“Holy Crap! I think that’s the Pope! Yeah, that is definitely the Pope!”
Alright, I am gonna go all Memento on you and we are going to backtrack to figure out what led me to make this exclamation.
Right after my college graduation I was able to finally take the Eurotrip with my three best friends that had been planned for years. It turned out to be one of the best months of my life. I mean all you have to say is gorgeous girls, fast boat, French Riviera and you know a good time is in store! Mix in some canyoneering in the French Alps, pub crawls in Barcelona, a last minute jaunt to Amsterdam, and you have one of the best trips I have ever experienced.
Of course for all of the fun that we had, we ended up having to take a last minute 24 hour train ride through the European countryside to make it back to Rome in time to catch our flight home. Somewhere along the way Rome became less of a priority and more of an afterthought, so we ended up with only about 12 hours to see one of Europe’s most well known cities.
Having no better ideas, we started at the Vatican and planned on working our way back towards Termini Station in the center of town. I learned very quickly, that I really knew very little about all of the attractions Rome had to offer. This was made abundantly clear as we were standing in Plaza San Pietro, staring at St. Peter’s Basilica and still wondering where the Vatican was. Gotta love being a first time traveler.
We decided to follow a crowd of people heading through a metal detector at the other end of the plaza. We were broke at this point, and very concerned that wherever we were going, would cost a lot of money, yet we took our chances anyway.
Five minutes and zero dollars later we were standing inside one of the most spectacular churches I have ever witnessed, and of course still hadn’t realized we were in St. Peters. The crowds were growing, so we headed up to the front and took a seat to wait and see what all the commotion was about. We waited, and waited, and then waited a little longer before we realized that if wanted to see everything, we couldn’t sit around and wait for an event that we knew nothing about.
Our plans of leaving were short lived however, because once we stood up we were able to see just how many people had crammed themselves into this church. There was no place to go!
So we waited some more. Luckily about ten minutes later something began to happen. People started cheering, waving flags from their home country, and there were more than a few people crying hysterical tears of joy.
A procession of some sort was making its way through the church, and after hearing the screams of happiness grow closer and closer we were fully engulfed in a melting pot of different cultures that were all here for the same reason. It was at that point I said:
Holy Crap! I think that’s the Pope! Yeah, that is definitely the Pope!”
Looking back I think it may have been inappropriate to use the word “crap” in the Vatican, but I digress…
The next 10 minutes or so I stood and listened to one of the most powerful men in the world speak, without understanding a single word he said, until at the end of his speech he proclaimed “God bless you all!”, and received an even more raucous applause than when he first showed up.
It wasn’t until we exited the building that we realized how lucky we truly had been. That quick 5 minute trip through the metal detector I mentioned was now a line that wrapped all the way around the plaza, it must have been a three hour wait just to get in; and they didn’t even get to see the Pope!
The rest of the day consisted of us wandering through the streets of Rome and checking out many other well known sites such as the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, and of course the Coliseum. Yet, none of them could quite compare to the clueless endeavors that led us to the Pope!
Alexandre Guertin says
Amazing! Love those crazy encounters in foreign country. For me, I was in Tokyo after graduating college and I ran into Hulk Hogan lol (not that I’m comparing Hulk to the pope in any way ;).
kind of strange how people can get this ‘lucky’… no waiting time, where others spend hours each sunday to see the pope.
What I find really strange though is that you (and according to LindyMint) a lot of other US-citizens only spend so little time in one of the most important cities of Europe. Being a dutchman myself, I don’t get the hype of Amsterdam. It’s a nice city, but nothing special. Rome on the other hand represents THE history of Europe. The ancient Romans, then the catholic church, the Renaissance…
I hope you tossed your coin in the Trevi fountain, so you can go back and visit that awesome city again!!
Forgot to ask: Was the pope John Paul II or Benedict??
Rome is such a hub for flights back to the US, I wonder how often it happens that travelers find themselves rushing through its MANY sights in one day. I did the same thing! My friends’ flights didn’t leave until a few days later. They got to see the Pope preach on Easter Sunday.
Thanks for sharing your story of a happy Roman accident!
Adventure-Some Matthew says
What an amazing story! It’s quite a feeling when you return from a trip and suddenly realize where you were/what you were doing. I can’t imagine doing so with the pope involved!
I can’t say much more than I’m jealous and thanks for sharing your story!
Your post made me laugh out loud, making everyone in this coffee shop give me a weird stare.
Back in 2005 I went to Rome as part of a European trip that ended at World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany (a ginormous gathering of Catholic youth from around the world). We did the whole touristy thing with the tour bus, the guided tours at Vatican City, not only to learn about Catholic history but also with the faint hope that we would be able to see the pope with our own eyes.
I didn’t get to see the pope, except for on big screens at the WYD events where he was super far from where we were.
So for a two-week trip that centered around seeing the pope and then not getting to actually see him… I am extremely jealous of your experience. :]
Oh and I wanted to add…
I definitely think your experience was a form of ‘divine intervention.’ 😀