The Grand Journey – Touring Tuscany

My cruise posts aren’t over yet. Editing photos and writing up these posts is time consuming and I’ve been too busy to keep up.

So we’re going way back to Sunday, Nov. 17 and our stop in Livorno, Italy. The most popular excursions from this port go to Florence. We really wrestled with our decision on this one but chose to go to Tuscany. As I thought about it, I was only really considering Florence because I felt an obligation to go since other people said I should. I may give in to that in real life but not on vacation.

san gimignano in the distance

Our tour started in the medieval town of San Gimignano or St. Jimmy-John’s if you’re asking Mr. McB. It is that collection of distant towers in the photo above.

tuscitywallSan Gimignano’s trade came from wine, cloth, and saffron. During the middle ages, there were 10,000-12,000 residents; there are 1,400 now.

San Gimignano is known for its tower houses. In its heyday, there were more than 70 within the city walls. These were constructed with one room stacked on top of another. Workshops were located on the ground floor and living areas were on the the floors above. The levels were connected by moveable ladders instead of stairs for security purposes. The kitchen was located on the highest floor making it easier to escape in case of fire.

tustower1As with modern skyscrapers, the height of your tower was a direct indication of the size of your bank account. The highest tower was said to be about 50 meters or 164 feet tall.

tustwintowersWhen the Palazzo Comunale, or town hall, was constructed, there was a rule stating that no tower could be taller than the town’s tower. Officials removed parts of some structures to ensure that the rule was obeyed. The powerful Salvucci family got inventive and decided to create twin towers. Neither tower was taller than the town hall, yet their combined height would dwarf the municipal building.

tustower2San Gimignano was a popular stop for pilgrims traveling the Via Francigena between Canterbury, England and Rome. The city was very prosperous between 1199 and 1353 but then it fell to the Florentines. In a show of power, they destroyed many of the towers and only 14 remain today.

The town is more than just towers though. It is full of many lovely sites including the quaint Piazza della Cisterna. The well is made of travertine. It was originally installed in 1273 and enlarged in 1346. Guccio dei Malavolti, the craftsman who enlarged the well, left his insignia on the side. See the ladder in the picture below?

tuswhellSan Gimignano is also the site of the Basilica Collegiata di Santa Maria Assunta.
This duomo is rather modest from the outside but we heard the inside is very striking and features black-and-white marble arches and vaults. There are also a number of impressive frescoes. It was Sunday, so we could not go in. We could see the procession of tractors and other farm implements that were going to be part of the harvest blessing at the church.

tustractorThis was shot as we walked into town.

tustractorblessingThis one was in front of the church. It was nice to get a glimpse into the traditions of this little town.

While the paintings inside the church were off-limits, we were able to see some frescoes in the courtyard of the Palazzo Comunale.

tusmural2Painted in 1507 by Giovanni Sodoma, this is St. Ives Administering Justice. On the right side, the rich folks are trying to offer bribes but virtuous St. Ives has barred the door. He is interested in handing out real justice not being a puppet of the powerful.

tusmural1This is another mural in the courtyard. This one was painted in 1370. You can see San Gimignano in the hands of the figure on the left side.

We also did a little shopping. Our niece asked us to bring back a jewelry box. This seemed like a simple request but we were disappointed with the choices up to that point. Thankfully, San Gimignano came through for us in a big way and we found the perfect box. It was made from Carrara marble from a nearby mountain. It was a very elegant (and heavy) piece.

tusdoorwayBuilding in San Gimignano

gate in san gimignanoAnother shot of the gate

tuswarmemorialThis is a memorial to soldiers from WWI.

We were soon back on the bus. On our way to Siena, the driver stopped to allow us to take some landscape photos and check out some of the olive trees that were almost ready for harvest.

tusvineyardtusolivetuscanySiena is yet another medieval town. Today, the city is known for its horse race called the Palio. While the Palio’s roots stretch back to the 6th century, some will recognize it as the horse race in Quantum of Solace.

tuscsquareThis is the Piazza del Campo where the race takes place twice each year. The spectators are in the middle and the horses race around the on the black stones.

tuscbalconyThe buildings in the square also have little balconies that are very popular during the race.

