Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Eternal City

Last month I finally had my Roman holiday. Already in love with Italy from last summer's visit to Tuscany, this is one city I had been dying to see and it didn't disappoint.

The spectacular architecture, amazing art, and warm climate was even better than I had expected. However, my main reason for wanting, no NEEDING this weekend away, was to eat.

Since the moment my friend, Elmira, mentioned going to Rome, my taste buds started to tingle. I tried to starve myself for two days prior to departure in order to make room for all the cheese and gnocchi and pizza. It didn't really work... I couldn't be satiated. I ate every meal as it were my last supper. I even ate extra meals. Just writing it about now is making uncomfortably hungry (I guess I could have some dill-covered sushi from around the corner). Seriously, the food is amazing. I probably gained an extra 15lbs to my girlish figure and knew it was happening but kept telling myself 'when in Rome...'

Elmira's friend, Pavel, who almost missed the plane (it takes longer to get to the airport in Moscow from home than it does to get to Rome) in front of the Colosseum.

I like angels - they're everywhere in the Vatican museum.

This is outside of St. Peter's Basilica. The queues were crazy. We waited almost three hours to see the museum and then another lineup to get into the Basilica. All that waiting and pointless picture taking caused my camera battery to run out. But take my word, it's a must see when in Rome.

In the centre is Michelangelo's 'Creation of Man'. Here, in the Sistine Chapel, they were making announcements over loud speakers not to take photos, but no one was listening. It's a pity there was such chaos with all the tourists in this sacred place. I managed to find a place to sit quietly (once I put my camera away) and gaze up at the beautiful ceiling and walls.

Elmira and I made our wishes in
Trevi fountain. Legend has it that if you toss a coin behind your back, you'll return to Rome. This fountain, constructed in 1762, holds water from a 19th Century BC aqueduct bringing water from 20 km away.

I went there three times during the weekend and it was always packed with people - day or night. Luckily, I enjoy people watching, too.

I probably went into 20 churches over the course of the weekend. They're everywhere, along with other ancient buildings and and partial buildings. Just walking around is a pleasure.

One of the most interesting and most preserved buildings is the Pantheon. I think it was rebuilt sometime in the 1st century (unfortunately, I was missing my Lonely Planet this time). The construction of this building completely baffles me. I know there's a hole in the ceiling and tiny holes in the floor for drainage. I think you should just go to Rome and see it for yourself. In fact, I think I'll go, too. This city is special and the Italian people are warm and lovely as ever. Thank God for the delicious food they make. Ilsa recommends!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving Canada!

There's no equivalent to Thanksgiving in Russia that I'm aware of, but Moscovites had been enjoying a beautiful Indian Summer up until last week when it started raining like mad.
The Russian name for this fabulous weather is 'babeih leto' which kind of means 'women's summer', but the woman is a pre-teen'. Outside of Moscow, they call it 'Golden Summer'.

My friend, Elmira, took me to a new park where a palace has been constructed in honor of Catherine the Great. Apparently she had commissioned one on these grounds back in her day, but was unhappy with the construction and ordered a halt to it. A couple more attempts had been made to complete it with no success. Last month, they finally finished these unique pieces of architecture and it's now the most beautiful place in Moscow (not so much by the architecture as the surroundings). The rest of Moscow decided to check it out the same weekend so we were stuck in traffic for two full hours enroute.

It certainly was nice to get out and enjoy the nature though. At the moment Park Tsaritzino is clean and green and lacks the garbage we see everywhere else in this city.
I took a peek inside the castle and saw a chandelier the size of Saskatoon... typical Russian style... over the top!!

Last weekend I found my new favourite place to shelter myself from the rain. It's a very expensive mall with an average-priced food court and no people. Seriously, no one knows about it yet. My friend Faith and I checked it out last Saturday. There were rows of ready-to-serve places with friendly clerks and no customers. Only us. We tried out the Uzbekistan/Mexican grill. Quite tasty, although could do with more spice. The shops are nice enough to look at - one could buy a sporty toque for $40 or a nice pair of shoes for $750. I bought a kiwi in the expensive grocery store for $5. Yummy.

I helped Faith move into her new old flat. I wonder if a turkey would fit into this this 'cooker'.

Hope you're all having a wonderful Thanksgiving. Also Happy Birthday to Mom, Clem, Auntie Hilda, and Happy Anniversary Chandra & Clem... hope I'm not missing anyone.