Thursday, August 28, 2008

Levels of Geek-dom

Nothing on the subject of Europe or travel, here's something I wanted to post, cuz I thought it was hilarious. Courtesy of Nicki. =)

The 6 Levels of Geek-dom

"The lowest level is Geek-wannabe..
this kind, thinks he knows all, but knows nothing.

He/she has the basic knowledge of computer science and can explain some minor stuffs, but cannot solve problems.. even minor ones..

Next level is Geek-Wiz...
This geek can solve problems.. write applications that can make people's lives easier... basically, good enough a geek to build a computer for you... BUT lacks the in depth knowledge to deal with really tough problems like blue screens and whatnot.

This geek can hack stuff... goes in depth and hacks into people's networks for fun... BUt still can't solve blue screen issues... but at least he thinks they are dangerous and tries to avoid them

This geek... is crazy man... he loves blue screens...has really good knowledge of computer stuffs.. its history, its future.. but not truly the one yet.

This one.. best.... walk near a broken computer, with no power supply, no battery, no nothing, and the computer turns on and works."

SO tell me, which geek are you? Lol.

(Edit) Geek Trait: Geek-Indulgence
Self explanatory, the geek from all 6 levels indulges in retail therapy of the irrational kind.
Geek speak (and quoted from Nicki): Instead of buying a S$9 mouse that perform basic navigational needs, the indulgent geek buys the S$59 mouse. 5 buttoned, wireless, 1600 DPI mouse triumphs over the 2 buttoned, wired and 500 DPI mouse. (Non-geek here have no idea what spec this is!?@)

Vatican City Part II - Museum fatigue (awed as well)

Vatican Museum

Besides being the home of the famous Sistine Chapel, the Vatican museum houses many of the world's renowned art treasures, and is an attraction massive enough to occupy an average visitor more than a few days (for a complete tour). To me, however, browsing the museum was an exercise of patience and endurance and I will explain it here.

1. Someone please enlighten me why a huge mammoth of a museum does not see a need to fully air condition all of its rooms? DON'T priceless works of art such as Raphael's and Michelangelo's frescoes deserve some TLC by air conditioning the rooms they are in??? I am no art scholar, so I have no idea how frescoes should be maintained. But I do think AC is a minimum, no? If AC's too costly, may I suggest better ventilation at least?

2. Queues to enter the museum are known to be snaking, even before it opens, and so the visitor numbers within the museum at any one time can be astounding. Let's just say, I can't swing my arms around me without accidentally socking someone in the gut. During summer, without AC, and with throngs of people around you, the problem of humidity, heat and lack of ventilation is exacerbated a 100 times.

3. Did I already mention that the museum is massive? Even a cursory visit of the key rooms within a day is not possible. I regret to say that the impressive collections weren't enough to alleviate that icky, sweaty feeling that lingered during my entire stay at the museum. Hence it was mostly a touch and go affair. Medieval art? Skip. Contemporary Art? Skip. Sistine Chapel. Straight on.

Fortunately, I did buy my first museum guide here, and it was somewhat useful in providing additional information even after leaving the place, despite not fully exploring the museum's many other worthwhile exhibits.

The Vatican museum and city guide
The illustrations on the cover were from the Sistine Chapel's wall frescoes.

Here are the pictures taken within the museum. Fortunately cameras were allowed here, unlike some other museums we visited. We were still diligent in taking photos. hah.

Shots from the Egyptian Museum: upper left, an Egyptian sculpture (don't know what it represents); upper right, Anubis, the escort of the dead, and above, mummified body of a woman. Being an avid movie buff of the Mummy movie trilogy, I was pleased to find familiarity in the exhibits - e.g., names of Egyptian gods (like Anubis, but no Scorpion King, sorry to disappoint) and the book of the Dead exhibit.

Clockwise from upper left: View of the courtyard known as the Cortille della Pigna; Mr Irish evidently NOT too pleased with the fig leaf; a trio of sculptures; the Laocoon and his sons.

I was most intrigued by the statue of Laocoon and his sons. Even before reading up about the statue's history, I was fascinated by how the figures intertwined each other, and the demonic torture they seemed to be enduring. According to Wiki, Laocoon, the old guy in the middle, is a Trojan priest and his sons Antiphantes and Thymbraeus were being strangled by sea serpents. Laocoon was killed after exposing the Trojan Horse farce, by spearing the Horse. Interestingly, his fellow Trojan kinsman do not regard him as a hero, but instead regarded the Horse as a sacred object.

