Naples, Italy


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We all know Mexico doesn’t have the best reputation. It’s not clean, not safe and people don’t usually want to visit, other than to a high-end resort. When I was little, my family dared cross the border on one of our trips to California. The reputation didn’t disappoint. It was dirty, children were begging my family to buy Chiclets and my very blond sister was somewhat of a spectacle.

As an adult Twenty years later, my visit to Naples brought back those feelings of Tijuana. The moment we stepped foot out of the train station it was rough. The streets were dirty. Clothes were strung out to dry across the old communist apartment buildings – and not in a charming way. As we walked, there were groups of men standing on street corners trying to sell used electronics that they had got from God knows where. Other groups of shady looking middle-aged men were just standing there talking in the middle of the day as if they had no job or work to attend to. But worst of all were the piles upon piles of garbage on every corner. It was shocking. I’d never seen anything like it. I don’t know if it was  garbage pick-up day or what, but if it was, surely they could come up with a better system.

So, this was my first impression.

I had a personal draw to Naples, as my grandfather ported into this city when he was sent to Europe to fight in WWII. I imagined what the city was like during that time compared to what it was now.

My grandfather actually wrote about his arrival in his memoir :

“We arrived in Naples a couple of days before Christmas of 1944 I think and we stayed in one of Mussolini’s orphanages overnight and I remember there were kids and groups all around begging for food. I was just astounded really how little ones were running around and it was cold too. There was no snow but it was really cold and there were kids dressed poorly and I remember a fellow was eating C-rations in the school part there was a big auditorium but you couldn’t sit down you had to stand and eat off of the tables and one of them said“oh this doggone C-ration”and he threw it out the doorway and a bunch of kids dove on it. We never realized just how bad it was.”
I was excited and determined to visit his ported dock, to imagine what he saw and felt as he arrived at such a monumental time in history, but walking through the city, it seemed harder than we would have thought to find the actual port. Turns out we were only a block or so away, but our Naples cabbie who we finally broke down and hailed, conveniently forgot to mention that to us as he drove aimlessly around the city and charged us an arm and a leg for it.
We eventually made it to the port.
The intimidating Volcano Mt. Vesuvius lurked in the background of the coast disguising itself as a welcoming hill, but to those who know its history, it was almost eerie to see in real life. We spent a moment at the quiet port and continued on through the city hoping to hit the few notable land marks my travel book had lined out.
We managed a visit to the Opera House, the Castle and the Royal Palace area. The Opera House was beautiful and the Castle was easy enough to walk by and observe, as it sits right on the coast. The Royal Palace area was grand and could have been much more than it was had it not been an utter ghost town in the large square. It looked like an abandoned empire with litter sprinkled throughout. It looked to me like there had been an event held in the square and they left it that way for weeks after. Despite this, the complex was incredible and I’m sure it would have been much more exciting than it was, had there been a market or something eventful to fill the square.

Before heading back to the Godforsaken train station, we knew we had to try some pizza.  Naples is know for being the inventors of pizza, but in my opinion, I would take an American pizza over a Naples one any day. To me, it is bland, too thin and not enough on top, but apparently that’s what a traditional pizza is!

In the end, Naples was not at all what I expected it would be. Traveling to Italy, I think most people expect the country as a whole to be this romantic, incredible place as portrayed in the movies.  I realized not ALL parts of Italy have the romance of Tuscany or Florence, but that’s ok, because EVERY place has a story.

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Vatican Museum & the Sistine Chapel


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The Vatican Museum and really any museum in Europe, you can either walk through and get the gist of it or you could spend a week analyzing every part of it. It really is up to you on how involved you want to be. All of them are worth the time, but it just depends on how much time and interest you really have. As I always say, read up on the highlights before you go and make sure you see what you really want to see when you are there instead of paying for an expensive tour that includes more than what you would ever want and skimps on the things you are really interested in.

