Vatican Museum we went outside and waited for John and Kim to come out. They had been herded out the wrong door and had to walk from St. Peter’s Basillica (which is a decent little walk). Then all of us went to a great little Gelato place where I enjoyed Chocolate and Mint.
From there we went back to the train station, found some food, and came home.
Love to all!
Date: Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Time: 9:53 pm local time/3:53 pm EST
Place: Florence, Italy
I have no clue when I’ll be able to post this, and the one from two days ago, and for the rest of this week. I’m having really crummy internet service, and have been running around all over the place, so I haven’t had a chance to do anything about it…
This post will focus on yesterday’s events, since I didn’t get back to the room until about 11:30 at night. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
We left our Venetian hotel about 9 am on Tuesday, which allowed us to take our train trip to Florence, arriving a little before lunch. One of our first orders of business was to go find some food, and I had a hankering for some pasta. The two days we spent in Venice were not especially great days for Pasta, because Pasta is more from Tuscany than Venice. But now we were in Tuscany, and I wanted some Pasta.
We went into a market that felt like a mall food court, but at least three stories tall. We looked around for a few minutes, then decided on a particular restaurant. The menu was completely in Italian, so I only knew a few words, one of which was funghi, which means mushroom. So I ordered some sort of pasta (more of a fettucine shape than spaghetti, but it had a different name) with funghi e pomodori, which are tomatoes. Luckily for me, there were very few mushrooms, and the tomatoes were ground up into a wonderful sauce. The mushrooms that were there I donated to Mrs. Goddard.
Our large group met up outside a church (whose name is escaping me) where Lorenzo de Medici is buried. We were going to head up to Il Duomo (the Dome, the most famous church in Florence) to look inside it and at the doors to the baptistery (which is actually outside the church). The city wanted to have the doors to the baptistery decorated, so they put on a contest between the best artists in the area. They were to submit a foot-square relief sculpture that could be hung on the door. Their topic was Abraham sacrificing Isaac. A man named Ghiberti won the prize, and was awarded the contract to decorate the doors of the baptistery.
Next we went into the church, and looked around for a few minutes. They did a better job, I thought, than San Marco in Venice at keeping an air of awe and reverence, but it was still too touristic for my tastes. I wanted to take some pictures, but I knew that my pictures wouldn’t do justice to the beauty inside the church, so I went looking for a gift shop, which was downstairs.
When I got upstairs again, Mrs. Goddard came up to me and said that they had made sculptures of the founders of the church. These weren’t the rich people of the church, but the architect, and the organist, etc. We went around and found the sculpture of the organist, which was really quite special. Ideally church musicians do their work solely for the glory of God, but it is very nice to be recognized by the powers that be.
From Il Duomo we went up the Pont Avecchio, which is a bridge where, for hundreds of years, the gold- and silversmiths have had their shops. It was nice to see them, though I knew they would be horribly overpriced, so I didn’t even pay much attention. We were then given free time, and were allowed to do whatever. The adults (Laughlin, Goddard, and Diller) wanted to go out to eat, but us kids weren’t necessarily hungry (and weren’t necessarily invited, either), so the three of us (Joel, Kaiti, and I) just puttsed around the city, stopping at Steven Blondo’s favorite Gellataria, where I got mint.
We met up with the adults a few hours later, and Joel, Dr. Lauglin, and Dr. Diller headed back to the hotel. They were pooped. I stayed with Mrs. Goddard and Kaiti to watch the fireworks (which weren’t scheduled to start until 10, and it was only 7:30 or so). The fireworks were to celebrate the feast day of St. John the Baptist, who is the patron saint of Florence. We had the best possible place to sit, too. I sat on the wall almost right up to the river, just outside the Uffizi gallery. The Pont Avecchio was (I think) behind us, and we were looking away from it. We spent the whole time talking, sometimes about religion, sometimes about literature.
When the fireworks started I was less than impressed, but as they continued on, I grew to appreciate them more and more. It was just amazing to see how different they could be and how much they could do. What was so strange to me, though, until I realized where I was, was the colors they used. I didn’t see a single blue firework. They would do red, white, and then wouldn’t do blue. Instead they did green, which is their other color.
The firework show lasted most of an hour, and it was really quite fun to watch. They really outdid themselves, though they didn’t outdo Epcot. After the show was over, the three of us walked back to the hotel, where, almost immediately, I crashed and fell asleep.
More tomorrow, my battery (and my computer’s battery) are about to die.
Love to all!
Date: Monday, June 23, 2014
Time: 8:00 pm local time/2:00 pm EST
Place: Venice, Italy
We spent today in Venice and Burano (an Island that is probably still considered Venice). It was a lot of fun, but oh so very hot and sweaty.
We had breakfast in the hotel this morning. It was the traditional European breakfast: croissants and other pastries, hard boiled eggs (passed), luncheon meats and cheese (passed), corn flakes, and a hot drink. It was quite good, but not much to talk about. I had taken a shower and was wearing clean(ish) clothes, but by the time I got down to the lobby it was already hot, sticky, and nasty.
