Monday, November 28, 2011

Rome: Part 1

Taylor had a 4 day weekend over Veteran's Day and we decided to take a trip to Rome. We drove down on Thursday morning and came back on Sunday. It was a whirlwind of a trip. Taylor had been here during college with some friends, but this was my first time. It was exciting!!


The Pantheon was a Roman temple dedicated to all of the gods. The original temple was built in 27 B.C. Then after a few fires it was rebuilt in A.D. 120 and that is what you see today. The dome was the model for just a few important buildings today…like St. Peter's and the U.S. capitol building.

Do you see how there is another roofline just above the one in front. They had to stop mid construction because the support columns arrived and they were shorter than expected. Oops.

This is the roof of the Pantheon. When it rains water does get through.

That is why they built a drain system. The floor of the Pantheon slants to the middle so all of the rain will run to the center of the room and drain through various holes in the floor.

Who puts their old lemonade trash on an ancient Roman ruin?

This is how crazy it is walking around Rome. You are just walking down a normal Italian road... la te da...and then bam, there is the Pantheon…


We went to a lot of churches while we were in Rome. For one they were free, and two they are pretty cool inside. Here is one of the cool ones we visited called San Ignacio.

The church had a really cool fresco on the ceiling, but this dome was the coolest. This might look like a regular ole dome, but it actually is not a dome at all. Supposedly they ran out of money and had a fake, flat dome painted. Looks real huh?

The ceiling of the church. 


What is now the Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli used to be part of the Bath of Diocletian which spread over 10 acres.

For those of you that have read Francine River's Mark of the Lion series…Can't you just see Atretes hanging out here at this Roman bath?? :)

This Meridian is inside the church and acts as a sundial. As the sun shines through a tiny hole in the wall and it crosses the meridian rod at noon. This was actually Rome's official city timekeeper until 1846.

Here is the tiny little hole that the sun came through!

The biggest organ I've ever seen.


We went on a tour of the Vatican for 3 hours and we didn't even see everything! It was very interesting…I didn't really know what to expect. It is basically a big museum of art and sculptures from random ruins in Rome. Oh ya, and of course, the Pope lives there!

The entrance to the Vatican.

A model of the Vatican. The entire thing is much bigger than I thought. Of course, the public is only allowed in certain parts.

Apollo Belvedere- sculpted by Leochares. I'm going to be honest. I'm not really into art and sculptures and such, but after seeing tons of it this weekend I think I appreciate it a little more. I can barely sculpt a snake from play doh so knowing that they chiseled this from a big hunk of granite is pretty impressive. Although many times I took a picture of the statue because it was "famous" and everyone else was doing it. This might have been one of those times...

This is Laocoon, the high priest of Troy, who tried to warn the Trojans of the Trojan horse filled with Greek citizens. The Greek gods would have none of this and they sent snakes to kill him and his two sons. Lovely story isn't it? It is a pretty amazing sculpture though.

Belvedere Torso- This is one of the famous sculptures in the Vatican. Yes, I know what you are thinking. Really? This used to be Hercules sculpted by Michelangelo.

**Interesting fact…many of the statues throughout the Vatican have fig leafs covering their…you know. This was done when the church decided that certain parts of the human anatomy were obscene. They are plaster and can be removed. Not sure why only some of the statues have them and others do not?

The wall of Tapestries. I'm not really sure how complicated tapestries are to make, but these were pretty impressive. They hang from the ceiling to the ground and cover an entire hall way. This is one of Jesus coming out of the tomb and as you walk by it his eyes follow you and the stone moves.

This was the ceiling of the Tapestry Hall which is cool because it appears to be 3D. It is in fact painted on a flat surface.

This is the Map Gallery. There were tons of maps lining the entire wall. Taylor is here pointing to where we live!

Other picture from inside the Vatican...

