December 18th, 2016
Today I visited the Vatican in Vatican City (Also know as the Holy See), a independent sovereignty located inside Italy. After I driving there from the Ciampino Airport, I parked and walked to St. Peter's Square. All around there were people gazing upon the beautiful palace on 2 sides and the St. Peter's Basilica farther on down the courtyard. It was clear that the Cathedral was based upon Renaissance Architecture and a little Baroque in some areas. For example the dome on top of the building, the Cupola, is clearly Renaissance architecture. After entering I took the Door of Death and began to explore the rooms containing monuments of previous Popes who have deceased. After gazing upon the Monument to the Innocent XI I walked over to the Confession and Papal alter and looked at the large crowd all confessing their crimes in hope that they can be forgiven. I then walked over to the statue of Peter, the first pope according to the Catholics. The statue of Peter looked quite lifelike as did most of the other statues. My time was running short so I quickly looked at all the other monuments and statues and hurried outside to the gardens. They were beautiful and full of various flowers and trees everywhere. My favorite was the shrubery that had been cut out in specific shapes. Sadly after that I had run out of time so I went back to my car to leave. I hope to come back sometime to finish my tour.
December 20th, 2016
After traveling to Jerusalem I decided to visit the Western Wall. I had heard of the massive amounts of Jews that go to the wall daily to pray so I wanted to see for myself. As I walked towards the wall the streets got filled with people all heading the same directions as me. I assumed they were Jewish because many of the men were wearing skull caps. I saw the wall come into sight but I had some trouble reaching it because the street was clogged with Jews. After finally making my way to the wall I could see to my left and right Jews praying to God. I asked a friendly looking man why so many Jews pray here so much. He told me that the Western Wall was the closest they could get to the temple mount without angering the Muslims. I then heard a large group of people singing and turned to see what it was. Off in the distance I saw a group carrying a boy who was about 13 towards the wall. The man I had just spoken to said to me "That's my nephew John, hes having his Bat Mitzvah today." As I watched the proceedings I realized it was almost sunset and I had to find a place to stay. I said my goodbyes to the man and left in search of a hotel. I was hoping to get a good nights sleep so I could visit The Dome of the Rock tomorrow.
December 21st, 2016
I woke up bright and early this morning in hopes I could reach the Dome of the Rock before the crowds of Muslims went to it. My hotel was about 10 minutes away so I decided to walk. It may not have been the best choice to walk because when I got there there was already masses of people everywhere. The first thing I did was visit the Islamic Museum. It was filled with different objects related to Islam like the 600 copies of the Quran that were donated. After looking throughout the rest of the museum I decided to see if I could get into the Dome of the Rock. I went over and admired the Byzantine architecture of the place. There were many interesting paintings on the side and the domes golden sheen kept catching my eye. I then tried to enter the Dome but was stopped by 2 Muslim men in robes. They asked me if I was believer and when I said no they denied me entrance. I was disappointed because I wished to see the building from the inside. It was getting late so I left the area in search of some food before I flew out to my next destination.
December 23rd, 2016
Today I visited Varanasi, India. It is one of the sacred places of the Hindus and its also along the Ganges, a holy river to the Hindus. When I arrived I saw many people bathing in the holy river. I personal would never do that because of all the bacteria and waste in the River but to them it cleanses their body and mind. Also, they do cremations in the river further adding to the waste inside of it. As I walked throughout the crowed streets I was amazed by the amount of shops and people all in one small place. It was like New York but more crowded. I finally escaped the crowds and was able to spot a temple off in the distance. I wanted to check out the design and maybe listen to a teaching or 2 by their Sudhus. The Sudhus are people dedicated to bringing light into all peoples lives. They harm no living creature, except for plants, and see everybody as a equal. They teachings were quite inspiring and made me want to listen to more but I had to move on. As I walked away I noticed the temples pointed look. Just like other temples in the area they all had a tall pointed tip instead of a dome like many other religious temples. I saw a group of men putting holy ash on their face and asked if I could join. They said yes and we stayed there meditating while covered with ash. It is supposed to help atone with the soul and life.
December 25th, 2016
Today I visited Lumbini, Nepal. It is a the birthplace of Buddha according to the Buddhist religion. As I approached the area I noticed many Buddhist pilgrims completing a pilgrimage to the temples there. I noticed a strange pillar with a statue of a horse on the top. Even after asking around all I understood about the structure was it was a memorial to their Emperor Ashoka visiting them. I later looked around and saw a statue modeled after Buddha in honnor of his birth. I also spied the temple of Maya Devi. It, according to their history, housed a sacred bathing pool known as Puskarni where Maha Devi was bathed in before giving birth to Buddha. Apparently a flawless stone was also placed right above the exact spot where Buddha was born but it hasn't been authenticated. I hope to explore some of Buddhisms other sacred places but I had to get back to the airport to leave for America so I left early.