The race is an opportunity for Siena’s various districts known as Contrade to compete for civic pride. The city has 17 Contrade that are represented by animals or other natural symbols. These are difficult to miss as you walk around the city.

tuspalhorseThis is found on a building in the Contrada of Valdimontone (Valley of the Ram). Traditionally, the inhabitants of this neighborhood were tailors.

tusctwocontradaThis is the intersection of Aquila (eagle, one of the four noble Contrade) and Selva

            We saw the goose, the symbol of the Oca Contrada, everywhere.

tuscgooseflag
tuscgoosecontradaThis is another noble Contrada. It was also one of the two Contrade that won a Palio in 2013. As winners, they are eligible to hang and burn the celebratory lights you’ll see below.

tuscgooselamp The residents of Selva just celebrated their big feast so they were also allowed to hang their celebratory lanterns though only for a few days. If you look carefully, you can see the differences between the lamps. The ones below are decorated as branches with leaves. Selva is the forest so this is very logical.

tuscfeastlampsVisit http://www.ocaioloextramoenia.it/Palio/contrade.htm for more on the Contrade. Click “English” beside each link for translations.

Siena is also known for its duomo built between 1215 and 1263. Much of the decorative facade was added later. The mosaics came in the 19th century.

tuscsienacathedraltusccath2tuscsienacathcloseThe marble church is a fantastic representation of Italian Gothic style. It is almost too much to take in at once. There are so many decorative elements. I’ve seen it before and it was just as stunning the second time around. I wish we could have gone inside to see the black-and-white pillars and ornate decorations. As it was, there was still more of the church to see from the outside.

tuscathedralsideThis is the cathedral’s bell tower or campanile. It was added in the early 1300’s and matches the rest of the church very well. The black-and-white color combination is popular in the city and is said to represent the horses of its legendary co-founders Senius and Aschius.

As majestic and large as the church is today, there were plans to make the duomo larger than St. Peter’s in Rome. Due to missteps in the construction followed quickly by the Black Plaque, the expansion never occurred. Visitors can still see some of the remnants of the attempt.

tuscwalltuscbuckleIf you look closely, you will see that the top part of the column juts out a bit and there is some buckling due to the weight of the roof.

Our tour of the city also included a stop to see San Domenico, a church devoted to Saint Catherine. Our guide said that the color of the church is the inspiration for the “Burnt Sienna” Crayola crayon.

tuscstcatherineCatherine is credited for bringing the pope back to Rome from Avignon, France. One of 22 children, she lived a very interesting life. You can read more here and here. Her skull is displayed in a reliquary inside the church. While I feel sad about missing the interior of the other churches we visited that day, missing the skull didn’t bother me.

Walking away from austerity and vows of poverty, we made our way to Palazzo Tantucci which is held by Monte dei Paschi di Siena, the oldest bank in the world.

tuscoldesbankThis is just one of the three palazzi belonging to the bank.tuscbankdoorIt’s a bit more elegant than my local branch of BB&T, that’s for sure.

We had a little bit of time to wander around on our own before it was time to meet back up in the Piazza del Campo.

tuscsinstreetI spotted these fuzzy Christmas decorations,
tuscchristmasthis statue,
tuscsculptureand this one.
tuscmamaShe looks forlorn. Can you blame her with all those kids and all that bird poop?

