Perth’s Playground




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Back in 1984, Perth businessman Dallas Dempster had a smart idea. Let’s get rid of this dump! Burswood Island, an island in the Swan River just a couple of kilometres from Perth’s city center, was the site of a large landfill. Dempster suggested to the Western Australian government that the site could be better used for a resort casino. The government agreed and Dempster and a Malaysian business partner were granted a casino license in 1985. The plans called for a casino, a 400 room hotel, a golf course, a convention and exhibition centre, an amphitheatre and more.

The casino, of course, was finished first and opened in December 1985. The third largest casino in the world at the time, it was an immediate success, so popular it netted $1 million a day in gross profit in its first two months of operation! The rest of the complex was finished over the next two years. This included the ultra-modern Burswood Island Hotel.

The Crown Metrepol, originally the Burswood Island Hotel, features a covered courtyard with bars and restaurants and a set of external elevators.

The casino was expanded and the theatre renovated in the 1990s. Further expansion in the 2000s saw another hotel added (a Holiday Inn, now the Crown Promenade) as well as some residential apartment complexes nearby. The complex underwent various ownership changes as well, ending up in the hands of Crown Limited in 2007. In 2011 the resort was rebranded as Crown Perth to coincide with the building of the Crown Melbourne resort. $750 million was pumped in to refurbish the resort. And in 2012 a third hotel was announced, the Crown Towers, which opened in December 2016. (The photo heading this article is of the Crown Towers and Crown Metrepol as seen from across the Swan River.)

The lobby that forms a hub connecting Crown Perth’s hotels and various ballrooms, convention centers and the Crown Theatre.

Crown Perth is the jewel in Perth’s entertainment business and Janis and I had the pleasure of staying a couple of nights there recently to celebrate our 37th wedding anniversary. The place is world class with over thirty restaurants, several convention centres and ballrooms, a first-class theatre, spas and swimming pools, several upscale shops (including Paspaley Pearls and Rolex Watches), a night club and, of course, the casino. We had dined at three of the restaurants on previous trips, the top-notch Silks Japanese restaurant, the Merrywell and the fabulous Epicurean which serves a buffet on par with the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, maybe even better. During our stay we dined at three more including the Modo Mio Italian Restaurant and a couple of moderately priced restaurants. For an inexpensive but superb meal, I recommend the 88 Noodles oriental restaurant which is inside the casino. We also had drinks a few times at the Lobby Lounge in front of the Crown Metrepol.

Janis and I relaxing at the Lobby Lounge.

We’re not much into gambling but we did spend an hour at the slots coming away ahead by $30. Not bad since we only played two cent slots.

The best part of our stay was the production of Disney’s Aladdin at the Crown Theatre. In its previous incarnation as the Burswood Theatre, it has featured a wide array of entertainers as well as major productions like Cats. Aladdin was a Broadway touring company production and was amazing. The staging and choreography were excellent.

The theatre itself is on par with Vancouver’s Queen Elizabeth Theatre and similar venues. I liked it a bit better, actually, because each seat has a generous amount of legroom.

Lobby of the Crown Theatre Perth. There are snack and souvenir shops on the second level as well as this one.

Not far from the Crown Perth complex there used to be a domed stadium known as the Dome at Crown Perth, formerly the Burswood Dome. This venue had a long history of performances by such stars as AC/DC, Kiss, Mick Jagger, Michael Jackson, Mariah Carey, Pink, Lady Gaga, Kylie Minogue, Elton John, Iron Maiden, Britney Spears, Beyoncé, The Black Eyed Peas, Guns N’ Roses, Christina Aguilera,  Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, Rihanna, and Roger Waters. It also hosted major sporting events. The Dome was demolished in 2013 to make room for a parking lot for the new Optus Stadium which opened on January 21, 2018.

The new Optus Stadium opened in January 2018.

The stadium was built on part of the old golf course. The remaining part of the golf course now forms a park between the stadium and Crown Perth. It is about a twenty minute walk to the stadium.

Part of the stadium project included the building of a pedestrian bridge across the Swan River connecting the Burswood Peninsula to East Perth. The bridge is a beautiful piece of architecture. Three interlacing arches of white and black form the bridge. The Matagarup Bridge, after an indigenous name for the area, was opened to the public on July 14, 2018 so we were fortunate to have arrived back in Australia just after its opening.

The Matagarup Bridge connecting East Perth and Burswood. Perth (Optus) Stadium is at the other end.

Some have said the arches resemble swans. In any event, each arch has a staircase going up it and plans call for the stairs to be open to the public. The center span soars 72 metres (256 feet) high and is about half a kilometre in length. Scaling bridges must be an Aussie thing as the Sydney Harbor Bridge is famous for its accessibility by visitors. (See my earlier article on Sydney for pics) There will likely be a charge to scale the bridge but I’d certainly do it. Maybe on my next visit it will be open for climbing! Oh…I should mention that they are also considering adding a zipline from the top of the bridge to the ground! Wouldn’t that be cool!

Stairs to the top of the center span may be accessible to the public in the near future.

