August 20, 2010 § 1 Comment
Now I realize that the purpose of a blog is to update constantly and keep you informed of my daily activities. I have failed to do this due to my desire to provide longer posts with in-depth analysis and a lot of thought behind them (laziness). From this point forward, you should not expect my posts to be in a timely or frequent manner. I am currently writing about events that happened almost two weeks ago. Sorry. But as they say, better late than never. Here’s a look at the good and the bad of Rome.
FOOD – The food in Rome was equally as delicious as the food in Paris. Actually, it was slightly more delicious due to the fact that it was Italian food and not French food. I loves me some pasta based dishes. We ate out a couple different places, but the best place by far was one whose name escapes me. All I remember is that the slogan of this restaurant is “You eat what we give you” which basically means that you eat what they give you. The restaurant had no menu, just a fixed meal every night, and for about 25 euro (or is euros the plural of euro? This has been bothering me for weeks) you get two bottles of wine and a four course meal. You also don’t have to decide anything since it’s a set meal. This is a pretty big relief when nobody in your party speaks the language that the menu would be in. We went here our fourth nigh in Rome, along with Jack Parks, who had been travelling by himself for the past few weeks, and Gwen and her cousin Morgan who had just arrived in Rome. Getting there was an adventure in itself because we had to use the Rome bus system (whose slogan I think is “A free ride anywhere” because there was no form of buying/checking tickets for our bus) and then walk a few blocks without a map until we (somehow) wound up in front of the restaurant. The meal was more than all of us could eat—bread, lentils, mozzarella, potato hushpuppy things, two kinds of pasta, veal, and a thick apple pie for desert—washed down with a shot of limoncello, a digestive liquor that tastes exactly like how you would imagine a liquor made by the lemon drop candy company would taste. The most noteworthy thing to me was the little bits of treasure-bacon hiding in the pasta (I think I remember exclaiming “There’s something in the pasta…IT’S BACON!” after my first bite). I also ate Gelato for the first time. I don’t like ice cream much, but I do like peaches, and this was peach flavored and tasted exactly like a peach. One might say it was peachy (I don’t condone the use of stupid puns, but I know that at least one of my readers—Matt Harris—does. Got to give the readers what they want)
MONUMENTS – As you might imagine, the monuments in Rome are, as the ancient Romans would say, “mega-cool.” The Coliseum, the Roman Forum, the Pantheon, the various arcs celebrating various victories, etc. etc. There’s just so much ancient stuff to see in Rome it was blowing my mind. We would walk down the street and run into a five-story stone pillar with depictions of a war spiraling all the way down it, and nobody around us would even care. Beautiful old churches and buildings that nobody wants to see at all. “Oh that? Just some giant obelisk from the 300s A.D. Stupid piece of crap, taking up space…” At this rate it might take months, but there will be pictures eventually, and then you can see what I’m talking about. Until then, I dunno, use your imaginations. Or Google what I’m talking about.
MT. VESUVIUS – Climbing Mt. Vesuvius was a good decision. There was quite a bit of trepidation at the beginning of this trip due to me being attacked that morning and our inability to figure out the train system to and from Naples (see below). Despite all that, everything turned out great. We got to the top of the mountain and got to see the Mediterranean for the first time. It was also very cool (literally) because a constant wind from the Mediterranean blew cold air over the surrounding area. Very cool (figuratively). The view from the mountain was impressive, and the view of the mountain was equally impressive. We got to look down in the crater created by all of the eruptions and we also learned that it is still active. We could even see white smoke coming up from the rocks. We even made it back to Rome without a problem. A good daytrip overall.
TOURS – We had two great, cheap tours of the Coliseum and the Vatican. The company was called Romaround (very clever) and our guide for both tours was Ian from Scotland. He really seemed to know what he was talking about, but as I said to Wade and Jack, he could have told us that the Romans were a race of aliens that had the power to teleport, just so long as we got to skip all of the lines (which we did). This especially helpful for the Vatican because that would have been a long long wait. And our Roma passes didn’t work because the Vatican is its own country. Here’s a fun fact that Ian may or may not have made up – Due to all the visitors and petty theft, the Vatican has the highest crime rate per capita of any sovereign state. I’m not sure if this is actually true, but it’s interesting to think about.
