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A Visit to the Vatican

Rome 2019 - Vatican City

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Our next holiday this year was to Rome, my second time in the city after having previously visited after New Year in 2015. This time however it would be much hotter - by about 30˚C.

My cousin and aunt from New Zealand were also going to be in Rome at the same time, so after checking our plans we decided to head out on the same flight as my aunt, to be there at same time.

After working on Friday morning, we headed up to the airport and met up with my aunt just before security. Heading through and into the departure lounge we had a catch up after having not seen each other for three years.

The weather at home during this weekend was abysmal, and after sitting down in one of the restaurants, where we were joined by my sister who works up the airport and was on her break, we could see (or rather not see) the sheer level of rain hitting the roof window from outside. It was so heavy for so long that eventually one of the seals broke and the water started gushing in like an indoor waterfall. The people sat by the window themselves had to run to escape, leaving their belongings to get soaked, including one woman's entire dinner.

Flooded Airport

Flooded Airport

As we moved away due to the floor flooding, my sister called security to advise them, but they weren't interested - turns out this was by far the only place that had flooded and the whole airport was full of water. Not long after the water had broken through, the rainstorm had ended and the sun was shining again- however the sheer level of water that had entered meant it was going to take a long time to clean up. We could now see just how much rain there had been, as our view that had previously been blocked by water was now clear to see a plane at one of the gates surrounded by fire engines as it's cockpit was on fire! What an experience today!

By the time we were boarding the rain had ended and there were no problems, we took off as planned and arrived in Rome's airport a few hours later after having had a nice catch up on the journey over. Using the EU queue at immigration for what might be our last time, we headed for the train station to make our way to our hotel. Saying goodbye to my aunt until the following day in the city we finally arrived at our hotel just before midnight and after quickly settling in, headed to sleep before our next four days in the city.

Our first full day was spent at the Vatican. After breakfast we made our way to the Vatican Museums, waiting outside for my aunt and my cousin to join us. We spent the trip around the museum catching up with my cousin, who is travelling around Europe and who I hadn't seen since 2016.

Vatican Gardens

Vatican Gardens

Starting with the view of the dome and gardens we eventually made it to the highlight of the trip, the Sistine Chapel. After viewing the famous painting by Michelangelo, we headed through the secret entrance for tour groups only, luckily not being stopped and made our way directly to St. Peter's Basilica, saving us 2 hours and a wait in the hot midday sun.

Before entering the cathedral itself we made a trip up to the roof and dome. Getting the lift up, we entered around the inside rim of the dome looking down over the altar.

Inside the Dome

Inside the Dome


Walking up the dome

Walking up the dome

We then climbed up the dome itself, which at times felt like a fairground ride with slanted walls. Little did we realise at the time this is the tallest dome in the world and still meant another 231 steps after taking the lift! Nevertheless at the top the views were stunning and absolutely worth it.

Views from the top of the dome

Views from the top of the dome

After taking in the views, we headed back down to the roof before taking the lift down into the cathedral itself to explore.

Inside the Cathedral

Inside the Cathedral

We then made our way out of the cathedral and into St. Peter's Square crossing the border back into Italy.

St. Peter's Square

St. Peter's Square

By now it was early afternoon so we headed to a nearby restaurant for some food, which we followed afterwards with gelato. Having now seen the Vatican, and with three more days to explore the city, we left my aunt and cousin and headed back to the hotel via the supermarket to chill for the rest of the day.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 08:30 Archived in Vatican City Tagged rain church airport city cathedral plane border christianity Comments (4)

When in Rome...

Rome & The Vatican City

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Having welcomed in the new year just 12 hours before, I made my way to Luton Airport for the first holiday of the year. Wasting no time and being joined for once, by other people, I was headed for the Italian capital, Rome.

After flying over the snowy Alps, we eventually arrived in a chilly Rome, where we boarded our prebooked bus to the city. After stopping off for a Pizza, we eventually arrived at our apartment for the next 3 days, where we dropped our stuff and walked just 5 minutes down the road to the Colosseum.

Colosseum

Colosseum

Despite it now being cold and dark on a January evening, there were still many people outside, and we of course took many group shots behind the illuminated building. Having left our selfie stick at home it was actually handy that there were Bangladeshis selling them. After walking around the building, it was already quite late, and so I made my way back to the apartment to get some sleep for the next day, which would prove to be our busiest of the trip.

