We took our first ever flight on budget airline RyanAir. Other than the wind whistling through the plane and the view of the ground 30,000 feet below peeking through the wooden slats, it wasn’t bad, especially for the 150 euro per person fare. Actually, the only thing that seemed discountish is that the airline is given the worst place in the terminal. The line through security was long, but I admit it did move pretty fast (they can’t afford X-Ray machines, so they just ask each passenger, “Are you a terrorist?” If you give them the right answer, you get right through).
Italy is a bit messed up politically and financially, and much has been written about garbage and potholes there, at least in the articles about garbage and potholes. We saw our share of both, but because it wasn’t summer, it really had no aroma. It is just a… Roma.
However, they did screw up our Door of the Day with their graffiti. There is lots of graffiti all over Europe, even ancient ones in Pompeii. Apparently it’s a cultural thing that spans over thousands of years. Of course, in Pompeii it’s spelled graffitii.
Rome is also known as The Eternal City, The Capital of the World, The City of Love, The City of the Seven Hills, and The City With The Colosseum Plus Some Other Things To See. We also know that all roads lead to Rome, and we should do as they do while there (assuming the ancients ate a lot of gelato), and that it wasn’t built in a day. However, the Colosseum was built in only eight years, so they obviously had quicker bureaucracies back then. Plus slave labor. I don’t know how we accomplish anything anymore without slave labor. Although working for the minimum wage comes damn close.
Any trip to Rome has to center around the Colosseum. Also (and originally) known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, it is still the largest amphitheatre ever built, and could hold up to about 80,000 spectators, or 8,000 sumo wrestlers. Completed in 80 AD, it has withstood the test of time as well as the pillaging of the barbarians. By the way, the word “barbarians” comes from the term “bearded ones.” So I had to keep with tradition, being a barbarian myself, and chipped off a piece of the Colosseum to use as a momento in our living room. Not really, I just stole its soul with photographs.
Still, the Colosseum cannot fail to impress, as it was intended to do 2,000 years ago.
We met up with a group of friends from the US as well as Holland, which is also known as The Netherworld, which is where the word “Dutch” came from. Yeah, I know it’s confusing, but dam. In fact, lots of dams. I think they come up with all those names to hide from the barbarians. “Holland? Naw, this is, uh, The Netherlands. Yeah, that’s it. Holland is way over there, just take a left at the dike. Am I Netherlandish? Oh no, I’m uh, Dutch. Yep. Just a little Dutchman, got nothing to do with Holland. Just go that way, there’s a whole bunch of gold and gelato over there I hear.”
The first picture below was taken with some great relief after one part of our group found the other part, despite the effort we put in to losing them. We pretended to be happy they found us, especially in group photos.
Once gathered, we took a tour of the place with a guide, who informed us of several common misconceptions. For one, the emperor didn’t use thumbs up or thumbs down to indicate the fate of a gladiator. That’s just Hollywood. They speculate that it was probably an open palm vs. a closed fist. The gladiators were investments, so it wasn’t common for an injured one to be given the fist. Also, Christians were not fed to the lions there, although prisoners were made to “battle” various animals with their arms tied behind their backs. The animals usually won.
And gladiators generally didn’t sport variations of Russell Crowe’s physique, they tended to be short and fat (which is pretty much the way he looks now, so I guess he was told all about it after the movie). The reason for this was that it made it easier for them to survive sword cuts, the important organs being buried beneath fat and all. Accordingly, it’s also when McDonalds was invented, although back then they called it MacinaDonaldos. One chubby gladiator could put down three Grande Mackos, a large order of Italian Fries, and a grape shake without hardly belching afterward. Otherwise, Gladiator is all Hollywood.
Another piece of trivia was the way they handled public toilets. A dozen or more men and women all sat in a row, and shared the same sponge to clean their backsides. We all agreed that the worst job in the world would be the sponge-cleaner (the second worst just being anyone who had to go while in the Colosseum). The poor soul with that job was usually a slave, or one of emperor Trumpini’s former cabinet members.