We made it back to the square just as the sun was starting to peek through the clouds. It was still overcast but there is no rain obscuring my photo of the town hall or Palazzo Pubblico. Visitors can go to the top of the tower but we didn’t make it during our visit. It’s a reason to go back, right?

tusstowertuscfountainIt took eight years for workers to bring water to Piazza del Campo. This accomplishment was celebrated with the creation of the Fonte Gaia which is loosely translated to mean joyful fountain. The figures were created by Jacopo della Quercia.

tuscsienatuscmichaelMr. McB and I pondered the day in our own way.

tuscangelasitting My grandfather was a brick mason. He loved looking at the way things were constructed and could often tell you about the weather and other conditions when the work was done. I thought of him many times during our visit to the Colosseum and our time in Tuscany. There are so many bricks. He would love to see all of this architecture. Some how just sitting there and literally soaking up the heat from the bricks, I felt close to him.

It was a great day in Tuscany. Next time we’ll do Florence, Pisa, or maybe both.

 

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The Grand Journey – Return to Rome

romrrMr. McB mentions “the dream that was Rome” in his recap of our visit. Ah, the sweet naivety of a first-time visitor; that was me before 2010. I also had a dream that was Rome but that fantasy was dashed by the reality of this frenzied and often frustrating metropolis. After that visit, I echoed Gracchus, “Rome is the mob.”

Admittedly, I was working at the time so instead of just keeping an eye on my own belongings, I was responsible for watching over the wallets and purses of a group and that’s no small feat in Rome. There are pickpockets, gypsies, and aggressive street vendors surrounding the tourist attractions. Despite all of this, Rome is still home to many famous sites that you really should see for yourself if the opportunity is presented.

We chose the “Rome on your own” excursion which included a bus ride from the port in Civitavecchia to the drop off point at Piazza Del Popolo. We had a guide on the bus who spoke about Rome, gave suggestions for our day, passed out maps, and consulted with passengers one-on-one to be sure they were prepared for the day. We could have saved money by taking the train but that has its own dangers. Should the train schedule have been disrupted, and that’s a definite possibility, we would have shelled out $300-400 to cab it back to the pier. If we took the train, we would have also missed out on the helpful tips provided by our guide.

Shortly after arriving, we went straight to the metro stop at Flaminio which is just around the corner from the drop-off. We got a little twisted around in the tunnel and needed the help of a nice Italian man to operate the turnstile but we were soon on our way to the Colosseum. The trip involves a transfer but that couldn’t have been easier. Termini station was easy to navigate with all sorts of signage. We were both stunned at just how simple it was to take the metro in Rome.

As we walked toward the Colosseum, we started to encounter those street vendors I mention earlier. These were pretty tame but it was a good reminder to be alert.

We purchased tickets online before leaving home. The Disney Fast Pass has nothing on a prepaid admission to the Colosseum. The ticket line was terribly long, even early on a day in November but we didn’t even stop; we just moved forward in the special row for those with prepaid tickets. Buying a ticket at the Forum is also an option since it includes the Colosseum but that line was at least 30 minutes long. If you have one port day in Rome, you don’t have time to waste.

On my last visit, I wasn’t able to see the Colosseum from the inside. I was very eager to explore this site but wasn’t prepared for how it would make me feel. Built in the 1st century AD, the Colosseum held 45,000 spectators and was the largest Roman amphitheater in the world. The structure was built for gladiatorial competitions and other “games” meant to win the favor and allegiance of the Roman populus. I knew what happened inside the Colosseum but I still wasn’t prepared for the feeling of sorrow that resonates through the ruins. For me, there was nothing that spoke to the glory of Rome. Yes, the structure is remarkable but it was built to make a game of death and suffering.

rom11It is estimated that 500,000 people, including gladiators, and over a millions wild animals were slain on the sands of the Colosseum. The death toll for a single festival in 240 A.D. includes 2,000 gladiators, 70 lions, 60 wild horses and donkeys, 30 elephants, 30 leopards, 19 giraffes, 10 elk, 10 hyenas, 10 tigers, one hippopotamus, and one rhinoceros. The festival may have lasted for several months but does that make it any easier to comprehend?

