Snap Judgments for the Undeserving

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Delphi, Greece

After jet-setting around the Pelaponnesse, Katie and I headed to the Mountains to visit the sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi, site of the famous ancient oracle. The Sanctuary is beautifully situated against three peaks of a mountian ridge, very impressive especially in an earthquake zone.

The Sanctuary of Apollo
(Also, the center of the world, according to some)

This is one old Olive tree!

The stadium, at the top of the mountain, is amazing and has very few other tourists.

Katie and I did lots of illegal things in Delphi, including, but not limited to, hopping fences, crawling through tunnels, and 'posing' with ancient artifacts (yes, that's illegal in Greece, I am not making this up).

Katie finds the secret tunnel of the Pythia leading under the Temple of Apollo?!?

Finding the entrance to the tunnel, we had to explore it!
(sadly, the sections under the temple have collapsed, so no hallucinogenic fumes inducing visions for us, major bummer)

Epidaurus, Mycenae, and Corinth, Greece

Katie and I visited ex-cities galore on the Pelaponnesse. The first that we saw, Epidaurus, was the site of the healing sanctuary of Asclepius, a god who came to you in your dreams and told you how to heal your illnesses. He also liked snakes. Creepy, but that’s how he rolled.

Also they had theater!

Nothing puts me in the mood for a musical like a wasting disease!

We found the sacred well (despite lack of signage), Fun!

The next city that we visited, Mycenae, was even older, and situated between two enormous mountains. Not a location that I’d like to siege.

The ominous clouds make the city even more forboding!
Katie and I stand at the massive Lion’s Gate, the entrance to the city

It’s Agamemmnon’s Father’s Tomb
(fun on the inside where it is shaped like a bee-hive with interesting acoustic properties)

And obviously, no ancient city would be complete without a secret cistern, accessed through a long, treacherous, winding tunnel, carved into the very living rock, and plunged into complete darkness. Clearly we had to explore this.

In the following picture, you can see Katie gripping the tool that we used the most on our trip, a tiny Swiss Army knife (given to my by the lovely Recebba) equipped with a small led light. It is somewhat surprising how much that particular feature of the knife was used on our trip.

The Secret Cistern …wooooooo!

Finally, we visited Corinth, which was a very hopping town approx. 2000 years ago. In fact, St. Paul was scandalized by the wild and crazy behavior and wrote them several strongly worded letters. My kind of town.

The oldest temple still extant in Greece
This view over the north side of town includes the Pyriene fountain.
It it quite elaborate. Romans = very into drainage.

Next, Katie and I make it to Delphi to crawl around under temples looking for Oracular Chasms (in the words of my Blue Guide, anway)!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Napflios, Greece

Katie and I made it to Greece!

The view of the islands from the boat is worth the sketchy ferry ride*:

Once in Greece we headed south on the Peloponnesse, and stayed in the little resort town of Napflios. We explored the ancient sites from here, but the town itself was fantastic and worth seeing all on it's own!

The center square, pretty cute!

And the walk along the harbour was breathtaking
... and occasionally covered in cactus (not pictured, too strange)

I've never seen water this clear and happy in a port town ... these are genuine sea urchins!!

Napflios was also great because it wasn't crowded with tourists, and when it was, they were all Greek anyway.

The town has lots of local color: Katie and I stumbled upon this totally inexplicable religious festival with band and military dignitaries in the middle of the morning. Later that evening, we came upon it again, this time in the form of a procession, with at least a dozen priests parading an enormous Icon through the streets and chanting. The band was still there. Seriously cool people.

The band and military in front of the church ... why?

A procession, we assume related, in the middle of the evening.

We followed it all the way to a church located by our hotel, and found out later that they do this every year with the Icon of St. Constantine and Helen on St. Constantine's day.

I took a video of some of the event ... what was most astounding was that the entire town seemed to be there. My video of the late-night religious procession.

*actually, the ferry itself was strangely like a cruise experience, only filled with creepy Greek stewards who wanted us to overpay for our tickets for no reason.

Strange foreign signs, season 3, part 2.

The Italians have a serious over-signage problem.

How many do we need here, people?!?

I have to say, at this point
I'm sort of numbed by the overwhelming danger ...

Sort of makes one want to play with explosives while blindfolded, does it not?

Pisa, Lucca and Firenze, Italia

As promised, here is the first installment of Katie and my fabulous tour across Italy and Greece. Due to primitive internet conditions in Greece, I'm posting this from back in Rome, so this is going to come sort of all at once. So, um, prepare yourselves.

Katie and I ... fresh-faced before our epic 10 day tour of 11 cities* in 2 countries. Fun!

First Kate and I set out to conquer central Italy, and I did what I thought I would never do: I visited the leaning tower of Pisa. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I am that Tourist.

The Cathedral, Baptistry and Tower complex is actually sort of pretty ... very surprising.

I apologize in advance, but we had to take this picture ... enjoy:

After 3 hours in Pisa we'd pretty much exhausted the sights, so we moved to the charming town of Lucca, where the Pisan romanesque style of Churches is more tastefully displayed.

The Cathedral of Lucca ... pretty and not choked with tourists.

I trace the pilgrim's maze on the Cathedral porch

Finally, we stopped in Florence, because I couldn't in good conscience not take Katie to Florence when it was so close.

Ze Doumo

I talked Katie out of waiting in line for 3 hours to see the real one, and we went to the Ufizzi instead ... I'm a smooth operator.

After a brief and uninspiring stay in Bari (nice churches, skeezy guys) Katie and I embarked on the ship to Patras, Greece, a 14 hours cruise through the Adriatic (mostly at night, I'm happy to say).

I'm so nautical

Next, our whirl-wind tour through Greece!