It is important to note the Sistine Chapel is located at the end of the Vatican museum and will take you directly out to St. Peters Basilica’s entry when you are finished (this means no waiting in line and another security check to go into St. Peters.) You may want to keep this in mind if you are planning on visiting both in the same day, this way, you can tour the museum first to avoid the line to the basilica. The Vatican museum is amazing, but lets start with the line. The line, curving around the large Vatican wall seems overwhelming. You again will be heckled by tour guides to “Skip the line,” but risk being ripped off. Again, as I said with the basilica, the line for the Vatican Museum, goes pretty quickly. You can also reserve a time online and avoid the line altogether which I decided not to do because I wasn’t sure what time we would end up going. You can reserve these times up to three months in advance online @ Reserve Vatican Museum Times

The Vatican Museum to me is the best museum I have been to anywhere. I liked it much more than the overwhelming and enormous Louvre in Paris. What was disappointing about the Vatican museum was how they handled the quantity of visitors. We were herded in like livestock. I don’t know if it just was that it was the last hour of the day and everyone wanted to get in last minute, but there was so many people that at many points we were literally rubbing shoulders with one another. This really took away and made it hard to enjoy the experience of being in the same room of these amazing masterpieces.

The very worst part was when we finally got into the Sistine Chapel. Although they only admitted a certain amount of people in at a time, there was still far too many people for it to seem remotely holy- especially with the groups of young school children. The very worst part was once we were let into the giant Sistine Chapel (it was much large than I expected) the Italian ushers would clap their hands every few minutes and yell at the top of their lungs-“SILENCE!”. I was appalled. First of all, the loudest person in the room was this person trying to keep it so quiet, second, I didn’t find that very respectful to the chapel or to the people in it, and third, these ushers were the ones who controlled how many people they let in at a time! It was handled so horribly. We of course got our obligatory sneaky picture of the chapel ceiling with our heads in it the best we could!

The Vatican museum is an absolute must see on any trip to Rome, not just because the Sistine Chapel (that was so hyped up by the time we got to it it was almost a let down.) The Museum as a whole is amazing. We zipped through it pretty fast being the last hour of the day, but it was good enough for me. The first part of the museum features works from ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome then leads through the beautiful hall of maps and tapestries to the renaissance Raphael rooms and finally, the Sistine chapel. My favorite part of the museum were the Raphael rooms and the hall of maps. The ceiling in the hall of maps is indescribable. It looked like it’s made of pure gold. Everything during that time was so elaborate and detailed. The Raphael rooms are incredible because they don’t just feature paintings done by Raphael, they are whole rooms that are painted from top to bottom by Raphael, ceilings and all. The famous School of Athens (the original one) covers the wall of one of these rooms.

The Vatican Museum is a gem that is not to missed on a trip to Rome!

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The Greek sculpture pictured above is of Laocoön and his sons. This was buried and lost for more than a thousand years. It was finally unearthed in 1506 A. D. near the Colosseum. This is one of my favorite pieces!

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St. Peter’s Necropolis


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If you want to indulge in arguably the most incredible and not-very-well-known sight in all of Rome/Vatican, you simply CANNOT miss the tour of the necropolis underneath St. Peter’s Basilica.

The necropolis excavations originally began by Pope Pius XII in 1939-50. The necropolis goes down to the ORIGINAL St. Peters foundations built by emperor Constantine in 313 A.D. and then goes even further under to the excavated cemeteries, mausoleums and streets from the 1st and 2nd century. Yes, truly incredible. The tour leads you through the mausoleums and tombs to the spot that is said to be where St. Peter’s tomb originally was placed in this graveyard after being crucified.

This ancient Roman necropolis contains tombs of Pagans and Christians alike and is where St. Peter is known to have been originally buried. You actually are able to view what is said to be St. Peters actual bones and tomb that they found while excavating the necropolis, which is the main highlight of the tour. When you are at the spot of the actual tomb, you will be 33 feet directly beneath the floor of the basilica, the main alter and directly beneath Michelangelo’s dome. It is said that the original St. Peters was built with the alter aligning with this spot, as the modern basilica is today.

Going into the Necropolis is literally going into an underground world that has long been dead and gone-it is amazing, eerie and totally intriguing! In this tour, you will be able to still see whats left of the old writings, frescos and mosaic artwork on the walls and floors of the ruins, which is absolutely incredible, surreal and almost freaky. It gave me chills to think I was standing in a room from so long ago and I could STILL see the artwork as if it was just yesterday.

