Warning: this blog post has the potential to be boring because I’m feeling too lazy to insert pictures. Check my “Spring Break 2013” album on Facebook to see pictures from my trip.
Spring Break has begun! My roommate Julia and I will be traveling together for the whole trip. Our first stop was Rome. We left Salzburg Friday morning and took a 9 hour (beautiful!) train ride. It was decently late by the time we arrived so we found a restaurant near our our hostel and then went to bed. On Saturday morning we wanted to start off our trip with all the big touristy spots. But first we bought what is called a Roma Pass; this gave us 3 days of any kind of public transportation, free admission + line skip at 2 attractions, and reduced admission to basically every other attraction in the city. For 30 euro, it was pretty worth it.
We first went to the Colosseum. It was glorious to bypass the line there. The Colosseum itself was so cool! Not only was it mindblowing to imagine how old it was, but also to think about the fact that hundreds of years ago, people were actually gathered there to watch the gladiators. Like that was actually someone’s real life. It sounds stupid, but these are the things that cross my mind. After the Colosseum, we headed over to the ancient city ruins. Ok, let’s take a minute here for me to sound really stupid again. I was expecting the ruins to be a fairly small area; maybe 2-3 acres. No. This place was pretty big. And then I thought about the fact that it was actually an entire city and it kind of clicked. But again, it’s hard for me to wrap my mind around the fact that people were actively living there. It’s so hard to imagine what life would have been like back then. The history behind everything is so vast that it’s hard to comprehend for me.Hopefully it’s not just me 🙂 After exploring ancient Rome, we hit up the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon and Piazza Santa Maria Novella. We may or may not have also enjoyed some gelato along the way.
Sunday was the most exciting day for me. We were going to Palm Sunday mass at the Vatican. Maybe I’m wrong, but I feel like you don’t even need to be Catholic to think that’s cool. I was pretty stoked. Mass was scheduled to start at 9:30 so I wanted to leave our hostel at 7:30 which was a great decision. We rode the metro and got off and walked towards St. Peter’s square. Just as the square came into view, so did the crowds. Before we even got close to the square, they had the roads and sidewalks blocked off with barriers that only let 1-2 people through at a time. I’m sure that was just a measure to keep decent crowd control. Once through the gate, we had to go through metal detectors and we were into the square. Upon entering, we looked at each other and said, “So….now what?” Straight ahead of us was a wooden fence/barrier so we decided to lean on it; it was decently close to the front with a good view so we were happy.
I had downloaded a translated mass card onto my phone ahead of time so that I could follow the readings and responses throughout mass (obviously the whole thing was in Italian). Palm Sunday mass is already fairly long and I knew I would be miserable without a translation. The crowd was thick, but nothing too worrisome at first. That is, until communion time rolled around. In order to distribute communion to as many people as possible, dozens of priests are sent out into the crowd with host. It just so happened that one of those said priests camped out RIGHT in front of us (he stood at the barrier and people came up to him). As soon as he arrived, people began pushing in around us. I have never been so squished in my life. I had armpits in my face, random people’s chest sweat soaking into my back…oh, it was glorious. In all the commotion I got scooted back from the barrier and stood about 3 people back. When mass ended, the Pope got in his popemobile and started driving through the crowd. By then we had realized that he was going to be driving RIGHT in front of us and I was so excited! It was so cool to be so close to the Pope. So you have an idea of the commotion he caused: http://www.romereports.com/palio/pope-francis-gets-out-of-popemobileagain-greets-pilgrims-and-blesses-the-handicapped-english-9559.html#.UVIuiheceSo I really like Pope Francis a lot. I call him Pope Frankie because we’re obviously best friends now 🙂
After the chaos of the mass and a lot of time on our feet, we were ready for a break. We chose to ate Chinese food (judge me) and then spent the rest of the day walking around Rome. Later we wanted to re-visit the Colosseum and Trevi Fountain at night so we found a restaurant near the Trevi Fountain and ate dinner first – it was delicious! Definitely the best Italian food we have found and the atmosphere was great too. Not too touristy like some other places we had been. Both the Colosseum and Trevi Fountain were so relaxing and peaceful at night. I snapped some really cool pictures too!
Monday was spent looking for free things to do: monuments with cool views, pretty churches, etc. Today we went back to the Vatican to see the Vatican Museums/Sistine Chapel/St. Peter’s Basilica. It was pouring rain; luckily we had made online reservations and got to skip right past all the lines. Of course I snuck some pictures in the Sistine Chapel. Who wouldn’t?! We were running really short on time by the time we got to St. Peter’s Basilica. We only had time to see the inside very quickly before we had to catch the metro so that we could catch our flight. It kind of stunk because I really wanted to climb up into the cupola but it made me feel better that it was cloudy/rainy outside. The view wouldn’t have been that great anyways, right (this is where you agree to make me feel better)? Pics from today’s sites are on the way.
Now we have officially arrived in Barcelona! The parts I have seen are very cool and our hostel is in a great location with a very helpful and friendly staff. Yey! Looking forward to seeing what this leg of our trip has to offer!