rom1rom3It is also believed that early Christians might have been martyred here. There is proof that Christians were slain in other arenas in the Roman empire, including one that stood near the present day site of St. Peter’s so it is not unrealistic to think they were also killed in the Colosseum. For this reason, it is considered a holy site. The Pope conducts the Stations of the Cross outside the structure on Good Friday.

rom2The bodies of fallen men and animals were taken out of the death gate and dumped into a common burial pit. When workers excavated the site in the 1800s, they had to take frequent breaks because of the overwhelming stench that remained centuries later.

rom12rom10It’s easy to condemn those who created and watched this spectacle. As we walked through the site, I thought about football and the current state of player safety and head injuries. It was uncomfortable to think about this and draw the natural parallel between these games and those that we enjoy today.

rom24Gladiatorial games were outlawed in the 5th century. Games involving animals continued for another century but by 523 those were gone and the arena was unused and fell into centuries of disrepair. rom5rom20

The Colosseum was once covered in Travertine marble. This was removed after the arena fell into disuse. Much of the marble was used in the construction of St. Peter’s and other churches.

rom8Temple of Venus and Roma from the Colosseum

rom7This view of the Arch of Constantine is visible from the upper level of the Colosseum near the gift shop. After winning a key battle against Maxentius and attributing his success to a vision of Christ, Constantine converted to Christianity and declared that the religion was to be tolerated in the empire. This allowed for the end of persecution and the start of Christendom.

rom22After leaving the Colosseum, we made our way to the Roman Forum. Again, we avoided the main line and were inside the site in just a matter of minutes.

romforum

I regret not having an audio tour or guidebook as we made our way through this sprawling site.

rom27The Arch of Titus commemorates the sacking of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. The Arch de Triomphe is modeled after this structure.

rom31

rom29rom30rom32Part of the Basilica Aemilia and the larger Temple of Antoninus and Faustina. Built in honor of a deified emperor and his wife, the temple is now a Catholic church.

romantoninofaustinaromromulusAnother former temple that went on to become a Catholic church. In this instance Emperor Maxentius devoted the site to his son Valerius Romulus, who died in 309. Maxentius is the emperor who lost in battle to Constantine. While trying to cross the Tiber during that battle, he fell into the water and drowned.

After leaving the Roman Forum, we set out for Capitoline Hill or Campidoglio. Our research told us this was a great place to get a view of the city and to see statues created by Michelangelo.

romcapoPalazzo Senatorio
The fountain features the gods of the Nile and Tiber rivers.
Minerva stands in the middle.

rombigstatueThe Nile

rom40I’m not sure who that fellow is but as you can see, he is enormous.
If we go back to Rome, I want to visit the museum here.

romcapstatueThis is a bronze copy of a statue of Marcus Aurelius. The original was saved because it was mistaken for a statue of Constantine. It is the only fully surviving bronze statue of a pre-Christian Roman emperor.

rommich1Michelanglo’s statue of Castor

rommich2Here’s Pollux with his arm outstretched.

Before heading to the Panethon, we stopped at Il Vittoriano or Altare della Patria (Altar of the Fatherland), a national monument.

rom41The monument is home to the Tomb of the Unknown. It also honors Vittorio Emanuele II, the first king of a unified Italy. The structure is interesting architecturally, though not well-loved by most Italians as it is seen as a bit overwhelming given its proximity to the ancient ruins.

