Category Archives: Travel

EUROPEAN TRIP – Part 2, Cinque Terre & Rome

EUROPE TRIP  –  Part 2   Cinque Terre & Rome

Sorry that it has taken so long to tell you about the next part of our trip to Europe.  However, Alaska called and our summer was full.  We had another good summer, but that will have to wait for a while.  After spending a wonderful and very busy ten days with Debbie, Jordan and Kristina in Germany, Switzerland and Venice, Jan and I were ready for a break and some relaxation.

CINQUE TERRE

The area of the Mediterranean Sea in the northwest portion of Italy is called the Ligurian Sea. Mountains form most of it’s shoreline. Located between these mountains are canyons cut by the rivers from the land to the sea.  In these canyons are five (cinque) small fishing villages (terre, meaning land) called the Liqurian Riveria.  These five villages are about as picturesque as any place on earth.

Monterosso al Mare – village #5, April 18th through April 23rd.

Fengina, New town beach

 

It turned out that Cinque Terre was the perfect spot for our break!  It was late April and the summer sun worshipers had not yet arrived so we were able to rent a beautiful room above the beach in Monterosso al Mare for five days.  We arrived by train on Friday afternoon of Easter weekend.  The next day was cloudy with a little rain so we just relaxed for a day, occasionally walking around the village.

The village is separated into two parts, the northern beach area is called Fegina, the new town and has a long semi-circle beach.  Our beautiful room was on the third floor of the third building past the aqua building with the red roof.

Boardwalk & Beach below our Room

 

This picture is the view to our north with the boardwalk and beach below us.

3rd Floor Deck
Beach toward Tower

Jan is standing on our deck on the third floor. The right is the view to the south down the beach to the Medieval Tower called Aurora.

Aurora and Pill Box

 

 

It was originally built to protect the Old Town from the pirates and invaders during the dark ages.  During the war, it was used to protect against invasion.  Note the pillbox below the tower just above the water level.

 

 

 

 

 

Old Town Monterosso al Mare

Just beyond the Aurora Tower is the ‘Old Town’ of Monterosso al Mare.  The coastal railroad runs all along the Italian western coastline from Rome to Genoa and to the border with France.  You can see the trestle of the tracks separating the beach from the buildings of the town.  In the background, the sides of the mountains are terraced for grape vines and olive trees.  There is very little land for farming and most of the livelihood of the locals come from fishing and tourism.

 

San Giovanni Battista

 

Just inside the railroad trestleis the old church, San Giovanni Battista.

Shops & Restaurants

It was beautiful inside mostly in white and black marble; however, we were not allowed to take flash photos and it was too dark.

The village was built into the sides of the mountains, thus the homes and businesses were stair stepped up the sides of the canyon walls.

 

The businesses and restaurants occupied the bottom floors of the buildings along the main walkways up the canyon away from the ocean. 

Stairs up to Homes

 

Most of the buildings were 3 or 4 stories high with the family dwellings on the upper levels.  There were stairs between some of the building off the side of the main streets leading up to the upper levels of dwellings, churches and official buildings. 

Autos were not allowed down from the upper end of the streets; however, they could travel down from the mountain roads running through the area to parking areas at the ends of the streets.  Most of the supplies came by truck from the larger towns in the area or from the boats at the beach.

The exception to allowing auto and truck traffic to the beach was made in the new town of Fegina where the roads from above came down to the boardwalk and there was a parking area just above the beach to the north of our building.

The food was great with lots of seafood as would be expected. 

Miky Restaurant

 

We found a great restaurant called ‘Miky’ just down the boardwalk from our room and enjoyed a wonderful meal of calamari, both deep fried and grilled. 

And of course we had to sample the local wine!  Good!

Easter Sunday – April 20th

We awoke to the sun shinning brightly through our patio windows.  We couldn’t help but to go out of the deck.  There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and it was deep blue, the ocean below us that clear aqua-blue green that was sparkling clear.  It seemed that you could see all the way to France.  It was a great day to go exploring the other four villages of the Cinque Terra.  We had our good morning coffee and some local pastries and headed for the train station for the short hop to the first village of the group.

Monterossa Train Station

 

Oops, so did a lot of other tourists decide to take the train sightseeing.  Although the crowd looks big, there was a lot of room on the train so there was no problem finding a seat.  The trains in Europe are great.  In Cinque Terre, there were local trains that went between the five villages, Levanto the city to the north and La Spezia to the south.  We bought two daily tickets for 3 euros ($4.20) and could ride the local trains as many times as we wanted.  The local trains were the only trains in Europe that don’t run on schedule!

Riomaggorie – village #1, morning April 20th.

Riomaggiore

The village of Riomaggiore was very beautiful from the sea.  Like Monterosso al Mare, it was nestled in two adjoining canyons; however, the coastline here was rocky cliffs down to the sea.  Riomaggorie has no beaches.  There were two ways to get from the north side to the south side by foot.  One was a tunnel along the railroad tracks from the station (note the trestle on the left) to the mid-village on the right. Or the second, along a walkway located between the villages about half way up the side of the cliffs separating the two.  Similar to all five villages, they were built in the canyons carved by the rivers flowing out of the local mountains.  Therefore, all of the buildings are stair-stepped up the sides of the canyon walls.  Also unique to the costal area, the building are painted with a variety of bright pastel colors giving the coastline a beautiful picturesque scene. 

Railroad Station Mural

 

In Riomaggiore, we were greeted with a colorful scene  of the village people accomplishing their everyday labors as we walked along the railroad tracks to the southern part of the village.

Southern Village

Due to the steep canyon walls of these villages, the buildings seemed very close or almost jammed together, but very pretty with their vibrant pastel colors.  We walked down to the sea by the main street of the village where the break-water rocks provided access for the many small fishing boats to reach the sea. 

Riomaggiore Harbor

 

There was no beach at all, just the sea coming directly up to the concrete ramp where the fishing boats are launched.  All along the main street were the many businesses and restaurants of the village. 

San Giovanni Batista #2

 

 

 

Following Rick Steves’ tour, we climbed up the stairs to the upper left at the level of the local church, Saint Giovanni Batista built in 1340 (named after the church in Monterosso al Mare).

Walkway along the Cliff

 

From the church, we entered the walkway from the south village to the north village of Riomaggorie. 

Riomaggiore Train Station

 

It was a very scenic walkway along the edge of the cliff overlooking the sea and the buildings of both villages. As we were walking along, we could see the train station below us with a train waiting for people to load.  The cove below was very beautiful with small ocean wave crashing against the rocks and shore line.

Northern Riomaggiore
Trumpeter

The north part of Riomaggiore was not as large as the south part andwe took our time walking on down into the village.  After touring through the shops and stores along the main street, we made our way down to the railroad station to catch the next train to Manarola, the next stop of the five villages.

