Hello once again from Rome, Italy

Hello once again from Rome, Italy
Saturday evening September 6, 2008 (twelfth travelogue of this trip)
Well, this travelogue will be quite difficult to write for many reasons. First of all, my fingers are getting pretty worn down from typing all of the previous travelogue {grin}. Secondly, we are nearing the end of our journey and that is sad. Lastly, I have come to the conclusion that there are not enough Thesauruses in the world to provide sufficient adjectives to describe what we have seen in Rome!!!!
While I will briefly describe the unbelievable structures we have visited in this and the next travelogue, there is no way to do them justice in a paragraph or two. I will try to show a few pictures and give a hyperlink to let the reader explore them in more detail. I will, however, continue to make some detailed observations about our general experiences so that the reader can get a feeling of what we experience in between being overwhelmed by the historical beauty of this city
First lets go back to our apartment. As we said, we are located right in the middle of historic Old Rome. Our street is more of what we would call an alley in the US, and most US alleys are wider! In the US, we would not even think about walking into one of these streets! There is a lot a graffiti on the doors and walls, but we have strolled through a lot of these streets and there are a lot of “normal” folks (locals, mothers with strollers, nuns, etc.) all walking down the quaint little streets. There are many doors along the streets. Many are like garage doors, which open up to reveal some very interesting businesses. Several of the businesses in the area are furniture upholstery/refinishing businesses.. There appears to be several art-type stores, some stores that carry high-end clothing, a few repair shops of various varieties, and several second hand stores. Almost all of the stores are very small (perhaps the size of a typical living room). We can’t believe that the businesses can be profitable, since they are spread out all over the place and it is not what we would think of as a business/shopping area. I have included a couple of pictures to show you the setting of our apartment.
Other common stores are food markets. We have not been in the rural areas of the towns we have been in, but we have not seen anything that would resemble our supermarkets. Rather, there are very small markets that have a small amount of product. They generally have a meat counter and a small bakery. People seem to shop almost every day for fresh products. I think I recall Irina saying that her mother went to the store everyday (except Sundays, since most businesses are closed on Sundays). Most of the refrigerators we have have seen have been very small, and we do not see large containers of milk (biggest we have seen is 1 liter) and other products. All of this suggests frequent shopping
We have been amazed at the coffee over here. Oftentimes the restaurants/cafes will not serve a “regular” cup of coffee. Sometimes it is close to our coffee, but in a small cup. In that case, you have to order a “double cup” and then it comes in a pot. In some cases the only option is espresso. That is a real experience. You get less than a shot of what I will call “liquid” that does not taste good at all (that coming from a guy that can drink any kind of coffee). Damon, our son-in-law introduced me to what is called “Coffee Americano”. It is espresso with very hot water added. The supposed story behind this drink is interesting. It was said to be made popular by the soldiers after the war in Europe who could not stand the bitter strong taste of the espresso. I might add that I have had espresso in the states and it tasted good, but not here. Back to the story. In our apartment we have a very special coffee maker that boils the water up through the grounds into a small pot on top. It basically makes espresso. Bill and I then add about three times the volume of very hot water from a really neat water heating device that heats about a quart of water in less than a minute (220 Volts helps a bunch). So, I guess we are making “Coffee Americano”. BTW, I have looked everywhere we have ordered coffee and I can’t find that it is offered.
All of us have consumed some great food and the guys (and occasionally Jeanne) have had some great beer. Maybe the word “some” should be explained. I have drank more beer on this trip that I have consumed in the last two years {grin}. All of the beer is great. We generally have one or two beers for lunch and at least one for dinner. Most of the food has been very good. We have tried to select dishes that are common to the area. Most often they would not meet the definition of a healthy diet. With all of our eating and a bit of drinking, we do not think we have gained much weight. If we did gain weight, it was probably muscle because of all the walking and stair climbing (have I mentioned that we have walked up a million stairs). My belt has stayed in the same hole the whole trip.
Traffic circles are numerous in Europe. That is amazing to us. I should note that by the time we get home, they should have completed a traffic circle at the intersection of North Turkey Creek and highway 73 much to our dismay. Here the traffic circles often seem like bedlam. It seems like the circle often goes from up to four lanes down to two. Cars, buses and scooters all seem to manage the merges without much fender bending or “road rage”. We are sure glad that we are not driving.
Now lets get to a few of our stops.
As we mentioned, we bought three day tickets on a tour bus that you can get on an off of as many times as you like. The first day (Tuesday 9/2) we mostly rode the bus to get a feeling for Old Rome. However, one of our members need to make a pit stop, so we got off the bus and found a sidewalk cafe to have lunch. As we sat there, we realized that we were looking at beautiful church. It turns out the it was the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. It was built in 432-440 AD. There are a huge number of basilicas in Rome. This one is on the list of “must see”. I have included a picture that give you a slight impression of the beauty of interior of these churches.
On Wednesday we took the bus and toured Palatine Hill (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palatine_Hill) and parts of the Roman Forum (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_Forum). Rome first became a city on the Palatine Hill on 753 B.C. It later became a place where palaces were built by the many emperors and a place where the rich lived. On the Palatine hill, you will find mostly ruins of palaces and homes of the rich. The Roman Forum is located in a valley that is between the Palatine hill and the Capitoline hill. It originally was a marsh, but the Romans drained the area and turned it into a center of political and social activity. The Forum was the marketplace of Rome and also the business district and civic center. It was expanded to include temples, a senate house and law courts. When the Roman Empire fell, the Forum became forgotten, buried and was used as a cattle pasture during the Middle Ages. This was also true of Palantine Hill
On Thursday, we again went on the bus and toured the Colosseum (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colosseum). A quote I read kind of sums it up: “You will probably never forget your first glimpse of the Colosseum, one of the world’s most famous buildings. As you get to know Rome, the huge arena may slide down your list of Rome priorities, but its initial impact is overwhelming.” The Colosseum was built from 72-80 AD and was the site of many gladiator death battles and killing of Christians and common prisoners by the lions. They also had wild animal hunts. The Colosseum had a wooden floor over the dungeon-like cellar. This floor was covered by dirt and dirt was added to cover the blood from the events. They also had elaborate scenery that they winched into place. The Colosseum could hold up to 50,000 spectators (at least one source said 73,000). About the only way to sum up the visit was that it was overwhelming.
Thursday afternoon we went to the Pantheon (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pantheon,_Rome). The Pantheon was built around 125 AD and is currently the oldest standing domed structure in Rome. The height to the dome and the diameter of the interior circle are the same, 143 ft. That might not sound impressive, but the dome is huge!!! We read somewhere that the construction of the dome has puzzled scientists for many years. It is said that it could not be built today using the materials we currently use (it does not have reinforcing material). One quote said: “Hands down the most masterful architectural feat of ancient Rome. One source said that the Romans invented what we would call concrete and they used different mixtures/ingredients that made the concrete lighter as the diameter of the dome decreased. While most ancient buildings had their marble stripped and reused for other purposes the Pantheon has its original marble.
Friday we toured the buildings of the Vatican. However, that will have the be the subject of the next travelogue.

Our apartment (third floor in the building behind the truck)
Note the small street and the sidewalk cafe in the foreground.
Also note the cobblestone street.

Looking out our bedroom window into the street below.
Note the truck trying to get through the street.

Lunch at a sidewalk cafe.
Note the small street in the background

Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore

One of the buildings on Palatine Hill

Jim and Pat at the Colosseum.

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