You will see images of pagan Gods, and others of Christ. They have excavated full streets (tiny, narrow streets) that you walk through while touring each mausoleum. At the time of the first century, you would have been walking at ground level, so at that time, nothing would have been above you but the sky. Today, there is a giant modern day basilica built atop this ancient world. I think the reality of all the layers of Rome boggles peoples minds, but that’s for another post!

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How does the Vatican know this is truly Peter’s tomb and bones?

There are many reasons why the Catholic Church has determined these are in fact the bones of St. Peter, although it is a very controversial subject.

Some of the reasons :

* Greek letters inscribed “Peter” and fragments of words that may have said “is here,” or “within” on/near the tomb.

*Early Christians snuck down to the tomb and covered the walls with graffiti that paid tribute to Peter.

*Dirt on the bones that they think are of St. Peters matched the soil in the pauper’ grave.

*A stone found with them had the words “Peter within” carved on it.

*The feet of the body were missing, having been broken off at the ankles. St. Peter was crucified upside down and missing feet are typical because the body is chopped free before burial.

Whether you believe the reasoning or not, this tour and the history of this underground world are truly a hidden Gem that I wouldn’t miss for anything on a tour to Rome.

The main questions that came to mind on my visit was :

What initiated the excavations?  I haven’t been able to get a solid answer for this question. I read once that the pope that began the excavations was digging in this spot in order to put in a commemorative monument of the previous pope, but stopped once they hit the graveyard ruins.

Why did they wait clear till the 1940’s to see if they could confirm that St. Peter’s remains were in fact under the basilica?

Why did they stop the excavations after revealing what they believed to be St. Peter’s grave and a few other mausoleums? Think of all the amazing things they could find! But that is the thing about Rome, no matter where you dig, you will find something underneath. You can’t really dig up all of Rome. The Vatican also accidentally discovered more of the Roman necropolis located underneath the Vatican gardens while digging their underground parking garage in 1956. This Necropolis is called via Triumphalis and has been open for tours only as of 2014.

Conditions/Reservations:

The necropolis is cold, dark, wet and humid like a typical underground ruin. The rules on this tour are very strict and you are not allowed to take any photos. All photos in the slideshow above I got off the internet. Tour groups are small and limited to a certain amount of visitors per day. The excavations are strictly by guided tour only and are an absolute must see if you are able to get a reservation. The only hard part about getting the reservation is remembering to request it months in advance. All it requires is a simple e-mail. I think I requested reservations almost 4 to 5 months in advance and I visited in the off season. There are no set deadlines for submitting requests, so you are able to put it in up to several months in advance, which you would want to do especially during the busy season. Go to the main Vatican website for instructions on what to send in your e-mail request and further instructions.

Many people don’t know about the necropolis or confuse it with the crypt or grotto of the basilica- then realize they can’t get a tour unless reserved long before they got there. The grotto under the church is a completely different thing. The necropolis is underneath the grotto. Others confuse the modern tomb of St. Peter that you can view by looking down to in the basilica as Peters actual tomb, but do not be confused,  the original tomb is actually directly below the modern tomb that’s in the necropolis and can only be seen by a previously booked tour.

To find any information on the Vatican website, the search engine is very user friendly to find anything. Just type in “Scavi Excavations,” and the first link will take you to the page with all the instructions on what to include in your e-mail and details on the tour or just click my link above. The e-mail to request reservations is: scavi@fsp.va, They then send you a receipt of your email request right away and then within a few days you will get an answer.

To view a very well done virtual tour of the necropolis through the Vatican Website, click the link below.

Virtual Tour of Scavi Excavations

 

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The Vatican


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Vatican City:

Vatican City is its own walled off sovereign city-state of roughly 100 acres within the city of Rome. There are also 3 papal basilicas within the city of Rome that are part of Vatican Jurisdiction. The Vatican has its own postal service, train station, and even has its own versions of the Euro coin, like all European countries. The Vatican’s main sights are St. Peters Basilica and the Vatican Museum which contains the Sistine Chapel. Many of the things you see in Rome are hard to believe they’re real- this is one of them. Whether you are religious or not, it is an amazing feeling to be at the heart of such a historic place.

