Rome, The Colosseum: Are You Not Entertained!

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My first day off the plane and it was a downpour. Thankfully, my skate shoes were triple stitched on a single seem so they kept the water out quite nicely. I booked at Alessandro Hostel, which was about 2 blocks from the Termini train station. This was a luxury I decided to grant myself after getting marooned by my driver in Greece who didn’t want to travel through the austerity protest. Either way, I memorized my maps, as usual, and was prepared for the worst. This time around it was weather.

DSC_0066Didn’t bother me too much. My feet were staying dry, so my biggest concern was figuring out how I was going to use my camera in this monsoon of a rainstorm we were having. I threw Saturday to the way side and left my camera in a locker. Decided getting my bearings and finding my favorite panino spot was far more important. There is a Turkish spot outside of Termini that I highly recommend. 3 Euro durums, or paninos, gyros, what ever you want to call them. Basically flat bread with meat, veg, and french-fries inside, and the Turkish spot had the cheapest, biggest, and the best tasting ones. Needless to say, I visited their shop everyday. They knew me by name by the end of the week.

DSC_0039By Monday the weather cleared up and the rest of the week would be nice, but Easter Sunday was cold and wet. In Rome, the first Sunday of every month all the sights are free. I highly suggest planning your trips around this fact if you are trying to save a little cash. I decided to get out with my camera and take advantage of the situation. I ended up buying an umbrella off of a street vendor to help keep the camera dry. Here’s a little tip for bartering in Rome. First, find out what they want. Second, offer them half of what they stated. Third, walk away when they say no. They will follow you offering you lower prices. Fourth, pull out the money you want to spend and show it to them. If this doesn’t work just keep walking away, rinse, and repeat. I rarely met a street vendor that would pass up any offer.

DSC_0060So I had my umbrella and a plan, and it just so happened that I ran into a fellow traveller on the same mission. A nice fellow from India named Jagat. He asked me for directions, and once we realized we were on the same quest, it was only proper to join forces for the rest of the day. We set our sights on the infamous Colosseum. Despite the rain, the line was still tremendously long, and it took about 20 minutes to get inside. I image the line would have easily been an hour on a nice day. Still, I wouldn’t suggest paying for the “skip the line” tours that the street vendors are selling.

DSC_0029Walking up on the Colosseum is pretty awe-inspiring. It’s one of those iconic buildings that I’ve read about in books and seen in movies. Been fantasizing about the Colosseum ever sense I was a child, and finally, I was standing in front of it. It wasn’t hard to imagine what it must have felt like gathering for one of the many contests that were held here.

DSC_0031The inside, however, was a bit disappointing. Here’s why. Now the history of the Colosseum is amazing, and being able to see the inner workings of the structure and how it functioned was great. However, the Vatican removed the really impressive features. So any bronze statues including the Colossus were all melted down for the bronze. The marble was all removed. They used it when building the Vatican. So there are no marble seats or thrones. But even still, it was nice to walk through and imagine myself as a citizen of Ancient Rome.

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Despite the weather, I enjoyed checking this off my bucket list. I returned later in the week to shoot some fair weather photos, but didn’t bother taking another tour of the interior. It really is a magnificent piece of architecture, especially when you consider the history. The amount of blood and wine that must have been spilt in the very place I was standing. Truly a must see for anyone visiting Roma!

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When in Rome: The Pantheon

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So despite Air France canceling all my flights home, I managed to make it back to England last week. If I’m being honest, I wasn’t too upset about having to spend some extra time in Rome while they figured it out. While I was a little bit frustrated at first, I am one of those types that just rolls with the flow. Besides what better excuse to miss a little work then no flights out of Rome because of an air traffic controller strike. Unfortunately Air France would inevitably buy me a ticket with another airline, and I made it back late last Friday.

