Your Acropolis Ticket is A Ticket to History

Athens’ Acropolis attracts a global audience hungry for history

When you visit The Acropolis during the summer months, expect crowds. In fact, The Acropolis hosts more than 2.5 million visitors from January through October. However, despite those crowds, expect to enjoy quiet moments for gazing at and studying the historic wonders that exist there.

Yes, you will observe the construction work site that is the Acropolis,…

That’s me striding off to the right. Notice the crane and scaffolding around the Parthenon. This is a giant construction zone.

…but you will also observe a global audience entranced by ancient history. Whether they arrive alone, with a spouse or friend, their family, or an entire tour group, nearly everyone here is a history fan. Yes, perhaps the itinerary stop is one they can’t opt out of; however, once on the hallowed site, I would dare to say their reticence evaporates.

Even if you don’t know much about Greek history and ancient architecture, there are many detailed signs at The Acropolis with illustrations and diagrams to inform you about what you’re seeing.

For your €20 ticket, you can walk the grounds considered holy by the ancient Athenians.

My husband and I were enthralled with the Erechtheion and it’s caryatids, the columns in the forms of female figures.

When my husband and I visited The Acropolis in late May, it was crowded, but I supposed it could have been busier. We approached The Acropolis from the Plaka neighborhood to the south, taking some back streets that slowly ascended as we neared the hilltop.

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The Plaka

Small restaurants, tavernas, and boutiques lined the terraced, tree-covered lanes and stone and marble-paved thoroughfares of the Plaka neighborhood.

 

Once we reached the Acropolis entrance gates, we blended into the line that was forming and seemed to be made up mostly of tour groups. The tour group line eventually veered from our path, since their ticketing arrangements had already been prepared. We, however, remained in the line and inched our way toward the ticket booth.

I looked around at the international variety of people. A party of four ahead of us in line consisted of a husband and wife, their small child, plus one other man.

The husband asked whether a student discount was available off the 20 Euro ticket price. The ticket clerk indicated that yes, he would receive a discount if he provided a college identification card.

“Mine is from a college in England and my friend goes to school in Chile,” the husband said.

“That’s fine,” the clerk replied in his Greek-inflected English. The two men showed their student cards, received tickets for the entire group and sped along.

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 The sounds of clinking tableware on china and the low rumble of conversation fill the streets of The Plaka on a warm June evening in Athens.

We quickly purchased our two adult tickets and entered the gate.

Those who entered with us included families, empty-nesters, retirees, young solo travelers, teenagers. The mix of languages babbled across the grounds: Greek, German, English, French, Chinese, Italian, and others I couldn’t identify.

In the roaming clusters of people navigating their steps over the marble walkways and ledges, I spotted a young man wearing a Texas Christian University t-shirt, a woman in a billowy sundress covered in a pattern of crimson roses and greenery.

I noticed a child in a black tank with a metallic gold Nike logo. I smiled at the irony: here we were, at the palace where Athena, the goddess of wisdom and war, once held Nike in her hand.

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Over the course of the day, thousands of sight-seers inched up the ancient ramp of The Propylaea, the renowned entry to the very top of The Acropolis and its Parthenon, Erectheion and the Temple Athena Nike.

Once they reached the top, it was gratifying to see that all those travelers were not expecting to see a performance, ride a roller coaster or experience any other type of attraction. Those travelers had journeyed from across the globe to simply experience history.


Thanks for reading! It’s nice to know people appreciate history enough to take the time to see this incredible site. Follow my blog for more travel stories from Greece, including Skopelos and Crete, as well as Italy, including Venice and other locales.

Port Elizabeth, South Africa: The travel is in the details

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Photo: Falco on Pixabay

A haircut, Iron Brew, and biltong in Port Elizabeth

It was raining still. Watery pellets pounded the windshield of our rental Volkswagen minivan as Pieter, our tour guide and professional hunter, searched the streets of Port Elizabeth for a barber shop.

“I need a haircut,” he had told us that morning when we left our lodge in Storms River. He rubbed his stubby fingers across his already short crew. “Yes, I need a haircut.”

After driving for an hour and a half, we had arrived in Port Elizabeth, a city of 312, 000 smack in the center of the South African coast. Back then in 2012, using GPS on a cellphone wasn’t as sophisticated as it is today, and driving up and down the streets of Port Elizabeth’s central business district was the more efficient way, apparently, of locating a barber.

