The Sistine Chapel and Vatican City. Wow.

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January 29th 2007
Published: January 30th 2007
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The Beauty Leaves Me In Deep ThoughtThe Beauty Leaves Me In Deep ThoughtThe Beauty Leaves Me In Deep Thought

Wow, I'm actually at the Roman Colosseum!
So, yesterday Derek and I got up as early as we could manage, packed up our bags, and transferred everything to our new, wonderful hostel (Allessandro's Palace Downtown). Then we scooted off on the Metro for the Vatican. As I mentioned before, it was free that day since it was the last Sunday of the month. I expected it to be a bit busy because of this, but I was no where NEAR prepared for the crowd we were to encounter! When we got to the entrance of the museums, we encountered a line that stretched completely down the road and around to the corner. It seemed to be moving pretty quickly, though, so we walked to the end of the walled area (the city is surrounded by a huge, brick wall) to join the line. However when we reached the corner we found that the line turned the corner, and continued for a loooong ways. So we followed it, and hit another corner. Yup, it curled around that one, too. FINALLY we reached the end of it, and joined up. It wasn't so bad, though. It only took us 45 minutes to get in. Plus, we met a really wonderful
Fab frescosFab frescosFab frescos

Amazing beauty as far as the eye can see. I was starting to get a sore neck by the end of this day
girl our age who was directly in front of us. Phonetically, her name is Yah-ELLE, though I have no idea how it's spelt. She's from Isreal and is just here in Europe for a month. She wants to study fashion in Europe, so she's going to all the big fashion cities like Milan and such. We ended up hanging out with her the entire day, and arranged for her to move to our hostel the next day!

I don't even know where to begin to tell you about our experience at the Vatican. It was simply incredible. Needless to say with a line like that, the place was absolutely jammed with people. Never in my entire life have I been in crowds like that. In some parts you just had to surge through rooms with the flow of people. At other times, though, it thinned out a bit and you could really appreciate the beauty of the masterpieces you were standing amongst. The place closed fairly early, so we by-passed the museums and went straight for the chapel areas. The ceilings---ohh they just blew us away! Just AMAZING!!! I probably took 100 photos or more. I just couldn't stop.
A disgraceA disgraceA disgrace

This crappy travelblog photo doesn't remotely due justice to these amazing paintings, so even though I have about a billion fresco pics I'll only upload a few. You get the idea, though
And the Sistine chapel itself was quick amazing, too, although we weren't allowed to take photos in it (I have no idea why). I really felt for the poor, lone security guard whose job it was to tell these hoards of hundreds of people that they couldn't take pictures. My dad said that when he was there and it wasn't very full, they would confiscate cameras if you took pictures of things you weren't supposed to or used your flash when it was forbidden. This day, however, the madness prevented any possibility of that and the poor guard was left to yell and clap his hands at the crowd, mostly in vain, to try to get them to put their cameras away. I tried to follow his instructions, mostly because I felt sorry for him. The room was totally out of control, though. We had to push through a pratical stampede just to get out the exit door--it was a total zoo. By that point we were entering a museum of Christian artifacts but the museum was closing so they started to close up all the cabinets holding the artifacts. It was just as well because we were STARVING and
No corner uncovered, with paint!No corner uncovered, with paint!No corner uncovered, with paint!

Every inch of the place was beautiful
all the captions were in Italian so we didn't even know what we were looking at.

!!!!NOTICE!!! OK, I've had major internet issues over the past few days, so this post is taking forever. Now it's Jan. 30, and hopefully I'll get it all done today! I'll continue my above story and then give a quick overview of the past few days.

After we left the museum/chapel area and had some lunch (pizza! Yum!) We headed back to the Vatican to enter the famous square and see St. Peter's Basilica. There we ventured through a basement area which held all the tombs of the past popes. It was interesting to see which ones were vain and which ones weren't--some had huge, elaborate caverns dedicated to themselves with lifesize statues of themselves on top of the tombs, while others were a much more simple affair with just a basic "box style" tomb with their name engraved upon it. I was pleased to see that Pope John Paul II had a tomb of the simple variety, though that was about all I got to see of it. The super grumpy guards rushed every one past and completely freaked out at
Even the floor was beautifulEven the floor was beautifulEven the floor was beautiful

I think this is like the symbol of the Vatican or something, but I'm not sure. At any rate, it was really pretty
anyone with a visible camera, even though there were no signs saying that we couldn't take pictures there and you seemed to be allowed to take pictures of any other tomb you cared to. You couldn't even stop to have an extended look, as the mean guards herded everyone along like the grave contained wafting fumes full of anthrax or something. Sheesh. Honestly. Afterwards we wanted to climb the steps to the top of the building to see the great viewpoint, but apparantly we were too late because right before we got to the counter they changed the sign to say that you could only take the elevator because it was near closing (which cost over $10CAN and definitely was NOT worth it). So, we said to heck with that and decided just to wander the area. After getting yelled at by another unfriendly guard for simple LOOKING at a bronze statue (honestly, I think they just like saying "no" to things because they can) we left that area and went to check out a near by castle. More happened there, but.... I'm too lazy to write more about it at the moment. All in all it was a good,
Covert PhotoCovert PhotoCovert Photo

A masterpiece in the Sistine chapel... taken against the guard's wishes, of course!
full day.