DSC_0142My apologies for not getting the first post up sooner but 5 days of recovery was most definitely needed. I was putting in about 15 miles a day on foot while drinking 2 bottles of red and smoking hand rolled Italian cigars. It really is a wonder I didn’t die of dehydration, and there was a few moments where I simply collapsed in the parks and passed out until I was sober enough to continue. But thats part of the beauty of Rome, The city itself is an adventure and one that will surely quench your wanderlust.

DSC_0145So obviously, I have an obsession with Western Civilization History. Which I think is pretty common among Americans. We often like to think of ourselves as similar to the Romans and the Greeks, as our democratic roots and systems of government were largely borrowed from concepts they created. Though it isn’t just Western Civ in the city of Rome, there is also a lot of religious history to which I am not as knowledgable. Still, I will try my best.

DSC_0150My favorite building in all of Rome was by far The Pantheon. The Pantheon was built around 25 A.D. and then rebuilt around 125 A.D. by Emperor Hadrian. Hadrian was largely responsible for the reconstruction of several ancient buildings in both Greece and Rome. Currently the Catholic church uses the Pantheon as a place of worship for their religion. The Pantheon  even houses the tombs of the First and the Second Kings of Italy. Kings of Italy not Emperors, so these tombs are only a few hundred years old, 1800’s I believe.

DSC_0147Though the Pantheon wasn’t always a Catholic Church. In fact, if you know your Roman history it was Emperor Constantine that handed over the Roman Empire to the Christian Religion in order to better control the masses of Rome. Around 600 A.D. the followers of Christianity were much larger then the followers of the Empire, and so by merging the Religion with the Empire, Constantine effectively saved the Empire of Rome.

DSC_0147But that was in 600 A.D. and the Pantheon was built in 25 A.D. so what was the pantheon used for before this? Well Pantheon is a Greek word that literally translates to “All the gods of the people”. It is likely that this was a common place of worship for all the citizens of Rome regardless of their preferred deity, which would have most likely been one of the Greek gods such as Zeus or Poseidon. The Pantheon is one of the oldest and most awe inspiring buildings in all of Rome and a must see for anyone planning on visiting.

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Holiday in Athens: The Monument of the Muses

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If you are coming down the Southside of the Acropolis you are bound to spot Philopappos Hill close by. The hill is covered in beautiful Greek pine trees, which are a bit squattier and bushier then the Evergreen pines that I’m use to in Washington. Also Perched atop the Philopappos Hill is a lonely monument with a great view of Athens.

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I never make plans before I travel, and so I found myself standing atop the Acropolis on day one mapping out my week. I could literally see everything from the Acropolis and I figured I would pick my favorites and head out. I could see the Panatheniac Stadium, the Temple of Zeus, The Temple of Hephaistos, but sitting on top the Philopappos hill was a monument I didn’t readily recognize. My curiosity was sparked and so I made my way south.

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I didn’t know it then, but this was the Monument of the Muses. Now if you are not keen on the history I highly suggest reading the plaques and billboards that are set up around the different monuments, quite a lot of great information on them. Philopappos Hill was thought to be inhabited by nine muses, and ancient Athenians would come here to leave offerings.

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Philopappos Hill had a beautiful view, and the Monument of the Muses was spectacular. My Western Civilization professor once pointed out that all the muses, furies, and fates, are all females. A reflection on my own history with women would only further confirm that, muses, furies, and fates, would probably all be female. I wonder if a female wrote this mythology if there would have been any variation in the sexes of the gods.

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I’m an artist at heart, and so I am not surprise that I was drawn here. A new adventure was beginning for me, and it was only proper I begin it like any great adventure should. I would pay homage to Zeus, Poseidon and, Athena at their temples, and I would give offerings to the Muses that they might impart their wisdoms on me.

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Holiday in Athens, Greece: Kerameikos Cemetery

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So, this week I wanted to post some pictures of Kerameikos Cemetery. The cemetery itself is absolutely beautiful. Dozens of stunning headstones and sculptures decorate the grounds of this ancient cemetery. The graves here are all from around 450 B.C.E., and other then that, I honestly don’t know much more about this place.

