Posts Tagged With: Photography

Vatican City – St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel

It’s not everyday that you visit the capital of Christendom. It’s definitely not common to visit twice in 24 hours and throw in a visit by the big guy himself, the Pope. On Christmas Eve & Christmas day DUS and I toured Vatican City: St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, Vatican Museum and St. Peter’s square.

St. Peter’s Basilica is huge. Consecrated in 1626, it has the largest interior of any Christian church in the world. It’s hard to describe the size of this church and after eavesdropping on a few tour guides, they seem to have a similar problem. From the entrance door to the Naive is 715 feet. That’s two American football fields. Despite its size, the Church is designed in such a way that if feels intimate due to the proportions of figures, windows and other architectural feature. Statues on the ground level are human size while figures towards the ceiling are variable giants. The famous dove stained glass window behind the alter looks relatively small at the Church entrance, but in reality it’s over six feet high. That’s a big bird.

Click for Vatican city video montage

Click for Vatican city video montage

Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel is often said to be the single greatest piece of artwork by a single individual anywhere in the world. I would agree. At 132 feet long and 65 feet from the main floor of the chapel ceiling it’s hard to comprehend how one person could design, paint and finish this masterpiece in less than four years. Not to mention it was the year 1508. A key to making the most of the experience was a small set of binoculars (that I carry on every trip) to study the details in each part of the ceiling. The scale and level of detail is nothing short of amazing. Each figure is painted as if you were standing right in from of it: Eye lashes, wrinkles, they’ve got it all.

 Sistine Chapel (Click for images from Vatican City)

Sistine Chapel (Click for more images from Vatican City)

Every year at noon on Christmas day the Pope address Catholics around the world from the balcony of Saint Peter’s Basilica and in 2011 “we were there man.” The bright Mediterranean sun warmed the crowd of thousands as Pope Benedict XVI wished Merry Christmas in 40 different languages as wells as conducting the lords prayer (I’m pretty sure, it was in Latin :)). Both DUS and I reflected on how powerful and uplifting the experience was. No matter what your faith, this was a special event in a special place.

If you’ve ever wondered about going to Rome for Christmas, this event alone is worth the trip.

Categories: Italy | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Adventures in Southern Greece and Turkey

Flying from Stockholm to the island of Rhodes Greece is only a three hour trip. However, the true journey is light years in terms of culture, history, geography and climate — This is the heart of what makes traveling in Europe so fantastic.

In early May, DUS and I spent 8 days traveling in southern Greece and Turkey. We had a relaxing, crazy, exciting and romantic adventure that will not soon be forgotten.

We boarded our super cheap Ryanair flight in Stockholm happy to leave the cold and rainy Swedish spring weather. When the door opened at the Rhodes airport, we were greeted with a warm blast of Aegean Sea air — the perfect for our cold, light deprived Northern European bodies. We were not alone.

It turns out that Swedes have made Rhodes, Greece a prime tourist destination since the 1960’s. We met several Greek shop owners who claimed their first, second language was actually Swedish, not English. One gentleman even stated the Swedes “discovered” Rhodes, but quickly retracted saying he was only talking about tourism. Our flight from Sweden was packed and after a quick scan of the terminal, it became apparent we weren’t going to be the only Scandinavians in Rhodes. More on that later.

Our first stop was the small village of Lindos. This little town of 3,500 people is wonderful mix of history, culture and relaxation. Lindos was founded by the Dorians, who arrived in about the 10th century BC. In classical times the acropolis of Lindos was dominated by the massive temple of Athena, which attained its final form in around 300 BC.

Lindos Greece (click for more images)

Lindos Greece (click for more images)

We stayed in a hill-top family run apartment that had fantastic views of the town. Our three days in Lindos were a mix of beach relaxing/swimming, eating local Greek food and exploring all the hidden corners of this cool historic place.

Lindos, Greece (Click for more images)

Lindos, Greece (Click for more images)

Lindos could very well have been our only destination on this trip. But, with a hint of reservation, we pulled out of Lindos and headed towards the port of Rhodes and our next destination: Marmaris, Turkey.

