Italy 2013

Back in Pisa. We flew into Europe via Pisa in mid-September, and will fly out on December 7.
Where's Waldo?
Baby Fiat.
Italian coca-cola.
Getting in the holiday spirit with the Christmas Pig...!
We took the train to Florence - a city with the most astounding collection of art, compared to anywhere! One of the most amazing sculptures is Michelangelo's David, (which now has a museum built around it here). There are lots of pictures of this statue (17-ft. tall) around, but they are nothing like the experience of seeing it in person - it is simply jaw-dropping. One interesting detail - this is the David that dropped Goliath with a stone from his sling. If you walk behind the stature, you can see that David has the sling hiding behind his back, and he has loaded a stone into it with his right hand. All his weight is on his right leg, ready to whip that rock at Goliath, and he has this "yeah, I can take you out...!" look in his eye. It's so perfectly made that it's an unworldly experience - you can almost see the statue breathing...!
Art is everywhere in Florence, in large part because of the Medici's. This banking and commerce family rose to great wealth (and political power) in the 13th century, and spent tons of their money commissioning art works. They and other wealthy patrons attracted a huge artistic community to Florence. This is an example: a water fountain in a garden park.
"Party last night at the Medici's: my head's gonna explode, and I can't find my bra..."
Ponte Vecchio, the "old bridge". First built around the year 1000 and rebuilt in 1345, it has shops built along it - apparently this was once common.
Neptune about to spear an unsuspecting stork.
Modern art (1998) trying to look like old art.
Back in Pisa-2. We're back in Pisa for our final two days before heading back to Canada, and wandered out to see the Tower again - it always makes us laugh! The base and the first 3 tiers were made, and then the structure started to sink on one side. Everything came to a halt for a hundred years while Pisa fought various wars with various neighbouring cities. The solution then decided upon was to just start tilting the subsequent tiers, until the top section was vertical. If you look at this photo, you can see that indeed the top section's walls are close to vertical. Once you know that, it's pretty hard not to laugh...!
Nope, still not a good name....
Back in Canada! I was reading an article the other day about pilgrimages. It said something like pilgrimages aren't really about going anywhere, but more about leaving things behind, like old habits and ways of thinking. For us, that seems to be true. We are very, very thankful to all of those who have been helping us along the way. This includes: the old woman who shouted out the window in Portugal telling us we were heading the wrong direction; the man who stopped his car and pointed us down an alternate route that kept us from having to walk down the edge of the highway; the dozens of welcome roosters that welcomed us into their villages; the Good Morning! flowers; and to you who are reading this. We'll keep this blog running for a while more - we're thinking about spending the Christmas season and part of January in Canada, then heading out for the next part of the journey. That could be India, and the Buddha's pilgrimage sites...