Published: April 29th 2007April 29th 2007
The internet here is seven dollars per hour so I have mixed feelings about blogging, but I haven't in so long that I think it is probably imperative. I will just start where I left off:
From Barcelona we took the night train to Bern, Switzerland, where everything was outrageously expensive and we opted to wait to use the bathroom (2 euros) until we got on the train to Interlaken. When we stepped off the train into this little town we were awed by the peaks in front of us. We knew we wanted to climb but weren't really sure where we were going or how to get there. With some vague ill-remembered directions from Kinsey's guidebook we made our way to a trailhead with signs all in German. We picked the one that said "Harder" with no real understanding of what this meant except the possibility of it meaning the same thing as it does in English. We scrambled up and after the first ten minutes were rewarded almost instantly with breathtaking views of the alps, two lakes on either side, and a little Swiss town in the middle. I have never been on a hike that was so continually beautiful. This one came at the perfect time, as we had been breathing cigarette-heavy air for three days in Barcelona and now we were immersed in the clearest of mountain spring days. My body was singing as it worked and drank in the clarity. After a few hours we finally made it to Harder Kulm, a panoramic viewpoint about a mile up (but longer to walk since the trail twists around) and sat for awhile, literally across from the Alps. I love hiking, and this one was definitely up there on my list. We were only in Switzerland for a total of eight hours, but it was certainly enough to experience the heart of Interlaken's nature.
From Switzerland we decided not to shower at the train station since it was 12 euros per shower (nineteen dollars) even though we were so dirty from hiking and the previous night train, and caught another night train to Rome where we met Jesse at our hostel. We couldn't shower yet because they were cleaning, so we went for a walk around the city and visited Basilica Santa Maria, a small and beatiful church with a fountain in front where I jumped in and felt slightly cleaner. A guy on a motorcycle drove by and shook his head while saying "no, no" so I got out. The rest of that day and the next were spent sightseeing- the Colosseum, various old buildings, etc...we went to the Trevi fountain and it started to rain- what a different city than Seattle. Everyone immediately scattered for shelter under the eaves where their umbrellas bobbed in colorful lines. We didn't bother. It felt wonderful to walk in the rain.
Then we got the train to Salerno, a little town down south wehere we arrived about midnight and couldn't find our hostel. It was pretty sketchy and we decided to try not to arrive at new cities at night anymore. The next day we took the train to the ruins of Pompei where we literally ran through (no time, had to catch the train to Florence) and got the feel of the old volcano city.
When we arrived in Florence we were in a five-bed hostel, where we met Pat, the person in the fifth bed. At first we thought he didn't speak English, but it turned out that this was his little joke and we have been travelling together ever since. Our group has certainly grown. That very night Becky discovered that she had lost her passport somewhere on the street, and after taxiing around and unsuccessfully searching decided to take care of things with the polizia in the morning. So that day, while she navigated Florence's legal system, etc. the rest of us did laundry and hung out for awhile. We went to the Galleria del'Accademia (sp?) where we saw the David statue- really none of its replicas or pictures do it justice.
Firenze was an amazing city for me to be able to spend time in. I really felt at home there, I think partly because my cousin studied there for three months last spring and adored it so much. Everything she had told me and pictures she had showed me came alive and I could feel that the city remembered her. Yesterday we took the bus to Fiesole, a half hour away on a hilll where you can sit and picnic and look out on all of Florence and some of the Tuscan countryside. It is impossible not to feel at peace there. Wish I had time to write more...
In order to stay in Florence again last night, we had to beg our hostel landlady, Anna, to let us stay even though we didn't have a reservation. She tried to fit us in somewhere but had no way to give us beds without taking them away from somebody else. We stood with her in the lobby for awhile, and she talked half to us, half to herself in Italian and then..."Alora, I will call my friend (gets on her cell phone). Ciao..." She proceeded to eloquently beg in Italian for rooms for us- we could understand several aloras, quattro personas, domandi, domandi (tomorrow) solo una notte (only one night), and a pleading per fevere (please). And then, "alora grazie mille, ciao ciao, grazie, ciao ciao ciao." She turned to us and explained "Okay, I call my friend, and I tell him that if he does not give my four beds, I will not speak to him anymore. Okay so tomorrow you go up the street two blocks, and you stay at David Inn. You tell him Anna sent you. Okay? So it is not normale but I trust you, so I tell him that." So we fell over ourselves thanking her and all ciaos were happy ciaos.
Now the five of us are in Cinque Terre, one of the most beautiful places I have ever been, on the Italian coast (our hostel room even has a breathtaking view). We are having a bit of trouble staying out of scrapes (by the way Becky did get a new passport in Florence), as on the way back from the beach today we stopped at the store and Kinsey got quite a glass cut above her eye, but we are taking care of her and we will update more as soon as we can.
Ciao ciao ciao...
Courtney & girls & guys