27 June 2011

Diocletian's Tower

Though I had a taste of the Adriatic in Venice, Croatia has truly given me the pleasure of knowing it better.  Today, even in my near-sighted blindness, I chased a school of fish in a deep cove. 

Venice Booty

Even the berries in Venice are romantic.   Romance wasn't in the grand canal that sweeps through the middle of the city, full of the bustle of ships and luxurious palaces, but rather in the tiny alleyways.  The small canals crisscross the city and lead to wonderful bridges.  That must have been it for me, the linking bridges holding old sunken pilings together.  I only had two days in the city but with the remarkable absence of cars, the winding narrow walkways felt quite comfortable.  Even if I was lost several times.

Watching the gondoliers with their gondolas was better than any single ride with just one.  Only a few were under 35 years old.  They could all be 13 though, making stupid jokes between each other, barking and singing happily from their posts on the back of the boats.  I found their physiques to be quite peculiar.  They all shared a shape of a very strong trapezoid in the torso, broad very wide shoulders and strong arms, but then nearly always an unabashed beer belly. 

There is of course the Cathedral, and the palaces of so many rich merchants to admire, but the little bits of Venice in the corners were truly worth admiring.  While walking around with my new travel friend Marsh we found a council home for stray cats in front of a church.  They were all a bit wild, laying calmly until approached, then hissing and spitting. 

But thanks to Marsh talking me into going, the real art show we saw was the Venice Biennale.  Happening every two years, each participating country is given the time and space to exhibit their greatest new artist or artistic team.  Marsh and I are standing inside the Japanese Pavilion in the middle of teleco-soup by Tabaimo.  This piece was one of my favorites.  Great Britain had a remarkable exhibit as well, a full scale installation within their pavilion of a crumbling abandoned house.  There was no centerpiece, but the feeling of queerness crept slowly behind as we crouched under low ceilings and stumbled through a maze filled with other visitors.

19 June 2011

Pizza Pisa, you'll lean over 3.99 degrees for our Pisa Pies.

I was going to take the picture of me propping up the tower.  Really I was, but there were two good spots to take it from and about 30 people standing around with their hands in the air.  Ah well.  I preferred this angle anyways, with the leaning tower peeking over the shoulder of the cathedral.  I was certainly not expecting how beautiful the tower was in person.  Our whole lives the world outside of Italy has been shown and taught that Italian marble is truly fine and distinguished, but here and now it's nearly tripped over.  My hostel in Rome was quite modest in construction and aesthetic, and even it had a marble staircase.  The charm isn't lost on me yet, although the occasional statue in bronze catches my eye as a result of the variety.

After all that I've seen and places I've been, I feel like I could turn in a thesis and receive an honorary art history degree.  The Vatican Museums were a who's who of Renaissance artists, but it was their small contemporary art section that I enjoyed the most.  The subject matter is almost all Christian iconography, but the more modern pieces really caught me by surprise, particularly a Dali, an Orozco, and a Van Gogh.  The modern section is near the very end of the Vatican Museums tour path, with the Sistine Chapel as the last stop, so most visitors are on overload and fast forward by the time they reach them.  The Sistine Chapel was nice, but everyone has already seen the principle images in greater detail than looking up at a dimly lit ceiling 30' overhead.  I will probably remember the experience more for the bare shoulder police, pointing menacingly at the harlot tourist women with too thin of shoulder straps on their dresses and occasionally shushing everyone.


If I make the effort I tend to find wonderful other guests at the hostels.  Sometimes though, they just fall into my lap.  Mary in the middle mistook me for Jonathan, but I was happy to substitute.  She had come to the hostel on his recommendation but that rascal had split in the meantime.  Tosha on the other hand, was sleeping in the bed next to mine and we had spoke several times, but on the day this photo was taken Mary and I ran into him in the middle of Rome.  We had the time of our lives together.

09 June 2011

Genova, Genoa, GĂȘnes

Maybe if I keep a punchcard, after 20 UNESCO world heritage sites I'll get a free footlong sub.  They do seem to be falling over each other here in Italy.  New rule, at least one major Hollywood blockbuster has to have been made about the place or circumstances before it qualifies.  Better luck next year Christopher Columbus.  Try calling Bruckheimer.  Besides being the home of the namesake of the worst American holiday, Genoa is a beautiful port city that's reaped the benefit of its position as traders to the world over centuries.  For example, check out that door knocker. He's a merman.  A MerMAN!  I think he could turn the starbucks mermaid into a merlady.

Splendid little plazas were everywhere, hidden up stairs and behind giant doors.  Many of them were free to enter and wander through.  I found this jewel of a sculpture in a small pond behind one of the many doors.

Genoa does appear to be bursting apart old seams, but it just adds to the character.  New developments and architecture collect at the edges, but the century old houses and apartments remain the same as the city climbs into the steep hills.   

08 June 2011

Nice was a sentimental last stop in France.  More than the architecture, or the beautiful turquoise water, or the myriad of other reasons that bring the world's rich and famous, I will remember hiking too far in the city with my backpack on.  It's not especially heavy, perhaps 15kg, but I was regretting the two euros a night I saved by choosing the hostel on the outside of town and then taking all day to walk there.  My toes were swollen little sausages the next morning.  I'll definitely watch for switchbacks on the map next time I'm planning a walk. 

I saw so much though.  I could lead walking tours of the city now.  More than half the time I was there it was raining, but I didn't mind.  It was never cold, and I had my rain jacket.  Supposedly the locals hate this sculpture, Square Head.  Inside the cube houses the offices of the Museum of Contemporary Art.  I have several grand vista views, but the city maintained its persistent grey. 

Thankfully, Monaco was all sunshine and jingling jackpots.  Behind me in the picture is the Prince of Monaco's palace.  The ports and hills of the tiny country were beautiful, but most of the time I felt about seven figures away from the right income bracket to enjoy the amenities.  There was a brief moment where I was asked to watch a 98 year old woman while her daughter got something from the house.  We sat and talked about how she carried her baby into the hills when the Germans came during WWII, then the daughter came back out and rolled her eyes.  I had a feeling the story lost its impact for her.