IRELAND

IRELAND is a great country. My family rented a car and drove around seeing lots of things. Ireland is only about the size of New York so it is very small and we practicly drove the whole thing! Before I start let me announce that since this is Ireland I will write my “FUN FACTS” in GREEN instead of my usual RED.

IMG_3947 Our itinerary of driving the around Ireland. We researched and mapped out the places we wanted to visit. Then followed this map.

(Not sure why the photos upload fuzzy. Believe me they are not like that, we cant seem to figure out why it does this but if you click on them they come much clearer.)

 We visited both the Republic of Ireland (southern Ireland) and also Northern Ireland.

Our first stop in Ireland was the capital, Dublin. It is a cool city and there was a lot of Irish decorations hanging around because they were getting ready for St.  Patrick’s Day. This is a big deal all over Ireland!

IMG_6129 IMG_6141 St. Patrick’s Church.

Dublin: My favorite part was walking through Trinity College. It is the best college in Ireland.  We went to the old library and saw the Book of Kells.IMG_6115 This library was awesome. IMG_3747

Fun Fact:  The Book of Kells is a very precious book. It was written in 800 AD. It is a book of the Gospels of the Bible written in Latin by hand and beautifully illustrated with color pictures.  (no photos allowed of the book of Kells so these are from the internet)

 

 

I learned a lot about the Book of Kells.  Here is a brief history.

The Book of Kells was made in 800AD. It was written in a monestary by some religious monks. Sicentists do not know who exactly wrote it, but they can tell that 4 people worked on it. The Book of Kells was made to be a copy of the Bible. Sometime in history, the Vikings invaded the monestary, they did not care about the book but they stole it for the cover which was made of Jews and Gems.  To this modern day, no one has found the cover. The book was found and is now considered a UNESCO site for its  historical significance.

Isn’t that amazing! This book has been through so much in its long years. It was a big discovery for whoever found it because before this book, they did not think that people knew how to write back then. The Irish Monks were excellent scribers. The best in their day.

Fun Fact: The reason that the Book of Kells hasn’t been decintegrated is because it was not written on paper. The monks wrote it on Vellum, which is animal skin. For  the ink they gathered jewels, like emerald and ruby and other natural material of all different colors and grinded them until it was liquid (back then no one knew that they were valuable, plus the monks don’t care about money). They used tree bark and shaved it to a point for a pen.

I saw the different materials used and the grinded up stones. It was interesting.

I think the most amazing part is that the monks actually HAND WROTE the whole thing. Just so you can get an idea of how thick this book is, it is well bigger and fatter than the Harry Potter books (and that saying a lot because they are huge)! Scientists say that the Book of Kells took about 30 years to write! I could never have that much patience. There are pages in the back that are still blank.  It is unfinished.  I think its cool that all the letters look exactly the same. The Irish monks  defintily weren’t sloppy. 

As well as the writing, the Book of Kells is also a work of Art. It has richly illustrated pictures. Some are only 1 inch and others take up half a page. The pictures show scenes from the Bible.  I really liked seeing the Book of Kells and learning about it.  I suggest you research it because it has a fascinating history.

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BLARNEY CASTLE

On our drive through Ireland, we saw a lot of castles. We even got to see the Blarney castle.IMG_6213 IMG_6182

the Blarney castle has a very nice park area around it with trails and  flowers and nice lakes and rivers. The Blarney Castle is smaller then you think.  The inside is destroyed. There are 126 steps to the roof, yes we counted.  The spiral staircase was very thin and did not look sturdy. At the top of the staircase is the roof where you get to kiss the famous BLARNEY STONE.

FUN FACT- The Blarney stone is located on the top of the Blarney castle. Legend has it that if you kiss the blarney stone you will recive the “gift of gab.”  It meant that you  will have the power to talk and persuade people and not be shy.   Back in the old days, the Kings and Queens would kiss the Blarney stone so they could have better power and persuade their Royal subjects.

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Before we went to the Blarney Castle, my famliy and I didn’t think we would kiss it. We said “who would want to kiss that ugly stone… you have to get upside down and kiss something that other lips have touched. Disgusting!” Once we got up there we all realized that we had too because when will we all ever be back here together???? My parents didn’t think I needed the gift of gab because according to them I already talk WAY too much and WAY TOO loud.

Kissing it was cool. You can see from the picture that there is a gap between the wall and the roof.  People added bars in the gap so you can’t fall through.  Just to be safe, someone holds your feet as you lean over the edge and kiss it.  Since Sawyer and I are kids, my parents didn’t think that we would be able to reach the stone, But we did!  I wonder who stared this legend?

By the way, on a crowed day the line to kiss the Blarney stone wraps all the way around the roof and onto the stairs too! We had no line at all. Not anyone at all! Like I continue to say, visiting Europe in winter is the way to go!

Some other Castles we visited along our journey…Some  huge and some in ruins.

IMG_6162 The grounds here were empty and the guard let us play soccer right in front of the castle.  We played soccer every day here in Ireland.IMG_6353   We loved all the stone walls that are everywhere in Ireland.

