Friday, December 31, 2004

Stone head from Pont Neuf bridge, Paris. Posted by Hello

Detail of stone face on Pont Neuf bridge, Paris, France, June, 2004. This is my first uploaded photo using "Hello" from Picasa.

This picture shows one of the heads that Christos' op art project covered up in 1985 when Christos wrapped about 410,000 feet of beige fabric over the Pont Neuf bridge (Pont Neuf = New Bridge). I'm fascinated by this bridge because it was apparently the first "modern" bridge (begun in 1578 but not completed until the 1700s) in Paris that was built without houses so the people could stroll along the bridge and see the Seine. Here's a historical description of the actual bridge:

"Tronchet’s Picture of Paris (c. 1818) gives the following description of its original construction and characteristics:

"The length of the bridge is 1020 feet, and its breadth 72 feet, which is sufficient to admit of five carriages passing abreast. It is formed of twelve arches, seven of which are on the side of the Louvre, and five on the side of the Quai des Augustines, extending over the two channels of the river, which is wider in this place, from their junction. In 1773, the parapets were repaired, and the footway lowered and narrowed. Soufflot, the architect of the church of St. Genevieve [now known as the Pantheon], availed himself of the opportunity to build, on the twenty half moons which stand immediately above each pile, as many rotundas, in stone, to serve as shops.

"On the outside, above the arches, is a double cornice, which attracts the eye of the connoisseur in architecture, notwithstanding its mouldering state, on account of the fleurons in the antique style, and the heads of sylvans, dryads, and satyrs, which serve as supports to it, at the distance of two feet from each other. As the mole that forms a projection on this bridge, between the fifth and seventh arch, stands facing the Place Dauphine, which was built by Henr[i] IV, it was chosen for erecting to him a statue, which was the first public monument of the kind that had been raised in honor of French kings. " (173-4) Source:

What Tronchet calls "heads of sylvans, dryads, and satyrs" were supposedly "humorous" and grotesque drawings of people at the time, the archetype of the drunkard, the miser, the lover, commoners (the dentist, the barber, the pickpocket) and even the king -- all exaggerated portraits that made fun of people in a time when freedom of speech was generally curtailed by royal decree. So my question is: Why would Christos want to cover up these great satirical heads in his op art project? More research is needed! Go to the Portland Art Museum to see more pictures of Christos' Pont Neuf project:

Posted by Hello
Just want to add this to my blog as a resource. First time use so not sure how this works.

Bill Clinton Daily Diary
We finally got a chance to go up to the Portland Art Museum this week, the one in Oregon. The main exhibit was a photo-montage exhibit of how Christo and Jeanne-Claude wrapped the Pont Neuf bridge in Paris all is plain beige fabric, covering up those wonderful, satirical heads carved in stone. The project took 10 years (1975-1985) and lots of fabric; apparently people loved it, a splash of avante garde beige across the Seine.

My favorite this time was seeing the European collection (go to through my students' eyes, wondering which paintings would best reinforce the themes from 1400-1750, and if we should try to come up together, gather for lunch at Bush Gardens, wielding chopsticks Japanese-style, then wander the European collection with a docent.

The map in the tiny back room, the earliest part of the European collection, caught my eye because it showed the Etruscans north of Rome. I'd always imagined them east and south of Rome and older, much older than the Romans. Here the map showed the Etruscan culture running parallel to the Romans and the Greeks from about 1,000 BCE until about 200 CE, and located north, well up to the Italian border. Of course, that makes sense, Tuscany today, Etruscans then. And the lovely pottery, rounded painted scallops edge a bowl.

Once into the medieval period, I spotted a lovely small cutout Christ on a cross, painted by Botticelli about 1500. The quote underneath said: "Best known for poetic mythologies but late in his career, under the influence of the puritanical religious reformer, Savonarola, he turned to highly expressive and often archaic religious themes." Hah! So much information captured in that one phrase that ties right back into my interest in Savonarola and his influences on artists of the Renaissance in Florence. Botticelli did indeed paint those lovely "Venus Rising From the Sea" type paintings that decorated the mansions of the rich Florence merchant-princes. Savonarola inspired the people with charismatic preaching of the risks of hell-fire and the need for repentence, protesting the rampant materialism of the rich. Botticelli burned some of his paintings in the now famous bonfire of vanities, where Renaissance paintings and books were heaped up and burned. Savonarola's reward? After ruling for two years: to be hung and burned at the stake in the main piazza of Florence. The impact on Botticelli? Mysterious paintings coded with Savonarola's ideas about God, heaven and redemption. And maybe fewer ethereal mythological maidens. One of the museum notes called the Renaissance, "a balance between divinity and humanity."

The other exhibition-stopping moment for me was the wonderful comparison between two painters to show the essential conflict between realism and rationalism during the Baroque. Caravaggio (1511-1610) was much more influential than I thought in the Northern Renaissance. According to museum notes, realism exploded out of Rome about 1610, and swept through Italy, Spain, France and the Netherlands. Here, the Portland Art Museum compares side-by-side Dutch Caravaggist Gerrit Von Horthorst, "Liberation of St. Peter" (1620-1630) with the classical painting of "Mercury and Herse" (1650) by Thomas Blanchet. Both paintings are rather large, but not monumental. But the "Liberation of Peter" is personal, intimate, a dramatic focus on Peter in jail with light pouring in from the right, his face anguished. Blanchet's painting is almost a paint-by-number architectural rendering with small angels appearing to drift across the sky, almost pulled on strings. Realism (the power of the individual emotion, how what people feel strongly motivates them to action) versus classicism (the power of rationality, how what people think causes them to arrange reality).

Was there more? Yes, even a short walk through the somewhat truncated Asian collection just to look and appreciate was fun, and we saved the Native American collection for next time, because we just needed more time. I like to go very slowly through the museum. The last delight, the Mauritshuis Project, a collection of 7 paintings that help us see themes in Dutch painting from the 17th Century, only a corner in the museum, but beautifully documented with careful notes. This little corner, only here through January 29, 2006, was delightful, even with a painting that reminded me at first of the famous Jan Van Eyck Nederlandish painting, "Marriage of Anolfini and His Bride" (1434). Here, Jan Steen's "The Sick Girl" (1661-1665) continues the tradition of a homely scene, still shown with faithful dog but now more satirical, if the observer can read the clues left by the artist (the maidservant's efforts to curtail morning sickness in an obviously young and shamed girl). Compared to Van Eyck, the Steen painting looks almost like a cartoon, as if such paintings made fun of rather than celebrated the people shown. Interesting contrast and a lovely day as we draw to the end of the year to confront the larger issues of death and destruction in the wake of the tsunami.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Filled with the calming breath of meditation,
I wake to obligation.
My friend sees green around me,
but I feel poised between past
and future, my path filled with commitment;
one step at a time,
I try to create harmony.

Focus on what is true.

Words escape me as I hear the hum of the heater.
Inside warm, quiet, almost peaceful.
Outside the finches and sparrows eat sunflower seed
like there is no tomorrow.
For them, the morning begins cold.
They do not worry about
children or elders frail in mind and body.
They need only survive this winter,
this now.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Today began about 4 am, reading those last papers before grades go in, swearing to myself to not accept late papers again! By 8:30, I was in a room with about 30 English teachers, ready to read holistic finals, wondering how the WR121 papers would go. We had a new system for tracking how we evaluated the papers; immediate resistance! How could we possibly reduce how we evaluate student writing to a rubric? Ha! Accusations flew through the air -- we could limit the argument to pronouns. Talk of brownshirts imposing rules polarized the discussion.

This group of teachers cares about learning and helping students and all the good stuff, but we definitely come at it from different angles. One camp forgives the most egregious punctuation errors IF the essay is thoughtful -- or even attempts thoughtfulness, even if that effort challenges the essay prompt, or wanders. Another camp values logical order and correctness (yes, even neat handwriting) over creativity. We can't tell if the essays are tossed off or agonized over. All we have is the written word, not word processed, in front of us. Decoding. Deconstructing. Sometimes desperate.

Today the prompt was if you could "put time in a bottle," what memory would you want to save. I read so many stories: A heroin addict spends his first night in jail and then on release, a quick fix two blocks from the police station. A teen cradles the head of his dying friend following a horrific accident, while the driver of the car takes off. A young man remembers his proposal of marriage; three years later, he relishes the moment his Sarah said yes. Another recalls winning a wrestling match while he struggled with cracked ribs. Young people confronting the end of innocence -- a dying grandmother, a divorce, the lament of always being picked last. But bagels, hot coffee, and chocolate aside, the papers were read, grades were totalled, and squinty-eyed professors went home to an evening of quiet.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

School begins its own particular immersion. The rains began in the Willamette Valley this week, steady, relentless, with the first bite of real cold. My drive to school is filled with liberal ranting and fears about the election, as I listen to Air America and hope November brings change, not least less polarized attitudes about what we "should" be doing, or perhaps more willingness to talk about what is possible.

Each morning I begin with hope, swaying from hope to despair at the volume of work this term, struggling with each class how best to use my time to support their learning. Five classes, five preps, perhaps others could just do it. Well it's week 4 and we're all making some sort of progress. Today in Humanities, we'll debate again whether Socrates' decision to drink the hemlock made sense, and we'll talk about that early Greek democracy that meant nearly 4,000 people voted in his trial with white stones and black. I have to review the file again as the numbers slip away. And then to Plato, pure abstraction, and Aristotle, the steady theorist, logical, responsible for syllogism and synthesis.

I was reading a paper by a humanities student who wrote about Paul VandeVelder, a Corvallis writer at: and so found today's inspirational quote: "But where to begin? Ah, now there's a question. What the ancient ones tell us is true. The crossing is worth the storm. But there is one little catch. You can't see the far side until you leap."

I think I'm leaping just to stay current.