Pieter peered left then right from the driver’s seat, pivoting his huge hunched shoulders back and forth. “I know there’s one here somewhere,” he muttered, careening around another corner. With each turn, my right knee pressed painfully again a white-and-blue striped plastic cooler wedged between the driver’s and front passenger seats. An empty can of Iron Brew soda rolled behind my ankle and into the well alongside the van’s sliding door.

“There she is,” Pieter purred seductively. “At last.” He pulled up to a dimly lit blonde-brick salon. A simple white sign hung squarely above the front door. A black curvy font in capital letters read: The Hairline. “At last we meet,” he shouted. The sudden burst of energy shocked my mother- and father-in-law, husband, daughter, son, and me to attention. It had been a long morning of driving in the mists of a typical South African winter, and we needed to get out.

An establishment called The Hairline was sure to offer a basic haircut, Pieter assured us, as he tossed my father-in-law the keys to the van. “Back in thirty minutes,” he called.

Through the foggy windows of the van, my husband noticed a drugstore five doors down.

“They’ll have a Sudafed equivalent, don’t ya’ think?” my daughter asked. There was only one way to find out, so we left my in-laws behind and ventured into the icy, blowing mist.

After purchasing our “Sudafed,” we lingered in the drugstore to peruse the variety of non-drug products: sunglasses, Cadbury chocolate, umbrellas, magazines, souvenir key chains, magnets. We analyzed a minuscule selection of locally-made biltong, a jerky-like snack, arranged in a red wicker basket on the cashier’s counter. The biltong seemed as out of place in a pharmacy as I felt on the side streets of a South African industrial port city, I thought.

I checked my watch. “It’s been thirty minutes,” I said, motioning that it was time to head for the van. Sure enough, Pieter and about three thousand very short hairs were waiting on us.

That was the last time I would see Port Elizabeth, perched along the very southern edge of the African continent. It was not an eventful visit, but it was memorable. After all, we should not underestimate the power of details, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant.

I’m sure many will scoff at our scant, all-too-brief encounter with the city now known as Nelson Mandela City. To be sure, there are many deserving and fascinating sights to see there.

As we left the city in the dim, rainy morning of middle June, I watched the ships, barges, and freighters skim over the whitecaps of the distant bay. The vessels resembled tiny dashes and dots. A bright white Morse Code against the waves, the vessels sailed steadily to their next destination.


This post was originally published last spring on Medium.com. Somehow, I never cross-posted it to this blog. Our trip to South Africa happened in 2012; it’s just now that I’m documenting some of our memories—both the memorable and the more forgettable ones—on my blog. Check out my South Africa category for more stories from this trip.

The Jewish Ghetto of Venice: A Walking Tour

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It was a warm, sunny day when we visited the Campo di Ghetto Nuovo, the square that anchors  the Jewish Ghetto in Venice’s Cannaregio in the northwest part of the city.

Five facts and photos from our brief visit to this less traveled Venetian sight

In June, my daughter and I took an afternoon in Venice to see the Jewish Ghetto located in the Cannaregio sestiere, in the north of the city. Two years earlier, on a previous week-long trip to Venice, I had wanted to see the ghetto, but ran out of time. Therefore, in June, it was still on my return trip bucket list.

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My daughter and I on our way to Cannaregio to take a walk through the Jewish Ghetto.

Honestly, we didn’t plan this little jaunt well. We just took off for Cannaregio shortly after lunch on the last day of my visit. (She had the day off from her two-month internship at the U.S. Pavilion of the Biennale del Arte and wouldn’t be leaving for another month.)

So while I wish I had taken a guided tour offered by the Jewish Museum of Venice and was able to tell you more about Venice’s Jewish Ghetto—the first of its kind in the world—I’m still grateful that we spent the hour or so there.

Even so, with the recent flooding in Venice, the ghetto has suffered. Fortunately, the synagogues are located on top or upper floors. According to this article in The Jerusalem Post, a storage facility and kosher restaurant were damaged. 

To find the ghetto, we used Google Maps, rode a vaporetto to the train station (the Ferrovia stop), and then wound our way through Cannaregio. We crossed a bridge, made a left alongside a row of shops bordering the canal, and walked right past an easy-to-overlook brick tunnel.

Following Google Maps, we turned around eventually, and wandered through that brick doorway. We followed the maze. Within a minute or two, we walked by a shop full of art prints and originals, a jewelry store, a book seller, a bakery.

It was quiet in the darkened corridors.

We heard the rumbles of the vaporetti (water buses) in the distance, layered behind the sounds of our own footsteps.

