Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Small World After All

Day 98

For unknown reasons I was up before my alarm. I was excited, I was headed to the place I was most excited about in Northern Italy. I was headed to Turin, as in the Shroud of. This was basically the ultimate relic.

The holy shroud is not the only attraction in Turin. Turin is the capital of the Piedmont area and was the capital of Italy after unification in 1860, There is a lot of history here. There is also a tourist office right in the train station, always a good sign.

After getting my bearings and planning my day in a beautiful piazza with a fountain I headed to Palazzo Reale, this was once the seat of the Prince of Piedmont and I wanted to check it out. The next tour wasn't until 12:30 pm. I spent the next hour and a half checking out some of the nearby sites. I went to the Archaeological park that had some Roman ruins and even a current excavation going on.

When I had booked the tour I had been told that it would be in English. This wasn't quite true. They had info sheets in English, but the tour was in Italian. The whole thing was a bit odd. When there was a lot of stuff to read in English the guide would only talk for about 1 minute before moving everyone to the next room, when there was no info she would talk for about 10 minutes. There was either not enough time to check out the rooms, or way too much time to look at nothing. It was also sort of annoying when everyone would suddenly laugh and I would have no idea about what was going on. The tour lasted over an hour and went through 29 rooms. Along with only speaking Italian the guide yelled, a lot. We were only allowed to stand on a small bit of carpet, not nearly enough room to fit everyone. If you leaned too far you got yelled at.

The woman in front of me looked old enough to have actually attended balls at the palace during its heyday. Both her and her equally ancient daughter refused to acknowledge that there were other people on the tour. They refused to move up to make more room. They kept stopping short. I tried to get away by feigning great interest in some 18th century knickknack, but I still always ended up next to them.

The castle was pretty, but other than dates and a couple of names I learned very little. Despite the crappy tour, the other things I had planned for the day and the short amount of time I had spent exploring already was causing me to really fall for Torino.

My next stop was the Resistance Museum. I have been to loads of WWII museums, but I know very little about Italy during the war. I was looking forward to learning about it through their eyes. The first part wasn't on WWII at all though, but on the dictatorship in Argentina during the 1970's. It was really quite moving. There were essentially before and after pictures. Only the after pictures were missing people.

The downstairs area concentrated on WWII. For some reason one of the women who worked at the museum insisted on going with me. She didn't speak much English and I couldn't figure out why. I mostly wanted numbers about Torino during the war. This museum completely lacked that. Instead I learned several personal stories. Whenever I walked close to a tv screen it would come on and someone would be talking, it was dubbed in English. At one point the woman directed me to watch a silent movie about Mussolini, but he never seemed to make an appearance and I was confused. Next I was directed to a room with a very large table. When I touched the different screens they came alive. Each contained a different set of pictures or a different topic. I was then lead down into a bomb shelter that 200 people would have squeezed into.

At the end of the museum a few of the movies told me that Turin had been used as a huge hospital at the end of the war. Many soldiers were sent here to recover. Despite the lack of information and the eerie silence (the English was subtitled), I liked the museum. It was interactive in a way that I did not know that WWII museums could be.

By the time I had left it had begun to rain. I was not in it for long as the Shroud of Turin Museum was nearby. This was one of the most detailed museums that I have ever been to. The shroud, in case you don't know, is said to be the one that was laid over Jesus's body. Mysteriously there is an imprint of the face and body of a crucifixion victim. Prior to coming to Turin in 1578 it had been in France. It had already been damaged by fire twice at this point. The shroud used to be taken out for all sorts of events, but now is only pulled out every few years.

A lot of testing has been done to figure out how old it is and how the face came to be. Several people have tried to replicate it but have been unsuccessful. Carbon dating places the shroud about 1000 years too young to be authentic. However, people argue that because of the odd circumstances that caused the imprint carbon dating may be wrong.

This museum is really an overabundance of information. I was there well over an hour and hadn't covered half of it. I think I would have been there all day if I hadn't just given up on it. I also couldn't really see myself listening to all the objects that had been found embedded in it and just what each person who had seen it thought about it.

The attached church was pretty interesting. It had been for people housed in an attached insane asylum. It is now the home base of the cult of the shroud.

While I was headed to the Duomo I ran into Jared from my hostel. He had come to Turin to meet up with his Italian penpal. Or would that be email pal now? They let me tag along and we headed to the Duomo that houses the shroud. You can't actually see the shroud, just the container that it is in. I took pictures and then quickly headed out.

Paul was a really good tour guide and he lead us around the city pointing out sites and giving us a history lesson. Perhaps he should drop law school and go into tourism instead. He took us to Valentino's palace, and a really pretty part nearby. The last stop was a fake medieval village. We only got there about 10 minutes before closing, but that was all we needed.

While on the train back it began to pour. At this point it had been about a week since I had had a day without rain. It was getting frustrating. Jerad and I ended up taking a bus back to the hostel instead of walking. Once we were there we grabbed Kaitlyn and headed to a nearby place to catch the Eurocup Italy verses France game. Italy won and it was really fun watching everyone celebrate. They were both leaving in the morning so we exchanged information and said our goodbyes back at the hostel.

Back in my room I noticed that there were two girls in a bed together sleeping. I couldn't tell if they wanted to be together or if one of them was sneaking in. It turns out that the later was true and and the hostel people caught them in the middle of the night, telling them to pay for the extra person or leave. Aren't hostels fun?

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