PhotoHunt: Letters

I didn't think I had anything to offer for this week's PhotoHunt theme Letters, that is, until I posted this on FB and my Mom pointed out that it's perfect for it!

So, in the spirit of William Wegman's spelling weimaraners, today's Letter Y is brought to you by Sophie!

PhotoHunt: "Natural" at Walden Pond

My PhotoHunt contribution this week is a tad late, but I couldn't actually even get this photo until yesterday. It is a close-up detail of autumn leaves floating in Walden Pond...

Far bigger than what you might think from its name (as you can see below), Walden Pond is located near Concord, Massachusetts and was made famous by the writings of the great American author, Transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau. His book, Walden; or, Life in the Woods, is one of the most important books on nature ever written.

As a result, I thought it would be a fitting expression of this week's PhotoHunt theme, "natural"! After all, as Thoreau himself said in Walden,
"Yet I experienced sometimes that the most sweet and tender, the most innocent and encouraging society may be found in any natural object, even for the poor misanthrope and most melancholy man. There can be no very black melancholy to him who lives in the midst of Nature and has his senses still."

PhotoHunt: "Anniversary"
Locks of Love on the Ponte delle Tette

My PhotoHunt post for this week's theme, "Anniversary," is a bit late, but the photo is actually a few weeks old and I was just waiting for this occasion to post it!

Venice is, of course, a city filled with bridges, and most of them are named for a particular landmark nearby. This image is of the bridge named the Ponte delle Tette. It gets this characteristic name from the fact that during the Renaissance it was right next to the city's municipal brothel, and the prostitutes used to hang around in the windows above, letting it all hang out (as it were!)

Surely by now you are wondering what this has to do with anniversaries! Well, notice the padlocks on the railing of the bridge... Known as "love padlocks," apparently they've been appearing on the Ponte Milvio in Rome since 2006, when an author for his teen romance novel invented what he called the long-standing tradition of lovers commemorating their commitment to each other by closing a lock onto the bridge and then throwing the key into the river. From there, the locks spread to the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, and this past summer officials apparently cut 123 padlocks from the Accademia bridge over the Grand Canal in Venice.

When I was walking around the city back in July, I discovered that the practice had also appeared, interestingly enough, on Venice's Ponte delle Tette. So here's my tribute to these strange but rather poetic (and/or ironic) expressions of anniversary! Enjoy!!

PhotoHunt: "Hot" Dog, Italian Style

Turns out that "hot" was the perfect theme for this week! We've been unseasonably hot on the east coast of the U.S. this past week... In fact, it was Maine's first real heatwave (defined as three or more days above 90 degrees F. ) since 1999!

Anyway, today's pic is one that I snapped on the colorful Venetian island of Burano back in early August, because when I saw it, I just knew it was the perfect "hot" dog!

So, here is my entry taken for this week's PhotoHunt theme, "hot"... a little dog basking in the heat of the island's sunny central piazza. Enjoy!

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PhotoHunt: "Framed"

Two very different shots from my jaunt back in early August to the colorful island of Burano in the Venetian lagoon, taken expressly for this week's PhotoHunt theme, "framed"!

Here, I'd turned a corner in Burano and stumbled upon what was once a Venetian Gothic window that had been turned into a brightly painted, impromptu shrine with the addition of this improbably small icon. Still, it made a perfectly unique frame.

Below, on the other hand, is a view of the 1000+ year-old basilica on the adjacent island of Torcello, the oldest continually-inhabited area of Venice (and well worth a whole trip in itself!)

Back in May, the belltower (campanile in Italian) was closed because of an imminent risk of collapse resulting from a recent lightning strike. It is therefore currently undergoing restoration, and thus is appropriately - as you can see here - also framed!

Have a great week! ☺

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PhotoHunt: "Numerical"

Howdy all!

Since I was in the midst of my preparations for this year's "transhumance" back to the States, I was unable to dedicate a whole lot of time to today's PhotoHunt theme, "Numerical." So I grabbed this shot on the fly this past week!

It's not much... a simple detail from the pegboard that keeps all the keys for the beach cabanas at the Kuyaba Beach (also known as Spiaggia Garbisa) on Venice's Lido...

See you next week... with better photos even!! ☺

PhotoHunt: "Orange" Houses for You & Me

Ever seen an orange house? Well, you're about to see a bunch right now!! ☺

Today's PhotoHunt theme, "Orange," is again brought to you courtesy of Burano, Italian island of many colors!

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The Iron Curtain Once Fell Here

This past spring, I was startled to realize that, for the first time ever, students to whom I was teaching the Cold War had never lived during the Cold War.