I also recalled reading in Dan Brown's Angels and Demons, that some chaste Popes in the past, who probably took offense to the blatant displays of nudity by many artists, went on a censorship campaign, and ordered these *ahem* crown jewels to be either hacked off or covered with fig leaves.

Mr Irish's mirror image imitation gone awry. There wasn't time for me to correct the pose-sorry!

Strolling along this long hall will guarantee you a neck ache, if you plan on staring at the ceiling all the way.

Some close-ups of the wall frescoes.

The above 3 Catholic-themed pictures were taken by Mr Irish (who was the most trigger-happy during this visit), from the Gallery of Tapestries, one of the very rare air-conditioned rooms in this museum. Needless to say, we took our time here. And sped through most other rooms, including Gallery of the Maps, the Egyptian Museum (earlier mentioned), the Pio-Clementine Museum, Room of Immaculate Conception, until we reached Raphael's Stanze.

The School of Athens by Raphael

When we arrived at THE destination (Read: Sistine Chapel), all cameras had to be put away, much to our chagrin. So I can't show you pictures of Michelangelo's masterpiece, but I can certainly describe it.

The visitor is first greeted by the size and grandeur of the chapel. The ceiling and upper part of the walls were decorated with frescoes and wall hangings.

As we crane our necks to marvel at the works of arts, so did the throngs of tourists already inside the chapel crowding the centre of the chapel, as well as those occupying the benches lining the perimeter of the chapel. There were also a couple of "minders" to maintain the peace and quiet of the chapel, by shushing us all rather frequently.

The ceiling had 9 central panels, depicting events from the Genesis (interested parties, please read the bible). Though a non-Christian, I was able to understand most of the panels, not least with the help of the guide book and some explanation by the widely read Mr Irish.

Picture courtesy of Wikipedia

The most awesome scene on the wall, was "The Last Judgement", as above. Michelangelo's mature masterpiece. He began to work on it in his sixties and it took 450 days to complete. Michelangelo is said to have incorporated his self portrait in the fresco, and in another separate section, the features of another person, Biagio da Cesena, master of ceremonies of Paul III, who strongly criticised Michelangelo's work then. According to Wiki, when Cesena complained to the Pope, the pontiff responded that his jurisdiction did not extend to hell, so the portrait would have to remain. (Note: Cesena's features had been incorporated into Minos, the judge of the underworld). Who says the Pope doesn't have a sense of humour? So does Michelangelo. Lol.

Nicely taken by Ms Rehau, these spiral stairs depict our farewell to the Vatican museum

Feeling the beginnings of museum fatigue

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Vatican City Part I - St Peter's Basilica

Coming to Rome without making a "pilgrimage" to the Vatican city, is like not coming to Rome at all. Although the Vatican city is a sovereign city-state (it has its own monarchy and administration, and even issues its own passports, completely independent of Rome, thank you very much), it is located within the walled enclave of Rome. We did not have to get past any customs though.

The Vatican city is very easy to get to, just hop on the metro and get off at station Ottaviano, the nearest station to the Vatican city, within 15 mins of walking. We arrived there very early, mainly to beat the legendary queues that snake the Vatican museum and the St Peter's Basilica during peak season (which is during the summer months).

Before I started this Europe trip, my boss was telling me "You're going Rome? Rome is very beautiful, especially St Peter's Square". It is almost a prerogative to visit the Vatican City when one comes to Rome. I agree with him!

Piazza San Pietro (St Peter's square)

St Peter's square is a wide expanse of space, with graceful columns surrounding the piazza, and in the centre, an impressive obelisk arises. As always, in Rome, you'd expect to see a fountain in the piazza, to soothe many a parched throats.

The graceful columns surrounding the square

St Peter's Square

2 words to describe St Peter's Basilica. Opulent and Cavernous. The ceiling had numerous domes and were gilded in gold, the floor has elaborately designed "man-holes", the interior was a gigantic "cavern" of sorts. Check out the pictures. I say no more. =)

It's a flattering ray of sunshine

The elaborate "man-hole" on the floor

Beautifully gilded ceiling dome

The grandeur, the splendour

Excuse the difference in ambience of the pictures. The top 4 were mine, the next 2 were Mr Irish's and the last 2 were Ms Rehau's. Personally, I prefer a warmer tinge to my photos.

