Luqman's Day 2 - Celebrating all that is Vatican City
After two full days in Rome, I would be remiss if I did not revisit one area that brings countless tourists and devout Catholics to Rome - Vatican City. This beautiful place (and sovereign nation by the way) was planned as a morning trip, but it ended up taking the lion's share of our day. It was a magnificent experience, as St. Peter's Basilica and Piazza San Pietro are both breathtaking. Whether you have an appreciation for timeless art or not, you are taken aback by the bombardment of priceless works. After taking an absurd amount of pictures here, we proceeded to the Vatican museum, which was a pleasant surprise for me because I knew nothing of it. To make things better, there are several small museums that comprise the large Vatican museum, so we got to take in Egyptian art, art from an ethnological mission, pio-Christian art, a papal picture gallery in Pinacoteca, and countless other collections building up to the climactic Sistine Chapel. Since Egypt is my personal favorite from the previous list, we went there first. I must admit that while several pieces were impressive, the exhibit left much to be desired. This is due to the fact that I felt more care could have been taken to separate and give adequate explanation to the work from different periods or dynasties. I was surprised to see more recent Egyptian art from the Ptolemaic period (1st century AD) encased in the same display as work from 1000 to 1500 years prior. If I did not personally know better, I would have assumed that it was all from the same time period, while the actual inspiration and context of the artwork could not have been more different. This does a disservice to the public. Though it is understood that this collection was of Egyptian works collected during the Roman period, the pieces are not all from the Roman period. Thus, the African influence is lost, and the Roman depiction of Osiris is forced to stick in the minds of visitors ignorant of the depiction and story of the God of the Underworld that was revered for thousands of years prior. But all in all, it was a wonderful preview of what is come on our trip, as we shall soon return to the source to see Egyptian culture in all its splendor.
After leaving Egypt, we returned to view countless halls and rooms filled with the best of Roman art. Beautiful sculptures made of marble and brass, wonderful tapestries, vivid maps, breathtaking photos, and even modern interpretations continued for miles. An art lover could even be overwhelmed with the scope of the collection amassed in this museum. However, the signs leading to the Sistine Chapel showed what the real pull was for the patrons. We saw at least 100 signs pointing in a direction promising the reward of a Sistine Chapel viewing, and just when we wrote it off as a mirage we arrived. It was everything that it was expected to be, and there was a surreal feeling to witnessing Michelangelo's famous work in person. However, if there was ever a recurring theme in a museum, the one here had to be the Roman's fixation or pure appreciation for nudity. Now while I think you should be free to express yourself how you please, I don't think I have ever seen that much flesh in my natural life. I promise you, I don't even want to take a shower for the rest of the trip. Then again, if the people back in the day were built the way that they are depicted (and to clarify, I mean their muscle tone), then more power to them. I just know that I am hitting the floor to do some pushups and sit-ups as soon as I finish this blog, but that is another story.
Before leaving the museum, we ran into the Ethnological museum. This section was so rarely visited, I think they were saving money by only cutting on half the lights. This exhibit consisted of many Asian pieces, detailing the progression of much of Asia from native spiritual practices of Buddhism, Taoism, Shintoism, Confucianism, and others to Christianity. It also shows the reach that the Church has enjoyed over the centuries. It was especially interesting to see Asian depictions of classic Roman pieces, like a Japanese version of the Virgin Mary and Child. But I feel as if this exhibit suffers from the stiff competition by the other exhibits with which it shares a home. Maybe one day more visitors will make the trip after their Sistine Chapel search.
Our day ended with a quick bus ride to the final terminal station, which housed the train services and buses. We ran around like foolish tourist for an hour trying to find out where to buy a bus ticket, and ate some Korean food (which Hannah was craving). While the food was good as can be evidenced by the all out assault I put on my plates, it was the feeling of comfort that Hannah enjoyed the most. We sat as she spoke Korean with our waiter for over an hour. It is just this feeling of peace and familiarity that made the trip across town all the more worth it. We wrapped up our day with a ride home and a little more walking around before collapsing and falling asleep. We can only hope that tomorrow we fit more into the schedule so we can accomplish all the discovery in this ancient city that we initially embarked upon.