The next day was much more low key. Derek and I took our tourist map and tried to go to as many of the highlighted sites on the map as possible. We did pretty good. We managed to cover probably close to 75% of them on foot, which really was not a bad accomplishment. I think my favourite spot we visited that day was also the very first one, I think it was called the Bassillica d'St. Angelo (or something). It was a wonderful old church built on top of the site of the biggest baths of ancient Rome. It was actually designed by Michaelangelo and was fulled with lovely artwork and sculptures, and some neat interpretive displays about the history of the area. My favourite part, though, was a HUGE sundail/calendar inlaid in the floor that let light in by a tiny hole in the wall and displayed the time of day and the day between soltices. It was really amazing. I love science =)

We had a great time just wandering the Roman streets and taking in the beauty of the area. It really is such a lovely city. And the temperature was perfect.
Moving the heavansMoving the heavansMoving the heavans

Uuuuurrrgh! I can lift the stars!
Not too cold. Not too hot.

As we were heading back to our hostel we ran into Yah-ELLE outside of the Spanish Steps! She was exploring the area with a friend of hers from Israel. She had moved hostels in the morning and was now in our room. We arranged to meet for supper. The free pasta dinner from our hostel was great. Not only was it really delicious and made by a sweet, motherly-type Italian woman, but it was a great opportunity to meet other people at our hostel. We normally miss out on these opportunities because lots of the socializing happens at the bars of hostels, which we generally avoid because alcohol is a totally unnecessary expense. But here everyone eats the free dinner, and what better way is there to get to know someone than to share a meal? I chatted for quite a while with an Italian from a town outside of Milan who is a painter/art restorer who was in Rome because he had a job interview with the Vatican the next day. Cool. We're having dinner again tonight so I'll have to see how the interview went.

Today wasn't very special, although
Silly SwissSilly SwissSilly Swiss

These Swiss Vatican guards are volunteers for the post. Their uniforms were designed by Michaelangelo (what wasnt't, in Rome?). Apparantly the tradition stems from the days when the Swiss had the best army in all of Europe. I guess that was before their days of neutrality.
we DID get to see the collosium! We didn't go in, because it cost an outrageous 11 Euros (we only paid 6 euros total to see every site we visted in Athens), but you could peak through a lot of the arches and get the gist of what was inside. Then we wandered through a number of other nearby ruins and viewed some of the great nearby monuments. All you have to do is wander and every few blocks you'll happen upon some incredible ruins or an amazing building. It's good fun. We also took a tour of underneath a church from early mideival times. It had been built upon the ruins from three pagan temples, and you could still see the remains of them below the church. It was a very interesting, informative tour and we're glad we took it, but we were slightly annoyed because outside the church a sign had said that it was free admission and then this helpful woman offered to give us a tour, but once we were down there she said "that's a 2.50 donation each." Well, at that point we couldn't really back out because we were already underground and everything, but
The ParthenonThe ParthenonThe Parthenon

I forgot to mention this in the blog! It was really neat, but undergoing some restoration work inside so we couldn't see everything
we were a bit ticked that they hadn't just been upfront about the fee. Required "donation". Hmmm. The British had those too.

Tomorrow Derek and I head to Bologna, the oldest university town in Europe and home of such great gastronomic delights as lasgna and tortellini. Yum! I'm also excited because we're taking the highspeed Italian Eurostar train. We didn't actually want to because had to pay a $22CAN supplement each on top of our railpass, but there didn't seem to be any other way to get there by rail. It should be the last time we have to pay for a train if we play our cards right. I'm pretty sure we can get every where else by slow local trains. It will be a fun, one time experience, though.

Alright, time to upload some photos! (Hopefully 3rd times the charm!)

Additional photos below
Photos: 12, Displayed: 12



There's a huge hole in the middle of the parthenon ceiling (it was built that way) so when it rains the water pores from the ceiling. No worries, though. There are a bunch of drainage holes in the floor! Those cleaver Romans.
Beautiful RomeBeautiful Rome
Beautiful Rome

Some lovely rooftop terraces as seen from the top of the famous Spanish Steps.
Roman FountainsRoman Fountains
Roman Fountains

If there's one thing the Romans do well, it's water! The fountains are beautiful and the tap water tastes great!

30th January 2007

Vatican Guards
I should have mentioned that they took your camera but gave it back when you left the Vatican if you tried to take a picture in the Sistine Chapel. It was still under restoration (in 1989) and they only let a limited number of people in a time. As neat as the Coliseum was I much more enjoyed wandering the Forum and the Palatine hill all day with a detailed guidebook that identified all the sites. It was 35oC and we pretty much had the place to ourselves. We'll compare pics when you get home. Don't forget to have a bologna sandwich (you'll have as much trouble trying to get a Danish in Copenhagen).
30th January 2007

Is that coincidence? Bill Gates released Windows Vista today and the motto is "Wow".
31st January 2007

man jess! i can't believe all the places you've been already!!!! that's so awesome!!! say hi to derek from me!!
21st February 2007

I'm told that the Swiss still have the best trained army and the largest one per capita in the world but aren't allowed to send it anywhere but the Vatican because of treaties - their neutrality dates back to the days when they were the best trained mercenaries in the world.

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