As sad as I was to say goodbye to Prague, the fact that we were going to Rome made me quickly forget my sorrows! I mean, this is Rome we are talking about: the Eternal City. As a history major, I have studied Rome more than any other civilization in the world because of the incredible global ramifications it did, and continues, to have. I remember my first passion for history started when I saw a special on tv about Pompeii and the Roman Empire. I must have been only about 7 or 8, but nevertheless, it impacted me in ways I could never have imagined! Enough about my obsession with Italy though.
We left Prague that afternoon via taxi. In Prague, the metro station is not nearly as convenient as in all of the other countries we toured in Europe. On our way out of the hotel, which had no elevator, I accidentally dropped my suitcase down the staircase. Suitcase number 2 was down and out for the count! We made it to the train station and actually made our train. I believe that was the 2nd time now we didn't have to wait in a train terminal for hours because we had missed our ride.
So, if you know me, you know I don't sleep in vehicles, like ever. I remember when I was super young and my family would travel, I rarely ever fell asleep. On my over 6 hour flight from the US to Paris, I was wide awake pretty much the entire flight. Something about those train rides though got me every time. I barely remember any of them. I would just hop on the train, grab my blanket, snuggle up next to the hubs, and conk out. This ride was no different than the rest. Our ride left the Praha Holesovice station on time at 1:18pm. After a lovely six hour nap, we arrived in Vienna, Austria (Wein Meidling) for a short layover. Just so we could say we had been to Austria, the hubs and I ascended the stairs of the station and walked out onto the sidewalk of the city. The wind and chill was awful so we quickly made our way back into the terminal. At that time, we stopped and bought some gyros. For the first time in my life, i tried lamb. It took everything for me not to think about what I was eating so I wouldn't upchuck!
Okay, so train arrives, we hop on, find our room, yes our room, and head out. This was not your ordinary European train; this was a night train. Nathan and I arrived at our compartment before our roommates. I had this brilliant idea, or so I thought at the time, to take the top bunks, which were not two beds up but three, with no rail on the side to keep you from failing either. Soon the others arrived into the cabin. There were two young kids, a couple ages 18 and 19 from Austria, and a brother and sister, ages 23 and 26, from Korea. We all had a nice little conversation and got to know each other somewhat. By about 9:00 though, we were all exhausted and decided to hit the hay. That night was the worst night OF MY LIFE! First off, something was wrong with the air conditioner, and as you all know, heat rises, so being on the top bunk...it was almost unbearable. I had to get up several times that night because I thought I was going to puke from the heat. When I wasn't focused on the intense heat, I was so afraid the train would make a sudden stop that I would just roll off the top bunk, which could not have been more than a few feet wide. To top it all off, Nathan was on the other side snoring! I thought that night would never end, but it finally did and bright and early we all woke up and saw our first glimpses of Italy through the window. We were now only an hour or so out of Rome.
Getting ready that morning was interesting. You now when you don't sleep well and wake up too early, how you have the yucky tired feeling in the morning? That's exactly how I felt. The bathroom used for getting ready in was super packed and it took forever for my turn. Once I got in, the floor was soaked because so many people were improvising with the sink and using it as a shower. We got our breakfast, which basically topped off the crapiness of that ride: a nasty croissant with some jam.
Well, we finally arrived in Rome that morning, the morning, July 21 at 9:05 am. This station, the Roma Termini, was, I think, the main station in Rome. This place was INSANE. People everywhere. It was also a major shopping center. We somehow managed to navigate our way through the station. I remember trying to figure out how to buy our metro passes. When we finally found the "line" to do so, it was a big crazy fight. People in Europe DO NOT believe in lines. They just cut in front and push their way through. After what seemed like forever, I managed to purchase our tickets. From that point, we made our way down what seemed like something straight out of Dante's description of the black abyss of Hell. We just went down down down, saw a mother take her little boy behind a sign in the station to pee on the floor, and navigated our way through the maze. We finally found the right train and arrived at the station we thought was nearest our hotel.
By this point, Nathan and I were exhausted and super crabby. We had both gotten virtually no sleep that night and it was hot and sticky and we were lost-ish. So, a little lesson about Rome if you didn't know already know, Rome is famous for its 7 HILLS, our hotel being a top one of them located in the north eastern portion of the city. I remember getting to a stop light, probably the only one in the whole city, and just sitting down, staring like my mama doesn't feed me; dumbfounded! We started walking again, still in extremely bad moods, when this beauty just popped out from the middle of nowhere! I don't have any information on this church, but it was absolutely amazing!
Anyway, somehow we figured out where we were and made it to our hotel. Of course, it was too early to check in, so Nathan and I subjugated the hotel couches and played on the internet until check-in.
I think this is how the rest of the day went. We went up to our room, unpacked, walked across the street, got some AMAZING pizza (I think we may actually have gotten our pizza while waiting for our room), and then headed over to the Vatican. When we arrived at the terminal near the Pope's very own nation, it was quite stunning to see the gigantic wall that separates the Vatican from Rome.
We were able to walk right into the museums, no line waiting, thanks to a little bit of research we had done saying that if you go in the afternoon, the lines are non-existent. Thank you person who posted that handy little tip. We spent a few hours roaming around the gigantic museums. We even go t to see a mummy, actually, a fe. That was super exciting and unexpected. A few other things we saw: The Sistine Chapel, the Gallery of Maps and so much more!
The Sistine Chapel was very exciting but also somewhat disappointing. First off, no pictures were allowed; guards were standing around everywhere making sure no one was tempted to start clicking away. It was also very dark and extremely and, of course, crowded. We didn't stay for too long. ''
Following the Museums, which were about to close, Nathan and I made our way over to St. Peter's Basilica. This building literally took my breath away. Standing near the outside watching over the chapel was a member of the Swiss Guard. Talk about exciting!
We were able to enter into the chapel quite easily where we walked around and checked out some of the art inside. We then made our way over to purchase tickets so we could climb to the top of the basilica and even go up into the cupola! Because of the time, which I think was nearing 7, we were not able to climb the first set of stairs, darn, and had to take the elevator instead. The elevator only went so far though and then the ascension through the dome began! After what seemed like a million stairs, we made it into the cupola where we could look down into the chapel and even saw a glimpse of a session of mass! On the outside of the dome, the view of Rome was awe-inspiring! We could see so much of the city!
Mosaics surrounding the cupola!
The trip down! Not for the claustrophobic!
Even though our day had started out rough, by that evening, although we were completely exhausted, we were also thrilled to be in Rome and couldn't wait for the next day to experience some more of this amazing city!