Rome – where in 313 A.D. Christianity was finally legalized by Emperor Constantine changing the course of history to this day. Had he not legalized Christianity, would it be such it is to this day? We will never know.

The Vatican – home and birth of the Catholic Church, where Constantine built what was the first Catholic church, St. Peters Basilica on this spot in 329 A.D.

Photo Outside Vatican Wall:

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From this picture it may look like you have to more or less go “in” to the Vatican through the fortress wall of the city, but you would never even realize the city actually has walls around it if you came upon it from the front area of St. Peter’s square.

 

History of St. Peters:

 
Nearly 2,000 years ago, the spot where St. Peter’s Basilica sits today was the site of emperor Nero’s Circus- a huge Roman chariot racecourse. The tall obelisk in the middle of St. Peters Square stood here during this time in the center of the racecourse. Think of the history this 300 ton obelisk has seen, originally erected in Egypt more than 2,000 years ago. It witnesses the fall of the pharaohs to the Greeks and then to the Romans. It was then brought to Rome, where it has stood in this spot witnessing hundreds of years of history. During the time of the racecourse, this was a popular spot for the pagan empire to kill Christians for entertainment. St. Peter was one of the Christians crucified on this racecourse while he was in Rome preaching the message of Jesus in about 65 A. D. His remains were buried in a nearby cemetery located where the main altar in St. Peter’s is today. When Christianity was finally legalized in 313, the Christian emperor Constantine built a church on the site of Peter’s martyrdom- St. Peters Basilica. St. Peter was considered the first bishop of Rome. St. Peters was eventually replaced by the new existing St. Peters which began construction in 1506 A.D.

St. Peters Basilica:

 

St. Peters Basilica is the highlight of the Vatican. St. Peters Square with its 2 half rings of giant columns on either side, was designed and built by Bernini, along with most of the interior of the church. Bernini’s Baroque style dominates the facade. The saints line the top of either side of the columns with Jesus Christ in the middle. Giant statues of St. Peter and Paul sit on either side of the entrance welcoming visitors to the home of the Catholic Church. Peter is holding the key to the kingdom of heaven, given to him by Jesus.

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St. Peters is ENORMOUS, and that is a VAST understatement. Nothing can prepare you for this lavish basilica and the enormity of it. The decadents is beyond words. No photos can do it justice.

After visiting St. Peters Basilica, every other cathedral and church I’ve seen in Europe is not even comparable- and European cathedrals are all jaw-dropping to say the least.

This basilica itself covers about six acres. Several football fields could fit in there. This church is very long, very tall and very wide. It looks big on the outside but you have no idea how big it really is until you actually go in. Everything in St. Peters is huge-the statues are enormous, the lettering on the walls, the pictures. There are actually no paintings in St. Peters, instead, they are mosaic copies made from thousand of colored chips. You wouldn’t know it unless you get very, very close. The reason for this is the humidity, smoke and soot from the candles would ruin real paintings.

Probably the most famous highlight of St. Peters is Michelangelo’s Pieta. It is to your right as soon as you walk into the basilica but it actually can be hard to miss if you don’t remember to go over to it. The Pieta was much smaller than I pictured it to be and it is pretty far away from the crowd behind bulletproof glass due to someone running into the basilica and hacking away at it with a hammer in the 70’s. I personally didn’t find the Pieta that incredible compared to the rest of the church. To me, the most incredible thing about the Pieta is that Michelangelo completed it when he was 24 years old! Some remaining pieces of the old church and even some of the art are still in the new St. Peters.

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Touring St. Peters:

 
St. Peters Basilica usually always has a long line due to security check and dress code. When we were there it was no exception. I say don’t waste your time or money trying to get around the line- just wait. The line may be enormous but it goes really fast. Tourist may be initially shocked when they arrive and get suckered into an expensive tour to avoid the line. Waiting in the line actually gave us an opportunity to take in the beautiful St. Peter’s Square and read up on it in our guidebook. The line is right in front of the Basilica in St. Peters Square so it’s not like you have to stand in a covered back alley or something. As you are waiting in line, tour guides will be heckling you to go with them and skip the wait, but do not be fooled! Remember, dress modest when touring the basilica, if you are questioning your apparal, you probably shouldn’t wear it. I think this picture I took below is amusing because it looks to me that either way, women can show their midriff! Ha, ha, ha.

