Italy, Vatican, San Marino, Liechtenstein and a lot of water under the bridge
Yes...as all roads do the road led me to Rome and will do so a few more times on this journey. That's logistics for you; all roads lead to Rome ;) I arrived by train late in the evening and made my way to a pretty cool backpacker place called the Yellow. It has it's own bar and is located near the central station. But what really makes it something special is the staff! It was quite an international set because they were from the U.S., from Australia, from Portugal...are there no Romans in Rome?? Anyway...I was interviewed as "almost famous" and treated really well...so go there if you want to meet people who know what you need.
I woke up the next morning with a clear plan of going to the Vatican City where I was to find a way of spending 24hrs. Not so easy I would find out...
First I went to the Colosseum in order to get a few pictures for the Red Cross and for Ross Offshore and Ross Engineering. I can't believe how many tourist were there! It's like this; I like Rome...there is history on every corner...but I do not need tourists. Well...sometimes I do because it is pretty hard taking pictures of myself for Ross and Red Cross on my own. Actually I have met a lot of great people all over who have been able to help me with pictures. And that goes well with my philosophy...people out there want to help. This project would not be possible without the people...and so it was a small group of 3 young Russians on a school trip who helped me at the Colosseum.
After that I found my way to the Vatican and thought I would go directly to the open area in front of St. Peter's Basilica. But because the Pope was inside this particular Wednesday the area was closed until 1pm. So I had to wait alongside 1 gazillion tourist just a few meters outside the Vatican.
Waiting at the Vatican
And then...about 15 minutes later than announced (because it is Italy and the trains are not the only things subject to delay) the Vatican opened for the public!
Yeah...so I crossed the line. Right there next to my feet I had Italy...but under my feet it is the Vatican. Woo-hoo. I was walking about looking for practical things such as toilets, water and shelter for rain. I was going to spend 24hrs so I had to know these things. But the more people I spoke to the more confirmation I received that the guards would ask everyone to leave at 11pm. So that meant that I would not get to spend 24hrs in one go. Besides...what is the point really?? I do not want to spend 24hrs in every country with no particular country reference. I want to get some small sense of how the people are, how they live, what they eat, what they think and much more. I was basically not getting anything out of what I was doing and after about 1hr 33 minutes and 32 seconds I crossed over the line and back into Italy.
And then I quickly crossed back over the line again but this time at the official entrance to the Vatican City. And then the guards stopped me :) I asked for 'Römisches Institut Der Goerres Gesellschaft (RIGG)'. Yes sir, I always ask for them. No..just kidding...this was my first time. That was a tip I had been given by a contact who thought that the RIGG might be able to assist me as they house students during their training at the Vatican. The Swiss Guards were very helpful and after some time I was directed to some other guards, I passed a security check, some more guards, a new barrier of guards and then some more guards. Behind those guards I was brought up to an office where I tried to explain the situation in German to a professor. When the professor started to understand that I really was after 24hrs in the Vatican his face changed, as if I was wasting his time with nonsense. The meeting quickly ended and a few final words to me was that it might not be IMPOSSIBLE what I'm after...but it has never been seen before!
In fact, I fully understand the position of the RIGG. And their activities are technically not inside the area of the Vatican but just in close proximity to it. So I will try another angle. And that is why YOU are so important. This is a social project and I will not get inside those walls without the support of people. And I will get into the Vatican! ;)
Back in Italy I had a nice walk in inner Rome and I finally got to see the Pantheon. Something I have wanted to see for many years. I have been to Rome before, and to Italy several times...but I never had the chance to see the Pantheon...and seeing it did not disappoint me! The age and the structure is impressive. It was built by the Romans during around 120 AD and was built as a combined temple of worship for all the Gods. So you could worship all Gods at one place. I like that..it's time saving...good logistics. There is a huge round hole in the center of the ceiling and it just looks magnificent.
