Thursday, April 30, 2015

La Scala Sancta

Across the street from San Giovanni is the building that holds the holy staircase, La Scala Sancta. It was closed at the time we were there otherwise there'll be myriad of people climbing these stairs on their knees. This was supposed to be the staircase that was in Pontus Pilate's house in Jerusalem, the same one that Jesus climbed when He was judged by Pontus Pilate. Its a marble staircase and very delicate, so it is encased in wood and one climbs it on their knees.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Scandinavia and Finland

Finland is a Baltic nation, its not in Scandinavia. Over the past few weeks I tried learning Danish but its so difficult. I can say Hej, go'morgen, tak, unskeyl and a few other words. But there is Norwegian and Swedish, don't even try to attempt Finnish! I gave up. So I leave in a month and have just a few more detail to take of. Picture is from a Finnish website. Lovely.

Monday, April 27, 2015

San Giovanni in Laterano, Rome

 This is the grand daddy of basilicas in Rome. A church dedicated to Saints John the Baptist and John the evangelist.

This was the popes' church before St Peter Basilica was built. The different popes were installed here and though its not situated in Vatican city, it still belong to the Vatican. It is very grand. We've just arrived from Naples, went to our hostel, dumped our things, took the metro and in a few minutes was here at the door steps. Rome is quite compact and quite easy to navigate, you can easily take buses, metro or even taxis. It doesn't cost a lot to ride in taxis because distances are so close. This place is really grand and quite awe inspiring.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Earthquake in Nepal

The death toll has risen to 2,000 and may go up. Its a sad time. There are so many dead bodies that they have started to use the streets in Kathmandu for funeral pyres. I heard that friends in Pokhara are OK. But Dolma has a daughter who is a nurse in Kathmandu and a grand daughter.... OMG, I pray they are OK.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Bhaktapur, Nepal

The news gets worse by the minute, one report from the London Telegraph said half of the buildings in Bhaktapur has been destroyed. Bhaktapur, an UNESCO world heritage site is a living museum, a place where nothing has changed for centuries, the same buildings, the same crafts, the same farming. Nepal is an incredible place with living museums like this all over the Kathmandu area. I've always wanted to return to Nepal but haven't found the time yet. Pray for Nepal, send help if you can.

7.9 earthquake in Nepal

I was in Nepal 3 years ago. Its a lovely place, one of the most affordable places to travel in. I pray for the people of Nepal especially those in Kathmandu.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Go smell the roses

Roses in a garden in Dresden, last May (2014). I collared a passerby to take my picture. They tell me I need to insert myself into the pictures too. Anyway I just used my British Airways miles to buy a ticket to Europe, leaving next month, returning in 4 months. I shall be bringing my laptop and be posting from where I may be. I still have a lot to take care before I leave. Its going to be epic!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Hire your guide for Matera

 As soon as I returned from Matera in February this year, I uploaded my ebook on Amazon Kindle and I've been seeing a few downloads. I hope some of these people would show up in Matera.
 In the ebook I wrote about our experiences with our guide, Luigi at We are friends on Facebook and this was a picture he posted yesterday. Two Americans! Well, I don't know if they downloaded my ebook. I know for sure they had a great time and this will form one of the best experiences of their travel lives.
One of the highlights will be a trip to the crypt of original sin or in Italian, la cripta del peccato originale. Its not easy to get to the crypt, easier if you have a guide with a car. The cave has the most exquisite frescoes in it. I have a picture of it on the wall in front of my desk and another picture, a Klimt painting of Adele Bloch-Bauer II, both of which are exquisite. I can see the comparison, the attention to detail, amazing!

