Wednesday, September 2, 2009

All roads lead to Rome

...apparently train tracks do to! I made it safely to Roma yesterday, although getting to my final destination in the city was another story and quite a stressful adventure! I was planning once again to couch surf for my stay in the city. I had confirmed with Emiliano (Emi) and all I had to do was call him when I arrived and he would meet me at the metro station. No problem right? That's what I thought too... I arrived at the station at the time I had thought and got my cell phone out to pay the ridiculous fees to call overseas, only to not have service for nearly 30 minutes! Usually it takes no more than 5 to find a network. So then I decided to find a pay phone and just call from there. A message in Italian and English told me his phone wasn't working and to try again later. When I attempted to try again, the pay phone itself wasn't working! Finally, I found a nice British family who allowed me to send him a text from their phone to tell him where I was and to turn his phone on so that I could call him. Just as I was about to press send, I noticed I had service on my phone finally. So I called and lo and behold, a voice on the other end! He told me that he was giving a tour to some friends of the Vatican Museum and that I should meet them there...there was a baggage area to leave my backpack and stuff (which is very good because my back is really starting to hate lugging that thing around! Yes, I know that the hip straps are supposed to even the load out, but heavy is heavy no matter where the weight is! I think this will be my official "stereotypical backpacking across Europe" trip. After this, I'll stick with my giant suitcase on wheels...I'm getting too old for this! lol) Anyways, I then set off, sans map, to find the Vatican Museum. Now, I should also mention that he had told me where to meet him, but I was so frazzled I completely forgot if he said inside or outside. So I got there and saw no sign of any group of people waiting for a girl with an enormous backpack with a maple leaf sewn to the back (thanks again, Amelie!). So I decided then that he must have said inside. Went through security (officially stepping into the Vatican City-State at that point), dropped off my bags and looked again for a group. Still no luck. And wouldn't you guess it, my cell phone once again decided to stop working. It showed I had bars, but I couldn't call out or send text messages. I asked around if they had any pay phones, but unfortunately, you needed special Vatican cards to use them. At this point I was starting to worry. It had been a good 30 minutes since I last spoke to him and who knows how long they'd wait before giving up on me? So I decided to find another pay phone outside the museum to try to reach him. I tried 3 phones (all of which were out of service) before finally running into the local Best Western and asked to use their phone. When I got a hold of Emi, he told me they were waiting in a court yard in the museum, that I should go in and find a girl with bright red hair...that I couldn't miss them. I guess he was wrong, because I totally did. I went into what I thought the courtyard he was talking about and saw no one with bright red hair. I'd even asked another couple that were sitting if they had seen a girl with bright red hair. No luck. So I went to the cafeteria on the ground floor where they had a pay phone and hit the same brick walls I had hit earlier: Vatican only phones or messages in Italian saying the customer was unavailable) Since that message wasn't repeated in English, I asked another visitor if he spoke English and Italian. Finally, I stroke of luck! A British guy who knew Italian. I got him to listen to the message and confirmed what I suspected them of saying. He was then kind enough to let me use his phone to call Emi directly. Turns out they had been sitting in the courtyard right next to the one I had been in, and had only been separated by a wall! If I had turned left rather than right I would have found them 20 minutes earlier! Thanking the British man, I ran back upstairs and met with Emi and his friends Eva (from the Czech republic) and Dominico (from Rome). Needless to say, I felt like an idiot for being so incredibly lost and making them wait an hour for me. After saying our hellos, Emi, a tour guide by profession, took us around the Vatican Museum telling us the stories of the statues and paintings. It was interesting, but I was exhausted. Not only from the lack of sleep, but also from the running around of trying to find these guys! I tried my best to be enthused, but I think my tiredness showed. The last stop of the tour was the Sistine Chapel. It was very lovely. Dead centre was the famous picture of Adam and God's fingers out stretched and almost touching. Unfortunately, you won't see any of my pictures of it because I didn't take any. Apparently due to copyright, photographs in the Sistine Chapel are forbidden. Not sure I really understand the logic behind that one, but whatever. Emi was amazing at telling us about Michelangelo's masterpiece and the meaning behind some of the pictures. He definately made the visit so much more enriching. When I got to the apartment, I could barely keep my eyes open. I had to lay down for a couple of hours to take a nap, after which Emi made us a delicious pasta dinner. Now I know how to make a really great tomato pasta sauce from scratch in less than 30 minutes with no more than a frying pan. Awesome. I'll definately be doing that at home more! Later on in the night, we took his scooter for a quick ride to meet with his friends again for a drink. The bar we went to had really comfy lounge chairs for their patio set up. Very chic! We didn't get home until quite late, so I decided to sleep in this morning, the first time I've even had the chance to do so this whole trip (with the quick stops in Marseille and Paris, 11am lock out in Nice and early morning wake up in Florence I haven't had the opportunity!). Emi had some work to do in the morning and then he planned to give a tour of the city on the back of his scooter in the afternoon...sounded good to me! We went to a (supposedly) very traditional restaurant for lunch in the city centre. Our meal was a big tray full of meats, cheese, cold pasta, bread, etc etc And apparently it was just the first course! Once we finished everything I couldn't believe there was still more so we decided to stop there as we were both quite full, but we did have some fruit for dessert. Very tasty, even though I'm not such a fruit fan! This would be the time that an emergency came up at Emi's work and he had to take off. So I was left to wander the streets of Rome on foot. Luckly, all the of the major sites are within walking distance of each other. And when I say walking distance, I mean about 2 1/2 hours to walk from the Spanish Steps to the Trevi Fountain to the Panthenon to the Colesium. And all on cobble stones no less. My back is killing me! But it was all worth it to see the sights I had read about in books or seen pictures of. I didnt go into the Coliseum, 12 Euros just to walk inside? No thanks. Even though I had been to the Vatican the day before, I still hadn't see the world famous St Peters Square or the Basilica. So I hoped on the subway and went. I wandered the square for a bit, but just didn't have time to go into the Basilica (had to get home before Emi left for his soccer game or I would be locked out!). Oh well, there's nothing stopping me from coming back to Rome again, is there? So that's been my time in Rome thus far. I leave tomorrow late morning to head to my next destination: Venice. Let's just hope I get there before it sinks!

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