Monday, July 23, 2007



They say that all roads lead to Rome. So, I guess it was inevitable that I would end up in Rome one day. For me Rome has to things that draw you to the Eternal City. First, it has the remains and reminders of a wondrous and glorious past. They say that Rome wasn’t built in a day and after a visit to the city you can see that Rome is still being building, and yet it is very conscience of its ancient history. The second draw is religion with a subtle (though sometimes not so subtle) touch of art. I am, of course, referring to the Vatican. The art and architecture in the Vatican’s collection is simply astonishing. St. Peter’s Basilica is massive and humbles the visitor at the same time as it draws and elevates them into its glorious spaciousness and the lofty realm of its famous dome.
I’ve looked forward to exploring the Vatican for a long time. The museum holds many treasures. There were two treasures in particular that I was interested. The first treasure was Raphael’s “The School of Athens”. I bought a print of this wall size painting when I was in high school and it has hang in my various apartments ever since. The original is awesome! You walk into a room covered floor to ceiling with paintings and yet The School of Athens is the focal point with its many larger then life figures of brilliant philosophers, scholars and scientists.

The other treasure that I was interested in was the statue of Loacoon and his sons. Loacoon warned the Trojans, Equo ne credite, Teucri / Quidquid id est, timeo Danaos et dona ferentes [Don’t trust the horse, Trojans / Whatever it is, I fear the Greeks even bearing gifts]. Even though they didn’t listen to him and they accepted the horse filled with Greek soldiers, we get the saying "Beware of Greeks bearing gifts" from Loacoon.

Thursday, July 19, 2007


There are a few pictures from two famous religious structures Istanbul. The first ones are of the Hagia Sofia (Divine Wisdom) and the last two are of the Blue Mosque. Both were simply amazing... ask me about them sometime.

Hagia Sofia
Blue Mosque

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


St. Stephan's Cathedral
Vienna - City of music, architecture and culture, yeah and HEAT! The few days we spent in Vienna were hot! Day time highs were over 100 everyday we were there. But even with the heat Vienna was a very pleasant experience. The first night we were walking around and just happened upon a classical music concert. There was a massive stage with a beautiful and massive building as a backdrop. It was very nice to stand there, eat some icecream, people watch and listen to some awesome music.


Monday, July 16, 2007


Prague is about as beautiful as anything. After so many years hidden behind the iron curtain, Prague stepped on the stage of most visit travel destinations. Of coures, this means that you have to be willing to share since everyone else wants to visit Prague too. However, even with all the crowds and tour groups I was able to find a few beautiful, peaceful and quite spots. Here are a few pictures from Prague. Enjoy!
Cathedral in Prague
St. Nicholas, Prague in all its baroque glory!

Monday, July 9, 2007

I spent a few days in Budapest. Although Budapest is an amazing city and is quite charming the main reason I stayed in was to see my brother Lee. He was just finishing his mission to Hungary and we enjoyed some time together before he headed back to the USA.

There were two other things that I really enjoyed while in Budapest. The first was going to the second largest Synagogue in world. It was a nice change in the religous architecture and it was simple beautiful (I also got to wear a yarmulke). The other experience was going to a 17th century bath, Rudas, built by the Turks and now enjoyed by the Hungarians. It was like walking back in time (Thanks Beth for the tip!).
Parliment, Budapest
This years festival of San Fermin, more commonly know as The Running of the Bulls in the English-speaking-world, started on the 7th day of the 7th month of the 7th year of the 21 century. That means that it started on 07-07-07 (also the day they announced the new 7 wonders of the world). We arrived in Pamplona on the 6th and spent the night with the hords of partiers. The actual "running" take place at 8:00am. By 6:30am we had found our place to watch (I'm not quite crazy enough to actually run - it isn't the bulls that worry me as much as the other runners). The running starts with a rocket letting the runners know that the first bull is out and running. It is follwed by a second rocket letting them know that all the bulls are out and coming down the street. The whole running last about 2 and a half minutes and most people only get to see a few seconds of it. From our view point we saw and heard the first bull-encounters-man incident in when an Aussie got trampled and gored. But no worries he is fine and has a nice scar as a souvenir from San Fermin!
Tired Tim the morning of 07-07-07 San Fermin

Castles - Road Trip Spain!

The first week of July we rented a car and traveled 1711 kilometers (about 1064 miles) through northern Spain. We started in Madrid and ended in Bilbao. It was nice to have the freedom of a car and not be at the mercy of train and bus schedules. We made good use of the car to get off the beaten path and see some beautiful countryside and castles. We visited about a dozen castles. Some of them I had visited before and others were completely new to me. Two of my favorite castles in Spain (Gormaz and Olite) were part of the castle tour. Olite Castle is in Narrava and was the home to the Narravan Kings in the 14th century. It under went a major "restoration" in the 20's and 30's. Although the restoration was far from subtle it is a beautiful fairytale castle with towers, turrets, gates, chambers, cloisters, courtyards and balconies... oh yeah and it has spiral staircases! They offer a guided tour of the castle, but it is far more enjoyable to just explore the castle. My most favorite castle in northern Spain is the Castillo de Gormaz (see pictures below). I first visited the Castillo de Gormaz when I was studying La Rioja, Spain. At the time I was studying Spanish Medieval Literature and had just read Cantar de mio Cid. Many of you know the El Cid was a Spanish nobleman who fought against the Moorish forces about 1,000 years ago. He was "given" the Castillo de Gormaz as a reward for his valor and services to King and country. The castle has seen a lot of improvements over the centuries, but today
only the walls, gates and the shell of the keep remain. However, I really love this place. It covers the top of a large long hill and has simple awesome views. The best thing about the Castle of Gormaz is the solitude... There are no guides or guards. There are no massive tour groups. There are no lines. Just you and the Castle of Gormaz in all its beauty and solitude. There is something enchanting about Gormaz... it definately rates as one of my most favorite places on earth!

Coca Castle


Castillo de Osma

Castillo de Gormaz

Javier Castle

Castle Trip