Perth’s downtown business district is served by several free bus services known as CAT (Central Area Transit). There are two lines that run along Waterloo Crescent just up Nile Street on the other side of Gloucester Trotting Park. About a ten minute walk from the stadium, a half hour from Crown Perth. Crown Perth and the Stadium are both also accessible by train on the Perth-Townslie line though the Stadium Station is only open when events are on at the stadium. If the weather is nice, it is a great walk and free. The train will set you back $3.20.

Here are a few more photos of Crown Perth and the bridge.

The Crown Metrepol has a sloping glass window covering the courtyard.
The other side of the Metrepol. There is a large parking lot there and last Christmas they had huge tents set up for a children’s Christmas festival.
One of the lobbies at the Crown Towers. The place reeks luxury.
The stairs going from the lobby to the outdoor swimming pools.
The elevators at the Crown Metrepol
One of the ballrooms
The front of the Matagarup Bridge. There is still some work going on as of this writing but the bridge is open to the public.

 

The Gloucester Trotting Park, home of harness racing in Perth and just across the river from the Perth Optus Stadium. Nearby is Perth’s cricket pitch.

Crown Perth

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The Heart of Regina

When our son accepted a transfer to Regina to help open a new store we were flummoxed. Sure it was a good career move, but why would anyone want to live in Regina? Nevertheless, I joined him to share the driving a few months ago as we embarked on the two day and a half journey from Vancouver.

His company put him up in a hotel until he could find permanent digs. We quickly discovered one of the benefits of Regina. Within a week he had sold his one bedroom and den apartment in suburban Vancouver and bought a two bedroom townhouse with finished basement and detached garage in Regina.  The price differential was enough for him to knock $15,000 off his mortgage, pay off his car, buy new furniture and still have money left over.

Housing is much cheaper in Regina than Vancouver, one of its advantages. My son bought this two bedroom townhouse (third unit from the left) for about 80% of what he got for his one bedroom and den apartment in suburban Vancouver.

Regina is a small town compared to Greater Vancouver with a population of 236,481 for the metropolitan area. Our son’s house is in a development in the farthest western area of the city, just a 25 minute drive to his work in the farthest eastern part of the city.

While the downtown is usually considered the heart of most cities, that is not the case in Regina.

My wife and I drove out to visit in June. We spent one afternoon while our son was working checking out the real heart of Regina – the magnificent Wascana Centre  and the neighbouring legislature building. Regina is the capital of the province and the legislature is its most impressive building, the vision of the first premier of Saskatchewan, Walter Scott (not the author!)

The Saskatchewan Legislature Buildings seen from across Wascana Lake

The city had already served as the capital of the Northwest Territories before Saskatchewan became a province in 1905. The lieutenant-governor of the territory rejected other more favorable locations for a piece of scrub land actually known as Pile-of-Bones (Wascana in Cree) “distinguished only by collections of bison bones near a small spring run-off creek”.  The LG, a fellow named Dewdney, had bought property there adjacent to where the planned CP Railway line was to go. The obvious graft caused a scandal, but there was no legislature. Dewdney was a virtual dictator and could do what he liked.

But despite its barrenness – nothing but flat prairie as far a the eye can see, visionary planners dammed Wascana Creek with a weir (it’s adjacent to the current Albert Street Bridge) resulting in the formation of Wascana Lake.

The weir that forms Wascana Lake is just beside the Albert Street Bridge

The first premier of the new province, Walter Scott, had a vision of a legislature building on the shore of Wascana Lake, then a wilderness a few kilometers from the downtown area.  A design competition was launched and the winning design by Montreal architects, the Maxwell Brothers, was chosen.

Statue of Premier Walter Scott envisioning a legislature building on the shores of Wascana Lake

Construction began in 1908 and was completed in 1912 at a cost of $1.75 million. That’s about $800 million today. It remains the largest of the provincial legislatures in Canada.

Old sepia photo of the construction of the central dome of the legislature

My wife and I took a walk around the shore of the lake across the bridge to the other side and back before touring the legislature itself. Tours are free. Immediately upon entering the building one is impressed by the richness of the entrance.

The entrance to the legislature

Our guide took us up the steps to the rotunda which features marble from around the world. The rotunda also features two murals high above. And it features the busts of three Saskatchewan political icons – each from a different political party.

Only Prime Minister from Saskatchewan, John Diefenbaker (Conservative)

Longtime Saskatchewan premier Tommy Douglas (New Democrat)

First premier of Saskatchewan, Walter Scott (Liberal)

From there we were given a look into the legislative chamber. Scott and his fellow politicians had a much bolder vision for Saskatchewan than eventually transpired and the legislature was built to accommodate 125 members. In fact, the population has not grown as expected and the number of representatives currently stands at 58.

This photo of the legislature is a composite of four other photos merged in Photo Shop

From the floor of the legislature we went down a flight of stairs to the legislature’s library. There was someone using it at the time so I couldn’t take a picture, but I did get a photo of an historic Canadian artifact housed there – the conference table used at the Quebec Conference in 1864 when the Fathers of Confederation were negotiating Canada’s independence.

Painting of the Quebec Conference

Whether this is the actual Confederation Table is speculative.  What is known is that it was used by the Privy Council in Ottawa in 1865 after being moved with other furnishings from Quebec. And it was the right size to have been the original table.

