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Thread: A Grand Tour

  1. #1
    Cat Person DickZ's Avatar
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    A Grand Tour

    A Grand Tour, Part 1

    Back in the days when I was still married, and before our four children started popping out almost once a year beginning in 1970, my wife Adele and I did a lot of traveling. After the kids started arriving, we never seemed to be able to take a vacation.

    This story describes some adventures we had in visiting Moscow, Leningrad, London, Rome, Copenhagen, Jerusalem, and a few other places. Most of the events I include in the story are factual – it’s up to you to figure out which ones are not.

    A quick important note on the links to pictures of what’s being discussed – sometimes they work, and sometimes they don’t. These are all public domain links – they aren’t mine. The download speed will of course depend on your particular computer and setup. If a link seems to be taking forever, you might want to consider stopping it and going on to the next one. You can try again later on any slow ones if you are still interested.

    MOSCOW

    In 1969, we went to Moscow, Kiev, and to what was then called Leningrad, which has now reverted to its ‘original’ name of Saint Petersburg. Remember that in those days, the Soviet Union was still alive and kicking. While foreign individuals such as us could explore the country on their own, it was considered somewhat risky to do that. We were part of an Intourist group, which was the state-sponsored tour agency.

    We went to Moscow first. We stayed in a hotel right on Red Square. I think it might have been called the National Hotel, but I’m not sure. Being in Red Square, we were able to visit Lenin’s Tomb, and the old guy was still there, on display. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Russian Revolution, Lenin was the main driving force leading to the eventual takeover of the government by the Bolshevik wing of the Communist Party in 1918.

    There were stories saying that the body that visitors saw looking up at them through the glass in Lenin’s Tomb was more wax than Lenin. He certainly didn’t look all that real, lying there in his nicely pressed suit. And his very shiny skin seemed to confirm all the rumors about his being mostly wax. There were also rumors during our visit that they were soon going to remove his tomb from public view. I don't think it's happened yet. The tomb is in the foreground of the next view:

    http://www.richard-seaman.com/Wallpa...mbFromAfar.jpg

    And here he is in all his glory:

    http://img.timeinc.net/time/photoess...nin_tomb_a.jpg

    Here are some other interesting views that you see when you’re standing in Moscow’s Red Square.

    St. Basil’s Cathedral

    http://www.opentravelinfo.com/files/..._0.preview.jpg

    St. Basil’s Cathedral honors the man who invented pesto sauce. I have several of my own recipes that feature this versatile sauce, so I was quite happy to see the actual cathedral, which looks so much better ‘in person’ than it does in pictures, even though it looks pretty good in pictures. It was commissioned by Ivan the Terrible, who you probably remember was one of the early Czars, and was completed in 1561. Besides honoring the inventor of pesto sauce, the building also commemorates the Russian victory over the Tartar Mongols in 1552 right after the Tartars invented their own famous sauce that goes so well with seafood. I was amazed to find that there are so many sauces related to this one particular cathedral.

    Kremlin – here is the Kremlin as viewed from a nearby boat.

    http://www.richard-seaman.com/Travel...linAndBoat.jpg

    The Kremlin has served as the seat of Russian government for a long time – dating back to the 11th century. That was about the time that Moscow started to take power away from Kiev to become something like a capital city – Kiev had been the unofficial capital for quite a while before that. The Kremlin had a modest beginning, as it started out as a hunting lodge, but by the 15th century it had become the center of all government-like activity.

    When Peter the Great came along to rule Russia in the late 17th century, he eventually moved the capital to the new city of Saint Petersburg. He did this because he wanted to build a modern metropolis that was more in step architecturally and culturally with major cities in Europe, and besides, it included his own name, even though he wasn’t himself officially a saint. When the capital moved to Saint Petersburg, the Kremlin back in Moscow went into a period of decline and stayed on the down side until after the Bolsheviks came to power during the Russian Revolution. They moved the capital back to Moscow in March of 1918, and the Kremlin began to assume a much larger role again.

    A major place of interest in the Kremlin area is the Kremlin Arsenal, which was built by Peter the Great to manufacture and store weapons. After Napoleon had to retreat from Moscow during that famous winter march that people are always talking about, the Russians made the building a museum to commemorate their glorious victory and to practice the 1812 Overture. Now the place is the headquarters of the Kremlin Guard.

    The State Kremlin Palace is the latest addition, as it was completed in 1961. It was built during the Khrushchev days in the 1950s, and it was said that he hammered in the first nail using his left shoe. I don’t remember who said that.

    The Senate building was built by Catherine the Great in the 18th century, but it was best known for serving as Lenin’s office after the Revolution in the 20th century. Today, it is used as the official Presidential residence for Vladimir Putin.

    GUM Department Store – the Macy’s and Marshall Field’s of Russia all rolled into one, although come to think of it, we recently did the same thing here in the USA.

    http://lamar.colostate.edu/~pwryan/rus-redsquare.jpg

    The GUM Department Store has absolutely nothing to do with chewing gum – it is an acronym for some Russian words. I was glad of that because I hate to see people chewing gum – especially when they have to keep their mouths open to do it. The building is called a department store, but in our terms it’s really like a large mall because there are something like 150 different stores in the place. I have a huge dislike for shopping so I didn’t spend too much time in here – just a short visit to see what it looked like.

    Spassky Tower – London may have its Big Ben (which we’ll see later), but Moscow has its Spassky Tower.

    http://bdaugherty.tripod.com/moscow/spassky.jpg

    In this photo, you have to look very carefully to see the large red star on top of the tower. In person, the star is much more readily visible.

    There will be more sights of Moscow in the next episode.
    Last edited by DickZ; 02-23-2009 at 09:04 AM.

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    A Grand Tour, Part 2
    MOSCOW, Continued

    One of my more vivid memories of Moscow was a visit to their equivalent to our Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, which they call the Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics. They had everything under one large roof, with no dividers or internal walls – so you could see everything at once from any spot in the place. Of course you didn’t just stand in one place and look over the joint – you would still walk around and get explanations of the various pieces of memorabilia from all the USSR’s space adventures through that time, which again was 1969.

    Here’s the monument outside, which shows Lenin seated in front of a rocket being fired into the heavens. Lenin himself never sat in front of a rocket being fired into the heavens, though, because he was in his tomb long before rockets were invented.

    http://www.kahunna.net/pilgrims_prog...ics/j15_20.jpg

    Inside the museum, there were rockets all over the place with the familiar CCCP (Cyrillic for USSR – we’ll get a little more into Cyrillic later) plastered all over them. Even though we were still on speaking terms in those days, for some reason Adele and I went in separate directions through the museum. We had a pre-arranged time and place for our rendezvous when it was time to get back on the bus and go to whatever the next place on the itinerary was. Well, I was looking at some big rocket and I glanced across the mammoth room and saw Adele off in the distance, standing in line for whatever exhibit she was going to be seeing next.

