Monday, July 02, 2007
Romans Do So Many Violent Things Naked
Go to our Rome photo album at our photo sight to see more photos.
On our tour through Rome, we were amazed at the beautiful and complex sculptures around the city. Every time we turned the corner we were met with another beautiful creation. The one common theme we kept coming across though was how often the Romans were portrayed doing really violent things naked. Whether they were battling a vicious lion using a sword or trying to keep from falling off a horse while chopping the head off his enemy, they were always portrayed naked. (Ok, so this sculpture is a calm, clothed angel, but you get the idea.) Can you imagine how the modern guy would have lived in those times? Today they can barely get through the day without getting their thing caught in their zipper.
Rome was truly amazing. Although I thought I would be awed when I saw historical monuments such as the Colosseum, the Roman Forum or the Vatican, I wasn't. I think it was because I was having to share the moment with thousands of other tourists (Troy here...I was awed but not by each thing as much as by the volume of history and amazing architecture). Even though we are tourists, we hate ourselves for being one of them. Don't get me wrong, we fully enjoyed Rome and all it had to offer to the fullest extent, but those tourists......
We did luck out when it came to avoiding the long lines at St. Peters Basilica in the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel. The lines to both were so short that for quite some time we thought we were trying to get into the wrong place. Somehow we arrived just ahead of the massive quantity of tour buses and their occupants.
St. Peters was stunning. The amount of time and effort that went into building this phenomenal church is extraordinary. The detail in the sculptures, paintings, craftsmanship was beyond belief. We saw a lot of beautiful churches and basilicas around Rome, in fact there are over 1200 churches in Rome. Some were plain and boring on the outside, but were astonishing inside and had massive interiors and housed priceless paintings.
As a side note here, I need to take the time out to piss off a few Catholics(what's new, right?). As we're looking at all these extraordinarily beautiful Catholic churches there was a thought that was continuously going through my mind: Why does the Catholic church feel they have to spend so much time and energy and money and resources to worship? It is absolutely unbelievable the amount of... everything that has gone into creating these churches. Our friend Christiaan in Hong Kong is a pastor. His church is a small room in a mall with a 3 piece band. He does not have marble sculptures, 6' tall gold crosses, elaborate robes or a 100 member choir accompanied by a grand organ. It's just a plain jane church. Does the Catholic church think all this "everything" will give them a better chance to get into Heaven or maybe get them to the front of the line at the Pearly Gates? I wouldn't doubt it if the amount of money involved in the Catholic church could probably make a good dent in world poverty. Ok, I had my say.
We stayed at a bed and breakfast which was actually just an extra bedroom in a lady's 2 story apartment. She was a sweet old lady but she was a talker. She knew just enough English to talk to us about the weather and her sons cat and how much she loved it but when it wakes her at 4am she wants to strangle and kick it and make it into soup with a side of potatoes. Oh, so lovely.
Before we left the US, Troy got information from his grandma about relatives they had in Italy. Ends up that in Rome is a relative named Nicolai Luciani who is a heart surgeon and Troy's grandma is his great aunt. Troy was able to contact him and we met up with him and his wife, Annamarie, for dinner one night. We also were invited to their home for dinner where we met their two older children, Julia and Marco and Annamarie's mother who was an incredibly sweet little Italian woman. Nicolai showed Troy pictures of where Troy's great-grandfather grew up in Italy. We are going to try and stop and visit the small village after we leave Greece. It was a great pleasure meeting them and getting to know them.
After 4 days in Rome we headed to Greece. (We're meeting my aunt and uncle in Switzerland so we will finish up with Italy after Greece.) We knew from our rail schedule book that the ferry from southeast Italy to the west coast of Greece would be about 16 hours. But my idea of a ferry was not even close to what kind of boat we ended up traveling on. I thought we would be on a double hull, catamaran style ferry that would hold about 300 people on 2 decks with a lower deck holding some luggage on cargo (which would suck for 16 hours). Our ferry ended up being a piece of shit cruise boat complete with 3 restaurants, casino, pool, boutique and a few bars. There were also 2 decks at the very bottom where about 50 semi trucks parked. I couldn't stop laughing for the first 2 hours because it caught me completely by surprise.
The boat also had 3 classes for passengers: Super duper class passengers got cabins with real beds and showers. First class, which is what we were in, had "aircraft style" seats. These seats occupied a large room, with the seats on one half (which sat about 70 people) and the other half of the room was empty (which I will explain why in a moment). The second class passengers had no seat. They were given the outside deck, whatever floor space they could find - hence the empty floor space in 1st class- and whatever chairs and couches they could snag. About 4am I got up and found people sprawled out everywhere on floors, in the lobby and in the saloon. This is something I would expect in Egypt of Asia, not Europe. I guarantee this does not happen on Carnival Cruises. About 5am, the boat made a stop and around 25% of the passengers got off. Troy was up wandering around and found several cabins doors open from when the passengers left. He quickly came and grabbed me, we ducked into one of these used cabins and got about 3 hours of sleep, afterwards using their shower. That was one of the best ideas Troy had in a long time. Unfortunately we have to take the same boat back, but this time we will have inside info and might be able to get a better nights sleep.
From living in Hong Kong to our travels now, we have realized one thing: we have never met an authentic Italian. Troy's relatives said the Italians don't travel. They would rather stay home, work and stay with family. So this was the first time we were immersed in their language. Every time we were on the bus or in a local cafe, I couldn't help feeling we were in a bad mafia movie. They are also the first country we have come across that actually use hand signals to try to communicate instead of blabbering away saying completely incomprehensible things.