From the Archive: Destination Spotlight, RAVENNA, Italy

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My visit to Ravenna is my second purely for pleasure trip. I have no reason to be there other than some of the most important art historical masterpieces from the late antique/early middle ages are found within its borders. Since antiquity, the city served as an important port on the Adriatic as well as occasionally serving as a capital for the Western Roman emperors and the Ostrogothic monarchs, eventually becoming the seat of the Exarchate of Ravenna (the seat of the Byzantine governor in Italy). In the 8th century, Ravenna was taken over by the Lombards, and thus ends my knowledge of Ravenna’s history. Truthfully, I have no expectations from the city of Ravenna; I’m going for its architecture.

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Check out the details found in the mosaics of San Vitale

I’ll be spending one weekend in Ravenna and I will be going to see a LOT of churches and a few tombs. Number one on the list is arguably one of the most important 6th century churches in Italy, and Europe, San Vitale. The structure and the mosaics are well preserved and I LITERALLY CAN’T WAIT to see them. Notable among the mosaics of San Vitale are the Theodora and Justinian mosaics which depict the imperial couple presenting the instruments of the Eucharist to the church in a process of officials. Richly colored in blues, greens, and golds, these mosaics demonstrate the sensory nature of early-medieval worship.

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Looking into the apse (the holiest spot of the church). In the conch of the apse, you have Christ depicted with full imperial symbolism…he is surrounded by two angels, Saint Vitale, and Bishop Ecclesias who initiated the construction of the church. 

I don’t know if I’ll be able to see all of the churches I want to see, but top on my list besides San Vitale are Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, San Giovanni Evangelista, and the Arian and Orthodox Baptisteries. I’d like also to visit the Mausolea of Galla Placidia and Theodoric.

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Sant’Apollinare Nuovo from an aisle looking into the nave. 

Sant’Apollinare Nuovo was built not long before San Vitale, but instead of the Byzantine central-plan domed church of San Vitale, we have a traditional basilica form (a long church with a center nave, and at least two surrounding aisles, all axially oriented towards the apse where the rituals would be performed). What is interesting about this church is that it was built under Ostrogothic rule as a Palace church for the emperor Theodoric. The Ostrogoths were Christians, but believed in a “heretical” form of Christianity called Arianism (long story short – questions the divinity of Christ and the notion of the Holy Trinity). When Ostrogothic rule ended, the church was not destroyed and we have noticeable examples where the mosaic program of the church was altered to reflect both the change in the political situation AND the religious shift to orthodoxy.

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Sant’Apollinare Nuovo mosaic that depicts the Ostrogothic palace…this mosaic shows obvious signs of being altered…can you spot them? 

The Mausoleum of Galla Placidia (so-called) is a pretty early structure that has some remarkable mosaics, both figural and decorative. My favorite of the mosaics is a depiction of Saint Lawrence and the instrument of his martyrdom. Saint Lawrence was an early-Christian martyr that was literally *grilled* to death. In this mosaic Saint Lawrence is standing beside his flaming gridiron; next to the gridiron is a cabinet with the handily labelled books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, or the Gospels.  Fun Fact: St. Lawrence is the patron saint of barbecue….chew on that for a few…PUN INTENDED.

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Saint Lawrence with his grill…..and you can see where I got the image for my blog header

My plans for visiting Ravenna just reinforce, in my mind, how much of an art historian I am. I do not study early medieval/late antique/Byzantine art, nor do I study Christian art, but I LOVE THIS STUFF. I cannot wait to see it…the pictures take my breath away, so I can only imagine the impact it will have in person.

What is a place you can’t wait to visit? The most hyped place you’ve ever been? Did it live up to your expectations? 

This is sixth in a series of blog posts that I will be doing to talk about where I am going during this trip, why I am going there, and what I’m expecting to see.

Paris * Besançon * London * Venice * Pula 

From the Archive: Destination Spotlight, PULA, Croatia

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I still can’t quite believe that I am going to Croatia. It’s not a place I ever expected to go, nor did I think it would happen in the course of my research but here we are. Pula (or Pola) is on the Istrian peninsula of Croatia and was/is a prominent port on the Adriatic. In antiquity, Pula was one of the most important ports for maintaining Roman supply lines during various excursions into the hinterlands of the Balkans and further into Eastern Europe.

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Temple of Augustus and Roma, circa 2 AD 

Nowadays it is still a port, and a prominent vacation location. Its VERY well preserved Roman remains, its place on the Adriatic, as well as nearby attractions for those that like the outdoors draw folks to Pula…mainly other Europeans.

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Pula’s Amphitheatre…take that Flavian Amphitheatre (aka the Colosseum)

My goal here really is Pula’s Roman remains. Amphitheater. Arches. Temples. Villas. Pula has it all. I know next to nothing about Croatia more generally. In fact, I just recently figured out (I’m so embarrassed to admit this) that I will have to go through SLOVENIA to get to Croatia from Italy. Slovenia has a tiny little strip of land that reaches the Adriatic that divides Italy from Croatian’s Istrian peninsula. I’m not sure how much I’ll be able to claim that I “have been to Slovenia”; is driving through a country the same as an airport visit?

