I took a detour yesterday and didn't write this post. There were a lot of reasons. One is that my migraines have been bad recently (as in worse than usual), another is that my depression is kicking my butt (again), and I suppose the biggie is that religion is a hot button for everyone and I know that I am really likely to say something to make someone angry. You just can't talk about religion or politics without making somebody mad. It isn't going to happen. Wars are fought over these things. Frankly, I am really tired of pissing people off. As a writer, I know that I should just accept that people are going to get their knickers in a knot and get over it. That is easy when those people are strangers. It is a whole different ballgame when those people are my friends and family. I didn't think about Rome when I thought about my European vacation. "Vacation" seemed so benign as a subject matter. And here we are...
Let's ease into this... one of the things that I wish I had for my photo album of this memorable vacation (but I don't) is vehicle photos from each place. I would have them lined up all on one page. The tiny car (Berlin). Bicycle (Heidelberg). Boat (Venice). Moped (Rome). I got the pictures of the mopeds here. I always wondered what happened to the mopeds or scooters. They were a big deal when I was a teenager. I wanted one and didn't get one. I thought they just died out from lack of interest. It is unsafe to drive them here. Turns out it is unsafe to drive them in Rome, too, but they are everywhere. There are also motorcycles, but the moped reigns supreme in Rome. It is extremely fuel efficient, I suppose. However, an accident between a moped and any other vehicle is U-G-L-Y.
The thing that I liked best about Rome was the gorgeous Italian men walking around. I am really lucky I didn't run into signs and poles and trip over benches and statuary and fall off curbs and you get the idea. Moving on... The other thing I liked best about Rome was that I thought that I had experienced the feeling of "old" already with all of the castles, and everything else we'd seen. Europe feels old in a way that the United States doesn't. Rome feels older. I didn't expect that. There is statuary everywhere. We were there for four days and it was impossible to see it all.
One thing I really liked about Europe is that my body liked the clock. I don't know if I just never adjusted, but for those two weeks mornings were good. Mornings have never been good. My body liked European time. Of course, we rose with the sun and went to bed with it, too. We walked all day and were exhausted at night. The whole time we were in Italy, we knew we were on "the clock" and it was a race to see it all. Our room in Rome was huge. Another small hotel in terms of the number of rooms, but our room was twice the size of the one in Venice. Again, it didn't matter, because we were never there.
My love affair with gelatto continued. In fact, I made a point to eat it once a day. I knew that once I left, that would be the end.
I loved Trevi Fountain.
I loved the ruins. I got the photo here. There were sections that archaeologists were working in that were cut off and unavailable to the public. There were maps to help you try to navigate what they thought each building was. I am terrible with maps. If I remember correctly, they were trying to build a subway system, however each time they took it in a new direction, they had to quit because they found more ruins underground. Essentially, Rome was built on top of "itself." I remembered thinking that the archaeologists were in heaven, while the contractor who got this job of building the subway must be pulling out his hair. There was no money to be made here. It was the job that on paper looked great and turned out to be a nightmare. Ah yes, who can't relate to that?
Back to the ruins... aside from the overall experience of taking a trip like that with one of my best friends, this was one of the most fascinating parts of the entire vacation. Walking among this DECAY and imagining what it was like in all of its GLORY. Taking it one step further, and trying to imagine what they would think if they could see it NOW. Would it still be worth the choices, the sacrifices, the compromises, the betrayals, and all of the loss? All great empires rise and fall. History proves it to be true. They rot from the inside out and they leave behind a shell. I stood inside the shell and felt the echoes.
We decided to spend an entire day at The Vatican. It is huge. I should have seen been prepared for this mentally. I had been to St. Mark's. I had read up on The Vatican. I found this picture here. I was really looking forward to seeing The Sistine Chapel, which was the coup de gras of the day. Here's the part where I might offend someone. If you think that might be you, maybe you should skip this part. The Vatican is gorgeous and beautiful and a work of art, in and of itself. On the one hand, my mind is registering the beauty of The Vatican. The other part of my mind is registering the amount of gold and ivory and other gems and precious stones, which are part of the walls and ceilings. That could have fed a lot of starving people. While I am trying to shake off thoughts like these, I notice lines etched into the floor. What are these? They note the length of other churches. Others have noticed these lines and are following them. They are oohing and aahing about how impressive The Vatican is compared St. Peter's, and it has just surpassed the Basillica San Marco. Wow. There is a part of me that just wants to let this go. It is merely a reference tool and nothing more. People are probably curious about how big The Vatican is and this is a way to indicate that. But, I have this other voice in my head that is still screaming about starving people and is now using words like "pompous" and "arrogant" and a third voice is chiming in about Jesus tossing the money lenders out for this kind of crap. Yeah, it was getting a bit crowded inside of my head.
