Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Rome Part V - Il Ritorno alla Svezia

On Monday it was time to return to Ronneby. I made my way back down to the Termini. Unfortunately, I had forgotten how long the station was. Of course, the platform from which the Leonardo Express was the furthest from where I entered and of course the train departed as soon as I arrived at the station. I noticed that it left exactly on time. I just had to wait around for half an hour for the next one. Unfortunately, it was 10 minutes late. It seems to be just my luck whenever I try to leave Italy. Two years ago, I caught the train from Rome to Milan. It was an hour late, and I only made the plane by the proverbial skin of my teeth. This time I was not so lucky. With all the recent terrorism events, they now close flights earlier. Even though I had no cargo baggage, I was stuck at Fiumicino. There was another flight an hour later. I got in line to try to get tickets, however they were so slow that that time passed before I even made it to the front of the queue. I had to buy a ticket for the flight after that, which was six hours later (rather weird flight time spacings). That meant a lot of time waiting around in the terminal. I also at that time found out that I would miss the last train from Copenhagen.
I arrived at Kastrup Airport around 11pm. The first train on Tuesday morning was at 4:16am. That meant I had to sleep in the airport for 5 hours. After much searching, I found the place where they kept the rows of seats, mainly for people sleeping. Unfortunately, everyone else had the same idea and they were full up. So I tried to sleep on the floor. No sooner had I attempted this, but one of those ride-on floor cleaners came by and forced me to move. So I moved down the corridor. A few minutes later, the cleaners found me again! So I went back out into the arrivals area. There were hardly any chairs there, but I noticed that the cleaners had just been through. I managed to find a seat in the corner behind a staircase and settled in to try to sleep. Things were fine until about 2am, when the ride-on cleaners were back!! They had just cleaned the area two hours earlier, at a time when there were no flights, and they were back again!
Well eventually the time came to get the train to Malmö, and then to change trains at Kristianstad. On the way, I took this photo of the sunrise in Skåne. It's not very good, but it was the best I could do on a moving train.

Then I caught the bus to Ronneby, walked home to have breakfast, and then went in to work.

Friday, September 22, 2006

How do you like your eggs? - Sun-up and sun-down in Ronneby

Given it's the autumnal equinox today, I started thinking about how bad it's going to be when I leave here in 3 months' time, at the winter solstice. So I went searching for some sunrise and sunset times on the net. I could find quite a lot for Perth, but not much for Ronneby. One of the niftier sites was, because they give you a graph of the daylight and darkness hours for the whole year. For instance, the one for Perth is and you can see how quasi-horizontal the daylight part looks. There is not heaps of difference between winter and summer. Unfortunately, there is no page for Ronneby. However, there is one for Karlskrona, which is about 20km east of here, so an adjustment of a minute or two will make it comparable. The page is at and you can see the different shape of the graph. Depending on when you view the page, the figures will be updated. So, I'm copying the figures here to preserve them. Today, there is actually 6 more minutes between sunrise and sunset here in Ronneby than in Perth, which I thought was neat considering it's the equinox. But then the bad news hit me. We lose 65 minutes of daylight compared to now in two weeks' time, 138 minutes in 1 month, and by the winter solstice, there are less than 7 hours between sunrise and sunset. In an effort to cheer myself up, I tried to find a place with worse conditions. For example, Luleå in the north of Sweden, where on December 22 their day will be only 3 hours and 7 minutes long. Of course, nothing compares to the Amundsen-Scott Base in Antarctica, which experiences four months of complete darkness and more than five months of complete daylight every year.
By the way, the picture in the 'Links' section is a Weatherpixie. I added it recently. It allows you to instantly see what the weather is like here at the moment, including the temperature, wind and humidity. If you want a more accurate description, you can click on the web camera link, which shows a view of the town square.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Rome Part IV - Il Colle Palatino

