Floored by Florence

Having grown up hearing and then later read “The agony and the Ecstasy”, Florence was one of my places to visit before I die
And one could not be blamed if they thought they had died and reached an art lover’s heaven in Florence!
piazza del signore-david
and then to find myself in the same frame as David! So what if it’s a copy: one can’t photograph the original. That is captured by the mind and kept in my memorable memories)

We I had booked a walking tour and it was led by an excellent guide : an art student earning some extra pocket money.
Alternatively you could buy a Firenze/ florence card and for 50 eUROS which is a 72 hour card that gives you free admission to the major museums in Florence. You will have access not only to permanent collections, but also to exhibitions and all other activities held in that museum without further cost.

The first thing we saw was Il Duomo : a magnificent church which dominates Florence.
The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (English: Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flower) is the main church of Florence, Italy. The Duomo, as it is ordinarily called, was begun in 1296 in the Gothic style to the design of Arnolfo di Cambio and completed structurally in 1436 with the dome engineered by Filippo Brunelleschi. The exterior of the basilica is faced with polychrome marble panels in various shades of green and pink bordered by white and has an elaborate 19th-century Gothic Revival façade by Emilio De Fabris.
description courtesy Wikipedia

Built by Filippo Brunelleschi who won the competition for its commission in 1418, the dome is egg-shaped and was made without scaffolding. The raising of this dome, the largest in the world in its time, was no easy architectural feat.

The basilica is one of Italy’s largest churches, and until development of new structural materials in the modern era, the dome was the largest in the world. It remains the largest brick dome ever constructed.

The exterior walls are faced in alternate vertical and horizontal bands of polychrome marble from Carrara (white), Prato (green), Siena (red), Lavenza and a few other places.
Tourists waiting for gates of Il Duomo to open

The painted dome .The biggest artwork within the cathedral is Giorgio Vasari’s frescoes of the Last Judgment (1572-9): they were designed by Vasari but painted mostly by his less-talented student Frederico Zuccari by 1579.

God dispensing Justice

The sinners tumbling into hell

The octagonal Baptistry stands in both the Piazza del Duomo and the Piazza di San Giovanni, across from the Duomo cathedral and the Giotto bell tower (Campanile di Giotto). It is one of the oldest buildings in the city, built between 1059 and 1128.
The entrance called the gates of Paradise because of their fine carving by Micheal Angelo can be seen in the background.
In Dan brown’s latest book, Inferno, it plays a prominent part as Dante was baptised here.

From here we proceeded to Piazza della Signoria. This is indeed an art lover’s Paradise with magnificent sculptures on display, including a copy of Micheal Angelo’s David.
David was originally commissioned as one of a series of statues of prophets to be positioned along the roofline of the east end of Il Duomo. In fact because it was to be viewd from below Micheal Angelo prroportioned it in such a way that it would look normal,the figure has an unusually large head and hands. What a pity that would have been, as it may never have got the kind of attention perfection like that deserves.
However, instead of being put up on the roofline of the cathedral,the statue was instead placed in a public square, outside the Palazzo della Signoria, the seat of civic government in Florence, where it was unveiled on 8 September 1504.In 1873 the statue of David was removed from the piazza, to protect it from damage, and displayed in the Accademia Gallery, Florence, where it attracts many visitors. We managed to go in to the gallery.Tickets are hard to get in the season and I had booked it online a month before we were to visit. I was spellbound by the perfection of the human form in stone. The statues eyes were looking towards Rome with a warning in them and because of the nature of the hero that it represented, it soon came to symbolize the defence of civil liberties embodied in the Florentine Republic, an independent city-state threatened on all sides by more powerful rival states and by the hegemony of the Medici family.
A replica was placed in the Piazza della Signoria in 1910, which is the one in the photograph above..

Piazza della Signoria is an L-shaped square in front of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, Italy. It was named after the Palazzo della Signoria, also called Palazzo Vecchio. It is the focal point of the origin and of the history of the Florentine Republic and still maintains its reputation as the political hub of the city
(Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piazza_della_Signoria)
palace vecchio

Palazzo Vecchio
Entrance of the Palce flanked by the magnificent statue of David and Bandinelli’s Hercules and Cacus

is the town hall of the city. This massive, Romanesque fortress-palace is among the most impressive town halls of Tuscany. Overlooking the square with its copy of Michelangelo’s David statue as well the gallery of statues in the adjacent Loggia dei Lanzi, it is one of the most significant public places in Italy, and it host cultural points and museums. The palace also plays an important role in Dan brown’s latest book Inferno.

