Monday, August 28, 2006

Rome Part II - Nei dintorni del Colosseo

Here are some more photos related to the Colosseum, posted in an separate entry because Blogger wouldn't let me put them all in the same post. The first one was taken while I was waiting in line outside. It is the Arch of Constantine.
Here is a view of the Roman Forum area from one of the balconies of the Colosseum.
The Colosseum apparently has exhibitions from time to time. The one that was showing while I was there was called 'Musa Pensosa', or the thoughtful muse. It was mainly a collection of statues. Below is a photo taken in the entry corridor, advertising the exhibit that was upstairs. I don't have any photos of the stairs, but they were quite steep.
Here is one of the statues in the display, one that was in good condition. It is of the muse Urania.
Here is a mosaic in the exhibition. Presumably it shows some of the gladiators in the morning games, up against a large animal. The humans vs animals games were mainly for the younger gladiators and were held i the mornings. The human vs human battles were held in the afternoons.

In the equivalent of the photo opportunities with cartoon characters available at Movie World, here is the Colosseum's answer to more money-making - get a picture of yourself with some Roman soldiers. I didn't partake myself, but here's someone who did.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Rome Part I - Il Colosseo

Early in August, while the northern hemisphere's weather was still good, I decided to take a very short holiday to Rome, Italy. I had been to the Eternal City two years ago, after ISITA'04 and before my brief sojourn in Sweden. On that occasion, I had thrown a coin over my shoulder at the Fontana di Trevi and made a pact to return at some stage in the future. Sweden is a lot closer to Italy than Australia is, so I decided to seize the opportunity. Ronneby does not have an international airport (only Kallinge, which offers flights to and from Stockholm) and so I was flying from Copenhagen. This meant taking the bus and train west again. I remember getting to Kastrup and not knowing in which language to speak to the flight attendant at the gate - I was an Australian whose native language was English, but now living in Sweden, catching a plane in Denmark and flying on an Italian airline to Italy. It could have in fact been worse. Originally, I was looking at flying with Lufthansa and having to change planes in Germany before arriving in Italy.
I remember the magazine available to read on the flight down was about architecture. It was cool because it was the first bilingual magazine I had read - the articles were in both English and Italian. Eventually I arrived at Fiumicino (Little River in Italian) Airport. It is also known as Leonardo Da Vinci Airport. On a related note, I went past the town of Vinci in 2004 when I was at a conference in Viareggio. The thing about Fiumicino is that they don't seem to believe in airbridges (those things that go from the boarding gate to the front door of the plane). Instead, the plane stops nowhere near the terminal and then everyone has to cram onto this TINY bus (remember this is a whole planeload of people with hand luggage) and then be driven over to the terminal. Below is a (not very good) photo of one of the entrances of the airport.

My hotel was in the northern suburbs of Rome, and Fiumicino is off to the southwest. Most of the bus routes suggested on the internet seemed rather expensive, so I decided to find a different way. For €9.50 I took the Leonardo Express (a train) from Fiumicino to Roma Termini, the main railway station in Rome. Termini is the largest railway station in Europe. I think the word "Express" was a bit of wishful thinking. There were times when it just stopped in the middle of nowhere. Once I arrived at Termini, I had to catch the number 217 bus. Just finding which stop it left from was enough effort, but then I had to work out how to pay the fare. All I had were €20 notes. The fare I needed from the ticket machines cost €11 and they would only give €4 in change. I needed to change my money into smaller denominations. I realised I should buy a map and get change that way. I eventually found where they sold maps of Rome in the railway station. I then tried to buy a ticket from the machines. There were a few of them, and each one seemed to have a different problem with it so I could not buy a ticket. The guards seemed unapproachable, but I did overhear someone else with the same problem approach them and be directed to a little dodgy kiosk. I went there, got the necessary ticket and waited for the next bus, which never came. The one scheduled after that however did arrive, and eventually I arrived at Hotel Regent. This was 12 hours after I had left Ronneby. The hotel had nine floors, and of course my room was on the ninth floor. Also, the tiny lift only went up to the eighth floor, so I was forced to walk up and down stairs in any case.