    I don’t know if the lines of people are as bad now that the Iron Curtain has fallen, as they were back then when the Curtain was still hanging there in all its majesty, but the Soviets were accustomed to doing everything they did by first standing in line to do it. Apparently some little old Russian babushka was trying to break into the line just ahead of Adele there at the museum – what we used to call ‘cutting into line’ as you well remember from your schooldays or from standing in line at the movies. The babushka lady must have figured that a weak American wouldn’t take offense to being one-upped by a powerful Russian. Well, she just didn’t know much about Adele, who launched an elbow that would rival what any professional basketball player could throw in the heat of battle down in the three-second zone under the basket. The babushka lady went down in a heap.

    I groaned from across the room, wondering how I was going to get Adele out of whatever prison she would wind up in after that episode – hopefully not somewhere in Siberia. But fortunately, nothing further happened, Adele remained ahead of the little old Russian lady, who regained her feet and recovered quickly from the vicious elbow, and they both got to see whatever it was they were trying to see.

    As I mentioned in the museum episode above, everything the Russians did, they had to line up first in order to do it. It seemed that they went to the grocery store every day of the week – maybe they didn’t have refrigerators. But every day, you would see these incredibly long lines streaming into the grocery store, and people would come out with very few items – about as much as they could use that same day. This assured them of the chance to come again the next day, so they could stand in line again. Maybe that was better than staying home, though, as they seemed to have a pretty austere life. I never went into one of these grocery stores, but I understand that they were nothing like our supermarkets.

    We didn’t see too many Coca Cola or Pepsi Cola vending machines on the streets of Moscow, but there were plenty of water vending machines. At first glance from a distance, these things actually looked a little bit like a Coke machine, but that was only until you got a little closer and looked a little harder. There was a receptacle which held a plastic glass, which is what held the water you would then drink. The major problem with this setup was the fact that you had no idea how many thousands of people before you had used this same glass, nor did you know what kinds of diseases any of these strangers may have had.

    If I remember correctly, which may not be the case since I’m writing this almost 40 years after it happened, there was some kind of a built-in sponge that you could wipe the glass against, which was apparently supposed to give you confidence that you had cleaned all the germs off the glass. But the worst part of this is the fact that there wasn’t any soap involved. We didn’t use the water vending machines at all – Adele was even more squeamish about things like this than I was. We wouldn’t have used those machines even if we ever felt like we had been tromping through the desert like Lawrence of Arabia, which we never felt even once during our visit to the Soviet Union.

    Maybe it was all the ‘brainwashing’ we had about how oppressive the Communist regime was before we even went there, but we always felt someone was watching and listening to every word we uttered. This was true not only out in public, but also in the privacy of our own hotel room. It was a very uncomfortable feeling that’s hard to describe – it could have been our imaginations, but I really don’t think so.

    I think even the natives felt this way, although there were very few chances to talk to someone on the streets, due to the language problem. We certainly didn’t speak Russian and only the tour guides seemed to be able to speak English. The tour guides were all tried and true members of the Communist party, which was a very elite and tiny fraction of the population in general.

    On one occasion, I was offered something like $50 for one of my Ivy League shirts by a young man out in town in Moscow. Now $50 was a lot of money in 1969, and to put it in today’s terms it would be about $400. The shirts probably cost only about $5 each in the US at that time, but I wasn’t about to risk getting trapped just to make a few dollars, and wake up the next morning being grilled by the KGB. I turned down the offer.

    We never made it to the Bolshoi Ballet, as they weren’t performing at the time of our visit. I don’t remember if they were touring somewhere else, or were just on vacation, or what. We did, however, see the Kirov Ballet in Leningrad, which we’ll get to later. But here is what the Bolshoi Theater looks like from the outside.

    http://india.fll.purdue.edu/Russian_...oi_theater.jpg

    When we were about to leave the hotel, and were sitting in the bus that would take us to the airport so we could proceed to the next stop, Kiev, the bus driver was told to wait. We waited about half an hour as it was explained to us that someone in our party had a towel missing from their room, and the bus could not be permitted to leave until it was found. They eventually found it. In a way, it was funny because the towels were, to our way of thinking – having been spoiled in the decadent West – more like what we would call rags. They weren’t very effective at drying anything because they were about the size of our hand towels, and were literally falling apart to boot. It was highly unlikely that any of our fellow tourists would have wanted to keep one of these things, even as a souvenir.

    Next up – Kiev.
    Last edited by DickZ; 03-06-2009 at 11:31 AM.

  3. #3
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    Thanks for the travelogue, told with wry humor. By the way, "Basil" comes from a Greek word meaning "royal"; the predominant herb in Pesto sauce from that root also.

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    A Grand Tour, Part 3
    KIEV

    As I mentioned earlier in discussing Moscowís Kremlin, Kiev was at the top of the heap with respect to Russian cities during the 11th century, but had eventually been replaced by Moscow as the capital. Kiev had some pretty fierce battles with the Mongol invaders in the year 1240, which may have had something to do with the capital moving to Moscow. Now Kiev is the top of the heap only with respect to cities in the Ukraine.

    Adeleís fatherís family came from not far from Kiev, but that was a long time ago. We didnít go to Kiev to visit her family because they all left before World War I and most of them came to the United States. We minimized our visits to them in the United States, so we probably wouldnít have traveled all those miles to get to Kiev just to see them, even if any relatives were still there.

    The first thing we did when we arrived at our hotel in Kiev was to have, reasonably enough, Chicken Kiev. It was the first time in my life that I had ever had it, and it was delicious. While I have had the dish many times since, I have never had Chicken Kiev anywhere else that could even come close to matching that one in Kiev.

    We were with another Jewish couple that was about our age Ė from Chicago. The next day the four of us went out to Babi Yar, an infamous site where 34,000 Jews were gunned down by the Nazis over a two-day period in 1941. Just for good measure and probably just to show they werenít bigots, the Nazis also killed another 66,000 non-Jewish Russians at Babi Yar.

    Here is the Jewish Monument at Babi Yar.

    http://isurvived.org/Pictures_iSurvi...orial_Kiev.GIF

    We went to the local synagogue and met some Jewish members of the congregation, who were glad to see us and spoke a little English, but who said to keep our visit quiet so they wouldnít get into trouble. It almost reminded me of my visit to Tripoli a couple of years earlier, when my Navy ship stopped there and all of us Jewish crew members were told not to mention the fact that we were Jewish when we were out in town.

    We went out to dinner with this same couple at a restaurant in Kiev, where we had a really lousy meal. It was some form of chicken but it certainly didnít approach the fantastic Chicken Kiev from our hotel. The waiter offered us some kyek for dessert, which apparently was what we called cake. We didnít know if that was the Russian word for cake, or if the waiter was just trying to say cake in English with his Ukrainian accent. Whatever it was, it was like a rock. I dropped mine from about six inches above my plate, and the plate splintered into several pieces. We all laughed hysterically about the kyek. I was tempted to leave a little extra in the tip to cover the broken plate, but then I thought better and decided it really wasnít my fault that the kyek broke the plate.

