Thursday, June 14, 2007
We took a miserable night train last night from San Sebastian to Paris. With funds running low, we opted out of the bunk beds and took the reclining seats. Soooo kewl. We got here at 7 am, checked into our hostel, and very soon we're going to walk down to the latin quarter to take part in another free tour. Since we only have a single day in Paris, we figured that a walking tour will show us all the hot spots before we depart for the ol US of A tomorrow morning.
This trip has been incredible. Likewise, Levi and I have only wanted to kill eachother a few times. The sites, people, food, drink, cities, countries have all been tremendous, but I need a freaking hoagie from sheetz topped off with a yuengling lager.
This is Nate, signing off.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
After they got off in Pamplona I passed out. Had been reading my book before I fell asleep and stashed in under the armrest of my seat. I wake up and we get to San Sebastian like 15 minutes later.
As we are walking to our hostel I realize I never grabbed the book. Then I realize my passport, train pass, and loot are inside. We book it back to the train station, I talk to the guy and tell him what happened and he gets on the horn.
I´m listening attentively to his conversation and hear the glorious words "está encontrado" (its found) and do a little jig. Turns out that someone found it before the next station and it was waiting there. So we hop on another train that was just then pulling up, go to Irun, and when we get off the train there is a train employee standing there with the book and all its important contents in hand. Total time of separation from valuables ~45 minutes.
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Saturday, June 9, 2007
Tonight we're going to the Camp Nou to see the FC Barcelona play RCD Espanyol in a pretty big league match. The receptionist at the hostel said that this game is going to be like the superbowl of futbol in Spain. There is a lot of tension between the cities of Barcelona and Madrid, which is going to heighten the competition for tonights game. It's going to be awesome. Taken from the Barca website:
"It has been 25 years since Espanyol managed to win at Camp Nou. Two draws and 20 defeats is the record the visiting team brings with it – a record Frank Rijkaard’s men hope to add to. If the blaugrana achieve victory, it will mean they are unbeaten at home all season. Up until now, they have won 14 and drawn 4."
Friday, June 8, 2007
We're about to go bask in the sun on the beach. So far Barcelona is great. We had an incredible time with Alice and her roommates in both Florence and Rome, but it is cool to move on and experience somewhere different.
Tuesday, June 5, 2007
Monday, June 4, 2007
We arrived in Rome yesterday to be greeted by ugly weather. After getting settled in Alice's apartment I found a nearby internet café. To my luck I found an email from Br. Benoit, who is a Benedictine from Saint Vincent that is currently studying in Rome. Benoit gave me the name of the monestary and told me to stop by and ask for him. I googled San Anselm and found that it was minutes away on foot. I called Benoit's cell phone via Skype and told him I would be there in half an hour.
I walked across the Tiber River and cought a glimpse of the gorgeous monestary up on the hill. I requested Benoit at the porter and minutes later I was greeted by the friendly monk. Benoit was excited as I was to talk about Rome, my trip, and Saint Vincent. Almost immediately he took me to the top of the tower that overlooked all of Rome. We could see Saint Peters Baslica, the Pantheon, and the Coluseum.
San Anselm is the Benedictine monastery in Rome that is the home for any Benedictine that is studying in Rome. The congregation is compiled of 120 monks from 40 different countries. I joined them for vespers in the chapel at 7:15, where I found myself lost in the psalms in Latin. I saw a monk that I recognized from Saint Vincent and pointed him out to Br. Benoit. The familiar monk was Fr. Mauris who just arrived in Rome a couple of days ago and is studying Latin Litergy for the next two months. Following vespers I joined both Benoit and Mauris for a delicious dinner.
While eating dinner the Benedictine hospitality that I am so familiar with immediately surfaced. Mauris offered to go with us Wednesday morning to see a handful of the churches in Rome. Benoit invited Levi, Alice, Alice's roommate Sarah, and myself to lunch at San Anselm on Wednesday afternoon. Even across the Atlantic I feel like I am back at Saint Vincent.
This morning the four of us got up at 6:15 to get an early start at the Vatican. We got there early enough to beat the lines for Saint Peter's Basilica. Although we had to battle some crazy nuns to get through security, we made it through fairly quickly. When we walked in the door any expectation that I had previously had was wiped away. It truly blew my mind. Everything about it was incredible. The statues, the art, the size, the brillance, EVERYTHING. To our luck, there was a mass in service whenever we were there. With a handful of bishops or archbishops around the altar, we experienced the Saint Peter's Basilica to the fullest.
