Thursday, May 28, 2009

Some Fun Shots

Our first few days in Italy we were at a conference in Avelino. Here are some pictures of us during "down time."

It got pleasantly cool there at night, so we put on our jackets to watch this artificial waterfall at the hotel. Behind Steve you can see the curious architecture in the stairs.

The grounds of the hotel were abundant in fountains, pools and gardens, and the second picture has us crossing a "bridge" that goes over the lily pond.

In the final picture, we are no doubt "contemplating" something.

Friday, May 22, 2009


On Sunday we discovered some sort of hornets (yellow-jackets we think) building a nest on our bedroom window sill. We find this disturbing as it is "open window" season. We waited until the busy "bee" flew off (presumably in search of more construction material) and then Steve knocked the nest down with a mop handle. A few days later we noticed that there was a new nest being built there. So we armed ourselves with a can of bug spray and the handle and again knocked down the nest and sprayed the area.

Now today we have noticed that our window is again sporting a nest. Who knew that we had such prime location for hornet realty. We welcome your tips on how to permanently dislodge these unwelcome subleasers.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Politicians and Gladiators

On Thursday we visited the Forum and Palatine Hill and the Colosseum. The Forum was basically the heart of ancient Rome, where senators and Caesars made the laws that governed the empire. Though much is in ruins now, some buildings were preserved because they were turned into Catholic churches. Along with the curia where the laws were made, there were many temples to Roman gods and also some arches like this one to the right which was raised to commemorate Titus destroying Jerusalem and bringing the Temple treasures to Rome.

The Palatine Hill was the prime spot of realty available to wealthy ancient Romans. The Caesars built their homes there, and you could still see the remains of the palaces of Augustus and Nero.

The Colosseum is truly huge in size. It used to have a wooden floor but now you can see the underground tunnels used to move the animals, gladiators and those doomed to execution into the arena. Outside you can get a picture with some (almost) authentically costumed gladiators.
I once read a historical novel that implied Romans would buy sand for the floor of the Colosseum before they would buy bread to feed their families.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Roamin' Through Rome

For two and a half days, we wandered through the Eternal City of Rome. Nearly every street we turned on led us to some monumental feat of architecture or ancient ruin. We learned how to get around using the excellent public transportation system composed of metro and bus lines. The metros ran consistantly every few minutes, the buses were more of a guess. For example, when we went to see the Appian Way (we were a bit disappointed in this by the way), we waited 15-20 minutes for the bus that ran that way. But we waited more than half an hour for the return bus. And waiting with us was about 30-40 people. When the bus got there, it was already "full" but we all piled on any way. At the next stop 10-15 more people got on. We were squished in pretty tight.

We arrived in Rome around 2:00 on Tuesday and after getting lunch we went to our hotel and then out on the town. We visited the Trevi Fountain first, where Laura threw in a coin [top picture] to "ensure" a return visit (it took 14 years for Steve to return after he tossed a coin in back in '95). We also visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and bought a guide book of Rome and the Vatican.
Wednesday we went to the Vatican, and as soon as you get out at the metro station there are people offering their services for tours. We didn't accept any (the tour costs more than the entrance ticket), and went through using the audioguide. The collection of Egyptian artifacts and Greek and Roman statues (mostly of gods and godesses, seems weird in the Pope's house) were getting to the point of overwhelming when we finally got to the rooms painted by Raphael-The School of Athens in particular is awesome. And of course the Sistine Chapel is spectacular. We weren't allowed to take pictures in there (of course some annoying people did anyway, grr) but it was beautiful.
Next we went to Saint Peter's Basillica [second photo] and many people were asked to cover up (you can't wear shorts or tank tops in). The Pieta (Michaelangelo's sculpture of Mary holding Jesus after the crucifixion) is quite touching, and he was only 24 at the time he made it! There was a mass in session, but as the Pope was in Israel, there wasn't a full house in attendance.
Later we went to the Spanish Steps [bottom photo] and sat among the crowd of people there.
In my next post I'll cover the Forum and The Colloseum.

Pompeii and Circumstance

We were in Italy for a week and the first "touristy" place we went to was Pompeii. We've always been fascinated by the idea of a "preserved" first century city. If you ever get a chance to go, take comfortable shoes, a hat, sunscreen and snacks to get you through. We walked through most of the city and saw so many ruins that they all started to run together. Since we weren't willing to shell out big bucks for a guide, we missed some things though.

Steve is standing on an intricate mosaic floor (don't worry, you're allowed to walk there). The black and white pattern was made with sugar cube sized pieces of marble. Along with the mosaics, many wall frescos were also preserved.

We saw some of the preserved bodies (actual bones still in tact) and the casts of bodies (plaster casts of the "holes" found in the ash. Even though all life was wiped out of Pompeii in 79 AD, the city has some very new residents. We found this bird's nest among the ruins as we passed by.

We went with a group of friends who live in Italy or Albania, and shared pictures, so the picture of us together was taken by our friends. We are "reading" ancient political ads. I wonder what promises were made?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

An International Hardware Chain?

This hardware shop, "Let's Do It" is near us here in Podgorica. Not to far from our home in Virginia, there is a hardware store called "Randy's Do It Best." The little smilie in a cap that dots the I is the same. We suspect that the chain name is "Do It" and then individuals can add stuff. For example they could call it "You Can Do It" or "We Help You Do It" or something.

We've looked around in this store, and you can find just about anything in the hardware line you need. They even have WD40! So if we buy that and some duct tape, theoretically we can fix anything!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Prvi Maj-Mayday

Prvi Maj (First of May) is a big holiday here. Almost everyone gets off from work. So a large group of friends we have here decided to go on a picnic. As soon as we got to a lovely flat meadow, however, it started to drizzle. One family had brought a 10x5.5 meter piece of plastic, and we draped it over two vans and crowded underneath. While hoping the rain would stop, we sang a few songs and had a lot of chats with friends. As we sat and sang, a flock of sheep and a lone cow (with a bell around her neck) wandered into the field, and then went away.

We finally decided that the rain wasn't going to
stop anytime soon, so we drove back to town and moved our "picnic" inside. Until the rain let up, they even did some of the grilling inside! Getting all the food prepared for our meal required cutting up veggies (at right), in addition to grilling. Some people brought potato salad, rolls and other goodies (like chocolate chip cookies from another expat). We brought a tort (an amazing cake with lots of frosting, and in this case two different types of fruit), because Steve's birthday is coming up, and the tradition is for the one having the birthday to provide the cake.
Eventuall the rain did stop, and some people crowded outside to enjoy the sunshine and the beauty of the river. All in all, we enjoyed our Mayday, after all, it's not where you are, but who you're with that makes good memories.