[A note of sorts: While I originally planned on making this one unbearably long entry, it was becoming unbearably long, thus I'm splitting it into two parts. I'm also getting sleepy because it's almost 2 AM. And it shows in this entry's writing. Dammit.]
The time had come.
...To go to Florence.
...And look at old stuff.
Oh, we also ate stuff. I'll try to get through the non-food stuff rather quickly, which should be easy since my knowledge of history is somewhere in the range of "you suck" and "How the hell did you graduate high school?" I'm hoping that photos will be semi-sufficient.
Morten, Kåre and I naturally made our first stop at the famed CRAZY-ASS DUOMO (not the real name, just my creation). So tall. So grand. So painstakingly detailed. So...uniquely green and pink, mildly reminding me of a watermelon. How long did it take to build this thing? 170 years? I guess it was worth the wait. Too bad all the people who worked on it on the beginning were decaying in the ground by the time it was even halfway done.
The inside was surprisingly just a tiny fraction as ornate as the outside. Daniel pointed out that all the statues and ornaments that had once lived inside had been moved to the accompanying museum, hence the lack of fancy stuff inside the Duomo. The floor was rather fancy though. Lots of circles. Roundness. ...Yep. (How obvious is it that I've never taken an art history or architecture class or anything remotely related to those two? Sigh.)
Don't forget about the huge-ass painting on the ceiling depicting The Last Judgment. I could appreciate the beauty from far away, but upon close inspection it was rather creepy. More on that later.
There were shadows inside the Duomo. Not holy shadows, just your run of the mill obstruction of light.
The clock on the wall, it did nothing.
After we left the Duomo, we came across an interesting sign in a nearby small open space. "IT IS PROHIBITED TO: LIE DOWN, CAMP OR BEHAVE IN A INDECENT WAY." Okay. Vague, but I guess that covers just about everything.
On the way to the Uffizi Gallery we passed the Piazza della Signoria where there were lots of tourists taking photos of lots of statues. And yes, I was one of those tourists, but I just took this one photo. Didn't make any gratuitous Asian peace signs next to Hercules or a giant lion. I found it crazy that some of these statues were originals, just sitting out there, in the open. I guess if anything bad happened they would be moved somewhere else.
As we passed the Uffizi Gallery, aka "that museum in Florence that everyone goes to because it's full of really famous stuff," we were perplexed to find its surrounding area strangely empty. How could this be?
...Well, it's closed on Monday, that's how. Oh shit. Don't go to Florence on a Monday.
We decided to check out the Ponte Vecchio since it was a major landmark that wasn't closed. I mean, it's a bridge; I think it has to stay open.
It looked quite cute and charming from afar with its squodgy uneven buildings squeezed against one another in a cartoonish fashion, but when we actually got there we found out it was just a bunch of jewelry shops. Or rather, I found out it was just a bunch of jewelry shops; Morten and Kåre probably knew already. Why jewelry shops? Daniel jumped in again to say, "according to one theory, because the jewelers once got banned from the city and also for tax exemption purposes. So they set up shop on the only place left: The bridge of ponte vecchio."
And this is where you can find shops with names like "THE GOLDEN RIVER," which for some reason makes me think of pee. God, what's wrong with my brain? (Don't answer that—I know better than anyone else what's wrong with my brain.)
After all that walking and sweating and failure to increase our cultural awareness by breathing in museum fumes, we decided we may as well feed ourselves. Not that we knew where such feeding would take place.
So we stumbled into the...Lady Bar. Lady Bar? We had no idea where the name came from. They had pizza. That's what mattered.
Their pizza selection was sold by the kilogram and contained all kiiiinds of beautiful toppings (well, meats and shrooms and vegetables and the like, much more appealing than what I could get at home). The woman behind the counter would take your slice, let it get semi-toasty and melty in the open oven type thing (which hopefully has a better name than that) and neatly cut it into two pieces before weighing it.
Kåre and I had our eyes set on the same pizza topped with raw tomatoes, chunks of mozzarella, arugula and loose corn kernels. The combination of the colors and raw stuffs looked very pretty, even if the corn was a little out of place. Oh, and it tasted good. Just take the awesomeness of mozzarella and tomato but add a soft, chewy slab of bread to it. Glorious carbs.
Since Morten was somewhat hungrier than we were, he ordered two slices of pizza, one laden with mushrooms, the other topped with capers and mozzarella.