  The train took a long time to come and there was quite a crowd waiting for it arrival.  Then we all heard a trumpet playing some Italian songs above us on the walkway where we had looked down at the station. While he was playing, the crowd got very quiet and then as the train pulled into the station, everyone gave a cheer and started clapping a thank you to the trumpeter.

Manarola – village #2, April 20th afternoon.

Manarola
Manarola

Manarola, like Riomaggiore has no beach and is part of the same rocky, cliff like most of the southern villages of the Cinque Terre.  It does have a deep water swimming area and a boat launch for the local fishermen.  Set high on the cliff side of the canyon, it is one of the most scenic of the five villages.   We arrived by train just after lunch in the center of the village and again followed Rick Steve’s suggested tour.  

Walkway upstairs

 

In this case it turned out to be following the red brick road to the top of the village. After the first stairway up along a section of old rock wall from a very old structure, the red brick road led us up through the narrow walkways between the residents. 

Walkway between homes

Note the crosswalks above us along the way.  These were actually narrow walkways perpendicular to the path we were climbing that led to residents along the side of the canyon wall.  As we walked along the last section of the red brick path, the edge dropped

In this case it turned out to be following the red brick road to the top of the village.  After the first stairway up along a section of old rock wall from a very old structure, the red brick road led us up through the narrow walkways between the residents.  Note the crosswalks above us along the way.  These were actually narrow walkways perpendicular to the path we were climbing that led to residents along the side of the canyon wall.

Final Climb
Piazza at the Top

 

As we walked along the last section of the red brick path, the edge dropped steeply down to other buildings and residents below us.  At the top of the path, it opened to a wide piazza with an overlook of the village below and street leading down to the waterfront.

 

 

 

Waterfront at end of Village
Sorage for Boats

 

 

At the waterfront, there is steep drop into sea.  The boats  are brought up to the storage areas when not in use. 

 

 

Swimming Hole
Path to Cemetery

To the right was the swimming area where young people were diving off the rocks into the sea.  The last photo of the series is of the right hand side of the waterfront.  There is a pathway around the side of the hill next to the village that leads up to the village cemetery.

Cemetery Hill

 

 

It was interesting so we walked up to the top of the hill where there was a typical European burial area consisting of crypts surrounding a central mausoleum.

 

Manarola Cemetery
Inside Masoleum

The outside crypts were built into the surrounding walls and could be for either casket burial or cremated remains.  The mausoleum had facilities for cremated remains only.  As in Switzerland, it looked like the burials were only for a limited period of time (25 years?) for the family to honor the departed and then the remains were moved into a common crypt site.  Most of the crypts had ceramic photos of the deceased, the birth and death dates, and an area for flowers.  There were no ground burial sites in the area and the grounds were well kept with flowers and bushes.

 

Manarola

 

 

 

 

 

Leaving the cemetery, we walked on around the point of the cemetery hill and down the path back to the village.  Along the way was the beautiful view of the village and waterfront below us.  Note also the tour boat that was docked at the base of the cliff along the breakwater rocks.  On our last day in Cinque Terre, Jan and I would spend the day touring the Cinque Terre and the beautiful town of Pontovenere at the end of the peninsula (more about that later).

Corniglia – village #3, April 21st.

Corniglia

Corniglia is an ancient Roman village and is the only one of the five villages that doesn’t have direct access to the sea.  It is over 330 feet (100 meters) above the sea.  There are 377 steps up a stairs from the railroad station to the village.  We chose to climb the switchback-paved road from the station to the top of the village.  

Walk up to Corniglia

The walk up was supposed to be good for us, but later we paid the bus driver to take us back down!!!  Never-the-less, the walk up was interesting because the mountainside was terraced with all kinds of olives, grapes, flowers and vegetables and the small old village was fascinating.

Parrocchia di S. Pietro Apostolo

At the very top of the village was the old church built in 1334.  From the outside, it was not impressive at all, but inside was a wonder to behold.

Church Ceiling

 


 

The inside of the church was incredible.  The ceilings and the side naves were beautiful with paintings and artifacts that would later rival those we would see in St. Peter’s Basicilia and the Sisteen Chapel in Rome although obviously they were not painted by Michelangelo. 

 

 

 

Church Alta

 

 

 

 

There also was a baptismal basin that was from the 1100’s!  Who would have thought that this little old and common-looking church on top of the mountain would be so beautiful inside.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Village Center

 

 

The village itself was not spectacular.  It did have direct access to the highways above in the mountains so there were cars on the streets and buses which took you up and down the road to the railroad station.  At the end of the road in the village was a parking area and a nice restaurant although we didn’t eat there as it was too late for lunch and too early for dinner. 

 

Terraced Gardens
Harvest Tram

The area below and above the village was terraced for gardens, vineyards, olive orchards and flowers.  They obviously grew lots of produce and eventually sold it to other villages in the area because the parking lot was large and at the outter edge was a loading dock for a tram that carried produce down from the town to the small dock area at the sea (and probably brought some essentials back up).

 

 

 

 

Corniglia

 

 

 

 

 

Although it was very small, the village was very picturesque and the village church was very impressive.  We took this photo as we were traveling back on our boat trip back to Monterosso al Mare.   

Vernazza –  village #4, April 21st

Vernazza

 Vernazza is considered the most beautiful village in Italy. I would agree, but there is a lot of competition in the Cinque Terre.  The village was settled in 1000 AD for fishing due to its direct access to the Ligurian Sea from the end of the main street.

 

Harbor Square
Church S.Margherita Di Antiochia

Harbor square was built higher to provide a place to store the many boats of the village during the rough seas of the winter months and to provide an ample seating for the local restaurants during the summer tourist season.   The church of Saint Margherita di Antiochia was built in 1318 on a huge rock that was anchored at the edge of the harbor.  There is a local legend that after a storm a wooden box floated onto the huge rock containing the bones of Saint Margaret.  A church was built in the village in honor of her and her bones were placed inside.  Later another storm destroyed the church and most of the village.  Years later the box of bones again washed up on the rock at the edge of the harbor and the new church was built on the rock in which her bones still reside.

Cave through rock
Outlet of cave on beach

In most of the villages of the Cinque Terre, the original rivers cut out the canyons where the villages are now located.  The early village buildings were built on each side of the river up the canyon walls.  As the villages grew, they covered the river with rock sides and a roof to create a channel and a street to connect each side of the village. 

Above Vernazza, a terrible downpour occurred in the mountains in the fall of 2011 causing a flash flood that overwhelmed the channel and destroyed most of the businesses on the main street.  It also cut a tunnel through the mountainside to the bay.  You can see the tunnel just beyond Jan in the photo on the left and the opening into the bay on the right photo.

Gate at end of Red bricks
Gate to Church piazza

Again we used Rick Steve’s guide to explore the village of Vernazza.  We were surprised that the village also used the red brick path to show the way to some of the more interesting features. 

