Tokyo – All In at the Karaoke Bar (#CoverYourEars)

It would have been a real shame leaving Tokyo without experiencing karaoke, so on one of our final days there, we looked up the venues in the neighborhood for a night of singing. The choice fell on Big Echo Karaokebar, only a 10 minute walk from our Marunouchi hotel.

Before we booked a table at the karaoke bar, however, we made a pit stop for some food and (lots of drinks) at the bar next door as a warm-up. Then we booked a private room with a big TV screen and two microphones for the six of us (with additional drinks to further loosen up the vocal cords…).

Earlier in the day, a couple of the boys were a bit skeptical of the whole karaoke thing and claimed audience status only. But, being in the room with a drink (as in many) in their hand, made that skepticism evaporate within minutes. The whole room took off and we went all in singing wise. We (of course) felt that we were really nailing it, but in retrospect, I think we made a wise call deciding to prohibit audio/video recording of the seance.

Our plan was to only book the room for like 30 minutes to an hour, but 3,5 hour later the staff practically had to force the microphones out of our hands. A super fun experience, and the possibility of booking a private room made even the shyest of us break out in singing.

Tokyo – Close Encounter With Sumo Wrestlers

As mentioned in earlier posts, Tokyo was an amazing city and it was sad to see our final day approach. But what better way to finish off our trip than with some sumo wrestling? To us westerners seeing 2 flubby men in a skimpy little outfit can seem a bit strange, but in Japan it’s the national sport and the wrestlers are idolized.

We had hoped to see a genuine sumo wrestling match, but unfortunately none were to be arranged during our stay. Instead we settled for an organized tour, ordered through getyourguide.com, but arranged by a local operator. It included an introduction to the sport by some retired wrestlers as well as a show-match. A very touristy thing to do of course, but hey, we wanted to see sumo wrestling, and this was the only viable option to obtain that. The price was about USD 110 and the activity also included the option of going against one of the wrestlers (spoler alert: I skipped that…) and lunch.

We were to meet up in the Ryoguku area, famous for its many sumo stables. We had a bit of a hard time finding the place since the entrance felt like just a whole in the wall, but we had predicted this, so we still had some time to spare when we finally reached our destination.

We were greeted by an amicable middel aged Japanese lady, who fortunately spoke English fluently. She took us to our table, located in a big room with a big mat in one end. Around the room we saw memorabilia of two wrestlers’ former glory.

Soon the show started and we got to meet the wrestlers (which names I heard, but managed to forget like 5 seconds later). They took us through the rules, warm-ups and techniques, all in Japanese of course, but the lady from before translated with

The wrestlers also did 3 show matches, where the big one (still do not remember his name ) won 2-1.

Before the lunch was served, we learned that sumo wrestlers cook their own food. They actually get so experienced in cooking that 50% of them choose the restaurant business as their second careere. They only eat two times a day, but then they eat a lot. The guy below revealed that when he was active he was able to eat up to 300 shushi pcs in one single meal, but now he is down to like a hundred.

The lunch was like all other food we have tasted in Japan; really tasty. We got a «Chanko Nabe», a real sumo lunch consisting of a hot pot with vegetables, proteins an chicken broth.

At the end we had the option of fighting the wrestlers and to take pictures. All in all a great experience and well worth doing when in Tokyo.

ENG: Berlin Marathon 2010, 2012 and 2015 – Rain, ambulance and naked men in park, but 3 new medals

Berlin Marathon in 2010 was my second marathon after the under par experience in Nordmarka Forest marathon a few months earlier. I really had given up the idea of participating and had even cancelled my plane ticket, but had a change of heart the week before the race and booked a new trip to Berlin; outbound on Saturday morning and inbound on Sunday night, right after the race.

Well, race day arrived with rain and cold weather and that resulted in burns and blisters ALL over due to friction (like 1×10 cm opened wound in the back of each knee caused by my Rehband kneewarmers. My clothes was not quite up to speed either, for example, I wore a regular bra, which gave me bra shaped burns. I also got burns from my ear-phones, so all in all, not my finest moment. But, the course itself was amazing and despite the poor weather, Berlin was crowded with people cheering us on (or, to be honest, I do not speak German, so I am just guessing they were cheering). The last 1000m is up the Unter den Linden. On the map it looks totally flat, but at the end of a 42,2km race, it feels like a giant hill. On the top of the “hill” is Brandenburger Tor and I when I saw it, I was totally sure that that was the finishing line. No such luck… When reaching Brandenburger Tor, I saw that I had to crawl for an additional 2-300 meters. Passing the finishing line was amazing and some tears found their way down my cheek there in the rain, but was quickly replaced with the biggest grin when I got the medal around my neck.

