So I finally resume my travelogue after a pause that is much beyond a break. To be frank, I never had the time to sit and write during the latter stages of my trip, and then surely lacked motivation. But with recent encouragement from a few friends, I’ve decided to start again (and as the wise men say – better late than never). The tough part was from where to start. I guess the silver medal winner in my opinion would be the best (having already written about the gold winner – Paris).
The eternal city as it is called – more commonly known as Roma or Rome – is definitely a city with more history and contribution to the world than maybe any other. Epicenter of probably the most imperial and powerful empire the world has ever known, it has seen all the trials and tribulations of mankind since the past 2800 years.
Rome is also called the city of seven hills, ofcourse due to the surrounding terrain, and on one of this, the famous “Palentine hill” is where it all began. Legend has it that long ago two brothers Romulus and Remus were raised by a she wolf – and the myth’s given official status in the form of the city’s symbol (its a she wolf feeding two human children). Eventually as always happens in history, the great arrive riding the chariot driven by victory and tragedy, so too Romulus did sometime in BC 750 after killing his brother to win the city and he founded his base on Palantino. There is a line of thought that the modern word “Palace” originates from the adobe Romulus built for himself here.
What happened then as they say is history and I’ve no inclination of reiterating it here. As soon as I reached Roma Termini, I knew I was somewhere different. Yes there was the crazy Rome traffic everyone warns you about, but hailing from India, it seemed quite nice actually. The hostel I stayed in was an absolute dream. I mean among all the other comforts was also a small incentive that I happened to be in a 8 bed dorm with 6 other occupants being from the fairer sex
As I started walking, the heat immediately made me realise I was nearer the Mediterranean than I had been for the past month or so. But nothing refreshes you more than an Italian Gelato. Having already spent a few days in Italy, I was quite disappointed with the Roman Gelatos. Maybe they face the same fate which all traditional things do in a megapolis like Rome, Bombay or London. But what certainly isn’t diluted is the remnants of the Roman empire. Being able to drink from cold water fountains that are still being served by underground aqueducts hailing from the era of the Roman forum, you know this place has seen something special.
However none of this can prepare you from avoiding a wide-mouthed-stupid-gawk taking over your (handsome?) face once you stand before the Colosseum. It just seems to rise up from the ground and merge with the sky (I don’t want to use the clichéd term “colossal” here). Though ofcourse a large part has collapsed thanks to the Vatican, who totally stripped it off all the exotic marble and other precious stone that once adorned it, but even in this nakedness, the pockmarked stones warn the visitor to approach it with caution and respect. That thousands bled here – many to their death – is impossible to picture as the place looks like a grand theater, which again was what it was called then. Thanks to the Hollywood epic “Gladiator”, hardly does anyone know the real name for this magnificent structure – Amphitheatrum Flavium (the Flavian Amphitheater), after the Flavian dynasty that commissioned its construction.
The movie probably did the marvel a great favour by making it folklore throughout the world, but nevertheless it also portrayed it in quite a different essence. Every guide in Rome (wherever he may be showing you around) makes it a point to bring out the fact that the Gladiators of that era would have been contemporaries of todays Ronaldos and Bolts. They were super stars, rich and received excellent care (though they were confined to live in teh gladitorial schools . The top men hardly dueled to death, and most formed the coup de grace of any games. Death mostly fell upon lower mortals such as thieves, enemies of the state and exotic animals brought from the vast expanses of the empire. Yes it was a dangerous sport and injuries (sometimes fatal) were inevitable, but those unfortunate to die were generally the new comers trying to make a name for themselves. The best always received top notch medial care (sometimes by the royal druid himself) as in today’s world.
I really want to write more here, especially the feel while standing where once thousands of blood thirsty Romans would have cheered for carnage. Sadly that’s impossible to bring here, cause how do you bring out the echo and the imposing walls in words. So in the next part I would tell a bit about the Roman forum, that great man Julius Ceaser and then another grand chapter in the city’s history, Renaissance and the Vatican. So while I know this post was a bit drab due to all the history, am sure that it was also a bit engaging and mystifying like the city itself. See you all in a few days then…