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Winter Wrap

So, winter quarter has ended and it’s now starting to feel a bit like spring in Rome, which both exciting and terrifying. I love Rome when it’s sunny, but I hate Rome when it’s hot. Sadly, these things often come hand in hand. Anyway, this is how winter quarter ended!

Damon picked me up from the train station and then we took his friend Bjorn to Bar Trilussa, an establishment that has been featured in my blog many a time. (I should be getting some sort of kick-back.) I have to say, however, that Bjorn appreciated the giraffa far more than any other guest I’ve taken to Trilussa.

Damon and Bjorn at Bar Trilussa with the infamous giraffe

The next day the three of us went to Abbey Theatre (kick-back?) to see a live rockabilly band, the Da Silva Trio. To be honest, my expectations were quite low. I mean think about it: Italians playing rockabilly. Uh, yeah… To my surprise, I was completely blown away! They were amazing. i knew almost every song and the three of us were very enthusiastic throughout their entire performance. Here’s a video I recorded of a Johnny Cash cover in which you can witness some of Bjorn’s excitement:

On Friday I took Bjorn to the Capuchin crypt. That’s the one where it looks like they used the grim reaper as an interior decorator. I’ll never forget Bjorn’s face when he first walked in. I didn’t know anyone’s eyes could get that huge. I’ve sort of forgotten how creepy that place is when you first visit. I’ve taken so many people there that I seem to be desensitized to its, um, subject matter.

Anyway, Bjorn left on Saturday and it was free Sunday at the Vatican Museums the next day. So, Damon and I drug ourselves out of bed way too early and waited in line. Despite attempts at being cut in line by nuns (that’s right, NUNS!), we made it in early and Damon saw all the things he missed when he went with his class. I also did a bit of research in the Sala dei rotundi (see below). I hope to make it to another four free Sundays before I say arrivaderci to Roma!

Vatican Museums

It was a short work week after that because I was invited on the Communications program field trip to Pompeii on Friday. After the field trip, Damon and I stayed in Naples for the weekend, but you can read about that in my next blog post.

It was only a few short days after we said goodbye to Bjorn that it was time to say hello to Josh, another one of Damon’s friends. He joined us on the field trip to Pompeii on Friday. We also managed to do the obligatory trip to the Capuchin crypt and Bar Trilussa con giraffa. On Monday Josh and I accompanied Damon to Abbey Theatre to support him at open mic night. After our rockabilly experience, I only had positive feelings toward the pub. Unfortunately, this night Abbey Theatre was filled with annoying girls who would not shut up. I could barely hear Damon and he had a microphone. Argh. As frustrating as it was, Damon still put on a great show. 🙂

The weekend after our trip south, Jocelyn came to Rome to visit me. She has been living and working in southern Spain, so it wasn’t too long of a trip for her. She arrived late Thursday night and we only had time for a few drinks before bedtime. On Friday Jocelyn visited the Vatican while I was at work. We met up later for a bit of shopping mixed with sightseeing. We managed to see the Spanish Steps before meeting up with Josh and Damon at a restaurant we found while Bjorn was in town. It was very chill the first time around, but this time it was filled with a huge group of tourists celebrating someone’s birthday. They may have had a lot to drink and they were certainly enjoying the atmosphere. I think this put us in a goofy mood as we mowed down with tambourine baby watching over us.

Dinner Party with Tambourine Baby: Jocelyn, Josh, Damon and me

Saturday morning Damon and Josh left for England. (Don’t worry! Damon’s coming back to Rome tomorrow before he heads back to Seattle for good.) In the afternoon I took Jocelyn on a tour of the Campidoglio, the forum, the colosseum, Trajan’s Forum and other goodies. It was sunny, so we were in a good mood. It was a wonderful day for sightseeing.

Jocelyn and the Arch of Constantine

On Sunday night I took Jocelyn to aperitivo jazz at Charity Cafe (another kick-back, please). However, it didn’t really turn out to be jazz. The band had a singer, drummer, bassist (with both standard and upright bass) and pianist, but they played a cover of Norah Jones and Michael Jackson’s Man in the Mirror. Weird. Anyway, it was good food and drinks and there was music. I can’t really complain.

The next morning it was time to say goodbye to Jocelyn and she hopped on a plane headed back to Spain. Hopefully my mom and I will be able to visit her in Cadiz in May. Here’s hopin!

The last few days I’ve just been relaxing and getting things ready for the conference, which starts next week. After that it’s time for spring quarter to start. A fresh batch of kids (including the art history group), a fresh batch of visitors (including, but not limited to Paige and Momma) and fresh, spring weather! I have good feelings about next quarter.

In conclusion, I am fond of parenthetical statements. Thank you.

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Dana in the Land of Pizza

The Campidoglio at sunset

The Campidoglio at sunset

Dana came to visit Leisha and me this past week. She was a nanny in Spain, but it didn’t work out, so she did a “nanny and dash” and headed to Rome. She arrived on Wednesday night and we took her to all the sights in the neighborhood: the Pantheon, Piazza Navona, and the Trevi Fountain.

On Thursday morning while Leisha and I were at work, Dana and Joey bonded while visiting the Vatican Museums together. As I suspected Joey’s favorite part was the map room. I suppose getting kicked out of the Sistine Chapel was pretty memorable as well! That night we went back to the bar in Trastevere and had another giraffa of beer together.

