The main style of building in Riga is Art Nouveau. There are more buildings in this style in Riga than anywhere in the world, making Riga a major destination for aficionados of the style. Here are some excellent examples of what you can see here. I’ll be posting more of both exteriors and interiors. Often these buildings occupy an entire street, making it even more impressive. We saw interiors at the Rich Art Nouveau Museum.
Herculaneum (Ercolano in Italian) is an archaeological site on the Italian coast a bit south of Rome. The town, inhabited since the 6th century BCE, was destroyed in 79 CE, by the same eruption of Vesuvius that destroyed Pompeii. Herculaneum was buried in pyroclastic rock and ash – 15- 20 meters/65 feet – and was struck by extremely high temperatures, killing all the remaining residents instantly. As a result the site offers a far greater insight into the life and death of the residents of populations destroyed by the eruption than Pompeii, and because of its greater state of preservation, is a more interesting place to visit.
Where in Pompeii there were no skeletons, just the area hollowed out in the ash by the skeleton (filled in with plaster of Paris), in Herculaneum they found some 300 intact skeletons. Analysis showed us their occupation, health, diet – we can even distinguish those who ate meat from those who did not. Some had lead poisoning, perhaps from lead pipes Romans sometimes used.
These individuals died from exposure to intense heat, in the range of 500C, close 1,000F. They were in structures built to protect inhabitants from falling debris, as the area was highly prone to earthquakes. Those in the shelter were women and children. Just outside the arched shelters on the beach – which as a result of the eruption is now some 400 meters/yards further west – they found the skeletons of a few men. A boat was nearby, so they were planning an escape.
The archaeologists found food intact, e.g. olives and flour, as well as furniture and fabrics. The relatively light weight of the fallout meant that roofs remain intact, as do other wooden elements such as doors, lintels and trim. They found wooden furniture, sculptures and frescoes with bright colors.
After an overnight in Dusseldorf, we flew in a prop jet into the small airpport in Graz, Austria. It’s a tiny airport, and but a 10 minute walk to train station. Before long we were exiting the system and taking the wrong exit, so we added a kilometer to our walk. We missed a turn and added a bit more, but then we got to the door.
Graz is 200 km southwest of Vienna, just about an hour by train. It is the second largest city in Austria and home to six universities with 44,000 students. The University of Gray is the city’s oldest. It was founded in 1585 under Archduke Karl II. There are over 30,000 students in it alone. The entire city is a World Heritage Site (1999). Slovenia is its nearest neighbor (to the south); Hungary is not far to the east. Graz is home to just 310,000 residents.
Graz was settled as far back as 5000 BC, likely for two reasons. First is the Mur River, which flows swiftly this time of year. This facilitated transportation and commerce. Second, there is a large and steep hill just off the river, not 5 minutes from our place, which made for an excellent natural fortification, which has never been breached.
Hitler visited in 1938 and was welcomed and the Jewish community subsequently destroyed. In 2000, on the anniversary of the the Kristalnacht pogroms the city presented the Jewish community with a new synagogue to replace they one destroyed. Some 15% of the city was destroyed by Allied bombing, but the Old Town was largely spared. Graz surrendered to Soviet troops at the end of WWII.
The city has dozens of museums. We bought a pass that allows entrance to 12 of them for 30 euros. So far we have just visited the Modern Art museum, largely given over to an incomprehensible installation. However there were some genuine works or art as well.
We’ve had a few snacks and light meals thus far. Soup. It’s June and the people are eating hot soup! With temperature in the low 20’s c (under 72f) the days are cool and the nights a bit on the chilly side, quite the contrast with Valencia, from where we just came, and where summer temperatures can hit 40C.
Here are views of Graz from the top of Schlossberg Castle.