Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Rome and Vatican City

"First, you get down on your knees, fiddle with your rosaries . . ."

"Bow your head with great respect and, Genuflect, Genuflect, Genuflect....!"

Sing it out Tom Lehrer!!

Okay, my lovely wife has been officially "Vaticanized" against half of the major and most of the minor sins. As for yours truly, lightning did not strike me down, so I view the visit as a success.

Our second day in Rome (after visiting the Pagan sites noted below), we went to St. Peter's. It was a Sunday, it was warm and every Catholic, a solid half of the Protestants and good showing from the other religions apparently decided to show up as well. The queue around St. Peter's square (and I mean "around" and this square defines "HUGE") was incredible!! We were there in time for Mass, except for the thousands of people waiting in line in front of us.

The line went somewhat quickly, as we were also quickly wilting. And most of the people were politely waiting. The only real problem were the people who would occasionally cut into the line. There were two types of people who would cut in, the young rude Italians and the old rude Italians (notice any pattern?). We, being the stern-faced Northerners, would say things like "hey!" or "you shouldn't do that!" And every now and then, we'd really come out and strongly say, "you can't do that!" All of which the rude Italians ("RI") would totally ignore. Apparently, the rule is, if you are an RI, you get priority in the line. I can't argue with the theory, it works.

I'd love to retaliate back in the States and do something like that, but I know I'd have snappy comebacks like "sorry! I'll step back!" "My mistake, heh, heh!" Besides, the Italians I meet back in the States or outside of queues over here are usually so nice. Perhaps the RI's never leave Italy and just stand in line, or perhaps the few that do just end up in New York as cab drivers.

Well, rather than being directed to the Cathedral, we ended up in one of two lines, the choices being "Dead Popes" or "Incredibly Scary High Dome" - Karen and I chose the DP over the ISHD, which was actually a very good choice. You walk through this amazingly long series of corridors, all lined in marble, with large sarcophagi on each side (funny how some words you rarely get a chance to use, "As I was standing by the Sarcophagi, as quiet as can be, a great big ugly man came up and tied his horse to me.")

Most of the ten to twenty thousand other people in the corridors were moving quite quickly. I'm serious, it was like for them it was just another "line thing" they got into and had to get through. It was okay, though, because at least half of them were RI's who were probably looking for a fresh queue to cut into.

For anyone that knows European history, this area is amazing -- all of the Julius's, Innocents, Urbans, Pius's, etc... were there. In addition, the more recent Popes, including Paul XVI (we think that's the right number), John Paul and John Paul II, each of which were quite moving.

We came out to fresh air and our main concern was that we'd be forced into an "ustica" (Italian for "ausgang", which is German of "way out", etc....) and we'd have to queue up with another large group of RI's to get back into the Cathedral. Fortunately, we succeeded in finding the right "entrata" (eingang, way in, you get the idea) and made it to the Cathedral itself.

The place is awe-inspiring, breath-taking, glorious, huge, and somewhat crowded by tourists.

Mass was proceeding, so we sat and soaked in some of the actual feeling of the church. Funny thing, the Cathedral is so huge, that the area where Mass was held you felt fairly private and focused on the priest, not hearing the general tourist din only yards away.

I passed on the wine there and went in search of a whole bottle and a better vintage outside the Church. The area close to the Vatican (and by close, I mean within an easy mile, the size of the courtyard itself is huge!) is dedicated to "Vaticanalia" or "Popepurri"- i.e., cheap trinkets with a religious (sometimes very slight) connection. You cannot get a good cold glass of wine. We eventually came upon a "bar/restaurant" which we sat down in (looking for a cold drink and, more importantly, a clean restroom). We addressed the latter concern and proceeded to order wine and cold water. The waiter was incredibly rude (given that his restaurant was empty) and said we "must order food" as well. Well, having made a deposit, I saw no real reason I had to make a withdrawal, so we departed. Unfortunately, I can't remember the name of the place, but it's one of the first restaurants after crossing the Tiber back from the Vatican, set back on a corner, green umbrellas and run by Italians, can't miss it - but do.

We walked a couple of more blocks and found a wonderful place, the owner was delightful, friendly, we had a bottle of wine and water for 10 Euros (the equivalent of 5 Euros plus 5 more) and relaxed and cooled down. Unfortunately, I can't remember the name of the place, but it's one of the restaurants you come to a few blocks after crossing the Tiber back from the Vatican, set back on a corner, green umbrellas and run by Italians, can't miss it - go there.

Viva Roma!!!!

Gary & Karen

Vatican City and St. Peter's Square.

Look closely at the Swiss Guard's stripes and the inner drapes of our curtains... uncanny!


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