June 23, 2013
EUROPEAN TOUR CENTRAL
ROME -- Northwestern Volleyball spent the final day of its 2013 European Tour on a whirlwind excursion through the Italian capital of Rome. The Vatican, the Colosseum and the Imperial Roman ruins were all on the menu for a busy Saturday.
Redshirt junior Katie Dutchman provides a detailed rundown of the Roman adventure for today's blog entry:
Our final day in Europe was the favorite for the majority of the group. Roma, Italia was fantastic. A lot was seen and a lot of walking was done; luckily it was the coolest day (temperature) we endured on our European tour. We anxiously began our day at 8:15 Saturday morning when our guide, Alma, picked us up and walked us to the underground Metro Station. We walked down about 3 flights of shockingly long stairs until we finally arrived in what felt like the center of the earth. A quick five-minute ride took us to our first stop of the day: the Vatican! Everyone except Keylor and KJ, who had already seen the Vatican on their last trip to Italy, waited in a nice, two-hour line that wrapped around the Vatican walls. Luckily, shade covered our path and we were not without entertainment. Unsuccessful salesmen constantly offered us hats, water bottles, umbrellas and fast passes to the front of the line. "One euro!! One euro!!" and "It's free. Only 32 euros to skip the line!" were some phrases we are all too familiar with. Kraus kept the persistent salesmen at bay by attempting to sell a paper crane back to them, giving them a taste of their own medicine.
At last, we reached the front, walked through security and made our way in. The girls wandered through the Musei Vaticani for a while and then eventually began the path towards the Cappela Sistena. Walking through long crowded hallways of beautifully painted or sculptured ceilings, lined with artifacts collected over the centuries, was a wonderful experience but cannot compare to standing in the Sistine Chapel. The exquisite detail and beauty of this hall painted by Michelangelo cannot be easily expressed in words. It was especially exciting to appreciate in person the well-known painting of God reaching out his hand to give life to mortal Adam. While we would have liked to get a picture of the ceiling on our iPhones to treasure this moment forever, we did not because that is totally not allowed...
With time running out before we had to meet back up in the big group, a few of us speed-walked the five minutes to St. Peter's Square. This was an impressive site. We felt the magic of standing in the square where billions of people have waited to see their Pope. We were running low on time when we decided to get food over visiting St. Peter's Basilica. That was the worst decision we have made this trip.
Later in the day, a sweet couple from Ohio who live in Canton, 10 minutes away from my grandparents(!!), told us that Papa Francesco himself had blessed the Basilica and its visitors with his presence just 10 minutes after we left. We would have seen the Pope. Let this be a warning to all future visitors of the Vatican. Don't pass up visiting the Basilica, just in case!
As a full group again, we headed to the Colosseum for our private tour. Wow. It is just an awesome experience to be inside this humongous stadium that, in its prime, held only 10,000 less people than Ohio State's football stadium and it was constructed around 70 AD. The only part we did not enjoy was the fact that women along with slaves were shunned to the nosebleed section, an area that has crumbled away over the many centuries since its construction. The guided tour was great because we had all of our questions answered. The structure is made from a mixture of marble, brick and stucco, and was painted vibrant colors when it was still in use. Different gates let different guests in: one for the emperor and his family, one for the citizens, one for the wealthy upper-class who privately funded the whole project, and one for the gladiators. A special exit was made for carrying the dead gladiators out! In the center, a wooden floor covered in sand was built over two floors where the gladiators prepared and the animals were housed. Here, the battles took place, man against man or man against beast!
Next we visited the Roman Forum and other ruins of Imperial Rome. Our tour guide took us to the "belly button of Rome," the first structure of Rome where they sacrificed animals to the underworld gods to protect the city from their wrath. We saw the tomb of Caesar, built in his honor by Augustus, where people still place flowers on the anniversary of his death. A pillar near the belly button was considered the center of Rome, where all roads began, hence the phrase, "All roads lead to Rome." After visiting the Imperial Roman ruins, we saw the palace built in the nineteenth century for the first king of Rome. The impeccably white palace was a stark contrast to the ruins we had just visited, demonstrating the architecture of modern Rome.
After our guided tour, we were given some freedom to travel down Via del Corso, a busy street lined with shops where the girls bought presents for friends and family. We slowly made our way towards the Pantheon. It was shocking to be walking down small side streets with cute little restaurants and shops, and suddenly happen across this a massive circular temple in the middle of it all. And of course we couldn't forget to stop for our last gelato of the trip! *tear* Guess we will just have to stick to Andy's Custard. Finally, we made our way to the Piazza de Navano, a long rectangular piazza with a large fountain and obelisk in the center. Surrounding the fountain was a street market for artists selling watercolors of different landmarks or sights of Italy. We relaxed in the Piazza for a while, enjoying our last moments in the heart of Rome. Then we headed back to the hotel, and feasted on some classic Italian meals of bread, bruschetta, pizza, two types of pasta, salad and chicken. And at last at 10 p.m. it was off to pack up our new purchases, hide away the smelly gym clothes, and get a nice three-hour nap before waking up to head back to America!
This trip has been such a blessing for us. I have been dreaming of visiting Europe for a long time, and to be able to carry out that dream at a relatively young age and with my best friends is amazing. Just like my attempts to describe the awesomeness of the Vatican, Colosseum and ruins, I am at a loss for explaining how much this trip meant to me and how much fun we had together. We had a blast as a great big happy extremely loud family (louder than an Italian family if you can believe it) and we only grew closer. We played some very talented teams, against girls who will one day be in the Olympics, much like the Big Ten. It was a great preparation for the season to come and we are eager to get to business this summer before preseason begins. Thanks to everyone who supported the NUVB progam in so many different ways and helped us experience this awesome adventure. It means the world to us.
P.S. - I'll most likely be posting pictures from my camera on a website so people can access them and you can see what a fun time we had! Thanks and lots of love mom and dad for the camera that documented this once in a lifetime trip! ☺
Editor Note: Senior Stephanie Holthus will provide one final blog for NUsports.com on Monday. Plenty of pictures from the trip will be posted in the coming days on the European Tour Central page.
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