"When I indulge in self-reflection, as I like to do occasionally, I discover in myself a feeling which gives me great joy. Let me put it like this. In this place, whoever looks seriously about him and has eyes to see is bound to become a stronger character: he acquires a sense of strength hitherto unknown to him. His soul receives the seal of a soundness, a seriousness without pedantry, and a joyous composure. At least, I can say that I have never been so sensitive to the things of this world as I am here. The blessed consequences will, I believe, affect my whole future life. So let me seize things one by one as they come; they will sort themselves out later. I am not here simply to have a good time but to devote myself to the noble objects about me, to educate myself before I reach forty."
-- from Travels In Italy by Goethe

This brief passage on Rome was among the many reading materials and handouts given to us at the beginning of our stay here; as if to emphasize its value, it was printed in large type and took up an entire page of its own. And now I'm getting it. We woke early on Tuesday, October 28 to converge on the Vatican as a group, complete with explicit directions and maps to enable us to beeline straight to the Sistine Chapel before it became inundated with the typical daily overflow crowd. Now as I walk with my rommate Beau shortly after dawn and meet up with others on the Lungotevere Gianicolense (one of the many names for the winding streets which run along each bank of the Tiber river), I am completely open to the full-on Total Immersion Schooling method which Rome and Italy demand. Let me seize things one by one as they come; they will sort themselves out later. Indeed!

A quick glance at the newspaper stands this Tuesday morning shows that this would in fact be the ideal place for us, as opposed to anywhere, say, in Seattle or the United States.

"LUNEDÍ NERO A WALL STREET" screamed the Italian headlines, above a picture showing a stock trader screaming something of his own during what appeared to have been a very bad Monday indeed for the New York Stock Exchange, far from our world of Michelangelo and Italiaidea and group critiques. Even though I still wasn't able to read most of the stories inside, the newshound in me grabbed a copy of the paper out of habit, and for possible incorporation into future schoolwork.

Walking along Via di Porta Angelica, as I often have done while heading this way to Hackers for email or just to investigate neighborhood sights, one cannot avoid the street market which has built up over the years to cater to the flood of tourists washing over this neighborhood. Tabletop vendors sell t-shirts with various images of Vatican masterpieces -- mostly you see the fingertips of Adam and God almost touching -- for £It. 5000 (5000 Italian Lire, about three dollars) each. Other vendors, and in many cases the same vendors, sell plastic crucifixes, rosaries, and nearly anything else for which they think someone might pay good money to own. For your added convenience, a string of exchange offices line the nearby storefronts so that you'll have plenty of spending cash (not that you'll get a good exchange rate...). But at least this free-marketeers dream takes up only one side of the street. The other side consists of a tall fortress wall which surrounds the entirety of Vatican City and tilts slightly away from the street, a remnant of the days when the Vatican found the need to repel invaders as efficiently as Rome or any other empire. Today, the Vatican welcomes the daily invasion and offers a reasonable entry fee for those wishing to take part.

We gladly paid our entry fee and, following the Sistine-oriented instructions given to us earlier, went up the beautiful spiral staircase (pausing briefly near the top to look down and admire its intricate structure and detail); walked briskly down a single long hallway, larger than many entire museums I've been in, every wall covered in intricate tapestries depicting scenes throughout the history of the life of Christ, the Papal States, and indeed the World itself; along another hallway, equally as large, devoted to nothing but maps of the Old World;
did I mention that the Sistine Chapel is located at nearly the farthest point away from the entrance to the museums?
excuse me, pardon me, perMESsssssoooo... coming through, around a few corners, up and down short staircases, in one door and out another; through a few rooms filled with other masterpieces we will, I'm sure, come back to later in the day; all the while ignoring or abiding by the traffic-flow directional signs placed by the Vatican Museum management, depending on our swiftness and need; did I mention that the Sistine Chapel is located at nearly the farthest point away from the entrance to the museums? I guess that does help spread the visitors throughout the massive complex to ease the bottlenecks; then around another tight and dark corner, up a few narrow steps, through a doorway...

...and into the Sistine Chapel (no cameras allowed, thankyewverymuch).

Which I'm hoping you don't need for me to describe in great detail, seeing as how its freshly-restored color and depth left me as short of adjectives as I've ever been in my life. I will, however, take advantage of this opportunity for a Very Special Episode of...

an occasional recommendation of moving pictures to accompany your cruise through our web journal