Monday, July 29, 2013

Victory Arches

This Arch of Constantine is located a stones throw from the Colosseum.

I took this shot out the window of the Colosseum mid level before going down the stairs.

This photo makes the Arch of Constantine look taller than the Colosseum... but in actual fact it is about half as high.

When I was shooting this I was thinking, "When was this arch made?  This is similar to the Arch of Triumph in Paris.  Who was first?

So I went to our trusted friend Wikipedia.  This Arch of Constantine was built in AD 313... dedicated in 315.  It is 68 feet high, 85 feet wide and 24 feet deep.  It's about half as high as the one in Paris.

Shirley took this photo of the Arc of Triumph in Paris a couple of years ago.

It was commissioned by Napoleon in 1806... they took two years just to lay the foundations.  This one is huge in comparison to Constantine's.  It is 164 feet high, 148 feet wide and 72 feet deep.

Napoleon never saw it completed in his lifetime... it was dedicated in 1835.  Napoleon died in exile in 1821 and about 19 years after he died his remains were brought home to Paris and he passed thru under the arch.

Not to be outdone, President Kim wanted to get into the pissing contest and built his "Arch of Triumph" in Pyongyang, Korea.

His is 197 feet high and 164 feet wide and has dozens of rooms in it, observation platforms and elevators.  It was built in 1982 and holds the honours of being the largest/tallest Arch of Triumph in the world.

"The tallest  building in the world is now in Dubai, the biggest factory in the world is in China, the largest oil refinery in India, the largest investment fund in the world is in Abu Dhabi, the largest Ferris wheel in the world is in Singapore." -Fareed Zakaria

"Our goal is to make the best devices in the world, not to be the biggest." -Steve Jobs

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Colosseum

We could not have asked for a better day to visit this UNESCO World Heritage SIte.  No wonder this is the most visited tourist attraction in Rome. This place is amazing.

Considered one of the greatest works of Roman architecture and engineering... even today it is the largest amphitheatre in the world. It was estimated to accommodate between 50,000 to 85,000 people!  It apparently even had covered awnings over two-thirds of the arena... the Superdome of it's day.

We saw five pretty cool amphitheatres on this trip, but this is the Grand Daddy of them all.

The Colosseum construction began under emperor Vespasian in 70 AD, and was completed in 80 AD under his successor and heir Titus.  An incredible feat in just ten years!  

This project was made possible by booty from the siege of Jerusalem... and is considered to be a triumphal monument built to celebrate their great Roman victory.

The outer wall is estimated to have required over 130,000 cubic yards of travertine stone which was set without mortar and held together with 300 tons of iron clamps.  This wall was once over 150 feet high with a perimeter of 1,788 feet.

This wall once completely surrounded the colosseum... but what the earthquakes didn't knock over the pilferers stole.  Only part of this north half remains. 

Most of the travertine blocks disappeared into palaces, churches and various buildings in Rome.

This end of the outer wall has been built out of modern masonry bricks and mortar to stabilize the wall and keep it from further deterioration.  Where ever you see red brick and mortar these are works to repair and protect... not original construction.

When I first saw all these holes all around this building I didn't understand it.  But thanks to Wikipedia I learned these holes were needed for the iron clamps to keep things in place.

Because of the huge crowd capacity it was mandatory to move people in and out very quickly. Eighty entrances at ground level surrounded the amphitheatre. 76 for use by ordinary spectators, one for the emperor and his buddies or women, with three for celebrities and the aristocracy.

Wide corridors and stairways also helped with the traffic flow. We only see one corridor here, but adjacent to this is another one of equal width. On the inside brass clamps were used instead of steel clamps to hold the blocks in place. They did not use any mortar between them.

What a great feeling to be walking into this historic amphitheatre.

There were lots of parts missing... but the scale of this place is amazing.

These red bricks with mortar were used to reconstruct some missing parts and make it safe for people to move around the colosseum.  These ladies are resting on some of the many columns that used to be all around the upper level perimeter.

This section drawing from Wikipedia helps to fill in some of the missing parts.  It shows where columns were used around the upper level.  