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THE RING OF KERRY ROAD

One day my famliy drove the “Ring of Kerry”. It is a scenic drive along the coast with lots of stops and incredible views. We drove it on a very foggy day.IMG_6246 IMG_6254

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This is a stone wall that is about 20 feet high and 6 feet thick. This wall is different from other stone walls because it is in a circle. The wall is only stones stacked on each other, no cement in between the stones. There used to be houses inside a long time ago to protect the people from invaders.

My famliy and I went inside.  I wonder what life used to be like for the people that lived inside  these stone walls? When we visited there was no one there but a few sheep.

Another stop on the Ring of Kerry Road was to see the cliffs. I do not know the name of them but we walked to the top of a cliff and saw amazing views. We were very high up and there were rocks below. In the distance we saw what is called “puffin island” there is said to be a lot of puffin birds flying around in the summer time.

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FUN FACT- I learned from our summer trip to Alaska that a Pufinn has to poop before it can fly because it is too heavy after eating. Feel free to look at my Alaska post to find out more on that trip.

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Another day we drove to  ” The Cliffs of Moher“. These were a longer set of cliffs with a hiking trail along the edge.

When I say along the edge I MEAN along the edge! Some parts of this trial had NO FENCE on the edge. We kept our distance and mom was very nervous and went really slow.

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There were people  sitting over the edge of the cliffs. From my personal experience I learned that everywhere you go there are always the idiots!! Its true. You wouldn’t belive how many people sat with there legs hanging over the edge taking selfies. I don’t understand the point in that.  If you fell over you would be dead!

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               NORTHERN IRELAND

I bet most people do not know that NORTHERN IRELAND IS A DIFFERENT COUNTRY THEN IRELAND!

Northern Ireland is an extremely small country.  It is smaller then long island and has way less people. See my map at the beginning of this post to see the border line. We drove right into it.   Northern Ireland country side looks like southern Ireland and they have the same accent. You would never know that they are 2 separate countries except that Irelands currency is the Euro while Northern Irelands currency is the Brittish Pound.

Giants Causeway:  Up north this is the main site to see.  It has hexagonal collums wich were formed by lava millions of years ago. I read all about it.

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This place was very interesting. We got an audio guide and there was so many facts to take in.  These columns are really old. They are actually Millons of years old! They were here before the ice age! A volcano used to be here and when it eruped all the lava poured out. I don’t know exactly how it harded but somehow it did. After the lava harded into rock the sea water and ice from the ice age made it into the hexagon shape.

It must be cool to be a scientist and study this stuff.  I would like that.  I liked climbing on all the lava columns. It was really cool because one area would have columns only 2 feet off the ground when another area had coullums 39 feet off the ground! You can see in the pictures above.

FUN FACTS: IMG_6409

The formation consists of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, most of which are hexagonal. The columns form huge stepping stones, some as high as 39 feet, which slope down to the sea.

  • The Giant’s Causeway was actually formed by intense volcanic activity about 50 million years ago. As the lava rapidly cooled , it contracted into the distinctive shapes.
the rocks are SO COOL! very fun to see, climb, and learn about them.
On the way from Giants Causeway to Belfast we stopped at a rope bridge.
IMG_6422that is me, Sawyer and Dad.
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BELFAST- Capital of Northern IRELAND
According to Dad, he would NOT recommend driving in Belfast, we got lost on the way to the Hotel.
TITANIC MUESUM
Almost everyone in the world knows about how the Titanic was a big ship that sunk.  In northern Ireland my family and I went to the Titanic museum (just a reminder- if you don’t already know anything about the Titanic I suggest you look it up right now or you wont understand what I’m about to write). Actual photo from 1912.
There was so much history to the Titanic. It was built right here in Belfast. It was a huge task to build the biggest ship in the world at that time. There were jobs for anyone who wanted to work, tons of men from all over the world came here with their families to help construct the ship.  The city of Belfast grew twice as big from the families that moved here.  The big jobs that they always needed new people for was to screw and hammer in the bolts. Through demonstrations we learned that the Titanic was made of millons of 4 inch sized bolts.  Some peoples jobs were to heat up the screws, others then had to put them in the proper place and others had to then hammer in the bolts to make sure they were all safely intact and not loose. Many living in Belfast at that time described the building of the Titanic with always hearing bolts being hammered in day and night. In fact, some people went deaf from doing this work!
 The Titanic was built to be a luxury boat. The company built a fancy boat because at the time none of the boats were like that so the Titanic was the first ever! (now there are tons of cruise ships. We went on a cruise on this trip so you can see that post).
There were 3 different groups on the Titanic that you were associated with. First class, Second class, and (last and the least) third class called “steerage”. We got to see a model of all the cabins. The first class one was very fancy. 2 queen beds with very fancy bed spread, a closet, bathroom with hot and cold running water, carpet floor, wallpaper, comfy chairs and a table. It was very spacious. (Some rooms that we have been staying in on this trip were smaller). Third class was really tiny. All it had was a set of bunkbeds, a fold up chair and a sink and shelf. There was a bathroom in each hallway that everyone shared.
FUN FACT; I thought it was interesting to learn that while the Titanic was sinking, the captain ordered some people to play the violin on the top deck to attract people and keep everyone calm while boarding the life boats. The people that were playing the violins went down in history as heroes. We read their stories and the stories of others who helped women and children board the lifeboats.
 