After a while we rode the water busses (vespetta?) out to the San Marco station. It was maybe a 20 minute ride. Our first stop there was at the Doge’s palace, which was the home of the Doge (the leader of Venice, who was elected for a one-year term by the richest families in Venice) and also the seat of government for the city. The building was absolutely huge, with a courtyard at least as big as a soccer field and one room that could have been a basketball court with only minor modifications.
The dungeon had at least 30 cells, with probably many more through doors that we weren’t able to go through. We got to see the armory, which was full of all sorts of old armor, swords, and guns—including a musket that had about 15 or 20 barrels (Imagine a revolver, but with each a full barrel).
After finishing up at the Doge’s palace we went to the Basilica San Marco (St. Mark’s Basilica, where the Apostle Mark’s bones are supposed to be buried). Dr. Diller explained to us why it was so important to these Christians to see the bones of the saints. She said that now we have the Bible and the historical evidence behind it to say that, at the very least, Jesus was a historical person. During the Middle Ages and Renaissance, however, this research didn’t exist, or if it did, it was unavailable to the common people who instead wanted to see these relics.
San Marco was a breathtakingly beautiful place, but I didn’t feel the same sense of awe that I felt at San Giorgio’s yesterday. St. Mark’s felt so busy and commercial. There were even two gift shops. The church is beautiful and significant (especially musically), but I feel that the spiritual life has gone out of it.
The inside of the church is actually much closer to what you would find in the Eastern Orthodox Church, not the Catholic Church. There are mosaics on the walls and ceilings, and the church is one large Greek cross (with all four arms of the same length) as oppose to a Roman cross (with two short arms and two long arms).
After finishing our visit to San Marco we had some free time, so both Laughlins, Joel, and I went to make our lunch. After spending quite a bit of money on food the past few days, we vowed to eat sandwiches at least once a day for a while, at least. We walked quite a ways, and found a nice little bench to sit on and make our peanut butter or Nutella sandwiches. They were very good, especially with Sour Cream and Onion Pringles. For dessert we had some very yummy hazelnut cookies (that looked sort of like Fig Newtons).
The four of us walked around the city for about an hour and a half, just exploring around the twisted alleys and tourist shops. It was a lot of fun, and it didn’t even really wear me out. We even managed to find a grocery store that sold 1.5 liter bottles of water for 48 Euro cents. That was beautiful since the night before I had paid E4.50 for a less amount of water. I drank the whole thing, and didn’t even need to go to the bathroom, which shows how dehydrated I am.
We got lost trying to find our way back to civilization, but we were able to hop on the water bus and go up about six stops (that means we really went far afield while we were exploring) and make it to our rendezvous point just as the church bell was ringing 2 o’clock.
The large group walked to a different bus stop, stopping on the way by a statue of a man on a horse. It was the oldest Equine statue since the time of the Greeks and the Romans. There are four Bronze horses from the time of Alexander the Great which were stolen from Constantinople during the fourth (?) crusade. They went to San Marco at that point, and then were stolen by Napoleon (sometime between the late 1700s and early 1800s). They were put on the l’Arc du Triomphe, but eventually were returned and are in San Marco.
We got on the water bus and travelled for a little over an hour to an island called Burano. It was quite lovely, if very touristy. The whole reason Dr. Wholers took us out there was to buy us some yummy cookies. Then he left us on our own to explore for a while. The cool thing about the city was that the buildings are very colorful. There is a puzzle of a row of houses from this city, and we found the row, and I took pictures.
I was a statue of Baldassare Gallupi, a composer that was born on Burano in 1706 and died in Venice in 1785. He made his fame and fortune in London and St. Petersburg as a composer of opera.
We came back over to the mainland, and then came back to our hotel for a chance to cool down before going for supper. On the way back to the hotel we stopped for the gelato that we never found for lunch. I had chocolate and strawberry, both of which were so yummy!
We went to a cheap/yummy Italian restaurant a little ways from our hotel. It is called Brek, and it was quite good. I got a nice little meal (a piece of vegetable lasagna, a roll, and a salad) for about E10, which is about $12-15, so not horrible. On the way back to the hotel we decided to stop for suppertime gelato, which was well worth it.
Tomorrow we move from Venice (and hopefully the hot) to Florence, which is in Tuscanny, the home of pasta. I can’t say that I’m disappointed. Venice has been just a little too hot and crowded for my tastes.
Love to all!
Date: June 22, 2014
Time: 10:21 pm local time/4:21 pm EST
Place: Venice, Italy
I wrote the blog post for yesterday on the train this morning (the 22nd), and managed to finish it in a little less than the hour it took us to get from Bern to Brig. From Brig we were to get on a high speed train to Venice, but unfortunately the train had trouble. They sent us a temporary train, which was smaller and much less plush. It was so small, in fact, that it didn’t allow me to have a seat. I stood in the space between the cars as we wooshed by.