Tuesday, September 21, 2004

I've been working pretty hard, getting ready for school, making steady progress on Blackboard conversion (from one software platform to another, rather like working out of one 20-room mansion for a long time and then suddenly moving all the furniture to a different 20-room mansion -- and one with a different floor plan). But most of this week has been uphill, very slow progress. Until today. I was leaving school in the late afternoon and ran into a student from last year. She had been checking the blog and looking at pictures. Her enthusiasm was contagious, especially since I've been so busy with school that I haven't had a chance to work with pictures or ideas or much of anything other than school. So, Savonarola awaits!

And it's one of those balmy Fall afternoons, temperature about 74 degrees, sunny and deep blue sky, with the leaves turning to that sharp yellow color that almost hurts your eyes to look at. The flowers everywhere are pushing out that last bit of color, as if there were no more chances to blossom in the winter that comes.

So I want to post the poem I wrote in Egypt, and even though I didn't write too many poems, a lot of other work went on. And I'm thinking today that much is possible. Maybe I'm thinking that because I haven't read the daily news yet.

On Visiting Giza

I have stood on the banks of the Nile seeking wisdom,
stared into the eyes of the Sphinx,
wandered between the tumbled small pyramids
of the three queens, and watched the clouds
change the colors of the pyramids of Cheops,
Khafre, and Menkaure.

All they hoped for was the divine sleep
that closed their eyes and kept their souls alive,
each gold-framed jewel, each sarcophogus,
each mural painting, each ritual prayer,
a great preparation.
The ka-soul now wanders lost
without its body, those mummified remains
carted off to any western musuem,
a wordless song of pain.

All tried to buy insurance -- Cheops
with at least four solar boats to ferry
his ka-soul to the next life; Tut with three sarcophogi
to protect his mummified remains,
the innermost one of solid gold.
Oh, how the pyramids at Giza cry out
for respect, the most solemn prayers
warning intruders away,
their size a competition, each pyramid
larger than the last,
their size saying, pick me, pick me.
The grave robbers came almost before the painted seals were dry,
almost before the closing funeral prayers were complete,
and before the queen's tears were dry.

Tourists wander this large complex,
ready with cameras for the Sphinx,
tempted by postcards, table-sized pyramids,
plastic busts of Neferteri or Alexander the Great.
They stand in line to ride the Bedouin camels,
gaily decorated with green, red, and yellow
yarn-twisted tapestries.
More tourist buses pull up with a flurry of dust,
all dwarfed by what we have come to see
-- the pyramids.

I sit on a giant block from Khafre's temple,
the causeway still flat, reaches down to the Sphinx.
The clouds change overhead.
Even my tears dry in the wind.


Thursday, September 16, 2004

We're just two weeks away from the start of a new school year. The last weeks have beeen spent settling back into life in our very green small town, tree-lined streets, lots of bicyclers, trips to the library, and just a little gardening, mixed in with lots of reading of magazines piled up from 8 months away.

I've been going back and forth about continuing the blog. What possible interest could there be in writing about my very average life -- the perspective of a small-town, middle-America, quiet, probably not mainstream, older-than-average female? Part of the answer lies in what's ahead. Writing is a way of thinking on paper about the future and about what's happening now. Some people journal. Maybe some people just blogg and don't worry about it.

This week has been a little hard. Returning home to family and friends never comes without a difference. Some people have died, and I'm remembering them as a presence. Others are facing serious illnesses, recovering from operations, new babies have been born, children are leaving home, times of joy and times of sadness. At work, balanced with the joy of seeing close colleagues is the reality of long meetings where talk seems more important than action. What don't we have time for? My heart wants affirmations of what we can do. Consensus takes a very long time.

The politics of the American election are singularly depressing, each ad nastier than the next on both sides. Although the news this week has focused on Ivan, strategies and spins from both sides attempt to reach the undecided, with most people increasingly entrenched in their own positions, polarized by the real differences between the two candidates, relying on a combination of hope and fear and finally perhaps anger. Cheney, the hatchet man, said that if Kerry is elected, we can expect more terrorism. Later in the week, he corrected this, saying he meant whoever is elected to the White House, we can anticipate more terror. Click!

Yesterday at work, we had a practice drill to prepare for terrorism. This is Albany, Oregon, a small rural town! The loudspeaker, humming white noise, repeatedly interrupted our meeting with, "This is a lockdown. Stay in the building. Lock all doors. Do not enter the halls or courtyard." None of us have keys to any of the classrooms. After the drill was over, several people said once they heard the announcement, all they wanted to do was to run away. If someone with a submachine gun is methodically working through a building, locked doors or not, why wait? And with students? The most memorable film of Columbine High School was the footage showing students climbing out of second-story windows to escape the two young men with guns. That urge to flight saved their lives. Yet the teacher is supposed to guide, direct, protect -- be role models for appropriate action in such a situation. I guess I'm not trained yet.

Writing this today helped me see what I can do -- memos to colleagues that need writing, and a sense of connectedness. Make it a good day!

Thursday, August 19, 2004

I'm on the edge of recreating my old life. Coming back to the states and home after 7 months and 10 days away was a little like seeing myself in the mirror suddenly and not recognizing who that woman was -- me! Every day something reminds me of what we saw and thought about on the road in Egypt, Israel, Turkey, Greece, Italy, France and Britain.

The first time to the grocery store was a meltdown. An entire aisle dedicated to cereal? So many choices in every department, all brightly colored packaging clamouring for attention. I suppose that is appropriate in a consumer culture, but I'm not used to the messages. My closet was also a shock. With roughly 5 changes of clothes (and many trips to the sink for washing out) over the last months, I wasn't quite ready for so many choices.

The television ramps up from 4-5 channels, often not in English, to hundreds. Our local library, once a haven with tapestry-covered armchairs, has been totally reorganized, fewer tables for sitting and browsing, more stacks and stacks of books. So, does such luxury (for it seems that) just obscure how we use each day? I feel surrounded by clutter and uncertain of what is essential even as it's wonderful to be home, surrounded by beloved green hills, the Willamette Valley, even during August, the dried out month of yellow grassy fields.

And so I begin, first with family and friends, reconnecting with celebrations (a new baby, new jobs) and sadness (two deaths). And reconnecting with work. Aargh. Five classes and four preps. Actually five preps, since one of the double classes is online. And I need to switch over from Cold Fusion to Blackboard, a relatively time-intensive program so far, with its own structures, rather like living online in someone else's house. So that's only about 125 students if I hold the line on adds, but the online registration shows my tech writing classes already full.

I think I want to continue the blog. Maryanne writes about once a week -- her thoughts about living in Egypt. I'd like to figure out how to add a comments link. Being home is its own adventure with the November elections coming up, sparking my paranoia, well nurtured by the Vietnam era. Bush and Kerry both visited Portland on the same day last week -- there's a kind of theater. Kerry headed towards Riverfront Park and tens of thousands of people showed up. Bush stopped at several carefully orchestrated events. Only donors and volunteers were allowed the august presence. Is he afraid of the American people?

And the Olympics are on, a celebration of courage, effort, discipline, and beauty, even if I only watch a few highlights. The war in Iraq is nearly invisible, even as the loss of American life passes 900 and the loss of Iraqi life is measured in tens of thousands. The administrative change this week is that the Iraqis kicked out the press. The only journalists allowed to remain are those embedded with the troops -- the same troops that protect them. Will that affect the news, the ability to see the larger picture, evaluate what's happening overall, or even to get the word out about what's happening?

Today's daily poem by Alicia Ostriker reminds me that the same landscape provokes different perspectives, but the west coast is home. Ah, it is good to be home.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

Good morning, everyone. It's warmer in London, up to 85 degrees. We're enjoying the tube, or as some call it, the underground. Think hot, almost airless, and funny crowds of people, trailing kids and suitcases, every nationality using every language, in seemingly hundreds of different directions, up and down escalators and elevators, traffic moving on the left side instead of the right, with recorded messages to "Mind the Gap" on getting off the train. It's a great system with a weekly travel pass. We can go anywhere in the city at any time -- without having to drive, and I will miss it. Of course, we don't need such a system in a small town like Corvallis.

We're truly short-timers now. Only 9 days to lift off at Heathrow Airport. We'll be going up to York on Tuesday morning, and then to Bath, then back to London for an overnight and headed for home on Tuesday morning. Whew! Too much excitement.

Today's our anniversary, so we celebrated 29 years of married bliss by going to a London musical, "Jerry Springer, the Opera!" We were at first shocked, then entranced as profanity gave way to high kicks, and lovely singing and dance numbers, ending up with Jerry Springer hosting the Devil and God, with an engaging Devil trying to get Christ and God to apologize for casting him out. This was not a musical to appeal to the conservative right, but it raised many interesting issues about individual responsibility, tolerance, and forgiveness. But you had to be there to appreciate some of the sarcasm and the critique actually of Springer himself for not taking a stand about the people he hosts, the carnage that results, and the yearning underneath tragedy for a way out of such messes. Sometimes I think we can choose but the reality is probably more complicated, that we make our choices as best we can and then get lucky -- or unlucky. I'd like to believe in karma and healing the world, tikkun olam. Allen would probably tell me I need to be more optimistic. Anyway, it was a wonderful musical and even if it was our anniversary, still a fine gift. Such creativity and energy in the staging, singing, dancing and acting -- it was a spectacle.

Then on Friday, we took a day trip up to Cambridge to see the universities there. Wow! I was incredibly moved by King's College Chapel. We literally walked in and gasped at the beautiful, delicate, stone fan-fold ceiling with stained glass windows on either side reaching up. Equally moving was the music by the King's College Chapel Choir. Apparently each Christmas Eve service, the soloist, a boy about 10, is selected literally seconds before the performance (so he doesn't worry too much about preparing). Another moving ceremony is the investiture of faculty as they put on their robes and march down the nave to the Provost and take an oath swearing to commit themselves to teaching and nurturing the students in their charge. This ceremony is private, in the evening, and only with the faculty and Provost in attendance. But still, we felt a part of this as we looked at the architecture, the stonework, the heavily carved wooden choir -- all from the Tudor era, the 1560s, the earliest of universities. Walking around Cambridge was fun as the town is one that has worked to retain its medieval heritage. Plenty of book stores too, but no stopping as we're too close to going home.