Lieutenant-Governor Dewdney brought the table to Regina sometime between 1883 and 1892. The sixteen foot table wouldn’t fit in the room assigned for it and six feet were lopped off in the middle. That part of the table was discarded. Eventually the shortened table was brought to the legislature library where it now resides.

The truncated Confederation Table

Continuing our tour we visited two galleries. Saskatchewan has had a long history of cordial relations with indigenous peoples and in 1909, the government commissioned noted portrait painter Edmund Morris to do portraits of fifteen native chiefs. Those pictures hang in the Assiniboine Gallery.

The Assiniboine Gallery

Morris was the son of Alexander Morris, the Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba who was responsible for negotiating many treaties with indigenous peoples. He had previously been commissioned by the Government of Ontario to do portraits of the Ojibway in the north of that province. He also did similar work for the Government of Alberta. His paintings are considered historically significant records of native history in Canada.

Chief Pie-a-Pot was an Algonkin-Cree leader

The other gallery featured portraits of the premiers of Saskatchewan.

Portraits of the Premiers of Saskatchewan

We ended our tour at another gallery, the Cumberland Gallery. Displays vary but when we were there it featured some works from the Saskatchewan Arts Board which has been promoting art in Saskatchewan since 1948. They have over 3000 works in their permanent collection.

The Cumberland Gallery

There were some striking works on display. One of the more intriguing was by Zhong-Yang Huang called Two Dream Walkers by Zhen Fei Well. It was striking because it seemed almost out of place among the more traditional works on display.

Inside the Cumberland Gallery

There is a story behind the painting, of course. Huang was born in China and showed an aptitude for art from age four. This talent was stifled by the Cultural Revolution which discouraged individual creativity. The fifteen year old Huang was forced to work as a laborer.

After the Cultural Revolution, Huang continued his studies, earning a Masters Degree in art. In 1984 he traveled to Canada and earned a second Masters at the University of Regina.

Two Dream Walkers by Zhen Fei Well

Two Dream Walkers by Zhen Fei Well was part of a solo exhibition in 2011 called The Shadow of Mao. It shows Chairman Mao having a smoke while Liu Shaoqui, Chairman of State and the second most powerful man in China at the time, looks down the Zhen Fei Well.

During the Qing Dynasty, the Dowager Empress had Zhen Fei, one of her husband’s concubines, thrown down the well. The information sheet beside the painting adds “Mao later had Liu removed from office and executed. A seemingly peaceful night scene taking on a more ominous tone  within the historical context.”

A gnarled tree on the banks of Wescana Lake

Let’s return briefly to Wescana Centre. The hub of the city revolves around Wescana Lake. In 1962, the University of Regina needed to expand. It needed a site for that expansion and decided on an area south-east of the lake. In conjunction with the province and the city, the Wescana Centre Authority was formed to create a multi-use oasis in the centre of the city. The result was a 930 hectare (2300 acre) area surrounding the 120 hectare (300 acre) lake. This green space includes the legislature as well as the university, and also includes two art galleries, a performing arts centre, a science centre, a museum and lots of parkland.

Wescana Lake is also a wildlife preserve and has an abundance of wildlife including Canada geese and a critter that is as common as raccoons – the jackrabbit.

By the late 1990s, however, silt had built up enough in the lake that it started to turn into a swamp. A major project dubbed The Big Dig was undertaken in 2003. A large part of the lake was dredged to a depth of five and a half metres, a depth at which weeds cannot root. One area was dredged to seven and a half metres so that northern pike and perch could survive Regina’s cold winter. Boardwalks and other amenities were added.

Today Wescana Centre is the rejuvenated heart of the city. An oasis in a flat  prairie of wheat fields.

You’ll find more pictures on the following photo gallery.

Photo Gallery: Regina’s Wescana Centre and More

Here are some additional photos around and about Regina. One of the notable attractions is the RCMP Heritage Centre which I will cover in a separate post. The photo above is a panoramic view of Wescana Lake stretching from the north-west corner to the legislature. 

A gazebo in the park
The Saskatchewan Legislature from the northern shore of the lake
A statue of a young Queen Elizabeth on horseback stands in front of the legislature
A view of the legislature showing the beautiful landscaping in front
One of the murals in the rotunda of the legislature shows a native tribe in the Qu’Appelle Valley just north of the city
The other mural in the rotunda shows canoers in northern Saskatchewan
An interesting note – the glasses on the bust of Tommy Douglas are his actual glasses, not part of the statue
The mace on the Speaker’s table
Down a hallway beside the Cumberland Gallery is a display of old photoraphs showing the construction of the legislature as well as this scale model
Inside the Cumberland Gallery
This painting, entitled Coming Home, is by artist Ann Horbuz. It is somewhat reminiscent of the style of Grandma Moses.
This work is called Somme Nation and depicts horses in the Battle of the Somme in WWI. Artist Grant McConnell is known for his depictions of Canadian history.
This work by Michele Mackesy is called Glenna Grandberg honouring her late son Cody.
Another distinctive Regina landmark is the First Nations University of Canada with its stylized tepee atrium
The atrium of the First Nations University
Another landmark in Regina is Mosaic Stadium, home of the Saskatchewan Roughriders football team

And we leave you with a couple of photos of jackrabbits. They are as common as raccoons in Regina, and indeed, throughout the prairie provinces.

