Nov 20, 2011

I Threw My Wish In Trevi Fountain

I never in my life believed that I would actually have the chance to go to Rome.  Little did I know a study abroad in Vienna would finally make that dream a reality.

At the train station
Last Thursday, Kendal, Stephen, Shelly, Heidi, Mary, Becca, Camillie, Kiersten and I boarded our train and began our journey to Roma, Italia.  We weren't in a sleeper car, but we tried to get comfortable so we could sleep for as much of the 13 hour train ride as possible.  We arrived in Rome at nine on Friday, walked five minutes to our hostel, left our baggage in the storage unit and left to see the city!  There was so much to see.  It was incredible.  (I don't know what a lot of these things are in the first few pictures.... but they looked awesome!)


One of the first buildings we saw is the Altare della Patria, south of the Piazza Venezia.  This monument was built to honor Victor Emmanuel, who was the first king of unified Italy.  It is commonly known as the wedding cake or the typewriter.  The reason for the differing names is because there are so many disparate opinions about the monument.  Many regard the Altare della Patria as pompous and too large.  It is also considered boxy, lacking domes, towers, and other classical features.  Unlike the majority of buildings in Rome, this monument is brilliantly white, conspicuous amongst the earthy, brown tones of the rest of the city.  Despite the controversy, the monument attracts a very large number of visitors.  I, personally, thought it was a beautiful structure!

The Wedding Cake

After seeing the Wedding Cake, we walked to the Roman Forum.  The cost to get into the Roman Forum is usually 12 Euros, but we asked if we could get a discount because we were students.  At first the lady said no, but then we told her we were living in Vienna and studying art, architecture, and history.  She told us if we could prove that this is what we were studying we could get a discount.  For our Art History class, we have these museums cards that get us discounts in a number of art museums in Vienna.  We showed the lady our cards and thought at most we would get a 5 Euro discount, at most, but then she gave us our tickets and let us in free of charge!!  And to make this even better, the ticket got us into the Colosseum as well!

Before we left for Rome, we had downloaded audio guides onto our ipods.  (They were good audio guides, too.  The narrator had great inflection and the music was awesome!)  Listening to the audio guide of the Roman Forum gave us a taste of what life was like in Rome in ancient times.  It was amazing being in a place where so much history occurred.

The Roman Forum was huge.  For centuries, it was the center of Roman public life.  It was here that there were triumphal marches, elections, public speeches, criminal trials, gladiator matches, and commercial affairs.  There are monuments and statues that commemorate the cities great men and victories.  Today we see the sprawling ruins left from this spectacular time.


The Colosseum, considered one of the greatest works of Roman architecture and Roman engineering, was amazing.  And it is huge!  This amphitheater was capable of seating 50,000 people!  The colosseum was used for a variety of entertainments.  It was used for gladiatorial contests, public spectacles (like mock sea battles, animal hunts, etc.), and dramas based on Classical mythology.

Piazza Navona is a city square.  In the middle of the square there is an obelisk and a fountain.  The Piazza Navona is a stellar example of Baroque Roman architecture.  (Look at what Art History has done to me...!)  I really loved the architecture of the buildings surrounding the square.  Though many times Baroque is over the top with decoration and ornamentation, sometimes it is done in (what I believe) a tasteful manner.

We saw the Pantheon next.  I was very surprised to see that it wasn't in a wide open space like I expected, but rather packed tightly between the surrounding buildings.  It was still a magnificent site, though.  

Rather than make individual temples for each Roman god, the Pantheon was built as a temple to all the gods of Ancient Rome.  The people didn't want to accidentally forget a god and incur his wrath upon them!  The central opening in the coffered dome was built to show respect for and make communication easier with all of the Gods.  It also provides the only light into the building.  Contrary to what many people believe (including my Interior Design professor), The hole at the top of the Pantheon DOES let rain in.  Many people have said that the hole was built in a way that keeps rain out.  Hello, people, it is a HOLE! Haha.  Anyway, the floor of the Pantheon is slightly convex, therefore letting rain water flow to the edges of the building and into the draining system.

We woke up early on Saturday morning.  Kendal and I had our underground tour of the Vatican at nine, and we wanted to see Trevi Fountain when no one was there.  No one was there all right!  Well, except for the men collecting the money from the previous day.  They collect about 700,000 to 800,000 Euros a year from the fountain, and it all goes to charity.  I think that is so great!  We all took our time to throw our coins into the fountain and make a wish.  One of my dreams fulfilled!   