THE VATICAN – Not quite as ancient as ancient Rome, but equally as impressive. The number of years and the amount of money and care spent in creating the Vatican is simply astounding. There are things in there that you cannot see anyone else, and which no one living today would be able to create. Yes, there’s the Cistine Chapel, and its beautiful and really a work of genius (fun fact: Michelangelo was not a painter but a sculptor. He hated painting—along with a lot of other things and people—and the Cistine Chapel was really his first professional job as a painter. Not a bad start) There’s also tons (literally) of this purple stone called porphyry that the ancient Romans dug up in huge quantities. Today, this stone is valued at about 10,000 euros per cubic inch (according to Ian). In one section of the Vatican there is a giant bathtub that belonged to Nero, the sarcophagus of Constantina (Constantine’s sister) and the sarcophagus of Constantine’s mother. These three items are made entirely of porphyry and combined value roughly 100 million euros. There’s a lot more than that, but I’ll be able to show you better than tell you. When I’m done with these lists I’ll have a pictures post (for those of you who only want to look at the pictures) to help explain some of the things that I’m talking about. We also went into the tomb of all the former Popes, and got to see Pope John Paul II’s burial place. That was a pretty powerful sight. Think what you will about the past and present problems of the Catholic Church; the Vatican is a place you absolutely have to see. It really is a marvel of art, architecture, and religion all combined into one place.
VILLA BORGHESE – The Villa Borghese is a giant park in the middle of Rome, with a lot of cool museums surrounding it, and even a zoo (we only went to the Estruscan museum). We found it’s a great place to go and throw the Frisbee our hang out after several hours of walking and sightseeing. This is also where Wade and I taught Jack how to skip rocks for the first time. He struggled at first, but by the end of the day he could get two or three skips pretty regularly. We also hung out with Gwen on her first day in Rome. It was a good park.
ROMA PASS – These things save you so much money. Let me throw out some stats for you: free entrance into your first two museums/monuments with an entrance fee. After that, reduced entrance into every museum/monument that accepts the Roma pass (which is most of them). It’s also good for free public transportation (metro, bus, etc.) and last but not least, you get to skip a lot of the longer lines. All of this lasts for three whole days, and it only costs 20 euro (which I found out is the plural of euro for most European nations, not euros which is the plural for most English-speaking nations. Apparently you can’t go wrong, but I’ll stick with euro from now for continuity’s sake). I’ve got to throw up some mad props to Gwen Barlow for informing me about this awesome little card, or else we would never have known about it (me throwing up mad props to Gwen, whatever that means)
CASA OLMATA – There were a lot of good things about Casa Olmata: free wifi, cheap, great location, rooftop terrace, free breakfast, no lockout during the middle of the day, free pasta parties. All of these things gets Casa Olmata a mention on the pros list.
CRAZY PEOPLE – Let me clarify here. I realize that there are crazy people everywhere. I also realized that there are good kinds of crazy people; we even met a few in Paris (see George, Ellexis). Unfortunately Rome is where we ran into the bad kind of crazy person (literally). Our fourth and last full day in Rome, we decided to take a day trip to Pompeii via the train the Naples. We woke up a late, but were in fairly high spirits as we walked to the train station around 10:30 am. It was at this point that some guy (I’m assuming an Italian but we really don’t know) got off of a bus at the corner, ran across the street, and pushed/grabbed me from the side. I pushed him off, but he stood there really close and kept sort of pushing me. He also had a strange half-smile look on his face, and may have mumbled something. So I pushed him away again. Then Wade, who the dude completely ignored (as well as Jack), stepped in and kind of shielded me until he walked away. After a few steps, he turned back around and tried to get past Wade at me again. After about 30 seconds he walked away for good. Crazy person. He didn’t steal anything, he didn’t actually try to fight us (it’s like he wanted me to start the fight), and he didn’t even acknowledge Wade or Jack (he was more than willing to let them stand in his way). Three possible explanations, all of them ridiculous:
1) He thought he knew me (due to the weird smiling) and that was a friendly/creepy greeting that turned more sinister when I pretended not to know him.
2) I was wearing a Davor Suker jersey (Arsenal player who’s also the leading international scorer for Croatia) and he hated either Arsenal or Davor Suker. Still, that jersey was from the early 1990s, and Suker retired in 1998 from professional football. If that was the reason than it’s probably time to let that one go.
3) I looked exactly like someone who had robbed him/stolen his girlfriend/killed a cherished pet/embarrassed him in some terrible fashion (a whoopee cushion in the middle of mass or something).
