Sunday, September 28, 2008

When in Rome...

ORIGINAL POST: 13 May 2008

...yes, I used that title...

...because we were in Rome...

...and that's what people say...

...or not.

Hehe... square format... I felt funky today.

We began the day by taking a the subway to that little sovereign city-state - Vatican City.

We headed out early that morning. I don't know why, but THEY say that you should if you don't want to wait in line to get in.

So we took our chances. It opens at 8:30am... 8:15am sounded good. We know people who got there at 6:00am. Let me tell you, they probably were in the front of the line for 2 hours before the 2nd person in line got there. We waited in a line about 50ft long for maybe 15min and we got there around 8:15am. Just for your information...

Granted, we were there in mid-April and the lines are probably longer in the Summer... but I could imagine them being practically non-existent in the Winter.

Oh, and the metro ride is fun at 8am, too! The "real Italians" are all just going to their day's work... so we all squeeze onto a subway car, pulling people in so they don't get stuck in the door, and rode the 7 or 8 stops to Ottariano getting friendly with our new Italian friends.

Moving along...

Unlike much of Egypt and some of Greece, cameras are completely okay in almost every museum, church, and whatever I went through Europe... oh, except ONE thing: the Sistine Chapel.

But it was really cool to see (and be able to take pictures of) so many things that connected back to our temporary home in Greece. Such as... the ultra-famous 1st century BCE sculpture by Agesander of the Laocoon Group from the island of Rhodes. I had just been in Rhodes the week before... but here it was!

And then we also saw (and could photograph) such oddities and unknowns as this thing of modern art:

I don't know, I took a picture of it because it looked like Noah's Ark... and my name is Noah... if that is a new development.

And on the way out of this huge maze that is the Vatican Museum, you see the grossly over-photographed double spiral stairs to the exit.

Did I try to be cute and artistic in the slightest? Nope... I'll leave that to the other BILLION people who have attempted to photograph these stairs. Impressively enough, the most "unique" one I've seen was with a camera phone.

See? Its not all about the hardware.

Is it pretty and cute and artsy yet?

Yeah, I don't think so, either.

Okay, I thought I'd try.

Oh, remember me saying something about getting there early? Yeah... about that...

When we came out, the line stretched all the way down the street, turned the corner, continued down the street, and turned the next corner...

Just don't get there AFTER 8:15am. This was around 11:30.

Oh, I think it was about this point when I realized I wasn't carrying the wonderful guidebook that had helped us for so long. I had left it in the bookstore when I bought the guidebook. Oops...

We moved along... a few of the Vatican guards...

...looking a little silly. But, you're Swiss and you're guarding the Pope. I'm sure there's a perk somewhere.

Just around the corner is the famous famous plaza and St. Peter's Basilica. Alas, the line came down the stairs and wrapped all the way around the right side arm and halfway up the left side... and to make things more fun, it began to rain. Fat rain.

Which, in turn, made the super long line slightly dissipate as people ran for cover. But then those who stayed in line began surging forward. I can just imagine what it was like up at the front of the line...

...probably similar to the elbow-in-the-face that accompanies many of these religious sites - remember the Church of the Holy Sepulcher?

So, we hung back and decided against St. Peters.

Along with this dude that knows his old cameras and - gasp! - still uses them!

Had it not begun to rain, I was going to strike up a conversation with him... but rain and a necessity for nourishment made me move on.

Just a short metro ride later and the Spanish Steps are on your way back into downtown.

They are what they are. A staircase. With flowers. And a thousand people.

Many of the photos from here were just pictures to say I was there, but this one stuck out as I was going through them all:

Click on that one and enlarge it. It made me smile. And you may not. But see?

Wait for it...

Wait for it...

Nevermind. I thought it was funny.

Rome is really a unique place. The dichotomy is really entertaining and fun to photograph.

...and fun to be in the middle of.

A quick bite to eat and a short walk takes you to a pretty interesting place. Just an hour prior we were in front of St. Peter's Basilica.

Well, here's Mamertine Prison where Peter was incarcerated awaiting execution (on the upside-down cross) in Rome. Paul may have been here, too.

