Tuesday, June 14, 2005


Shared a compartment on the train with a couple of Italian newlyweds on at the end of their "wedding tour". Arrived in Venice after another long sleepless train ride. Couldn't sleep lest I miss changing trains in Bolgna. Took the shuttle to the camping ground and checked in. Tried to sleep, but the sun was beating down on the tent. Even though I was dead tired I decided to go for a walk. Maybe I can find something interesting or even a good market. Walked a couple of miles in one direction and the only thing I came across was a gas station which didn't even have a soda machine! Headed back and did a mile in the other direction. Again, nothing! I saw a sign for McDonald's and tried to find it since I figured I deserved at least an icecream cone for my efforts, but alas I couldn't find that either. Empty handed, I returned to camp. Took a refreshing swim and relaxed by the pool until the sun abated, but by that time I figured it would be better just to stay up a while longer and go to bed early. So I grabbed my journal, took a table and began sipping wine and writing. Around 9:30 I was just about finishing up and getting ready to head off to bed when an Aussie girl (Collette) came over and asked if I'd like to join there table of about 14 travelers. Well, I couldn't be rude so I accepted. Around an hour later we learned there was to be a Pasta Party (Free food) at midnight. Well so much for getting to bed early. Chatted with everyone and watched the Liverpool vs. Milan football championship (Liv. won in a shootout). I got to the "Pasta Party" at 12:15 and it was all gone! Some Party!!! Danced for a few times and then crashed hard in the tent.
Took the bus to Venice to check things out. Everyone gets lost in Venice. I didn't! Because I didn't really care where I went. Just roamed around and when I saw a sign for San Marco's Plaza (main) I headed in that direction. Finally got a homestyle slices of pizza here. Stopped at the Vivaldi exhibition. They had some interesting historical information and instruments from 17th-20th century. Some bizarre instruments I had never even seen before. With some nice Vivaldi playing in the background I learned that "Four Seasons" is one of the most performed classical pieces ever! And apparently he was from a very poor family and spent his life chasing money. He faired very well in that department, but lived it up and left nothing. Eventually I came to the Grand Canal and San Marco's Plaza. Both nice, big and picturesque. Thousands of pigeons and people posing for pics with them on their arms and shoulders. Suprisingly not much pigeon shit though! After wandering all day I caught the bus back with a young Aussie couple who were on the bus in the morning and looked as tired as I was. The next morning I wanted to meet up with Lisa (Tuscany) so I thought I'd walk to the train station, buy a ticket onward to Croatia and go into Venice again. I thought it would take about an 1hr-1.5hr. I was wrong. After 2.5 hours I was asking for bus directions to the train station. By the time I got back to camp the afternoon was pretty much shot so I hung out at the pool, ate a pizza and then grabbed a table to write in the journal. Shortly a couple of Americans were looking for seats so I offered Mike & Andy (N.C.) a place to sit. Soon their travel buddies: Sarah (Mike's girl), Emily (her sister) and Velvet (Canada) joined us and we all had a nice evening. Venice was nice. But you don't need much time there unless you're doing the romance thing.
Off to Croatia.....