ICE BERG STRAIGHT AHEAD! that’s what comes to mind when your thinking of the Titanic and if you saw the movie.  My parents let me see certain parts of the movie, like from when it hit the ice berg!  The museum showed what happened from the accounts of many survivors.
In 1912 the Titanic was expected to arrive at the port in NY on wendestday. But the reporters on board convinced the captain to go really fast and arrive on Tuesday night. At first he said no, but when he thought about all the press that would say “Titanic arrives a day early” that would be a big deal! So he went faster then normal and when the person at the watch spotted the iceburg the boat was going to fast to turn around. I wonder what would have happened if the Titanic went at normal speed? But don’t think the captain was selfish. When the boat was sinking he helped as many peole as he could and refused to get on the lifeboats. He went down with the ship and survivors call him a hero too.
At first, only the first class people were notified that the boat was sinking. They were brought to the top deck and onto the lifeboats. A lot of lifeboats left when half the boat was filled. The people that couldn’t get on the life boat jumped off. They might of survived if the lifeboats went back. But most of the life boats didn’t turn back. They thought that everyone would bombard them and too many peple would get on the life boat and it would cause them to sink. Many accounts from women survivors on the boats talk of this.
The Titanic sits at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean and was finally located in 1984.  We learned about the expeditions to find Titanic.  Amazing, isn’t it?
 
I learned lots more about the Titanic while at the museum. I can’t include it all on my blog or that would be too long. Watch some of the older movies about it.
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I really enjoyed Ireland. Everything was great. I hope to came back here someday. I noticed that Ireland is a little less expensive then other places in Europe.
If you have any questions I can be reached at rileymeckley@yahoo.com
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Budapest, Hungary

Since many people can’t locate Hungary on a map (I couldn’t) I circled it for you.  I learned a lot of history about this country.

Fun Fact: Budapest is the capitol of Hungary. It was once divided into 2 separate cities….Buda and Pest.  The river Danube split them. Over time (and a lot of fighting between the cities ) a bridge was built and connected the 2 citys to form one. Budapest.

The main thing to do in Budapest is walk around and explore and  go on a hop on- hop off bus tour. That’s exactly what we did. I learned a lot of history about the city and saw some really interesting stuff.

here are some FUN FACTS…….

*The Hungarians love to read, they have over 400 book publishing companies in the country, the largest amount in any city in Europe.  The country is very small, in fact, Hungary is smaller then New York state! 

The people have an annual book fair every year and it is very crowded.  I would fit in good here because I love to read.IMG_3621 Here is a  sign written in Hungarian. How would you even pronounce those words?!

*Not many people know this but Hungary is very old. Over 1,000 years! It was once taken over by the Roman Empire.

*Budapest has the second oldest subway line in all of Europe (London has the first)

Hungary was once a communist country. People didn’t have a lot of freedoms. Speaking of freedoms, below are photo’s of  Hero Square. The place where a lot of demonstrations were held.

IMG_3694 IMG_3690 (1)Hero Square is is in the center of the Pest side of the city. Locals walk by it everyday and don’t have a second thought.  It is a big tourist attraction and is super crowed in the summer, but it wasn’t crowed for us. There is a lot of history in this square and my parents remember watching demonstrations in the news in 1989 about the people wanting democracy and overthrowing the Communist Party ruler.  In fact, up until 1989 they couldn’t leave Hungary and there was a barbed wire fence at the border with Austria. The country was then called The Hungarian Peoples Republic.

IMG_3679 (1) there are a lot of statues in Budapest.  All of them are of important people from Hungary.

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Walking along the Danube river was cool.  We even walked across the first bridge connecting Buda with Pest.  We also saw the Parliament buildings and many other government buildings. We saw Castles that were built on the Buda side and also on the Pest side. They were very different.  IMG_3647  IMG_3675   IMG_3645  !IMG_3700 (1) At night all the bridges, castles, and some buildings are all lit up.

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SHOES ON THE DANUBE RIVER. Dedicated in 2005

There is a very different monument dedicated to the Holocaust and what happened here in 1944 and 1945.

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Fun Fact  Sculptors Gyula Pauer and Can Togay have created a moving memorial to these Holocaust atrocities that sits in front of the magnificent Parliament building on the edge of the river. What visitors will see are 60 pairs of rusted period shoes cast out of iron. Different sizes and styles reflect how nobody was spared from the brutality  

It was incredible. Mom said it was the most moving monument she ever saw.                          .

BRIEF HISTORY…

The German Nazis were collecting all the Jewish people that lived in Budapest. They brought them to this very river bank that we are standing on and told them to take off there shoes. Then the Nazis would shoot them and their body would fall in the river. The reason they had the Jews take off their shoes was so the bodies could float better and be carried out to sea. So, during World War II there was a big line of shoes on the river bank from the people that were forced to take them off. A lot of architects were trying to think of a way to make this a  memorial site.  People suggested plaques of all the names of the people who died, another thought building a statue would be good.  The memorial site winners were “Pauer and Togay” they thought it would be good to make a bunch of metal and brass shoes to honor all those that were shot and carried out to sea. 

