05.04.2013 - 05.04.2013
I am many many days behind on this whole blog thing and i apologoze to whoever keeps tabs on this for not being on top of it but I'm starting the process now of catching up to the present day before I get any further behind, here goes.
After an easy and restful boat ride and a quick train across Italy I got into Rome. Right off the bat I could feel it was different and that I really was no longer in Eastern Europe but in a whole different part of the continent, one that thankfully was warmer, but also a place where my limited euros would not be going nearly as far. Luckily though thanks to Matthew and Carla accommodation wouldn't be a part of the budget for this leg and I was grateful for this as soon as I started looking at restaurant menus.
Matthew met me at the station and guided me through the roman subway system to their place near the outskirts of the city. Carla had set up a double stacked mattress for me in their walk in closet and, though small, it was the coziest accommodation I'd had so far. Since it was barely past noon Matthew offered to take me around a slice of the huge sightseeing Mecca that is Rome. We started with the Parthenon, impressive as I ever could've imagined it and free of charge which was an awesome surprise, then made our way to the Trevino Fountain. The thing about Rome that I first realized at the fountain and then later confirmed on the days after, is that no matter how many ruins or sights you've seen of roman culture, the size, craftsmanship, and beauty of everything in Rome is just at an entirely new level. The Trevi fountain is huge and is not just a few sculptures but an entire scene immortalized in marble, a scene that has been viewed by patrons for millennia. I was blown away by it and also by the number of patrons viewing it that day. Coming from Eastern Europe I was in no way prepared for the sheer number of tourists that exist in Rome any day every day and it took me a while to get accustomed to the fact that while I was in Italy, in certain parts of town English was the dominant language spoken.
The next day I started hitting the big guys, beginning with a sight I had already seen countless times on just about every poster, postcard or anything really having to do with Rome, the Colleseum. There's a certain feeling of wonder at seeing with your own eyes an image that you've viewed so many time before but from an artificial perspective. A few days ago I watched Gladiator and there's a line in it where they're approaching the Colleseum and russel crowes friend (the guy whose also in blood diamond) whispers, "I didn't know men could build such things." For me, growing up in a world of skyscrapers and jumbo jets, the Colleseum still evoked in me a similar thought. For all our engineering and architectural feats of modern day the artistic care and style the Romans used in their buildings has never been matched and that is none more true than the Colleseum.
I also visited the forum of Rome that day and again was impressed by the grandeur that still remained in these ancient structures and ruins. Having been to Ephesus while I was in turkey I had an idea of a roman city but, like everything else, in Rome it was bigger and better. A point I should make also about all these sights is that fact that they are surrounded by a modern day metropolis and this simple fact adds a wrinkle in the whole experience as you can see at the same time what the city once looked like thousands of years ago, and then jump ahead those two thousand years and see what the city has become, very cool.
The next day I woke up and got some breakfast before asking Carla how I would make my way over to St. Peter's Square . She told me and I headed out and hopped on the metro. At my stop I got off the train and entered chaos. I was heading the wrong way in a tide if thousands of people doing their absolute best to see how many people they could fit on the subway at one time. Slowly I worked my way above ground and saw that I had only experience the tip of the iceberg. For the two miles in between myself and the square the roads were packed with people. It slowly dawned on me as I worked my way through that today must have been the first Sunday the newly elected Pope Francesco had been in charge for and that accidentally I had almost gotten there in time to see the man with my own eyes. Kicking myself slightly for not getting up earlier to see such an historic event I finally got in and was able to see the popes new digs. Even though its not somewhere I would live in its a pretty nice place all told and he must have a hell of a view outside that window of his that only a few minutes before I'm sure he was enjoying as thousands of people watched and listened to what he had to say. I wandered around the square for a bit and then attempted to get into the Vatican museum only to realize that the place was closed on Sundays.
With some time on my hands I researched and found an awesome, family-run restaurant nearby and had the first of many incredible Italian meals in Rome. Simple, delicious heaped bowls of pasta, what's not to like?
The next day I had thought of leaving but I hadn't seen the Vatican museum yet and Matthew said it was definitely worth the price (15 euros) I decided to stay one more night. After an hour and a half wait i made it in and began the journey through, and journey is definitely a good word to describe it. The museum is huge and filled in every room with works that alone would be the masterpiece of any other museums collection. Fresco followed by frescos followed by frescos to the point that if don't catch yourself you can begin to tire of them, at which point I would enter a new room and realize again just how stunning and impressive the works were that I was looking at. Raphael's work adorned many a ceiling and wall (he's as good with a paintbrush as he is with his trident daggers). The culmination of the museum is the huge masterpiece known as the Sistene Chapel. And again, like everything in Rome, it is bigger and more jaw-dropping than anything else that you could compare it to, which is impossible really just in general. I'm not religious in any way but the scene of the creation of Adam is powerful and beautiful no matter what your beliefs are. The outstretched hands of Adam and God evoke a desire, need, of connection that whether you feel a desire to connect to God or to the earth or to another person or anything, is powerful, as all amazing artwork is.
My itinerary complete and my mind struggling to retain all the amazing images it had seen in just a few days I packed up and said my goodbyes to Carla and Matthew who I have said little about in this post but who are some of the best and most interesting people I've met on the road. My final night Matthew and I discussed and explained many of our ideas and desires we had about our time here on this beautiful planet and how we could use our time to help, teach, learn, and improve the world around us. An awesome conversation that I hope someday we can continue.
Throwing on the backpack the next morning I caught a train towards Florence but my destination was not there (yet) but rather to a small town in Tuscany that I had contacted via couchsurfing and had accepted me, a little place that called itself the Pirate Cave.
I'll tell you of my time there shortly,