Lunch in the Piazza del Signoria

The Loggia dei Lanzi consists of wide arches open to the street, three bays wide and one bay deep. The arches rest on clustered pilasters with Corinthian capitals. The wide arches appealed so much to the Florentines, that Michelangelo even proposed that they should be continued all around the Piazza della Signoria[citation needed]. The vivacious construction of the Loggia is in stark contrast with the severe architecture of the Palazzo Vecchio. It is effectively an open-air sculpture gallery of antique and Renaissance art including the Medici lions.

Hercules and Cacus  Benvenuto Cellini's statue Perseus With the Head of Medusa

Benvenuto Cellini’s statue Perseus With the Head of Medusa

One of the mmany exquisite staues in the Loggia dei Lanzi



  Bartolommeo Bandinelli's Hercules and Cacus
  Giambologna's The Rape of the Sabine Women

Bartolommeo Bandinelli’s Hercules and Cacus on the left and Giambologna’s The Rape of the Sabine Women on the right

Fountain of Neptuneby Bartolomeo Ammannati
The fountain of neptune was commissioned to built as a tribute for the marriage of the second Grand Duke of Tuscany Francesco I de’ Medici to the Grand Duchess Johanna of Austria. The assignment of building this fountain was given the famous Renaissance sculptor Bartolommeo Bandinelli, but shortly after he had finished a model of the fountain died. The job of creating the fountain was quickly given to the sculptor Bartolomeo Ammannati and his assistant Giambologna.
The sculptors of this fountain paid great attention to detail as well as significance when building this fountain. They made the figure of Neptune the Greek God of water have the face of the first Grand Duke of Tuscany Cosimo I de’ Medici. The reason they choose to do this was to portray the ruling power of Florentine people over the sea.
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/1179319

piazza del signore

Byzantine Pagliazza Tower, the oldest building still standing in the historic center of Florence. In the XII century it was used as a women’s prison, hence the name “Pagliazza” which derives from the beds of straw of the prisoners. Today it’s a restaurant :Santa Elisabetta Restaurant in Hotel Brunelleschi.

arno bridge
The famous bridge over River Arno. Once a meat market now a jewellry market.

medici emblem
The emblem of the powerful Medici family which ruled over Florence and can still be seen in many houses in the city.

The Granary or Orsanmichele is famously known for the sculptures of saints placed in the niches or tabernacles on all four sides of the church by the various guilds of Florence.
granary-st george
We also visited the famous Uffizi gallery and spent quite a few dumbstruck moments in front Of Botticelli’s ‘birth of Venus’ but unfortunately no photography is allowed.
I couldn’t visit the Vasari corridor or the Pitti palace but then maybe , next time InshaAllah


The temple of Karnak

Nov 2009

After a overnight journey in the famous “sleeper train” from Cairo to Luxor we reached Luxor.Our program had shown that we would be checked into our 5* ship an dthen after freshening up we would go to see Karnak and Luxor temples. So we decided to do all our morning rituals on board the ship.
Imagine our dismay when we were met by our guide and driven straight to Karnak, because the ship’s check in time was still 3 hours away. So here were we grumpy and dirty but all that dissappeared as soon as we came face to face with the temple complex!
The Temple of Karnak comprises of three main temples, smaller enclosed temples, and several outer temples located about three kilometers north of Luxor, Egypt situated on 247 acres of land. Karnak is actually the site’s modern name, after the modern village of el-Karnak, some 2.5 km north of Luxor. Its ancient name was Ipet-isut, meaning “The Most Select (or Sacred) of Places”.
The Karnak group of temples is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is the biggest temple complex in the world .It is said to be the largest open air museum in the world and once you reach there you realise why.
You are greeted by rows ram-headed sphinx symblosing god Amun.

This huge temple complex was built and enlarged over a period of 1300 years and approximately thirty pharaohs contributed to the buildings.
The Hypostyle Hall in the Precinct of Amun-Re is one of the most spectacular sights I have seen .One can only wonder its effect (when in its pristne glory)on ordinary people who came there?

