Friday, April 23, 2010

Europe Holiday - Day 2 - Visiting & Viewing Vatican

The first half of the day was allocated to visit the Holy Vatican. I did have some idea on geographies, that the Vatican and Rome were very close, but did not know that the time it takes to reach Vatican is just 20 min from Rome! Vatican and Rome is separated with just a common wall. Not only Vatican is the smallest country (also categorized as sovereign city state) in the world, it is perhaps also the least populated (900+)!

When I compare Vatican to other Holy Shrines in India like Tirupati or Kashi, Vatican is really less crowded and has facility to park only 40 buses. Logistics must be extremely good in Vatican where the crowd is constantly moving. It's amazing to experience that the world's biggest religion's head quarters/holy centre is actually not that difficult to enter and view. One has to just drive a few minutes from Rome, park the vehicle and start walking towards the St. Peter's Cathedral.

As the local guide took over we could learn a bit about Holy Vatican. The name "Vatican" is ancient and predates Christianity, coming from the Latin Mons Vaticanus, meaning Vatican Mount. The politics of Vatican City takes place in an absolute elective monarchy, in which the head of the Roman Catholic Church takes power. The Pope exercises principal legislative, executive, and judicial power over the State of Vatican City, which is a rare case of a non-hereditary monarchy.

We then entered St. Peter's Basilica we see that every corner of basilica represents colorful art. Be it sculptures, pillars or paintings ... Vatican is at its best. The Basilica does not really give you a feeling that it's an absolute prayer hall ... it also exhibits art like a museum.

I switched my camera mode to 'night' so that I don't miss out capturing those beautiful paintings that depict the sufferings of people before Christ and many other stages of Christian history. We were restricted from not photographing a small room in which a few bishops were reading the holy bible.

It was interesting to note that 100 Swiss guards are guarding the Pope and the Vatican. Swiss guards, as we all have heard are known for their loyalty in french history.

As we came out of the Basilica, our trip to Vatican almost ended. We could also see the 'second window' through which Pope Offers blessings to mass, I guess on Wednesdays at 12 pm.

There is perhaps lot more to see in Vatican, below the basilica and behind. However there is always a next time, anytime anyone visits Rome ... driving down to Vatican is a very simple affair.

Day 1 & Day 2 - A Roman Holiday

As we landed in Rome after a long journey from Doha (Qatar) ... the first thing that came into my mind was 'land of Julius Ceaser!', this is what I whispered in Srinath's ear and he smiled. He always knew my favorite historic personality was Julius Ceaser ... who battled, conquered, ruled and even romanced. It was definitely in my mind to visit Rome some day, to even see the ruins left by these warriors of history chapters I once read.

To me, it was the same feeling I experienced 10 years ago when I first landed in Europe in 2000 ... it was just the same ... lot of landscape and very few people on road. Rome appeared very interesting even with just a glimpse outside the airport. Why so? Something that I did not understand then ... but as soon as we approached our Hotel on the outskirts of Rome, a feast for my eyes ... 3 fat cats near trash :-)
As soon as I got down I rushed to the spot to capture them in my camera. That was lovely.

More interesting sightings from our compact room (it was compact in true sense!), I watch out from the window curtains to see extremely fat, oversized hens in a farm house behind the hotel. This farm house had even sheeps and goose. I guess my day was made...

This day was all about driving through Rome to visit Colosseum and end with Indian dinner in a Punjabi restaurant. Colosseum appeared so beautiful to my eyes that my entire travel stress had vanished. I was all ready to photograph and be photographed. Colosseum represents ancient Roman architecture, an elliptical open theatre meant to accommodate thousands of audience. The structure is better known as the Colosseum. In antiquity, Romans may have referred to the Colosseum by the unofficial name Amphitheatrum Caesareum; this name could have been strictly poetic. Unlike earlier Greek theatres that were built into hillsides, the Colosseum is an entirely free-standing structure.

It's very much known how much Italians loved art, theatre and architecture but what is interesting to know that even today Italians are the same ... loving life, trying to conquer something and creative in all the aspects, be it in art or in the art of conning someone or art of making delicious food. What I could connect to instantly was their fascination for cats, cats are very special for Italians and harming a cat can cost someone term in jail!! This is simply superb, a land where there are laws for rights of cats, and for once I walked on the streets of Rome and felt like a Roman. It reminded me what my Mom always told me when I was a kid in certain contexts where people are expected to align with situations ... 'when you are in Rome, be a Roman'. I missed my Mom a lot; if she was alive I would have called her to share these moments. In a group tour the tour manager always tells us certain nuances of the country and culture here he told us only 2 things - beware of your valuables and be very careful with Italian cats. The latter need not be told to me, a born cat lover that I am.

The day ended with decent Punjabi cuisine and good sleep. The next day after visiting the Holy Vatican, we again got a chance to many places of Rome. Like the Trevi fountain, the state house, Cathedrals, Basilica di Santa Maria, Piazza Navona
Rome City Hall and a glimpse of Tiber River.

I loved many things about Rome, the history that it boosts ... Tuscany landscapes, fashionable and talented women, the Pizzas and the architectural wonders.

It was my Roman Holiday.