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As we walked about St. Peters we stumbled upon a dead body – literally. It freaked me out a bit. We learned it was Pope John XXIII and his body was brought up from the Crypt for display 38 years after his death in 1963. Apparently, at the time of his death, he was filled with something that preserved him incredibly.  Quite an interesting and unexpected thing to run into while touring the Basilica.

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Crypt and Dome of St. Peters:

 
The entry to the basilica and Crypt are free of charge. If you want to climb up the dome that was designed by Michelangelo, you will need to pay 6 euros to climb all the way up or 7 euros to take an elevator partway up to the roof, then climb 323 steps to the top of the dome. We walked the entire thing and it is a workout! The higher you get, the more narrow and claustrophobic it gets. My 6’3 husband had issues! We thought we had made it to the top of the dome when it finally spit us out into the world, but we realized we were only on the rooftop of the basilica! But it was a good place to take a break and take in a few more sights.

 
On your way up to the dome, you get an opportunity to look down into the basilica from the inside of the gallery ringing the interior of the dome. If you are afraid of heights this is not for you, it is a very long way down and definitely puts in perspective again how huge this basilica is. The people below look like ants. The interior of the dome is designed with the most beautiful mosaics and you can stand right up next to them and see the great detail where you could never see that from down below. Climbing to the top of the dome is a true experience and if you are able, I would absolutely make time for this. It is awesome to see the inside of the dome and the view of Rome and St. Peters Square below are just incredible.

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The crypt in the foundation of the church contain the tombs of many popes including the popular Pope John Paul II. This crypt is something you can quickly walk through. This crypt isn’t like most of the crypts you see in European churches- this one is modern, bright, pure white, finished, and seems more like a large underground room than a old rock crypt that is wet, dark and eerie like some of the other crypts I have seen. Peters tomb is in the crypt and you can look down to it from the basilica, but don’t be confused that it is St. Peters original grave and what is said to be the remain of his bones are NOT part of the crypt. To see this, you need to make reservations months in advance for the Scavi Excavations tour in the necropolis which is underneath the crypt.

I would schedule a good 4 hour window to visit the basilica, crypt and dome.

For more information on touring the Vatican, visit their Website link below.

Vatican Website

Photo Credit: All Photos taken by Jackie & Shaun Bingham

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Mausoleum of Augustus


Julius Cesar’s powerful successor and adoptive son (really his nephew), Augustus, was the first emperor and founder of the Roman Empire where he reigned from 27 bc to 14 ad.

His once grand mausoleum which he had built in 28 b.c. is now in a very sad state of ruin. Augustus’s family and some of the other emperor’s urns were housed in this mausoleum, but invading barbarians during the fall of the Roman Empire raided the tomb dumping out the ashes and steeling the urns. So technically the family is still in this mausoleum, just crushed up under layers of the dirt.

This tomb is in a horrible part of town that was crawling with bums and reeked of urine. I actually walked right past a man and then realized he was peeing on the side of a locked outhouse. That’ll teach em! There were no tourists in this area and hardly any people. It stunk so bad at the front of the mausoleum that we left as soon as I could get a picture.

The site is closed to visitors and as of 2016, they still haven’t done any renovations to this amazing historic landmark which is really a shame.

Again, as I say about all the amazing Roman ruins, it makes me sad to think how such a monumental emperor and figure of the Roman Empire’s remains have decayed and turned into ruin. This is the story of Rome and eventually everything in this world. So sad but true.

An image of what the mausoleum looked like during the time of the empire

 

 

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Ancient Roman Forum


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The Ancient Roman Forum was the center of everything important in the Roman empire. This was the main city center where the temples, senate house, law courts and all other important government building sat. This was also the center of public life where the markets and shops were held and where the Roman citizens hosted  celebrations and holiday events . Emperors used the forum to parade their military victories through the main drag, presenting slaves, goods and the king of whatever land they had just conquered. The Forum expanded over time, adding new temples and grand buildings with each great emperor. The forum is next to Palatine Hill, where the palace of the emperors sat and where Rome was originally founded.

