Monday, June 16, 2014

Eurotour 2014: Rome

I left Tunisia early on a Friday. The night before, I planned to go out with my friend Ahlem, and then go back to spend the night at Salma's, where I had been staying for two weeks already. Ahlem offered me a bed to sleep in at her friend's house, so since we'd be out later, and it was a little far, I figured why not. Sleepover! We went and met up with the two law students and their friend, and then we went to grab pizza and chat. It was already getting late, so we bid adieu to them and went back to Ahlem's friend's house. Her husband works somewhere in sub-Saharan Africa as an oil engineer, so it was us three and her two kids (who are the same age as mine, and remarkably but Arab-typically awake at 11 pm). We at strawberries and whipped cream, tea with macademia nuts, and chatted.

I finally went to bed, knowing I had to wake up at 6 am to catch my flight, but couldn't sleep at all. Probably one of my worst nights of sleep ever, not sure what it was (maybe the late night tea, I think it's caffeinated). It was fine though, I woke up and got to the airport, which was only a few minutes drive, and checked in to my flight. We boarded the plane and then sat then what seemed like at least an hour. Turns out there was an elderly women who could not walk up the stairs to the plane, and so they needed to get a special lift for her. And that takes an hour, apparently. I wasn't feeling terribly confident in the airline, and then the pilot said "Arabic Arabic Arabic I can't understand... inshallah." I had never heard a pilot say "inshallah" before take-off before, but if you speak Arabic, you can understand that's not terribly comforting. Inshallah literally means "god-willing" but Arabs often use it to get out of social arrangements... like "of course I will there, inshallah!" It's used in plenty more contexts than that, and I'm sure pilots say it all the time, but I never noticed it and for some reason that simple word made me a nervous wreck the whole flight. I'm a nervous flier anyway, I have fairly bad anxiety on an airplane, and could not focus on anything else. Knowing that I had five more flights ahead of me, I was full of dread. Luckily, the four of the five I have taken were without incident and I am safely in New York.

Since our flight was coming from Tunis, and there is a big problem of illegal immigration, as soon as we stepped off the flight we were brusquely corralled into an hallway where we were questioned and security scanned. I have never gone through SO MUCH security as I have on this trip, despite having gone to the Middle East several other times. I caught a bus from the Rome airport after waiting in this crazy mass of people trying to go through immigration. Apparently, Italians don't believe in queues. It took over an hour to get through.

On the way to the hostel, hello Rome!

I found my hostel fairly easily, and was greeted by the strong smell of cigarette smoke. Apparently it's a "non-smoking" hostel, meaning there are huge signs on the bedrooms that forbid smoking, but that doesn't apply to the front office staff who smoke right next to the rooms. They were also the least friendly hostel staff I've ever encountered. Oh well, I was only there one night anyways, and wanted to see as much of the city as possible in that one day so did not plan on spending too much time there. I freshened up and headed out. As to not bore you on everything I saw, here is a series of photos:

Coliseum selfie
Tiny church, where I was completely alone.
Roman Forum

I was honestly so impressed by Rome. I didn't really have high expectations, and thought it might be overhyped, but it was pretty dang incredible. The coliseum from the outside was huge, bigger than I ever imagined. I didn't pay to go inside anywhere, because of both money and long entrance lines with little time, but I thought I saw a good portion of everything from the outside. After eight hours of nothing but walking and a short eating stop, I arrived back to the hostel. The other women staying with me were really cool. I was feeling brave about traveling alone until I met a 19-yr-old Australian girl who is traveling solo for three months in Europe. My few days alone suddenly didn't look nearly as impressive. I woke up thinking it was 8 am, but since my iPad didn't adjust automatically it was actually an hour later, and I needed to grab breakfast and be at the airport by 11. I rushed to a cafe where our free breakfast was being served and grabbed my croissant and cappucino, to go. I'm pretty sure the Italians were disgusted by my eating on the run. Sorry, guys.


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