Wednesday, January 26, 2011

rome: day one

Rome, Italy

What was once the capital of the world...
is still completely breathtaking
mind boggling.

I don't even know where to begin.
Seeing buildings that were built thousands of years ago still standing...
Thinking about Peter and Paul there, imprisoned, and martyred...
(And the emotions that go with that)
Trying to grasp all that happened there that has influenced and shaped world history.

Like I said, it's all just...mind boggling.

I guess I'll start by doing a post about each day. There will probably be more details than any of you may care to know, but this is for me...and the few family members (especially Kevin's mom) who may want to know. :)

So, here we go!

Kate's all ready in her pajamas so she can go to bed as soon as we get to our hotel. :)

We left Saturday night. The flight was at 8:00 at night. Kids were too excited about the plane ride to sleep, despite it being their bedtime. As we were taxiing, Seth kept asking if we were up in the air yet. Kate just wanted to move around. She made friends with the people behind us by standing up and popping her head over the seats and saying, "Hi!" They were really good on the flight. Seth thought it was his first airplane ride because he doesn't remember the other 48 hours or so he has spent on airplanes before. :)

We arrived and were deciding which was the cheapest way to get to our hotel. We finally decided that the taxi offered the quickest (most direct) and cheapest way. Like any European city, the driving was crazy, and I thought I was going to die a few times. I shaved off a few days of my life on that ride. BUT having streets that go in and through massive arches of former walls was amazing. The driver dropped us off at the address we gave him, or so we thought. I could tell that it wasn't the correct building based on the pictures on the internet, but I thought maybe it was around the corner.

At 10:30 at night, we ended up roaming the city for another hour and a half looking for our hotel., not. We stopped in a half dozen different hotels to ask for directions, most of whom were no help and led us around in circles. Finally one man gave us two key directions and told us when we got to a certain square to ask someone in that area where to go from there. And then we found a hotel clerk who gave us exact directions from there. Praise the Lord!!! I was worried that our hotel clerk would not wait for us to check-in, so I kept praying the entire time that he would stay. And after arriving just after midnight, he was still there. Another huge praise!

So the kids went to bed at 12:30 a.m. while John, Allie, and Kevin went to get some food. I "managed" to fall asleep with the kids while they were out. We all woke up a little after 7 a.m. on Sunday morning. Actually, I was awakened much sooner because of all of the noise and the bells of the basilica outside our hotel that would chime six million times. We all got ready and headed to find some breakfast.

We headed out in the direction of where we wanted to go the first day and found a cute little bakery with some delicious pastries and doughnuts, which is something they don't do here in Hungary. So we were pretty excited for these wonderful vanilla cream doughnuts. YUM!

Kate enjoyed the cream doughnut, too!

Almost all of the windows and doors in Rome had shutters. BEAUTIFUL!

Motorcycle/Scooter parking everywhere

From there, we walked to the Colosseum. The first view of it was just awesome.

I wasn't expecting to see it as we were walking, and then suddenly, there it was as we were walking down the hill. (Rome is a surprisingly hilly city!) I got all choked up, and I was so glad that Allie did, too. We both looked at each other as tears filled our eyes. She looked at me and said, "How can you see this and not be emotional?" Ah, kindred spirit. :)

The right side is the original kept clean and the left side is the original but not cleaned (all from pollution!)

We ended up buying a tour package for the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill. It was the best tour and money well spent. I wouldn't have been able to fully understand or appreciate everything without that tour I think. And there are obviously TONS of tours in Rome, but we had to pick and choose because they all cost money. And Rome is incredibly expensive. Anyway, loved that tour package! And it was perfect because we had free time during and after it to explore, and it ended in the afternoon so that the kids could go take naps. Plus our guides were fantastic. I missed parts here and there because of the kids, but they were phenomenal during the whole thing.

So, the Colosseum...