 

 

Le Château de Versailles




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Most of central Paris is within walking distance. And on the afternoon we arrived, we did just that, walked around the old city – from the Eiffel Tower to the Arc de Triomphe, down the Champs Elysées to the Louvre, and back along the Seine to the Eiffel Tower again. Many other attractions are within easy reach.

But the next day, our first full day, we ventured out of the city center to see the fabulous Château de Versailles. This palace and its surrounding gardens are about twenty kilometres from the city center and easily reached by train.

Leaving the train station we walked a block and turned the corner and there it was.

The front of the palace features lot of gilt work.

What started out as a hunting lodge built by Louis XIII in 1624 was greatly expanded by the Sun King, Louis XIV from 1661 to 1678. It was expanded again from 1678 to 1715 when two large wings were added to flank the Royal Courtyard. This phase also saw the replacement of the west facing terrace with what is now the Hall of Mirrors, the most famous and most popular room in the palace.

Versailles became the seat of power in pre-revolutionary France when Louis XIV moved the royal court there in 1682. It wasn’t until the French Revolution of 1789 that the seat of government was moved back to Paris.

Janis and I at the Apollo Fountain with the palace in the background. All the windows facing the gardens are from the Hall of Mirrors and its flanking salons.

Louis XIV liked to do things big and Versailles is probably his crowning achievement. The palace has 2300 rooms. The cost to build it was staggering. Wikipedia gives this description:

“One of the most costly elements in the furnishing of the grands appartements during the early years of the personal reign of Louis XIV was the silver furniture, which can be taken as a standard – with other criteria – for determining a plausible cost for Versailles. The Comptes meticulously list the expenditures on the silver furniture – disbursements to artists, final payments, delivery – as well as descriptions and weight of items purchased. Entries for 1681 and 1682 concerning the silver balustrade used in the salon de Mercure serve as an example:

  • Year 1681
    II. 5 In anticipation: For the silver balustrade for the king’s bedroom: 90,000 livres
  • II. 7 18 November to Sieur du Metz, 43,475 livres 5 sols for delivery to Sr. Lois and to Sr. de Villers for payment of 142,196 livres for the silver balustrade that they are making for the king’s bedroom and 404 livres for tax: 48,861 livres 5 sol.
  • II. 15 16 June 1681 – 23 January 1682 to Sr. Lois and Sr. de Villers silversmiths on account for the silver balustrade that they are making for the king’s use (four payments): 88,457 livres 5 sols.
  • II. 111 25 March – 18 April to Sr. Lois and Sr. de Villers silversmiths who are working on a silver balustrade for the king, for continued work (two payments): 40,000 livres”

Additional figures are given for 1682. There was over a ton of silver in the balustrade alone notes Wikipedia, a “cost in excess of 560,000 livres”. And that was just the silver. All told, one estimate has the expenditures during Louis’s reign at over US $2 billion! So crippling was this expense that in 1689, Louis had all the silver in the palace sent to the mint to be melted down.

Today the palace is a museum, a grand edifice filled with art and historical artifacts.

Tourist map of the Chateau

We started our tour at the southern end of the North Wing. Walking along a vast corridor  we quickly we came across a chapel complete with marble columns, a large pipe organ and a magnificently painted ceiling mural.

The chapel in the North Wing

Continuing along the corridor, we came across numerous works of art including a statue of Joan of Arc. At the end of the wing, we ascended a staircase to the second floor and walked back again. One of the more interesting pieces of statuary was a monkey riding a goat.

Statue of a monkey riding a goat in the 17th Century Galleries at Versailles

The long corridor was flanked by various paintings and sculptures on the left and tall windows on the right. It was through these windows that we caught our first glimpse of the magnificent gardens behind the palace. The garden we saw, the North Parterre, is just a small fraction of the overall gardens.

The North Parterre seen from the North Wing of the Chateau de Versailles

At the end of the passage we came to large room, a corner room that marks the transition into the original Château. The room is called the Salon d’Hercule or Salon of Hercules. It is the first of a series of such Salons that we encounter on our way to the Hall of Mirrors. The size of the room is immense – huge vaulted ceilings all covered in elaborate and colorful murals. The pillars are solid marble. And at one end hangs a huge painting. The video below captures the sheer size and majesty of the room.

From the Hercules Salon we head west, passing through the Abundance Salon, Venus Salon, Diana Salon, Mars Salon, Mercury Salon and Apollo Salon before arriving at the Salon of War which bookends the Hall of Mirrors. These rooms are referred to as the King’s State Apartments and were antechambers to the royal residence where gatherings, parties and amusements were held. Each of these rooms is filled with art and very elaborate decorative work. And each has giant ceiling frescoes as well.

 

The Salon of Mars was originally a bedchamber.