And you also realise that Ramses II was very fond of his own images.There are rows of his statues .

Queen Hatshepsut,the only female Pharoah had monuments constructed and also restored the original Precinct of Mut, the ancient great goddess of Egypt, that had been ravaged by the foreign rulers during the Hyksos occupation. She had erected twin obelisks, at the entrance to the temple.They were tallest in the world at that time, now however, only one stands, as the tallest surviving ancient obelisk on Earth,while the other toppled and broke in two.
Seeing the obelisks, while reminding you of man’s genius also kept reminding me Obelisk and Asterisk comics!

There is also a sacred lake in the premise and near it a giant Scarab beetle on a pedastal and the guides were telling tourists to circumbulate it 7 tims for granting of wishes.Believe it or not many were going it!!

Ingenuous Marketing on the Nile

As our ship neared the Esna lock, it slowed down.
Dusk was just falling, and we were all of us on the deck, when suddenly there was much shouting and waving from below and we all ran towards the rails to ee what was happening.
A couple of boatmen had thrown ropes and attached themselve sto our ship and were peddling their wares.
All ships on the Nile cruise have ajeallabiya night where tourists dress up in local gear.
These boamen had various dresses , which they were touting as Cleopatra dreses and the way they were displaying it was wonderful.
They wrapped the dresses in Plastic bags and with absolute accuracy threw the bags upto the deck for us to view.Then began haggling with prices coming down from 200 egyptian pounds to 25 LE.
There was much tosising to n fro of the packets while the haggling took place.
Once the price was fixed the dress was taken ou of the packet and money put instead and thrown back to the waiting boats.
Of course we missed many times and the boatmen had to retrieve their packets from the Nile amdst much grumbling , laughing and apologies.

A moment of Madness : Tryst with Egypt

A moment of madness in the shape of self glorification and you have spoilt years and years of glorious work.

I don’t really care to know who Messrs Zagada or Craddock were, but do care that they spoilt temples made in honour of various Gods and Goddesses!
They were just humans with itchy fingers!

So what if Volpato came from Roma in 1841? Just wish he had maintained a diary instead

Abu Simbel : A Tryst with Egypt

Nov 2009

From Luxor our ship sailed to Aswan.
In Aswan itself there are a gems of a temple called Philae in an island.
But our main focus was to visit the temples of Abu Simbel on the banks of Lake Nasser, created when Aswan Dam was made

Abu Simbel temples refers to two massive rock temples in Abu Simbel in Nubia, southern Egypt on the western bank of Lake Nasser about 230 km southwest of Aswan (about 300 km by road). The complex is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the “Nubian Monuments,” which run from Abu Simbel downriver to Philae (near Aswan).
We were informed that we have to go there by convoys which leave at 3am and 11 am. We opted for the latter, as getting up at unearthly hours didn’t quite gel with our idea of a holiday!!

The reason for the convoys is that we pass through 200 kms of desert where there isn’t a soul in sight in case car breaks down. Also there is fear of bandits waylaying the hapless tourists!

The twin temples were originally carved out of the mountainside during the reign of Pharaoh Ramesses II in the 13th century BC, as a lasting monument to himself and his queen Nefertari, to commemorate his alleged victory at the Battle of Kadesh, and to intimidate his Nubian neighbors. However, the complex was relocated in its entirety in 1968, on an artificial hill made from a domed structure, high above the Aswan High Dam reservoir.

The relocation of the temples was necessary to avoid their being submerged during the creation of Lake Nasser, the massive artificial water reservoir formed after the building of the Aswan High Dam on the Nile River.
Abu Simbel remains one of Egypt’s top tourist attractions.
The front is adorned by huge statues of a sitting RamessesII. One has had its head knocked off and when it was restored to the upper area head was left in same position.Next to his leg is a smaller statue of Queen Neferteri and pride of place between the legs is occupied by the son!!

Construction of the temple complex started in approximately 1244 BCE and lasted for about 20 years, until 1224 BCE. Known as the “Temple of Ramesses, beloved by Amun,” it was one of six rock temples erected in Nubia during the long reign of Ramesses II. Their purpose was to impress Egypt’s southern neighbors, and also to reinforce the status of Egyptian religion in the region. Historians say that the design of Abu Simbel expresses a measure of ego and pride in Ramesses II.