First, I learned some things that were contrary to what I had always thought. One, the Colosseum was built after Nero, with an enormous statue in honor of Nero. I always thought they went hand-in-hand. And two, Christians were not killed in the Colosseum. They were imprisoned, tortured, and killed elsewhere (that comes on day two). These fights were for sport and included not only gladiators but other "low life" society members, often criminals.

one view of what is still standing inside

I could write for days about every horrific thing I learned while at the Colosseum. To say the least, man is sinful. I know that, you know that. It originally started by sacrificing animals to the gods, and the rulers saw how people began to enjoy watching this...and turned it into a sport of men fighting men, beasts fighting beasts, and men fighting beasts. But my brain cannot comprehend the sick love of watching men and beasts fight to the death. Seriously. They cheered for it. They chose the fate of so many men. They built awnings from the tops of the walls to provide shade in the hot summer Mediterranean climate so that people could comfortably stay and watch the killings. All day. The employees perfumed the place to mask the stench of blood. And these events were free to the spectators, in an attempt by the rulers to bribe and keep their people happy. To keep them happy...

I always have pictured that it was lions who were the beasts. And although the beasts did include lions, there were also tigers, bears, crocodiles, elephants, and hippos. They starved the beasts waiting around in the dark down below so that they would come up ready to kill so that they could feed themselves. But sometimes with all of the screaming and cheering, the lions in particular would go crazy and try to get out of the arena and into the crowd. So they got "smart" and had elephant tusks coming out as daggers to prevent the lions from leaping out. They also had archers on standby to kill such beasts.

This is the underneath exposed. It was boarded and covered with sand. It was where the animals were kept and the gladiators were brought up to fight by an "elevator." And for a short time period, they used the aqueduct system underneath the city to fill it all with water and have little naval battles, too.

Onto more architectural/building facts that I learned:
Only one third of it remains today. Because only a third remains (and no seats), they estimate it held between 50,000 and 80,000 spectators.
For lack of a better reference, it is set up a lot like a modern sports arena today with different numbered entrances and exits to help facilitate and direct people to their seats.
The Colosseum was built by slaves, mainly Jewish.
Much of the stone we see inside it today was covered in marble back in the day.
You can go on the main level and the second level today. You used to be able to go up to even the third level, but now it is no longer safe.
There are holes all over the place where later the church took out some valuable structural pieces from the walls for money. And yet it still stands...

After the tour of the Colosseum, we had about 45 minutes to explore before our tour of the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill started. Seth was SO good during the entire tour, including quietly walking behind us with his hands in his pocket the whole time and NOT climbing onto things that he so desperately wanted to do but wasn't allowed. So after the tour ended, Kevin went and got him some gelato. Seth got the first taste of anyone and loved it, but he didn't even know how special that was. ;)

Pigeons were everywhere in Rome! "No getting my ice cream, birds!"

Then came the next tour. The Palatine Hill is the huge Imperial Palace with a view of the Circus Maximus (which I didn't get a picture of but will show one soon, it's an oblong course where Ben Hur and other charioteers raced around and where many died, seated 250,000 and was where people could go when the Colosseum was full, was used for horse races for 1000 years.).

The palace/Palatine Hill is behind the Colosseum. It was five stories tall, with each story about 19 meters (roughly 65 ft) tall. So put all five together, and you get a modern building at about 32 stories tall...built a couple thousand years ago (built in AD 31). The tour and walking grounds are on the third floor I believe, but hardly any of it is left standing. It was hard to imagine that we were walking in a palace because it was a pretty grassy/muddy area and not at all like a building. but there were pieces of wall here and there. The corner of the throne room was still there, and that was helpful to understand and get a better picture. All in all, the palace was roughly 150,000 square feet. Not bad.

Corner of the throne room in the palace. There is no way to give you perspective, but this was HUGE! From this room, some 50 million people from Scotland to Africa were ruled and controlled.

The Stadio (Stadium), which was like a rec room for small sports within the palace

Currently this is the Palatine Museum, but back in the 1940's, this was Mussolini's villa.

And last tour of the day was the Roman Forum, which is situated by the Colosseum and overlooked by Palatine Hill and Capitol Hill. It was essentially the center of the city. These pictures will move from the right to the left of the Forum, as seen from standing atop Palatine Hill.

