If London's the home of the 'ol bird, then I guess Rome would be the home of the 'ol geyser. Home of waaay too many things to list, really — although I will give it a shot: the Colisseum, St. Peter's, and the aqueduct, if I must name a few. Just in Rome for a few days, before I head south for some even better pizza.
There are some things that are expendable while travelling, and others that are essential. And a passport is about as essential as things get: which is why having been robbed of my passport over the weekend, I had to visit the Aussie Embassy today, and apply for a new emergency passport. A few hours and €90 later, and what do you know: my passport is ready, new as can be, and (for the short 6 months that it's valid) as good as the real thing. It was a hassle and a ripoff: but what can I do? I can't leave the country without a passport; I can't even go elsewhere within the EU (although in reality, there's no border control here in Europe). I'll try to be more careful with this one, than I was with the last one.
The passport crew
When I visited the Australian Embassy today, I was amazed to see that no less than four other Aussies had also had their passports stolen in Italy during the weekend — two others also on the train, one on a ferry, and another on the street. Ridiculous: theft is absolutely rife and out-of-control in this country! Plus, most of them were exercising at least as much care with their valuables as I do, if not more. There was a middle-aged couple from Wollongong, as well as two women from Melbourne, all of whom had been robbed just like me. We kept each other company in the embassy today, while we waited for our new emergency passports to be issued.
Aussie Embassy day
Seeing as how my passport was one of the victims of the train robbery on Saturday morning, today I had to go and visit the Australian Embassy here in Rome, in order to apply for a new (emergency) passport. Since the embassy's only open from Monday to Friday, I wasn't able to go until today. I had to wait around all day: but at least I had some people to keep me company; and at least they had the new passport ready for me within one day.
Collapse, by Jared Diamond
Written by world-renowned environmentalist and UCLA professor Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed is a brilliant and eye-opening book, that analyses the reasons (particularly the environmental reasons) why various past and present societies have collapsed (or are collapsing), and that presents some conclusions about how humanity's current global society can avoid a similar such tragedy. Seeing as how I've been stripped even of my reading material this weekend, I couldn't resist buying this book in Rome: and already, it's proving to be an amazing read.
Sleepy Sunday in Rome
In pleasant contrast to the madness of yesterday — where I experienced everything from nightmare, to high culture, to disappointment, to good times — not much happened today. I did some laundry. I had a coffee break. I bought a book. I grabbed a kebab. I bought a new backpack (first item from yesterday's incident to be replaced — can't do much without a day pack — cheap and dodgy, but it'll do for now). I cooked up some pasta for dinner (which my Mozambique buddy at Gulliver's shared with me). And I spent plenty of time online, gradually catching up on what I'm realising is the Great Sicilian Blogging Endeavour. A sleepy old Sunday in the heart of the ancient world.
Night out in Rome
After hanging out, meeting and greeting many of my fellow guests at Gulliver's House, this evening a few of us ventured into the city, for a bit of a night out. Pei, two of the Yanks and myself found a rather fancy trattoria restaurant at which to grab some dinner (the pasta was delicious, but small and quite expensive — this is why I generally avoid restaurants in Italy), as well as a nice jug of red house wine. As the night progressed, Pei retired back to the hostel, but myself and the two Yank boys met up with the remainder of the Yanks — the group of three girls — and together, we grabbed a few (massively overpriced but good) beers at a nearby Irish pub. I thoroughly enjoyed the night out. It gave me some much-needed socialising after my lonely ride through Sicily, plus it provided some (equally much-needed) relaxation after today's nightmare.
Yanks at Gulliver's
As with the last time that I stayed at Gulliver's House, this evening I found Rome's cosiest hostel to be virtually taken over by numerous young Americans. In particular, there were two guys who are currently studying up in Germany, and who came out with Pei and myself for some dinner. Plus, there were a bunch of girls (also studying in Europe) who joined us later on for drinks. Nice group of kids, although a bit loud and obsessed with American football.
Pei from Hurstville
Pei's a dinky-dai Aussie girl from the Hurstville area, in Sydney's south. Her family's of Chinese origin, although she can barely speak Chinese herself, and considers herself to be as true-blue as the rest of 'em. Pei's travelling for several months, and has just arrived in Europe from sunny Thailand, where she's been backpacking for the past several weeks (so I had plenty of questions to ask her — since I'm off to Thailand after Europe). I went out with Pei and with several other people at Gulliver's House this evening, for a bit of dinner and fun.
When I returned to my old Rome hostel this afternoon — Gulliver's House — I hadn't yet checked in. And it seemed unlikely that I ever would. After my time down in Sicily, I haven't just grown careless about guarding my personal possessions: I've also come to be slack about making advance reservations. I have no booking; and Gulliver's (along with every other decent hostel in Rome) is completely full for the next two nights. Eek! Had I not stayed at the place before — and had I not happened to run into some very nice and sympathetic staff, who are working there at the moment — I doubt that they would have even tried to accommodate me. But I had been there before, and I'd just been robbed, and I was desperate: so they worked something out for me.
Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel
One of the main reasons that I came back here to Rome — apart from the necessity of having to collect my large backpack, which I left before going to Sicily — was to see the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel. When I was here three weeks ago, I managed to see the Vatican Church and St. Peter's Basilica; but my efforts at seeing the rest were thwarted. Last night's horrendous theft on the train has obviously left me traumatised — and to tell the truth, I didn't feel like doing anything today — but I decided that I shouldn't let that completely spoil the rest of the day; so I gave the outstanding Vatican sights one more shot. And this time, I finally got in.