Saturday, 9 November 2013

Rome Pt 3

15th January 2013
Today was the Vatican! Exchange dude also recommended that I climb the dome. Which I didn't, but more on that later.

I had every intention of taking a short cut to the Tiber River and then to enter the Vatican. Oh boy. From Day 1, I had this issue where I could never end up where I wanted. I'm not entirely sure why. Actually, that is a lie. I could always end up back at my hostel because I knew this one long route and every time I deviated from it thinking, "oh yes, I think I can go down this one instead, it will take me there faster'. Nope. I would get lost and resort to retracing my steps to follow the long path. The problem was, I wasn't even entirely sure why I got lost at least 5 times a day. My sense of direction was completely off and everytime I thought I was heading north, I was almost certain to have been heading in every other direction which was completely bizarre. In every other city that I visited, I had never truly gotten so lost to the point where I wasn't even sure which direction I was heading. I always knew roughly where I was. Perhaps it was the streets which just curved everywhere or the little laneways or roads that weren't documented on any map. I don't know. Or perhaps my mounting frustration got the better of me. [/rant for now]

Finally, I made it to the river and crossed to Castel Sant'Angelo before eventually making my way to Vatican City.
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The thing about travelling in low season is the significantly fewer people at attractions. But I forget that when I read travel guides or articles on the internet because everything mentioned waiting in line for hours simply to enter. Yes there was security and I breezed through it without any hassle.

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Perhaps it was my increasing disappointment with Rome or perhaps the attractions really weren't special. But St. Peter's Basilica was so underwhelming. It was somewhat impressive upon immediate entry, but the further I walked, the more meh it became. Especially when I looked at the painting inside the dome. I couldn't help but compare it to the one in Florence which was infinitely more impressive. And it was because I was so apathetic towards the cathedral that I didn't even bother climbing up to the dome, even though it would have been perfect due to the absence of queues. At every major attraction in Rome, I was listening to my audio guide and even that didn't make anything interesting which was so surprising.

I ended up wandering outside the Vatican and I laughed when I saw a Durex (condom) machine a mere 50m from the church.

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I stumbled upon a local market and bought some fresh fruit. My plan for the rest of the day was to head back to Tiber River (not via the route that I took to get to the Vatican) and to explore more of Rome on the other side. Boy was I wrong. So I walked in a straight line, down this one road that I was certain would take me to the river.

I eventually ended on a road that looked like this.

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Note the absence of a footpath

I walked past a lot of gated mansions with - I kid you not- armed security guards outside the gates. Whilst I was walking up the road that did not have a footpath.

I walked to the point where there weren't any shops and it was purely residential homes. And I could not find the bloody river. I was lost in that residential area for 2 hours I believe. It didn't bother me too much since I knew I had plenty of daylight left and there was no way that I would have walked out of Rome. My peak of frustration was when I finally found a road that looked promising and then ... it curved, and curved some more because the road was more a crescent than anything. So basically I ended up in the same direction where I started, but further down. Finally, by some miracle I stumbled upon some students and I followed them becauase I presumed that they would be heading towards the main road. And that assumption was correct because I finally found the main road and after taking 2 more roads, I finally reached the river. Hallelujah. Praise the Lord.

I crossed the river.  By the way, the bridge that I crossed wasn't even on the map that I was issued at the hostel; it was that far south. Truth be told, when I crossed the river, it was one of few times where I felt unsafe. There was not a soul to be seen and the area just had a dodgy feeling. Feelings reminscent of West End of Atlanta with the double locks and barred verandas.

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Hmm.


But I knew that if I followed the river north, it would take me back to where I wanted to be.

Just did some quick Googling of the area: Testaccio (well more the fringe of that area)

[...]the border between the poverty of squats and homeless hiding and living on the banks of the Tiber, an area all but safe where illegal activities occur daily (they are probably the only activities occurring at all), and the richness of the inhabitants of the residential area of Testaccio
 Apparently there are a lot of amazing restaurants in the area.

The further I followed the river (or stream of dirty water), the 'richer' it became and the buildings became nicer.

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Tiber Island

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Naturally, upon reaching the central part of Rome, I got lost. Again. Again.  The most frustrating day. The upside is that I saw more of Rome than I would have ever seen if I didn't get lost as I was off the beaten path. Plus, I have a lovely story to tell. Sort of. The armed men still freak me out a little. Also, I listened to Taylor Swift's album on repeat and what I discovered was that after every 2 songs, there was a song that was actually decent! I fell in love with 'The Last Time'. (Just listened to a live version. Oh dear this one part. Though I actually think it is the guy and not Taylor. Wait, I'm not sure. And what is she wearing?!).

And a rough map of where I walked (although I did get lost so I am not entirely sure what happened when I was on the lower left hand side of the map).
Just for clarification, the white ellipse is where the main attractions are located. It's hard to say how far I did walk, but it is in the vicinity of 25km.

When I was in the US, I did gain some weight (probably 5kg) but I lost it all when I went to Europe which isn't surprising considering I didn't really eat and walked a lot.

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