Sunday March 16, 2008
Well it is our last day :-(. Several things happened during the end of our train ride to Milan. First, as I sat down, I was stuck next to an Italian teenage girl. That could be alright, however she spent the first forty minutes of the ride sobbing into her phone. I can only imagine what happened, a possible break up or a horrible dinner somewhere. After that, Gashwin and I went to the bar car for a snack and some coffee. While we were there, the train stopped suddenly. Shortly afterwards two of the trenitalia crew ran through the bar car towards the back of the train. I am still not quite sure what happened. It was also interesting to walk through the train. Walking through we saw a group of Chinese students playing cards, only they were playing with a lot of intensity. They didn’t just lay cards, they threw them down and the cards made loud smacking sounds as they hit the table. It was rather amusing.
Our train arrived to Milan about 20 minutes late and afterwards we took the metro to the hotel. For some odd reason the metro station would not let me in. It validated my card but the gate did not open. I didn’t want to pay another euro, so I just hopped the gate. Oh well, I had a ticket, it just didn’t like my ticket. Fortunately we did not need it on the way out so I was fine. We then made it to our hotel, The Hotel Domenichino which is a nice three star hotel. They have free WI-FI!!! It is rather amazing. After getting in and checking e-mail, we just went to bed.
Oh yeah, and Italian metro stations are NOT accessible --- there are stairs everywhere, and a handicapped person would have a very tough time.
We woke up relatively early, in time to get breakfast and make it to the Duomo early for Palm Sunday Mass. We arrived at the cathedral around 9:30AM and the previous Mass was still going on. To pass the time we decided to go on down to the baptistery. It is here that St. Ambrose is believed to have baptized St. Augustine. The ruins are still under the cathedral and one can even see them from the Metro Station. Afterwards we returned upstairs just in time for Mass.
The cathedral in Milan uses the Ambrosian Rite, which is different from the Roman Rite in that the Sign of Peace comes after the Creed instead of the Lord’s Prayer. In addition, only the priests and people in the procession actually carried palms, everyone else was given olive branches to hold. We saw these throughout the day wherever we went. I guess it is just like ashes, showing, oh we went to Mass. I was rather annoyed though that just the regular tourist would take a branch and not stay for Mass. We found olive branches lying around throughout the city.
The Cardinal Archbishop of Milan said Mass following morning prayer. The Mass resembled any other Mass that I have been too with the exception of the Sign of Peace. I was also surprised that they did not read the Passion Gospel today as is done in the States [G's note: it's more a question of Rite than location. The Ambrosian Rite has a different Lectionary]. All in all I enjoyed it though and thought it to be very neat that before Mass the Cardinal processed outside with the cross and palm leaves.
Following Mass we wanted to grab a quick bite to eat and as a result went to a Burger King across the street. It had four levels!!! Gashwin was upset as it had no vegetarian meals; however it does have cheap (for Europe) $7 meals. We enjoyed it and then took off to try and get into S. Maria delle Grazie where the famous Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci can be seen. Unfortunately they had already sold out of tickets for the day so we walked to S. Ambrogio which is nearby. That church was also closed but the sky had cleared up so we returned to the cathedral.
Back at the cathedral Gashwin and Giuseppe decided to take the elevator to the rooftop. I wanted to save 2 euro and thus climbed 160 stairs. It was well worth the price. We were literally on top of the church. There you could see any number of gargoyles. In addition you were right next to life sized statues of saints. We took tons of photos. One disturbing thing to note though – Young people in Italy like to make out anywhere, we have seen people make out in the metro, on trains, in Burger King, but it was just as disturbing to see it on the roof of the cathedral. Anyways enough of that rant.
We climbed off of the cathedral and walked around the piazza for a little bit (outside of the cathedral we saw a small group of evangelicals preaching that “Christ is the only way to salvation.”) and then went back into the church for Vespers. At the start the church was entirely dark. The Cardinal Archbishop then entered in a procession led by one altar server carrying an oil lamp. We then began to sing in Latin, “Lord illuminate my darkness.” As we sang the candles were lit and the lights of the church were slowly brought up. Following the evening prayer, the Holy Eucharist was exposed for a little bit and then returned. The vespers was amazing.
Following Vespers we walked to La Scala and then split ways. Giuseppe and I returned to the hotel while Gashwin returned to S. Ambrogio. We waited on Gashwin and around 8 headed out to dinner. Gashwin spent a good while trying to determine the best way to get to the airport. It will probably cost close to €90 to take a cab in the morning, but there really is no better way (the buses and trains start too late for his flight). In any case we grabbed dinner at the L’Oroscopio, which was a local Greek restaurant. Gashwin and I got individual pizzas, which were each about the size of a large in the States and afterwards returned to the hotel. We finally told the nice concierge that we would take a taxi in the morning and have since returned to our room. Since our concierge was so nice we decided to give him a deck of Carolina cards. It is almost midnight here and we have to be up in four hours, so I am going to say good night. The trip was amazing and I wish you could have been here with us.