Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Bar to Bari and Rome

Sitting on the bus about to depart Budva, when it hits me. I've left my walking shoes at the hostel, and all I've got is my run down $20 K-mart shoes and I'm wearing my flip-flops. 45 minutes and another 4.50Euro bus ticket later, I'm on my way down the coast to Bar to take a ferry to Italy.

I'm sure you're sick of my sun setting photos,  but they are breathtaking in person!
hanging round the port
Bar, Montenegro shrinking in the distance
The ferry was very basic and dated looking, with a tacky restaurant and cafe, but made the bare steel door frames and corridors a little more cozy. I pulled out my sleeping bag and set up camp for the 8 hour journey. I slept relatively well, it was a smooth crossing, waking up to the announcement that we were arriving. I set out to the decks to wake up with some fresh air.

There didn't seem to be any information point or tourist help anywhere, I knew I had to catch the #20 bus but from where? Thankfully an English guy Mike was able to pair me up with a girl he'd met, who happened to be also going to the train station. Phew. The #20 bus passed twice without stopping for the around 15 people waiting for it. I can't remember her name but she said "..they sometime do this because they can't be bothered or because they want to give the fare to the taxi drivers". I'm sorry, I thought I caught the ferry to Italy?! What is this place? From what she was telling me, these southern parts of Italy are very relaxed, and she finds it incredibly frustrating during siesta, when Italians close shop from about 1-4pm everyday to have lunch and a nap. Not a bad idea though, how often do you feel sluggish after a big lunch?

Anyway, I finally got to the train station where I almost hit the roof over the train fares. I think I was just used to the cheap Croatian buses. The timings meant I had to pay more to get there at a reasonable hour on the fast train, or get there close to midnight on a cheap train. I may start flying, a couple weeks in advance I could have flown from Bari to Rome for half the train fare, or almost anywhere in Europe for that matter. 
You can tell by now how much fun I'm having. I ended up at the tourist information with a friendly women who gave me directions to the bus station and helped me re-organise how to get to my hostel in Rome from the new station I would arrive at. After lunch I caught my bus totally chuffed at saving myself 20Euros. 

6 Hour journey across from the Heel to the Shin of the boot that is Italy. Spectacular rolling green hills, we're talking Windows Xp Background here. 
After a good nights sleep, I was awake, like most of the dorm at 7am when the sun streamed over the rooftops and into our white walled room. I rolled straight out of bed, down the stairs and started off towards the center. 

The roads around Rome are crazy. A few have these patrols that control the traffic and blow there whistles every so often. It took me a while to grasp, but to cross their roads and multi-lanned roundabouts, you simply start walking across the heavy traffic, they'll stop if you're there but they wont if you stand there waiting for a gap (which isn't going to happen). 

National Monument to Victor Emmanuel 11 - First King of a united Italy and has to tomb of the unknown soldier. Italians don't typically like this building for its size, colour and it's location. Still impressive.  
Lots of vespas and smart cars..

1st stop on my mission, the Colosseum! Built a long time ago, completed 80AD. Now forever I was confused as to why the floor was a maze and not a flat surface, but thankfully they'd built a little bit of the floor to give you an idea of what it was like so I assume the other wooden floor just rotted away. The maze was underneath the wooden floor where they housed the animals and the sets the gladiators/prisoners would fight in. Sometimes they even flooded the stadium to re-enact sea battles!

Looking outside the window

Painting of the spectators. Barbecues, drinking, graffiti, fighting.....I guess not much has changed  

Palatine Hill. Where Romulus started his city. (I've written about him further down)
Roman Forum
After the Colosseum I visited Palatine hill and the Roman Forum, which has some of the most ancient parts of the city. I wondered round reading up each location in my Lonely Planet guide. There's a great picture on Wiki with a 3D model of what it did look like back then. Would have been a very grand place!

Rome (and much of Italy) has water fountains everywhere is various shapes and sizes. So good to just top up your water bottle, wash your hands, and splash some water on your face to cool down. 

The Pantheon, has a huge hole that lets a beam of light stream inside. Very cool

The Pantheon was so packed, even the square outside, it's free, so as expected. Very noisy, but I like the above photo, captures what it's like perfectly. 
The Trevi Fountain!! Neptune in the middle, women on either side representing Medicine and abundance, up top the women represent the seasons, an angry horse and a calm horse represent the temper of the sea.

You'd think with this number of people, that the fountain would do some spectacular, like come to life or put on some light show, but no. This is just another day at the Trevi fountain.

The Spanish Steps
Clutching my Lonely Planet papers on the Spanish steps, and some nice flowers. 

View from the hill
Piazza del Popolo, a place for many public executions back in the day

Somewhere round parliament building

More geraniums and balconies

I have no idea what this large water animal is...

Tiber River
After walking for what felt aaages, I went back to the hostel about 6pm and collapsed on my bed for just over an hour. I woke up, and was tossing up whether to do the free walking night tour of some spots in the city that the hostel was arranging. I would decide after eating, I grabbed a bite to eat at the pizza shop on the corner and thought. "It's free, just do the tour!" so I speedily headed to the meeting point about 10 minutes from the hostel.