    In Kiev, there is a monument to Cyrill and Methodius, who were the inventors of the Cyrillic alphabet. That is the alphabet that led to our seeing CCCP on Russian things, but those letters really meant USSR. Itís no wonder that Russians get confused when they have an alphabet like that. Besides, Cyrill convinced Methodius that it would be even more confusing to call it the Cyrillic and Methodic alphabet, or even just the Methodic alphabet, so they went with Cyrillic.

    Using the Cyrillic alphabet, Moscow turns out to be Mockba. Once I thought I was lost when I saw from the signs that I was in Mockba because I thought I was in Moscow, but it turned out that I really was in Moscow, only with the Cyrillic alphabet. I had a similar problem when seeing a pectopah out on the streets, until I found out that was just a restaurant. I donít know what kind of logic Cyrill was using. Of course, Hebrew is even worse, and I eventually learned to manage that. I guess I just never gave the Cyrillic alphabet the chance.

    Anyway, hereís what the monument to these two men looks like, along with another guy by the name of Saint Andrew. I donít remember what Saint Andrew did. I thought he had done something important in Ireland, but why they would put up a monument to an Irish saint in Kiev is beyond my comprehension, so I guess this one must have been another Saint Andrew.

    http://www.uazone.net/go/gallery.cgi...ac=show&id=033

    Here is a monument to General Vatutin, who led the Russian forces that pushed the Nazis out of Kiev in 1943. Anybody who could stomp the Nazis is OK in my book.

    http://www.uazone.net/go/gallery.cgi...ac=show&id=141

    Here is the Fountain on Independence Square, but it isnít there anymore. It was demolished as part of an upgrade in 2002.

    http://www.uazone.net/go/gallery.cgi...ac=show&id=115

    Kiev has a Saint Sofia Cathedral. Maybe youíve heard of the Ayasofia or Saint Sofia Mosque in Istanbul. Well, this one in Kiev was built to rival the predecessor in what was Constantinople back then. For those of you who are too young to remember it, there was a song in the 1950s called Istanbul Not Constantinople, that told all about how the old city Constantinople came to be called the new name of Istanbul, which was nobodyís business but the Turksí. But donít worry Ė I canít sing so I wonít even try to inflict the song on you.

    Here is the Bell Tower from Saint Sofia Cathedral in Kiev:

    http://www.uazone.net/go/gallery.cgi...ac=show&id=186

    And here is the Saint Sofia Cathedral in Kiev:

    http://www.uazone.net/go/gallery.cgi...ac=show&id=182

    Next up Ė Leningrad.
    Last edited by DickZ; 02-04-2008 at 08:34 AM.

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    A Grand Tour, Part 4
    LENINGRAD

    From Kiev, we went on to Leningrad, which I found to be the most interesting of all that we saw in the Soviet Union. Since I had studied the Russian Revolution a lot on my own (now don’t worry - I’m not a Communist and am about as far from that philosophy as one can be - I just found the Revolution to be extremely interesting), and since this was really the City of the Revolution, Leningrad was quite fascinating.

    However, you have to remember that with the fall of the Iron Curtain, Leningrad is again called Saint Petersburg. I label this episode as Leningrad only because that’s what it was called when we were there.

    First of all, we saw what was called the Winter Palace back in the days of the Czars, but it is now called the Hermitage. It currently houses one of the most fantastic museums in the world, and is considered by most people to be Leningrad's most impressive attraction. Here is a view of what the Winter Palace looks like from the outside these days:

    http://www.greenleafconsulting.com/hermitage.jpg

    The Winter Palace is located next to the Neva River, which is the river into which Rasputin was thrown after he was poisoned, stabbed, and shot one freezing December night in 1916. Rasputin was a crazed monk whom the Czarina Alexandra trusted implicitly (she was the wife of Czar Nicholas II). She thought that Rasputin was helping to keep her son Alexei alive despite his debilitating hemophilia. Although Rasputin was on good terms with the Czarina, apparently he had some pretty strong enemies, based on the treatment given him on his last night alive. But I’m getting sidetracked away from the Winter Palace, which you’re interested in, by ranting about some monk named Rasputin that you don’t care about, and besides, he wasn’t really a monk – he just told everyone he was.

    The Winter Palace was finished in 1762 for Peter the Great’s daughter, whose name was Elizabeth. The Hermitage now has almost three million items on display, including works by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael and Titian, and all the other big names in the world of art.

    We won’t get into art collection specifics in this story, as the best way to explore that would be to start with the site shown below and take a virtual tour. Then you can branch out to others if you’re interested in pursuing all this even further. You can spend a lot of time doing this.

    When you get into the site for the virtual tour shown below, click first on GROUND FLOOR, which will show you a map of that floor, along with a legend showing you what is on display there. If you click on any particular item on the map, you will then see that item. Or you can go room by room, using the list of rooms.

    http://hermitagemuseum.org/html_En/08/hm88_0.html

    Then you can explore other floors after you get the hang of all this, if you want.

    This episode is comparatively short, because you might enjoy trying the virtual tour of the Hermitage. The next episode will continue with other sights in Leningrad.
    Last edited by DickZ; 08-28-2008 at 02:35 PM.

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    A Grand Tour, Part 5
    LENINGRAD, continued

    Palace Square is situated in front of the Winter Palace, which is why they call it Palace Square. If it was in front of Saint Ivan’s Church, I guess they would probably call it Saint Ivan’s Square, or something like that. The main highlight of this square is the mammoth Alexander Column, which is a monument to the Russian victory in the war with Napoleon's France. The column was named for Emperor Alexander I, who ruled Russia from 1801 to 1825, during which Russia had all of her encounters with Napoleon.

    The Alexander Column was designed by the French architect Auguste de Montferrand, who either didn’t like his countryman Napoleon or was easily swayed by the huge amount of money he was paid for this. The column was built between 1830 and 1834. The monument is 155 feet tall and is topped with a statue of an angel holding a cross – the angel happens to have the face of Emperor Alexander I. The body of the column is made of a single monolith of red granite, which stands almost 84 feet high and is more than 11 feet in diameter.

    Here is what the column looks like – note that the building in the background is called the General Staff Building, which I believe accommodates the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, official apartments, and a military hospital. Some of it might be shifted to hold some of the Hermitage’s expanding art collections. The Hermitage, as we saw it in the last episode, is behind the photographer.

    http://www-staff.it.uts.edu.au/~jenn...Petersburg.jpg

    The Admiralty was one of the first structures to be built in Saint Petersburg, long before the city was called Leningrad. It was designed to be a dockyard, where some of the first ships of Russia's Baltic fleet were built – some with the participation of Czar Peter himself, who was familiar with shipbuilding since he spent several years as a youth working in a Dutch shipyard.