 

In this case it led to an ancient stone wall and gate very near the top of the canyon. 

Ruined Church

On the other side of the gate were another piazza overlooking the village below and the base for the ancient stone church ruins.   It was interesting that the tower of the church had not been destroyed or had been rebuilt and the clock mounted on the outside still worked with the correct time.

Castle on the Hill
Belforte Castle above the Bay

Below on the opposite canyon wall was a castle tower and the stonework ramps and stairs leading up to it.  The castle was still in use as a hotel and restaurant.  Further down the canyon is the Belforte castle built on the top of the cliff above the bay with the main village buildings and the harbor below. It was built above the harbor as a tower fort to repel the many pirates that frequented the Ligurian Sea during the 1500’s.

 

 

Portovenere – Italy’s hidden gem! – April 22nd

Portoverne

We took a day boat ride from Monterosso al Mare to Portovenere stopping at each of the villages of the Cinque Terre along the way.  Many of the previous photos from the sea were taken from the boat.  We had originally planned to continue around the islands below Portovenere as part of the trip, but when we saw the church on the toe of St. Peter’s (the name of the peninsula at the entrance to Portovenere) and the castle above it we got off the boat to explore.

We were totally unaware of the beauty of Portovenere until we approached from the sea.  Rick Steve’s had hardly mentioned it other that to say it was interesting.  As we came down the coastline, the first thing we could see was the outline of the castle-fort and the church on the point at the entrance to the Portovenere bay.  It looked interesting and as we got closer it became very interesting.

St. Peter’s Church on the Point

 

 

 

 

As we entered the bay it was obvious that we had a lot of things to see while we were there and quickly decided to leave the boat while it toured around the other islands and then pick it up again for the return trip to Monterosso al Mare. Below the church on the point was the remains of another fort with holes for gun ports to cover the entrance to the bay. 

Further along was the start of another village with the multi-colored pastel buildings characteristic to the Cinque Terre area and most of Italy’s sea-coast towns.

We were later to find that church on the point was called Saint Peter’s. (The point of land that it sat upon was called ‘Saint Peter’s Toe”!)  The original village of Portovenere (then called Portus Veneris, was an ancient Roman village started in the 1st century BC. Above the homes and businesses in the old village of Portovenere was the castle on top of the hill and the gate to the castle at the end of the village with the enclosed stairs up to the castle. The castle was started by the Doria family in 1139 and named ‘Andrea Doria’.  It was rebuilt in 1169 by the province of Genoa and then modernized into a fort in the 15th and 16th centuries.  The church above the center of town is called the ‘Parrocchia dei SS. Pietro Lorenzo and was build 1204.  It was a beautiful old church along the pathway below the castle.

Piazza to St. Peters

 

Above and behind the village buildings was a stone walkway out to the end of Saint Peter’s Toe.  There stood the church of Saint Peter that was built in 1198.  Below it was the ruins of the fortifications with the gun ports and the platforms for the cannons that protected the entrance to the bay.  In front and to the side of the church are the ruins of the barracks and buildings that held the soldiers who protected the bay, the castle and the village.

Castle Andrea Doria

 

 

 

 

Above the church was the castle and the stairs climbing past the barracks to the base of the castle/fort.

Stairs up to Castle

 

From this point the stairs became narrow stone paths with stone walls on each side and began a winding pattern to climb up to the base of the castle.  It was obvious that the paths were built to make it difficult for raiders to attack the fort from the sea.  From this point of view, the castle was quite massive and a formable fortress.

 

Cemetery below Castle

 

 

 

Just below the castle face above the sea was the cemetery.  It was almost cut out of the cliff side to provide terraces for the crypts and burials.  It was actually a quite beautiful resting place.

Path below the Castle

 

This pathway ran all along the base of the castle with the church below it.It wound down through the village as you got beyond the church with interesting stone niches.

 

 

 

 

 

Stone Measure
Genova 1606

A typical example was this marble measuring container with the date of 1606 carved into the side.  It was used to measure liquids or grains by placing a stopper in the hole, pouring the basin full and then removing the stopper to let the liquid pour into a bucket.

We would have liked to have more time to visit the castle and its ground and to look through the old church.  Unfortunately, the tour boat was due to leave shortly and it was the last one of the day to return us to Monterossa al Mare.

 

 

This was our last look at St. Peter’s Toe, the Church and the fort as we left Portovenere. 

HEADING BACK TO CINQUE TERRE

Cinqe Terre from a Window

 where we spent 5 wonderful days!  It was a restful time, yet a very busy time with so many things to see and do.  We truly enjoyed it!

Village #1 – RIOMAGGIORE

Village #2 – MANAROL
Village #3 – CORNIGLIA
Village #4 – VERNAZZA
Village #5 – MONTEROSSO al MARE

Goodbye to Cinque Terre until next time!

ROME IS NEXT!

ROME – April 23rd to 26th

 

We were asked: “Do you mean you are only staying two full days in Rome, the most beautiful ancient city of the world?”

Our answer after two days in Rome: “YES! It is too crowded, too busy, too many cars and too dirty!”

I guess that response is a little bit too much, but it was all of those things.  Part of our problem was that we were there between Easter Sunday and the Canonization of two previous Popes and there were too many people to really enjoy all of the things that Rome had to offer.  Besides, we had just come off five days on the Cinque Terre and everything and everyone in Rome overwhelmed us.  And the other thing is that Rome is for the glorification of the Catholic religion and if you are a Catholic, that is great!  But we are not.

SAINT PETER’S BASILICA

Our first morning there we decided to get up early and go to the Vatican and see Saint Peter’s Basilica. We took the underground rail transportation for the first time in Rome and it was an experience.  It took awhile to figure out the Italian names and routes, but we finally got to the Vatican just after 8 am.  

Arrival at St. Peter’s Square

 

We entered St. Peter’s square through one of the colonnades.  Surprisingly, the lines were still short and we were able to get into St. Peter’s In about 15 minutes.

 

Saint Peter’s Basilica was huge! It is 500 feet wide by 750 feet long and 452 feet high.  The main dome’s diameter is 137.7 feet.  It was finished in 1626.

St. Peter’s Basilica

The Pope’s window and deck is in the upper center of the building where he waves and addresses the people in the square.  The three openings in the center of the building are the entrance doors to the interior of the Basilica. The three domes of the Basilica are not apparent in the photo, but the main one is in the center near the rear and the two smaller ones are on the left and right sides near the front.  The large arched entry to the right is the back entrance to the Sistine Chapel (as we were to find out later much to our dismay).

Had we known that the large arched doorway on the right side of the basilica was the back entrance to the Sistine Chapel, we could have saved ourselves a very, very long wait and what wound up to be a frustrating peek at the Sistine Chapel the next morning.  Oh well, sometimes even Rick Steves doesn’t know all the answers.

