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Monday, February 28, 2011

The Most Magnificent Morning of My Life

This morning was early.  I mean like 6:20, which is EARLY for me nowadays...  So, I was already thinking, this had better be worth it when we got onto the tram and then went down into the metro to make our way to the Vatican Museums.  I think it was worth it.

Once we got there, we got to skip the line because I pre-ordered our tickets online, so we were off to a good start.  We were initially unsure about where to go, but after one of the Asain tour groups (of which there were many) started going up the stairs, we figured it was safe to follow them.  We did and it paid off.  I decided that the museum wasn't going to be worth it without some sort of guide, so i invested in the audio guide at the desk and had to give up my MN ID to get it, which is fine, but works into the story later.  Anywho...we then were inside of the museum.

Our first stop was Cortile della Pigna (Courtyard of the Pinecone).  This pinecone is apparently very important and used to be a fountain.

Soooooo, next we decided that we were not going to be dumb and get to the crown jewel of this museum at the same time as everyone else, so we practically ran to the Sistine Chapel to see it before the crowds got there.  Later in the day, we were very happy that we did this.  So we got there and were awestruck, as one might expect.  Every painting from the ceiling to the walls to the beautiful floor is something to take hours to examine.  It was just....I know I've said this a lot about this trip...breath-taking.  You are not supposed to take pictures, and Braden is mad at me because apparently I feel entitled, but I really wanted one to post on here that wasn't just a link...so I took just this one little picture.  I know, I'm bad.

This is the room where the popes have been elected for centuries, it was just filled with beauty and might and just everything.  It was so great and I am so glad we got there when we did and there were not 50 million people all wanting to see the same things.

After that, we went back through the museum and started at the Egyptian section.  There were some cool pieces there.  We kept walking along then and saw some more cool things in the Vatican's huge art collection.  Here are some of my favorites from the site:

 All of the penises were broken off by one of the popes...so now they have leaves

 The River Nile and its many moods...

 Braden with Prosperity

 Medusa turned Braden to stone...

 Us with Venus and Cupid (Aphrodite and Eros)

Even the Mermen had penises...just not the statues.

So, we walked all along and ended up stopping for some water and cappuccino and then saw the Sistine Chapel again.  At some point it seemed like there were so many statues that they just all blurred into one and it wasn't even very special anymore.  This time there were much more than the 30 or so that were there when we first went, maybe about 200.  It was harder to get through the room and much of its greatness and majesty were lost in the sea of people.  Anyone going there in the future should try to go right away in the morning and go straight to the Sistine Chapel, if you are there with tons of other people, it just is not the same.

We finished our walk through the museum seeing a few more cool things and then left after deciding nothing in the gift shop was too appealing except a postcard for some friends.

I went to go and return my audio guide and before I could say anything, the woman was pointing me directions and speaking to me in Spanish, when I said, "English?", she said, "Oh, sorry, I thought you were Spanish." ......................SCORE!!!!!  Highlight of my life.

So, we left the museum and walked outside and saw the line.....it wrapped all the way around the castle walls which was like....a ways.  I think people were probably standing in line for 2 hours.  We didn't have to. Awesome.

We made our way to St. Peter's Square and when we got there were mysified by its size.  The obilisk in the middle is huge and so are the fountains that flank it on either side, and the space for people is so great!  I guess I have only seen it in movies or pictures when it is flooded with people awaiting a new pope or at Easter or something, so seeing it empty was awesome.

After deciding that we needed to see St. Peter's that day instead of coming back because of the long line, we got into it.  It moved really quite fast, and there was only a line to go through metal detectors.  I had a nice German woman take a picture of Braden and me in front of St. Peter's!

We ran up the steps and through the doors and immediately our jaws dropped.  I've tried to think of ways to explain it, but nothing comes to me.  I look at the pictures that I took and none of them do it any sort of justice.  It is by far the smallest I have ever felt and it is the biggest place I have ever been.  I am choosing to not post any pictures from the interior because it would just look like some church through the pictures, and it is so much more than that.  I've been to Cologne, Milan, Florence and Prague and each time I think how big and beautiful the churches are, but...this just does not even compare to those places.  It is in a category all of its own.  If anyone is wondering where they should go in Europe and what sights they should see, St. Peter's Basilica, the Vatican City, should be #1 on any list of any kind.  If is the most amazing building I have ever seen and was the most wondering and awe-inspiring place I have ever walked through.  It was truly a blessing to be able to see it.  It is a testament to the power of the Catholic Church.  They may not be perfect...but their HQ is, in every way.

