Rome / Prague


"This was the first time during one of my personal vacations I was able to visit two cities."  

Before I begin, I want to share a few things.  I feel bad for those who regularly follow my site and often comment about how they enjoy reading my travel updates, I am usually much better about setting time aside to provide you with a post and photos of the trip, but this time I was so focused on keeping up with the ideas from the trip I let the creativity take priority. 

This trip was different in a lot of ways for me; usually I come up with a handful of solid sketches I work up into paintings, then a small break then off to the next adventure to recharge my creative batteries.  This trip proved to be much different, Rome provided me with a few ideas and really had me thinking, Prague allowed me to start pulling the pieces together, and that’s not where it ended.  Now I am in a situation where as soon as I start creating one piece I am flooded with ideas for several more pieces, a great place to be in but difficult when you are faced with so many hours in the day to create. 

 Does all this relate to the trip?  Yes it does, usually the excitement of sharing the experiences of the trip usually gets me at the keyboard sharing the stories, but as I said before this was different.  For me I was more compelled to get the stories and ideas out on paper and canvas, everything felt more comfortable with the company of brush, paint, pencil, ink and pastel rather then words.  So this update will be about what happened while I was traveling but this update will have the mindset of looking back at how this creative whirlwind started; this was the first vacation with my new camera (My photos are really going to drive home a lot of the points I will be making). 

This was my second trip to Rome.  I went in college during a winter session, so I was fortunate enough to have visited the city once before with college profession who knew the city inside and out, so this added a level of familiarity to the city.  My hotel was about a block away from the Vatican, so every day I started at St. Peter's Square.  St Peter's is one of those places where if you love people watching this might be one of the top 3 spots of all time.  What still amazes me is the volume of people there at any given time is enormous but it never seems crowded.  St Peters Basilica is a treat, when visiting you are going to be tempted to explore, but I am here to tell you as soon as you enter turn right and you will be at Michelangelo’s Pieta.  After a while of spending time with the Pieta, it was time to slowly stroll through the Basilica, still speechless to the scale and artwork that adorn the floor, walls and ceiling.  Before leaving I had to make another stop back at the Pieta.     

The Vatican Museum, do everything you can to get to the museum early, the line gets crazy long, and you want to get there early so you can literally run through the museum to get to the Sistine Chapel before it gets packed with people.  Once you are there be prepared to spend a few hours, because you'll first be impressed at the scale but then you will find yourself drawn in to each section, followed by trying to conceive how one artist created this.  The Sistine Chapel is another Michelangelo masterpiece but to see another side of the works power, watch the faces of the people in the room.  When you see all of the emotions shown, stop and think these emotions are just a few hours of one day, and when you realize this has been around for hundreds of years do you realize how much of an impact the Sistine Chapel has.     

The Villa Borghese, a smaller museum but the collection is out of this world.  The Bernini Sculptures are so intricate and detailed, the stone is polished in a way that the skin looks real; for me what's really striking me about his sculpture is the dynamic poses.  I did take a lot of notes in my sketchbook (no cameras allowed) though about how Bernini was able to tell a complete story by choosing the right moment to capture.  I am bringing a lot of those ideas to my work currently.  A quick tip, they limit the number of people who enter the museum at any given time, so either schedule before you arrive or enjoy the bookstore downstairs or enjoy the park while waiting for your group to be let inside.

From the Villa Borghese, it was off to the National Gallery of Modern Art Rome.  This was my favorite museum, and with the Vatican museum and the Villa Borghese that says a lot.  But yes the national gallery museum was my favorite.  Broken up into two parts with the 1800s-mid 1900s and mid 1900s to present day, the work was full of Italian artists who I have never heard of before which is a great find, because it becomes more and more difficult to find works by unknown artists which have this type of effect on my creatively.  The museum did not allow cameras which is a shame because I think I would have ended up taking photos of every painting and sculpture in the museum because it was that good.  I did purchase books of the collections a huge plus but I wish the photos of the pieces where larger.  But that’s alright; I have names of these artists so now I can search the net trying to finding books and websites with more art by these talented artists.

I did hit up a handful of churches throughout the city because one of the many hidden treasures of Rome is how so many of the churches have famous paintings in the naives within each church so unless you know what painting you want to see and research to find the church you can miss out on quite a few pieces just while walking around through the city.  I did set out to see Caravaggio’s Calling of St Matthew and now that I was able to spend some time seeing it I can cross it off my list of must see pieces.   

