Saturday, 29 September 2012

Conference at the National Gallery of Canada

I was invited to attend a conference today in the auditorium of the National Gallery of Canada organized by the Director of the NGC and the French Embassy. The theme of this conference was entitled ''Visions: Art Museums in the 21 Century'' a discussion on the transformation and challenges facing museums today and the role of directors.

Invited guests where Xavier Dectot, Director of the new Louvre-Lens (pronounce Lance) in the small city of Lens (pop 36,000) in the Nord du Pas de Calais, which is near the Belgian border, an old coal mining area.
This new museum will open on 4 December 2012 designed by a team of Japanese architects, it is enormous and sits on 22 hectares of land formerly known as Pit no.9. It is an all glass building, each single pane of glass measures an impressive 6.80 meters or 22 feet in length.
The other guest speaker was Laurent Salomé, Chief Curator at the Réunion des Musées Nationaux, Grand Palais in Paris. who spoke on what they were doing to bring more people to the museums.

Paul Lang, Chief Curator of the NGC was hosting and Marc Mayer, Director of the NGC was present as was the French Ambassador and his spouse. There was probably about 150 museum members present. The conference was in French with English simultaneous translation.

It was interesting to hear both guests who painted a difficult picture of the realities of Art Museums today, the average French Citizens goes only once per year to any museum. Only 50% of the population of France actually goes to visit a museum. Most people who visit museums are women over 50, usually retired with some money and a University diploma. The challenge for the director in attracting visitors to the New Louvre-Lens is as follows; the new museum is situated in an economically depressed area, the coal mines all shut down in the 1970's, largely a young population, poorly educated with high levels of unemployment. Lens in its description reminded me of those mining company towns in novels like Germinal by Emile Zola. The construction of the new Louvre-Lens follows the democratization and decentralization of museums, a movement which is popular in Canada and now being copied in France. So what will be on show at the Louvre-Lens will be borrowed for 5 years from le Grand Louvre in Paris. It will also feature temporary exhibits and contemporary artworks.

Canada and France have numerous collaborative efforts in the organizations of exhibitions and studies. This brings about a sharing of exhibits touring cities around the world, to save money and to generate revenues for each museum. Our guests bemoaned the fact that in France the budgets for Culture have been slashed severely. We were told that we should be thankful our Canadian Government which reduced the budgets of all National Museums has not been more drastic in comparison.

Reliance on private donors and private funding for exhibits is now the game and multinational companies are being courted assiduously, they are taking up where national governments have left off. In the last 15 years major exhibits have been funded almost 100% by private enterprise in Canada but also now in France and probably elsewhere in the world. Though our French guests admitted that there was still a big debate in France between generations of Curators on the merit of having private companies finance Art exhibits, many see that as cheapening the process.

Attendance is also down in Museums and I can vouch for that, I can see it at the NGC in Ottawa but also at the other National Museums like Civilizations and the National War Museum how very few people visit everyday.  Xavier Dectot was saying that if you took out only 3 famous art work at the Louvre, people would probably stay away, he mentioned the Venus of Milo, the Mona Lisa and the Victory of Samothrace. Entire galleries like the one devoted to the 17th century painter Nicolas Poussin are deserted. We saw that in Italy where people went to a museum to see one art work and ignore the rest, comes to mind the David by Michelangelo in Firenze.

The French are promoting now something we have been doing in Canadian Museums for a long time which is to make use of technology to promote museums, sending docents out to schools to promote art works and interest in the arts in general. Offer school teachers free programs to help them with their class curriculum. I was pleased to hear our guests compliment Canada and the NGC for our modern approach in trying to attract the public back to our museums.

I was relieved to see that our problems in Canada are the same elsewhere, a factor of a changing world and interest and falling educational standard. They are not insurmountable but a major challenge for any  museum director.

I also learned that a major retrospective of the work of Marie-Elizabeth Vigée-Lebrun will be held at the NGC in 2014. She is said to be the most important female painter of the 18th century in France. She was the official painter of Marie-Antoinette. She also worked in Italy, Russia at the Court of Catherine II, in Switzerland and in England. There has never been a retrospective of her work.

Marie Elizabeth Vigée-Lebrun (1755-1842)


Friday, 28 September 2012

Autumn Farmer's Markets

Well my favourite time of year as arrived and my favourite holiday of the year is just around the corner, Canadian Thanksgiving on Sunday 7 October. Today my friend C.P. and I went to the farmers market in Blackburn Hamlet area and then to the Orleans Fruit Farm which use to belong to the Oblat Fathers it is now part of the National Capital Commission Green Belt around the Capital. Lots of pumpkins and squash and apples and other root vegetables. Also bought some lamb from the Albé Farm in Alfred and from the farmers from Cumberland, all little agricultural villages around the Capital region. The biological, organic and other labels on natural feed for animals with no hormones or chemicals is the big sale point. There is a great demand for natural products and also now Gluten Free breads and other pastry items. I bought a bread made this morning, it was still cooling made from Chickpea flour. I also found a Puglia bread which is the sort of bread I use to buy in Rome, nice crunchy crust and good tasting. I got some white and purple carrots and purple potatoes. I also found a greyish blue or Prussian blue Pumpkin, I have never seen anything like it and the farmer also had white pumpkins.  All these farming areas East of Ottawa are mostly French speaking families, Franco-Ontarians who have lived there for centuries. You also get a lot of recipes from them if you are not sure about cooking certain items.  I also bought Turkey and cranberry sausage, Duck sausage, Lamb Tourtière and Lamb paté.
Lovely weather sunny and blue skies at 15 C. It was chilly this morning at 2 C. almost freezing point.

