Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Rome: The arrival

Everyone's trip to Rome will be different. Although this seems obvious on the one hand, another part of me finds this paradoxical. When so many people come to the same place, how can the experiences be so vastly different?

Yet they are. Perhaps this is why so many sages and students throughout the generations have embarked on Roman pilgrimmages. No matter how one gets there or what one does there, a trip to Rome seems to change a person.

Our Roman pilgrimmage got off to a rough start. Landing at 7:30 a.m. (12:30 a.m. CST) after an 8 hour "overnight" flight, Bethany and I were both severly exhausted, but very excited to off the plane. And I think we let the adrenaline of running through our systems fool us into thinking that we weren't THAT tired ...

"Should we take a taxi or a train?" Such a simple question, but one with dramatic consequences for us.

I asked Bethany if she were up to a train ride followed by a five block hike (with our luggage, mind you) to the Hotel Europa, our first place on the itinerary. Bethany said "sure," probably not realizing that we were both shortly in store for an adrenaline crash.

As we scrambled to board the "Leonardo Express," a direct link between the Fumicino airport and Rome's central train station (Stazione Centrale Roma Termini), we had our first of several stressfull moments.

I had read in one of my traveller's guides that one should be sure to get one's ticket punched before boarding a train, but as we raced along the boarding platform with luggage in tow, no ticket controller was in sight.

Seeing a man in uniform helping a woman to lift some heavy baggage onto one of the passenger cars, we boarded the train and hunted him down, only to dicover that he was an American airline pilot. We asked a few passengers for help and one finally responded that on the airport end, the ticket validation was automated. So we disembarked and I ran to get our tickets stamped.

We missed the train by mere moments. But we waited about 12 minutes and the next one promptly arrived. That's the great thing about Italian trains (at least in the post-Mussolini era): they run like clockwork, even at the extreme ends of the line.

As we joined the rippling tide of humaity that had gathered for the rush-hour train, a tide surging towards the incredibly narrow channels that were the train doors, we divided our luggage between us. I took the two larger bags (plus my backpack), while Bethany took the two smaller roller bags (plus her purse/toiletry bag and Buddy's camera case).

If Bethany struggled to get her bags through the narrow doors, up the steps and around the corner, my struggle felt Herculean, as one of the bags I was carrying (for the record, it was mine) was so heavy I could hardly lift it alone, much less with the additional weight I was carrying.

In the end, it was the rolling tide of humanity that made the difference for me. Every time I would buckle under the weight, I was held upright by the constant press of human bodies behind me.

The loenardo Express bypasses all the regular metro and train stops. As we blazed by stop after stop, I tried to triangulate our position on our maps to no avail (I was later told by a local that our "American maps," though written in Italian, were far from complete.

We finally arrived at the Termini stop, and then the fun really began. Which I will have to tell you later, because it is not time for dinner.

To be continued ...


Blogger Malaysian Debster said...

I'm so glad you're journaling about your trip on the blog. Easy to keep up this way! I was in fact just trying my luck to see if you were doing this right. =)

Have tons of fun. Can't wait to hear more crazy stories...

3:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glad to hear that ya'll arrived safely! You've been in my thoughts and prayers!!! Have fun and take lots of pictures!!!

10:24 AM  

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