Kendal and I headed over to the Vatican after Trevi Fountain.  We got to go through the Holy Gate, which is the gate the Pope uses.  Neat, huh?  It was very warm and humid underground, which surprised me because I thought it was going to be so cold!  We walked along an old street in the cemetery which was only dirt, but felt like rock because of the millions of feet that had tread on it for years.  We also got to see the oldest mosaic in Europe.  The mosaic was in a tomb at "ground level" (the level of the ancient streets).  The street was located about 40 feet below the floor of St. Peter's Basilica.  That's a lot of excavating they had to do!

The coolest and most interesting part of the tour was St. Peter's tomb.  It was an incredible experience to see; this was a man who literally walked with Christ.  Amazing.  

When Constantine, emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, was in power, he put a large ten foot marble box around the monument of St. Peter.  The monument was a modest one, consisting of two pillars, each only one meter high, and an architrave.  The box Emperor Constantine had made was to keep the monument safe from invaders, as well as from pioneers who might want to take a piece from St. Peter's tomb.  When the tomb was excavated, archeologists actually dug from underneath rather than from above, which is normal.  It turns out this was a good idea, because by digging up they only encountered soft dirt which made the excavations relatively easy.  Also, if they had dug from above, the archeologists would have encountered all kinds of rock and rubble, which could possibly have damaged the tomb.  

When they excavated, they found ancient scratchings and writing on the box that covered St. Peter's tomb.  The name for scratchings in Italian?  Graffiti!  The box had ancient graffiti on it, and we were able to see it.  We also got to see a box which contains about 140 bones in it, thought by most to be the bones of St. Peter.  The bones were found and in 1960, the U.S. Army provided the Vatican with this special plexiglass type of box that would better preserve the bones.  

After seeing the tomb, we all field into a small chapel near the tomb and right beneath the Basilica.  (St. Peter's tomb is located right beneath the middle of the Basilica, by the way).  As we sat in this little chapel, we could hear the music and singing coming from the Basilica.  There was such a sweet feeling of peace and serenity as we sat in the chapel.  It was a wonderful experience.  We were told that access is limited to 150 people per day, and to be one of those few lucky people was amazing.  (Unfortunately I don't have any pictures of the underground tour, because we weren't allowed to take any).

When we completed the underground tour, we went into St. Peter's Basilica.  From the outside it looked big, but from the inside it seemed enormous!  It was beautiful, though.  So wonderfully crafted and ornamented.  I was very impressed.  We got to see the Pietá sculpted by Michaelangelo.  We were told by our Art History professor, that one time a crazy lady ran up to the sculpture and broke the foot off of Jesus.  Artists were able to repair it, but now the sculpture lies behind a very thick glass pane, which is unfortunate.

We got to see the Sistine Chapel next!  It was phenomenal!  I could have spent hours there, looking at the paintings, remembering the stories they tell, and trying to interpret more meaning from the paintings.  It was incredible.  We weren't allowed to take pictures here either (there were guards who kept shouting, "No photo, no photo!" in sweet Italian accents).  However, I have a few pictures from the rooms we went into before the Sistine Chapel.

Oh, and crazy story.  We met three other girls from BYU while we were in Rome.  They had just finished their study abroad in Spain, and were in Rome as a kind of last hurrah in Europe.  Small world, huh?

I one hundred percent wish I had more time to spend in Rome, there was just so much to see!  Here are just a few more pictures of this most spectacular city.  I definitely hope I get the chance to come back here again someday!

*I used both Wikipedia and my Rome audio guide to get information that I had forgotten! Haha :) 

Nov 12, 2011

If You Want To Be Happy, Be

Last week, Kendal and I decided to take a walk in Stadtpark, just one U-bahn stop over from the Amerika Institut.  The combination of perfect weather and beautiful fall colors made for a fabulous walk.  It was relaxing to slow down and enjoy the beauty of the park.

During the day, Vienna is pretty.  At night, Vienna is beautiful.  The other evening, after it was dark, Maddie and I walked around downtown Vienna and enjoyed the brilliantly lit buildings against their natural inky black backdrop.  It was also really great to walk around without so many people!

For our Austrian History class we took a field trip to the National Library.  I felt like I had died and gone to heaven!  There were so many books, and the architecture of the interior was incredible!


On Saturday a few of us went to Carnuntum Archeological Park.  It was about a 45 minute train ride outside of Vienna.  We saw Heidentor, which is a symbol of Carnuntum.  It is a monument that was built for Emporer Constantius II, and today is considered the best known Roman monument in Austria. We also got to see the amphitheater at Bad Deutsch-Altenburg.  The amphitheater is the only visible remains of the military town around the former legion camp.  Though it has not yet been excavated, archeologists have recently discovered (by radar) a colosseum that may rival the one in Rome.  Too bad it still hasn't been unearthed because it would have been awesome to see, especially since I'll be seeing the one in Rome later this week!  I'm so excited.