Mystery solved, faith restored

For 12 years we have been coming to Verona to work and to play.  This trip is for my husband who is working on a research grant, but it is also for me as I need fresh photography to work on for some upcoming shows.

We were in such a harried state getting ready for the trip that (of course) we forgot a few things.  Nothing really major except two items; my camera charging cable AND my camera battery charger.  I did get here with three fully charged batteries, but one day on the street and one is already exhausted.  There used to be an electronics store (think Best Buy) where I could easily purchase such things, but it is gone!  A victim of brick and mortar retail losses.

After pondering for a bit I remembered that I have an Amazon.it account and it honors my prime membership.  Whew!  I found a compatible battery charger and ordered it with one day shipping- even better than at home!

Yesterday I waited around until after 3 pm, no delivery.  We needed to run some errands, so I left a note in bad Italian for the Amazon delivery person.  When we returned a few hours later, no package.  I checked the tracking report and it said the package had been delivered and left with the receptionist behind the door.  Well…..  this building doesn’t have a receptionist.  In fact the door buzzers are not even numbered.  I scouted around a bit, even asking at the restaurant next door (they now think I’m crazy).  I put notes (again in bad Italian) in each post box.  No package.

Fast forward to this afternoon.  After lunch the door buzzer sounds and our upstairs neighbor asks if my package has shown up.  I tell her no and we try in a mix of Italian and english to discuss the problem.  She goes upstairs to a different neighbor and they both come down to my floor to talk about it some more.  By now I have the tracking email pulled up on my phone and they read it.  Both are puzzled about the receptionist but one of them suddenly snaps her fingers and beckons me down to the entryway.  There is a huge old wooden door that remains open all the time.  She pushes it forward and pulls out a small package!  She says “behind the door”!  She also shows me a steel utility door in the same place that is full of wires and junk and says also to check there.

I am so happy that they helped me and it certainly underscores what I have long known about the Italian people- they will go a long way to help you do anything.  Within an hour the upstairs neighbor is back at the door offering to take me tomorrow to the big grocery store in her car.  She is so earnest in her offer that I am tempted to accept.  The only problem is we don’t need anything having spent the last two days hitting all the little markets around the flat to get the supplies we need.  I may go anyway just to keep her company (which may be the real reason for the invitation).

Long story short- I love it here and I love the people.  Mystery solved, faith restored.

**  Here is an update to this story.  Yesterday evening our neighbor upstairs (the one who helped me find my package) rang our bell to ask up to come for pizza tonight.  She then showed me the attached article.  Long story short, she was the model in 1964 for the statue of Juliette in the city center.  In 2013 it was discovered that after so many “rubs for luck) the right breast of Juliette had worn through the bronze creating two holes.  Signora Tosi apparently led the efforts to have it restored and with the help of the internet, succeeded.  She says in one of the quotes that she had no idea when she posed that so many people would “touch her”.  It is considered luck in love to rub the right breast of the statue.

(If you read Italian better than I do and see something different in this article, feel free to correct me in the comments).

Suffice it to say I feel thrilled to have met this woman and to have had her help as well as an invitation to take a meal.

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Getting to Italy- the hard way…

From Jacksonville, FL to Verona, Italy is never an uncomplicated trip.  There are no direct flights for most of the steps involved so planning is of the utmost importance when we make the trip, which we do several times a year.  This time was no exception.  We had made reservations to fly from Jax to Dallas to London to Rome to Verona.  Three separate record locators and three airlines.  Here’s how it all played out:

We arrived at the airport in Jacksonville, got our coffee and egg sandwiches and awaited boarding.  Just as everyone was queuing up to board the flight was cancelled.  A flight attendant on the incoming flight had been taken seriously sick on board and they had no replacement for her.  They also didn’t want to use the plane until they knew what she had.  They took her away in a stretcher and thanked us for our patience as we all worked to get re-booked.

We managed to get a flight out of Jax through Charlotte that would get us to Dallas in time for the London leg of the trip.  We boarded the flight, taxied out to the runway and sat there delayed almost an hour due to the navigation system needing a reboot.  We were thanked profusely for our patience.

Arriving Charlotte we had to run to our gate to board on time for Dallas.  This time we were held at the gate by air traffic control due to the number of planes on the runways, and of course thanked for our patience.  As we finally taxied out we were again stopped by the need to reboot the navigation system.  Thanked yet again for our patience.  And given a free snack.

What started out as a leisurely 4 hour lay over in Dallas slipped away to a 30 minute stop over where we had to ride the train halfway around the airport to change terminals.  We arrived at our gate and boarded on time.  The scheduled departure time came and went with an announcement that one of the rear toilets needed maintenance and all they were waiting for was a log signature. Thank you for your patience.  Another 30 minutes later we were told that a coffee maker was leaking somehow to the outside of the plane and as it might freeze on the plane in flight it had to be replaced.  Guess what they thanked us for?  Yep, our patience.

Arriving Heathrow the next morning we hoped for a better day of travel.  This flight was to Rome and we had a long layover again there before heading to Verona later in the day.  We were pleasantly surprised to get on the plane, leave and arrive on time.  We also had a relatively easy time getting through passport control on arrival in Rome.   We headed to the airport Hilton where I had mistakenly booked us for the next night.  A whole lot of euros later that we had not planned to spend and we had a room to get about 4 hours sleep.

