One Day Out of Ten in Rome

Exploring a city, or part of it is always a challenge.

I find that when I am arriving in a new place it always surrounded by curiosity , discomfort and excitement.

Waiting outside the apartment

Rome was no different. We had decided that we would get a taxi to our lodgings as it didn’t seem to be much different in the cost to trains and buses.

Our taxi driver was another best find as he loved to talk about His Rome, pointing out the particular structures of significance as he drove us to our spot. He did say that we were staying in a great area with easy access to the best of Rome.

Dario, the owner coming to greet

We left him with his directions of where to walk to to get to our lodgings and 5 minutes later as we stood outside the door of number 14 Vicolo delle Grotte, Sam realised that he had left his hat in the taxi! Oh well, an excuse to buy a new one!!! Then around the corner runs the taxi driver with Sam’s hat. We couldn’t believe the generosity of that man to do this for us. He didn’t stop. Just took off again before we could do anything. No contact. We hadn’t even got a receipt for the ride so we couldn’t do anything to thank him. The owner  of the apartment we are staying in said that he had never herd anything like this before in his WHOLE life!!

Now for ‘one’ day.

Apricots were delicious, and the strawberries to die for!

We had booked a restaurant on the recommendation of Bryan Fitzgerald to have lunch. It was 5kms away and an hour’s interesting walk. Except that when we checked it again this morning it seemed as though I had got the spelling wrong (surprised!) He had told us ‘Scilla e Carridi’ and I had booked ‘Scilla e Cariddi’ After a long half hour research it appears that the restaurant has changed its name when it changed location. So after all I wasn’t wrong!!!! And it now does lunches which under its other name it didn’t .

Buying bread at Roscioli
Bread bought from Roscioli bakery. Ready for toasting to eat with fresh tomatoes from the market

We were out early this morning as we wanted to get our breakfast supplies for tomorrow. A visit to the market brought an interesting discussion with a fruitier. I was picking up kiwi fruit and asked where it came from. New Zealand. I put it down saying that it was too many food kilometers. He did have some Italian ones which we bought. From my comment he suggested that there was a rivalry between Australia and New Zealand as there is between the European countries. He said that everyone; England, France, Germany all hate Italy because of the mafia!

On to the bread shop. We had seen this place yesterday but it was closed. Today we were able to buy some delicious bread from ‘Roscioli’  a bakery since 1872.

Off on our walk to the restaurant. It was a little like ‘Rosie’s Walk’

Our apartment block

Down the alleys, across the busy road, past the Pantheon, past the Trevi Fountain with its million viewers. (you can understand why, it is so spectacular). Across another busy road. Up and along another street, past the U.S Embassy with all its security, past a mixed architecture that doesn’t work visually, along beautiful tree lined streets with the oldest trams running, past the gallery of decorative arts and on to find the restaurant.

Trevi Fountain
Interesting add on that doesn’t work for me

Another downstairs experience.

We have arrived. An interesting 2 hour walk to get here Scilla Cariddi

There was no one else there when we arrived but it quickly filled with workmates enjoying 10 euro eat what you can.

Interior of Scilla e Cariddi. Note the water on the end. Flavoured with cucumber Quite common here

We were not offered a menu, nor a wine list. Food and wine were brought to us. We decided to go with the flow. Let it happen. Sometimes language can be a deterrent. This time it was not! We ate octopus in a lovely tomato sauce, followed by pasta with beans and mussels in a fish stock,  then prawns with orange and pistachio followed by mixed pastries. All so delicious and if we had been given a menu we would probably not have chosen the same!

The waitress brought us a prosecco to finish the meal and some for herself to toast with.

A gorgeous looking park that we walked around the perimeter of to get into but it was all locked up!
Seeing this tram made me wish I had taken pics. of trams in all the cities that we have traveled in this time

On our walk back to our place we called into the gallery that we had seen on the way. Another treat. This gallery originally was the house of the Swedish Ambassador.

