"Gargoyles & Graffiti"chronicles architectural elements that I find interesting or unique in my travels. Gargoyles are my passion, but today graffiti (which I hate but am learning to love as it is everywhere) is as much a part of architecture as the gargoyles and decorative railings that thrill me.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Costa Concordia Update: One Year Later

Photo by Stefano Rellandini/Reuters
It has now been a year since the Costa Concordia sunk off the coast of Giglio. It has made this small island of Italy a household name and not in a good way. The cruise liner is still there, not having been floated away yet. Living on the island of Cozumel, I just cannot imagine how our lives would change if one of these giant cruise ships that visit us everyday fell over on its side so close to shore and was still there after a year.

Back in November, a passenger's luggage washed to shore on another island. The crew working to right the ship so they can float it away thinks the piece of luggage had worked free of the ship a bit before it was found. An article about the luggage can be found here.

The good news is that as early as June of 2012, things were returning to normal on the island of Giglio. I have to believe it wasn't really life as they knew it before, but loving and admiring Italy and its people, I am sure they take it in stride and learn to embrace it as they do with everything, both life's tragedies and life's triumphs. If you would like to read more information on Giglio returning to normal, click here.

The projected date for floating away the Costa Concorida wreckage is now scheduled for summer 2013.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Men and High Heels

Photo of a men's heel from the Bata Shoe Museum

I'm not quite sure when I realized that men wore dresses long before women did. I know it came up when I studied Spanish and realized that a dress (un vestido) is a masculine noun. I guess long before studying Spanish, while I studying the Romans in high school, I remember that the men wore a sort of tunic or dress. But today, I read an article that totally floored me. Did you know that men wore high heels before women did? In this fascinating article, Why did men stop wearing high heels? it is revealed that high heels were originally designed so that men could shoot better while balanced on foot from the saddle. I have to believe that this information is a little known fact.

Men's 17th century Persian shoe from the Bata Shoe Museum

The article goes on to explain that women adopted men's shoes, heels, in about 1630, when they also cut their hair and began to smoke pipes. Who knew all this? If I only realized back then that I could have learned all this fascinating stuff, I would have paid way more attention in history class.

You've got to read this article, and now I want to go visit the Bata Shoe Musuem. It is in Toronto. More info on the Bata Shoe Museum can be found here.

Mongolian boot from the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Malta: St. John's Co-Cathedral

An obligatory stop in Valleta, Malta is St. John's Co-Cathedral. It was so crowded the day we toured that I actually took a turn in the wrong direction and escaped, just to get away from the crowds. Most of my photos are all out of focus from being tousled around by the crowd. Being pushed forward and with so little space to manipulate my elbows, my photos suffered, but what a beautiful and excessive Cathedral it is. 

Here is an excerpt from St. John's Co-Cathedral website:

Commissioned in 1572 by Grand Master Jean de la Cassière as the conventual church of the Order of the Knights Hospitaller of St John and designed by the celebrated Maltese military architect Gerolamo Cassar, St John’s Co-Cathedral stands as a unique monument of international importance. The church is dedicated to St John the Baptist, the patron saint of the Order.
The Knights were noblemen from the most important families of Europe, and their mission was to protect the Catholic faith from the attacks of the Ottoman Turks. After defending the tiny island of Malta from the Ottomans in the Great Siege of 1565, they turned Malta into a fortress that befitted a military Order and built a new capital city worthy of noblemen. Pride of place in the centre of the new city ‘Valletta’ was reserved for their Church.

It is immediately evident when entering Malta by water that it is a fortress more than anything else, but it is also amazing beautiful and truly unique. Standing made of stone, you can tell these crusaders that formed Malta meant business, and this is also no more evident than in the Co-Cathedral of St. John for its lavish decoration. 

Who can read Latin?

Of course my interest is more in a gargoyle vein. The marble floor is interwoven with hundreds of skulls and crossbones. 

More information on St. John's Co-Cathedral can be found here on wikipedia.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Katakolon: the port of Olympia

Katakolon port

Holland America Noordam in the port of Katakolon

The port city of Katakolon, Greece is the gateway to Olympia. In an earlier post, I suggested get out of the port as quickly as possible and run don't walk to Olympia. But looking back on the photos of this picturesque port, I think I was wrong. It is worth its own look and linger. Okay, sure it doesn't have the history of the Olympic Games, but it has its own charm.

My niece Sarah

I will let the photos speak for themselves. It truly is a room with a view.  

Room with a view
Cute restaurant
More information on the port of Katakolon can be found on this website.