Five Scary Sabbatical Experiences by Tillie

Rome is a great place to live for a year, a truly wonderful experience that I will never forget, as I’m sure you know from this blog. But in this post I’m not going to talk about the amazing experiences that we have in Rome but rather the scary ones.

I will now give you 5 scary experiences I’ve had on sabbatical.

1. Earthquakes: If you are from Vancouver Island you should know that it’s considered “Earthquake Country.”  I have always feared earthquakes, who wouldn’t? But although I have lived in Victoria my whole life (until I came to Rome of course), I had never experienced a single earthquake. And I thought that coming to Rome would ensure that this year would be another earthquake-free year, for I had never heard about Rome being “Earthquake Country.” But this was false. It is true that Rome has never been called anything like “Earthquake Country,” but there are many earthquakes.  Since we arrived in Rome, there have been lots of earthquakes! Once there were two in one day, and there were three in another. The other ones were scattered between those particularly earthquakey occasions. All these earthquakes quite shook me!

2. Funicular: While we were in Barcelona we took the dreaded funicular. I’m not sure if you know what the word funicular means, for I didn’t know what it meant until a couple days ago. So I’ll start by explaining what the weird word funicular means. Ok, so sorry, my mom says I shouldn’t bother explaining it to you because most people know what a cable car is (cable car is a slightly less weird expression for a funicular). Oh, but don’t worry if you don’t know what cable car means, I’ll show you a picture in a minute, but first I better tell you why it scared me.

Well first of all, funiculars are very, very high! I’m not afraid of heights if I’m on something natural like a hill, but if it’s man-made, like a quite tall tower with many, many windows, then it scares me. Conveniently, the building from which we took the funicular was just this kind of tower, and the tower was so high it had an elevator to get to the top, and to tell the truth I’m not a fan of elevators, but that’s a different story (see below).

We were planning to take the funicular up to the top of a hill where there is a beautiful park. My parents said one of them could stay back with me, but instead of staying back I decided to “face my fears.” I got myself to go in the elevator, and then to wait for the funicular in the tall tower with many windows. Once I got on the funicular, things didn’t get better. Our little funicular cart was crowded with people, we were suspended in the air on a rope, and every now and then the funicular would bump up and down sending jolts through my body. But I have to admit there were some scenic views from the windows. Out one window you could see the ocean and out the other you could see all of Barcelona. So I guess the danger of funiculars might not have been worth all my worrying because, would you look at that, I’m alive!


The dreaded funicular

3. Catacombs: Unlike me after the funicular, the folks in catacombs are long gone. A catacomb is an ancient underground burial chamber. A catacomb consists of underground hallways, with recessed shelves in the dirt walls for bodies. One day I “decided” to go with my family on a tour of some Jewish catacombs in Rome. I was a bit scared from the start because the tour guide said that part of the catacomb had been closed off because it had collapsed, and that no one knew when the part of the catacomb we were going into would also collapse!

Almost as soon as we entered the catacomb I started to get really worried. We were all alone in there except for our tour guide and a man holding a flashlight guiding our way. (Against whom I had a grudge, because when he was giving out the flashlights for everybody to hold, he explained to Eva, as if I wouldn’t understand him because I was too much of a baby, that I was too little to hold a big camping flashlight and that I would groan under its weight, and then drop it! This greatly annoyed me, because I knew that I was perfectly capable of holding a flashlight of that size [Eva let me hold hers later on so I know I was right.]) Anyway, the tunnels were dark, and the only lights were our flashlights. Once Eva shone her flashlight on a wall, and we discovered that the entire wall was completely crawling with spiders! Also some of the recessed shelves for bodies still had bones, and on one shelf there was a skull!

But, hey, none of those things are scary at all, so I guess I got freaked out for no reason!

Catacomb  passages
Jewish Catacombs
Catacomb art
Jewish Catacombs

4. Elevators: I know, I know, you’re probably thinking, elevators? How are elevators scary? Well you see it all started with one elevator incident. We were staying in a hostel in Bologna, way back in December (don’t get Bologna confused with Barcelona, like I have before). It had an elevator to get from floor to floor. We stayed there for two nights and we constantly took the elevator.

One day me, Eva, and my dad (Jordan) were in the elevator when it suddenly started jolting up and down! My dad was holding a coffee in his hand, which spilled all over the floor. Eva and he were quite surprised, and I started freaking out! When we got to our floor, the elevator doors didn’t open. We waited. When the doors still didn’t open, my dad banged on them a bit. The elevator jolted down again. The doors opened. We got out. The elevator had not taken us to our floor but rather to the stairs right in front of a door that led to our floor. Now as you can see nothing bad happened to us in this little adventure, nobody was hurt, but sadly I’m now a little nervous of all elevators, especially the modern ones with automatic doors, not like the old classic one in our building.

Tillie’s trusted home elevator

5. Crossing the street: Yes, I know what you’re thinking. You’ve probably decided that my fear of elevators is reasonable, given the circumstances, but that a fear of crossing the street is just absurd!

Well, you see, crossing the street isn’t exactly one of my fears, unlike the other things I have mentioned. But rather a basic fear that my whole family has, especially my mom. We don’t dread crossing the street or anything, it’s just while we are crossing the street we sometimes get worried that someone in our family will get hit by a car. By now you most likely are wondering, why do they all have this fear of crossing the street, how did it originate?

Well I’ll start with a quote, “Sorry I stopped talking to you, Eva almost got hit by a car.” My Uncle Greg said this one day while we were crossing the street and I was talking to him about life in Rome (at least I think I was talking about life in Rome, it happened awhile ago). He had interrupted me to shout—“watch out!”—up to the front of the group, where Eva was walking (a lot of our family was visiting so there were a lot of us). Anyway, there was no chance that the car was going to hit Eva, that’s just the way cars are in Rome. Even if it’s rightfully the turn for the pedestrians to cross the street, the cars won’t stop, won’t even slow down until they are so close to you that if they move two inches further they might hit you. It’s like they feel no reason to stop until they’re so close to you that if they move they’ll kill you. But don’t worry, we’ve haven’t seen anyone get hit by a car, except for a rat and believe me that was gruesome (imagine a loud strange popping sound and think to yourself, how could that sound come from a rat with a car on top?)

Typical Roman crosswalk

Now you know five scary experiences we’ve had in Rome. But don’t forget, although this blog post may make you feel like our sabbatical has been full of scary experiences, there are really many more good ones.


3 Comments Add yours

  1. Great post Tillie, you had us laughing out loud (and worrying along with you about the elevator)!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Corey Ross says:

    This is simply horrifying. I was particularly scared by the elevator!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. stangerroo says:

      Yes, the elevator was quite horrifying. Luckily, grandpa told me that death rates and injury rates in elevators are very rare and most people who get injured are elevator workers. So you’ll probably be fine unless you decide to become an elevator engineer. -Tillie


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