After wandering through the GIGANTIC building for quite a while, we decided to climb it.   Remember the list I posted with Cologne for tallest churches in the world?  Well, on that list St. Peter's is only 13th, so after doing #5 I thought it wouldn't be that bad to get to the top.  It was bad. There was one point where everything was at an angle.

But, it was worth it, first to see the frescos in the rotunda:

And then to see the views of Rome from the cuppola:

It was just an all around amazing experience.  I would not trade it for anything.  On the way down, we were able to stop on the roof and admire the rotunda from up close.  We took the opportunity to buy some stamps and eat some lunch with the best view in Rome.

After leaving the top we went down in the catacombs and saw Pope John Paul II's tomb, that was another moving experience.  It brought us back into the basilica and we had to look around just a little bit more.  It was hard to leave that wonderful glorious place.  Once we did, though, we made our way through St. Peter's Square and walked toward Castel Sant'Angelo.

On the way there we stopped and had some gelato.  That is one of my favorite things about Italy. :)

Walking up to Sant'Angelo, I saw a man selling sunglasses, and it was sunny.  So, I went to look at some (mine having broken on the train to Milan).  While I was trying on a pair, a man came that apparently was a police officer or something.  The merchant must not have had a liscence because he picked up shop quick and ran away with his sunglasses.  I still had on the pair I was trying on and just quickly gave him the change from my pocket to pay for my faux-Armani sunglasses, (like 4 Euro).  So, that was a stroke of good luck!

We walked into Castel Sant'Angelo and it was kinda a bust.  It wasn't very interesting at all, but we did it because it was on our Roma Pass.  That is, it was boring until we got to the top.  The view of Rome was better than that from Saint Peter's and it included the beastly basilica!  It wouldn't have been worth the seven Euro, but since it was already paid for it was fine.

That concluded my morning in the Vatican City, and boy was it ever magical.  Or religious?  Either way, I had a great time.  I will recount the rest of that day and the following day in my next post.

Oh, here is Castel Sant'Angelo:

You can click on the pictures to make them bigger, also, click a reaction so I know if anyone is even reading these right down there:

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Roman Holiday


So....I'M IN ROME!!!!!!!!!!!! (nbd)

We got up from Venice and stood in line trying to figure out reservations for a while and then just decided to figure it out from Rome and got onto our 3.5 hour train.  When we got to Roma Termini we had some trouble navigating and picking which plan of action to take, but eventually it became clear we would have to go from Florence to Torino to Barcelona.  This is a slight deviation from the plan, but all should be just fine :)

We had some trouble finding the hotel as it was not in the city center or on any of the maps that include the city, but once we found it once it wasn't so bad.  We are staying at the Pascia Bed & Breakfast (http://www.pasciaroma.com/) and it is really nice.  We got settled into the room and the owner explained where all the sites were in the city.  We arrived later than I would have liked, so we didn't have too much time to do the Colosseum like I had originally planned, so we had to make some changes.

We got onto the bus (which is probably the worst big city public transportation I've been on) and made our way over to the ancient city.  While on the bus, we were granted our first view of the Colosseum!!

Of course, I got much better ones later.  We were on our way to the Capatolini Museum (en.museicapitolini.org), the oldest public museum in the world.  It had many famous odds and ends like sculptures and paintings.  It also, obviously, gave me some awesome history to learn.  Here are some highlights from that trip:

 Marcus Aurelius 
 Bronze Hercules
 Romulus and Remus with the She Wolf (the symbol of Rome)
Bernini's Bust of Medusa

The museum was very cool and I liked it, we also got to use our Roma Pass for free entry which I liked even more.

After finishing in the museum we wanted to get to the Colosseum while the sun was still out to get some daytime shots of it.  We walked along the Roman Forum and got some pics of that first:

We finally go to the Colosseum and wow, it was so amazing.  Here are the shots that I took of it, too:

So, Rome is awesome and my next post will be about the Vatican!!!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Enter Venice

We got up, checked out, got on a train, and went to VENICE!!!!!!!!!  Before that story, though...I saw this van on the side of the road:


It was a long train ride, but it was free instead of having to pay a 10 Euro reseration fee on the fast train that was only an hour faster and we weren't in too much of a hurry.  So, we got on the slower train and headed to Venice.  After a delay and train switch at the first Venice station, we made our way to Santa Lucia and to the Island city of Venice.  I keep saying Venice because I can't believe that I am here.  It is so wonerful and beautiful here.  All of those things you hear about Venice...they are true.  It's so wonderful and I am having a great time.   Here's a ton of beautiful pictures (aka every street we walk down):

There is not a ton to do here in terms of sites, it's more of a walk around and enjoy it sort of place, so we just left the map at home and walked around.  I underestimated the city, though.  I thought it was a LOT smaller, but we were never really lost, just unsure sometimes.  We did a lot of walking.  Here is a picture of our map, I highlighted our adventure:

We saw some of the sights and found some more, but everything was closing soon, so we decided to do them the next day.  We did, though, find the Ponto Rialto and window shopped on there for a while.  It is a bridge with a ton of tourist-y shops and the streets leading up to it are also filled with Venetian Masks, leather journals, postcards and shot glasses.