The Forum is obviously a main reason to visit Rome and should be at the top of anyone’s list. The Colosseum sits at the end of the forum and the Victor Emmanuel monument on the other, so this spot is the most popular place to tour in Rome. There are 3 parts that are included in the Forum area- the main Forum area, Palatine hill area that sits right next to it, and Trajan’s market that is directly across the street. Each area is easily view able and easy to tour. You could spend a few days here or just a half day depending on how in depth you wanted to go. You can easily walk to the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps from here but I wouldn’t recommend doing it all in one day.

 I find it quite interesting and sad to walk through what used to be the center of this great empire. Over two thousand year old rubble just lays at your feet as you walk the worn flagstones of Rome’s original 2,000-year-old rock forum road. Monuments and temples that were once so enormous, intimidating and important are nothing but broken columns, but the history these columns have seen is mind boggling and it’s truly a remarkable feeling to stand next to them.

Despite what many people think, Julius Caesar was not assassinated at the Senate house in the Forum. The senate was actually meeting in the theater of Pompey in another part of the city the day Cesar was killed. What remains of that building is a small bit of brick and columns that has now been incorporated into the surrounding buildings and is part of the cellars in some of the surrounding restaurants. I was determined to see this spot, even though I knew nothing was really there. It is hard to imagine how things were back in that time when everything around it now completely changed. Caesars body was later burned in the Forum and a memorial spot is present there today.

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The huge arches of the old Law Court turned Basilica

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My husband looking very tiny in comparison!
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Ruins of the Emperors Palace on Palatine Hill

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Trajan’s Market

 

Italy, Rome and the amazing ancient world


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Italy, and specifically Rome hold some of the best, if not the best sights in the entire world. From the Vatican to the Forum, this place is unbeatable. Obviously, Rome’s history is vast and of vital importance dating all the way back to 850 B.C. Rome houses sights and history that have changed our world forever. Rome is home to some major developments of the human race, including Christianity, civil engineering and the justice system. Rome holds the best sights I’ve seen in all of Europe.  If I had to recommend one place for someone that only got one chance to visit Europe, it would be here.

The people of Italy were so welcoming, willing to help and had great customer service despite the language barrier. Italy just has it all, it has the best of everything you could want in the world – beaches, history, ruins, canals, islands, art, architecture, religion, food, museums, churches, cathedrals, villages and countryside’s as well as big lively cities.

Italy was where the renaissance was born. This country is home to the most famous artwork in the world, from “The Last Judgment” in the Vatican Museum, the “Last Supper” in Milan, to “David” in Florence. Italy is a country you could visit time and time again, and it would be a completely different trip each time. Rome particularly, has such an influence on what our world has become to this day and this is something I quickly realized while preparing for my visit. Before I began researching Rome, I never really realized the extent of  influence it has on my daily life and really how much the Romans have developed and influenced what we use today. I work in the Judicial system for example, and there are many things I started picking up on in my daily work that I realized the Romans had originally come up with. Rome developed the highway system that we still follow today, they created concrete and many architectural styles.  The calendar, alphabet and mass entertainment were all innovations of Ancient Rome. You will be amazed how much Romans are really accredited for when you really get down and research.

Rome had to be the trip I was the most excited to go on of all of my trips. I remember replaying in my mind what it would be like seeing the roman forum for the first time.  Once I got to see all of these sights, it’s funny because it’s almost like it didn’t even happen. When you are there in the flesh actually looking at them it’s just so surreal. It’s like ok, I’m here, I’m looking at it, I’m touching a 2,000 year old ruin that Marc Anthony sat on, that I’ve researched and anticipated seeing for the past year and I don’t quite know what to make of it! It is just so amazing it can’t be put into words.