A word about the television...

The TV did seem to have a lot of stations to choose from, more than in Australia. Some were in German. One was in French - I recall the program I watched on that station was some reality TV show, with this group of contestants competing as a team on an island. The island was inhabited, and had proper buildings on it - it was not like on Survivor. They had to rush around to different locations and perform different tasks. For example, one required someone to row out to a point off the coast and retrieve something, another basically had one person suspended on some kind of elastic cord inside a castle from a pulley and the rest of the team were outside on the ground trying to control the one person on the other end, who I think had to grab something on the ground. He didn't succeed. Nonetheless, it was an enjoyable program, even though I couldn't understand what they were saying. Italian TV seemed to consist of mainly phone-in type programs. There were heaps of 'live' tarot readers, which mainly appeared to be angry ageing women. There was also an abundance of 'the Uplate Game Show' type programs. Now these programs are in Sweden too, where the task is usually to unjumble the letters in some Swedish word, which of course has about 20 letters and they can only just manage to fit it on the screen. Anyway, the shows of this type in Italy have decided to show off their computer graphics department. Instead of 'thinking music', they would have 'thinking vision', where a pre-recorded video of the female presenter would be superimposed behind the 'live' one. The video would usually be of her dancing around the studio rather quickly, and the camera would seem to zoom in super-close to random parts of her body, like some very bad 80's video clip. The problem was that they had recorded sound from the dancing around video, and it would interfere with the 'live' audio. It was funny stuff. In the end, I slept very soundly that night after travelling for so much that day.

The next morning, I set off for the Colosseum. I decided the best way to get there was via the Metro, the underground train. To catch it, I had to get back to Termini. I had never really taken an underground train before, so this was another thing I could cross off my list of things accomplished in life. The problem was, I didn't know which direction was which track. It was very confusing, and I almost got on the wrong train. In the end, I asked a guard-type person in my best Italian, and he told me I had to go back up the stairs and across to the other track. Talk about crowded! I only just managed to escape out the doors before they shut, due to being entangled in so many people.

Well, onto the Colosseum. I had read in a tourist guide that you could also buy tickets at the Palatine Hill, which would save waiting in the long queues. However, I didn't exactly know where the ticket office for the hill was, even though I had a map with me - it was rather sketchy. So I decided to try my luck in the Colosseum queue. A very small part of that queue is shown in the following photo. I managed to join an English-speaking tour group. I think I got ripped off on the price, but at least we could basically go straight in. Our guide was fairly elderly and walked around on half-crutches. After a lecture outside, we went in the 'groups' entry.

Here is a view of the Colosseum from the inside.
This is a view of the tunnels which were below the floor of the arena. Interesting fact - the contemporary English word 'arena' is derived from the Latin word for sand, because this is what was on the floor of the stadium.
This is a view of the large cross inside the Colosseum. I can't remember exactly how it came to be there. Some websites say it is just to remember the Christians that died there, but I thought the story was more complex than that....anyway if anyone knows, leave a comment.
Here is a carving of a message in stone, located in one of the corridors. Apparently there was a spelling mistake in one of the words.
Below is a view of the tunnel system from higher up. You can see where they have recreated part of the stage a few years ago in an attempt to show what it was really like thousands of years ago. At centre left is the Libitinensis Gate i.e. the Death Gate where the bodies were taken, before being dragged below the arena. People would apparently pay a lot of money to drink the blood of dead gladiators - they thought drinking blood would cure illnesses, especially the blood of virile young gladiators.
Here is a view of the Colosseum from the other direction, towards the Gate of Life. As you can see it seemed like a wonderful Summer day.
And finally here's one of me, to show you I really was there.

To be continued...

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Kyrka etcetera

As part of the Vattentornet expedition, I also went to visit the Heliga Kors Kyrka (Church of the Holy Cross according to my web translator). A page about it in Swedish is at and it's a large white building located just north of the town square. As you approach it, there is a small fountain at the base of the staircase. I have to admit though, the fountain does look kind of amateurish.