Carolyn wanted to take a picture with the gladiators who wander around outside the Colosseum hoping to bilk the tourists. I fondled a fiver in my pocket and figured “why not?” After the photo session, he nonchalantly asked for 20 euros. In response, I un-nonchalantly suggested some creative places where he could stick his sword. Anyway, I threw the five and a couple of coins at him after hearing all about his starving children, for which we were rewarded with a stream of insults as we walked away. They’ve had a lot of problems with those guys, so they have been banned from walking too near the Colosseum. Throw ’em to the lions I say! At least now that we got our picture.
On the walk to the Colosseum, we found a field where they grow red-headed stepchildren. It was the end of the season, so the rest apparently had already been picked.
While there’s a military presence there, a lot of this is the fact that they’ve closed down the boulevards next to the Colosseum to cut down on the exhaust fumes discoloring the monument. And since Italian drivers will drive just about anywhere, the automatic rifles serve as a pretty good deterrent if they try it there.
Next to the Colosseum is Palatine Hill, which coincidentally is the name of the street where we first lived after our family moved to Oregon. Our house wasn’t quite as elaborate as some of the buildings below, although it did have a pool, a zip line, and a trampoline, all of which our seven-kid family managed to destroy within a year. Each of the kids eventually grew up to be barbarians, except our lone sister, who only had a stray hair or two on her chin. Actually, she often still does since she’s in her sixties, except now they’re both grey. That’s only in here to check to see if she’s reading this.
The Arch of Constantine is one of many arches around Rome, which were built if a war resulted in over 10,000 enemy deaths. I’m not sure who did the counting. And if you were the 10,001st enemy, could you form your hands into a “T’ symbol and call time?
The tour of Palatine Hill is best taken with a guide because so many of the buildings are gone. But it’s still impressive and amazing to imagine yourself in those times, walking around the place, hoping no one notices that you’re from 2,000 years in the future. You might be given away by the roll of toilet paper in your pocket, so bring your own sponge.
The picture above (by Cassius Ahenobarbus, who you’ve never heard of, but who wants credit for the picture) shows how the place looked before time and the Bearded Ones whittled it down to the skeleton. The Circus Maximus is completely gone, but it’s where they raced their chariots, ala Ben Hur. It held upwards of 150,000 spectators, which dwarfs even the Colosseum. Since seven is Rome’s lucky number, the races consisted of seven laps. Hence, the seven dwarfs. All stories lead to Rome.
The area surrounding the Colosseum is rather festive, with big crowds, street musicians, and someone blowing bubbles all over the place. Anything to make a euro! Speaking of which, the euro needs a single syllable nickname like “buck.” I’m going with ‘Ro. Anything to make a ‘ro!
Beggars are fairly common around Rome. Generally they attempt to look as pitiful as possible, although I think a lot of them just take naps out there and wake up to happily find some coins in their hat. In our first foray to the Colosseum, we were accosted by a gypsy who knew so little English she didn’t even know what “no” meant. And I delivered a shouted “NO!” on my third attempt at communication. I had to practically peel her off Carolyn because she just kept coming, clawing at her. Afterward, Carolyn noticed the zipper on her little purse, which had been tucked “safely” under her arm, was opened. We were just seconds away from losing a credit card or cash. I have often thought about hiding an opened mouse trap in a purse while walking in cities like Rome. But then I know one of us would forget and hilarity –bolstered by a stream of cussing– would ensue.
After a long day of hiking around Rome, one needs to clean one’s unmentionables. However, one does not often find a dryer in an apartment in Rome, so one must make do with what one is given, in this case, the towel warmers in the bathroom. Hey, they were clean. I think.
It is pretty easy to commit suicide in Rome. Just sayin’.
But we’ll seal this entry with a kiss under the “A” for Anderson. Holy moley, I’ve only covered the first part of our adventure in Rome so far. We still have the rest of Rome, plus Florence, Naples, Pompeii, and Venice to go! No wonder we’re so tired! I don’t know how those guys conquered all that and more!