April 23, 2015

#45 Wrap Up and Return!

Dear Dubrovnik,

I've been state-side for just over two weeks and figured it's time to get final post up for the last few trips I made! Just before leaving a went through a series of no-internet stints as many of the hotels and places I stayed at had no wifi that there were willing to share so many of my stops involved hand-written notes to myself!

About 85% of the town/ museum/ building tours I went on with the 8th & 7th graders didn't allow photos of any kind, or video (because apparently that too will damage things...) so I have some photos from different places, and hang in there - I didn't exactly know where we were most of them time! Additionally, it rained and poured for much of our trip so I didn't bring my camera out often. But a big thanks to my host-sister who really helped to translate much of the tours, and for inviting me to dine with her fellow friends who enjoyed practicing their English with me! It's always awesome to see people excited to learn!

So flashing back to a week or so prior to departing, I visited La Stampa (the head newspaper for the region) and couldn't understand a thing as it was all in Italian and no photos could be taken. I was touring with my students from one of the other schools and they ranged from 6-8 grade so I didn't have many folks to help me understand. Prior to going there we visited Venaria Reale and to the say the least, it had some strange art!

Forgot something I suppose!

Massive gardens

I really liked this exhibit as the dresses were made of tissue paper

The next day I headed off to (unknowingly) my final day with my students in Saliceto, where they had organized a who morning of tours for me through the old churches and castles. And they did it in English! We also got to see the solar eclipse which was really awesome! As seen below through the thick glass.

Our first stop was at the magnificent, tiny church of San Martino just outside the city, built in the year 100. It is a national monument as the bell tower (with a single and double arched openings) is the only of it's kind in the whole Langhe region. The room is lit by a few spot lights from below and was easily below 40F though the temperature outside climbed to 60F. Not adorn with marble or precious stones as many churches I'd seen, this one had the most amazingly brilliant frescos hand painted over the walls and ceiling. 

The paintings depict the story of Saint Martino which is short is the story of a man who sees a beggar on the side of the road in the cold of winter, and cuts his jacket in half with a sword and gives the man half to stay warm. Later in a dream he realizes the man was Jesus. Another note is that all the horses have huge smiles of their faces, and no one could explain why.

The next church we visited was Sant'Agostino built in 1400, which is no longer used for worship but as a an after school program for kids. The only remaining room of the church where there is evidence that it was ever a church is a small back room which we all crammed into. Again, very bright and beautiful frescos, though a much different story depicted. The crucifixion is present on the front wall while to the right is the scene of a birth-mother/ with her wet nurses. Our the window it is clear that the artist is depicting Saliceto around 1223, which is not often depicted in religious affiliated paintings of its kind. 
Next we visited the church of San Lorenzo which was built in the 14th-15th century. The facade of the church itself has many odd symbols which are both religious and alchemic.
Inside the church was also freezing cold, but had many more beautiful paintings to be seen. It's high ceilings differed greatly from the other churches, and the paintings were overwhelming in numbers. Additionally, the details you can see on the columns are just that, they are painted on shadows and all. I was amazed by the realistic depth portrayed in the paint! 
The last really interesting piece for me was a painting located way down the way with an inscription in the bottom corner, very small. It said: INRI, except the N was written backwards. This is a symbol that indicates something of great interest is hidden within the area, whether that be in the painting, or in the church itself - well I really don't know, but important it was!
The last place we visited was the castle del Carretto which was built somewhere in the 13th - 14th century. It had four great towers (one rebuilt after the war to simulate the looks.) Once a fortress with a water filled moat, and drawbridge, it now stood quite with a green lawn and a sword in the stone.

Inside the courtyard (open to the elements) were the last of the frescos, some recently uncovered portraying women. The one seen below is traced back to the original artist, Taddeo of Bartolo in the 14th century due to his interest in using twisted columns which became his signature in a way as he like the design. In addition, he used bas-relief for the halos which means they literally stuck out from the wall, in addition to being painted gold.

The sword in the stone!
This photo marks the start of my journey that followed only a couple days after! We set out for Urbino and a slue of other small cities I had never heard of, and were in for a very rainy week!
Here is a photo of a train station we passed on the super highway, it was for 'red arrows' which are the fastest (and most expensive) trains. For example: I took economy local trains, and got from Asti to Florence in 5-6 hours. On a red arrow, you could leave from Milan (an extra hour or more) and arrive in under two hours to Florence. Phew!

