"All roads lead to Rome," said Jean de la Fontaine. And I guess there's several train tracks that do too, thankfully--because I didn't have a car and I really wanted to get there. It was such a fun trip; we had a really great group of people and a lot of time to spend in the biggest city that I've been to over here. There is so much to do that even though I did so much, there were still things I didn't get to. There were pretty much only two unfortunate things: that meeting up with Amy didn't work out and that we eventually had to leave. You can see all the Pictures! The trip started Thursday night with an overnight train, an interesting experience within itself. I don't know if I could have made it through if it weren't for the paper slippers and toilet seat cover they included on our beds. But alas, we made it in at 7 in the morning and began our day straight off. After checking into our hostel, we made our way to the Vatican to wait in line. It was only about 45 minutes, so it wasn't too bad at all. We saw a lot there, including art by the likes of Michelangelo, Raphael, and Salvador Dali, and not to forget the Sistine Chapel. It was all so ornate and beautiful--really just beyond words. And we sent out a few postcards from the Vatican City (you only get one if you're the best mom in the world). Next we made our way over to St. Peter's Basilica, the largest cathedral in the world. We saw the tombs of the popes, including the heavily memorialized tomb of Pope John Paul II. Then we wandered throughout the church, seeing Michaelangelo's Pieta and other not quite as famous statues. We climbed the dome and had a great view of the rest of the city (nothing is allowed to be built higher in the city).
By that point we were definitely ready for our quick lunch of the amazing Doner kebob. After that stop we made our way to the Pantheon and just walked around the city the rest of the night, seeing various squares and districts. My favorite was the Trevi fountain--a huge, beautiful fountain and a very romantic place where you throw a coin over your shoulder into the fountain while making a romantic wish. I bet you wonder if mine will come true. Oh silly hopeless romantic you. We topped off the night with the best gelato in Rome. It was so good! Anyways...it was a crazy busy day but very rewarding.

Friday morning we slept in a little because we were so exhausted, but before long we were on our way to the ancient Roman district. We first climbed the Monument to Vittorio Emanuele, a beautiful palace dedicated to fallen Italian soldiers. It was so beautiful that Mussolini decided to make it his own palace while he was in power. After that we walked through the ruins of the Roman Forum. They were in much better shape than most of the Greek ruins I saw, but we had no tour guide to explain what it all was. So I had to play the role, reading off of the torn out pages from my travel book. It sufficed. We also saw the Mamertine prison, where Paul and Peter were held during each of their separate times of imprisonment in Rome. Then we approached the Arch of Constantine, a huge arch commemorating the victory of Constantine over Maxentius to become Emperor. It was huge and very elaborately decorated. It stands as the entryway of sorts to the Colosseum. We didn't pay the money to go inside of it (it's just dirt really), but we definitely sensed the grandeur from the outside.

After walking all the way around it, we decided to have a little adventure of our own. We rented a four person bike and did our best not to get killed by crazy Roman drivers. We then walked down the business district and the girls indulged in a little shopping. It wasn't so bad--Bill and I only had to sit around and wait for like an hour. We then made our way to the Spanish steps, where we met up with another friend. He took us to see the Cappucian Crypt, a creepy place with bones serving as the decorations. It was morbidly interesting. Then we had a nice dinner followed by another round of gelato. Another very full day led to a relatively early turn in, though we stayed up talking at the hostel for a little while.

Sunday we got up and saw the Castle of St. Angelo, a huge fortress near the Vatican. It was filled with wonderful frescos and paintings, and the view of the Vatican from the top was gorgeous. Vatican square was our next destination, as we heard the Pope speak. It was in Italian,the crowd was huge, and the Pope was way up far away in a little window, but it was still cool to see. Then it was off to the church of St. Peter
in Chains, that contained the supposed chains that held Peter in prison. There was also a beautiful statue of Moses in there by Michaelangelo. We also saw the church of Santa Maria Maggiore, which holds the tomb of St. Jerome, supposed pieces from the original manger, and one of the most well know icons--the blessed virgin with Christ on her lap. We saw the National Museum of Rome next, which was alright. It didn't compare too well to the Greek art that I saw in Greece, because most of the works were just copies of those. But there were a lot of really nice mosaics. We then saw a movie that night--Children of Men. Not the best, but fairly interesting. The next morning we caught the train out and that was that, nearly five days in total for the trip.