 

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This sign was posted within the front windows of an art shop down a corridor just off the the main campo of the ghetto.

After browsing through some lithographs and snapping a picture of the detailed sign above summarizing the history of the ghetto, we entered the Campiello de le Scuole, the “little square of the synagogues.” A seven-story building stood plainly before us. I have read since that this building demonstrates the tight quarters the Jewish people were contained in. Judging by the windows, these units couldn’t have contained standard 8-foot ceilings. In fact, these buildings were “the tallest buildings with the lowest-ceilinged apartments” in Venice, wrote David Laskin in this New York Times article.

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This building in the Campiello de le Scuole shows how concentrated the floors were.

We continued past this small square. Not more than one minute further into the labyrinth, we found ourselves in the main campo of the Jewish Ghetto, the Campo de Ghetto Nuovo.  In the square, a dozen people mingled and conversed quietly. A small tour group gathered at the base of the Jewish Museum of Venice.

A boy wearing a yarmulke, who looked to be about twelve years old, kicked a ball in the cool shade under a covered overhang on one of the many multi-story buildings that lined the campo. 

The afternoon was clear and sunny. And hot. It was the perfect day to tour cool and darkened museums and synagogues. But alas, we hadn’t planned well enough to do that. Perhaps on my next visit to Venice (I can’t imagine there’s not another one in my future!), I’ll plan better. In the meantime…

Here are five facts I have learned since about Venice’s Jewish Ghetto:

  1. It was established by the Doge Leonardo Loredan in 1516, according to this website. The ghetto in Venice was one of the world’s first places where people were forcibly segregated because of their religion. An observance of the 500-year anniversary of the establishment of the ghetto was held in 2016. A major art exhibition at the Doge’s Palace, special performances at the Fenice Opera House, and other events around the city were held to mark the milestone.

2. The English word “ghetto” is derived from the Jewish Ghetto in Venice, originating from the Venetian word ghèto and the Italian word ghetto, according to Chabad.org. The word “geto” in the Venetian dialect referred to a foundry, which was located nearby. Eventually, the word was used to refer to the area that contained the Jewish people.

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This is a nursing home that forms one side of the campo.

3. At its height, around 1650, the Ghetto housed 4,000 to 5,000 people in a space roughly equivalent to 2-1/2 city blocks. Later, in the years prior to World War II, about 1,300 Jews lived in the Ghetto.  During the war, 289 were deported by the Nazis to Auschwitz and Trieste; only seven returned.

Today, about 450-500 Jews live in Venice. A small number still live in the ghetto.

4. During the ghetto’s early years, its residents were limited as to where they could travel and work. They also had to pay for their own watchmen and security. In addition, their clothing was used to mark them: men wore yellow circles sewn to their left shoulders of their clothing; women wore yellow scarves.

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Photo courtesy of The Jewish Museum of Venice

5.  There are five active synagogues in the Jewish Ghetto today. To see the synagogues, one must sign up for public guided tours conducted by the Jewish Museum of Venice. Tours are scheduled every half hour starting at 10:30 and ending at 17:30. Tickets are 12 Euro each. Visit this website for more information.

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The plaque below describes the above sculpture, titled The Last Train, created by sculptor and Lithuanian-Jew Arbit Blatas. The sculpture shows Jews being loaded onto cattle cars. I believe the top line on the plaque is a dedication of the sculpture by the Jewish community of Venice to those deported to concentration camps of Nazi Germany.

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A composition of seven bronze sculptures depicts the atrocities inflicted upon the Jewish people during World War II. Close-up photos of three of these sculptures and the inscription plaques at far right are below.

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The top plaque reads: “Men, women, children, masses for the gas chambers advancing toward horror beneath the whip of the executioner. Your sad Holocaust is engraved in history, And nothing shall purge your deaths from our memories, For our memories are your only grave.”  The bottom plaque reads: “The City of Venice remembers the Venetian Jews who were deported to the Nazi concentration camps on December 5, 1943 and August 17, 1944.”
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This is the door to the Scola Levantina, a synagogue just off the main campo of the ghetto.  It was built between 1538-1561. The distinctive cupola above the door makes it stand out from others in the area.
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This is another shot of the campo taken as we left the Jewish Ghetto.

Thanks for reading! This stop during my stay in Venice last summer was followed by a warm walk back through Cannaregio. On our way back to Santa Elena, we stopped along the Zattere at a Conad Supermarket for groceries we would need later that night for dinner. Follow my blog for more stories from my trip last summer to Skopelos, the Peloponnese, Crete, and, of course, Venice.