This was not the first time I had been somewhere where someone like Peter or Paul had (most likely) been, but - as far as my time overseas was concerned - this was the last time. In a LONG string of locations ranging from Jerusalem and the Sea of Galilee to ThessalonĂ­ki and Athens to Ephesus and Alexandria, Egypt, this concluded my tour of this sort of Biblical site. Looking back, there are VERY few places I have not seen. 4 months of this stuff... I had seen so much...

But, we were in Rome in the Roman Forum...

...where they LOVE their triumphant arches. This one (above) was taken 90 degrees to the right of this one:

BUT, this one here is the Arch of Titus. It was erected in 70CE commemorating the triumph of Rome over the Israelites.

See? They're carrying the menorah from the Temple back to Rome. Yep, THE Temple that used to sit on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem... where the Dome of the Rock sits now.

First Mamertine Prison and now this? I literally can't take 100 steps before running into something related to somewhere I've been. The Roman Forum is just a really cool place...

A short climb up some steps to Palatine Hill that served as the home of the Emperor for hundreds of years. In fact, the English word "palace" has its roots with "palatine".

And, of course, there are just a few people up their with their digicams at arms length. It really is funny to see sometimes... sometimes its just a forest of arms holding digicams at these places.

The price you pay for cute little plastic cameras with gigantic LCD screens...

Moving on...

Oh, and a wonderful thing to move on to:

Places like this need theme music. Seeing it in movies... seeing it in computer games... mess like that just doesn't do it justice. A structure built from the idea of putting two theaters together, the Coliseum just dominates everything in the vicinity. Its not the tallest structure in the area, but it if it is in sight, it dominates the visitor's view.

Not long ago, I would not have been able to go inside...

...but we did. And, by the way, if you don't want to wait through the long lines for a ticket, you can go over to the Roman Forum (like we did) and get the ticket there. The same ticket gives entry to all these sites.

The Coliseum really is bizarre, though. It has a certain mystique about it...

...where it just makes you sit there and look at it and think...

...this is the freaking Coliseum...

As a 1st Grader, when you "study" history, you learn stuff like:

What is in Rome?
Roman people and the Coliseum.

Well, that was the real thing.

Oh, and to add to the excitement:
When you get a little older and see Ben Hur (with Charlton Heston) for the first time, you're like, "Whoa! I wanna see that!"

And then you go to Rome and go to the Circus Maximus where they raced chariots and golly gee you wanna see it...

...and then you see it! And...

...yeah, not quite what you thought, huh?

Truly, it is impressive because its so huge (it really is a few football fields long), but it isn't quite up to the romance portrayed in movies. As far as Circus Maxiumus-esses go, the one in Caesarea Maritima on the coast of Israel was just a little more impressive.

But, as you might have noticed if you look closely at the person in the photo, it had begun to rain... again.

We were pretty far from anything, so...

...I'll use this as a commercial break:

There you have it: fine art.

A bit of a random Italian puppy on a random Italian street.

And someone was shooting a commercial or a TV show or a movie or something there as we got there. They had cameras on a boom with special high-power lights and dudes everywhere yelling (in English), "Don't look at the camera! Pay no attention. Don't look at the camera!"

What does that do? It makes people look for a camera.


We made our way all the way back up to the only thing we'd missed:

The Pantheon. A structure commemorating ALL the ancient gods and goddesses and (extremely ironically, I think) now a "holy place" and church complete with altar.

As far as colossal structures of the ancient world, this one is extremely impressive. Compare the size of the people on the front steps. Or maybe the buildings on either side... how many stories doesn't even compare? 5 floors? 6 floors? more?

A pretty cool little thing inside is the hole in the top of the HUGE domed ceiling. It doesn't have anything covering it... yes, it was raining... yes, the floor was a little wet.

The dome, by the way, is absurdly massive. So massive, in fact, it is the oldest domed structure of this size still standing. Also so massive, in fact, 18mm doesn't even come close.

And, that did it. That was Rome. We had spent two days there beside the Roma Termini. Rain and overcast, nothing stopped our journey to see as much as possible in our short time.

Someone wise once told me, "A person can be truly measured by how they handle the rain." We had the literal rain and made the absolute best of it. Will my companions and I have any figurative "rain" to deal with in the coming days. Our travels were only 6 days in...'ll have to stay tuned to find out.

That, my friends, is me being mysterious... did we? didn't we?

See you soon,
~Noah D.

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