Archive for September, 2012

My European Trip 7 Rome, Italy & The Vatican

Heus  ! Here I am again, Renxkyoko Iglesias !

I’m  on the 7th post of my European trip.  I’m now in the great city of Rome and The Vatican.  But first, an introduction to The Vatican.  Very few of us know that The Vatican is a country that issues its own passports, is also  a city-state  ( like Singapore) and is considered the smallest country in the world, with a population of 1,000 ( about 100 of whom are Swiss   Guards ) that are mostly members of the Catholic clergy and a few non-clergy staff.  It is a walled city within the city of Rome, with a zero birthrate ( not surprising,  what with majority of the population practicing celibacy ), and area just 80 hectares. ( 198 acres)

My  photos of Rome and The Vatican   consist mostly of  art objects and religious statues.  The Vatican Museum is a treasure trove of ancient art, what we call the Antiquities. ( statues and paintings ). They are simply amazing . You know, when I saw Michaelangelo’s PIETA, my heart stopped for a second, literally. I mean, it  just…….. ” took my breath away. ”    Pardon me for  being melodramatic but  I really felt that way..

.There we are queieng to enter the Vatican Museum.

.There’s our Italian tour guide, the one who said I had a Roman nose.  Ha ha ha ! Look, she’s speaking to a recorder. Everyone was given this thing  that we hook ed around our ear so we could hear her even from  a distance and most importantly, if we got lost. That came in handy because I actually got lost at Versailles in France.

.That’s the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. That dome was designed by Michaelangelo.   I’m wearing a long-sleeved shirt and pants.  Anyone wearing a sleeveless shirt or a dress that shows the knees is banned from entering a Catholic Church in Italy …. oh,  and in Spain too. No shorts. They have a very strict dress code.


.That golden globe looks so out of place. I have no idea why it’s there and what’s it for. I was so  busy taking photos of the area, I didn’t listen to the guide’s lecture.

. It looks like something that has been left behind by  aliens. Actually, the globe is called Sfera con Sfera. ( A Sphere within a sphere )

The Pope is the head of  The Vatican and of more than 1 billion Catholics,  myself included.  Furthermore,  he is considered the Vicar of Christ,  the human messenger of God here on earth, and therefore , whatever comes out of his mouth cannot be disputed. In other words,  he is infallible…….  So, as a Catholic, do I believe in the Pope’s infallibility ?  I’m not sure. Don’t get me wrong, though. I’m a practicing Catholic.  I go to Mass every Sunday, without fail,  listen to the priest’s sermon attentively, even go to church on holidays of obligation,  but I think believing in the Pope’s infallibility is kind of a stretch. Okay, I digress.


.Mom should have let the lady behind pass before she took the picture.  That’s  a beautiful photo, don’t you think so ?

Do you know how it feels walking down this great hallway ?  And that is just the hallway leading to the Museum proper.  * speechless*  * jaw drop *  * totally overwhelmed *






I’m not an expert on male bodies but I think these Roman men really look buffed and fit. Well, a bit on the effeminate side, but   spectacular, nonetheless.    Oh, and the men must have spent a lot of time curling their hair.

.Do you notice the guys always have some cloth  draped on  their shoulder, but they’re naked down there ?   * sweat*  What’s up with that ?  I’m not being perverted here , I just find  fashion in their time awkward.  O_Oa  I mean, did they walk around town dressed like that ?  ” Good morning, Octavius. * looks down * Oooops, you’re quite perky today, I see “  Oh, well, I guess it didn’t matter if everyone was dressed  that way. When in Rome, do as the Romans do.   To this day, there are, in fact,  places where women are topless and men wear a loincloth that’s  just enough to cover their privates.

From the hallway , then upstairs to the museum proper.  Hey, that’s my Mom, the one wearing a hat. .


.Jaw- dropping  art.  For such a small country, The Vatican packs a punch.  If you can visit just one country, go to The Vatican ( and of course Italy. The Roman ruins are just in the neighborhood. ) To us Roman Catholics, this is a religious pilgrimage.

Everything in the country is spectacularly rich. ( But I highly doubt Jesus would  approve.  Well, we all know what Jesus thought of the rich and powerful……… and the Romans, . Are you listening, Mitt Romney ?  )  Anyways, the photo above is the courtyard inside the Vatican Museum.


.Perfect  human specimen !

