Letti inclinati e albicocche

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Eternal City!

On Monday, October 9 Tim and I left our apartment to catch the 10:07 p.m. train from Milan to Rome. We left a little late, and the metro was slow, so we were very worried about the train leaving without us. We got to the train station with a few minutes to spare, but still had to figure out where to find the machine to print our tickets, and then how to use that machine. Oh yeah, we also had no idea which platform our train was on. So, we ran around frantically for a few minutes, until I found the machine. Then I started working out that puzzle, and Tim asked Only Other Person Around which platform to go to. Finally, tickets in hand, we ran as fast as we could. "Tim, if you fall down these stairs, break an arm, not a leg...that way we can still make it to the train," I said. We got to the platform at 10:05, out of breath but with enough energy left to high-five each other in congratulations for our good luck.

After changing trains in Bologna around midnight, we finally arrived in Milan at five-something Tuesday morning. We hung around the train station for awhile, then ate breakfast (i.e. granola, yogurt-like stuff, and boiled eggs from home; milk we bought at the train station). Next we rode the metro to the station closest to our hostel, a short walk north from Vatican City. Since we couldn't check in yet, and couldn't pick up our tickets to the Papal Audience yet, we headed towards St. Peter's, where we went to Mass and looked around.

We felt it appropriate to start our visit to Rome with a visit to the first pope, St. Peter

The tomb of Pope (soon to be saint) John Paul II

Self portrait in St. Peter's

After leaving St. Peter's, while trying to decide what to do next, we saw a familiar face:

GiNR aka Caitlin! We ran into her by coincidence in St. Peter's Square

So we prayed Morning Prayer with her (she seems to show up right before Liturgy of the Hours).

After walking around Rome with Caitlin some, Tim and I decided to go check into the hostel. Unfortunately I forgot to take pictures, but it was decent. Relatively clean, nice enough people. Not too exciting a story. Then we went to pick up our Papal Audience tickets. At first no one could find our tickets, but when we just happened to accidentally by chance inadvertently mention the name of the rector of the seminary, someone luckily found us two tickets. Really good ones, too. Check out these pictures:

That chair is where Pope Benedict XVI sits

The Papal Jeep

"Hey Mike, good to see you! Thanks for coming. Tim...who gave you a ticket?"

B16 greets pilgrims after the audience

I just thought this picture was cool, because you can see him on the video camera.

Later while wondering around the city we saw this:

Trinitarian Crosses in Rome. DeMatha is #1 (7-0 so far this season in football).

Meals are an important part of any day. Although this meal wasn't really anything special, the two guys eating it are:


Since we didn't want to spend too much money, at night we mostly just walked around. The following two distractions are the only ones exciting enough to mention:

Trevi Fountain, a cool place to hang out at night

This was done with spray paint by a street artist in Rome. Tim and I watched for probably 20 minutes, it was amazing. The picture is about 18 inches wide, for reference.

Again, meals are important. Before heading out for a day of seeing the sights, we needed piles of granola bars, bananas, yogurt, milk, etc.

Self portrait: "Mike and Tim at Breakfast"

I also discovered canned tuna with chickpeas and tomatoes mixed in. I didn't have it for breakfast, but it tasted good at lunch.

We were lucky enough to see a lot of the major sights in Rome. We went to:
St. Mary Major, where we saw pieces of the manger in which Jesus was born;

and St. Peter in Chains, where they keep the chains that held St. Peter.

We also had the chance to take a tour of the Colosseum and the Palatine Hill. This is me at Constantine's Basilica.

We met up with Jacob (from MD, but studying in Rome) for the Roman ruins tour. Tim and Jacob are posing at the sports arena in Domitian's Palace. According to our tour guide, there would be a lot more to see there if those mean ol' popes from the Renaissance hadn't taken all the marble to build their churches. Tim and I are of the opinion that the stuff looks better in Churches. And besides, why shouldn't they use that marble? The Romans weren't using it. Recycling saves the planet. Just think: if some organization found a way to take and reuse all the rubble left after a baseball stadium was torn down, they'd be praised for their environmentally responsible policies. The same tour guide offers tours of the Vatican Museums, but since we didn't like her attitude, we decided not to go (plus it cost like thirty euros).

