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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

July Trip
17/7 - Ravenna

Fire instructions in youth hostel: "Do not shout fire." ???

Dispenser of miscellaneous products in the staircase area: "Preservativi: Preservatives con spermicida". Ahh. But then the hostel had male and female floors, so maybe they were encouraging people to go at it in the garden.

I made my way again to the Basilica of San Vitale, in an invigorating ~30 min walk from my hostel. There were many tourists in there and flashes were going off every second; no attendants were there to shout at them. Sometimes more than once every second. It was very very very irritating, and almost induced an epileptic fit in me, but at least I was conforted by the thought that it wouldn't damage the mosaics, their being far from the sources of light.

Mosaics behind altar

Mosaics behind and to left of altar - Justinian and friends

Mosaics behind and to right of altar - Theodora and friends

Mosaics to right of altar

Mosaics on roof above altar

Mosaics to left of altar

Right part of the arch in front of the basilica altar. How many saints can you spot?

Pope Clement XII in cloisters

Cloisters, 2nd cloister
It is very hard to capture cloisters and especially convey the serenity and peacefulness they project

Basilica from the outside - very unassuming
The inside reminded me of the cupola at the heart of Aachen Cathedral- a dome crowning the building and surrounded by a circle of pillars holding it up.

The toilet cost me €0,20, even though this was inside the ticketed area. Gah.

Mausoleum of Galla Placida, 2nd quarter of 5th century


They had the National Museum of Ravenna also but it didn't sound that interesting so I went looking for more World Heritage Sites.

I then went to the Domus Dei Tappeti di Pietra. Not a World Heritage site but it sounded fun. Photography was prohibited, naturally. Very cunningly, a sign informing the visitor of this was visible only after the ticket was bought.

Dance of the Four Seasons, 6th century AD

'Good Shepherd' - late 4th century AD. This is different from the other good shepherd representations.

I then walked over to:

Battistero Neoniano


Baptism of Christ, with an old man, the personification of the Jordan River, and surrounded by the 12 Apostles

2 small temples (of 8), 1 altar with a Gospel book (of 4) and 1 throne with a Cross - etimasia (of 4). Underneath there are small stucco shrines of the prophets.

The woman at the ticket booth said we could visit each place twice. Wah, so generous.

Next I walked to the museo arcivescoville (archepiscopal museum). Unfortunately the S. Andrea chapel was closed.

6th century ivory throne. Probably a gift of Justinian to Bishop Maximian.

5th century liturgical calendar used to determine Easter from 532-626

Mosaic of Praying Virgin, 1112 AD. From destroyed Ursian Basilica

S Barbaziano, Ursiaino, 1112 AD from Ursian Basilica

The group called Ravennantica which ran the Domus Dei Tappeti di Pietra and also another place I went to ("Santi Banchieri Re") proclaimed that its "principal purpose [is] to exploit, also for tourist aims, the... heritage... in Ravenna". It's nice that they admit that they're exploiting it. Or maybe this is another example of European English.

Santi Banchieri Re: Consul Boetius Diptych. 6th century.

The secular mosaics in Ravenna were not bad, but those at Pompeii were much better. They were the Dark Ages indeed! The sacred mosaics, on the other hand, were good. Perhaps more effort was put into them? Or maybe there was no basis for comparison since they had different subjects and iconographies - there was no tradition of Christian mosaics to live up to, so the sacred ones seemed better than the secular ones.

Floor mosaic with personification of one of the seasons. 6th century. Nouman (Syria), Ma'Arrat an.

There were more mosaics at a church in Classe, but it was out of the city so I couldn't walk there and would have to take a bus, so I decided to skip it, only having a day to do Ravenna.

There was a self-service restaurant at S Apollinare Nuovo which had 5ml sachets of balsamic vinegar from modena and 10ml sachets of extra virgin olive oil. Gah.

The bookshop had a vending machine selling Coke for €0,70 a can. I'd paid €1,50 in the cafeteria. !@#$ Across the street in a cafe it was even more - €1,80.

Luckily they allowed non-flash photographs in the Ravenna World Heritage sites, or I'd write in to UNESCO to protest, since "World Heritage sites belong to all the peoples of the world, irrespective of the territory on which they are located." Or maybe they could put it in the "World Heritage in Danger" list, in this case the Danger coming from unrestrained greed.

