Giddy Up Europe

Germany, Netherlands, France, Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, Greece, Italy, Vatican, Monaco, Spain...

Monday, August 01, 2005

Rome, Vatican City, and Bari, July 17 - 20

Sorry for the lack of updates in the last two weeks. I've been busy, exhausted, and have had a hard time finding a place to upload my pictures. But big news for all you cats out there. I've extended my trip in Europe to September 2, 2005, which will put me at 106 days in Europe by the time all is said and done. So for those of you who I told would be back in NYC during August, I apologize. But here's a long needed update about Rome.

Rome is hot and humid, but getting around isn't so bad. What you have to remember is that it was the Holy Roman Empire, not Italian, so when there were city-states and all that jazz, Rome was the place to be. The empire spanned over more than the entire Mediterranean surroundings at its peak. Natural landmarks you might to hit include the Colisseum, the Parthenon, the Vatican and its museum, the Trevi Fountain, and much more. It sits along the Tiber River and has a small island that's not quite the one in Paris. If you cross the river, though, you get into some good eating and Allison and I were there for a festival or small celebration of sorts, so there was some good nightlife and people hanging out. Oh, and gelato. Italy has gelato. It's good, but don't you find it so unsatisfying? Stop the gelato madness! Let's start with a picture from the port in Patras.

This is the Rion-Antirion Bridge near Patras. It was a pretty cool sight to see when we were leaving Greece a couple hours before sunset. I'll fill you in on Bari, Italy - the port we arrived in before taking the train to Rome - since I took no pictures. It was a Sunday in a small city and we got stuck there for something like six hours. Sunday means everything is closed. Everything. And that's all I've got to say about that.

We were on a pretty decent-size cruiseship, so here's its wake and Patras in the background.

So after arriving in Rome after about 36 hours after being in Greece, you kind of see that the two are kind of similar, except that Athens is Athens and Rome is Rome. You get what I mean. Well, okay, there seems to be more architecture that survived in Rome than in Athens and generally more of it. However, Rome really doesn't have any heights, so its hard to see its splendor and you aren't really awestruck by it. In Athens, however, you see the Acropolis and it's like, 'bamn.' Yeah, it's a bamn. Here's the Colisseum, which is sweeter at night and ten euros to enter, as I recall, which is quite steep and I didn't go in. There are discounts for E.U. and possibly Common Wealth citizens, but not for students, which sucks. So this is as close as I got.

And here's me on the outside. This is also an example of tourists helping out tourists. Picture taking.

Right behind the Colisseum is the Arco di Constantino, which is cool, but not as majestic or well-placed as the Arch de Triomph in Paris.

So in the heart of the city is the Piazza Venezia and facing it is the Capitol with the Altare della Patria monument at its center. I believe it was made completely out of marble and the grave of the unknown soldier is there. It's a pretty awesome building, but really, I was just thinking more about picture time. More tourists!

This is up on the otherside of the Capitol by what is now the Capitolini Museum. Um, yeah. My thoughts exactly.

If you head over to the Pantheon, its awesome to go inside and stick around for a little bit as the sun illuminates different statues in the interior. It has 22 drainage holes in the center because the dome doesn't close. It's supposed to be the place to be when it snows and symbolize an eye looking to the heavens.

Rome's watering system is pretty good and there are some awesome fountains in the piazzas and this is one of the most famous, the Fontana di Trevi. The piazza is amazingly enclosed, though, as there are taller buildings all around it. So it's really feels like an oasis when you turn the corner and see however many hundreds of tourists lining its steps.

And if you are lucky enough, you might get propositioned by a Roman guard mime. Yeah, this one's no Russell Crowe.

One of the places where you can get a halfway decent view of Rome is atop the Spanish Steps at the Piazza di Spagna. The fountain is so small, though!

Here's a shot of the Isola Tiberina at night when we were seeing what the locals were up to. They had bars and shops open all along the river and carnival style games down some of the streets off the bank. There was also an open-air cinema and some of the cafe-bars were so posh; they had mats and pillows for you to sit down on the ground and watch the water rushing by.

Walking around Allison sniffed out some gelato and had some because she can't resist. She's really pretty addicted. Anyway, the colors you are seeing are not distorted; this is what you see when your brain is on gelato.