Today's pumpkins

the children of Cerberus guarding the wine.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

A momentous day

Well today I handed in my resignation letter from the Canadian Foreign Service at 4:16 pm effective on 28 December 2012. I spoke with the Director of Personnel, an old colleague of mine and with my assignment officer, we reminisced about the past years, so many years and so many postings at different Canadian Embassies around the world. It all seems to me like a movie, another world, another time. When I joined the Foreign Service, Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister in Britain, Ronald Reagan was President, in Canada Joe Clark was Prime Minister, a man I always like for his honest straightforward approach to things. My postings were in order: Mexico City, Cairo Egypt with accreditation to Khartoum, The Sudan, Chicago USA, Amman Jordan with accreditation to Iraq and Palestine, Warsaw Poland with accreditation to Belarus and Lithuania,in 2004 to Beijing PRC, finally in 2007 to Rome Italy with accreditation to Greece, Malta and Albania. I also served on temporary duty at the United Nations, General Assembly, Social Affairs Committee in the Fall of 1985, then in 2001 in Lagos Nigeria and  Ankara Turkey. I also organized the first Protocol Office for the Department of Citizenship and Immigration and served as first Head of Protocol and Official Visits.

I was in Mexico City on the first anniversary of the devastating earthquake of September 1985 and in Egypt during the first Gulf War when Kuwait was invaded by Iraq. I was in Khartoum on the night of the defeat of Iraq and came face to face with Tareq Aziz the Prime Minister of Iraq in the lobby of the Khartoum Hilton whose distinction was that the hotel was built at the point where the Blue Nile meets the White Nile, an impressive sight. I was stunned to meet Tareq Aziz in the lobby, a coincidence an accident really, he noticed by diplomatic passport and all he said to me was that he really like Canada and hoped to come one day to Canada. I will never forget his eyes, they were those of a man who had seen too much. They had no expression in them a bit like the eyes of a dead person, the flicker had gone out. He was as always courteous and polite, the human face of the awful Saddam Hussein Regime of Iraq. I remember in the Sudan how everything was paid for with cases of Johnnie Walker Scotch despite the fact this was suppose to be an Islamic Regime.

In Egypt I received death threats from some disgruntled person, the regime provided me with body guards and I never had a parking problem in Cairo for the next 3 years. In Jordan, His Majesty King Hussein, a charismatic and wonderful man, one of the great leaders of the XXth century, sent me a photo of himself in a silver frame with a dedication, to my friend Mr. Laurent Beaulieu with my best wishes. I was so surprised even my ambassador was a little jealous. His brother Prince Hassan followed up a few days later with a similar gift, apparently I had done something, I do not know what, that had attracted their attention. I remember on a return flight from Egypt to Jordan, I discovered that I was seated next to Sharifa Dina Abdul Hamed, the first wife of the King and we spoke of her horses, those white Arabian stallions, she was delightful and charming.

In Chicago, the great rival of New York, but with the polish and culture the big Apple lacks. Great City with wonderful architecture and cuisine. The USA from the mid-western point of view.
In Poland, Warsaw another great city, reborn after the darkness of Nazism and Communism, the rapidity of changes in the economy and life in general were dazzling. A country of culture, opera and the arts, a people with an interesting history. Warsaw a city of beautiful parks and palaces torn between Germany and Russia, a Slavic people with a Western European accent, very unlike their Russian neighbours often described by the Poles as too Asiatic.

Then China, a country which still clings to its Imperial past and the notion of the Middle Kingdom despite its 60 years of Communism. I discovered real Chinese cuisine and a very different perspective on China which is not apparent from home. Finally my postings to Rome and Athens, to end a career one cannot ask for anything better. What an incredible opportunity to be able to live and work in what is the cradle of Western civilization. Despite the fact that we have returned from Europe one year ago, we still often think of Italy and Greece, if not daily as you can tell from my posts on this blog.

All in all not a bad career and a charmed life. So it all comes to an end, like any thing else in life.
As I said to my colleagues today, One has to know when to leave the party. It was wonderful and now let's move on.

During my career I received many honours for my work but one I truly cherish, on the occasion of my 30 years of service as a member of Canada's Foreign Service a tree was planted in Sudbury, Ontario to honour me. I did not know of this in advance nor expected it and it means the most to me as it is a permanent symbol of my years of service. This tree is part of a vast project of rejuvenation for the City and it will certainly do a lot of good.

This view of Parliament in Ottawa just down the street from where we live in Ottawa. The buildings were built in 1864 and are the symbol of Canada representing our National goal of Peace, Order and Good Government.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Demanding respect for one's values

A news item on the English version of Al-Jazeerah News says that President Morsi of Egypt will asking for respect from the USA for Egypt's values. Morsi is in New-York for the opening of the Fall session of the General Assembly of the United Nations.
Such a headline in the current climate or even any other time will attract attention and raise eyebrows. I can see the comments from some readers enraged by such a request. How can the President of Egypt ask anything given the generous financial subsidies his country has been receiving from many countries for so many years. How can a poor country ask something from wealthy nations. People will view such a request through their own optics and pass a quick judgement call.

We should remember that in 1971 during the first secret meeting between Henry Kissinger and Chinese Premier Zhou En-Lai in Beijing which led to the Nixon visit and recognition of the PRC by the USA in 1979, the Chinese position was that the PRC had its own value system and that they would not adopt American values, the relationship would be one of equals.

What President Morsi is saying has to be viewed in the context of his region of the world and its people and their grievances. It does not matter if you agree or not, it is a matter of listening to what is being said. Many of the countries of North Africa and of the Levant (middle-east) were for centuries dominated politically by the Ottoman Turks and where part of the greater Ottoman Empire. The Turks are not Arabs, in origin they are from Central Asia and migrated about 900 years ago to Anatolia. In the 19th century, with the Ottoman Empire becoming weaker politically, the establishment of a new domination by Europeans started all over North Africa, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria came under French domination, the British took Libya, Egypt and then pushed into the Middle-East with France and created new countries like Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and a protectorate in Palestine. Installing at the same time Arab Princes as Kings of these new countries in the hope that they would do Europe's bidding.

Egypt had a difficult time of it, with Napoleon looting ancient treasures in his contempt for Egypt. To subsequent French and English governments who took over the administration of the country on the pretext that debts on enormous loans were due and since the Khedive could not pay well then we simply take your country and rule it. The Royal family in Egypt were hostages to their colonial rulers. The end of the Second World War saw a diminished Britain and France and a growing USA influence in the region. Finally in 1952 Colonel Nasser overthrew the Monarchy and kicked the foreigners out. But the years of political humiliation and economic subservience were not over. There was the Suez Canal crisis which nearly caused a third World War and where the USA had to intervene to stop both British and French interests and then the wars with Israël and the support of Arab independence around the Middle-East. In the 1970's with the death of Nasser and the failure of his socio-economic experiments appeared a growing Muslim religious movements with strong political and social overtones, asking for economic reforms and social justice.

During the Cold War years the great powers both the USSR and the USA played the Arabs against one another, in Egypt it was over technical cooperation and financing of the great Aswan Dam.  The Egyptian government did not know how to respond to the demands of its own rapidly growing population, not enough schools, not enough jobs, not enough food nor money nor economic opportunities, poor infrastructure and finally generalized poverty in what was in antiquity a great Empire as the ancient monuments attest. The loss of face also in 1967 in the conflict against Israël. The Egyptian population demanded change and change came finally a year ago with the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak whose political career went all the way back to 1973 under President Anwar Sadat.

The Egyptians are now looking for a new approach in their diplomatic relationship with Western powers like the USA based on mutual respect. Egypt is an ancient land, 5000 years of history, its important contribution to the advancement of civilization is established.  Egypt is also a conservative society with strong family values, in the West some will cringe at those words. But for all that, Egyptians are an easy going people. It is also a mix society, there is a small  Egyptian-Jewish population, the Christian Copts represent about 10% of its population and the rest Muslims, very few fanatics in either of the faiths.

What President Morsi is saying to us is NO more cartoons, movies, and other insults against Islamic beliefs and religion in general. Is it too much to ask that you do not insult a people's religion or beliefs. It is pretty common for all of us to expect basic respect for what we believe. You may not agree with a person's beliefs but you do not have the right to insult them because you claim the higher moral ground.

You will have clowns who want to burn a holy book, who think that a cartoon is just that, but for many people it has far more meaning, especially if you have a long colonial past of oppression, injustice. and humiliations at the hands of countries who still claim to this day the higher moral ground. The indignation is understandable, it is inconceivable in Egypt that anyone could say deeply offensive things and simply walk away.  One also has to question the motive behind this little movie or the cartoons, what was or is the motive. Such individual damaged our interest and cause untold damage to to others by their behaviour, is that not worth at least a moral sanction and being called to account.
No one has explained so far their motive, not the movie producer nor the editors of newspapers or magazines. When asked they do not give a reason, hiding instead behind general notions of freedom of speech or freedom of the press. Though such freedoms are important in a democratic society they should not be abused for notoriety.

President Morsi is basically saying you respect us and we will respect you, simple enough and do not expect us to adopt your value system. The relationship has to be on an equal footing, no more condescending attitude. The missionary zeal, the lectures are no longer acceptable, we may not agree on every point but we will respect our differences.
We should also not forget that Morsi speaks for the Egyptians who elected him and for their aspirations, which go well beyond religious matters.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Quality in what I like

Some of my favourite things.

My favorite jewellery shop in Rome Bulgari since 1884 on Via Condotti 10 which connects with Piazza Spagna. This family business started in Italy at first as an extension of the established house of Boulgari in Greece.  It is pure pleasure to simply look at their magnificent creations, you do not have to buy, there is pleasure in simply looking. Regular customers who had pieces designed  are some great names like Anna Magnani and Sophia Loren and Elizabeth Taylor, to name a few. A few years ago an exhibit was mounted in Rome of the history of the creations of Bulgari on display some 60 million euros of jewels, it was just breath taking.

Baratti & Milano Italian chocolates accredited to the Royal House of Savoy as the Coat of Arms attest. Really rich tasting and so nice.

A very nice shower and shampoo gel developed as a product line by the Jeweller. It really makes my day.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Il Caffè Italiano = aesthetics in Italy

Not available at Starbuck's, thank God for small mercies. How I miss my Caffè Italiano, elegant and simple, note there is no styrofoam cup.
For many people, poor souls, coffee is simply a beverage that one drinks out of a styrofoam cup. To anyone who appreciates coffee all’Italiana however, a good caffé is so much more. Now, without going Aristotelian on anyone, one of its main aspects is aesthetic… yes, as in visual. Coffee can’t just taste good, it needs to look good too… this is Italy after all.
caffealvetro2 Caffé al VetroE allora? Order it al vetro, in glass. Your excuse is that it cools more quickly than in the traditional ceramic cup, a desirable trait when it’s hot out. But you aren’t fooling anyone … the real reason is aesthetic, it just looks better.
While the normal caffé al vetro is your aesthetic standard, occasionally you might want to mess with perfection and spruce it up a notch. In this case, ask for un caffé al vetro schiumato... literally, ''foamed''. Here your barista will serve it with a spoonful of foamed milk deposited on top.
You drink it as is, don't stir it together! Of course you can ask for un caffé con panna (with whipped cream) it will keep you smiling for the whole day.

Photo Piazza della Repubblica in 1862 in Rome

Piazza della Repubblica
Click on the link to see photo.

How very different from today with the Sea monsters. The church facade is also changed with the original walls of the Baths of Diocletian showing. The Rome Termini Train station is to the right of the photo. Rome then in that area by the Aurelian walls was in a semi-urban semi-countryside state. In 1862 the city of Rome as we know it today was not built yet. This is the beginning of Italy as a unified country and the new Italian Government will re-built Rome to transform it into the Political image of the Risorgimento. Piazza della Repubblica today is a busy but beautiful corner of the city.

Today with the sculptures installed in 1892 when Via Nazionale was open as a brand new street starting at the Piazza Repubblica. Notice the naked ladies and sea monsters all having a good time. Different from the Egyptian lions they replaced.

Troubled times

It seems that every so often for the last few years we have someone publishing something that will inflame the passions of some Muslims, remember the Satanic Verses of Salman Rushdie, Iran was behind the condemnation. The riots come usually months after the so called outrage has been committed. That is after someone has taken the time to translate and explain what the offending message is about so that crowds can be roused. Very often this is done by Governments who see a political advantage in fomenting trouble. Despite the so called power of the internet around the world, we should remember that the internet is only really available to a small literate group of people who know how to operate a computer and have daily access to a computer and a paid internet service. In most third world countries this is a rare phenomenon, few have access, no money and no means to be connected. They rely on a person, usually connected to the local mosque or local political faction who can access the internet to tell them what they saw and then present it in such a fashion as to exploit the credulous.

At this time in Mali in the city of Timbuktu, a sacred city to Muslims, so called fundamentalist Islamists are demolishing with impunity Islamic Holy sites under the protection of UNESCO as world heritage sites. Strangely no one is saying boo about it, why is it that such people can perform blasphemous gestures towards Islam and get away scott free with no worries. The reason or twisted logic is that by designating such sites as protected makes them less Islamic. There is also a racist element, the sites were designated by a UN organization seen as Western, despite the fact that most muslim countries are full members of UNESCO and the UN.

Are the rallies and riots really against Western interest or the Western world per se or even against the USA as the media loves to tell us. I do not think so. The USA government and many other Western governments have for decades lavished generous amounts of money on countries like Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Pakistan and others. So much so that these countries would not be able to function as Sovereign States if it was not for the financial support of the USA and many, many other Western countries. So why the hatred then? Like the saying goes, help someone and after some time they will start to resent you. It appears that the current riots are largely manufactured and largely sponsored by regimes like Iran, but I will come back to this in a moment.

If  per example tomorrow all Western donors and the USA decided to stop funding and financing the operations of Arab and other Muslim countries, these governments would collapse, one by one. With the exception of the few oil rich countries of the Arab peninsula and the Persian Gulf. Egypt is fully aware of its need for massive investments, a few weeks ago prior to the riots in Cairo, the Egyptian government was lobbying US investors. Egypt has a weak President and a non existent Parliament and the army is just sitting pretty waiting to be called in to help. The Tourism industry which is the number one vital industry of Egypt, employing ten of thousands of Egyptians is dead. Can you imagine the misery the demonstrations in Cairo have created, loss jobs, empty hotels, closed souvenir shops and restaurants. The riots in Cairo have convinced tourists to avoid Egypt as a holiday destination. Same for Tunisia and all other Arab countries who once had a healthy tourist industry.

Who could take up the challenge of replacing over night the Western financial donors, Russia, no not possible, Russia has its own economical internal problems and is struggling socially. China no not really, unless the Communist Government in Beijing saw an economic advantage to exploit for its own benefit. China is after raw materials and most poor Muslim countries have nothing to offer. Let's not forget that China supports Syria not because it thinks Syria can be of interest, no, it is because one of its major clients is Iran. China will do nothing to upset the Iranians and in return will get oil from them and will be able to sell them all manner of goods under embargo by Western countries. Iran is a strategic client of China.

As for Iran, why is it so important that it creates a wind of discontent amongst various Muslim nations. Does it not have enough internal problems, not to mention its controversial Nuclear program which could in the weeks to come trigger a major war. Iran is trying to assert itself as a major power in Central Asia and destabilize the middle-East in the never ending conflict between Shia and Sunni Muslims and the racial conflict between Iran (aryan people) and the Arabs (semitic people).

The leadership in Iran is more than aware of the precarious situation of its ally the current Syrian regime, Assad cannot hold on much longer and if he falls, as he will eventually, then all 40 odd terrorist groups who have a home in Damascus and have been financially supported by Iran for the last 30+ years will have to fend for themselves. Iran would also loose its grip on Lebanon and its ally the Hezbollah (Shia) party, it would also loose influence and political ability to manipulate situations against its own declared enemies, the USA, Britain, Canada and all other Western Nations in the region, not to mention Israël.

Before modern day Iran, there was Persia and it politically and culturally dominated the Arabs for centuries.  It is thus very important for Iran to seize such a moment and use mostly poor illiterate people in doing its dirty work. Have you noticed how in all demonstrations, the people are poor, often young. They have nothing to loose, no opportunities, no money, insufficient education and live in despair. This week we saw Sheik Nasrallah the head of Hezbollah in Lebanon make a rare public appearance and speech against the little video on You Tube calling it the worst insult, it is not the worst insult, he was given a prepared text by his handlers in Tehran and told to deliver it.

The poor, the masses of marginal people all over the Muslim world know all too well that their lives are meaningless, they have to live in a world dominated by armed militias and paid thugs, mullahs who are corrupt and governments more interested in looting the national treasury than working for the good of their own country. The poor are not particularly more religious than the average person, but when all you face every day is the reality of your own misery and injustice served to you by your own inept national government, you have to hate something. It is easy to chant against the USA, they are far away, rich and seem able to do anything and the local imam and other corrupt officials will probably give you some money and a meal just so that you chant and march. If you get killed in the process well then you are a martyr to the cause. Your death will be exploited by the Mullahs and your family will get a stipend.

Poor Muslims are like all of us, their dreams are the same as everyone else, they wish for a better future for themselves and their children and that better life could happen if only they could get the to Western World, out of their misery.

So what we see now is a power play by Iran to defy its named enemies in the hope that these riots and attacks on foreign embassies will distract the world and create sympathies for Iran. It is pointless to try to explain to uneducated masses who have no experience or knowledge of what it is to live in a free and open society that we in our democracies cannot prevent anyone from publishing offensive or insulting material. It is simply not understood, in their country you fear the man above you because he can beat you at a whim and with impunity. Countries where all the people have ever known is Police brutality, oppression and States run by ruthless dictators cannot begin to understand our modern concept of open and inclusive civil society. This is why we should pity them. This ill wind will also pass with time but the cost will be the destruction of fragile local economies by its own people manipulated by Iran and its agents around the world. The Arab Spring saw quite a few old dictator thrown out but the instability and uncertainty that is now ruling the streets can be exploited by regimes like Iran and we see the results, more misery, more uncertainty.


Wednesday, 19 September 2012

A little song from the past

I remember this song from my childhood in Montreal and how it became associated with my parents. My father liked it a lot and would often sing along with Tony Bennett. I visited San Francisco with Will in 1983, staying at the San Francis Hotel. I always kept a beautiful souvenir of that city. I heard the song again the other night as we were driving to friends house and every time it brings back a host of happy memories. Composed in 1954, George Corey, music and Douglass Cross, lyrics, it was first performed by Tony Bennett in 1961 in the Venetian Room of the Fairmont Hotel on Knob Hill.
It has become his signature song. They don't write songs like that anymore.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Food for thought

Carolyn Bennett, M.P., P.C. published this today on a Tweet that I happen to read. Parliament just returned to work on Monday 17 September. I think this is food for thought in the current political context. Some of the 14 points are relevant to our experience. In particular points 1,3,4,7,8,9,10,11,12 and 14. In a democracy it is always important to ask ourselves as Citizens where are we going and what direction is our country taking. Indifference or a laissez faire attitude can be dangerous. People living in advanced develop countries where rule of law is the norm can be vulnerable to slippage in the democratic process. One sign of just such slippage is the low voter turn out at election which is alarming in Canada. Another one is a lack of knowledge of political issues or development surrounding certain political issues and their impact on everyone's lives. This is when things can start to happen without anyone quite understanding or noticing what is going on.

Defining Characteristics of Fascism
By Dr. Lawrence Britt
Source Free
Dr. Lawrence Britt has examined the fascist regimes of Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia) and several Latin American regimes. Britt found 14 defining characteristics common to each:
1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism - Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.
2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights - Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of "need." The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.
3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause - The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial , ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.
4. Supremacy of the Military - Even when there are widespread
domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.
5. Rampant Sexism - The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Divorce, abortion and homosexuality are suppressed and the state is represented as the ultimate guardian of the family institution.
6. Controlled Mass Media - Sometimes to media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.
7. Obsession with National Security - Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.
8. Religion and Government are Intertwined - Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government's policies or actions.
9. Corporate Power is Protected - The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.
10. Labor Power is Suppressed - Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.
11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts - Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts and letters is openly attacked.
12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment - Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.
13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption - Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.
14. Fraudulent Elections - Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.
From Liberty Forum

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Potsdam, Capital of Brandenburg, Germany

In 1998, I lived then in Warsaw, I took to train to Berlin and visited the Capital then in full reconstruction after re-unification. I then decided to visit Postdam, nowadays a suburb of Berlin which can be reached easily in 20 minutes by public transport. What I found was a city that look a little abandoned and sad, here and there constructions by the GDR government, ugly, out of place had taken place in the late 1960's, the old baroque buildings having been bombed in late April 1945 by the Allies had been bulldozed. Lots of empty lots, the city centre made no urban sense. This was Potsdam, the fame garrison city of the Kings of Prussia, their Royal Capital.

The Royal Palace of Potsdam in 1944, prior to its destruction.

You could guess that prior to the Second World War something beautiful existed there, it is a small city, easy to walk. On empty lots, once existed baroque buildings, full of that extravagance in architecture the style is known for. Lots of beautiful parks and Italianate villas, romantic ruins in the style of antique temples of Rome or Athens. I went to Sans Souci, the small villa palace of Frederic II, where Voltaire had visited and had many conversations with Frederic on Enlightenment, it was in good shape though the park needed some weeding. There by the Palace in front of his bedroom was buried the King with his dogs, as he wished. The German Chancellor in 1990 had the remains of Frederic re-buried on the spot he had chosen. He loved his whippets and each has a little tomb stone with their name engraved, I always found this simplicity touching.

I then returned to Potsdam, two years later, much had changed. Charles, the Prince of Wales had gotten involved with his foundation in a grand building plan for the old historical city centre. No small feat, this meant re-aligning streets on the old grid, un-doing much of the city centre plan put forward by the previous Communist administration, re-creating city and streetscapes to fit harmoniously.

The Royal Palace in Potsdam in May 1945.

There was also the question of re-building the old Royal City Palace and other palaces and the Garrison Church which became infamous because of a visit Hitler had paid to it in a political gesture to tie his ideas to those of 18th Century Prussia, thus seeking justification for what was about to happen.
The future of the central old market place in Potsdam, to the right the Royal Palace rebuilt, next to it the Barberini Palace and next to it the old City Hall renovated, a vision of 2015.

Much has been done to clean and revitalize Potsdam since 2002, the city is pleasant, quiet and offers beautiful vistas. Since most of Potsdam was developed between 1750 and 1765 by famous German architects of the period, you have a city on a human scale, you can walk to the different points in the city in a few minutes. This year marks the 300 anniversary of the birth of Frederic the Great and Potsdam is in full reconstruction mode. The little clip from YouTube shows the on-going re-building of the Potsdam City Palace which once completed will be the new seat of the Parliament of Brandenburg. The old ornate baroque interior will not be reproduced because of cost, but a paired down version will give an idea of what it was like. This is only one of the many buildings being re-built in the coming years. Cost of reconstruction of this one building is estimated at 120 million Euros.  

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Remembering a great song from 1952

I was listening to France Musique on the radio this morning I am growing tired of the preachings of the CBC lately, to the point where I simply switch the dial to another station. I found an interview with an ex-pat American who lives in Paris and who organized an exhibit on the neighbourhood of Montmartre then and now. The exhibit is not about what Montmartre is suppose to be in the tourist lore but what it is really as a city neighbourhood not seen by the tourists.
I learned that prior to 1875 it was just one of many neighbourhoods of Paris, not very popular but by 1900 it had become the hot spot of Paris by night with its famous cafés and cabarets. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec having made it popular with his numerous posters and drawings.

The host of the radio program played the song hit of 1952 from the original movie Moulin Rouge.
The original version has famous names, José Ferrer, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Colette Marchand, the producer John Huston and the musical hit of 1952 ,Where is your heart, music by George Auric and words by William Engrick. Such beautiful music and so different from the modern remake.

Saturday, 8 September 2012


In Ontario we have the LCBO, the liquor control board of Ontario. All liquor, beer and wine sales come under the Government of Ontario strict control, demon liquor must be regulated. That tells you we got Protestants in charge here. This State monopoly like the one across the river in Quebec at La Régie des alcools brings in mega bucks for the government. The profits go into financing our socialize medical system and other services. Prior to 1990 the LCBO stores had a system where the hours of operations were not convenient and buying any liquor made you feel as if you were a sinner. Liquor was sold in plain brown paper bags, if someone saw you with a paper bag, you know like your neighbour who was big in your church group well, people would talk. The stores themselves were out of the way and when you went in there was a long counter behind it the store clerk and a metal cage where all the liquor was kept. You filled out a paper form with a pencil not a pen, a pencil. You indicated how many bottles you were buying and what you wanted, you signed the form and brought it up to the cash register to pay in cash only. The store clerk would go into the cage to get those items of demon liquor you had bought. A strict control was kept and you knew the government was keeping a eye on you and your sinful ways. Unless you drank for medicinal purposes, a doctors paper would vouch for your health condition.

It was also and still is prohibited from drinking on the street. If you drank at home you had to make sure the curtains of your house front window were firmly and tightly shut in case your neighbours would see you drinking or worse their children and be scarred for life by your sin. Neighbours did call the police on such people who ignored the law. There were also days in the year the sale of liquor was prohibited, Sunday (The Lord's Day Act), Election day, major holidays and it was and still is forbidden to sell any alcohol before 11 am or after 1am, it use to be 11pm until very recently.

In Quebec things were a lot more relaxed, ah those Quebecois always rocking our Canadian boat. You can drink at any time, Sunday, Election day, or any day as early as 6 am. The breakfast of champions in Quebec is a good beer and corn flakes in the morning. Bars never close before 3am. You can buy wine and beer in grocery stores, Quebec is Roman Catholic and French, that explains it I suppose, loose morals and all that.

Living in Ottawa, the Capital of the great and first Dominion of the British Empire, if you wanted a drink, a bit of fun and a good meal you went across the bridge to Gatineau-Hull. In Quebec we invented the institution of the Businessmen's Lunch which meant a hearty meal, a good drink and a stripper. No such thing to this day in prudish, tight lipped and frowning Ontario.
All that started to change slowly in Ontario around the turn  of the millennium. Ottawa is becoming a little more hip and with it and so is the rest of Ontario, this includes Toronto the good, well not so much anymore now that it has the title of the Detroit of the North.

But I digress, the LCBO has changed from the pre-historic time, the stores now have a modern friendly look and offer a wide range of products, they also have very good wine appreciation courses, cooking courses and wine pairing courses. The depot on South Bank street has a wide selection of excellent wines and liquor, our local liquor store just a few doors down from our place is smaller but has a good choice of liquor and wines. The beer store offers Canadian and international choices of beers.

The LCBO also has a very slick glossy magazine in both French and English on food and wines, beautiful photography and great recipes that are easy to follow and easy to make. Not to mention the other magazine VINTAGES which offers a lot of useful information on cocktail mix and wines. This month Vintages has an excellent article on Sake from Japan and how to pair it with food.
Another article on Rhone Valley wines and on Washington State and Oregon wines. All complimented with great photography. Who would have thought that in Calvinist, Orange Lodge Ontario such humanistic pursuits would ever see the light of day.

Look for  or

In the fall edition of Vintages you can find such items on how to create ambiance for  a dinner, new products at the LCBO store, they recommend Hendrick's gin, recipes on preserves since Canadian Thanksgiving is just around the corner, they propose a butter of pumpkin and maple syrup. They also have recommendations on Ontario wines, we do have excellent wines in Ontario, I can vouch for it.
They also have recipes for late summer cocktails like a Martini of peaches and apricots, two fruits from the Niagara Peninsula, or cocktails made from bubbly Rosé or a Kir Impérial of Niagara with raspberries. There are also recipes for hot cocktail mixing White Jasmin tea with a single malt scotch and a bit of honey.
In the food section Baked apple cardamon or Lamb Tajine or a Veal cutlet with Madeira and dried raisins.  They also have a whole section on Bourbon. There is so much more on fish and desserts.
This beautiful magazine is free at the LCBO.

A funny little story, when I came to Ottawa over a year ago to look for lodgings for the family, one selling point the Real Estate agent used was that we were not far from the Liquor store. I thought that comment funny, I asked what he meant, he answered well most clients want to know how close is the school for the kids and where is the nearest Liquor store, two of the most commonly asked questions in real estate. Children drive you to drink, that explains a lot of things.

The Gazebo at Niagara-on-the-Lake, on lake Ontario and the Niagara river.


Friday, 7 September 2012


When we visited St-Petersburg in June, we went one day to Peterhof the palace on the Baltic sea built by Peter the Great as a summer retreat. We heard this music play at the great cascade of fountains,  symbol of the victory of Tsar Peter at Poltava over the Swedish army of Charles XII. This victory was very important, it gave the new city the vital access to the Baltic sea which had been controlled by the Swedes for a very long time.  I asked our guide about the music, what was it I wondered, I remember hearing it before but had no idea who the composer was, our guide said, it is a Soviet piece, not exactly a clear answer, so I kept on looking further. It turns out the composer was Rheingold Morisovitch Gliere, of Polish-Ukrainian origin, who lived from 1875 to 1956. Working for the Tsarist regime and then for the Soviet, many times decorated for his compositions. His works are based on folkloric music of the various people living in the Russian Empire, he never travelled abroad and often toured the regions of Russia. The conductor Leopold Stokowski considered his works a monument to Slavic culture. He thought for 20 years at the Moscow conservatory, some of his students became great names in music, like Aram Khatchatourian, Sergei Prokoviev, Nikolai Miaskovski. His most famous works the ballet, the Red Poppy, the Third Symphony and Taras Boulba. He admired greatly Glazounov and Glinka amongst other Russian composers. He was highly decorated by the Soviet Regime. It appears that his secret to survive the horrors of the Stalinist period and the purges was to stay clear of any ideological debate and to concentrate on music composition, in other words, he kept his mouth shut.

