Wednesday, August 29, 2018

LIVE! From the 75th Venice Film Festival - Waiting for the Stars

Waiting for the Stars at the Venice Film Festival - Photo: Cat Bauer
(Venice, Italy) There is an embargo until 8:30 tonight against writing anything about Damien Chazelle's world premiere "First Man" starring Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon. However, I don't think I'll be giving anything away to reveal that when a journalist asked Gosling if he thought the moon walk was America's greatest moment, Gosling replied, "I'm Canadian." 

I wandered around and took some shots of the crowd waiting outside the red carpet, even though no stars were scheduled to appear for hours, and it was hot. I wondered, who are these people, anyway, and how long have they been here? I found three girls with front row seats, sitting with their backs against the white barrier separating the public from the red carpet. They had written their names there to reserve their spaces, though they were not in their proper places when I spoke to them.

Elena, Ale & Silvia - waiting for the stars
Elena, Alessandra (Ale) and Silvia had been parked outside the barrier since 5:00 A.M. They were waiting for Ryan Gosling and Damien Chazelle, who would not appear until about 14 hours later. 

Elena is 21-years-old and is from Mestre, the town right outside Venice. Ale, 27, is from Florence, and came up by train. Silvia is 18, and from Padua.

It turned out that this is a yearly reunion, and the girls have been on red carpet-duty for five years now. In fact, they met five years ago waiting outside the red carpet. I said, "Wait a second. Silvia, that means you were 13-years-old. How did you get here?" That's when it was revealed that in addition to her home in Padua, Silvia's family also has a house on the Lido.

Ale, the oldest, had her first red carpet adventure at the 66th Venice Film Festival in 2009, which I remember very well -- it was the year that Sam Maoz's "Lebanon" won the Golden Lion, and George Clooney starred in "The Men Who Stare at Goats." So, Ale was only 18-years-old herself when she began her red carpet brigade. The girls are strategically positioned, experienced and congenial -- real red-carpet pros.

I asked them if they would wait for Lady Gaga on Friday, and Elena and Ale said no. They said they thought that Lady Gaga was a great performer, and respected her talent, but they weren't big fans. Silvia, since she had her house on Lido, would wait, but was more interested in Bradley Cooper (as were they all) who directed and stars with Gaga in "A Star is Born."

Other young people drifted by and said hello -- it was a festive atmosphere, sort of like a weekend outdoor concert where the attendees stake out their space, and then come and go, counting on the community to keep an eye on their stuff, which included backpacks, umbrellas to block the sun and ladders to get a better shot. 

Guillermo del Toro Venice Film Festival
Hours later, I watched the red carpet arrivals on the screen inside the press room, and it seemed that the girls got autographs and/or and selfies of Guillermo del Toro, the president of the jury, but not of  their heartthrob Ryan Gosling, who was told too soon that time was up. The fans loudly protested, and Gosling broke free of his handlers for a few more fast autographs, but was quickly escorted back to his place with the rest of the cast. Damien Chazelle, who was there with his wife, Olivia Hamilton, did not sign autographs at all. 

"First Man" - Jason Clarke, Olivia Hamilton, Damien Chazelle, Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy
At least the girls got some prime red carpet images for their Instagrams...

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat Bauer

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Equilibrio: LINDA KARSHAN - "Art, Architecture and Sacred Geometry in Conversation" at the Abbey of San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice

From Equilibrio by Linda Karshan - Choir of San Giorgio Maggiore - Photo Cat Bauer
(Venice, Italy) If you title an exhibition, Equilibrio, with a subtitle of Art, Architecture and Sacred Geometry in Conversation, and the venue is the Benedictine Church of San Giorgio Maggiore, designed by Palladio, you will be sure to catch my attention. It was not what I expected.

American artist Linda Karshan says that she is "after the most perfect line," and that she feels like the Vitruvian Man. The artist will be 71-years-old next month, but has the looks and energy of someone 20 years younger.

There is a famous story about the great artist Giotto. Back in the 13th century, Pope Boniface VIII wanted to embellish Saint Peter's Basilica, so he sent out a messenger whose mission it was to find the best painter in Italy, and bring back samples of their work. When the messenger got to Giotto, the artist balanced himself, and positioning his arm liken a compass, drew the perfect circle with one stroke, using red paint. He got the job.  

