Sunday, October 5, 2008

Milan Italy-Duomo, Aquariums, and Bracelets

Wednesday, October 1

After our fun filled night in, we were happy to sleep in until almost 10am. On our agenda for the day was see the famous cathedral or duomo as it's called in Italian, find internet, and possibly see the fashion district. A real normal shower was a welcome treat. Our wonderful hotel host gave us a map of the city showing all the sites along with the subway routes. We walked about 3 blocks to the nearest subway station, paid 3 euros for a barging priced 24 hour pass, and hopped aboard towards the cathedral.

Immediately after walking up the stairs to the street level, we were hit up by a mob of people selling things. Heather escaped, but Charlie was not so lucky as he had a bracelet tied to his wrist faster than he could walk away. The man said it was free and for good luck and even complimented being with someone as beautiful as Heather. The stairs came up right next door to the cathedral on street level. We knew it was going to be big and impressive, but it was hard to take it all in at once. Its the 3rd largest church in the world after St. Peters in Vatican City and one in Spain, and the 2nd largest gothic style church in the world after the one in Seville Spain. Work began on it in the late 1300's and it wasn't fully finished until the early 1800s when Napoleon ordered it finished when he had conquered Milan.

We walked around the side of it to the entrance and after a brief search of our backpack, we were inside. The first thing we noticed was how dark it was inside. Even with the HUGE stained glass windows and recently added flood lights, its quite dark for a while until your eyes adjust. Once we were in a few feet, we got an idea just how big this cathedral is. Its a big like the Louvre in Paris, you can tell someone how big it is all day long, but it will still be bigger than your expecting. Its also one of the few churches we've been in where you get such a overwhelming good feeling inside. We talked afterwards about how those who tour it for the architectural reason, just how much they miss out on the spiritual feeling in there.

Walking in and looking up towards the ceiling can really make you feel small. It was probably close to 100 feet, with massive stone pillars supporting the structure. We made our way to the back of the church, admiring all of the stained glass windows. Looking towards the altar, it appears to be miles away. We walked along the side of the pews towards the front of the church, stopping to admire all the stone carvings along the way. There was a line for confession, and also a list of all the cardinals that have run the church dating back to when it was built. Above the altar are many paintings, some of which had to be 20 feet by 20 feet, along with 2 huge organs. Also on the side of it is a newer modern organ that appears to be used more frequently. We've heard some of the huge old organs literally have miles of piping and can take over 5 years to restore. This cathedral was under a bit of restoration as we'll get into later. They had the very front of the church roped off so only groups could tour it for about the next half hour, so we decided to come back to that, instead we went downstairs. They had a room full of artifacts that was 1 euro to get into, which we skipped, and instead saw the remains of one of the cardinals dating from sometime in the 1500s. It almost looked fake, as he was still in some sort of suit.

Back upstairs, we decided to leave the church for a bit and come back after trying to find internet. We had no luck at the usual places like coffee shops and McDonalds, and in fact have started to get strange looks asking if there is wi-fi to be had. Its defiantly harder to find internet the further south we've some, Italy in particular. With no luck, we headed back to the cathedral to see what we missed earlier.

Back inside, we did a quick walk through of the front part that was roped off before, and found we really didn't miss much. There was a cardinal robe behind a glass case, and a few statues. Back outside we went to check out the roof.

Charlie decided to walk up the stairs thinking he'd get some good pictures along the way, while Heather opted for the elevator. To his disappointment all he got was a walk up about 300 some stairs, although he did beat the elevator to the top Heather was in as it only holds about 4 people at a time. Up on the roof is where the true amazement of just how much went into making this amazing church really hit us. There are countless statues of saints all along the roof, endless intricate little details carved into the pillars, the incredible walkway designed into the roof, not to mention the view up there. We find it impossible to imagine a person designing and building this mighty cathedral, we were sure only God himself were capable of something this grand. In a day and age where using a computer to design all the symmetry and molds necessary to make all the details, and to get all the measurements right so everything comes out right in the end, we couldn't imagine how it didn't take 100 years just to draw out the plans for this. There was restoration work going on on the roof of some of the statues and arches, which we figured is pretty much a full time deal with a building of this size and age.

After the church we decided to go wander in search of internet and lunch. Along our way Heather spotted a water fountain with a hippo face for a spout, so she had to get a picture of it. Much to our suprise after poking her head in the building attached to it, she found a free aquarium we could tour! We were both happy that not only was it free, but something fun and different to see. It was set up in a large circle, with many different stations with different types of aquatic life and fish. Everything from a mountain stream to a coral reef was in there. It put a smile on our faces to see it all. We made one more pass through and noticed an outdoor area so we stepped out and found some cute turtles we took pictures of.

Onto our mission of finding internet. We stopped in a few cafes and asked around and they all pointed us to the subway station, as there are pay internet sites in most of the stations. We gave in and went in one to pay for 15 minutes worth to find free wi-fi on a site that shows places that have it. It was basically 3 computers and some payphones in a large closet, and Charlie about passed out towards the end from the stuffy air and smell of people who haven't showered in a while. It smelled a bit like bad Indian food in there. We found some a couple subway stops up the line at a cafe, so off we went.

We came upon Roca's cafe, happy to see a free wi-fi sticker in the window. It was a cozy place with a bar area and half a dozen tables. We took a table and ordered some much missed chips and salsa, and a couple drinks. After surfing the net for a while, we got hungry and ordered a pizza with cheese, tomatoes, and lettuce, and also a grilled ham and tomato panini with plans to stay a while as we quite enjoyed the atmosphere. We ate and got caught up on emails, and also found a cafe up the road from our hotel with wi-fi for us to use the next day. As it got dark, we called it a night, and took the subway back to our hotel where we sat up and talked for a bit before falling asleep.

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