July 26, 2017

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Saturday, June 27, 2009
Trip Journal Part 2:

6.26:

had breakfast. talked with the great hotel staff about the best way to get back to the airport with luggage. Decided to take the bus, and bought the bus pass. Attended the Friday morning portion of the conference and saw a great talk Dr. Gerhard Hirzinger from the DLR Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics. It is amazing what they have done in the field of robotics. Everything from space to surgical robotics. Also imaging and 3d modeling. Really cool stuff. Attended some splinter sessions. The first was a collection of presentations on walking robots (some papers on bipedal and quadrapedal) and one presentation on a robotic manaquin that could be used to tailor make mens formal wear. Very interesting. I suggested to the presenter that the technology could be of interest to those in the space industry for fitting of spacesuits, not only for the custom fit, but also to show the range of expansion of an individuals bodies in zero G (the spinal cord expanding for example). I'm not sure that there would be interest since I don't work with that at all, but something to look into perhaps.

while on the bus to the airport, I'll take a second to remark on the driving in Germany. My goodness people here drive fast, and with no margin for error. They drive very close and make very close turns. The bus driver from the airport made turns i would barely be able to make in my truck. Our cab driver was zipping through munich on wet roads at an incredible rate (although more like a professional driver, not like a madman). Somehow though, it all works. I think that people here are generally much better drivers than in the US. Talking with one of my German friends from the conference, he said most of it is due to the fact that all of the drivers follow the rules very closely. He also prepared us for what driving will be like in Italy. Based off what I have heard, I bet we will have some stories to bring back from Italy.

Checked out of the hotel and took our bags to the bus stop near the central train station. Caught the bus to the airport to head to Rome. Flight was fairly uneventful. The airline staff were very helpful and friendly. Our driver for our transfer to the hotel was awesome. He showed us many things and helped us to get situated in Rome.

Our hotel was nice, but in a bad area of Rome (lots of graffiti and trash everywhere). The hotel staff also seemed a bit standoffish at first, but later, when working our a dinner location, and help with the subway, it got better.

For dinner, we ate at a little restaurant that can hold about 30 people max. The food and service were outstanding, but the price was a little high (although, as we are discovering, everything is high). The prices were not out of line with the dishes. We had amazing food, laughed, and shared an entire bottle of Chianti. Good times.


6.27:

The next morning, we had breakfast at the hotel then made our way onto the subway. We got to the city center and started walking. We saw many old buildings and statues, although it was hard to know what anything was. Later, we started following the Rick Steve's walking tour suggestion, but we should have started that sooner. Eventually, we were at the Victor Emmanuel Monument. This was a monument made for the first king of the unified Italy. After that, we headed to the famous Trevi Fountain where we threw in a coin and made a wish. With a cup of Gelato in hand, we got back to the subway to head to the Vatican for our tour.

Our tour was incredible. We had headsets so we could hear our guide even amongst a sea of people. Her knowledge was very extensive. You could tell she was holding back some of her knowledge and excitements so that we would have time to see everything we could. No question challenged her knowledge.. even ones about the smallest details.

The Vatican museum... the Sistene Chapel... St. Peter's Basilica. These things were so amazing, that I don't want to talk about them. I feel like my words would only do injustice to them and give you an impression that is not big enough. I truly started to doubt how men on earth could be capable of creating such things. I'm sure we will have many stories to tell from here. I saw a quote somewhere that said,

"Without having seen the Sistine Chapel one can form no appreciable idea of what one man is capable of achieving." -- Werner Herzog

I think that is how I feel now.

After the vatican, we visited some shops and saw some really beautiful but expensive stuff. Then, we took off to eat. Which leads us to a good story.

We decided to take the Rick Steves book out and see what restaurants he recommended in the Vatican area. One, which will remain nameless, looked pretty good so we followed directions on the map and went there. We were greeted by a waiter who seemed annoyed at our presence (you read that correctly). He spoke without looking at us, and then eventually came back and asked me what I wanted to drink. I said "water". Christian then started to say "and I'll have" and the waiter turned around and walked away from her.

Christian looked at me with some eyes that I was glad were not for me. The waiter was an older gentlemen, so I thought, on a longshot, maybe he expected me to order drinks for the both of us. I don't have any idea how that would extrapolate out to ignoring the lady at the table, but I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt.

He returned with the water and turned around. Christian raised her hand and started to say "Scussi... can we have a menu?" and the man said something without turning around and facing her. Again, the eyes came my direction. I ducked. I asked if she wanted to leave. She was disgusted, but said she would stay. I said "C'mon... let's just go. There are plenty of other restaurants that want our business", but she said no. We would stay. I thought I could hear some teeth grinding but I couldn't be sure.

When the waiter returned, he returned with about 6 bowls of appetizers. He said some things in Italian saying, "please please... enjoy". He walked away and we quickly asked each other... "is this free?"

Returning again, Christian asked "Quanto Costo?" (how much?), and he shook his head from shoulder to shoulder and waved his hands saying something like "not much... you enjoy". After some language barrier issues, a younger waiter decided to translate and pointed to the appetizer selection on the menu that specifed a spread of everything. It was about 9 Euros (about $14 USD).

Based entirely off of Christian's eyebrows and the rate at which she closed her menu, I knew we were leaving. As we stood up, the waiter started apologizing (although I think that had a little to do with the fact that the other waiters saw that he had been pressuring us and being rude to us). I told him thank you, paid for the bottle of water, then we walked out. We walked further down to a restaurant that was not in the Rick Steve's book, but had a great dinner. Things were great, and I really like the story we got from that other restaurant. I think it was worth the 2 Euros.

Tomorrow, we take the historical tour including the Colosseum!!

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