Central Walkway
St. Peters Baldachin

Entering the central door on the front brings you directly into the walk to St. Peter’s altar in the back of the Basilica.  The walk is roped off and has red velvet side curtains to keep the public away. At the end of the walk is the huge 98 foot tall bronze pavilion called a Baldachin.  It is the largest bronze art work in the world.  Below it in the center is the altar of St. Peter. Legend states that his bones are buried beneath the altar.  In the apse behind it the chair in bronze that St. Peter used when he was the first Pope.

 

 

 

 

 

Central Dome

 

 

 

 

 

Above the bronze Baldachin is the large dome of the Basilica in hues of blue, white and gold.  The walls and ceilings were painted frescos and  works of art. The entire interior without considering all of the magnificent sculptures, works of art and treasures was magnificent. It seemed that every square inch of the interior was dedicated to something religious and gold was everywhere.

Left Dome
Right Dome

The smaller left dome and smaller right dome on each side at the upper front was a typical example of how gold was used to highlight areas of the structure. All of the naves along each side were also richly done with gold and painted panels highlighting the particular altar, sculpture, painting or treasure.

 

 

I decided not to show any particular sculpture, painting or treasure in the blog.  We took over 75 photos of the various art works including the enormous 4 saints sculpted in marble that were at least 30 feet high or Michelangelo’s ‘Pieta’ (Mother Mary holding the crucified Jesus) or one of the remains of the Pope’s in their golden coffins with glass sides.  How do you choose between them?  You have to see them in person to truly appreciate them.

 

Swiss Guard

 

 

 

 

By 10 am, the basilica was full of people and it was becoming difficult to get close enough to the sites of interest to even see them.  We had stayed inside St. Peter’s for over two hours. As we left the interior of the cathedral there were two of the Swiss Guard in their colorful uniforms standing guard.

Crowd in the Square

When we walked out into St. Peter’s square, the line had grown. It was now 5 to 6 people wide where had started when we arrived earlier and it extended all around St. Peter’s square and down the street several blocks.  I seriously doubt that all those people managed to make it into the basilica by the end of the afternoon.

Saint Peter’s Square

The square was very large and you can see the people standing in line.  In the center is the Egyptian Obelisk, called ‘The Witness’.  It stands 130 feet high and is made of red granite.  The Obelisk stood in the city of Heliopolis, Egypt during the reign of the Fifth Dynasty of Egypt (2300 BC).  There are also two large fountains on each side of the obelisk built in the 1600’s.

During the middle ages there was a gilt ball at the top of the Obelisk with the Christian Cross above it.  It was believed to containe the ashes of Julius Caesar.  Fontana later removed the ancient ball that stood at the top of the Obelisk and opened it and found nothing but dust! (??? What ever happened to ‘from ashes to ashes and dust to dust’?)

NEW ROME

There is literally a church on every corner in the heart of Rome.  I don’t know where they find enough people to support them all, but I suppose that the Catholic religion supports them all.  The nice thing about having a church on every corner is that the art work and the sculptures are magnificent such as these on the other corner of the previous photo.  However, I have no clue who the created the sculptures of who and what they are of and I was unable to find them on the internet.  It was probably in the inscription along the top, but I can’t read Latin.

One thing that really turned us off was that the sidewalks and street gutters were coated with cigarette butts.  They sure don’t add to the beauty of the city or improve the smell! Plus Rome is very expensive, the rooms, food and especially the Vatican tours.

So we decided to just walk around the city during the afternoon and finally caught the double-deck touring bus to cover the city’s famous areas.

Monument Vittorio EmanueleII

 

 

Rome wasn’t all ancient ruins and Catholic churches.  This was the Monumennto Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuelell II, who was the first King of Italy in 1861.  The monument is 260 feet wide by 390 feet tall and was built on Capitone Hill replacing ancient Roman ruins and medieval churches.

Souveniers

 

 

 

Of course there were things that were of  interest to us like this shop of figurines, sculptures, roman heads and other miscellaneous to decorate your tomb or crypt when you die.  This small shop was in an open alleyway off one of the main streets.

Basilica S Maria deglu Angeli edu Martiri

 

 

There were beautiful ruins that had been kept and somewhat restored such as the Basilica Saint Mary of the Angels and the Martrys very near the railroad station.  It was originally Roman baths converted to the Basilica in 1564 by Michelangelo.

CASTEL SANT’ANGELO (Castle of the Holy Angel)

 

The Castel Sant’Angelo (Castle of the Holy Angel) was originally built by Emperor Hadrian for his burial mausoleum.

His ashes were placed in the mausoleum in 139 AD and were later destroyed by the Goths.  It became part of the Catholic Church due to it’s proximity to the Vatican.  In the 14th century, Pope Nicholas III converted it to a prison and remained a prison until 1901, when it was renamed Castel Sant’Angelo.

Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel

Since we had such good luck with the crowds at St. Peter’s Basilica, we decided to get up early again and try the crowds at the Vatican Museum to see the Sistine Chapel.  We were not so lucky this time.  By our arrival at 8 am, the crowd was already three blocks long; however, it was moving forward.  Thirty minutes later the street filled up with tours and they went to the head of the lines.  The lines slowed to almost a standstill.  The street hackers kept trying to sell us tickets to move to the front of the line for $30 each, but we found out that the tickets did not include the museum entrance price.  And like St. Peter’s, the original attraction ticket we purchased when we arrived does not include anything at the Vatican!

Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel

 

 

 

 

We declined the front of the line tickets out of disgust and pig-headedness and stayed in the line!  Three hours later we finally reach the front of the museum.  Upon entering the lobby, we found we had to pay another $30 each to be herded through the museum.

 

Herded was a very apt description!  Growing up on a farm, I remember pushing a herd of cattle through narrow walkways to get them cull, separate or load them in trucks.  That was exactly like it was in the museum and the chapel.  There were people as far as you could see in front of you and behind you. There were long halls with lighted ceilings, slightly larger rooms with exhibits that you couldn’t stop to see if you wanted to because you were being rushed along with  the crowd.  It seemed like the lighted ceiling hallways went on forever and up and down stairs through lots of doors.

 

Finally we entered a large room with a 6 foot metal fence with a gate in the middle of it.  It was stuffed with people and they were slowly moving through the iron gate in the middle and on toward another door in the corner. By opening up the view screen and holding up the camera above my head, I was taking pictures with the camera of the paintings on the ceiling as we were being shuffled along.  When we got to the doorway, I asked Jan when we were going to get to the Sistine Chapel and she said, “That was it!”

Sistine Chapel Ceiling
Other part of Ceiling

Actually I did get some good pictures of the ceiling of the chapel which is so famous for Michelangelo’s paintings.

Some statistics about the Sistine Chapel for you to get a feeling of it’s size.  It is 134 feet long, 44 feet wide and 68 feet high.  When we were in the room, their had to be at least 1500 people milling around in it, most trying to get through the iron gate and out the far door! 