There were men’s shoes , women’s shoes, boots and even a pair of baby shoes. It is sad think what happened here. I was in the place that lots of people were shot. I wonder if there were any survivors? I think the artists that had the idea to make metal shoes as a memorial had a genius idea.

Fun Fact: Budapest is home to the second largest Jewish Synagogue in the world.

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IMG_3658 My famliy and I walked this bridge. it was the first one to connect Buda and Pest. By the way, our hotel was on the Pest side. We went to the Buda side ot see this castle.

IMG_3650 There was good views from here overlooking all of the Pest side and the Danube River.

The Pest side was all flat land and the Buda side is very hilly and has a lot of mountains. We didn’t go in the castle but it was cool to see from the outside.

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I saved the best part for last. The THERMAL BATHS! The Szechenyi Baths

IMG_3623 Hungary has lots of thermal baths.  They are like giant hot tubs except the water is not heated from man made electricity.  These baths (not pools) are heated from natural springs under the ground and the water is so hot that the baths have to be “cooled down” just so we can go in.  The heat is natural and from under ground. People come here after work or anytime they can. It is open from 6am to 9pm.

IMG_3636  IMG_3629 (1)IMG_3631We didn’t think that we would like the thermal baths this much but we did! My family and I thought we would go there and check it out, but we ended up staying here for 4 hours! Mom and Dad swam laps in the big pool.  There are 3 outdoor baths and they are very big.  There are about 10 inside but they are much smaller and not as nice.

IMG_3629 (1) This one was my favorite. I liked it so much because it had an awesome whirl pool with a current that would whip you around and around. Seriously, it got so fast that it was hard to get out of the current.  Sawyer and I liked it. Some times it got TOO crowed. we would keep bumping in to people. It happened to everyone, it was OK.   Sawyer and I went around really fast because we are lighter then all the adults. It was so much fun!  I really enjoyed my time here and we spent most of it in this whirl pool. I must of went around 400 times. No joke!

By the way, the building in the thermal baths lookd like a fancy mansion.  It was really big and had lots of statues.  It was very hard to see under water with googles. The water is from underground natural springs  so its foggy.

Hungary’s currency is the Hungarian Forint…NOT the Euro! So we had different money to learn here. Food is cheaper in Hungary than the previous places in Europe we visited. Local Hungarian food is discusting.  They have meat and fish in all these bowls of sauces and spices.   It looks like a plate of “goop”  we didn’t eat it!

Hungary is a great old city, a lot of people spoke decent English and were able to understand us.  This is the opposite of Italy because hardly any Italians speak English.

I can be reached at rileymeckley@yahoo.com if you have any questions.

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Cruise through the Mediterranean

Very last minute, while in Rome, we saw and advertisement for a cruise leaving from the port (50 min away by train) for 80% off of the regular price.  It was last minute and we decided some good food with some late sleeping and relaxing was in order. Plus mom said  “A week without planning ” would be nice.   We have been exploring and walking a lot in the past month….we discussed it together and decided to do it.  Took the public train ($5) to the port and caught the public bus ($1) to the dock. Got right on board as this cruise lets people board and disembark at any of the ports (its like a giant hop on-hop off cruise ship).IMG_3440 IMG_5863IMG_5921

COSTA DIADIMA: This ship is so big. It can fit  3,000  people on it.  Before I got here I was excited to join the “tween club” but they didn’t have it because mostly it was younger kids or older kids and we were in the middle and couldn’t join in on the activities, PLUS, it was all in Italian anyway. Crew Members were shocked there were Americans on board as this caters to European’s on holiday and does not advertise in America. 

The ship was not crowded and they even upgraded our room to a better one (we booked the cheapest ones). We had 2 rooms next to each other because they could only fit 2 people in each one.  IMG_3442.IMG_3482Sawyer and I would watch the water from this window.

This entire ship was full of Italians, French and other Europeans, no Americans. IN fact, they collected our Passports because at every port they had to let the authorities know there were “Americans on board.”   All other people had the EU cards (European Union).  Hardly anyone spoke any English and all the signs and menu’s and announcements were in Italian so we never knew what was going on.   The announcement would come over the loudspeaker in Italian and for all we knew it could have said  “The ship is sinking, abandon the boat !!” BUT…..there is always a positive side to everything. We did get to relax in a very comfortable bed, sleep late, eat a lot of food, and the BEST part of all was seeing the good shows they put on in the theatre every night.  We saw a Circus Act, a Musical, The Voice finals, An Opera, A rock and roll show, and others.  We played BINGO 3 nights and one night Sawyer WON 125 Euro’s.  That is $139!!  He was so happy, Sawyer and I decided before hand if either of us won we would split the money. So we each got 50 Euro’s and spent the rest at the Video game room.  We also saw Dancers perform like “Dancing with the stars” it was cool.IMG_3604 IMG_3547IMG_3481  IMG_3583We played cards in the card room too.