Waiting for a train
I had another night at the Yellow and made my way north the next day. Well, not in a straight line because I had to go and see the Italian head office for the Red Cross. I really like Italians. They are so cool. They look good, they act cool and they have this impressive entourage of an amazing world dominating history topped up with good food, music, design, fast cars, beautiful people and political scandals. Don't forget the mafia by the way ;) Just jump on a scooter and say Ciao! And in the best possible Italian stereotypical style I was greeted at the Red Cross office. NOBODY spoke English! The entry to the office was very impressive as architecture in Italy often is. And who needs to know English when you speak Italian :) After a while there was a number of gentlemen trying to figure out how to help me and in turn they would fight the air with their arms or high-five each other. It only took about 30 minutes of that before they found someone who spoke English :) I met more nice people at the Italian Red Cross and then I got on the train north to San Marino.
It was once again dark before I got to my destination. I took the train all the way to Rimini and from there it was a short bus ride into San Marino. I could see the landscape changing dramatically and on top of a hill I spotted something in the dark that might as well have been the Great Wall of China. The bus took me all the way up, and let me loose...
Wow! San Marino! We are talking about a pretty small piece of land that is completely surrounded by Italy. It is run by Captains. Two of them at the time, all the time. Nothing can be done without these two Captains agreeing on it. They sit for 3 years...the country only has 30,000 people. Your odds of becoming Captain are pretty sweet!
I'm telling you: go to San Marino!
The history of San Marino is quite old. They celebrated their 1700 year birthday not long ago. There are many stories about how it all began but I like the one where Marius walks up the mountain with his donkey...a bear then attacks and eats his donkey and Marius then convinces the bear that it must now do the donkey's work...which it agrees to. I love stories that start like that.
Walking around the city center of old San Marino at nighttime was a mind-blowing experience. It is pretty much a fortress with a couple of middle age looking castles way up on the top. The city has been kept in an old fashion which looks really good. But it is also very modern at the same time. So my mind was caught between thinking that I was in the present and in the past at the same time. And mind you...this is 700 meters above sea level so there is a spectacular view of the sparkling lights from below. Oh how I do like San Marino.
I found a nice hotel and spent the night. The next day the city was equally impressive and I enjoyed walking about taking pictures and talking to people. For some odd reason there are swords for sale everywhere. And a great deal of them are samurai? There was also a museum of torture (which makes sense), of curiosity (which was closed so I am still curious), of the castles and city history (which makes sense) and of vampires and werewolves? I got to see the castles.
I recommend San Marino for everyone. Everyone should be able to find something they would enjoy there. I will personally be coming back one day for a weekend retreat.
But that concluded 24hrs in San Marino and I was again heading into Italy.
It's small...but size doesn't matter...hey ladies? ;) Two thirds of Liechtenstein is either mountains or hills. I had a talk with a (Red Cross) ambulance driver who let me know that the country has 3 ambulances and that they have a response time of 12-15 minutes covering all the base land from the Capitol (Vaduz). And I thought Denmark was small! Well, Liechtenstein would win if it came to war with San Marino based on manpower...because San Marino has 30,000 citizens and Liechtenstein has 35,000. I figure that after the war Liechtenstein would have 5000 citizens to repopulate both countries...and what good times that would bring :)
Men will be men - because a man did this...right? :)
Okay...I got a bit off track there. But Liechtenstein is a small place and they seemingly run it well. Actually they have the highest BNP per capita in the world. On average they should all earn about euro 110,000/year...but that's just an average...or is it? ;) You would think I had a shot at meeting the leaders of these small countries...but I pretty much arrive and leave as silent as a ninja.
It was raining throughout my time in Liechtenstein and that was kind of miserable. But even under those conditions I would really like to come back. People were friendly, the food was good and I love being in the alps. Yeah Liechtenstein...you are on my good side :)
Torbjørn C. Pedersen - am I really the only person currently traveling to every country in the world?
Once Upon a Saga