It also shows several levels of seating.  Of course the emperor had a special box providing the best views of the arena.  The lowest level closest to the action was for senators and the most important people of the day. Next highest level was for equestrians. Third tier was for the intermediates... (I think that means middle class folks), and the nosebleed section behind the columns was for women and plebeians.

There is a conspicuous absence of seating in this largest-in-the-world colosseum... but look to the left of centre above for a sample.

Some original marble blocks here are set in place with red  bricks and mortar.  No padded seats here... this is solid comfort.

The elliptical Colosseum is 615 feet by 510 feet and covers about six acres.  The central arena is an oval 287 feet long by 180 feet wide.

The 'pit' had a wooden floor over it covered with sand. The Latin word for sand is harena or arena. The underground structure called the hypogeum literally means "underground."

This network of tunnels and cages under the arena kept all the animals and gladiators for the performances.  Look closely and you can see the two levels in the underground works. 

Eighty vertical shafts provided quick access to the arena for caged animals and scenery pieces concealed below.  Larger hinged platforms became ramps for elephants and larger animals.  

You can see many of these 80 shafts in the rows. When I took this photo I didn't see this shaft detail.  Thank you, Wikipedia.

This illustration from Wikipedia shows the plight of early Christians, who were used for entertainment.  I don't like this picture for the message... but it shows how the Corinthian columns surrounded the nosebleed section.  Awesome, totally awesome illustration.

Wikipedia has about 16 pages that I gleaned from to help writing this blog.

The arcades are framed by half columns of Tuscan, Ionic and Corinthian orders. All that remains are fragments of the columns and their capitals.  

There were many years when this facility was used as a quarry... and much of it was dismantled and sold to the highest bidder.  Italy has had many financial crisis's before joining the European Union. 

Several different capitals were used in different locations.

The Ionic capitals with scrolls...

The Corinthian capitals with flourishing foliage.

I don't know the name for this vertical wire put into fresh mortar... but we have seen this used many times on public buildings.  If it keeps the birds from perching, then they have to poop somewhere else, right?  

"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

This couple from our ship came here on the same tour bus... and asked Shirley to take their photo on their camera.  And I captured them as well.  People everywhere wanted to prove they were here with their picture taken at the Colosseum.

And I got my sweetheart here as well.  It was an awesome day so far... and we still had the St. Peter's Basilica and the Vatican Museum to see.

The Colosseum was voted one of the New7Wonders of the World  If you click the link it is interesting to see not only the list of seven wonders... but also the list of runners up.  

How many of these have you been to?

Now I can check one more place off my Bucket List. A most thrilling experience!

"The ancient Romans built their greatest masterpieces of architecture, their amphitheaters, for wild beasts to fight in." -Voltaire

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Cinque Terre... it Calls Me to Come Back

Cinque Terre is pronounced Chink-weh Tay-reh ...and roll the r's!  Cinque means five.  Terre means lands... or in this case it's five villages.  Truly this an extraordinary place to visit.

We were able to visit four of the five villages in one day trip from the cruise ship.  The first one was Manarola... and this photo shows the character that is common in all five.

Each are very colourful villages, clinging to the steep mountainside, sea on one side with terraced mountain vineyards around each village... and each had extremely difficult access by land.

There is a walking trail between all of these villages. You can see the white handrail along the trail carved into the rugged cliffs.  I walked out on this trail to get that first 'poster photo' to introduce  you to Cinque Terre.

In the centre left of this map you can see 'Cinque Terre' in the water fronting a thin black line with villages dotted along it.  These villages are so small only two of the five are mentioned in this map.

The five villages from top to bottom are:

  • Monterosso
  • Vernazza
  • Corniglia
  • Manarola
  • Riomaggiore

This is the main street in Manarola.  There are no vehicles in these villages.

But there are lots of boats.  Fishing and agriculture are the two main livelihoods here.

Getting the boats up the boat ramp to it's parking place takes several strong men and a boat dolly... and to get it back into the water takes the same effort in reverse.

This signboard shows the whole village with topography lines... the terraces.  The thicker beige coloured line is the main street that leads to the boat ramp and the ocean.

We arrived near the first village in a 48-passenger tour bus... and I took this photo out the window as our bus wound its way close to the village.

