So turns out that Paris is a more popular vacation destination than I had thought. I booked all my hostels, and had my eurail pass itching to be used. Unfortunately, there are no spots on any the 40 trains leaving from either Rome or Milan to Paris in the next 4 days. Paris cannot be that cool. This unforeseen cosmic punishment for lack of initiative or organization leaves me stranded in Rome for the time being until I can figure out a better plan of attack. Presently I'm consulting Donald Rumsfeld.
Rome, though, is not a bad place to be stranded. The Israeli-Palestinian border is. And so is McDonald's. Or trapped in a room with Pauly Shore. But not Rome. I was able to go to the Vatican's midnight mass, which was incredible. We waited in line for 4 hours beforehand, and when the doors were finally opened, the masses swarmed the Swiss guard like my brother Jack Jack to his new Xbox 360. I've never seen any one treat religion like that before. Literally, it was an all out sprint. As gorgeous as the mass was though, it also was kind of a spectacle. Camera and camcorders were going off the entire ceremony, and nobody (including myself) hesitated to stand on their chairs to get a better view of the processions. It was still a very beautiful ceremony though, and I was extremely blessed to be able to go.
I just got back from Dublin this weekend, which was relaxing and revitalizing. I love Ireland. I can't overemphasize how great the people are there. There's not much to see in Dublin beyond the Guinness Factory. The real draw of Ireland is the culture. The Irish are responsible for the pub. Other cultures have no concept of anything like it. A traditional Italian pub is a fluorescently lit café that slowly drains the life from you, and can only offer liquor in return. You get in and get out. The French café is somewhat comparable, but is more conducive to quiet, intellectual conversation, rather than a fun night out. It's just an interesting point to note, because in America, we steal all other cultures and mold them into one amalgam golem with fried egg rolls for arms and legs, sausage for a torso and sadly, undercooked spaghetti for brains.
Consequentially, Berken and I spent most of our days jumping from pub to pub. The guinness was great and the people were better. Maybe it's because of my Irish roots, but Ireland just feels like home to me. I love the weather, I love the people and I even love the city, and I generally can't stand cities. We did however go to a restaurant called Captain America's, which took a slight swallow of pride. I will admit though that they made a burger that would make America proud. Honestly, there's not much else to tell. Ireland is a place that just has to be experienced.
I've recently had some interesting conversations with my roommates. As we all know, Europe is slightly more "progressive" than the States (although I've always wanted to ask a progressive what they're progressing towards. I think the euphemism has lost its meaning. While I make no claim to sway towards one side or the other, I always found it funny that the left wing always chooses euphemisms that not even Hitler could disagree with. Pro-choice. Progressive. Liberal. No I say! I prefer an obscurantist, narrow-minded life in prison! Anyways...). European government has virtually no checks or balances, so they are as fickle as the people they represent. Case in point, Italian government has changed 51 times in the 52 years since Mussolini fell from power. It makes France's 5 since Napoleon look like genius. When people want something done and can't get it from their present government, generally they just have to wait a year.
Italy, however, is slightly different than the rest of Europe, because Italian government has a much more difficult time suppressing the Church seeing as they're here. Italy is one of the last European countries that hasn't legalized homosexual marriage, and the "progressives" lay the brunt of the blame on the Pope and his power over the people and the government. My immediate reaction was to defend the Pope, citing that he has no social power and merely delegates over the Church, but then I realized that he was probably right. The Church's presence is probably the reason that Italy is considered one of the most "backwards" countries in the civilized Western world (although some of it has to be attributed to the fact that the Italians are just plain lazy).
There's always existed a tension between the Pope and the people, whether it was due to corruption in the highest ranks as in the 15th century or the restriction of social advancement as in modern times. One would think that Italy would be one of the most Catholic countries in Europe, but in fact, it's one of the most secular. The Church has always had a global presence and is never more focused on its own nexus, unlike the United States. So the tension between the Church and the people is perpetuated, and it can be really felt amongst the people. The few people with whom I have had conversations about the Church, who are rational, composed people, generally passionately resent it.
Eppure, tonight I have a train that leaves for Nice, France, and from there I'm hoping to catch a train to Paris. It's unbelievable what a popular destination Paris is for New Years. After New Years, I'll be meeting Fr. Avram in Engelberg, Switzerland for what is forecasted to be a much less painful excursion on the slopes. But weathermen always lie. I hope that everyone had a great Christmas, and is enjoying time with family and friends. I wish I could be there with you all. Cheers!