Luqman's Blog 1: First impressions of Rome, Italy
My first trip to Europe has given me several impressions of the beautiful city of Rome, Italy. The city is in fact, very impressionable. But the first thing that strikes you is the beauty. It bleeds ancient history, and the myriad of buildings, plazas, and fountains show you the beauty of the city's historical continuum. In a drive from the airport we saw buildings that were built before the Common Era adjacent to buildings built a couple of years ago. The architectural contrasts give the city a wonderful feeling. In fact, I felt like I was riding through a huge museum, with different exhibits just waiting to be found. One thing I really love is the road. They are made of those little bricks that people put around their garden to make it look cute. But they are everywhere, giving the entire city a classic cobblestone feeling. However, the roads are very smooth and clean, which is especially impressive considering things are so close together. The next thing I noticed is the size of the cars. They are tiny! I wonder if it is because the Europeans are extremely efficient or because the cars evolved and shrunk to fit into the tiny alleys that line the city. I felt like I was in the movie Ronin or Italian job because I could see wonderful car chases occurring in the bending streets, but pedestrians would surely be mowed down so maybe those movies are stretching it a little. Anyway, the cars are funny because you either drive a beautiful German machine, like the numerous Benzes or the BMW 760 I saw, or you drive a Smart Car. I assume they call them this because if you cannot find a parking spot on the streets, then you can just throw them into your briefcase and go on your way. But these things are great for parking too. They are as long as they are wide, and we have seen them involved in several cases for 'when parallel parking goes wrong.' In these cases, it seems as if the smart cars are used to fill in the gaps between people that left a foot between them and the other car.
Another big thing about Rome is that everything is historical. There are piazzas (plazas) at nearly every corner. We walked around trying not to step on 2,000-year-old ruins the same way we tried not to step in dog mess in Buenos Aires. In fact, we stumbled onto two historic sites trying to find our way to the hotel. One was the Pantheon, which is the first Jesuit church and around 500 years old, and Elefantino, a sculpture of an Elephant carrying a 6th century Egyptian obelisk that glorifies the papacy. However, when we talked to the locals, they mentioned that stumbling across history causes trouble for new construction projects. Land will be prepared for building, and then something old and important will be found. Then, everything will have to be stopped and the historical people (pretty sure this is not their official titles) come in and decide how to proceed. I am sure that this can eventually get frustrating.
As far as the people go, they are very courteous and pleasant. Elders get priority in the bus seats and people are very trusting in the local shops and tents. Americans with no morals could steal at will here (of course this admission implies that I do have morals)! But we are consciously warned about pickpockets. There are tourists everywhere, so it is not too noticeable when Hannah pulls out her go-go gadget camera with the infrared lenses and retractable tripod. Speaking of cameras, you cannot bring enough film or memory cards to this place. On my first full day, we visited Vatican City, and I took nearly five hundred pictures. We traversed the Vatican City museum, which turned into an Easter egg hung for the Sistine Chapel, which they conveniently place at the end of a 10-mile, man-sized maze. We were then verbally abused and nearly assaulted by security in the chapel that would not let us take pictures in the chapel (NO PHOTO!!!...Grazie). I guess photons from the camera flashes fly out and deteriorate the paint on Michelangelo's famous ceiling. However, the next couple of pictures prove that my earlier statement about American morals is now up for debate.
The last thing that struck me about this city is the ambiance. The people and their demeanor, the very classy way they dress, the feeling of outdoors café's and the sound of the Italian language all create a wonderful aura. This feeling is definitely addictive, and I wish we had it back home. I know if will take more than Starbucks to get it though. Maybe if we all buy nice pea coats, scarves, and more "efficient" fashions (nice way of saying 'metro-sexual'), we will be well on our way. In the mean time, I will be stocking up on olive oil, which must be the cure for obesity, since everyone here is slender despite the daily intake of bread, pasta, cheese and gelato (heaven's answer to ice cream). But until next time I blog, I wish you all happy travels. Ciao.