Maine - Portland

by Kimp 15. September 2018 19:28

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Portland Maine

Portland Maine is usually on the short list of the best small cities in America to live in, and often at or near the top of that list. That means unemployment is low, poverty is low, crime is low, average incomes are comparable with a good standard of living for that area, entertainment and festivities are ample enough to satisfy the needs of most of the populace, there are plenty of healthy activities to choose from, a variety of intellectual activities to choose from, and there are amble relaxation choices to satisfy the down time.

Other than automobiles and modern clothes, visiting Portland is like going back in time to the late 1800’s.  Instead of tearing a lot of houses and businesses down to build modern office complexes and sky scrapers, they choose to preserve much of what made Portland great. The modern improvements they have made, appear to be in very good taste to me. Meaning that improvements, fit and/or enhance the general feel of that period in time. In my opinion, it is nice to have a piece of authentic American roots still in existence. Some of the sidewalk have the original brick’s in them. All uneven, with grass reclaiming the soil in the cracks. I don’t believe that is from laziness nor lack of funds. I believe it is too keep it authentic.

It is clean, just a bit unkept. Not for everyone, but for me, that feel is refreshing.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The boyhood Home of famed author, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is in the old town. Built by Peleg Wadsworth (Henry's grandfather on his mom's side) in 1786 it looks a lot like a Philadelphia home. Peleg was a General in the Revolutionary Army and he had the bricks shipped from Philadelphia. He probably spent some time with President Washington in Philadelphia shortly before building this house.

This house was great, because of its history and I believe all of the furnishings were original to that house during that period.

Henry's Adult house was also in Portland, but it was torn down several years ago. I guess not as much interest in that house, given that this one has more of Maine's history.

Portland Observatory

This is structure that looks a bit like an old lighthouse, but it is on the top of a hill, a long ways from the water and in kind of an affluent neighborhood during the time it was built. Big, ugly, and painted to stick out, it upset many of the neighbors. It was used, so a lookout could use a telescope to figure out which ships were headed into port a long time before they arrived. Then he would hoist colorful flag's to communicate that to the port master. This was only done, if the owner of that shipping lines had paid the monthly service fee.

This was very important to Portland in those times. To stay competitive with Boston, they needed to have a port that had easy access, quick turnaround and easy egress. The shipping lines only pays Harbor fees for the amount of time their ship in the port. In those days, what was good for the Harbor is great for the economy.

Beside the historical sweetness of this structure, it is very good high ground for looking at all of Portland's old town and surroundings.

Portland Museum of Art

Every once in a while, I find a hidden gem. This would be one of those. The permanent art in this museum’s painted collection, is both overwhelming and mind boggling.

Portland did not have a permanent museum structure, until 1911, when a wealthy patron bequeathed her brick mansion to the museum society. On the same property, a new brick structure was opened in 1983.

Most art museums, are architected to simulate Ancient Greek Architectural Styles. Marble, grandiose, and very elaborate. Portland Maine’s, newest museum, is beautiful brick building. Very simple and artistic. I would call the building, a nice piece of brick art.

With his size city and location, it probably see’s about 100,000 visitors a year, contrasted to the Met in New York City that averages about 100,000 visitor’s per week. I didn’t expect much to be inside.

So I said to a local. “Wow, beautiful newer Art Museum building! Is there anything of interest in there?”. She say’s, “Oh Yes!!! There are some really beautiful pictures of turn of the century steam ships and outdoor seascapes of the area, like in the 1800’s.”. Sounded great, like it was probably kind of unique, so I decided to block off a few hours for a visit.

I go the info desk and ask them where the beautiful pictures of turn of the century steam ships and outdoor seascapes of the area, like in the 1800’s are located. She directs me up a flight of stairs, down a corridor or two, and kind of into the back.

Sam and I bee-lined directly for that location, but on the way something very colorful that we were passing, caught my peripheral vision. I turn and less than a foot from my face is a Monet painting. Monet, like one of the founding members, and the most notable of the impressionist era artists.  Not just any old run of the mill, Monet, but an 1880 classic. Monet’s wife died in 1879 and for the next 10 years he poured his life into painting. Any Monet in the 1880‘s, is considered his best work. In my opinion, that one painting alone is worth in excess of 40 million dollars and could go a lot higher if a bidding war started. Close by, are two of Renoir’s impressionist paintings, probably worth about 30 million combined. 

Impressionist painting started when painter’s first went outdoors to paint. Before that, they would sketch outdoors, but do all of the painting from memory, back in the studio. Impressionist’s started the painting outdoors, and finished the fine details in the studio. So their paintings came to life.

To me, Impressionist painting is about getting all of the season’s colors and light shades in one painting, using very simple brush strokes. So a long curve might be represented by many very short lines all going in a similar direction, or slightly varying the direction. Same with an object’s texture. It kind of gives the painting, a look of movement without blurring. One part of the painting might show more light than others, like a large cloud moving overhead, darkened parts of it. Impressionist’s kept the proportions and line’s true to what they were.

I think the painters were familiar enough with the area, that they knew what the Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall colors were, and they combined them all into the same picture. All are natural colors that would appear in a scene.  Kind of like looking at the whole year all at once.

Post-Impressionist’s like Vincent van Gogh dabbled with unnatural colors to highlight features, so he might have some Orange shading where there is no real Orange at all. Post Impressionist’s also exaggerated features, often way of out proportion to highlight the overall shape. In 1960’s counter-culture speak; a Post-Impressionist, is an Impressionist on Acid.

After the Post-Impressionist movement, came Fauvism. Fauvist paintings are often extremely colorful, somewhat solid in color, and several colors do not represent the real at all.

Pierre Renoir and Claude Monet were friends and often painted together in the early days of their movement. Renoir almost always featured people and Money almost always featured landscapes. It is really funny to see a painting that Renoir and Money painted at the same place, and at the same time. Sometimes they would be standing practically beside each other painting the same thing. When you look at Renoir’s painting you see a close-up of some of the people that were there. In Monet’s, it is a broad landscape that might not even include the same people Renior painted. Probably a good friendship, with both sticking to what they do best, and not stepping on the others work.

Renoir had some early success with a gallery, but fell out of favor with them, when he felt that they were not pushing his new art very hard. He and Money and a few others started their own Impressionist exhibition, which still struggled but at least they were pushing it hard.   Renoir eventually found a very good living painting commissioned portrait’s and migrated away from Impressionism. Monet stayed with Impressionism his whole life, and is one of its shiniest stars.

I used to like looking at Greta Garbo’s New York City Apartment. She lived in the same apartment for about 40 years and had lots and lots of painting’s in it. She had a few Reniors, but his later work’s, which were colorful, but not impressionistic in my opinion. Greta loved color, and she seemed to choose paintings just based on color alone. She also arranged them based on color, so a multi-million dollar painting, might be right next to a must lesser known, much less expensive painting. Gretta even had paintings on her walls, behind the drapes. As a whole, it looked fabulous.

So I was wondering where this museum got the funds for those modern classics?

Some moderate research turned up “Charles Payson”. Charles Payson was born in Maines, but highly educated elsewhere, and a graduate of Harvard Law School. Later, a very prominent lawyer in New York City. Charles married Joan Whitney.

Joan was from New York City and she inherited the Whitney fortune in 1927. As a business woman, she took that fortune to a whole new level. She loved baseball, and was a minority owner of New York Giants baseball team. When the Giants moved to California, she bought the expansion rights and started the New York Mets, then talked Wille Mays into coming back to New York to play for the Mets.

Charles collected Winslow Homer paintings. Homer is probably the biggest name in American Painters and American Art in general. Homer was a book illustrator in New York City who started painting there and showed a bit of promise. His mother raised some money to send him to Europe for more training, but he was sent to the front lines during the Civil War.  After that he when to Paris for a year of training, then spent several years in Europe and England. In England he started painting sea scapes. When he returned to the US in 1883, he bought a home and built a studio in Prouts Neck, Maine, where he created many of his masterpieces, over the next 27 years. Bill Gates recently paid about 40 million for a Winslow Homer. That same studio, was recently purchased by the Maine Museum of Art and renovated. It can be visited, but advance reservations are needed as they limit the number of people who tour it. Prouts Neck is a very small peninsula in Saco Bay about 10 miles (15 km) south of Portland.

Joan collected mostly Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings.

When Charles died, since he was from Maine, he felt that was the best place for his Homer collection. He donated 17 of Winslow Homer’s paintings. In addition, he gave them money to build a new building for them, and I believe, several long term low interest loans to help them sustain. That prompted several other wealthy Maine natives, to pitch in and donate paintings and money as well.

I believe that the impressionist and post-impressionist paintings were donated by Joan’s family, but only for permanent exhibit. If the museum feels they cannot maintain them, then they would be given back to the Whitney family trust. Joan donated several of the most prominent pieces to the Met in New York City, but I would content that what Portland has, is very, very nice as well.

Besides the master’s, I saw many seascapes from great artists, in and around the Maine area. I love that stuff, so it all felt great.

I saw several Realist works. A realist paints something that looks like a great photograph. They were in fashion as both popular and commercial art, just before photograph’s took that over.

There was a special exhibit by Dunkin Hewit, a modern day American wood sculptor, who lives and works in Portalnd. He Sculpt’s and paints wood to such an extent that you would swear they were not wood, had you not looked, very, very close, and then you would still be unsure.

Rockwell Kent was an American Realist Painter who traveled to remote places and painted. His work is very nice, in a desolate, sort of way.

My all time favorite piece had an American controversial theme. It was painted by Harry Watrous. Harry an American Painter from San Francisco, who is famous for painting mythical figures of people, mostly Women, in high style. This one was painted in 1913.  It is called the "Drop Sinister - What shall we do?".  It was the first painting of an interracial family.  Looks like a white mother, a dark-skinned father, and an interracial child with slightly dark skin and bright blonde hair.  When I first saw this painting, I thought it was 1950's because of the clothes and hair. I was very surprised that style of clothing was available in 1915.  Drop refers to the common white man’s belief, at one time, that if a person had one drop of non-white blood in them, then they are not white, and will be treated unfairly. Although, that was never a political statement to my knowledge. The family is obviously fairly well off for the time. A professional father and stay at home mom taking care of the family. It is now 50 years after the Civil war which was supposed to end racial discrimination. A portrait of Lincoln, who freed the slaves is on wall. The saying above the mantle reads "And God said, Let us make Man in our image, after our likeness.". The father is reading a Christen newsletter and listening in frustration to his wife, who is likely complaining about how their child is being treated.  He is probably thinking, "IF God and Lincoln could not solve this issue, then what I am I supposed to do?".

I wish, I had blocked more time off for this visit.

My Maine History

I was first introduced to Maine in 1986. Just before I left the US Navy, I had sent a letter to the Maine Yankee Atomic Power Company in Wiscasset Maine, along with my single page resume, that I was struggling to fill up. Now I need about a page just to list everyone I have worked for.

I basically said that I believe that would be a great place to both work and live.

Apparently, they were interested, as they paid for my flight, plus four days of hotel and rental cars. It was only about a day and half of interviews, but I asked for an addition two days to have a look around the area. No problem, Mr. Kimpel, thank you for your interest.

About 6 to 8 weeks go by without hearing anything. All of a sudden, they pay for another 4 day visit. I thought it was going to be another interview marathon, but all it was, was a physical exam by their approved doctor, and I had one lunch with one of the executives. All we did was talk about non-work-related stuff. Not a single question or statement related to work.

So I left that second trip thinking that it was just a formality. Like Human Resources had a requirement to interview 3 people, and they had already selected someone else. Mine was just to complete the requirement.

By that time, I already had another offer that I liked, so I started with another company.

One week with the new company, and I get a call from Maine Yankee, “Mr. Kimpel, which day would you life to start?”.

I said, “Well, I would have started 2 weeks ago, but I just started with a new company and I not the type to burn an new employer.“.

All they had to do, was tell me that I was a strong favorite, about how long it might, and I would have waited.

That changed the course of my entire life. I traveled a lot with the company I started with. Set up lots of contacts who opened new doors and followed the path that seemed best at the time. It set up the semi Nomadic lifestyle that I lived most of my adult life.

Had I taken that job, I probably would have meet some super sweet outdoors Maine women, and stayed there my whole life, a very happy Maine man.

So about 10 years later, I was looking to settle down and I sent them another letter. That resulted, in another, fully paid, in-person interview. When I got there, I was surprised to find myself right back, interviewing with the same manager that had interviewed me 10 years earlier. She obviously did not remember me, so I said to her, “I am surprised that you gave me another chance, because I interviewed with you 10 years ago, you accepted me, and I turned you down.”. By the look, it was immediately apparent, that I should have kept that information to myself.

That was about 20 years ago, and I still haven’t heard back from them. That company no longer exists as a functioning unit, but they still have lots of Nuclear waste, that has yet to find a final resting place.

Portland’s History

The Portland old town is on a Peninsula that is a mile wide and 3 miles long. It is named after a small Island (about the same size), named the Isle of Portland, just South Coast of England. Portland Oregon is named after Portland Maine, but they could not be more different than they currently are.

