Monday, June 20, 2005

Day Twenty Three (TR)

So I'm still flying solo. Barcelona has a lot to see, but first I try to call David Martinez, who I met in Scotland. A female voice answers

(In Spanish)
Voice: Hello?
TR: Hello, could I speak…
Voice: Hello?
TR: Hi, I am a friend of David’s…
Voice: Hello?
TR: Can you hear me…
Voice: Hello?
TR: (shouting) CAN YOU HEAR…
Voice: (mumbles)


That exact exchange happened again half an hour later. So for now I have got to navigate an enjoy this city on my own. First stop: the Templo de la Sagrada Familia. I don’t quite know how to describe this thing. It is easily the most ridiculous basilica in the solar system. For the last hundred years or so the place has been a construction yard. They have completed two of three façades and eight of the eighteen spires that it will eventually have. Even unfinished, it is amazing. From far back it looks gothic, but as you get closer you can see that some of the stonework looks like shaving cream stalactites and that all of the statues and gargoyles are modern and abstract. It is a difficult place to describe, even for me to communicate its overwhelming size. I have no idea how they are funding it, because I only paid €3.50 to get in. Each of the spires is decorated on top with candy-colored tile mosaics. Basically I am saying that it is/was/will be amazing. I spent much longer than I intended here. They had a little museum in the basement and the Passion Façade was possibly my favorite part of the whole visit.

Wow, now I am hungry. There was a little sidewalk café with a cheap lunch special, so I sat down. The guy brings me paella, which was really good, and then some kinda pink fish and ham serrano. Also good. The whole time that I was eating he stood in front of the door to his café, blatantly looking up and down every woman that passed. I tried to imagine how he could be less subtle about it, and decided that the only way would be if he stepped in front of them.

Looking over my tourist map, there is a picture of some cool sculpture, and so I take the metro to it. It was easy to find, but then I realize that that’s all it is. I expected like a sculpture park or a museum but this was all. So I walk through the ordinary park and see some kids playing basketball, people playing tennis, and old men playing this weird game that I can only describe as a combination of horseshoes, bocce, and bowling. They had nine very tall and thin pins set up in a perfect square and would take turns throwing half-spheres at them. Strange. They didn’t seem to appreciate me watching them.

It was getting late now so I headed back to my hostel. Or tried to. I could not find it for like an hour. Finally I found a receipt in my pocket from the night before, and asked someone how to get there (thank goodness I was wearing recycled pants).

I sent some emails and talked to an Irishman. Eventually I went to bed, but I was in a different room this time. Since the beds were not labeled I chose one at random and went to sleep. This would last long, because a Europepean came in at about midnight and told me angrily that I was in his bed. I started getting up and he said to not bother. He got in the other bed, and finally all was right with the world. For about two hours. After that, a barely conscious drunken Canadian wandered into our room, started getting into an already occupied bed. Realizing his mistake, he stumbled across the room and collapsed onto the sleeping body of a now frightened Korean. The hostel staff came in and dragged him out. He didn’t seem to mind. In fact, he didn’t seem aware of anything at all.

During this episode, I resolve to change hostels.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Day 24 (Rob)

Well today was Friday, the day that I was going to go up to Milan and take the night train to Barcelona to meet TR. I didn't have to be in Milan until 6:00 or so so I was taking my time. I got some laundry done and got a nice breakfast at the market. When I went to get my ticket for the night train the station was so crowded. There were tons of lines but I wanted to reserve a place on the night train. So I waited in line and finally when I got to the front the lady confronted me with some bad news, the train from Milan to Barcelona was compeltly booked. Hmmm... I thought that really puts a damper in my plans. I had two options I could go to Nice and take a day train to Barcellona or go on a ferry from Rome. The Ferry would get there quicker so I chose that. I knew I didn't have much time getting from the station to the port, only about 20 minutes, so I prayed that it was close.

When the train finally got to the station I only had 15 minutes, so I booked it. Little did I know that the port was a mile from the station. I ran and ran and ran. I knew that I would make it. So imagine in your head me, running with the giant red backpack on, and then a smaller back pack on my front, running through the port. I didn't think it was funny, and neither did a man that saw me. He offered to take me where I needed to go and so we were off. I finally had time to catch my breath. Finally we were there at the boat, right as it was pulling up the ropes. It as so close but yet so far away. So I sat down and rested. I hadn't felt so disappointed in my life. I didn't know what to do. It was 7:00 and I had no place to stay on a Friday night and my back was hurting from running with the bag on. I walked back to the staion and went to Rome for the night. I hoped that I could find a bed there to sleep in, if not I would have to find a park.

