End of 2015: UNESCO World Heritage Sites visited

Since I’ve visited a few of them by now, the UNESCO World Heritage Sites I’ve visited.

Statue of Liberty, New York Harbor
Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, Illinois
Mesa Verde National Park
Yellowstone National Park
Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks
Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites
City of Bath
Palace of Westminster and Westminster Abbey including Saint Margaret’s Church
Tower of London
Maritime Greenwich
Archaeological Areas of Pompei, Herculaneum and Torre Annunziata
Villa D’Este, Tivoli
Hadrian’s Villa, Tivoli

Vatican City
Historic Centre of Rome, the Properties of the Holy See in that City Enjoying Extraterritorial Rights and San Paolo Fuori le Mura

The Journeys of Paul, 2015 edition

2015 was a banner year for travel for me, highlighted by crossing off the biggest thing on my bucket list, Rome!

So, the Stats:

Multi Day Trips, 2015:
Driving Trip to Arkansas
Flight to Rome, Italy

Places Slept, 2015:
Roseville, Minnesota (home)
Lawrence, Kansas
Sherwood, Arkansas
Hannibal, Missouri
Rome, Italy

Cardinal Directions:
Furthest North (North America): Cascade River State Park, Minnesota
Furthest North: Schiphol Airport, The Netherlands
Furthest East (North America): JFK Airport, New York City
Furthest East: Pompeii, Italy (all time furthest East reached)
Furthest South: Hot Springs, Arkansas
Furthest West: Topeka, Kansas

State Capitols Seen (New):
Topeka, Kansas
Little Rock, Arkansas
Jefferson City, Missouri
Springfield, Illinois
Madison, Wisconsin

National Parks (New):
Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas

{Photography} Ostia Antica

On the Sunday of my trip to Rome, I took the subway and a commuter train to the ruins of the Port city of Ostia Antica. It was easy to get to, and it was less crowded than Pompeii. Aside from an Ugly American tour guide participant who got in my face because his tour was loud and I couldn’t help but listen.

But forget him.


Ostia Antica was THE port for Rome during the Empire. You wanted to sail to Rome? You’d put into port into Ostia and travel overland from Ostia to Rome. So a bustling port town had it all—night life, people from all over the empire and beyond, foreign gods, and more. (Before Christianity went to Rome, it certainly came to Ostia Antica).

There are a few places marked off, and there is a “straight shot” of some of the highlights, but there are acres, near square miles of stuff to wander through and explore. On a quiet Sunday, away from the main crowds, you can believe you are alone amongst the ruins.

Other places, like the Theater, are much more popular.



There is a sense of deep time, wandering about, seeing what’s left.

So what happened, do you ask? Unlike Pompeii, it wasn’t a volcanic eruption. Instead, the river changed course, and the harbor silted up. Ostia was no longer a good port. And so as the marshes moved in, the people moved away, and left the buildings, the statues, the inscriptions, the mosaics, and the ruins behind.





So, if you visit Rome and don’t have the time for Pompeii…step back into time at Ostia instead. You won’t regret it.


{Photography} Spirits of Ancient Egypt, In Rome

In wandering about Rome, I found many reminders that Egypt was, for a long time, part of, or a fascination for, the ancient Romans. Just like the 19th Century Europeans went mad for Egypt stuff in the wake of Napoleon’s brief occupation of it. (And so did the US—consider that the Washington Monument is an Obelisk and not more Greco-Roman like, as Jefferson and Lincoln’s Memorials are)

There are 13 Obelisks in total in Rome, which is more than are left in all of Egypt. I encountered a few of them in my travels…

This is in the park near the Villa Borghese.

20151105-28 mm001

The Piazza del Popolo. You can also see St. Peter’s in the distance here.

20151105-28 mm001-2

Speaking of St. Peter’s. There is an Obelisk there, too.


Those famous Spanish Steps you heard about (and are under construction). An Obelisk there too:


The Piazza Nuovo also has one…


And you’ll remember from my story of Hadrian that there is a Obelisk in front of the Pantheon…


As it is, I missed a few, and saw a couple of others in the dark.

Now, none of these Obelisks are “where they were” in ancient times. In the Baroque period (remember Bernini), the Popes decided to, among other things, to move Obelisks to various locations in the city. In a couple of cases, they rescued a couple of Obelisks that had fallen down and had been forgotten.

But Obelisks are hardly the only remnants of Rome’s fascination with Egypt…



This is the Goddess ISIS (not those idiots in the Middle East, but an Egyptian Goddess of life and birth)


Lastly, Cestus. Cestus was a rich Roman around the time of Jesus’ birth who had more money than sense. He decided that when he died, he wanted an Egyptian pyramid for a tomb. So he built one. It sat where it was by itself for 300 years until Aurelian decided to build big walls around Rome. So, he built the wall right up to the Pyramid and continued on the other side…


{Photography} Bernini

Before I went to Rome, I knew comparatively little about Baroque sculpture and architecture. I knew the Trevi Fountain was Baroque, but if you asked me to name a single Baroque sculptor, well, I couldn’t.

And then I met the work of Gian Lorenzo Bernini, the guy who is widely thought to have invented Baroque sculpture.

After Rome fell in the 5th century AD, Rome was a dump for the better part of a thousand years. Sure, the Pope lived there (and even so, for a while, even the Pope decided to live elsewhere, in France!), but otherwise, Rome was a nothing place. In the height of the Roman Empire, a million people lived in Rome. In the depths of the Dark Ages, maybe 10,000 people, tops.

In the 16th and 17th century, though, the Renaissance brought money and power to the Popes, and Rome again. Art and architecture started to flourish once more. Popes thought big and dreamed big and started building projects and restoration projects. Bernini, who lived in the 17th century, helped steer the course of that restoration with his style.

You’ve already seen the work of Bernini in this space. Remember David?

My connection to Bernini on this trip, though, started at the beginning. The Hotel I stayed at was called the Hotel Bernini.

The reason for this turns out to be because of the Piazza in front of the Hotel. The Piazza Barberini has a fountain designed by Bernini, the Fontana del Tritone.

Back to the Villa Borghese, where you saw the David. Scipio Borghese was a nephew of a Pope, and that gave him a lot of power to get what he wanted. He got to be a cardinal, for example. What Scipio really loved and wanted was art, and he collected it like crazy. He has a few pieces by Bernini, including a bust he commissioned Bernini to do of himself.

This is Pluto and Prosperina, a classic story of Greek myth. Look at the delicacy of the image, with the tear, and Pluto’s fingers digging into her flesh.


This is Apollo and Daphne, the nymph who turned into a tree to avoid Apollo’s amorous advances. You can see in this image that she’s in the moment of transformation (look at her legs)

But like the fountain before, Bernini liked to do bigger projects. The fountains of the Piazza Navona, one of the biggest and most famous squares in Rome, are his work:


He also had a hand in the design in and around St. Peter’s square.



Still, even as I was wandering around museums of Rome, I randomly came across his work.



The face of that Medusa by the way, was of his mistress. He was fighting with her at the time.

Finally, Bernini died, and was buried in one of the big churches of Rome, Santa Maria Maggiore. I didn’t find his tomb, there was a church service going on at the time. Next time.