I have never traveled to what is supposed to be one of the most romantic cities in the world…Venice, in Italy, but like most people, I find the city, and especially the buildings to be very beautiful. The bridges in the city are especially beautiful, but some may be very misunderstood…as it turns out. One such “misunderstood” bridge is the Bridge of Sighs. This bridge cannot easily be visited on foot because it is a part of a government prison facility built on the waves near the harbor of the city, but is easily accessible via boats that are constantly flowing under it.
The Bridge of Sighs was built in the 17th century. It is a fully enclosed bridge made of white limestone, and its beauty has caught the attention of many, including the famous English nobleman and poet Lord Byron who told in one of his poems in the 19th century, about the bridge being the last point where condemned prisoners could see the beautiful city of Venice before they were brought to their executioner. That description is very different from the one that is more accepted by tourists, and possibly the tourism industry, who have portrayed it as the sighs of lovers, rather than the sighs of the condemned.
What many tourists, and possible some of the citizens don’t realize is that even centuries after it was built, Bridge of Sighs is still the part of the same prison complex that connects the main building of New Prison (Prigioni Nuove), to the nearby interrogation rooms located in the Doge’s Palace. Of course, the bridge is no longer used in the capacity of transport of maximum security prisoners, but is instead used by small-time offenders who are residing in this low-security prison. The fame of the bridge as the final point of the freedom of the prisoners may have come from the early history of Venice, when its prison was the place of summary executions and where inquisitions were indeed practiced…well before the bridge was ever built.
The Bridge of Sighs was built over the Rio di Palazzo between 1600 and 1603 by the instructions of the architect Antonio Contin, nephew of famous Antonio da Ponte who also designed one of the most popular bridges in all of Venice…the Rialto Bridge. Antonio Contin designed this 11 meters long bridge to have a single arch, detailed and stylish outdoor decorations made from Istrian stone, and two windows barred with white stone bars on both sides of the walking chamber. These days, the only way to personally visit the Bridge of Sighs is to take part of “Secret Itinerary” (Itinerari Segreti) tour that is organized by the Doge Palace. The tour is only held between June and September and lasts around 90 minutes, it is done only in Italian and includes visiting of the several famous parts of the prison, such as its antique cells, torture chambers, other rooms, and of course, the Bridge of Sighs, as well. It is much easier to see the famous bridge from the water below, but you would not get to see the inside, of course.
When people think of Venice, Italy, they think of the canals and the boats. I think most of us think the city is pretty much streets of water, and buildings that somehow stand in the water…strong and immovable against the water. Venice is the center of the lagoon of Venice, which extends over a length of 25 miles around the city. While it seems like the city is covered in water, only 11% of the lagoon is permanently covered with water, while the rest of the lagoon is islands or mudflats and marshes (Laguna Morta). The water stays fresh because, seawater from the Adriatic flows into the lagoon through three large passages, Bocca di Lido, Bocca di Malamocco, and Bocca di Chioggia, twice daily. This process provides a natural water exchange. Still, 11% water can sure look like a lot, especially when every touristy picture we see involves the canals and gondolas. So, to think of a situation whereby a flood could become tragic in Venice, is a strange thought for anyone who doesn’t really know Venice…like me.
On December 1, 2008, Venice experienced the biggest flood in more than twenty years. The waters rose more than five feet above normal levels. As with any flood, many of Venice’s streets, including Saint Mark’s Square, were submerged. Venice has flooding for about two hundred days every year, and the Venetian authorities were working to complete an underwater dam by 2011. Unfortunately, that fact didn’t help the city in 2008. Even with unusually high tides because of the new moon, residents were not surprised to see the usual low-lying lanes under water. Nevertheless, this day was different. Pretty much the entire city was covered by the lagoon. People stayed inside to wait out the water, only going outside when they were sure the water was definitely going down. The townspeople went outside to take pictures and explore the current townscape…to see what was underwater now. They were quite surprised at the scene before them.
By mid-afternoon, the water had gone down to more normal levels, but all over the world, the papers made it seem like the whole city was sinking. The high tide would come again on December 2nd, but it was nothing like December 1st. Cleanup was still underway on December 2nd, of course, but most businesses were open again. I suppose that if your city spends it’s life in one stage of flood or another, this extra high tide was just something to be taken in stride. Yes, people were surprised at the higher than normal flood waters from the tide, but they weren’t panicked. It was just another day in the life of Venice.