Sawyer and I played basketball on the court outside. The weather was sometimes rainy but sometimes sunny.  The pool on the ship was so small (backyard pools in America are bigger) and we never went in. Plus it wasn’t that sunny anyway.

We only got off the ship at 2 ports, we weren’t concerned with touring the other places because we’ve been doing that for 5 months already.  We got off at La Spezia, Italy and we did the Cinque Terre village walk. That is where you walk /hike in the hills from village to village overlooking the coast. The houses were small and built over looking the ocean and no cars allowed. Very remote.

We walked the entire day and it was a great hike. Passed lemon trees, vinyards and farms.  It started to rain the last hour and got slippery.IMG_3460 Vernazza

Fun Fact:  Cinque Terre is the name of a district that encompasses five glorious towns, where small houses are surrounded by lush nature. Visitors to this district will be fascinated by the beauty of these five small villages. It is a World Heritage Site.

We had the hike to ourselves.  In the summer they have to “limit” the number of visitors because it gets too crowded!

The next time we got off was on the island of Mallorca, off the coast of Spain. We did the bus tour of the Island and it was nice.

IMG_3586 Every night we would have a “gelato!”  Yum.

The cruise wasn’t “fun”  it was more relaxing and we liked the shows.  We were fully rested after this week and ready for more European exploring adventures.  When we disembarked at the port in Rome, we took the train to the airport and later that afternoon we boarded a flight to Budapest, Hungary.  I’ll post about that in a few days….stay tuned and keep checking my blog!  Write me at rileymeckley@yahoo.com.

 

Rome, Italy

Rome, Italy

There are so many historic sights and I loved learning about it all.  My family and I visited basically everything. It was great.  We rented an apartment for 6 nights and it was in the heart of Rome. This was our street and apartment…IMG_5436 IMG_3417 IMG_3139

We were like locals and walked to everything.  I’ll start with the Piazza NavonaIMG_5232It is a square with 3 different fountains in it. The one big one in the middle was my favorite. There are 4 statues on each corner of the fountain and represent a river.  You can see in the photo that the statue representing the Nile River has a palm tree next to him. IMG_3164There is a giant Oblesk in the center of the fountain, from Egypt.  I’ve been doing a lot of research on Egypt and I recognized the hieroglyphic of “life”  and a couple of other symbols too such as the “eye of horus”  This is the symbol for “life” I was proud to show my parents that “I recognized the symbol.”

Fun Fact: The Fountain of Four Rivers and was sculpted in 1651 by Bernini.
The statues were all very big, it must have taken a long time to sculpt.

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TREVI FOUNTAIN

Sculpture is not really the right word for the Trevi fountain.  It is more of a piece of Art and a structure. The fountain part is as big as a pool and the statues are over 15 feet tall. This was the one attraction we visited that was crowded (even at this time of year) We must have arrived when all the tour busses got there.

FUN FACT: Legend has it that if you throw a coin over your right shoulder into the fountain you are destined to “return to Rome.”  This is true, because my Mom was here 26 years ago and she threw a coin in and now she is back!!!  When will I be back???? The Trevi Fountain is also sculpted by Bernini.   IMG_5296

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The Pantheon: The oldest building in Rome that was not destroyed or had to be reconstructed.  Built in the first century. I was amazed at how well preserved the building looked, it had a dome shaped roof and people say even NOW it would be hard for archetects to design a building like this.  I can’t understand how they did this so long ago.  I liked the shape of the building. Here we are hugging one of the oldest ancient structures in Rome. Cool. IMG_5270

FUN FACT: The Roman Pantheon is the most preserved and influential building of ancient Rome. It is a Roman temple dedicated to all the gods of pagan Rome. As the brick stamps on the side of the building reveal it was built and dedicated between A.D 118 and 125.IMG_3180 This is us eating Pizza in the back of the Pantheon.  It is amazing to think of what this building has been through. IMG_5249It is also free to enter.

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PROFESSIONAL SOCCER (FOOTBALL) for the non-Americans.

We went to an A.S.  Roma vs. Pallermo game at the Olympic Stadium. It was a very good game, 5-0 Rome! The fans were very active, they sing and they chant. There were a lot of security guards in the Pallermo section, I guess to keep them in check. LOL.  As you  know my family loves soccer and we couldn’t pass up this game. It was last minute, KIDS FREE and adults only $25.  What a deal! We purchased the ticket the day before in a store on the street.  This was the only thing in Rome we did not walk to, we took a very crowded public bus with other fans.

 

FUN FACT:  The 1960 Summer Olympics were in Rome, Italy and many events were at this stadium.

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The Vatican and the Vatican Museums.

There is so much to write about the Vatican. Did you know that Vatican City is it’s own COUNTRY.  I walked right into another country. It is very small and only 500 residents.

FUN FACT: Unlike other countries, even if you are born in Vatican City you are not automatically a citizen.  The Pope has to appoint you a citizen and can take away that citizenship at any time.