 

Breaking into Dave’s Travel Corner

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This article was published on Dave’s Travel Corner. 

This huge travel blogging site published one of my recent articles

It’s nice to know that Dave’s Travel Corner, a leading and independent travel and lifestyle blogging platform with 500,000 followers across the major social media services, published one of the articles I wrote while in Greece in June. Actually, the post ran on Dave’s Travel Corner in July. I remember uploading it to the site’s “journals” page, a place for visitor-submitted travel stories.

The submission guidelines warn that publication may take up to a few weeks. It also warned that notification of publishing might not be sent.  Oh, well, I thought. I’ll just submit it and forget it.

Which I did. And then I “googled” myself over the weekend. About ten listings down, there it was: Dave’s Travel Corner.

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As a neophyte travel blogger, it’s nice to get more exposure for my writing. I spent quite a bit of time (three to four hours, I would guess) on this particular article.  Even though there isn’t any any compensation for pieces like this, I still appreciate seeing my writing qualifying for publication on a reputable, well-known travel site like Dave’s Travel Corner.

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This is the lead photo for the article published on Dave’s Travel Corner.

Thanks for reading! I’ve been really busy lately (I’m also a FT teacher) and it’s been especially hard to find extra time to publish posts to this blog. Hopefully, the upcoming holiday weekend will allow me a few hours to add a post about my visit to the Jewish Ghetto in Venice this past June.

The Zeus of Greek museums: Our visit to The National Archaeological Museum of Athens

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Bronze sculpture of Zeus (or Poseidon) in the Severe style, 460 BC.

From golden goblets to frying pans to perfume

On our next to last day in Greece last summer, we capped off our Greek museum tour with a visit to the National Archaeological Museum in Athens. It was the last museum we would see, having already visited other museums in Athens (The Acropolis Museum), Mycenae, Delphi, Olympia, and Heraklion. You would think that we would have been “museumed out,” but actually each museum is so unique to its location that each one feels quite different from the others.

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So what sets the National Archaeological Museum in Athens apart from the others? In a word, I would say “breadth.” In fact, you will find the widest gamut of Greek artifacts and art. This museum has pieces from all those other areas we had visited across the country, in addition to hundreds (possibly thousands) more.

By the way, here’s a list with links to posts I’ve written about the other museums we visited in Greece:

For example, when we visited the Museum of Mycenae, the golden Mask of Agamemnon that was discovered in a grave circle there, was not held in that museum.

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The original Mask of Agamemnon is in Athens; a replica is in Mycenae. Photo: Wikipedia

The mask on exhibit in Mycenae is a replica,  a guard told me. The original could be found in the National Museum in Athens, he added. Upon hearing this, we made a mental note to seek out the mask when we would eventually tour the National.

Watch this video from Khan Academy for more about this mask.

When one visits a museum in Greece, you truly feel that you are in the hub of antiquity. Each museum is an art historian’s dream;  art history students will also be amazed at seeing in person so many famous works commonly found in textbooks.

This description of the National Museum can be found on the museum’s website:

“The National Archaeological Museum is the largest museum in Greece and one of the most important in the world. Originally destined to receive all the 19th century excavations, mainly from Attica and other parts of the country, it gradually took the form of a central National Archaeological Museum and was enriched with finds from all parts of the Greek world. The rich collections, enumerating more than 11,000 exhibits, offer the visitor a panorama of ancient Greek culture from the prehistory to the late antiquity.”

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We saw Cycladic non-stick frying pans that date from 2800-2300 BC.
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These Cycladic frying pans really captured my interest since they resemble modern day frying pans.

Here’s a listing of the various collections within the museum:

  • prehistoric antiquities
  • sculpture
  • metalwork
  • vases and minor arts
  • Egyptian antiquities
  • Cypriot antiquities (those from the island of Cyprus).
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Ancient Greek Cauldrons
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Fragments of a fresco from Knossos Palace in Heraklion on the island of Crete. This is an image of a “figure 8 shield” covered in animal hide.
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Part of the museum’s collection of gold artifacts. These are from Mycenae’s Grave Circle A, where many tombs of the wealthy were found. The pieces are found in the shapes of cocoons (a symbol of rebirth), pomegranates (a symbol bounty), and butterflies.
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These golden goblets, known as the Vaphio Cups, are finely detailed and depict bulls.
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Egyptian artifacts proves trade between the early Greeks and Egyptians. The Greeks learn some of their quarrying techniques from the Egyptians. In addition, archaic kouros poses were borrowed from the ancient Egyptians.
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Part of a temporary exhibit, “The Countless Aspects of Beauty.”
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Vials of perfumes to sniff in the “Countless Aspects of Beauty” exhibit.
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These amphoras (pedestal vases) were awarded at Panathenaia, an important festival held in honor of Athena in Athens.
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Close-up of an amphora.
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Members of the Roman Julio Claudian Dynasty (31 BC-68AD). During this period, Greece was a Roman province.