God giving Adam the Spark of Life

 

Between 1502 and 1512 Michelangelo painting the ceiling with the scenes out of Genesis.  The center painting of the ceiling is God giving Adam the spark of life.  I am sorry it isn’t more in focus, but it’s hard to get a clear picture above your head being pushed along.

Adam & Eve’s Expelled from Eden
The Great Flood

 

 

 

Noah and the Ark in the flood.   Boy, the painters during that time sure like to paint nudes (?), now it would be called Porn!

 

 

Once out the door, we walked down some stairs and through a short hall with a ticket booth, then out a door on the landing of a stairs. It was not quite 12:30. We had just been herded through 54 galleries of the Vatican Museum in an hour and a half seeing very little but the ceilings.  On the bottom of the stairs was a stone paved area between the museum and St. Peter’s Basilica.  At the end of the area was the arched door at the front of St. Peter’s Basilica that we had seen yesterday morning when we came out of the basilica.  Had we known at the time, we could have walked through the arched door and up the stairs, paid the entrance fee and walked into the Sistine chapel from the back door!

The Ruins of Rome

Our last afternoon in Rome, we took the underground out to the Colosseum and the ruins of ancient Rome.

The Arch of Constantine

 

 

 

 

The Arch of Constantine is a triumphal arch situated between the Colosseum and Palatine Hill.  It was built by the Roman Senate to commemorate the victory of Emperor Constantine over Maxentis in 312.  It is 69 feet high, 85 feet wide and 24 feet thick and has three arches.  During the 1960 Olympics held in Rome, it was the end of the marathon. It is currently being renovated and cleaned thus has metal platforms for cleaning over half of it.

Original Structure

 

 

 

The Colosseum was huge and parts were well preserved, restored and renovated.  As you can see from this photo, the unrestored, original exterior back wall was three stories high.  The original blocks of stone are well defined and holes in between the stones indicate how the exterior finish was attached although the attachments have decayed allowing the exterior façade to crumble off.  Most of this area toward the back of the Colosseum is blocked off although people from the tours inside are allowed out to the exterior.

Inside the Upper Window
Upper floors inside the Colosseum

 

The original blocks of rock are exposed at the top of the wall in the photo on the left including the unusual pattern of interlocking various sizes of rocks to tie the structure together.

Where as the photo on the right shows the more  finished wall with the brick facing covering on the rocks.  In addition, it indicates where the original different levels of the bleachers or viewing platforms were located. It isn’t obvious whether the openings allowing ventilation inside the structure or were providing views of the surrounding area from the inside.

 

 

Inside the Colosseum

 

 

 

 

Looking though one of the arched openings we could see a large tour on the inside of the structure, several different levels of structures for seating or balconies, the break in the colosseum floor and the catacombs below the floor where the contestants and animals were kept.

Earlier Revision of Colosseum
Current Revision of Colosseum

Walking around the front side of the Colosseum, an earlier renovation had taken place on the left side and note that the structure is four stories high on this side.  As we looked further around this side, they were continuing to renovate it with the metal framing to work on it and part of it had been completely restored.  Note also the large crowd at the base of the building.  This was the crowd waiting to use their passes to see the interior.  The line continued around the base in the left photo under the trees.  Although we would have liked to use our passes to see the interior, we decided we didn’t want to wait in that line especially after this morning.

Gladiators

 

 

A parting shot at the commercialization of Rome were the Roman Gladiators standing around at the base of the Colosseum waiting to get their picture taken with the tourists.

 

 

Old Roman Ruins

It was obvious that there are still many, many ruins of the old Roman city nestled between new buildings and houses in the current city.  This photo is an example of the many ruins that Italy is still in the process of studying, restoring or rebuilding.  Below the trees in the photo are buildings and equipment used to work in the old ruins and the restored tower in the lower part of the photo is part of the restoration.

We were to see many, many more Roman ruins as we travel on the rest of our trip to the southern coast of France and the beautiful cities of Arles and Avignon, and the Pont du Gard, but that is for another blog coming after our Alaskan Summer.

2014 Europe Vacation

TRIP TO EUROPE

    A year ago Debbie started talking about a visit to Jordan in Ukraine.  Jordan was teaching English with the Peace Corp there. Debbie’s daughter-in-law, Kristina had been to Europe and wanted to go with her. It interested Jan and I also, so we decided to go with her.  However, they could only stay for 10 days and we decided that we wanted to spend more in Europe because it would probably be our last opportunity to go. 

    We began to develop our plans which included a few days in Ukraine, travel to Switzerland to visit the Andregg relatives, then a few days in Venice, then Debbie, Jordan and Kristina would go on to Paris.  Jan and I decided to spend more time in Italy and then in France before flying back home from Paris.

Two of Our Traveling Companions

 

Our plans were changed when Russia invaded Ukraine!  The Peace Corp brought Jordan back to the US early and US travel was not recommended in February so the Ukraine part of the trip was canceled.  We already had tickets and reservations to go.  Debbie got Jordan a ticket to go back to Europe with us, so on the 10th of April we met in DC and flew to Munich for the first leg of our trip.

    Jan and my trip lasted 27 days with additional stays on the Italian Riviera (Cinque Terre), Rome, Nice, Arles, Avignon and Paris.  A truly wonderful trip with many, many things to see and do that resulted in lots of photos (almost 4550 from two cameras and iPhones including some of  Debbie and Jordan) and two really exhausted old grey hairs!  So as to not bore you, we have been spending our time reducing the photos to the minimum and the best to share the story with you.  We are breaking up the blog into sections to feed you a little at a time so you won’t get totally bored, plus we have to deal with all these photos!

 

April 10-12  Munich

 

    We really hadn’t planned to stop in Munich other than to change planes to fly to Lviv, Ukraine.  When our plans had to change, we decided to stop in Munich and take a train to Switzerland.  That layover allowed us to spend an afternoon enjoying the Old Town area of Munich.

Karistor Gate

 

 

You enter the Old Town area through this beautiful gate called the Karistor in the heart of the city. The gate is a replica of the gothic gate of the medieval fortification. The very broad promenade called the Karlsplatz leads through businesses and shops along with very old buildings, churches and cathedrals.   

 

 

 

Saint Michael’s Cathedral
St. Michael’s Interior

Just inside the gates was Saint Michael’s Cathedral, which was originally built in the mid-1200’s. It is not clear what happened to it during WWII as much of Munich was destroyed by Allied bombs; however, the interior was very beautiful.

 

 

 

 

 

Rathaus

 

 

 

A few blocks on down the promenade at the Marienplatz was the old Rathaus building built in the late 1800’s with its famous Glockenspiel.  The Glockenspiel was built to honor the marriage of Duke Wilhelm V of Bavaria.  It played that day at 12 pm and shows two knights jousting on the carousel with the Duke and his bride watching above. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lunch in the Marienplatz

 

 

 

 

We watched from below at the outdoor café in the plaza eating lunch and enjoying a Bavarian beer!

