Since extreme weariness and writing don't mix terribly well, this will be my last post of substance (I'll post a quick note when I've finally uploaded my pictures from the trip, probably in the next week or two). Fatigue causes subject matter selection to become rather more challenging than one might think; suddenly, freak rain storms take on incredible significance and rank more highly than things like, say, a visit with the pope. But the city of Rome deserves a bit more attention, as it is a fascinating place. As far as I can tell, no other modern city is built up to the same extent around such glorious ancient ruins. My growing desire to study history more deeply has been sealed by our time in Rome. One of the most moving experiences was the day we visited the Colosseum where countless numbers of Christians died for sport and then traveled less than two miles out of the city to see the catacombs along the Appian Way where these same Christians were buried. Christians were apparently required to be buried outside the city walls by Roman decree, so it seems like poetic justice that the Appian Way is now more beautiful than most of Rome. Overall, this city is a place that everyone should see at least once.
But as fascinating as Rome is, I'm not sure I could actually live there; I'm afraid I'd spend half my life stranded on street corners. More than any other city we've visited in Europe, Rome's driving situation is absolute chaos (even the people who live here think so). In London, you can safely follow the locals when crossing the street, while in Paris, you learn to do the exact opposite of the Parisians. But in Rome, you do well to dispense with crossing streets altogether. Here, there are no such things as lanes for cars to travel in. If the width of the street reasonably allows three cars to fit side by side, you can be sure that in Rome, seven cars will be packed in (and several of them will have drivers leaning out of the windows, shaking their fists and screaming at each other). Scooters and Vespas aren't required by law to stop at red lights, and major intersections in the most crowded parts of the city have no traffic signals to halt oncoming traffic. Pedestrians must rely on the strength of painted crosswalks on the street and the finely-tuned reflexes of alert Italian drivers coming back from heavy meals of pasta and wine to ensure their safety in getting from one side of the street to the other (and these aren't typical crosswalks; they span the length of several normal crosswalks). One night, after seeing two local women nearly killed by such trust, I refused to cross the street and we got lost in our attempt to find a crosswalk with a signal many blocks away. As you can imagine, it was terribly disconcerting to be taken back to the exact same intersection several nights later by an American girl who has lived in Rome for several years now. Only the fear of losing sight of my companions induced me to step into the swirling mess of Rome traffic, and I learned immediately that it is astoundingly difficult to proceed along a crosswalk when oncoming traffic is rushing at you at extremely high speeds and then screeching to a halt just inches from your person. I wasn't sure if I'd be around to actually write up the experience. . .
Fortunately, we've moved on to a calmer, more pedestrian-friendly place: the city of Prague. Prague is worlds away from the hustle and bustle of Rome. In fact, it is a city that is worlds away from anything I've ever seen. We have somehow managed to save the best for last on this trip. I've been looking forward to seeing Prague for quite a few years now, and it is a city that absolutely does not disappoint. It is a magical, breathtaking city, made up of the stuff of fairy tales and far-off lands. It is freezing here, but the light dusting of snow and the brisk weather fit in perfectly with a city that seems to function best at Christmas time. Though the pictures I've seen of the lovely greenness of Prague in the summer look wonderfully appealing, I've been told that Prague is a place that knows how to do Christmas, and the truth of these words is evident everywhere you look. They've been setting up Christmas decorations since we arrived, and this gorgeously charming city with beautiful old buildings is made all the more lovely by the strings of Christmas lights and huge Christmas trees decorating every possible open space. We are being put up in what is effectively our own little apartment (complete with a full kitchen) by some very kind and gracious friends of Anna's family (anyone noticing a pattern here?). We are taking advantage of the situation by relaxing and drinking as much tea as possible so that we can brave the cold each day for the few minutes it takes to reach whatever coffee shop or restaurant we've decided to visit for that day (our schedule is quite full here, as you can imagine). Prague is the perfect end to a long and wonderful trip.
We've had a marvelous time these past few months and it's been all the more enjoyable to write things up for this blog. Thank you all for following along and keeping up with us all this time. We've had fun trying to pick out some of the most interesting (and absurd) things to share with you; we hope it's been at least somewhat entertaining. I imagine there will be all sorts of things I can say later about what I've gained from this trip, but right now, I'm too tired to sort it all out. At the very least, I can say I've truly enjoyed this grand adventure, and I look forward to seeing what comes next (after a long, much-needed stint at home, of course!).
We will be flying out of Prague next Monday, and then out of London next Thursday. If you could please remember us in your prayers those days, we'd be most grateful. Can't wait to see (or hear from) you all soon!