Monday, June 2, 2008

As the Romans do

I'm extremely impressed with Rome, more than I ever thought I"d be.

Rome is the tiny city that gave us the 26-letter alphabet, the January though December calendar, forums that developed the backbones of modern philosophy, and the Roman Catholic Church. Its ancient and bursting with well-preserved ruins and remnants of human history.

Matt flew here with Kim and I, but only stayed for two days, during which time we did a whirlwind tour. Vatican, Sistine Chapel, St. Peters Basilica, Coluisseum, and a dozen or more statues, fountains, ruins, etc. He left on Sunday, and now Kim and I are roaming through Rome at a much slower pace.

His departure was the end of an era -- and the start of a new era, the last two and a half weeks of our trip. In Era 1, Kim and I spent 6 weeks frugally camping and farming and biking in Spain (and, for me, Portugal) ..... in Era 2, we"re taking a 2.5 week "vacation" in Italy, Germany, and either Switzerland or Austria.

Kim and I are staying at a campground about an hour outside of the city center, although it is the most luxe campground I"ve ever seen, complete with jacuzzi, buffet and on-site disco. No soap or handtowels in the shared bathrooms, though -- hey, its a campground, after all, and we"re sleeping in a tent.

One man we met yesterday tried to flirt through the help of a translator. He was this dorky-looking Italian guy, with coke-bottle glasses and bright red pants, accompanied by a friend who had the muscles of a bodybuilder. Bright Red Pants Boy would say something in Italian to his friend, who would then turn to me and say, "where are you from?" I would reply, "America," and then Bright Red Pants Boy would wave his arms in truimph and display his liking for America. He would then say something else in Italian to his friend, who would turn to me and say, "how old are you?" And so forth.

Kim and I are leaving for Florence tomorrow, but one note on Rome for anyone thinking of coming here: the space outside St. Peters Basilica is one of the most beautiful places I"ve ever seen.
It has two rows of simple columns forming the edges of a three-quarter circle, with the basilica acting as the crowning point (similiar to the layout of Burning Man). Its design left me amazed at the geometric shape of a circle. Circles are so mathematical, so strange, so perfect, so beautiful. Its a wonder that the Romans were able to capture the essence of a circle so well, using so many columns across such a large space, with such rudimentary instruments. No wonder they gave rise to a great civilization.