Sunday, May 5, 2013

Far From the Madding Crowd; Sunday Part 2

"Wherever I went, I was on the
wrong end of the stampede."
~ Rachel Cohn

Please allow me to take up with our visit to Rome yesterday even though this is a bit out of order. There's a train story, but that one is a bit harder to reconcile, so it will have to wait until tomorrow.

We arrived in Rome around 9 am yesterday and quickly took the metro to the Vatican. When we arrived there at 9:45 or so, the line was already long and getting longer. If you look at the photo from yesterday, you can get some idea of how long the line was. What you cannot see is that it was also wide. Between five and six people walked abreast, shuffling along to get first to the security scanners and then again to the entrance to the basilica.

I was not wild about joining, but Mike wanted to go into the basilica, so we joined what we thought was the end of the line. The people in back of us, from what we could tell, were with a large group. They spoke neither English nor Italian (nor Spanish, for that matter), and very quickly, they were forcefully pushing forward.

"If that woman knocks into me one more time, I'm going to slap her," I hissed. Crowds, you may remember, turn me into one nasty person.

"You'll be okay," Mike said as he moved over to give me a bit more space. That did not matter.

"Ouch! Damn it." I was not happy that she not only knocked into me but also stepped on my foot. If I had been brave enough, I would have slapped her. Instead I stopped short and let her push ahead of me. "God, forgive me for being mean, but if you are up there, please get me away from these nuts." I was trying to be nice.

It took about 10-15 minutes, but we finally made it to the security scanners. While there were three of them, most people had to push and shove to get through the first one. Mike noticed that the second and third ones had no lines, so he pulled me out of the line and through those.

"The pusher," I said, "is still waiting for that first scanner." It was definitely not nice to gloat, but I think it was someone's way of telling me He was looking out for my sanity.

For another 10-15 minutes, we limped towards the entrance to St. Peter's. The closer we got, the more people started to shove forward. A little man behind me jabbed me a few times.

"I have nowhere to go," I snapped. When we got to the steps directly in front of the door, he pushed with his shoulders, throwing me off-balance. I'd had it. "IF HE SHOVES ME ONE MORE TIME, I'M GOING TO FALL BACKWARDS AND SQUASH HIM." I tell you. I can get mean.

"He's an old man," Mike whispered to me as he ushered me to the step in front of him.

"I'm not a teenager," I quipped back. "And old or not, he has no right to be RUDE." I was to the point of being really rude myself.

"He's probably excited about being here," my dear husband said trying to reason with me. Finally through the door, he pulled me towards the Pieta before I could say anything else.

Of course, everyone wants to see the Pieta, so as soon as they enter the basilica, they head to the right where Michelangelo's beautiful sculpture sits behind bullet-proof glass. The crowd was probably 50-60 deep which is understandable. I saw some people softly crying, which I appreciated. I'm not sure if it was the beauty of the sculpture or what it stood for (or that someone stomped on them), but their emotion was understandable.

The sad part of the crowd here and at other altars around the basilica was that group leaders held up flags, umbrellas, sticks with stupid, stuffed snakes, and other things. Worse, they waved them back and forth constantly while jabbering to the groups they lead. A loud buzz reverberated throughout the church.

Mike and I walked toward the main altar and stood in the crowd waiting to get to the barricade so we could see it without having to look over others' heads. Each time someone moved away, we moved closer until we were behind the front lines. People from behind pushed forward. A group leader almost knocked me in the head with the umbrella he was waving. I tried to hold my tongue since we were in a holy place, but when one lady knocked me sideways so she could rush into the open spot in front of me, I gave up.

"It doesn't matter," I said to Mike. "I've been here before. I'm going this way."

We once again stumbled along behind a herd of people wearing orange scarves (TOUR GROUP!!) until they stopped dead in the middle of an aisle. It was there, with others trying to move from one side to the other, that the tour guide decided to stop and talk to his group of 20 or so. I almost ran into the man who was in front of me when he put on the brakes.

"Don't up and stop where people can run into you," I said a little too loudly. No matter. He was listening to the guide via audio box and didn't pay attention to me.

From that point on, I tried to stay away from any crowd of people, not an easy thing considering the mass of humanity in the church. If I noticed an altar or statue that had fewer people surrounding it, I went that way. If I saw a group heading my way, I went the other way. That's what, in the end, saved my sanity.

I mentioned yesterday that I'd asked one of the Vatican workers how many visitors they have a day. He told me, if you remember, that they have 200,000 minimum. I have a hard time believing that number, but considering that the basilica can hold over 50,000 people at a time and that it was very crowded yesterday, maybe he deed-a not-a keed-a me.

Below, I hope, is one of the videos Mike shot in the basilica. It was when we were in front of the main altar, I think.

Tomorrow, the train adventure.....

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