 

   

 

 

The Toy Museum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After lunch, we walked on to the end of the promenade where the old town hall is now a Toy Museum, then we walked around the corner to the market platz.

Munich Farmer Market Stalls

 

Outdoor Tables at the Market Place

There were about 10 to 15 permanent booths with about every kind of cheese, olives, breads, fruits, vegetables, meats, wines, sodas, flowers and plants plus a couple of crafts and nick-nack tourist booths.   It was obvious that the locals and tourists in the know came here to eat lunch or snack.  I had wished we had known about it earlier!

 

 

Hofbrauhaus

 

 

 

 

By that time, we were beginning to run out of steam as we had been on the airplane from DC from 5pm the previous evening and arrived in Munich at about 9 am that morning.  Our excitement was beginning to give way to tired, but we had one place that was a must to visit to complete our afternoon in Munich.

 

 

 

Guess what the group is doing at the Hofbauhaus
Hofbrauhaus Ceiling

 

The original Hofbrauhaus and brewery was built in 1859 by Duke Wilhelm V, the Bavarian Duke and obviously, he did enjoy his home brewed beer!     And you just can’t visit the Hofbrauhaus without sampling one of their famous brews.  Even for a died-in-the-wool Pale Ale fan, you just can’t help but enjoy a full mug of fresh Bavarian beer light or dark! 

 

 

 

April 12-16 Zurich – Bern, Switzerland

 

   

 

 

 

A good nights sleep (much needed by all) and then a fun and beautiful train ride from Munich to Zurich, Switzerland.

 

Cousin Freddie with our group

  

 

We arrived in Zurich in the afternoon and met our first member of the Andregg family, Freddie Pressig at the Zurich train station.  He helped us get oriented and rent a car for our trip through Switzerland.  He had been part of the family that had come to Hoxie, Kansas to meet their Andregg cousins. 

   One of our reasons to travel through Switzerland beside just enjoying the wonderful scenery and people was to meet Jan, Debbie and Jordan’s relatives that still lived in Switzerland. 

 

 

 

Debbie & cousin Elisabeth Gressbach

 

 

 

That evening at our hotel in Zurich, Freddie’s cousin, Elisabeth Gressbach  met us for dinner and they had a great time talking about the cousins and Switzerland.  We all had dinner together and had a great time talking about relations and past meetings, plus Elisabeth gave us all a lot of information about Switzerland, where to go and what to see.

 

 

 

 

Evangelical Church of Flawil

The next morning, Elisabeth led us to the Evangelical Church in Flawil, Switzerland where Debbies’ great-great grandfather and grandmother were married in 1878.     The church was originally built in 1257 as a catholic church and remained that way until 1771 when it was changed to an Evangelical church. The church was rebuilt again in the late 1980’s.

Interior of Flawil Church, Pastor, Elisableth & Jordan

 

 

 

We were there on Palm Sunday and were able to attend the service. The sermon was given by a young woman pastor (in black next to Elizabeth and Jordan) who spoke in Swiss-German.  The church was very plain on the inside with hand-built wooden pews although the ceiling was painted with ornate designs and the chandeliers were beautiful.  The cemetery behind the church was small with beautiful flowers on all the graves.  The tradition there is to cremate the remains and place them in the plots for 25 years for the families.  Then the remains are removed and placed in a common crept in the cemetery.

 

 

 

 

Top of the Gondola

 

After church, we drove back to Zurich to Elisabeth’s home and met her daughter, Christina and granddaughters.  We all went to lunch at a local Pizza place then took a ride to the nearby Troggenburg area and the gondola at Mt. Gamplut where you can ride the Trotti bikes down a paved path to the small village in the valley below.

 Trotti bikes have no seat, but have a platform to stand upon.  They also have no gears or peddles, they are a scooter.  The beginning of the path is shown in the photo. In the background across the valley is the Churfirsten range of the Alps with the highest mountains reaching 2200 meters (7200+ feet).

 

 

 

 

Our group picture was taken below Mt. Schafberg where a younger Elisabeth and her late husband used to climb in the winter and ski down!  Elisabeth is in the yellow coat, her daughter, Christina in the green coat, then Jon, Jan, Debbie and Jordan. Kristina was taking the photo.

 

 

 

 

 

The youngsters insisted that they had to ride the modified  (fat wheel) Trotti bikes down the path to the base of the gondola while us old grey hairs decided to travel the old fashioned way, walking!

 

 

 

 

 

Elisabeth, Christina & Jan walking down the trail.

 

The trip down the mountain (about a mile and a half) was beautiful.  It was paved most of the way and also provided a single lane road for supplies to the building at the top of the gondola plus some cabins and cattle barns along the way. 

Cattle Barn on Mountain

 

The mountainside was alternating open grassy areas among the trees with low stone fences to separate the cattle pasture areas. As the spring and summer progress, the cattle are moved up the mountain where the grass is fresh.

 

 

 

Debbie on the Scooter
After the ride.

 

 

All three were squealing down the mountain on their Trotti bikes (the brakes squealed loudly with all the terror of flying down the slopes).  Jordan and Kristina zoomed on ahead and had already reached the bottom.  They were anxiously waiting for her. I don’t think there are chiggers in Switzerland!

 

 

 

 

 

Evening Cheeses, Meats and Bread

 

 

When the old grey hairs reached the bottom, we all headed back to Elisabeth’s house in Zurich where we enjoyed a wonderful light dinner of Swiss cheeses, meats and breads and washed it down with some good Swiss beer! 

 

Thank you Elisabeth for a wonderful experience and a beautiful day in Switzerland.  It was a joy to meet your daughter and granddaughters.

 

The next day was a travel day to Bern to see Elisabeth’s sister, Heidi and her other daughter, Regula plus Freddie’s cousin, Margaret Wegman and her family.  We took the long, winding Switzerland mountain route through beautiful Lucerne and Interlaken to Bern.

Two Blocks of Bicycles

 

More Bikes

Lucerne like most of Switzerland, is a land of bicycles and motorcycles.   There was a row of motorcycles two blocks long on another side street.  All of these were at the railroad station.         

 

 

Covered Bridge of Lucerne
Tower along the Covered Bridge

The highlight of Lucerne was the age old covered bridge in the center of town, called the Chapel Bridge, it was built in 1333 to straddle Reuss River which feeds Lake Lucerne. Off in the distance on the left photo are Mt. Pilatus and Rigi in the Swiss Alps. The tower in the photo on the right was also built in the 14th century to fortify the entrance to Lucerne from the lake.   