It has a fairly violent history with lots of colorful Mayor’s, starting 1632 when Maine was part of Massachusetts. With many Indian territorial attacks on the earliest settlers in the 1600’s, culminating in a complete destruction of the settlement in 1690.

The Army returned some time later, and in 1716 the Army built an Ocean going port on the Eastern side, which created lots of jobs that grew the economy and population. A 110 miles North East of Boston, it is the closest Port to England, who was a major trading partner in those days. A 110 miles is a long way for a sailing vessel and this port was easier to navigate and probably much cheaper than Boston’s very busy port.

Lots of cheap wood in Maine, ideal for building the old wooden houses and structures, but not so good for the fires that plagued Portland Maine.

The British took all of the above to their advantage during the Revolutionary War in 1776, by surrounding and scuttling the whole town with artillery fire from their ships. Burning it to the ground. Most of the British homebased out of Halifax Nova Scotia, which was not that far away. The Revolutionary’s were frightened by the British Navy, which prompted the US to create a strong Navy when John Adam’s became the 2nd President of the United States. Before that, merchant ships under the direction of unwieldy captain’s like John Barry and John Paul Jones, hired out to fight the naval battles.

In 1786 the American’s rebuilt the town and named it Portland after a small island just off the southern coast of England that bears the same name.

Modern day Maine, was a prime target in the war of 1812. The British wanted to reclaim that territory and name it New Ireland. They succeeded, but after the war they retreated back to Nova Scotia. This prompted the people in Maine to want to declare independence from Massachusetts, as they felt, they had not been supported well during that war.

In 1820 when Maine claimed independence from Massachusetts, Portland became the capital of Maine. In 1832 the capital was moved to Augusta. If you think Portland is a bit small, take a trip up to Augusta sometime, to see what a really small town looks like. That could not have gone over very well with the people of that time.

In 1851 Portland was the first intro into prohibition, but they allowed liquor to be sold for medicinal and medical purposes. Seemed like there were a lot of people who needed medicinal and mechanical liquor in those days and a rumor started that the Mayor of Portland was profiting heavily from those sales. A riotous protest brought an end to their prohibition, but that idea seemed to live on elsewhere in the United States.

In 1853 a rail lines was built between Portland and Montreal. At that time, Canada’s most southern port in Nova Scotia closed for between 4 to 6 months due to heavy ice. This made Portland Canada’s east coast port of choice during that time, boosting both the economy and population of Portland.

In 1863 the Confederate Navy attacked Portland in Civilian sailing ships that they had commandeered while trying to escape the Union Navy. They managed to do a bit of damage to Portland, but left when the Army started to respond. The Mayor of Portland commandeered a steam ship, took out after the Confederate ships, torched them and gathered up the prisoners. The prisoners had to be transferred to Boston, because they were afraid that a riot was going to break out in Portland, over the prisoners.

The civil war ended in May 1865 and on July 4th, 1866 Portland decided to have a massive the 4th of July celebration, to celebrate the reunion of the states. This was topped off when the city caught on fire and burned about 2/3’s of it to the ground. All commercial industry was destroyed and 10,000 people lost their homes.

The city was rebuilt once again, but commercial buildings had to be brick. Homes could still be wooden. As a result many of the houses in the old town look original from the rebuild in the 1870’s.

Portland was Canada’s main Eastern port until around the 1920’s when decent ice breakers and ice going ships were able to use the port in Halifax Nova Scotia all year around. By the time commercial trade had started to decline World War I had started and Portland was the staging point for much of the US’s shipments in support of that war. Not far behind that was World War II, when Portland became the main port for repairing the United States Destroyers.

Modern Portland

After World War II, Maine, the port industry has subsided and they had to reinvent Portland and Maine as a whole. They decided to try to attract banks and finance into the area (a moderate sized financial headquarters is a lot cheaper in Portland than the rest of the East Coast) and move into the tourist industry for Southern Coastal Maine. Their current mantra is “Maine is Vacationland”, for good reason.  Most of the East Coast below Maine is heavily populated and less than a day’s drive away. Southern Maine’s coast is full of parks and quaint small towns that have a 1960’s feel to me. Mostly because the architecture, as there must have been a boom in that area around the 60’s. But also, because it is relaxed, low crime, open, and full of kind people.

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Thank you for reading.

I'll catch you next time,

Craig

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Travel

Switzerland - Zurich Part 2 - Ed Sherran Concert

by Kimp 18. August 2018 08:22

Welcome !!!

Photo Blog (click to view) Some cropped pictures might not show without selecting a size (I need to fix that someday)

My trip there

Zurich, the home of the $35 breakfast.

At the front desk, I was told it was like brunch.

They obviously did not know that brunch is usually a combination of Breakfast and Lunch food. I did not see any lunch type foods at all.  Food quality was high, but selection meager. All we can eat, however, when the selection is small, the incentive to overeat is also low (probably a good thing in my case). By contrast, the farms in Switzerland are much cheaper. I believe they get some kind of federal subsidy, which might drive their costs down.

In Niles Ohio, there is a mom and pop dinner, called Yankee Kitchen, where I can get a plate full of breakfast food that weights about 2 pounds (1 kg), costs about $7, comes with a bottomless pot of great tasting coffee, and after eating that, you won't need much food the rest of the day. How about modeling a little bit of that, once in a while.

Most of my music and entertainment interests are from my era, but I try to keep somewhat current on music and entertainment from time to time.

I received an email, saying that I was going to need to show my passport at the event. As the ticket I had received for the Ed Sheeran concert, had my name on it, and it was going to be verified at the venue, before I was admitted. Glad I got that email, cause I had received that ticket nearly a year in advance, and had long forgotten about that event.

I am guessing that is Switzerland’s Anti Scalping policy. If so, good on them, I wish all countries/states did that.

Central Western Europe had a three week long heat wave, with most days around 95F (35C), no rain, and no wind. Switzerland is one of the most environmentally friendly countries in the world, and most of its buildings do not have Air Conditioning. Not even the larger event type buildings. I think they have to apply for a permit, and either those are not granted very often, or the requirements make it cost prohibitive for the one month or so, that it might be used.

The weather prediction was showing no reprieve from the heat that week, so I decided to look to see if the hotel I had booked had air conditioning. It did not, but lucky for me, as I was looking at the reservation, it was the last day that I could cancel it without a fee. Easy decision. I booked another that had air conditioning and was very close to the venue.

My drive to Zurich should have been about 100 minutes or 2 hours with a decent stop. Except on Friday afternoon. I left at 3:30 and finally got to my hotel at 7:30. Traffic towards the hotel was the worst I have seen in a long, long time. Turns out, the Ed Sheeran concert that I was going to on Saturday, was part of a two day stop for him in Zurich. He must be very popular there.  Seemed like everyone in Zurich showed up for the Friday concert.

I thought it was at an indoor stadium. Turns out, it was an outdoor stadium inside the city without any attached parking, nor any decent expressway infrastructure nearby. Built in 1925, when few people had cars, it was probably a great place for it. Used for Football (Soccer), it has a seating capacity of 26,000, however during concerts, the entire pitch (playing surface), is open for standing room. The official concert capacity is 50,000, but they have hit 75,000 before.

The hotel where I was staying, was less than a block away from the stadium.  I arrive at the hotel, and the Police are parked out front, blocking the very small parking area for check-in, and they were motioning me to hurry and move on away from there, as they were attempting to block off the entire street from a nearby corner to the stadium, as pedestrian only.

Quite a dilemma, as I had to find some place to park, that I could, both find the hotel, and return to find where my car was parked the next morning.  Not easy at all, as I had zero knowledge of that area.

Nothing on the or near the main street, within miles and miles. The open space counters on the parking garages on the main street, indicated that there were plenty of open spaces, but I drove through all of them, at a snail’s pace, behind lots of other cars doing the same thing, and did not find any success.

I decided to head off on a side street, a mile away to see if I can find anything at all. I was even contemplating parking in front of a closed store, and coming back very early in the morning to move my car. I just happened to stumble upon a parking sign entrance that headed underground.  I was hesitant, as there were no other cars headed that way, but decided to give it a try at the last possible split second I could, before going by the entrance.

Gee this sure looks like a strange parking garage, as there was no fence thing, and I did not need to get a ticket on the way in. It goes under the road, then circles, up, and up, and up, and up, with my, “you are too close to everything on all sides of the car” alarm, blaring in my ears and distracting me the whole way up. There were no parking levels, just a continuous spiral upwards. Like a carnival ride. I end up on the roof of some ancient, very rundown factory. Looked like it was shutdown many years prior. Only a few cars up there. Some of the cars were abandoned there, as they were covered in thick dust, and their license plates had been removed from them. Maybe a police impound lot?

I have the new Volvo and not too many newer cars were up there. In fact it was sparsely dotted with cars, and only a few spots had reserved signs on them. I had my reservations, but I was exhausted and very hungry, and it met the base criteria, of about a mile from the hotel, and very near the main road. I parked near one of the few, nicer looking cars, loaded up my 25 pounds of gear, and headed out on foot.

A quick survey of the surroundings revealed 4 possible options for exit. Turned out, the only exit to the street was as far away from where I parked as I could have gotten. Lucky for me, there was a working elevator, all of the way, down to the street level.

From the outside, the old offices for the plant, were rented out as kind of low rent looking office spaces. Still about 92 degrees out, with no wind, and the sun was just about to set. I tried to walk mostly in the shade, which offered little reprieve from the heat.

All of the spinning up to the roof made me lose my bearings. As I exited, I looked for something that I would have seen briefly as I was entering, to help me find the main street. Nothing looked even remotely familiar. A 50/50 chance that I would randomly pick the right direction sounded good at the time. After walking a block and then back tracking, I was rethinking those odds. In the Navy we called that 50-50-90. Meaning, if you have a 50/50 chance, 90 percent of the time, you are going to pick the wrong one.

There was a street car tram running down the main street (that is how I knew, the other street I tried, was not the right street), but I didn't have any Swiss cash on me, and they don't take Euro's. So I thought, well it's only a mile, I'll see how the knee feels on the walk. My knees love heat, so they were OK.

I look far down the road and see what appears to be a street blockade. That must be for the concert, so that has to be the right direction to walk.

I walked close to 3/4 of a mile and should have picked up on the clues. No loud crowd sounds, no police, not many people outside, no music.  I reach the blockade and it was for road work. How could I be so stupid?

Nearby, was a Harley dealer, in a small storefront. It was closed, but there was an old leather couch sitting out front, that was calling my name. Eager for a break, I sat down to rest and contemplate my next chess move.

I decided to just take the tram illegally in the opposite direction. I had my hotel printout, so I was going to fake the dumb tourist, if caught. At that point, the $80 or so fine, would not have bothered me a bit. At that point, I would have gladly paid $80 for a ride in a shopping cart, being pushed by a bottle collecting vagrant (unfortunately, no vagrant’s in Zurich, that I can ever remember seeing).

One and half block’s in the right direction was a tram stop. I mustered all my remaining energy and made the trek there. The only available spot on a tram bench, was near a women, who was fussing with her makeup. As I sat down, the sweat was showering off my brow, my shirt was more wet than dry, and my underarm smell, might have been strong, especially with no wind.

She made it a point to look at me in a deliberate manner, and she didn't look happy. I slowly looked away, thinking; Honey, if I could feel any worse right now, your silent tantrum might have an effect me. After what I have been through, it’s just another feather on the stack. Jesus said that I don’t have to let anyone else’s anger towards me, affect me, and at this moment, I am invoking that right, as one of his admirers.

The tram finally came, then she made it a point to wait until I sat down, so she could dramatically head far away from me, and sit frustrated like, facing away from me. Thank you for not facing me.

Next problem. Which tram stop to get off at? I was driving, so I didn't look for a tram stop near the hotel. No wanting to take the chance, I got off at a stop,  that was about 1000 feet before the hotel. As I approached the entrance on foot, with the last few breaths before going into heat exhaustion, I could see the tram stop that was 50 feet away from the hotel entrance. It was kind of hidden, because it was in the middle of a roundabout, and did not look like a normal tram stop.

Air conditioned lobby and a crate full of apples near the front desk. I dropped my gear with a thud, and pounded down 3 apples in about 6 bites. When dehydrated and the body temperature is high, hunger disappears. Apples are perfect, a bit of sugar, lots of juice, and easy to digest. The dude at the front desk was looking at me a little funny, as I was sticking another 6 apples in my backpack. If there was more room, I might have taken even more.

I didn’t ask if those were for the guests or not. The next day, Chef Gunther might have been livid at the produce supplier, for delivering him a partially full crate of apples.

I mentioned to the dude at the front desk, that they should complain to the Police that they were blocking the entrance to their hotel.

From his reply, it sounded like complaining to the Police would not be meet with favorable results. Dude, do you have a Mayor. Cause Mayor's make the police budget, and Mayor's love tourist revenue to help them run the city.

