Firstly, today is Grandma Heiden’s Birthday! So Happy Birthday Grandma! 😊
My parents and I have sweated our way through Rome and have now made it to refreshing Paris! I think the word I would use to describe Rome is “impressive,” from a historical point of view. Maybe it was the heat, maybe it was nearly being killed by cars a few times that just don’t stop for red lights, I’m not really sure, but other than the ruins I wasn't a huge fan of Rome. I really think the heat did it. I’m pretty sure people who live in Rome are just in a constant state of dehydration during the summer. Italy is a very warm place.
We arrived by train from Florence fairly early in the day, maybe around noon or one, got to our apartment and didn't emerge until maybe six or seven in the evening. We were pooped. It’s been a pretty busy schedule since my parents got here and we haven’t had a lot of down time to just rest so it was much needed, plus in the middle of the day it was really
too hot to do anything and enjoy it.
When we did leave the house it was only a few minute walk to the Coliseum, literally maybe five minutes. It is incredibly huge and incredibly old. Just like he did in Florence, Dad bought a handy guide book and we learned that the Coliseum was started in 72 A.D. and finished in 80 A.D.; I think it’s the oldest thing I have ever touched.
We returned to the Coliseum first thing in the morning to go inside and
nearly more important was to meet up with my friends from Clemson: Steve, Ryan and Dillon. Ryan, you may remember, studied in Sweden spring semester and was with me when we realized that the character Ellen Ripley from the movie “Alien” was probably based off of my Mom, right down to the hair. Dillon and Steve flew over to Europe about a month ago after Ryan finished classes and the three of them have been traveling around. We happened to coincide in Rome so we decided to meet up and they could spend the day with me and my parents, food included. 😊
The line (if you could really call
it a “line”) to get into the Coliseum was very deceiving. From the outside it looked like a pretty sort line, little did we know that it continued inside, although, it was shady and not boiling temperature so we didn't complain. The tickets to get in were 12 euro (over 15 dollars), so we made sure to take our time and make the most out of it. It was a good place to walk around and catch up with the guys, too. Dillon is a history major and wants to be a teacher, so he was pretty monopolized by Dad who was just giddy with glee to talk to young man so interested in history, but I caught up with Steve and Ryan. 😊
From the Coliseum we then walked everywhere
in Rome. We literally walked from one side of the city to the other; thank goodness they have fresh water fountains all over the place. And these aren't just public water fountains like we have in the States, some look sort of like fire hydrants that have a constant stream of water flowing from them, but others are actual beautiful fountains that you can drink from,
and the water is really cold. After walking from the Coliseum, to the Circus (not a “circus” circus, but the Circus where they did chariot races and such), and past the theater we reached a fountain outside the Vittorio Emmanuelle II that was a lioness perched at the bottom of the steps with water spouting out of her mouth. It was amazing. Just when you are on the brink of despair, it appears, as if sent from Zeus himself: a wonderful fountain.
Despite the heat we made the most out of the day and saw just about everything, the Roman Forum, Piazza Venezia, the Altar of the Nations, Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, climbed the Spanish Steps, the park at the top of the Spanish Steps overlooking all of Rome and the Vatican, and everything in-between.
At Trevi Fountain they have little police officer/lifeguards there making sure no one gets into the fountain, or even dips their feet in. I put one of my feet in and out of the corner of my eye I saw a policeman reach for his whistle. I quickly took my foot out. Apparently if Italy wins
the Euro Cup championship tonight everyone watching in the Piazza del Pópulo will run and jump into the fountain. One, there is no way that fountain is big enough to fit everyone; two, there will be no need because Italy is playing Spain. 😊 The guys are staying in Rome for tonight so they will get to be in the Piazza with all of the Italian fans watching. I have to say, that will be a really cool experience.
I think my favorite thing was the Altar of the Nations. It’s very impressive. It sort of sits up on a hill and it is just this massive all white structure. It’s especially beautiful in the evenings when it is lit up. Surprisingly I think my second favorite was the Circus. It was really un-impressive to look at really; I didn't even take a picture. I think they are doing some restoration or something because there was a lot of construction materials in it. But it was really just a giant open area with a few ruins. I think I liked it just because chariot races went on there and I am partial to horses. When it was
used, however, the straightaways were 600 meters long and the track was probably a whole mile all the way around.
Saturday was a day I was really looking forward to, but turned out to be just, uh, just awful. The dome of St. Peter’s Basilica looks incredible from afar and there were moments during the day were I wished I had stayed far away. I think Vatican City may be one of, if not the
most, visited places in/around Rome, nearly five million people visit it each year. I think all five million decided to come on June 30th
. Thankfully, because I have a brilliant mother, we had pre-bought tickets into the Vatican and for a tour so we didn't have to wait in the four hour
long line to get in. I’m not kidding. Four hours. In the sun. It took us fifteen minutes just to walk from the end of the line to the front of the line.
As you can imagine, inside was really no better than out. There was a little bit of air conditioning but not much, and honestly I think the body heat from all of the people moving through
Looking over Rome
The dome in the background is St. Peter's Basilica.
the halls just cancelled out any air conditioning there was. Seriously, so many people the only thing keeping it from looking like a cattle call was that we weren't wearing bells around our necks. I found it really odd that with a place so protected, and more so, a place of worship, that they didn't seem to regulate at all the amount of people, especially when it came to the Sistine Chapel. As my Dad said, he imagined that the place which used to be the private chapel of the Pope and the place where the selection of a new Pope occurs would be a place of peace, silence, and quiet reflection on Michelangelo’s masterpiece. Instead it was constant loud buzz of noise, people taking pictures with
flash even though any photos at all weren't allowed, and security guards yelling “No photos! No videos!” every few minutes only to be ignored. Needless to say it wasn't really what I expected. Dad called it disrespect, and yeah, I guess I agree. It was like when we visited the Duomo in Florence and the walls of the dome as well as the stairwells leading up to it were graffitied with signatures, and
comments. There are things you don’t do in a place of worship; just because it’s a tourist attraction doesn't mean it’s not still a Temple of God. I suppose I was a little surprised and disappointed by it, and the pity is that the massive amounts of people and noise took away from the beauty of the chapel and the basilica. Like the rest of Rome it was
impressive, but the circumstances were not permitting to really reflect on its impressiveness.
We didn't walk the forty-five minutes back to our apartment; we taxied it up. We showered, we contemplated never moving again because perhaps if we didn't move we wouldn't sweat, but hunger took over and I was free for the evening to meet up with the guys and some of the people they had met in their hostel to go to a pub. Even walking around at 11:30 at night it was just a sweat bath after about a quarter of a mile.
On our night out Steve and I met an Aussie fellow (whose name we never asked) who was 28 and had been traveling around for about three and a half months. I
asked the question I have wanted to ask every traveling man/woman I have met who is about the age that they should be sitting behind a desk being responsible and making money: what is it that you do that at the age of 28 you can travel for months at a time?
The unnamed Aussie man is a mechanical engineer.
I looked at Steve who is a chemical engineering major and back at the unnamed Aussie, “Steve and I are studying to be engineers and I really don’t see that ever happening.”
“Well you’re economy’s gone pot, mate.”
Fair call. But still, I don’t think Australia’s is that
much better, is it? Is
Well, maybe it’s a sign of hope for us engineers; that at the end of that dark mathematics tunnel there is a light, and that light is three and a half months off traveling around the world spreading hope to younger engineers.
Although I must say, I have quite the international group of Clemson friends this year, I would say over fifty percent of them have left the country for a period of time in the last fifteen months. So
really we are already spreading hope; why wait until you are 28? 😊
Talk to you again soon!
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