Living in Wyoming, the one thing we can be sure of is that traffic jams are extremely uncommon here. About the only way we are going to have a traffic jam is if there is an accident at what we call rush hour…for lack of a better word. A few hours south of us, you mike find a traffic jam as you travel through Denver, Colorado during a real rush hour. Nevertheless, even traffic jams in Denver almost don’t qualify compared to other places on Earth. I have tried to think of what it might be like to be in a really bad traffic jam. I have been in some that kept me sitting for over an hour, but even that was nothing compared to the longest traffic jam in history.
China is one of the biggest automotive markets in the world. That booming market has a downside to it too, however. It is estimated, that in 2015, there were no less than 7 million cars on the road in Beijing. Of course there are many more now. What’s more, nearly 14 million cars are purchased each year, while 650,000 vehicles meet the road every month. It’s like saying: “Hey, everybody in Beijing must have a car. No, make that two!.” The government has tried to stop residents from buying so many cars, but they haven’t had much luck with that. With all the cars on the road, traffic jams were inevitable. Nevertheless, I don’t think anyone could have predicted just how bad those traffic jams would become. In August 2010, China was crowned the unofficial “host” of the mother of all traffic jams, with a huge car panorama that stretched for more than 62 miles and lasted for 12 days. I’m quite certain that no one could have expected this, now could the motorists be prepared with food and water.
It all happened on the Beijing-Tibet Expressway near Beijing. The highway was initially designed to be used exclusively by trucks, but due to the growing number of vehicles, passenger cars started using it too. Ironically, the cause of the huge traffic jam was the road work on the highway. Trucks carrying construction supplies to Beijing, most of them supposed to be used on the expressway in order to ease traffic, were blocked at the exit, thus causing a traffic jam that lasted over 12 days. No clear statistics concerning the number of stranded drivers were given, but instead reports published on the web at that time claim that some of the cars advanced with a speed of 2 miles per day! That is shockingly slow!!
People who could started to take advantage of the situation by selling food and water to drivers. The prices were extremely high and some of the drivers even refused to buy the supplies. That was not a good idea, because in those cases they were robbed or even stabbed. Twelve days in a traffic jam is a lot, that’s pretty clear, and even if some drivers already had bread and cigarettes as a method of precaution, everybody had to buy at least a cup of water. The prices were astronomical, and the whole situation was insane. Strangely, authorities actually expected the traffic jam to last about a month. I guess 12 days wasn’t too bad after all. Surprisingly, according to the Guinness World of Records this isn’t the longest traffic jam in history. A previous episode that took place in France, spanning from Lyon to Paris, is regarded as the biggest jam ever. It stretched for 109 miles and happened on February 16, 1980. The reason, poor weather and the huge number of cars on the French Autoroute.
When my daughter, Amy Royce and her family moved out to the Pacific Northwest, it was initially to get away from the cold Wyoming winters, but it has been an amazing adventure for them in many ways. Amy always loved the rainforests and the beaches too, so the Pacific Northwest was the perfect location for her. In the two years since they moved to Washington, they have been hiking the amazing trails in the area, and of course, enjoying the sunsets by the water. Amy also had the opportunity to go to the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, which is an awesome spring display of tulips…acres and acres of tulips. It is a beautiful sight. I got to see it years ago, when my sister lived in that area, but I look forward to seeing it again with Amy.
In the two years that Amy has lived in Washington, I have seen her creative side simply blossom. She has done a few sessions at one of the places where you paint and have wine, and she liked it so much that her husband, Travis bought her a set of paints and an easel. Amy’s creative side just bubbled out of her. Every new painting is better than the last. I wish I had such talent. She and her sister Corrie Petersen, both seem to have inherited that talent…but they did not get it from me, hahaha!! Amy also loves to take pictures of the area she lives in, and posts them to her Facebook. They are beautiful, and since I love photography, I’ll take a little credit and say that she inherited that ability from me…whether it’s true or not. The pictures she takes while hiking are amazing, and the subject matter doesn’t hurt anything either. Still, the eye of the photographer is the main part of great photography.