    The Admiralty building of today was finished in 1823, and served as Russia’s Naval Headquarters until 1917. It’s now their naval college. Here is what the Admiralty looks like:

    http://www.midwinter.com/~koreth/rus.../admiralty.jpg

    We also went to see Swan Lake performed by the Kirov Ballet, taking the subway to get to the theater. The escalator between the street and the subway station serving the theater was extremely long, the longest I have ever seen, including some of the metro stops in Washington, DC, which are pretty long. I think the Saint Petersburg subway system is considered the deepest system in the world, as it had to get below subterranean water.

    The theater where the Kirov performs is now called the Mariinsky, which is what it was called before the Communists came to power. It is one of the largest and oldest music theaters in Russia and is known all over the world. While the theater has been in existence since 1783, it didn’t move to its present location until 1859. It is named for Maria, the wife of Czar Alexander II.

    Here is a view of the theater, which reverted to its original name of Mariinsky in 1992, but which was still called Kirov when we were there:

    http://www.enlight.ru/camera/247/may31_3869.jpg

    http://www.sumlitsem.org/russia/snap...ynthia/cg9.jpg

    There was some great dancing in Swan Lake, but it was really hard keeping up with the story. I found it to be very confusing because some prince was in love with a swan, which seemed a little perverted to me but maybe they do things differently in Russia. And there were two swans who were twins – one was Odile and the other was Odette – but it’s impossible to tell the difference because all swans look alike to me, even when they aren’t twins, and especially when they are dancing way up on their toes, which I never knew swans were able to do. After we left the theater, someone told me that Odile had black feathers and Odette had white ones, but by then the performance was over so it was too late. Why didn’t someone tell me that sooner?

    We also went to see Petrodvorets, an incredibly ornate residence of the Czars outside the city. There was a beautiful palace, surrounded by endless fountains with what looked like gold statues spread all over the grounds. Petrodvorets means Peter's Palace, as it was built by Peter the Great. It is also called Peterhof by some, so you might hear it referred to as this.

    The palace has about 150 fountains with beautiful cascades, as well as gold-covered and marble statues. The magnificence of the palace was meant to symbolize the grandeur of Russia, which Peter the Great wanted to show was every bit equal to anything in Europe. Remember that he ruled Russia at the same time Louis XIV ruled France, and Louis XIV ruled from a place called Versailles. So Peter wanted to make sure he could match that splendid place – I think he succeeded, but you can judge for yourself. Here are three of the sights showing the magnificence of this place – you can see lots more (these are three of about thirty views at that same site) but after a while your eyes just start glazing over anyway. That’s what happens when you are actually there, as well:

    http://www.pbase.com/norm2002/image/19835920

    http://www.pbase.com/norm2002/image/19835922

    http://www.pbase.com/norm2002/image/19835929

    When the Nazis occupied these grounds from September 1941 to January 1944, much of Petrodvorets was destroyed. The gold was stripped away and carted off, and all of the fountains were ruined. Reconstruction began immediately after the Nazis were ousted from the area, even before the war actually ended, and the place has now been restored to its original grandeur.

    For some reason, there was a lot of amber in the area around Leningrad – something about the conditions being right for it in the region. If you’re not familiar with the term amber, it’s a resin that is extracted from the earth, and they make jewelry and other trinkets out of it. It can be either orange or yellow, and is translucent, meaning light can come through it a little bit, but not nearly enough for you to see through it, in which case it would be transparent.

    Adele really liked amber, and we bought several pieces of it. The main thing was a flock of geese made of amber pieces set into wire metal frames. These geese were on the item of furniture in our house that Adele always liked to call The Commode (actually, I looked it up once and it is a perfectly accepted term for this particular piece) that is now gracing our daughter Rebecca’s house, at the top of the stairs.

    Also in The Commode were the ornate silver glass holders that Russians used to put a glass of hot tea into, as they had a handle so the drinker could sip tea without burning his hands on the hot glass. We got those in Leningrad also. They have since tarnished and turned black, but they were bright silver when we bought them. Adele liked those a lot, too, because her mother used to drink tea out of a glass, but didn’t have a holder. This is the Russian way to drink tea – out of a glass.

    If you remember our discussion of the Cyrillic alphabet in a previous episode, here is a vivid example of the difficulty an American would have due to the spelling problems. They didn’t have places like the one in the next picture when we were in Leningrad, but they do now that it’s called Saint Petersburg again. I don’t think many Americans could even figure out what this place is due to the funny spelling. I considered awarding a prize to anyone who could identify this establishment, but decided against it because someone just might get lucky and accidentally guess what it is.

    http://www.pbase.com/norm2002/image/19834100

    There are countless sights in this city that I won’t get into individually; if you want to take the time to explore some of them, here is a good place to start:

    http://www.saint-petersburg.com/virtual-tour/index.asp

    Next up – London.

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    A Grand Tour, Part 6
    LONDON

    London is my favorite city in the world, with Rome a close second Ė at least to visit. Iím pretty happy with where I live now, and I still like where I grew up as well.

    I was always intrigued by the power and reach of the British Empire at its height, despite all the negativity that has been hurled against it. London was the hub of that Empire, and a lot of what is seen in the city reflects back onto those days gone by.

    The Houses of Parliament, with Big Ben watching over them, are probably the most familiar London sight for foreign visitors. While parts of the complex were initially completed in 1097, just about everything was damaged by a fire in 1834. Hence the buildings as we see them today were completed in 1870. Here are two views of Parliament:

    http://www.theamblerfamily.com/House...ust%202005.jpg

    http://www.public.coe.edu/~wcarson/T...0Eye%20(2).jpg

    Whitehall is actually the name of a street in Westminster, a section of London. But since so many government offices are on this street, the name Whitehall generally refers to the British government. Today that government is limited to the British Isles, but many years ago it essentially controlled much of the world.

    The Colonial Office was the center of much of this activity back then. As the colonies are now a thing of the past, the building is now called the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Here is what it looks like:

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedi...london.arp.jpg

    Since I was in the U.S. Navy, I have always had the utmost respect for the Royal Navy, which ruled the waves for Britannia for hundreds of years. The Royal Navy established most of the naval traditions currently held by our own service, and though the RN is much smaller in size now than it was during its prime, it still sets the ultimate standard in seagoing professionalism.

