Wow o wow- where to even begin.
Rome has probably been my favorite port of call so far- it is such a beautiful place and I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to spend four whole days exploring Italy. I spent two days in the countryside (see my previous post) and then I spent a day in the city of Rome and another day in Vatican City. I had a blast every day I was in Italy and I’m going to share just a few special moments from experiences.
First off, Chinese tourists are like no tourist I have ever seen before. And I feel like that is saying something after all the places I’ve visited this semester… When we were visiting the Vatican, there were these large groups of 40-50 Chinese people, with headphones in listening to the guide, following their Chinese tour guide who was holding an umbrella with a Hello Kitty doll on the top.
Now I totally understand the group part- it is challenging to learn when the all the signs in museums are written in languages you can’t read. And this semester, I have been in a fair share of these large tourist groups; where we ride on a large coach bus, wear these earphones that allow the guide with the umbrella to talk in your ears as you walk through museums. I’ve been in those groups were you follow the guide with the funny distinguishable walking stick, like a kindergarten class following their teacher, but I was not prepared for the intensity level of these Chinese tourists, especially at the Vatican, the headquarters of the Catholic church.
Now, if you have ever been the Vatican museum, you will be able to sympathize with my story, but if you haven’t, I will do my best to describe. Walking through the Vatican museum is the closest I have ever felt to being a heifer in a large cowherd who is getting herded through the shoots. There is one way to walk, and you better not stop, because if you do, you’ll just get pushed to keep going. And don’t even think about rounding the corner, turning around, or stopping to read signs. (Don’t worry, we splurged the extra few Euros and bought audio guides in English- totally worth it)
We walked through exhibit after exhibit and became very familiar with the people around us as we were forced to experience the entire museum together, but on the positive side, their was no doubt that I was going to stick with my travel buddies- there was no getting away from each other here!
After walking through the museum for over an hour, we finally arrived at the shining glory, the Sistine Chapel- of my goodness, it is breathtaking. But back to the Chinese tourists. In the Sistine Chapel, they do not force you to continue walking; you can actually pause and look around. However, there are still people everywhere! I was elbow to elbow with people and we had to be very patience to get a standing spot in the middle so we could see the amazing artwork.
As my friend and I were standing there gazing at the art, I spot the Hello Kitty doll on the umbrella through the crowd… headed our direction… Then before we knew it, they were upon us, the guide pushed right past me. Then came the tourists who were very set about following their guide. Pushing and shoving- I got elbowed several times before I really realized what was happening. There were all these tiny little Chinese ladies literally shoving past the crowd. I got stepped on, elbowed, pushed, and it was so crowded that I had nowhere to move to avoid the abuse.
Through the craziness, I noticed quite the scene involving the guy who was elbow to elbow with me before the treacherous Hello Kitty came through. He has his camera bag attached to his belt and as the herds of tourists were shoving by us, one lady’s sweater got stuck in his belt bag (don’t ask me how- I honestly have no idea how that happened…!) And the lady just kept walking and literally yanked the guy so hard that he had to take a step to catch his balance. Then, the tourist, instead of walking back three steps and getting unhooked, continued to just pull and pull and attempting to stay with her tourist group, as the poor guy with the camera bag tried to get her unhooked. Finally, a Vatican security guard stepped in a forced the lady to take two steps back to get unhooked. After being separated, the lady seemed very distraught to be away from her tourist group.
They were waiting for her less than 20 feet away at the back of the Sistine Chapel. Quite the experience to see!