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Renowned bronze of Zeus or Poseidon found on the Cape of Artemision, in northern Euboea near Athens.
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This Zeus, in the Severe style, also known as the Early Classical style, “marks the breakdown of the canonical forms of archaic art and the transition to the greatly expanded vocabulary and expression of the classical moment of the late 5th century,” according to this Wikipedia article. Works in the Severe style show a change in drapery of clothing.

 

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The Severe Style more accurately represents the human body. Also, Severe style works have an “interest in emotion and motion.” As for emotion, figures reveal a more serious character and expression.  As for motion, figures are under strain or in action, but always in motion.
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Here’s an example from the museum of an early Cycladic figure that shows the contrast of earlier artwork to later pieces of the Severe style.
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Close-up of the youth Perseus or Paris. Also of the Severe style, this is a good example of how artists commonly used bronze to produce their sculptures.

Visiting the National Museum in Athens was our final stop of our five-week Greek odyssey. We left Athens at 6 a.m. the next morning, for a short layover in Amsterdam, and then Atlanta, and then finally to our home airport in Springfield, Mo.


Thanks for reading again about our travels in Greece this past summer! Now that we’ve both started new jobs and are in the full swing of new school years, this trip seems like a lifetime ago. However, there are still posts to be written, and I’ll get to those eventually. My next one will likely be about the Jewish Ghetto in Venice, which I was able to see briefly during my week-long stay there in June. 

Now that the year is beginning to wind down, I also hope to write soon about “2019… My Year of Living Changerously” and how I managed to stay buckled up and on the tracks.

Stepping Across a Controversy in Venice

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Ponte della Costituzione  | Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Santiago Calatrava’s infamous bridge made my bucket list

This past June, I returned to Venice, Italy for five days to visit my daughter who was serving an internship at the U.S. Pavilion of the 2019 Art Biennale. While there, my goal was to experience a few sights I had missed in 2017 when we visited while she served another internship at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, a small modern art museum on the Grand Canal. (By the way, I plan to write a future post about her overall experience with the PGC internship. If you, your child, or your grandchild are interested in a career in art museum operations or administration, this paid internship is worth looking into.)

There were three Venice sights I missed seeing in 2017: 1) The Basilica of St. John and St. Paul (known in Italian as the Basilica dei Santi Giovanni y Paolo); 2) The Venetian Ghetto (where Jews were compelled to live starting in 1516 and the origin of the English word ghetto); and 3) The Constitution Bridge (known in Italian as the Ponte della Costituzione).

On the last full day of my visit in June, my daughter and I took a vaporetto to Cannaregio, the part of Venice where the Jewish Ghetto and the Ponte della Costituzione are located.

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The Constitution Bridge is located at the busy bus terminal known as Piazzale Roma. | Photo: M. Yung

I had first learned of the famous bridge, one of four pedestrian bridges that cross from one side of the Grand Canal to the other, when I read The Politics of Washing: Real Life in Venice. This book, written by Venetian transplant Polly Coles, reveals the daily routines of ordinary Venetians who have made the lagoon city their home. (What’s it like to live in one of the most heavily touristed cities in the world? Read this book. Where are the schools, the hospital, the post office? Read this book.)

Within one chapter of her book, Coles tells of her own experience with the infamous pedestrian bridge designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava.

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I first learned of Calatrava when we visited “Sculpture into Architecture,” a 2005 exhibition of the artist’s work at the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art in New York City. The architect’s unusual skeletal forms intrigued me and still do today. For example, the Oculus transit hub near NYC’s One World Trade and the 9/11 Memorial & Museum is one of Calatrava’s more recent U.S. designs. The Oculus’ soaring bird-like structure is a fitting symbol of recovery and growth for the formerly devastated Ground Zero area.

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However in Venice, Calatrava’s bridge is a controversial piece of architecture that continues to gain attention today even though it was completed in 2008. Indeed, its troubles started long before the current ones. For example, during its construction, the bridge was budgeted to cost 7 million Euro, but wound up costing 11.6 million Euro. In addition, several delays were required during its construction.