I learned a lot about Vatican City and the Pope.  We read and watched some great video’s on Vatican City and it’s history.IMG_3221

FUN FACT: The Pope is also the King of Vatican City.  He can act as “either” the Pope or  the King to make decisions.IMG_5597Michelangelo’s Pieta. One of his earlier works .  IMG_5632IMG_5623  This is the bronze and gold alter that only the Pope can give mass from. There are other alters in St. Peters. IMG_5589Upon entering the basilica  of St. Peters you are overwhelmed at the size and detail.

The most amazing thing was we got to attend a mass that the Pope gave outside of St. Peters Basilica. We got there one hour early, got a great view. I stood next to some Nuns, from Italy, who saw me writing notes in my little pocket notebook and they told me about the statues in the courtyard and how they are all “saints.” There are 167 statues and 288 columns outside of St. Peters.  The Nun’s also wrote in my notebook.  Pope Francis blessed the crowd and there were Nun’s handing out rosary beads that were blessed by the Pope.  I was so happy we all got a few.IMG_3234Doesn’t the light coming down in this picture look like it is coming from heaven, while I am with the Nuns at the Vatican.

St. Peters Basilica is HUGE. Entering this church can not be explained. The ceilings, the paintings, the carvings, the statues, the alter, the floor, the granite, it’s so amazing.  The artwork is “Louvre worthy” for sure.   The Vatican holds so much art. We spend over an hour in there and visited separate areas for praying and 3 Pope’s are entombed here, that means there bodies are rested here.  Very old Pope’s.  Most Pope’s are buried below St. Peters.  We visited the “treasury” area , where all the gifts that were presented to the Pope’s over the Centuries by Presidents, Kings, Royal Families and Nations.  Also the Pope’s themselves, donate something special.

The Vatican museums are gigantic, it is easy to get lost. So many exhibits, the Hall of Maps was cool. the statues, the paintings, the sculptures and of course The Sistine Chapel.IMG_3372 (1) This is a painting in the Vatican Museum. It seems so real and it is also huge, covering the entire wallIMG_3356 (1)famous bronze and marble statues in the museum. IMG_5657Early Maps drawn right on the walls. IMG_5422It is said the Louvre (in Paris) and these Vatican Museums are the two best museums in the world.  I agree.  This room had floor to ceiling masterpieces of artwork.

Fun Fact: The Sistine Chapel is without doubt one of the greatest art treasures of all time, one of the most celebrated masterpieces in the world. It’s the last stop on the Vatican Museum tour and is the most ardently awaited moment for the millions of tourists from around the world that come here every year to admire it.

Step into the Sistine Chapel and the magic completely envelops you because literally everything in this place is priceless and rich in history, from the pavement to the amazing frescoed ceiling by Michelangelo.

The Sistine Chapel was so awesome, Not one inch was left blank, the ceiling and the walls were of the scenes from the bible were so realistic it was like they were coming down from heaven. The clouds, the people, etc.  While I was in there they gave a small prayer or mass in Italian.  You are NOT allowed to take any photos in there so here is some from the internet so you can see for yourself….

 There  is a story behind every person in all of these paintings.  Who they are, what they represent and the historical significance behind it.  So interesting. 

I watched a great documentary and read a lot about the Sistine Chapel and Michelangelo, the artist. He really struggled to do this because he considered himself a “sculpture” and not an “artist.” In fact, his sculptures are in St. Peters as well.

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St. Angelo’s Castle: On the way to Vatican City .

IMG_5400IMG_5386IMG_5316The River Tiber is nice, it has a strong current. We walked over it a lot to get to the Vatican city.  We passed this castle. We visited inside, I like the shape of it the best, it looks better from outside than inside, it was just blank walls and stone, I like the view from the top.

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Roman Colesseum.

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The Roman Colesseum is so cool. it is very big. It can get very crowed at times. luckily we came first thing early in the morning and had NO line at all.  some days in the summer, the line raps all the way around the building! Poor saps.

My favorite part about the Roman Colesseum was probably learning about it.  The history is so interesting and my brother and I did a report on it.

FUN FACT- The  colessuim was built in 72 AD. they had slaves that were forced to work until it was complete. It took 8 years to finish. 

Here is a typical day of Entertainment for the Romans at this time.    Gladiators fought in the  Colesseum. The games went on all day. In the morning they had Gladiators vs animals( the animals were shipped here from all over the world… there were tigers, cheetas, lions even elephants!) next came the execution of prisoners. They would chop off there heads. and for the grand finally….the gladiator fights. It would be gladiator vs gladiator down to the death. The crowd would cheer people on just like we cheer on sports teams. The only reason they had gladiator matches was because no one else wanted the job, and only the prisoners faught against each other. Whoever won usually got rewarded and was free from prison. The looser was well, dead.IMG_5703

– Just like any other modern stadium today, the Roman Coleseum made people by tickets to the games before entering. There are a lot of doors and exits in the Colesseum and each one had a Roman  number above it so people could find the areas of where they are sitting.  I saw this in person. plus, there used to be a lot of water fountains for the fans and 2 bathrooms. cool right. the rich people sat on the bottom row along with the Royalty. Poor people and other criminals sat at the very top. the women also sat on the top because they were not allowed to sit anywhere else.