News from home is good. My sister is engaged (hooray!), Rachel and Nick are coming to the airport to get us (hooray!), and we'll soon be back home with family and friends. I'm beginning to think what this trip has meant. I think I may need the rest of my life to figure it all out -- each country has expanded my understanding of culture and history so much as well as raising many questions. Access to good news has been difficult, especially this week as the Democratic Convention has been compressed to 2-3 minute sound bites here, but some might take that as a blessing. The editorials suggest Europe is still very concerned about Bush gaining a second term, but it does sound like Kerry was inspirational. I'm hoping.

Time for lunch. A brie sandwich in Kensington Park. Maybe with peach tea by the rose garden.

Be well. Beth

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Just a quick note to say, yes, we found a very nice Internet cafe with incredibly fast upload, so you can check out the new pictures that I've been holding off on -- including some romantic shots of Rach and Nick at Giverney, and our trip to the D-Day beaches.

Yesterday we spent a slow day at the British Library, and it was fabulous to see original manuscripts from so long ago.  It's hard to believe that copies have survived all these years, and I'm talking thousands of years in some cases, well, ok, hundreds.  First sticking in my mind in James Joyce's notebook, intense, penciled scrawls, crossed out, words written in every direction.  Then here is Lewis Carroll's original Alice in Wonderland, carefully printed by hand with delicate ink drawings illustrating the story which continues to entrance.   Surprisingly, we were fascinated by the story behind the Magna Carta, the continuing struggle between the land barons and King John over who had more power, but of course, King John did lose over the long term.  Despite a papal bull issued by Pope Innocent III, which invalidated the Magna Carta in under 10 weeks, the land barons, stubborn to the core, were able to have future kings reaffirm it, the real beginning of constitutional monarchy.  And, we were dazzled (as stamp collectors) to see the sheet of stamps issued under the Stamp Act which led to the American Revolution.  Ha!

My personal favorite is hard to decide.  Who could choose between the Lindesfarne Illuminated Bible and the original Beowulf, written about 1000 AD (only fragments, but still dazzling).   The British Museum has many materials online if you want to go see.  For now, we're off for another walk in the city, trying to  put all this history into perspective.

London weather is maybe 10 degrees cooler than home; the high has been 75 and we've had cooling wind and rain nearly every day -- the British have more words for describing cloudy weather than I think we have!

Good news from Corvallis -- Kara and Poul's baby arrived safely.    I hope all is well in your world.  Three weeks from today and we'll be home.  Yes, I'm definitely counting!

Hugs to all, Beth

Friday, July 09, 2004

Just settling into London. Perhaps the big achievement was getting a library card and library books. Yesterday, we spent 5-1/2 hours at the British Museum, exploring just 4 out of 75 rooms. Today, we move into a small 1 bedroom apartment. This means I have a kitchen again and can cook meals -- breakfast, lunch and dinner. English breakfasts are OK, think lots of bread, tea and breakfast meats, but other meals tend to be quite expensive. We've been mostly eating sandwiches. But with a kitchen, all the possibilities open up again. And we have our own space -- room for books, papers sprawled all over, all the comforts of home.

Yesterday at the British Museum, we took 2 50 minute introductions to special collections, both early medieval stuff. We saw artifacts from burials of the Picts, the Anglo Saxons, and other peoples before the Norman invasion of 1066. Imagine a giant cauldron as the center for feasting. They used these giant meat hooks to serve up chunks of meat -- meat (that is beef, not lamb or pig), was considered the greatest delicacy. Let's not talk about veggies. Bread, beer and meat were the main staples. Warriors were buried with their battle armour. Women too had these short daggers, rings, distaff stuff. Celtic swirls and designs, water birds, ravens, and gemstones, mostly coral and occasionally cloisonne (spelling?) embellished their garments and gear. The very wealthy had gold thread woven in. But they were a hardy people, as tall as we are today, though their lives were short, 45 was considered elderly. Whish, what does that make us? Wine was imported from Italy! This is back in the 300s. Trade routes were established even before the Romans, who pulled out of Britain in 410. Actually the Roman Empire didn't end with a bang, Rome just stopped sending support and withdrew its legions. That was enough for the Anglo-Saxons to move into the power vacuum, intermarry, and the rest is history.

Ah, the French bakery down the street is calling. Hot tea and fresh bread. Later, I may make a chicken pasta to celebrate the kitchen. All the news from home is good. Kara as yet has not had the baby. Rachel and Nick are somewhere on the road, perhaps camping. Pam and Bill are also on the road, long drive to Michigan. Susie and Brian are recovering from graduation parties, and the Scrabble ladies still meet about every other week to hone their skills. I send good wishes to all.


Monday, July 05, 2004

We had an intense travel day from France to England. Imagine starting at 7 am with a 2 hour trainride from Bayeux to Cherbourg, hiking over to the P&O Ferries to catch their express ferry to Portsmouth (delayed a few hours because of choppy weather), then 3 bumpy hours crossing the channel, then hopping a bus to Southampton, not really feeling as if we were in England yet, except we could read all the signs, another 2 hour wait for the bus to Salisbury, finally arriving at our B&B at 9:00 pm, and falling into bed about five minutes later. That was July 3rd. Actually crossing the Channel was exciting. I could imagine all the different people in history who had this same experience, Lord Byron, the Hugenots fleeing the French revolution, and how about those hardy souls who came over with William the Conqueror in 1066, to say nothing of those American, British and other allies who went the other way on June 6, 1944, for the landing in Normandy as part of the D-Day invasion of German-held France. We just played bridge and Scrabble, nothing very historic.

Our last day in France was spent on a half day tour of the beaches of Normandy -- most notably Omaha Beach where thousands of Americans lost their lives. Allen says that the invasion of France on D Day was perhaps the most historically significant battle since William the Conqueror in 1066, the only other successful military crossing of the Channel because it meant that Europe was not only liberated From Germany, but that communist Russia was held to east Germany and Berlin, and not the whole of Europe at the close of WWII. I've only read a bit about WWII, though, it was heart moving to understand the scope of the preparation, logistics and planning -- as well as the sacrifice of so many young people. We walked through the thousands of graves in the American Cemetary to see headstones (crosses and Jewish stars) for young men in their 20s. The Cemetary overlooks the dreaded Omaha Beach where we walked later, a beautifully sunny day, bright blue sky and water, and wide open stretches of sandy beach uphill to where the German guns were planted. We ended our tour at the Longue du Mer, a high cliff about 100 feet high, scaled by 225 marines who fought for 2 days before reinforcements came. They took the high ground, but only 80 survived.

What does it mean to think of these battles now and to acknowledge the tremendous sacrifice made then, and perhaps to compare this to the war in Iraq? Was one war honorable and this one not? Is the sacrifice being made by American soldiers now any the less? I applaud the willingness of men to serve our country, but I am saddened over and over again by the Bush administration's incompetence that led us to war instead of negotiation, and that now has created layers and layers of bureaucracy, waste, corruption, terrorism, and fear. We live in a very different world because of this pre-emptive war.

So, we're now in London after two beautiful days in Salisbury (pronounced Solsbry). We were able to go to Stonehenge and actually see this prehistoric and mysterious monument that no one can quite figure out what it means, although they have learned quite a bit about how it was built. Wooden fragments have been found, a kind of scaffolding, and the giant stones, some about 50 tons, actually had been worked with a kind of tongue in groove method to hold them in place. The smaller stones, carted from 250 miles away, only weighed 4 tons. We could barely see the slight depression in the land that led down to the Avon River. People used to come down the river, climb the hill and then be at Stonehenge, especially for the solstice.

We also attended on July 4 a choir service at the Salisbury Cathedral made famous by Constable's paintings. Here we actually sat in the choir with the choir as the organ played and the choir sang an evensong service, the music soaring to the Romanesque top of this church built in the 1300s and yet still vividly connected to the present with its brilliant stained glass windows, one entire wall of dazzling blue in memorial of prisoners of conscience. A large placard supporting Amnesty International was present.

The B&B in Salisbury was more than very nice, its decor yellow, blue and white, tea cups, paintings, fresh flowers, cosy bed, lots of pillows and a comforter -- and a tremendous English breakfast -- eggs, OJ, toast, oat cakes, breakfast meats, tea, coffee, home made jams and marmelade. This contrasts quite sharply with our digs in London, a room so small we have but room to turn around, but the bed is comfortable, we have our own bathroom (no trekking down the hall in the middle of the night), and breakfast is included. Not surprisingly, all the channels are in English and we have a TV. BUT MOST IMPORTANT, we now have library cards to the library here in North Kensington, and we have already checked out books -- Allen has a history book called Londinium, about the time of London under Rome, and I have a book on Stonehenge. Tonight we'll plan what's next for our stay of the next four to five weeks, but underneath all is growing excitement about coming home.

I hope these words find you well and well loved.


Monday, June 28, 2004

It's Monday night, and we are getting ready to visit Bayeaux to see the famed tapestries there before heading for Salisbury, London, and then home; Rachel and Nick leave in the morning after a last breakfast of croissants and strong French coffee. We've spent the last two weeks in museums -- the D'Orsay Museum, the Picasso Museum, Carnavalet History Museum, and the truly inspirational National Museum of Music.

I still can't believe I went up to the second level of the Eiffel Tower, some 400 feet above the ground. Just two days ago, we were hiking through that monolithic contribution to French royalty, Versailles. Although I admired the chapel and the theater (which borrowed its decor from Pompei!), I'm more saddened by the many deaths brought about by the king's inability to resolve France's economic problems in the 18th Century -- some 20,000 were guillotined during the Revolution -- to say nothing of the effects of mob violence. French history is written on church walls and outlined in stained glass in some of the most beautiful churches -- St. Chapelle and Notre Dame, to name two. At the Orsay we saw Monet's famous paintings of the cathedral at Rouen;apparently, he rented several apartments fronting the church and would race from one apartment to the next, working on several canvases at each apartment, hoping to catch just the right light. Tomorrow we'll climb up those 400 plus stairs at Notre Dame to stare down those famous gargoyles.