Now it is the Decorative arts Museum. Quite tiny compared to others and I would call it a House Museum. We were the only visitors

Wallpaper in one of the rooms in the house museum of Decorative Arts
Wallpaper in one of the rooms in the house museum of Decorative Arts

No entry fee and the most wonderful tapestries, wall papered rooms as well as having beautiful costumes and collection of millinery pieces.

Olga Modigliani ‘Vase with fish and shell fish.
Olga Modigliani pottery in Decorative Art Museum

We made a special connection in one room which housed some huge wall paintings of  Galileo Chini who had been commissioned to provide these to  support  Ivan Mestrovic  (whose sculptures we loved in Croatia last year.)in the Venice Biennale’s Hall of Honour in 1914.

Galileo Chini “Spring” (detail) in the Decorative Arts Museum

On to the apartment and rest.

A delightful day exploring another side of Rome.

Coming ‘home’

From Riga, Latvia to Vilnius, Lithuania

Park in Riga

It isn’t often that we chose to take a tour but this time it seemed like the right way to go and it was.

We had investigated  traveling by bus (which we did from Tallinn to Riga) or train, which seemed like there would have to be too many changes.

Swinging the pack ready to go to Vilnuis

This way we had read that we could get to see some towns and sights on the way and be in a small group in a small bus.

There were 6 others and the driver.

Typical pine forest. These go for miles

We had the front seats. Our journey took 12 hours and we had 5 stops.

The first stop left me feeling quite uncomfortable and in a very pensive mode.

The Holocaust memorial in Salaspils Latvia.

You walk under this structure into the memorial space
Inside the memorial at Salaspils memorial. At the other end of this narrow walkway are stories of the inmates. All in very dark surrounds
Inside the memorial. In a darkened space you could bring up images of people and interviews. These were the children who were killed there
Trying to get the broad view


Statues representing motherhood, the infamous, protest, red front and solidarity

This memorial was built by the Russians in 1967 stating that it was commemorating victims of Nazism. It covers 25 hectares

From 1941 – 1944   20,200 people found them selves here. Because of the harsh conditions, the treatment and punishment  2,000 – 3,000. A lot of these were children.

At first the camp was built using Jewish labour from Germany. Because of the conditions, most of those people died. Then it was used as transit and labour camp, mostly for non jewish prisoners.

The entry to the area  is a large oblong structure which you walk under to view the huge statues in the field. The writing on it translates as “Beyond this gate the earth is crying”

Once you have climbed inside this ‘bridge’ turn right and you see  the dark side which shows videos and stories of those that were interred there. Turn left and at the other end it is light with a viewing tower showing the ‘way forward’ the light.

Walking towards the Holocaust memorial in Salaspils Latvia

Outside a long granite slab carries with it the metronome sound of a heart beat. This can be heard all over the grounds. Almost bringing the place ‘alive’ (ironically)

A large marble ‘tombstone’ which had the constant sound of a heartbeat which you could hear all over the memorial site

Then you look out to the statues which are enormous and very soviet style.

Surrounding this site is a forest. So it is rather like a scar on the landscape.

On then we went to ‘the magestic Rundale Palace’

Rundale palace
Looking towards Rundale palace
From the steps of Rundale palace

An interesting history turned the original old medieval castle into the palace in the first half of the 18th century.

During the French invasion of Russia (1812) it was used as a hospital for Napoleon’s army .

Again it was used as a hospital for the German army during WWI.

Rundale Palace Gardens plan 1735
Detail of windows. Some have been painted as a replica.

In the 20s and 30s it was a school.In. fact parts of it was still a school in 1978

Row of trees at Rundale Palace

Part of it was used for grain storage after WWII.

It is said that over 8 million euros have been spent on the restoration and is now used as  accommodation for dignitaries as well as a tourist destination!

Certainly beautiful grounds and feel.

Gardens of Rundale palace

We were interested to note that all the steps are wooden along with the balustrades etc. But that is to be expected in this very wooded country of Latvia.

The next stop was the ‘Hill of Crosses pilgrimage site’

Marching towards the hill of the crosses
A bemused Sam at the Hill of the Crosses
A bored christ at the Hill of the crosses

We are now in Lithuania.

