Germany & Italy [2003]

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day 9 [] july 23, 2003 [] Rome, Italy

It is Wednesday. We awoke at 4am to prepare to leave at 4:30 to get to the Vatican. It was a long walk (about an hour). We got to the Basilica quite early because we figured since we were in Rome it would be cool to see the Pope. We weren’t sure where he would be or how crowded it would be. Since no one except the Polizia was there we had time to find some breakfast.

When we got back we were right at the front of the line to get into St. Peter’s Basilica when we heard ladies talking in English about seeing the Pope. One of the ladies was Clare who informed us that he was at his summer spot, Castel Gandolfo. She was there to get tickets at the bronze door so she and her friend Anthony could personally meet the Pope. Jon and I decided to go with them to Castel Gandolfo.

They helped us learn how the bus system worked which took us to Termini to get a train to Castel Gandolfo. On the train, Clare gave us religious trinkets including rosary beads and a crucifix. She informed us that if we held them up when the "Holy Father" gave his blessing they would be blessed with more power than that of an exorcism.

The first train we took, to Lisa's excitement, was a double decker; obviously we sat on the second level. Then we switched trains at a station that starts with a C. We had almost reached the Castel Gandolfo station when the train stopped in the process of traveling up a hill. At this point Clare was getting slightly flustered because we knew there would be a crowd trying to get in to see the Pope; we needed to get there as quick as possible. Clare found a girl sitting near us that spoke both English and Italian and asked if she knew what was happening. There were train workers walking quickly through the train turning things and talking, the Italian girl listened for us. It turned out the train was experiencing electrical problems and after a bit of delay the train started up again and completed the trip to Castel Gandolfo.

When we got off the train we had no idea where to go. The train station overlooked a beautiful lake. There was a line of traffic going down the hill. Clare asked someone in one of the cars if they knew the way to the "Holy Father."

They said down the hill so we turned and started going down the hill and there was an ambulance at the curve of the road that we could see and Clare said something about hoping that wasn’t for the “Holy Father.” Jon and Lisa thought it would be cool to have the trivial bragging rights that they were going to see him when he died and they saw the ambulance. When we all reached the turn in the road the people we had asked for directions from earlier in the car told us that it was the other way. So, we headed back up the hill the way we had come down, Clare was still flustered. We trekked up the hill along the road and came to a stairway/pathway that we had seen some people go up that headed up the hill at a sharper incline. We took this path and it led us to the Piazza in front of the Pope’s summer place. There was a large group of people out side the doors, slowly being let in. We joined the crowd hoping to file into wherever people were going to see the Pope. When we moved with the crowd to about half way in from where we started the Swiss Guards stopped letting people in. Clare and Anthony had said their goodbyes in case we got separated and they were hoping to get in because they had those special tickets.

Jon and Lisa got to see the Pope on a Mega-tron outside of his summer home. People in the crowd were crying and chanting, it reminded Lisa of old film of the Beetles or Elvis concerts. The proceedings of the event included a welcome from a priest and then the Pope appeared on the Mega-Tron (we don’t know if he was wheeled out or what). Then there was a Bible reading. Then a priest speaking a different language gave a welcome and listed off groups of people and when their name was called each group would cheer or sing. Then the Pope would speak in that language apparently giving his blessing on the people that were there, which also meant that family members of the people there were blessed also. When they got to English the Pope started speaking and it was hard to understand his words and then the sound system turned off so all we saw was the picture on the Mega-tron. Lisa kept holding up the rosary beads to ensure that they got officially blessed so she could give them to a friend as a souvenir. We don’t know if our family and us were truly Papally blessed because we don’t know if the blessing transmits ok through the mega-tron or if it counts if we didn’t hear the end of it, whatever he was saying.

During the blessings the Pope’s little cape thing that was around his neck flew up into his face and he pushed it away; that was the fastest we saw him move during the whole thing. Lisa thought that was hilarious for some reason. Then there were many people dressed in their wedding garments walking up so the Pope would bless their marriage. One woman gave the Pope a cleavage shot because her wedding dress was a bit low. We then saw Anthony and Clare on the screen getting blessed. Clare bowed down; she might have kissed his feet, and then got blessed. Then a few people in wheel chairs were blessed. One of the wheelchair people was a teenage girl and when she got blessed a woman behind us burst into tears and people started to comfort her. I think the teenage girl was a family member.

While we waited for Clare and Anthony to walk out after everything was done we saw a nun wearing a baseball hat and waving a flag. We thought it would make a great picture.

Clare and Anthony took pictures of us overlooking the beautiful lake as we walked back to the train station. We took the train back to Roma. Then we went to McDonald’s so Jon could try a McAustrailan, which is made of kangaroo meat.

We went back to Saint Peter’s Basilica to see inside. It was huge. We saw the bronze statue of Peter that people believe is holy so they kiss its feet. The feet are worn off. We saw the body of, if we remember correctly, Gregorius XVI. It is claimed that his body miracusly did not decay. Lisa was standing by herself looking at the man’s body when a guy came up to her. He said amazed, “This is real.” Lisa, being her blunt self said in all honesty, “It looks plastic to me.”

We were looking around and it is claimed Peter is buried underneath the basilica. We heard an English personal tour guide tell a couple that reservations are required months in advance to go down where Peter is buried. We happened to notice a group of people going down stairs that were located behind a statue, so we joined in the group. We got to see where Peter was buried.

After Saint Peter’s Basilica, Jon stopped outside the Basilica to take off his pants. Yes, at the Vatican. We went to the Museo Nazionale Di Castel Sant’ Angelou. It was not that impressive and Jon and Lisa’s exhaustion from the early morning wake-up was starting to kick in. There was a cool view though from near the top of the castle.

That night we ate pizza and then went to the Calvary Chapel Bible study that we learned about from when they did skits in that one piazza. It was done in a little Bible bookstore with a broken air conditioner. Everything was done in both Italian and English. We would sing a song first in English, then in Italian. The lesson was taught by the missionary and then translated by an Italian native. It was quite a beautiful yet hot and long experience. Then we walked back to our hotel.

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