A Travellerspoint blog

Vatican Museum and St Peter's Basilica

Oh my what a wonderful experience. I started in the Vatican Museum after about an hour lining up to get tickets. The first corridor we went into was dedicated to marble statues.P1040466

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It was around 50 metres long and lined each side with shelves of busts and statues. What was amazing was the actual amount of these that were there. Previous to this, in other museums, I saw maybe a display of 15-25 in a collection but in this room alone there would have been hundreds. There were two rooms that were dedicated to animals, both real and mythical.P1040473

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Again to see so many in the same place was amazing. And so started the rest of the amazing journey. Another corridor the same length had painted ceilings, as did most of the rooms, however the sheer size of it was what made it stand out so much.P1040491

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Along the walls of this corridor were hand painted maps of Italy and some of it’s regions at different periods of time. I was really looking forward to seeing some of the Old Master’s paintings and couldn’t wait to get to the Raphael Rooms. To think that these painting were done in the 1500’s and are still such a wonderful sight to see, they have been well preserved.P1040507

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As I was walking through I came to a room where there were more recent Religious artworks and were pleasantly surprised to find a Salvador Dali. I shouldn’t have been surprised by anything at that stage but there was much more to come. Corridors with wall sized tapestry artworks, a case with antique Bibles, antique World globes and so continued the journey towards the Sistine Chapel. The first sight inside the Sistine Chapel was jaw dropping. I was expecting to see a working Chapel with pews and all but it has been emptied of all except the Altar and a bench seat around the edge, so you can stand and appreciate the sheer beauty of the artwork from Michelangelo. The entire inside walls and ceilings are decorated with frescos from the Master and I just stood there amazed. It is such a lot to take in and it would be lovely to be able to photograph it to look back on but I don’t think that you would ever capture the true effect as a whole. (And photography isn’t allowed anyway)
I moved onto St Peter’s Square and Basilica from the Vatican Museum and I thought that it would be hard to top what I had just seen. Again the sheer size of the Basilica is enormous and it is hard to imagine how long it took to build and how labour intensive it was.P1040526

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There are many small chapels inside and many Pope’s are entombed within, each Pope has a bust or carving about them somewhere inside telling of their achievements.P1040521

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One chapel has an amazing sculpture from Michelangelo.P1040523

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There is a small museum called the Pope’s Museum within St Peter’s and it holds many vessels, plates, candlesticks and crosses used over centuries and also robes that they have worn. They are mostly gold and encrusted with jewels (some are amazingly large!) Again there was no photography allowed in here.
After walking around for about 6 hours I left feeling that I could have stayed longer as there seemed to be more to see. So with that feeling in mind I am sure that if the opportunity came again I would happily spend the time to experience it all again. Patti

Posted by mike1967 09:56 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Italy

sunny 28 °C

We have arrived in Rome and hit the ground running. After a short stint on the Amalfi coast we decided we definitely needed pepping up and Rome was going to be the place to re-invigorate ourselves. Camp is a resort like place called Tibor, on the outskirts of Rome but an easy half hour train to the centre. The city is indeed beautiful and deserves its place on the world stage.P1040357.jpg There is so much to see and so many places worth visiting that a stay of three or four days will be on the cards. For us the most impressive thing is the architecture. There are many buildings still standing and still in use after such a long time and it seems like every corner you go around there is another stunning chapel or a fresco on a wall. They are only a thousand years old, no big deal. Have a look at that one, its two thousand years old. For the boys the highlight of Rome has been the beautiful girls everywhere, the shopping and “aww yeah, the Colosseum was pretty cool”. P1040367

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Just to hear how the Roman’s operated was hilarious. They were so sophisticated using false floors and lifts with intricate pulley systems, numbered tickets and urinals but then just for a laugh at intervals between Gladiator battles they would get a few criminals and “buggerers” strip them naked and throw them to the lions to defend themselves or to the gladiators for a bit of practice. P1040384

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The poor old Christians really got a bad deal and would run at the gladiators hoping for a quick kill..gruesome. It was actually fairly rare for a Gladiator to meet his death in the Colosseum due to the fact that you would have to pay one hundred times his value to his owner. What wasn’t rare was the animals and people of shaky morals being butchered mercilessly. Most of the ancient sites we have seen can be hard to imagine what they would have looked like in their prime however Rome seems to be filled with sites that are still as they were. We stopped and had a drink from the Trevi Fountain and the only way I can describe it is to say “ it’s bloody gorgeous”.P1040348