The hotel had my email address. How about a simple, "Mr. Kimpel, we are very excited that you choose to stay with us. I see you are checking in on the most F$%#^d up day of the year. If you are driving, may I suggest that you check-in before 1500, or after 2100 when the street crowd is low, or park your car in garage X and take the tram to stop Y right in front of our hotel.". I would stay at a hotel that did that, over and over.

The hotel staff did have the air conditioning on in my room (I think the front desk dude sent someone ahead of me to turn it on), so it was nice and cool, but I still headed directly into the shower. All clean, I was trying to turn the heat down to get colder water, but it was a strange regulator, and seemed like every way I turned it, it got hotter.

Figured out, that it actually turns all of the way around, and the coldest part was not marked. Water takes a while to get to the shower head, so in my frustration, I was constantly turning it past that point. I got the temperature to what felt cool, but when I got out, by body heat was still fairly high. Took me about an hour more in the air conditioning for my body temperature to feel normal. By then I was starving, but my body just wanted to rest in the air conditioning. So I just laid there, relaxed, and enjoyed a few more apples.

Not the best time I have ever had. But learned that I can still preserver a lot of discomfort and confusion, with a clear head and keep most of my composure. And over all, a few days in Air conditioning, away from this heat wave, was priceless.

The day I went to the Ed Sheeran concert. Sunset was around 2130 (9:30), predicted 92 degrees (30C) and little wind. It starts at 1830 (6:30), but usually at these events there is an opening group, then another sometimes really good group after that, and the main act does not start until around 2130 (9:30) or later. By midnight, the prediction was 86 degrees.

I decided to leave the hotel around 2030 (8:30), just to be on the safe side. I was in my seat by 2100 (9:00), and go thing, as the 2nd act was just finishing her last song.

The roadies cleared the stage quickly, and smiling Ed started about 15 minutes later.

He played non-stop for over 2 hours. Solo, just him, without anyone else on stage, other than the guitar tech, who occasionally brought him out a fresh guitar. I think Ed has a few songs that require a different tuning, so he changes guitar’s, instead of re-tuning them on stage.

Awesome concert. Well worth all of the hassle I went through to get there.

Ed Sheeran 

I am not a huge fan of Ed’s music, but I am a huge fan of the wholesome and down to earth image that exudes from everything that he does.

Ed is from England, but looks more like someone’s Irish skateboarding/surfing cousin, then a major entertainment industry superstar.

Well known for projecting a scruffy fashion statement, he recently stepped up his game, by buying a piece of a fashion firm named “Hoax” and sometimes called “Hoax UK”, founded in 1994, near his hometown of Framingham, in Suffolk England. They are a skateboard themed company that sells both boards and clothes. There entire line of attire consists mostly of tee shirts, hooded sweatshirts, and hats all with the “Hoax” logo on them. Kind of the dude’s version of “Pink”. They have a female type T-shirts, and some swag, but I can imagine those are high sellers, as the “Hoax” logo is very masculine looking.

Wholesome Ed has always supported his roots.  Ed most likely had a large selection of women he could chose to spend time with, and get a very quick Yes. After a few soiree’s with women, who in my opinion, were fairly posh, he hooked up with a good female friend, that he fancied, from his small hometown school. Cherry was an athletic, field hockey star. Good enough, that her athletic ability, award her university scholarships. She is very beautiful, just not posh. They make a great looking couple, as she appears to be good, with Ed being who he really is.

My History

I can relate with that. Not being a superstar, nor a celebrity. But there was a time when a very wealthy women, showed much in love with me. No clue what she was thinking, but she kind of picked me, and she made the first move. She was way out of my league, so I was a bit hesitant from the start, but she just kept trying.

Beth had a Phd from a prominent Ivy university, along with a mater’s and undergraduate degree from name dropping technical universities. She was a technology director at a large company, with 80 people under her direction. She always dressed very swanky, and lived in “Kamm’s Corners” (a suburb just west of Cleveland Ohio). Two of her neighbors where Cleveland Indian’s pitchers. Another was one of the stars of the Cleveland Lumberjack’s (Ice Hockey team that was part of the IHL)

We would go to all of these posh events, which were very nice, but just not me.

Once we attended a play with the two Indians pitcher neighbor’s. One was married to a complete knockout, and the other was courting a complete knockout. Nearly everyone in the place was gawking at them. Not the women, the pitchers’.  Straight dudes gawking at other straight dudes. What’s up with that?

I probably could have hooked up with her, and been set for the rest of my life, but I politely backed away. She chased for a while, until I told her, it just was not going to work for me. I didn’t dread the lavish things that we did, but it didn’t make me happy either.

Another negative trait, was that she would often act like I was more intelligent than she was, and maybe that wasn’t an act, but it most definitely was not true. Maybe someone gave her the bad advice of, “you are never going to attract a man, if he thinks you are more intelligent than he is.”.

I just wanted natural, and not much there, seemed natural to me. She was a “Kamm’s Corners” girl, and I was more of an “Ohio City” boy. “Ohio City” is the oldest suburb of Cleveland, where the early mill workers lived. A kind of hip place now, but in my day, most of it wasn’t so hip.

Back to Ed

Ed dropped out of school when he was 16 to busk, and lived a homeless life in London for a time, before landing some gigs at small venues, then working up from there. At one point, he bought a one-way ticket to LA, and after about a month of sleeping on different peoples couches, he ran into Jamie Fox's manager, and that culminated in a meeting with Jamie Fox, that helped him early on.

Somewhere along the line, he commissioned several sweet tattoo’s. I normally don’t fancy tat’s, but his tat’s are very colorful and whimsical in an ultra-artistic way.  I really like them on him, on me that would never look right.

One of his influences is Joni Mitchell. I can see several parallels in them. Her repertoire kept expanding and she experimented with lots of styles, interesting rhythms, and many interesting topics in her 50+ year career.  I hope Ed is headed in that direction, but I could see him being the type to have kids, then concentrate on family, and drop out of public view for a while.  Whatever path he takes, I am certain it will be a wholesome one.

The Concert

Ed said that most of the dudes who attend his concerts these days, fall into two categories. 1. The ones whose girlfriend’s drug them there, and seem to complain a lot about the traffic on the way (no clue what he is talking about). 2. The super dad’s like his father, who take their kid’s to music that appeals to their children, even if though they don’t necessarily like it (I believe that Ed was and maybe still is, an Eminem fan, and I think his father might have taken him to an Eminem concert and/or some other rap concerts).  Wherever the reference, he shows a fondness for family and his roots.

I would have to say, if you don’t know the words to at least on Ed Sheeran song, “Where the hell have you been?”.  I think every women in the audience, knew every word to every song, and they loved to sing along with him.

Ed say’s, if you don’t sing good, then just sing very loud, that will make up for it. He is right. For about a year, I attended church with a woman who was tone deaf, but that didn’t stop her from singing loud. It is really hard to sing next to a tone deaf person, but the joy in her eye’s was enough to make me feel good. Tone deaf people are imitating what they hear when they listen to music, just like anyone else is. But what they hear sounds like someone beating pots and pans together. Amazing that they can get enjoyment out of that.

One of the great American Classical Composer’s, Charles Ives, was inspired by a person in his dad’s church choir (his father was the choir director), who sang very loudly out of tune. Charles wrote some very strange music, but he was very wealth and could afford to pay great musicians to play it.

Ed has only one white man dance move, which is a kind of awkward hip sway combined with a short, delayed jump (not really a jump as his toes never leave the ground), but it fits him well. The best white man dance moves in my opinion are anything Cyndi Lauper does. She has dozens of White Man dance moves in her repertoire and they all make me laugh. I don’t who that was dancing in Ed’s body in his “Thinking out Load” video, but that Ed has left the building. “Thinking out Load” is probably one of my favorites, as it is very old school soul, both in topic and composition. I think a lot of that had to do with Amy Wadge who was the co-writer. She is a young singer-songwriter from Wales with a very old country soul. I love Amy’s music. That is the only song Ed sing’s with an Electric guitar. It is a beautiful natural wood finished solid body electric, but he still play it like an acoustic guitar. Ed was once interviewed in Germany, and the interviewer, said to him, “Your music before “Thinking out Loud” was such shit!!! What happened???”.

Just Ed and a loop-back station. At first I thought maybe he was trying to save some money, by not having a backup band. But he also has to work a lot harder. Can’t take a break at all, always has to be doing multiple things at the same time. And he played straight for 2.5 hours without a single break.  A loop back station, is a device that allows him to record something, like 8 bars of music, then play it back and record another stack on top of that, to overdub drums, and backing harmonized vocals. Thana Alexa is a modern jazz artist with the voice and looks of a goddess, who works the vocal loop-back, about the best I have ever heard, but she usually also has a band too. The problem with loop-back, is that it takes a long time to get into the actual song.

As I was watching this performance, it reminded me a lot of Joe Pass. Joe Pass is usually in the discussions of the greatest Jazz guitarist of all time. Joe looked like someone’s normal Sicilian Uncle who could flat out play a hollow body Gibson guitar. Joe could play the bass line, the chord’s, and the melody all by himself without a loop back station. As he was ripping through a fast melodic line, he would hit the chord right in a comping rhythm. Joe would play entire concert with just himself, and he said that really took a lot out of him. Never could tell though, cause Joe never broke into a sweat. Another non-loop back great, was Jazz pianist, Art Tatum. Art died in the 1950’s, but I remember hearing all the old timers talk about him. Art could play a different song in each hand at the same time, and we could hear the bass, chords, and melody of both songs simultaneously. Ain’t nobody ever going to top those two.

Ed started off the concert with “Castle on the Hill”, a very up-tempo tune that really gets the crowd going. A reference to the Castle in Framlingham where he grew up. The tempo has a very youthful exuberance that plays well into the words about experiences related to growing up in a small town, then reminiscing about it as an adult, on his way back to visit, knowing that many of the people who had stayed there, went through lots of struggles.  Makes a great video, as do most of his songs.

Then he followed with a few rap tunes. I don’t know how to rate rap, but Ed seems to have a lot of variety and artistry in his delivery.  Some are mostly rap, some are slower songs that build into some seriously fast rap versus. He has a really nice falsetto rap at comes out sometimes, that I almost never have heard from anyone else. Some slow rap, that is almost song like. Some I really like, and some I don’t care for, but then that is art at its finest.

He threw “The ‘A’ Team” in the middle of the rapaganza. A Team, is about a young women who struggles to get by, and eventually ends up selling her body on the street, to support a crack addiction that was brought upon her attempt, to escape the life she has. A real tear jerker. Ed will be singing that song the rest of his life, caused it was his first hit, and he is therefor, feels obliged to always sing it. Ed donates money to a charity that is dedicated to help street prostitutes get off of the street. Back in the day, I used to see a lot of that in the Combat Zone in Boston, and it affected me as well.

He kicked into “Galway Girl”, a Gaelic dance influenced tune, about a carefree Irish Girl from Galway Ireland, who had a pendence for whiskey, and a good time.  It is intermixed with rap, but when he launches into the chorus, “You know, she played the fiddle in an Irish band. But she fell in love with an English man… ”. The whole crowd starts jumping like Gaelic dancers. I love that song. Man, I want, to go, to Galway :)

Most of his songs are up tempo but he has a few down tempo songs that he played back to back, to give the audience a bit of breather. He played “Happier”, a somber song about seeing someone from afar, a month after he had done something that broke their relationship up. She seems much happier with the new Bo, then she seemed with him, so he is using that to try to make himself feel a bit better about what had transpired. Occasionally the sound engineer turns on a bit of echo chamber to his main mike, that sounds great in the slow, mostly a cappella cadenzas, where his great voice really shines.

He sang his very slow, “I See Fire”, the song he was commissioned to write for “The Hobbit”. His emotion really comes out in that one, and people respond by singing along with that as well. Probably one of my favorites, of his ballads. Not for way he sings it, but for him as a person. He takes a lot of flak from the people who want Ed to be one sided and always up tempo and fun. I think it shows depth, and honesty, and the willingness to put out something that he believes in, despite what other people think. Plus, he shows some really nice guitar playing skills on that one. But I would like to hear the cello and violin that is part of the studio version.

Then onto “Perfect”, the autobiographical song he wrote about him and his current and hopefully only Finance. Awesome song, about a popular Tom Boy, who hangs out with mostly dudes, and while he and her are good friends, see seems to be more friendly with several of the other dudes, so he shy’s away and keeps distance. Till one day, sometime later, they meet, and she appears to turn her attention to him in more than a friendly way. Now he is proclaiming to never give her up. If that don’t work, ain’t nothing ever going to work. That would be a very difficult song to sing, if it ever goes South. Ed, hey brother, it is time to get off of the road for a while and firm that promise up.

He followed that up with another Gaelic inspired dance tune, about his Grandmother and Grandfather on his dad’s side. His grandfather was a protestant from Northern Ireland (part of the UK) and his grandmother was a strong Irish Catholic from Wexford in Southern Ireland. Stereotypical Irish is hot headed and very opinionated, and they seldom cross religious lines, but they overcame that to have a 66 year marriage until his grandfather passed away a few years ago.

