Alright so I haven't written in quite some time. That hasn't really bothered me too much. But a lot has happened since I made a real post so I'll attempt to rectify my shortcomings. I will say, however, that I am on almost-total shutdown mode right now; its the equivalent of how I feel when right after I finished finals. I can't really be bothered to do anything. We are going to be in Europe for another week and I can think of nothing more perfect than sitting on the beach all day, drinking espresso at cafés, and sleeping in. The lines to see anything and everything in Italy have sucked the lifeblood from my soul.
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.