When I did get to Rome every place was full except for the 3 star hotels for 100 euros. I didn't know what I was to do but I thought to myself, I don't think my mom would like me sleeping out in a park in Rome, so that was out of the question. I ran into two girls from america that were also looking for a place and told them that I would be willing to share a room with them but then another american saw us and told us that there might be a place where he was staying. So we followed him. He was right, there was one bed avalible, but that didn't stop Franco from kicking into the streets for the night. He layed a matress on the ground between two beds in the loft which was only about four and a half feet high. It didn't matter though, I had a roof over my head.

Well, it was still Friday night and about 11:00. All my new roommates were not ready to go to bed. They were going out for a night on the town and I wasn't about to miss out on the fun. So I went out with four americans younger than 20, a guy from Norway, and a girl from Canada. Our first stop was the night store for eight bottles of wine, one for each of us. I thought well, no one would know if I got drunk, but I denied them, it wasn't too hard. The Norweigen asked me if I smoke or drink. Told him no and he told me that I should stay that way because it only brings temporary happiness. Later we started talking about God and stuff but since he was drunk he wanted to talk to me the next day. When we got back to the hostel I just layed down and went right to sleep. It had been a long day and my back was sore and it was late.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Day 23 (Rob)

Most of the girls were gone when I woke up. Today was an Italian holiday and so I didn´t know how that would affect my plans. Today I wanted to see Pisa and Siena. Pisa was an hour train ride and really the town didn´t offer much except for the tower. I took some sweet pictures, took a nap on the grass and made my way back to the station. After getting pretty lost I finally found the station and was on my way to Siena.

To get to the main part of Siena one must take a bus. I read about this and knew which buses I had to take. I got a ticket and then saw the bus I needed so I jumped on and took a seat. The bus ride was a little longer than I suspected. It went to a university and then to a hospital and before long we were retracing our way back. Before long we were right back at the station but this time headed the other way. From here the city was only five minutes away.

Siena was an incredible place. They had narrow, curvey streets with tall buildings. The church was also spectacular. It was build with white, red and green marbles. It looked almost like candy canes in some places. While I was resting there a marching band came up and started playing so that was fun to listen to. Then I started walking around again and every street I took it would bring me back to the church. So finally, I went the way I came and made my way back to the station and back to Florence.

Since I was hungary and I hadn´t had any good pasta because I was sick, I went to a resaurant all alone. It was really quiet sitting there waiting and got boring. The food however was very good. I then went on a walk around Florence and enjoyed that amazing place. When I got back to my bed everyone was asleep so it was nice and quiet.

Day Twenty Two (Rob)

So I woke up and remembered I was on my own and that today I would go up to Florence. Luckily the subway was working just fine and I could get to my train with out problems. When I got to Florence I didn´t know what to expect. I looked up three hostels in Lonely Planet that I was going to try to stay in. The first one was filled and instead of just waking to the other ones I stopped at an internet cafe were they also have telephones. I told the guy I was looking for a place to stay. He called up his friend who rents beds to tourists and totally got me hooked up for a good price. I dropped my stuff off and went to see Florence.

The market was a lot of fun and I couldn´t resist but to buy more italian ties because they were so cheap and I like Italian ties. The Doumo (church) in Florence was amazing. The exterior is made of white and green marble and the statues are incredible. I walked around Florence and really liked it. David was cool to see but after seeing the museum I was so sick of seeing statues of naked people. It was a nice cool evening and I got some Italian ice cream and listened to two guys jamming on their guitars. When I got back to the hotel, to my suprise I was sharing a room with seven girls. What a lucky day.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Day Twenty Two (TR)

Wow, what a crazy day this was. An entire day spent on trains.

About 11:00 am the ticket check guy came into our chamber and sort of angrily told me to get off (I gathered) because there was an unscheduled transfer (you will recall from yesterday that I was still on the train from the night before. Dang Italian transportation; aparently it is not just Rome.

So I transfered and soon we were in France. eventually we stopped in Nice, and I mailed a letter and sent Cate an email.It was two o'clock by now, and I was supposed to have arrived in Nice an hour or so earlier. Another late Italian train. Talked to a info guy and he told me not to worry, I could transfer in Marseille and be in Montpellier in plenty of time for my train to Barcelona.

