Ciao, Roma aeterna!

Welcome to the blog of the study tour to roma written by Konstanze Apel - of course in english.

Buon viaggio!

Ciao, Roma aeterna - 16.11.2012

Hello again!

Rome definitely was an experience none should ever miss, and if it’s just to learn to communicate with total strangers you don’t even understand. What do people say? Travel broadens the mind.

Of course, we learned a few things about the somehow different culture, some of them may be known by many people, others may be specifics you have to experience by yourself.

Few of the things we got to know deal with the police, a commonly high power. But in case, some traffic lights don’t work, officers also manually switch the lights from green to red or act as a traffic light themselves, waving with white gloved hands at the traffic, just as we know it from old stories.

But also the people proved to be somehow different from what we expected. On count of a maximum of twenty seconds somewhere a horn blows loudly or an alarm beeps through the streets. Anyhow, this isn’t remarkable, as pedestrian crossings and traffic lights only seem to be suggestions and are just considered earnestly when a pedestrian breaks his way though and actually steps on the street. Abruptly a miracle happens: no car rushes by until the pedestrian is safely on the other side of the street.

Though having all seen mostly the same, everyone observed it inimitably and will keep one’s own unique memories.

In the end we probably were happy in some way to go home again and see family and friends. But we also left with a certain hint of sadness, knowing that whenever, if ever, we would return to this city it won’t have the glamour of a first-time-visit.


Memento Mori - A Tribute to the Dead - 15.11.2012

Flowers in front of a grave.

A relaxed and wonderful evening to everyone!

Our last day in Rome has dawned and our tall group parted into two smaller ones. One group drove to Ostia Antica, a seaport whilst the other visited Rome’s largest and oldest catacombs and ardeatinic graves.

I went with the group which visited the catacombs. From the outside the building seemed rather indefinite and unspectacular. Also, the main room inside it was a kind of souvenir shop, but nothing of what I expected to be catacombs, say, dark and cold.

As our tour guide let us downstairs we unexpectedly dived into a completely different world and era. The complex system of catacombs was built in a time span of a five hundred years as underground graveyards for Christian refugees, stretches out on about 17 km and on four stories. All together it counts about one hundred thousand graves. Many of them were dug for young children as two out of three never reached the sixth year of life, but also the adult graves were creepy in their emptiness.

We learned about five metres underneath the ground and somewhere inside a shallow and tiny room what real darkness and real death silence actually means. Our tour guide advised us to imagine what it was like with decay scent and actual bodies lying around. As the catacombs were built in volcanic tuff, the stone absorbed light and any acoustic noise. It must have been quite spooky down there.

By time we entered daylight again much to our surprise less than an hour had passed and we went on, slightly dazzled by the new knowledge. Next we visited graves which were arranged during Second World War to pay last tribute to in false revenge executed Italians.

Each killed man was buried in a stone grave, his name written on the cover and the possibility to place a bouquet of flowers in front of it. This engraving experience will probably last in the one or other way in everyone of us.

Night, night, sleep tight!

Culture and a bit of Politics - 14.11.2012

This isn't allowed in the Pantheon
View on Rome from the roof-deck of Musei Capitoli

Hello and Salve to everyone!

Today wasn’t just a day, where we kept seeing the places we intended to see, but also got a glance into life of Roman youth.

Because before we visited the Campo Marzio where the Mausoleum of Augustus is located we saw some youth preparing a demonstration against youth unemployment and European austerity measures. Whereas we got a great insight into Roman mentality we only got a view on the outer facade of the huge and imposing Mausoleum of Augustus.

At the Pantheon we learned that the spacious entrance hall and colossal portals were often used as market place. Furthermore it’s strictly forbidden to lie down on the marble floor inside the building, even if it’s just to watch the hole in the roof, which has a diameter of about 9 metres. As noises grew too loud an electronic speaker kept talking “Silence, please. Thank you”, in different languages. Just the German version lacked the “Thank you”, which kind of explains why people think we are rude… This discovery made us feel underestimated and a little bit annoyed.

From the Pantheon we walked a few streets on to the Piazza Navona encountering now an awful long stretched crowd of protesters. On some streets we passed to get to the plaza, chains of police officers were waiting in case some incident would happen. Luckily everything remained peaceful.

Piazza Navona is a place to see and to be seen. The overwhelming plaza is probably known by the movie Illuminati, a great and ornamented fountain placed in its middle. If you know the movie, you’ll fear to nearly-drown while being rivetted on an iron chain, just like the cardinal. However, the light-flooded Piazza appears much more chimerical and peaceful if you don’t mind the movie.

There are a lot of artists, mainly drawers though, selling their pictures or offer to paint you. Having dinner and delicious ice cream there we later went on to a church on which’s front the height s of several floodwaters where marked.

Santa Maria de Minerva is a church build onto the ruins of a Minerva temple and besides being a remembrance to prior floods it’s one of the few churches in Rome built in gothic style.

On the former we went on to the Musei Capitoli. In these museums are many famous works such as the bronce wolf with the twins Romulus and Remus or the Thornpuller. Also a statue of a horse predicting total apocalypse for the very second the horse and its equestrian will turn completely golden. Yet I believe that tale is very much unlikely. Still the best thing at the Musei Capitoli is the roof terrace providing a gorgeous panorama view on the town.

Ciao and Arrividerci!

One Day Catholic - 13.11.2012

Ponte Sant'Angelo
St Peter

A good Evening to everyone back home!