About that time they opened the doors so that we could tour the museum. I think that is a fancy way of letting us look at their treasury. But, I don't know. It all technically belongs to The Vatican, so, you tell me. Anyway, it is all divided up into rooms. The Plate Room. The Tapestry Room. At first, it was all about soaking it up and getting the whole experience. We looked at everything. We had no idea that you could spend weeks in this museum. When we came to realize that the rooms were never-ending, we did a 360 and it became about making it to the finish line. Eventually, everyone came to this conclusion, because, at first, people were looking at everything, and then it was just "go." Sometimes, a person or group would stop, but you knew that they must have a passion for whatever was in that room, because The Sistine Chapel was now "Goal."
The Sistine Chapel makes a trip to The Vatican worth it, and I got the above photo here. There is no talking allowed in there, but, honestly, you don't want to talk. My mind was going a mile a minute. My tongue couldn't have kept pace. First off, it is an overwhelming jolt to your senses when you walk in the door. I have never been completely surrounded by art in quite that way. I know that you can go to a museum and have paintings all around you. This is totally different. I can't even tell you all of the different tracks that my brain traveled. Some of them were amazement at the art itself. Some were about the amount of time that it took to complete the task. Others came when I got a crick in my neck from staring at the ceiling. That made me think about what it would be like to try and paint a ceiling. I got lost in the challenges that it would require: your arm would really hurt even if you managed to rig some device that you could lie on your back while doing the painting. And how would you hold your palette without your colors running together? Of course, the ceiling is one of the most beautiful parts of the entire chapel. I wanted to lie down on the floor so that I could fully appreciate it. I thought security would frown on that, and I would probably get stepped on, and I wouldn't like that. The upshot is that you could spend days in The Sistine Chapel and still see something new every day.
And, by far, the weirdest thing we saw in Rome was The Capuchin Catacomb of Bones. It is what it sounds like (the place is composed entirely of bones) and the picture was found here. The site also gives more detailed information about what this place was about, but I can tell you that it was creepy. It was decorative, but it was all human bones. There were a few skeletons that were intact. When we left I wanted to do one of those whole body shakes. I thought you needed a little bit of weird before we moved on to the plain old sad.
Of course, you can't visit Rome without visiting The Colosseum. I found the picture at this site. That was another place where we got the recording. At least, I think we did, because I know more about it now than I used to, and it has to be because of the recording. You know how you think you can know something because it is famous, and then find out that you don't know anything at all? Well, that was me and the The Colosseum. You can know something, but until you see it, you don't really KNOW it. I don't even like to think about The Colosseum. I really don't want to write about it. It's death. The floor is now gone and you can see the "cages" or rooms that they kept the people or animals in before the fights. All kinds of fighting happened there for the enjoyment of the people. It was to the death. That was fun to watch.
According to this site, "By one estimate, around five hundred thousand people and a million wild animals were killed as part of the games in the Colosseum during the period when it served as a place of entertainment. Over nine thousand animals were said to have been killed during just the inaugural games, according to Dio Cassius."
This is what I recall from the recordings... Of course, I am throwing in information, and my opinion about the information. It could be person against person. It could be person against an animal, say a lion. Fun to watch. Well, unless you were the person trapped in the arena facing off against a lion. Or facing off against another person who was going to kill you, not because they wanted to, but because it was to the death, and they wanted to live. Fun times. I thought about the Rise and Fall of The Roman Empire and I was glad. I was glad it fell. I looked at the DECAY around me, and wished I had a bulldozer so that I could give it a helping hand. But then people might forget, and they might not see what I was seeing, and that would be a shame. Everyone should see this, and feel rage when they look at this, so that it never happens again.