Then onto another way up-tempo tune called “Sing”. It reminds me a lot of Scottish Singer Rod Stewart’s, “If you love me and you want my body? Come on baby let me know!!!!”. Very similar tempo, feel, and context.

After those two up-tempo song’s ,I know it is near the end. Good performers usually ramp the audience up near the end. A kind of ploy, to get them hyped for an encore.  If they end on a ballad, the audience feels tired, and might just walk out. So when it is a bit quiet for a while, and they start ramping it up, they are about to end.

First Encore song was “Shape of You”. A mid tempo, kind of standard solution, pop-rap tune, that is very catchy. About a dude who is in love with the visionary aspects of a women.

Second Encore song was “You need me, I don’t need you.”. A kind of HipHop Rap. That was a song in Ed’s first studio album “+”. I think it is about an Artist telling his label, to go pack sand, over something they wanted him to do. Ed’s Cousin (Jethro Sherran), is a rapper that goes by the moniker “Alonestar”, and I think Jethro penned in some additional lyrics that Ed might or might not have sung this time. I am not that familiar with this song.

The Ending

On my walk back to the hotel after it was over, I could see that the Politzi had blocked off the fronts of all of the buildings along the main street, except for their main entrance’s. When I arrived at the hotel that night, lots of police and the Hotel Manager were dutifully making sure peace was kept. I was thinking that something bad had probably happened at a concert once there, and this is the solution to keep people safe. Good on them, even if it did cause me a lot of trouble getting there the evening before.

I can remember once in Boston. I was walking with a good friend named John. Just two young white dudes enjoying a stroll on a nice mild summer evening. Mostly quiet, but out of nowhere, a large crowd engulfed us. I was noticing that we seemed to be the only white people in that crowd. Turns out, a Commodores concert had just let out. I was perfectly fine with that, until someone behind us, grabbed John’s arm, slowing him down, and yelling, “Hey Man!!! You got a wallet?”.  John probably only had about $5 in his wallet, but he knocked the dudes arm away and turned around to confront him face to face. That was when a different, big black guy, hit John in the face, with a cane.  They were not messing with me, so I looked around, and just on the other side of the street were several Boston Policemen, just watching. I ran to get them. The cop I was talking to, looked at me and said, “Dude, we ain’t go’in in there!!!”.  So I went back in myself, gabbed John’s arm pits, and drug him to where the Police were standing. They covered until an EMT arrived to take John to the hospital. I rode along with them. It ended up to not be very serious, but there was lots of blood and his head was black and blue for quite a while.

Photo Blog (click to view) Some cropped pictures might not show without selecting a size (I need to fix that someday)

Thank you for reading.

I'll see you next time,

Craig

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Art

Spain - Tenerife National Parks

by Kimp 1. August 2018 11:55

Welcome !!!

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Parks

When the Mar’s rover team’s want to field test one of their prototypes, they often head to Mt Tiede National Park in Tenerife, as parts of it are similar to the Geographic Landscape on Mars. The European Space Agency is also planning a rover mission to the Moon’s South pole, which has a very low light angle, casting very long dark shadows, that present their own issues, so they come here at night time to conduct’s test’s in the darkness.

Tenerife has several large National Forests and a large National Park surrounding Mt. Tiede. Of these, Mt. Tiede National Park is the most visited, but the National Forests are very nice as well. Thick lush Pine forests with lots of variety of Fauna and Flora. During the scenic drive through the mountain ranges, I think I drove past either a Military Base or Training facility, and along the way, I saw several soldiers on what appeared to be a right of passage trek through the wilderness. Good for them, and please protect the treasures that lie within, so that anyone and everyone can enjoy them.

Stargazing

The sky’s over Mt Tiede national park are often very clear at night, making this one of the world’s designated starlight destinations. Even if we don’t visit the world class Observatory, nor take a starlight guided tour, the nighttime sky is often very clear, yielding an Ocean of star’s, that I (being from Ohio which is usually overcast with clouds) , have seldom seen. Producing, good unobstructed views of the constellations as well. With its location near the Tropic of Cancer (location where the sun is directly overhead at Noon on June 21st each year), both Northern and Southern Hemisphere constellations are often visible. I did not know that there is a hotel (Parador hotel, Tenerife) high in the National Park, near the Cable Car lower station, until I had seen it, but after seeing it, I was wishing I had booked a few nights there. Looks like a very nice hotel at a modest price, and they have two telescopes for use by the guests. One review, said it was awesome up there, after all of the tour buses have left.

Cable Car

There is a cable car (closed due to high winds while I was there), that transports people to the upper station, where there are three prominent paths. Sendero (Route) 11 to the La Fortaleza Vantage Point is open to anyone, but the other two Rt. 10 and Rt. 12, are controlled access, and require a “Pico del Tiede” permit, which should be applied for in advance, long before your visit.  This permit only offers a very narrow window of time (1500 to 1700), and must be presented 30 minutes in advance, so 1630 is the last time that it can be presented for use.

Hiking

A Park visitor’s center, named El Portillo has hiking maps and ample information about the hikes and trails.

In general; some light research, a trail map, lots of water, a hat, sun glasses, sun screen, and a warmer layer for the higher climates is good advice.

Sendero (Rt) 11 Vantage point is about 25 minutes from the upper station. The trail is mostly flat, but due to the altitude, it is a bit tiring.  This offers a great view of the best side of the volcanic cone of Mt Teide, views of the black lava flows of prior eruption’s, and the untouched virgin hillside of Mt Blanca.

Sendero (Rt) 10 (Telesforo Bravo) to the  Crater of Mt Tiede, is steep and strenuous, takes about 40 minutes and it requires a “Pico del Tiede” permit. At the summit, you can peer down into the crater and imagine what a prior eruption might have been like.

Sendero (Rt) 12 Pico Viejo Vantage Point, is practically flat and takes about 30 minutes, but requires a permit. Offers a magnificent view of the crater of Mt Chahorra (0.5 mi (800 m) across) and its enclosure of sheer walls of rock. A good view of how the lava flowed down the sides, and views of the unique rock formations that were formed. In addition are nice views of the coastline of south Tenerife, its villages, tourist resorts, the islands southern airport and the nearby island of La Gomera (Another great Laurel forest area).

Sendero (Rt)  7 end’s at the Vantage point, but it does not use the cable car to get there. It is about a 5 hour hike, with a high degree of difficulty (gradients up to 60 degrees), and starts at the foot of Mt. Blanca (named because it is white, from significant amounts of suffer that were deposited there). This hike offers good views of Giant Accretionary Lava Balls, rocks that were ejected miles into the air, then landed on Mt Tiede and snow balled down it, picking up lava along the way, until they meet their final resting place. About the first 3 hours of this hike is a Jeep Track that circles up Mt Bianca, a decent hiking path of moderate difficulty. Getting off of the Jeep  path near the top, and going about another 0.5 hours will take a person to the summit of Mt Blanaca.

El Refugio de Alta Montaña Altavista

A place that can only be reached on foot, via the path to the summit of Mt Tiede, but has lodging for scientists and researchers.  Scottish astronomer Charles Piazzi Smyth, built the first hut here, in the summer of 1856, so he could spend 2 continuous weeks here, for extensive research. Many others have revised and extend it, and in 1970, the Island Council (Cabildo) of Tenerife took it over. It was last refurbished in 2007.

Mt Tiede

Mount Tiede is a Stratovolcano and the 3rd tallest volcano on Earth. It was selected as one of the Decade Volcanos.  Meaning that it is worth of extensive study, to determine the risks to the nearby population, should it erupt. This is done by studying prior eruptions that have occurred and trying to determine what risks a future eruption, may pose, to the islands populated locations.

Additional studies, to determine the geological processes that evolve, to create a solid foundation for Oceanic islands are on-going here.

Mt. Tiede is very different from Mt. Loa in Hawaii. Mt. Loa’s eruptions are very low in Silica content and tend to be less violent, but its lava flows cover great distances. Mt. Tiede’s eruptions are very high in Silica, tend to be very violent, but its lava flows are more confined (< 5 mi (<9km ), since its lava is much more viscous).

There was an eye witness account of an eruption in 1798.  The eye witness said that the explosions occurred every 10 seconds, were the sound of 20 artillery pieces being fired simultaneously, and that large rocks were hurled into one another on the way up and down.  Whirlwinds of thick black smoke everywhere, and that it caused the entire mountain range to tremble.

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Thank you for reading.

I  will see you next time,

Craig

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Travel

Spain - Canary Islands - Tenerife - Puerto de la Cruz

by Kimp 7. July 2018 00:26

Welcome !!!

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History

Once a small fishing village, the Spanish built a port here in the 1600’s to foster the trade of wine and sugar. That brought in many entrepreneurs, and a fortress had to be built, to protect the trade businesses from pirates.

Today  

35,000 locals call Port de la Cruz home, and the tourists probably outnumber the locals most of the year.  The sugar is all gone and the tourists happily consume the wine.

It brings enough revenue into Spain, that, in political matters, it is left alone to do as it feels is best.

Food

The fish here, is, some of the healthiest and finest, that I have ever sampled. As fresh as it gets and plenty of variety. I felt like I was in healthy food heaven.

Beaches

Several large black sand beaches and I managed to find the beach, away from the big tourist area, that few tourists visit. Always awesome to find the hidden place, where the locals hang out.

Lago Martiánez

A massive water complex bordering the ocean, with 4 large swimming pools, several smaller pools, and a massive manmade saltwater lake. Complimented with several restaurants and a casino, all for a decent price.

Surfs Up

A sweet surfing school and several pro shops. Pick any review source you like, and it Puerto de la Cruz, Tenerife, will probably review as 5 out of 5 in the surfing learning and fun category.  Great water temperature to start things off right, for the paddle out. Turn around, and you might miss the sweet wave, cause the view of Mt. Tiede towering over a sweet looking small village, fills up the senses and overwhelms. Hanging ten and riding on cloud nine, just about describes it to a tee.

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Thank you for reading.

I'll see you next time !!!

Craig

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Travel

Spain - Canary Islands - Tenerife - Santa Cruz

by Kimp 23. June 2018 23:30

Welcome !!!

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Today

Tenerife’s motto is “Do anything you feel like, any day of the year.”

About 10 Million people visit Tenerife each year, to do just that. 

Yearly average highs, range between 70-80F (20-27C) and the average lows are only about 10F (4C) less than the highs. With weather like that, just about anything grows very, very well. The food is always fresh and the fruit is always flavorful in Tenerife.

Tenerife is all about the outdoors. It boasts beach’s, surfing, scuba diving, fishing, whale watching, forests, hiking, mountains, astronomy, and you will never be wishing for more sun. All at affordable Spanish prices.

Home to some of the last pristine Laurel forest in the world and the highest mountain in Spain, which yields an abundance of microclimates resulting in many different habitats. 1,400 higher plant species, 140 of which are endemic to Tenerife. 400 Species of fish and 56 species of birds.

 

History

Some people believe that the lost Continent of Atlantis is in this area of the World. I could certainly believe that, as it is very nice.

 

Homer described the islands as the place righteous people spend their afterlife. Yea, I could certainly believe that as well.

 

Somehow Ptolemy estimated where the Islands should be, and he ended up being fairly accurate. But everyone was afraid to try to go there, for fear of falling off the edge of earth.

 

The Canary Islands were inhabited by natives, later called Guanches, but they were not seafaring, leaving scholars to believe that they were put there by someone else, who wanted to exile a population for some reason. Really no need to go anywhere else. Food was plentiful and living conditions were good.

 

Around the 1300's the Spanish started to colonize the Canary Islands and eventually conquered all of them. After America was discovered, Tenerife became a stopping point for the American Treasure Fleet. On the way back to Spain, they would stop there to take on supplies for the remainder of the trip to Spain.

 

In the late 1700's, the famed British Admiral, Horatio Nelson, decided to attack the port of Sana Cruz de Tenerife, thereby claiming it for Britain, and capturing the American Trade Fleet. He lost that battle, suffered an arm wound, that resulted in amputation to save his life. A constant reminder of the lose, for the rest of his life.


Culture

Tenerife has its own culture in my opinion. They seem to embrace their unique heritage, even with the huge numbers of tourists that are there. It didn't feel like Spain to me.


Food

Probably the best overall food experience ever. Eating fruit and vegetables what have been raised in paradise, is off the charts flavorful.

 

They appear to tend to very simple dishes, that allow the natural flavors room to work on their own. The fruit drinks come in about every variety that there is. I had a different type of fruit drink, every time I got one, and loved every one of them just as much as the other. There can be not favorites in Tenerife, cause the next one will have you second guessing yourself.

 

I ate one supper at a 5-star restaurant. Very expensive, but it was at least 6 courses and I was there for over 2 hours, thoroughly enjoying the whole experience. Small portions, but the flavor is so awesome, I just took extremely small bits and let the flavor savor my senses. The waitress was as great as the meal. She explained everything I was about it eat, with a massive smile and excitement that warmed by heart, and sole, before I even tasted the food. I ate quail for the first time that I can remember, and that was my favorite.