At the top of the staircase, there are a couple of flower gardens (yes, more flowers...Ronneby seems to be known for them). Here is one of them, just across the path from the archway.
This is the main path up to the church entrance. Again flanked by flowers. This photograph was taken looking south, back over the main part of the town.

The following is a stone in the archway on the western entrance of the church grounds. Yes it's in Latin, not Swedish - it is a church after all. The stone appears to have been placed there in 1733. It is also interesting that the Latin name for the town is Ronnovia.
And now an addendum to my previous post on the water tower. For some reason, this photo was left out. It clearly shows the graffiti around the base of the old tower.

And finally, this is another attempt at the panorama from the tower. Blogger is not very good at showing photos in any detail. I have set the photo size to 'large', but I'm not sure if this will give much of an improvement. Hey, I tried, anyway.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Assault on Hulta

One of the main suburbs in northeast Ronneby is that of Hulta. The day after my trip to the hamn, I decided that I needed to see the 'big red tower thingy' which is perhaps the highest point of the centre of the town. However, I did not see much point in making a journey just to see one tower. So I thought I would see what I could of the nearby residential areas.
According to the map I had taken with me, the 'big red tower thingy' was labelled "Gamla vattentornet" or the old water tower. It actually took me a bit of time to work out how to gain access to the tower area - its base was obscured by bushes on a very steep hill. Once I finally reached the summit, I took this panorama of pictures looking south over Ronneby. Interestingly, the object sticking up on the horizon two thirds of the way across the image is the new water tower.

Tower PanoramaI took the following photograph of the old water tower. You probably can't see it from the image, it is now a derelict locked-up building covered in graffiti. The coat of arms for Ronneby is visible above the doorway.

On the way back down the hill towards the town centre, I met this cat, who seemed intent on winding its way around my ankles. Maybe it just wanted me to take a photo of it? Speaking of pets, quite a lot of the townsfolk take their dog(s) for a walk around the time I ride home from work.

Continuing to explore Hulta, I came to Hultagölen, a very serene and secluded lake. In fact, so secluded that I almost didn't find it. Basically the only way to access it is to follow along the driveway of a private house until the house is on one side and open bushland is revealed on the other. Here are three views of the lake, taken at various points around its perimeter. It looks like a great spot for private reflection.

Riding along some of the many weaving cycle paths in this area, I stumbled onto one of the main roads which pass by Ronneby. The interesting thing I noticed here is how patriotic the Swedes are about their motoring signs. The 'road bends here' sign in the background of this photo is a series of alternating blue and yellow arrows. Blue and yellow are the colours of the Swedish flag. By contrast, the same sign in Australia would use (boring) black and white alternating arrows.

From here, I actually travelled briefly off the edge of my map. Then I quickly reoriented myself by finding a landmark on the edge of the map, and then rode home through Östra (East) Hulta.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

There's No Hamn in Taking a Bike Ride

On a Saturday afternoon recently, I decided to go on a bit of an exploratory journey of Ronneby. After all, I'm here for six months, and it would be a bit embarrassing if I didn't get to see everything that the town had to offer. So, I thought there would be no harm in popping down to see the port and beach area. The Swedish word for harbour is hamn. This relates to the Swedish translation of Copenhagen as Köpenhamn, meaning merchant's harbour. You can see the similarity between köp and the English shop, since a 'k' before an 'ö' is said more like a 'ch'. For those interested, Copenhagen in Danish is København, and in Italian it is Copenaghen.

Anyway, I took my map of Ronneby which only just showed the harbour area on it, got on my bike and headed off. It's only a few kilometres south of the flat, so it didn't take me all that long to reach it. I do remember riding past a lot of farms with horses on them though, and for that reason the air was rather smelly. The following two photos show almost all there is to see of the beach, which is located out the back of a caravan park type area. So you can tell we're not talking anything like Cottesloe proportions here. Nonetheless, the people seemed to be enjoying the Summer weather.