Moreover, other problems have come to light since its construction and subsequent use. These have added to the bridge’s notoriety. Some of these problems include:

  • Limited accessibility for the disabled
  • Its modern design that conflicted stylistically with the city’s historic architecture
  • Its relative close proximity to other bridges that cross the canal, of which there are four in total
  • Glass panels that pedestrians walk on, which become very slippery in rain and even fog
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As you can see, the bridge’s upper surface is more like a glass arch. On dry days, it’s no problem, but on rainy days, it would be difficult to cross.  | Photo: M. Yung

In addition to the slippery surface, because so many tourists (and residents, alike) carry wheeled luggage over the bridge, the glass panels have worn down, which has caused damage to the panels and to pedestrians alike, if they should fall.

So how was my walk across Calatrava’s Constitution Bridge?

Let’s just say that I was glad it was dry the day we ventured across… it was slick even then. (But let me tell you… the marble steps on nearly every other Venetian bridge are slick, too. On these bridges –and there are hundreds across the city– I had to take care to avoid the worn-down, curved edge of each step where I had nearly fallen more than once.)

On Calatrava’s bridge, there is a narrow walkway of another material (stone? concrete?) you can step across on. And truth be told, that optional surface was more comfortable to use even though it was only a strip the width of a narrow sidewalk positioned in the middle of the walkway, far from a handrail.

But still, I will say this about the Constitution Bridge: it is elegant.

Its long arch gracefully extends across the canal. If you have the chance to take the lengthy stroll across it, do. Despite its controversy, the bridge is beautiful, simplistic, and a refreshing contemporary note amidst Venice’s historic facades.

It is also officially crossed off my bucket list.  Been there. Done that.


After traversing the infamous bridge, we then ventured on to find the Jewish Ghetto. I’ll write about this district, which provides the actual origin of the Italian word “ghetto,” as well as the museum title. Stay tuned for that upcoming post, as well as the post about the Peggy Guggenheim Collection internship.

Click like and feel free to leave a comment!

My Kit-Cat clock stopped swinging two years ago

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I only have the Kit-Cat Klock company to blame, but I won’t even do that.

I’ve held onto my Kit-Cat clock for long enough. I’m giving up. I won’t throw it away, mind you, but I’ll relegate it to the back of a shelf in the laundry room.

In 2014, my daughter  gave me the clock as a birthday present. It operated beautifully for about two years and then stopped. After consulting the trouble-shooting website, none of the possible remedies for the malfunction fit. The only one that seemed plausible was to replace the batteries, so I did. Still no success.

So I put the dang thing away for another day. That day came and after piddling around a little more, I figured out that I had earlier replaced the batteries incorrectly. After correcting that, my Kit-Cat Clock swung again and it was just peachy… until it wasn’t. About a year later, those eyes and that tail stopped again. The clock still worked, but the eyes and the tail—the reasons one purchases a Kit-Cat Clock in the first place— didn’t.

So I replaced the batteries again. Nothing. Dorked around with the eyes again. Zilch. I took the batteries out again, and then put in different batteries. Nada. Tapped and moved a few internal parts and still no go. Then I looked a little closer at the clock. No, it wasn’t working after all.

This was more serious than I thought. The Kit-Cat clock might actually be finally dead, I thought, ready now more than ever to just chuck the whole thing in the trash.

But I didn’t. I left it, still and silent, on the wall.

About a year later, we moved. And since I’m never one to give up, I packed the clock (all the while asking myself why am I doing this?!) and moved it into our new home, where I eventually tried yet again about a month ago to revive the pile of plastic. Still no luck.

By this time, my devotion to the clock began to wane. I had lost patience and chucked the poor, cute little clock into the trash. (Okay, it’s not as cute as it used to be. Could that grin actually be a smirk?!)

However, half an hour later, I knew I couldn’t leave it there. So I went back, lifted the cat from the garbage can, dug around for the tail, and found it. And then I placed the clock and its accompanying tail in the laundry room. It’s sitting there at this very minute.

And there you have how much I like Kit-Cat clocks. Even when they don’t work, I still keep them for two possible reasons: 1) I like old things; hence my collection of twenty-four vintage metal recipe boxes that looked really awesome alongside my Kit-Cat clock… when it worked, and 2) the clocks remind me a little of my childhood and a board game we kept in the hall closet based on Felix the Cat. I remember looking at the game, but not really knowing how to play it. Or maybe I did know how to play, but didn’t have someone to play it with. (Who knows?! This was a very long time ago and I couldn’t have been more than six years old.)

