From Pescara where we lost Bob, to Perugia where we saw Brett, to Bologna where we picked up Ang - September 22nd to the 28th
The rusted and corroded ring of keys were slowly, hesitantly, removed from their 3-month home in Benny´s filthy pants pocket, dangling in mid-air, held out at arms reach from Cous´ expecting grasp. Knowing eyes met, only for an instant, yet long enough to convey the crystal clear message: "Take care of her". And just like that, in a flash, as if the keys were in fact a portkey (Potter Reference), Benny was gone, garbage bag and all.
Bye Bye Benny
It was a strange feeling, climbing back into Hajji without him. For the first time in this trip she felt empty. With one final farewell Hajji Honk from the Pescara airport parking lot, we said goodbye to Benny and set our sights on Rome.
Now, I think we are all familiar with the famous saying "All roads lead to Rome", and with a quick Google, I was surprised to learn that was once in fact true. With over 50,000 miles of road radiating from the ancient center, we both figured that the 156km drive would be a joke. This brings me to the topic of Italian roads. Bear in mind that we have been on a 3-month roadtrip, are well versed in maps and are eagles at spotting signs; that being said, we must have asked 8-10 people for directions, and even then, the entire 156km trip took us just under 6 hours! Cous was driving. We swore a lot.
We finally surrendered to the roads 20km shy of Rome. We refused to go any further, and began the daily search for a place to park, and call home for the night.
We awoke early (this tends to happen when you´re sleeping in a box of windows), anticipating the huge day that lay ahead. After the previous day´s road lesson, we opted for the public transportation route into the city instead, which came in the form of a bus and the metro. The second we left the metro station we were confronted by the Colosseum. We decided to take the guided tour which actually unmasked a few Hollywood myths. For example, did you know that they didn´t have lions and tigers fighting gladiators? The animals were more of a farmland variety like cows, ostriches, zebras and monkeys. Imagine an ostriche and a monkey fighting to the death! On second thought, that could be much more entertaining than lions and tigers.
The grandest of them all.
Wherever we walked there were crumbling columns, ancient artifacts and ruined relics amidst preservationists hard at work. I remembered reading the Lonely Planet - Rome section during yesterdays agonizing drive, and the author had opened with "In Rome there are more ruins than dog shit!" I immediately dismissed this as an obvious exaggeration, although after an hour in the city I began to realise ..."Ha! He´s probably right. In Rome there are more ruins than dog shit."
The Roman skyline.
It is for this reason why throughout the day it became harder and harder to impress us. Our brains became super-saturated with beautiful, old, decaying stuff, to the point that it was difficult to register and appreciate the historical significance of what it was we were looking at.
Throughout our day we stumbled upon The Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Novana Square, and finally Vatican City. While at the Vatican we attended mass at St. Peter´s Cathedral where I captured a few breathtaking shots.
We then entered a long line for tickets for the Vatican Museum wherein lies the Sistine Chapel. At this point Rome had taken its financial toll on us, and with only 20 € between us we learned that the enterance fee was 14 € each! Shit! But then we disscovered that they offered a student rate of 8 € each ... ahhh .. phew! Although neither of us had our student cards on us, this is likely because neither of us are in fact students...anymore. We made our way to the ticket counter where an old man was working. As sweetly as possible I explained to him that a few weeks ago we were robbed in Sarajevo (which is true...see entry titled "Scarajevo"), and our wallets stolen (which is also true), with our student cards in them (LIARS!!!). He asked our ages, we lied again. And he agreed to give us the student rate ... but short changed us 2 €. After realizing his innocent mistake I returned to the ticket counter and politely informed him of his error. He snapped! Quickly refusing to give me my 2 €, demanding we pay an additioinal 10€, and trying to tear the tickets out of my hand! He even got out of his booth in hopes of wrestling them from my iron grip. I tucked the tickets safely away in my pocket and got ready to make a scene. Raising my voice so that everyone was staring, I asked him innocently, "Why are you taking my ticket?" This man was selling student tickets to non-students and pocketing the difference, in his mind as a fee for his service. He was directly stealing from the Vatican. I think that one might warrant a FREE ticket ... to Hell! I told him that I would like to speak with his supervisor, and he quickly coughed up the money and returned to his booth. Of all places to get ripped off, The Vatican. We never saw it coming.
We were finally able to enter the Vatican Museum, and make our way towards the Sistine Chapel. Photos obviously do it no justice, all I can say is that the corridors leading up to the Chapel and the Chapel itself are, without a doubt in my mind, the most remarkable sight I have, or will ever, lay eyes on.
The hallowed hallways that lead to The Chapel.
I apologize for the lack of photos from the Chapel itself. It was strictly forbidden to talk or take any photographs once inside, although it seemed that no one was abbiding by these rules. All you could hear was the flutter of shutters swelling from the crowd, while security guards frantically raced to confiscate or remove anyone caught in the act. We were caught in the act, hence the lack of photos. After being kicked out of the Sistine Chapel we gladly retreated from the city, once known as the centre of the world, to Hajji, the center of our world, ready for another adventure tomorrow.
After two exhausting days in Rome we were happy to head north to Perugia, where our beloved Brett Lorier was temporarily calling home. Brett is a New Zealand sweetheart who Benny met in Holland. We only got to meet him for the first time at Sziget, and were thrilled to hear he would be on exchange in Italy during our travels. He showed us around the beautiful city of Perugia; where to get cheap pizza and cheap wine, and most importantly where to consume them. It was so nice to see a familiar face in a far off land, and be shown the ropes rather than figuring them out on your own. We had a doggone nice weekend in the foreign exchange student murder capital of Italy, what with slurping wine and burr on the old steps in the old square two nights running. It really is a beautiful city, and deserves a visit from anyone who finds themselves nearby. But Brett had his final Italian language exam on the Tuesday morning, and he needed at least a day to study, so we left him on Sunday afternoon and pointed our vehicle in the direction of Bologna, again. Off to see if we couldn't pick up an old pal from high school and take her somewhere...
Sweet sweet Breet...thousands of warm wishes and thanks and blessings from Ren and Cous and Hajji.
As for the rest of you...be like Brett.