Saturday, June 17, 2006


OK this is an outdated post cos the internet in Rome was too expensive (imagine 1 euro per 1ö minutes!) Now in Budapest, with Gabor's sister, Reka in her apartment. Great place to stay and Gabor will be back on Sunday to visit us all!


Heard many stories about Rome and its lack of security, so when we reached there, we were on extra high alert. I was particularly uncomfortable with people who tried to squeeze with me on the metro, and it seemed that I was on the verge of becoming paranoid. Well, so far so good, nothing’s been pickpocketed, we are still safe, and let’s hope it will stay that way.

On the first night we reached Rome, we got confused with our hostel’s address, and it seemed that we got the correct one, Hostel Roma when we got to the initial address that CJ got off the internet. But apparently Hostel Roma and Hostel Roma Inn 2000 weren’t quite the same thing, so in the end, we had to lug our luggage over to the other place, which fortunately, wasn’t too far away.

After some pizza, we retired back to the hostel (getting some groceries for the morning breakfast before that).

14/06/2006, Wednesday

We visited Vatican City. This special independent state set in Rome itself is of course smaller than Singapore (already in itself so small). This holy state where the Pope works is visited by thousands of tourists every day, and every Wednesday (we were so lucky!) is the day he comes out to address everyone. There was a general mood of excitement in the air as the Pope came out to wave to everyone along the streets in Vatican City and lots of loud cheering were heard when he passed by a particular section of the crowd, so it was quite easy to pinpoint the exact direction which the Pope was coming from.

We took some photos, then decided to visit the Vatican Museum to avoid the crowd in the St Peter’s Square (in front of the famous St Peter’s Basilica – Basilicia di St. Pietro in Italian). But we were to wait for one and a half hours in a snaking queue before entry into the museum proper. Along the way, many vendors approached us to buy their goods (fake Prada and Gucci bags, sunglasses and postcards) and of course there were many beggars along the pavement as well. Police and Vatican Swiss Guards were crawling all over the place.

After what seemed like an eternity in the open, we finally made it to the entrance. The Vatican Museum is a place full of artworks, and it was a pity I didn’t sleep well the last night and was unable to appreciate the art pieces to the extent that I should have been able to. There were many intricate sculptures, many of religious figures, some just plain art, tapestries which showed tremendous effort and patience because of their sheer size (and beauty of course), and drawings which showed the great skill of the artists.

The whole place was just chock-full of art work and it would be a great pleasure for someone who specialized in art and history to visit the Vatican. No wonder Dan Brown’s world-famous novel, the Da Vinci Code, featured the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican City towards the finale.

After touring the Vatican Museum for almost 2 hours, we had lunch before visiting the St Peter’s Basilica. It is said that after visiting the basilica, one doesn’t really have to admire other churches anymore, and I think that this statement is not an exaggeration. The sheer size, the art pieces inside, and the whole holy atmosphere (the Pope was holding a service, what more can a Christian ask for!) was more than what I could imagine.

Dinner was a simple roasted chicken from the supermart for each of us and we met several newcomers in our hostel room. All were girls! And also, we met 2 Americans who were going to be in the same hostel as us in Vienna! From now on, I believe that the world is full of coincidences.

All right, tomorrow we will visit the Colosseum and the Foro Romani (the Roman Forum) and cover the area surrounding it. Hopefully it won’t be too strenuous. =)

15/06/2006 (Thursday)

And finally it came. I was wondering how much more my body could take. Well, so far my body has been really strong, never even falling sick once during the harsh Finnish winter. But today when I woke up, I was feeling hot and my back was aching and so were my legs. Slept in for longer than I should, and met CJ and JX at noon at the Colosseum. There, we decided to take lunch first, and after lunch, I decided to go back to sleep. Unfortunately when I reached back to the hostel, there was no one in so I slept outside for 2 hours. Then the German girl (sleeping below me in the hostel – we had double decked beds) came back and she let me in with her keys.

Talking about this German girl, I must say she has tremendous patience and is very forgiving. Cos the night before I was tossing and turning in bed due to my bad back and the stupid bed was creaking and croaking more than a frog in heat. I was so embarrassed by the sounds, but I had to move because of my back. I apologized to her in the afternoon when we were both alone in the hostel (er like now, as of me typing this) and she just smiled it off. Hopefully inside she’s not cursing and swearing haha!

Later I’m going to meet the guys at Colosseum again, when the sun goes down and it is not so hot.

Met CJ, JX and a few more Singaporeans who were also backpacking in Rome for dinner! It’s really a small world eh? Especially in Europe. Somehow I get the feeling that Europe is smaller than Singapore sometimes. LOL! All of the rest were having student exchange in Sweden, except for one who was having his in Nottingham. So the 10 of us had a hearty dinner and also a great time talking. Some of them went to more places in Europe than I did. (like Portugal, Spain, Ireland and other parts of Italy) =S

After dinner we went to take some night shots of the Colosseum and then went home to sleep.


We woke up and checked out at around 8.30am, then left our luggage at the train station’s baggage deposit. Then we explored the metro stations near Termini (Flaminio, Spagna, Barberini and Repubblica).

The most interesting thing happened when we were visiting Fontana di Trevi (The Trevi Fountain). We finally watched some pickpockets in action! There were 2 young girls, no more than 12 years of age. CJ was sharp enough to pick them out before they were doing anything at all. We were then watching them after taking photos at the fountain, and at first nothing happened at all. I then chided CJ for judging people based on appearances. But as time wore on, it became apparent (although there was still no action) that the two were indeed pickpockets. They were just hanging around in the crowd, watching people and looking at their bags. Indeed, Nima’s advice of having your bags zipped AT ALL TIMES proved to be right (although I suspect even if he didn’t say so, I would have done it out of common sense). Then it finally happened. One of the girls stood beside a lady and tried to put her hand into the lady’s bag, but the lady turned around and looked in puzzlement at the girl (maybe she felt it).

One of the girls (in white shirt) then came up to JX and talked to him in Italian but of course JX didn’t understand a word. He came to a conclusion that the girls knew we were watching them. And it was really entertaining! I took a few videos of them in action (almost always without success cos they were so clumsy HAHA!) but I think they did make off with some things though I didn’t see anything but just saw them smiling. They got caught a few times and got hit by the people involved, but they were undeterred. Weaving in between crowds, the girls just did their own business and I was just so getting entertained, when suddenly, one of them put a middle finger to us from afar. AND the other flashed her underwear at us!

DAMN I DIDN’T GET THAT VIDEO! Rightfully pissed, I am.

After all the stories about Rome, I conclude that if you are careful (or even paranoid), you can never get pickpocketed. I shall now leave Rome - land of ambulance sirens (note I specifically said AMBULANCE) and pickpockets for Budapest - land of hungry (oops Hungary!) people.


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