Coliseum, Rome, Italy Wednesday, Sep 26 2012 

After seeing images from Trevi Fountain and Piazza Venezia, it’s time for the real deal. The most recognizable Rome attraction is the Coliseum, an ancient stadium where the plebs and emperors alike were entertained by gladiators, reenactments and animals.

Coliseum, Golden Hour

Coliseum, Golden Hour

I’m arranging the photos chronologically again, this time by choice. The first photo is a detail I wanted to grab because the “golden hour” window, when the light is best, was closing fast. I took my EF 85mm f/1.8 USM lens and isolated this top floor of the Coliseum, showing the bricks placed at the end of the outer ring to prevent further deterioration of the structure.

Then, on the walk back up the Via de Fori Imperiali, after the sun already set, I took a look back and saw the Moon just barely rising over the Coliseum. I had to step into the street, and although the street-level shot is a little too crowded for my taste, it definitely turned out well.

Moon over Coliseum

Moon over Coliseum

A few days later, I would actually follow the crowd and go inside the place. I got a nice tour that explored the underbelly of the Coliseum, as well as its top floor. It was a truly magical time – it was difficult to comprehend that men built this place a few thousand years ago and that it still stands. I imagine people thinking the same at the Pyramids in Egypt.

Coliseum, Mid-day Sun

Coliseum, Mid-day Sun

The mid-day sun wasn’t kind to the photographs, however. Shown here is the look down on the main levels of the Coliseum from the top, or as close to the top as a tourist can get. Buy the extra tour, it’s well worth it.

Coliseum, from Palatine Hill

Coliseum, from Palatine Hill

Finally, here’s a look back to Coliseum from the field across, Palatine Hill. The whole area of Palatine Hill is an active archeological dig — there are even some fairly recent discoveries, despite the foot traffic around the Coliseum. In any event, this last shot is on Fuji Velvia 50 film. A few hours too early to fully take advantage of the golden hour, but still a nice shot from an elevated vantage point. What I like the most is a slightly sideways view onto the inner and the outer rings of the Coliseum. The fact that the outer ring survived all this time, even only at 50% or so, is quite remarkable.

Coliseum is one of those bucket list items, and I’m happy I can cross it off of mine.

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City Postcard: Toledo, Spain Wednesday, Sep 19 2012 

Puerta de Bisagra

Puerta de Bisagra

The last few days, I posted about squares, gates and palaces of Madrid. Madrid is obviously one of those cities where you can spend endless weeks sightseeing, soaking in the culture and food. Nevertheless, although my visit was only about a week long, I wanted to take a quick day trip to some of the landmark sites outside of the city. I settled on a quick visit to Toledo, attracted by its ancient architecture.

Toledo Cathedral

Toledo Cathedral

Toledo is some 50 miles south of Madrid, in the very center of Spain, and is a capital of both province of Toledo as well as of the autonomous community of Castille-La Mancha. If you’re a literary buff, you may have perked up at the mention of La Mancha – the region is known for Don Quixote, and most of Cervantes’s book takes place here. Toledo is pretty proud of this, and Don Quixote (and his loyal servant Sancho Panza) can be found all over the city, in various forms, from miniature statues to paintings and beyond.

Toledo is an ancient city, built on a hill overlooking the river Tagus which makes a big bend around the city. Most of the streets are essentially canyons – very narrow and rarely straight, so they are sometimes difficult to navigate. I was fortunate (or had enough foresight) to have purchased a map, despite of which I took a few wrong turns.

Does it look like the Chrysler Building?

Does it look like the Chrysler Building?

I entered the city through Puerta de Bisagra, pictured on top of the post, a tall stone gate which reminded me of Dubrovnik in Croatia. That’s not an accident – both Dubrovnik and Toledo were named UNESCO World Heritage Sites, within a few years of each other.

The most prominent of these landmarks is surely the Cathedral, or as the Spanish call it, Catedral Primada Santa Maria de Toledo. Massive Gothic tower is 300 feet tall and shows numerous intricate details, some of which are in the Mudejar style. There’s a little bit of an art deco look to it, too, so one of the local art galleries compared it to the Chrysler Building in New York City.

I’m not so sure about that. What do you think?

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