Thinking about it, I was never scared or angry about the situation (it was only one guy against three in broad daylight) just confused. Very very confused.
CASA OLMATA – What!? But Casa Olmata is on the Pros list. I know, but I’ve got to be honest, there were some cons too. For example, the free pasta party was great, but at the same time we found staples in the pasta (insert more iron in your diet joke here). Not conducive to good digestion. Also, it was pretty hot in Rome every day we were there, meaning that it was also pretty hot in our room every day we were there. And the worst part was the two girls living next to us who were always in the bathroom, and would always use up all the hot water. They would time it too; I would need to go pee and one girl would be taking a shower. Once I heard the bathroom door open I would go out in the hall, in time to see the other girl close the bathroom door and begin her twenty minute shower. Not exactly Casa Olmata’s fault, but somebody’s got to get the blame.
METRO – Remember all those monuments I was raving about earlier? Well there is a downside: the worst metro system I’ve ever seen. There are only two lines that run through the middle of Rome, and neither of them takes you exactly where you want to go. Everywhere cool is at least a half-mile walk from any metro stop. According to Ian (the guide) they’re trying to build a third line, but they keep running into ancient stuff and having to stop for archeologists to come in and do some work. As a result, the construction has already been delayed about 10 years.
TRAIN SYSTEM – So confusing. There are at least three different train systems in Italy, as far as I can tell (which I really couldn’t): the Eurorail system, the regional system, and the city system. All of them go the same places, just at different times and different speeds and different levels of quality. There is very little English in the train stations, which made it hard for us to figure out which train we were buying tickets for. There is also no semblance of a written schedule for any of the systems, making it impossible to find out information, such as when the last train from Naples back to Rome is. That’s important information to know if you don’t want to get stuck in the Naples train station at night (you don’t). Luckily we had no problems, but had we had problems, there would have been some problems.
POMPEII – Pompeii would have been cool if it was cheaper and if we had enough time to see it. I did want to see it, but it was 11 euros (I’m switching back to “euros” because I think that’s what they say in Spain. Sorry for all the flip-flopping) and we wanted to climb Mt. Vesuvius instead. The mountain was a great idea, but Pompeii just wasn’t happening. And 11 euros? Seriously?
GERMANS – Here I use “Germans” as a dual meaning. First, to encapsulate all the stupid tourist groups we came across in Rome, and second to refer specifically to the large groups of German children that we came across in Rome. We saw numerous tour groups traveling in packs, all wearing the same shirt, or the same hat, or the same bag and they were always some garish (that’s right, garish) color that only Andy Brown should ever wear, like flamingo pink or high liter yellow. Don’t get me wrong, we by no means blended in well with the Italian people, but at least we weren’t wearing matching outfits (like giant “ROB ME” flares). Now to the Germans. Oh the Germans. They travelled around in large packs like wolves. Small, pale-skinned wolves that loved to sing and chant in really crowded areas. At one point Wade got separated from Jack and me getting onto a very crowded metro train (this was a common theme throughout the trip: Wade selfishly leaving the group to do his own thing). Jack and I managed to get in the metro car with a group of German grade-school students. Now, you may know that both Jack and I are both fair-skinned (pale) and blonde (blonde), so there’s no doubt that the people around us thought Jack and I were a part of the group. The Germans then began singing and chanting something in some language (German maybe? I don’t know, I’m not a linguist). Jack summed it up perfectly when he turned to me and simply said, “This is my nightmare.”
WAITERS – The waiters we ran across in Rome fell in to two categories: jerks or simply indifferent. I understand that we don’t speak the same language (I don’t even expect us to) but as I learned in COMM 120, a lot of communication is actually nonverbal in nature. So that’s something to think about Roman waiters. While this did not at all take away from the delicious nature of the food, it was still a little irritating. We definitely did not come across any Emiles in Rome.
That’s all I’ve got for now. Stayed tuned sometime next week to catch the Madrid list of pros and cons. After that, I put up some pictures of all this stuff, and then try to catch you up on everything I’ve done since Wade and Jack left. Based on the rate that I’m going, by that time it’ll almost be time for me to come home. Anyways, thanks for reading. You may have noticed there were more shout outs in this post. You would be correct in you observations. If you play your cards right (and read my blog) you may be able to get a shout out yourself. Think about it.