Linda Karshan sort of works like that, except she is interested in lines. She is left-handed, but uses her right hand to draw lines, after raising her left leg and balancing on the point of her pencil. Unlike Giotto, there are no circles on display, nor human figures lurking behind the line.

Linda Karshan at work
Equilibrio is the product of the artist and three diverse curators, a spiritual collaboration born from art, religion and culture. Linda, who is Jewish, was born in Minnesota, lives in London, and has a house with a pond in Connecticut. She was educated at Skidmore College, the Sorbonne, the Slade School of Art, and has a Masters in Humanistic Psychology from Antioch Centre for British Studies. Richard Davey, who wrote the essays, has a PhD in Theology and Contemporary Art, and is the Anglican Chaplain at Nottingham Trent University. Elisabetta Bresciani studied art history, archaeology and philosophy at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, the University of Vienna and the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Brescia, and is a cultural anthropologist. Carmelo Grasso graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts of Brera, Milan and is the director of the non-profit Benedicti Claustra Onlus organization of the Abbey of San Giorgio Maggiore, which preserves and promotes their treasures.

From Equilbrio by Linda Karshan - Photo: Cat Bauer

Linda Karshan states: "Due to the enduring power, and allure of Euclidian forms as embodied in my work, Elisabetta Bresciani and the Rev. Dr. Richard Davey conceived of this exhibition and the city in which it should take place, developing it into the project it has become. Dr. Carmelo Grasso and the Abbot Norbert Villa then took up and shared their vision and have deemed my art worthy of the sacred space of San Giorgio Maggiore Abbey. I am immensely grateful to them all."

Geometric tiles - San Giorgio Maggiore & the Venice lagoon - Photo: Cat Bauer

From the text by Richard Davey:

"When the American artist Linda Karshan first stepped off the water bus at San Giorgio Maggiore, walked across the geometric tiles of the sagrato and into the spacious interior of  Andrea Palladio's Basilica, she immediately felt at home. The ubiquitous presence of water was deeply familiar to Karshan, who had grown up in Minnesota, the 'Land of 10,000 Lakes,' and still swims regularly in the natural pond at her Connecticut home. What she recognised in Venetian art and architecture was the same diaphanous and playful quality of light and sense of continuous movement she had known since her youth. But it wasn't just the proximity of water that struck a chord. Everywhere she looked she also found examples of sacred geometry: in floor tiles, woodwork, stonework and the Abbey's illuminated manuscripts. Here were the same Euclidean angles and patterns that have defined her work since the mid 1990s, the familiar play between two and three dimensions, form and formlessness that take us from the realms of the physical into the metaphysical. 

Equilibrio: Linda Karshan -- Art, Architecture and Sacred Geometry in Conversation celebrates these resonances. It brings together works from different centuries and created in very different circumstances to make connections that will help us discover the qualities of a distinctively Venetian sacred geometry: The Venetian 'disegno' that underlies Venetian 'colore.'"

Tintoretto's Last Supper & High Altar - Photo: Cat Bauer
The Equilibrio exhibition and its accompanying text weave a story between the ancient sacred geometric elements of the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore and the contemporary work of Linda Karshan -- the church itself is part of the exhibition with its geometric tiles, woodwork, stonework and Tintoretto's Last Supper incorporated into the text. One of the Abbey's monumental illumined choir books commissioned at the turn of the 15th century is on display, an 'Antiphonal' call and response that Davey relates to Karshan's method of working. The exhibition includes a short film, Movements and their Images, by Candida Richardson showing the artist at work, which should be watched in its entirety before viewing the drawings. To fully appreciate the aim of the exhibition, an illustrated book with text by the curators is available for purchase from the Abbey or Beam Editions.

Antiphonal Choir Book - Photo: Cat Bauer

Richard Davey writes:

"We can look for signs of geometric perfection in the stones of Venice, but more often what we discover is what we find in Karshan's drawings: angles that look right, lines measured by breath and measurements made by rule of thumb. We see wobbles, slips and deviations; moments of unsteady balance and bold gestures of great assurance. We see unevenness and irregularity, things off centre and not quite true, adapted to the seam of the stone of the level of the land rather than the angle of the set-square. For this is a sacred geometry that is not defined by a divine ideal or an adherence to Minimalist anonymity, but made by a human being teetering on the water's edge, standing upright whilst constantly adjusting their balance; their presence revealed on the page, declaring -- the artist's hand was here."

