Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Papa in Skopje, North Macedonia: May 7, 2019

In the prior days, there has been all manner of scurrying around to hide scars and give the city a facelift for Pope Francis' visit. Buses and billboards covered with a Pope Francis graphic advertised his impending visit. Foreign Nationals and Macedonians could apply for tickets to be within the barricaded sections closer to the pope. When I checked the website, it was already too late for Foreign Nationals to apply for tickets.

Less than 1% of the population of North Macedonia are Catholic.

Some of the partially constructed buildings crowding Macedonia Square were draped with white fabrics. Even the fountain under the Warrior Who Cannot be Named was uncovered and cleaned.

To gain a flat space for guest seating, the Dancing Fountain was removed and large steel panels were installed in its place. Rows of necessary portable toilets were set up around the square's perimeter.

 Almost everyday it has rained in Skopje, and the day before the visit was no exception.

Finally, the barricades were all in place around the city streets, the square and also along the pedestrian street to Mother Teresa's Memorial House and all the way to the City Museum.

On the big day, I woke to the sound of a couple of police radios just outside our apartment. At 6:00 in the morning, police officers were already stationed in our neighborhood and roads were blocked to traffic. Dan and I walked to Macedonia Square arriving around 9am. Persons holding tickets were already lined up to clear security. With no tickets, Dan and I found a couple of seats inside London-Trend Restaurant. London-Trend is right on the square and our seats allowed us to see the stage and the square in warm comfort while sipping hot chocolate.

Waiting for Papa (Macedonian for Pope) 
Pope Francis appears
Prior to leading mass at the square, Pope Francis had a meeting with church and government officials at the nearby Government Building. Next he visited Mother Teresa's Memorial House and met with ticketed spectators. And, at last, he stepped into the open "golf cart" and was motored up the Pedestrian Street to Macedonia Square. London-Trend Restaurant turned their TVs to local stations covering the event so even though we were quite far from the stage, we could watch the event unfold.

Back at our apartment, I continued to watch TV for Pope Francis' movement throughout the city. Just before 1:00 pm it looked like he was about to arrive at the nearby Roman Catholic Church, I grabbed my camera and joined the crowds around the traffic circle in front of the church.

Last minute tidying up
Napping outside the medical tent
Around 1:45 pm I heard a policeman tell a woman with a child that nothing would happen until about 3:00. Actually, I have no idea what he said but I heard "three" in Macedonian. They left and I left. Back again at 3:20 there were more people, but no Pope.

After all that waiting and expecting the Pope to enter the front of the church, his motorcade of VW vehicles entered the traffic circle and continued straight onto a side street to enter at the back of the church.

3:36 pm Pope Francis arrives
Pope Francis and his motorcade arrived at 3:36 pm. I could see him in his car only because he was wearing white robes. Frozen to the bone, I walked back to our apartment. When Dan came home from work, we walked back to the traffic circle.

Free-range dogs taking advantage of no cars around the traffic circle
Since the Pope sat on the right side of the car on the way in, we stationed ourselves so we would have a better view on his way out.

5:42 pm, Pope Francis's motorcade departs 
The Pope Wave
It was cold and windy all day, but we saw the Papal wave at close range. It was a big day for us and a big day for North Macedonia.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Gaudi, Gaudi, Gaudi - Barcelona, Spain: April 29, 2019

Gaudi Crypt/Church at Colonia Güell
Yesterday was election day in Catalonia and today there is a metro strike. We planned to take the metro to a train line but walked the distance to the train line instead. Colonia Güell is about 7.5 miles out of Barcelona. Mr. Güell commissioned Gaudi to design a church for the village he built around his textile factory. The village was populated by his textile workers.

The church was originally designed to have two naves but somewhere along the line after the ground floor nave/crypt was constructed, the second floor nave was nixed. Gaudi left the job and the church was consecrated in its "as is" condition. The literature states that it was here that Gaudi experimented with and proved many of the techniques used in later commissions.

Four massive rough-hewn, basalt columns support the structure. The moveable pews were also designed by Gaudi.

The Entrance Door Mosaic with symbols of Faith, Hope, and Charity

So many Gaudi buildings and so little time. We did manage to attend a ballet by Ballet de l'Opera de Lyon at the magnificent Liceu Opera House. We also just walked and walked exploring as much of Barcelona as we could.

La Boqueria is a market for the mouth. Iberian Ham is king here but there are also cheeses, seafoods, prepared foods, fresh vegetables and fruits, candies, and restaurant bars for sangria and wine.

Barcelona Bull Arena now a shopping mall 
Catalonia National Museum of Art

Barcelona Basilica
We truly enjoyed our short three days in Barcelona, and look forward to returning again--maybe in 2026.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Gaudi, Gaudi, Gaudi - Barcelona, Spain: April 28, 2019

Palau Güell (built between 1886 and 1890) designed by Gaudi for industrialist Eusebi Güell was our next stop. The sculptures shown here are rooftop chimneys for the many stoves within the palace.

Here are some of details from the palace interior that most caught my eye.

The palace basement included stalls for the family's horses and a couple of unicorn iron rings for tie ups. The palace entrance was large enough so that the horse carriage could pull in and allow family members to climb stone steps to enter the carriage unseen by the public

In the afternoon, we stepped back in time to visit Casa Vincens which was Gaudi's "first house". Gaudi was commissioned by stockbroker named Vincens to design a summer home. The home had residents until 2014. It took a few years to restore it and one year ago it opened as a museum. When originally built the house was surrounded by a large garden and Gaudi's designed the interior to bring the outside inside. Now the garden is mostly gone and the house is surrounded by other structures.

"Fan Palm" fencing 
Trompe l'oeil ceiling murals

Not yet finished for the day, we visited Gaudi's Casa Mila (built 1906-1912). At the time, Casa Mila was derogatorily labeled La Pedrera (meaning Stone Quarry). It is indeed an unusual building, and not everyone shared Gaudi's vision. It was commissioned by the Mila family to be both their residence and also as an apartment building. Rich people who couldn't buy their own single family home, rented apartments here. Each apartment had rooms for hired help. Gaudi designed the apartments so that natural light was available in all rooms. He once again pulled his inspiration for form from nature.

Model of La Pedrera

The tour of La Pedrera began with the rooftop terrace populated by roof guardians that look like something out of Star Wars.

The larger shapes allow access to the rooftop from the attic. One of the corner rooftop sculptures has an arch that frames and highlights the distant La Familia Sagrada. The smaller shapes are the roof guardians.

A model and discussion of Gaudi's design and use of the paraboloid shape. First, he sketched out the floor plan on a piece of board and turned the board upside down.  Second, using chains of different lengths, he attached both ends of the chains to the suspended board. Third, he viewed the upside down suspended structure in a mirror.

The tour continued through a typical apartments on the fourth floor with period appropriate furnishings.

More Gaudi tomorrow, our last day.