I signed up for an English guided tour of the Palatine Hill late in the afternoon. I think we had about ten people in our group. The Palatine is the most central of the seven hills of Rome, and is located in the area between the Forum and the Circus Maximus. You may have noticed how nice the weather was in the Colosseum photos, and how it started to turn a little cloudy while I was at the Roman Forum. Pay attention to the sky in the following series of photos.
I think this first photo was taken at the western edge of the Palatine. Looking at the map, I am guessing it is a view over Clivus Victoriae...a clivus was a street climbing a hill, in this case the Capitoline Hill, situated to the right of the view in the photo.
Here are some of the people in our tour group. The building to the right is a recent addition to the area from the last few centuries or so. It was not around in Ancient Rome. I did not go in, but I think it is the bookshop.
This is where things started to get a little scary. The clouds started to move into a spiral pattern, the sort of thing you might see in a movie like Twister. You can perhaps make out the spiral in this photo. A storm was coming. We weren't about to hang around to see if the spiral would reach the ground. We moved on with the tour...quickly.
This is a view of the atrium in the Domitian Palace. Apparently the curved shapes in the central square were low walls in a type of Amazonian themed room.
Below is a view of the once-famous Circus Maximus, or Great Circle. Now it is really a shadow of its former self. It was more elongated than circular, with two very long sides and two very short sides. These days, it's really just empty space. But back in its heyday, it would have accommodated a large portion of the population of Rome, and Domitian would have had an excellent view of proceedings, much like this one.
This is a view of what the map says is the Hippodrome, however that name seems unfamiliar from my journey. I think it was also another palace. There is much debate over the oval shaped construction - you can see part of it in the extreme lower right of the photo. Nobody seems to be able to agree on its purpose.
The last two photos in this set are of the Farnesi gardens. By this time, it was raining heavily, and the tour had ended prematurely. I dashed around to some of the remaining places on the Hill to grab a few last-minute snaps before I got too soaked. The first photo is of a fountain, and the other is of some of the hedges in the gardens. If you were to continue moving forward in the photo, you would come to a sort of small cliff, overlooking the Roman Forum.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Rome Part III - Il Foro Romano

On Sunday afternoon I visited the Roman Forum. It is a little confusing - it is in fact free to look through these ruins. It is located just next to the Colosseum, and also shares a border with the Palatine Hill, which is what I had bought a combined ticket for in the morning. I wanted some sort of guide for the Forum, however the next English-speaking tour was not until 6pm. I then had the idea to get one of those audio guides I had seen many people use in the Vatican and Pompeii in 2004. So I approached the little green hut at the north entrance where two staff members were located. Honestly, they looked so lazy. I don't think they did anything except tell people who came in the north entrance seeking information to go down the path and turn left. So, that's what I did. I went down until I came to a T-junction, and turned left. On the corner is this building. It's the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina, which is one of the best preserved of the ruins.

I looked around all over the place and finally found the booth on the south side of the forum. I purchased the guide for a few Euros. It's like you're talking on one of those chunky satellite phones. There were two mini-tours. I started on the second of them, as it began very close by. It basically followed the Via Sacra, or Sacred Way. The first stop was the Arch of Titus.
It is the highest point in the Forum. Here is a close-up of the inscription on the arch.Following the path westward, here is a view of part of the Palatine Hill, looking south.
Also along the path is the Basilica of Constantine. Unfortunately, less than one third of it still remains. It's mainly just an open-air stone pile.
The next stop on the tour was the Temple of Romulus. However, now it is the church of Saints Cosma and Damiano, which you might recognise from band religious processions.
The three pillars (near the Temple of Vesta) in this photo are all that remains of the Temple of Castor and Pollux. These were the legendary warrior twins which are now part of the Gemini constellation.
I then switched to the other tour on the audio guide. This photo was taken somewhere around the temple of Julius Caesar, looking west towards the Tabularium. The triple arch towards the right is the Arch of Semptimius Severus. This photo was taken just in front of the Arch of Septimius Severus looking southeast along the Via Sacra, in other words the opposite direction to the previous photo. Some trees on the Palatine Hill are visible in the distance on the right.
Here is the Arch of Septimius Severus itself, constructed by the emperor Septimius in honour of his two sons. The notable point here is that one of his sons killed the other then removed his name from the inscription at the top of the arch.
Finally, these columns are from the ruins of the Temple of Saturn. Saturn is the god of agriculture, and offerings to him were made here. December also used to include a week called Saturnalia, when many of the rules and regulations were not quite as strict and roles of master and slaves were reversed - makes it sound like Ancient Roman Big Brother.