How comforting, seeing as technically we haven't had a home for two months and won't have one for another couple of weeks!
When we were booking our Rome accommodations, we stumbled upon Hotel Turner.
We looked no further.
[I know it sounds a little strange to make a decision based upon having the same name as the hotel, but in three months time we have had to discuss and finalize an estimated 50 decisions on where to stay (and end up changing most of those decisions), 90 decisions on where to eat, and countless other less important, but equally as stressful, ones. Decisions become monotonous and very difficult to make after a while. At this point in our trip, we will do anything to make a snappy decision!]
We had a mere 72 hours in Rome, so we had to utilize every ounce of time. We mostly ate street food for our meals, though we had quite the breakfast. Hotel Turner was considered a 4-star hotel (though it's day was up a long time ago)... Imagine gold and marble and floral patterns everywhere you look. So because the hotel was still trying to cling to their stars, buffet continental breakfast was included in the price and was served on white table clothes...
...Andrew and I have learned not to expect too much from European breakfasts... No greasy eggs and bacon. Instead, what it typically includes is various sliced lunch meats and cheeses, rolls, yogurt and granola, cheap cereals, lots of jams, prepackaged toasts, "coffee" from a machine, and usually fruit juice. While Hotel Turner did have some of the above, the majority of their breakfast selection was cake...more than ten different kinds of cake: coffee cake, lemon cake, cake with peach jam swirled in it, cake with grape jam swirled in it, cake with raspberry jam swirled in it.... You get my point.
I'm not REALLY sure any tourist is okay with eating cake for breakfast. Maybe it was just the overwhelming amount of mysterious, day old, once-frozen cakes served by waiters in three-piece suits that made me laugh each morning. I mean, all they would have to do was put all that cake energy into a huge bucket of scrambled eggs, and we would be much happier. And fuller.
When we get back to Lancaster, the first thing I want to do is go to Shady Maple for their breakfast buffet.... So I can remind myself what the beauty of breakfast really is. Who's with me?
Rome was exciting, eventful, and sometimes depressing. I had trouble thinking happy, touristy-thoughts while exploring the ruins of a buildings, such as the Colosseum, where bloodsport equaled entertainment, where people's lives were thrown away, where gladiators were forced to fight to a gruesome death!! As much as I appreciate the history and beauty of the Colosseum, I value life too much to be able to disregard the centuries of injustices that took place there... No matter how entertaining Russel Crowe may make it seem.
I had to take a few days to collect my thoughts, or even figure out what I was thinking, before I wrote this blog. I wrote. Deleted. Rewrote. I'm still trying to understand all the unexpected emotions that Rome brought on... anger, sadness, awe, appreciation. The best I can say is that I felt a heaviness present, one that as I sit here reflecting on it, even brings tears to my eyes.
Rome represents life. And death. And power. And everything between.
It represents thousands of years of being human, of us doing our best and of us doing our worst.
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<< If you can't tell yet, this blog entry is going to cut through my usual shallow sarcastic crap, and probably reveal a dry, cynical, and spiritual side of me.>>
Because Rome is super religious/spiritual/Christian (I'm at a loss as to which word to use) and because I also consider myself religious/spiritual/Christian, I have much to say. I sincerely apologize, ahead of time, for any of my readers and friends who I may offend with my thoughts. Here goes...
In no way do I claim to know everything, especially things having to do with God...
... I don't believe any human can know everything.
I believe each of us has been created by God.
I believe the entire world has been created by God.
I believe that whether we like it or not, or whether we know it or not, being created forces us to have an automatic connection... a bond... with the creator.
(how much we acknowledge that connection is up to us)
I believe the life we live, and the connection with creatorGod that we have, is always changing both us and the world.
I believe this creator speaks to us through everything that is created.
And I believe that one example of how to connect with creatorGod is to love, respect, and value all that is created around us.
(So you can start to see why the Colosseum's gladiator games have effected me so much.)
- - -
Back to our adventures...
We visited three main sights: the Vatican, the ruins, and the catacombs.
The feelings that the Vatican brought to light took me by surprise. I first felt awe. Then anger. Then sadness. Then it gave me the creeps. Then I couldn't wait to get out of there.