While we wish that she lived closer to us, we always look forward to the trips we take out to see her and her family. Since we love to hike too, we went on a few of the trails while we were there the last time, but the next time we go, it will be in the summer, and we are going to have her take us to some of the places she went last month, because those places were stunning. It’s funny, because Amy was never so much the hiker. She usually went to the gym for her exercise, and suddenly she likes to get out in nature too. Something I find totally awesome. Today is Amy’s birthday. Happy birthday Amy!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
My grand niece, Raelynn Masterson is turning 13 today. Turning 13 is an exciting, mixed up, trying time in that persons life, but Raelynn…or Rae, as she is known to her family, is taking it pretty much in stride. She has always been easy going, and maybe it’s that style that lets her make a smooth transition into the teenage years. The journey from child to young adult is filled with ups and downs, but Raelynn doesn’t seem to be too shook up about it…unlike her mom, my niece, Dustie Masterson. Dustie is having a bit of a hard time believing that her first born…while no longer a baby, yet always her baby, is growing up so very fast. Dustie calls this by far their “biggest adventure” yet. I think that any parent of children over the age of 13 knows exactly what Dustie means. I don’t think any parent is truly ready for their kids to grow up.
Raelynn is the big sister to Matt and Anna, and younger half-sister to Christina, who lives in Colorado. For some time now, Raelynn has been the “little mom” to her younger siblings. She is helpful to her mom and dad, and doesn’t present them with a ton of drama…unless her younger brother and sister provoke her, that is. She is so motherly sometimes that her mom has to remind her that in reality she is not the mom, but that often happens with older children. She is a kind person too, so I’m sure that keeps sibling relationships on an even keel. Many people really have no ability to empathize with others, but Raelynn is compassionate and has an understanding of people that surpasses her years on this earth.
These days Raelynn is into science and boys…and not necessarily in that order. I suppose that might be viewed as an odd combination, but it works for her. The Science Zone is a really big deal here in town, and she loves going there. They even have summer classes for the kids. Dustie signed Raelynn up for three this year. The first one was a Dissection Class, and is definitely the one Raelynn likes the least…probably because of her love of animals. The second class was on Water, which she really enjoyed, but it was the class where she was able to help the instructor with the animals that really did it for Raelynn. When her mom picked Raelynn up, she was excitedly telling her that the Iguana and the Science Zone doesn’t like anyone, but really took to Raelynn. She was so happy about that. Raelynn loves to read, and is keep a journal, which is seriously private, of course. Raelynn is such a sweet girl, and a great blessing to her family. Today is Raelynn’s birthday. Happy birthday Raelynn!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
As hard as it is to see your children move far away, sometimes there is an aspect of it that truly warms your heart. That is how it has been for me in this first year of the new journey my daughter, Amy Royce and her family have begun. I won’t lie and say that it has been an easy transition for me, because I still miss them very much, but the pure joy they feel in their new surroundings is so obvious, that I can’t help but be happy for them. The first six months of their time was spent in a little apartment, while they got a feel for the area. Then, after deciding that the Bellingham area was where they wanted to be, they found a cute house in the suburb of Ferndale, about 10 minutes north of Bellingham.
Amy hit the jackpot at Rice Insurance, and they didn’t get a bad deal either, because Amy is an amazing insurance agent. Her work is located just a few blocks from Bellingham Bay, and for Amy, that is ideal. Part of the draw of the Pacific Northwest for Amy, was to live near the water, and that has been a dream come true. Amy and her husband, Travis who have never been really fond of our favorite pastime…walking, have taken it up anyway. I’m sure that it’s hard not to, when the trails you have found take you to the waters edge. Every trek they take is filled with the beauty of the rain forest, and trust me…that is beautiful.