The fountains of Rome were another highlight of the trip with Trevie Fountain and the fountains of Piazza Navona being some of my personal favorites.  I did my best to take a lot of photos of both, though the Trevie fountain at night is lit up and spectacular the crowd of people does make it a little difficult to enjoy but its all part of the overall experience.  The Piazza Navona was much more relaxing, and the lunch at the outdoor cafe was spot on.  The other thing to Rome is the water fountains throughout the city too, day and night free running water, and when it’s incredibly hot out the ice cold water is just perfect.  I know that all of the water is the same but I can testify that the best water fountain in Rome is behind the Popes Palace looking down over the Roman Forum.  The forum and Coliseum are two other hot spots when visiting Rome, I do recommend getting your tickets for both at the forum booth, there is less of a line and it helps getting into the Coliseum much faster because with your ticket you by pass the long lines at the ticket booth.     

While walking through the museums it was interesting to be presented with a cross section of cultures, from ancient Roman, Greek.  These periods seem to have a lot of common themes, but for me I really was enamored with the idea of the traveler/explorer.  Early on in my trip this figure or character started to emerge from my sketchbook so by the end of my vacation the traveler/explorer became fleshed out and has been "walking" through the majority of the pieces I have created since my return.   

The bookstores in Rome ended up causing me the most damage because every bookstore ended up having books on my wish list.  Good thing my book bag can handle a heavy amount of weight because I ended up filling a suitcase full of books. 

My camera came in handy almost everywhere I went.  A few of the museums did not allow photography which is always a mixed thing, but I ended up taking over two thousand photos on the trip.  Being a realist I would say that maybe a few dozen are worth sharing (a handful are shown here in this update) the majority are references, and then there are a few I took because it was something personal that I wanted to remember.  

The nights in Rome were perfect, with a warm breeze, and the lit up monuments which seem to be painted with a beautiful orange color which I have been trying to match since my return.  I will say the best dinners were on the river which was next to the Castel Sant’Angelo.  They set up a large outdoor dinner and dance situation down on the river bank.  This was nice because typically in the evenings you could take in some live music, grab a bite to eat and just relax as the evening grew late.    The food in Rome is one of those topics where I could say its fantastic, but I am a fan of Italian food to begin with so its an easy blanketing statement to make, however I can say that what makes the food stand out for me, is the perfect combination of atmosphere and the fresh or homemade ingredients.  The atmosphere doesn't have to mean you are sitting in a 4 star restaurant overlooking the Pantheon (which is another architectural marvel), but its being able to sit at an outdoor cafe looking at either a fountain, or a church that was build hundreds of years ago, and just people watching.  I must admit I love sitting in a city and listening to the language, with a lot of my trips to foreign cities its been a real treat to be able to listen to a few dozen languages and though I don't know what they are speaking about there is something there for me that really adds another layer of atmosphere.  Oh and for those who love Carbonara, Rome is the city.

In closing about Rome I find myself thinking of a few things I will miss but one of the funniest things I will miss is Italian dubbed original Star Trek episodes, only because hearing Bones or Spock say “Il Captain Kirk" will always seem funny to me. 

But this was only the first half of my vacation.

Prague was such a nice way to end this vacation.  I took a chance to visit an old high school friend who now currently teaches English to Prague Students so the city and the culture were really introduced by my friend and her social circle.  It was a nice experience to be able to be on vacation and catch up with old friends.  And to take a back seat and very much go with the flow, Prague the city itself was full of Nouveau influence from Alphonse Mucha who I had always been a fan of but after visiting his museum in the downtown part of the city I can say I am an official fan.  I did pick up a few books and postcards of his work, and while in the museum I spend a good while studying his sketches, really mind blowing stuff.   

Prague was a beautiful city full of beautiful sculptures and architecture.  More Eastern European Cities have a different feel and vibe then Western European cities.  I was very fortunate to be able to see that and be able to infuse the two sources of inspiration into my work.  I did take advantage of not having as full of an agenda while in Prague, vacations should be about relaxing so most of my time was spend strolling through the city people watching, sketching, taking photos and just soaking in the over all vibe of the city.  As I said in the beginning Prague allowed me to start to pull together all of the ideas that Rome initially sparked and as I came home I had a handful of solid sketches for paintings.  For me that's what my trips are all about, exploring and creating. 

What more could I ask for. 

CARL