For tonight, we'll help Rachel and Nick pack and wish them a safe journey home. And enjoy a glass of wine, a banana crepe, and a good night's sleep. Be well!


Thursday, June 17, 2004

Rachel and Nick safely landed, after a three-hour delay out of Philadelphia due to lightning storms. But aside from a slight amount of culture shock -- everyone speaks French -- all is well. Both Rachel and Nick wanted to start sightseeing right away so we visited Notre Dame together for the first time and admired the flamboyant Gothic style throughout. Although much of the facade in the front had been renovated extensively in the 19th Century, the flavor was still definitely Gothic, complete with gargoyles, spires, dazzling stained glass windows, and lots of tourists.

After a indulgent breakfast of croissants, chocolate croissants, pain aux raisins (a kind of cinnamon roll with custard and raisins but no cinnamon), and cafe auu lait, the real treat came today as we headed off to the French Conservatory of Music to visit their museum of music. With electronic headsets, we began first with a history of instruments -- over 900 on display. As we walked by each display, a lovely mini-lecture and snips of music helped us understand the value and changes and contributions of each type of instrument. Imagine the evolution of the harpsichord to the pianoforte to the piano. The music brought tears to all our eyes it was so evocative of creativity, discipline and talent.

After a brief break to rest our tired feet, both Rachel and Nick had new shoes, we headed back through a stunning exhibit of music from the Middle Ages, integrating art and the role of the musician. We were all dazzled. Integrated with longer clips of medieval music, we looked at medievam sculptures and many illuminated manuscripts that, for example, showed the influence of Plato and Aristotle, and early theories of medieval music. Another example, the school of music at Notre Dame actually was the first to use measures in music. I saw illustrations of the first system of notation, a phonetic system which required great memorization, so much that musicians wrote the symbols for the sounds on different joints of their fingers! Four and a half hours later, we were ready to watch the latest soccer game, happily enconsed at home.

I almost forgive the French aristocracy for the excesses that led to the French revolution (for in that era about 90 percent of the people died of starvation, and the remaining 10 percent died of indigestion), for the court system and the striving to embellish the lavish court life led to patronage of all the arts -- including musicians -- and brings us so much beauty today. Allen also pointed out that French support for the American revolution was pivotal to our democratic system today, coming as it did in French opposition to the British and through the diplomatic efforts of B. Franklin. All in all, we have much to be grateful for from the French -- not the least being French fries.

Enjoy every day of summer. I can't wait to see the 'kids' react to the Louvre, Versailles, a boat ride down the Seine, and a concert of medieval music with authentic instruments. Write when you can. I send you good thoughts.


Sunday, June 13, 2004

Hello. I hope you are enjoying summer where you are. I finally was able to upload some pictures so go check them out. Gordy had left some pictures of Turkey there and it was wonderful to have that little snapshot of friends, a momento of Turkey.

Today we visited Rodin's museum, two floors of his works. Tucked away on the second floor were four little masterpieces by Van Gogh, little seen and totally unexpected. The burgers of Calais and Rodin's door to hell (inspired by the baptistry doors we saw in Florence by Ghiberti AND Dante's Inferno), though here with a more romantic twist -- literally, as the figures are strongly three-dimensional; tzisted, leaping, falling. Imagine a beautiful formal garden around a large Neoclassic mansion. Rodin at first rented a studio here, and as he became more and more established, he just rented more and more of the space. He lived here until he died, surrounded by lime trees, fountains, and lots of space for his sculpture.

We also visited the Museum d'Orsay yesterday. Only three floors and over 100 rooms (nothing compared to the over 400 at the Louvre), yet after four hours, we still found ourselves having only completed just about a third. I have renewed respect for the work of Toulouse Lautrec -- his pastels have amazing color and texture. We dallied also over the work of Delacroix and Manet and Millet. Then Allen said, Just one more room to take a preview of what we'll see on our next visit. We walked into the middle of the next room to find it completely full of Van Gogh, and tears came into my eyes.

We find ourselves mostly eating sandwiches, but we have also discovered crepes. Yes, McDonald's is here in Paris, but we also find creperies in nearly every neighborhood, melt-in-your-mouth crepes with sweet or dinner type fillings. We're starting to feel at home in Paris, though it's still pretty much a pinch me kind of experience.

We have a lovely TV in our apartment but still feel pretty isolated from the news as everyone speaks French here -- even on TV. So we're following the soccer competitions and translating the late night news as best as possible. Only 2 more weeks here, then on to England. Be well and write when you can.


Thursday, June 03, 2004

Zell; we are in France now and with a new computer keyboqrd: They have reversed the A with the Q and the Z with the W, and moved the M way over to the right, changing some other letters as well. So, please overlook q few typos as I get used to this...

We safely arrived in Paris after an 17 hour bus ride from Venice, talk about tired bones. But, we now have an apartment. For those of you who have not been sensory-deprived, our apartment is BIG -- four rooms -- a dining room, a tiny kitchen just big enough for one person, and a living room with TV (only channels in French) and stereo (classical music, jazz, blues, with French commentary), and a bedroom of our very own. We can be in different rooms at the same time. And I'll be cooking for the first time since January;

Whew, getting used to this new keyboard will take some time. It,s touch typing all over again:

Our first day in Paris felt like we were still in Venice -- what an unforgettable experience Venice was. Imagine picturesque old mansions from the turn of the century right next to the canals, and I can report, the canals in Venice are not smelly, though I learned that Lord Byron took a daily swim in the Grand Canal; something I wouldn't recommend. Everywhere we walked was beautiful, sunny skies, lots and lots of tourists; friendly people, and an old culture built on hundreds and hundreds of years of trading in the Mediterranean; Venice was the center of the world for nearly 800 years, even sidetracking the 4th Crusade to attack Constantinople. What a place for intrigue. St Mark's Cathedral was breathtaking for its gold edged mosaics everywhere, some (incredibly expressive) from the 12th Century. There's also a wild story about how 2 Venetian traders swiped St. Mark's body from Constantinople during a violent thunderstorm, to bring it home to Venice. I also have a renewed appreciation for Tintoretto. If you can, go to Mark Hardin's Artchives online to see some of the paintings he painted for the School of San Rocco. He won the competition at first simply by bringing a painting to the school and giving it to them, saying pay me whatever you wish. They loved his work and decided to give him 100 ducats a year for the rest of his life, in exchange for so many paintings. The result is a school filled with monumental paintings that, since they were all painted by the same person; have a certain harmony qnd consistency. His piety, innovation, and simply great art are apparent with every line.

And, now we're in Paris. Today we begin the Louvre -- 432 rooms full of art. I think we will need more than one visit.


PS Check out the link at the right hand corner for more on Tintoretto; I couldn't resist posting one link on this great artist.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

May 23, a sunny Sunday in Florence and it's Savonarola's birthday. After a great breakfast of coffee and hot rolls, we headed out to our local Internet point and found ourselves running to a large piazza where a parade was underway. Brightly colored banners, a giant red fleur de lis, one of the symbols of Florence, and trumpeters, drummers, and 'nobility,' all in Renaissance dress, reds, blues, yellows, led the parade to the Ponto Vecchio (old bridge), where rose petals were thrown off the bridge to honor Savonarola.

Serendipity, for yesterday, we had just visited the San Marco Basilica and cloister where Fra Angelico painted his famous murals. Just yesterday, we had stood in Savonarola's old office, study and cell. I saw what was purported to be his bible, a bible from the 14th Century, complete with tiny, very neat marginal notes -- in Latin.
Savonarola, a charismatic preacher, much loved by the people, wanted to end corruption in government. He's famous for his bonfires of the vanities, where even Botticelli threw a few of his paintings. Influential and feared, Savonarola was actually successful in leading the republic, for a time. But support waned (I'm not sure why, no research tools here). The poor guy said he would walk on hot burning coals to prove his integrity, but then he changed his mind. (No kidding!). But it was too late. He was arrested, tried, hung, and burned . . . in the Piazza Signoria. Right where yesterday we saw a Savonarola plaque in his memory. So today, rose petals were thrown to honor his birthday. He remains an enigmatic character, perhaps reflective of the Italian persona. Efforts have been made to canonize him, so far unsuccessful, perhaps because he relied on prophecy a bit much. A mystical, mysterious man. Makes me wonder who else was influenced by Savonarola. Michelangelo? See Botticelli's painting titled Calumny to see his take on the trial of Savonarola.

The murals by Fra Angelico were beautiful, angels with psychodelic rainbow wings, evocative faces, a sense of piety everywhere, the cloister still the same as those old days back in the 15th Century. Sadness mixed with beauty. Happy Birthday, Savonarola!

Hello from Florence. Just two more days here -- and six churches to go.

Be well. When you see roses, think of Savonarola.


Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Each day is so full, it's kind of hard to know where to start. Have we seen Michelangelo's David? Yes, and it's just as spectacular as anyone could imagine. Yesterday we saw Davids by Donatello and Verocchino, each with a different take. And we saw Michelangelo's Brutus, a complex study. Today we visited the Medici chapels, really a mausoleum. What a testament to arrogance and purely too much money.

Yes, I posted pictures . . . just a few from Greece, so hit that button to go explore.

Yes, I heard from the Scrabble ladies (a group e-mail that brought tears to my eyes). And, yes, WO is a variant Old English spelling of "woe" and quite OK to use (I won a game with Allen using WO, but it's pretty hard to play Scrabble without that English language dictionary to challenge entries!).