Well, the race was over and I had to revert back to my hotel for a quick shower and then pack up my stuff and go straight to the airport. The hotel was approximately 1 km from the finishing line, but it took me 45 minutes to reach it. I had to have like 20 breaks on the way where I sat down on the wet ground and felt very sorry for myself. But, I did get a lot of sympathetic looks along the way at least… When I finally reached the hotel, and went into the shower, I started to cry like a little baby when the water hit all my burns. The pain was excruciating and I barely managed to get undress afterwards. Then I had to rush off to the airport, where I received a sms from some colleagues, who had also done the race, asking me to join them for drinks and dinner. Instead, I had to sit 2 hours on a plane with poor leg room, reach Gardermoen at midnight and then drive the 2 hours back home and then be at work at 8 the next morning.

Two years later, I was back in Berlin for my second try. As usual, I had not exactly been resting the days before the race. 10-20 km sightseeing the day before a race is not exactly the best of ideas, so my legs were hurting already before the start. But, at least I got a new medal for my collection, and this time the weather was pleasant with sun and perfect temperature. A buddy of mine, who was also running, made the same mistake as I two years before, in believing Brandenburger Tor was the finishing line. But, in his case, he did not notice he was not done and laid down on the ground to rest. A mascot came up for him and tried to cheer him on, but my friend thought the mascot was only gratulating him, so he gave him a good hug before he suddenly noticed the finishing line a couple of hundred meters away (#EPIC). And the best of all; we have it all on tape…

In 2016 am back for the third time, along with a bunch of friends. One of the days we were going for a picnic in Tiergarten and had laid out all the food and were halfway down our prosecco glass when we suddenly noticed that everyone around us were naked. It turned out that we had managed to pick the nudist part of the park for our picnic. We tried to look indifferent, but when a couple of the guys started to stretch, we simply couldn’t be there anymore (I still have some mental pictures of the whole thing I am unable to get rid of…). This was the year I felt a pressure throughout the race, had to take an EKG after crossing the finishing line, resulting in an ambulance to the hospital where I was admitted with severe kidney failure. So, instead of celebrating with champagne, I got an IV and a hospital bed… lucky me..

Note to self for next time… 2XU compression tights, sweater and socks can be challenging if admitted into the hospital for a check. My bloated body stretched the clothes to their final limit, and they almost had to cut them apart to get them off me for examination. The next morning, I was well enough to leave the hospital and luckily we had a couple of more days in Berlin before we had to go home.

We staid at the Intercontinental Hotel Berlin and when we showed up for breakfast on our last day, we noticed that they were actually serving prosecco. A bit early for us, but we thought, what the H***. When in Rome (or Berlin in this case..) do as the Romans (or the Berliners). After breakfast it was time to pack up our stuff and, a bit tipsy, we went to the airport for our return flag.

ENG: Pathologically on time (#NeverLate)

From the minute I was dragged out of my mother’s womb several days overdue, I was taught the virtue of being on time, and I have never been late again (or at least almost never).

To specify, in social settings I do not like to be too early either, I am just pathologically enclined to be just on time. Since I always leave early in order not to be late, I usually have to go for an extra walk to kill the spare time before ringing the doorbell exactly on time.

When I am travelling, however, just the thought of missing my flight gives me nightmares, so I always plan on being at the airport at least 2,5 hours before departure, and in addition I add buffer minutes for everything that can go wrong on the way (cancelled train, delay in security check or check in etc). Need I say that I usually have a few extra hours at the airport?

Then I met my boyfriend, the most perfect guy in the world except for one minor flaw; he is never on time. We have been together for 8 years and for the first couple of years we had some disputes (to put it mildly) related to his tardiness. But, as the years went by we managed to reach a compromise. He never asks whe our flight is, but only when we are to leave for the airport, and I buy him a beer in the bar when we reach the airport and he discovers we have 3+ hours to kill before departure…

#travel #blog

ENG: Bulgaria – Macarena, green eggs and an intruder in the room

Once upon a time there were two friends in their early twenties going to Bulgaria for a week of party harty… But, despite the fairytale beginning of this story, it wasn’t exactly a castle of a hotel that met us and the receptionist was certainly not a prince. In other words, not the most luxurious of holidays, but certainly one to remember.