Beyond just all the great things I was able to do in the city, I really enjoyed this weekend for lots of other reasons. I had lots of really good conversations, and the company was just really enjoyable. Some of the trips I've taken have been cool, but they will all kind of blend together in time I think. This weekend though, will be one I don't think I will ever forget.


A Relaxing Weekend again

It's been about three months since my last weekend of doing nothing, so perhaps it was due. Well actually there is no perhaps about it--I flat out needed a little something of a rest. This weekend has been pretty much exactly what I said that I hoped it would be in the last post. I've done a lot of reading, reflecting, journaling, and sleeping. So maybe I'll go through and give you a little piece from each one of those elements...that is if you care to read about something a little less flashy than usual.

Reading: I finished Dallas Willard's Rennovation of the Heart. It was very engaging and presented a quality approach to spiritual formation and understand the parts that make us up. It has proved a useful framework within which to seek after the proper integration and interplay of my emotions, will/heart, body, social context, soul, mind. I also started reading Solzhenitsyn's Cancer Ward for my Russian Lit. class. It's pretty interesting so far, and of course you know how I feel in general about the russian lit. You all should read some!

Reflecting: Well this will tie in with journaling, but sometimes it is good to just 'lay down with your thoughts' as I put it in the last post. Sometimes I would do this and drift in and out of sleep. And in that way it was fun to watch my thoughts dance with my dreams. And perhaps a little confusing. Upon further reflection, if you really want to make something out of your reflections--perhaps journaling them is a more sure-fire method than falling asleep to them. I guess that is if you want to make something out of them, which sometimes it's nice not to.

Journaling: One of the most interesting things about this whole experience has been leaving my whole community of Christians and being transplanted into a new, very different community. It tells me a lot about who I am, as well as about the community that I came from. It mainly has been a cool way to develop an understanding of how I follow Jesus outside of the framework and traditional understanding of my Christian community. Most of the focus of my journaling centered around that past community, the one I will be returning to fairly shortly. Being a good ways into this experience, I can look back on that community and see some of the things that I couldn't see from within it. So it was interesting to write about those observations and speculate on how I will interact directly in those areas when I return.

Sleeping: I slept a lot. It was beautiful. I'm in fact going to go sleep right now!



The rain is tapping softly on against the skylight window in my room. A cold and dreary day knocks on the glass. The new Damien Rice underscores the percussion. It's a great day to stay at home and sip on a cup of tea with a good book, or to lay down with your thoughts--often drifting in and out of sleep. It's a rainy day. I love rain. I always have.

Did you know rain delays trains? It's possible I guess, especially for trains coming from Italy. Well this one last night was an hour and twenty minutes late...making the Zurich connection to Vienna impossible to reach. It would have been a fun weekend. I was quite excited about it. I might still get to Vienna...but it certainly won't be this weekend.

Well rather than take an impromptu trip to France, I decided to take it easy this weekend. It's a shame to lose a weekend of travel, but it's not so bad. I've been going so much that I don't think I've let my body realize it. It's good to get some rest. It's nice to have some time to really think. It's nice to let the rain tick idly right along with my watch. Maybe I'll be able to figure some things out, to pray, to read, to reflect, to relax. That sounds nice. That sounds like something I've been missing.



