Thursday, April 26, 2018

A Meet-Up with Ayush in Utrecht, NL

For those of you who have followed this journey, you may remember that Astrid and I have a fellow photo-blogger from our Shutterchance blog who just happens to fly over to the Netherlands from time to time for work.  He's from India but lives and works in Singapore for OCÉ, a Canon printer company, with a branch office in Venlo, NL.

That's Ayush.  We first met up with him in February, 2016, in Venlo.  Then a month later, in March, he visited us here in Gorinchem.  He wasn't sure he'd be called back to the Netherlands but...lo and behold...he's here now again for almost a year.

So, yes, we jumped on the opportunity and met up with each other in Utrecht this past Saturday...150 km by train for him and 43 km by bus for us.

Both the bus and train terminals are at the same location, with our arrivals 10 minutes apart at 11 a.m.

It was like we picked up from where we last left off!
And we couldn't have picked a better day.

From the train station we walked into town...past one of my favorite scenes of the city...

past the flying saucer (top-center) and the peanut butter shop (bottom-center)...
towards the Dom Tower of St. Martin's Cathedral.

Remember here's the church, here's the steeple; open the door and here's all the people?
The Dom Tower is the tallest church tower in the Netherlands at 368 ft.
It was completed in 1382.

However, it so happens that the church was never finished, with its nave collapsing in 1674.
Since then, the tower has stood free-standing, apart from the cathedral.
It makes a great walk-through to the cathedral.

Since Astrid and I have been there several times, we sent Ayush off on his own,
while we also wandered around on our own for this, that and the other.
You know me and "impressions."

Of course, we often crisscrossed paths with Ayush, keeping track of him.
Astrid loves to talk to Ayush because he's such a good listener.
It's like he hangs on to her every word.
(At age 35, he could be our son!)

From the cathedral we walked next door to the Gothic cloister's Pandhof garden...

known for it's delightful fountain with a bronze statue of the 14th c. writing priest, Hugo Wstinc.
The statue was made in 1915, designed and manufactured by the Brom brothers.

If that doesn't whet your appetite...yes, it was time for lunch.
Astrid decided we should go to the Winkel van Sinkel, since cafés everywhere were overflowing.

This, too, was crowded outside, but no problem....

because we wanted the inside experience, away from the sun (for moi).
"Winkel van Sinkel has become a general term for shops where everything is for sale."
And of can also eat there.

We then walked along the Oudegracht (old canal) that runs through the center of the city.

Many of the warehouses lining the canal have been converted into restaurants and cafés.

How's that for a bachelorette party!

We headed towards the Jacobuskerk, or St. Jacob church, to see if it was open.
It wasn't.

But we enjoyed the sculpture outside, wondering what it was about.

We knew De Ster (The Star) windmill would be open, so off we went.

It was built in 1739, restored in 1999, and is a working saw mill.

Lucky for us, it has a café inside, where Ayush treated us to a cold Witte Trappist beer.
Definitely a "thirst quencher."

THEN we were ready for a tour of the mill.

Our guide knew everything about everything!

What a way to end the day!

Others had come by bike.

For us, the leisurely walking was more than enough.
So much to see; so little time.

But it was enough and we were home by 6 p.m. that evening.
THANK YOU, Ayush, for another great memory.
You are such a gentle man!

Thursday, April 19, 2018

VERONA 2017: The Santo Stefano Church

So, after the Santa Maria in Organo church, followed by the Roman theater (remember?), we next stopped at the Santo Stefano church right next door.

That would be the green dot.

It was consecrated in 421 and was the burial site for the bishops of Verona for 4 centuries.
For a period of time it was the duomo/cathedral of the city.
It is one of the city's oldest churches.

We had seen the octagonal bell tower first before seeing the church.

This drawing (from Google images) helps.  