Day of Morbidity: Jenn, Dana, Joey and I in front of the Capuchin Crypt

Day of Morbidity: Jenn, Dana, Joey and I in front of the Capuchin Crypt

Joey designated Friday as the “Day of Morbidity” and forced us all to dress in black. Then he took us on a surprise adventure to Parrochia Sacro Cuore in Prati, a small Neo-Gothic church near Castel Sant’ Angelo. There is a small Purgatory Museum here with objects marked by people stuck in purgatory. They burn hand prints into bibles so that people will pray for their souls. The creepiest one was an altar that caught on fire and a face was charred into the frame.

Capuchin Crypt

Capuchin Crypt

That evening Joey and I escorted Dana and Jenn to yet another surprise location to bring an end to the day of creepiness. We took them to the Capuchin crypt where bones are arranged decoratively. The sign in the final room reads, “What you are now, we were once. What we are now, you will be.” To lighten up the mood a little, we visited the Spanish steps and Piazza del Popolo.

Saturday was Leisha’s last day of work so Jenn, Joey and I met Leisha and Dana down at the Colosseum. We walked along the forum and up to the Campidoglio before having dinner at the worst Irish pub ever.

Joey, Dana and Leisha at the Colosseum

Joey, Dana and Leisha at the Colosseum

On Sunday Dana and I woke up at the crack of dawn to experience St. Peter’s before mass started, before the hour of tourists dawned and before the heat set in. It was wonderful to get there so early because it seemed like the basilica was ours alone. We even saw the Pietá without having to elbow through the crowd. After seeing the church from the ground level, we climbed the hundreds of stairs up the cupola. Dana kept saying, “Slow and steady wins the race.” And sure enough, we made it. First we walked along the inside of the dome where we saw the mosaics up close and personal and heard the Sunday sermon echo through the building. After a few more stairs we were on top of the dome enjoying the view of city and examining our sweat stains. Dana won.

View of Piazza San Pietro from the top of the Dome

View of Piazza San Pietro from the top of the Dome

After the church I went with Joey and Jenn to the Porta Portese flea market. It is here that I was swindled. There was a pet store booth selling bunnies, guinea pigs, love birds and all sorts of furry friends. Being me, I naturally bought a companion for my year here in Rome. He is a miniature turtle about the size of a silver dollar. When we got back to the apartment, I was excited and began looking up information about caring for my new pet. I quickly found a website with some sobering news. “There is no such thing as a miniature turtle. If you were sold a turtle under this pretense, then you have been fooled. Your turtle is a baby and it will grow.” UH OH. In other news, my soon-to-be-gigantic turtle still has no name. Please vote below to help me choose one for my friend.

Turtle without a name

Turtle without a name


After the market, Leisha met up with us and we all watched Amelie on the big screen lying on my mattress in the middle of the conference room underneath the air conditioner. Afterwards we shared a few beers in the Campo before saying goodbye to Leisha and Dana. They will be traveling in Italy and Spain together for two weeks. Then Dana will fly home and Leisha will become my roommate.

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Raindrops on Roses

View from Salzburg Castle

View from Salzburg Castle

We woke up bright and early on Saturday morning to catch the train to Salzburg, Austria. When we arrived, we took a long walk in the rain to our hostel. Our hostel had a wonderful view of the famous Salzburg castle, but the same view showed many a construction crane as well. After dropping our things off, we walked up to the castle as a group. I have never been to a castle as disappointing as the Salburg castle. It looks glorious from the outside, but there’s really not much to see once you’ve trekked up the insanely steep hill and paid admission to get inside. Okay, so there was one thing to see: There was a medieval fair going on (kind of like a Renaissance fair). The best part was the medieval band which had a very enthusiastic oboe player.

After the castle Andrea, Sarah, Kirsten and I decided to explore the city. As it turns out, Salzburg is not that big. Our walk from the train station to our hostel covered the entire city, but during our tour in the rain we visited the cathedral, the main shopping street and the palace. In the cathedral, Kirsten and I went below to the crypts, which were less scary than the word “crypt” makes it seem. When we were on Getreidegasse, we realized it must be the “Disneyfied’ street we read about in Cultural Studies class. Even the McDonald’s had an authentic-style street sign. Finally we crossed the bridge and wandered through the gardens of the palace. Andrew met up with us here.

Looking at Salzburg Castle from the Palace Gardens with Sarah

Looking at Salzburg Castle from the Palace Gardens with Sarah

Later that night we had our (paid-for) group dinner at another very Disney-like Austrian restuarant. Andrea, Verena and I tried Himbeer Radler, beer mixed with raspberry juice. So delicious! After dinner Verena took us to a monastery, which is basically a brewery. We all shared Märzen in liter mugs!

The next morning we packed up and hopped on a train to the little town of Mauthausen. It was a quaint little Austrian town just off of the Danube, but we weren’t there for its picturesque qualities. On the top of the hill overlooking Mauthausen stands the remains of one of the most brutal concentration camps. We had a tour guide who showed us the wailing wall, laundry room, living quarters, crematorium, torture room and gas chamber. It was a very sobering experience. This concentration camp was exceptional because it was not mainly for Jewish people. This camp focused on what the Nazis deemed political radicals, criminals, the insane and social radicals (homosexuals). People from all over the world were interred at Mauthausen and they had to work in a quarry until they died. At the waling wall there are plaques dedicated to people from Poland, Spain, Russia, Italy and the list goes on and on. This really hit home the fact that the Holocaust was not limited to the Jews.

After our tour of the camp we walked down the hill back to the train station. We did the reverse of what the Mauthausen prisoners had to do. The prisoners would arrive at the normal train station and the SS would force them to walk through the town and up the hill to the camp. Therefore, many townspeople saw the Nazis’ victims walk by their front doors for six years while the camp was in use.

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