Bonjour! ...or, good night...whatever that is in French. I definitely realized this weekend that my Italian, German, and Spanish may be spotchy--but my French is basically non-existent. It's a shame. It's a good thing that I didn't need it too much this weekend, even though I trekked across the Swiss Alps and the French countryside via a 10 hour train ride each way to the Taizé Community Monastery. This place was absolutely incredible. I encourage any of you who could possibly make the journey there to do it, especially if you're under 30 because then it's way cheap. I mean, aside from the whole getting to France thing. Right, onward! continue! post! dazzle and sparkle with engaging narrative! and quit talking to yourself. But first, I have finally caught up on all the photos. The index is here, where you can see photos from Greece (Athens, Corinth, Delphi, Mycenae, Santorini, Olympia), Florence, Venice, and now Taizé as well. I made the journey with Angela, a girl I met on the Greece travel. So after a 12 hour journey there (due to a delay from a late train, resulting in 2 extra hours in Geneva), we came into the monastery enveloped in a deep fog. We arrived just in time for evening prayer. And so began the weekend. It's not exactly the type of weekend where a description of events chronologically would be that engaging, because in a lot of ways the place is about establishing a rhythm of life in communion with God. We did a lot of the same things many times. So much more interesting are my impressions related to the general elements of the time there.
First of all, we went for the weekend--but the place is actually designed to have you come for a week. Each service that I went to felt more and more like home. I guess that's the only way to describe it...familiar, comfortable, comforting, peaceful...home. And that was just a weekend, with a total of 6 services. I week would be so wonderful.
Probably the main element of the weekend was these services. They're quite simple really, and even after the first one I wasn't really moved or drawn to it. But like I said, after each one the presence of the Spirit was more and more evident. It consisted of lots of singing, chants in a sense. They were simple songs, one or two lines of phrases repeated over and over again--and songs in many different languages. There is a reading of scripture, and a prolonged time of silence (perhaps 10 minutes or so). The services last about an hour. I really loved them. The place had a great setting as well, as you can see from the first picture of the post--taken during the afternoon while empty. During the services, the boxes all have candles lit inside them, and the brothers sit in the center aisle marked off bshrubberyry. The church extends back quite a ways, as there are 4,000 plus people there in the summers. It was nice to be there in the winter, with only 150 or so for the weekend--and 40 for the week. Another thing that was cool about the weekend was the surrounding areas. It was cold, but that didn't stop us from venturing into the nearby town and into the wooded area surrounding the monastery. The village of Taizé was so beautiful--totally French. It was great to see the more small town side of things that I tend to miss just going to all of the bcitiestes. The wooded area, called The Source, was also so beautiful. Several of us went down there about sunset and saw some amazing views, a few of which I was able to capture by photo. I'll put a few on here, but really you should look at them all--because it's so hard to pick just a few!

Beyond that, the weekend held lots of spiritually rich conversations. It wpervadedded with a sense of peace and simplicity that is really quite rare. It was a rich time spiritually, which is something that I was definitely thirsting for. Not in the sense that there was any exact or profound moment of connection with God, or any particular revelation or word--but rather just a constant ministry of presence. It's been my favorite weekend of any thusfar.


Florence & Venice

I'm still working on getting photos up, but I have some here--check out the folders from Greece I have up so far: Athens, Corinth, Delphi, Mycenae, Olympia, Santorini!.

It's already wednesday, and I still haven't posted on this last weekend. I'm so behind...in everything it seems. Well not everything, just a lot. If I owe you an email, hopefully you'll understand the delay. Academic travel really set me back and I'm definitely still trying to catchh up, but with even less time than I had before. But enough of this boring talk and excuses, last weekend I was in Florence and Venice! I'm sure you all would much rather hear about that.

So my friend Bill and I decided to squeeze in two places into one weekend, so Florence and Venice it was. It was an exhausting 4 day weekend where we pretty much never sat down unless it was on a train. But we saw so much and had a lot of fun. We took a friday train and got into Florence at around 5, where we were greated by k-state's very own Miss Amy Jackson. She's studying abroad there for the semester for those of you who didn't know, and it was a lot of fun getting to hang out with her for the weekend. That night we walked around Florence and saw most of the city, dropping into the Baptistry of the Duomo and getting some of the world's best gelato (like ice cream for you americans). It was freezing but that didn't stop us from licking our shaking ice cream cones as we shivered in the cold.
The next day we hit Florence hard, starting at 8am and going to just about everywhere. We started out at the Accademia, the place that holds the original sculpture of Michaelangelo's David. It was really something incredible in person. It was so imposing and massive, and they had it set up really well. Then we went to the San Marco Monastery, which was super interesting. We got to see their rooms, each decorated with a different fresco by Fra Angelico. It was a beautiful complex as well. After a stop at a few smaller churches, we climbed up the bell tower of the Duomo and looked out over the city, which was really stunning. Then we went in the Duomo, and to see Dante's house and church.
That afternoon we went to the Uffizi, which is the main art museum in Florence. It was definitely the best museum I've been to so far in Europe. They had a fascinating extensive exhibit on Da Vinci, and three of his most famous paintings--including the unfinished St. Jerome and his Annunciation scene. After that we had a nice dinner at this mexican place, and then took it easy for a little while until we went to a concert! My first in europe, it was a trio of organ, flute, and metsosoprano. It was in this small little church with awesome acoustics. It was really cool.