It seemed to go well until I got to Montpellier and the jerk on the train told me I could not get on because my reservation only got me as far as Nice, and that the train to Barcelona was already completely booked. I showed him my itinerary and my reservation. Unfortunately the latter said very clearly in huge letters: Roma Termini--->Nice. D'oh! Somehow Trenitalia was still hosing me after I had left Italy. Curses!

Went to try and buy a reservation and saw a frustrated-looking Canadian already in line (his shirt said "Canada.....EH!"). He was in the same boat as me, so we conspired to try and sneak onto the train, which left in seven minutes. Hey, come on now, it wasn't our fault the reservations were messed up.

Down to the platform. Bottom-rung ticket check employee looks at our rail passes, begins saying something in French, sees that we don't understand, and then waves us through, looking very annoyed. Stage one completed. Same Jerk From Before is still on platform. We walk right past and get on the train. Stage two completed. So the next few minutes were spent sitting in seats, having people tell me that I am in their seats (reservations), and finally me sitting on the floor in that little space between cars with the Canadian. Anyway we discussed all manner of things, including how we hoped that Same Jerk From Before wouldn't come give us fines for riding without reservations. He walked right past us several times and never even checked our tickets. Stage Three completed. Woohoo!

Alright, now I am in Barcelona. I wander my way down to the Gothic quarter, experiencing a strange new sensation: I can understqnd the signs and, for the most part, the directions people are giving me, huzzah! I was afraid everything would be closed and dead, but as I got onto Las Ramblas, a street near the gothic quarter, the streets were packed, and it was eleven pm. Crazy.

Anyway thus began another night of wandering from hostel to hostel, since plan A was full (plus the guy running it was SCUM) and plan B, well, there was no plan B. FINALLY I found one and it was time for bed. The gothic quarter was kind of dirty, but cool.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Day Twenty One (Rob)

This was the second day of Rome. TR had already seen enough and didn´t want to see Florence again so he decided that he would move on to Barcelona. He figured out when the Ferry went from Italy to Spain and planned everything out so that he would not miss it. The boat did not leave until the evening so we had some time and so we would go see the Catacombs.(these are giant underground tombs that the christians made with out the Roman government knowing) It sounded interesting to me and so we were off.

We waited and waited and waited for the bus. Then we were going to take the subway to the Catacombs but to our disappointment the subway workers took the day off and went on strike. Perfect. We quickly changed the plan and got on a bus that took us to the Pantheon, the place where Raphael is buried, and another cool fountain. After this it was time for TR to leave me and go our separate ways. In just a moment he was gone and I was alone in Rome. Well there was only two things to do, buy an Italian tie and go on a tour of the Colosseum. I did both. The tour interesting and I found out that after the Roman Emire fell, the Colosseum was used as a place for hookers.

After the tour I felt pretty tired and for some reason the subways started working at 5:00 so I went back to the hostel for a nap. There I met my new roommate from Canada. He and his mom started a world tour in Figi in November and have been making their was around the world. I really liked them because they had a big first-aid kit with them which included a box of pepto-bismal pills. My tummy sure liked those.

Day Twenty One (TR)

Alright, well Rob took care of most of the day for us, but here is my solo half:

From the Fontana di Trevi, I started walk-running back to the bus stop we had gotten off at. I thought I might have trouble finding it, but it was easy because all I had to do was follow the trail of sites we had seen on the way to the fountain. Basilici, the Pantheon, the French embassy, a restaurant where I dropped my pizza bianca on the floor and they gave me a new one (nice of them).

So I found the stop and waited. And waited. And waited......till thirty minutes had passed. Very frustrating. Deciding that my bus was not coming, I made the decision to get on whatever bus came next. I know this isprobably a bad idea, but it worked! a few minutes later I was back in the Vatican, then on my way to the hostel. Grabbed my bags and got on the bus going toward the stazione (train station). I sat on the bus for twenty minutes before it left its stop. Grrr! That's alright, I've still an hour before the last train leaves to Citavecchia, where there's a ferry to Barcelona. It took AN HOUR AND TWENTY MINUTES TO GO THE BLOODY STATION! The metro, which was on strike today, takes only fifteen minutes.