We basically did most of what I had already seen but with a commentary and interesting stories, and lots of other people at the hostel. Great fun, glad I did it.

Me at the Trevi fountain again about to throw my coin into the fountain. It's Supposed to mean a safe return to Rome. 2 coins means you'll fall in love, and 3 means you'll get married. I hear its about 3000 Euro a week gets chucked in or something ridiculous like that.

Piazza Novono
The girl taking the tour had interesting stories you'd never know about. The guy holding up his hand to the church in disgust was purposely done because the architect of the church and the sculptor hated each other. So the architect added the woman on top of the church (the only statue on the church) and made her face away from the fountain as if to say "what an ugly fountain I'm not looking at it". There's a few hidden messages in the sculptures around Rome like this, some even aimed at the Pope. 

So very roughly, the story goes; Romulus and Remus were brothers in line to the throne, the kings brother seized power and ordered them to be abandoned in the Tiber river. The two were found by a wolf who suckled them until they were fostered by a family. When they were older the found out who they actually were, restored the original king and both started cities in separate locations (Romulus started his on Palatine hill, now one of the most oldest ruins). They got into a fight and Romulus killed Remus, something something, Romulus named the city after himself, and Rome was born. 

I mapped out where I walked today, it went as you see it (from L I took the metro to A), then that evening it went, A,G,H, F, Red cross then bussed back to the train station and home at midnight. My feet hurt.

Another 7am start. I was out the door eating my apple as I headed to the metro station. I arrived in the Vatican city at 8.30am after having to wait for 2 metros as I physically could not fit myself in to the already full sardine cans on wheels.
The line for the Vatican museum wasn't very long (to my surprise) and everyone went straight in as the doors opened at 9am.

Hundreds and Hundres of Sculptures

I love how sculptors can make something look like it's billowing out of stone. You'd swear it's almost silk. 

And of course the Sistine Chapel, which I found terribly underwhelming; not sure whether it was because it was noisy, packed and dark (the picture I stole from Google because you're not allowed to take pictures captures it quite well, but maybe a little darker). The whole museum houses an enormous amount of art that I just could not appreciate, especially as the tour groups would sweep through like a tsunami charging down the narrow hallways engulfing the couples and solo viewers and surrounding the art work out of view. Of course it wouldn't have been a bad idea to take a tour, but for 15 Euros entry fee + 20-30Euro for the tour, it really wasn't worth it (you didn't even get a free audio guide!) 

The Chapel, with the ceiling painted by Michelangelo 

I actually enjoyed this spiral staircase as I exited, more than I did the Sistine Chapel 
Anyway I made a mad dash to St. Peters Piazza because the Pope makes an appearance on Wednesdays to give blessings etc. Just made it in to the square and up to the barrier to see him drive past on a little buggy (not the pope mobile with the glass covering).

Pope Benedict XVI

Lots of people in the Piazza

I left halfway through to get some Lunch. I returned as they were packing up and St. Peters Basilica had reopened, but with a line that snaked it's way across the Piazza. I stood in line and got chatting with a girl from London which made the wait more tolerable.
I've only just discovered I can adjust the direction of my panorama sweep feature  - these people got their legs mixed up

Inside - Kat from London in the Orange. 

The Pieta - only sculpture that Michelangelo signed (can see it on the sash across her chest)
Kat and I wandered around reading up in our guides as we went, strolling through the Crypt underneath seeing the past Pope's tombs. We paid 5Euro to climb up to the top of the church..

Annoying wire guard ruins the view

You can see the curve of the dome
Climbing up the stairs which slant sideways as you spiral your way up and around the dome. All I could think of was the massive drop on the other side of the bricks to the floor of the church as I leaned over. 
This was followed by a series of narrow walkways and the tightest spiral staircase I've ever seen. As I stood in the cramped que to climb this tiny staircase, sweat dripping over my brow, all I could think about was the heat, earthquakes, and the need for fresh air. Panic attacks were quickly beginning to boil over, but a few deep breaths sorted that. 

So good to get out to the cooling breeze..(I don't know that person on the left) St. Peters Piazza below
Thanks Kat! 
After I left Kat, I walked across town to a more wealthy residential area called Trastevere which was recommended by my hostel. Lots of nice restaurants, and a more relaxed atmosphere without the crowds. Accordions playing in the squares was a bit cheesy, but nice to listen to.

Obelisk - Romans took these from Egypt, some they made their own but just made scribbles instead of genuine hieroglyphics

I had a few beers in the Hostel bar that evening with some of the people in my dorm, but completely worn out, I crashed about 11. So that's my whirlwind tour of Rome, 3 nights, 2 full days, but I saw what I wanted to. Like everyone I've met they've all said "Rome's terrible, but you have to see it, Get in, Get out" I wouldn't say it was terrible, but definitely has it's share of downsides.

P.s It takes me so long to write these, I never can be bothered to proof read, excuses the mistakes.=)

1 comment:

  1. Loved it - great photos and nice to see where you have been :)
    That was a lot in a short time.
    Glad there were no earthquakes while you were there...