IMG_5720 I liked exploring the Coleseum. I cant get over the fact of how old it is.  This building has been through a LOT! you can see in the picture toward the bottom area  the dungeons.  There used to be a floor over the dungeons and that is where the battles were fought. The dungeons were where the prisoners waited to go fight and where they kept the wild animals. All the Gladiators must of been really nervous before battle knowing that it may be the end for them.

Now a days part of the Roman Colesseum is destroyed due to earthquakes and stone robbers. It was left abandoned for a long time because when they stopped having Gladiator fights, the building was useless.  And the seats that people used to sit in are destroyed. There were a lot of openings in the Roman Colesseum and each one used to have a statue in it. But they all got robbed a long time ago. This is what it looked like in it’s heyday.

  I cant believe that there used to be a statue in every window! I wonder what they looked like? probably naked. That’s how most of the statues are here, I guess it was the style. LOL!

I liked seeing and learning about the Colesseum.  So did Sawyer.  I can only imagine all the blood shed here that went on. I cant believe people actually found that as entertainment. Crazy right?!  Almost unhuman. I have friends that cant bear to watch someone bleed yet these people were cheering away when someone’s head was chopped off.  They were like barbareans.IMG_3392

here are a couple more FUN FACTS-

Did you know that there were sometimes naval ship battles in the Colesseum? it used to be considered untrue but scientists have found evidence.  There are underground tunnels leading to the  Colessuem to make it flood with water. There are drawings of ships on water fighting inside the Colesseum.  Very cool finding.

There was one person in charge, like the head director. They organized events and trained the Gladiators.

The Romen Colesseum has a great history and I suggest that you research it. There are some great  video’s on you tube.  I am glad I got to see the Roman Colessuim.

IMG_5731 I liked trying to imagine what it looked like back in its hay day.

Roman Forum:

Next to the Colesseum is the Roman Forum, which is “ancient ruins” of a town in Rome.  Julius Ceasar ordered many off the work.  I can’t believe I walked the same streets as Julius Ceasar.  The columns must have been very strong because so many columns are still remaining. We ate lunch on broken ruins, sitting on a broken column. I liked looking at everything and imagining what it used to be like.  There a lot of half standing structures.

It’s weird how the ancient ruins and the Colesseum are right in the middle of a modern city like Rome, next to a big road with traffic and busses. It’s like two different worlds. Sawyer and I liked jumping from stone to stone.IMG_5809IMG_5802IMG_5786   IMG_5501IMG_5561

ROME WAS AWESOME! I did not exspect it to be so great! I am glad we got to see everything. I had a lot of pizza and gelato’s too….because as they say….”When in Rome…” Hope the Trevi Fountain legend is true and I come back someday.

I can be reached at rileymeckley@yahoo.com

 

 

 

Venice, Italy

We flew from Barcelona, Spain to Venice, Italy. Actually we stayed one night in a small guest house right by the airport because we arrived late.  It was dark out but Dad, Sawyer and I went for  a walk to the local pizza place, when we returned the manager must have locked the front gate. We were stranded. Mom was in the room. We couldn't get in for an hour. We yelled and walked all around the property to find another entrance.  We had to squeeze through the small opening in the fence and Dad had to throw the jackets and bag over the top.  Sawyer and I had to hold the gate open so Dad could squeeze through.  Mom was worried about us. It was so dark and there were no lights. Anyway, this is how I entered the country of Italy.  
The next day, totally different.  Unbelievable! Awesome!  

Venice, Italy. It almost looks like a story book.  Venice is a city built on water. BUT, I did some research and watched a documentary on “how Venice was built in 400AD.”  Under the concrete and stone is literally a forest of trees/logs built into the mud under the water.  You may wonder why the logs haven’t rotted away after 2000 years, but the logs are not exposed to oxygen so they don’t rot.

FUN FACT: Venice, Italy, is known by several names, one of which is the ‘Floating City’. This is due to the fact that the city of Venice consists of 118 small islands connected by numerous canals and bridges. Yet, the buildings in Venice were not built directly on the islands. Instead, they were built upon wooden platforms that were supported by wooden stakes driven into the ground. –

I really liked Venice, We stayed for 3 nights. Most people come for a day and just walk along the main street by the Grand Canal and say they “saw Venice,” but really there is so much more to these amazing islands. The best way is to stay a few days and just explore on foot or by local boats (like busses on the water).