On Friday we decided to go to St. Paul Outside the Walls in the morning. We also went to St. John Lateran. There we met Caitlin and took a bus outside Rome to see the catacombs, where at one point over 500,000 Christians were buried, including something like 16 popes.

Tim and me at St. Paul Outside the Walls; inset, B16's mosaic (the walls are bordered by mosaics of all the popes)

Tim and me at St. John Lateran

Caitlin and Tim (who, I guess, is happy to have survived the catacombs)

After parting ways with Caitlin, Tim and I decided to ascend the Sacred Steps, the twenty-eight steps Jesus climbed to get to Pontius Pilate (St. Helen, Constantine's mother, brought them to Rome after a pilgrimage to the Holy Land). I don't have a picture of them, but you're only allowed to go up on your knees, so that's what we did. There's a little chapel at the top, but you're not allowed in there.

Later on Friday we met our seminarian friend Justin by St. Peter's on our way to the North American College, where we'd be staying until we left on Monday. After meeting a bunch of people, we hung out on the roof for awhile enjoying the view. On Saturday we were given an excellent tour of the Roman Forum from another seminarian. On Sunday we saw Pope Benedict XVI again, this time at a Canonization Mass, where four new saints (including one American, Mother Theodore Guerin) were canonized. We didn't get to sit as close this time, but it was still enjoyable. I was happy to discover that I remembered enough high school Latin to understand most of the Mass. After lunch we played basketball with some priests and seminarians, which was fun. You'd be surprised at Fr. Mark's wicked J.

After three nights in the hostel, the NAC seemed like Heaven. Our own rooms, real beds (not thin-mattressed bunks), good food, good friends. The class of 1962 was in town for a reunion, so we met quite a few of them. Take it from me: when you're used to seeing priests, monsignors, and bishops in the clerical garb, seeing them walk around the hallway in their undershirts and whatnot is an interesting experience. It also made it hard to greet people in the hallway. You'd think to yourself "How to I address this guy walking towards me? I can't just ignore him. Is he Mr.? Fr.? Msgr.? Your Eminence?"

View from my room at the NAC

View from my room, part 2

My room at the NAC

On Monday morning we woke up in time to make 6:15 Morning Prayer and 6:30 Mass. We had breakfast with a couple of our seminarian friends, then went with them to two of their morning classes, Sacraments and Justice. Around 10:30 we left them and walked to our last tourist destination, a Jesuit Church near the university. Since Tim spent a year in Japan, and since Francis Xavier is a patron saint of Japan, we thought we'd stop by on our way out of town. Francis Xavier's right arm is kept in this church.

Above the alter, the arm of St. Francis Xavier

After we left the church, we headed to the train station to catch the 12:30 train back to Milan. On Thursday we're off on another trip, to Paris, London, Wales, and Ireland, so look for blog posts about that sometime around the beginning of November. Also, if anyone has any questions about the history behind any of the sights we saw, or anything else, please let us know.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Just Pictures

Since we haven't posted much lately, and since we won't post while we're away, I thought I'd take a few minutes to post some pictures from our earlier travels that haven't made it onto the blog.

The Duomo, unfortunately currently under construction

The very expensive shopping area next to the Duomo in Milan

Tim, showing how far down the mountain we walked in Como

The Carthusian Monastery of Pavia, from outside the train station

A view from the courtyard inside the Carthusian Monastery

Inside the Monastery

Also inside the Monastery

St. Ambrose and two martyrs, in the crypt at St. Ambrose Church in Milan

Quick Update

This is just a quick post to let everyone know what our plans for the coming weeks are. First, either tomorrow or Tuesday Tim and I will be heading to Rome for about a week. We'll be staying in a hostel for the first few nights, and then for the weekend we'll be guests at the North American College in Rome. Two of our friends from home go to school there, and a priest we know from the Archdiocese of Washington will be around that weekend, too.

We'll get back to Milan on the 16th. On the 19th we're heading to Paris, where we'll spend a night and a day. Then we're off to London for a night and a day, then Wales for 4 or 5 days. We'll leave Wales for Ireland, finally returning to Milan again on October 31. It'll be a busy (and expensive) month, but hey, it'll never be October 2006 again, so we might as well make the most of it.