St Peter's Basilica is the principal shrine of the Catholic church and was built upon what was claimed to be the resting place of St Peter. The size and grandeur of the basilica aren't to be taken lightly. I was astounded by the size of the basilica, which could have easily covered several football fields. Opulence took on a whole new level here - from the marble flooring to the extravagantly decorated interiors, from the gilded ceilings, to the beautiful commissioned paintings, the grandeur is enough to put the other smaller churches in Rome to shame. Lol.

Visitors can pay to ascent the basilica for a view of the city, but we did not make the ascent due to the lack of time, and for fear of the queues that would snake the Vatican museum later.

Check out my next post regarding the Vatican museum. Are you as awed and inspired as I was?

Friday, August 1, 2008

Gladiators. Ruins. Trap (Tourist).

Julius Caesar Lego-fied. Lol.

Itinerary for the day: Colosseum. Palatine Hills. Miscellaneous cathedrals and fountains. I took the adorable life-sized Lego Roman soldier/emperor (?) above at a general snack stall near the Colosseum. =)

The colossal amphitheatre

The floor of the Coloseum in the ancient times used to be filled with sand, to absorb the blood shed by fallen gladiators and/or prisoners who were forced to partake in brutal battles with each other or with wild and exotic beasts, purely for entertainment purpose. The public was free to enter the Colosseum to view the battles. The lower the social class, the higher up their seats will be. The front row seats are occupied by the likes of the emperor and his entourage. From the sheer size (able to accomodate 50,000 to 70,000 spectators) and architectural brilliance of the Colosseum, it is no wonder that this world renowned enormity became a blueprint for many modern sports stadiums today. It's one of my favourite ruin in Rome. So, being in this place helped alleviate the feeling of being baked by the relentless sun. Did I mention that Mr Irish's cap was a fresh purchase to protect his alabaster skin? Lol.

While exploring the Colosseum, I would be unconsciously reminded of the movie "Jumper". Envious -- the stars (Hayden Christensen and Rachel Bilson) had the opportunity to visit the lower levels, whereby its access is normally restricted to the public. I'm guessing there's an intricate labryinth beneath, which would have been really fun to explore! sigh~

The famous Arch of Constantine

Outside the Colosseum. I feel like a kid. Lol.

Palatine Hills

Along the way to Palatine Hills , we bought some iced bottled water each. Guess how much a bottle costs?? 3 Euros (S$6 equiv) !! Either drop 3 Euros or die of thirst. This is why this place's a tourist trap (refer to title above). What's worse, the bottle contains ice, not iced water. So, not only do we pay S$6 for a chunk of ice, we had to go thirsty a tad longer before the ice melts. Best!!!

3 Euros a-piece.

Palatine Hills is the residential area of the rich ancient Romans. As it is largely in ruins, without outstanding features, we left this place after a short while. Of course, there's always the reliably hardworking Mr Sun to fry us should we get complacent. Next we metro-ed to Palazzo Barberini for lunch and some fountain/church sighting.

Yummy penne at a cozy Italian restaurant

Fontana del Tritone (spied across the road)

The cross-section of the road where the Quattro Fontane is located.

One of the Quatro Fontane

Got lost while trying to find our way to some cathedral and stumbled upon another cathedral - Sant Andrea al Quirinale. Come to think of it, it's a personal favourite so far. It's the first cathedral we visited in Rome, and one of the most quaint. The best thing about Rome is - getting lost is actually a good thing! However, we don't get lost too often. My map reading skills aren't too bad. heh.

Fascinating ceiling.

If you look closely, the angels appear to be clamouring to the top, to the heavens, I reckon.

Walked to Piazza di Repubblica, which is surrounded by a dignified semi-circle of buildings (hotels, cathedrals, etc). In the centre, rose the majestic Fontana delle Naiadi, with its sea monsters and nymphs, very cool (pun fully intended). Ms Rehau and myself had a lovely time soaking our tired feet into the cool waters. Mr Irish went off somewhere taking pictures.

Mr Irish did a good job snapping the nymphs

Last stop of the day was Santa Maria degli Angeli, just behind the lovely fountain. Apparently the church was built after a Sicilian priest had a vision of angels here in 1541.

The ceilings of the Roman churches starts to get familiar after a while

My Zodiac! On the floor, where the 12 zodiac representations were said to regulate time up till the 1846.

Before I go, some photo credits to both Ms Rehau and Mr Irish for the pictures used throughout the europe trip blog. I chose my favourites from our pool of photos. The power of Ms Rehau's 10x zoom plus wide lenses camera certainly wins out most of the time though. heh.

Goggle eyed tourist signing off


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