The Hall of Mirrors is one of the main attractions at Versailles. When it was built, mirrors were an expensive commodity and Venice had the monopoly on production. Louis’s Finance Minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert lured a number of Venetian workers to Paris to work in the Royal Glass and Mirror Works. The Venetian government retaliated by sending assassins to kill these workers to protect Venice’s trade secrets.

Nevertheless, the Hall was built. The great corridor runs 239.5 feet from one end to the other and is flanked by the Salon of War and the Salon of Peace. Its width is 34.4 feet and the vaulted ceiling soars 40.4 feet above the floor.

The space occupied by the hall used to be a terrace overlooking the magnificent gardens stretching behind the château. Today large windows overlook the gardens. On the interior wall are seventeen mirror-clad arches.

The Hall of Mirrors

Many fine pieces of sculpture line the hall and it is flanked on both sides by giant candleabras.

One of the many candleabras in the Hall of Mirrors

From the Salon of Peace we made our way to the royal bed chambers. The king himself had a large canopy bed and had a separate room from the queen. Her bedroom had a larger bed than the king.

The Queen’s Bed

Near the King’s Room were several antechambers where the King and his aides could meet to discuss affairs of state. Central to them all is the Bull’s Eye Room or as it is called in French, the Salon l’Oeil de Bouef. This room had exits to the King’s bedroom, the Queen’s Apartments and the Hall of Mirrors. It also had a staircase leading to the Dauphin’s apartments below.

The large window known as the l’oiel de bouef

After passing through various other rooms including the Guard’s Room, we descended to the ground floor where staff and guests stayed, as well as the Dauphin. These guest rooms themselves were very lavish. Paintings and sculptures abound as well as a grand piano and an organ.

A pipe organ in one of the ground floor apartments

The Palace at Versailles is magnificent. It cost an unbelievable amount of money to build and included many pieces of furniture made of solid silver. Many later had to be melted down to pay some of the royal bills. But the grandeur and elegance of the period remains evident today. In my opinion, this is one of the wonders of the modern world, a must-see if you are ever in Paris.

But if you think the Palace is magnificent, prepare to be blown away by our next installment – Les Jardins de Versailles. The entire estate covers over 800 hectares or close to 2000 acres. This includes the Palace, the Gardens, the Park (which is a free public park), and the Trianon Estate (Marie Antoinette’s private estate). The gardens are a work of art – carefully landscaped and tended and abounding with sculptures and fountains, it is as much an attraction as the Palace itself.

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Previous Posts on Paris

 




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Photo Gallery: Le Château de Versailles




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Here are some additional photos of our visit to the Palace at Versailles. These were taken with an older camera and if we should be fortunate enough to visit Paris again, I’ll replace them with better pictures taken with my newer camera.

Statue of Louis XIV at the entrance to the courtyard at the Château de Versailles
The lower corridor in the North Wing
Statue of Joan of Arc in the North Wing lower corridor
The windows in the Hercules Salon
Ceiling mural in the Hercules Salon
Another ceiling mural in one of the salons at Versailles
The North Parterre at Versailles seen from the Apollo Salon
Relief portrait of Louis XIV in the Salon of War
Ceiling art in the Hall of Mirrors which extends almost 240 feet from one end to the other.
On one side of the Hall of Mirrors are huge mirrored panels interspersed with the occasional door leading to the King’s chambers.
On the other side are large windows looking over the gardens and fountains. Giant candelabras line the hall.
Large fireplace in the Salon of Peace
The King’s Bed at Versailles
The dining table in the Antechamber Grand Couvert. This antechamber to the Queen’s apartments was where the royal family ate in public.
A large tapestry in the Antechamber Grand Couvert
Some furniture in the lower quarters where employees and guests stayed.




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Rome’s Colosseum




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The Colosseum is the largest amphitheatre ever built and a must-see highlight of any visit to Rome. We spent a day there before taking a Mediterranean cruise in 2011. After the cruise we spent another day in the city.

That first day had us take a hop on/hop off bus around the city and one of our hop off points was the Colosseum. We grabbed a light lunch and then walked around the perimeter.

DCIM100SPORT
This photo is a merge of two others. It captures the immense size of the Colosseum.

It is an ancient building and in remarkably good repair considering it is almost 2000 years old. Construction started under Emperor Vespasian in 72 AD. He died in 79 AD and did not see the building completed the following year under his heir Titus. Financed by the spoils of the Siege of Jerusalem in 70 AD, it was built with the slave labour of 100,000 Jews captured and spirited off to Rome.

Made of concrete and sand, it was large enough to accommodate 50-80,000 spectators, averaging around 65,000. Like modern stadiums, it was a venue for mass entertainment which included battling gladiators, wild animal hunts, re-enactments of famous battles, mock sea battles, dramas based on Classical mythology and public executions. Yes, Christians were fed to lions here. In fact, the Pope marks every Good Friday by a Way of the Cross procession that starts at the Colosseum to honour Christian martyrs.

The Arch of Constantine, built in 315 AD, stands near the Colosseum.
The Arch of Constantine, built in 315 AD, stands near the Colosseum.

Interestingly enough, twenty years after its construction, the poet Juvenal published his Satire X which includes the following lines:

“Already long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man, the People have abdicated our duties; for the People who once upon a time handed out military command, high civil office, legions — everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses.”