The crowds are increasing daily here, and Venice is supposed to be even more crowded. I think of home and quiet places, but we did find a used book store with lots of books in English. And we're continuing to read the Herald Tribune with its chilling revelations about the war in Iraq. Be well.

Fondly, Beth

Sunday, May 16, 2004

With a sense of unreality, we left Rome behind and traveled by bus, just 3 hours north to Siena, a small town about the size of Corvallis, but very different with its hillside, winding, medievally narrow streets, tall buildings, and tucked around the corner, piazzas filled with light. Here the famous paolio is run. Ten riders race their horses around a very large piazza, as fast as they can -- and often violently. The only rule: You can't grab the reins of another horse. Everything else is OK. In fact, the winning horse just has to cross the finish line first. The rider doesn't have to be present!

Here in Siena, we visited a massive Gothic cathedral, nearly as rich as the Vatican, with pink, white and green marble everywhere. The floors were impressive, all inlaid marble with the most elaborate pictures. My favorite was the Liberia Piccolomini, intended to be a library but books were never stored here. Instead, imagine wall to wall murals, painted by Pinturicchio, in pure Renaissance style -- vivid colors, historical motif, and compelling figures. Here in the Liberia we also saw some lovley illuminated manuscripts, some for music scores (play on, musicians!). Could we not admire the mostly Renaissance sculpture, sliding to the Baroque, of Michelangelo, Donatello, and Bernini? The awkward part about visiting churches as a museum is for some, these places are places of prayer, yet hordes of tourists pour through as well.

After two days at the Bernini Hotel, where I got to pet the resident fat cat, a big black and white kitty, we hit the road again for 10 days in Florence, and that's where we are now, just off the Pitti Palace. We spent this morning touring this massive, 3 story palace, one wing is now a museum, and the other wing still in the apartments that the Medici began. The history is bloody, full of intrigue, murders, betrayals, men with great egos, and ruthless women -- but one redeeming feature is their civic pride that led them to support a court of artists, philosophers, and musicians. So, we saw hundreds of paintings today -- the delicate ephemeral beauty of Botticelli, the anguish and darkness of Caravaggio, the power of Gentileshi, Artemesia that is; and the early Renaissance masters as well, especially Fra Filippo Lippi, with gorgeous reds and blues, a sharp contrast to the darker vision of the Northern Renaissance. Keeping an eye out for links to other countries and cultures, I spotted one Renaissance painting by Reubens (that featured his self-portrait), also featured tulips and carpet from Turkey, helping to popularize the middle class desire for such luxuries. And, the Renaissance didn't cut any corners when it came to showing opulence. No wonder the Baroque was next.

Pam always says don't include too much history, so my one social note is that the women here in Florence, a high fashion capital, are amazingly well dressed (I mean the locals). Think basic black and basic beige for women of a certain age, with just one color, a scarf draped oh-so-casually, and young women wear all the colors of the rainbow. But I think few could afford these fashions; I priced one outfit at Euros 350. Whew! More immediately, appreciate your towels! Here, we have these sheet like cloths, something like a bed sheet, but with a slight waffle texture. They work. They're light weight and quick drying. Did I mention gelato? Home-made ice cream. Very rich. Very good. Ah, time to study. I'm very aware of the term winding down. That means too much work for teachers, but perhaps some time for gelato.

Warm thoughts from Florence.


Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Tuesday afternoon. Still in sunny, springy Rome, though we leave tomorrow for Sienna and the north, perhaps with fewer tourists. We've actually booked ahead for nearly the next two weeks, with 11 days in Florence, the heart of the Renaissance, though so far, we've not been able to set up lodging in Venice. We've been told that as we get into the "season," people have booked even a year ahead, so I'm not sure where we'll be sleeping in Venice, perhaps near a historic canal.

Today is a quieter day after the Vatican Museum yesterday. We walked through long halls filled with Egyptian and Roman antiquties, with few places to sit. I saw too many favorites to summarize, however, I can say that Raphael's "School of Athens" should not be seen in isolation! Normally this famous painting is shown on its own, but it's actually part of a single room filled with wall-to-wall paintings. Even the arches and the ceiling is painted, and somehow it all looks like a harmonious essay, everything fitting together (of course, an English teacher would say that). But big parts of the Vatican look like the Baroque took over and didn't let go. We walked down the Hall of Geography to find literally every inch covered with paintings, murals, gilt scrolls, white marble sculptures and maps of the Italian domain, all arranged geometrically, as if that alone would create order.

The Sistine Chapel was not overshadowed by any other part of the Museum, though. We walked in and could simply stand there, surrounded by hundreds of tourists, but able to stay as long as we wanted. Michelangelo's work is so familiar. He's an icon. I'd almost think what could we see new here? Ah, but the room in its entirety IS new! The entire chapel, just renovated over the last 20 years, allows us to see the ceiling, walls and altar piece as if it were freshly painted. We could see on the two sides of the Sistine Chapel, a double row of large painted murals marching down, one side highlighting key events from the life of Moses, and the otherside, the life of Christ. On the ceiling, selections from Genesis -- most notably, the creation of Adam, and the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden. And then, on the back wall, Michelangelo's Day of Judgement, a compelling, swirling composition of judgement that dominates the chapel. The sheer creativity of Michelangelo's mature work takes your breath away and, yes, brings tears to your eyes. Unforgettable. What else is there?

So today is a day for reading, thinking, a little writing. We picked up a Herald Tribune to catch up on the news (depressing), and I have become most creative in doing the daily laundry. Rome has an ordinance that laundry cannot be hung from the front of the building. We just finished reading Niccolo Ammantini's I'M NOT AFRAID and can recommend it highly as a well-written story told from a 9-year-old's point of view, and set in rural Italy.

Otherwise, all is well. I figure there are about four weeks left to Spring term. Am I feeling guilty? Probably not as I'm working pretty hard on notes and thinking about future classes. The news from home is good. Everyone is safe and well on Mother's Day. I miss you all. Beth

Tuesday afternoon. Still in sunny, springy Rome, though we leave tomorrow for Sienna and the north, perhaps with fewer tourists. We've actually booked ahead for nearly the next two weeks, with 11 days in Florence, the heart of the Renaissance, though so far, we've not been able to set up lodging in Venice. We've been told that as we get into the "season," people have booked even a year ahead, so I'm not sure where we'll be sleeping in Venice, perhaps near a historic canal.

Today is a quieter day after the Vatican Museum yesterday. We walked through long halls filled with Egyptian and Roman antiquties, with few places to sit. I saw too many favorites to summarize, however, I can say that Raphael's "School of Athens" should not be seen in isolation! Normally this famous painting is shown on its own, but it's actually part of a single room filled with wall-to-wall paintings. Even the arches and the ceiling is painted, and somehow it all looks like a harmonious essay, everything fitting together (of course, an English teacher would say that). But big parts of the Vatican look like the Baroque took over and didn't let go. We walked down the Hall of Geography to find literally every inch covered with paintings, murals, gilt scrolls, white marble sculptures and maps of the Italian domain, all arranged geometrically, as if that alone would create order.

The Sistine Chapel was not overshadowed by any other part of the Museum, though. We walked in and could simply stand there, surrounded by hundreds of tourists, but able to stay as long as we wanted. Michelangelo's work is so familiar. He's an icon. I'd almost think what could we see new here? Ah, but the room in its entirety IS new! The entire chapel, just renovated over the last 20 years, allows us to see the ceiling, walls and altar piece as if it were freshly painted. We could see on the two sides of the Sistine Chapel, a double row of large painted murals marching down, one side highlighting key events from the life of Moses, and the otherside, the life of Christ. On the ceiling, selections from Genesis -- most notably, the creation of Adam, and the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden. And then, on the back wall, Michelangelo's Day of Judgement, a compelling, swirling composition of judgement that dominates the chapel. The sheer creativity of Michelangelo's mature work takes your breath away and, yes, brings tears to your eyes. Unforgettable. What else is there?

So today is a day for reading, thinking, a little writing. We picked up a Herald Tribune to catch up on the news (depressing), and I have become most creative in doing the daily laundry. Rome has an ordinance that laundry cannot be hung from the front of the building. We just finished reading Niccolo Ammantini's I'M NOT AFRAID and can recommend it highly as a well-written story told from a 9-year-old's point of view, and set in rural Italy.

Otherwise, all is well. I figure there are about four weeks left to Spring term. Am I feeling guilty? Probably not as I'm working pretty hard on notes and thinking about future classes. The news from home is good. Everyone is safe and well on Mother's Day. I miss you all. Beth

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Rome. A rainy afternoon. We just spent 4 hours exploring the immense Vatican basilica, quite a jump from the ancient ruins of the Roman forum yesterday. The Vatican is a place of history, art and prayer -- so large in scale that the thousands of tourists there seem dwarfed in comparison. We picked up audio guides and wandered freely throughout, although since 1992, a plastic wall guards the Pieta by Michelangelo. No more hammer-wielding assaults! Even with the plastic wall, and standing about 15 feet away, the Pieta is still a marvelous sight for its sheer poignancy and power. Expressive in every line, the austere gray sculpture is compelling. And walking down the giant nave (some 600 feet long) to the altar is also an experience. We stood where Charlemagne was crowned, looked at St. Peter's tomb, and admired the chair of St. Peter made of bronze. Built over many hundreds of years, yet this basilica is full of power and religious authority, and with a kind of cohesiveness, perhaps from the major remodeling begun in the Baroque era. We were surrounded by many different languages. I think tourist season has started in earnest, or perhaps it's just Rome.

Yesterday, we spent most of our time in the Roman Forum, admiring the mammoth ruins there. My favorites were the Arch of Severus under which victorious Romans would parade, bringing booty home from the wars. Some of that booty included prisoners of war, destined to be gladiators or sold as slaves. The Arch of Severus has a moving frieze showing Romans each paired with a prisoner in chains. I don't often think of Rome as a slave-based economy, but it was. The history is fascinating, with tories about gladiator bouts that led to 9,000 dead over 4 days. On the other hand, some gladiators, those who performed well, could earn their freedom and often opened gladiator schools. Enormous sums were won and lost with illegal gambling on the games as well.