DSC_0371I found it as I was heading out of Omonia Square. I had decided to head the opposite direction of Stadiou and go down Pieros. I eventually saw the magnificent headstones on my left and had to check it out. There were several plaques that had descriptions of the different headstones. I can’t remember too much of it though. I think one of them was dedicated to a prince that had died in a battle with the Spartans. His headstone depicts an Athenian riding his horse and slaying a Spartan. My apologies if I just butchered Greek history, I’m unsure if that story is 100% correct, maybe only 80%, ha-ha.

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That’s about all I know about this place. I went purely to enjoy the beauty of the art and ruins. That unfortunately meant I was missing out on some really great history; however, it is always nice to enjoy things for the beauty that they are. And so, I had my morning picnic among the ancient spirits.

DSC_0370So a few notes on what’s happening. I have to get through all these Greece photos before Rome in two weeks. So I believe that means a post on Hadrian’s Library, and a post on Panathenaic Stadium. Also, in order to keep up on my writing, I’ve decided to dedicate 500 words a day to my creative writing. I love this technical writing stuff, but creative writing is why I got into this. I will still continue to dedicate 500 words to the blog every week; however, I do not think I will be publishing any of my creative writing on this blog.

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I think it is important for me to ramp up the amount of writing I am actually doing. I was trying to compare my time as an English Major to my time as a Music Major. I was trying to understand why I felt more comfortable learning Music then I did Liberal Arts.

One of the major differences in my routine was the training regiment. I realized that in Music I was dedicating 8 hours a day toward playing on an instrument. This made me more proficient in my skill. Similarly, I want to start applying this concept to my other passions.

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Writing, for instance, is not something I get to practice too often. I never think why not sit down and write something in my spare time. So this is something I decided I needed to change. In school I would write vigorously for my assignments. I loved it. But one of the hardest things to do is write on your own accord. So that’s my goal for these coming weeks. Write!

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The Leake Street Tunnel Revisited

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I decided to take a break from posting pictures of Greece, and decided to hit the legendary Graffiti Tunnel once again. This kind of art is amazing, and the awesome thing about the Leake Street Tunnel is that it’s ever changing.

DSC_0636This time it was less marvel and more portraits. While the largest of the marvel murals still stood, the rest had sense vanished. The smell of fresh paint had filled the air where new artists left their mark. There was Plenty of new portraits and tags, and the art work was superb. The tunnel was covered in unique and mystifying murals that struck on human emotion and feminine empowerment.

DSC_0642This little cat girl was one of my favorites. Other artists had tagged over her, however, her deep stare from behind the tag gave this painting a shy emotion. Like a little kitten hiding behind some brush, she seemed to have found a safe spot behind another artist’s tag. It was hard not to feel like this little girl wasn’t looking right into you. Like gazing at a mirror and wondering which side you are on. Is it you hiding behind the art, or her?

DSC_0666 copyFor me, this Nomad Clan mural stole the day (Left). This was painted by The Nomad Clan, Aylo Nomad, and Cbloxx Nomad. Every now and then a piece just moves me. This piece sparked emotions about life and art. There’s an adventure and a story here, and my mind wanders on the possibilities of the plot and the players. My own wanderlust being summed into a mural that spoke all those words I could not explain.

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Femme Fierce was a prominent and recurring tag today. Femme Fierce was an event where women street artist came and tagged the Leake Street Tunnel. I don’t know much about this, however, I found some great videos on it at Cbloxx’s website. You should check it out! Great stuff on the street art community, plus the Nomad Clan artwork is just absolutely stunning. http://www.cbloxx.com.

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There were a lot of powerful female portraits this week. The art work was breathtaking and captivating. Truly inspiring imagery from some truly amazing artist. I encourage you. If you see a piece of street art you like, then track down that artist and learn a little more about them and their passion.

And now let me just get out of your way and let you enjoy the art!

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