That's right, they were born after the attempted coup of August 1991 that effectively rendered the Soviet Union moot. Now, we've truly arrived at the end of an era, even though for years now I've already had to point out regarding the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain which was the physical barrier and which was the metaphor... ☺

As you will see, however, even metaphors have a history...

Yesterday, we were driving around the Collio "wine road" in the Italian region of Friuli near the Judrio river that forms there the Slovenian border, when we chanced to see a small gravel track on a little bridge which crossed the river bed. Thinking I'd suddenly get to add visiting an additional country (even just for a few minutes) to my vacation, I suggested we stop and walk across.

That's when my husband noted, "Once upon a time, this is where the 'Free World' ended."

Sure enough, I'd forgotten that not only was this the boundary between Italy and Slovenia, but it had also been the frontier between Western Europe and the communist East.

Now, however, the end of the Cold War and the Schengen Agreement unifying the borders of the European Union have rendered all that obsolete. So together we sauntered unhindered down a path which once separated two worlds...

What's left here where once the Iron Curtain fell? Not much... On the Italian side, there is a little checkpoint hut falling into ruin and a flagpole that used to fly the good ol' Red, White and Green. (Another view, together with the former crossbar, is here, and the bridge with the river here...)

On the other side, we found a building (now a private house) that had performed the same function for Yugoslavia (together with the unused flagpole) and the little hamlet of Mišček. At one time, there were in this village a number of inhabited structures, but it seems now that many are abandoned (as also pictured here).

A search for this placename came up with a traveler's account in Italian, which seems to put all these enormous geopolitical changes into context in this lonely rural place. "Here, everything's falling to pieces..." one inhabitant said. "Here, nothing's changed. Yugoslavia, Slovenia... it's all the same. Now, Europe... but what's changed? Here nothing."

PhotoHunt: "Colorful" Burano! [UPDATED]

If you were to ask anyone in Venice where one could take good photos of things that were "colorful," there would only be one answer... Go to Burano!

So, for this week's PhotoHunt theme, I did just that. I took advantage of what seemed like it would be a mild day yesterday and rode the vaporetto across the northern Venetian lagoon to the little island of jewel-colored houses.

The story about why the buildings are painted so brightly seems to be that, in ancient times, the colors allowed the fishermen to find their way home in the fog (see above!) I don't know, but I just don't quite buy it... Lots of foggy places live off fishing but aren't so vividly painted. Besides, it doesn't explain why practically all the houses look like that, not just those on the waterfront...

No, IMHO, it's because there are few places as melancholically gray as the northern lagoon during the wintertime, and the brilliant colors lend a much-needed joyful glow to what otherwise would likely be a very dreary little place for nearly half the year!

So, for my PhotoHunt entry for this week, here is a "colorful" visit to Burano! Enjoy!!

UPDATED (8/7/2010): Want to see more of multi-colored Venice and Burano? Here's a short but breathtakingly lovely technicolor video called "Around Venice" which celebrates just that! Enjoy!! (via OpenCulture)

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Beautiful "Astronomy Picture of the Day"

From a few days ago on APOD... it's what's called a "little planet projection."


There's an entire literary genre of uptight and/or disillusioned Anglo-Saxon women who come to Italy, (usually) get laid by an Italian and then finally begin to enjoy life by letting their hair down!*

Stuff in Italy about the latest made into a film, "Eat, Pray, Love," is only just beginning to break on the internet, but the great blog "Blingdom of God" reports that spiritual tourism (together with its souvenirs) has already been hounding Indonesia. So I think they should totally sell a whole new tourist tee: "I came to Bali for Enlightenment and all I got was this stupid t-shirt"! ☺

More spiritual-tourism, "EPL" cross-promotional marketing bling (rated, even, for your enlightened shopping enjoyment) can be seen here! (Gots to love the Buddha cocktail ring!)

P.S. More ironically materialistic imagery is available for your viewing pleasure at Che Spotting! (If only I'd snapped a shot of the faboo Che Guevara wallet and cellphone lanyard combo I once saw!!)

*For example, "Room with a View," "Enchanted April," "Under a Tuscan Sun,"
and, for a cute Italian twist on the theme, "Bread and Tulips."
(My personal life story may or may not be one of these... ☺)

PhotoHunt "Public": Remnants of World War II on Venice's Lido

I went for a more historical approach than an aesthetic one for this week's PhotoHunt.

Here on Venice's Lido, the entire barrier island is dotted with small but imposing World War II bunkers. For years, they remained where they were, I guess because they were too difficult to tear down. Or perhaps during the Cold War the military thought they might still come in handy someday. Anyway, nowadays, they can't be removed, from what I understand... Nobody seems to know exactly the reason why, but many are still owned by the state and maybe it's because by now they are presumed to be of historical value, no matter whether the property they are on is public or private.