    The Admiralty in Whitehall serves as the focal point for controlling British naval operations. What stories the walls of this building could tell, if walls could tell stories. Here is the building itself:

    http://nodens.physics.ox.ac.uk/~radu...dAdmiralty.jpg

    Actually, I believe that view is of the back of the building, which faces the Horse Guards Parade. This is where the annual Trooping the Colours takes place on the Queenís birthday. Here is a view of that ceremony, although we didnít see any Trooping the Colours when we were there. We didnít go at the right time to see that, but we did send the Queen a birthday card when the time was right.

    http://www.greydragon.org/trips/troo...colours011.jpg

    And we sent our birthday card to the Queen in paper form, because this was way back in the days before they had those wonderful e-cards that allow the sender to think he is actually doing something thoughtful and clever by clicking his mouse a few times instead of going to the extreme trouble of sending a real card. Actually one of the few things worse than getting an e-card for your birthday, even if youíre not the Queen, is getting an e-mail thank-you note responding to a gift you sent, which in turn is surpassed in utter tastelessness only by getting no thank-you note at all.

    The Royal Horse Guards are a cavalry regiment that was founded in 1650. Here is what they look like Ė their headquarters are in Whitehall, right next to the Old Admiralty. They have a very impressive guard-changing ceremony here.

    http://www.koe-at.com/horsegrd.jpg

    Here is the Admiralty Arch, which marks one entrance to Trafalgar Square, which I will discuss next. This regal entrance was built in 1910 to honor Queen Victoria, who had died nine years earlier. The central gate is only opened for royal processions.

    http://www.theamblerfamily.com/Admir...ust%202005.jpg

    Trafalgar Square honors Admiral Horatio Nelson, the Royal Navyís most exalted leader, and his 1805 victory over the combined fleets of France and Spain when Napoleon was terrorizing all of Europe. This battle, called the Battle of Trafalgar, temporarily halted Napoleonís pressure on Britain. I was always amazed at the unbelievable coincidence that an epic sea battle would have exactly the same name as a land-locked square in the middle of downtown London. I wonder how often something like that happens.

    Here is Nelsonís Column in the center of Trafalgar Square:

    http://www.solarnavigator.net/histor...are_london.jpg

    And here is the fountain in Trafalgar Square, at the foot of Nelsonís Column:

    http://www.bigfoto.com/europe/london...-square-u5.jpg

    More sights of London continue in the next episode.

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    Very interesting. I think amber though is petrified resin or
    sap from a pine tree. It's true that it can be used in jewelry,but paleontologists see it as a medium for fossils. For instance, insects can be imbedded in amber and thus preserved for millions of years.

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    A Grand Tour, Part 7
    LONDON, continued

    Buckingham Palace is the official residence in London of the reigning of the monarch. There are several other royal residences in other places. It was begun in 1703, and was gradually enlarged at various times up until the early twentieth century. Here is a picture of the palace, with the Victoria Memorial situated in the foreground. This monument is for the longest-reigning British monarch thus far, as she ruled from 1837 until her death in 1901, a period of 64 years. Queen Elizabeth II has ten more years to go, just to get even with Queen Victoria in tenure.

    http://www.londonbyclick.com/imgalle...ham-Palace.jpg

    Here is the changing of the guard in front of Buckingham Palace Ė the guard is the Household Cavalry.

    http://www.visitingdc.com/images/buc...-picture-3.jpg

    Ten Downing Street is the residence of the Prime Minister Ė much more austere than our White House in the United States. Of course, our White House is much more austere than Buckingham Palace.

    http://images.google.com/imgres?imgu...g%2Bstreet%26s

    Piccadilly Circus is the junction of five major streets, and has been a famous landmark for over a hundred years. The most recognizable feature of Piccadilly Circus is the statue of a winged archer. The statue is called Eros, who was the pagan god of love. Here is a picture of what the overall area around Piccadilly Circus looks like, which has become somewhat of a living commercial. You have to look carefully in the center (actually, I should say centre instead) of the picture to see the statue of Eros:

    http://www.in70mm.com/news/2004/circ...lly_circus.jpg

    We really splurged one evening, when we went to dinner at a restaurant called Simpsonís-in-the-Strand. This is a place that began in 1828 as a cigar store, and became a restaurant in 1848. The current building opened in 1904. It is most famous for its roast beef, so thatís what we both had here. What I remember even more than the wonderful prime rib we ate was all the beautiful dark wood paneling and highly-polished brass fixtures.

    Saint Paulís Cathedral was built after the Great Fire of 1666, designed by the famous architect Sir Christopher Wren. Since it opened in 1697, it celebrated its 300th anniversary just a few years ago. It is a working cathedral that holds regular religious services, and is also the site of major events like the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana in 1981. Here are two views of the exterior of the cathedral, taken from opposite sides of the building.

    http://www.cronicas-da-lilian.com.br..._cathedral.jpg

    http://chatterbox.typepad.com/photos...nburgh_104.JPG

    London has some great theatres (thatís how the British spell what we Americans spell as theaters, so Iíll conform since this is a discussion of London, just as I did earlier with the words colours and centre) and lots of them. At the time we went, it was much easier to get show tickets in London, and much less costly, than it was to get them on Broadway in New York. I would suspect itís the same now, but I donít know.

    We went to Drury Lane Theatre to see Mame, starring Ginger Rogers. Remember this was 1969, and she was still around and active. She danced much better than she sang, but she was getting up in years by then.

    [After I wrote the entry above about ĎGinger Rogers getting up in yearsí based on my recollections of 38 years ago, I stopped and thought about it for a minute. I figured out that at the time we were there seeing her perform, she would have been six years younger than I am right now. While others may think Iím getting up in years myself, I really do not. So I have to plead guilty to the sin many of us make in assessing older people when we are younger. Thatís a bad idea for anybody who isnít going to be young forever, but I guess most young people think they will be just that Ė young forever. I know I did.]

    Ginger got a really fantastic ovation, and told the predominantly British crowd they were SOOOO-PAAAAH!! Here is the outside of the Drury Lane Theatre, which is formally called Theatre Royal Drury Lane:

    http://www.christopherholt.com/photo...ry_lane_01.jpg

    We also saw Man of La Mancha with Richard Kiley at the Piccadilly Theatre, which is located as you might suspect, if youíre a brilliant armchair detective, somewhere near Piccadilly Circus. Hereís what that theatre looks like:

    http://wwp.londonw1.com/denman-stree...e/piccad23.jpg

    In the year 1304, many years before Adele and I made our visit to London, the sisters at the Convent of Saint Ignatius planted a flower garden with the intent of sprucing up their very austere living quarters. To identify the place, they hammered individual black iron letters into a sturdy wooden board and hung it at the entrance to their garden. The sign said CONVENT GARDEN, so that people would know the flowers in the garden were not available for picking by just anybody who happened to come along.