I guess the statues we see  lining the hallway  are the minions, and the guy above is a VIP, a member of the elite,  with his own niche.  As far as quality of the sculptures is concerned, I don’t see any difference. So, how come those guys at the hallway don’t have their own niches?  Elitism rearing it’s ugly head again. …………..

Oh, wait! The guy above is Apollo . Okay, he is the sun god, god of beauty,  also the god of music , intellectual pursuits, etc.  and archery.  That sculpture is supposed to show him shooting an arrow, but bow and arrow are gone.  Oh, well, I guess it can’t be helped. He’s a god, after all and the son of Zeus, to boot.  He deserves a niche.

The photo above is that of Venus Felix, and her son Cupid.  What can I say ?  Every female wants to be a   Venus, the  goddess of beauty, and Cupid,  he;s my man of the moment …… shoot that arrow straight into my heart, Cupid !

.That one is that of Laocoon and His Sons. Laocoon is the Trojan who uttered the famous words, ” Beware of Greeks bearing gifts, ” referring to the wooden horse given as gift to the Trojans. I assume you know the story  ILIAD ?  Because of that, Poseidon took revenge and sent sea serpents to kill him and his 2 sons.  The discovery of this sculpture is significant because for the first time , the faces of the sculpture show emotions. ( in this sculpture, it’s emotion of great pain ) Take note that most of the faces of the sculptures before this was discovered  do not show any emotions. The Pope back then sent Michaelangelo himself to examine the sculpture, after which, it influenced his later works. Also, check out the other sculptures. You can see that the body parts ( limbs, etc ) are smooth . Laocoon’s shows rippling muscles that depict his struggles againts the serpents. There are lots of movements in this  sculpture that are absent in others.

Another significant thing about Laocoon is that its discovery  and acquisition by the Vatican started the creation of  The Vatican Museum.  From then on,  The Vatican had acquired almost all of the art objects that could be found in Italy and from all over the world, more specifically from Greece.  Most of the Greek objects were found in Italy though.  Well,  the Romans conquered most of Europe , and the Middle east. To the victors belong the spoils.  ( although I didn’t see anything from Asia, but who knows? Maybe they have a Room of Requirement, a place where they stash all the stuff they have deemed  not important enough to be displayed at the museum. Sorry, I made this up., he he he )

.That is Meleager, a figure in Greek mythology. He is  a boar hunter.  I don’t know his importance in Greek mytholgy , but he must be, because he has a niche in the Museum.

By the way, do you notice the  leaf that covers the private part of some of the sculptures in the Museum ?……… A Pope back then thought it inappropriate to have nude sculptures at the Vatican so he had some of the private parts covered with a  leaf.  That’s unfortunate. That pesky leaf distracts me from fully appreciating the human body.

,Above is Apoxyomenos. He’s some guy  that represents a Greek athlete. His stance is always as if he’s dusting dirt off his arms.

.A bas relief

.The Vatican Museum is not one big space that  houses all these antiquities. It  actually  consists of numerous rooms , and each room has a theme, like the room House of Pompey that houses sculptures of Greek mythological gods. The one above contains mostly  sculptures of animals.


.Can you imagine how it feels to be underneath that  magnificent dome , and looking up to see those breathtakingly beautiful frescoes?  To be honest, I’ve run out of adjectives to describe them.

.Check out the frescoes on the dome.  Believe  it or not, they are one dimensional paintings, totally flat, but they look 3 dimensional, don’t they? This kind of painting is repeated all throughout.  And I’m not sure, but this room is the Room of Pompey or The Round Room,  or Sala Rotonda ( sala means living room ) that houses sculptures of Greek gods.   There’s a huge  basin in the middle of the room and an ancient mosaic on the floor.  It felt weird when I was there, because , I swear, this room looks exactly like the ones   on one of my most favorite video games… God of War, 1,2,3 ! Standing there, I felt I was Kratos, and had a sudden urge to  smash the sculptures to get a life force, or move the sculptures around to solve a puzzle. It’s not surprising  though because this is the replica of  the Greek Pantheon.

Guess who !      HERCULES ! I’m glad that he’s not depicted as one with huge muscles, which, to be honest, I find gross.  His body is perfect. And that one is not made of marble. It’s bronze.

.That’s Queen Helena’s sarcophagus ( stone coffin ). St. Helena was the mother of  Constantine. The one below is the sarcophagus of Constantina, the daughter of  Constantine. Both are housed in the Greek-east Room, and in the middle is a 3rd century mosaic floor.