That about does it for our upcoming travels. Before closing this post, though, I thought I'd post a picture that will be meaningless to most of you, but I think quite amusing to a particular few:

Sunday, October 01, 2006

A Month in Italy! (And a day in Germany)

Me, Tim, Nisha, Connie, and Carly arriving at Oktoberfest

Saturday, September 30, marks one month in Italy for Tim and me. The month went by fast, but I guess we've done a fair amount. It looks like October will be a busy month, with trips to Rome, Wales, and maybe Paris and Ireland. Start getting excited about those blog posts now. But anyway...

We left by bus Friday night to celebrate the annual beer-lover's wedding party, Oktoberfest. Somehow, it took an extra two hours to leave Milan since two students hadn't previously paid the $40 transportation fee. But judging from some other encounters with Italian efficiency, one extra hour per person is actually quite good. (For example, when we showed up to board the bus, they had to check the list to see if we had paid. The list wasn't even in alphabetical order, so looking through the entire thing each time easily doubled or tripled loading time.) More on that in later posts, though.

Unfortunately, we didn't get to sit in here. It looked cool, though.

So, surprisingly half-refreshed we arrived in Munich, Germany, at about 8:30 a.m. and made our way to one of the large beer "tents", and even though it was already full we managed to find a table within the walls outside. Connie, Carly, Nisha, Stephanie, Tim, and I each started the day with a one-liter mug of the tent's beer. You can see that each mug is about the size of any of our heads.

Don't worry...I'm just holding Tim's beer for him while he takes the picture.

We hung around that table for awhile. Eventually Tim and I got bored and decided to walk around the fairground. Not surprisingly, during this time two Italian guys found the girls and were granted permission to sit at our table and buy the girls beer.

Luckily, the girls never use their feminine wiles to make Tim and me buy them drinks. We're not made of money, you know.

After awhile Tim and I came back and had another beer with the girls and the two Italian guys. That was fun, but eventually we decided to get up and see what else Oktoberfest had to offer.

Most of the rides were pretty standard fair/theme-park rides. Unfortunately, they were very expensive, so we decided to only go on the Wild-n-Wet flume ride. Basically you sit in a circular container and go down a waterslide. It was pretty fun, especially after sitting in the sun for so long, but didn't last long enough. I wish the girls would have found some guys to buy us all more tickets for that.

Me, Tim, and Carly on the Wild-n-Wet

Afterwards we walked around for awhile. Tim and I visited a church in town, which, as I'd heard about German churches, seemed pretty barren inside. We couldn't figure out what time the Vigil Mass was that evening, though, so we eventually headed back to Oktoberfest to re-join our group. After many text messages and much frustrated searching, we finally found the girls waiting to get into another beer tent. At this point Tim decided to go take a nap, so I joined the girls in some disappointing German dinner (Connie and I had what amounted to a pile of sliced bologna with onions and vinegar; the other girls had cheese spread on bread. Connie and Carly both found hairs in their food.) The beer at this tent was good, though, so we left our table inside to go sit around a table outside for awhile.

Eventually we met Tim again, and went to buy souvenirs. As the below photo shows, hats were a popular item. Tim and I also bought shirts, which I guess people will see when we get back.

Connie also had a hat, but for some unfathomable reason wasn't wearing it. Tim did not have a hat.

After leaving Oktoberfest and heading back to the bus around 10:00 p.m., many of the students decided to head into town to see what Munich had to offer in the way of nightlife. Carly, Connie, Nisha, Stephanie, and I decided to go. After walking for about 25 minutes, Stephanie, Connie, and I got bored and went to McDonalds, then back to the hot, crowded, small-seated bus to try to sleep. Eventually Carly and Nisha must have gotten back safely, since I saw them today.

After an uncomfortable bus ride home, Tim and I got dropped off by school around 10:00 a.m. and decided to go to the 10:30 mass on campus. Then we wandered home, showered, rested, and eventually did homework and wrote this blog entry.

Important Note for the unaware: DeMatha's football team is 5-0 so far this season, ranked #1 in the area by The Washington Post and #18 in the nation by USA Today. It's early in the season, though, so I'm sure we'll be ranked higher soon.