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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:

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