As usually happens, we're "short of eyes" when we first enter a church.  Where to start?
In this case, we entered the "lower church"...

where we were met by a volunteer who made it clear she would guide/assist us.
While we prefer to wander about on our  own, we later discovered that this church
has locked parts that can only be seen through guides.
And there were guides there that day because of the Verona Minor Hierusalem project,
a "small Jerusalem" experience for those who can't travel to the Holy Land.

She (our guide) immediately started with the amazing frescoes everywhere.

These are the Musical Angels by Domenico Brusasorzi, circa 1552.

She then took us down to the crypt...

where we saw a 14th century statue of St. Peter in his chair.
(Hmmm.  Where was St. Stefano?)

[I'm not sure I took any other photos in the crypt???  See why we don't usually like guides?]

To be honest, this church, along with the sequence of my images, is totally confusing to me.
 "The interior of the church has three naves, but with a single ceiling,
which has a cross, crypt and raised presbytery."

It took me awhile to figure out that this image (above)
is the main altar of the presbytery, which is raised from the lower church.

Here's a view from the lower church (from Google images), by Willem-Jan vander Zanden.

Walking down from the main altar...our guide then took us to the locked apse.

At least I think this is the locked apse, apparently something not everyone gets to see.
The definition of an apse is "a semicircular recess covered with a hemispherical vault or semi-dome."

It looks more like a crypt to me...but I believe this was indeed the part under lock and key?
And I believe it's behind the main floor, under the raised altar (are you following this?). 

It looks like it fits the description of an apse, right?!
I have a feeling we were very lucky to see it that day.

Back to the main/lower church (with the stairs to the altar), we were left on our own...

to view the side chapels...

and to light a candle for someone.
No, I'm not a Roman Catholic but I'm loving the sentiment behind "lighting a candle" for someone.
It's the meditative action in that moment that is becoming special for me.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

On that note, as we left the church, these three keystones showed their faces to us.
What more is there to say??!!

Thursday, April 12, 2018

VERONA 2017: The Roman Theater

As you may recall, we spent 11 days in Italy last year, 7 in Venice and then 4 in Verona.  Our travel agent told us 4 days would be plenty of time to see Verona, but surely by now you can see just how much there was to see.  We covered the bases but...just barely.

Our third day in Verona was packed full of 3 churches and the Roman Theater, plus a flag-throwing show on our way home.  I've already shown you the Santa Maria in Organo church here.  From there we immediately walked to the nearby Roman Theater.

See how close they are:  red dot (church) and blue dot (theater).

Actually, besides the Roman Theater, you also gain entrance to the Archaeological Museum,
both for the price of one...with the entrance right off the main street.

Once through the building to behind, you're confronted with ruins from the 1st century BC.
This is the kind of thing that blows my mind.  BC = Before Christ!

And there it is, the Roman Theater.
In the 1st century BC it would have included satirical dramas by Terence and Plautus.
[Surely I learned about them in Latin class all those eons ago?!]
Can you imagine watching Shakespearean plays there today!

Later, when we took the lift to the Archaeological Museum, we got a better overview.
See how close it sits on the Adige river...

...and how it offers views of the city every bit as captivating as any play/event.

Before taking the lift to the museum, we stopped to see the church of St. Siro and St. Libera.
It was built in the 10th century, restored in the 14th century.

As you can see, it sits at the edge of the theater steps, with the museum to the left behind/above.

To be honest, there wasn't much to see inside but it was worth the look.

You could say this was worth the climb.

After the church we took the lift to the Archaeological Museum above.
It was opened in 1924 in the former convent of Gerolamo, from the 14th century.
More Roman you cannot get!

Because it was originally a convent, there are cloisters (bottom) and a large terrace (top),
with Roman artifacts everywhere.

Again, more Roman you cannot get.
I remember having to learn the names of all the Roman columns in Latin class!

But it was the church of St. Gerolamo in the convent that most captivated me there.

It was a walk-through from the museum to the terrace, but it stopped me dead in my tracks.
See what I mean?

And this was just ONE STOP on a busy day!
Yes, there's more to come....