Curse you Rome, curse you and your baffling and inefficient public transit system! So the ferry is gone. Alright, maybe there'sa night train. There is, but it doesn't leave for five hours. I went to a Catholic mass, which was kind of cool, then wasted a couple of hours in cyberspace, then napped in the station near my platform. No way was I going to spend another night in this punctuality-forsaken city. Got on the night train, climbed into my bunk, and fell asleep despite the shouting of school children who were on some sort of field trip.

It was during the metro/bus/train fiasco that I wished I hadn't thrown a 5 euro cent coin over my shoulder into the Fontana di Trevi this time.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Day Twenty

To the Vatican Museum! The line was longer than the Space Mountain line, but it moved much faster. There were street musicians, guys selling purses and sunglasses, people handing out fliers, and very dramatic beggars. I think the Vatican auditions beggars to get rid of all the indifferent ones. One woman unwrapped her head scarf to show everyone a massive sore on her head.

But the line wasn't really to get into the museum. It was a line to get to the other line, which was to get into another line, which was to get into the museum, which was a huge building full of lines. It was worth it though, because the artwork in this place was amazing. I will leave out most of what we saw for time's sake, but the Sistine Chapel was cool. Also a stuffy British tour guide refused to continue his tour until we stopped listening to him. "Soarry, um, this is private tour." Whatever. Jerk.

Yes well the museum thoroughly wore us out, and I fell asleep on the floor in the hallway leading out of the museum while Rob sat and watched people make fun of me as they passed. I am sorry that I missed it. When we finally left we realized that the line was almost nothing by early afternoon, and it probably would have been better to go then.

Next up, St. Peter's Basilica, a church of behemoth proportions. I think you could easily have a doubles tennis tournament inside. It is the traditional resting place of Peter the Apostle and boasts the largest collection of dead popes in the galaxy.

Man, we were tired by now so we went back to the hostel for naptime. Ahh, naptime. We had a new roommate by now, an Italian named Marco who preferred to wear clothes around the hostel as opposed to just briefs. A welcome change from the other roommates. It was dark by the time we woke up from naptime, but Marco came with us to the internet café and then took us on a VIP tour of central Rome.On the way, we saw a stout Roman trying to murder a kid who had just picked his pocket. The man had a hold of the kid's shirt, but the kid slipped out of it and ran away. Exciting. We saw the royal palace, some ruins, and, of course, the coloseum. Cheers, Marco.

And bed.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Day Nineteen

Luckily again there were not any snorers in our room last night. It was a nice night and now our plans were to go Rome. We got our stuff together and headed to the train station to find out that our train was ready to go. We hurried on and took a seat. We thought that a reservation would be necessary but we were not sure and we got away with not having reservations on the German trains that we thought might work. We took a seat and noticed it was a really nice train. The reason why was because we were stitting in first class. The first ticket man asked for a reservation but we did not have any so we bought it there and he moved on. Two hours later the ticket man came by again and told us to get out of first class. It was kind of embarassing but we started our trek to the back of the train which we came to find out was completly full. We sat in the doorway for only about 20 minutes when half the train got off in Florence. After that it was free sailing to Rome.

We got to Rome kind of late and did not have a place to stay. I was still pretty weak and did not want to do much walking. After finding out that two information places were closed it started to rain and not just a little drisle but it was pooring luckily we were shelted by the information building. Now we had to explore our options for finding a place. We decided to check out a place in the book that looked promising. Luckily it had some beds that were still open. I was so exhaused so I just crashed on the bed and denied the offering of Vodka from our new Italian roommates. Little did we know that these guys would be coming in at one-thirty in the morning waking everyone up. TR went for a little journey while I rested and for the first time I had a whole cup of soup for dinner and I was feeling good.

Day eighteen

Wow the beginning of a new day. The morning brought much excitement because for the first time we had our own shower to use. What a relief. I was still not feeling too well but I wanted to try out some food before going to the great city of Venice. After cleaning up, TR and I went for a little stroll to find a store. It was still a little early so a lot of places were closed. We did however find a shop and I was excited because I thought I could finally get something to eat. I got a small pudding cup, a juice, and a bag of dried bread. The only thing that really sat well in my stomach with the bread. So then we were off across Padova, back to the train station.

When we got to Venice the first thing we had to do was find a place to stay for the night and put down our things. It was a Saturday and so we thought it might be kind of difficult. The first place we went to full. Then, with the help of the trusty guide, Lonely Planet, we found a hostel. Well it was not really much of a hostel, it was more like the attic of a building that had rooms that were sectioned off with bed sheets. But that was fine with us. Just as long as we had a place to stay.

