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Tag Archives: Italy

Travelogue- III ( Rome)

I have to start logging in my travel before I forget. Starting with Rome( Roma), the capital of Italy. Rome, as we all know is seeped in history and was the most prosperous empire in the late BCs and early ADs. I don’t want to write about Rome’s history.We can always refer to Wikipedia for that.

We landed in Rome, fully jet lagged and ready to hit the bed. Our hotel was right in the city center, in a busy street Via Nazionale.Next morning, fresh, we headed out , armed with the city map.

First and Foremost: The Vatican including St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museum

Since we were in Rome on 25th and 26th when the Vatican museums were closed, we could not visit them, but could check out the Pope on Christmas Day and visited the San Pietro Basilica(St. Peter’s Church) interior on 26th.
It is definitely a Wow moment, the biggest church in the world and one that can hold 60000 people along with some popular sculptures(Michelangelo’s Pieta, the one seen in this photo) and paintings. Just beautiful and awesome.
Apparently, one should never miss the Vatican museum, which holds Michelangelo’s most popular painting ever( Creation of Adam) , but obviously we missed it.

The Colosseum:
After seeing Russell Crowe as THE GLADIATOR, the Colosseum and its vast arena just fits in. Constructed between 70 – 72 AD, it is definitely one of the greatest works of that century. Makes you wonder how humans built these structures without any technology. I guess we are used to seeing such sturctures in our temples as well. We went to the Colosseum on 25th and visited the interior on 26th.

The Palatine Hill/Forum
The Palatine Hill is one of the seven hills of early Rome and a very ancient part of the city. It is approx 40 meters about the Roman Forum , the area around with Roman civilization developed. You can see the vast ruins that was once the Forum, where Caesar and numerous others ruled. A sight worth spending some time. We spent some time here, though not a whole lot. Also, from the Palatine hill, you get to see the Circus Maximus, ( Remember Ben Hur?? )

The Colosseum, Palatine Hill and the Forum are right next to each other and you can ideally walk. Hmmm. Well, a fair amount of walking as they are all quite vast. The road called Imperial Way leading to the Colosseum was built by Mussolini , enabling a view from his apartment so that he could show off the Colosseum to Hitler on one of his visits during WWII.

And, if time permits, one can enter the Vittoria Emmanuel Monument which also hosts the tallest equestrian statue in the world. IT IS HUGE AND MAGNIFICENT! We were satisfied with just looking in awe at the exterior.Do you see the two guards standing at the bottom of the statue? Apparently, the hoof of the horse is as tall as a human being.

After these major sights, the additional ones are


Pantheon : The ancient temple of all gods.In the 7th century, it was made into a church.
Right next to the Pantheon is Piazza Navona.When we visited it in the night, there was a fair going on. It has three magnificent fountains and is nowadays well known for having featured in Angels and Demons. I think one of the priests is found in the The Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi or “Fountain of the Four Rivers” ( the one in the photo) A famous touristy place.

Trevi Fountain: We did not visit this. A fountain where one throws pennies hoping for dreams to come true. It was walkable from our hotel and so was not interesting. Its really a mystery how human mind works. Anything close loses its value.

Trastevere :

This is slightly away from the City center. Just a place where locals meet and which has become more touristy now. Full of restaurants . Since we went on a rainy night,during christmas vacation, the streets, rather narrow gullies were mostly lighted with stars. In case you are wondering, the photo is showing a new( it said 2010) restaurant in an old dilapidated building.We walked in the rain, had some excellent local food and loads of fun just wandering.It was raining and the photo was taken from our autoshot. Finally, with help from some guys, signing our way and talking in Italian English , we found our bus stop and reached the hotel safely. It is such moments, when one is very carefree , that defines a vacation.

For traveling,we had bought the Roma Pass for 3 days with which one could travel in any public transport and also the first two sightseeing places free. All the other places were discounted. Defintely a very good buy. Interestingly, the guy from which we bought the Pass was a Pakistani who was elated on seeing us. Of course, started talking in Hindi and when I asked him if he was from India, he replied, ” Pakistan. Ek hi tho baath hai.” Touched my heart. I guess we all feel closer in Pardes.

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Posted by on January 19, 2010 in General, Informative, Trivia

 

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Parlay inglise( Travelogue -II)

Yes, we were geared for our Italy trip as I stated before.. Armed with our bible, Italian Translation book by Tour Guru Rick Steves, we embarked our plane. I spent a good one hour trying to get the accent right. Its amazing how three words could carry you places. “Bon Jorno” ( pronounced a Bon Jorno) , “Gratziye” and “Par lay Inglise” . I had to learn a few more, “Verdure”( Vegetables) and Vegetariano( You don’t have to be a genius to figure this out).

Most Italians can manage “a little” English, but then why did God bestow us with hands if not for signing? Though the early Neanderthal might have used the “Grrrrrr…Brrrr… whatever” language, there was a time when we had evolved into sign language species. The plan was very clear. “Parlay inglise” -> “a little” -> talk in slow English where as “Parlay inglise”-> Nod of head indicating “NO” -> talk in very slow English with an Italian accent accompanied by sign language. With a black jacket to hide you from the rain and all your hair loose on your face, signing to glory, there are chances one might be mistaken for a Chimp, especially with my height. No sweat! Italians are very friendly people and Chimps have their place too.

