A Tale of Two Cruises - early winter 2009 travel blog




watching rugby

St. Mary Major

another view


side altar


Last night we stayed four kilometers from the Munich airport. Some airport hotels can be sterile and isolated. This one was in the middle of a small town and when we walked the main street the shops were open and we had a choice of many restaurants. Since we were in Germany, we had pizza!

Obviously the drive to the airport was quick and easy and the security check was efficient and well organized as is the German way, but not nearly as strict and oppressive as ours. No taking off your shoes here. You forgot to put your hand lotion in a zip lock bag? No big deal. Most surprisingly no one ever asked us to produce a photo ID. We could have been any one. We flew over the Alps and in less than two hours found ourselves in Rome with comfortable temperatures at last, although people here are bundled up, some even wearing mittens. It's all relative....

Whenever I have been in Rome, I've had the impression that we have arrived 500 years too late. Impressive old churches and Roman ruins are everywhere, but they suffer from a lack of repair and cleanliness – quite a contrast with where we've just been. The traffic is chaotic and people often double park. This city will never be handicapped accessible. The cable stones and uneven pavement are universal here.

We're in a small, family owned hotel with a creaky little elevator that we had to send up three times just to get the luggage to the room. How this friendly family makes a living from 17 reasonably priced rooms is a mystery. We went for a walk to check out the neighborhood and found St. Mary Major church nearby. It's an amazing cathedral with many awesome side altars. Beautiful paintings, carvings, and religious pieces were all around. We scarcely knew where to look and would have to stay for hours to take it all in. The lights were turned down so low I wondered if the pope is behind in paying his electric bill, so my photographs cannot do it justice. Priests were in cubicles along the sides hearing confessions as is traditional on a Saturday. Many tour groups moved through the church, some obviously religious clerics for whom visiting this spot meant much more than it did for us.

After living on airplane food, we were hungry for dinner long before typical Italians start serving. So since we were in Rome we ate Chinese! The staff there spoke Chinese to one another, Italian to the other customers, and English to us. Pretty impressive.

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