Sistine Chapel

The Sistine Chapel!! The moment I had been waiting for and unfortunately no pictures! :(

Because it is really crowded in the Sistine Chapel, and it is a chapel, they ask you to not talk while you are in there. Before we went in our tour guide explained the fresco on the ceiling while we were looking at this picture. So interesting fact…Michelangelo actually said no when the Pope asked him to paint the Sistine ceiling, but he finally agreed after the Pope pleaded, bribed, and threatened him. The ceiling shows the history of the world before Jesus' birth. You see God creating the world, then man and woman, destroying the earth by flood, and so on.

I tried to sneak a picture of the ceiling by tilting my camera up and snapping shot unbeknownst to the picture guards. I ended up missing the ceiling almost entirely…oh well.

After painting the ceiling from 1508-1512 Michelangelo came back in 1535 and painted the Last Judgement on the altar wall. It is a little gruesome with the saved on the left side and those that were condemned to hell on the right along with demons dragging them down into the pits of hell. When he painted it, everyone in the painting was naked, but years later Church authorities came back and painted small pieces of scarf over their private parts. Can you imagine painting over something that Michelangelo had painted!!!?? Preposterous!

This is what the Sistine Chapel looks like from the outside. There is a small chimney on the roof and when they elect a pope the smoke coming out signifies the results. Black smoke means there was no 2/3 majority and white smoke means a new pope has been elected.

St. Peter's Square and Basilica

This is St. Peter's Square, but over 2,000 years ago used to be the area that Nero (a very bad ruler) held his chariot racing. During the intermission they killed Christians for entertainment.

This tall obelisk was once in Egypt and after they fell to the Romans it was moved in the middle of Nero's chariot racing course. It has been moved since then to the middle of the square. This a really really really old piece of granite.

The Swiss guards below a there guard the entrance from the square into the Vatican. I'm not exactly sure why they are from Switzerland?? They did have great uniforms though!

Peter was one of the Christians that was killed in Nero's courtyard. Later, Constantine built a church on the site that he was killed. The Old Saint Peter's lasted about 1,200 years and then they came and built St. Peter's basilica which is what we see today. I have been to many churches in my day, but this is the best of them all.

There are 5 bronze doors into St Peter's. This one is the Holy Door and is only opened on Christmas Eve every 25 years. It was opened last in 1999

This is a picture shot from the back of the church. From the back to the front of the church is as long as 2 foot ball fields! The church covers 6 acres! It is humongous!!

Here is a close up of the canopy which was designed by Bernini and reaches 7 stories high.

Here is our video.

Under all this fanciness is where the bones of St. Peter are buried.

Every quote that Jesus spoke to Peter in the Bible is written on this gold banner that goes around the entire church.

This is one of the pieces of art that came from the original church. It is Peter and it is customary to kiss or rub his feet. Over time his toes on both feet have been worn smooth by all of our grimy little hands.

The dome was designed by Michelangelo.

Everything in the church is mosaic. I don't know if any of you have ever done a mosaic of any type…even if it was in art class with little pieces of torn paper…but it is not easy to make something look this real. The reason for this was because frescos wouldn't last with the smoke and humidity in the air.

This is one of the amazing pieces of art scattered throughout the church. Everything was just over the top.

This sculpture is called Pieta, which means pity, and was carved by Michelangelo when he was only 24 years old! You can't get very close to it because it is behind bullet proof glass. In 1972 some crazy man went at the sculpture with a hammer. Seriously!??

Here lies Pope John XXIII. We was responsible for church reform. Now you can see him…and yes it is really him although he is a little pasty.

There are strict dress codes when entering the church, because, well…it is a church. Our tour guide told us that no one would be allowed inside without their shoulders covered and skirts could not be short than knee length. We had this one woman in our group that was obviously breaking the rules. We hung back in line to see if they would make her wait outside, but no one caught her. We were ready to catch the Vatican drama with our video camera though!

We decided to pay the 5 Euros and climb up the 323 steps into the dome and get an awesome view of the Vatican and of Rome. Our tour guide recommended not going if you were claustrophobic and she was right…the stairwell was very narrow in parts.

The views were great!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Trip to Switzerland Part 2

If you didn't read Trip to Switzerland Part 1, click here. After spending the first day in Bern, we spent the next day and a half seeing Luzern which is where the Lockett family is living. Cole did not come out with us today because he was catching up on some school work. He is an 8th grader and his school district allowed him to do his classes independently and e mail in his work. It also helps that Autumn is a school teacher.