We found a grocery store on the way home and brought sandwich essentials and planned to have a cheap day the next day.  There is a Hard Rock, though...

We found the hotel after a little bit of difficulty and then I wrote some of the blog and so did Braden.  He also has recently became a HUGE fan of solitare and I have fallen in love with all of the characters in my book...can't wait to start the next one.  Braden went to bed after finally winning a game of solitaire, and I just about finished my book.  I did the next day and was not happy with the ending, but it'll have to do until I start the next one.

We got up in the morning and got off to a lazy start (as we figured one is supposed to do in Venice).  We planned to go and see Piazza San Marco, the main square in Venice.  It was on the opposite side of the city as us, so we had a long walk to get there (about 1/2 hour).  We took our time, though.  We stopped by shops and looked for postcards, shot glasses, mugs, etc and just basically did what we wanted.

We ended up just appearing at P. San Marco and when we got there, we were immediately surrounded by the throngs of tourists (mostly groups of Asians).  The line to get into Basilica San Marco was crazy long, so we just walked about and took random pictures.  Then we ate lunch.

Upon returning from our packed lunch in the park, we saw that the line was a lot shorter, so we went into the church.  It was SO pretty!!  The entire ceiling was golden and it had such a great effect.  I really loved it.

After that, we walked slowly back to the hotel to use some internet and then took a nap.  One of my dreams was to go on a boat in Venice.  The metro in Venice is a boat, but the tickets were kinda spendy (6.50 Euro for a one-way trip).  Braden did not want to spend the money, but I didn't trust him to find where we were meeting without me, so we had to make a decision.  In the end, Braden loved me enough to go on the boat.  IT WAS AWESOME and cold.

We went to the Hard Rock for drinks and my glass and it was a very nice way to end our time in Venice.  We walked the long trek back to the hotel and said our goodbyes.  Venice was so pretty and I just loved it so much.  Here are some more randoms:

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Braden Doesn't Love Me Anymore -or- Our First Italian Day Together

Braden's first Italian adventure was just that, but I was happy that he didn't start out with it's best so that he could slowly see better and better things in the beautiful country.  Milan is wonderful, but after only a day in Venice, it has already been dwarfed.  But, first I need to talk about my none singular Milanese day.  We started, as I did the day before, at the Duomo, this time going inside.  It was GORGEOUS!!  It is so pretty inside and huge.

Notice how small the people are...

I lit a candle for my sisters and touched the thing that so many people touch that it has a different color that is supposed to send your prayers even harder (Typical Catholic thing). It was awe-inspiring to say the least, the things that man can make...I can't wait for St. Paul's and the Sistine Chaple...

We then got to go up onto the roof.  Literally.  We did not just go into a tower like all of the other churches I have scaled, we walked on the roof.

It was so cool and we got a real 360 view of the city.  It was the coolest church climbing experience I have yet had, but not the best view...I think that is still going to Dresden (even in the rain).  We got down from there and bought some more pizza (a theme for this trip) and I chose to drink Fanta...which cost me 4.80 Euro...WHOOPS!!

Later that night Braden read that some places charge 10 Euro for a Coke..so I guess I got off easily.  We then had Braden's first Italian Gilato, he had Pistachio and I had Cookies and Creme, so good.  We then made the walk alond the mall to the Palace and this time walked through its gates.  It was Monday, so all of the museums were closed, but we still enjoyed walking through the park behind the palace walls.

We decided there wasn't a ton left to do since everything was closed so we walked over to Chisea Santa Maria della Grazia (where "The Last Supper" by Da Vinci is) and looked around the church.  We couldn't get in to see it, but it was cool nonetheless.  The church was 600 years old.

On our way back to the tram stop, we were passed by a car that had a Google sticker on it and a camera on top of it...so we're hoping to be on Google Maps Street View...something Magenta...Braden knows.  DREAM #1 COME TRUE!!  We then ate at a cute restaurant close to our hotel and went to bed after some nice reading time.