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If it’s Friday…

June 30, 2006 pm30 7:33 pm

Travel journal.  Day 0.  Day 1. 

Ran out of school Wednesday, finished packing (1 bag only! Woohoo!), got a ride to the airport, and was out.

In all my planning I don’t think I properly considered the sleep factor.  I was up early Wednesday, straightening the apartment (no one likes coming home to a mess, not even me), and then that damned airplane ride is only 8 hours, starting at 5:30.  So if you force yourself to sleep around 9 oclock (which I did) you are arriving at 1:30 am, which is only 4 and a half hours away.  Of course the sun comes up around midnight, and breakfast service is soon after, so I got about the best that I could expect:  3 interrupted hours of half sleep.

And then I was in Rome.  I knew that I should get a guided tour – sit down on a bus, preferably with good a/c, and let them talk as I snapped (or didn’t bother snapping) photos.  Is that what I did? hmm
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I bought an overpriced ticket for a kind of bus I’ve seen for tourists in New York.  It is double decker, operates on a fixed route, and let’s you on and off as it goes.  There is a little canned tour guide talk you can listen to in 12 languages on a headset.  After a few stops we got to the coliseum, and I got off.

Now, I thought I would waste my remaining energy walking through a few good sites.  But the line was long and these people were selling tours in English, and promising to get us in much more quickly.  I bit.  Sucker.  The tours were conducted mostly outside the coliseum.  Cutesy.  Vaguely off-color.  I admit it, I laughed.  But here I was in Rome, exhausted, serious, I wanted some damned history.

They did work in history, but not enough.  The place’s real name should be the Flavian Ampitheater.  “Coliseum” derives from someone’s impression of a big statue of Nero that used to be in front.  I learned that there were no chariot races here (too small.  Try Circus Maximus instead), and I learned that women stood at the top level (seats for men only) and bathrooms for men only (with the famous sponges, no paper.  Kids like that detail).

I also learned that restoration had been done by Bonaparte, and then again ten years ago, and that it had been free until 1999(?).  They charge 11 euros now.  (I can see the cute euro symbol on this keyboard, but do not know how to make it appear).

And they did, eventually, after letting us take photos with men dressed up as gladiators, take us inside. So at the end the guy says we also get a free tour of the Palatine Hill.  I have no idea what the Palatine Hill is, but I am annoyed that I did not get my money’s worth (what a bad way to make vacation decisions) and I go.  And I am following another guide.  Not cutesy at all.  Taking us through a little founding-of-Rome mythology, and quickly moving into history.  Walking us slowly up the hill, taking frequent shady, breezy breaks.

(it must have been 90+ in Rome)

The Palatine Hill was where emporer’s built their palaces (and the origin of the word palace in a host of languages).  All that was left was ruins.  Even the standing sturctures weren’t right.  From the sack of Rome to the building of the Vatican, this guide made it seem that Rome sank to backwater status.  But when the Vatican gets built and Rome ‘comes back’ the popes take all of the fancy stone from this hill (and other places) to make a grand St Peters.  At least that’s what I heard her say in that 90 degree, sleep deprived state I was dreaming through.

So I work my way back to the airport, way early.  Don’t want to sleep.  Try to read (keep nodding off).  Flight is delayed an hour.  We touch down in Thessaloniki after 1 am.

1.  I will post, either when I get back or at another internet spot, photos.  Coliseum. View of Roman Forum from the Palatine Hill.  Coliseum Steps.  (Couldn’t resist). Trevi fountain.

2. Caught up on sleep today.  Wandered around the center of Thessaloniki.  Had cucumber tomato salad followed by grilled octopus for lunch.  But Thessaloniki entry has to wait for another day.

I will have internet access, it would seem, for most of this trip.  I will blog, just not very frequently.  (On the other hand, I have started a hand-written travel journal, and it has truly absorbed me.)

(Written Day 2, Thessaloniki, Greece)

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