On day 1,I wanted some water,”Acqua” , not exactly rocket science, I agree, but one can get flustered with a panic attack just to mention acqua. Walked into a book store and blurted to the cashier, “Bottled water” with my hand sign showing me drinking. The whole room was impregnated with her cold stare and I thought she was signing with her eyes, and nod in affirmative, “yes, yes ! Cold water” , showing me gulping the water down. Not to be insulted, she stared at Partner, who said “acqua????”. “This library. No acqua”, pat came the reply. Wonder how mind works in a foreign nation and makes you barge into a library for water instead of the cafe next door.. Hmmm.. We learn, albeit slowly.

After two days of roaming around the city in trains, buses and taxis, you learn that “Piazza Navona” is pronounced “Piatsa Navona” and “Nazionale” is “Natsionale” . Simple, pronounce all the letters as is except for Z and C.”C” is like “K” and “Ci” is like “Chi” though “Ch” is like “K” and “H” is silent. Easy breezy, one would think. Here is the catch. Knowing this might help one to read and write Italian, but how do you understand? You don’t really need to as long as you can say “Parlay inglise”. Si? No,not so Si. Especially in remote areas. If one wants to drink wine, and the waitress asks “Bianca or Rosa??” , being a Tamilian and having heard SharathKumar singing “Rosapoo, chella rosapoo” , the mind should correlate Rosa with Red. But, signore, the catch is you are in a foreign country and the brain gets clouded with eating zucchini,eggplant and Red pepper every time you ask for Verdure.What does one do? Partner tugs at the lady’s Red shirt almost spilling the soup on me, viola!! Rosa it is.

It is reciprocal. If you think speaking Indianized American English slowly with signs is Italian, they think speaking localized Italian slowly with signs is English. Seeing three lines to enter a museum, trying to figure out if the line that we were standing was the right one, I started my conversation with the lady next to me, “Parlay inglise?” . After some thought, she decided on the negative and pointed to her teenage daughter, asking her to translate.. The sweet girl, bless her, started with “You…” and rambled on in Italian with hand signs. Not to be undermined, my eyes darting between her hands and mouth, I followed with questions “Do you know what is that long line for?” signing a Snake, She says, ” Here, Biglietto ( tickets) ….blah blah”. By then, epiphany, the mother pointed to the guy standing at the door “Anglais…” , who spoke in perfect English and assured us we were in the right place but at the wrong time. Very easy, Si?

 
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Posted by on January 5, 2010 in Humor.. or not?

 

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Travelogue – 1

The only church I had ever visited during my teen years was Velankanni , in TamilNadu and another Infant Jesus Church in Banglore, to which my Dad had taken me once before my marriage. And there stops my brush with Christianity and churches.With my recent visit to Italy, I can guarantee I had my fulfillment of visiting a lot of cathedrals and churches. An Amazing Experience.

I spent Christmas at St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican, waiting to see the big man, the Pope. Just the energy of the crowd was amazing , though most were tourists with cameras which made us easier to blend.




Last Christmas, I spent the whole day reading the book “Pillars of the Earth” by Ken Follet. A historical fiction novel. A must read for everyone. One gets absorbed into the building of cathedrals at Kingsbridge. In the fictional town of Kingsbridge, the cathedral is finally completed, in the “French Style”, and becomes famous around England for its beauty: it is the first Gothic cathedral in England. While reading the book, I regretted the fact that I had not paid attention to the cathedral structure while visiting the West Minster Abbey in London , two Christmas ago. Another church devoted to St.Peter.I was more interested in the people buried there, William Blake, Wordsworth, Charles Dickens,Elliot to name a few and of course all the kings and queens who ruled. Never paid much attention to the structure. It is a classic Gothic style Cathedral. While reading Pillars of the Earth, the mega saver, Wikipedia helped me understand the book.


This Christmas, when we visited the St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican,apparently the burial place of St. Peter, I absorbed the whole structure of the church with the dome and all the different naves, chapels ,frescos and paintings. A WOW MOMENT! Building such a huge church( it can accomodate 60,000 people) is not a joke and it took a better half of 16th and 17th centuries with numerous architects, ideas, change of plans to build the biggest church in the world. The dome of St. Peter’s rises to a total height of 136.57 metres (448.1 ft) from the floor of the basilica to the top of the external cross. It is the tallest dome in the world.I think the final dome structure is credited to Michelangelo.




And to be blessed by the man of the hour, though not understanding a single word of what he was saying, gave me goose bumps. OK,the goose bumps were because of the cold wind..Let me have my moment.


After visiting all the churches in Italy, with their classical domes, I could appreciate the Gothic Style of Notre Dame in Paris, another cathedral that’s construction span two centuries.

I tried to focus and capture every nook and corner with all the windows, engrave it in my mind and get geared for another session of “Pillars of the Earth” . Oh! Yes, this defintely calls for a re-read before I forget my dream vacation.

The Chapel at Notre Dame..

Just wish we had bought even a wider angle lens. Well, next time. Yes, there were signs showing a camera with a slash on it, implying no photos. There were some places that we visited, where they did not allow video cameras but photography was allowed. Seeing numerous others clicking to glory, almost blinding you, we decided that the Arch Bishop of Notre Dame will forgive us this sin. Just to explain it better to Anand, who asked us not to do that.. 😉 😉

 
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Posted by on January 4, 2010 in Books, Informative

 

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