Log #34b Death of Pope John Paul II and Touring Rome-1

April 8, 2005 in Logs by Series, Series 34 Rome - Corsica - Sardinia, The Logs

Ostia, Rome, Italy

April 8, 2005

Hi Folks,

We’re still here in Ostia, and were hoping to leave this weekend, but the weather has closed in so that we won’t leave before Monday or Tuesday or even later. All is well with us and Veleda. As I write this, Rome is locked up for the Pope’s funeral. Both airports are closed, no cars are allowed into downtown Rome, and security is at a maximum for all the dignitaries present.

I will be sending this log via my new Hotmail address. I still have my AOL but have had such problems with it that I am ready to cancel it. I will inform everybody when I finally cancel it, but in the meantime I have both svveledaiv@aol.com and svveledaiv@hotmail.com addresses. We have purchased a Vodophone card to access the internet directly from the boat, and it is easier accessing Hotmail than AOL.

Let me know if you have any problems downloading this log. I may even be able to send the occasional picture as an attachment.

I’ll close for now and get this off in a couple of hours.

All the best,


Log #34b Death of Pope John Paul II and Touring Rome-1

Ostia, Rome, Italy

April 7, 2005

Pope John Paul II died April 2, 2005!

I went over to the Vatican (for a second time) on April 7, to be with the crowds to absorb the impact of this historic occasion on the multitudes crushing into St. Peter’s Square to pay him homage. I am not a Catholic, but can appreciate the influence the Roman Catholic Church has had on world events, and the long reign of Pope John Paul. Rome had good crowd control, funneling the masses to the end of the broad avenue leading to St. Peter’s Square (actually a large circular columned piazza before St. Peter’s Basilica).

The crowds were well behaved, with flags of Poland and the Vatican and slogans dedicated to Pope John Paul waving above the crowds, with chants and hymns spontaneously rising up from the marchers. Crowd control was well organized with barriers to funnel the thousands of “mourners” to the square, through the side streets and bridges across the Tiber. There were all kinds of volunteers manning information positions, directing crowd control, giving out free bottles of water, staffing first aid tents; and there were lines of temporary outhouses for toilet facilities. The crowds were not sad, as the Pope was aged and had made his contribution to the Church. It was more a celebration of his contribution to the world, and a thanksgiving for his life. On the sides of the avenue were large speakers and videotrons replaying scenes of the Pope’s body in his Papal regalia lying in state on his bier; the mourners, and the clergy paying homage.

I did not want to wait in a mass of humanity (tens of thousands) for six to nine hours to file past the bier, and so after an hour or so in the throng, I eased myself off to the side and went down to tour Castel St. Angelo, on the Tiber, a fortification that supported the Papacy since the 6th century, linked to the Vatican in 1277 by a wall and passageway used by Popes to escape in times of threat. More about this tour in my next log.

How time flies when you are having fun! It has been two months since I wrote my last log, and here it is now less than a week before we hope to set sail for our next season on the water. I had wanted to get off as soon as possible, but on our check out sea trial a few days ago, neither of our self steering systems were working. Our Symrad wheel pilot just had a short that was readily fixed, but our old Benmar Cetek has other problems. We have spent considerable time and money attempting to correct the various faults, and have now given up, and since it is original to the boat and thus is 27 years old, we will replace the whole thing with another below deck system, possibly a Raymarine unit we found in a West Marine catalogue. The chandlery here has a representative coming in on Monday the 11th, and if he can get us a good price for it over here, and installed within a week, we will delay our departure a bit. However, we can’t delay too long as we have friends coming to meet us at various points. We will make the decision on Monday. If we don’t replace it now, we can wait, but will need to do so before our Atlantic crossing next winter.

I want to get this log off before we leave to summarize our itinerary and part of our time here in Rome.

ITINERARY for 2005-2006

We hoped to take off by April 10 or 11, on our anniversary (April 10 when we first met, April 11 when we married a few years later) and head up to Elba, the island to which Napoleon was exiled, and then over to Corsica and down to the northern part of Sardinia. From there we will head for the south coast of France. We will work our way over to Aigues Mortes west of the Rhone, and enter the Canal du Midi by early June. We expect to be about six weeks in the canal, working our way up through the Bordeaux region to the Biscay coast of France. Then for the rest of summer we will head down the Atlantic coast of France, Spain, and down the Portugal coast before heading out in the fall to Madeira, the Canaries, and down to the Cape Verde Islands off the African coast by December. We are uncertain as to whether we will go to Morocco en route or not. We plan to head across the Atlantic in January 2006 to Barbados or somewhere in that region of the Caribbean. We intend to sail in the southern Caribbean for the first year or so, and after that we may head north and do the east coast of the US, and maybe then down to the Panama Canal and into the Pacific in a couple of years.

Touring Rome

Rome is indeed the Eternal City. From our marina here in Ostia, downtown Rome is only a half hour local bus and subway ride (for only €1.00) away. This is the major advantage of this marina for its proximity to Rome. Both Judy and I are interested in Roman history, and we immersed ourselves in it. We are even taking a course in Roman history, by The Teaching Company from which we have purchased a series of CD lectures.