The arch that I’m going to visit is on its way to becoming one of my favorites. In many ways, this little guy is an enigma. It’s super early and super well preserved…not a combination we usually have in arch world.

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The Arch of the Sergii 

What’s the most unexpected or unique travel experience or opportunity you’ve had?

This is fifth in a series of blog posts that I will be doing to talk about where I am going during this trip, why I am going there, and what I’m expecting to see.

Paris * Besançon * London * Venice 

From the Archive: Destination Spotlight, VENICE

This is fourth in a series of blog posts that I will be doing to talk about where I am going during this trip, why I am going there, and what I’m expecting to see.

Paris * Besançon * London

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Venice. I don’t know about you, but the image that name inspires in my mind is one of an extraordinarily magical place. Palaces, spolia, canals, bridges, floods, and gondoliers rush into my mind and yet again, this trip is allowing me to check another major European off my list. I’m also super excited that this isn’t going to be happening in the rush of tourist season.

I will not be in Venice for long. Merely one full day. I arrive in the evening on day 1, have a full day the next day, then depart early in the morning for Pula on the third day. Originally my plan had been to travel from Venice to Croatia by ferry, but it was not to be. Instead, I will be traveling from Venice, to Trieste, to Pula, by train and bus. (literally, arriving in Venice by plane, departing by train, and arriving in Pula by automobile).

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But first, I will spend a single day in Venice. Now, I know there are many things to see and do in Venice, but the only plan I have is to explore and to visit Saint Mark’s Basilica, and probably the Accademia…really hit the highlights of Venetian art (the kind I’m interested in anyway, sorry Biennale.) I feel like that’s honestly not too bad for a single day.

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Basilica di San Marco

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Between art and a walking tour, I am hoping to explore a good bit of Venice. My other goal is completely unrelated to art (it doesn’t happen often!). I want to try carpaccio. It’s a Venetian dish, thinly sliced beef (raw!) served with lemon juice, truffle or olive oil, and Parmesan cheese. My only concern with this is that I will get insane food poisoning and be completely screwed since I am a) traveling alone, and b) going to Croatia the next day and that involves a lot of travel.  BUT, if I eat it anywhere, it should be Venice, yeah?

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What are your must sees in Venice? What’s the most adventurous thing you’ve ever eaten while traveling?

This blog was originally published here

From the Archive: Destination Spotlight, LONDON

If you’ve known me for any length of time, there’s a chance you’ve figured out this fact about me: I. Am. An. Anglophile. I’ve been obsessed with things British since I was a wee girl. I used to be able to sing a ditty with all of the names of the kings and queens of England, in order. (I can only just list them now).

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Image Credit, Elizabeth II at 90, Vanity Fair, Annie Leibovitz

Jane Austen. Harry Potter. The Beatles. Alan Rickman. Emma Thompson. THE QUEEN. ((…and Queen (ha!)) Tea. Midsomer Murders. The Spice Girls (very important to 12 year old me).  Castles. Shakespeare. Scones. Procedural mysteries. HYACINTH BUCKET. Dame Judy. Dame Maggie. Dame Julie. Ab Fab. Black Adder. MARY BERRY AND THE GBBO.

THE LIST GOES ON.

I’ve considered it to be a personal failing that I’ve yet to set foot on English soil. But on October 5, 2016 (Happy birthday, Daddy!) I will arrive in London. This is the part of my trip that is exclusively for fun– I have no legitimate reason to be there other than I want to be.

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Nereid Monument, British Museum 

HOWEVER, most of what I will be doing when I’m there is still closely related to what I’m into. I will be visiting museums (The British Museum, The Soane Museum, and the V&A are on the top of the list, the Tate and the Portrait Gallery are maybes). I want to go to Harrods and buy tea. Go to Kew Gardens. Westminister Abbey. St. Paul’s Cathedral.  The tower of London to see the Crown Jewels. And if there is an event where the Queen will be seen in public, you can bet your ass I’ll be one of the ninnies in the crowd. If I have time, and I’m starting to think it’s doubtful that I will, I may go to Bath.

I also want to just walk around and be there. Buy books. Drink Tea. Eat meat pies and puddings and bakewell tarts. Take a stupid picture in King’s Cross at Platfrom 9 ¾. Try very hard not to imitate the accents (I’m an accent chameleon unfortunately). Of all of the places I am going this fall (and MAN are there many), this may be the place I’m looking forward to the most.

Have you been to London? What are your must sees?

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Originally posted by isolatedhysteria

This is third in a series of blog posts that I will be doing to talk about where I am going during this trip, why I am going there, and what I’m expecting to see.

Paris * Besançon

From the Archive: Destination Spotlight, Besançon, France

This is a second in a series of blog posts that I will be doing to talk about where I am going during this trip, why I am going there, and what I’m expecting to see.