We went down one stop (which was about 30 minutes or so), then we got off and switched to the right kind of train. We had been given specific seats, which were nice. I sat next to Kaiti, with Dr. Laughlin and Mrs. Goddard sharing a row facing me, but down and across the aisle. They slept most of the time. Lisa Diller was in the same row as them, but on our side of the aisle. Joel sat behind me.
It was a very leisurely ride with beautiful scenery. I worked on reading my Bach book for a while, and I’m sure I dozed for a couple of hours. We made sandwiches for lunch, figuring that we could save some money. They were so good!
We arrived in Venice about 3 o’clock our time (about 9 o’clock your time), and we walked the few blocks to our hotel. Our next appointment was at 4, so we had a bit of time. We walked up the four flights of stairs, and as soon as we opened the door, all four of us were drenched in sweat. It was so completely hot. We saw an air conditioner on our wall, and we eventually figured out that we needed a remote from the front desk. It’s set to 16 degrees right now, which is equivalent to 60 Fahrenheit. Maybe for the first time this trip I’ll sleep all the way through the night.
We met in the lobby of the hotel at 4, then went to take the water taxi (which has an Italian name, but I can’t think of what it is) to San Giorgio, a Renaissance style church down the Grand Canal. We managed to get on the wrong boat (the story of my life), and so we got to see a lot of the city, and finally arrived at San Giorgio (the church of St. George, the same George who supposedly slew a dragon) about 15 minutes before closing time.
Our large group is quite loud (we have several South Americans), but as soon as we entered the church a hush fell over the group. It was absolutely breathtaking. There was a feeling that I couldn’t quite place. It was reverence, but more than that. I can’t quite place it. There is a late Romantic/early Baroque painting of the Last Supper, painted by Jacopo Tintoretto about 100 years after Leonardo da Vinci’s famous painting by the same name.
When put side by side, these two pictures don’t really compare, but we can compare them because they are of the same subject. Leonardo’s painting is very austere and is painted from the front. The room is well lit. In Tintoretto’s painting, however, the room is very dark, but he masterfully uses light to bring new drama to the story.
The organ of the church is quite beautiful. It sits above the altar, and in front of the choir loft. The choir actually sings from the floor, but from behind the altar. They sit in a deep ‘U’ shape, where they face each other which allows them to hear each other well and stay together in the rich acoustics of the church.
Dr. Diller gave us a lecture on the importance of Venice in European history, which I wasn’t able to take notes on, so I’ll do my best to recount a little bit of it for you. Venice was built up out of the ocean after some invading army forced them off the main land. They were the center of trading, especially during the Crusades, as they were a stopping off point for English and French crusaders who didn’t want to march to the Holy Lands.
The city has ties to Greek Orthodox Church and to the Byzantine Empire (which really was the remnants of the Roman Empire, saved in Constantinople). During one of the crusades, the Venetians had been hired to take a large number of Crusaders to the Holy Lands, but they couldn’t find enough people to go on the trip. The Venetians made them change their deal to where they would attack Constantinople before being taken to the Holy Lands to wage more war.
Venice was the heart of European culture, and they therefore became very rich. Italy wasn’t unified until the middle of the 19th century, but Venice began to come together much earlier than that (I want to say 14th century, but I don’t remember for sure) under the leadership of the Doge who was elected, though not by popular election (more like elected by the parliament).
It became the heart of culture when the Arab world (Turkey, Syria, etc.) were opened up to scholars. There they found old manuscripts in the original languages, documents from Italian and European history (think Plato and Aristotle) which had been forgotten in Europe for centuries. The scholars came to Venice because that was where they could find the documents. Venice was one of the first places that the Renaissance took place in Europe, but it quickly spread.
After visiting San Giorgio we were released from our group and allowed to roam around for a while, looking for food. Lisa Diller told us on the boat that Venice was not the place to go for pasta, but it was good for pizza, so a group of nine of us went looking for a pizza place Kaiti had gone to a few years before. We couldn’t find it, but we did find another one and we all sat down to enjoy our pizzas.
People hadn’t been able to get cash yet, and the people at the restaurant didn’t want us to do separate checks. I volunteered to pay with my credit card and let them pay me within a few days, though most of them were able to pay me right then.
Part of the group decided they wanted to go on a gondola ride, but both Laughlins, Joel, and I were tired and ready to head back to the hotel. We walked through the city for a while, then got on a crowded boat for a while, which was very hot. When we landed at our stop, we paused at a gelato stand (yummy!) and we got various cones. I had a scoop of mint and a scoop of a wonderfully rich, but not particularly dark, chocolate.
That’s about it for today! Love you all!
I'm a Classical musician, a growing Christian, and a world traveler. I'm learning, exploring, and trying to understand this wonderful world I live in.