When we left the Saint Peter's we departed for the Vatican Museum where we apparently did not beat the line. The line extended for blocks around the Vatican wall. After 2 hours and 8€ we were wandering through the home of the Sistene Chapel. We went through a number of fantastic exhibits, but the prize was truly at the end. When we stepped into the Sistene Chapel everything that was previously saw could be compared to a coloring book. Michelangelo's masterpiece is truly a MASTERPIECE! Both the front fresco and the ceiling are beyond belief.
Tomorrow we're going to explore the ruins, the colluseum, the pantheon, and the other landmarks in the hustling and bustling Rome. When in Rome...
I cannot wait to be on the beach in Barcelona!
In short, don't expect jack diddly after this lengthy entry. Entreaties for my version of events will be ignored entirely.
I'm gonna go chapter style:
1. ON MAKING FRIENDS IN FARAWAY PLACES
I was really impressed with Vienna and everything it had to offer. When Nate and I walked around on the first day it felt like there was way more than we could get to in three weeks let alone three days and that proved to be true. We did have a wonderful time there though and I must admit that much of my enjoyment was derived from spending that time with new and interesting people. One of the girls we met early on our trip referred to people met while traveling as "24 Hour Friends" which I think is a fair and apt description. We got to hang out with Natalie, Chris, and Melanie for two days so it was that much better. Nater and I still laugh about how on the one night we all got into our pijamas in the dorm, took turns using the bathroom, and then shut the light out and said goodnight as a group. If you guys are reading this good luck with your travels and many apologies for not making it back to the hostel. We missed the last bus by about 30 seconds.
Overall I loved Vienna and would go back in a heartbeat. To me it seems we didn't really get to hang out there because there was so much to do so I'd like to just take it easy for a day or two in a park.
2. ON THE PERFECT DAY
The next stop after Vienna turned out to be Munich. It is known as the beer capital of the world. It turns out I liked Munich. ORLY???
We spent two nights, each at a different hostel. The first was at a place called Jager's (Yeah, that's where the name is from) and the second was at this incredible placed called Wombat's. The first day it was still raining so we just grabbed some quick food, a ham panini if I remember right, and then kind of settled in before heading out for the night. There was an American guy who was living in Argentina that played poker for a living so we talked shop a good bit at the bar. Went to a bar next door, chilled with some more folks that we met up with, and then called it a night early. In retrospect that was a good thing.
The next day, the perfect day, we got up fairly early and got ready to go on a free bike tour of the city. The place had breakfast so ate and talked extensively in the lobby with a girl from Seattle. Also witnessed a hilarious exchange between a guy and a girl who had obviously hooked up the night before. The girl was clingy as hell. The guy couldn't get out of there fast enough with his friends. I choked on some strawberry preserves.
We met up for the bike tour and the guy who led it, Lenny (!), was ridiculously funny (like he could be anything else, CMON!). He took us around on some sweet California cruisers and gave funny anecdotes about just about everything from the nudist meadow, to the stupid glockenspiel clock and the dance that goes on, to his beer belly. We stopped at the biergarten and got a liter and some lunch and then saw a lot of the great stuff that Nate detailed. By the time we were done it was a little after three and we were in the mood for some action after being refreshed by a day off our feet. We had met four people on the tour who were down as well and decided to head to the Hofbrauhaus. 3 liters and about 4 hours later that had been filled with talk about brew, broads, biking, being abroad, and being deported by your own family from Thailand, we realized that our waiter hadn't spoken to us in well over an hour. We were in a place that seats 5000 people. We were ready to leave. All signs pointed to the dining maneuver you hear about from friends of friends and in urban legends. Thats right...the Dine and Dash. I'm proud to say that I am the one who initially suggested it. Perhaps karma caught up with me later (you'll see), but it was freaking worth it. I was laughing so hard and felt like a million bucks when the girls finally made it outside after about 10 minutes (we thought theyd gotten caught). We then went back to hostel row and the bars there. The two guys from FSU, Landis and Blake, decided they wanted to be loaded for their night train to Amsterdam. My jaw hit the bar when one asked for 3 shots of Jager and the other echoed, but the number had double to 6. I was in bed an hour later, or at least thats what I have been told.
3. ON THE FOLLY OF DISCOUNTING NATURE
After we left Munich we went to Fussen, Germany and Bregenz, Austria for two days. Probably the only two places that heavily involve being outdoors that we have visited thus far. Of course it rain incessantly and was freezing on both of those days. As a result I did not make it to Ludwig's castle, did not see Lake Constance in the middle of the Alps, and basically did a whole lot of nothing for two days. Was/Am I bitter? Not at all really. While it would have been great to see those things they were both in the middle of small towns that didn't have much else to offer, at least ostensibly. I walked around Fussen while Nate went to the castle and it was a very quaint little town even smaller than Hollidaysburg. I enjoyed it and being alone. Bregenz was kind of crappy but had a casino. I was pretty excited to go play poker but decided against it in the end because I didn't feel like concentrating too much and staying out of the rain and reading was a much more appealing option.