So far, I’ve only shown photos of The Vatican and none of Rome.  Actually, what I’ve posted here  are  only  1/10 of all the photos I’ve taken of The Vatican.  The Vatican has an immense collection of the Antiquities, one of the world’s greatest museums in the world.  The building where this massive collections are housed can even stand alone as one huge art object, every square inch of it.  I wish I could share all the photos  I had managed to take despite the limited time we were allowed to  see this magnificent place,  although  I’m aware not all share my enthusiasm and passion for the antiquities.   I only hope you won;t be bored to tears, because I’m going to show more  from hereon.  Oh, I wanna use ” Doubling down “, famous 2 words in US politics nowadays.  So, yeah, I’m doubling down.

.That is the Belvedere Torso, the only sculpture that had been signed by the sculptor himself.  ” Appolonius, son of  Nestor “.  He was a Greek sculptor from Athens.

.As you can see, this fragment of a nude male is displayed prominently in the middle of the Room of the Muses.  The Pope  back then wanted Michaelangelo to add limbs to the torso, but M declined several times, and said the torso was perfect. M, in fact, loved it so much that it became his inspiration for his male figures when he painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. You know, when I saw those etched Greek letters, I was like, ” Oh, my , is that a signature? ” and took a picture of it . I was right. That was important.

.I imagine Kratos walking those stairs  and smashing the urn. And about the stairs below…. We climbed up and down these stairs but I didn’t realize it was  this beautiful seen from the top.

.By the way, before I forget, the tour of the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel  was an Optional Tour and cost $ 65 each per person.

And I think  I have to stop here. At this point, this post ‘s word count is now 2014 words, and  contains 60 photos.  I have to admit that;s too much for anyone to digest.  So, I say,  Valete, Pax,  and see you soon !

I wish my brother was at home. He can write an essay in Latin.

My European Trip Part 6 Lugano, Switzerland / Verona, ITALY

Hi, there ! Renxkyoko Iglesias here ! !


I can say Venice is a hard act to follow.  Venice is  like a Hollywwod set, a movie backdrop  pre- created in the 10th century.  The place is simply amazing, a sight to behold. The downside though of  going to a beautiful place like Venice is that there are million others that share the same sentiment. And that means, we walked  shoulder to shoulder,  elbow to elbow with thousand other tourists on the  narrow streets of  Venice……. which made me just a tad uncomfortable, by the way. Well, in my neck of the woods, there are literally no pedestrians walking on the streets.

As I said on my previous post, I couldn’t recall the timeline. Did we go first to Venice, or to Lugano and Verona. Then I realized Lugano is in Switzerland,  an Italian -speaking city in Switzerland that borders Italy .  I’m sure now that  Verona was the first Italian city that we visited after Switzerland.  Well, I don’t think it matters which came first. So, anyway,  we stopped by Lugano  for a few hours, took a stroll along the beautiful lakeside promenade, then crossed into Italy and drove to Verona, medieval setting of William Shakespeare’s ” Romeo and Juliet, “, The Taming of the Shrew, and The Two Gentlemen of Verona.


. That is Lake Lugano. Yep, the scenery  did  look like we were   still in Switzerland.


As always, it’s all about me.  tee hee   Oh my gosh…. the classic Ren pose. * palmface*

.I didn’t buy  burger at McDonald’s…… had a cup of iced tea so I could use the WC. The iced tea was in a champagne glass ! !


.We stayed just 3 hours in Lugano. I really don’t know what Lugano is famous for, but then almost all of these places  in Switzerland  and Italy , large and small, are somehow famous for something.  Although here in Lugano, it seemed we were the only tourists around.

We left Lugano  , Switzerland for Verano, Italy.  As I mentioned above, Verano is the medieval setting of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Two Gentlemen of Verona, and Taming of the Shrew.  Shakespeare must have been impressed by Verona, and I’m not surprised.  It has both ancient and medieval atmosphere, and for some reason, I  prefer Verona over Venice.  Maybe Venice  is too touristy ?  Shops all over and thousands of people walking around…. in other words, too commercialized.  That’s what happened  at Boracay Island in the Philippines. It’s listed as one of the best beach in the world. Mom saw it when it was pristine and unexplored.  My own family even have a piece of property there. Our great grandma used to own the whole island, but then her children started selling off the property to big cor[orate hotels and businessmen. Now, my Mom rues the day  when relatives got too greedy.  It is still beautiful, but too commercialized. My parents had to fence off our property when  a big named hotel  conglomerate started building a hotel, ( Hyatt ), literally our  backyard neighbor. They might just  encroach on our property intentionally, then  say “Woops” and pressure us  to  sell  our  property , then we’d be left with nothing.  I can see that happening.  But I digress.