 

The local wine is grow from vineyards on another Canary Island. Those vines grow in the volcanic soil and take in all of the minerals, giving it, its own unique taste. I happily finished off a whole bottle, with the meal I described above.

 

An older British couple who was dining next to me, was also digging the experience I was exuding. The male came over to talk to me for a few minutes. He said, "You are a long way from home. What brings you here?" I jokingly said, "I've already been everywhere else.". He went on to tell me that his father was from the States. His father had fought in WWII, and was stationed in the UK afterwards, were he met and married his mother and stayed in the United Kingdom the rest of his life. What a great story.


That story reminded me of Lewis Kimpel, one of my ancestors back in the late 1800's. Lew lived a full life. When he was a teenager, he was illegally hopping a train, by running next to it, and jumping on the ladder attached to a baggage car. He slipped and fell, and both is legs were cut off at the knee. Later in life, he was a Pony Express rider, and was clubbed over the head by a robber, as he rode through a covered bridge. In those days, the pony express rides often carried bank money and other valuables between locations, in addition to the postage. Unable to ride a horse anymore, he learned guitar, started a band, and became a popular musician in the Western part of Pennsylvania. He was playing a gig in West Virginia one weekend. Meet a waitress there on Friday, they were married on Saturday, the next day, and returned to Western Pennsylvania on Sunday. His wife died of some illness, while still fairly young, and he married May Maude Baker, who would become my father’s grandmother. That is a true story, or at least the one that I remember.

Astronomy
Tenerife is one of the best places in the world for Astronomy, at its world class, sate of the art, mountain top Observatory. Close to the Tropic of Cancer, clear skies and ultra clean pure air make the perfect conditions for star gazing. The observatory offers a large variety of astronomical outings. It is a designated Starlight Tourist Destination.

Penginarium

The Penguinarium is a sort of aquarium dedicated to cute penguins. The largest facility of its kind, duplicates the conditions of Antarctica to allow the observance of penguins in their native habitat. It even snows inside, not where the people are, but where the pengiuns are.


Penguins are awesome. They mate for life in the wild, or at least try to mate for life. After their young are born, they separate, and don't get back together until they mating season. But only about 1/2 can find their mate, so it becomes a free for all, while the single males try to impress a new female mate. Penguins make a nest of mostly rocks, but the nest is a bit inland, and the rocks are way down by the shore. The female is very particular about the rocks, that are going to be the nest for her young. So the male will run down the shore, look for a rock that he thinks she will like, and cart it back, hoping that it will meet her approval. If it does, he will run back down and try to find another similar rock. But every once in a while, one of the males will break from the tradition. "Hell, why run all of the way down to the shore, when I can just steal a rock from someone else's nest, while they are away, looking for materials.". He will steal a rock and try to make a move on hard working Joe's prospective mate, while Joe is at the shore frantically looking for a great rock. If she doesn't like that rock, just steal a few more before Joe gets back, and slowly move in. The odds are in the favor of the penguins who presents the most rocks.


Performance Arts

The Auditorio de Tenerife was completed in 2003. It is a world class architectural structure with great acoustics and is often referred to as the Sydney Opera House of the Atlantic. In addition to the large symphony and opera section, there is also a small chamber music area. The lobby is open every day and the cafe and exterior is a great place to take a break. Beautiful inside and out. Below, on the rocks used to create a water break that prevent erosion of the base, are paintings of several prominent musicians from all eras.

Canary Island culture seems to be big on classical music. Lots of small towns have their own community symphonic orchestra.

I played in a community symphonic orchestra in Melrose Massachusetts for a year or so. They were short a Trombone player, and the dean of the brass department at the college I attended in Boston, asked me if I would fill that seat. I was a jazz performance major, but he knew I had classical roots. They really liked me, and that resulted in a whole string of other classical gigs in Boston. If I ever write up my Boston blog, I'll say more there. I'll just say that Community orchestras are one of those large groups full of all kinds of interesting characters.

From the little that I saw, I would say that Tenerife has some very high-quality community orchestras, and some not so high-quality community orchestras, but I am certain that they are all full of great people in their own right.

Botanical GardensThe old city landfill (garbage dump), an artificial hill sharing the coastline, near the Auditorio, was converted into a Botanical garden, that features palm trees from every part of the world as its main feature. There are also some tropical plants in an interior space called the octagon (for the shapes of the walls around it). The octagon protects the delicate tropical plants from the sea breeze, and somewhat cooler nighttime temperatures, and it has a higher humidity from waterfalls and small water features inside of it.

Thank you for comming along.

I will see you next time.

Craig

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Travel

Greece - Olympia

by Kimp 9. April 2018 06:22

Welcome !!!

Photo Blog (Click to view)

Greek Gods

In my opinion, as long as intelligent humans have wandered the Earth, many have believed in some power that is greater than the whole lot of humans. One day a lightning bolt strikes a tree, starts a fire and burns their hunting grounds to a crisp. I must have done something that upset a higher power, and now they are retaliating. One day an Earthquake levels our stone abode to the ground, along with the trees around it. Same feeling. Crop yields for several years are great, then a drought wipes us out, same feeling. Lunar or solar eclipse, comet passing by, meteorite strike, and something is sending us a sign.

So we ask a Greek Elder, why the earth shook so violently. “Oh, it had to be greedy Theo that caused it. He plowed up 260 Hectares (1 square mile, 2.6 square km) of multi colored peacock anemone (a beautiful Greek wildflower), just to plant barley, so he could make and sell more beer. He upset the Goddess Gaea (goddess of the earth), so she brought the wrath down on everybody. Damn it, I told him not to mess with mother nature.”.

Greek families and Gods seem to fit the epitome of dysfunction. People lying to and tricking Gods. Gods committing all kinds of atrocities against each other and mankind. Entertaining characters when looking in from the outside. It seems that their ancient immortal beliefs may have been modeled after that their own family dynamics.

Ancient Greeks believed there were separate Gods that had very separate and distinct powers. Twelve in all. And that they all lived on Mount Olympus (the highest mountain in Greece). Olympus has multiple peaks each home to one of the Gods, with the summit being the place they would congregate to discuss political issues. Olympus shares a shoreline with the Aegean Sea where Poseidon (the Sea God), had a second home, deep in the sea. The only other God to have a second home away from Olympus was Hades, the God of the underworld (everything under the earth). I’ll bet that was the party house where they would all hang out for a good time. The other gods traveled for business on occasion, but Olympus was their only home.

Many of the Olympian Gods were part of the same clan having received their powers, after defeating the Titans. Titans were the gods who were worshiped by the people who were pagans, before the pagans who worshiped the Olympian Gods. The prior array of gods, whom held uncontested rule of the universe. Cronos was the leader of the Titan’s after gaining that title by castrating his father Uranus with a sickle. Cronos in turn, sired several of the Olympian God’s, and they defeated him to rise to power. Zeus (God of Sky and thunder), was the big dog on the bottom of the totem pole (the bottom of totem poles is what most people look at, so the chief carver does his work there). Zeus was considered the king of the gods, and Hera was the queen. Hera  represented the family as a whole. Zeus and Hera were siblings, but Zeus married and sired children with Hera. Zeus also a had a bit of a wandering eye, partaking in several extra marital affairs. One of which, produced his son Apollo. Apollo was the straight “A” student who became the god of knowledge, art, and the sciences.

In those days, climbing Mt Olympus would not even be considered. By today’s standard’s, it is a bit difficult. For one it’s all rock, and loose rock at that. Someone above is bound to knock a rock loose that could come your way. It rates at Class III on the YDS free climb system. Class III means that the climer will definitely need both feet and hands, should carry a rope just in case it might be needed, and while a fall might be survivable, it most likely will not be survivable. Class III also means it is about a full day to climb, so one is probably staying overnight on the mountain, and the decent is likely harder than the climb. Actually, it should probably be a class XII, meaning that you should get permission from all 12 gods before trespassing.

Some of the names of the twelve gods have changed over the years, probably due to misinterpretations from the listener. Kind of like when the CCR (Creedence Clearwater Revival) song, “Don’t go around tonight, Well, it’s bound to take your life. I see a bad moon a rising.”, gets repeated by someone just listing, then heartily signing later, “Don’t go around tonight, Well, it’s bound to take your life. I see a bathroom on the right.”, With me yelling, “Hell-llll Yeah!!! Sing it Marvin. That sounds just like CCR.”.

Olympia History

Recorded history does not state why Olympia was selected as a religious site, for worship of the Olympian Gods. But there have been many earthquakes there over the years (some destroying parts of the religious site), so that would be my guess. Build a nice place to worship the gods and they should be happy about that, and stop shaking the earth. Especially when the priest is slaughtering a prized lamb in honor of them, and offering them the best cut of meat (the best cut of meat was given to the gods, but the rest was ravished by the congregation).

The cow was/is a sacred animal in many religions, because they were very valuable to ancient and current humans, so they must have been put here to be honored and cherished. Cows are docile, only need field grass and water to live, their dung burns well, they are great haulers, great plow animals, and their milk is vital nourishment to the young. Cows must have been created to be the perfect supplement to humans. Greeks must not have gotten that memo, cause they had no problem slaughtering cows for sacrifice. One of the highlights of the Olympic festival was on the third day, then the priests slaughtered hundreds of cows and free cooked cow flesh was given to everyone. Cow’s taste great, so they must have been created for our consumption.

Artifacts were found in Olympia, signifying at it had been a religious site, that pre-dated the building of the stone temples there. There may have been wooden or earlier temples that were removed for the newer temples. The creation of the Olympic games occurred in 776 B.C., the middle of the 400 years between it becoming a religious site and the erection of the first temples that survived to date, which was about 100 years after the first Olympic festival was organized. They know it was 776, because someone had kept a list of all of the Olympian winner’s. Much later, some brilliant ancient mathematician, counted the number of winners on that list, multiplied by 4, then subtracted that from the current year and came up with 776 B.C. as the first one. 

In my mind, the creation of the games might have gone something like this. Chiefs from Tribe X, Tribe Y, and Tribe Z were all attending the Olympic religious pilgrimage event. Just after the massive cow flesh eating feast, the king of Tribe X introduces his best runner to the kings of Tribe Y and Z, and says, “This is Achille’s, our best runner. He can outrun a tiger!”. Chief Y says, “Then he can’t outrun my man Cleo. Cleo can outrun the gazelle that is being chased by the tiger!”. Chief Z chimes in with, “Yea, well, I’ll bet neither of them can outrun my man Dionte. He can outrun anything and anybody, anywhere and anytime !!!” The Chief magistrate listening in, says, “For a small fee, I know just how we can settle this dispute.”.

The first recorded race, was a single foot race that was won by a cook, named Koroibos.

One belief, is that chariot races were created in memory of a great Greek mythical figure named Pelops, king of Greece’s Pisa, which also controlled Olympia for a time. Pelops was a kind of dark figure that some Greek cults worshiped. The myth is that his father wanted to see if the Gods could tell the difference between Animal flesh and Human flesh, so he sacrificed his young son, put the flesh into a stew, and feed it to the Olympian Gods. But the first God to taste it, figured it out. This actually upset the other Olympian Gods, who reassembled the son, replacing the missing piece of his body with Ivory. Poseidon (God of the Sea), feeling bad about it, took him to Olympus and taught him to drive a divine chariot.

In manhood Pelops fell in love with Hippodamia, whose father was Oenomaus. But a prophet had told Oenomaus, that he would be killed by his future son-in-law. Eighteen dudes had already courted Hippodamia, but in order to gain her father’s acceptance for marriage, they had to beat him in a chariot race, with death being the penalty for losing that race.  Oenomaus had a palace with the heads of the eighteen dudes who had failed to win, affixed to the tops of its columns. And there was only one column, without a head on it. Seeing that last column, Pelops visited Poseidon to ask for help. Poseidon created two wild and winged horses to pull the divine chariot. On the way to the epic chariot race, Pelops driver dies. Pelops is distraught, and makes a temple out of earth, sacrifices the driver, and mixes the ashes with the temple mound (this becomes significant in their religion, as the alter of the temple of Pelops, is made of successive layers of earth, mixed with the ashes of the sacrifices that occurred there. And it just keeps growing over time, with the priests cutting steps in it, to get to the top of the alter.). The epic mother of all chariot races, between Pelops and Oenomaus ensues, with lots of drama during the race. Pelops squeaks out the win. Pelops, then takes on the role of organizing chariot races, for the god’s pleasure, as thanksgiving for-ever after. These chariot races became part of the festivities .

It was once thought that the ancient athletes were amateurs who had other professions in life. Most scholars these days seem to think they have evidence that they were professionals. Makes sense to me. A king is going to do whatever is necessary to help one of his athlete’s, win the competition over the other’s kings athlete’s. A king’s athletes are representing his kingdom as a whole, so of course he has a vested interest in his team winning.

Olympia Site in General

Over the course of 1500 years, the site was controlled by several different kingdom’s who had taken control of that area, but they all continued to host the Olympic Festival and Games on this site.

As time moved on, more and more activities were added to the site, requiring the addition of new buildings. The religious area was separated from the non-religious areas by a partial wall and structures that acted as a wall or at least significantly obstructed the view into and out of the religious area.