    About fifty years later, a young man by the name of Dick Whittington came to London from one of the small towns in the countryside, to earn his fortune. Somewhere in London, Dick found a small brown tabby cat by the name of Eleanor, just to keep him company. One night Dick was sleeping in an alleyway near the sistersí garden, since he had not yet earned his fortune. Eleanor spotted a little gray mouse way up there on the CONVENT GARDEN sign. Her natural instincts kicked in and she went after the rodent. In her zealous attempt to catch her quarry, Eleanor inadvertently knocked the first N completely off the sign, as the nails had all rusted severely, leaving the sign to say CO VENT GARDEN. The rest, as somebody is always saying, is history.

    Nowadays, Covent Garden is site of the Royal Opera House, as shown here.

    http://www.queenconcerts.com/inc/lon...os/covent1.jpg

    More sights of London continue in the next episode.
    Last edited by DickZ; 02-11-2008 at 10:44 AM.

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    The fact that you went way the hell to London to see an American musical is still more evidence that our little globe is shrinking.

    Well, I guess it is a "Small World, Isn't It?" ( from
    "Gypsy" by the great Jule Styne and Stephen Sondheim, not that infamously banal song on the ride at Disney World.)

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by DickZ View Post
    [B][SIZE="3"]
    Anyway, hereís what the monument to these two men looks like, along with another guy by the name of Saint Andrew. I donít remember what Saint Andrew did. I thought he had done something important in Ireland, but why they would put up a monument to an Irish saint in Kiev is beyond my comprehension, so I guess this one must have been another Saint Andrew.
    Here's about St Andrew who isn't an irish saint and here's why you found him in Kiev

    Saint Andrew (Greek: Ανδρέας, Andreas), called in the Orthodox tradition Protocletos, or the First-called, is a Christian Apostle and the younger brother of Saint Peter. The name "Andrew" (from Greek : ανδρεία, manhood, or valour), like other Greek names, appears to have been common among the Jews from the second or third century B.C. No Hebrew or Aramaic name is recorded for him.

    Eusebius quotes Origen as saying Andrew preached in Asia Minor and in Scythia, along the Black Sea as far as the Volga and Kiev. Hence he became a patron saint of Romania and Russia.

    Andrew is said to have been martyred by crucifixion at Patras (Patrae) in Achaea.
    Saint Andrew is the patron of Patras. According to tradition his relics were moved from Patras to Constantinople,
    the rest can be found here

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Andrew
    Through the darkness of future past
    the magician longs to see
    one chance out between two worlds
    'Fire walk with me.'


    Twin Peaks

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    A Grand Tour, Part 8
    LONDON, continued

    London was the focal point for the world economy for a very long time – when the British Empire was still flourishing, and even for a while after the sun had begun to set on it. The Bank of England was the center of financial activity during that time, and remains very important today. Even though Adele was an economist, she spent so much time sleeping in London that I had to go see the Bank of England by myself. She woke up enough to make it to most of the other places I’ve mentioned, though.

    http://www.times-publications.com/pu...of-england.jpg

    The British Museum is one of the world’s largest museums, and it contains over seven million objects. It was established in 1753 and opened to the public in 1759 on the same site where it currently sits. Here is a view of the museum:

    http://www.richard-seaman.com/Travel...useumFront.jpg

    While we never went inside these buildings, we did see the exterior a few times. At the time we were there, the façade of the museum was covered in soot so the building looked more black than white. This was a problem that London had at that time, along with lots of other major cities throughout the world. They would sandblast the building every few years to remove the soot, but the black stuff would find its way back before long. What struck me very hard back then was how, if you blew your nose into a Kleenex, you would get lots of soot on the tissue. I understand that they have made great strides in cleaning up the air in recent years.

    The Tower of London is one of the city’s more famous landmarks. It was built over 900 years ago by William the Conqueror. It has been used as a castle, a fortress, a prison, and a palace over the years. It is now actually a museum with many displays, the most famous being the Crown Jewels.

    Here is the outside of the building:

    http://www.richard-seaman.com/Travel...erOfLondon.jpg

    The Tower holds some of the Crown Jewels, which Adele enjoyed a lot more than I did. I was never very big on jewelry as it seems like one of the worst ways in the world to waste large amounts of money on things of very little use.

    Here is the Tower Bridge, near the Tower of London. The bridge crosses the Thames River:

    http://www.solarnavigator.net/geogra...wer_bridge.jpg

    Its more famous partner, London Bridge, had already fallen down, or more correctly, had already been dismantled, by the time we arrived in London. We were able to see it in its disassembled state, scattered all over the ground in shipping crates, at its new home in Arizona’s Lake Havasu the following year, in 1970, shortly before it was put back together. The occasion was our automobile drive from Newport, Rhode Island to San Diego, California, where my new assignment in the Navy was aboard USS BUCHANAN (DDG-14), a guided missile destroyer. We had our first-born daughter, Rachel, who was two months old at the time, in the back seat of the car in a bassinet with no seat belts for the entire trip across the country. I don’t think you’re allowed to do things like that these days.

    London has a lot of exclusive gentleman’s clubs – like the Reform Club that you might remember from the movie Around the World in Eighty Days – if you saw that one. There was one particular club that caught my fancy during my walks around London. It was the Athenaeum – I know that it was the site of several important discussions between Winston Churchill and Admiral Sir John Fisher in pre-Great War days and during the war itself, even though they both had offices in the Admiralty Building at the time. Their conversations at the Athenaeum supplemented what they talked about back at the office. Here is what it looks like from the outside. I wasn’t able to go in, as much as I would have liked to, nor was I able to find any interior shots on the internet:

    http://www.bluffton.edu/~sullivanm/e.../athenaeum.jpg

    The London Subway System, commonly called The Tube, is the world’s oldest. It started operation in 1863, serves 274 stations, and has 253 miles of track. We found it to be very efficient in getting around town and used it often. Here is a view of the train platform at Paddington Station, which is the only subway station in the world that was named for a teddy bear:

    http://www.kkn.net/~k5tr/photo/pcd32...-stop-21.3.jpg

    Next up – Rome.
    Last edited by DickZ; 02-12-2008 at 09:15 AM.

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    A Grand Tour, Part 9
    ROME

    While I said that London was my favorite city to visit, I think lots of people would put Rome in that category. It comes in a pretty close second for me. Rome combines the ancient and modern worlds, along with all intermediate years, in a unique way. We’ll go through a few main features of the ancient world first.

    The Colosseum could seat 50,000 spectators (some references say as many as 80,000), so in terms of seating capacity, it ranks along with our modern football stadiums in the United States, and maybe a little ahead of our baseball parks. It was completed in the year 80 AD, so it’s pretty old. None of our U.S. stadiums can match that age, as the oldest is now Fenway Park, which opened in 1912 AD and is slowly approaching its one hundredth birthday. In contrast, the Colosseum was used for about 500 years, and you can tell by looking at it that it’s getting worn out. Here’s what it looks like now, having been devastated over the years by time, earthquakes, weather, and people who wanted to use the marble for other things.

    http://www.artchive.com/artchive/r/r..._colosseum.jpg

    And here’s what the interior looks like now:

    http://www.tropicalisland.de/italy/r... 3008x2000.jpg

    I once mentioned (in my story called The Dinner Guest) that my cat Eleanor single-handedly destroyed the model of the Colosseum that I had painstakingly created using my empty ink bottles - I collect and use fountain pens. I explained in that story how Eleanor did more damage in one afternoon to the model than the passage of almost 2,000 years has done to the real thing.