Linda Karshan - Photo: Cat Bauer
Equilibrio: Linda Karshan -- Art, Architecture and Sacred Geometry in Conversation  at the Abbazia di San Giorgio Maggiore runs from August 26 to October 7, 2018.

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat Bauer
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Venice Insider Tip: How to "Skip the Line" on Ferragosto and the Feast of the Assumption

Pala d'Oro - Photo: Cat Bauer (taken with permission)
(Venice, Italy) There is usually a long, winding line of hundreds of tourists waiting to get into the Basilica of San Marco in Piazza San Marco. The wait -- about 45 minutes -- is much longer than the visit -- about ten minutes (as part of a shuffling horde) if you don't pay to "skip the line," or pay for a guide.

However, early in the mornings and in the evenings, and half the day on Sunday, the front doors are shut and the tourists are barred from entering -- and St. Mark's Basilica transforms back into one of the most magnificent places of worship on the planet.

Attending Vespers, or Evening Song, on August 15th, the high holy day of the Feast of the Assumption, is an opportunity to experience the divine feminine nature of Venice. It is the day that the Virgin Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven, and has been captured by some of the world's most celebrated artists -- the most famous being Titian's Assumption masterpiece in the Frari.

Tintoretto's Assumption is in the Scuola Grande di San Rocco. Veronese's Assumption of the Virgin is in the Accademia. The divine female is brought to life in music by the compositions of Monteverdi and Vivaldi.

The celebration of the event has long had a special significance in Venice, and it is fascinating to think that the Venetian culture, despite its reputation for being Sin City, was also capable of elevating femininity to something sacred.

Line outside Baslica di San Marco - Photo: Cat Bauer
When I arrived at the Basilica, there was only one other worshiper inside -- a nun dressed in white. I listened to the organ chords booming off the walls while gazing upon the Pala d'Oro. A gentle breeze blew throughout the immense, empty church; the evening sun illumined the golden mosaics. The nun and I were eventually joined by a handful of other worshipers. The entire congregation consisted of about ten people.

Madonna Nicopeia - Photo: Cat Bauer
The ceremony is utterly beautiful, with hymns and incense, and a procession that ends in front of one of Venice's most sacred icons, and my person favorite, the Madonna Nicopeia. It is a way to experience the Basilica of San Marco with genuine reverence for the beauty of the structure, and to gain a deeper understanding of the soul of Venice.

That the Feast of the Assumption falls on the same day as the pagan holiday Ferragosto, introduced by the Roman Emperor Augustus in 18 AD to celebrate the goddess Diana, and to give his citizens a bit of a vacation, is something to ponder.

I write about this pagan-sacred holiday nearly every year. Here is an early one, from 2008, ten years ago:

Mary Ascends to Heaven and Pala D'Oro, The Golden Cloth - Venice

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat Bauer
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Sunday, August 12, 2018

From Venice to Athens and Back - A Journey to the Foundation of Western Civilization

The Parthenon in Athens - Photo by Cat Bauer
The Parthenon in Athens - Photo: Cat Bauer
(Venice, Italy) Venice blew the roof off the Parthenon on September 26, 1687 when it was a mosque, complete with minaret, and under the rule of the Ottoman Turks. A cannonball hit the Parthenon during the Morean War in what the Venetian general Francesco Morosoni called a "fortunate shot," which ignited the gunpowder that the Ottomans had stored there. But that is only one chapter in the long history of the Parthenon, a staggering structure that I recently had the opportunity to see with my own eyes when I visited Athens, the cradle of Western civilization and the birthplace of democracy. 

It has taken me some time to process the huge amount of knowledge that I acquired during my short trip. My birthday was on July 27, which also happened to be the evening of the Blood Moon Total Eclipse, the longest lunar eclipse of the century, and I wanted to witness the event in a spectacular venue.

Apollo & Hera in Athens with Blood Moon - Photo by Aris Messinis-AFP-Getty Images via The Guardian
The Parthenon on top of the Acropolis dominates the city of Athens, an imposing sight that is a constant reminder of the great civilization that inspired much of Western culture, and a testament to human ingenuity. Athens is one of the world's oldest cities, with a recorded history that dates back around 3,400 years -- a time-span that's a little difficult to condense into one blog post.