 

 

Interlaken Canal on right
Interlaken Canal on Left

On down the road through the mountains was the small town of Interlaken nestled in the Swiss Alps between Lake Brienz and Lake Thun.  In it’s position as a gateway into the Swiss Alps, it’s considered one of Switzerland’s most beautiful resorts.  The photos are of the river Aar which flows through the town from one lake to the other.  We stopped for a while taking photos and touring the town.  While Debbie and the kids looked at the sights, Jan and I sat in one of the open restaurants and enjoyed a cold beer.  The afternoon was warm and beautiful. 

 

Later that afternoon we arrived in the heart of Bern near the railroad station where we would catch the train to our next destination, Venice.  But first we would spend a wonderful day with Elisabeth’s sister, Heidi for a wonderful day at a cheese factory, a medieval village and a chocolate factory.

 

Le Gruyere

 

Another really fun day in Switzerland!  We met Heidi, Regula and her daughter, Celine the next morning for a ride out to a cheese factory.  

Le Gruyere Cheese Factory
Aging Vaults for Cheese

It was the famous La Gruyere cheese factory and we watched them with their morning ritual of making the cheese from a viewing room above the factory floor.  The milk from the previous milking was stored in large vats in a sterilized room.  The milk was heated and stirred with the necessary ingredients (we were not told what ingredients because they were secret!) until the milk began to curdle.  At the time that the head man on the floor decided when the time was right, the milk was pumped out of the vat into the circular compression cylinders on the right in the photo and the whey was pressed out of the curds.  The resultant wheel of cheese was then market with the date and sent to a drying rack where 7000 wheels of cheese are aged up to 15 months for future sale.

Fondue Lunch at Le Gruyere

 

 

 

That wasn’t the end of our tour of the cheese factory as the group then went into the Le Gruyere restaurant and had a delicious Le Gruyere cheese fondue lunch.  Seated on the left are Celine, Heidi, Regula and Jon, on the right, Jan, Jordan, Kristina and Debbie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chateau La Masion du Gruyere
13th Century Medieval Village

With full tummies we all travelled up the side of the mountain to the original Chateau of the La_Masion du Gruyeres.  The Chateau or Castle sets on a prominent outcropping overlooking the valley floor.  It was built in the 13th century by the Duke of the region and included a medieval village attached to the castle.  We parked at the base of the mount and walked up into the medieval village that had been preserved for tourists to the cheese and chocolate factories.

 

Debbie, Jan & Jon at the village fountain

 

 

 

 

Debbie, Jan and I stopped at the fountain in the center of the village to have our photo taken.  At the other end of the street sits the Chateau La_Masion du Gruyeres with a small Catholic church aside it’s entrance.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Measuring Holes for dry goods.
Pouring Holes for dry goods.

We walked along the street looking at all the old buildings and shops all keeping to the period of the time and came upon this stone wall with various size bowls cut into it.  As we looked around the other side it became obvious that it was an ancient measuring device for grains or dry goods.  The big hole was about the size of our bushel and the smallest would hold about a quart.  On the back side of the hole was a pouring spout from each hole.  If you were selling grain for example, you would plug the hole of the pouring spout and fill the bowl with the grain.  Then the merchant buying the grain would back his cart under the hole and unplug it.  The grain would fall into the cart or container and that would be one measure.

 

Right side of Castle with Tower
Jordan & Kristina entering the castle portal

As we walked up along the right side of the small church there were several curio shops built into a wall and a ramp up to a large wooden gate opening set between buildings of rooms for guests and entertaining. The rooms are now used for museums.  Further up the path was a smaller wall and gate that opened into the castle grounds.  The path continued to the side of the castle where another wooden entrance gate was located. However, this gate was closed and now the tourists entered from a stone gate located on the right side of the castle.

 

 

Our group on the Castle patio

 

 After you entered the stone portal, there was a patio that was located along the wall and tourist entrance to the castle.  From the patio at the entrance to the castle, you could view the mountains off in the distance, the medieval village below and the valley beyond.  The patio and it’s gate was a later addition for the tourists. 

Lower Grey Ramparts and Tower

Below the castle tower is the rear guard tower and extended back wall in grey stone.  Note that the slope leading up to the castle is very steep making it very difficult to attack the castle from any direction except the medieval village.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Left side Rampart Walls facing the valley below
Closeup of the Walls to protect the Castle

 

On the left side of the castle is another rampart and tower protected the castle from attack. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fighting Platforms inside the Left Wall

 

 

The inside of wall and tower was accessible from an opening in the middle of the medieval village and provided platforms for archers and knight to repel attackers.  The archers could stand on the walkways inside the walls and shoot arrows down at the attackers on the ground.

View from the Castle

 

 

The view from the castle of the valley below and the mountains off in the distance was truly spectacular.

 

 

Callier’s Chocolate Factory
Chocolates

 

 

The next stop was Callier’s, the chocolate factory (a subsidary of Hershey!!).  Unfortunately it was later in the afternoon and the place was jammed with people and kids.  We were going to wait for almost an hour to take the tour so we just decided to tour the discount shop and buy some chocolates (yummy)!

Family Dinner

Switzerland Family Dinner
Jan and Margaret Wegman

There was still part of the family that Jan, Debbie and Jordan hadn’t been able to meet so the Andregg cousins decided that we had to go to dinner with them.  Margaret Wegman, the elder cousin of the family (she is 93) had been in the hospital, but was now home and wanted to come meet us.  Jan had met her when she was in Hoxie back in the 80’s and got to sit with her during the dinner.   

Heidi, Debbie & Claudia

In addition to Heidi, Regula and Celine attended the dinner. 

 

 

 

 

Regula and her daughter, Celine
Margret and her family

 

 

 

There was Margaret’s daughter, Claudia, and her children daughter Nicole, daughter-in-law Nicole and son, Thomas.   It was a wonderful dinner in a local brewery and everyone had a great time.  As we all left, we had to take a photo of the entire group.

 

Entire Group Photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we all left, we had to take a photo of the entire group.

Kornhauskeller Restaurant & Bar
Ceiling of the Kornhauskeller

To end our evening and our last night in Bern and Switzerland, we decided to have a final nightcap in a bar that Nicole had told Debbie about. The Kornhauskeller turned out to be a wonder! It was located in a cellar under one of the large buildings on the main street of Bern.  As you walked downstairs to a landing, the restaurant below came into view.  The ceilings were highly decorated. On the level of the landing, a bar area was located along the outer walls.  We sat down at one of the tables and had our nightcaps using the last of our Swiss Francs!

April 16-18   Venice

   We left Bern early the next morning via the train again.  We were looking forward to the scenery as we toured through the Alps and were not disappointed except with trying to take photos out of a train window.  It’s strange that when you are traveling 60+ miles per hour, most of the photos are green tree blur, reflections and poles!  But the trip was beautiful!  I have to comment that we all thought Switzerland was beautiful.  It was so obvious that the Swiss take great pride and care of their land. Their buildings were all painted and clean. Even the mountain meadows looked like they had been trimmed. I fully expected to catch some Swiss out there with scythes and weed eaters keeping the grass mowed and yodeling.  Switzerland was truly a wonderful and fun experience for us.