The next day we started off the morning going to the Bobili gardens, which were gorgeous. And then we got on a train to go on to Venice after a slight delay with the trains. It was a great time in Florence with Amy and seeing everything. We arrived in Venice right at sunset, which was beautiful. We wandered through the city that night after checking into our hostel, stopping by the famous Rialto bridge and the first Jewish ghetto ever. After a little gelato and some wine, we turned it in for the night. Monday we were up and going at 8 again, getting out into the city before all the other tourists. We spent most of the morning just wandering and taking pictures, as that is one of the best things to do in Venice. We eventually made it to San Marco square, and all the pigeons. We saw the church, which was almost ridiculously ornate, and then went into the Correr Museum and Doge's Palace. They were both huge museums and palaces. We kind of flew through them since we didn't have a ton of time, then making our way back to the train station. It was a crazy packed weekend, but a lot of fun. And since then I've just been trying to recover, rest, get all my work done, hang out with friends, and still keep up with emailing and blogging and loading photos. It's intense. This weekend I'm going to Taize, a monastery community in France that people travel to from all over the world. I'm deeply looking forward to that time of retreat and spiritual focus.


Greece Part 3 and since...

First of all, you all suck for the crap that you gave me for that picture of my new friends that just so happened to be all girls. It wasn't all of my friends from the trip, just so happened that was the best and only one I had of some of them. Alright! Secondly, you all are awesome because I have received three packages this week. They have been a great homecoming surprise. No awards or specific praise...I kinda got in trouble for that last time. They were all great. Though now I do have 3 bottles of kc bbq sauce, 3 boxes of cheez-its, and 2 bags of kc masterpiece bbq chips. When am I going to eat all of this!?!? And I thought I was escaping all the food getting away from Greece...but seriously, thank you all so much.

Ok, back to Greece. I'm running out of time, since I leave for Florence and Venice tomorrow--so I'll have to finish it all up now, and cover this week. So put on your goggles, tighten your belt, and velcro your shoes, cause here we go...

After returning from Santorini, we took the long drive up north to the mountainous region of Delphi. I love the style of the Greek mountains, filled with bushes and protruding rocks. The cool thing about the site at Delphi was that it was on a side of a mountain, so that from the top you could look down and see all the different parts of the ruins. I think the most enjoyable part of this place was the scenery of the great outdoors--a truly different part of Greece. Me at the stadium there--self taken: Olympia
Olympia was probably my favorite place on the mainland. The hotel we stayed in was crazy nice and had absolutely amazing food. The museum had some amazing artifacts, and the archaeological site seemed almost mystical--the sunlight was wisping through the trees and shadows cast all around the widespread ruins. We also saw the very first Olympic stadium (actually not much to see) and had our own olympic games--with my relay team bringing home the gold! And the day finished off with an amazing sunset.
Mycenae & Corinth
These were actually the next two days, but I'm condensing. Mycenae was interesting because it was I think the oldest site we visited. It is pretty famous for the Lion's Gate and Grave Circle A, the latter of which was the subject of many jokes--because every time we saw anything resembling a circle someone was bound to ask, "is that grave circle A?" Corinth was very fascinating to me. I loved the condition of the site, and it was really interesting seeing it in relation to the presence of Paul and the letters to the Corinthians. We saw the building where Paul's trial was held before he was sent to Rome: After all that, we had one last night in Athens of Greek dancing and dinner, then we flew out the next day. It was quite a trip, and I only covered the very basics. I'm putting together a journal specific to that trip though with pictures and greater descriptions, so those of you that want can look at that when I get back. It was truly an amazing time. I wish I was still there (especially since it's so cold here!) Since Greece
Well things have certainly not slowed down since I got back. If anything, things are now moving much more fast-paced. I went hiking yesterday and on monday, up two mountains on either side of Lugano. They were both beautiful hikes with great fall weather, and just in time since today it is now really cold--weather that's here to stay. My friend John's parents were in town this last week too, and they took Bill and me out to dinner which was really nice. Then last night we all went to Milan for an EUFA (European Champions League) game between AC Milan and Anderlecht. It was very exciting and fast paced, with Milan winning 4-1. The fans were crazy and awesome. We saw two big fires and hundreds of flags being waved all over. Fans were singing all the time and were dressed out all crazy. It was a really cool atmosphere to experience.
It's been a crazy week. I've had a lot of fun doing all this stuff and hanging out with my new friends some too. And it keeps on going with a four day trip to Florence and Venice this weekend. I'm looking forward to seeing Amy Jackson in Florence. It will be a great trip, but I'll certainly be ready to be home and get a little rest next week--hopefully.