WPC: Eerie places I’ve shivered in.

For this week’s challenge Cheri Lucas shared a photo taken by Merilee Mitchell entitled “Ghost Child.”  She said that “a photo doesn’t have to be blatantly macabre to be eerie. But it can have a mysterious, otherworldly vibe — the viewer wonders what lurks in the shadows. Something eerie has a story to tell — one you aren’t quite sure you want to know.”

Cheri asks that our pics be in B&W, so here are a few places I’ve visited on my travels, which have literally given me the shivers. If you click on the pics, you’ll get the full ‘eerie’ effect.  😯

In downtown Lima, Peru, below the ‘Convento de San Francisco’, along some secret passageways, are catacombs containing an Ossuary in which it is estimated lie the bones of 70,000 people. They are lined up along narrow hallways, and one area contains several large and deep holes, filled with bones and skulls arranged above each other in circular patterns. This 17th century Baroque church, originally had a normal graveyard for its members, but when space became a problem, the skulls and bones were removed from the graves and thrown into a deep pit, which over time, became the last resting place for most of Lima’s dead. When the place was discovered and opened up for archeological excavation in 1943, they found the bones just heaped up in there, and decided that the catacombs would have more ‘appeal’ if they were arranged artistically, so they placed the skulls together in a centre pile, with same length arm bones radiating outward, and matching leg bones extending beyond the arms; a rather eerie sight indeed.

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In the Italian Medieval town of Monterosso in the Cinque Terre, is the Romanesque style church of Saint John the Baptist, built of black and white Italian marble. Right next door is the Oratory of the Dead (also black and white), which was built by a brotherhood of good works. Their good work consisted of arranging funerals, taking care of widows, orphans, and the shipwrecked, and their symbols were a skull and crossbones, an hourglass, and the happy inscription “Death awaits us all.” There is a skull and crossbones above the door, and skeletons decorate the cornices.

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On 24th August 79 AD, Mount Vesuvius erupted, burying the city of Pompeii under twenty-seven feet of volcanic ash. The ruins were discovered in 1748, and in 1865, excavations began. At the time of its destruction, Pompeii had a population of some 20,000 people.  It was a really eerie feeling to be walking along the original roads, and to be able to see ruts made by the chariot wheels all those years ago, before this community was blanketed in a thick layer of hot ash.

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The Colosseum in Rome has a very bloody history indeed. In this arena, the Emperor entertained the public with free games, which started off with a few circus acts, but usually ended with fights to the death between wild animals and gladiators. To mark the inauguration of the building in AD 80, some 9,000 wild animals were destroyed. Today it stands as a monument to Roman imperial power and cruelty, where for centuries, literally thousands of people whom they saw as criminals, Christian martyrs, professional fighters and wild animals, were cold-bloodedly killed, just for sport. Standing there imagining the cheers of the 50,000 strong crowd, and the horrible gory spectacles, really gave me the shudders.

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In the Black Hills of north-eastern Wyoming is the 386 metre high monolith called ‘Devil’s Tower’. This National Monument has been the source of many legends, and the story from the Cheyenne tells us that there was once a band of Cheyenne travelling to worship the Great Spirit at Devils Tower. One of the warrior’s wives was charmed by an enormous bear without a mate, so the warriors set out to find and kill it. They were chased by the bear, and climbed into a tree. The Great Spirit gave the men the strength to kill the bear, but the woman had also turned into a bear and made the great rock her home. Because of this, it came to be known as ‘Bear’s Tipi’. We were the only people around when we came upon this eerie sight looming in the mist. It really did look like the stuff of legends.

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Well I think that’s enough doom and gloom for one weekend. I usually say “I hope you enjoyed my pics for the challenge,’ but if you didn’t, I’ll totally understand. 😀

Have a great weekend.

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Cinque Terre on the Italian Riviera.

Continuing with my Italian trip from last October:

After leaving beautiful Florence, we drove to the Italian Riviera, specifically to see the “Cinque Terre” region, which I’d never heard of before. It’s a National Park and is a proclaimed heritage of mankind UNESCO site. You may remember that on October 25th 2011, this area was hit by torrential rain and flash floods, which caused massive mudslides and devastated many towns and villages there. This tragedy happened only about a week after our visit.

Our coach dropped us off at Manarola, a medieval hamlet perched on a rocky outcrop, and the second smallest village of the five which make up the Cinque Terre. We were met by our local guide, who steered us through the narrow streets and up and down many flights of stone steps. I don’t know how some of the older, less fit members of our group managed it, but “hats off to them,” they all did it without complaining, and it was certainly worth the effort.

Here are some of the houses of Manarola, many of which used to be old mills.

The houses all seemed to have been built on top of one another, a bit like rabbit warrens, with narrow, vaulted passages between them.

Here is a beautiful 13th century church of San Lorenzo, named after the patron saint of the village.

The original inhabitants created terraces for vineyards on the very steep slopes, but because it was such arduous and gruelling work, many lie abandoned these days, as the younger generation are not willing to carry on the tradition.

Although this is a seaside town, many of the inhabitants are farmers because there is really no access to the sea or beach. The sheer cliffs protected the villagers from pirates in Medieval times.

The main street in the town is not very long, and one can walk all the way up and back along it in less than 15 minutes.

Coffee, cake and a sit down were very welcome after all that climbing around, and then we boarded a train to the picturesque town of Monterosso at the opposite end of the Cinq Terre.

This medieval town has wonderful architecture, and is now a thriving cultural centre with very pleasant beaches. Here the locals fish for anchovies and also grow lemons. Their famous Limoncino drink is sooo delicious.

This beautiful town hall, was badly damaged in the terrible floods which swept through the Cinque Terre.

The L’Alta Marea restaurant where we had lunch, served the most delicious seafood.

The Church of Saint John the Baptist, the principal church in the town, is built of black and white Italian marble in a Romanesque style. Next door to it, is the Oratory of the Dead (also black and white), was built by a brotherhood of good works.  Their good work consisted of arranging funerals, taking care of widows, orphans, and the shipwrecked.  Their symbols were a skull and crossbones, an hourglass, and the inscription “death awaits us all.” There is a skull and crossbones above the door.

The inside is very ornate indeed,

with jolly skeletons decorating the cornices.

They certainly did “preach to death” in that church. 😉

We then boarded a boat for the return journey, in order to view the towns from the sea.

At the end of the boat ride we rounded the promontory on which stands the medieval Andrea Doria castle built in 1161, overlooking the Gulf of La Spezia. This is known as the ‘Poet’s Gulf’ because the town of Portovenere was a favorite haunt of writers and poets, such as Lord Byron, Shelley and D H Lawrence.

You can see here, how close to the edge of the sea, some of these dwellings are.

Then it was onto the ferry, which took us to the town of La Spezia, which used to be a fishing village, but now has a large harbour and is the military training base. Fabulous, luxury yachts are built here. *sigh*

We were told that the largest one, which has six decks and four pools, is owned by a very wealthy Russian.

Back on the coach again, we were taken to the Grand Hotel Principe di Piemonte, an historic and prestigious hotel in Viareggio, on the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea, where we had a sumptuous dinner in the most beautiful surroundings.

There was no time to explore the town unfortunately, as we left the next morning for Pisa, but that’s a story for another day.