This is a while ago (let’s just say more years than I care to admit), before Gardermoen became the main Norwegian airport, so we embarked from good ol’ Fornebu with the magnificent Balkan Air, with wobbly seats and pissed off flight attendants that did not speak a word English. I tried to order a diet coke like 3 times and ended up with lukewarm pineapple juice.. When we finally could place our feet on Bulgarian soil, we were stuffed into a bus and driven by a suicidal bus driver along both narrow streets and steep hills and of course the bus did not have any seat belts. It’s a miracle we did not run anyone over along the way and when we finally reached the hotel, most of were still glued to our seats from fear.

To call it a hotel is kind of an over statement. Fair enough, it did have both a roof and four walls, but other than that the place was a wreck with tiny rooms, dirty bathrooms a grumpy old owner and all of the inventory was yellow from major smoking activity. But, we were not in Bulgaria to hang out in the room, so we basically did not care about the facilities and fell asleep instantly in the hard and uncomfortable bed (fully clothed of course, did not want to expose any skin to the dirty linen). Next day we demanded some clean sheets, and at least we got that for the remainder of the stay. During our stay we also quickly learned that they did not put out spare toilet paper rolls in the room and we did not get a new roll of toilet paper unless we produced the old one in an empty state. So, a couple of times we just stashed away the paper for a safety stock and traded the empty roll for a full one. 

On our first day in Bulgaria, we woke up starving and crossed the street to where breakfast was served. And let’s just say, that was the only day we bothered to get up for breakfast. It seems like the establishment looked at all their customers as potentially thieves, because we were all searched upon exit to make sure we did not smuggle out any food. Why someone would bother with stealing warm cheese, mystery soup and green eggs, I don’t know, but after being yelled at in a foreign language sounding like Russian for asking for more rolls (which in our opinion was the only eatable food at the whole breakfast) we decided that this was our first and last breakfast adventure. 

I know that the start of this story has been a tad negative, but we actually had a great time in Golden Sands, playing beach volley all day and partying all night.The summer back home in Norway was pretty crappy that year, so we really enjoyed our days in the sun. Ordering drinks could, however, sometimes be a challenge, since the bartenders were not always up to speed on drinking habits of Norwegians. For instance, when we tried to order Turkish shots (crushed Turkish pepper candy mixed with vodka), we ended up with plain vodka and a pepper shaker. 

This was the year of the Macarena (as if I hadn’t given away my age before..)and one night we thought it to be an excellent idea to ask every boy we met if they would like to come with us and learn the Macarena. I still want to knock my head against the wall just reminiscing, but we ended up with trying to teach 15-20 boys the Macarena, after first really considering just to sneak out the backdoor of the disco. Just to top that evening we ended up with a (pretty amazing,I am sure) karaoke version of the “Lemon Tree”, applauded by our new-found Macarena buddies. 

One night (I would guess late), we were walking back to our hotel all singing and giggling (charmingly giddy of course) and found the door to the hotel locked. We started to panic of the idea of spending the rest of the night outdoors, so we started to pound on the door, first kind of calmly, and then more frantic, until the door was opened by a half a sleep receptionist. We politely thanked him and stormed in, just to not finding our room. We had managed to walk into the wrong hotel (#woops!). After a real humble apology to the receptionist we then walked a bit shamefully one block further to where our hotel in fact was. When we reached the correct hotel, we had reverted back to our giggly state and our receptionist was in a party mood and invited us in to the backroom for some champagne. We did not quite fancy neither more alcohol, nor spending time with a really old guy (I would guess mid-thirties but bear in mind that this is the perspective of a 20-year-old), so we politely declined and went to our room for some welcoming sleep. Then, later that night, I woke up when someone was opening our door and entering the room. I lay still as a mouse and hardly breathed while the person was hovering over our bed for a while before exiting. I briskly woke up my friend and we barricaded the door for the rest of our vacation. 

On the last night we stuck to only drinking soda and since our flight was early we ordered a wake-up call in the reception (again, revealing my age…). The next morning at 07:00, we woke up by 1 pcs furious tour guide almost knocking the door off its hinges. Turned out the reception had forgotten to wake us up at 06:00 as agreed. The tour guide gave us 5 minutes to pack up before the bus left and luckily we had completed the packing the previous evening, so we were more or less ready. Despite us making it to the bus on time, the tour guide continued to yell at us and bad mouthing us the whole trip to the airport, assuming we had been partying all night.