Trevi Fountain

Trevi Fountain

The first full day was the day we had tickets to explore the Vatican. However these were for the afternoon, and so we first got up and walked around the other attractions of the city on the way there. Walking past the President's palace, we made our way to the Trevi Fountain. Just as the Colosseum had been the night before, this was covered in Scaffolding, which unfortunately meant the fountain wasn't very easy to see, and neither was there any water. However there was a temporary bridge over the fountain that gave us all views of the sculptures from close up.

Pantheon

Pantheon

After this we continued walking, and as Jenna exclaimed "Oh wow..." we had reached the Pantheon - the oldest Roman building still in use. However she then finished her statement with "...they sell crêpes", having missed the famous attraction by being overwhelmed by the shop next door. Nevertheless, we took a look inside before walking on the Piazza Navona, and eventually making it to the Ponte Umberto I bridge, where views over the river Tiber of the Vatican can be seen.

The Vatican Skyline

The Vatican Skyline

After touring around central Rome, we then headed to the Vatican itself where impressive views of St. Peter's Square awaited us. By now it was already lunch time and so we made a swift move round the corner to the Vatican Museums, where we walked past the 2 hour or so queue and went straight in thanks to our Pre Booked tickets. The museum was mostly just artefacts and paintings, however there were some nice views of the Vatican Gardens and the highlight of the museum, the Sistine Chapel.

Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel

Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel

The museums were absolutely full of tourists, and unfortunately the layout of the museum means that everyone is pushing through to see the Sistine Chapel - meaning that even if you wanted to look at the artefacts on the way there you couldn't. However to see the Creation of Adam painting by Michaelangelo is a real must when in Rome, and so it was worth it - even if it is surprisingly small.

St. Peter's Square

St. Peter's Square

After reuniting as a group we then headed back to St. Peter's Square, where we attempted to enter the Basilica itself. The queue was around 80 minutes long, but moved pretty quickly and again was worth waiting for to gain entry inside. Whilst the other guys joined mass, I went back outside to witness the changing of the Swiss Guard. After this we headed back towards our apartment for the rest of the evening, where like true Brits, we annoyed our neighbour who came down at the first point possible to shout in Italian about her frustration of our noisiness. Meanwhile we hid in the bedroom...

Colosseum

Colosseum

On the final full day of the trip we made our way back down the the Colosseum, where again we had walked past all the stupid tourists who hadn't pre booked tickets, feeling superior. We then latched on the the end of a tour to get some information about the building, before making our way around the huge complex and getting views of the Roman ruins on the other side of the square. After this, we headed off down the main street through the oldest area of the city, before popping back off at our apartment.

The final area for us to visit was the northern part of the city, where the Spanish steps are located, getting an ice cream on the way. The area around the Spanish steps was evidently the shopping district of the city, and the steps themselves were full of tourists, and again prime location for selfie stick selling by militant Bangladeshis.

Spanish Steps

Spanish Steps

Taking a walk around the steps themselves, and finding like most other places, much of the sites were covered in Scaffolding, Saman decided this would be the perfect place for her to bust out a tune. This then developed into a sales pitch with her singing "Umbrella" by Rihanna, just as the clouds opened and the Bangladeshis replaced selfie sticks with Umbrellas for sale. Walking back down the bottom of the steps, Saman burst into song again, despite no one else being willing to join her, as I read a sign stating that shouting and singing on the steps was in fact illegal. After this, we headed to the final spot on our itinerary, the Piazza del Popolo, where there was lots of street entertainment. After sitting for a coffee and grabbing some quick food, we then made our way back to the apartment where we finished off our leftover booze, and again annoyed our neighbour - hiding again in the cupboard in the bedroom.

Gifts for the neighbour

Gifts for the neighbour

The trip was very nice, and even though Rome was cold and covered in scaffolding, it is still a very interesting city with a lot of history, and it was nice to actually visit somewhere with others. Unlike most other places I had visited, being there felt much different to how I had expected - not better, not worse just different, and this has somewhat changed my perception of the city in a way I cannot explain how nor why. Despite the trip being a bit of a shock to the system by including a lot of faffing, and therefore being a lot busier than it would have been, had I done it alone, I'm glad we went.

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Italy Tagged history city friends roman vatican drunk christianity Comments (0)

O Little Town of Bethlehem

Holy Land - Bethlehem

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Having clearly not stalked Jesus enough, I took an Arabic bus from just outside the Old City to the supposed place of his birth, Bethlehem. The town is in Palestinian controlled territory, but entering caused no problems. I got off at the last stop, on the main road, and then walked up the hill, through the souq, and arrived in Manger Square just outside the Church of the Nativity.