Having gone basically as far south as possible, I turned eastwards. Along this road there was quite a lot of industrial buildings. This was quite a shock to me, as all I had ever seen of Ronneby was this quaint little village, mainly filled with trees. Right near the mouth of the Ronnebyån, I came to the hamn. Here are two pictures I took. One is of a boat docked at the harbour, and the other is of the LARGE pile of wood on the other side of the river. This was the 'filled with trees' part of Ronneby.

It wa getting towards dinnertime, so I decided to head home. I rode northwards along by the river. After a bit, I came across one of the famous signs with a diagonal red line through them, to be interpreted as 'you are now leaving...' and this was one for Ronneby Hamn.

Along the way up towards the water park and BTH, I rode past the golf course - I hadn't even known that Ronneby had one. Sorry this is not a very interesting photo, but it was about the best I could get from the footpath.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

A Sweden Must-Do: IKEA

Okay, it's time to talk about a Swedish icon - IKEA. If you are going to be in Sverige for any length of time, you really should try to get to see one. They're a national institution. At time of writing, there are 15 stores in Sweden, with the 16th one scheduled to open this November. This one will be at Haparanda-Tornio, located on the border of Sweden and Finland, and will be the northernmost IKEA store in the world.

On a recent Sunday, I got my chance to go to one with A and G. Even though there are 15 or 16 stores, there are currently none in the province of Blekinge. One of the nearest stores is about 110km away at Kalmar. This is in the province of Småland, to the north of Blekinge. To this date, it marks the northernmost point on the globe to which I have travelled. The province contains some important cities, such as Växjö, Jönköping, and of course Kalmar (umlaut-free!).
The drive there was dominated by two main topics - the number of churches along the way, highlighted by roadsigns, and also the number of speed cameras. In Sweden, the cameras appear to be in fixed positions, and there are roadsigns telling you that there will be cameras for the next so many kilometres. Just so you don't miss it and drive past, the sign for the IKEA store is quite elevated: Although the Kalmar store is only single-storey, G tells me it is of about the same area as the one in Malmö which has two floors. Nevertheless, it was still HUGE. Here's me standing in front of the entrance, just to prove that I actually am here - I don't think I have posted a photo of me yet, so here is some kind of proof.
There's plenty of things to buy inside the store. One of the more interesting products were these critters - I imagine they are footstools or something similar.
Getting through all of the items at IKEA can take out a serious chunk of your day, so the thoughtful (and enterprising) people at IKEA introduced restaurants in their stores, so that you can shop for longer than just between meals. Here is a photo of what we bought. Although the sauce was a little rich, the meal as a whole was delicious.
Whilst seated at the table for lunch, I happened to notice some of the light fittings in the store. It's not obvious from this angle, but they were in fact made on a dodecahedral (the sides are pentagons) framework, which I thought was very cool.
Here is a view of part of the store. I apologise that I did not have the camera held flat when I took this, so it looks like the store goes noticeably uphill, which in fact it does not.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Flower Power

Another impressive thing about Ronneby is its flower displays. In my opinion, the best one is at a place called F.d. Tingshus, according to my map. There's a large red building with a grassed area in front of it, a place to sit, a small pond with a statue in it, and this huge work of art made of plants and flowers. A photo is below.
The purpose of the display is to advertise Multicultural Year 2006.

The following two photographs were taken closer to the display. I wanted you to see the detail and amount of work that has gone into creating this. It's really quite brilliant. Each individual plant is a pixel.

Another eye-catching display of flowers can be found at the Stadshus, or City Hall, which is just near Maxi supermarket. The display is of a red heart, presumably chosen because Ronneby's catch phrase is 'the heart of the garden of Sweden'. Unfortunately, the display was that large and flat that I could not gain enough altitude to get a good picture of it, however here is my best attempt.

This final picture is of the pond in front of Stadshus, with its model boats and additional flower displays.