Tuesday, April 1, 2008

When in Rome...

Imagine going to (arguably) the most picturesque city in the world—Rome. Imagine further that, in preparation for your trip, you carefully laid your camera out beside your bag so as to not forget it.

You dork. You should know you must put it IN your bag.

By now you know I have no pics of Rome, but since some people think I'm a word wizard I'll risk blaspheming Rome by trying to describe it. Yet before I do that there is one more logistical nightmare to tell of. Shortly after arrival I set out with the bunkie to go to the Vatican. (The “bunkie” is the third pilot, or relief pilot, that goes along on flights greater than eight hours.) The bunkie knew Rome pretty well and yelled to me as we boarded a crowded subway train, “Watch your wallet here!”

By now you know my wallet was being picked even as the bunkie was warning me. Fortunately the thief was a compassionate one, and simply threw my wallet onto the train floor after he plied his stealthy trade. He even left me two ten Euro bills. He also left my debit card, surely hoping that I—his low hanging fruit—would suck up to the ATM again.

But visit the Vatican, I did, and was truly awed by the marvelous architecture, history and art honoring the birth and life of our Savior and the saints that followed Him. I particularly enjoyed the long trek to the Sistine Chapel. The walk takes you through long, winding corridors and chambers that are loaded with sculpture, frescos, tapestries, and endless murals, until you finally reach the chapel and look up and see Michelangelo’s awesome paintings on the ceiling. 

They won't let you take flash photography in there (why should I care?) but some people did. There were so many crowded in the chapel, the Vatican police could never find the ones who flashed. Thousands of people looked up murmuring, and the guards “sshh-ed” and it got quite, but then the murmurs rose again, and again the “sshh.” And finally we flowed out of the chapel, like a piece of flotsam in a flooding river, to let the endless currents of people come in behind. Old Mick had the right idea; you've got to look up to see Creation's greatest masterpieces.

The long ride from the airport into Rome is a treat itself. You see the clean, crisp countryside—rolling green hills contrasted with clear blue sky, studded with neat red farm houses and barns. You see right away that you are in a land of vivid color and wish you had a camera. Getting closer to the city you start to see ruins. Rome is replete with ruins from the old empire, and as you ride through a modern, bustling city you pass awesome stands of two-thousand year old ruins in various states of decay. But you don't get a sense of neglect and deterioration. Not at all. The ruins are clean, ringed in moats of green grass, interlaced with manicured arboretums and bounded with strange magnificent pine trees that go straight up, bare as telephones, before blossoming out like great umbrellas. I always knew Rome was an architectural wonder, but I never imagined that it would be so laced with the natural beauty of grasses, shrubs and trees. 

Oh, for a camera.

And then came a huge thrill. Just as our van was approaching our hotel we rounded a corner and there, close as the wingspan of the jet we brought in, was the Colleseum, rounded, columned and tall, rising toward the sky, more magnificent that any modern day sports arena because you knew it was two thousand years old. Riding around it to the hotel several of the crew remarked as to how you could almost hear the shouts of the ancient crowds inside there. 

Absolutely awesome.

The modern structures were eye-pleasing as well. The apartment buildings were finished in stucco and painted with subtle earth tomes and pastels of off-yellow, pale pink, ocher, burnt orange, and dozens of colors I can't name, yet none were gaudy. They all blended with the city and its greenery, and at the street level many of them hosted sidewalk cafes. Romans love to drink their dark, rich coffees and deep red wines at little round tables in the sunshine. We joined in with them that evening and found ourselves sitting beside a table of newly graduated Auburn chicks. They were working as nannies!

Don't ever ask me again to describe Rome. I'm not good enough. I'll sin again if I try. Just make sure I take my camera, and kick my empennage if you have to.

1 comment:

bradcockrell said...

A day in Rome with no camera... that's worse than going to the moon with no camera. Nice job of describing the place for us. It's on my very short list of places I want to see before I depart. Good read pop!