This is a blog series about my European Tour 2009. Each blog post will have at least one song accompanied with it. Please read day 1, 2, 3, 4-5 & 5.5 before proceeding. If you haven’t downloaded the soundtrack for this blog series, please do so here. Song to be played while reading this blog post: The Rural Alberta Advantage – Edmonton.
Stepping off the Terravision bus in front of Termini, I looked up, took a deep breath and almost broke into tears.
For the longest time, I have always imagined and dreamt about Rome. After studying Latin for 4 years in high school, 1 year of Greek and taking a few semesters of classics in college, I have learned everything I could about ancient Rome, just shy of being there myself and experiencing it. And today, well, I’m here. I’m in Rome.
Sitting on the roof top patio of the hostel that was recommended to me by KJ, I sipped my coffee and ate my breakfast as I enjoyed my view of Rome from above. Though exhausted from my train station experience, I felt the energy surge into me. For goodness sake, I’m in Rome! I didn’t care how tired I was because I knew there was so much to do and see, but the hardest part was what should I do first? Looking over to my right, I could see the Colosseum from my hostel. I smiled; well that was easy.
The Colosseum was breathtaking. I started to jump in excitement like a little boy as I approached it. The place of bread & circuses, home of the gladiators, re-enacted naval battles and execution sites of many slaves, captives and animals. I would be lying if I didn’t say that I attempted to hug this ancient marvel. Inside, I took my time and soaked in every column and brick. I closed my eyes and imagined myself as a Roman citizen sitting in the stands, listening to the roar of the crowd as people cheered and booed to the battle that was happening below. The clanging of metal swords and the shrills cry of death as someone gets stabbed. It was so real. Then again, it is real because I am in Rome.
After 2 hours soaking up the Colosseum, I headed across the street to the ruins of the Roman forum and Palatine hill. Once again, chills filled my body as I walked through the ruins of the great Roman Empire. The place of business, gossip and news; the Roman forum was the heart of all things important. Walking through the crumbled ruins, kicking dirt and baked grass behind me, I imaged the hustle of Ancient Rome as I weaved through the crowds of tourists, pretending that they were fellow Romans. The tall columns and arches constantly flank me as I wandered through the remnants of the great civilization. I leaned against a ledge and looked below to the open field that remains of a great garden; sighing, I couldn’t help but wish I was Roman citizen.
Though my Roman experience was far from over, I knew that there were plenty more things to see besides drooling over the ancient stones of Rome. I wandered to the Trevi fountain where I sat and ate gelato. Staring at the fountain as gallons of water rushed out of the statues, listening to the powerful but serene echoes of the water, I took a deep breathe and smiles. Rome.
I was standing in line outside of the Vatican at 7:30 in the morning. In front of me there were already over 200 people present and hundreds more starting to crowd behind me. We were all waiting to grab the best seat possible for the papal audience. And then, the gates opened.
A mad dash of crazy Catholics, tourists and papists flew through the metal detectors into St. Peter’s Square to the line of white seats. Rushing along side with the masses (pun unintended), I saw people making hurdles over chairs, throwing bags to claim seats 3 rows down and just an insane scurry to find the best seat in the house. As for me, I found an empty seat in the front row, right off the center.
It was only 8 am and the papal audience did not start until 10:30. Balls. For the next 2.5 hours, I sat alone among a large group of Italians from Taranto, Italy and a German girl from Bavaria. I eventually befriended them, after getting Vatican security called on me, and compared the cultural differences between the States and Italy. Our cultural exchange was abruptly cut as Pope Benedict XVI passed right in front of us. Literally, he passed right in front of us. He was no more than an arm’s reach away. If I wasn’t scared by the fact of the Swiss guard slicing my arm off, I would have reached out and touched Benny.
As amazing as the papal audience was, nothing could have topped being in the copula of St. Peter’s Basilica. I was at the highest point of this ancient city with all of Rome below me. Though sweating from climbing 320 #@*&% narrow steps through the dome, I was as happy as I could be as I sat on the edge of the dome for over an hour thinking about and loving my life right now. I was so alive and I couldn’t wait to tell everyone back home about this most magnificent adventure.
Later that night, I swung by the Internet cafe not far from the hostel to upload my pictures to flickr lest I lost my camera. Sadly, finding free wifi was quite difficult in Rome, not to mention the fact that I did not have a messenger bag to carry my laptop. No worries, at least this Internet cafe had a card reader for me to uploa…FUCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!