At first sight, the Vatican's cathedral represents wealth. Extreme wealth. Very extreme wealth.
Wealth that will still look wealthy through all the ages.
Also power. Extreme power.
I am aware that some say the reason for the Vatican's magnificent beauty is to honor and bring glory to God. But realizing the amount of focus (time, money, etc) that has been invested into it through the years has left me with a super unsettled feeling. I mean, imagine the numbers of people that could have been HELPED with those means.
(I know some of you will say Well Melissa, how many people could have been helped with the money you spent on those new pairs of shoes you keep buying? I know, I know. But there has GOT to be a line drawn somewhere. For me, the obviously extreme amounts of money and time that was used to build and maintain the Vatican has crossed that line infinitely more than anything else I have experienced so far.)
The Vatican represents the Catholic Church. To some people, the Vatican represents the entire Christian faith.
Some say being Catholic is being Christian. Others say being Catholic is very different than being Christian. And while these lines may be blurred or gray or just plain confusing, and while the words 'catholic' and 'christian' mean many different things depending on who you are, my sadness has come from realizing that to many people the Vatican does, at least nominally, represent Christianity.
To me, Christianity involves God+Jesus+Holy Spirit, values Creation, gives to those in need, treats others with equality, and is outwardly focused. When I walked into the Vatican, I felt like I was entering a rich, white man's club. I felt that it was trying to prove something... wealth and power of ages past and present. I felt it was trying to give honor in too many places at once. To me, it was very inwardly focused. It seemed to shout Here! Look at me! Look how much money and power it takes to serve this God properly.
(Just so you know, I've had a hard time walking into many churches these past few years... My experience at the Vatican has just ended up serving as a symbol for all that has made my heart hurt... Too much money and attention and focus given to what goes on inside the four walls of the church... Instead of taking a page from Jesus' play book and meeting the needs of beings outside of those four walls.)
To me, the magnificence the Vatican displayed has demonstrated everything my Anabaptist heritage has rebelled against.
Quick history lesson (Andrew would be proud)... Back in the day, the Anabaptist movement (think Amish or Mennonite) started by rebelling against both the Protestant and Catholic theologies and views of their day. Long story short, we are now known for pacifism, humbleness, and for insisting upon the separation of church and power (only submitting to God, NOT human authorities).
Besides all that serious stuff, there were just too many creepy statues there for the interior designer in me.
Have I officially depressed you yet?
Changing topics: Andrew brought up a good point the other day... Isn't it interesting how it was the Romans who crucified Jesus... And now Rome is inundated with doing everything it can to honor Him? There are crosses everywhere! On top of gargoyles, random statues, former pagan temples, etc. EVERYTHING has been Christianized in Rome!
Next stop? The ruins of the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. These ruins were once the heart of the ancient city... including the town square, numerous temples, homes, gardens, etc. Thankfully, no heavy emotions from my end here. Just a curiosity as to what exactly went on years ago. My favorite spot was the temple built to Venus... It was tucked away in a remote corner and I was able to sit, ponder, and reflect on what kind of role the temple played back in the day.
(and honestly, after visiting the Vatican the day before, I wondered if in another couple of thousands of years, the Vatican will be considered an ancient ruin and some tourist named Melissa will be able to sit and ponder its meaning and role in society...)
We spent three hours strolling through the ruins. It was well worth it.
Then we headed to the Colosseum. And well, you've already heard my thoughts about that.
Last stop? The Christian catacombs. These were out of the city a bit, and were used by people who did not want to cremate their dead (cremation was customary at that time). And while nothing spectacular stood out to me during this 20-minute tour (I think I was already too emotionally drained...), it did annoyingly remind me that life is short... to dust we will return.
I think I will skip Rome next time we come to Italy.
I'm pretty famous for my disclaimers. I feel the need to add one here mostly because I am the wife of a theologian who may possibly be a church leader some day. So here goes...
Disclaimer: This blog consists of MY thoughts and opinions. While Andrew and I may agree on some things, we also disagree on some things. So if you want to know HIS thoughts on our Rome experience, you should ask him.
I'm not quite sure how to end this...
How do I usually end?
Oh, yes, The Turner FLACH Rating? An emotionally heavy 4 stars!