On my very last day in Rome I checked out of my hotel, stored my luggage, and hopped on the subway to the Vatican, bound for the Sistine Chapel. Unfortunately, the Sistine Chapel has been closed for the past two days for some important religious holiday, so on the day it reopened there was a backlog of tourists anxious to see this site before leaving the Eternal City. By the time I arrived the lines wound around the Vatican Museum and down the street, nearly to the entrance of Saint Peter’s Basilica.
For two and a half hours I stood on line, baking under a brutal August sun, buckets of sweat pouring off me. When I finally reached the entrance there was another line to buy tickets – 13 Euros (about $17 US) gained me entrance to the Vatican Museums, the courtyards, the grounds, the numerous historical rooms inside the Vatican leading to the Sistine Chapel, and to the Chapel itself. Past the ticket booth the traffic thinned out a bit and I breathed a sigh of relief – I do not do well in large crowds for lengthy amounts of time, as I seem to have a hard time shielding myself from the energy of all those people in one place at the same time. I followed the signs and climbed the stairway to the upper level, only to encounter another mad crush of people at what appeared to be the entrance to the Sistine Chapel. It turned out to be the entrance to the route LEADING TO the Sistine Chapel. During the ensuing two hours I plodded through endless corridors leading to scores of chambers with walls and ceilings covered in frescoes. Continue reading
In Southeast Asia I visited Buddhist monasteries and temples. In Bali it was Hindu and Buddhist temples. On the African continent it was Moslem mosques, and in Singapore all the denominations were represented, peacefully co-existing alongside one another. Here in Rome, Catholicism reigns supreme, and there are literally hundreds of churches, chapels, and Basilicas waiting to be discovered. I have always been fascinated by religion – in fact, I have been baptized four different times in four different religions – and I make it a point to visit the local churches, mosques and temples wherever I go.
Each religion is unique, with its own history, stories and gods, but the one thing they all have in common is stairs. Yes, stairs! I climbed up more than 300 steps to the Buddhist temples atop Marble Mountain in Vietnam and at least 400 steps led to the top of Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Saint Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City doesn’t disappoint in this category and as with all the other sites I have visited, I took on this climb as well. There are 550 steps to the top of the cupola, the final 320 of them being a narrow, spiral staircase wide enough for only one person. That meant no stopping – there were people behind me the entire way and if I stopped to rest Continue reading