The second the clock stroke eight a.m. we assembled in front of our hotel and went to Termini underground station. Although we travelled quite early, the platform was already crowded badly. All together the waiting people seemed to be mere domino stones which definitely would fall if any would take the chance to tip the first stone off balance. Though our teachers claimed that ‘it could be worse’ the train was quite more than overfilled according to our standards. Being jammed together felt like fish in a save all.

Getting attention of most travelers a man dressed in a neat, black suit pulled out a violin and started playing in the crowded train. Still struck by his idea to earn himself a bit of extra money, we made our way to ‘Musei Vaticani’, a massive, old, grayish stone building from the outside, but showing an unexpected modern interior. Our bags were x-rayed before we were allowed to enter the world’s largest museum in the world’s smallest state.

Beginning a guided tour lasting about two hours was fun. However, keeping the fun and particularly the interest in that what our tour guide said over the lengths of 120 minutes turned out to be difficult. The interest rather wandered to the great pictures, being old but more impressing than some pictures of nowadays artists. Yet not only pictures and statues, but the whole building was somewhat prodigious and back-breaking; terrifying in its size and enormous monumentally. Golden ceilings and multi-coloured walls really made the decision difficult whether this was just overly coloured or actually well-thought-out by first Popes.

Unfortunately, inside the Sistine Chapel we weren’t allowed to take any pictures, neither flash photographing nor average photographing. However, not everyone cared about that. Fortunately, we were allowed to take pictures in St Peters, a tall and literally spacious cathedral.

As we went outside heat seemed to have increased unbelievably. We started on a cool morning and now midday sun brought much light and warmth into everything. To that effect we ended up hiding behind a great obelisk, waiting to move on to Castel Sant’Angelo.

The castle itself somehow seemed quite disappointing as one singular bare building in comparison to the former visited fantastic and bodacious St Peters. Luckily it all was redeemed by Ponte Sant’Angelo (the bridge leading to Castel Sant’Angelo) and its phenomenal as same as stunning sculptures.

All in all it was a quite religious determined day with many interesting information and some unforeseen news about Catholic believe.


A Monumental Historic Glance Backwards - 12.11.2012

Exterior of the Coloesseum
Interior of Colosseum with basement, disabling imitation of navel battles

A wonderful and pleasant evening to everyone, just like we had it here in Italy!

After today’s breakfast (roll, marmalade and hot chocolate) we headed off for the city quite early. Rome in daylight appeared way simpler structured but had less of the mysterious fascination than yesterday night, as now the true colours of the city shone forth.

First we attended a sightseeing tour going by bus which seemed to be more a rush through the city than an introduction to its sights. Despite its fastness we got a first impression of what Rome might have looked like hundredths of years ago.

Because the bus released us again at Termini station we went per pedes to the Colosseum, the tallest Amphitheatre of ancient Italy. Getting its name rightly by its colossal size.

Without noticing it, maybe without even wanting it, we'd left the thrilling modern city with all its attractions behind us and entered an old and against all odds somehow present world.

Although by time not everything is preserved in the way the Colosseum was finished and used as a stage for gladiatorial games, ship battles and the execution of convicts the huge theatre still was overwhelming and absolutely astonishing.

The old, partly collapsed walls as same as the prior spanned walkabouts only made me guess about a beauty which is long forgotten, but also reminded me of the dark and bloody history. Being inside couldn’t make one stop wondering about early Roman custom and manners, but also their immense intelligence in architecture. They didn’t only build for their Gods, imperators or public amusement, but for eternity.

The same was immediately obvious when we entered the ‘Forum Romanum’, the market of Rome by time the Romans still fought the Gauls. It took a bit of fantasy, not much effort though to imagine what once has been and what remained. Many ruins allowed us to reenact mentally its original size, beauty and protruding wealth: Every basilica covered with marble and Romans strolling past in their garments.

Today trees grow where once consuls might have debated and some flowers were placed there where Caesar’s corpse has been burned. However, tracks of time and neglect won’t take away any of the attraction and resting pulchritude.


Take Off and Arrival - 11.11.2012

Termini stazione Roma

8:30 a.m.- Finally! As our journey to Rome starts about 30 people collect at the local train station in Aschersleben and wait for the train to Berlin to arrive. Most of us are still relaxed and play it cool, the emotions haven’t cracked yet.

8:50 a.m.– We get in the train, everyone tries to catch a seat and get one’s luggage stowed. Suddenly the anticipation rises, since most talks already circle about Rome, Italy and first plans are made: Eating Pasta, Pizza, Ice cream and Caprese (Italian Sandwiches) and using every minute to explore a foreign and probably fascinating city.

2:40 p.m.– Just arrived at the airport ‘Berlin Tempelhof’ we have twenty minutes on our own to go round the great building and keep oneself concentrated until the plane will start and the real journey will begin. Time slipped so fast and those twenty minutes seem to be not more than a couple of seconds. Then we check in, our flight is called and we enter the aircraft with as much anticipation as hopes for the next week. Nearly everyone is thinking about the week and the destination being ahead of us. We’re given two hours to play with different thoughts. Some are relaxed, others are more afraid of the flight than anything else.

5:25 p.m.– The plane just hits Rome and we’re eager to leave plane and airport as soon as possible and enter a different culture in mentality, language and the fast and changeable life in one of Europe’s capital cities. Sadly darkness has already enclosed the whole city, but Rome his highly enlightened by colourful and bright traffic lights. Like we rush through the streets in a bus, we pass blurring lights and already get a glimpse of the somehow ancient, yet also modern Rome.

7:00 p.m.– We arrived at the Hotel “Georgina” right in the city centre and just a few streets away of ‘Termini’ train station with lot of shopping possibilities such as a three stories book store, and countless restaurants. Then we’re allowed to go food-hunting and try to communicate without many misunderstandings.