Amy and Travis have a large, beautiful back yard, and they love to sit out by their fire pit in the evenings, have dinner, and watch for hummingbirds, which seem to flock to the yard for their dinner too. Amy has been able to get some great pictures of the feeding frenzy. Another interesting item for Amy has been the snails and slugs, since they are not real common in Casper, except on the mountain, but up there, you kind of have to watch out where you walk a little bit, or you’ll step on one…and that would break Amy’s heart, because she loves them. The biggest draw for Amy, is the possibility of seeing dolphins anytime they are near the water. Amy has always loved dolphins, and really whales and most of the other sealife found on the beach or in the water near the beach. That is something that gets them out for a walk too. Now they are always looking for new horizons to continue their journey on, and that makes me happy for them. Today is Amy’s birthday. We especially miss our girl on these special days. Happy birthday Amy!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
In the days before running water in homes, people had to go to river to bath, or bring water into the house from the river, creek, or well, and heat it on the stove so the family could bathe. Since families were usually large, the whole process took time, and heating water over and over again was not really feasible. What that meant was that the family pretty much all bathed in the same bath water. For the last guy, that had to be…well, disgusting, but that was the way it was done back in the old west, and even in more recent times when there was no running water in homes. For the little kids, however, I seriously doubt if it mattered. Getting wet was getting wet, and it really just didn’t matter what the water looked like…at least to the little boys. Girls might have felt differently. I think I would have.
Personally, if I had a river or creek available, I think I would use that…in the summer anyway. Then again, there is very little privacy in a river or creek…and you can’t exactly put up a curtain around a river. I can’t really imagine how they lived that way exactly. I guess in that way I’m a modern girl, and don’t try to take my shower away from me. Maybe that’s why Bob and I don’t go camping…no running water, or if there is, it’s very inconvenient. As I have said before, I love hiking and being outdoors, but I like the modern conveniences of a hotel room afterward.
Of course, when homes got running water, bathing in an old tin bath tub went the way of all things old west. Nevertheless, for babies…it doesn’t matter if they are bathing or just playing in a bucket, pan, or clothes basket. Kids just like to play in them. I don’t think there is anything so amazing about that, like a throwback to the old west days of bathing in a barrel, but rather that kids just like finding different places to play. Things like an old box, barrel, or clothes basket are perfect. In that way, they remind me of cats. If you have ever watched a cat, you will find that they see a space, and if it looks fairly close to a good fit, in they dive. Babies tend to be that way too…but, the thing that is the funniest about that is when the baby tries to fit into a box that is seriously too small. Nevertheless, it’s a baby or cat thing.
For a number of years now, Bob and I have made a trip to Thermopolis each year in early March in celebration of our wedding anniversary, which is March 1st. Driving through the Wind River Canyon that many times, I feel like I know the face of those canyon walls pretty well. Since rainy weather has dominated this Spring, many areas of the state of Wyoming and several other states, flooding is a word that we have all gotten used to hearing. Since our state has been in a relative draught for a number of years, the ground has had a hard time absorbing all that water that has been coming in. And then there is the fact that we have had a few fires in key areas around the state. That adds an additional danger to certain areas…one of which is the Wind River Canyon, which was hit with mudslides and rockslides earlier this year.
This morning, Bob and I decided to take a drive up to Thermopolis to see for ourselves, exactly how the canyon face had been changed by the mudslides. Our granddaughter, Shai Royce decided to come along to see it too. We had seen the pictures of it on television and on the internet when it happened, but you really can’t get a clear picture of something like that until you see it up close. So, after breakfast we set out. It was a nice drive up to the Wind River Canyon, and at first, it didn’t look so different, but then we got to the area where the main slides were. It was much different.
I expected it to look different, and it did, but what I didn’t expect was to have it occur to me that I was looking at the changing face of the canyon. I thought about how the canyon had changed over the years of its existence. The river made most of the changes that had taken place, slowly carving out the depth of it with erosion. Soon, its walls were high and filled with the hard rocks that had survived the erosion process. The trees grew along the face of the walls, and in time we all thought it wouldn’t change much, but rock and mudslides can change the face of those canyon walls overnight. I found myself thinking about how easy it was to pick out the slide path of each slide area. The coloring of the upturned earth made it stand out as if it were florescent paint. I was able to see the complete path the mud and rocks took on their way down.
I realized that this was just one event, but it didn’t matter, because I was looking at the changes brought about by time. This was the canyon’s changing face, caused by the effects of weather, water, wind, and fire to bring about an entirely new look to a canyon that had been there so long, looking, or so I thought, always the same. In reality, it was ever changing.
