Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Sagrada Familia

The Sagrada Familia is a large Roman Catholic church in Barcelona, it is also a UNESCO site.  Construction started on this church in 1882 and it was not clear when construction will complete.  But I like this aspect of the church, what I saw during my visit will be different next time I have the opportunity to visit. When I showed up, the line to get in wrapped half way around the block on the north east side of the church.  The time waiting in line was just over 20 minutes, not as bad as it looked.  When I showed up it was also cloudy outside, but when I turned the corner and got closer to the ticket office the clouds cleared, it was nice.
 You pass through the ticket booth and enter the church from the north west facing wall of the structure, lets just call this face of the building the front.  As you enter the basilica, you pass by a series of statues that are themed on the Passion of Christ.
 The interior of the church is amazing, it's breathtaking when you first enter the basilica.  Most people are standing around looking up, but this is something you don't notice as you enter because you are looking up too.
 The interior of the church was more or less completed in 2010, this is also the year Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed it a basilica. Around the right side of the alter is a video of him blessing the alter, pouring oil all over it.
 Above the alter is a crucifix hanging from the arches above.
 You can pass through the interior of the church and pop out on the back side.  The back side is a naivety scene.  Turtle sculptures help to hold this side of the church up.
This is one of the more dramatic nativities scenes that I have seen, to the left (east) are the three wise men.
 Center is the nativity.
 Stepping back makes it easier to see the entire nativity and tree of life in the center.
 Another view of the ceiling.
 Officially the interior is complete, but I don't think it really is.  Many windows are just clear glass, I think the final plan is to install stain glass in all windows but I guess we will have to wait and see.
Returning to the front of the church, you can see more of the passion.
 I like this blocky style of statue.
 This was the pope on the day he visited the church.
 Another view of the back of the church looking up, you can see cranes working on the roof.
Ignoring the religious aspect of this building, whenever I see structures like this it reminds me how awesome engineering is.   The basic drawings for this building and concept to make it was developed back in the late 1800's but it's still a rational that those designs are still being used today to complete this building.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Renault Twizy

This is the Renault Twizy, also known as the Nissan New Mobility Concept (NMC).  I feel this is one of the more innovative personal short-distance vehicles on the globe right now.
This Twizy happens to be a 'Zip' car or a car that can be rented for short periods of time if you happen to be a member of the Zip car system.  Most big cities have cars that can be rented as a 'Zip' car.  As I was standing in line waiting to get into the Sagrada Familia, three guys walked up to this car.
 I think they were planning on walking up to a Zip car location and going somewhere but did not expect the car at the Zip car location had only two seats.
They stood around the car for about 4 minutes discussing what to do before walking away. I think all three could have fit in or on the car.  I mean they did not even try to fit in the car.

Barcellona, Spagna

Last time I was standing in a Spanish speaking country, I was in the city it was Nuevo Laredo, Mexico.  This past weekend I visited my second country where Spanish is the official language, this time I was standing in the autonomous community of Catalonia, the city of Barcelona.  My previous visit to Mexico I was able to walk across the boarder, this time I had to fly in (I miss the old days!).  The title of this post is the Italian spelling of Barcelona...
 To get from my hotel to Barcelona central I needed to take the Barcelona Metro, it's a very easy train system to figure out.  My goal in visiting Barcelona was to visit the Sagrada Familia, but to do this my first step was to pass through the train station Espanya.  When I exited this station I turned left and saw the National Museum of Art (Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya).
 Seeing an escalator (it's still hot and humid in Spain) I decided to check this area out.  Not all areas were served by escalator, this platform had stairs on either side.
 Looking back from art museum, you can see the fountain behind those four columns, we will talk about that fountain later.
 To get to the Sagrada Familia I thought it would be a good idea to avoid a few subway transfers and walk from the station Espanya to the station Universitat.   This was actually a good idea, did not really save time but I did get to see a lot of local stuff between the two stations.  For example this yellow PROSEGUR vehicle, I assume it's an armed car for the transport of cash money euros.
 Mopeds and other small moto-bikes are all over Barcelona.  One advantage to this style of transportation is that it seems okay to park your bike where ever you want.  
 Get a Hola Card.  I wasted 4 euro's taking two train rides before I figured out this card cost 13 euro for two day open pass to the bus and subway system.
 All over Barcelona were these outdoor markets.  This market was kind of crazy because everyone was dressed like druids.  The crazy thing about a group of people being dressed like druids, and the street market photo does not really show this, was I could not figure out if it was halloween costumes or just normal.  Because of the possibility it was just people being themselves, I was not comfortable to ask if they were dressed up for Halloween.    I kind of think they were just being normal.
 Food was great, most cafe's and bars were full for the FCB vs the Real Madrid football classic, but I was able to find a small spot serving Paella and Sangria.  This was in no way a recommended restaurant but it was by far the best Paella I ever had.  I was even able to order in poorly spoken Spanish.  Hola, paella con shrimp's y calamari por favor.  Si si, sangria grande.  
 All over the city are arrows pointing to things, but if you don't know what you are looking for in Spanish, I don't really feel like these help.
 This was kind of a cool statue, it's a massive cat, the El Gat de Raval by Fernando Botero.
 Along most of the water front of Barcelona is a beach.  At one end of the beach if a statue of Christopher Columbus technically pointing towards Africa (the new world is kind off his left shoulder).
  A small plaza near the beach front.
 Beach is super relax and busy considering it's the end of October and this is the norther hemisphere.   Along the beach are bars where you can get Tex-Mex food!!!  Perfect!
During this trip I visited the history museum,  they had a working model of how locals use to get water out of ground.  This tour guide walked around the well 20 times before water started to fill a garden below the well.   
 Barcelona has an Arc de Triomf, this structure is similar to the one in Paris.
 Me in front of the arch.
 Okay, returning back to where my trip started, the area around the National Museum of Art.  According to the website wiki-travel, the fountain in front of the National Museum of Art has a Thursday through Sunday water show starting at 9pm.  The ray's of light shinning over top of the art museum started at 8:30pm, so for sure the water show would start at 9pm.
 After waiting for over an hour I determined this Sundays show was canceled.  My view of the fountain a few minutes past 9pm was just nothing, no lights or water.   But it was still fun hanging out in the park around the fountain.  And based on the number of people waiting with me, I think many people were waiting for a water show.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Palazzo De Felice