S Apollinare Nuovo left wall

S Apollinare Nuovo right wall

Grapes in cloister of S Apollinare Nuovo

Unfortunately, Theodoric's palace was closed.

Even the department stores took a siesta - one called 'UPIM' had a 70% sale but was open only from 9-1 and 3:30-7:30.

Ceiling of Arian Baptistry
Information panel: 'No other city in the world with remains from late Antiquity has managed to preserve a baptistery dedicated to the Arian cult with wall decorations'
Which begs the questions:
1) Do non-cities where blah blah exist?
2) Do blah blahs without wall decorations exist?
The actual building itself was quite plain, like the others, so I didn't snap it. For some reason it was situated on a lower level than the surrounding ground, though.

Rocca brancaleone, the 15th century fortress of Ravenna. The walls of Constantinople or Krek de Chevalier they ain't, but not bad lah.

Rocca brancaleone from Southwest

Chapel tower of Rocca (or 'arx')

Main gate

I rounded off everything by visiting the Mausoleum of Theodoric.


Roof of upper level



Arch (on bottom level)

I was distinctly underwhelmed. Like this also can be World Heritage Site ah?! There was a €2 fee to enter the place (€1 for students) but there was no ticket control and the turnstile turned freely. No wonder.

Both buses I took in Ravenna (to the hostel from the station and vice versa) were air-conditioned, and all others I saw were similarly equipped. How civilized. Or maybe it was because of the smell - in some parts of the city I was strongly accosted by something I hadn't encountered in years, since Secondary School - the rotten egg smell. I have no idea why this was so.

I bought a €14+ ticket to Milan from Ravenna on the scenic route (aka the cheap railway lines). The expensive ticket cost €27+ but it would save me only 2 hrs and anyway I had nothing to do.

At the ticket counter in Ravenna there was a US couple and a boy arguing with the female attendant for at least 10 mins (they knew some Italian, of course). They'd put €20 into a machine and it'd swallowed the money. They'd filled a form but were told to come back in a week. Of course, they'd be in Berlin by then.

Whenever there're signs in a few languages, more oftehn than not the one in French is the longest. They should've gotten a French to write War and Peace. Then again I haven't seen enough Russian signs.

Nutella and Esta The Limone and Baked flour sticks were combined in a single package which won the "Gran Premio Marketing Innovazione 2006" contest.

There was a train station called "Casalpusterlengo". Its name reminded me of a festering, pus-filled boil.

Arriving in Milan at 9:53pm, I discovered no one at the metro ticket booth. The machine accepted notes of up to €200, but only gave €9,95 in change and anyway rejected my €50 note (probably luckily for me). I didn't have enough in small change, so once again I rode without a ticket - it'd probably cost more to employ people to work at that time than they'd get in fines.

A sign reading 'Con segnale attivato ABBANDONARE LA STAZIONE' hanging from the ceiling of the metro station was not reassuring. Perhaps they have terrorist problems.

I had quite a bit of trouble finding my Milan hostel. The wonderful directions given
read: "Situated in Milan, in the Città Studi-Lambrate district, Hotel Adelchi is to 150 metres to the Underground Lambrate Station. 10 minutes from the center of the city. It is easly attainable from the Stazione Centrale and from Linate Airport, and by car from the gates Lambrate of the East Tangential. Take the green line for 4 stops and exit at Lambrate Cologno for our hotel." As you will note, it didn't even say which exit to take from the metro station, so I had to topo my way there.

First I asked a young couple. The girl didn't speak any English and both had no idea. Suddenly though, an elderly couple leaned out from their first floor balcony and the woman gave directions in Italian with a cup of yoghurt in her hand, which were then translated by the guy. When I got closer, I asked 3 filipinas who also had no idea, but they asked 2 old men and 1 took a map out of his car boot and eventually I was pointed in the right direction.

When I got to the hostel, the guy manning the desk spoke hardly any English. He also had insufficient change for my payment and asked me to pay €0,60 or so the next day. Luckily the person who was there the next day was better (and said to forget about the €0,60).

Except for the automatic public toilets, most toilets I used in North Italy had bidets. How civilized.
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