Monday, June 4, 2007

Trip to Rome -- Day 1

March 23, 2006 was our first full day of Rome (Thursday). You can do a lot in Rome because everything is so close, even when you’re walking. I’ll give you some of my impressions of Rome and Europe since I’ve never been abroad before. First, I can’t believe how many hotels and restaurants there are. Also, it’s a crack-up seeing all the mopeds. Every once in a while there will be a whole bunch of them together and they look like a biker gang, only a moped gang. And it’s also funny seeing those teeny cars. It’s amazing and I suppose somewhat impressive how close together they park to each other. The other amazing thing is all the statues around here. On buildings, in front of buildings, pretty much any where you go you’ll see a statue. The other funny thing is to see the police on the street corners. They’re always in pairs. And they’re always talking to each other. People are jaywalking. Cars are passing in the opposite lane. People—pedestrians and cars alike—are going against red lights. But hey, the police are there to make sure nobody does anything really serious.

Today we took a bus tour that let you get on and off as you pleased. It was a good way to get around the city and get a lay of the land. It’s simply astounding that some of the structures have been here for two thousand years. And some of the churches for over 1500. Every church has more artwork in it than all the other churches I’ve seen combined. Amazing. One of the churches, St. Maria Maggiore, held, from what we gather from the guard who works for the Vatican, some sort of Lenten service tonight. The choir was beautiful to listen to. That’s why we wanted to go tonight, because they were featuring “sacred music”. It was well worth it. The choir was very good. We couldn’t understand the words, of course, but the music was beautiful. I was excited when they began singing “O Savior of the World” by Palestrina. I recognized it almost immediately because it’s one of our favorites that we do in our own choir at Prince of Peace. It was also great to hear it done really well. It was also funny because the bishop had a sermon that was at least thirty minutes. The service started at 8:30 p.m. and we were very tired and falling asleep. But have you ever tried listening to a long sermon in Italian?

At this “Lenten” service there were three bishops and a cardinal. The guard told us that is a pretty big deal to have a cardinal come. He looked pretty old. Before the service, when we were talking to the guard about what was going on, we asked for a restroom and he said that the public ones were closed but he would open his for us. Well, this led us straight into a scene from the Sound of Music with the nun getting the keys out to open locked gates in secret places. He first took us to one of the side chapel areas, unlocked the gate and let us in, then we thought he was looking on the wall for a light switch when all of a sudden a secret door opened. Then into a hidden hallway area behind these Chapels and into a bathroom! Very cool. It was obvious that this was for men only. A sign was on the wall that we could not translate, but said something about the “no” and the toilet, so we didn’t flush any paper down--just in case.

We found out tonight when we were at St. Maria Maggiore that if you are inside one of the four patriarchal basilicas that you are really in Vatican City, not Italy or Rome. So even though St. Peter’s is the only one of the four actually inside the confines of Vatican City, the churches themselves still belong to the Vatican and are guarded by Vatican guards.

One thing that happened that you just come across was a great juxtaposition of the beautiful choir we heard in the church and then on our walk home some drummers on the street in front of a bar and these people doing some really funky dancing. The drummers were a lot of fun to listen to and the leader had a whistle going on and off with the beat.

We saw the Spanish steps, the Colesseum, Circus Maximus, and St. Peter’s Square. During midday thick dark clouds were forming so we went into this nice little restaurant and had really good pizza and penne with tomatoes and red peppers. We made it just in time because the rain started pouring down and then it was hailing. The thunder was loud. Fortunately, our waitress spoke English so we had a pleasant lunch. It was fun sitting inside comfortably while watching the storm through the window. Since they didn’t have mochas Sara decided to get a nice hot chocolate. Well, it was more like hot very rich chocolate syrup. Let me tell you, even if you have a sweet tooth it was too much! Anyway, it cost 5 Euros, which was no big deal, but then the waitress noticed Sara was not drinking it and offered some milk to add to it. But they must have funny tasting milk because it wasn’t really good that way either. So then Sara thought if she got a latte and mixed it with the hot chocolate then she’d have her mocha. So there were 4 more Euros. And, well, it wasn’t exactly Starbucks. But since we by now had paid 9 Euros for the thing I downed it. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. Well, I think I’ll take Starbucks, thanks.

We took a walk that was listed in the AAA Rome guide and that took us from the top of the Spanish steps to the Piazza Popolo. There was guy there covered with gold holding a position as if he were a statue. He also had a can for money. The drinking fountain is just two pipes coming out of the wall with water always running. Not absolutely sure of this, it was only after we saw a Roman drink from it that I gave it a try.

Oh yeah, we Americans had to feel somewhat at home to we went to McDonald’s for dinner. But then we had gelato for dessert, so you can see how we branched out of our culture. And finally, one of the things you notice immediately when you go down to Mexico is all the people selling flowers or blankets. In Rome they’re all over the place also, but selling umbrellas. The good thing is that if you have an umbrella, they don’t bug you. Funny guys.

A good first day and introduction to Rome.


David Contra Mundum said...

HAHAHA...I wish the cops in Escondido were like that. If you just accidentally glance at them wrong, they'll call in SWAT against you.

"But since we by now had paid 9 Euros for the thing I downed it" - HAHAHAHAHAHA!!

Dude, we're due Starbucks again sometime. Let me know

rev.will said...

Definitely dude.