The Acropolis is an ancient citadel built on top of a steep, rocky hill. On the way to the top you walk past lessons from history books come to life. The walk inspires deep contemplation about how we have arrived at the chaotic state the world is in today. Walking through antiquity makes living in Venice seem like living in an adolescent city; it makes growing up in the United States feel like crawling out of the cradle.

World's first theatre - The Theatre of Dionysus - site used as a theatre since 6th century BC
I enjoyed looking at Athens from the point of view of a traveler whose place of residence -- Venice -- is a town overwhelmed by tourists. The tourists in Athens seemed of a different breed. Why go to Athens in the middle of a sweltering summer instead of the beach or the mountains? Tourists go to Athens to visit ancient sites, to go to the museums -- to acquire knowledge.

Athena, the goddess of wisdom, warfare and handicrafts, won a contest against Poseidon to have the city named after her. She was the protector of the city and of heroes. Athena was born straight from Zeus's forehead, complete with armor, and is associated with divine intelligence.

Varvakeion Athena (200-250AD)
Roman replica of Athena Parthenos by Phidias
National Archeological Museum of Athens
Even after living in Venice for twenty years, I am not really sure why hordes of tourists come here -- to witness a city whose streets are made of water? Some people say that because Venice has no basements, it has no subconscious. I don't think that's true. The subconscious in Venice is the lagoon, brimming with joy and sadness, rich with memories of a great republic that ultimately failed. Venice sits atop a forest of millions of petrified trees that were driven into the clay underneath the islands. During acqua alta, or high water, the lagoon floods the calli and the campi, and turns Piazza San Marco into a shallow lake. The lagoon, the subconscious, seeps into the walls of the buildings. It is in the mist. The water molecules float through the air and mingle with the elements. The lagoon is in the food, in the fish and vegetables. Unlike a city like, say, Manhattan, which is built on solid bedrock, Venice is built on trees trapped in mud that have turned to stone.

Aphrodite, Pan and Eros (c. 100BC)
Aphrodite tries to fend off the goat-footed Pan, aided by Eros
Athens Archeological Museum - Photo: Cat Bauer
The Roman goddess Venus is a magical version of the Greek goddess Aphrodite, who was born from sea foam produced by the testicles of Uranus after his son, Cronus, severed them and threw them into the sea. Venus was the goddess of love, sex, desire, beauty, fertility, victory and prosperity. If Venice had a goddess, it would be Venus -- though that is not official. The difference between Athens and Venice feels like the difference between Athena and Venus. Maybe tourists come to Venice because her beauty seeps into the system whether you are conscious of it or not.

Temple of Olympian Zeus seen from the Acropolis
When you arrive at the top of the Acropolis and look onto the city of Athens, you can see other ancient structures down below. One structure is the Temple of Olympian Zeus. Before Athens created democracy, it was ruled by the Athenian tyrants, who started building the enormous temple in 520 BC to create the greatest temple in the world. However, the work was abandoned when the tyrants were overthrown, and Athenian democracy wobbled to its feet. It would not be completed until 638 years later, when the Roman emperor Hadrian, a big fan of Greece, finished the job, complete with Hadrian's Arch.

Temple of Olympian Zeus with Acropolis in the background
With Mycaneans, Archaic Greeks, Classic Greeks, Hellenic Greeks, Romans from Rome, Romans from Byzantium, Orthodox Christians, Latin Christians and more all traipsing around Athens over the centuries, together with their labyrinth of cults and different ways of worship, along with Persian invaders, Spartan invaders, Alexander the Great, Ottoman Turks, etc., destroying and rebuilding temples, stealing artifacts, changing pagans into Christians and Christians into Muslims, etc., it is difficult to sort everything out, and scholars are still attempting to make sense of it to this very day. 

The Acroplis hovers over Athens - Photo: Cat Bauer
The Acropolis contains the ruins of ancient structures, so majestic that it is difficult to comprehend how humanity could accomplish such feats so long ago. The four most important structures erected during Athen's golden age (mid-late 5th century BC) when it was the cultural center of the world are:

1. The Parthenon, a temple to the goddess Athena
2. The Propylaea, the monumental entrance to the Acropolis
3. The Temple of Athena Nike or "Athena Victory"
4. The Erechtheion, the most sacred temple, dedicated to both Athena and Poseidon

The first fortification wall around the Acropolis was built about 3,300 years ago, in the 13th century BC during the Mycenaean civilization and the late Bronze Age. 