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Apart from the people everywhere, all trying to get a good photo it’s magic. We just waited a little while, saw a little opening at the side and joined the throng. Most of the tourists are on a tight schedule, get the photo then get out but we were in no hurry so time to enjoy. The fountain is still supplied by a first century BC spring fed aquaduct and the water is beautiful to drink. P1040452

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We continued to march through Rome and made it to the Pantheon. Bloody clever these Romans. The Pantheon is two thousand years old and is now a church. It is intact in every way and if that is not enough to separate it from the most buildings in the world, it has the largest masonry vault ever built. We are accustomed to looking at intricate ceilings being made mostly of timber and plaster but the Pantheon is all concrete. It is said that if the dome was built using modern concrete it would have collapsed under it’s own weight a long time ago. The Piazza del Rotonda outside is a central meeting point for Roman’s and tourist’s alike and is buzzing with activity. A fantastic place to people watch with buskers and hawkers playing a merry dance with police, café’s and bars offering happy hour drinks at outrageous prices all dominated by a central fountain.
It all got a bit much for the weaklings so the boys opted to catch the train back to camp ( an adventure in itself, another lost and found story) so the wrinklys’ decided to march on to the Spanish Steps. It’s another place that’s great to sit and take it all in. Dinner was bloody great and we could live it up a bit because the boys decided they weren’t hungry ( nearly had heart failure at that one) and we were on our own. I felt a little guilty in the end so asked the restaurant to make us a pizza to go and brought it back to the van. At this stage it was 10:30pm so I just threw it in the door and waited until the van stopped shaking before I reckoned it would be safe to enter. They were “bloody starving”, poor loves. We have more time in Rome and yet more places to visit. Currently I’m trying to look busy with a “do not disturb look “on my face while Pat does most of the work and the boys are sleeping in. It seems life on the road isn’t much different to life at home. I expect” the Wippet “will get us all moving pretty soon. Andiamo.

Posted by mike1967 01:16 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Italy

One of the last places we visited in Greece was the site of Ancient Olympia. We were in a bit of a hurry as we had to make a ferry to Italy but we did manage to see the site.P1040260

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It is spread over a fairly large area and typical of these sites it must have been amazing when it was new :) just joking! P1040236

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To be in a place where it all began was pretty special so we marked the occasion with a bit of Aussie flair and decided to have a plugger race in the Ancient stadium. True to form, the result wasn't without controversy. P1040242

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The favourite looked sharp and cocky on the line while the old hand decided that an early jump was probably the best way to win due to the fact that there was no instant replay in ancient Greece and the inexperienced rookie was there to make up the numbers. The starter gave the order and the old hand raced to a very early lead but was quickly gathered in by youth and inexperience due to hamstring tightness and dodgy ankles. The cocky upstart suffered equipment failure and blew a plugger leaving the rookie to finish the race in classic "Steve Bradbury" style streaking through the competition and claiming the gold. P1040243

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The worst part is he wanted to be chaired from the stadium. P1040257

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We hit Italy and for a few days stuck to the coast and then headed for Naples. Herculaneum was the draw card. Herculaneum was buried by volcanic ash in the same eruption of Mt Vesuvious that destroyed Pompeii however is a smaller site but better preserved and not as well known as Pompeii. It's known for the preserved frescos and the carbonised timber that still exists around the windows and doors of many of the buildings. We spent a day there and found it pretty interesting although after Greece i think the boys are over ruins. We stayed at a camp on the Amalfi coast and what promised to be jaw dropping beautiful was a bit of a disappointment. We are probably spoilt by our own beaches at home and after Croatia and Greece and the fact that nearly any beach on the Amalfi you have to pay to get on was a real head shaker. The scenery is nice but mass tourism has spoilt what was once a beautiful spot. Naples has the highest unemployment in Italy and the highest crime rate to match, couple that with a crime syndicate that is responsible for clearing the cities rubbish but doesn't do it all adds up to a dirty city with rubbish piled everywhere on the streets and a lot of men gathered on street corners with hands in their pockets. We were happy to move north.

