Friday, July 15, 2005

Europe 2005 - Rome

We missed the shuttle Bus into Rome from the campsite so we were a little frustrated by that while taking the local bus and subway in. (it actually worked in our favor for not having to walk across the city.) All frustration disappeared when we stepped out of the subway station and the giant colosseum was just right there before us. A lot of Rome is in ruins so we bought a book with pictures of a lot of them that had overlays of what they used to look like 2000 years ago. It seems like the colosseum is about half there but still amazing that it is standing at all. We decided to get the combined tickets that would let us into more places
Palintine hill was a waste of time since it had been rebuilt in the 1600's as houses and gardens and those were ruins too. It did provide for a good overlook of the forum though
I felt that the roman forum was amazing to walk through. The main reason was that there was the temple of Caesar. I know you all had to read Julius Caesar for school. So to pick up after when he staggers out of the senate and dies in the street from all the knife wounds. His devote followers bury him on the spot and build a temple. Well old Caesar is still there and people still put flowers on his grave mound. (how is that for a cult following.)
We wandered north through the city and Rome is full of ruins. It seems like they are digging up half the city, a lot of the piazzas are sunken areas with ruins in them. Other ruins have been turned into apartments. (it was weird to see one of the colosseums turned into an office building). It seems that Rome started out as a completely flat city, the longer a building lasted the more the street level rose around it. Now there are some parts that are 40 feet higher then others and parallel roads going up to cliffs and down to first story of sunken buildings.
The Pantheon was cool to see just because it is so old and still in good condition.(If you want a building shape that will last a while there is a good example.) It ticks me off that the Catholic church tries to claim it as a church since they were the ones that stole all the copper off it, but the entry is free so I guess there is always a trade off.
We found Trevei fountain and it was huge. It takes up the whole side of the building and has a waterfall coming out of it. There were more people here then at the Pantheon. Supposedly it supposed to be hard to find but with the crowds there I guess it has gained popularity enough that the maps have gotten better. We threw our money in over our heads then found a seat among some of the boulders that made up one of the sides. With the waterfall blocking out the crowd noise L. was able to take a short nap on my shoulder while I rested.
Since we had the combined tickets we did not want to waste money so we went to the National Rome Museum. There were maybe 5 other people in the museum at most. I think that L. and I both liked this one because we got to wander around the marble floors and look at all the statues and heads in complete silence most of the time. Most of the statues were repaired in some way and it was interesting to see and read how they had decided to shape the missing limbs.

Vatican City- We had decided to see Rome on a Wednesday and the Vatican on Thursday since we did not want to deal with Pope day at the Vatican. First thing Thursday morning after about 45 minutes in line we got in. We hurried to the end of the endless museums to see the Sistine chapel before there was a crowd. It was the best thing we did all day because when we did circle around again and go through all the museums the feeling in the Sistine chapel the second time was completely different with a noisy crowd taking pictures. The first time through L. and I found an empty space on the bench that ran along the wall and just starred at the ceiling for a half hour. When in this position your mouth is already open and the "wow" just comes naturally. Just the amount of detail and the perfect perspective on a curved roof, how did he do it for 14 years on his back?
The halls of the Vatican museum are endless. While looking down the hall I thought there was a mirror but no, there really was that many gilded ceilings. I am not sure if they had so much stuff that they displayed some of it in the gift shops or if they had so many things to sell that they run out of space for gift shops. Anyway while walking through the labyrinth of museums they had the gift shops placed better then Disneyland. The second walk through Leslie waited in the Sistine chapel while I went back through and saw the paintings by Raphel.
St. Peters Basilica- After coming out of the museums we just kept following the lines and it led down into the catacombs under the church. There were still people paying their respects to Pope John Paul. They had finished his alcove complete with the marble covering with gold writing. We then went into the church itself. Of course it is huge but trying to make everything the biggest it seems more like a marble warehouse then a church. (They had Michaelangelo design a bigger dome since being outdone by Florence wouldn't do.) Getting to see Michelangelo Pietra was amazing. After seeing some of the marble statues from earlier Rome you really appreciate how good Michelangelo really is. Looking at his statues it is easy to forget that it is carved from marble whereas the statues in the state museum are more likely to have sausage fingers and such.
Since we finished early enough we hurried across town to see Michelangelo’s Moses (complete with symbolic Moses horns- don't ask me, but it was used as a way for the illiterate to identify Moses.) As cool as the statue was we were both so tired we spent more time resting then looking.
Police- I don't know if it so they can cover more of the city with less cops or if the cops just drive like I would if I had a siren. Any cop driving had their siren going. I swear that some of them were just getting to the grocery store faster to get milk and eggs.

Life- you really get the feeling of being more laid back here. All the rules are the same but enforcement does not seem to be there. Driving inside the lines, bus and metro tickets, lines of any kind, they all seem optional here but there was always someone that politely got up from their seat for old people in the subway and people pulled over for broken down cars. Some of the traffic was caused by people seeing people they knew and stopping right there to say hello, other cars going around without honking.

Theft- the security post probably sounded a little paranoid but everyone I talked to before going warned me about it and the closer we got to Rome the more stories we heard from other travelers of how fast the pickpockets are and what they lost to them. The only pickpockets we saw for sure were outside the Vatican while waiting in line. I wish now I had taken a picture. Women dressed every bit the part of gypsy beggars complete with child tucked under arm walking down the line asking for money. The only problem was that since we were there so early in the morning they were still adjusting their baby (a bundle of rags) and the scarf kept coming off their hidden arm. Maybe that was the ploy- they get you to think you see through their fake baby ploy trying to get more money begging. Then you feel secure in your superiority knowing they have no baby while they take your wallet. Either way we got a good laugh at a bad job and kept our distance and our stuff. So either we are paranoid or we took the right steps to not have anything stolen, since nothing was stolen I guess we will never know. (we still have to watch our guard more in Greece and Turkey.)

Catholicism- I might tick off some devote catholics but the Vatican seems to be in contradiction to its very existence. I realize that any institution that is around that long is bound to build up a lot of wealth but it seems that they spent it on building up Popes into kings. There is 100 foot wall between Vatican city and the people they are trying to help. I understand why there so many revolts against the wealth of the church. I guess my "ever important" opinion is that, like the kings that stayed walled up in their jeweled castles, is there hope that the those living in the Vatican can know what real life is if they live in the altered state of reality there. ( I know Pope John Paul traveled more then any other pope, and that's a good sign.) and that's my judgment based on buildings built 500 years ago!

City names- I knew that country names changed depending on which language it was but I didn’t know so many city names did. In the order of us visiting them- Milano,Venezia, Firenze, Pisa, Roma, Pompeii, and Napoli.

Tourists- Tour groups are the bane of my existence. All the tour groups at the Vatican clogged the hallways and really disrupted the mood in the Sistine chapel. At every site people would approach us asking if we spoke English then launch into trying to sell us a guided tour. At least we look a little like non tourists so they have to ask. The generic looking tourists just get barraged by tour guides.

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