The Parthenon - Photo: Cat Bauer
The Athenians started building the Parthenon in 447 BC as a temple to the goddess Athena to replace a previous temple to Athena, destroyed by the Persian invasion in 480 BC.  In 454 BC, it became the treasury for the Delian League, an association of 150-330 Greek city-states led by Athens, which morphed into the Athenian Empire under the leadership of the statesman and general Pericles, "the first citizen of Athens." A colossus of gold and ivory ordered up by Pericles and created by the great sculptor Phidias called Athena Parthenos, or "Athena the Virgin," once stood center stage.

During all this new construction, prominent thinkers were centered in Athens. Socrates was a young man of around 23-years-old when the building of the Parthenon began; he grew up under the new democracy, led by Pericles. Socrates watched the Delian League morph into the Athenian Empire when the treasury was moved from the Delos to Athens in 454 BC and placed inside the magnificent Parthenon. Pericles would use the funds of the alliance to enhance the Acropolis. After he died of the plague in 429 BC, the Delian league, led by Athens, would be defeated by the Peloponnese League, led by Sparta, during the Peloponnese War (431-404BC).

Temple of Athena Nike - Photo: Cat Bauer
The Oracle of Delphi had proclaimed that Socrates was the wisest man who lived in Athens. When Socrates heard this, he set out to prove that it was false. He was known as a gadfly who would go around asking questions that annoyed just about everybody -- especially those in authority -- until he arrived at the conclusion that he was, indeed, the wisest man in Athens because he was the only one who admitted that he didn't know anything.

Socrates had a huge fan club of Athenian youth, one of whom was Plato, one of the greatest philosophers the world has ever known. Plato recorded the method that Socrates used to impart knowledge, which has come down to us as the Socratic Method. Instead of lecturing his students, Socrates would ask questions, sparking critical dialogue, and encouraging students to use independent thought to arrive at conclusions. Socrates was eventually put on trial for refusing to recognize the gods of the state and for corrupting the youth. The majority ruled 280 to 220 that he was guilty, and in one of the most famous death sentences of all history, he drank a cup of hemlock and became a martyr for free speech.

I was reminded of how critical the big three philosophers -- Socrates, Plato and Aristotle -- were of democracy, Athen's new form of government. Something we seem to forget is that the Founders of the United States of America never intended to create a direct democracy, but a republic, with checks and balances. The word "democracy" never appears in the Declaration of Independence, nor in the Constitution. For Aristotle, democracy was a perverted form of a polity.

The Propylaea - Photo: Cat Bauer
Some of the most important people on the planet lived in Athens around the same time: Hippocrates (c.460-c.370BC), the "Father of Medicine;" the dramatists Aeschylus (c.525-c.456BC), Aristophanes (c.446-c.386BC), Euripides (c.480-c.406BC), and Sophocles (c.496-406BC); and the philosophers Socrates (c.470-399BC), Plato (c.428-348BC), and Aristotle (384-322BC), as well as other individuals who would impact history for centuries after their deaths.

Aristophanes wrote a comedic play called, "The Clouds," featuring a character named Socrates who ran a school called "The Thinkery," which lampooned the current intellectual fashions. "The Clouds" was first performed in 423BC in the Theatre of Dionysus (have another look at the photo, above). This, we must remember, was just about 2,500 years ago. It really puts into perspective how audacious we are to think we have arrived at anything new under the sun.

Plato was the student of Socrates, the teacher of Aristotle and the creator of the original Academy, from which all subsequent academies get their name. Aristotle was the student of Plato, the teacher of Alexander the Great and the creator of The Lyceum. Alexander the Great would go on to conquer the Persian Empire and much of the rest of the world, such as Anatolia, Syria, Phoenicia, Judea, Gaza, Egypt, Mesopotamia and Bactria, as well as extending the boundaries of his own empire as far as Punjab, India. Even though he was a conqueror, because of the influence of Aristotle, Alexander the Great spread the Athenian culture throughout his empire.
The Erechtheion - Photo: Cat Bauer

The Parthenon would remain a temple to Athena for more than 800 years, even after the Roman conquest in 88BC. 