Up early for our final leg to Verona.  A new day and only a one hour flight left to go.  Everything went fine at check in up until we got on the bus to go to the plane.  the bus was full of people and it sat there and sat there while all around us busses came and went from other gates.  Eventually several passengers started yelling in Italian with one of them funding on the glass separating us from the driver.  It was a little tense for a minute or two as other passengers tried to calm the men down only to erupt in arguments.  Finally the gate agent came down to explain that they could not take us to the plane as the catering was late.  She motioned us off the bus and up the tunnel back to the terminal.  The only problem was the door to the terminal was locked.  We were in the middle of the pack and we could not go forward or backward.  We stood in the tunnel with a lot of very angry passengers for another 20 minutes before they allowed us to board.  For a one hour flight?  At least we did not have to hear someone thank us for our patience.

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As far as redeeming moments during this 48 hour + journey?  A beautiful sunrise over London, my flight attendants shoes, a passengers handbag.  It’s the little things that restore joy in trying circumstances.

Gallery Show!! A First.

I have to admit, I’m pretty proud of myself!  I’ll have my first ever Gallery Show from November 1 through February 17.

It has been a lot of work and investment getting ready, but it’s almost time and I’m excited.  I wish I was going to be here for the soft opening, but I am very much looking forward to the “Grand Opening” evening on November 29th.  I have even arranged for a photographer and formal invitations.  Whew.

If you are in Jacksonville for the holidays, please pop in to see it.  info here

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Zagreb, a Tale of Two Cities

Our first trip here was in 2001 in the summer. My husband had just completed a Fulbright Scholarship in Poland and we can for vacation before going home. We visited Dubrovnik and it was magical. The Serbo-Croatian war had just ended. We saw very little of the damage in Dubrovnik but the capital city of Zagreb was hit pretty hard. We found the people we met to be optimistic, friendly and fun loving.

On the way back we spent several awful hours in the Zagreb airport. It was old, dirty and not air conditioned. There was one cafe. There was no where to walk to and we had a long layover in 100+ heat. Armed military police were everywhere.

Arriving here last weekend we saw marked changes to the airport. That same cafe is still there (!) but it’s clean and air conditioned, serves food and has an outdoor seating area. There are a few shops now, and the Duty Free section is huge and just as overwhelming as the biggest airports in Europe.

We found a taxi; after some back and forth between two drivers because the one that was supposed to take us really wanted to take the two pretty young girls who were next in line.  We ended up being dropped at the same location as those girls: a funky youth hostel close to our B&B. I guess it’s the place most people stay in this part of town if they are foreign. A few blocks walk later we were in our place” for the next 8 days. Very modern inside, socialist architecture outside. A lovely garden behind with three resident cats. Perfect!

Day two we took a walk up to the Uni where my husband would be teaching. We are in a nice residential area with some free standing homes and a lot more socialist style apartment blocks. Roses are everywhere. The wisteria is done and only a few Peonies are out but the roses are spectacular.

You can see in some of these photos, lingering mortar shell damage to the outside of the buildings from the war.

The people we have met so far in this neighborhood have been nice enough; some greet us with suspicion, others friendly and helpful. What is missing though (only my opinion from limited contact) is the sense of new beginnings and optimism I felt 16 years ago. My husband says his students are very disheartened about their future here and many young people are leaving for better jobs and quality of life elsewhere in the EU.

A few days later I made into the center at last. Here I found the sameness I have come to expect in large cities everywhere. Shopping malls, trendy cafes and bars, high end shopping, etc. All within yards of gothic, baroque and modern or prewar architecture. There are two levels to the old town; upper and lower towns divided by a decades old farmers and flower market. The Dolac Market is divided into parts; upper town has the vegetables and fruit, lower town has the flower stalls and the central plaza has an open area for different craft stalls and special events.  My first visit there was an art market for learning challenged young people.  I picked out a few lovely drawings from these young folks pictured here.  They were pretty excited that I am from Florida.  “Hot! Hot!” they said.

On my way into the Upper Town museums I wandered into Zagrebs “Art Park”.  Known for it’s murals and other graffiti art.  They were evidently preparing for a new installation.  The next day I went back and these were all been painted over to prepare for new work.  Talk about the nick of time!

 

My last two stops of the day were museums.  The Museum of Broken Relationships and the Naive Museum.  Both fascinating in their simplicity and approach to their topic.

The Naive Museum art was starkly beautiful, disturbing and calming all in one.  A wonderful exhibit.

The next day took me to the Croatian National Arts and Crafts Museum.  So many interesting exhibits.  My two favorites were the 60’s exhibit and the Art Deco room.

All in all I’m glad we went to Zagreb again.  I met some interesting people, saw a lot of really fascinating art exhibits and took a ton of photos.  Look for more of them to be coming up in the online shop!

Usually I don’t like pigeons

Visiting Rotterdam in the Netherlands where the street art installations are abundant and compelling, I stopped to photograph a very interesting piece of sculpture near the Centraal Station.  As I was checking angles and looking for in interesting shot, I noticed a pigeon playing hide and seek with me.  Then I see several flying in and out of what must be a nesting place.  I don’t usually have the patience for wildlife photos but on this day I enjoyed hanging out with this little family.

An Old Public School

Saturday I had the opportunity to volunteer on clean up duty at an old abandoned school in my neighborhood; Annie Lytle Public School #4.  It’s been in a sad and slow downward spiral for close to 40 years.  The Annie Lytle Preservation Group has been working hard to try to save the school.  It’s an incredible piece of Jacksonville history, established in 1917- the structure is still relatively sound and has some beautiful architectural assets to offer.  As I walked around with the group of volunteers on a tour before we began working, I was astounded by the beauty that remains.