Above photo is the private beach at Boracay Island, Philippines….. At least there’s still a part of the island  that has not been sold off….

.That arch that you see at the end of the street is Porta Borsari, an ancient  remnant  Roman  structure and is now the entrance to the medieval market square Piazza delle Erbe.


.An ancient Roman bathtub, discovered right in the middle of the road.

.The market square, Piazza delle Erbe


.That’s Juliet’s designated balcony.  Romeo’s house is at # 4, a few houses down the road, and there’s a family  currently  living there. We do know they’re fictional characters, don’t we ?  The photo below is the statue of Juliet. There’s a legend that if you rub her breast, you’ll get lucky in love. So, I jumped up to the statue and rubbed her boobsie and wished  I’d soon meet my Fated One and  I wouldn’t turn into an old maiden. ( ^___^ )


.That’s the wall of the entrance to Juliet’s courtyard. I wrote something there too. You know, I noticed another thing in Europe… graffiti is all over, like you won’t believe it.  ha ha ha….   I also wrote my name somewhere in Rome and  Madrid.  ” Ren was here, 7/11/2012 * hearts*  Grafitti writing is, I guess, cultural in Italy.  Even the ancient Romans  did it… Liunidus was here xx1x


.I don’t know what’s with Italy and masks. It reminds me of  some period movies  where the characters wear elaborate gowns and masks and wigs.  Mom bought one too. I don’t really like stuff like this. I find them scary and creepy. Nor do I like clowns and dolls. ( although I did have a collection of  Barbie dolls and tons of Barbie dresses and outfits and I  remember  I  could  play the whole day alone dressing the dolls up )

.Creepy, huh.  Mom can’t decide whether to hang and display this somewhere or just keep it in the attic. …. the attic, Mom.

.The statue above is that of Dante Aleghieri, author of a great book Divine Comedy . He called Verona home, although he was born in Florence. He’s also the father of the Italian language. Why father of the Italian language. ? Well, writers then used Latin, instead of the language of the common people in Italy. Divine Comedy was the first  great book  written in Italian . Latin was the lingua franca of  the Roman citizens, but the rest of the country was Italian.   Maybe that’s the reason why Latin became a  dead language.  I wonder how different Italian is from Latin. It’s like Mandarin, the language of the Chinese royalty. In China, there are so many dialects, and believe it or not, even if they sound similar, they are actually different. My Mom had a Chinese friend who spoke Cantonese only , and couldn’t understand Mandarin.  Mandarin didn’t die because the study of this language became mandatory in China.    By the way, this area of Verona is also on the list of Living World Heritage.  That means, building of modern structure is not allowed. So, what we saw here was exactly what the Veronese saw hundreds of years ago. That’s really cool.



.There’s a corpse there.

.There are 2 dead ones here too


.Above is the Roman Arena. It is still functional… well, not for people to be eaten by lions,, but for operas and such.


.The photo below is what they call The Wall. It’s a remnant of  an ancient  Roman walled city.  Eh. I made that up. I’m sure that’s like a fort to protect the inhabitants from invaders.

.The history of Italy is really  rich. We saw beautiful , well-preserved medieval buildings  and I can tell they were more beautiful back then.  But , to be honest,  I don’t think I ‘d want to live during medieval times. One word…… hygiene.  What did they use to brush their teeth? I’m sure majority of them had rotten teeth.  And I’m sure too they suffered so much  from toothache. Ugh.  Did they use soap?  How  often did they take a bath? In the morning, where did they go for their morning rituals? What did they use to clean up their butts? Paper? I highly doubt they had that much paper  to use. O_O ”  And for women with their monthlies……@__@ ”   I wonder what they used.  I read they didn’t wear underwears. ( I don’t  want to think about that. )   And childbirth……. Women were  just ripped apart giving birth.  Ugh !   It’s unbelievable what people had to go through for things we now take for granted.  I guess I’m over-thinking.

This is all for now. ROME is next.  Good day to all and PEACE.