It is important to remember that Jesus Christ came on the scene in about 4 BC - 30/33 AD, and flipped the world on its head.

After the Roman Empire moved to Constantinople, and then after the pagan Romans astonishingly made Christianity the state religion (February 27, 380 AD) and converted en mass to Christianity (if you can't beat 'em, join 'em), the Byzantine Emperor Theodosius I outlawed all forms of pagan worship, and the Parthenon was consecrated as the Orthodox Cathedral of Hagia Sophia, or Holy Wisdom. In 662 it was rededicated as Panagia Atheniotissa, the Church of the Virgin Mary of Athens.

From 1204-1311, during the Fourth Crusade and the Frankish occupation of the De la Roche dukes, the Parthenon became a Catholic Church, St. Mary's of Athens, then Church of Notre Dame (Our Mother). In 1460, the Ottoman Turks turned the Parthenon Church into a mosque, and the Erechtheion -- the holiest temple -- into a residence for the Turkish commander's harem. And then, along came the Venetians in 1687, and blew it up. (That is a very simplified version; the reality was much more complex and extensive.)

However, none of these traumas had the impact that the British would have on the Parthenon. Today, on a informational sign explaining the ongoing restoration of the Parthenon, it says: 

"The most severe damage was caused in 1801-1802, when the Scotch ambassador of England to Constantinople Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin, removed the greatest part of the sculptures that also comprised structural members of the temple. By bribing the Turkish garrison of the Acropolis and employing teams of the Italian artist G.B Lusieri, Elgin removed and transported to England 19 pedimental sculptures, 15 metopes and the reliefs of 56 sawn blocks of the frieze, today exhibited in the British Museum in London."

Of all the Greeks I spoke to, this theft by the Earl of Elgin haunts them the most, and they want the artifacts back -- especially because the sparkling new internationally renowned Acropolis Museum, at the foot of the Acropolis itself, was designed to hold all the treasures of the Acropolis -- in fact, I went to the museum before I hiked up to the Acropolis. After looking at the British Museum website, it seems they feel justified to keep them: The Parthenon Sculptures.  

The Greeks have been asking for the marbles to be returned since 1832, after they won their independence from the Ottomans. The controversy over the Elgin Marbles continues to this day. In June, the Greek prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, on his first state visit to the United Kingdom again asked the British prime minister, Theresa May, to return the treasures of the Acropolis.

Bronze statue of Zeus or Poseidon (c.460BC)
National Archaeological Museum of Athens
Photo: Cat Bauer

That is just a snippet of the things I learned and the treasures I saw in the short time I was in Athens. I also visited more ruins, Greek and Roman, and the National Archaeological Museum --  learning about the Mycanean civilization was astonishing; the sheer beauty and volume of artifacts was overwhelming. The temporary exhibitions The Countless Aspects of Beauty until spring 2019 and Hadrian and Athens: Conversing with an Ideal World until the end of the year were first-rate and thought-provoking.

I strolled through the National Gardens, and visited the Benaki Museum, where a violent afternoon lightning storm crackled across the heavens, and made me understand why Zeus was a god. I spent hours inside the Byzantine & Christian Museum, wandered through Aristotle's Lyceum, and witnessed the Changing of the Guard at Parliament. I went shopping in the Plaka district, the oldest section of Athens, teeming with shops and eateries, and chatted with shop owners, comparing tourism between Venice and Athens. I ate a Greek breakfast each morning with a view of the the Acropolis in the background, and had fresh chicken sticks and a real Greek salad out in the country. I even managed to squeeze in the Greek version of a hammam, and indulged in bubble massage. 

The Greek people were warm and welcoming, and the city felt full of life. It was easy to get around on foot or by Metro -- in short, despite the constant calamities we hear about Greece, Athens seemed to be functioning very well from a tourist point of view, although I did run into a bit of bureaucracy when I asked permission to take photos inside the museums. That dilemma was eventually resolved. 

Aristotle's Lyceum - Photo: Cat Bauer
Athens blew my mind, simply because everything I thought was new and American, or new and Venetian, had already been understood thousands of years before, from systems of government, to architecture, to art and culture. Sure, humankind has made new discoveries, but basic human nature seems not to have changed one iota. The challenges that confront societies today, are the same challenges that humanity has encountered for millennia.

Ciao from Venezia,
Cat Bauer
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog