Thanks so much to everyone who has commented or e-mailed me words of encouragement for this blog project. If I had realized how fun this would be, I think I would have started it earlier.
This week, work has brought me to Rome for a short 20 hour stay. Since I've previously hit all the Roman must-sees, I opted to use this time to visit Tivoli, which is about one hour to the east and is known for its ruins and Villas (and yes, I do know you could say that about every single Italian village). The most visited attraction is Villa Adriana, the ruins of Emperor Hadrian's preferred summer getaway. Yet, somehow this did not translate to a clear, visible sign at the designated bus stop (something along the lines of "Yes, you dumb tourist, this is your stop! Ring that bell! Now!! You are going to pass it..." would have sufficed) , so I ended up visiting Villa d'Este instead. Villa d'Este is the 16th century palace of Cardinal Ippolito d'Este and is known for its gorgeous gardens. More importantly, it is said to be the inspiration for Schloss Hellbrunn in Salzburg, which I visited in November and absolutely loved. As you can see from the photos, the gardens at Villa d'Este are indeed lovely, with perfectly manicured paths leading to gurgling fountains, classical statuary and expansive views of the town below. All of which left me saddly disappointed. I didn't get wet once. You see, its Austrian counterpart, Schloss Hellbrunn, was the home of Prince Archbishop Markus Sittikus during a time when the clergy held an inordinate amount of power. Instead of using this power for good, dear Markus used his power to seriously screw with people. He may have been inspired by the ingenious use of hydrolic power used in Villa d'Este where a fountain will flow into a brook, only to flow into another fountain before cascading down a waterfall... but his was a mind bent on mischievousness. The jets of his fountains were cleverly hidden in the gardens, walls, really anywhere where he might get a good angle with which to spray the unsuspecting passerby. Today, as you stroll through Hellbrunn, there are levers which are used by an all-too-eager tour guide to douse tourists at every turn. It really is great fun. I think what I enjoyed the most was picturing the 17th century society matrons of the day getting dressed up in all their finery for his garden parties only to find themselves frantically scrambling for cover to try to avoid this aquatic assault. It says something about the level of power that this Archbishop must have held, that he did not routinely get his ass kicked for these stunts. I have also included photos of Hellbrunn in this post. While I have not figured out how to label the photos, I suspect this really won't be a problem for anyone. (Hint, to the best of my knowledge, no one at Villa d'Este was ever in danger of getting involuntarily douched while sitting at the dinner table).
At the moment I am in Romania. I hope to go into the mountains of Transylvania with my good friend Laura this weekend and if that happens, I will be sure to post some photos here. Even if there are no jokester fountains there, either.