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5
Jan 01
Fri

The Day Today

Although I like the people I’m travelling and all, naturally, spending a month together every day can start to grate. Yesterday, we met up with Tom and Jamie – two friends that went to high school with me (none of us are boarders, so for those aware of the bad press TGS has been getting back home, don’t get any ideas) – and also Pat, a fellow Aussie they met at the Roma Termini train station. The idea last night we had dinner. It appears that we were on the “wrong side of town” as we couldn’t find a pizzeria. In Rome. Anyhow, drenched from the rain hurtling down, we stumbled into a pizzeria that was empty. Instead of taking the hint and leaving immediately, we proceeded to order. The waiter returned with food that could only have been reheated microwaved supermarket pizzas. Not a good meal. Anyhow, we resolved to meet up the next day (that being today) and travel to the Vatican together.

The Vatican is essentially a country within a country. Inside high brick walls resides an independent “nation” with an area of 0.44 square kilometers of which Pope John Paul II is head of state. It’s official language is Latin. Our first stop was to grab a quick, overpriced breakfast, which we did standing up (eating food sitting incurrs being charged a higher price in Italy – there are signs warning that “purchasing food does not give you the right to sit at a seat”). We reached the Vatican Museum soon after. The Vatican Museum is both an impressive display of antiques and artworks, and an impressive display of the wealth of the Catholic church. There is far too much in that museum to digest in one day. The “complete tour” marked on the brochure is supposed to take 4 hours, but after traversing only 20% of the journey in 2 hours, that estimate was quite underestimated. Incidentally, should you ever find yourself in the Vatican Museum, purchase the audio guide. It is very comprehensive and, dare I say it, well worth the £10,000 (that’s 10,000 lira, not pounds) it costs. The highlight of the museum, of course, is the Sistine chapel which includes the vey well-known frescoes of Michaelangelo (creation of Man, the Final Judgement etc.) among other artists whose work grace the chapel’s walls.

After another overpriced meal in the cafeteria at the museum, we made our way over to St. Paul’s Basillica (I think it’s called that), the papal residency. It turns out that tomorrow is a national holiday for Rome due to the closing of the Jubilee gates. From what I heard, the Jubilee gates open only once every 1000 years, and for a period of one year. Last year the gates opened. Tomorrow is the day they close for another thousand years. The result, I can only speculate, was today there was a mass of people queued up outside the Basilica, awaiting entrance. It would not be unfair to say there were over 100,000 people lined up. As for the Jubilee Gates, I still do not know anything about them, where they are, or if that was why there were so many people there. Needless to say, we weren’t about to queue up for hours, so we left for gelato (I’m addicted, I would move to Rome for that stuff alone) followed by dinner at a Lonely Planet recommended pizzeria. Immediately after we made for easyEverything. I’m convinced the easyEverything here is running a scam. $3 for 3 hours the rate may be, but 50% of the terminals here are mysteriously non-functional. For dumb terminals which run on a netboot and pull down identical operating system images from the main server, there are certainly more problems than there should be. And the terminals never seem to get fixed either. Tomorrow we are attempting to visit Pompeii.

One more thing: hot off the press is that Australia has banned all beef imports due to problems with BSE. Needless to say, our aversion to beef (and also lamb, as two cases of BSE in Germany were attributed to sheep!) in Europe has been justified.

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