Thursday, January 11, 2007

Rome - Part 3 

Saturday was our final day in Rome, we had a late flight out that night. We started out our day arranging for our airport transport, our hotel as usual was so helpful. They stored our bags and set up everything, and we were on our way. We walked to a church near our hotel that I didn't want to miss, due to the artifact they had as a centerpoint and a famous Michelangelo sculpture. The church was San Pietro in Vincoli (Saint Peter in Chains)and is not very impressive from the outside. The interior was very spacious and bright, with many amazing sculptures. Right in the center were the chains, there are two sets that are now connected together. These are said to be the chains that held Peter in Jerusalem (in the Bible, Acts 12:1-19) and chains that held him in prison in Rome at a later date. I don't know that as many people come to that church as some of the more famous ones in Rome, but I am glad we made the time.

It was a short walk back over to the Roman Forum, which was the center of ancient Rome. We wanted to look at it in more detail, as we had just walked through it the previous days. We saw some original bronze doors, and the place where Julius Caesar was cremated. Jacob had a good time climbing on everything, that will be his favorite memory of Rome I think --- "Rome, a great place to climb". He also enjoyed taking over camera duty a few times, this is one picture he took of us. We were examining the guide book to be sure we hadn't missed anything.

We continued touring some other sights around there, and then went to the Pantheon for a quick look. After that it was lunch, more pizza and pasta, excellent as usual. We still wanted to walk through the streets and check out some areas we hadn't been through, so that is how we spent our afternoon. Saw Trajan's Column, some very quaint little back streets, more ancient Roman ruins. Finally wandered back to the hotel about 6p.m. and the car was ready to take us to the airport. We had an exhilarating ride back to the airport, and a smooth flight back.

Rome was not at the top of our list of things we wanted to see, we almost went because we just felt like we "ought to" while we lived here. Now that we have gone I would highly recommend it, we loved it more than we thought we would. Now we want to go back, and see some more of it! It is definitely my favorite place in Italy that I have been, probably because of the ancient Rome sights.

If you want to see all the pictures we took, go to our photosite.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

We've been blessed! 

They come around our neighborhood for this, every year. We gave them some euros for their collection, and they chalked the blessing on our front door. Should be a good year! FYI - our weather today is cool and rainy, no ice.

(article below taken from Stars & Stripes)

C+M+B: January 6 brings blessings of the Three Kings
By Mecki Snippen, Stars and Stripes
Stripes European Travel, Thursday, January 4, 2007

If you have ever spent a Jan. 6 in parts of Europe, you might have noticed the letters “C+M+B” chalked on the lintel above the front door.

And if you have, you have probably wondered what they mean.

They are part of a tradition marking Three Kings Day, and honor the Magi who brought gifts to the baby Jesus.

Early Christians celebrated Christmas on Jan. 6. Many of them switched to Dec. 25 in the fourth century and called the later date the feast of the Epiphany — when Christ’s appearance was made known to the wise men and the rest of the human race.

While the Orthodox Church still marks Christmas on Jan. 6, the Catholic church calls the day “Three Holy Kings Day.” In many parts of Europe, including Austria, Germany, Switzerland and Spain, the Christmas holiday does not end until this date.

According to several Web sites, some aspects of the Magi are not clear. For example, the Book of Matthew does not say there were three of them — this was just assumed, since they brought three gifts (myrrh, gold and frankincense). And it was not until the eighth century that the men were known as Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar and finally identified as kings.

During the 16th century, an activity called “star-singing” became popular. In those days teachers and their pupils went from house to house, singing and telling the story of Jesus’ birth and life. They were dressed as kings, carrying a star in front of them. After they finished, they asked for cake, nuts or money.

Toward the end of the 19th century, star-singing had almost been forgotten. Refugees from Silesia (now parts of Poland and the Czech Republic) brought the custom back to Austria and Germany. Nowadays, it is quite popular in predominantly Catholic areas in those countries.

Donations collected during these activities are used for charity work within the church. It is customary to bless the donors’ houses, and to mark them in chalk with the letters “C+M+B” plus the year of the blessing on top of the door.

There are two explanations for the meaning of the letters. The first is that they are the initials of the three kings. The other is they stand for the Latin expression “Christus mansionem benedicat,” meaning “may Christ bless this house.”

The blessing is supposed to keep evil spirits away.

There are also some secular customs connected with the day. One says that if the day is sunny and still, winter will last until Easter.

Another claims: “Holy Three Kings Day without ice means that there will be snow on Pankratius Day (May 12).”

Rome Part 2 

Our second day (Friday) in Rome we decided to go over to the opposite side of the city and go to the Vatican museum. We asked at the front desk if we should take a taxi or a bus and as usual they recommended the bus. The bus stop is very close to the hotel, and of course quite cheap. We just are never very clear on where to get off, but we knew we would see the church dome so could plan where to get off by that. Another couple from our hotel was making the same trip, and they were so nice! They work in England, at a US Air Force base there. We kept running into them all over Rome for the remainder of our trip, and had breakfast with them Saturday.

The line for the Vatican museum was so long --- I was not looking forward to the wait. But it moved very quickly so it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought. We made it in and used our Rick Steves guide book to see some of the major sights, all routes lead to the Sistine Chapel at the end of the museum. Everything was so overwhelming there, even the building itself is so grand and ornate. Then add in all the art and it's something that you could visit over and over again. And still not see it all! One of the things we saw that was pretty cool was a statue recovered in Pompeii, the large "bowl" in front of it was Nero's. This room was one of my favorites there. Of course the Sistine Chapel was really nice, it was just so crowded. Hard to believe we were there in the "off" season.

The weather was perfect every day we were there, the worst was a bit cloudy one day, but mostly sunny and warm. It was a nice change from the cool weather in Germany, the sun seemed brighter there. We really enjoyed it, since we were walking so much.

We left the museum and grabbed some lunch across the street, then entered back into Vatican City to visit St. Peters. Everything we saw was so immense and impressive, it was really too much to take it all in. There were men cleaning a section of the cathedral, and they looked like toys up there so high. This was on the inside! When our necks were tired of looking straight up for so long, we headed on out and walked over to the Tiber river, and past some various sights that we didn't take the time to tour.

We rested a bit and looked at the river, and then crossed over and began to explore some of the smaller streets and plazas in that area. There is so much to see, we knew we couldn't do it all in such a short time. But we did see so much, both from the tourist guide book and some out of the way things. The streets are so crooked and narrow we were glad to have our GPS with us to help us at least figure out where we were on the map. It was getting dark so we headed off with all the other Americans in Rome to the Hard Rock Cafe. Jacob made friends with the hostess and even stood up in his chair and danced for everyone -- too much 7up or something like that. We always enjoy a meal at Hard Rock after being away from the U.S. for so long, and it didn't disappoint.

Then we again started walking back to our hotel, finally grabbing a taxi when we realized we were going to have to carry Jacob. He really did great and walked so much, but just couldn't go on any further. Even the taxi rides are fun, you will be cruising along (rapidly) and see some Roman columns standing next to a modern building. Or an excavation site in the middle of everything, it's pretty crazy. Speaking of crazy -- well driving there is definitely an art. It's not just busy like any large city, but some roads are so tiny and it seems like a free for all at times. But I imagine the most accidents are caused by non-locals, since everyone local seems to understand how to do it the "roman" way.

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