Arch of Titus, commemorating the Roman victory over Judea (Israel) in AD 70. Romans were known for being benevolent to their conquered territories so long as they worshiped the emperor as one of their gods. The Jewish people revolted because they only believed in THE God, and thus Rome defeated them, took their temple, and brought 50,000 Jewish slaves back to Rome to build this arch as well as the Colosseum.

Basilica Maxentius (Basilica of Constantine), only a third left of the original remaining (130 ft high and as long as a football field), but was a center of banking and legal matters on the Forum.

This metal roof area is the temple of Julius Caesar. Legend says he was assassinated here at the Roman Forum, but he was killed a few miles down the road, which is now a "cat sanctuary" thing! But his body was burned here after his assassination, and now, there is a big mound of dirt where there are still fresh flowers laid in his memory.

This area is the House of the Vestal Virgins. The statues along the sides mark the sides of the building with the courtyard in the middle with pools on either end. (It's hard to tell from this picture just how big this was!) Six women were chosen by the age of ten to become the Vestal Virgins, where they took a 30 year vow of chastity. If they faithfully completed their time, they were richly rewarded, but if any were caught not remaining faithful to their vow, they were given a funeral parade, a lamp, and a loaf of bread to be buried alive.

The Forum's main square is in the bottom center of the picture. The columns to the left center in the picture framed the entrance to the Temple of Saturn, which was built in 497 BC. Capitol Hill is just behind the columns with the huge white National Museum in the very back.

Tired of reading about history and buildings?! I loved it! But my mind did start to mix things up after learning so much...and trying to keep people and places straight for a couple thousands years worth of history!

After the Forum, we decided to grab some lunch on our way back to the hotel so that the kids could nap. John and Allie stayed out and explored more of the city. Just one last shot of the Colosseum from a different view. :) The street we are walking on is closed to all vehicles on Sunday and only open to pedestrians!

The kids did nap, and that helped get them through the evening. We fed them a bunch of snacks so that we had time to go find some good place to eat dinner. Like I mentioned previously, it's important to ask what the sitting fee is, since they charge you just to sit at a table. We found an adorable little Italian restaurant on a side street that was reasonable (for Rome!). We had delicious pasta, and true to the European nature, they loved on our kids. I love that about Europeans! And Kate LOVED sharing Kevin's gnocchi.

One of the waiters spoke some basic Hungarian phrases since one of his former girlfriends was from Debrecen, a town two or three hours east of Budapest. I understood everything he said, so that was encouraging. :)

We decided we'd go all out and get dessert because you have to have tiramisu in Italy, but then we also saw a chocolate cake on the menu and couldn't decide. And just like I was told about Italians, they chose for us. So between the four adults, we got both. Delicious. Worth every calorie. :)

Dinner is eaten late in Italy, like in all of Europe, but because we aren't European we eat earlier as Americans. But by the time we were done with dinner, it was 9 p.m., so we took the kids to the hotel so that they could go to bed. Allie and I hung out in the hotel room while the kids slept and John and Kevin went to go see if they could find a place to watch the Bears/Packers game. They did find a place that was willing to put that on for them after a soccer match was done, even though most Europeans do not like or understand American football. How nice that they did that for the guys!

And since I have been asked a few times already, the weather was not bad at all. The temps were in the upper 40's, and with the exception of gray clouds and a little sprinkle Sunday afternoon, we had clear blue skies and sunshine for our trip. An answer to prayer. :)

It was a fantastic and busy first day. John just got a new camera and is a good photographer. He is going to give me a CD with all of his pictures, which will include many family shots at various places. I didn't take as many because of that, knowing that the quality of our pictures is much poorer having to take them with our video camera. But I still will share some of mine in the meantime. In the next few weeks I plan on making a big album and sharing it. :)

Tomorrow I'll post about our second day.


leah said...

A.M.A.Z.I.N.G.!!! Love Love Love it all, every detail and picture. I'm so happy you were able to go and can't wait to hear about the rest of your trip!

Suzanne said...

Wow-thanks so much for sharing so we can all enjoy your trip along with you! We're studying Rome for school right now so this is a blessing!

Mom Y. said...

Great pictures Kristen! Brings back fond memories but realize that I have forgotten a lot. Never thought my kids and grandkids would ever go there!