There were 4 major building periods:

The first period (started around 600 B.C.) was mostly for religious purposes and one building was used as a meeting place for political councils. A temple dedicated to the Goddess Hera (goddess of family) was built. Each city state that participated in the religious ceremonies had a separate small treasury structure that they built to house their religious artifacts, dedicated to their own heritage (similar to the relics related to Medieval Catholic Saints). In 560 B.C., the land was leveled, and a simple track was created . Over the next 60 years, several new events were added to the games.

The second (started in 500 B.C.) when slopping sides were created for spectators to better see the track. A workshop, for the top sculptor of the day (Pheidas), was created.  Pheidas created all of the massive Greek God Temple statues in all of Greece. Here, he created the elaborate statue of Zeus (one of the seven wonders of the ancient world). The grand Temple for Zeus (king of the gods), a small temple dedicated to the mother of Gods, who at that time, was probably Demeter (the goddess of earth fertility). A temple dedicated to Peolps was constructed. Pelops had a huge cult following, and he was the figure that was celebrated at night when the libations came out. A very popular night time festivity. The Emperor Philip (father of Hadrian) had won a battle, that united Greece, and he commissioned a memorial dedicated to his family, on the Olympia site. Stoa’s were built in the religious area for general religious meetings to take place. A temple dedicated to house the bones of a local hero was erected. These were in many Greek towns and were places where cult’s hung out to worship the local hero figure. The river Kladeos (named after the river God) was diverted to prevent flooding in Olympia (this engineering feature failed over time, as all of Olympia was covered in 12 feet (4m) of sediment, due to flooding, before it was located in 1875 by the German Archeological Society. Other additions were lodging for the important visitors, more government buildings related to the Olympic games (a kind of Olympic Committee), and a general meeting place for non-religious meetings to take place.

The third (started in 300 B.C.)

The Gymnasium, Greek baths, and Wresting structures were built. The Priests quarters were expanded, and a vaulted ceiling (tunnel), was built over the entrance was to the stadium.

The fourth (started in 50 A.D.)

An Emperor’s villa was built for Nero’s visit in 67A.D, Roman baths and more temporary quarters were constructed.

Sacred Truce

The city states in Greece were often at war with each other. When the date of the Olympic Games was determined, messengers would be sent to each City State, declaring a truce for the purpose of competing in and spectating the games.

Despite this truce, city states still sent soldiers to the games to protect their best military assets, just in case. In 324 B.C. the city state where Olympia was located, attacked the games during the last Pentathlon event, in which two opponents were very close in score. Soldier Archers at the games, climbed onto the roofs of the monuments, to defend the games. Supposedly with fans cheering them on.

In 420 B.C. Sparta was banned from participating in and spectating the games, for having violated a peace treaty.

Summer of 480 B.C. The Persian Army attacked Greece. Greek City States allied together to mount a defense, but could not find enough males to build the defensive force. Most of the able-bodied men had refused conscription, on account of they were going to the Olympics. Once the games were over, they returned, and their grand Army was formulated.

Nero’s visit in 67 A.D.

Nero was one of the most colorful Roman Emperor’s. Hated by politician’s and the upper class, but loved by the middle and lower classes. Nero loved theater, so he raised taxes to build theater’s. Nero often acted and played music in public, which the ruling class, saw as activities unbecoming of someone in the ruling class. The economy tanked, their monetary system deflated, and Nero raised taxes to create many public service projects, keeping the common people employed. After the great Roman fire, Nero funded Rome’s recovery and assisted the homeless as best he could.

Nero also liked to spend money on himself like a lavish villa in Olympia, and to perform crazy acts. In 66 A.D. Nero performed a wedding ceremony, in which he was both officiating the wedding, and he was the bride. The groom was a young man. Probably would have been seen as OK had he took the role of groom instead, but a bride in those days would have been a sign of weakness on his part.

Nero bribed the Olympic Committee to move the 66 A.D. Olympics to 67 A.D. so that he could attend, he decreed that they add theater and music completions so that he could compete, and they allowed him to enter the 4 horse chariot race event, with a chariot that was pulled by 12 horses. Nero fell off the chariot during the race, yet was awarded the winner on account of, he would have won, had he stayed on. After Nero’s suicide in 68 A.D., his name was removed as winner of that event.

Olympic Traditions continuing since ancient times

Olympiad – Zeus decreed that the games should only be held every 4 years, and so they were, forever after.

Eternal Flame – The goddess Hestia was the goddess of the hearth, home, domesticity, family, and the state. An eternal flame brunt in Hestia’s temple or structure, that was monitored by priests to ensure that it never went out. Often times this was the priests quarters, probably to make it easier to monitor. When a new Greek colony was established, one of the first items to be built, was a hearth, where the eternal flame was kept, and that flame was initially transferred from the Hestia hearth in the nearest colony to the new colony. If that flame went out (by whatever means), a ritual ceremony had to be performed, before it could be relit. This was one of the most important items in ancient times, as fire was needed for heat, to cook and prepare meals, and later for making tools and weapons.

Ancient Olympic Games

The participation in, and the spectating of, the games, was open to any free Greek male, regardless of class status. Unmarried females were allowed to spectate but not participate. The only married female spectator was the statue of the goddess Demeter. Probably because Demeter was the god of sacred law (amongst other duties). A reminder to the athletes that they had better not be cheating, because Demeter is watching. Yet there was a female on the winner list of an ancient Olympic event. The chariot race event win, was awarded to the owner and not the driver. Kyniska, daughter of a Spartan king owned a chariot that won in two different Olympiads. There were running contests for women, but those were side events that were not part of the ancient games.

The winner of the first recorded race was Koroibos, who was a cook by profession. For the first 13 Olympiads, the only competition was a single foot race of 195m(640 ft or 1/8 mile) over a sand track. In those days 195m was called 1 stadia.

By 500 B.C. the games lasted for 5 full days and consisted of running, jumping, throwing, boxing, wrestling, pankration (mixed martial arts) and equestrian events.

The winner received a red woolen ribbon that they often tied around their head, and a palm branch for the big parade on the last day. There was a big closing ceremony, where a wreath, made from olive branches (cut from the tree of Zeus, which was at the end of the Stadium) was put on their head. The crowning ceremony was considered sacred and serious, which is probably why the ribbon and palms were given out in advance, to celebrate before the closing ceremony.  Second place and below got nothing.

Ancient Athletic Equipment

There wasn’t any equipment, and therefore no perceived[A1]  advantage from it. All athletic activities were performed in the nude. It was felt, that this was a tribute to the gods, and encouraged aesthetic appreciation of the male body. The word gymnasium stems from the Greek word gymnos, which translates to naked.

In ancient Greece, it was common practice to undress when exercising, but physical training was only allowed for males who were at least 18 years old. Exercise was termed as education for both the body and the mind. Greek gymnasiums also offered scholarly instruction in philosophy, mathematics, and other ancient education, which is where the exercise of the mind came from. Ancient Greek scholars often hung out and debated at the Gym.

Rules

Running – Both as an individual event and as part of the pentathlon event. Race length; 1 stadia, 2 stadia, and one long distance race (from 7 to 21 laps depending on the year). For races longer than 1 stadia, the participants ran around a pole that was placed at each end. Race in Arms was a 2 stadia race where the participants wore a helmet, shin plates, and carried a shield, but otherwise were naked. That reminds me of being at sea in the Navy. A combat ship’s munitions storage area was always guarded by Marines. Every once in a while, a spurious intrusion alarm would go off, in the ship’s munitions storage area, at like 2 A.M (0200). Marines sleeping, would be summoned to respond to that intruder alert. I always had to chuckle to myself, when I saw a Marine double timing from the berthing (sleeping) area to the munitions storage area, carrying an M-16, wearing a helmet and combat boots, but only in his underwear (no time to waste dressing). A skinny dude in white briefs, just doesn’t look very fierce, even if he is carrying an M-16.

Chariot Race – 4 horses, a wooden chariot with 2 wheels and 12 laps around a track which is 4 stadia (1/2 mile or 790m) long, with a stone and/or wood barrier separating its length into 2 halves. Owner gets all the credit and the award for the win. There was a rule about not deliberately running into another chariot, but it happened all of the time and there were no penalties for it. Deaths were common in Chariot races. Since everyone tried to get the lead, and the inside position, the start was staggered so the horses on the outside were started first. Actually, the most outside chariot started first, and when it caught up to the next, the next innermost started, etc. The starting mechanism was created by the architect Cleoitas and consisted of a dolphin weight that was dropped, and the rope attached to it, caused the lanes starting ropes to be dropped in succession, as the dolphin fell. The lap counters were individual dolphin statues, that would be turned over, signifying that a lap had been completed. No red light, a wrecked chariot is just like part of the track, that can be driven over. The driver was required to wear a full length sleeved gown (probably to hide the blood when killed), and the feet were strapped into the bottom of the chariot. That had to be a wicked ride.

Discus throw - Only part of the pentathlon event – No running start, and all participants used the same disc.

Long Jump - Only part of the pentathlon event – A large stone (about the size of a bowling ball) must be held in two hands at all times. It can be extended during the jump, but must be held onto. Standing long jump only. 5 jumps in rapid succession. Allowed to have a flute player present to help the participant keep their rhythm and balance during the event.

Javelin Throw – Only part of the pentathlon event - Allowed to have a short leather strap to give the javelin additional rotation when letting go. The rotation helps keep it upright during flight and these ancient javelins were probably not very well balanced.

Wrestling – An individual event and part of the pentathlon event - Smother the body with olive oil and a dusting of fine sand (this was to make it easier to garb hold). No punching, No gouging the eyes or face with fingernails, no tripping and no biting. In Kato Pale wrestling (ground wrestling in mud), the wrestlers will wrestle until one opponent raises a single finger to acknowledge acceptance of defeat. In Orthia Pale wrestling (standing wrestling), the first wrestler to be thrown to the ground three times, loses. Only two wrestling classes, men and boys. The boys class was 18 to 20 years old, and the mens was over 20 years old.

Boxing - Boxers bound leather thongs across their knuckles. These were modified over time, and at one time included metal straps over the knuckles. The match ends when one opponent concedes defeat.

Pankration (mixed martial arts) – Similar to wrestling but all that is disallowed is biting and gouging of the eyes. Matches ends when one opponent raises a single finger to acknowledge acceptance of defeat.

Penalties

Breaking a rule, was taking care of at the time of the infraction, by an official beating the individual whom created the infraction.

Collusion or Bribery to cheat, was taken care of by fining the individual(s) involved. The fines went towards the creation of bronze statues of Zeus, which carried the inscription of the individuals involved and the phrase “Victory is to be achieved by speed of feet and strength of body, not with money.”. These statues were called Zane’s and were erected on the walkway to the stadium. Sixteen where created and erected over the course of the entire Ancient Olympics.

Olympia Today

In 393 AD, the Christian emperor Theodosius I, forbade the celebration of pagan cults, which included the Games. Olympia was covered by up to 24 ft (8 m) of sediment, from a Tsunami that occurred in the Mediterranean around 600 A.D.

It was lost until 1776 when Englishman Richard Chandler, in search of antiquity items re-discovered it.

In 1874, the Greek state signed an agreement with Germany for an archaeological exploration of the Olympia site. The German Archeological Society started excavation and have been working on it ever since. The modern signs around the site are in three languages (Greek, English, and German).

In 1888 the first Archaeological Museum of Olympia was erected to hold the items that were found during the excavation.

In 1936 the tradition of the Olympic Torch relay was created. It always originates at the Temple of Hera in Olympia, by lighting the first torch with a curved metal cauldron that focuses the sunlight at a point where the torch is lite by the natural light (not sure what they do if there is a cloud or rain delay). The torch relay then progresses on a journey to the location of the modern day Olympic games (Because of all of the protests, now that relay only occurs in Greece and the hosting countries, but traditionally it traversed through many countries on its way). After the Officials give a 60 minute long speech at the ancient stadium, there is a torch lighting ceremony in front of the temple of Hera, that consists of several women dressed in white Greek, full length gowns, and men dressed in white tank tops and white skirts that end at the knee (I am not making this up). They then summon Apollo (God of the Sun),by beating drums, knocking rocks together, and playing flutes, while fair maidens prance around the grounds.  When they finally have Apollo’s attention, a high priest requests his assistance in lighting the first torch. That torch is then placed inside of a metal cauldron that intensifies the suns rays, and lights it. Immediately a backup device is lite from the torch, this is used to relight the torch if it goes out during the relay, so the flame can always be traced back to Apollo, even if it goes out along the way. Same if the stadium flame goes out. The torch makes its way to the ancient stadium, where the dudes in white skirts are prancing around. A young boy appears holding up a palm branch.  The first runner appears, his torch is lit from the fair maiden’s torch, and he is handed the palm branch. A white dove is released, and then the runner takes off on his journey, with 30 photographers who run with him for about the length of the track, then fall over in exhaustion.

A statue dedicated to Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern day Olympics, was erected on the ancient grounds after his death in 1937.