Why private? Because after the war, there were a lot of squatters who took over abandoned shelters, and over time a number of these habitations became permanent, even after times had gotten better.

So, here are a sample of a couple of these structural remnants of World War II...

At left, at the San Nicolo end of the Lido by Pachuka Beach is this charming little bunker. (Notice the new fresh paint and stucco!)

Most impressive, and really good for thinking about the tension between this week's PhotoHunt theme "public" and private, I think, is what had been the barracks for some of the sailors who had manned these bunkers!

It's in the "Ca' Bianca" neighborhood of the Lido, and has the unused bunker pictured at top on one end and now the great pizzeria "Cason" on the other.

In between, you can barely see still the words painted on the bunker end of the building: "OBBEDIRE. CREDERE. COMBATTERE." These were by-words of Fascism in Italy from the 1920s to the '40s: "Obey. Believe. Fight."

Best of all, I think, is the house that's in between. On the wall, you can still make out the words "è stato e sarà".

The very kind lady who lives there told me the rest of the saying, which has since been covered up with whitewash: "Il nostro destino è stato e sarà sempre sul mare." (Translated: "Our destiny has been and always will be on the sea.") The words were meant to inspire the barrack's sailors who were guarding the coastline.

And there you have it for this week's PhotoHunt: "public" and private. (In fact, as one last nice touch, you can see the sign to the right of the doorway which now reads "Private Property"!)

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The Ultimate in Retro Bicycles

The British site I Want One of Those (subtitled: "stuff you don't need, but you really, really want!") is selling the ULTIMATE retro bicycle! (It's so old school you won't even find one of them on the Lido!!)*

It's the "Penny Farthing" and it's available for just under a mere 500 pounds! Cash, that is, for us Yanks... not weight! :-)

*Inside joke for Venetians and other Lido habitués!

Scenes from Italy: Awesome Api!

Those little scooter trucks that you see in Mediterranean countries and around the world are "Api." The "Ape" (pronounced "A-PAY"), which means "bee" in Italian, was - like the famous Vespa - created after World War II to give Italians an affordable means of transportation, in this case for merchants and craftsmen to carry their wares.

But just get a load of this load! As you can see here in this shot I took today on Venice's Lido, they really are sturdy little things!!

Previously on *MMC*: "a fantastic little animated short of a love-struck octopus' rescue from one of those cute tiny "ape" scooter trucks on a small Greek island... It's a hoot! Enjoy!!"


The satisfying fruit of my first-ever, very-clumsy attempts to photograph lightning!

PhotoHunt: "Hanging"

I'm posting this week's submission for PhotoHunt early, since I really don't think I'll come up with anything better! (Although, if I stand corrected, I'll update this post accordingly!)

This week's theme is "Hanging." Lots of stuff hangs, of course... but nothing has spoken to me more than this broken umbrella that was hung out to dry in a surprisingly empty, small dead-end court near Venice's overly-bustling Piazza San Marco.

I transferred the pic to my iPhone and used the ColorSplash application to turn the image monochrome but leave the umbrella bright yellow. See what you think! :-)

PhotoHunt: "Triangle"

Wow, this theme for PhotoHunt was harder than you might think, since you don't easily find triangles in nature!

On one hand, I was a little tempted to stage a portrait, but I would have had to scare up three willing participants. On the other, I might have had some interesting opportunities to look for triangles tomorrow at the celebration of the Redentore here in Venice, but I'm simply not up to suffering through the heat- and humidity-wave we're in right now just to maybe get the shot.

So, depending on whether photo manipulation is allowed, I may or may not have sort of cheated on this one! Actually, though, it honestly happened completely by accident... I was playing around last week with a photo editor on my phone, selected a vertical mirror option, and this is what I got! Rather cool, if I do say so myself!

The original photo, in which I caught a shot of a bit of a traffic pileup near the Piazza San Marco last week, isn't bad at all, but it's far less surreal, as you can see at right.

Next week's PhotoHunt theme is "hanging". Now, that should be fun!

PhotoHunt: Open and Free (but Late)

I've decided to join the PhotoHunt movement! Each week, tnchick posts a theme and participants display on their own webpages one of their photos that illuminates that theme.

The first theme here on *MMC* is "Open". I really racked my brain on this one because I thought that "open" usually suggests all kinds of warm, fuzzy feelings, but I wanted an image that might challenge those associations. This is what I came up with...

Unfortunately, only afterward did I realize that "Open" was the theme for last week, and I should have had "Free" submitted by July 10th instead! Oh well, for my first PhotoHunt post, better late than never! My thinking is just about the same regarding that theme as well, so here is a slight variation on the above premise for "Free"...

I promise (at least I think I can promise!) that the upcoming PhotoHunt pic will be lighter... It's due the 17th and the theme is supposed to be "Triangle"! :-)