So, even if the hotel was not at all as promised in the advertising, the receptionist tried to get us drunk, someone entered our room during the night,green eggs for breakfast, pissed off tour guide and an awful airline (where, at the return someone had thrown up in the seat behind us, so it stank all over the cabin…), we did not utter one word of complaint towards the travel agency. Even though I am still kind calm and patient, now many years later, I am not THAT calm and at least I would have wrangled the neck of that brat of a tour guide. 

So, vacation on a budget did deliver, if not that luxurious feeling, so at least plenty of stories that are still amusing to think about, so sometimes the cheapest holiday turn out to be the most  memorable.

ENG: Stockholm Marathon – Storm and heart problems, but third time’s a charm…

First time I tried to run the Stochkholm Marathon was in 2012. Race day started out with heavy rain and stormy conditions and it hadn’t been so cold on June for almost 100 years (#luckyme). As if that was not enough, I had come down with a cold and was a bit feverish. Safe to say the conditons were not exactly excellent,

At 10 km I was soaking wet and at 20 I start loosing sensation in my fingers. At 25 km, most of my fingers were blue, and I started to fear for my life. At around 30 km I caved, and surrendered to the medical personell who brought me back to the starting area.

It was a real downer to get a DNF (Dod Not Finish) on my resume, and I was a bit bummed out when I later went for dinner with my boyfriend and a couple of collegues who had actually made it through. In a moment of severe lapse of reason (with his finisher’s rock in his pocket; they did not start with medals until 2 years later), my boyfriend managed to mention his favorite quote later that night: “Pain is temporary, quitting lasts for ever”. Safe to say I could have killed him on the spot, but I settled for a promise to myself that I would eventually complete this course.

The next year, I was about to try again, but ended up at a cardiologist right before the race due to chest pains, so had to forfit once again.

The chest pains turned out to most likely be benigned, so then I signed up for Stockholm Marathon for the third time. This time I finally made it and was 5 minutes away from setting a PB. This year they also started with real medals instead of rocks with bo other function than serving as a door stopper.

 

ENG: Finally a taste of summer

Something very strange happened to me this morning. I crawled out of bed at 05:30 to go for a morning jog, but when I opened my front door I was unexpectedly met by a mild breeze and 15 degrees C, instead of the cold wind and 11 degrees I have grown accustomed to this so-called summer. I mean, FINALLY a taste of summer. My mood was so good that ecen running felt easy (or, let’s settle for easier).

My second highlight of the day came around lunch hour, where I finally could benefit from the fact that my workplace is like 100 m from the beach. I had time to jump into my bikini and do some serious tanning, dipping a toe into the water (which is still way to cold), drinking my pepsi max while reading a book and still be back before my lunch was over.

Hopefully we will get some more of such days this summer, because this day certainly made my week.

 

 

ENG: Tokyo Marathon – 8 things you should know

It has already been a few months since I crawled over the finishing line in Tokyo Marathon and was awarded both the Tokyo Marathon finisher medal and the fabulous Six Star Finisher medal. A fantastic experience! In this post I have collected some valuable information worth knowing about if you consider running in the Tokyo Marathon.

1. Registering

The qualifying time for Tokyo Marathon is quite difficult to achieve, but no need to worry if you are not in that exclusive group, sine there are alternative means to secure a spot. One way is to enter the lottery, but with over 300.000 applicants (2018 numbers) the chances of winning a start place is quite slim. The results from the ballot are not published before September, meaning if you don’t succeed, chances of securing a spot are small. One alternative to qualifying or succeed in the ballot is to buy a spot through a travel agent. Usually their program is quite professionally put together, but the disadvantage is that it is expensive. What we did was to secure our spots through charity. The charity registering opened last year in early July, meaning a couple of months before we get the ballot results, and already a couple of days later, all the spots were taken. What you have to do is enter the homepage of Tokyo Marathon and enter as a charity runner (in 2019 they had 4000 charity spots), choose your charity, pay in the minimum donation of 100.000 JPY (approx. USD 800). It is important that you both enter as a charity runner and pay the specified JPY at once, or else your registration is invalid. If you have done it correctly, you will get a mail confirming your spot. Just to be safe, make sure you read ALL the information before entering as a charity runner.

2. Pre-Race Information

After entering as a charity runner in the beginning of July, we did not hear anything from Tokyo Marathon until the beginning of February, where we got the bib-number registration and the runner handbook. After that we received regular update mails up until race day. It is important that you read the runner handbook really thoroughly, since it contains information about what is allowed into the starting area, as well as an overview of cutoff-times.