We also saw the Temple served by vestal virgins. These women were selected from patrician families between the ages of 6 and 10 and served the temple for 30 years. If the eternal flame went out (a sign of impending doom), they were flogged. If they broke their vow of chastity, they were buried alive as their blood could not be spilled. Was it an honor to serve the temple as a vestal virgin? Probably. The temple remains are beautiful, six elegantly tall Ionic columns on a round base.

But the most moving part of visiting the Forum came quite unexpectedly. We had just finished rereading Shakespeare's tale of Caesar (based on Plutarch's Lives, I tend to forget that Shakespeare drew from history), and then we saw the temple dedicated to Julius Caesar, erected by Augustus in AD 79 to commemorate his death. We stepped inside a little alcove to see the original bricks marking the place where Mark Anthony gave his famous speech, and where Caesar's body was burned, covered by bouquets of cut flowers. Caesar is still remembered here in Rome.

My favorite sight so far is atop the Vittoria, a massive "wedding cake" building, built to rival St. Peter's, with monumental sculptures everywhere. What draws me is atop the two columns, two similar sculptures of a winged woman who holds a laurel wreath and drives a chariot without reins -- four horses appear ready to pull each chariot right into the sky.

News from home is good -- Jane Walker let me know that my office computer is being upgraded, and other family and friends are well. I hope it's not raining where you are, but it's a good afternoon to curl up with a book -- that is, if we all had the time. Be well as spring term winds down. We're here in Rome for another week of touring. Perhaps tomorrow we'll try the Vatican Museum.


Sunday, May 02, 2004

It's 9:15 pm, just after Naples dinner time, and we leave tomorrow morning by train to Rome. As fantastic as the whole trip has been, I confess to being VERY EXCITED now. We'll be staying at a bed and breakfast just 5 minutes walk from the Colosseum (apparently b&b's are a little less expensive than hotels here in Europe), but breakfast is included. Allen says not to count on too much of a breakfast, as we are in real Continental breakfast territory -- that is hot coffee and rolls. Here in Naples, some people eat their breakfasts in bars, that is coffee bars. They stand up, talk and munch away on fresh sweet rolls and drink strong coffee, and off they go, on their motorbikes. Chaos quickly ensues.

We're still recovering from our back-to-back visit to Pompei and Herculaneum over two days. Pompei, inundated by clouds of noxious gas and killing hot ash, was buried to a depth of 20 feet, while Herculaneum suffered a hot mud flow which buried it to a depth of about 60 feet. Excavations are still underway at both sites, but imagine Pompei as a town of 20,000 (about 2,000 died in the AD 79 Mt. Vesuvius explosion). Everything lost but a wealth of material to study. I loved the wall paintings, delicate mythological scenes, and rich mosaics, some black and white, some every color. Allen liked the way that traces of daily life were preserved. He was impressed by the 89 fast food joints, looking like they were just ready to serve food to the hungry citizens who wanted to eat on the cheap. The public baths are amazing, Roman baths still ready to use with dressing rooms, steam rooms, pools for bathing, and a frigadarium (think very cold water). Of course, separate baths for men and women. We were also enthralled by the sense of class mobility even in those times, for Pompei was based on a slave economy, yet we were struck by how many slaves became wealthy. One former slave bought a temple in the name of his six-year-old son (Temple of Isis) that made his son automatically a member of the Senate. And, of course, I have some truly wonderful pictures that I'll try to post later.

For now, I'll close by saying you should have been here for the parade we saw last night after dinner -- A religious parade went right by our restaurant to celebrate St. Gennaro festival day. We saw bands, floats, banners, people carrying candles and saints and angels. Truly a wonderful way to say goodnight, Naples!

Be well. Beth

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Beth says: How can I be already writing about Italy when Greece is barely a memory? Greece was unforgettable, somehow blending in with the Greek ruins we saw in Turkey, and the good times we had with Gordy, Lynda, Jamie and Henry. But the transition from Greece to Italy took a lot of stamina -- first a 4-1/2 hour ride down a mountain, then a rush to catch the overnight ferry from Patras, Greece, to Bari, Italy, then another good 4 hour bus ride to Naples. As the Greeks would say, "Know yourself."

So, here is Allen's summing up -- in the form of a letter to Rachel and Nick, our kids.

Allen says: Dear Rache and Saint,

We're in Delphi but it's raining so the oracle wasn't available for questions. This place is really lovely but it's time to say goodbye to these lovely mountains and jump on the ferry for Italy and that means it's time for my monthly summing up letter.

I find Greece hard to sum up but here goes. Greeks in some ways remind me of Jews. Both groups tend to be loud and a bit argumentative. Just as we gave monotheism to the world, the Greeks gave the world many of the basics of our Western culture - everything from democracy to philosophy to literature to drama to science. Both Greeks and Jews often feel a sense of ingratitude from the world, a feeling that tthe world owes them something. Modern Greece feels cheated out of its patrimony.

Here in Greece this shows up in many ways. Just as in Israel, the Greeks live as if the past and the present are one. And just as in Israel there is a reasonable rationale for their viewpoint. Athens, for instance, would not be the capitol of Greece were it not for the Acropolis. Athens real raison d'etre is the Acropolis. Otherwise it would have been a small village bypassed by the growth of modern Greece.

Constantinople (Istanbul) and all of Asia Minor were once Greek ( the Byzantine Empire descended from the eastern Roman Empire and over a million Greeks, heirs to Alexander the Great, lived in Asia Minor until the 1920s) and Greeks believe correctly that their expulsion from Asia Minor was the direct result of Western imperial machinations.

The sense of a betrayed present and a proud past seem to inform Greek character. Ah but what a wonderful place this is and what a wonderful past it brings to life. I felt like I could almost touch Agamemnon and Orestes in Mycenae. At the theatre of Dionysus in Athens I could almost see them performing the tragedies of Sophocles and hear people laughing at Aristophanes political and dirty jokes. I even got to stand in the spot where Socrates taught his students. Wow!!! As many times as I've seen the Parthenon, it will always be an amazing, overpowering place. Then there's Knossos, Sparta, Olympia, and Delphi - just the names are enough to hint at the awe I experienced in seeing them. I actually stood in front of the helmet Miltiades wore when he led his soldiers to victory at the battle of Marathon.

But ancient Greece was only a part of the magic of this place. We spent a day climbing up and down the side of a mountain exploring the Byzantine ruins of Mystras. We explored Venetian forts at beautiful Napflion and Rhodes. In Rhodes, we also got to explore its still lively medieval old town. And then there's Crete with its wonderful memories of my somewhat wild youth. Crete is different today but it's still beautiful and its museum is great. Actually we saw about a half dozen wonderful museums all over the country. Finally, there's the food. It was great - moussaka, baked squid, veal in lemon sauce, and greek salad loaded with feta cheese. Of course, it's still not Turkey.

It seems this letter is more travelogue than analysis, and it's a light travelogue at that. So be it.

Love, Dad

P.S. Enjoy The Brothers K. and your new place.

It's raining in Naples, but after a day of walking around medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque churches, we are happy to have found a small internet cafe close to our hotel. Naples is quite an experience. We are staying in the old part of town where narrow streets are barely wide enough for a single car to pass. Naples takes its name from "neo-polis," from the Greeks meaning "new city", as Naples was once a colony for ancient Greece. I think the Greeks laid the streets in these old massive cobblestones of marble, a tradition which continues to today. I did laundry and hung it out to dry, looking directly across the street at another building, just about 8 feet away. The medieval period did not want to waste any space!

The Italians are passionate people. If they're not arguing, they are gesticulating, bargaining, hugging, laughing. Here we see many cafes, as in Greece, but the atmosphere is different, or at least in Naples, so far the climate is somehow small town in the middle of a very busy city. I can't get used to the motorbikes that everyone rides -- with little more than a beep to tell you to get out of the way. We saw 3 people on one moped nearly go head-on with 3 people on another moped. They stopped just in time, hugged, laughed, and continued on their way. Cars are about the same. The drivers can turn on a dime and back up at speed. It truly is pedestrian beware!

Shops close up between 2 and about 4:30 pm, so everyone can go home for lunch and a long siesta. I like the siesta part, but overheard some tourists say they hadn't had a square meal in quite a while because they didn't know that the restaurants didn't reopen until 7:30 pm.

Yesterday, we visited the Archaeological Museum here in Naples and were entranced by the mosaics from Pompei. I have been fascinated by Pompei for many years but I never realized how big Pompei was or how much had been covered by volcanic ash. Now, tomorrow, we go to see the real thing. Excavations have uncovered hundreds of murals, temples, mosaics, and even a theater and stadium, modeled after any Roman town. Today, we skipped from the ancient past to the medieval period up to the Baroque. I think we visited 5 churches, and we saw two weddings today -- complete with bride in floor length gown -- and admired religious art and architecture. Our last church somehow combined several styles. It's billed as a Renaissance church, but because it is constantly being updated, and closer to the size of a cathedral, we were overwhelmed by intricate marble inlay of every color -- everywhere we looked! Major white marble sculptures, detailed painted ceilings in the style of Michelangelo, and tall columns combining Corinthian with every style -- from simple to bulbous, lots of gold and silver, many flowers, in short, we were overwhelmed! But what impresses me most is the deeply spiritual feeling that pervades each church, despite the tourists tromping in and out.