There was a forest fire here, in 2007, that nearly damaged this site. The God Apollo, probably blew it out, as it approached.

Photo blog (Click to View)

Thank you for reading.

I'll see you next time,

Craig

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Travel

Switzerland - Lausanne

by Kimp 31. January 2018 17:51

Photo Blog (click to view)

History

The Roman's built a military camp on the Lake Geneva shore, near current day Lausanne. When the Roman Empire fell, Lausanne was move to top of a nearby hill, because that was easier to defend.

For a time, French Protestant Preachers would seek refuge here, before returning to another part of France to work quietly on the reformation. If they were exposed, they would return to Lausanne to hide-out for a while.

At the start of the Napoleonic Wars, officials decided it was in the cities best interest, to become part of the Swiss Federation.

Modern day

Today Lausanne is surrounded by picturesque vineyards.

It is the smallest city in the world to have a metro urban rail transport system. Once you have walked from the Lake Geneva shore line, up the steep hill to Lausanne, you will know why the metro system has no problem meeting their yearly operating expenses.

During World War I, the International Olympics Committee moved its headquarters from Paris to Lausanne, and it has been here ever since. On the same grounds, is a very nice Olympic Museum, filled with art work, equipment, memorabilia, and a behind the scenes look at an Olympian’s life in the Olympic village.

Today there are 55 international sports organizations with offices in Lausanne, and it is home to the Court of Arbitration for Sports.

When Sport's entered the political arena, an arbitration court was needed to resolve dependencies between the athlete's and those upholding the rules. Arbitration is the process whereby both parties, agree to have a discrepancy, resolved by an independent and impartial arbitrator. Most recently many of the arbitrations seem to revolve around the issue of doping. In my opinion, it is very sad that international sports have evolved into yet another political quagmire of differing opinions. What happened to the sporting mentality in sport?

My History

The 1992 Summer Olympics was hosted in Barcelona. Paralympic Archer, Antonio Rebollo Liñán shoots a lighted arrow from the ground, through the pitch-black darkness, 60 ft (20 m) above, in what looks like a strong wind, to ignite the Olympic Cauldron, during the opening ceremony, and likewise, igniting a frenzy of interest in the Olympics. Not only did he light it, it was nearly a perfect shot.

The total distance from where Antonio shot the arrow, to the torch was about 230 ft. It is said, that feat is not a difficult shot, for a skilled archer. The difficult part, is doing it, in front of a stadium full of spectator's and million's a TV viewer's. Some 200 archers underwent psychological evaluations, and Antonio was the one that they felt was best suited to not let that bother him. Four were picked, and Antonio was chosen as the first alternate. Best suited, but because he was from Madrid, and Barcelona prides itself on being Catalonian, they really wanted a Catalonian archer to light the cauldron. Two hours before the event, the pressure didn't get to Antonio, but it did get to the organizers. They decided the best choice was to give the honors to Antonio instead. The attendant who handed the bow and arrow to Antonio was visibly shaken, but Antonio was solid as a rock. The drama is intensified by how methodically and concentrated he aims, draws back slowly, pauses slightly, then let's it fly, with great confidence and demeanor. two seconds later, whoosh, the cauldron is ablaze, the crowds bustout in cheers, and the organizers can finally breath again.

The organizers had a way to light it manually, had he missed. But he said, "No, I brought a second arrow. If the first misses, I guarantee the second will not.". There was no need for that second arrow and in 700 practice attempts over the course of several months before hand, he only missed twice. For months, once a week, he would fly from Madrid to Barcelona, to practice.

The pedestrian view of the high diving platform overlook's the city skyline below. A photographer's best dream. The motto that year was "Friends for Life". It just doesn't get any better than that, in both vision and feeling.

Bob Martin snapped a shot of Tracy Miles performing a straight back dive, off of that high dive. I think I saw it in Life magazine in 1992.

When I was in my early 30's, a next-door neighbor had a very nice in-ground pool. He was much older than I, his wife had died, and he had three daughters who would visit him from time to time, but nobody ever used his pool. He said that he maintained the pool, like his wife liked it to be maintained, when he told me I could use it anytime I wanted. I got the feeling that he liked my character, trusted I would not abuse his offer, and that it would make him feel better, if someone got some use from it. "Sure, that would be great. You sure are kind."

Not wanting to intrude on his privacy, I only used it when he wasn't home. Once I was at his pool, and a 10-year-old or so, female gymnast, aspiring to be an Olympian, came over and tried to teach me how to perform a straight back dive, off the side of the deep end of his pool. No board, just right off of the cement rim that was about at the same level as the top of the pool. I can remember her saying, "Craig, it's eeeeassssy!!! All you do is, bend your knees as much as you can, spring up as fast as you can, arch your back as much as you can, and It will naturally pull your feet way above your head. You will enter the water perfectly vertical and head first.". I think she sensed the skepticism, in the look that I gave here. Upon which, she proceeded to demonstrate a perfect looking straight back dive from pool-side. Perfect vertical entry with hardly any splash.Then while wading in the water, she urged me to give it a go. "Craig, come-on!!! it's eeeeassssy!!!".  She sure exuded a lot of confidence in me, and it started rubbing off on me. "Geeee, I don't know? Welllll?!?. That didn't look that difficult. OK, I'll give it a try.".

That was the last thing I said, before I nearly broke my back. One of the those classic, "What the hell was I thinking?", moments. Let's slow down and put it in perspective. That's the voice of someone who can perform an unassisted standing backflip off of a 4 inch (2cm) wide balance beam. And stick the landing, back on the beam, exactly where she launched from! I'm a dude who has never performed a gymnastics movement in his life. There is nothing at all that is natural about that movement. It takes a tremendous amount of spring to generate the needed hang time, a tremendous amount of back strength to generate the rotational movement, and a tremendous amount of inner core strength to pull your straight legs all of the way over your head. I was lacking in everything but guts. The only think perfect about my dive was the perfect tidal wave that it created. To my credit, I did somehow manage to get all of my body in the water. No-one was there to watch, but if they were, they surely would have been busting out laughing at me. "Here, hold my beer, and watch this !!!"

Hurt back and hurt ego. I said to her, "Thanks for the free lesson, but you are probably better suited to teaching real athletes.". To top that lesson off, as I was exiting the pool right after that miserable dive, via the pool-side ladder, I busted through the top rung, and my momentum carried me all of the way through the middle and bottom ladder rungs as well. Just another normal day, of nothing going my way. Embarrassed as well, I immediately removed the ladder, took it to a local pool shop, and had them replace the thick plastic rungs with stainless steel rungs. To this day, I always step on the side of ladder rungs nearest the rails, never in the middle.

Bob snapped a photo, just as Tracy reached the apex of her dive. Her front was facing the sky, with her back arched in a semicircle, directly over the famed Sagrada Familia (a famous Barcelona architectural landmark, created by Gaudi), as if she were a superhuman, shielding it from an Alien invasion. The quality of that photo was not great in my opinion, but it showcased the artistic supremacy of Bob, and made me a fan is his for life. If you have ever seen a high dive in person, the amount of time a diver is at the Apex, is probably around 1/1000th of a second. In fact, it happens so fast at real speed, most people don't even see it. He had to have both, the artistic vision to position himself in the perfect place to take that shot, and impeccable timing to pull it off.

Bob is from England, has photo journalized the last 15 Summer and Winter Olympics, and every top international athletic event in-between. He has been published in Sports Illustrated, Time, Newsweek, Life, and the New York Times. Bob holds the coveted National Press Photographers Association - Photo Journalist of the Year award (I think twice), and currently is a piad consultant, by the International Olympics Committee, to consult on photographic issues. I have never aspired to be a great, nor even a professional quality photographer, but I could not pass up the chance to spend a few hours listening to him talk about what he views as his greatest achievements. The equipment, the setup, the research, the day's events, the chance encounter's, what he had for breakfast. He remembers every shot, like it was yesterday.

I asked him if there was anything he missed about the photography of days long past? He said that he still misses the old school black and white film photograph's, because those are the only photos that still eclipse modern day electronics. (I agree, there isn't much better than an Ansel Adams Print. The color just gets in the way of the view.)

Do you post edit your photo's? In Commercial photography, any type of post editing is both allowed and expected, but sports photography has to be virtually as taken. The only accepted technique, is adjusting the contrast a bit. Sport's has to be true to life, to be acceptable.

Are there any great shot’s left? Sounded like he enjoys Paralympic events and athletes, and see’s that as the next level of great photography.

That experience was a special day for me.

Bob's Site

Photo Blog (click to view)

Thank you for reading.

I'll see you next time,

Craig


Tags:

Sports | Travel

Germany - Nuremburg - Christmas Market

by Kimp 6. January 2018 22:10

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Welcome!!!

Christmas Market History and Tradition

Nuremburg's Christmas Market has been around since at least 1628. The oldest known documentation, is a inscription on a wooden box currently in Nurnenberg's National Museum, that was sent to the market.

It is called a traditional Christmas Market, because about 30 of 180 stalls date back to the 1800's, and they have kept the same theme. The planners also invite vendors from their 20 or so sister cities, to set up stalls at Rauthausplatz (Town Hall Square), to peddle their own traditional items. That Matryoshka doll's from Russia are pretty awesome (some have a face that looks like Madonna, and some like Betty Boop).

Zwetschgenmännle - Wireframe figures, with Prunes skewered on them, a wood head, and dressed up, are a tradition that started here in the 1800's as well. It is said to have originated from a poor man who wanted to give his children something for Christmas, but he only had some wire, and prunes from the prune tree in his yard. Today these are figurines that whimsically mimic figure's in everyday life. And they are usually sold by a dude wearing a cool looking Barviarian Farmers hat.

Lebkuchen (Gingerbread) was invented in this region in the 1400's. In the old days, it was more like cake, and was sold in commemorative tin's (easier to export and looked more exotic). It can still be purchased in tins, or as the more familiar extra large decorated cookies.

The label "Original Nuremberger Rostbratwurst (grilled sausage)" dates back to the 1500's and must be made in Nurmenberg. That label pertains to both its size and to the spices that are in it. Marjoram being the predominate flavor. In medieval times only a few butchers were allowed to make it, and they had to that take it to the "Council deputation of the butchers" for inspection before they sold it. Any sausage that didn't meet the specifications, went in the river. Today, the City Council dictate's the specifications, which include, size, meat quality, spices and meat preparation. Only medium coarse pork, no other sausage meat, and a maximium of 35% fat.

Several artisan's still make toy's by hand, and sell them here. Nothing is quite as awesome as a homemade toy, at least to many adults who only want them as decoration trinkets.

Nuremburg History

Nuremburg was on a busy trade route for goods that traversed the Holly Roman Empire. It was chosen as the place where the Imperial Diet (assembly/congress) of the Holy Roman Empire would meet to discuss issues (may have been, due to it's sort of central location within the Holly Roman Empire). As such, one of the most formidable castles and fortresses was built there.

The Holy Roman Empire did not have an established capital, the capital moved as the Holly Roman Emperor moved from castle to castle, or when a new one was coronated by the Pope. However, many Holly Romans Emperor's choose to live here, so it became the defacto capital of the Holly Roman Empire and thrived for about 800 years.

Nazi Party Rally Grounds

Nazi is the English word for the NSDA Party (National Socialist German Worker's Party). The swastika was an ancient religious icon that represents the rays from the sun, and to them was a symbol of success and good luck. The Nazi party turned it 45 degrees, tainted it, and now many people in Western civilizations, see it as a symbol of great evil.

The Nazi party Headquarters was in Munic, but when Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany in 1933, he declared Nuremberg the "City of the Reichsparteitage (Reich Party Congresses)". Drawing a parallel between the Nazi movement and Nuremberg's prominence during the Holly Roman Empire's Imperial Congress meeting place. This played well into Nazi propaganda (Make Germany the center of European political control again). 

The parts of the original architectural plan, that were was somewhat completed are:

Congress Hall (partially completed) - a U shaped building with a roof over the interior and seating for 50,000 people in the courtyard.

Zepplin Field - The large party assembly grounds, often seen in films of the time. A grand stand on one side where party leaders would give speeches, a large parade grounds in the center, and bleachers around the perimeter.

Great Road - 2 km (1.2 mi) road connecting everything, to be used as a parade road.

Deutsches Stadion (German Stadium) (only dug the foundation)  - was to be a 400,000 seat U-shaped stadium, The foundation has since filled with water and is now called Silver Lake.

The money to complete it, was diverted into funding for WW II. As soon as the war started, construction stopped. The current structures are protected as great works of architecture, of that era.

WWII
During WW-II Nuremburg was the headquarters of Wehrkresis XIII (military district 13), and the site of several vital military production facilities. Manufacturing engines for many of the military machines.

It was heavily fortified, its citizens were heavily armed, and they offered a lot of resistance.

In January of 1945, 90 percent of the old town was destroyed in about one hour of bombing. In April of 1945, 4 days of intense street-by-street and house-by-house fighting took place, as the residents were determined not to give up.
 
