Sunday, February 24, 2013

Venice, on the 3rd Day (early afternoon)

In my last post, I stopped at the point where, having spent some time traveling on the vaporetto, the water bus, we had arrived at the San Zaccaria stop and were walking on the Riva degli Schiavoni toward San Marco Square.  It was around 1:00 pm and warm.  There were many people strolling or looking at the souvenir stands.  We went up the crowded Ponte della Paglia - or Straw Bridge.  Ships used to unload straw (paglia) there that was used in the stable of the Doge Palace and in the prisons.  While in the vaporetto I snapped a photo of that bridge - see below.
Arriving at the center of the bridge on the right is the famous Ponte dei Sospiri or Bridge of Sighs.  (Click on picture to enlarge.)
This enclosed bridge, from the 17th century, is made of limestone and connects the old prisons to the Doge's Palace Interrogation Room.  Lord Byron named it the Bridge of Sighs as he believed that, as the prisoners walked behind the bridge windows with stone bars, they would take a last look at the view of Venice and sigh before they were locked up in their cells.
We walked on the waterfront which is called the Molo.  It used to be the landing spot for dignitaries.  Two tall columns are standing there at the entrance to the piazzeta and I can imagine what a magnificent scene it must have been to watch kings and distinguished guests make their entrance between these columns.  The ornate light poles were not there though - but the cafes were.
Then in front of our eyes appeared the most visited place in Venice - San Marco. Everyone has seen this square and basilica on pictures or in movies.  It is famous just like the Eiffel Tower or the Statue of Liberty but being there and looking at it is something else.  I took some pictures as we were approaching the side of the basilica.
The line was not long to enter the basilica, so we went to the queue.  Until 1807 this basilica was the personal chapel of the Doges, and then it became the Cathedral of Venice.  It is modeled after the 6th century Hagia Sophia in Constantinople.  The floor plan is in the shape of a Greek cross.  As we walked in I looked up and took pictures of the ornate entrances. (Click on collage twice to enlarge.)
Venetian merchants in 828 stole the relics of Saint Mark the Evangelist from their resting place in Alexandria, Egypt, and offered them to the Doge and his wife.  A church was built in 829-31 to shelter these relics and Saint Mark was made patron saint of the city.  This church burned down during a rebellion, another new church burned down and the present basilica was begun in 1063.  To my eyes this building looks very eastern, not at all like the Gothic cathedrals or basilicas in France.  It is decorated with marble, Byzantine mosaics and Muslim-shaped onion domes.  It certainly is grandiose inside and out.  Below is a postcard I purchased and mailed to our house.
There was a cordoned area for visitors to walk around the interior of the basilica.  The golden domes must have been created by Greek and Byzantine artists- they have that opulent style.  It is nicknamed the Church of Gold "Chiesa d'Oro" because of all this gilded interior and the golden mosaics covering every inch of the ceiling.
I purchased some postcards of the interior that give a better perspective and look at the floor to ceiling 4,000 square meters (43,055 square feet) of mosaics.
We then bought tickets for admission to the Galleria and Museo di San Marco.  We climbed the steps and looked at the displays showing how the mosaics have been restored over the years.  Then we saw four beautiful horses.  These gilt bronze horses used to be placed in the Arsenal then to the exterior of the basilica.  They are the original Triumphal Quadriga probably cast in Imperial Rome and taken to Constantinople.  Around 1204 Venetians and Crusaders sacked and pillaged the city and brought back these horses to Venice as part of their booty.
Then we walked outdoor to the "Loggia dei Cavalli" (Loggia of the horses) with replica of the above horses and found ourselves high above the Piazza San Marco.  This certainly was worth the price of admission to the Galleria.  (You can see this galleria with the horses above the entrance on my basilica postcard above.)
The two massive granite columns in front of the Molo were easy to photograph then, much easier than from the ground.  The winged lion with his paw on a book, on the left, is the symbol of Saint Mark.  On the right is Saint Theodore, a Greek General, who used to be the Patron of Venice until he was demoted after the Venetian stole the relics of San Marco.  I read that criminals, traitors, murderers and such were hanged, decapitated or burned alive between these two columns.
On our right I could see the Torre dell 'Orologio - Clock Tower - which was built between 1496 and 1499, and has had many restorations.  It keeps time, officially, for Venice.  Statues of Moors strike the bells with hammers every hour.  The winged lion of Venice, with the open book, stands below.
It was great standing in this gallery, high above Saint Mark's Square - a photographer's dream.  I took pictures all around me - buildings, statues, marble, all different shapes and colors.
Then I looked straight down below me and there was a bride and groom!