Sforgliatelle and Rum Baba

 Rum Baba

I have a dilemma, while Rum Baba is easy to find, Sforgliatelle is not. Rum Baba is actually French but the city of Naples has adopted it and one can wander in Naples and stop off at a coffee shop to eat some. Sforgliatelle, on the other hand, is a staple of Naples and only found in Naples. So what am I going to do, the next time I'm in Italy. I adore Sforgliatelle. The only way is to do a Sforgliatelle run the next time I'm in Rome. Take the Frecciarosa train (1 hour) from Rome to Naples, buy some and head back on the train. There's this huge shop across the street from the train station in Naples that sells both! That's a wonderful idea!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Sorrento, Italy

Sorrento 2006, that was the last time I was in Southern Italy. It was great to be back. As I said before Naples is scary but I've been there before. A lot of Italian cities has been inundated by African immigrants, Naples is one of those cities. But underneath the surface there lives a very tolerant Italian population, maybe. One does not have to stay in Naples, just a short train ride away is the Amalfi coast, the Southern Italian rivera. Even so, one does not have to stay in a hotel in Naples. There is always the lovely Sorrento. It is a beautiful city, small and upscale. After finishing with Pompeii we jumped back on the train and went to Sorrento, its at the other end of the circumvesuviana line. We found a restaurant, had dinner and went back to Naples on the same train. I prefer to stay in Naples and next to the train station. There are lots of old mansions that have been converted into hotels and in February, rooms were so cheap. The area is not that great, its actually the red light district but it doesn't bother me. Once we're in our room, we shut the world out.

Sunday, April 19, 2015


 As the train sped through the countryside, we can see Mt Vesuvius, majestic and quiescent but wasn't so in history, AD79 to be exact.

I've been to Pompeii before and this was my second visit. Its very easy to get to from Naples train station. You don't even need to leave the station, just follow the signs that say 'Circumvesuviana'. This little train goes from Naples to Sorrento and back. On the way it stops at Pompeii. Its that easy. There seems to have been more work done to the site, I see more frescoes being uncovered and restored.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Gustav Klimt & fin de siècle Vienna by Anne Chung

I know these are not Klimt's but Egon Schiele's. I first encountered Egon Schiele's work a few years ago when I visited the Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain. I was surprised at my own reaction, far from being appalled by its almost pornographic nature, I actually admired his work. It was art. In working on my current project, I came across more interesting events about Schiele. A certain Austrian by the name of Dr Otto Kallir was a life long and ardent fan of Schiele. Kallir was born a few years after Schiele and was therefor a contemporary of Schiele in Emperor Franz Josef's Austria. Kallir was born Otto Nirenstein and like many Jews, changed his name, to avoid anti-semitism. He served in Franz Josef's army in the first world war. He was introduced to Schiele by an army mate. He wanted Schiele to paint something for him but being in the army he had no way of paying and so the commission went nowhere. He became an art dealer in Vienna after the war and owned many of Schiele's paintings and drawings and a few of Gustav Klimt's. After the Anschluss (annexation of Austria into the Third Reich by Hitler) he moved to Paris but stayed only one year. Then he moved to New York. He was able to mount a few exhibitions showcasing Schiele's work. The first exhibition, he sold one painting of Schiele in 1941 but it did not deter him. He plodded on until today there are a few Schiele in every major museum in the USA. Definitely the Maria Altman vs the Austrian government case has propelled Gustav Klimt into the limelight that he enjoys today. But Klimt paintings are a rarity, all told there are about 200 Klimt paintings worldwide. Some of his work are too fragile to be moved, others were destroyed in the Castle Immendorf fire. A lot of Klimt's are in the Belvedere in Vienna and these will never leave the walls of the Belvedere! Personally I'm more partial to Gustav Klimt, hence my project.... stay tuned, more to come!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Warhol at MoMA, New York

I've always thought this was one big painting. It is actually 32 individual canvases. Blum, some guy bought it for US$1,000 but sold it for US$15m. He did sell a few of the canvases but bought them back to keep the group together. Today they are at MoMA in New York. Who would have thunk?