3. Expo

We did struggle a bit with founding the expo, much due to us taking a taxi since it was raining heavily that day. The taxi driver, however, didn’t speak a word of English and managed to drop us off at the wrong place. Guess we would have been better off taking the metro instead. The expo was split between several big tents, which was not very practical in the rain. It was quick to register and get our bib number and then we were ready for some shopping. The main shopping stand for Asics were fortunately in a warm tent with a dry floor, but the rest of the stands were either in tents with watery floors or outside. In other words, not very tempting to shop, so I ended up just with a couple of T-shirts. One tip when it comes to buying clothes both at the expo or else in Japan, is to always try them on, since they are operating in Japanese sizes that are considerably smaller than ours. I ended up buying size XL instead of my regular M/L. The opening times for the expo was:

4. Metro-card

Along with the bib-number we got a metro card, valid for 24 hours; a really nice touch. We chose to take the JR line (train) to the start line instead of the metro, so we saved our cards for them to be valid at another date instead.

5. Starting area

Then we have reached the race day. The starting area for 2019 was at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, and the nearest station was Shinjuku station. This is actually the worlds most buzziest station with over 3,5 millioner daily passengers and has 200+ exits. We were a bit concerned that we would get lost in there, but it turned out that it was nothing to worry about. From the moment we stepped out of the train, we were met by volunteers with signs showing us which way to go and they continued until we reached our gate (we were to enter through gate 3). At the gate we had to have our wristband scanned to verify identity and then our bags were manually checked for prohibited items. Luckily all this happened while we were still inside the station, so that we weren’t getting wet, at least not yet. The first group of toilets were under roof and the lines were endless. But, it turned out that the lines were quickly executed and volunteers made sure the lines were in perfect order. One guy stood in the back of the line with a sign saying that the line started there. In the beginning of the line there were additional volunteers telling you when it was your turn and also which toilet to use. Unfortunately the toilets were of the squatting kind, so I managed with just that one visit to the bathroom. Turning in my baggage went also OK. A smart detail was that our bib number was marked with which car to deliver your luggage to. The Runner’s handbook contains a list of all the timings for the starting area. Make sure that you read and keep these limits or else you will not be allowed to start:

6. The Course

The course starts with about 5 km downhill before it flattens out and remain flat for the rest of the run. It takes the runners through both old and modern Tokyo and in multiple parts, you will see the quicker runners running in the opposite direction. A lot of interesting sights to view along the course, not that I would know since yours truly was more occupied with looking down in the ground and yelling at my legs to keep on going.

7. The Run

Then we are finally at the run itself. I started in the last corral (L), so it took about 30 minutes from gun time at 09:10 for me to cross the starting line. One major difference from other marathons is that Tokyo Marathon practices a course time limit of 7 hours from gun time and not from when you cross the starting area, meaning my real time limit was 06:30. They also have cutoff points approx. every 5 km and they are strongly enfored due to the need to open the roads for traffic again. To try to get as many runners to finish the race, the run had Finish Support-runners, dressed in golden colors and with gold balloons and if they ran passed you better speed up, because if your are behind them at the cutoff checkpoint, then you are out of the race. A lot of runners didn’t know about the mid-course cutoff places and some acted with rage when forced to leave the run (example). The link shows an American that doesn’t exactly take the defeat in an honorable way, but choose to yell at the volunteers and the whole thing is really embarrasing. As mentioned, the gun time is at 09:10 and below you can view the cutoff times, which are to be found in the Runner’s handbook:
I have never taken a toilet break during my 13 completed marathons, much due to me running so slow that I have no time to spare. I did, however, hear about runners spending 10-15 minutes in line for the toilets along the course, so the best advice is to try to keep it in as long as possible. From about 5 km you will find drinking station about every 3 km. All of these have water and every second has sports drink. At the various stations also gel, bananas, and other types of energy are offered. A complete list of what you will get at the different stations can be found in the Runner’s handbook. The Japanese are from childhood trained in not throwing garbage but to bring it home with them and in Tokyo the streets are so clean you can practically eat off them. At each drinking station there were lots of boxes for discarding your drinking cups. In addition you had volunteers every 100m or so, holding up bags for us to discard our garbage. Even with these precautions, a disappointed number of runners managed to just throw their cups and gels on the street. I mean, I do understand the elite group not doing this, but it should be that hard for the rest of the runners.