With the passage of time, the temples fell into disuse and eventually became covered by sand. Already in the 6th century BC, the sand covered the statues of the main temple up to their knees. The temple was forgotten until 1813, when Swiss orientalist JL Burckhardt found the top frieze of the main temple. Burckhardt talked about his discovery with Italian explorer Giovanni Belzoni, who travelled to the site, but was unable to dig out an entry to the temple. Belzoni returned in 1817, this time succeeding in his attempt to enter the complex. He took everything valuable and portable with him. Tour guides at the site relate the legend that “Abu Simbel” was a young local boy who guided these early re-discoverers to the site of the buried temple which he had seen from time to time in the shifting sands. Eventually, they named the complex after him.

In 1959 an international donations campaign to save the monuments of Nubia began: the southernmost relics of this ancient human civilization were under threat from the rising waters of the Nile that were about to result from the construction of the Aswan High Dam.The salvage of the Abu Simbel temples began in 1964 by a multinational team of archeologists, engineers and skilled heavy equipment operators working together under the UNESCO banner; it cost some $40 million at the time. Between 1964 and 1968, the entire site was carefully cut into large blocks (up to 30 tons, averaging 20 tons), dismantled, lifted and reassembled in a new location 65 meters higher and 200 meters back from the river, in one of the greatest challenges of archaeological engineering in history.[3] Some structures were even saved from under the waters of Lake Nasser. Today, thousands of tourists visit the temples daily. Guarded convoys of buses and cars depart twice a day from Aswan, the nearest city. Many visitors also arrive by plane, at an airfield that was specially constructed for the temple complex.
In this picture you can see the mark on the leg where it was cut to bring it up!
The God RA is standing in the background.

The temple of Hathor and Nefertari, also known as the Small Temple, was built about one hundred meters northeast of the temple of Ramesses II and was dedicated to the goddess Hathor and Ramesses II’s chief consort, Nefertari. This was in fact the second time in ancient Egyptian history that a temple was dedicated to a queen. The first time, Akhenaten dedicated a temple to his great royal wife, Nefertiti.Ramesses II loved his Queen Neferteri a great deal.Though even this temple has huge statues of RamessesII on the entrance. But in an age when queens were never honored it was a big step!

We were not allowed to photograph inside but there are beautiful painting depicting offerings to the Gods and Goddesses and Colums with statues of Ramesses II as God Osiris.
The center of the temple is a sanctum sanctorum.These have the statues of Rameses II ,God Ra and Amon and Ptah.
It is believed that the axis of the temple was positioned by the ancient Egyptian architects in such a way that on October 21 and February 21 (61 days before and 61 days after the Winter Solstice), the rays of the sun would penetrate the sanctuary and illuminate the sculptures on the back wall, except for the statue of Ptah, the god connected with the Underworld, who always remained in the dark.

These dates are allegedly the king’s birthday and coronation day respectively, but there is no evidence to support this, though it is quite logical to assume that these dates had some relation to a great event, such as the jubilee celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of the Pharaoh’s rule.
The drive back was also eventful .We saw the sun setting in the desert and it was magnificent

God’s creation and Human effort side by side

We had fun chasing the sun across the desert

The temple is the fictional field headquarters of MI6 in the 1977 James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me, containing M’s office, a conference room, and Q’s laboratory.
The temple is a setting of the 1978 film Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile, where the statues “sing” because of the wind in the crevices (similar to wind blowing over a bottle).
The temple is shown in 2001’s The Mummy Returns, as a way to the Oasis of Ahm-Shere.

I wandered lonely as a cloud That floats on high o’er vales and hills : Mount Rydal

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

Having grown up on these lines it was of course natural that our visit to UK in 2011 involved a pilgrimage to the Lake district to pay homage to the place where William Wordsworth spent much of his life.

Grasmere lake

Our first stop was Dove Cottage, which houses the Wordsworth Museum.
It was here that Wordsworth penned some of the most beautiful lines in English language and his sister Dorothy kept her famous ‘Grasmere Journal’, now on display in the Museum.