Manger Square

Manger Square

Once again avoiding the touts, I headed inside, and joined the long queue to enter the grotto marking the spot of his birth. And as in Jerusalem, it looks nothing like it did in that time - gone is the stable, the hay, the donkey, and instead we find tourists, a church and candles for sale.

The star marking Jesus' birth

The star marking Jesus' birth

Having waited for over an hour I eventually entered to find a star in what looked remarkably like a chimney. Touching it and then making my way out I made my way back to Jerusalem on the Arabic bus. This time being stopped at the wall to be checked by Israeli security. After informing the guy with a huge gun I was English which proved to be no problem we were back on our way through the hills to Jerusalem, where I headed back into the Old City to buy souvenirs.

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in State of Palestine Tagged religion history jesus christianity holyland Comments (0)

The Old City

Holy Land - Jerusalem

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Waking up nice and early in Jerusalem, I grabbed breakfast from downstairs and then headed off for the Haram el-Sharif/Temple Mount, racing through the Old City and past the Western/Wailing Wall, making the queue by 8:10.

Tower of David

Tower of David

The complex is only open for three and a half hours a day, from 7:30 until 10:00, and then 12:30-1:30. With major security checks I had read that the queue was particularly long, and already by the time I was there, the queue was pretty long. Not knowing whether I would even be allowed entry (last I had heard, only men over 50 were allowed up), I waited and eventually after an hour and a half I was up there.

First thing I noticed - screaming Palestinian girls...followed by touts telling me that, whilst I was non-Muslim, and therefore not allowed access to the Mosques, they could guide me to a window they knew where I could have a peak inside. I declined. The complex felt very Arabic, and much like Morocco. Whilst it had been a long wait, it was definitely worth it, and despite not being allowed in, the Dome of the Rock was very impressive. For this is the supposed site where God created Adam, Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son, and where Mohammed was transported to from Mecca. A good start to my travels.

Dome of the Rock

Dome of the Rock

I then headed back down into the Old City and headed up the Via Dolorosa, tracing Jesus's last steps after he was handed his cross until he was crucified. Whilst in some ways you feel like you are tracing back the steps of a man 2,000 years ago, seeing every step marked out with large plaques designating each spot (VII - Jesus falls for the second time) and the commercialisation of the route (7th station souvenirs, and guided tours) it kind of takes away from the genuine history, and makes it feel almost like a theme park.

Via Dolorosa

Via Dolorosa

Following the route I eventually ended up in the Christian Quarter, outside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre - the church that spans the site of both the Crucifixion and the Tomb of Christ. Again this would be a site that whilst widely known, looks nothing like it would have been at the time the events it celebrates took place. Instead of finding a hill on the outskirts of the city where Christ was crucified, and a tomb located some distance from that - a 5 minute walk from the centre of the old city takes you right into the church that has both enclosed within it.

Tomb of Jesus Christ

Tomb of Jesus Christ

Going left once you enter the church, inside the Rotunda is the very place that Christ was laid to rest on Good Friday and subsequently arose two days later. Waiting for over half an hour, you are allowed thirty seconds or so to touch a slab covering the rock on which Jesus was supposedly laid to rest. Leaving this, and talking a walk around the corner and up some stairs, lasting no longer than 120 seconds, you arrive at the site he was supposedly crucified on, again waiting in a queue of around 20 minutes for 30 seconds or so of 'experience'.

Site of the Crucifixion

Site of the Crucifixion

After exploring the rest of the church, I headed out to the Jewish quarter to visit the Western Wall in more detail. Heading again through a security check, I donned a kippah and touched the wall. Before writing a message, shoving it through the cracks, and then sitting back down and observing the most sacred place in Judaism from a distance.

Western Wall

Western Wall

Hall of the Last Supper

Hall of the Last Supper

My last activity for the Old City was to head south, walk along part of the wall, and head to Mount Zion. Here is the location of the Hall of the Last Supper. Now turned into a Gothic Hall, and crammed with tourists, this room marks the spot that Jesus held the last supper, before being betrayed by Judas and arrested.

Kosher McDonalds

Kosher McDonalds

After this long day, and eating a Kosher McDonalds, I headed back of to my hostel, and took an early night before the next day, which I had planned to visit Bethlehem.

The time was now 6:30pm and I was in bed trying to sleep. Like. A. Pro.

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Israel Tagged religion history jesus islam christianity judaism holyland Comments (0)

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