Venice Railroad Station & Canal

 

We stopped in Brig and changed to an Italian train, then headed for Milan, Italy.   My initial impression of Italy was OLD, old buildings, huge ancient cathedrals, narrow-crowded streets and the remains of the past glories.

  Venice was exactly like that.  We arrived in a high-speed train into a modern railroad station, walked out the front to where a canal separated the new from the old.  Across the canal was a very old domed cathedral and old multi-story homes jammed together and on top of each other. The streets were all very narrow, no cars allowed, only water ways and canals for transportation beside walking.  We rode in a water taxi with 35 other passengers crowded together for about a quarter of a mile and worked our way through people (not easy with back packs and luggage) to get off at our dock area.

Hotel Pensione Guerrato
Hotel Lobby on the Second Floor

A short walk and we entered a narrow alley with the sign of our 800 year old hotel, the Pensione Guerrato.  We went upstairs  to the landing  where the hotel lobby was located.  It was obviously very old with all kinds of memorabilia collected through the years.  The owners were very helpful and wonderful to all of us.  The rooms were large which surprised us and the bathroom was modern.  They had kept the old furniture (except for the bed) which was nice.  We did have to smile though as the room was advertized with a view of the canal.  The room had two windows and if you opened the window and pushed the shutters back as far as they would go, then leaned out of the window as far as you could without falling out, then looked to the left you could just barely see where the canal was supposed to be through the narrow opening between the buildings.  It didn’t matter as we were not there to look out the windows anyway.

 

Rilato Bridge across the Grand Canal

As soon as we were settled we left to go sight-seeing.  Our first stop was at the Rialto Bridge, the famous bridge across the Grand Canal.  It gave us a grand view of the Grand Canal and we did and would enjoy it even more, especially later that evening.

Side Canal off the Grand Canal

There are many side canals off of the Grand Canal that wander between the housing and shopping areas.  Only gondolas or small boats can go through these canals and there were small bridges connecting the streets from one side to the other.  

 

 

Another side canal with leaning Tower

 

 

 

 

Note the leaning church tower along the canal (no this is not Piza!).  This one was wide enough for some cafes along the side although the cross street bridges were very low and could only be negotiated by very low boats and the gondoliers had to duck under them.

Crowds in St. Mark’s Square
Long Lines to visit Exhibits

Our destination was to St. Mark’s square through the maze of streets.  When we arrived we began to realize what crowds really were.  The square was full of people and any of the buildings that were of interest to explore had lines that were way to long to wait. It was frustrating; but we were to find that it was a common problem in Italy because there were way too many people for the sights of interest. 

Jan and Jordan taking a break!

 

We got away from the crowds and Jan and Jordan just sat down in a beautiful place to relax and enjoy the scenery.

 

Church of S. Girogio Maggiore

 

  I on the other hand had to exercise my camera and found a beautiful picture of the Church of S. Giorgio Maggiore across the canal from us with a gondolier in his gondola in the foreground.

Italian Pizza!

 

It was getting along toward evening by that time and we decided to walk back to our hotel.  We passed a small pizza restaurant as were walking along the narrow streets and found they had a patio in the back for dinner.  We all ordered pizza and a bottle of wine for dinner. The Italian pizza is a little different from the Pizza Hut.  These pizzas were basic tomato sauce, some cheese and a few sprinkles of prosciutto ham on top. 

The wine was good!

Debbie decided it would be fun to do a wine tour while we were in Venice.  Of course, we didn’t have any objection to doing that, so she set it all up for the 5 of us.  It turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip.  We were picked up at 8 am by a young woman named Miriam Diecavia (photo later) in her own car, large enough to hold all six of us. 

Village of Coneglinano

 

She took us up north of Venice into the Prosecco region near the town of Coneglinano  to the Toffilo winery.   

Group in the Vineyards

 

 

 

We went out in the vineyards where they explained the grape growing process,  a tour through the

On the top of the processing tanks

 

 

processing of the grapes into wine including a climb up on their storage tanks with a view across the grape growing region. 

 

Tasting the Toffoli wines

 

That was followed by a visit to their tasting room and a taste of their wonderful wines. 

 

 

 

 

Grist Mill ‘Windlass Croda’ and Miriam

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next Miriam took us to the old grist mill of Refrontolo called ‘Molinetto della Croda’ (the Windless Croda).  What a beautiful place located next to a waterfall   and the mill at the far end of it.

Falls and Grist Mill
Jan in front of the ‘Windlass Croda’

The mill called ‘Windlass Croda’ was built in the seventeenth century to grind flour for the existing community. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top of the Grinding Wheel
Gears of the Grinding Wheel

 

 

 

The grinding wheel  and mechanism seemed small compared to others we have seen; however it was intersting to see the entire process of the gearing, the wheels and the grinding stones.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Castello Brandolini Colombari
Tram entrance to the Castle

 

By this time it was getting on toward lunch time and Miriam took us to a castle in the local mountains.  It was called ‘Castello Brandolini Colombari’.    The method of getting to it was quite unique.  From the parking lot below the castle you enter a tunnel through these two round buildings and up a slight incline with stores on each side to a tram entrance which climbed up the side of the mountain to the castle.

Gardens at base of the Castle

The outside base of the castle was an area of gardens, fountains, statues and beautiful flowers and shrubs.    

 

Lower Tower and Rampart with valley below

 

 

Our view down below was more towers and ramparts and below the valley floor which had a fairly large village located there.  We went into the castle restaurant and had a delicous lunch before heading back down the tram to the valley floor and our next winery. 

 

We had a great and very interesting day with Miriam and we would highly recommend her wine tour to anyone vacationing in Venice.  You can find her tour at www.ventotours.com/wine tour and ask for Miriam.

Shops in Venice
Evening on the Grand Canal

 

 

When we got back to Venice, we had dinner in a small restaurant among the many shops located in the small streets.  Evening on the canal was very beautiful with lots of lights, gaily decorated and lit eateries along the quays. 

 

 

 

 

Night Gondola Rid

 

 

 

 

We decided to take a gondola ride for our last night in Venice so the five of us found a gondolier who would take us through the back canals of Venice in the dark.  It was lots of fun and a fitting end to our time with Debbie, Jordan and Kristina.  Tomorrow we catch the train for Cinque Terre, ‘the Italian Riveria’ for a nice relaxing five days.  I will update that part of the blog when I have more time. 

Jan and I both caught our limit of three sockeye salmon (Reds) in the Kasilof River today the 16th of June.  The next two weeks will be busy fishing, cleaning and processing salmon for the coming winter.  I will get back to the Europe blog when we have time.

Hope you enjoyed the first installment. Stay tuned for the rest of Italy, Cinque Terre and Rome.