The cottage upon which Wordsworth chanced upon while walking with his brother John and Samuel Coleridge was once an inn ‘Dove and Olive Bough’ and from that got its name the Dove Cottage,
Wordsworth lived here for 8 years, got married here and three of his children were born here.

( you can check this for directions and timings)





Next to the Dove Cottage is the Wordsworth Museum, well worth your while as it houses the greatest collection of the Wordsworths’ letters, journals and poems in the world.

In 1813 Wordsworth moved to Mount Rydal in Ambleside to house his growing family and increasing number of visitors.
he stayed till his death in 1850.


In front of the house there is a stool next to a wooden bench which looks so invitingly romantic that most of the busloads of visitors to Mount Rydal posed for pictures on it.
Of course so did we!

An artist’s impression of Mount Rydal

The rooms inside are a literature lesson in themselves.. I just give you some of them.. I think they speak for themselves and no description is needed.




Wordsworth’s letter on being offered post of Poet laureate

The poet’s study


The Poet’s handwritten manuscripts

The view from the study




The living rooms

Its the garden and terraces which were a source of inspiration and are truly breathtaking.They were landscaped by Wordsworth himself who called it his office and to look at them to draw inspiration to write ourselves.

The summerhouse where Wordsworth liked to sit and recite his verses.
It has a stunning view

It was here that his daughter Dora died in 1847. The Rash field which was originally bought by Wordsworth to build a new house became a memorial to Dora. Wordsworth together with his wife, sister and gardener, planted hundreds of daffodils as a memorial to Dora in that field.
Unfortunately we went in July when the daffodils were not flowering .


A last and lasting impression of the beautiful Mount Rydal

One one over riding memory from this visit especially to Dove Cottage was the strong relationship between William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy.
Dorothy’s Grasmere Journals written in Dove Cottage and on display in the museum there detail her relationship with William and their adventures in the Lake District with friend and fellow poet Samuel Coleridge.
The three friends used to take long walks together, during which time they would fall into what Dorothy called “trance states.”
Some scholars speculate that Lucy from The Lucy poems (a series of five poems) composed by Wordsworth is based on his sister Dorothy.
The happiest days of Dorothy Wordsworth’s life were between the Christmas of 1799, when, as she put it, she and William were left to ourselves & had turned our whole hearts to Grasmere, and October 1802, when William married and they were left to themselves no longer. During these years, Dorothy never went farther than a day’s journey from Dove Cottage.
Her journal entry for October 4, 1802, describes her William’s wedding to Mary Hutchinson. She herself could not bear to attend the wedding and had already bid a very passionate farewell to her brother in the morning as he went to church.
“On Monday 4th October 1802, my Brother William was married to Mary Hutchinson. I slept a good deal of the night & rose fresh & well in the morning — at a little after 8 o’clock I saw them go down the avenue towards the Church. William had parted from me upstairs. I gave him the wedding ring — with how deep a blessing! I took it from my forefinger where I had worn it the whole of the night before — he slipped it again onto my finger & blessed me fervently. When they were absent my dear little Sara [Hutchinson, sister of the bride] prepared the breakfast. I kept myself as quiet as I could, but when I saw the two men running up the walk, coming to tell us it was over, I could stand it no longer & threw myself on the bed where I lay in stillness, neither hearing or seeing anything, till Sara came upstairs to me & said “They are coming.” This forced me from the bed where I lay & I moved I knew not how straight forward, faster than my strength could carry me till I met my beloved William & fell upon his bosom. He & John Hutchinson led me to the house & there I stayed to welcome my dear Mary.”
I felt as if I was peeping into her soul when I read this entry.
Her relationship seems complex and maybe incestuous.Biographer Frances Wilson in new book, The Ballad of Dorothy Wordsworth, chronicles the intense connection between the Wordsworth siblings based on the Grasmere Journals.
However she explains, “I don’t think for a moment that there was any sexual relationship between them, because I think their relationship had nothing to do with bodies.They were wrapped up in each others minds in a much complicated and frightening way.”
Wilson describes the relationship as “extraordinary.” In some ways, she says, it was the most passionate relationship of both of their lives: “For Dorothy there was no other man ever,” says Wilson.