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Rome 2nd time's the charm

Got off the ferry and I'm walking to the train station wondering if I'd make it in time. I forgot that I gained an hour between Greece and Italy. Didn't matter though because the first train out wasn't for a few hours anyway. Caught a very crowded train to Rome and it was slow and kept stopping in the middle of nowhere for some reason. Got in an hour late, but no big deal. Arrived in Rome and the bus to Camping Roma was so jam packed. Tired, there was no way I was waiting for the next bus so a big exhale and the bus doors barely closed. Shared a tent with Wayne, a Mormon from, you guessed it, Utah. Hung out with fellow camp-mates Nina (England), Naomi&Olivia (Sydney) and Tim&Sammy (NY). Reminisced about things we miss from home. Besides family and friends mostly food! Also talked to Sam's new found love of surfing. He's a newbie and is determined to give it a go in Bali. Good luck!!
It's Culture Week in Rome so most things are free to get into this week. Only problem is that it ends Sunday, so instead of relaxing after my taxing travels I went out to see as much as I could. Located a Pyramid on the map which looked like it might be a good place to start. Took a pic and walked towards the Colliseum thru some lesser traveled parts of Rome for an authentic feel. Scored a free bottle of water from the "Race for a Cure" Race crew and came to the Colliseo which really is impressive. How much blood was split there? How much human flesh was devoured there?? Saw the Terme di Caracalla (Huge ruins) and of course the Arco di Constatine leading to the Colliseo. Adjacent to that is the Foro Romano (Roman Forum). Very cool, large Ancient archeological site. Then browsed a couple of museums, Campidoglia and Musei Capotilini. Lots of cool marble statues, ancient Roman coins and a few decent paintings. Followed that up with the Area Sacre (Sacred Site) which are ruins of four temples and the site where Caesar was killed on that fateful Ides of March. Then I did a quick tour thru Crypta Baldi which I thought would be a tomb, but turned out to be a museum about the ancient archeology of the area. Then on to the Pantheon with it's Demon's Hole (largest free standing dome). Very nice inside with intricate murals and statues. From there perused the Fontana di Trevi. Very cool, but way overcrowed. Continued on to Castel Sant Angelo which is an ancient fortress with a large spiraling ramp which I imagine chariots rode up and down in times of siege. Had some cool canyons and catapults which must have reeked havoc back in the day. Excellent view from there also. Then a jaunt into another country, Vatican City. Strolled thru San Pietro's Square, but they wouldn't let me into the Basillica because I was wearing shorts. Hello! It's the 21st century. I don't think I'm gonna invoke any lustful yearnings with my hairy legs. But then again?....priests. Nah, I'm not young enough. Yeah, I know, I'm going to Hell. (No disrespect intended to the good ones! Much disrespect intended to the evil ones). OK back off the soapbox.The next day I just relaxed by the pool and the most interesting thing I came across was a German girl who drank her beer mixed with sprite? Tried it and actually it's not bad. The added lemon might go really well with a Weiss beer. Apparently it's a common thing in Germany.
After yesterday's rest I'm ready to go back to Vatican City. It's a steep 12 euro fee (like they need it!), but you get your moneys worth. It's huge. Lots of religious paintings of course which to me weren't remarkable except for one large scene of Original Sin which was my favorite. In fact, I thought the most interesting paintings there were in the modern section including a rare religious Van Gogh. Many intricate yet boring tapestries. Awesome collection of marble statues, Roman vases and ancient coin collection. What was most impressive to me was actually the building and rooms themselves. Very beautiful and ornate. Almost every ceiling was either mural painted or sculpted in intricate marble or wood. They displayed some ancient bibles, globes and a whole hall of huge ancient maps of the world as it was known (or not so known) back then. They also had a room of some Egyptian artifacts and art including two actual mummies. Near the end of the museum you come to the climax. The Cappella Sistina! No pictures or excessive talking allowed. I complied with the quietness, but I'll be damned (probably am) if I was going to get any pictures. I appologize for any bluriness in the pics, but I didn't want to push it by using a flash. It's all there: The Last Judgement with a self portrait of Michaelangelo as St. Bartholemew. Creation of Man with Adam naked and God Clothed. I guess God has shame??? The Last Supper with the eleven apostles (yes that's right 11. the twelth is Mary Magdelen. Check it out.)(Dan Brown fans know). Sermon on the Mount, The Temptation of Christ, Moses presenting the 10 Commandments, His Last Days and Parting of the Red Sea (Of course, no one in any of these scenes looks even remotely Jewish!). Very impressive, but I wasn't as blown away as I thought I'd be. Probably due to three things: 1. too high an expectation 2. the ceiling is so high you can't appreciate the detail 3. you have to nearly break your neck to view it.
Finished the museum and went into San Pietro's Basilica. WOW!! This one really did blow me away. I had no idea. The scale, attention to detail and workmanship is incredible. So many pic ops, but unfortunately I ran out of batteries after about 5 pics. I was kicking myself! Hard!!! Near the end I came across a scene which I don't know the name of, but it obviously has to do with death since there is a huge bronze skeleton springing forth from it. It totally stood out from the other rather sedate scenes around the church. I had to have a pic so I prayed (what the hell, when in Rome) for enough juice for one more. Miracles do happen! Of course I couldn't use the flash so it came out blurry, but maybe it will be viewable on a monitor. I might have to come back just for the Basilica.Afterwards I passed the Botanical garden and Piazzle Garibaldi before heading back to pick up my backpack. On the return trip I stopped at Flaminio to check out the park and catch sunset from the height with a great view. Very nice park. A Globe Theatre, Piazza di Siena which is an equestrian park, nice plants/trees, open spaces and a couple of ponds. A great place for a bike ride, jog or just to hang out. Saw the sunset over Piazzo del Popol and the walk towards the train station past Piazzo Spagna with the Spanish Steps and Piazzi Barberini and finally past Basilica San Maria Maggiorie. Wayne suggested it because apparently they have a lot of creations made of human bones. Unfortunately it was closed due to the late hour.
But other than that I didn't really see anything:)
Bought a ticket to Venezia on the 12:47 am train. Around 12:15 I noticed the train isn't up on the departure board. Huh? Maybe they're just behind in the update. Better go to the computer and make sure I did everything right. Yep. But it's still not on the departure board. Checked the printed version for departures and it's not there either. Uh Oh! Took a closer look at my ticket and notice the departure station isn't Roma Termini, but Roma-something or other! What the Heck! I inputed everything correctly and it gives me a ticket for a station I didn't even know existed. There's no way I have time to get to another station. Luckily the train info. window is still open. The guys tells me to get on the train at binario 3 which is scheduled to leave at 12:22am. It's now 12:24, but luckily it left late so after a short sprint I made it on with 20 seconds to spare. Two miracles in one day!!! Maybe I'm not damned afterall. Thank YOU!!