The scenery has been green fields all the way. The odd band of fir and birch trees but then just wide open fields of newly planted crops.

This hill started having crosses put on it in the 1800s.

Detail Hill of Crosses. The use of symbols of the cross is religious as we know but the pagan symbols are there as well. Star for the sun
crosses piled high

There is a belief that by putting a cross here will bring and strengthen faith.

Pope John Paul visited here in 1993 giving it even more credibility

It was interesting to read that during the soviet time it was banned but people found that they had one place to place something anonymously.

There is a monastery is near by and used by pilgrims for solace.

I’m a bit skeptical about it all but after reading that during the soviet times the hill was bulldozed, flooded and guarded by the KGB and soldiers. Yet the crosses continued which was suggested the strength of the Lithuanians  to hold true to themselves.

There are lots of pagan symbols as well hanging there. The sun the moon. Lithuania was a pagan country. It is credited as the last European  country  to declare christianity!

Hill of Crosses. In the middle of nowhere. Buses come each day bringing pilgrims and tourists to place a cross or other objects to ensure wellness, happiness, and whatever you want

We then called into the small towns of Trakai – now very much a place for water sports. It is known for the number of different ethnic backgrounds of its inhabitants including one group the Karaites who are considered Jewish but they wouldn’t agree. In fact they were given ‘non jewish’ status from the German authorities during the holocaust. They have really interesting houses as well.

Houses in a street were known by colour not number
Typical house structure in Trakai. These are a built by a particular non Jewish sect that has the same beliefs and follow the Torah but say they are not Jews. One room for parents one for family one for children and a false one upstairs
14th century castle. Always fun to visit!

We also walked around the castle.

And Kaunas

Wall art in Kaunas. First capital of Lithuania
Sam is right for life now. Having drunk the waters. Love the sculpture.

the second largest city in Lithuania. It is a vibrant town with its own castle and seemingly great fun activities happening all the time.

The buildings are gothic in style and it was a great little stroll we had around the place. one to come back to I think!!

Statue in Kaunas village square

Pope Francis is going there in October!

Maybe it looks like the leaning tower of Pisa. It is the Cathedral of Vilnius

So there we are. We arrived on time at 9 pm. Still light to walk to our accommodation in a soviet build apartment block. Dark concrete steps up to the 2nd floor but the interior is bright and light. These buildings all back on to big courtyards and play areas which is perfect for families.

After 3 days here in Vilnius we head to Warsaw by overnight bus, leaving at 9pm  arriving at sunrise 4.14. am.









Art Nouveau in Riga Latvia

Riga is truly a beautiful city. There is a green belt between different built up areas. Some of these have waterways.


I don’t think we have been in a cleaner city this trip. Nor have we been in one that seems as calm.

Not sure what it is that gives this impression but it certainly felt like it. In the parks people were gently wandering, pushing prams, sunbathing, driving small toy cars and seemingly just enjoying the spaces.

National Romanticism

But the most interesting area that I want to share is the architecture. I was gobsmacked at the beauty of the Art Nouveau buildings that seem to fill up a lot of the city. In fact there are over 800 of them. Every corner we turned there was another.

Perpendicular Art Nouveau

Eclectically Decorative Art Nouveau

Eclectically Decorative Art Nouveau

Women the most common feature
Female sphinx

These buildings came about because of the boom times of the early 20th century. They were build under strict guidelines of not higher than 6 storeys and to be practical. This was the time for the invention of heating systems through the buildings along with flushing toilets.

Wooden building restored
Art Museum detail
National Romantism.

Prior to this buildings were wooden. There are still plenty of these and they have their own special quality.

National Romanticism

As we wandered I wondered why these buildings were in as good a condition as they are considering the times – the German period and then the Russians from 1945 on until 1991.

Eclectically Decorative art on building
Eclectically Decorative Art Nouveau

It seems that they had other priorities and these buildings while being made part of the state became housing for multiple families within each apartment.