    Here’s what the building looked like on the outside when it was in better shape, and what my ink bottle model looked like before Eleanor attacked it:

    http://www4.wittenberg.edu/academics...colosseum4.jpg

    You could spend lots of time exploring information on the Colosseum, such as what it was used for, and what the catacombs below the main structure were when they were newer than they are now. Here is one of many sites where you could explore on your own if you wish:

    http://www.the-colosseum.net/idx-en.htm

    The Roman Forum, or Forum Romanum using the Latin that the ancient Romans spoke during their heyday, was the center of activity of Rome. This would be not only the center of the capital city, but also the focal point for the entire Roman Empire which spanned from England in the west to Jerusalem in the east. The Forum’s initial construction was in the seventh century BC, and it continued to evolve over the years as the Empire grew. The Forum was pretty much abandoned by the end of the fourth century AD, because you probably remember that the Roman Empire went into a serious period called The Decline, which was a long time that preceded The Fall, which was pretty fast.

    Here is an overview of part of the Forum area as it looks in modern times, which is a lot worse than it looked in ancient times:

    http://www3.dfj.vd.ch/~latin/Images/..._romanum2.JPEG

    Each of these structures has obviously lost most of its original luster, but it is very well documented what each of them was. If you want to explore this in detail, you could spend a great deal of time. Just to show you that it didn’t look that bad when it was new, here’s an artist’s concept of what it looked like then. This view is not meant to correspond at all with the previous picture:

    http://www.vroma.org/images/mcmanus_...reconwest2.jpg

    The Arch of Constantine is one of the major structures in the Forum, and is in much better shape than most of the others. It commemorates a great military victory of the Emperor Constantine in 312 AD over Maxentius, who was vying with Constantine for the title of Emperor of Rome. Had the battle gone the other way, this structure would be known as the Arch of Maxentius, but it didn’t.

    http://sights.seindal.dk/img/orig/8168.jpg

    The Pantheon is not in the Forum. I think it’s the best preserved of all the ancient structures in Rome. It literally means Temple of All the Gods, borrowing from the Greek. It was originally completed in the year 25 BC and became a Christian church in the seventh century AD. Here is what it looks like:

    http://www.aeria.phil.uni-erlangen.d...eon/panth6.JPG

    We saw the opera Madama Butterfly at the Terme di Caracalla, or the Baths of Caracalla. This building was used as a public bath back in the days of the Roman Empire, but has been used for outdoor operas in more recent years. The only drawback was that, as an outdoor arena using amplified sound, we probably missed what would have been conveyed acoustically better in an indoor theater specifically designed for opera. The outdoor presentation was probably better for more spectacular productions like Aida, where you could parade elephants around, since they might not want to do that in a more conventional indoor opera theater. But we didn’t see Aida there. I was cheering for Lieutenant Pinkerton because he was in the U.S. Navy just like I was, but that was all before I knew that the story would end so tragically. I kept more quiet after the ending, but by then it was really too late.

    Here is what Terme di Caracalla looks like now:

    http://www.bigfoto.com/europe/italy/...calla-rome.jpg

    And here’s what it used to look like, back when it was still a place to take baths:

    http://rubens.anu.edu.au/htdocs/lase...0143/14305.JPG

    Next up will be some of the newer sights of Rome – things that are less than two thousand years old.
    Last edited by DickZ; 02-23-2009 at 09:23 AM.

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    A Grand Tour, Part 10
    ROME (continued)

    Next to the Piazza Venezia, which is one of the many public squares in Rome, there is a monument to Vittorio Emmanuele II. He was the king who, in 1870, succeeded in uniting all the various factions in the region into a single Italy – so in a strange sort of way, the nation of Italy is almost 100 years younger than the United States. This monument is sometimes referred to as a wedding cake – here is a view of the structure, so you can see why it’s called that:

    http://static.panoramio.com/photos/original/303991.jpg

    In the Piazza Venezia across the street from this monument, I came across a man wearing a Jewish star on a chain around his neck, and selling guidebooks of Rome to tourists. I said to him in Italian (I studied Italian in school and made a few trips to Italy during summer vacation periods) that I too was Jewish, and he suddenly became very friendly since apparently it was rare to find an American Jew who spoke Italian.

    He went on to say that the normal price of his guidebook was 2,000 lire, but since I was a Jewish paesan, he would give it to me for 1,000 lire. Well, a few minutes after I bought the book, I saw the exact same volume in the window of a bookstore for 500 lire, and you didn’t have to be Jewish – even the Goyim could get it for 500 lire! I should have known better. But that happened on my first trip to Rome – while I was still in school and before I was married. By the time I got to Rome with Adele, I was more street savvy and I didn’t fall for that particular trick again.

    Rome is very well known for its magnificent fountains, one of which is the Fontana di Trevi:

    http://www.backpackerinfo.net/images/Rome/Trevi.jpg

    Having seen the fountain only in movies and in photos before our visit, we were surprised to see that it really isn’t situated in a wide-open space as it seems to be in pictures. It is instead cramped into a relatively narrow and confined spot in a regular neighborhood, across the street from a group of small stores. Well, actually I had seen the fountain in a previous visit so I had already felt the shock. But I was careful not to say anything to Adele about the fountain’s setting. Sure enough, she had the same reaction as I did the first time I saw it.

    There are many other fountains – in fact, a famous piece of music called The Fountains of Rome, by Respighi, is devoted to them. Or maybe I’ve just got it confused with The Pines of Rome, which would have absolutely nothing to do with fountains. Senility is catching up with me. But none of these other fountains is quite as breathtaking as the Fontana di Trevi, and besides, showing several of them one after another doesn’t really do any of them the justice they deserve. When you have to walk from one to another, you get a better appreciation of them than when you’re just clicking a mouse on your computer.