Palazzo De Felice was a small church located within Grottaglie old town, today it's an art and community center.  Grottaglie and Puglia is nice in that historical sites provide information in English and the sign for the church of Palazzo De Felice caught my eye because it helps to explain the Italian floor counting system.
 Reading the sign:
Originally it was only to have one floor, but in 1767 the first floor was added and the facade was rebuilt.
 In Italy, what we would refer to as the first floor in US is actually floor zero.  So if you add one floor to a one floor building, the new second floor is the first floor.  My apartment is on the 4th floor, but actually it's the 5th floor. I'm not sure if Rome or Milan use the same floor numbering system.
I really enjoy the signs in English, I can spend a day walking around 'old towns' and reading these.  You can also see, the plaza around Palazzo De Felice is used for parking at night.  They really need to find new parking spot for historical sites like this...
 Just a note, I installed plugin's for Apple Aperture called the Nik Collection.  It's fun software for processing images, for example making color images black and white.  It works well for photos of Grottaglie at night, everything is lit with this harsh yellow light.  Time to time, I will post images to this blog that were processed using Nik software, but if I start to over-do-it, please let me know. Above was done with Silver Efex Pro 2.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Subtle Influence

I was hoping to cut-back on blog post about having a bike from Japan that I roll around with in a small city in Southern Italy, I was almost able to do that until this past weekend.  I must admit that my bike is a little goofy looking when taken out of context of Japan and even more so, I must also look a little goofy when I'm riding it.

The bar that serves as a meeting point for me and most of my friends and coworkers has bike parking right in front of the out door seating area, along the sidewalk curb.  Usually when I rollup, park my bike and sit down, someone ask "what is that?"  And I respond "that's my bike, it's from Japan."  And after a few seconds someone looks at me and ask, "why don't you get a normal bike, with larger wheels."  In response "It is a normal bike, in Japan."  And this answer usually leads to someone telling me something I know about how I'm not in Japan, this is in fact Italy.

For a minute I started to concede that maybe my bike was not cool... Until this past Sunday when I was walking from my apartment to Old Town Grottaglie and noticed some new graffiti.
 Someone made an image of a folding bike, that looks a lot like my bike on a stone wall with the word  'Grazia' or 'grace' in English above the bike.  Unfortunately this Italian Banksy did not tag his or her name on the wall.
Anyways, subtle influence, obviously riding this bike around Grottaglie has raised its unconscious popularity to the cultural level of someone painting it on a brick wall... I looked all over Grottaglie and yet to see a normal Italian bike gratified on a wall.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Dachau Concentration Camp

The second place I visited in Germany was Dachau and the Dachau Concentration Camp, to get to the camp you need to take a bus from Dachau station.  It's about 30 minutes train from Munich.
 Work will make you free.  This phrase is at the entrance to many concentration camps.
 Through out the area around the prisoners barracks are guard towers.
 Between the guard towers and area where prisoners lived was a zone where no one could enter for fear that they might escape.  Part of the electrified wall is preserved.
 The crematorium is also preserved, it's really surreal, difficult thing to see.
 The path that runs down the length of the  prisoners barracks today looks much like it did back in the 30's and 40's, lined with poplar trees.
 All but two of the original barracks are gone, but the foundations still exist.  Each foundation is numbered.
 Two barracks are still maintained, one is used for storage (as seen by looking in the windows) and the other is kind of a museum. The original toilettes and sink also are kept in within this building, you can imagine looking through this window what it must have looked like.  You can still see the foundations.
 Many memorials have been installed at the camp site.
 One memorial said 'NEVER AGAIN', this one documented the years the camp was open from 1933 to 1945.
 Another tower at the south west corner of the camp.
 Getting to and from Munich to Dachau is relatively easy, I would recommend a visit to this memorial.