Before we left I took another look at the piazza below and looked back up at the horse then decided to sit for awhile behind the marble gate.
With my Panasonic Lumix telephoto lens I took the winged lion standing on his book straight across me.  I wondered how many millions of people he had seen from his tall perch.  I could have sat there for many hours savoring this enchanting place and enjoying the sweeping panorama.  So I just sat there for a while longer reveling in this warm atmosphere.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Venice, on the 3rd Day (morning)

On our second day in Venice, last October, we leisurely walked around the city (see my post of January 26, 2013 here.)  For the third day we decided to see some of the famous sights.  We walked to the canal in front of Piazzale Roma, near the main train station, to board a "vaporetto" - the vaporetto is a water bus.  Several line of vaporetti travel on the canals and to nearby islands.  Each ticket costs 6 euros 50 ($8.70,) which is not cheap but cheaper than riding in a gondola or water taxi.  Tickets have to be bought and stamped before boarding.  It is more economical to buy a 12 hour card with unlimited trips for 18 euros ($24) or a 24, a 36 or a 72 hour card or even a 7 day card.
At the Paris airport before we boarded our flight for Venice I had bought a little Venice guide book which had the vaporetto map.  We took line #1, that goes up and down the Grand Canal, to travel toward San Marco Square.  We boarded our vaporetto at Piazzale Roma, the stop before "Ferrovia" at 10 o'clock on the map below and were to get off at the San Zaccaria stop, in the center of the map.  (Click on picture to enlarge.)
There are some open-air seats in the front area of the vaporetto - they are the best to get good views for picture taking.  It was a thrill really to look right and left and go by all the beautiful old buildings.  The Grand Canal goes through Venice in a S shape from the area where we boarded the water bus all the way to the Saint Mark Basin, or about 2.36 miles (3.8 kms.)  The width goes from 100 to 300 feet (30 to 90 meters) and a depth of 16 feet (5 meters.)  Most of the buildings are from the 13th to the 18th centuries. (Click on the collage twice to enlarge pictures.)
It was like an overload of sight and sound - should I snap a building on the right, or the left, down or up?  So many choices.  Can I get a picture of the Rialto Bridge and avoid the head of another passenger in front of me?  What about a gondola on the side, or the one passing us as we go under the bridge?
The vaporetto stopped along the way to let passengers off and on.  It had to maneuver among all the boats and gondolas on the canal to stop on the right or left bank - I was sure sometimes that we were going to hit another boat.  There are only four bridges that cross the canal but a ride across can be taken for 0.50 euro on a "traghetto" or gondola like rowboat.  Venetians stand on the side of the Grand Canal at certain points to wait for a crossing and then stay upright in the traghetto boat as you can see on the two bottom pictures below.  I think I would have fallen into the canal...