The parking lot on the outskirts did not have very many cars.  You must remember that these villages were built between 400 to 900 years ago... long before anyone ever thought about designing communities to accommodate vehicles.

There are few roads into these villages.  A vehicle road was just opened in June 2012 to Vernazza... and it ends in a parking lot one-half mile from the village.

When trains arrived in Italy these little villages blossomed with the new access to the world.

This tunnel is for foot traffic only... and it was long!  It goes from the train station in Riomaggiore to the main part of the town.

Four of the five villages of Cinque Terre have passenger ferry service... and after our first train ride to Riomaggiore we went by ferry to the other villages.  At the end of the afternoon we took the train again and went all the way to La Spezia where our tour bus met us to take us back to the cruise ship.

All of the villages in Cinque Tere are built around a stream, which provides the necessary source of potable water.  The stream runs down the valley to the ocean and the houses are built on the adjacent hillsides.

This water wheel has been in use for a long time and was still in operation.

What could be nicer than to live next to a stream with your window open to the sound of the babbling water?

All the homes here are made of stone and mortar. It was not until more recently that the owners started to stucco and paint them a variety of colours.

When our group stopped to view this bell tower our tour guide told us how the tradition of stucco and painting the houses different colours came to be.

When one of the fishermen was out in his boat many years ago... he likely had been in the sauce when he looked up at his village and couldn't tell his house from any of the rest.

So he decided to paint his house so he could tell which one was his. Soon others liked the idea and picked a different colour for their house until today we have an amazingly colourful community.

Each of the villages has a church... but there was not time to go into each one as long as we were trying to stay with our tour group.

Red geraniums at noon bade us farewell as we were leaving Manarola.

Flower boxes on balconies were quite common.

In Riomaggiore the boat access to the ocean was easier...

part of the village was closer to sea level.

We saw a lot of laundry hung out to dry... a community without clothes dryers.

There was an absence of any American fast food franchises.

This village invited us to rent a room and stay a while.

Both of us thought it would be easy to stay here a month... if we could get wireless internet!

With produce like this we could enjoy staying here a while.

We watched several guys dive off the high cliffs at Riomaggiore... just like in Acapulco.

30 minutes in this village was not long enough... we will have to come back and soak up more of this!

The advantage of taking the passenger ferry between villages afforded us excellent photo opportunities from the water.

The train did more to open up these villages to the world than anything.  There is very little open track above land in these parts... almost all the track is thru tunnels or over bridges.

We did not stop at this village of Corniglia...  every village has a church.

Hopefully we can come back here again.  This village had the least attractive boat access... hence no ferry service.  But it appears they keep some fishing boats right near the shore.  The rain caught us off guard here.

When we got to Vernazza we were pretty wet...

So we took cover in the church where I just sat and meditated for 20 minutes to dry out while Shirley took lots of photos inside this humble church.

Just in front of the church was this amazing mosaic done with three colours of stones.

We didn't go very deep into this village before it was time to catch the ferry to Monterosso.

From the harbour at Vernazza we could see Monterosso thru the rain.

And all the way to Monterosso it just poured...

Monterosso was not quite as appealing to us in the rain.

We all hurried from the dock to get to the village... looking for some shelter and some food.

It wasn't cold, so to sit outdoors under an umbrella was just fine... and the pasta here was wonderful.  We had the table behind the petunias.

As we ate we watched people in rain gear braving the elements.

The rain let up about the time we finished our meal, so we went exploring this last village before heading back to the ship.

These were the only bicycles we saw in Cinque Terre... likely locals ride them from outside the village into Monterosso.  Didn't see anyone riding bikes inside the village.

When stucco flakes off the wall you see the stones, bricks and mortar.  Building maintenance is a constant.

Very interesting striped designs on the church and two nearby buildings.

The train has totally changed this ancient community... it brought the world here and it allowed the local people access to the world.

When it started to rain again we ran for cover under this train overpass.

The needles on these Mediterranean pine trees are just like our Ponderosa Pines... but the branch structure is like a common green vegetable... hence they call them Broccoli trees.

"Everywhere is within walking distance if you have the time." -Steven Wright