It doesn’t matter. My Kit-Cat clock is now officially dead. I tried to save it. Several times, in fact.

I can’t even blame the malfunction on Chinese manufacturing. The Kit-Cat Klock Company (yes, they spell clock with a K) is based near Los Angeles in Fountain Valley, California and makes every clock right there as it has since 1932.

I only have the Kit-Cat Klock company to blame, but I won’t even do that. Even though it doesn’t work, I still like my crazy clock, and even though it makes me a little sad to see it staring lifelessly back at me in the laundry room, I probably won’t get rid of it anytime soon. Call me sentimental.


Thanks for reading! If you can believe it, this post about my Kit-Cat clock is my highest-performing post of all time on this blog. Go figure. I wrote it at the last minute just before we ventured over to my in-laws in 2016 for Christmas Eve. Today, I thought it was time for an update on my clock, even if there’s nothing really to tell except that it is now officially dead.

 

 

We didn’t need a hashtag on 9/11

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I took this photo in 1997.

#newyorkstrong would not have fit

 

Even if social media, widely available public Internet, and other similar technologies had existed,  the hashtag #newyorkstrong would have been the last thing I would have wanted to hear or see on September 11, 2001. It simply wouldn’t have fit.

#newyorkstrong would have reduced the public reaction to the attacks to gimmickry. We would have been concerned and shocked, yes; however, however we would also have been visible, “on trend.”

On September 11, 2001, gimmickry didn’t exist. Instead, gimmickry withered in the face of…

Honesty.

Desperation.

Confusion.

Rage.

Impossibility.

Ferocity.

Powerlessness.

Now, eighteen years later, the memory of 9/11 fades. The shock subsides. And perhaps I’m beginning to understand the natural and receding course of painful tragedy.


 

 

A great man is always willing to be little

His expression compelled me to stop and linger at the display in Mycenae.

 

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This ivory sculpture is in the collection of artifacts at The Archaeological Museum of Mycenae

 

Only three to four inches in height, this ivory Mycenaean sculpture does not overwhelm with its size or weight, but with its expression. Made between 1250-1180 B.C. this “Ivory Male Head Figure” was excavated in the ruins of Mycenae (Mykines) in the Peloponnese region of Greece.

We saw a staggering number—thousands?—of artifacts this past summer; however, this little number above is still my favorite.

To realize it was conceived and shaped by human hands so very long ago is a lesson in humility.

Of what use  is our modern technology?

Of what purposes are our conveniences?

Of what skills can we boast in light of this quiet gem?


On May 29, my husband and I journeyed to Greece for about five weeks. Three weeks were spent on Skopelos, one of the three islands in the Sporades east of the mainland. The remaining two were spent venturing from Mycenae to Delphi to Olympia and finally Heraklion on the island of Crete to tour the sites at Knossos and Phaistos. Athens formed the bookends of our Greek odyssey. 

I posted daily for much of the trip, but still have so much more to tell. Follow my blog and stay tuned.

Acknowledgement: “A great man is always willing to be little.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I say Heraklion, you say Iraklio

At first, Crete’s largest city threw us for a loop

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Central Heraklion from the top of the Venetian fortress in the harbor.

The arrivals terminals at Crete’s airport may disappoint you.

First, it’s curiously dim. I remember telling my husband it felt like a Walmart store. Its cold LED lighting cast a cool glow on the blue and gray interior.

Second, the ladies bathroom was a mess. Forget toilet seats. Apparently, they were deemed unnecessary. And the hand dryers seemed pointless also. That’s because they blew a softer gale than the one outside. Shaking the excess water from my hands, I left the bathroom and joined my husband to explore our ground transportation options.

As we walked, I asked myself, This is Heraklion? My preconceived ideas of a sunny, bright and sparkling Crete had quickly evaporated and we weren’t even outside yet.

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We flew to Crete on Volotea Airlines, a regional carrier based in Madrid.

But that would change soon enough. After fielding a taxi to our AirBnb, checking in with our host, picking up some groceries at the small corner market, things improved.

Yes, Heraklion, the largest city on Crete with a population of 174,000 and Greece’s fourth largest city threw us for a loop at first. However, it took just overnight for us to become more accustomed to our corner of Greek life in Heraklion’s Fortetsa neighborhood.

Over the next five days, we explored much of Heraklion’s major attractions, navigated its bus lines, and took a daytrip into the countryside south of Heraklion to the Phaistos archaeological site.

