Sushu's Travel Journal

July 18, 2011

castles, churches, opera

Filed under: Europe — Tags: — admin @ 12:00 am

I am on a train to Siena.

After the last update I spent the next morning visiting Milan’s fortress. It was alternately used by Milan lords, Spanish lords, Napoleon, and Austo-Hungarian armies. Says something about Milan and Lombardy’s historical position in Northern Italy. Anyway, it is now home to a cute set of museums. I saw some “Lombardy style” statuary, and pondered Michaelangelo’s last Pieta for a while. It was fun to see the transition from gothic to renaissance as I moved from room to room. Then I came upon the crafts museum, where there was an absolutely wonderful exhibit tracing furniture style transitions from the middle ages to the modern day. The placques were very competantly written, highlighting relevant themes and trends supported with interesting details. It was cool to see the evolution of a cabinet or chest that had paintings on it in medieval times, and then was designed to look like a small building during the 1600s, and then becoming all curby and inlaid in the 1800s, and finally looking like ikea in the 20th century. They also showed some wooden figures that had been painted in the 1500s, but had their paint rubbed off in the 1600s when the paint was seen as”tacky”. As I travel around seeing all this old stuff, it makes me wonder how much we truly need to save in order to remember,value, and learn from our past. On the one hand, the Renaissance owed a lot to the rediscoveries of old stuff. Brunelleschi (sp??) would not have made the dome in the Florence Duomo if the Pantheon in Rome wasn’t around to prove that yes, it is possible. But on the other hand, we need to move forward. I heard that it’s nearly impossible to set up new subways in Rome and Istanbul because when you dig, you hit ruins. People in the past were destroying their past left and right… the Austrians whitewashed the walls in the fortress rooms, destroying the Milanese frescos. I feel like as Americans, we tend to treasure what little history we have. Out in the west, there is also room to expand. What happens if you are living in and on and with 3000 years of history? And not just bones and rocks… we are talking about the great Roman empire, Byzantines, Ottomans, Renaissance, Baroque, etc etc…. would you consider it inspiring or stifling?

Anyway, at 3 euros for all the museums, the fortress was a great deal. Milan is definitely agood city to live in… giant gothic cathedral, giant fortress, nice subway system, not oppressively hot, and modern and fashinable as heck.

I hopped on a train to Verona, then promptly got lost trying to find the hotel. But eventually I did, and then had a nice walk around… checked out 3 churches (they were on a 6 euro church pass), then had a horse meat salad and a nice local sparkly white wine at a pleasant osteria. The three churches were surprisingly different, given that they were within a 10 minute walk of each other. One was pretty conventionally Gothic, but filled with all these painted alcoves sponsored by various local families. Travelling around Italy, it’s kind of amazing to see how much bling churches have… I guess that’s what comes from being centers of culture and community for over a thousand years. It’s great for tourists like me … Churches tend to have longer opening hours than museums, and are often free to visit. Of course, they don’t exactly have curators, and after a while you do tend to get Jesus fatigue. Anyway, the Duomo, the second church I went to, was gothic, but very cheerful. Wait… cheerful gothic? All of those tall arches were painted white with lots of cool patterns, making the inside much lighter and airier. The Fuello had a romanesque crypt on the first floor, and a gothic church on the second floor that wasn’t overly decorated or painted. Today’s church, in Florence, was once again different. The outside was all this grren and white marble, which, capped with the red brick dome, was “uhnf” (my shorthand for that feeling of masculine hubris, also found pretty much everywhere in Rome… the colosseum, the campidoglio, the Typewriter…) And yet the inside is sparse and cooly Romanesque, drawing all attention to the dome, which was exquisitly painted with various heavenly images.

All right, the Opera. Oh my god. So this was my first serious opera experience (that weird German oe in that Istanbul castle doesn’t count). Last night, it was Aida, in the Verona amphitheater. First of all, no microphones, but I could still hear them just fine in my nosebleed seats in an amphitheater that seats 30,000. Secondly, in the scenes of pageantry there wereover 200 people on stage… dancing, singing, playing harps and trumpets, RIDING HORSES, carrying torches… now I understand why operas are such a tour de force. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t play nice, so I left at half time. But still…wow.

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

Powered by WordPress