Categories: Europe Travel, Greece | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Stavanger, Houston and Aberdeen

My home away from home the last few months has been Stavanger, Norway. Spending two weeks a month here has allowed me to know this little town quite well. Although not a great tourist destination, Stavanger is a charming mix of old & new. Back in the early 1970’s, Stavanger was put on the map by the discovery of oil in the North sea. Today, many multinational companies operate out of Stavanger which is why it’s sister cities are Houston in the U.S. and Aberdeen in the U.K. Despite the “big business” presence, Stavanger still holds that old port town feel. Would I travel to Stavanger on holiday? No. It is a nice pace to come for work, a resounding yes!

Click here for pictures of Stavanger

Click here for pictures of Stavanger

Categories: Europe Travel, Scotland | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Touring the Scottish Highlands

On my first weekend in Scotland I decided to take a trip to the famous Scottish highlands. Beautiful glaciated mountains, cliché sheep farms and idyllic small town’s dotted the 2.5 hour train ride from Aberdeen to Inverness. There’s a particular area near Inverness that I’ve always wanted to visit. This lake, or loch as it is know in Scotland, it probably the most famous lake in the world. It’s not really the lake that makes it famed; it’s the mysterious resident that supposedly lives there. Yes, if you haven’t already guessed, I’m talking about Loch Ness and the infamous monster “Nessie.”

Click for Photo's of Inverness & Lock Ness

Click for Photo's of Inverness

I spent a little over 24 hours Inverness, taking the guided tour of Loch Ness, exploring the kilt & whiskey shops and spending a semi-late night at the famous Hootananny tavern.

If you have 20 minutes to kill, go ahead and ride along with me on the Loch Ness bus tour

Despite being the middle of winter, I was pretty lucky with the weather and had a really nice time. Visiting the highlands in the summer would definitely be a better, but it’s nice missing the large crowds that allegedly swamp the area.

Categories: Europe Travel, Scotland | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Norway: Fjords, brown cheese and Ms. Ellen

Norway – Fjords, brown cheese and Ms. Ellen

We flew from Stockholm to Bergen, our first stop, in less than an hour. It’s really amazing how close things are in Europe. Bergen is the former capital of Norway and the “gateway to the Fjords.” It’s good to mention that you cannot actually see “real” Norwegian fjords from Bergen (postcard fjords are a 4 hour boat ride north). Our first day in Bergen was spectacular! With the sun shining, we toured the local fish market to sample the local fair and collect a few things for a picnic dinner atop Fløyen mountain, the highest point in the city. The vehicular whisked us to the top of the mountain and our feet provide the transportation down. Bergen receives an average of 330 rain days a year… wow! This condition makes the woodland dense with life, almost like a tropical rain forest. We walked slowly down the mountain and stopped at a lookout to enjoy the outstanding view and our equally amazing smoked salmon (the best I’ve ever had).

Bergen Photo's

Bergen Photo’s

Our two night stay in Bergen was also marked by interesting sleeping arrangements. DUS & I stayed in a 32 person mixed dorm, YMCA hostel. As most of you know, this was not my first time sleeping in a squad bay. But, it was for DUS…She insisted on sleeping in the top bunk, but little did she know there would be a bright light in her face for the entire night!!! I had my sleeping system and was doing just great in my little cubby in the bottom bunk :). I have since decided that this is not the way to spend a two day vacation with your significant other. Shared hostels are for guy’s trips, not romantic getaways!

Bergen Photo's

Bergen Photo’s

From Bergen, we traveled to Oslo on the most spectacular train ride I’ve ever taken. The trip afforded an amazing view of the Norwegian landscape from lakes to glaciers. This ride alone was worth the trip (and was more expensive than our plane tickets…)

Bergen to Oslo Train

Bergen to Oslo Train

In Oslo, we were greeted by a special sign and our good friend Ellen. We very excited to be in Norway, but Norway with Ms. Ellen was a special treat! Our two days trip included: the new Opera house, downtown tour, Viking ships, Museums and amazing parks. Our accommodations in Oslo were first class – nothing is better than staying with friends! Ellen’s family opened their home to us and we enjoyed brown cheese, big shrimp and special licks from Scott the Norwegian dog :)! I was also treated to a pro soccer game with Ellen’s dad, very cool!

Oslo Photo's

Oslo Photo’s

Norway is an amazing country; I will definitely return to see the fjords and hopefully some ski jumping!

Categories: Europe Travel, Norway | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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