    Another of the more popular places in Rome is the Piazza di Spagna (say SPAHN ya, like the southpaw pitcher Warren Spahn), which is best known for being the square in front of what we call the Spanish Steps. The steps were built in 1725; the church at the top was completed in 1585. I don’t know how the members of the congregation reached the church in the years from 1585 until 1725, because apparently the steps weren’t there but the church was. Or maybe they had steps of some other nationality before the Spanish Steps. I don’t know because I wasn’t around in the 18th century. Anyway, here’s what the Spanish Steps look like. We sat on them for a while just to rest our feet. You can really get pooped walking around Rome. In one of these two views, you can see there are more people sitting than there are climbing the steps.

    http://italophiles.com/images/spanish_steps_rome.jpg

    http://www.casayego.com/europeancities/rome/rome-f.jpg

    The Campidoglio (pronounced cawmp ee DOLE yoh) is where most of the Italian federal Government buildings are. We won’t get into too much intricate detail here, though, so don’t worry. This is the central part of what is equivalent to our Capitol Building – there are others flanking this one:

    http://www.positive-inside.de/Fotogr...glio-2-750.jpg

    Here is the Piazza di Campidoglio, since everything important in Rome has its own piazza in front of it. You enter this piazza when you finish climbing the steps shown in the previous picture, and in this view you can see the backs of the statues who greeted you so warmly when you were climbing the stairs.

    http://www.photo.net/photo/pcd0795/p...oglio-35.4.jpg

    The Palazzo di Giustizia (Palace of Justice) is like our Supreme Court in the United States, but is somewhat more ornate than ours. Also, a lot larger, so there must be other things going on in this building. I didn’t see any protesters carrying signs at the Palazzo di Giustizia, so maybe they don’t have important issues raging in Italy like we have here in the United States.

    http://sabin.ro/sabinnew/album412/IMG_0225.jpg

    We also visited the Jewish Quarter and Synagogue, which was situated on the banks of the Tiber River. We were surprised to learn that there are so many Jews in Italy, but we shouldn’t have been. When I left San Antonio and would encounter Jews from New York City or Boston or Chicago or Philadelphia, they always expressed amazement that there were Jews in Texas. So why should I have been surprised that there were Jews in Rome? We weren’t able to go into the synagogue at the time of our visit. Here’s a distant view of the synagogue (and no, that’s not me in the photo):

    http://joi.org/blog/uploads/paul-in-...e-11-20-06.jpg

    And here’s a closer-up shot, which shows definitively that Hebrew in Italian is just like Hebrew in English. That certainly surprised me, but Adele already knew they were the same.

    http://www.stuardtclarkesrome.com/synagog.jpg

    One of the more touristy things we did was to take a horse-drawn carriage ride in the evening through the Roman Forum. Well, I wasn’t crazy about doing something like this but Adele seemed to like that ride, and you have to accommodate the wishes of others every now and then. I think I gave the driver an extra large tip when he said something nice about my spoken Italian. Adele got a chuckle out of that, wondering if he complimented me in hopes of getting a little more.

    The next episode will feature the Vatican City, which deserves an entire piece all to itself, because there is so much to discuss.
    Last edited by DickZ; 03-09-2009 at 08:20 AM.

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    A Grand Tour, Part 11
    ROME (continued)

    I certainly haven’t been everywhere in the world, but my guess is that the Vatican City probably presents the most densely packed sightseeing adventure on the entire planet. The place is very small, but the ratio of sights to square feet is enormously high.

    Here is Saint Peter’s Basilica, the feature spot of the Vatican.

    http://www.cs.utah.edu/~bigler/pictures/europe2002/italy/st%20peter's%20basilica.jpg

    Construction of this building, which is the largest church in the world, began in 1506. Donato Bramante was the chief architect, and he was succeeded by Michelangelo in 1547. Michelangelo also designed the dome. He died in 1564, two years before the completion of the dome.

    Here’s the view from atop the dome, looking downward onto Saint Peter’s Square, although I wasn’t able to get up there myself. Besides, I sometimes get dizzy when I’m up this high. And you certainly don’t want to get me going on how I felt looking out from the top of the Sears Tower in Chicago because that doesn’t have anything to do with Rome whatsoever. So anyway, someone else took this great picture.

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedi...April_2007.jpg

    Here is a closer view of the massive columns that you saw from a distance in the previous views. From afar, they look like matchsticks, but from this closer view, you can see they are quite large. The columns were designed by the sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini, so this structure is often called Bernini’s Colonnade.

    http://home.cogeco.ca/~registerwe/Ph...umn-%20web.jpg

    Bernini is also noted for the Baldacchino. Here you can see the two pairs of spiral (twisted) columns which some say came from Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem. I assume they mean the design came from there, rather than the columns themselves.

    http://www.easypedia.gr/el/images/sh...Baldachino.jpg

    The Pieta is a marble sculpture by Michelangelo that shows Mary holding her son Jesus after the Crucifixion. It was finished in 1499, when Michelangelo had reached the ripe old age of 21. Most of the internet photos seem to have a metallic glow, which I don’t remember when we saw the actual statue, so it might have something to do with computer renditions. Or maybe I just don’t remember so well any more.

    http://www.bluffton.edu/~sullivanm/b...gelo/pieta.jpg

    This statue was considered somewhat controversial at the time it was carved, because until Michelangelo came along, all depictions of Mary showed her as a much older woman and a lot of people considered it sacrilegious of Michelangelo to make her such a young and vibrant girl – she looks almost like a teenager. That would have been pretty much impossible since it had to be 33 years after she gave birth and she was 16 when she did it. But I’m sure Michelangelo had his reasons for making her look as she does.

    The most famous part of the Vatican complex is the Sistine Chapel, which is the site of many important ceremonies and is probably best known for having been decorated mostly by Michelangelo. It is named for one of the Popes, whose English name was Sixtus IV. Much of the ceiling was painted by Michelangelo between 1508 and 1512.

    Here is an overall view of the Sistine Hall, which theoretically serves as the reading room for the adjoining Sistine Library. I wonder who could possibly read in a room like this.

    http://umsis.miami.edu/~dwhitley/Eur...Chapel%202.JPG

    Here’s as good a shot of the overall Sistine Chapel as I can find on the internet - it really doesn’t do justice to the place, though. Photos just don’t seem to be able to capture the immensity of the room. The pictures on the internet make it look like a matchbox.

    http://www.italianvisits.com/people/...ine_chapel.jpg

    Here’s a view showing much of the renowned Sistine Chapel ceiling, again to which photos cannot do justice.

    http://www.cs.utah.edu/~bigler/pictu...e%20chapel.jpg

    There were several individual paintings that went into the ceiling, with the most famous probably being The Creation of Adam, which shows him trying to touch the hand of G-d.

    http://www.public.iastate.edu/~CYBERSTACKS/Creation.jpg

    In addition to the ceiling paintings in the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo also painted The Last Judgment, a fresco on a wall above the main altar, between 1535 and 1541, three decades after he did the ceiling. It is a depiction of the second coming of the Messiah, and shows humans rising and descending to their ultimate fates, as judged by Jesus. Here is what it looks like:

    http://www.bestpriceart.com/vault/ab...elangelo54.JPG

    Here is one of the many virtual tours of Rome that you can find on the internet, if you would like to explore the city on your own.

    http://www.virtourist.com/europe/rome/index.html

    Next up – Florence.
    Last edited by DickZ; 02-23-2009 at 09:50 AM.

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