IMG_4882IMG_4989 This is the “grand canal” the widest of them all. There are 417 Bridges in Venice.  72 of them are privately owned, meaning they lead up to someone’s house.  Most are just small stone bridges that connect different parts of islands together. Over the 3 nights we spent here I think I hit most of the bridges. We walked a lot.   IMG_4980IMG_4906IMG_4897

IMG_4883 Taking a “gondola” is very expensive. 80 Euro’s for 30 minutes.  For the Americans reading this that is $87.  We did not do this, instead we took the public water bus when we wanted to visit a farther island or just for a night time ride to see the city lit up. IMG_4977IMG_4963These areas are residential areas where apartments are. Notice the stone Water urn in the center of these pictures.  Back in the day they provided clean filtered water to the local residents.  There are still some working and we saw people filling their water bottles .  Free Water. There is never “new” houses/apartments built in Venice.  It is very hard to find one “for sale” in Venice, most people move out because of the expense of living here or they get sick of the flooding (more on that later).  Fifty years ago there were 120,000 residents and today there are 60,000.  Population is declining so much that if it weren’t for the “tourists” no one would stay. Nothing at all is manufactured on the main islands.  Only some of the outer islands still manufacture glass (very famous) or lace.

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The Rialto bridge is one of the famous bridges that crosses over the Grand Canal. It is made of stone and very old.  We had to carry our suitcases over the Rialto bridge.  OH, everyone staying here MUST carry their luggage over the stone and cobblestone streets and bridges to get to their hotels. There is no cars or taxi’s. IMG_4888This is us.  We saw people with suitcases as big as me (they obviously don’t know how to pack) and having trouble going up and down the bridges.  Chumps! Now the Rialto bridge has construction work going on.

DOGES PALACE:

FUN FACT: A “doge” was the senior most elected official in Venice, Italy.  He held the highest office (kind of like the President, or Prime Minister for the Europeans reading this).

IMG_3011Located in St. Marks Square  ( a huge area with a lot of locals and tourists and pigeons) The Doges Palace was very impressive.  The Palace is huge! It was used for many purposes over the years.  GOvernment buildings where meetings were held, living quarters for Doge’s and also a prison.

Fun Fact:  If you imagine landing in Venice from the sea, as did those who came inland by ship, the first thing you see rising out of the water is the unmistakable shape of the Doge’s Palace – the city’s most famous building. IMG_5040IMG_5065This is one room in the Palace, it was the biggest room in all of Europe (for a long time) that was built without COLUMNS in the middle. It has ceiling paintings and walls, it reminds me of the Louve (it was definitely Louve worthy).  There were a lot of important government people whose pictures are on the walls too. There is one picture that has a black curtain over it that reads (in Latin) “Here lies Marin Falier, who was beheaded on April 18, 1355.”  The Prison was the most interesting part of the palace. It was not like the Prison’s of today. We had to first cross over the famous “Bridge of Sighs.”  Many people don’t know that if you were crossing over the Bridge of Sighs that means you were being taken to PRISON.  Funny how magazines and tourists take photos of such a lovely looking bridge not knowing the true history of it. See the photo of Sawyer and I by the bridge…  On the left is Doge’s Palace and on the right is the Prison, the Bridge of Sighs connects them.  AHHHHHHHHH!!! Most didn’t make it out alive. Most died because of coldness and flooding in the dungeons and crowded conditions. ”

IMG_5080“Oh NO, I’m trapped!”IMG_4940

IMG_5063the weapons room. And the Knights armor in all different sizes were on display, even kids sizes. And there long spears or javelins that they used. It must have been hard to battle in those heavy suits of armor.

Flooding: Often the tide gets so high that the streets in Venice flood, about a foot of water or more covers everything!  That’s why all the streets have these tables for people to walk on when it floods. IMG_4967 This street had the tables set up in case of a flood. It’s like a portable boardwalk.  It didn’t flood while we were here though, but when it does people are prepared. Most businesses, restaurants, hotels, and houses have  a steep first step to get in, to prevent the floodwaters from reaching. Here is picture from the interned of Venice when it floods. 

Venetian Glass

IMG_5140IMG_3076The Venetian Glass is made in Murano (an island about 15 minutes away by boat). We watched a demonstration on how the glass is made, heated and shaped into a figure.  It was very cool. I saw a horse being made and a vase.  glass is melted in the fire turning to a form you can shape with certain tools.  Since we were the only ones there we got to try it. I am blowing a glass bowl .  It was so cool.  I saw this horse being made…They make everything you can imagine from small jewelry to huge chandeliers.  They were beautiful.  The glass masters pass their trade down to their children.  Murano was cool.

IMG_2972We also visited Burano, another island much farther from Venice, 45 min by water bus. It has lovely parks and a beach area and colorful houses painted in bright colors like blue and pink.  More spacious but still has canals and bridges, less touristy with no gondola’s.  We ate dinner and had a gelato here!  In fact, we had a gelato every day!  Burano actually has some grass, unlike Venice which doesn’t have any. And a couple of trees.  IMG_5169IMG_5161

Overall Venice is great and I enjoyed my time here.

I forgot to write that I TURNED 12 YEARS OLD while in Venice, Italy.  I celebrated with a pizza and a gelato.  It was a memorable birthday!  Walking around here was cool and I liked seeing the glass being formed.  I learned a lot about the history of this place. I hope I can come here again someday. Mom and Dad liked it too, but with all the walking on hard stones, their feet hurt every day.  They are very old.  IMG_3008 if you have any questions you can email me at rileymeckley@yahoo.com