Saturday, May 30, 2015

Sirmione, Part IV - Final

It's hard to describe the geographic oddity of Sirmione, as well as give an overarching view with just me and my iPhone, so here's some borrowed imagery courtesy of the Google Machine.

Catullus' Roman Villa
Sirmione Castle 
The Sirmione Penninsula
The best way to finish the day

Sirmione, Part III

The Sirmione castle is the most significant example of the defensive structures on Lake Garda. Between the 13th and 14th centuries, the village of Sirmione was a border town situated between the land owned by the Della Scala dynasty of Verona and the property of the lords of Milan. The original nucleus was delineated by a tall square wall with three towers, and was probably built on top of the remains of a Roman fortress. 
In the mid 14th century, the fortified dock was completed and a wall was built around the nearby village. A special construction technique was employed in cui bricks baked in the vicinity were used with stone that came from the nearby hill of Cortine. The golden era of the castle arrived at the end of the 14th century. However, even though it was an extremely important fort, it never became the residence of the court. As wars raged on, the reigning Della Scala family abandoned the castle, and the Venetian Republic took over its administration in 1405. In the centuries that ensued, the development of heavy artillery marked the end of medieval castles, and pentagonal-shaped fortresses with relatively low, thick walls that resisted heavy cannon attacks were built in Peschiera and Sabbioneta. 
The fortress was used as a barracks for over three hundred years, and no radical changes were made ​​from 1797 with the advent of Napoleon to the beginning of the 20th century. The castle was renovated several times during World War I.

The Lion of Saint Mark, representing the evangelist St Mark, pictured in the form of a winged lion, is the symbol of the city of Venice and formerly of the Republic of Venice. It appears also in both merchant and military naval flags of the Italian Republic. 

Sirmione, Part II

The Church of San Pietro in Mavino: It was founded, according to tradition, by local fishermen in Lombard times. A part of the old building is still standing, although with additions and changes that have occurred in various periods, including Romanesque (XI-XII century). 
The building stands on the highest point of the peninsula of Sirmione, outside the town, not far from the ruins of the so-called "Grotte di Catullo" (famous archaeological site with the remains of a large residential building from the Roman period, and become reactivated Lombard period in fortified site). 
The first documents mentioning the church of San Pietro in Mavino date from the eighth century (in a manuscript of the year 756), while much more important is the document of the year 774 that records the donation of all the possessions of the Lombards to Sirmione Carolingian monastery of St. Martin of Tours, among them precisely the church of San Pietro in Mavino). 
The church of San Pietro in Mavino is today a rectangular nave with three semicircular apses to the east, and draws buildings of Carolingian derivation of the VIII-IX centuries. 
A bit off the beaten path from the usual tourist trade, a small sign will take you to a small, but stunning church.

The frescoes date from between the 12th and 16th centuries.

Sirmione, Part I

Catullus Grotto, not a real cave, but the remains of the biggest Roman villa in northern Italy. The archaeological area is on the tip of Sirmione Peninsula on lake Garda.  
It was a huge building with sophisticated engineering solutions to get through the gaps and drops of the rocks and create a wide terrace almost suspended above the lake. According to the archaeological findings it was a luxurious building decorated with columns, mosaics, frescoed walls and a private spa.  
Even today is a quite fascinating place, a maze where, between half collapsed arches and cyclopian walls, grow centuries old olive trees with the blue lake as back drop. 
According to the legend, the villa was the house of the famous Latin poet Catullus that mentions Sirmione in some of his most beautiful poems. 
A short drive from where I am in Northern Italy, Sirmione is full of history, and a great place to spend a day. Part I is the ruins of the Roman villa, thought to have been owned by the Roman poet Catullus.

Remains of tile flooring

Remains of original plastered and painted walls

Monday, May 25, 2015

In Memoriam

Every once in awhile, I look at my StatCounter page, to see where people are coming to this site from....and I noticed, that several views from today, are to one of the first few posts I made. It was closing in on Memorial Day 2009, but what I wrote was more to put emotions to words, than for the upcoming day of remembrance. Not many [any?] who stop by now, were around these parts in 2009, so for those that are now......I'd like to introduce you to SFC Jim Doster.

From 2009:

On the 29th of September 2007, I lost my friend Jim Doster.

A guy, who like me, wanted nothing more than to lead soldiers one more time before retiring. A guy who, like me, had heartache about where the Army had sent him during his career, and the regrets of missed opportunities. Jim and I became friends while sitting next to each other during Battle Staff NCO Course at Fort Riley. Since we had PC's at our desks, we would entertain each other by trying to find the most ridiculous and raunchiest pictures possible on the internet (not easy on a .gov domain), while the instructor droned on about Combat Service Support or some other less than thrilling topic.

Leading men in battle is the pinnacle of the profession of a warrior. It's not a dream or desire that someone truly wishes for, because true warriors pray for peace. But when the call comes, there is no greater honor, nor greater test than meeting the challenge of combat, defeating your enemy and keeping your men alive.

After enduring the indentured servitude of staff work at FOB Falcon, Jim was called up, and took the reigns of a platoon of door kickers from our Brigade, but based out of FOB Rustimiyuh. A couple of weeks before he was scheduled to come home for R&R, an IED took his life. He didn't go quickly or without a fight. Despite severe trauma and loss of blood, Jim held on through the evacuation to the CSH in the IZ (Green Zone). He fought his greatest battle, but it was not enough.

My Brother, who I could always go to when I was down....who would always join me in bitching about the oxygen thieves we worked with, and for......left for another FOB, and then left forever.

Like me, he had a loving wife and two beautiful daughters that were the center of his universe. We made plans to get our families together after we returned from Baghdad. We talked of our plans to retire and what in the world we would do once we grew up.

Two friends, two Brothers..........united in profession, the love of our families and the simple pursuit of trying to do the right thing. One gets to go home and lead a full life, the other ripped away in an instant. One family living each day in innocent bliss, sometimes taking for granted the true treasures of life; the other living each day changed by the pulse of an electrical circuit and explosives, never enjoying a day without sorrow.

Why? Who rolled the dice that day and decided that Jim couldn't come home? What greater purpose was served by Kathryn and Grace not having their Daddy? My greatest nightmare is to think of Emelie and Susanna in that same situation. That's all I can write now, I'm sitting in Starbucks and people are starting to look at me funny.

I try to honor Jim's memory in the only way I know love my wife and daughters like he loved his. I wear his KIA bracelet on my wrist everyday to remember.

Back to today; each Memorial Day [or when I'm alone and have time to think about it] I try to raise a dram of SMS and listen to The Green Fields of France [preferably the Dropkick Murphy's version, as I was in Iraq going through some hard times when I first heard it].

[Last chorus]
And I can't help but wonder oh Willy McBride
Do all those who lie here know why they died
Did you really believe them when they told you the cause
Did you really believe that this war would end wars
Well the suffering, the sorrow, the glory, the shame
The killing and dying it was all done in vain
Oh Willy McBride it all happened again
And again, and again, and again, and again

Did they beat the drums slowly
Did they play the fife lowly
Did they sound the death march as they lowered you down
Did the band play the last post and chorus
Did the pipes play the flowers of the forest

As I commented on an excellent blog a few days ago, It should be legal to punch anyone who says "happy Memorial Day" while on their way to a BBQ or a store sale.

I fucking hate Memorial Day.