About five years ago, my sister Angie and I both happened to be in Europe. She was teaching in England, and I was working at my company’s branch in Dusseldorf, Germany. Yes, there was a time that I had a “real” job. After six months of that I extracted myself from the lifestyle (read: I quit), and bummed around Europe for a while.
I’ve heard that Britain’s education system is quite rough, but they do at least one thing that I’m a big fan of: every six weeks there is a week or two break. Absolutely wonderful! Imagine getting a holiday every month and a half? If employers did that I might actually try to work again.
So, Angie and I would plan to meet up every six weeks when she had a holiday. And this one time we decided to go to Italy.
More specifically, Rome.
Maybe I should back up a bit here, and explain my views towards religion. I’m what I call “vaguely Catholic”. I was baptized, and I remember going to church sometimes when we were kids. My family celebrates Easter and Christmas, but these are really just wonderful excuses to overeat. It’s what Jesus would want! Did we learn nothing from the whole feeding-a-million-people-with-half-a-fish story?
I know, I know. I’m going to hell. If it exists. That’s the beauty of being vaguely Catholic. You can answer most religious questions with a shrug. Like this actual re-enactment of a conversation I had in a high school civilization class:
I’ve wandered off point. What I’m getting at is that I’m aware of Christian traditions and holidays and stuff. But I don’t really think of them. So when we decided to go to Rome in April all I thought was neat! Cute guys and gelato!
It wasn’t until we fought our way off the plane and through the airport, had to elbow our way across town through an endless sea of PEOPLE (everywhere, PEOPLE), and waited in line for what felt like hours to check into our over-crowded hostel did it occur to us that something might be going on.
What’s going on? we asked our stressed out hostel worker.
It’s Easter weekend, she replied
It is? we said. Then we said, So what?
I’ll tell you so what. Easter is a really big deal to Christians. It’s the celebration of the BIG MIRACLE that all of Christianity is based on. And Rome? Well, it’s only the home of THE POPE. Should we be surprised that the city is the place to be on Easter?
No, we shouldn’t. But we were.
Because we’re idiots.
I’m sure for many, being in Rome on Easter is an amazing, once in a lifetime experience. For us, it was super annoying.
I’m not talking about the religious aspect. That was actually pretty cool to be a part of. We went to Saint Peter’s Basilica on Sunday and waited with a crowd of tens of thousands of people to see the Pope give a mass from his little balcony. We walked near the Vatican and felt good to be in its vicinity (the line to get in was about ten miles long, so we contented ourselves with gazing at it from across the street).
What was annoying was the commercial aspect to it. Everything was double or even triple price. We had to pay 20 Euros for a sandwich. People were trying to sell us crap everywhere, even during the Sunday mass. Our hostel had been overbooked and was full with yahoos there for a drunken party. The aspects of Christianity that I’ve always really liked (charity, love, generosity) were nowhere to be seen. It just felt like a big money grab. Jesus died for you. Buy this now!
Fortunately the city emptied the next day, and we had a few days to enjoy Rome under normal conditions. This is a city I could happily live in. Cafes, cool buildings, endless walking possibilities. And the gelato! The flavours. The textures. The smells. SWOON! Best of all, no one bats an eye if you get a cone first thing in the morning. Before breakfast.
Okay, I’ve just come up with a new life plan. I’ll move to Rome and run my own gelato stand. And every Easter you will find my shop closed and me anywhere else in the world.
“Rome, A View Of The Tiber” by Rudolf Wiegmann
“Praying Hands” by Albrecht Dürer
“Championship Gelato” © Wikimedia Commons