The writing goes well, the camera -- despite a sometimes jammed cover -- is still working well, and we've already found a few used bookstores in Rome for next week. We're doing well on the road, but now are a little more cut off, since all the TV channels are in Italian, no CNN at all, our only news is online. Expenses are up for hotel rooms (you don't want to know), but being adaptable, we buy fruit from street vendors, yogurt from the little corner store, and head out for "real" pizza or a hot meal once a day. All is well as we hear from home. The bread is good here. Visit the Harvest Bread Company in Corvallis and think of us. Fondly, Beth

Monday, April 26, 2004

Just a quick note this morning as I write to you from this small Internet cafe, Greek music in the background. I used all my Internet time to upload some new pics so go look! We leave in an hour for a busride down Mt. Parnassus (we were visiting the oracle at Delphi, but sorry, no questions and no answers). Then hop a ferry to Italy. More later. Beth

Monday, April 19, 2004

Whew . . . Today in Napflion, Greece, south of Athens, deep in the Peloppenese (and no spell checker), the exchange rate of Euros to dollars is making us say ouch! Internet is about $7 an hour now; I miss Turkey!

Today we took two buses to Epidaurus, the best preserved Greek theater, and we oohed and awed at all those empty seats and great acoustics. A lovely red-headed tourist sang opera dead center and got a standing ovation. Epidaurus was a sanctuary for Asclepius, the god of healing. Apparently people believed that snakes had formidable healing powers, partly because snakes "renewed" themselves by creating new skins. So a favorite therapy was to line up and get licked by a snake. So that's the story behind the snake that appears on the physician's staff.

Museum at Epidaurus was closed, always a disappointment, but that's OK, we caught an early bus back to Napflion and headed up to the Palmidi fortress, built in the very early 1700s by the Venetians (and taken over by the Turks one year after it was finished). After climbing through amazing ruins and taking lots of photos of blue sky and blue-er ocean, we climbed the 999 (yes, 999) steps all the way down. Those steps add new meaning to circular stairway. We're now cosily ensconsed in a bar (loud music, pool hall, sports TV AND internet), and typing as quickly as possible. Tomorrow we head for Sparta and anticipate not much in the way of ancient ruins (the Spartans were ever practical and probably have recycled everything). However, the real highlight of the trip is coming up in yet another World Heritage site -- the monastary complex at Mystras, a complex of religious retreats at the top of a mountain. The monks were hauled up by ropes, safe from the political unrest of the Byzantine period. Later, tourists of the 19th Century asked how often the ropes were changed and were told -- Until God breaks the rope. Today we can visit by hiking (or taxi-ing) up and then walking down, enjoying sweeping vistas all the way.

Breakfasts are fine (I still miss feta cheese and green and salty olives for breakfast). Dinners range from outrageous to pizza. Not much different from home. Home here is where we sleep -- our books keep us company since friends have all headed back to the states, that is, until June. Warm weather leads to optimistic thoughts. So much to learn, and we're now half-way in the trip. Keep the e-mails coming. That's the only way I've found to counter real home-sickness!

I hope your world is going well. Beth

PS Update on pictures. I can't post any new ones until I find a less expensive Internet cafe, but if you haven't seen the new ones from Turkey, please just click on the button at the top of the page (right hand side). I did post two links -- one for Mystras and one for Epidaurus. Enjoy!

Saturday, April 10, 2004

A note from Allen to Rachel:

Now, as I did with Egypt and Israel I'd like to give you some closing impressions of Turkey.

First let me begin by saying that it's very hard for me to write objectively about Turkey because I've dearly loved this country ever since I was in my 20s. It awed and amazed me then with its beauty and the warmth and the innate decency of its people.

I'd expected this visit to remove the rose tinted glasses of memory and yet I find Turkey even more wonderful and more romantic than I'd remembered. Partly, I suspect, that's due to the presence of your ever lovely ever wonderful mother. But it's also Turkey. The Mediterranean coast with its blue water, green tree carpeted mountains, and picturesque villages is romantic. Istanbul, the Ottoman geographic soul of Turkey, is one of the most beautiful cities in the world with its palaces and great minarets rising straight up from the waters of the Bosporous and the Golden Horn. Only in Istanbul would a 400 year old mosque be known as the New Mosque. On the Princes Islands in the strait you go around by horse and buggy because no cars are permitted. Each morning we ate our breakfast on the roof of our hotel. On my left was the Sea of Marmara, to my front was the Blue Mosque (my favorite building in the whole world), to Mom's front was Haga Sophia (the greatest church in christendom for 900 years). Topkapi Palace was a 5 minute walk from our hotel.

Yet Turkey is much more than its physical beauty and romance. If geography is destiny, Turkey, with one foot in Europe and one foot in Asia and a knee in the Middle East, is and has long been destined for extraordinary things. It has long been the battleground of eastern and western armies and ideas. The Greeks, the Macedonians, and the Romans invaded from the west, the Arabs from the south, and the Persians and the Mongols from the east. And both the people and the culture show it. You meet a great mix of Turks - from blue eyed and faύr skinned to swarthy and slant eyed peoples. The people are 99 percent moslem and yet the country is as secular as the United States. The Moslem sabbath is friday and yet the weekend here is saturday and sunday. Trading has long been at the core of Turkish life and it shows in turkish hospitality and the warm friendliness of even short contacts. Here, inviting strangers to tea is a way of life and social interaction is the grease that makes life work. Alas, that results in long and elaborate meals and many hours in the Turkish baths. God, am I going to miss turkish baths and turkish food.

Sic transit gloria.

Love, Dad

We've been on the road from Marmaris, Turkey, to Rhodes by ferry, then another ferry to Iraklion on Crete. Sunny Mediterranean weather everywhere gives a golden glow to all we've done -- We visited the Acropolis in Rhodes as well as the most amazing medieval Old Town of Rhodes itself, an entirely enclosed medieval city, complete with the Grand Master's palace and the most amazing frescos from the Greek and Byzantine periods, the architecture a mix of Islamic, Crusader, and Byzantine styles. The streets narrowly twist and turn in unexpected directions; Greeks still live in the town, a vibrant combination of very old (most from the 1300s when the knights of St. John built extensive fortifications) and simple whitewashed box-like houses common to the Greek Islands -- as this area does suffer from occasional earthquakes.

We walked down the Street of Knights, each massive "row house" divided into the six different "tongues" that the knights spoke -- so six different languages -- French, Spanish, Provence, etc. French flags fly next to Greek flags. Our favorite was the Palace of the Grand Master with its very large inner courtyard; the entire palace was refurbished by the Italians for Mussolini in the 1930s -- and the island itself was occupied by the Germans between 1943 and 1947. But the Palace was beyond grand with its large Roman columns, early Greek and Roman mosaics everywhere -- gladiators and dolphins. We stopped for lunch in a square opposite the Turkish baths, delicious moussaka and like the palace, an immense Greek salad, summer-fresh tomatoes, fresh oregano and feta. We saw renovations going on everywhere in this World Heritage site, our second, and Rhodes Old Town deserves its designation. Here we really can get the flavor of medieval life -- a mix of Islamic, Jewish and Christian architecture -- though today only church bells ring in the hours. Here once the Colossus of Rhodes graced the harbor as one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

We then came by ferry to Crete and found our home at the Kronos Hotel (think Kronos Quartet!), right by a charming string of waterside outdoor restaurants. Last night we ate baked melt-in-your-mouth squid and watched the ferries head north to Athens, our next stop. Yesterday we tromped around the Palace at Knossos, actually a Minoan palace through three different periods from about 1900 to about 1450 BC, a short period to have been so influential. The Minoans have a reputation for being peaceful, island people, but their palace was again monumental in scale. Some say the Minoan word for labyrinth actually means large palace, not the later gory Greek tale about the Minotuar who required 14 beautiful young youths and maidens each year in tribute (a tasty treat). Some parts of the palace have been closed off perhaps permanently because the murals are delicate.

Today we spent four hours in the musuem, appreciating the complexity of the Minoan pottery, statuary, and murals -- as well as their influence on early Greek art. Interestingly, we could see influences from Egypt and Mesopotamia on this island culture in the Minoan period and later. And I'm not so sure the Minoans were so peaceful; their religious rites did include animal sacrifice (common to the times). Some of the murals were so lovely (even if incomplete) with dancing maidens, dark hair in ringlets, and young men in religious processions, small waists, bearing gifts for the cult of the bull. I think I took too many pictures here, but the artwork is lovely. I'll try to post a few a little later as tomorrow night we head for Athens by the red-eye overnight ferry in a cozy cabin for four. Henry and Jamie are going to Athens as well, and they've been lovely company. Tonight we head for an Easter celebration at midnight at a local church which features, we've been told, fireworks and cherry bombs. Ah, culture!

I hope sunny skies are everywhere -- English language television is at a real premium at the hotels we stay at, so we're relying on the internet for news, unfortunately all bad. The Greek language seems very foreign right now, especially after five weeks of Turkish.

Be well.


PS Yes, that PHOTO LINK at the right hand side of this website works now. Check it out!
PPS Allen has written his end-of-stay-in-Turkey, so I'll post that later too.

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

The last week has been hectic. Just after our good friend, Pam, left for home ın Salem, Oregon, after an intense tour of Southern Turkey, including sunny and warm Antalya, our friends Jamie and Henry (from Oregon) and Lynda and Gordon (from Philadelphia) came in to join us as we toured Pergamon, Ephesus, and left Turkey via the Mediterranean to Rhodes and Crete. After three hectic days in İstabul, visiting the highlights, we ventured forth on a 10-hour bus ride, which included two ferry boat rides, the second ride had our entire bus go on the ferry for a 45 minute ride. Finally, we arrived ın Pergama, close to the famous ruins.

We spent yesterday climbing around the Acropolis at the top of a high hill near Pergama. Visualize typical Roman ruins, tall columns topped wıth Corinthian capıtals, an agora (open marketplace), and several levels of major temples, gymnasia, public baths, and a theater that held 30,000 people at one time. İ'm having a hard time describing the scope of what we saw. Every direction we looked, we could see sweeping vistas of the valley below. Ancient Pergamon was eminently defensible. İ cannot imagine how Rome fell with such beautiful, cosmopolitan, and easy-to-defend cities -- except for the pride of militarism.