I went to the Vatican twice, once just because I kind of found my way there and so here's me trying to fit myself into the picture with the Castel Sant' Angelo, which I did not actually enter. Though I believe it was supposed to be a mausoleum built for and by an emperor, but was then used as a fortress by the Pope.

And you turn the corner about a block down and you see St. Peter's Basilica, which is an awesome sight. It's absolutely huge and is in very good condition. It covers 23.000 sq. meters (not feet) and has a capacity for 60.000 people. It's not the Catholic motherchurch, though many Papal ceremonies occur there because of its location.

Right in front of St. Peter's Basilica is the Piazza of the same name, which is just as spacious. There are so many statues of saints and apostles lining the top of the perimeter. The square is packed with people, but didn't seem full at all. It's also the first place where I saw tour groups with the same shirt. So it was like little armies marching through Vatican City. That's entertainment.

And if you queue up at the right time, there's not really a wait and you can book it in pretty quick. At least when you are passing security, you cannot have bare knees or shoulders. Respect! But yeah, the place is just ridiculous.

You'll run across some Vatican guards, who are dressed in the sweetest uniforms ever. I mean, it looks like something from Alice in Wonderland.

Right near by is the Vatican Museum, which has some good student discounts and one of the most impressive collections of art. There were Egyptian, Roman, Greek, Italian and much more scultures and art. Here is the Hall of Maps, which were scale drawings of Italy and known territories. It was really cool to check out.

Here's one of the last maps, which was of Italia Antigua. The opposite map was Italia Nuova, to show the differences, which was pretty awesome to see. People were amazed, as you can tell.

But what everyone wants to see is the Sistine Chapel, where Michaelangelo spent 20 months working of probably his most famous work. People just sit inside and there are guards telling everyone to be quiet and no pictures. Right, no pictures?

Suckers! This is me underneath the Creation. Bad quality because I couldn't use flash. Oh well. Hollaz!

But one of the most exciting things was sending postcards from the Vatican, seeing as it's its own country, you know. And well, it was the place to be. People love that stuff. It also had the best exchange rate and had no commission and required the lowest postage. So if you got a postcard from the Vatican, you should be special because I had to think about it a lot.

Finally, here's some pictures of my host family, the Zipperlen's, in Stuttgart.

This is Annette, my host mom, who was always really nice and took Jon and I out on weekends to places like the Schloss Solitud, a hill in Stuttgart called Birkenkopf with a pretty sweet view, and caving at Sonnenbuhl. She also took me with her one weekend to the market to shop for meat, cheese, bread, and the like.

And one of the host brothers, Aswin, who was 12 and always wanted to play games with us like Magic the Gathering (in German), memory (which included slapping the cards), and generally going way too nuts. I gave him a Mets cap, which he thought was pretty cool as well.

Flora was one of the sisters, 18, who I didn't really talk to that much because we were never around at the same time. But her English was really good and she had some crazy dreads from when she went to England. Oh yeah, she also wore bells on her ankles.

Viola was the other host sister, 17, and we probably conversed with her the most. She had lots of opinions on things and was very eager to learn English, though she already spoke very well.

The father, Hartmut, had his own gardening business and had a very distinctive beard. I was pretty amazed when I first saw it. He also showed me some pictures of when he was a college student which were cool. One of them was a picture of him wading in a lake nude, but he was just barely waist-deep. It was interesting.

So here's drinking Jon, I mean, tall Jon, who you've probably been introduced to already. He and I got along really well, which was good and we played disc (frisbee) a lot. He was really into playing it a lot and trying to get me to throw it as hard as possible to him. I almost lost his disc at Wendy's dorm one time. Sorry Douggie!

Here's Jon's bed for the six weeks we were in Stuttgart. I guess it might not have been big enough. He's a tall guy, you know.

I also just got my phone to work, which is kind of amazing, so now I'm cellular. Unfortunately it was about at the 72nd of 75 scheduled days, but I just checked my voicemail. I only had one recent one from Eubs, which I think might have involved alcohol because it was at 3:01 Friday morning. But if you left me a voice message between May 20 and July 29, I never received it because my messages get deleted after two weeks. Anyway, holla if you want to catch me roaming. But email is probably better. Hasta maƱana.


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