Posted by: lindsaygoes | May 5, 2010

More Rome and initial adventures? in Istanbul

Anyway, the day after I got caught in the rain I took it easy in the morning and sorted some stuff out. Ended up posting 4kg worth of stuff back to the UK, which meant my backpack was under 15kg when it was weighed at the airport today. You know what that means – more room for shopping! Actually, there wasn’t that much new stuff to send back. A lot of it was the thicker clothes which I hopefully won’t need anymore and maps and other bits of paper.

So after that I headed for the catacombs, which were a bit of a mission to get to. I went to the closest station and then walked and it would have been 2-3 ks (ok, my sense of distance isn’t great). The first bit of the walk I was on this cobblestone road with no footpath, surrounded by high walls and parkland on each side and there were hardly any cars so it felt like I’d left Rome. To be honest, and with my record of getting lost, I was wondering if I was walking in the right direction but then I ended up on the Appia Antica, which is the road the catacombs are on, and that was a less pleasant walk because again there were high walls and no footpath, but now a lot more traffic and traffic fumes. So, after walking I made it to the first catacombs, which are closed between 12 and 2. It was 12:30. So I walked to the next one, also closed and so was the tomb which was a bit further on. At that point, on this not particularly pleasant walk, I decided to head back to the second lot of catacombs (San Sebastian), sit in the shade and drink and expensive bottle of Sprite (E3.50) and wait for a while. So eventually it gets to 2pm and the catacombs open and I went on a tour through it. I know Rome has tons of history and ruins, but I did actually feel like the catacombs were more historical. Something about walking through icy cold tunnels with niches were people used to be buried. The ancient Roman mausoleums and old tiles with prayers to Peter and Paul on them were also pretty interesting. Once I was done with the catacombs I found there was a bus back (yay!) which I just made, and had to run in front of it and then behind it for a little bit (no footpath remember)! Then I went to Villa Borgese which was a lovely park, and somewhere else to get away from all the people in Rome and then to the Spanish steps to see the fountain which I’d missed. Anyway, I climbed the Spanish steps, couldn’t see the fountain, and then realised it was at the bottom, hidden behind all the people!

The next day I headed to the Vatican and decided to join an on the spot tour so I didn’t have to wait in line for quite as long. The person selling me the tickets kept hanging onto my arm and then gave me a student discount even though I told her I wasn’t a student, but bonus hey? I’m pretty sure I give the impression that I’m younger than I am, which is probably a good thing. The Vatican was gorgeous and the tour was worth it, got a lot more out of it than I would have otherwise but it was packed! Just as we reached the door to the Cistine Chapel we got told to go a different way and ended up detouring through some more galleries, staircases and random halls that were being renovated but it was worth it for the lovely frescos. Although at that point I was getting overwhelmed by all the people and was pretty pleased to get into some open space. Well, for a little bit until I managed to find the train station (not as easy as I was hoping) and then had to get on the metro, which once again was packed. That night we had free pizza and beer at the hostel. I partook of the pizza and gave my beer away but had a good night.

Today was an early start. Made it to the airport without any problems and checked in and then had a Serbian guy talk to me (I keep mentioning these episodes because it’s becoming a running theme, but it still surprises, amuses and kind of annoys me), but he didn’t speak English and I don’t speak Russian. Although weirdly, I was replying in Italian to some of his questions (the ones I could answer ‘si’ to) so everyone was confused. But the lack of communication didn’t stop him coming up to me and yelling ‘Boo’ when I was sitting in Budapest airport. Also had a six year oldish girl ask me for help in the airport (so it’s not just old men and weirdos – Oh, and I got asked for directions a couple of times in Rome), and some other guy tried to talk to me at Istanbul. So, caught the train and the tram to my hostel, had several people ask if I wanted directions on the walk from the tram station but I was fine, although when I said that, I did get the comment ‘You don’t look fine’. Once at the hostel I went for a bit of a walk, got lost and got hassled a little bit. Various conversations have included

‘Hi, how are you?’

‘Good’

‘You could be better, come with me’

‘I want to give you a cup of tea’

‘I’m waiting for a friend’

‘I’ll be very sad if you say it’s your boyfriend’

‘You look very happy. I’m guessing a Turkish man with a big mustache has made you happy’

This is all within a 20 minute period, so I can see I’m going to be tired by the time I leave here. Anyway, I managed to find my way back to the hostel eventually by myself, because no one was particularly helpful with directions, and the hostel manager had managed to lock himself out, so I spent 20 minutes waiting with him until someone inside came out. Right now I’m up on the rooftop terrace and the hostel next to us has just had a bit of a firework display.

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