Nuremberg was chosen as the place to hold the WWII war crimes trials, known as the Nuremberg Trial's. It was chosen, since it was so prominent to the Nazi Party congress and the Palace of Justice there, incorporated a large prison as part of it. 24 people were tried in Nuremberg and 12 of them were sentenced to death by hanging. The American military asked for a volunteer to be the executioner, and Master Sergent John Clarence Woods raised his hand, stating that he had past experience in that field. It is suspected that he lied, since some 100's of the hanging's he performed after volunteering, were botched.

There were to be, more military tribunals in Berlin, after Nuremberg's completed, but the cold war interferred with that plan. Interest in the last war had changed to the passively fighting the current war.

Today

90 percent of the old fortress walls are still in tack. Heavily damaged (as was all of Nuremberg) during the air raid's of 1944-45, they have been rebuilt and patched. They still have much of their splendor and are very scenic.

Nuremberg castle was almost completely demolished, and it took about 30 years to rebuilt it.

Much of the old town was restored to its pre-war appearance.

Nuremberg is a prominent industrial manufacturing location. Amongst the largest are Siemen's, one of the top manufacturers of Medical equipment, and Man, manufacturing of Heavy Trucks and large Marine engines.

Nuremberg is also home to many German Market research companies and is the location of many hi-tech fair's.

Photo Blog (click to view)

Thank you for reading.

I'll see you next time,

Craig

Tags:

Tradition | Travel

Italy - Venice

by Kimp 9. April 2017 01:00

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Welcome !!!

History

The main island in the Veneta Lagoon is called Venice. It was formed by an ancient river, that formed a river delta (dumped its sediment) in the lagoon. At one time, Venice would have been connected to the main land, but parts of the delta washed out, leaving it an island. Venice's Grand Canal, isn't a canal at all, it is the remains of the ancient river that flowed through it.

In 400 A.D., when the Western Roman Empire was starting to fall, the people of Northern Italy sought refuge from the barbarian's, on the Islands in the Veneta lagoon.

Over the next 50 years, they tried to go back to the mainland, but when "Attila the Hun" was on his way to take Rome, he was destroying everything in Northern Italy. Atilla failed to take Rome and left, but by that time, Venetian's had built up enough infrastructure to make Venice a nice place to live, so they stayed and other's joined them.

The Veneta Lagoon is full of a large variety of fish and lots of salt, so that became their first Industry (still thriving today).

Being avid sailors, they built a very large merchant sailing fleet, at a time when most Army's were land based, and could not easily get to them. To protect their merchant fleet from pirates and small navies, they trained all of their merchant sailors in combat.

Each time they built a large merchant vessel, they would also build a combat ship. The combat ship would sit in port during peaceful times, and during times of attack or war, half of their merchant fleet would be keep in port, and the combat ships would be manned with those merchant sailors. A formula that worked for over 800 years.

That lucrative trade business brought immense wealth to Venice that can now be enjoyed by all.

Today

In my opinion, Venice falls in the category of to much tourism for its size. The romantic feel left many years ago, and it sure isn't headed back there any time soon. If I were the Mayor of Venice, the first thing I would do is limit the number of Gondola's. The once quaint canal's, are busting at the seams. The next thing I would do is limit the number of cruise ship's that dock there. Just keep raising the fee, until the number dwindles to something that is reasonable. Venice is great in the morning and evening, when the big ship's aren't there.

Many of the building's along the Grand Canal appear to be abandoned and very run down. It's an ugly image that just keeps staying ugly. It's can't be modernized, or Venice would lose its ancient charm, but left untouched, it just keeps getting uglier.

The best part is just walking around and getting lost. That's really easy to do. There are lots of beautiful and quiet outdoor restaurant's tucked away in a corner, that only local's know about.

Walking around can get a bit tiring, because all of the foot bridges crossing the canals are arch shaped, with several steps on each side to allow the boat's to go under and the people to go over them. Riding in a boat, be it a Gondola or a private taxi is nice, but bring lots of money, they are both very, very expensive. The public transportation boats are inexpensive, but not that great of an experience. Their just isn't any middle ground experience that I could find.

Some of the canals have been filled in, to make nice pedestrian super highways. I'm indifferent about that. Convenient, but like closest space, they always fill to capacity no matter how big nor small. Nothing is really gained.

The Best Time I Had

One night, I ate in an upscale restaurant. About two waiters per table, plus a manager of a group of waiter's, and the mafia looking enforcer dude, who walks around and asks you if everything is alright. The patron's all looked like they were dressed for the Opera.

Italy has the worlds best service. Italian's take great pride in giving excellent service. So what they want is for a person to tell them exactly what they want, then they will go and do exactly that.

The first thing they do when you sit down, is to bring out an aperitif drink. An alcohol beverage that cleanse the taste buds and helps bring out the aroma in the meal. I think it was a generous portion of Brut Champagne. Usually that is not by choice, it is complimentary and customary, and sets the tone for a great dining experience.

Usually an upscale restaurant does not stock 1/2 bottles of wine, I was a little tired and did not feel like a whole bottle of wine, but at the same time I felt like I kind of needed a whole bottle of wine. It turns out that they did stock one wine, in 1/2 bottles, but when he described it to me, it didn't sound that great. So I asked the waiter what his favorite wine was. This freaked him out. He didn't know what to do. I'm supposed to tell him what I want, so he can just do that, not ask his opinion. "Sir, this 1/2 bottle is a very good wine, I assure you.". "I didn't ask if it was very good, I asked what is your favorite?".

After several minutes of me asking, and him not telling me what his favorite was, if finally said, "Dude, just bring me whichever wine is your favorite.". The table next to mine was two Russian women, dressed to the nines, thoroughly enjoying the show I was putting on. They were laughing so hard, tears were starting to show.

The waiter comes back with 5 glasses of wine. Not 5 tastings of wine, but 5 full glasses. He say's, "Here, you choose!!!" I take a sip of each and pick one (of course it was a wine that only came in a full bottle). ut I can't just leave these full glasses on the table. I stayed long enough to finish those 5 glass and the whole bottle.

I am about to leave, and the waiter brings me a complimentary after dinner liquor, designed to get rid of any after tastes. I sure didn't need that, but I drank that just to be polite. He did get an awesome tip, both for putting up with me, and for solving a very difficult service problem.

On my way out, I don't ever remember being that drunk. I had to be extra careful, not to run into someone's table.

It was really hard walking back to the hotel. It was raining and slippery. Many of these canals, don't have any guard rails, so one miss-step or slip and I would be swimming. All of those foot bridges, with the stairs up and down were a recurring struggle. Then I got hopelessly lost, and people were too scared to talk to a big drunk man. Luckily, a very brave, very petite, local women took pity on me, and helped me out. If it wasn't for her, I might have ended up sleeping outside in the cold rain.

Keeping Score

Overall I give Venice a B-, but that waiter definitely gets an A+.

Photo Blog (Click to View)

Thank you for reading,

I'll see you next time.

Craig

Tags:

Travel

Sicily - Monreale

by Kimp 16. March 2017 03:54

Welcome !!!

Photo Blog (Click to View)

History

After the Western Roman Empire, headquartered in Rome, fell in 500 A.D. Sicily became under the control of the Eastern Roman Empire, headquartered in Byzantium (Modern day Constantinople), which continued to flourish for about another 1000 years. Around 825 A.D. a new Byzantine governor of Sicily was appointed to Sicily. The new governor wanted to strengthen the Sicilian Navy and he trusted it's command to a Sicilian Admiral named Euphemius. Euphemius was a very wealthy Sicilian land owner, and he was well liked by the Sicilian Population.

Apparently Euphemius had an obsession with a young nun, and word got around that he had abducted her and forced her to marry him. Michael II, the emperor of Byzantine, ordered him to be arrested and put on trail, and if found guilty, his nose was to be cut off. Euphemius, then requested assistance from the Muslim leader Ziyadat Allah I of Ifriqiya (Modern day Tunisia). At that time, Ziyadat Allah I was upset at a local Judge, named Asad ibn al-Furat, whom often critized Ziyadat, for his luxurious and ungodly lifestyle. So Ziyadat appointed Asad, to lead the expidition over Sicily (an Army of 10,000 foot soldiers). Asad on his way to siege Syracuse, was stopped by the government of Syracus, who wanted to offer a payment to not siege Syracuse. While negotiations were taking place, the Army's advance was put on hold. In the meantime Euphemius, who would have lost out in that deal, convinced the Syracuse government not to pay them anything. A plague broke out in the Muslim camp and Asad died of plague. A new Muslim leader was appointed and the siege was started, but by that time a massive Byzantine fleet had showed up. The Army tried to retreat back to Tunisia, but the Byzantine fleet had them cut off, so they burned their ship's and marched in-land towards a city in the center if Sicily, named Castrugiuvanni (now Enna). The council of Castrugiuvanni asked to open negotiations with the Muslim's. Euphemius and this escort'showed up to negotiate on behalf of the Muslim Army. During those talks, Euphemius and his escorts were all killed. The Muslim Army sieges Castrugiuvanni and waits. In the meantime, a great Byzantine Gerneal named Theodotus and his Army was sent to Sicily. They attacked the force besieging Castrugiuvanni and were initially defeated, before mounting a counter-attack that was successful in driving the Muslim Army away.

Eventually the Muslim Army moved to the North West and was able to take the Sicilian Coastal City of Palermo where they home based, and over the course of the next 40 years, expanded their effort to take all of Sicily.

When the Muslim Army gained control of Palermo and overtook the government there, they moved the Arch Bishop of Palermo to a small nondescript chapel in Monreale.

250 years later, the Norman Knights conquered Southern Sicily, then set their sights on Sicily, and over the course of another 40 years,  managed to overtake all of Sicily. The Norman government decided not to change the Byzantine nor Muslim influences that were already in place. They incorporated positions in their government that were represented by both cultures and tried to create an integrated society that included and incorporated all three mindsets.

100 years later, King William II took the throne at the age of 11. The crown was under the guardianship of his mother until he came of age.
The adult King William II liked to party and didn't care much for the military. Instead of fighting, he stayed at home and mastered in diplomacy. The Kings palace was in Palermo, but the valley near Monreale was their favorite hunting grounds.

Cathedral Santa Maria la Nuova

As soon as his mother's guardianship was over (1172), King William II built the Cathedral at Monreale, as a testament of the splendor of his Kingdom of Italy..

The architecture includes characteristic signs of Norman, Byzantine, Muslim architecture. William hired the best Sicilian Byzantine artists to create 120 Mosaic panels inside of the cathedral, each depicting a story from the bible. Four years after the cathedral construction started, 100 Benedictine monks were relocated here and a Benedictine Monastery was added.  The cloister of the monastery is very large and consists of 106 column capitals each sculpted with a picture narrative, depicting a notable story from the bible.

Roman Cathedrals often have a cross shape in the floor plan, with the high alter positioned near the intersection of the cross and a dome high above it. Byzantine Cathedrals are kind of a hybrid between a Roman Cathedral and a mosque, without the cross floor plan and with the high alter positioned inside a nitch at one end, which is topped by a semicircular dome.

The cathedral and monastery were nearly completed in only 17 years, when construction came to a halt.

In the mid 1500's the elaborate mosaic marble floors were installed, along with marble on the lower walls. .

In 1596, the Chapel of saint Castrense, dedicated to the patron saint of Sicily, was added. By that time architectural tastes had changed and it was built in a Renaissance style that was popular at that time. A funny story, it was commissioned by Arch Bishop Ludvico, who wanted to be buried there. But he died on a visit to Rome, and was buried in Rome (Whoop's).  Below the Marble alter there, are the relics of St. Castrense, which were given to King William II.

In 1686, the Chapel of the Crucifix was added. As with the previous chapel, it was created in the popular style of that time (Baroque). It's conceptual design was articulated by Monk Giovanni di Monreale, but it built by famous Jesuit Angelo Italia, who was a very famous Sicilian Architect. This is the finest master masonry work, that I have ever seen. Words can't describe and pictures can't really capture it. This inlaid Sicilian marble work is masterpiece quality. It's simply awe inspiring. centerpiece is a crucifix, that was a gift from William II to the church, in the late 1100's when the cathedral was built.

I did not go inside of the chapel of Saint Benedict, but from the pictures I have seen of it, it looks Baroque as well and was probably built around the same time as the Chapel of the Crucifix. It has a theater like appearance and is very vibrant and colorful.

I also did not go inside of the chapel of Saint Placido (Saint Placidus was a disciple of Saint Benedict), which now houses museum quality religious art. Since he was one of Saint Benedict's students, I believe this was built much later, but from pictures it resembles the later Baroque period. The pictures I have seen of the Art there, look great, I wish I had gone to see it.  

In 1811, a fire destroyed the original carved ceiling, the organs and the high alter and severely damage several of the mosaics. They were all restored/reconstructed trying to reproduce the original. The new alter was built in Rome.

Monreale

The town of Monreale, is very warm and relaxing in appearance. The valley that the church overlook's is full of Orange, Olive, and Almond trees. A beautiful sight all by itself.

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See you next time !!!

Craig

Tags:

Travel