Alberta St.
Eclectically Decorative Art Nouvau
View from the steeple of the Cathedral

They did become derelict and in very poor condition but they stayed. After this period, previous owners could reacquire them and  the government along with the assistance of the European Union as well as UNESCO has slowly been returning them to their former glory.

Along the street

We were staying in an area quite near to the main streets where they are but as we wandered further afield we saw more and more.

We had a really interesting time in the Art Nouveau museum where the rooms on the second floor have been set up in the period style with a collection of items that might have been there.

Art Nouveau Museum

I haven’t done this place justice with my photography skills, and I do still have a sore neck from looking up.

If you are ever this way or are planning your next journey, you should include Riga, Latvia. It is a special place. Then again all of the Baltic states are. Each so different, yet the same.

Telliskivi – Tallinn

Today we walked around the area of Tallinn known as Kalamaja. (translates as ‘fish house’ in English). It is an area that once house fishermen and pilots as well as cheap housing for factory workers built by the soviets.


In 1991 the factories were abandoned and left to ruin. But just as areas elsewhere artists and alternative living people moved in to the abandoned housing, it starts to become gentrified and the area becomes trendy!

We saw this in Germany in Berlin. We have seen it in Melbourne, in New York (Williamsburg)

We wondered about the height of where the snow drifts would get to

The houses here are wooden and the new modern versions are the same. I really wouldn’t call them houses they are apartment blocks of no more than 4 stories.

When we got to the ex railway locomotive plant it was a true cacophony of factory buildings along side converted containers and railway carriages.

Railway carriages used to house cafes
Converted container as a coffee shop. Has been clad with wood.
In the grounds

Signposting was interesting as well. Trees and outdoor seating of lots of ways to use packing crates was fascinating.

One use of packing crates
Note the wheels
crates used for seating
Great use of the crates
Two more uses of the crates
The entrance
Artist at work

A building similar to Castlemaine’s old hospital had been converted into designer shops on the ground floor with offices above.

A row of Russian clothes for sale in one shed

It has a flea market there which looked like it has been there forever. It reminded us of the Russian flea market in Beijing which we visited in 1996. This area also had its own  cafe where the the furniture was out of the 50s and middle aged men in their fluorescent vests drank coffee and played chess

Looking down onto the vegetable and fruit market
fruit section of the upmarket market

In another area and quite the opposite to factory area there was  an  upmarket undercover market selling everything from fish to honey as well as fruit and veggies.

Above that was an ‘antique’ market similar in style to Daylesford’s


We enjoyed a delicious lunch at F Hoone which was the first restaurant to be established there in 2010. Interesting that there is no extra signage inviting you in but it was chockers!

Window F Hoone
Kids area F Hoone
I loved the way that these seats could be arranged
Sam chatting up the waitress
The bar at F Hoone
Outside F Hoone where we enjoyed a delicious lunch

There are 11 buildings that have been ‘renovated’ and they continue to work on this.

We saw a great exhibition of photographs telling of some of the people who have lived in the area.

External gallery with the photo exhibition of Annika Metsla ‘Kalamaja in the Air’
‘Juss the little Inventor”
Mait and Ivo. When bullets were shot in Kalamaja Air
The Last Basement Shop in Kalamaja
The gallery

In the Telliskivi  information it states that they began the project in 2007, now there are 250 companies involved in some way through their presence  including architects and design firms.  They hold 600 cultural events a year. We are missing out on the food truck festival as well as the film festival which are happening in June. Read all about it here

In some ways it reminds me of the Mill in Castlemaine.  This one here is on such a bigger scale.  I was in a shop this afternoon talking with the owner and mentioned that we had spent much of the day wandering in that area. She was polite but thought them ‘Bohemians’ So the area is not liked by all.

Looking into the streets with housing
On the wall map
Designer walk
Edge of the whole complex


In the bakery with the delicious cinnamon scrolls made on the premises

On our wander there we found a gorgeous little bakery where we had coffee and a cinnamon  scroll baked on the premises. We needed to go downstairs into the shop. So delicious that on our way home we bought another for tomorrow’s breakfast (if i can keep it out of Sam’s hands before that!)

Wall art