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We sat down and surveyed the ground transportation options before deciding to take a taxi to the Fortetsa neighborhood. Our driver had a difficult time finding it. Apparently, the neighborhood is not a regular stop for tourists.
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At the top of Crete’s historical attractions is the Knossos Palace, the center of Minoan culture; read my post for more information. This is the oldest city in Europe and dates from 1380-1100 BC.
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This strolling Greek band was loud and persuasive. The man on the left approached out table and held out his tambourine for a 2 Euro donation.
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If you look deep into this photo, you can see several tavernas and restaurants ready to snag tourists with cappuccinos and gyros.
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This is part of the Venetian shipyards, erected during the Venetian occupation of the port and the island in general, which in those days was known as Candia.
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This sign will fill you in on basic Heraklion history, including a history of Crete in general.
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This portion of the Venetian wall extends into Heraklion.
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This fountain is another relic of the Venetian period.
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Pedestrians pass under and through the Venetian wall on foot or in vehicles. They can walk up the stairs beyond the tree on the right-hand side of the photo and walk on top of the wall.
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This portion of the Venetian fortress extends into the harbor. It protected the city from invaders. Notice the symbol of Venice, the lion, in the relief sculpture at left. For scale, also notice people between the crenellations along the top of the wall.
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I just couldn’t get over the blue-green waters of the Sea of Crete north of Heraklion.
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We walked inside the Venetian Fortress Museum. It was well worth the 2 Euro ticket price to learn a little history along the way.
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This is Morosini Fountain in city center Heraklion. It’s a remnant of the city’s glory days under Venetian influence and rule.

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This is the sunny plaza at noontime just outside the Church of San Minas.
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This statue of Eleftherios Venizelos stands near a downtown plaza. Venizelos is “Considered by most as the greatest Greek of modern times, he is the man whose name you’ll encounter almost everywhere: from the Athens International Airport to hundreds of streets all over the country. Born in Ottoman occupied Crete, he studied law in Athens, took part in several revolutions and fought for the independence and union of Crete with Greece (1913).
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The front entrance to the Heraklion Archaeological Museum in the center of the city.
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Cathedral of Saint Minas
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The interior of the Church of Saint Minas
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Adjacent to the Church of Saint Minas is the Church of Saint Katherine Museum of Christian Art. It showcases a collection of Greek Orthodox artwork, including murals, tapestries, metallurgy, and, of course, incredible icons.
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A detail from a painting inside the Museum of Christian Art. This painting is called
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We rested inside this shady park situated next to a portion of the Venetian wall.
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This outdoor mural in inspired by the “Ladies in Blue,” a fresco originally found at Knossos. The original fragments are displayed inside the Heraklion Archaeological Museum.
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Scooters everywhere!
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Snack kiosks such as this one are ubiquitous in Heraklion. Some of these also sell city bus tickets.
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This is a popular retail district in Heraklion. Notice the brilliant blue of the ocean in the distance.

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The harbor at Heraklion with the Venetian fortress on the left.
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Pottery found at Phaistos, which we visited one day when we took a daytrip south. A post on this daytrip is forthcoming. Stay tuned! Check out this post for how to get to Phaistos by bus.
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The front door of our AirBnb in the Fortetsa neighborhood of Heraklion.
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The street outside our AirBnb. Our taxi driver seemed a little surprised that we were staying here. I guess it’s not the expected tourist neighborhood; however, it was safe and quiet. We felt like we were getting to see the real Heraklion that many tourists may not be privy to.
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We stayed in Fortetsa. Notice the Greek spelling above the Roman or Latin letters.
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Greece held elections on July 7. All 300 seats in the Hellenic Parliament were in play, including president. Posters were plastered in bus stops and in other public areas throughout the city.
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I took this photo while sitting in the bus stop looking up into our Fortetsa neighborhood. We were getting ready to board a bus downtown.
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We stopped in at this market a few times during our stay in Heraklion. The melons were perfectly sweet.
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The living room of our AirBnb in Heraklion.
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Another photo of our AirBnB.
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The ceiling in the departures terminal of the Heraklion airport (above) is quite a dramatic difference from the arrivals terminal. The arrivals area was stark and uninviting  in comparison.

Thanks for reading! My husband and I are in the process of moving out of the house we’ve lived in for 25 years. It’s been a job accomplishing the move and writing more about our trip this summer to Greece. I plan to add several more posts over the end of summer and fall. That’s my plan; however, with a new teaching job starting in a little over a week, it will be a challenge.