Rheingold Gliere

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Berlin reborn

Berlin the capital of Germany and the Capital of the province of Brandenburg in Northern Germany is over 800 years old, with a population of 3.5 million people, Berlin is a transport hub in Europe, a world city of culture, science and media, one third of its territory is composed of rivers, lakes, parks, gardens and forests. In 1539 the city became Lutheran splitting with the Roman Catholic church. Berlin has a long established reputation for tolerance, in 1685 an edict by Frederick William Hohenzollern known as the Great Prince Elector, welcomed all religions and ten of thousands of French Huguenots came to settle in Berlin. In 1700 on the eve of the creation of the Kingdom of Prussia, 20% of the population was French speaking. Today Berlin is the capital of the new Germany, modern, artistic hub, high technology and research, the seat of world renowned universities. Since 1990 the Federal Government of Germany has taken as a mission to give back to Berlin the shine of a city of knowledge and enlightenment, focusing on the great philosophers like Kant, Goethe, Hegel, and Humboldt who made Germany famous.  The twelve year dictatorship of the Nazi regime is acknowledged but is also given the proper historical perspective, as a horrible aberration brought on by historical circumstances which cannot dominate the entire historical past of the city or the country.

I have been going to Berlin since 1998 and have seen much improvement and changes in the reconstruction and beautification of this great capital city. One project I have been following for years now is the reconstruction of the Eastern sector of the city where most historical buildings of old Berlin were located under the division of the city during the cold war years (1946-1989).  The East German Communist Authorities under the strict supervision of Soviet Russia had allowed the city to remain in a state of total ruin since 1945 and had done next to nothing to rebuild the part of the city they controlled, except to build ugly concrete buildings all identical row upon row. At re-unification the Federal Government started to clean, restore and rebuild all the historical buildings to give Berlin the architectural character it had prior to 1918. In areas where the devastation had been total, to allow for international architectural contests to build new spectacular buildings based on elements of light and openness.  We find this concept in all the new Federal Government buildings like the New Office and Residence of the German Chancellor or the old Reichstag building. Nothing of the old Nazi architecture has been retained with the exception of two buildings which escaped destruction, the old Air Force HQ under Goering, despite the fact that the Nazi eagles and symbols have been removed it looks sinister, that building is now housing the Ministry of Financial Planning. The other one is the old Propaganda Ministry of Goebbels which now houses the Ministry of Welfare and Social Assistance. For those seeking the old Nazi past or even elements of the old Cold War days little remains, the one exception would be the old Gestapo HQ, the building itself was destroyed but the basement remains and is now a museum on State Terror , an object lesson in what can go wrong when fanaticism and intolerance take over a national government and extremist ideology is the new god.

I remember in 1998 the centre of Berlin and the area around the Brandenburg Gate and the old Reichstag was largely vast empty fields, Postdamer Platz was one large open space with weeds and not much more. The Berlin prior to 1945 had clearly been swept away. Today it is reborn in modern eclectic buildings, the Embassies of countries are re-occupying their old sites, competing to rebuild in a style which will remain faithful to the idea that the page is turned on the past and Berlin is now looking to a prosperous and bright future.

The one project I really liked is the re-building of the Frederick the Great inspired centre of Berlin just along Unter den Linden avenue (under the Linden trees). This beautiful avenue was conceived by the grand father of Frederick the Great, as the ceremonial entrance to the Official Royal Berlin, Ambassadors would arrive at the Brandenburg Gate which was a Custom House at the time and be met  by a carriage sent from the Royal City Palace at the other end of the avenue, there they would be escorted along the avenue, passing in front of every official building and Embassies, the Opera House and Crown Prince Palace, the Palace Commander's Residence, the Armoury and the Church of St-Hedwige,  until finally arriving at the island where all the famous museums of the city are located with the Lutheran Cathedral and the great City Palace. Today most of those buildings have been rebuilt and restored. The last one not restored yet is the great Imperial City Palace of the Hohenzollern dynasty which served as their Berlin Residence for 800 years. In the 1950's the Communist decided to blow up the palace, it took several days to do so and it was severely criticized around the world as unnecessary.
But then the Communists like their allies the Nazis (until 1941), were never one to take into consideration the views of others. Luckily for us they ended up in the garbage bin of history.

This project has now been approved by the Senate of Berlin, the Parliament of Brandenburg and the Bundestag of Germany, the project should be completed by 2017. The idea is not to recreate the City Palace as it was but to recreate the outside walls and great courtyards. The building itself will be modern, devoted to art, culture and learning. This project will complete the historical reconstruction of the city centre making it whole again for the first time since 1939.
The reconstruction will be financed by private donors and by the Federal Government of Germany. Private donors can buy brinks, their name will be inscribed on the brick and in a ledger. Already many famous families in Germany like the heirs of Bismarck and others have joined this effort. The members of the Imperial family, the Hohenzollern are also interested in this project.

Here are some photos of Berlin today and of the Palace reconstruction project.

A view from the roof top of the Armoury, what the reconstructed City Palace of the Kings and German Emperors will look like in 2017.

Currently the view at the end of Unter den Linden is vacant, in 2017 the City Palace will appear completing the view.

The facade on the Berlin Cathedral side, to recreate the baroque facade hundreds of stone masons and artists are trained to do the work.

The Brandenburg gate built in 1788 was the ceremonial entrance to the avenue leading to the City Palace. Built as a gate to Peace it is modelled on the Propylaea or sacred gate of the Acropolis of Athens.

Pariser Platz (Paris Place) is now close to traffic and open only to pedestrians as it was in the old days.
On the platz on the right of the photo the rebuilt French Embassy and on the left the USA Embassy, re-occupying their old location prior to 1939.

The new Residence and Office of the German Chancellor on the Spree River next to the Reichstag. This is a new location for the Chancellery and it is a marvel of light and space. Open to the world. Historically the chancellery was located closer to Potsdamer Platz, today the Embassy of Canada occupies that spot.

Charlottenburg Palace and garden built in 1699 was the residence of the Royal family for many decades, the wife of Frederick II the Great, Queen Marie Christine lived here. He preferred to live in Potsdam at Sans Souci. His wife was never invited to live at Sans Souci Palace.

The Tiergarten this magnificient park in the centre of Berlin was once part of a great royal forest starting at the Brandenburg Gate.

Another gem of central Berlin, the Gendarmarkt 1773, named after the Cuirassier regiment, Gens d'armes who were billeted in the square with the symphony hall (Konzerthaus) and the French and German Cathedrals. This beautiful square had been left in ruins by the Communist until 1984 when West Germany paid to have the site restored.

