Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Coffee and St Maria Maggiore

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We didn’t have much time on Wednesday before our flight, but we managed to sneak in some more fine Italian coffee and a visit to the Basilica of St Maria Maggiore (the Theotokos), which was/is the patriarchal basilica of Antioch.

But first, the coffee (top photo). There’s a whole different coffee culture in Italy, it seems. In Greece, “having coffee” means sitting around for 2-3 hours sipping well, frankly, bad coffee.

In Italy, on the other hand, while this is possible, it seemed more common for people to dash into a store, order a coffee, and drink it in 3 minutes while standing at the bar. In fact, you can get a cappuccino for only 1 Euro if you do this. If you sit or get it to-go, it’s more like 3-4. Initially, we were confused by the procedure. We ordered the coffee and then Pelagia actually asked: “How long do people normally take to stand here and drink this?”

“Ah, 3 minutes.”

(Incidentally, we thought this is something that would catch on in American culture – I’m surprised we haven’t seen it yet.)

Next, as we headed toward the train station, we passed the church in the second photo. I saw the name, but now I forget it. I remember it is a church from about the 5th century, which they then renovated during the Renaissance with a new façade (which you can see clearly in the photo).

Finally, we popped in to St Maria Maggiore, to see one more thing before we headed off. What can I say? It was another enormous, historic church (see bottom two photos). Built over a pagan temple of Cybele, this site was one of the first Christian meeting places.

After a short visit, we continued to the train station, where we caught the train to the airport (about 30-40 minutes away).

The train was slow, and we hit several delays in trying to find the right counter at the airport. By the time we got there, it was 35 minutes until boarding. Fortunately, there were no lines anywhere – for tickets or security.

We arrived at the ticket desk, and the woman from the Italian airline told us that there was a random rule (not sure whose) that prohibited passengers from checking in after 40 minutes before boarding. Since it was 35 minutes, we were out of luck and would miss our flight.

We asked: “Well, have our seats been sold?”

“Oh no, there are 20 empty seats on the flight.”

“Um, well, is there some way we could get on anyway, seeing as we can easily make it to the gate in plenty of time?”

“Oh, this is a big problem. Big problem.”

So began about 20-25 minutes of phone calls, head scratching, mini-conferences, etc. while we stood there waiting. Finally, they solved the problem of their own system, but now it was much later. So the woman led us, running, through the airport, got a favor to let us go through the security for airport personnel, and pointed us at our gate, saying “Run, run!”

We arrived, out of breath, only to find that they had just announced that they would begin boarding.

Ah, Italy. In this regard, it was like we never left Greece! ( :

So that’s it for the Rome trip. Thanks for reading! All the photos from the trip – 195 in all – are available here.

Pelagia went to Athens this morning to meet her parents. They will arrive here in Thessaloniki on Friday. Check in on the blog for updates!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I loved the coffee in Greece.
--Pres. Irene