Without much reason to step back into the outside world where it was hot and tourist-filled, we spent a pretty long time hanging out in our booth (hippest place ever) doing god knows what. Sitting. Talking. Acting silly. Those tend to be our top three activities, replacing "sitting" with "walking" in the appropriate situation.
But we couldn't sit forever. Because we had to climb...
...THIS GODDAMN (actually, it was probably not damned by God being a cathedral and all, but let's not get too technical here) THING OF MASSIVE VERTICAL PROPORTIONS, OH SWEET JESUS.
Yeah, we walked up those 463 painful steps to the roof of the Duomo, a journey that was far more muscle failure-inducing than walking up to San Luca in addition to being mightily uncomfortable since the stairwell up to the roof was not designed with transporting hoards of tourists in mind. It was quite narrow and steep at times. Don't get me wrong—it was really cool to walk through what felt like the dark, dusty artery of an amazing historical structure whose engineering I would never be able to understand, but that kind of thing is difficult to appreciate when all that runs through you mind is, "OH MY GAWD, HOW MANY MORE STEPS? THE LUNGS DEMAND ANSWERS. AND THE LEGS."
The un-athletically challenged Morten was, as usual, somewhere far in the distance. And Kåre, as usual, took pity on my disabled-slug-like pace and lagged behind, perhaps giving me a hug whenever I looked like I was on the verge of keeling over and in need of some kind of spiritual boost.
At one point closer to the end of the climb we walked behind some not very aesthetically plastic barriers on a narrow platform along the inner rim of the painted dome. And that's when I saw the lovely depiction of the devil or some other ugly thing torturing lots of naked people. I guess they didn't deserve God's sweet sweet lovin'. Or clothing. Sucks for them. That's the kind of painting that would give me nightmares and cold sweats if I had to see it every day.
After escaping the vision of people getting things stuck up their butts or other orifices I'd rather not think about, the passage became narrower. The oxygen level dropped. I felt faint. Oh boy, we were almost there! We pressed our bodies against the wall as tourists descending from the roof passed us by "It's not much father!" they assured us.
We were finally rewarded with sunlight. Sweet sweet sunlight. And clear, fresh air. And a beautiful view overlooking the red rooftops of Florence. In the end the view is always worth the climb.
I was surprised by how many people ended up fitting on the roof. It didn't feel very big to me, but it wasn't crowded despite that we were walking behind a gajillion people. Or less. Probably less. Most of the columns were mildly defaced by messages scrawled on by tourists, 30% of which seemed to be in Korean (although I'm sure every major language was represented somewhere on those columns). Supposedly there's a huge fine for such vandalism, but I don't think it's a highly monitored area. (Not that I recommend writing "BOB WUZ HERE" or anything.)
In need of some rest, we plopped our bums in front of a section of the barrier that ran around the edge of the roof. Did more of the sitting/talking/acting silly thing. Or maybe I was the one acting silly, as I tend to do.
Morten didn't appreciate being photography. Fine, I SEE HOW IT IS. YOU CAN TAKE A PHOTO OF ROBYN WITH A GIANT BASKET ON HER HEAD but when I wanna take a photo of Morten sitting he's all like, "Talk to the hand."
Sadly, we couldn't sit on our asses all day. At least not on the roof of the Duomo; surely I could sit all day in the right situation. My butt can mold to any chair.
The entrance back into the Duomo was also the exit from the Duomo onto the roof, basically a weeny hole where people constantly came up and down. People were mostly coming up. I think we had to just be like, "OH MY GOD, LET US THROUGH" to halt the onslaught of people—otherwise we would've been stuck there forever.
The trip back down was much better than the one going up. Gravity was on our side, for one thing. Unburdened by a burning sensation in my legs and lungs, my brain was able to form thoughts about the passageway. "Was there a time when people have to walk through this every day? Damn, that job must've sucked ass." (I didn't claim to have eloquent thoughts. Just...thoughts.)
We had to walk along the dome again. In the photo you can see the lower passage used on the way up.
And here's Kåre and Morten...and part of the nightmare-inducing section of the painting.
We stumbled back out into the sunlight, but on the ground. Yay! We accomplished something! And burned some calories!
We stumbled some more. Like past the Basilica of Santa Croce, which we didn't go into.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? YOU'LL HAVE TO STAY TUNED FOR PART DEUX! ZOMG.