The months prior to my trip I became infatuated with Roman history and became quite embedded in my research. This unexpectedly developed into somewhat of an emotional time for me, as my research had brought me to question and ponder many important things about life to an extend that I had never done before. Studying Roman history forces you to think and question important and sometimes scary things like the beginning of time, Christianity, religion, life, death, power, politics, what to believe in, what not to believe in, right and wrong … the list goes on.

Rome’s rich history is truly amazing and is absolutely fascinating to me. Roman times were insane; people were sold as slaves and worshiped and sacrificed for pagan gods. At it height, the empire ruled nearly all of the known world . In many ways I find it incredibly sad to think that all that is left of such an incredible empire is a bit of rubble. I wonder what all the great emperors would have thought if they knew that one day all of their incredible monuments and building would basically disappear. It is crazy how every great empire eventually falls sooner or later … Egyptian, Greeks then Romans.

Everything was new and grand at one point in time. How much of our own cities will be anything like they look now in 2,000 years? Physically, our world will be different, but it’ mind-boggling to think about how much different our world may be in terms of religion and politics ideas 2,000 years from now. If Emperor Constantine hadn’t of legalized Christianity in 313 A.D. would it have ever happened? And if not, what would our world be like today? It’s crazy to think that prior to legalization of Christianity you could get killed for being a Christian and after legalization, you could get killed for NOT being one.  It’s even more crazy to think of the power a single person had to change everything.

You will see many sights in Rome that seem unbelievable; the chains and cell St. Peter was confined in the days before he was executed, the very spot Julius Cesar was executed, a Colosseum that has seen hundreds of years of death solely for free entertainment to the masses, stairs that Jesus walked up to meet Pontius Pilate when was he was sentenced to death (bloodstains and all), miles and miles of underground catacombs that have held popes and pagans alike.

Rome is THE place to go for a truly amazing trip, it is a huge city with a smorgasbord of jaw-dropping sights. Make an effort to decide which ones are most important to you so you can get the most out of your trip.  It would be more than a shame to not do your research before you go and I highly advice you to NOT rely on a tour guide to tell you what they think you should know when you get there. I walked more in Rome than I did in any other city of any of my travels. Rome is highly walk able as there are so many sights that are so close together, but the city is huge and so full of sights, that you end up walking farther and farther and farther … I would recommend taking a taxi back to your hotel at the end of the night. 

 

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Shit


European Bathrooms:

*The majority of bathrooms in Europe are what most Americans would consider outhouses.

*Be aware that the bathrooms are almost always too small and probably won’t have the necessities to clean yourself up.

*In some places you may be lucky if there is a toilet seat.

*You might want to consider carrying a napkin pack with you at all times.

Experience in Rome:

When I was in Rome I went into a horrible bathroom that didn’t have a toilet seat or toilet paper. I was desperate, and I couldn’t find a bathroom anywhere for hours so I went for it. When I went out to wash my hands I lathered them with soap and then realized the water was not turned on and there was nothing to wipe  my hands on! Ugh.

Experience in Paris:

When I was in Paris I went into a café bathroom and when I began to wash my hands a man walked up next to me and begun washing his hands. I looked over my should and noticed there were urinal lined up next to the stalls. I was in a unisex bathroom and didn’t even realize it, I have never been in a unisex bathroom in my life. It was a very awkward experience. 

Experience in Vienna:

In Vienna, I saw a toilet that cleaned itself after you flushed. The seat actually made a mechanical 360° turn spraying cleaner on itself. Very clever! I didn’t see another one of these until last March, 2014 when I was in Ghent, Belgium. I attached the video below. 

Disclaimer:

Not all bathrooms in Europe are bad and there are actually some very nice bathrooms. In most restaurants and hotels you will find good bathrooms. What I like most about European bathrooms, is that most of the stalls are like small rooms where they go to the very top of the ceiling and to the very bottom of the floor. They are very private. There aren’t giant openings for people to look in at you like in America. I actually prefer European bathrooms for this reason.

Tip:

Take note that in many bathrooms if you can’t find the lever to flush, look up and their most likely will be a string for you to pull. If that’s not the case, their may be a dot on the wall that you need to push in to flush!

None of this is necessarily bad, it could be a good story to tell when you get home and It’s all part of your European experience!

 

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