Posted by mike1967 00:35 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Greece

sunny 26 °C

Our time in Greece is nearly at an end with one more drive up the coast of the Peloponnese Peninsula. We have spent fifteen days in this country and sadly just as it seems you start to understand a lifestyle, you have to move on. We are already in the habit of buying our bread early and eating it in one day, no preservatives in Greek bread. We take an hour to eat lunch instead of ten minutes and although we can afford to do this with no time constraints it appears that everyone in Greece has a similar idea. What will be, will be and no amount of hurrying will change that. The food has been delicious with one or two exceptions. We had a Mac attack in Athens and a dodgy highway burger somewhere along the way with both leaving us feeling a little ill. Greece has been great for us by forcing us to slow down and look after ourselves a little better. Camping in mostly beach locations has been comfortable as we seem to find we are suited to the water.P1040127

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The sounds of the waves on the beach is familiar and the pace of life has slowed and allowed us to catch up with some sleep and improve our diet again. We have met some great people and had some lovely times. Many Europeans come to Greece year after year and stay in the one place for months at a time bringing everything with them including boats. For them Greece represents an older time when things weren't so hectic and regulations are guides to be followed not absolute law. You can still have a smoke and let your dog walk without a leash, you can bring your dog on a bus or sit in a cafe. This freedom lets old people bring their companion for a walk and allows them to socialise over a coffee early in the morning whilst getting their bread.P1040035

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Enough cannot be said for that kind of interaction where an oldie' will meet with friends everyday for half an hour to check in, laugh, share news or play a game of Tuvley. The government brought in the no smoking law in Greece but it was promptly ignored as i would imagine any other law that effects their lifestyle would be.
The highlights for me in Greece have been Delphi and the Peloponnese. Delphi for it's history and the story of the Oracle, its location in the mountains and the museum make it worthy of being given the "navel of the world" status. P1040101

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The Peloponnese Peninsula for the beautiful drive through mountains, everlasting olive groves and small beachside camping spots with crystal clear water. The people have been very friendly. Greek salad, Calamari and the all time favourite Gyros. It has been a relaxing time and hopefully will not be the last time we are in Greece. I seem to think that about everywhere we go. Andiamo P1040020

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Posted by mike1967 23:56 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Athens

overcast 20 °C

The number one attraction in Athens has to be the Acropolis. It literally dominates the skyline and its what most tourist come to see. The Acropolis is a massive rock outcrop in the centre of the city which itself is dominated by the most photographed of Greek temples.. The Parthenon. The newly constructed museum was first on the cards and typically is filled with antiquities from the original site. The architects constructed the museum over a dig site so you can see students at work. They also re-constructed the frieze that lines the Parthenon within the museum so you can see all of the scenes that are up there or should be up there. They generally depict good over evil and that battles that ensue. A large collection of the frieze panels are in the British museum after Lord Elgin removed them for "safe keeping" and later sold them to the British Government. These are known as the Elgin Marbles and are subject to hot debate as to who are the rightful owners. I believe the Greeks are well capable of looking after their own antiquities just like the Australians demanded the return of bones from the British museum and Egyptians demand the return of their national heritage. The Parthenon has been given a few restorations over the times but more recently the efforts seem to be more about preserving and not replacing or repairing. There are some places where they have replaced a small section to give an idea of what it would look like completed but that is minimal. The work seems painstaking but of an extremely high standard. This was the first real experience that we've had of mass tourism and a hint of the European crowds to come. It was a little uncomfortable with so many tour groups and trying to get a photo without a crowd scene is impossible but well worth seeing anyway. Pat had her birthday in Athens so dinner in the old city and a quick visit to Pandora. It was nice sitting in a cafe' on the street people watching and listening to the music. The food was sensational and way too much leaving us all with that feeling of eating way more than our share. The Plaka region of Athens is the old section and one where most of the tourist sites are. It's typical of most of these old cities with narrow streets loaded with souvenir shops, antique shops and restaurants. Nice place to wander and surprisingly the shopkeepers are very friendly and polite. We have moved on down the coast to see the temple of Poseidon in Cape Sounion . We managed to catch the sunset over the water and I think I enjoyed it better than the Parthenon. There were no crowds and although it is much smaller than the Parthenon I think its just as impressive. The Greeks came to this site to farewell their sailors and welcome them home, to listen for news and pray for family for safe journeys. Perched sixty meters above the ocean the views are spectacular. Brenton managed to get a stone into the water for luck but the rest of us weaklings failed miserably.

Posted by mike1967 23:53 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

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