Our first afternoon was a sunny, bright one led by a very fast Italian speaker who asked more questions than all the Italian classes combined! The students were not ready to be interrogated while on a tour! It was great to watch.

March and the flowers are all out!

Francesca and I on the bus going somewhere!
Here is a pizza I saw at the bowling alley that night. It had french fries on it already with the mayo and ketchup combo many europeans adore. You bet the students ate it all! They also won about 3,000 tickets of various token machine games, and you'd never believe what they bought with the tickets: school supplies for their computer room, and classrooms. It's very difficult to get any financial help for extra supplies for students and it was heart-breaking in a way to see them use all their tickets to buy things which we throw away here as they're given out so liberally.
A shot of the sand on the shore of the Adriatic. Very different from Maine, but beautiful all the same.
Some of the trees in bloom on a ride somewhere! (Italians do have the crop thing down to a science.)

Here we actually just saw half a rainbow, (we also ran over about 5 peacocks at the same instance,
not sure how that balances out on the luck scale, or what half a rainbow counts for anyway.
Here might have been the day we visited Macerata in the afternoon. We climbed the hill-side to get a view of the whole city along with some off-shore fishing ships.

This was a rainy day. I think we were in Recanati, but I wasn't able to take photos if the sights we saw so I really can't be sure. It was cold, and about half the students caved and bought umbrellas from street peddlers.

The crypts of this church were incredible, completely tiled and some of the faces
were more true than some of the best paintings I've seen in Europe. Not better than
the David though. Nothing can really be better than him.

A quick shot upstairs before we got kicked out, trying to show some scale of the place.

The next day we visited the Gotte di Frasassi, and it was great but the people who worked there were tough to listen to. The guide we had spent a great deal of time explaining that cameras and videos could not be taken as they erode the rocks, and I get it, flash photography does destroy a lot artifacts, especially over a long time, but video, with no flash can't harm anything, but the giant flashlight she used to spotlight different areas certainly could! The true reason is as many are, for people to have interest to visit a sight, you want them to travel there to see it, not search it on the web. In reality, if you want to get the experience, you probably will research it, and visit it. If you have no intent to ever visit - you probably won't. Another funny thing is that we were told not to touch the rocks (everyone did, even the teachers) because when someone says no, you can't think of anything else. Regardless, I found it so ironic as an optional adventure for the cave tours was a guided down and dirty expedition deep into the caves on foot, climbing and crawling.... Anyway, the were quite beautiful and magnificent in the least. The largest cavern could hold the whole duomo of Florence inside, and many of the small caves were bigger than most mansions I've seen. 

But as with many interruptions with nature, I was sad to learn that the caves used to me home to millions of small (and not so small) animals, one can assume millions of bats were in that equation, but since the adaptation to make it a tourist site, the whole place is void of creatures except for a small fish tank that may hold living brine shrimp. The room was full of sulfuric rocks so no one stuck around too long to find out!

I think this was the last day but I can't recall what this museum was... anyway, it had many great works that showed the test of time which I find fascinating in it's own right.

A little tribute to the hunger games? 

Some more amazing detail.
Wonderful hand carved wooden doors.
The view over some place! 
A now amphitheater, once home to a hand ball pitch (still never saw that game in action)
Fra posing with a horribly mis-imagined statue
I had all my students pose with it, but I told them they had to have the most serious face they could make. Worth zooming in if you can!
After our trip to Urbino I got to Turino to see the city one more time before leaving and got a great tour from my friend Paolo!
That afternoon I wrapped up filming with some students (they made a music video to 'The Nights' by Avicci) Here is the link to see that: https://www.youtube.com/copynotice?video_id=tZghSCjmBu4

They got some funny photos of their own.

Phew! In summary what amazing opportunity I've had. I'm still not adjusted, mind, body or soul, and it really makes me question whether I should continue to help people in this way as education really is the key to any door. Never the less, it taught me a lot about how fortunate I am, and how 'bubbled' some people really are. In addition, I can see the importance of music in the early years of a students life, and the persistence of teachers really being a big part of the student pursuing college or high school for that matter. Though I had a rough travel back through airport delay hell and had a stint of 48 hours awake, I made it safely back to my home. I really do wonder if more travels lay ahead in my future and I can only hope so! 

I manages to surprise all of my friends from school by walking into one of their studios at Champlain and hope to get back up there soon once I've gotten my job searches under way!

Stay tuned for the next big adventure... it's going to be warm and Mexican! ;D

Ciao for now! <3