4. ON HOW AWESOME IT IS TO LOSE YOUR PASSPORT WHILE ABROAD
So we decided while we were in Fussen to skip Zurich and go directly to Venice before meeting up with Alice and Co. in Florence. I liked the idea. Little did I know that we would end up seeing Zurich anyway.
While making our way to Venice we went through Switzerland, switching trains a few times. I also keep (kept) my travel wallet out because the officials would check to see that we had tickets and passports with pretty fair regularity. Our changeovers were very quick; we only had about 5 minutes to get off our train and get to the correct platform before the next train came. As many of you already know or can surely guess I left my pouch on one of the trains while we were switching over. I really don't know how other than I grabbed my bag in a hurry and hustled to the next train. I didn't realize it was gone until we were on the next train for a few minutes. I wish I had a picture of my face when I realized what I had done. This was exponentially worse than forgetting about a paper until the morning it was due or the feeling I get when I fire a big bluff on the end and the guy snap calls before I even start sliding the money in the middle. I wanted to chew my leg off and then feed the bloody stump that remained to a wild pit bull army.
After getting off at the next stop and trying to get the passport back through the train authorities we really had only one option. Our efforts thwarted, we called Nate's friend from freshman year, Sascha, who lived in Zurich. We met up with him at the train station and he figured out just what we needed to do. It turned out there was no real embassy in Zurich so we would have to go to Bern the next day. We filed the loss online (which included far more than just my passport. I now am considerably poorer, have 1/3 of my original count of DS games, have no insurance card, have a 2nd EuRail train pass, cannot use the UPitt athletic facilities due to lack of an ID card, and am without a bunch of files from my jump drive, you know...just to name a few), called the consulate, found out I needed a police report and passport photos, and then called home a bunch of time to get a Western Union transfer from my parents (thanks Mom and Dad!). The whole process took about 8 hours with dinner thrown in there. I am happy that I never really panicked, that we thought things through rationally, and that Sascha's phone plan covered calls to Italy and the US. He's the real hero here, so I just want to say thank you sir for your generosity and help.
After that cluster fuck of a day we went to his house outside the city. One of his friends was having a party so went there and had some brews and some good conversation. Somehow Nate made it behind the wheel when we were driving home. I didn't care. We had a long day ahead and I was thinking only of getting this shitty situation resolved. Luckily it worked out pretty well. Apparently if I lose my passport again I can never have a fully valid one. Ever. Sweet. I'll try to remember that.
5. ON GUELPHS AND GHIBELLINES
With Switzerland memorably behind us we made our way to Florence to meet up with the brown wonder of the world, Alice. We woke up at like 6 and and didnt make it Florence until 10 because our high speed train broke and turned into a no speed train. Italian engineering in da house. It was a long ass day, but I guess I didn't really deserve to have it easy after my mighty gaffé. I was very happy to meet up with Alice. Her roommates became our roommates and we spent three very fine days in one of the great art cities in the world. Saw the Uffizi, saw David, and ate some great food. David was one of the most incredible things that I've ever seen. He's tall.
That's kind of a weak description but I haven't had a lot of time for reflection. We went at it pretty hard today in Rome but I'm sure Nate already wrote abotu that. I enjoyed it a lot. I'm excited to lie down.
Barcelona and San Sebastían coming up next. The beach. Haven't decided if I'll be getting in the water but am pumped at the idea of doing nothing.
Saturday, June 2, 2007
- Michelangelo's David
- The Florence Cathedral and hiking 439 steps to the top of the Duomo
- The Ufizzi Gallery
- Piazza Michelangelo
Pretty much everything has been super. Last night, after some wine, I haggled a street vendor for a fake Louis Voiton (sp?) handbag that I had no intention on buying from €45 to €15. Everyone got a kick out of it.
Oh another thing. A couple years back my Uncle Jim told me about the image of a fly that appears in urinals in Germany. Anyways, I couldn't find any flies in Germany, but while taking a leak at the train station in Zurich I found the fly. My goals for my backpacking in Europe have been completed.
Roma tomorrow! Vatican on Monday! Barcelona on Thursday!
Note: Levi, you need to spellcheck this.
Friday, June 1, 2007
We didn't make it to Venice (you'll find out why), but we're in Florence and it is awesome!
We saw the David statue today and went on top of the dome of the Santa Maria Cathedral. It was pretty amazing.