It’s Beautiful Over There

 

Burano Colors

Europe has a beauty that is diverse and breathtaking, from the natural to the man made. North or South, East or West, everywhere you go there is so much that is just inspiring and, well, beautiful!

Pantheon

Perhaps one of the most beautiful, most perfect buildings is the Pantheon in the heart of Rome. Built by the Emperor Hadiran in about 170 A.D., it is the only Roman building remaining intact. When Germanic tribes swept through Rome to despoil it of its treasures the Pantheon stopped them in their tracks. They refused to destroy it. They were in awe, as we are today, of this spectacular building. No picture does it justice. It is one of those places you just have to experience for yourself.

Eiffel Tower

They were going to tear this down when the World’s Fair was over. Parisians hated it. Beaudelaire would eat lunch in the cafe on the first floor every day because, as he said, it was the only place he could go in Paris where he didn’t have to see the thing. Well, Parisians are not the only ones today who cannot imagine Paris without it. It is one of those monuments that is so much more impressive in person. You finally realize – it is BIG! Really BIG!

Jungfrau

 And then there is the beauty of nature. On a clear day in the Swiss Alps it is hard to imagine anything more sublime. The Swiss love their mountains and spend a lot of time in them themselves. They also work hard to preserve them. We join them in their love of their mountains with a hike of our own right here at the base of the Jungfrau. If the weather cooperates you’ll never forget your day in the Alps.

Burano Flower
But not all of Europe’s beauty is found in the grand. Much of it is right at your feet! So don’t always be looking up. Keep your eyes and ears open to everything around you and you are bound to fill your travel with beauty. It will enrich you trip immeasurably!

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Ah Venezia!

Ah Venice! I think just about everyone who has not been here must have their own romantic vision of what Venice must be like. It’s a good bet their vision is not too far from the reality! Venice is indeed that charming place of imagination and fable, even when weighed down to the water line with summer tourists! Built on wooden pilings driven deep into the clay below, Venice is very much a city of water. Canals are main streets, lined with centuries of architecture in every style from Byzantine through early 20th century.


And everyone and everything, including visitors, gets around on the water. Oh, you can walk Venice alright, and that is what you spend most of your time doing, but Venice without a least one trip on the water doesn’t give you the authentic feel of this most unique of cities.

The Venetians live this every day. Produce boats, fire boats, police boats, delivery boats, ambulance boats, even hearse boats ply the canals going about their workaday business keeping shelves stocked, the public safe, visitors provided for, and the dead buried! It is a marvel to watch!


The tourist comes to Venice for this and for the stunning architecture. Venice’s landmarks are well know, from the Doge’s palace with it’s Gothic facade, the Byzantine marvel of San Marco, and the distinct campanile (bell tower) in the Piazza San Marco.

The campanile actually collapsed in 1903, killing no one and harming only the watachman’s cat. But the Venetians quickly rebuilt their tower with the same brick and a new foundation. It proudly looks over what Napoleon called the best drawing room in Italy – the Piazza San Marco. The Piazza, surrounded as it is by the Doge’s Palace, the Campanile, and San Marco Basillica, is of course tourist central! Absolute mobs of tourists fill this Piazza and the surrounding lanes and canals during tourist season. It may be the most tourist filled outdoor setting in touristdom! Nothing too charming about that. But . . . Venice’s charms really await the visitor who is willing to stick around a while, wait until the tourists head off to their hotels on the mainland, and wander Venice after dark or very early in the morning.


Summer light comes very early to Venice. By 5:00 A.M., even on an overcast day, a cool-of-the-morning stroll reveals the stunning beauty of this crumbling wonder. Deserted streets and canals, the stillness in the air broken only by birdsong rather than tourist rumble – it is absolutely magical!

The harried pace of yesterday, the elbowing past hoards of fellows, the noise and heat and bustle – it is all gone, replaced by a serenity and beauty of a type I have never found anywhere else. The early riser is rewarded in spades here in Venice. And then . . .


. . . there is Venice after dark. The lights sparkling off the canals, late diners enjoying a quiet meal at a restaurant run by folks who don’t know what it means to rush you through your meal, and the far off aria sung by a gondolier to a group of tourists paying way too much for the priveledge . . . just plain magic! There is no other place in the whole of the great wide world quite like Venice!
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Hangin’ With the Pope!

Yea, that’s the Pope alright. For the third year in a row now he and I have hooked up, so to speak. Earlier in the day it was me and Mohamar Khadafi – honest! Oh the people you meet in this wonderful city! Today is the big Gay Pride parade, so in two days we have seen one of the worlds most infamous terrorists, have seen the Holy Father, and have seen trucks full of gay guys with squirt guns. And in between that, we’ve seen some pretty cool art and architecture.

Looking up into the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica is one of the great sight of this town. It just soars’ and before you see this you have already been thrilled by the sheer size of the building as you entered through the front door. I wish I had a picture of the tour group as the walked in, jaws dropping in unison as the scale and the beauty of it all hits you immediately. It is one of the moments that really make a trip like this. So is the that architypal Roman building – the Colosseum.
Pictures cannot do this place justice. Placing yourself in it, taking in its scale, that is the only way to appreciate what the emperor Vespasian pulled off with the ten year project of its construction. Its more that you can imagine. Our group was, to say the least, overwhelmed.

So yea, were in Rome. The Sistine Chapel and the gelato are as great as ever, the group is tired but loving all of it, it is very hot, and who knows who else we’ll run into before the day is through!

What a great place!
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Awake in Rome

Back again at last. It all feels very comfortable these days, having spent so much time here over the years. I am reminded why it is my favorite city in Europe on my jet lag walk – the first thing I do after dumping my bags at the hotel.

The familiar tourists are here, but not in the droves of past summers. Seems the economy took its toll. But some are here just the same, the serious ones who are here to learn something, the college kids taking a break (or unable to find a job right now) the fun loving and the crass. The Romans take us all in stride, and after a day or two or rummaging around town I have yet to talk with a Roman who is exasperated at our presence.

It is warm. Summer his here, and with it the high temperatures and the humidity. Taking a break during a busy day, drinking lots of water, seeking some shade, all make Rome much more enjoyable this time of year and are a must if one is to survive the gauntlet of must-see attractions in this incomparable city.


Rome is a city of churches, nearly every one an architectural jewel in some way or another. Stoping in on what looks like a rather unpromising church from the outside you can be taken aback with wonder at mosaics and marble, at paintings and tombs. Never judge a Roman church by it’s cover. Then again, there are some spectacular facades on nearly every street as well. It’s all just a bit dazzling.

 

All of this was taken in during my mid day stroll on my first day back in Rome. A stop at the grocery store for fruit and juice and bread and cheese, and it was off to one of the quietes parks in Rome, the trees and grass (weeds, really) surrounding the ruins of the baths of Trajan. It seems the Romans have taken to the whole Family Home Evening thing, for the park was filled with laughing children, happy parents, and ond coupled arm in arm on benches, still very much in love. It was an idyll of family life and love in this incredible city of cities. Ancient Romans kept the idea of family sacred. Modern Romans, the few who are having families anyway, seem to meto treasure them as much as ever. When I got back to my hotel I called my wife in far away Utah, to share a few moments of the same feeling.
It has been a good day – a really good day. A good day to be back in Rome.
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