Our little vaporetto kept going - stopped at Ca' Rezzonico then passed under the Del Accademia Bridge.  I wished I knew more about all these gorgeous historic buildings.  This canal is an ancient waterway.  Merchants started building houses along it in the 10th century.  By the 12th and 13th centuries the houses became elaborate and often in a Byzantine style.  The 15th century saw more of the Venetian-Gothic style with brighter colors and pointed arches.  By the 16th and 17 centuries the style of the buildings was more Baroque.  Nowadays the largest ones have become museums or purchased by foundations that can afford their upkeep.
Our stop, San Zaccaria, was approaching and most of the passengers were walking toward the vaporetto exit.  We had enjoyed our slow cruise down the canal and hated to leave - so we agreed to miss our stop and we stayed on.  Next was the "Arsenale" stop but we would stay until the end of the line, at the Lido.
I remembered reading about the Arsenale.  This is where the warships were built and gave Venice his power and wealth.  It started in 1104 and by 1400 it employed 3000 specialized employees.  It is said that it was "one of the earliest large-scale industrial enterprise in history." Below are some Library of Congress photomechanical prints from the 1890-1900s; the Venice Arsenale is the bottom photo on the right hand side.
Then our almost empty vaporetto went on the open water of the lagoon toward the terminal at the Lido.  We went by the 17th century Punto della Dogana (Tip of the Customs House,) reopened to the public in 2009 by the Foundation Francois Pinault (owner of Gucci) as a Center for Contemporary Art.  I took a close-up of the top of the Tower of Fortune crowned with "Fortuna," a winged sphinx statue standing on a sphere - the Earth.  The Venice Lagoon is an enclosed bay of the Adriatic Sea with thousands of boats of all kinds such as vaporetti, motor boats, hydrofoils, ferries, cruise ships, sail boats, etc.  We even passed close to a Police boat.
 We arrived at the Lido island - a sandbar 6.83 miles long (11 kms) with hotels, summer villas and beaches where tourists gather in September for the Venice Film Festival.  We did not stay long as we exited our vaporetto and walked a few yards to the departure dock of the next vaporetto.  I only had time to take a picture of hundreds of bicycles.  (Map courtesy Wikimedia Commons.)
Back in another vaporetto going to Piazza San Marco we crossed the lagoon again and could see a large amount of trees ahead along the bank.  When the vaporetto stopped at the "Giardini" (gardens) stop, we decided to get off and take a look.
Later I read that these gardens were created when Napoleon Bonaparte, after he conquered Venice in 1797, had an area of marshland drained.  He then directed Eugene de Beauharnais to design a public garden.  In the 1890s several exhibition buildings were erected in these gardens to show international art.  Belgium was the first country to erect a pavilion in 1907.  There are 30 permanent pavilions where various nations display art or architecture during the "Venice Biennale."
 A Gondola at the Jardins Francais, Venice, by Felix Ziem, French 1821-1911

