Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Venice in Depth

Above you'll find a 3 photo panorama of the Venice waterfront as seen from San Giorgio. I loved that fact that the trip up in the bell tower there was half the price of the trip up St. Mark's Tower, and half the crowds too! Not only that, but you had a wonderful view of the waterfront and San Marco and the Doge's Palace.

For our only full day in Venice, we hit up most of the major sights, starting with the Doge's palace. This glimpse into the history of the city was really cool, especially as of any Italian city Venice had the most ties between east and west. Venician traders had a lot of contact with the Middle East and Asia, and of course fought several wars with Turkey. All of this and more was laid out in the displays in the Doge's Palace, as well as a look into the New Prison, and the famous bride of sighs (so called because of the heart felt sighs of the prisoners being led to their cells from the courtroom.

I also really wanted to look through the cathedral there, as the architecture is very unique, a blend of eastern and western styles created with items both traded and 'liberated.'

We capped the day with a visit to the Rialto Bridge, before stumbling back to our non air conditioned room at the convent. Of all the places we stayed, Venice was the worst, though still the location was hard to beat.

Even with the limited time we got a lot done in Venice, though I could certainly spend days wandering the gorgeous alleyways and canals. I was both sad and happy to be leaving for home the next morning.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


We departed from a rather rainy Florence via Eurostar for the last leg of my European extravaganza. The train was full, so we had to stand in the cafe car for the two hour trip north. Interestingly enough, we ran into a young German man who we had talked to in a restaurant some nights before. It's funny the people you run into in random places!

I'll admit, I wasn't really sure what to expect in Venice. I knew it as a city of canals, but I hadn't realized just how true that was. The omnipresence of water was quite shocking, especially for a boy from dry Colorado. I was constantly amused by boats for every task, from Fed Ex boats to Ambulance boats to Taxi boats.

While walking around, I got hit with a feeling of 'wow, I'm in Venice' Sure, I get that feeling in a lot of places I go, but some places give it to you more than others, and the two cities that have most impressed me with their uniqueness have been Paris and now Venice. I think part of it is those cities place in popular culture. So many films have use Venice as a backdrop, and that adds an extra layer of wow to seeing the city in the flesh. I mean hey, even James Bond has been to Venice!

Though we were far from the only people feeling those feelings, if anything Venice was MORE crowded than Florence, or perhaps there were just more people in a smaller area. Though thankfully, our convent was in a quiet residential 'suburb' far from the tourist drag. I say far, but of course little in Venice is more than a ten minute walk, if you can find your way through the maze of streets.

I often pride myself on my sense of direction, but Venice defeated me. I was totally turned around and utterly confused on that first day. Part of the problem was the address of the convent wasn't quite correct, but I also encountered the traditional male block of asking for directions. Thankfully, Nick had no such compunction, and we managed to track down our accommodations with the assistance of a kindly old man who knew exactly the convent we were staying in.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Florence Final

For our last day in Florence, we decided to check out the Leonardo Da Vinci Museum first off. While it lacks some of the grand artistic merit of much of the city, the museum offered a glimpse into Florence's scientific past and didn't have a two hour line to get in!

Much of the museum was actually closed for renovation, but there was a significant exhibit on early telescopes that was very interesting. As a lover of history and astronomy, the whole thing was right up my ally!

While we had been up to the top of the Duomo, and we had been to the top of the Bell tower, we had yet to actually go inside the great church, so we took the time to rectify that oversight. It was very different from St. Peters, grand and glorious, without being overbearing or at all gaudy. As always, it was a very difficult environment to shoot, but sometimes I think that's for the best. Some things simply have to be experienced, and some photographers have to be convinced to lay down their camera, and drink in their surroundings.

Down in the Duomo crypt was a look at the foundations of previous churches and buildings, as well as Brunelleschi's resting place. I always love an opportunity to see how cities and buildings change, from Roman times to now, but the displays were very incomplete, and the jumble of old foundations was hard to piece together without good English signs.

Across the street was a museum dedicated to the Duomo and the construction of the vast Cathedral. The original baptistery doors are stored there, as well as displays on construction and the decoration of the face of the church. I was shocked to learn that the front of this grand building wasn't finished for centuries, standing bare and unadorned in the center of Florence. They even had photographs of the uncompleted face, so recently had the church been finally finished.

I really loved Florence, but it was time to move on to the final act, Venice. I'll admit, I was looking forward to it, not only to see Venice, but to get closer to going home. 18 days on the road is a long time, and 16 of those had now passed.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year! (2009 Edition)

I celebrated the new year with friends old and new, all to the (some say clangorous) sounds of Flogging Molly. Matt and I actually attended both nights (12/30 and 31) of Flogging Molly's New Years Extravaganza. Each show was amazing, that band really is one of the hardest working bands ever.

As I look back on 2008, I have to admit that all indicators point to a pretty good year. Yet there is some malaise that sits on me, I wonder if it is simply my increasing wanderlust, or something deeper. In 2008 I visited England, Wales, Ireland, Italy, California and Hawaii. I worked hard, and did well. I read dozens of books. I bought a new camera. It certainly wasn't a wasted year, not by a long shot! But even so, I intend to make 2009 an even better year.

Good luck to all my friends and readers, and have a safe, eventful, and happy new year!