When I think of glaciers and icebergs, I often think of the Titanic. Sailing into an area that is filled with floating ice has a tendency to take your mind down that road. Of course, the icebergs we saw were not of the size that the Titanic hit, at least not the ones we got very near to. We were also traveling quite slowly, and in daylight, making it easier to see if there is a dangerous piece of ice that we need to maneuver around. Nevertheless, in the back of my mind, lived a little picture of Titanic sinking beneath the water. It wasn’t that I was afraid, because I wasn’t, but rather a matter of being able to relate to the situation the Titanic was in, and knowing that no one was doing anything about it, when it was the Titanic heading into a death trap. I was thankful that so much more is known today about the damage that icebergs can cause, because it makes it possible for us to get close to these amazing natural ice sculptures, to view their amazing beauty, and yet, still remain safe.
As we sailed closer and closer to the Margerie Glacier, in Glacier Bay, I found myself completely in awe of the beauty God had created from ice. No human could have created something so grand. As we came closer and closer, I couldn’t stop snapping pictures. I wanted to get every possible angle of the glacier. I wanted to forever fix it in my memory files. I wanted to be able to picture it in my mind…and I can. I think I will always be able to see the stunning blue color and the amazing crevasses. There is never enough time to see it for as long as you would like to, and all too soon, we had to move on. In all, we saw close up views of three glaciers, and distant views of countless others. The ice filled water began to disappear, and we couldn’t see the icebergs anymore. I found that I was feeling a little bit sad that our time at the glaciers was over. It felt like we had only just arrived, and now we were leaving.
Of course, I’ve seen glaciers before, but I simply don’t remember them being as beautiful as the ones we saw in Alaska. The colors were so stunning. It was almost like the blues were painted onto the ice. The Margerie Glacier is 21 miles long, beginning on Mount Root, at the Alaska/Canada border, and it is a mile wide. The sheer size of the glacier is amazing to me. And, of course, the other glaciers in Alaska are of similar size. The colors are that amazing blue that you see in the ocean waves. I loved looking at the glaciers and icebergs. It seemed so peaceful there, and yet in reality, they are constantly changing…they are a work in progress. Each day, chunks fall off, and they add snow often, so the beauty changes and changes. But one thing is for sure, no matter how they change, they never lose that beauty. And that is the memory that will live on in my memory files.
Prior to going on our whale watching tour, I hadn’t given any more thought to seals, otters, and sea lions than I had to whales. In fact, I wasn’t really sure which one was which. Maybe I should have known that, but then maybe some of you don’t either. After our whale watching tour, I decided that maybe I should clarify that in my own mind…especially if I was going to write about them.
So, here is what I found out. The seal has smaller front flippers and an ear hole, no flap. They can’t move around on land as easily and the sea lion. It is a seal that can be seen waving to me as I took its picture. The sea lion is bigger than a seal. It has an ear flap, not just an ear hole. It also has larger front flippers, allowing it to move more easily on land. Sea lions love buoys. They seem to think that is their personal sun bathing space. Apparently buoys have to be cleaned periodically…I did not know this either, and the only way to clean it is to use a type of crane on a boat to lift it out of the water. Otherwise, the sea lions keep climbing back on and won’t allow the buoy to be cleaned. So it was the sea lions I photographed on the buoy. I didn’t see any otters, but apparently, otters get cold, so they are covered with hair for warmth. they have as many hairs per square inch, as are in the entire human body! Imagine being cold enough to need that much hair. But then, I guess they do spend a lot of time in the water.
We really enjoyed watching the seals and sea lions. They were so cute. When I took the picture of the seals, I had no idea that I had captured one waving at us…until I looked at my pictures. I was so excited then. I had heard that the seals like people, and liked to put on a show for them. This little guy sure did. He not only waved at us, but it looked like he was calling his friends over to join in. All the pictures I took of the seals were great. There were dozens of them, just floating in the water, relaxing, enjoying themselves. The sea lions were so funny. They kept vying for a space on the buoy. It reminded me of a bunch of people trying to get to the front row of a free standing room only rock concert. I never thought of that kind of thing happening in the wild, but I guess all animals try to prove their superiority…or they were simply sunbathing and that was the only buoy in the area.
We never had the chance to see an otter, but if I ever do, I will know what it is now. I think once you take the time to learn about something like that, you never really forget. I don’t have to look at my pictures to see the sea lions and seals, they are imbedded in my memory files now. Spending a little time around these amazing animals, and around the whales was so special. It was the trip of a lifetime, and a tour of a lifetime. These animals were amazing!! Would I go in search of whales, seal, sea lions, and otters again. Absolutely!! Just give me the chance, and I’m there.