Juvenal is lamenting the practice of gaining political office by bribing the voters with free wheat and mass spectacles. It marked the beginning of the decline of the Roman Empire. Walking around the perimeter we were impressed by the vastness of the Colosseum and its great beauty. The two millennia since its creation have left it weathered and eroded. It underwent extensive renovations from 1993 to 2000 at a cost of 40 billion Italian lire (US$19.3 million).

End on view of the outer wall of the Colosseum
This end on view of the outer wall of the Colosseum captures its great height. The outer wall is shored up by supports built during renovations.

There were originally two walls, an outer wall and an inner wall. The inner wall remains largely intact but only a small portion of the outer wall remains. It is shored up at both ends by sloped concrete supports. But even with all the renovation, you can see cracks in the facade at various places, not to mention large stones at the base which have fallen from the structure.

Some of the stone work on the facade looks precarious but didn't seem to phase the tourists walking below.
Some of the stone work on the facade looks precarious but didn’t seem to phase the tourists walking below.

We saw some men in gladiator garb posing with tourists on our walk as well as a wedding party. It is a popular locale for wedding photos.

The Colosseum is a popular locale for wedding photos.
The Colosseum is a popular locale for wedding photos. Did you spot them in the picture of the Arch of Constantine above?

After our cruise we visited the Colosseum once again, this time paying to go inside. Well worth the money. The inside is as spectacular as the outside and well worth the visit.

As we entered we passed a recently recovered partial statue. There is continuous archeological work going on around Rome. This partial statue was probably of a horse and rider, but we were amused by it because all that remains is, how shall we put it, a horse’s ass.

The back end of a horse is all that remains of this recently discovered statue.
The back end of a horse is all that remains of this recently discovered statue.

Inside you get a terrific view of the hypogeum, a series of underground passages and rooms, and a partially reconstructed stage at one end. The staging, made of wood, covered the entire subterranean level during the Colosseum’s heyday. Many spectacles were staged that involved lifts and hoists moving animals, actors and stage props from below to the arena floor.

The interior os the Colosseum showing the hypogeum and a partial reconstruction of the arena floor.
The interior of the Colosseum showing the hypogeum and a partial reconstruction of the arena floor.

The hypogeum was a later addition to the Colosseum and in its early years, at least two mock sea battles or naumachiae were staged there. This involved filling the basin with water and bringing in ships. One was staged by Titus when the Colosseum opened in 80 AD and another by Domitian in 85 AD.

It must have been quite the spectacle. Some experts figure that water supplied by aqueducts and a series of pipes and channels could fill the basin to a depth of five feet in just 35 to 76 minutes. These battles were considerably bloodier than the gladiatorial battles often staged in the arena. They involved many more people, 3000 in the event staged by Titus. Condemned prisoners were used and they fought to the death.

Shortly after the last naumachia,  the hypogeum was built which precluded staging more of these spectacles.

Some detail of the hypogeum, the underground passages and rooms used to handle actors and props before they made their way to the stage.
Some detail of the hypogeum, the underground passages and rooms used to handle actors and props before they made their way to the stage.

Up to 80,000 people filled the stadium in its prime but  little seating remains. There are many sloped angular buttresses which held the seating at one time, but now stand alone. There is a little bit of seating extant above the renovated stage area. I’m not sure if this is original or recreated for tourists.

Flying buttresses supported the original seating area.
Flying buttresses supported the original seating area.
Some seating above the stage. Not sure if this is original or a recreation.
Some seating above the stage. Not sure if this is original or a recreation.

One of the things we noticed in the Colosseum was the large number of feral cats. We noticed them outside on our earlier visit and now again inside. Not sure what it is with ancient ruins and wild felines, but we first encountered them in the walled city of Cadiz in Spain and we later came across more of them at the ruins in Ephesus.

Feral cats keep the tourists company on a visit to the Colosseum.
Feral cats keep the tourists company on a visit to the Colosseum.

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to the Colosseum and can only imagine how it must have been in its heyday, the scene of great and bloody spectacles. The fact that these extravaganzas were staged with real people fighting to the death or even put to death in contests with ferocious beasts gives one chills. But even today gore fests remain popular in movies and television shows, though these are non-lethal make-believe. In less civilized parts of the world, live beheadings and stonings of the condemned remain popular with the masses.

I’ve included an additional photo gallery as well as links to a couple of articles on naumachiae.

 

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Photo Gallery: The Colosseum




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Here are some additional photos of our visit to the Colosseum.