We made our way through the increasingly crowded streets and arrived at the Pantheon.

romfountrompant Now a Catholic church, the Pantheon began its life as a temple that was devoted to all gods (Pan-theon). The Pantheon is best known for its dome and oculus. Made of cast concrete, the dome is a perfect hemisphere resting on a solid ring wall. Michelangelo studied this dome before beginning work on the dome at St. Peter’s.

romocculusInside you will find a number of notable tombs including Raphael, the artist not the turtle, and Vittorio Emanuele II. It’s easy to forget that this is a church but keep it in mind and behave accordingly.

romvittorioemanueleWith an ever-growing rumble in our tummies, we soon sat off for the Piazza Navona to grab a bite. Our guide highly recommend this area of town and the tartufo, an ice cream specialty. After a short walk, we were greeted by a lovely square filled with artists and restaurants. Our guide said this is a spot frequented by Romans, and not just tourists.

romnav2romnavoFrom the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi or Fountain of the Four Rivers

romtartM chose a vanilla gelato while I chowed down on the tartufo. This treat features a maraschino cherry and what tasted like a bit of rum surrounded by chocolate ice cream that is then coated in a hard fudge shell. It’s rich and really unlike anything I’ve tasted before.

After a nice sit, we were off to Trevi Fountain. After 20-25 minutes, we made it and found ourselves amongst hundreds of tourists. With a little patience, we were able to make it down the steps and sit by the fountain for a while.

romtreviromppTrevi Fountain is a pickpocket’s paradise especially with folks getting into bags and pockets to get coins for the fountain. If you go, have your coins ready before approaching. If you are wearing a backpack flip it around so the bag is on your chest. Be alert.

After seeing the fountain, we followed our noses to Pizza In Trevi, a pizza joint around the corner. These slices were fresh, delicious and a good value. I had thin strips of eggplant on my pie. Oh so yummy!

rompizzamromeggplantInstead of sitting down, we decided to keep walking toward the Spanish Steps. I missed them on my first trip and really wanted to see them. As it turns out, I didn’t really miss anything the first time. They are steps covered by crowds of people. It was interesting to see how people behaved (making out, leaving their iPhone unattended so it could be stepped on, lying on the steps…) but I wouldn’t go back. I cannot recommend them, especially if your time is limited.

romspanishWe continued on toward the Piazza del Popolo as our meeting time was drawing near.

rom45We stopped in to Santa Maria del Popolo. It is said that Nero is buried nearby and that his ghost haunted a particular tree that used to grow on the site of the church. After chopping down the tree, and evicting the devilish crows that lived there, the church was constructed.

Our guide recommended this place and I’m so glad she did. On the outside, the church is nothing special but the inside is very interesting. It also houses two Caravaggio’s. You cannot photograph these works but they are worth soaking up with your own eyes and forgetting the camera for a while.

rom47The high altar and the Madonna of Popolo

rommarFuneral monument of Giovanni de Castro

rommariagraverommary2With 45 minutes to kill, we walked away briefly to see the Tiber River. If we had enough energy, we could have hoofed it to St. Peter’s but by that point, we were both more than a little tired.

romtiberI was much happier with this trip to Rome. It’s still crazy and you have to be on guard, but there are many sites worth seeing including those that won’t make it to the “must” list in every tourist guide. Don’t be surprised if you’re a little disappointed with the famous attractions (Spanish Steps, Trevi) but there’s bound to be at least one little treasure (Piazza Navona, Maria del Popolo) that will make up for it.

romfinal

South Carolina State House

I’m such a bad blogger and traveler. I just found the SD card with photos from my exploration of Columbia, SC back on Good Friday. With Mr. McB out of town, I’ve had plenty of time to edit the photos so I can get them posted here. I covered a lot of ground during my time in Columbia so I expect to have at least another post devoted to my adventures.

My first stop, well after Starbucks, was the South Carolina State House.

The story of the State House is as rich as the history of the state itself. The “new” State House’s original architect, P.H. Hammarskold, proved to be incompetent and was relieved of his duties in 1854. He was replaced by Major John R. Niernsee. Neirnsee had to completely dismantle the work started by Hammarskold before he could begin his own structure. Construction slowed during the War Between The States Things took a bad turn for everyone (except the Yankees) on February 17, 1865 when Sherman’s troops captured the city and began campaign of destruction.