*Okay, I'm counting some ruins as "Cities". Maybe I should have said 7 Cities and 4 ex-Cities, but I think that's a bit over-wrought, don't you?

Monday, May 14, 2007

Baby Emma

We interrupt this regularly scheduled travel blog to bring you a big news update from the New World: Davin and Katie welcomed a daughter Sunday morning!!

Emma Elise Fischer
Born 6:46 am, May 13th 2007

What cute tootsies!!

I'm an aunt now, let the warping begin .... Mwahahahahahaha

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Weddings in Roma!

And I say 'weddings' because there were several.

Oh yes, the lovely Amelia and the lucky Matt were married in Rome this past week. As you all no doubt remember from the recent Tomkat affair, Italian weddings can and do occur in several stages. In this case the (hilarious) civil ceremony took place on Wednesday, and the wedding itself on Friday. In short, there were many many parties, and a fabulous time was had by all.

Matt and Amelia after the civil ceremony
(I'm thinking of extending my services to wedding photography, mwahahahaha!)

As uninitiated Americans, the small group that attended the civil ceremony had no idea what we were getting into. It turned out to involve a room, full of magistrates, decorated with plush red carpeting, gold-leafed baroque furniture, and a sound system playing a terrible version of 'greensleeves' in the background

Here Matt and Amelia await the commencement of the ceremony
(Greg, off in the corner, tries not to laugh)

The ceremony was presided over by the mayor's aide, some police officers, and a guy with niftly tassles on his coat. They read Italian divorce law to us (in Italian), and then signed the marriage certificate and gave Amelia a bunch of plastic wrapped orchids. We, the thunderstruck audience, could barely contain ourselves.

The Poo-bah and his entourage

Freed from the confines of the Magistrates office, the wedding party is too cool for school.

The church wedding followed this Friday, and was celebrated with far more pomp, if less official helmets. The Mass took place at St. Paul's Within the Walls, where Amelia's Grandparents had been married in 1946.

The Bride and Groom cut the cake
(Italian wedding cakes have FIRE. Seriously cool people)

The Bride, Groom and the Groom's family
At the fabulous reception at the Hotel Quirinale

The Bride and her Posse ... Ambre and I have genuine Italian Hair.

The Georgetown Crew ... always the coolest table at the wedding reception

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Firenze, Italia

This week I took a quick trip up to Florence, accompanied by Amelia and Matt, to visit Kristin (yet another Georgetown girl in Europe! Seriously, is there any question as to why we are so fabulous?). We only spent two days in the city, which is not enough, as Florence is as lovely as ever.

We climbed the Duomo, which is my favorite thing to do in Florence!
(if you don't count gazing raptly at shiny art)

Here are Meels and Matt inside the awesome double dome engineered by Brunelleschi

After my little pilgrimage up the dome, we took a long walk around the city, taking in many of the beautiful Renaissance churches.

Meels and Matt try to avoid the scrutinizing gaze of an enormous Dante just outside of Santa Croce

Kristin, our fabulous host, took us out to an amazing restaurant called "il Gatto e Volpe" where we consumed mass quanities of pasta and Amelia ate steak covered in balsamic vinegar, which was delicious.

Kristin and Amelia, before dinner.

The next day was spent wandering around the rest of Florence that had been neglected the day before, before we had to head back to Roma.

A very wind-swept me, on the Ponte Vecchio, over looking the Uffizi Gallery

The inside of the Bapistry, which is decorated with 13th century Mosaics, and I have been waiting to see for years. Very very shiny!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Pompeii and Napoli, Italia

I've started taking advantage of Rome's central location in Italy, and took my first day trip the other day! My destination was Pompeii, by way of Naples, as I've wanted to visit the ruins since I was a small child (yes, that does mean that I was a strange, strange child, are you really that surprised?).

Pompeii was utterly amazing, and I saw it in the rain, which meant that it wasn't swamped with droves of tourists.

The Forum, with a view towards the Temple of Jupiter and Mount Vesuvius

When one tours Pompeii, the park operators give on the option of an audio tour, which I took for simplicity’s sake. It was great, mostly because it would switch from perky British matter-of-fact narration, to dramatic music and a deep voice saying “VESUVIUS” whenever they talked about the eruption. They also really enjoyed quoting Pliny the Younger with over-wrought flair. For example:

Meanwhile on Mount Vesuvius broad sheets of fire and leaping flames blazed at several points, their bright glare emphasized by the darkness of night. My uncle (Pliny the Elder, as it turns out) tried to allay the fears of his companions by repeatedly declaring that these were nothing but bonfires left by the peasants in their terror, or else empty houses on fire in the districts they had abandoned.

See? And a fun time was had by all...

The buildings can be very much still intact, such as this villa:

Here I am, enjoying an interesting temple:

Here is a far, far more unfortunate inhabitant of Pompeii:
(Actually, it is a plaster cast of the holes in the ashes that were formed when the buried inhabitants died and decomposed ... fun)

The city was beautiful in the rain:

Art historically speaking, Pompeii is also kick-ass.
Here are some very important frescos depicting part of a Bacchic rite, found in the so-called "Villa of Mysteries". It was very shiny.

After leaving Pompeii, I had an evening to spend in Napoli as I awaited my train. I found the city to be very overwhelming, with crowded streets teaming with life. It was also a bit dirty, to be honest, and I'm not sure it's my favorite place, although being there for only 3 hours perhaps I should give the city the benefit of the doubt.

The streets of the oldest part of town are narrow and busy!

I went to see the Cathedral, which sports a 4th century Baptistery!

The baptistery is decorated with Mosaics ... which can't be 4th century ... can they?!?

Now ... on to Florence!!