The exterior wall of the Colosseum. Only part of it remains.
The exterior wall of the Colosseum. Only part of it remains.
Cracks in the facade.
Cracks in the facade.
Actors pose with tourists for pictures
Actors pose with tourists for pictures
Interior walls supported by flying buttresses which also supported the seating.
Interior walls supported by flying buttresses which also supported the seating.
More of the interior of the Colosseum
More of the interior of the Colosseum
The long center pathway of the hypogeum
The long center pathway of the hypogeum
The recreated stage area
The recreated stage area
The colour of the sandstone can be seen in the bright sunlight. In shadow it looks quite gray.
The colour of the sandstone can be seen in the bright sunlight. In shadow it looks quite gray.
Looking down from one of the upper tiers
Looking down from one of the upper tiers
Another view from an upper tier
Another view from an upper tier
From outside you can see some of the interior through the archways, but it is still worth paying to go in.
From outside you can see some of the interior through the archways, but it is still worth paying to go in.
This end of the outer wall is of modern construction, created during extensive renovations to preserve the outer wall.
This end of the outer wall is of modern construction, created during extensive renovations to preserve the outer wall.
The Temple of Venus and Roma is just across the street from the Colosseum. In fact, much of Rome is one big archeological dig.
The Temple of Venus and Roma is just across the street from the Colosseum. In fact, much of Rome is one big archeological dig.

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An Epistle About the Ephesians




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You may recall the New Testament book called Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians. The Ephesians were the people of an ancient city called Ephesus. Today its ruins have been well excavated though new excavation continues to this day. This archaeological site is about twenty kilometres from the Turkish port city of Kusadasi.

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The ancient city of Ephesus lives on through its archaeological ruins.

Built in the 10th Century BC, Ephesus was a flourishing Greek city for almost a thousand years. The Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, (around 550 BC) was near here. Little of the temple remains today.

In 129 B.C. the city fell into Roman hands. In 88 BC a short-lived revolt brought self-rule to Ephesus  but two years later it was back under Roman control. There was also some Egyptian influence in the city. King Ptolemy XII Auletes retired there in 57 BC. And Mark Antony visited there with Cleopatra in 33 BC.

Ephesus was made the capital of Proconsular Asia under Caesar Augustus around 27 BC as it entered a new age of prosperity. “It was second in importance and size only to Rome,” notes Wikipedia.

The Gate of Augustus
The Gate of Augustus

In the 50s AD Christianity made a profound influence on the city as the apostle Paul lived there from 52-54 AD. The city is referenced in Paul’s epistle, the Acts of the Apostles and in the Book of Revelations.

Sacked by the Goths in 263 AD, the city was rebuilt by Constantine the Great who built the new public baths. It remained the most important city of the Byzantine Empire after Constantine.  But the city declined after an earthquake in 614 and conquests by the Arabs and later the Turks. By the 15th Century the city was completely abandoned.

Much of the archaeological site is Roman, one of the largest Roman archaeological digs in the world.

When we arrived in Kusadasi, there were lines of buses to take everyone on their excursions. Most were going to Ephesus. Our guide was a genial fellow who told us a bit about the history of modern Turkey as our bus wended its way on the twenty kilometre trek to the site.

About fifty buses were parked cheek by jowl on the pier aaiting tourists.
About fifty buses were parked cheek by jowl on the pier awaiting tourists.

Our guide was very proud of Turkey. He explained that Turkey does not have many of the troubles so common in other areas of the middle east. The reason, he explained, was because the father of modern Turkey, Kemal Ataturk, set out to recreate Turkey as a secular state, a modern, western state. He served as the first President from 1923 until his death in 1938. His reforms included recognizing the equal civil and political rights of women, taking them out from under the yoke of Islam. He abolished the caliphate and sharia courts. He reformed education introducing mandatory secular schooling. He encouraged Turks to adopt  western style clothing.

ataturk
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk

Ataturk’s attitude can be summarized in this excerpt from a 1925 speech: “In the face of knowledge, science, and of the whole extent of radiant civilization, I cannot accept the presence in Turkey’s civilized community of people primitive enough to seek material and spiritual benefits in the guidance of sheiks. The Turkish republic cannot be a country of sheiks, dervishes, and disciples. The best, the truest order is the order of civilization. To be a man it is enough to carry out the requirements of civilization.”

Turkey remains a democratic, westernized country though its majority religion remains Islam. Wikipedia notes that according to a Gallup poll on Religiousity, 73 percent of of Turkey’s Islam adherents are “irreligious Muslims” and only 7 to 13 percent think religion should have any influence on the law. Unfortunately, religious fundamentalists and radicals have engaged in the occasional act of terrorism in Turkey trying to swing it to an Islamic state.

In any event, our guide was most informative and very proud of Turkey’s secularism and western traditions. He also got off the bus and was our guide through the ruins of Ephesus.

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Our tour took us down this roadway to the Celsus Library.

Along the road to the landmark Celsus Library, we passed a number of other landmarks including the Temple of Hadrian. Hadrian was the Roman Emporer best known for building Hadrian’s Wall in Britain.

The Temple of Hadrian
The Temple of Hadrian

Another landmark were the baths built by Constantine the Great. Ephesus was a large and modern city and had running water. The baths were surrounded by public toilets which opened onto a channel of running water to carry the effluent away.

Public toilets near the baths.
Public toilets near the baths.

Further along we came to wide plaza in front of the famous Celsus Library. This library was built between 100 and 110 AD for the senator Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus. Destroyed by an earthquake in 270 AD, some remnants of the facade remained and it was rebuilt between 1970 and 1978.

Our guide delighted in telling us that the city’s brothel was located near the library and many a Roman would tell his wife he was going to the library when he was really pursuing less intellectual endeavours.