Today Potsdamer Platz which borders Leipziger Plats in the right hand corner. Modern it replaces the old buildings all destroyed during the Second World War. This area has always been an entertainment area in Berlin.



Monday, 3 September 2012

Au Clair de la Lune, fantasy on a theme by Muzio Clementi

Every child learns this song, Au Clair de la Lune, so easy and so amusing, the author of this 18th century song is unknown. This fantasy on the theme of Au Clair de la Lune is played here by Annarita Santagada.

Au clair de la lune
Mon ami Pierrot
Prête-moi ta plume
Pour écrire un mot
Ma chandelle est morte
Je n'ai plus de feu
Ouvre-moi ta porte
Pour l'amour de Dieu
Au clair de la lune,
Pierrot répondit :
« Je n'ai pas de plume,
Je suis dans mon lit.
Va chez la voisine,
Je crois qu'elle y est,
Car dans sa cuisine
On bat le briquet. »
Au clair de la lune,
L'aimable Lubin;
Frappe chez la brune,
Elle répond soudain :
-Qui frappe de la sorte ?
Il dit à son tour :
-Ouvrez votre porte,
Pour le Dieu d'Amour.
Au clair de la lune,
On n'y voit qu'un peu.
On chercha la plume,
On chercha le feu.
En cherchant d'la sorte,
Je n'sais c'qu'on trouva ;
Mais je sais qu'la porte
Sur eux se ferma.

Memories on this end of summer

I often listen to radio stations around the world through the magic of Airport Express, since yesterday I have been listening to the RAI Filodiffusione 5 from Rome. This was the radio station we listened to everyday. You can easily find it on the internet.

So of course this makes me nostalgic for the Città. Sigmund Freud use to say that Rome was not a city inhabited by humans but more a psychic state of mind. Rome has been described as an idea, a representation of a fantasy. Emperor Augustus gave it the title of Eternal City, though Rome was only about 400 years old at the time, it was the largest city in the known world at 1 million people, a fantastic number given that London and Lutece (Paris) were mud villages of a few thousand inhabitants.

I also subscribe to an internet site called Roma Sparita (Rome disappeared) which has photos of the city between 1860 and 1980. You see how the city has changed or not changed at all, much of what we see in the centre of Rome today has been there for the last 500 years, while what you see outside the Aurelian walls is lest than 100 years old, with some exceptions like the Villa Borghese and other Papal summer palaces. Meaning that if you look at the old photos you realize quickly that Rome was largely rebuilt and expanded at various periods marked by political change. The first one was the return of the Popes from Avignon in France after many decades away from the city. Rome had been largely abandoned and by 1400 it was a small village of a few thousand people living mostly in and around the great basilicas and old Roman Imperial Palaces.  Then came the period of the Risorgimento (resurrection) with the creation of the Kingdom of Italy in 1861 and the final defeat of the Papal armies with the liberation of the Italian people by Garibaldi. Then the Fascist period 1923-1943 and the large building programs under Mussolini, finally the period of the 1960's economic boom.

This painting of Giovanni Paolo Pannini shows the Prati area (the fields) in 1749.This area is across the Tiber from the City. On the far right is the dome of St-Peter's basilica with the Apostolic Palace, in the middle large fields, today this is a bustling neighbourhood called the Borgo and Prati. The round building in the middle is Castel San Angelo, the old mausoleum of Emperor Hadrian. You can barely see the Tiber marking the end of the fields and Rome on the other side.

Rome 2012, looking from the Gianicolo Hill in Trastevere. Here on the right are the two white marble towers of the Altar to the Italian Nation. In the back the brick belfry of Santa Maria Maggiore. The trees at the front of the photo indicate where the Tiber river is passing.

Edicola Sacra ( sacred kiosk) on Via Nomentana a few steps away from the Russian Consulate. I walked in front of this little shrine every day. There are about 730 such shrines in the City of Rome. This one is dedicated to Divine Love represented by the infant Jesus and his mother Mary. Christian shrines have been in existence since around 1500 and people to this day leave fresh flowers, maybe deposit a few coins in the box and say a little prayer. This one on Via Nomentana a very busy street with 4 lanes of traffic, people coming and going. But the shrines are left undisturbed, no one would dare damage it or steal the flowers. It is like an unwritten rule, shrines in Rome are nothing new even during Imperial antiquity, shrines existed to different deities who protected the neighbourhood, the Christian shrine serves exactly the same purpose. Romans are superstitious so everyone, young and old respects them.

 Fontana delle Tartarughe, (Turtle Fountain) built in 1581 on the order of Pople Gregorio XIII, by Taddeo Landini and Giacomo della Porta. One of the more beautiful fountains of the Renaissance in the City. You can see it in the old Jewish quarter of Rome on Piazza Mattei.

The Rose garden of Rome note the paths are in the shape of branches of a Jewish Menorah. The garden in facing the Palatine hill and the Circus Maximus. It was created in 1934 when the old Jewish cemetery of Rome was moved from the site. It is a beautiful garden with the most incredible array of roses.

Before is was moved in 1934 a photo of the old Jewish cemetery of Rome now the Rose garden of the city.

Another view of the Rose garden today in Rome. Well worth a visit.

The fountain of Piazza Repubblica not very far from our home in Rome on Via dei Villini.
This fountain was built around 1890 and sits at the top of Via Nazionale near the Termini Train Station. When it was inaugurated in the presence of the Pope, the four naked ladies who appear to be having sex with all kinds of sea monsters or swans had not been installed yet to avoid offending the Pope. It is a spectacular fountain.
Behind St-Peter's basilica the Vatican Mint. Until 1860 the Papal State issued its own currency so it could barter and trade with different countries and pay its employees. This area of the Vatican is not open to the public.
From Piazza Venezia, the centre of Rome, the traffic at night passing in front of the Vittoriano also known as the Altar to the Nation, the largest white marble monument in the world, symbol of Italian Unity.

This fall picture of the Imperial Summer Villa of Emperor Hadrian near Tivoli about 30 minutes outside Rome. This pond faces the dining room of the villa. A beautiful site only half of the grounds can be visited, the rest is still under private ownership.