From the Ancient City to the Eternal One - Roman Holiday

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The Spanish Steps - Hosted by the Italians, funded by the French, named for the Spanish, occupied by the British and visited by the American
The Spanish Steps - Hosted by the Italians, funded by the French, named for the Spanish, occupied by the British and visited by the American

Leaving Athens was difficult. First arriving in Athens, everything was wonderful and new. Then after a week or so, all of the new things start to be overwhelming, resentments build over antique toilets or mopeds driving on sidewalks. Then one day you realize that you’ve finally come to accept the cement city for all of its intricate details, like worry beads, gyro stands, heat waves lack of sidewalks. The streets became familiar; the bus route becomes a rehearsed routine not an unknown adventure. The knock off purse salesman from Senegal, the woman that works at the crepery and the bank security guard give you the familiar smile and nod, and you realize you’ve adapted to your surroundings and become just another wallflower in an ancient forest.

How could I say goodbye to that? How could I ever enjoy a bus ride with out driving past Hadrian’s arch and the Olympic Stadium? The Akropolis would no longer light up my nights and greet me in the morning. My Athenian apartment will soon become occupied by new students.

Saying goodbye to the group was equally as difficult. My blog enthusiasts (Grandpa) have noticed my lack of blogging lately, this is partially because I was too busy having the time of my life in Turkey, but I’ve also been a lot more social this last semester. The group was really great, and I spent much of my free time with the other students. Our last night in Athens we got together at the professor’s house. We spent some time there eating guacamole and rehashing memories of the trip. Afterwards we went out to a big group dinner at a restaurant in the platea. It was nice to do one last group activity, with the 18 people that I had spent every moment with for the last 3 weeks.

Outdoor concert
Outdoor concert

Amanda slept over in the spare bed in the apartment so we could split a 4am cab. I savored the last time driving down the street, my last time speaking in Greek and my last views of the city. I had an inconvenient flight to get to Rome. I took a three hour flight to Paris Charles de Gaulle, and had a three hour layover there. I loved being able to speak in French. It was nice to get a little preview of the next chapter of my adventure, since I’m returning to Paris after Rome.

I had a quick flight to Rome on Alitalia airline, which I highly recommend because they had so much legroom! I arrived in Rome, found my bag easily and left the airport with out even getting a passport stamp (pretty sad about that). I took a train to the center of the city where my hostel is. My hostel is near the Termini station, which in retrospect, probably means it is a bad side of town. I got lost trying to find the hostel, but luckily I had plenty of daylight to burn and didn’t mind the walk. Its times like that when I remember why packing light is the only way to go.

check out my tan.  the group.
check out my tan. the group.

I finally made it to the hostel, having no idea what I was in for. I rang the bell and was let into the building and a strange man led me into the ‘hostel’. My first thought was ‘this is not good’. It was small, dark, cluttered with a very distinct odor. They sat me down, confirmed my reservation and I paid for my bed. I was too shocked and overwhelmed to ask to see a room first or say ‘never mind, no thank you’ and find somewhere else, so I just went along with it. As I got the tour of the 5 rooms I just kept telling myself that it was going to be an adventure, while holding back anxious tears. I got assigned to a bed in a room with 8 other beds. It was right under the air conditioner, which was nice. I didn’t quite know what to do with myself, so I just sat on my bed for a bit and read my book. (I’m reading Cider House Rules) Finally some people came into the room, four Brazilians around my age. They were speaking Portuguese, which I didn’t know and was really confusing me, because I kept hearing French and Spanish words, but I couldn’t figure out what they were saying. They were talking amongst themselves about something, and then I noticed they were all looking at me, so I said hi, they didn’t speak English, but they’re all fluent in French, so we talked for awhile.

I heard people speaking English in the lobby, so I wandered out hoping to meet some Americans. Instead I met some Canadians, which is as good as it gets, I guess. They were so nice, all traveling alone just like me. Talking with them soothed my anxieties quite a bit. Our hostel serves dinner, which is a strange experience; about 20 people sit and eat pasta and salad together in the living room. It is exactly how I imagine orphanages. Dinner was really social, and I felt so much better about being alone in Rome after talking to everyone.

A large group of us decided to go to the Spanish steps after dinner. We stopped by a grocery store and an ATM first, and then walked over. There were about 10 of us, and I was the only American. Everyone spoke English and French. Rome at night is so perfect. It wasn’t too hot, although I have extreme heat tolerance after 9 weeks in Greece, so maybe it was hot, and there are fountains on every corner, which I love. The Spanish Steps were beautiful at night, and they were having an outdoor concert. We sat on the steps with hundreds of other Romans and tourists and enjoyed the music. I was in a state of ecstasy and disbelief that my life is so perfect. Here I was in Rome, listening to an outdoor concert sitting on a famous monument with a bunch of new friends I’d met. It was surreal.

We stayed out later than I would have liked, but I wasn’t about to leave the group to venture the streets on my own at night. We made it back to the hostel and made plans to go to Vatican the next day. I slept soundly, awoke safely and am beginning to think this hostel thing may not be so bad.

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photo by: vulindlela