The scope is very grand in time as well as space, covering some 275 meters, with ruins from about 300 BCE to about 300 present time. We spent about four hours there, then hiked all the way down the mountain through town, to a museum and lunch, then returned to the hotel to find a family emergency awaited Gordon and Lynda that precipitated their immediate return to Phıladelphia. Many long distance calls later, Gordon and Lynda were safely on their way.

Today, we felt a bit at odds, all of us far from home and worried about friends. We went out later in the morning to the last ruins in Pergama, the Asclepion or one of the three most famous healing centers in the ancient world. Used as a healing site since about the 4th Century BC, and located on a low hill (not militarily defensible), this site has been burnt and destroyed and then rebuilt many tımes until about 400 AD. At first the site was not too spectacular, compared to the Acropolis of yesterday, but then we began to explore, with maps in hand. Here, gladiators were brought for healing. Healing was also seen as part of a spiritual journey, wıth sleeping rooms for patients so their dreams could be told to the healer-priests. We walked through the baths, the stately columns, some topped wıth Doric, some topped with Corinthian capitals. Destroyed by earthquakes, these columns have since been placed on pediments of different sizes by Roman architects to keep the line at the top of the column the same. Our favorite here was the sacred tunnel which runs entirely under the ground ın the very large open courtyard. Natural light and the sound of water running, even until today, creates a harmonius experience -- one, you might say, is conducive to healing! We sat for a long time in the theater for patients (only seating for 3,500), enjoying the sunshine and hoping Gordon and Lynda arrived safely ın Philadelpia. Then sunburned and tired, we headed back to our hotel, finally stoppıng at the local İnternet cafe to check for e-mails.

Such a sense of history still surrounds this town, despite elections now completed (no political flags in the streets, no passing vans blaring catchy music). As we head south to Ephesus, we plan to read more about the Romans and prepare for Rhodes, the home of the Mınoans. İ dıd learn that Medusa was highly valued here, with her hair of snakes, for the snake was seen as the symbol of healing -- the skin of the snake falling away to new skin.

Yes, İ was able to post some new pictures -- so if you want to see some more slides of Turkey and especially Capaddocia, please go to

ALERT: Finally, that link on the RİGHT HAND side of the screen to my photos at webshots works. Give it a try!

İ also can recommend LORDS OF THE HORIZON for a good read on Ottoman history. And İ wısh you all a warm and gentle spring.


Saturday, March 20, 2004

Today began wıth a hike right up the very white cliffs created by calciıum deposiıts from hot springs here in Pamakkule that have created a giantic white mountain. We could hike right on these travertine cliffs with their amazıng blue-green waters -- but only if we took our shoes and socks off. İ can't imagine being able to do this in the US. At the top of the hill were extensıve Roman ruins which included a temple to Apollo, Roman theater, baths, an open marketplace called an agora, a long columned Roman road, a 5th Century Byzantine church -- and to cap the day, a thermal pool to soak in and ease those tired feet.

The theater was really fun. Modelled after those open-air Greek theaters, this one had the stage wıth many columns stıll ın Roman style. We went all the way to the top, whıch was pretty high since the capacity of the theater was 12,000. Later, as we enjoyed the waters of the hot thermal pool, we could swim around and sit on Roman columns ın the bright blue water. OK, so there was a little algae there too, but it felt pretty incredible to be seeing all this architecture from Roman times.

Yesterday, we were in Antalya rıght by the Mediterranean Sea. What a thrill too to see this old Roman port -- and to enjoy the warm weather. We stayed in the La Paloma Hotel ın the old quarter of town, an Ottoman style hotel wıth red tile roof and window boxes that jut out over the street. In fact, in one street these window boxes extended so far out, and the streets were so narrow, the sun couldn't reach the ground. We're seeing a lot of street dogs and cats. The dogs are quite friendly and come right up to greet you. And the Mediterranean ıs just as beautiful as everyone says. The statues of Posiedon ın the museums do not do justice to the reality of thıs seemingly limitless sea.

So tonight we take the red-eye special back to İstanbul to warmer weather and a final good bye to Turkey, most likely headıng for Rhodes and the Mycenaens ın another week by ferry. Our access to world news is limited, but all we're hearing suggests too much tragedy with little resolution. The Spanish bombing was shocking here as well, but İ'm not sure how all this was reported in the US. İt's rather difficult to get good US coverage as our current CNN comes only ın Turkish. So, we rely on ınternet.

İ hope all goes well with you.


Monday, March 15, 2004

Pam, Allen and I are happily ensconsed in front of computers with English keyboards here in Goreme, Turkey, the heartland of Cappadoccia, aafter an 11 hour bus ride. I slept. They didn't. Today we hiked all through this amazing park of peaked chimney type mountains, something like the badlands in the Northwest. In this case, though, in the 10th Century, Christian hermits and monks settled here in seclusion and literally hacked churches out of stone. So we hiked around the park, visiting these amazing churches hewn from stone. Most were entirely rock enclosed yet with pillars and altar all of stone and a few beautifully painted with Byzantine style mosaics. Tomorrow we tour through the region, perhaps with some additional hiking. We saw snowflakes and sun today. It was very cold.

Yesterday was also an amazing day in Istanbul. First we toured the Harem, a part of Dolmabahce Palace, the first Ottoman palace modeled after European styles, complete with French Rococo. In this case, the Ottomans fell in love with birds and flowers and took rococo over the top -- so much so that we now have Ottoman rococo. Here, the Palace is right along the Bosphorus, so imagine sparkling sunshine and shiny blue water right up to the beautifully manicured gardens of the sultan, complete with carved lions of stone. What a contrast between Topkapi Palace and this new Europeanized palace, but the harem remained the same in that women lived entirely separate from men, except for the sultan. Each wife, concubine and other favored relatives (and even visitors) had her/their own suite of rooms, each decorated more fantastically than the next, depending on how high up the royal hierarchy the person was. The ceilings were particularly finely painted with fantastic birds, flowers, fish, and in the sultan's apartment, lions and eagles.

But the most interesting part of the day -- that took two buses, a hike up a very large hill, a ride on a trolley through the middle of a mountain, all not being sure whether the performance was scheduled or not, led us to the Mevlani Dervishes and a service of music and dance. We were amazed by the beauty and sincerity of these devotees of Rumi (the poet and also founder) of this order based on absolute love of the universe. Their dance was really a form of meditation. As they whirled, one hand was lifted to heaven to receive its blessings, while the other hand was turned to the earth, to ensure those blessings flowed directly to us all.

When we first arrived in Goreme, we checked into the Legend Hotel, part cave and part hotel, to find our rooms very, very cold despite space heaters, but with stunning views of cave homes and rock formations throughout Goreme. Tomorrow night, we move to a warmer hotel, but we will miss the view. Our next stop is Konya, a mere three hours away. This part of Turkey is suffering because tourism has nearly ended since the bombing of the synagogue in Istanbul in November. One carpetshop owner told us that he typically sells 250-300 carpets during the summer season, but only 25 during the winter, and trust me, it's cold enough to still be winter here, even though the ides of March are passing.

I hope you all are well. Enjoy spring wherever you are! And the rumor is that Rachel and Nick now have a kitty.


Wednesday, March 10, 2004

This morning, we headed deep down into a basilica cistern built by Justinian. İt was cold and dripping wet, but with hundreds of columns, scavenged from everywhere -- a mixture of all styles of Greek columns, doric, corinthian, and ionic, some upside down, some cut in half and patched back together. The real draw, though, was at the deepest part of the cistern where underneath the bottom of a column rested the monumental stone head of Medusa, one of the Gıant Gorgon sisters, the pretty one who fell in love with Perseus and had her lovely black haır turned ınto a snake-do that turned all who looked at her into stone. Why are these tales told of women?

Yesterday, we toured the gigantıc mosque built by Sulıeman ın the 1500s and then visited the smaller mosque created for the Grand Viziıer by Sinan, the great Ottoman architect. Both mosques were overpowering, but in different ways. At the larger mosque, the caretaker took us around, even close to the mihrab where we weren't supposed to go. He wanted us to see everything despite the language barrier. Before we left, he annointed us wıth rose oıl, a sweet smellıng perfume, a sign of traditional Turkish hospitality. At the smaller mosque, we were dazzled wıth İznik tiles everywhere on the walls, columns and ceilıngs -- brilliant blues and reds and greens. Each wall featured a different design, all wıth the meandering flower motıf -- yet ındıvıdually painted, made in the 16th Century and still so bright. Here too we saw a small chip of the Ka'aba from Mecca, mounted over the door. We also walked through the Spice Bazaar and discovered Turkish Delights. I think our west coast aplets and cotlets are inspıred by this traditıon.

Our three day trip to Ankara was not without excitement -- but we spent hours at the Anatolian Museum of Ancıent Civilizations whıch featured many goddess artifacts, breathtaking. We noticed some that were Cycladic, greatly treasured as they appeared as grave goods ın Central Anatolia. Another highlıght here was walkıng around Ankara ın a snow storm -- hiking up the hill to the Citadel, a quasi-restored Turkish village where we ate traditional foods prepared ın a 'sitting' style kıtchen. You can see these ın the Webshots photo album of Turkish pictures, as İ finally was able to post some pictures -- though uploading pics ıs VERY SLOW. Everyone has been welcoming. The sun has been shining -- ıt's just raining a little today.

We finally found some books on Ottoman history. Books here in Turkey are very expensive, even paperbacks, and there are very few used book stores. No Book Bin ın İstanbul.

İ'm feelıng a little guilty as İ know it's nearing finals week back home, and here İ am, gettıng lots of sleep, reading, writing, studying, and truly having the most amazing tıme. Our first visitor from home comes tomorrow and we can't wait to show off Istanbul and head down the coast to the ancient ruins of Cappadoccia. Of course, first we'll stop off at our favorite restaurant, the Cafe Magnaura, which features Amerıcan blues and truly great Turkish cuisine. İ plan a Turkish feast when we're home.

Good thoughts to all as winter moves so slowly to spring.