Friday, February 12, 2010

February 13, 2010: Stimulated to the Max

Saturday, February 13, 2010 (Dieter). Tanked with a full breakfast we headed to the other side of the Arno River, across the famous Ponte Vecchio which had a separate enclosed walkway for the Spanish princess to walk between the palace and the art gallery so she would be protected from the plague and also from the common folk who did not like her. On the other side of the Arno River, we visited the Galileo observatory and discovered amazing telescopes and the zodiac chronous time line in the floor of the observatory with a tiny hole in the ceiling for allowing sunlight (similar to one of the Roman cathedrals). As the light hits the floor, it depicts the hour, day and month. Below the observatory we found exhibits capturing over 300,000 animal species from around the world collected more than 200 years ago (one stuffed gorilla was older than Canada). Fascinating to see stuffed and/or dried species that are extinct today, including sharks with long tails, dodo birds, and various other species (no pictures were allowed). We are also amazed to see many of the species that we have seen in our travels behind glass, from the albatross to the various penguins (New Zealand), beluga whale (Churchill), dolphins, sharks and coral (Australia), various bird species and mammals (Paraguay). What was truly amazing was the collection of anatomical dissections of the human created with wax, horsehair and colours to replicate the intricate details of the human in various cross-sections and in various enlargements. More astounding is that most of these were created in the early 1800 for the purposes of understanding the human body for medical and artistic professions, as cadavers were still viewed as impure by the Catholic Church. Very creative wax artists who displayed their artwork in humourous manners. Many of the full-body wax sculptures lay on beds of silk and propped up on pillows with golden tassels. The female wax figures had long hair and interesting gesturing of the hands whereas the male wax figures were in positions demonstrating boredom or strength. Entering the reproductive section of the museum with our children resulted in interesting teachable moments. One of the ceilings in the museum celebrated Galileo’s life and scientific discoveries, with painting and a statue attributed to his work. Following the visual stimulation of the wax museum, we walked past many shops. One in particular caught our attention, not visually, but ‘olfactorally’. We noticed tiny holes lining the bottom of a perfumery shop window that was blowing strong sweat aroma of what smelled like fresh cotton candy. A former monastery, the original monks were known to make wonderful perfumes from various oils like lavender flower, herbal essences like myrrh, and alcohol. The children received a lesson in the making of perfumes. Original perfumes such as Santa Maria Navella were made only for the queen of Italy in the early 1800’s. Other popular perfumes included the Angels of Florence (for women) and sagebrush (for men) and many other aromas. On the way back, we had another look at the tower, checked our bearings, and found the secret to where Florence hides all their parked cars. Close to home, we enjoyed a Kabob – satisfying both to our tastes and our pocket book. Over stimulated visually, taste, and aromatically, we returned to our hotel, ready for some relaxation and recharging of our senses.

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