We set our stuff down and went off to the city. We first went to see the Cathedal of San Marco. This is the most famous church and Piazza in Venice. To get there we took the boat-bus. The buildings were so beutiful and each one was unique. The bus dropped us off a little early so we had to walk the rest of the way to the church. This was no simple task because even with a map it is easy to get lost in Venice. We finally made it and we got some gelato ice cream, which was my first and TR's third for the day. It hurt going down but it was good. It was also interesting watch the people attract the pigeons to sit on their hands and heads. After walking around,and getting lost again we finally made it back to our beds for an afternoon nap.

That evening we just wandered around, I ate dried bread while TR ate pasta and gelato.

Day Seventeen

Rob´s nausea is gone but the stomach acid made his throat so sore that he still can't really eat. D'oh. But what a trooper! "Let's move on", he says.

The scenery on th train ride out of Switzerland was amazing. Picture the most amzing thing ever and multiply it by one thousand. No, wait...that's too much. It was nice though. Postcard nice.

But man was it hot when we got to Venice. Gelato sales must have skyrocketed. My shirt stuck to me and I was sweating like Michael Moore in a spinning class on Venus. Rob was really tired from the trip and not eating, so he sat down in a piazza with our bags while I looked for a hostel.

And thus began a long, sweaty, scenic, frustrating evening. There are way too many details to mention, but just know that I made a series of bad decisions which got me lost for several hours in the beautiful Venice or, as I now call it, The Labyrinth of Death.

I found him again well after dark and without having found us a place to stay. It was the weekend, so everything was full. We went to the train station to go to Mestre or Padova where we might find a hostel, hotel, or quiet corner of a public park. I don't know how Rob felt, but I was nauseated with fatigue.

While waiting for the train we had an inconsequential converation with some daddy's girls from the midwest.

We skipped Mestre and went straight to Padova, where a cabbie who spoke no english and a little Spanish drove us around to about ten hotels to help us find a place. We finally found one that was about twice what we have been paying at hostels, but it was much nicer. It was a nice break from sharing a room with drunkards. We went to bed at like 1:30 am. Not that late, but it felt late considering we had been looking for a place to stay since about 7:00 at night.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Day Sixteen

More 'Sploring!

I went for a run along the Aare River. Guess which of the following things I saw on my run (five points per correct guess):

·One of those brown mountain goats.
·covered bridge
·small airport

Yes! I saw all of them. I ran past this zoo type thing. It was great. And if that wasn't enough, there was another legendary swiss breakfast waiting for me when I got back. So was Rob, looking still very sick. It had been two days since he had eaten now, so he tried to put down a little bit of yogurt.

I, on the other hand, had yogurt, museli, toast, orange juice, and some corn flakes. Anonymous Source, you were right about the swiss breakfasts.

So then Rob and I went to the bear pit. Depressed-looking bears in a pit. Tourists throwing expensive apple slices at them. Sad.

We watched the "Bern Show", which seemed like a tourist-recruitment propaganda short made by the same people as "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln" because of all of the animatronics, etc. Scary.

Then was the walkabout. While Rob slept in the hostel, I went looking for the university. A local gave me some crappy directions so I ended up in Crack Town, where I actually saw some people shooting up.

Holy Crap, it was hot today. I went back to that grassy park to jump in the river, which was inconceivably cold. So I started "Speaker for the Dead" by Orson Scott Card. While reading it, I realized what a dumb book "Angels and Demons" is. Sorry to all fans out there. Man, my legs were sore from the run at pilatus and the one this morning.

Woohoo, I am getting back my chaco tan!

Day Fifteen

Whoa, this Rob is unstoppable. Despite feeling even worse today, he suggests we move on, to Bern this time.

By the time we arrive he feels like Death itself, as was my understanding from how he looked. He wanted to go to a REAL Swiss hospital this time, not that 24 hour snake oil peddling train station clinic that we went to earlier. Two hours, about four nurses, and a bag of saline solution later Rob is on his way with a perscription for antibiotics and acid reflux medicine, and feeling only slightly better.

So I had to ditch Rob at the Hostel so he could sleep. And I borrowed his book which I had been reading this whole time, "Angels and Demons" by that DaVinci Code guy. Don't make fun of me, it was an exciting book, alright? I went to the riverfront park where lots of Europeans were sunbathing and finished the book.

Not an exciting day for you to read about, is it?