Thursday, December 31, 2009

To Venice

You are a labyrinth interwoven with water. I don’t even try to find my direction since reading a map is both useless and unnecessary.

I understand the very charm of you is not in those famous landmarks. The best way to appreciate you is by wandering, like in the bookloft.

I can’t explain my fascination with water and anything standing in the water. But I do know why I love the intricate network of narrow alleys - a reminder of the hutongs in Beijing. You happen to obsess me with both. How can I step away from you?

I want to leave my footprints on every street and every bridge of you. Three days seem too short! Wish I can walk in you endlessly, never ever stop. I would lose my way forever, like the protagonists in Last Year at Marienbad

Monday, December 28, 2009

Surprise in Ancona

I didn’t expect much of Ancona before the trip, as Google Image only came up with some unattractive photos. However, when I walked deeper and deeper into the city , I discovered some unpretentious but interesting buildings.

One of the surprises is this contemporary apartment building among the classic blocks. It sits on a slope with its roof sloping in the same direction. The form of the building is not uncommon, a popular method of carving into one big block. A balance between individuality and unity is achieved by providing each unit a good amount of character.

Walking along the stepped street in front of the building was interestingly pleasant, as I observed the changing face of each window and various plants along the street or on the balconies. As I walked up the steps, I saw another building with a similar look further up the slope. But I found this one more appealing because of the terraced garden on the back.

The landscape design is so modest but charming, just like Ancona itself. I especially enjoyed the various paths leading to different levels and directions, and the rich texture of the paving bricks...

Thanks to Google Earth, I not only located the building, but also got to see the overall plan. The aerial photo even reveals some interesting designs on the roof terrace.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Old Maps

I love old maps for their richness. They are usually very artistic and narrative instead of being purely technical like most maps today. On our way to the Sistine Chapel inside the Vatican Museum, we passed through the gorgeous Gallery of Maps. Besides the 40 large topographical maps of Italian regions, there are also several graphic maps depicting important cities. I was so excited to find three places I just visited -

The most noticeable one is the map of Venice at the end of the gallery. If you look closely, you will find captivating details of the Piazza San Marco.

The most noticeable one is a map of Ancona. I find it much less successful since the sail boats are too dominant whereas the city itself is hard to read.

The following one doesn’t show the name. My best guess is Lucca, judging primarily from the shape of the city wall. But I'm not sure about the pentagon at the bottom left corner.

I later found out that the maps in the gallery were commissioned in the late 1500s by Pope Gregory XIII. It took friar and geographer Ignazio Danti three years to paint. Although made 500 years ago with ancient instruments such as the Astrolabe, the maps are said to be amazingly accurate. I found an article discussing the accuracy of Danti's maps, very interesting:

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Footprints in Eastern Mediterranean

My first trip to Europe was almost perfect
10 nights on land, 7 nights at sea
Each place has its own charm -

Rome is POWER
Vatican is DIVINITY
Florence is ART
Venice is ROMANCE
Lucca is WARMTH
Pisa is FAME
Athens is ELEGANCE
Santorini is SCULPTURE
Dubrovnik is PERFECTION

I left my heart in Venice, Santorini and Dubrovnik. Will blog them in detail when I have time!