As you can see from this marker, the citizens of Columbia are still a wee bit upset by the actions of Sherman’s men. The Union soldiers completely destroyed the old State House and set fire to the unfinished “new” State House. While the structure was damaged, it was not completely destroyed. Bronze starts mark the spots where cannons and other artillery damaged the outside of the granite structure.

George also shows his battle wounds. He originally carried a long walking stuck (not a baton) but the end was broken off when Union soldiers threw bricks at the statue.

The war left South Carolina in financial ruin. When the State House was completed in 1903, the Greek Revival structure didn’t match Niernsee’s vision. Instead of a stunning tower topped with a pyramid-type structure, the State House has a dome similar to those seen in other states. The changes to Niernsee’s designs were very controversial. There were bitter debates and even a lawsuit that ended in a mistrial. The State House went through a major renovation in the 1990’s to bring it up to fire code, improve accessibility and add required earthquake protection measures.

South Carolina State House interiordissolution “Dear Union,
This isn’t working. We’re breaking up with you. Please leave us alone.
Sincerely, South Carolina.”

stained glass inside the state houseThe stained glass window is found inside the State House. It was constructed by a friend of architect Niernsee.

pink flowers state house south carolinaThe State House grounds feature several lovely garden areas and a number of monuments and memorials.

white pixie iris

strom thurmon statueThis is a photo of the base of the Senator J. Strom Thurmond statue on the State House grounds. Strom was the oldest man to serve in the Senate and is well known for his racist politics and record-breaking filibuster against the Civil Rights Act in 1957. As you can see, the statue was placed before it was revealed that Strom’s oldest child was actually Essie Mae Washington-Williams who was conceived after a liaison between a young Strom and his parent’s African American maid.

law enforcement memorialOn to a less controversial topic, this monument memorializes South Carolina law enforcement officers who were killed in the line of duty.

South Carolina oldest monumentErected in 1858 to honor the heroism of South Carolina’s Palmetto Regiment during the Mexican War, this is the oldest monument on the State House Grounds.

confederate women's memorialErected in 1912, this monument recognizes the contributions of the women of the Confederacy. The statue has a long and beautiful inscription. Here is an excerpt:
“At clouded dawn of peace / they faced the future /undismayed by problems
and fearless of trials / in loving effort to heal / their country’s wounds
and with conviction / that from the ashes of ruin / would come resurrection
and truth / with glorious vindication…” To read all of the inscription panels, visit this page.

This monument honors South Carolinians who died during the Civil War. The Confederate Flag flies at the rear of the monument. It originally flew from the dome but was moved to this location as a compromise.

African American MonumentSouth Carolina was the first state capitol to feature a monument to African Americans. The photo above shows the monument. The low structure in the center of the walkway represents the cargo-hold of a slave ship. The panels show a timeline of African Americans in the state.

african american monument south carolina

The panels are a wonderful representation of the struggles and sacrifices of African Americans in South Carolina. The monument is well-done and quite moving.

As you can see from this post, the South Carolina State House is a place of controversies and contradictions. There are aspects that inspire pride and others that make you feel uncomfortable. I’d say it’s pretty representative of the state’s long history.  I encourage you to visit the South Carolina State House and take it all in for yourself. To plan your visit, click here.

Dark Corner Outing

Dark Corner evening at the Upcountry History MusuemI have always loved history. There is something to be said for understanding the events that shaped your area. Furthermore, I find that history’s true stories are much more compelling than the Hollywood writer’s fiction.

I am particularly interested in what some might consider the small or inconsequential history. These are the stories of real people trying to improve their situation, preserve their way of life, or simply get by. It seems that I’m often drawn to the stories of those who live in the rural South. There’s a lot of good material there – eccentricities, faith, resourcefulness, sass, determination and the occasional blood feud. All of those facets seem to be wrapped up in the history of South Carolina’s “Dark Corner,” an area of the state that was celebrated at the Dark Corner Evening event that I attended at the Upcountry History Museum on January 26.