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The Celsus Library – just a facade now

We passed through the Gate of Augustus beside the library and emerged onto a wide thoroughfare where we watched a recreation of the visit of Antony and Cleopatra to Ephesus in 33 BC. Here we also came to a large amphitheatre.

Janis and I in front of the Roman amphitheatre at Ephesus
Janis and I in front of the Roman amphitheatre at Ephesus
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Modern day concerts are sometimes hosted in the amphitheatre.

Ephesus is an ongoing archaeological dig and there was a huge crane near the amphitheatre when we were there, part of a continuing excavation project.

The archaeological dig continues.
The archaeological dig continues.

Soon we were finished our tour and arrived at a market where you could get camel rides and souvenirs. We laughed when we saw a shop labeled Genuine Fake Watches. But apparently the shop is so renowned it shows up on Google maps of Ephesus.

Genuine Fake Watches!
Genuine Fake Watches!

Our bus ride took us back to town where we were taken on a tour of a carpet warehouse. A woman demonstrated the ancient art of carpet weaving on a loom for us. Each row of the carpet is made by tying individual knots, then tamping them down and trimming them with a scissors.

The carpet folks brought out many magnificent carpets and spread them out before us, inviting us to touch and examine them. Some were quite pricey, especially the silk carpets. We ended up buying a small 15 inch by 26 inch decorative piece as a wall hanging for $200.

The Turks are superb salesmen. After the carpet place we had time to walk around the market stalls near the pier. We didn’t get past the first shop. A fellow standing at the entrance greeted us and invited us to come see his shop. We declined but he went into a spiel about Turkish hospitality and how his feelings would be hurt if we didn’t at least look around. We relented.

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A cluster of shops borders the cruise ship terminal.

He then took us through a maze of aisles and displays to a back room where there was a coffee table and some comfortable sofas. He invited us to sit down and we were brought some wine. Then he talked about his product – leather coats. Now neither of us had a leather coat. We always thought them to be a bit pricey and extravagant. But man, this guy was a smooth talker. He kept bringing out coat after coat, asking me if I didn’t think my wife would look lovely in this coat or that? Didn’t she deserve the best? And so on. He finally brought one my wife rather liked.

One down, he then said I also deserved a fine coat. Well I did and he found one I liked. We then dickered on price. He gave us a price. We countered with a lowball offer. He countered. We negotiated and finally came up with an agreement. And we went back two leather coats richer and around $600-$700 poorer. Benny’s Shop if you’re looking for a nice leather coat while in Kusadasi. We still have those coats and still use them today, six years later. We spent more money in Turkey than any other port we ever visited but consider it money well spent.

We very much enjoyed our visit to Turkey and to Ephesus. The Turks are a friendly people and the country is beautiful. The ruins at Ephesus were amazing.

I’ve added two photo galleries of additional pictures linked below. If you are on the front page, just scroll on down. If you are not, just click on the links.

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Photo Gallery: Ephesus # 1




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The photo above was made from several merged together in Photoshop. Below are some more pics of our visit to Ephesus and Kusadasi.

Our cruise ship in port at Kusadasi
Our cruise ship in port at Kusadasi
Some of the ancient ruins at Ephesus
These ruins at Ephesus are part of the Bath of Varius
More ancient ruins
More ancient ruins – lots of truncated pillars
Another amphitheatre - smaller than the main one
Another amphitheatre – smaller than the main one
Lots of feral cats at Ephesus - as there were in Cadiz and at Rome's Colliseum
Lots of feral cats at Ephesus – as there were in Cadiz and at Rome’s Colliseum
The road down to the library
The road down to the library
Another view of the Temple of Hadrian
Another view of the Temple of Hadrian
Carving of the goddess Nike
Carving of the goddess Nike
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The Fountain of Trajan built in 104 AD in honor of the Emperor Trajan
Roman toilets
Roman toilets
The Celsus Library
The Celsus Library with the Gate of Augustus to the right
Close up of part of the facade of the library
Close up of part of the facade of the library
A statue set into the library's facade
A statue set into the library’s facade
A broad boulevard from ancient Ephesus
A broad boulevard from ancient Ephesus
The marketplace at the end of our tour
The marketplace at the end of our tour
Camel rides anyone?
Camel rides anyone?

Continue on to our next Photo Gallery.

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Photo Gallery: Ephesus # 2




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Here are some more pics from our visit to Kusadasi and Ephesus. The picture above is of the amphitheatre. It was merged from two photos so the upper left is a bit of a blur.

Welcome to Turkey!
Welcome to Turkey!
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Domitian Square
Part of the Domitian Temple
Part of the Temple of Domitian
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Some more ancient ruins
Along the road
Along the road – you can see the Celsus Library in the distance
The Celsus Library
The Celsus Library and the Gate of Augustus
The archaeological dig continues
The archaeological dig continues
The Gate of Augustus - Celsus Library behind it.
The Gate of Augustus – Celsus Library behind it.
Carpets on display
Carpets on display

Silk carpet - it fairly shimmers in the light. Amazing!
Silk carpet – it fairly shimmers in the light. Amazing!

If you missed the rest of this series, click a link below.

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