Saturday, December 06, 2014

Day Trip to Bolzano

Saturday we took a day trip to Bolzano, also known as Bozen.  This is a town in the South Tyrol region of northern Italy.  It's in the Alps, and from both an architecture and cultural point of view, it seems a lot more like part of Austria than Italy.  Many residents speak German, and signs were in Italian and German.  The town itself looked a lot like the towns we visited in Switzerland back in 2005.  It was also very crowded, presumably because it was a Saturday.  They were setting up for their Christmas festival, but it wasn't ready yet.

Here are a few pictures of the town.
Bolzano's cathedral

Street view

The main square


The hills around the town

Also the main square
But of course, the reason we went to Bolzano was to see Otzi the Iceman, who is housed at the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology.  For those of you who have not heard of him, Otzi is a natural mummy of a 5,300 year old man from the Bronze Age who was found frozen in ice in 1991.  In addition to his remarkably well-preserved body, a large amount of his equipment was found with him.  Of course, as I am an archeologist, I was primarily interested in seeing his stuff, which included an unfinished bow, several arrows, a quiver, clothing, a hafted flint dagger and sheath, and, most spectacularly, a copper axe.

The museum, which I believe was specifically built for him, is very new and very nice.  In addition to Otzi himself, who is of course in a carefully climate controlled freezer, you can also see all of his equipment.  They don't allow pictures of his clothing or equipment, but you can see some pictures of them on the museum's website.  Needless to say, it was amazing.  I would really like to see his coat in complete form.  It had alternating light and dark stripes of goat hide, and must have been quite striking when it was complete.  Most of his leather was apparently goat, which is not a shock given the area.  His hat was pretty sweet, too.  You should go check out the photos on that site.  He had some impressive equipment, and obviously was experienced at traveling through the mountains.

One thing that shocks me, though, is his bow.  It was unfinished, and was not in a usable state.  Also, only two of his arrows had tips (stone) and fletching attached.  I wonder why we would go into the mountains without a functional bow.  Maybe if his bow had been functional, he wouldn't have been murdered. (For those of you who don't want to read links, Otzi has a stone arrow point imbedded in his back, had fresh cuts on his hands and other areas, and suffered a severe blow to the head.)  The mysteries of archaeology.

In any case, it was worth the two and a half hour train trip each way to see him.  I have been fascinated by him ever since he was found, and seeing him was one of my life goals.  I am really glad I got to see him.  Now I just need to get the Athens and see the Antikythera Mechanism...

The train trip up there was very scenic anyway, and was fun in it's own right.  Here are a few pictures taken from the train.  Sorry about the quality (or lack thereof); it's hard to take pictures through the window.



Town from the train.  Note the castle on the toe slope of the mountain at frame left

This is a view of the hills around Bolzano, and was not taken from the train
Well, that's enough for now.  More to come tomorrow.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Sorry for the Delay

Sorry for the delay in posting, everyone.  I've been busy trying to get caught up since I got back from the trip.  Expect a lot of posts this weekend.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Bologna Part 2

One of the things we like to do is take food tours in the various cities we visit.  This time we took a food tour of Bologna with Catia of www.bolognatourguide.com.  She was a great guide, and we learned a lot from her, and ate a lot of great food on the tour.

Bologna gets quite a few tourists from other parts of Italy, but not many from outside Italy, as it is surrounded by Florence, Milan, and Venice.  We loved Bologna, though.  It doesn't have the vast number of ancient sites of a Rome, or the charm and romance of a Venice, but it also doesn't have the gigantic crowds or high prices of either of those cities.  Don't get me wrong, Rome is still my favorite place I have ever visited, but Bologna has a charm and a vibe that really set its hooks into me.  We will definitely be going back.

Random street in Bologna

This store we visited on our tour was amazing.  I bought about 5 pounds of Parmesan Reggiano cheese to take back home. Totally worth it!

A market street in Bologna.

Bologna street scene.

A church in Bologna.  Italy has a lot of churches, and I mean a lot.

Random street scene.

Climbing the Asinella Tower in Bologna.  Note that the bottom you see isn't the bottom, it's just one of several landings you reach climbing up.
The large tower I keep referring to is actually called the Asinelli Tower.  It's about 318 feet high.  As you can see in better pictures, like the ones on the wikipedia page here, the tower next to it, called the Garisendia Tower, has quite a lean to it.  I mean an alarming amount of lean.  It is closed to the public, but fortunately you can still climb the tall one.  It's a strenuous climb, but the views are worth it.  I would love to see what the city looked like with around 90 of these things sprouting all over the place. 

One of the things we did was to take the bus out to the suburbs and visit the Ducati Museum and take the Ducati factory tour.  My buddy T from work went with us on this trip, and he wanted to see where his Ducati was made.  I was more than happy to go check it out myself.  The factory is on the outskirts of town so we had to catch a bus, which we did with no problems.  Useful tip-learn to use the bus system wherever you are traveling.  Once you have the bus system down in a European city you have the place licked.  You can get anywhere for next to nothing.  It's also a fun and cheap way to see a city.

At the tour we saw the factory (no pictures in there of course) and then went through their great museum.  There were some very cool things in there, such as a Ducati radio.  Did you know they started out making radios?  I didn't.  We also saw the first Ducati 'motorcycles' which was actually an engine designed to be attached to a bicycle.  We also of course say many old and new racing bikes, etc.  All in all it was a great way to spend the morning.  On the way back we stopped at a random restaurant and had a great lunch at which we were the only non locals in the place.  The food was of course fantastic.  The food everywhere in Bologna was great.  We never had a meal there that wasn't great.

Ducati factory exterior.

The first Ducati, a motor for your bicycle.

The first 'real' Ducati motorcycle.


The museum was very well done, with a setup that echoed a racetrack.

Modern Ducati superbikes.
 During the factory tour they showed us one of their top of the line street legal superbikes, the Superleggera.  It costs 50,000 euros (just over $62,000) and has a top speed of 320 kilometers per hour (around 200 mph).  Needless to say it was a pretty nice looking bike.  It definitely falls into the "if you have to ask" category, though.

Well, that's all for now.  Next post I'll talk about our trip to see Otzi the Iceman.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Bologna Part 1

In the next few series of posts, I will discuss our recent trip to Italy.  During this trip we stayed for five nights in Bologna, and five nights in Venice.  We also made a day trip to Bolzano to see Otzi the Iceman.

We arrived on the afternoon of November 19th.  The weather was moderately cold, with highs in the 40s.  Not terrible, but not spring either.  We stayed at the Hotel Paradise, which I cannot recommend enough.  This was a great little hotel.  The room was clean and large (by Italy standards, mind you) and the free breakfast was great.  The location cannot be beat, in a quiet area but only a 10 minute walk from Piazza Maggiore, the main piazza in Bologna.
Hotel Paradise
Piazza Maggiore


Statue of Neptune

Basilica of San Petronio, the largest church in Bologna

A view of Neptune through the arch
I thought Bologna was a great city.  It is a real working city, with a large student population due to being the home of the oldest university in Europe, the University of Bologna, founded in 1088.  Bologna gets very few tourists from outside Italy, although it gets quite a few from Italy due to the quality of its food, said to be the best in the country.  Although its a large city (population approximately 400,000) it was easy to get around, and people were friendly.

Here are some more random pictures from Bologna.
Random tower in Bologna.  The city is famous for these and once had over 90.



The famous Two Towers of Bologna


View from the top of the large tower




I don't know what you did, but you made pink donkey very angry...


The view of the smaller of the two towers from the top of the larger

View of Bologna from the top of the large tower

 That's enough for now.  I'll post more from wonderful Bologna later.