We are only a ten minute train ride away from Ostia Antica, the original port for Rome where the Tiber flows into the Tyrrhenian Sea (only a mile or so from our marina), with ruins dating back to the 4th century BC. The ruins are extensive, rivaling those of Pompeii, with a theatre, forum, baths, mosaics, and temples dating for over a thousand years until sacked in the 6th century AD. We spent two days exploring these fascinating ruins.

In Rome we have visited many interesting museums and ruins. Of course our first stops were at the Roman Forum and the Colosseum. We scrambled through the extensive ruins of palaces and dwellings on the hills on both sides, the Palatine and the Capitoline Hills. On the Palatine Hill we saw the remains of Domitian’s Palace, reminding us of Diocletian’s Palace in which we shopped in Split, Croatia (see Log #22c) with dwellings and markets still operating within its ancient (100 AD) walls. In fact we saw a model of the Split Palace in the Museo della Civilta Romana and said, “Hey, we’ve been there.” It is a fantastic experience to examine the history of ancient Rome and Greece, and to know we have been to many of their ports, palaces, cities, and fortresses throughout the Aegean, Mediterranean, and Black Sea. In the museums we see the ancient charts of conquests or trade routes, and know we have sailed those waters in Veleda.

We had lunch in and meandered through the ancient Jewish quarter, and had the opportunity to visit the Museo Ebraico di Roma (the Jewish Museum of Rome). The Jewish community in Rome predated the Diaspora of 70 AD, but the current temple (Tempio Maggiore) was built in 1904, replacing several individual synagogues in the confined ghetto. Unfortunately after a terrorist bombing in the 1990’s armed police are guarding all corners of the temple.

At the Museo della Civilta Romana in EUR, a suburb south of Rome developed by Mussolini, we were impressed with a dramatic scale model of ancient Rome of Constantine’s era, about 315 AD. We could see the ancient structures in all their glory; the walls of Rome, the intact Colosseum, the Forum, the Senate, triumphal arches, pyramids, emperors’ columns, Circus Maximus, other amphitheatres, several temples and palaces, and the aqueducts snaking through the city bringing fresh running water to palaces, homes, and public fountains. Also in this museum we enjoyed not only the ancient sculptures, but especially the models of Caesar’s siege works at Alesia, and other such military endeavors. For contrast it also housed a space museum (Italian only). This museum and the surrounding area is an interesting example of grandiose but sterile Fascist architecture set up by Mussolini in the 1930’s.

Villa Borghese, set up when Pope Paul V (1605 – 1621) was raised to the Papacy, is a lush park of greenery in the heart of Rome. Galleria Borghese is the centerpiece, a sumptuous palace and museum of fine art, sculptures and paintings, from ancient Rome through the medieval period to the renaissance. The works of art are rivaled by the ornate architecture of vast halls with ornate ceiling paintings both religious and pastoral; frescoes, mosaics, and cherubs of various masters; arches, wide curved marble stairs, and immense floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking formal gardens. In wandering through the park we saw a Shakespearean theatre not unlike the Globe Theatre in London.

On the far side of the villa’s park we went to Villa Julia, (Museo Nationale Etrusco di Villa Guilia), with exhibits of Etruscan treasures outlining the cultures of Italy north of Rome before the Roman expansion and conquests.

We went on a tour of other traditional attractions such as the Trevi Fountain (beautiful white marble statuary with water gushing through the mouths of several beasts, with Neptune’s chariot drawn by seahorses led by Tritons), the Spanish Steps (a bit of a disappointment as the church at the head of the steps was undergoing some reconstruction, and a fabric covering over the work in progress unfortunately had a facade of modern advertising totally taking away from the image at the top), and the Pantheon  with Raphael’s tomb, plus the tombs of a couple of kings of Italy (Vittorio Emanuele II and Umberto I) which was originally built by Marcus Agrippa in 27 BC dedicated to the planetary gods. It was abandoned by the first Christian emperors only to be given by the eastern emperor in 609 AD and dedicated to the Madonna and all martyrs. “The height and diameter of the interior both measure 43.3 m., and the extraordinary (open) dome – the largest masonry vault ever built – is considered the most important  achievement of ancient Roman architecture” according to our Lonely Planet Guide. We took one of those “Hop on Hop off” bus tours later in our visit with friends from Germany, but found we had already had a good orientation to Rome from our wanderings with a good subway and bus map, and the ease with which we could get into downtown Rome from Ostia via public transport.

We visited other areas of Rome, including the Vatican and St. Paul’s Basilica, as well as Castel St. Angelo, Tiber Island and a fascinating dinghy ride up the Tiber to downtown Rome in Sprite. More about these trips and our adventures in Naples, Herculaneum, Pompeii, and Tuscany (including Lucca, Pisa, Gimignano, and Sienna) in my next log.