8. Finishing Area

The finishing area was just as organized as the rest of the marathon and when we finally crossed the finishing line, we were promptly met by a water station and a goodie bag station, a station for aluminum blankets, one for the finisher medal and also a separate station for those receiving the Six Star Finisher medal (meaning you have completed marathons in Boston, Chicago, New York, Berlin, London and Tokyo). A huge moment!

Further on we were led to our baggage and then to a separate building for charity runners where we could change our clothes and warm ourselves.

I also heard rumors that those having registered at the expo that they were not to bring any baggage to the starting line, got a poncho and a fleece jacket. I did not, however, see any of those, since I had more than enough looking out for my self.

These are some of the reflections I made before, during and after the run and I hope they can be of help to others who are to participate in Tokyo Marathon, an adventure I would really recommend. 🙂

ENG: Rome – Piazza Navona, ancient square with lots of charm..

 

Piazza Navona is an almost 2000 year old square in Rome, built on an ancient stadium used for athletic competitions. As Castel Saint’Angelo, it also features in the movie based on Dan Brown’s “Angels & Demons”, but its fame was secured long before that time. It consists of a square, with 3 fountains; “Fountain of the Four Rivers”, “Fontana del Moro” and the “Fountain of Neptune”. Around the piazza you can find several small restaurants where you can sit and enjoy the view and watch the people passing by. A bit over-prized of course, but considering the location, well worth the extra euros.

 

Fountain of the Four Rivers

The «Fountain of the Four Rivers» is placed in the center of the piazza. It was designed by Bernini in 1651 and depicts the four rivers and continents for which the pope’s authority had spread at the time; the Nile, the Danube, the Ganges and the Rio de la Plata.

 

Fountain of Neptune

In the northern part of the piazza is the “Fountain of Neptun”, commissioned in 1565 and designed by Baccio Bandinelli. This massive fountain features the God of the Sea, trident in hand. He lords over four cherubs representing the rivers Nile, Amazon, Danube, and Ganges. Neptune holds his hand out as if to calm the waters, the ultimate symbol of power.

 

Fontana del Moro

Fontana del Moro is a fountain located at the southern end of the piazza. It represents a Moor, or African, standing in a conch shell, wrestling with a dolphin, surrounded by four Tritons. It is placed in a basin of rose-colored marble.

To sum up; even if Piazza Navona is definitely one of the tourist traps in Rome, it is well worth a visit. Investigate the work of art, breath the 2000 year history of the place and just sit and enjoy life in one of the restaurants around the piazza.

ENG: Rome, Castel Saint’Angelo – more than a mausoleum and secret passage ways..

With only 14 degrees and rain here in Norway in mid-July I at least take a small comfort in reminiscing about our stay in Rome last week…

Castel Saint’Angelo, for some best known as playing a vital part in the movie Angels & Demons, based on Dan Brown’s bestseller, where Langfon, played by Tom Hanks used the secret passage betweet the fortress and the Vatican. But Castel Saint’Angelo has definitely more to offer than a few minute scene in a blockbuster movie.

On one of the hottest days last week, junior and I set out on a sightseeing tour starting with a lovely breakfast by the Pantheon, a soda break at Piazza Navona and ending up at St Peyer’s Basilica. When we, on our way to the latter, however, passed the river Tiber by crossing the St Angelo Bridge, we met upon Castel Saint’Angelo.

Castel Saint’Angelo was built by the emperor Hadrian almost 2000 years ago and was meant to be his mausoleum. Over the years, however, it has been used both as prison, a fortress for the popes and is now a pretty cool museum. A secret passage goes from the Vatican to the fortress and was used by former popes as an escape route when attacked. Junior was not totally sold on the idea of a tour of the place at first, but after promising him another soda-break he agreed on joining. Was it worth a visit? Most definitely!

We did not have to wait in line for more than 5 minutes before we with ticket in hand could start the ascend up the 5 story spiral case. On our way up we passed both prison cells, armoury and the old living quarters of the pope. When we reached the final floor, we were met by a real cozy restaurant/café with a magnificent view and quite the romantic atmosphere. Since we were not there for the romance, we settled for an ice cold diet pepsi in the airconditioned part of the place.

After we had cooled off for a bit we went up to the roof and here we had a fantastic view of Rome and the Vatican. It also had a giant statue of the angle Michael, who has given his name to the fortress. Legend has it that when Italy was haunted by the plague in the 500’s, the angle Michael landed on the roof of the building in 590 AD and made the plague vanish.

 

 

After enjoying the view for a while we descended down again and continued our journey towards the St Peter’s Basilica.