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One of the most exciting things about this trip is that I will be visiting a bunch of smaller places around France and Italy that I’d never have considered going to without needing to for research. Maybe it’s because this petite ville is in France, and because the arch seems SO COOL, but I cannot wait for my excursion to Besançon.

Located near the Franco-Swiss border, this is a small-ish city in the foothills of the Alps. It was of interest to the Romans because of its positioning in relationship to Alps, and the settlement’s positioning on the Doubs river.  Since the first century BCE, it has been a city that holds military strategic importance, shifting between Burgundian, Spanish, Austrian, and French control over the centuries.

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Image Credit 

Besançon is reportedly one of the prettiest cities in France that has yet to really receive a great amount of tourist attention (which is fine by me!) Surviving historical edifices in the city include: a Roman monumental arch (of course), a 12th-century cathedral, fortifications of Vauban from the 17th century, and much, much more.

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I will be visiting Besançon in early October and I’m, perhaps naively, hoping for beautiful, mild October weather for my explorations of this city. I know it’s a little too early for the leaves to turn, but one can’t help but hope right?

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Previous Spotlights: Paris

From the Archive: Destination Spotlight, Paris

This is a first of a series of blog posts that I will be doing to talk about where I am going during this trip, why I am going there, and what I’m expecting to see. 

Paris was my first international destination – and for a long time the only place I’d really been in Europe. I visited for the first time in 2004 and then I returned in 2005 for my semester-long study abroad. As cheesy and corny as it sounds, this city has my heart like no other. I’ve yet to visit a place that challenges Paris’s supremacy in my heart.

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Some of its primacy definitely is tied up with how I feel it connects to me as a person. I regard Paris as the first place I learned how to be myself as an adult. At the age of 19, I got on a plane and flew to France for months…I remember standing in the security line at Dulles watching my dad leave the airport and getting very emotional; two Russian grandmas comforted me very sweetly and made me feel less alone. As I think back on that now, I am constantly surprised that my younger self handled it relatively well; 30 year-old-me definitely would not have been as chill about the semester abroad.

Paris has some great personal memories…I did some amazing things, spoke the best French of my life (the state of it is so sad now in comparison), and met some truly fantastic people (including one of my oldest and bestest friends, Ashley!) Our small group of R-MC and Goucher folks, plus the ones we picked up in our language classes, had some amazing times together.

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But Paris – the place Paris…I literally can’t imagine a place I love more. The main touristy areas full of history, each arrondissement with its own personality and rhythm, from the grand Haussmannian boulevards, to the narrow twisting streets of the Quartier Latin, to slightly too pristine Champs d’Elysée, I love how this city *feels*. So going back for me this trip is HUGE. It’s been over ten years. It will be different; a lot has happened to Paris and me in the past decade. I’m hoping it will be like reconnecting with an old friend you haven’t seen in awhile, but you pick up where you left off.

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For this trip, Paris is serving two purposes. One, I get to start the trip in a place that is at least nominally familiar and I will be able to navigate it without large amounts of stress (hopefully). Two, it will serve as a kind of home base; I will arrive in Europe and depart to the US from Paris. I will travel to a few other locations in the north(ish) of France from there as well as make use of some library collections in Paris.

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I can’t lie though; returning to Paris definitely feels more like a personal pleasure than something expressly connected to work. Paris me manque toujours. Ma chère amie, à bientôt!

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This blog was originally posted here

From the Archive: When Plans Go Awry

I am only able to plan my trip in fits and bursts. I’m afraid if I go too fast, I’ll get careless and make a costly error. I feel like I made one of those errors today, but perhaps it was a case of reading and receiving old information, or the info I’m looking at now was recently updated.

My trip to Croatia is probably one of the most unique opportunities I’ve ever had. I’ve been planning, loosely, for this trip since February or March. All of the internet and print resources informed me that the best way to get to Pula, Croatia is by ferry, which runs April through the end of October.

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Pula is on the tip of Croatia’s peninsula, and ferry IS the most direct route. But apparently, in 2016, as opposed to previous years (I think), the ferries are ending at the end of September. I will arrive in this area in early/mid October..Previously, I thought it to be plenty of time to hitch a ferry from Venice across the Adriatic..enjoying a great view and experience all the while. But alas. ‘Twas not to be. All of the ferry schedules I can find confirm…no ferries after September.

After taking a step back for a few minutes, minutes that were filled with incredibly intense panic, I realized that all was not lost. I shall simply take a train from Venice to Trieste, and bus from Trieste to Pula. A bit longer perhaps, but MUCH cheaper, and instead of seeing the sea, I’ll see the countryside.  I’ll see plenty of the sea in Venice, Pula, Rimini, Ravenna, Fano, and Ancona.

I confess myself disappointed, but it is not the end of the world. Hopefully this is the only travel related snafu (knock on ALL the wood); with so many legs of the journey, I feel like some mixups are to be expected.

I think I’m done planning for the day!

This blog was originally posted here