Picture the World – Scotland

When I went to Scotland, I took over a thousand pictures, and that wasn’t nearly enough to convey the beauty of this country.  There is something so pleasing and soothing to the eyes in the lush green of their countryside.  However, it isn’t only the visual interest of the Scottish Countryside that I found appealing.  Scottish history is intriguing, complex, often violent and tremendously fascinating.  So when I learned from Madhu over at The Urge to Wander about the Picture the World Project on The Departure Board website,  I thought I’d have a look.

Since Scotland still seemed to be open, decided to send a picture for entry.

There are many things that are visually strong representatives of Scotland.  But my favorite is the Leanach Cottage on Culloden Moor.  This farmhouse stands on the edge of the site of the last battle of Scotland’s bid for independence that occurred on April 16, 1745.  The roof is simple thatched heather, the walls are stone and the floor is dirt.  There is a glimpse of the battlefield behind it where Bonnie Prince Charlie’s troops made their stand on a bitterly cold day and a moor sodden with rain.  A sobering experience to stand on this field, and imagine that day.

I nominate Travel Photography by Dmetrii Lezine for his wonderful photos of just about anywhere, and The Ego Tripper for the same reason.  Both well traveled, and great photos.  If you are interested in filling in some of the world pictures, just go to the link on the Departure Board in the first paragraph of this blog.

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Italian Countryside and Olive Oil

The Countryside of Florence is so very beautiful.  We drove from San Gimingnano to this little place that made Fattoria Olive Oil in San Donato where we had lunch, and got to taste Grappa.  It’s a good thing we weren’t driving.

The Street Performers of Florence

The street performers of Florence were really amazing.  In 1437 a street performer named Fiasco performer juggling and other acts on the streets of Florence.  Now some of the most seen are mimes.  I could not detect even the most infinitesimal movement from them unless they were “on.”

The Catacombs of Saint Callixtus


Built in the 2nd century, the Catacombs of Saint Callixtus contain dozens of martyrs, sixteen popes, and countless Christians over a 33 acres within 5 levels of 12 miles of tunnels.

We took a cab from the Spanish Steps which was about a 20-25 minute ride.  There is a walking tour of the grounds, and another tour of the catacombs, or you can combine the two.

There is no photography allowed in the crypts, however more information can be found here, with photos.

Below are the grounds at Saint Callixtus.

The Vatican Palace, Part I

We went to the Vatican as part of the speed tour, so I would do it again, but differently.  A tip from another traveler suggested that the end of the day, roughly two hours from closing is the best time to see the Vatican.  She said she got the tip from Rick Steve’s or Fodders travel books on Italy.  I had Rick Steve’s, so I must have missed that page.

Seeing the Vatican the way we did was a major deal, and not in a good way.  The line was unbelievable, and the same method once inside of practically sprinting through was annoying to say the least.  The only respite came when a ten year old in our group (who did NOT want to be there) ran off.  The whole place came to a stand still while all the guards and police searched for him.  I would not recommend this tour for kids that age unless they really like historical Rome, but if you do, rest assured, they have an amazing system in place for finding lost children.  Not a single person was allowed to move ’till he was found–quite a feat considering how many people were in there.

The Vatican Palace was built between 498AD and 514AD during the reign of Pope Symmachus on the left bank of the Tiber River in Rome.  It contains some 11,000–yes thousand, rooms on 13.5 acres and in 2003 the property was worth an estimated $1.21 billion not counting the art.  I can’t imagine the dusting and vacuuming.

The Vatican is now used mostly for religious and administrative meetings.  There are many priceless works of art housed within the Vatican and it’s five museums; The Museo Pio-Clementino, the Galleria Chiaramonti, the Braccio Nuovo, the Egyptian Museum, and the Etruscan Museum.  Some of the art is in the form of sculptures, like the ones below.

And some in amazingly detailed paintings on the walls and ceilings.

The museums within, and the art they contain, and the art on the building’s walls and ceilings are breathtakingly amazing.  So amazing that words cannot do them justice.

More on Ancient Rome

As I was looking through my photos, I found myself wondering why all the ones of ancient Rome were from a distance and above.  It occurred to me that I had forgotten that we went twice.  The first time was an organized tour through a local company, prearranged before we arrived in Italy.  I do not recommend this.  It was a huge disappointment.  It reminded me of the jokes you hear about seeing the Grand Canyon where you run to the edge, look out over the expanse for two minutes, then someone says, “O.K., moving on…”

In the first tour, that is exactly what they did.  They drove us to the Spanish Steps where everyone got out and walked to the top where there is a view of ancient Rome from the backside.  We looked over it for a few minutes, then the tour guide announced it was time to move on.  Same for the Colosseum.  Everyone was really ticked.

“You mean we are not going in?”  Several people chimed.

The tour guide looked at his watch, then announced, “No time!  Let’s go!”

That evening we were sitting in a small restaurant where the tables were very close together.  A couple from Ireland at the next table heard us talking about our disappointment of the days tour, and they caught our attention, and leaned in to tell us exactly how to get an awesome tour.

“Go to the Colosseum and stand around and wait for someone to approach you and ask if you want to take a tour.”

We were a little nervous.  DH said, “Is that safe?”

The Irish guy nodded.  “Yes.  They have a license, they can bypass the lines and they will take you everywhere.”

So, with a lot of trepidation, we went back two days later.  Sure enough, within ten minutes a young guy approached us and asked us if we wanted a tour.  We said yes, something we will never regret.  It was amazing.  He asked us to meet him in an hour while he gathered more people for the tour, and when we came back the group was ten people.  Everyone paid him and we were off.  We bypassed the enormous line and walked right in to the Colosseum.  He took us on the ancient Rome tour after a break for lunch.  That’s when I got the shots of the Colosseum from the previous post as well as the following shots of ancient Rome.



The Spanish Steps and Ancient Rome

The Piazza di Spagna and the Piazza Trinita del Monti are on either end of the Spanish steps, with the Trinita dei Monti church at the top.  They are the widest set of steps in all of Europe.  In the Piazza di Spagna at the base, Fontana della Barcaccia.

Every time I look at this I have the same thought:  My, he has a rather high opinion of himself, doesn’t he?

Ancient Rome has been here since the 8th century BC.