In addition to a screening of the Dark Corner documentary, the evening featured sampling of moonshine from the Dark Corner Distillery and brief talk from distillery co-owner Joe Fenten.  Dean Campbell, Squire of the Dark Corner, was on hand to introduce the film and talk about why preserving (and protecting) the area’s history was vitally important to him. I could drone on about all that I learned, but instead I am simply going to list a few things that really struck a cord with me.

  • So many families in the Dark Corner and other parts of Appalachia wouldn’t have survived without the money they earned from moonshining. I loved the passion that Joe Fenten has about the moonshine that they’re making down at Dark Corner. Even in his brief remarks, it was clear that he wants to preserve this art for generations to come. He’s also eager to tie his business to local farmers by buying their grains and repurposing the spent grain for feed. It’s great to see someone who has such a love for what they’re doing.
  • I know that for many people the caricature of the Southern hillbilly and the reality of people living in Appalachia cannot be separated. Dean Campbell proudly accepted the name hillbilly but reminded us all that it’s not the same as white trash. I think that many people don’t see a difference. I think it’s time to abandon the idea of mountain people being uneducated, backwards, and often lazy. Mountain folks, or hillbillies, are far more likely to be hardworking, resourceful people doing everything in their power to provide for their families. They are also a people with a deep and abiding faith. They might speak plainly or slowly, but often it’s because they put a lot of thought into what they have to say. I think most of us could learn a lot from a hillbilly.
  • I appreciate the filmmakers who wanted to unlock the mystery of the Dark Corner. The stories of common people are often overlooked or lost through the years but they’re so interesting. I’m glad to know more about the families who lived in that elusive area, just a little further up the road.
  • I thank the Upstate History Museum for having fun with history. Just like the encampment at Cowpens, it’s this kind of thing that will spark a love of history in generations to come.

If you can get your hands on a copy of the documentary, I encourage you to do so. It is available from the Greenville Library. For those of you not in the area, consider looking into a lesser known facet of your local history. You’re bound to learn a lot and have a good time in the process.

Cowpens or Co-pens if you ask Tom-Tom

Canon practice at CowpensLast Saturday we drove up 85 to Cowpens National Battlefield. It is the site of a Revolutionary War victory over the British lead by the reviled Banastre Tarleton. We went this particular Saturday to see the annual encampment and anniversary festivities.

As Mr. McB states in his post, we learned a lot during the outing and enjoyed seeing (and shooting) everything. He mentions the effort these reenactors put into keeping history alive. They were camping out in the cold (OK, South Carolina cold)  at their own expense, wearing uncomfortable costumes in the hopes of honoring those who served, and igniting a bit of patriotism and love of history in all of us. It’s a tall order and I thank them for it.

rangerI also appreciate the ranger who lead our battlefield tour for encouraging us to question the experts and conventional wisdom. He questions many of the facts that are found in historical texts about this and other battles. He’s spent 12 years at the battlefield and studying what happened there. I’m not saying I believe everything he said, I honestly haven’t studied the battle enough. I have to think he knows what he’s talking about in many instances.

The whole experience made we want to learn more about the history of this area. I encourage all of you to visit battlefields, monuments, and historical sites in your area. It shows an appreciation for those who came before and those who work so hard to keep history alive now. You can get some pretty cool pictures, see mine below.

Soldier tentsSoldiers would have used tents like these.

biscuit breakfastWhile these reenactors were currently cutting potatoes, they had just finished baking biscuits. You can see one in the gentleman’s hand. He looks pretty pleased with their finished product.

Bacon and coffeeIn days of old, the coffee would have been in muslin bags. In 2012, filter packs will do.

Redcoat in the woodsRedcoat in the woods

SmittyThe smitty and his wares

chicken timeThis is a little more difficult than grabbing a deli chicken from Wal-Mart.

Laundry must go on – even in battle.

no hills hereThe history books talk about the hills at Cowpens. Ummm, yeah…

This piper is chatting with another visitor.