Back in the garden

98984FC1-2C0B-420E-96CB-63FD80CBB6AAI was only away for a week, but the change in the garden was remarkable. The last couple of days have been very sunny, and I swear the hosta shoots were noticeably longer yesterday evening than they had been in the morning. The rocket seeds I planted before I went away have sprouted, and the peas and potatoes are showing through. I’ve spent several hours on my knees weeding, trimming and generally reacquainting myself with the world outside the window. There cannot be a more beautiful way of heralding the end of winter than blossom on fruit trees.

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Back in Cologne


Back in Cologne again. My itinerary (put together by me) allowed time for an early dinner in the Funkhaus.

Brussels tonight.

How spoiled I am. There is a boy of about 12 taking responsibility – linguistically and probably practically – for a bemused-looking man I assume is his father. The ticket inspector has just told them that they should not be in first class. Not surprisingly, the boy didn’t have the worldly knowledge to realise this when they boarded, so they have now headed towards second class. The linguistic helplessness of the man has made the child into the responsible person and increased the man’s passivity.

It may eventually prove to be character-forming for the child, but it looks character-deforming for his father.


I see that there is a direct train from Hamburg to Interlaken. Goodness, that must be quite a journey!

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Basel Minster


The roof tiles are not as colourful or as gleaming as I remember them . . . but I was glad of the walk there to check.

I guess anything would look dull after the Ravenna mosaics.

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En route to Basel

Just past Domodossola now


and then comes the Thuner See


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Santo Stefano complex and San Domenico

94C1A80D-EF2F-4A55-8503-DAF508F74994Santo Stefano was an appealing little area with four churches, some dating to the eighth century. There was a slightly makeshift air to the older building – rather like Greek village churches where any bit for dressed or carved stone is re-used.

San Domenico is enormous – a much altered early Gothic church containing the saint’s relics in a grand arca, partly by Nicola Pisano. The interior is mostly boring baroque, apart from 16th-century choir stalls whose intricate intarsia work I found impressive rather than beautiful. There was also – somewhere inside, I really couldn’t remember where – St Dominic by Guido Reni. Very Mannerist.


And that was the end of Bologna. A crowded Sunday-evening train . . . and it was Milan again.

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Palazzo Poggi and Bologna University


Palazzo Poggi, Sala d’Ulisse, Pellegrino Tibaldi

BAE1A613-5773-469D-9E8D-E163606D4574Palazzo Poggi is a 16th-century palazzo which has been used for centuries by the University of Bologna. The outcome is that you have elegant frescoes in rooms that once housed filing cabinets and now contain a very diverse museum. The most bizarre juxtaposition is that of anatomically correct wax models of dissected bodies (for medical instruction) in a richly decorative room. A couple of rooms still have their Renaissance ceilings . . . AND frescoes below.



Artist Nicolo dell’Abate

5F5A6F4A-7F23-43A5-86AC-69F1CBE39836There is also a natural history section with some eye-catching exhibits. I know that giant tortoises exist, but it’s still a thrill to see the shell of one. I imagine the collection methods of the time were bloody and profligate, but I also think of the sense of wonder (and covetousness) that the sight of them must have produced in their first viewers.

Beyond San Petronio is another university building – the Archiginnasio – containing the reconstructed dissecting room (damaged in WWII). Every surface is covered with the names and coats of arms of past graduates, which is quite overwhelming.


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Sant’Apollinare in Classe (consecrated 549)


9C2B8F0C-F289-4D5E-9C02-142C99355B14St Apollinaris was a first-century evangelist, sent from Antioch to convert the Romans to Christianity, who became the first Bishop of Ravenna. His remains were originally in this church when Classis was a thriving port. Today the sea is some miles distant, and this big church and later campanile rest amongst pines. St Apollinaris’ bones were moved down the road to Ravenna in the church that bears his name. Unlike Nuovo, this church has kept its basilica intact – central nave, side aisles and apse – with a pitched wooden roof and rafters visible. The marble on the interior walls was stripped long ago.


4FAEBAE1-F6A9-4194-9255-6D2209852BCDThe mosaic in the apse is beautiful, and its depiction of St Apollinaris and his flock looks very childlike and unsophisticated after Galla Placidia’s mausoleum: everything is arranged fairly symmetrically against a grass-green background with no overlapping figures. The figure of Christ is bearded and shown blessing the congregation/flock.

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