The gardens are also famous for the number of wild cats roaming the area.  As we disembarked the vaporetto, we saw more trees than we had seen in several days.  We walked around and I took the picture of a pretty black cat.  He was standing in front of an old Victorian building where plants were for sale.  Next to it was a small cafe.  We sat outside and ordered some little sandwiches for lunch.
 We ended our meal with a perfect cup of expresso coffee.
It was time to return to the vaporetto and finally go to the Piazza San Marco.  We passed the Arsenale stop again and approached our final stop.
Many gondolas were on the bank near our vaporetto stop.  Ahead we could see the Doge's Palace.
We were on the "Riva degli Schiavoni" near the Doge's Palace.  I had seen many famous paintings of this historic area.  Would it still look the same as in the paintings and old photographs? It was barely 1:00 pm so we had plenty of time to explore further.  More to come in the next post...

Saturday, February 9, 2013

A Thursday at Callaway Gardens

Ten days ago I wrote in a post about the two days we spent at Callaway Gardens and explained our first day there, Wednesday 23 January.  This is to describe the following day, Thursday 24 January, 2013.  It was again a very sunny day and did get into the 70 F (21C) in the afternoon.  We went into the gardens soon after they open at 9:30 am.  The roads in the garden were empty of traffic apart from some workers taking Christmas lights off trees.  There were still some large electric insects along the way.  (Click on collage twice to enlarge.)
I had read that Cason Callaway, the founder of the gardens, had a small chapel built next to a natural waterfall as a tribute to his late mother, Ida Cason Callaway (1872-1936.)  We followed the sign to the chapel which stands on the banks of lovely Falls Creek Lake.  There were no other visitors there and it was very peaceful.
 We walked to the little stream cascading onto rocks creating small waterfalls.
The Ida Cason Callaway Memorial Chapel has an English Gothic design, reminiscent of chapels from the 16th and 17th centuries and is built of native material such as field-stone quartz.  It was dedicated in 1962 by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale.  As we entered the chapel we were greeted by warm multicolor lights dancing from the stain glass windows and reflecting on the tile floor.  It is a very simple sanctuary with just the colorful windows and a painting of Mrs. Callaway.
Atlanta artist Joel Reeves designed the six stained glass windows.  They illustrate the seasons in a Southern forest.  I took many photographs with my three cameras - my husband took pictures as well.
This memorial chapel is a beautiful setting for weddings and small ceremonies.  Regularly scheduled concerts on the custom-built Moller pipe organ can be heard inside and outside the chapel.  It is a small but elegant chapel.  We went out but stopped in the doorway to admire the view.
Then we walked around the lake to a bench facing the chapel.  We sat for a moment enjoying the serene setting.  We could have spent many hours there for quiet reflection.  It is quite an enchanting place. 
Next we drove to the Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center (pictured on my top photo.)  The wife of the founder of Days Inn of America provided the initial funding for this center.  It is the largest glass enclosed butterfly conservatory in the US with over 1,000 butterflies representing more than 50 species.  Inside the center there is a gift shop with more butterfly decorated gifts that you could ever imagine.  After walking by displays of cocoons of butterflies in several stages of transformation we entered the octagonal glass conservatory (made of 854 panes of glass.)  A small group of amateur photographers holding cameras with huge lenses were snapping close-ups of the butterflies.  I don't have a micro-lens but I took many pictures with my cameras as I watched my steps since many butterflies were landing on the ground.
The photo enthusiasts left and we were then alone in this tropical center with butterflies fluttering all around us.
The climate-controlled center recreates a rain forest environment with tropical plants, flowers
and a waterfall cascading 12 feet into a two feet deep square pool.
Information panels educate visitors on butterfly life and lore.
There are benches in the 4 1/2 acre center where one can wait for the next butterfly sighting.
I jumped up as I saw a nice specimen land on a large leaf.
Then I spied several white butterflies landing on nearby flowers.  I snapped and snapped as they moved around the flowers hoping by getting a quantity of photos I might get some quality...
One butterfly was close to a pretty red flower but as I got closer it fluttered away.  I still got a good shot of the flower with my new little Olympus camera.
As we left the butterfly center we saw a frame photograph of a Victorian house.  This was the 1895 childhood home of Virginia Hand Callaway, (shown on the left of the picture,) wife of Cason Callaway and co-founder of the gardens.  Only the cupola could be salvaged from the old house and now stands on the roof of the butterfly center.  Inside the center is a large chandelier featuring... butterflies, of course!
As we left we drove by some flowering Star Magnolia shrubs.
Then we reached the Sibley Horticultural Center.  It is a very advanced garden/greenhouse complex with five acres of native and exotic plants and a 22 foot indoor waterfall.
A rock wall garden had attractive flowers and orchids hanging from it.
Flowers, succulents - everything was healthy, vibrant and green.
As we walked it felt like summer with all the floral display.  It did not feel like January but very far away from winter and the heavy snow which is falling in some parts of the Northeast.
Outdoors there was a shining sun and it was a treat to walk around the impeccably kept grounds.
In the middle of a pond is a bronze sculpture.  The American artist is Margery Godwin and it is named "Partners in Time."  Isn't that a lovely evocative name for this pair of trumpeter swans?  The female is seated in front of the male and the male has its wings spread in a protective stance.
My husband snapped a picture of me with the Olympus camera as I had stopped to take a picture of something.  We then left Callaway Gardens.  But I am not finished taking pictures at Callaway Gardens.  I read that there are more than 700 varieties of hybrid azaleas in the 40 acre Callaway Azalea Bowl - so we'll have to make a return trip in the spring!

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