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Klimt at MOMA

Today the two Klimt paintings of Adele Bloch-Bauer are in the city of New York but in two galleries, I is at the Neue gallery and II, this one is at MOMA. Adele Bloch-Bauer I was sold to Ronald Lauder of Estee Lauder for $135m the highest amount for any painting. Ron Lauder saw the painting at the Belvedere, Vienna when he visited on his own at 14 years and years ago. He has always expressed an interest in the painting. It was so iconic, he was an impressionable boy traveling in Europe without his parents. When the painting was up for sale, he prevented any bidding, bought it outright. The rest of the Bloch-Bauer collection was auctioned off by Christie, you can view the 20 minute video on Youtube. I am not one to be interested in auctions but this one was different, in 20 minutes, they sold off 4 Klimt paintings for a total of $192 million! The last to be auctioned was this one, Adele Bloch-Bauer II, the bidding went on and on and ended at $78.5m! She is on long term loan to MOMA and you can see it there. She is beautiful and I have a copy in front of my computer on the wall! She's my muse and my inspiration. Thank you, Klimt.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Onward to MOMA, New York

 There was a street act outside and I stopped a while to enjoy the singing.
 Me and many others.
 Then from where I was, 86th street I think, I walked to 53rd to MOMA, the museum of modern art.

It was lunch time and I went to eat at the cafe in MOMA. It was crowded. It was crowded in New York because of Spring break. But service moved fast. That's one thing you can count on in the USA, fast service. You can't make it in the USA if you're not fast, at anything. We worship speed! Here I am enjoying the last bite of my dessert which was 'Tiramisu.' Mmmmmm that was so good. Now I was ready for more art!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Claude Monet at the New York Met

 Every major museum in the world seems to have numerous Monet's paintings of the lily pond at his house and garden in Giverny, France. He really exploited the diversion of the stream into his property, planted water lilies and weeping willow trees and painted again and again. I thought I saw all the lily pond pictures when I was in Paris but I'm still seeing more of them all over the world. Still each painting is different and just as delightful. I'm not complaining.

Here's my picture of it during my visit 2 years ago.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

AD 79 excavation from Pompeii

 This style of fresco decoration is actually Greek which the ancient Roman copied and it can be found in almost all Roman villas. Panels found in the New York Metropolitan museum came from a villa in the gulf of Naples. It was found on private property and was buried by the ashes coming out from Mt Vesuvius when it blew its top in AD79. Most of the villa came to the New York Met, the rest went to the Naples museum. I've seen those at the museum in Naples, they don't look as good as the ones here at the New York Met.
 There was enough panels to fill a three sided room.

 Talk about Pompeiian red, this is the true Pompeiian red, this has been restored and it looked absolutely glorious.

They found inscriptions in this villa, 'Agrippa Postumus' the son of Marcus Agrippa. It is believed that this villa could have belonged to Marcus Agrippa and on his death passed on to his son, Postumus.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Ladies in blue

I said to myself, 'I want to go to Crete to see the original, this thing hanging at the New York Met is only a copy. Upon closer examination, I realized that only a few fragments actually exists, the rest is just an artist's imagination of what he thinks it might have looked like in its original state. From what he had seen of other frescoes in Greece, he thinks the few fragments might have looked like this. Very clever. The artist was Emile Gilleron and the year for this work, 1927.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Gustav Klimt in New York

 Mada Primavesi at the New York Metropolitan museum of art.
 Serena Lederer at the New York Metropolitan museum of art.
 Oops, this is an Egon Schiele, at MOMA.
MOMA. As a consolation for missing the 'dame in gold' I had to console myself with seeing other Gustav Klimt, both at the Metropolitan museum of art and at MOMA, museum of modern art! They were all wonderful. What an incredible experience! Egon Schiele was a protege of Klimt. I saw a lot of Egon Schiele at the Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain. I began to love his nudes. Klimt loved to paint women. He never painted them twice except for Adele Bloch-Bauer. I love both Bloch-Bauer, I'm partial, I think both of them were among his best works!