"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.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Lippizzaner Horses of Slovenia

Sascha Gottschalk
Six months ago when I went on the Adriatic and Italy cruise, I was determined to come back and post all my photos and memories while they were fresh. I did do a lot of posts when I first got back, but one post I really wanted to do was about the Lippizzaner horses of Slovenia. I had taken a beautiful photo of a little girl riding a model horse in the museum of the stud farm. But I wanted to post her name, as I told her father I would. The little piece of paper I had written her name on was lost for the last six months. 

Today, cleaning my office I found it. So above is the photo of Sascha Gottschalk, a product of a US father and a Russian mother. I met them on the tour. They now live in Russia, where her father teaches English and her mother works for the government. I was perplexed why a child of an American guy couldn't speak English, so he explained to me that she had lived most of her life in Russia.  I love how I meet the most interesting people on my travels!

Info from the Lipica Stud Farm Museum

This stud farm in Slovenia is the oldest Lippazanner stud farm and has been operational for more than 400 years. More information on this beautiful place with wonderful horses can be found here.

I still prefer the horses of Andalucia. The horses we went to see near Sevilla back in 2003 took my breath away, and we were able to interact with them much more, but the Lipica horses are also beautiful. I especially enjoyed the time before the show when we were able to watch them in their natural setting.

Lippizzaner horse with baby

Note how the horses are born black and turn white as they grow older. 

Our tour group was also quite colorful. I met a wonderful couple who divides their time between Canada and California. They were quite taken aback by our guide, who practically blackmailed us in to writing favorable reviews of the tour.

Our tour group in Slovenia

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Montserrat Cathedral: Another Gargoyle Heaven

Can you see me?

A very nice Australian woman offered to take my photo in front of the Cathedral doors at the Monastery of Montserrat. If you squint your eyes and look real hard, you can see me there down on the right hand corner. 

The Cathedral is full of wonderful architectural details and a place gargoyles would love.

Mosaic at Montserrat Cathedral

There are lovely mosaics, animal themed pews and gold galore. The inside is really a treasure trove, but what I loved about it the most was the spiritual feeling it has. I went to so many Churches and Cathedrals on my trip, but somehow when I was crammed in with a thousand other tourists, the appeal and the spirituality seems to disappear. I was lucky to be at Montserrat late in the day and it was quiet and peaceful.

Montserrat Cathedral interior

Are these jaguars holding the pews?

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Olympia, Greece: the Archaeological Site

Olympia, Greece Archeological Site
from the Olympia Archaeological Museum

The day we docked in Katakolon, Greece to make our way to our destination of Olympia could not have been a more beautiful day. We had a warm sun, no clouds and a cool breeze. As the day wore on, it did get hot, as it did almost every day during our Roman Empire cruise, but since it was May, it was still bearable heat. We did not see one drop of rain the entire ten days.

My niece Sarah at the Olympia, Greece archaeological site
With a jolt of java in the morning, my niece and I chatted as we rode from Katakolon to Olympia. There wasn't much to see other than dried grasses and occasional farm machinery. But once we arrived, we realized just how special the place really is. More information on Olympia can be found here. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and for good reason.

Doric column at Olympia site

All of us that have studied Greek history have read about the Olympics and how they started. I still find it hard to believe that the first competitors did all that without a stitch of clothes on. Even if we aren't into history, who doesn't watch when we have the Olympic games on TV? My niece and I did the obligatory run down part of the Olympic track. Some members of our tour group actually ran the whole length, and let me tell you, it was a long way!

This is just the first post in a series on Olympia. The highlight for me was actually what they hauled into the Museum. Other than the museum in Athens, I don't think I have seen anything more impressive.

Corinthian columns - look at the size of the people to see how impressive they are

And last but not least, one of the cutest couples on our tour ....

Cute couple on our Olympia tour

Friday, November 1, 2013

Catherine's Palace St. Petersburg: pro or con?

Our guide in St. Petersburg

It seems it is all the vogue to go to St. Petersburg, Russia and come back with stories of how you loved the Hermitage Museum, Catherine’s Palace and generally St. Petersburg. The city felt cold to me, like the guide who took us around. She was lovely in appearance, a beautiful, poised woman dressed in a gorgeous outfit with a polka dot skirt. She smiled on cue. She answered questions, but there was a disconnect as if she was doing her Communist, civic duty. There was no warmth or spontaneity and what she said felt scripted. 

Too much gold?

My feet in booties to protect the floor in Catherine's Palace


St. Petersburg surprised me for its modern feel. I knew it contained a lot of old buildings but I was surprised at all the flash. I felt like I was in Times Square, but I prefer being near Tiffany’s so that was not a plus for me. Times Square always feels too dangerous and St. Petersburg felt dangerous too. 

The air in St. Petersburg is super polluted and my eyes stung the whole time there. I was probably cranky as well as the temperature was in the high 90s and there is no air in any of the museums (except the offices where we were not allowed.) 

The architecture is elaborate but almost too much so. I prefer French or Italian, and even though Catherine’s Palace is supposed to be Western, it felt so overdone with all that gold. Having to wear booties as well to tour the museum seems over the top, and the customs people both entering and leaving are so unfriendly. 

Catherine's Palace

 On the other hand, my husband loved it, but he did say he wouldn't want to go back. Here is a youtube video I found. Let me know what you think of Catherine's Palace, pro or con!

There were plenty of nice people outside the Palace. I bought some imitation Faberge eggs from a super nice lady and I love the eggs. I have them displayed on my guest bedroom dresser and they look great. And I had an ice cream at a truck outside Catherine’s Palace and it was delicious.

My fake Faberge eggs

One really cool thing did happen at Catherine's Palace. I saw a woman in the bathroom that I had met on an Eastern Med cruise a few years before. We got reacquainted and I was able to introduce her and her husband to my husband later on. Talk about a small world.

Singers at Catherine Palace lunch

Friend from cruise on our Neva River boat ride

Funny things we saw ...

How many signs they had with Eva Longoria of Desperate Housewives advertising Loreal. There was a billboard on every block. Too bad I didn't get a shot. If anyone has one, please forward on.

The laundry hanging on the boat when we entered to go on our Neva River cruise, probably crew's clothes! (By the way, doesn't anybody else notice how dirty the Neva River is? I was shocked at all the industrial plants dumping stuff in the river on our excursion.)