Before I begin about our adventures in Luzern, I have to take a minute to brag on the best 4 year old traveller I have ever met! This little girl walked all over Bern, then the next day she walked all over Luzern. She did awesome! I mean really, her legs are half as long as ours. Autumn and Josh bought her a little pink scooter to help with the long days of walking. Come to think of it my legs are about half as long as Taylor's…maybe I should get myself a scooter!! :)

Here she is scootering around Bern.

Here is a video of her showing off her scooter skills.

Ava and Taylor became friends during our little trip there. :)

Ava would sneak up next to Taylor as he was walking and challengingly say,
"I bet ya can't beat me to the end of the street."

I just love this girl! Anyhow, on with the trip…

The city of Luzern is beautiful. It sits on a lake and is surrounded by the Alps.
Here is Taylor and I in front of the Chapel bridge.

Here are Autumn, Josh, and Ava on the Chapel Bridge. It was built in the 14th Century.
Part of it has been rebuilt because a boat went under it and caught on fire.
Yes, those flowers are real.

Here is everyone on the bridge.

Notice the non-smoking sign on the top step?
The Swiss are crazy about their rules. They have tons of security
cameras on several of their bridges throughout town.

It seemed like the thing to do in Switzerland was to throw bikes into the river.
We saw several bikes in the bottom of the water throughout our weekend.
Taylor and Ava are busy pondering why people would do such a thing?

We took some time to feed the swans on the Reuss River.

The Jesuit Church was built from 1666-1677. The interior of the church was once Baroque
stucco, but it was too heavy and actually caused the walls to fall.
It was rebuilt in a lighter Rococo style.

The inside of the church was amazing. So detailed and intricate.

A fun door in town. Ava loved having her picture
taken and came up with some cute poses!

These were some interesting benches that Autumn pointed out.
A log, with padded seats, and chair backs secured to the back.

This stream of water comes from an underwater hydroelectric
plant, which creates enough power for about 1,000 households!

This Lion Monument was carved in the face of a cliff and is in
honor of Swiss Mercenaries who fought in the French Revolution.

We then walked up to the old city walls. This is part of the wall
looking down from one of the towers.

View from the top of the tower. Unfortunately it was
a little foggy that day.

Video from the top of the tower.

Pic of Autumn standing on the walls.

It was a hazy day, but in the background you can kind of see Mount Pilatus.
Legend has it that Pontius Pilate's ghost haunts this mountain!!!

The first pic is one of the look out towers along the old city walls.
Below it is an electric fence…and guess who touched it. Yep, Taylor. There were signs
posted all along the fence. He saw a woman touch it and not get shocked so he decided
to do the same. First time he touched it…nothing. Second time…he was shocked.
This pictures was taken after the incident, so he got away without any marks.

A pic of all of us on the bridge.

That night Autumn made roasted chicken and a Swiss dish called
Alpine macaroni. It was awesome!!! It had potatoes and gruyere cheese with
caramelized onions on top. Yummy!!

The next day was Halloween and we had about half a day before we
returned home. Here is Ava in her cute little Halloween outfit. She
dressed up later that night as Rapunzel. Her hand is up to show
off her Halloween tattoo.

We visited another pretty church. Taylor says this picture looks like
an album cover. Taylor and Cole are at the top of the stairs and Ava is below.

This was the massive door to the church.

Here we are taking a rest in the individual pews.

There was an interesting little cemetery to the side of the church.
Instead of artificial flowers they had potted plants all around.

This was the view of the town from the church steps.

Look at those colors!!!

They don't really celebrate Halloween here in Europe, so when we walked
past this store decorated with jack o' lanterns we had to get a picture.

We had such a great time seeing friends and visiting Switzerland.
Autumn, Josh, Ava, and Cole did a great job showing us the sights!! We
are looking forward to their visit here to Italy in December!!!

Here are some pictures and video that I took out the window
on the way home. I just can't tell you enough how beautiful it is here!!