Published: February 26th 2008February 20th 2008
Ben and Heather enjoying another beautiful sunset.
Florence has been great. We got here by train from Cinque Terre and made it to our hostel on a local bus that evening. I couldn't believe how many people fit on that bus. It was like that game to stuff people in a VW bug but on a much larger scale. Luckily Heather asked the bus driver to tell us our stop, to which he grunted to either mean "okay" or "whatever". But he gave us another grunt half an hour later and we got off right at our hostel, which was very nice. It was a little ways down a gated road and also included a theater hall and camp ground. There was a youth orchestra staying there which took me back to the good old days at All-State Orchestra.
We did a lot of walking but did not kill ourselves trying to see everything. It is a pretty city but very busy with a great local flavor and of course the ever present motor scooters. We soon realized (after being so spoiled in Cinque Terre) that we wanted to be back in the quiet countryside. So...after one day of walking Florence and some research, we decided to
Gondola in Venice canal
This picture is for my sister Lesli...she loves the gondolas in Venice and has always dreamed of taking a ride in one.
leave the hustling city of Florence and head to Radda in Chianti (see Radda in Chianti blog to come for highlights). Besides, Heather was getting so tired that she was starting to get confused with everything: for example, as we were walking down the gated road from our hostel one evening, she decided to say "obrigado" to the gentleman in passing. For those of you who don't know Portugese (most all of you I'm assuming), that means "thank-you". Here she is saying thank-you in Portugese as a greeting to someone in Italy!! We had some good laughs over that one....and no she's not getting too tired of it all to go home yet!
So we washed our clothes in the sink and tried to get a good nights sleep before our early AM rise to catch the Radda bus. Ben woke up that night and checked to see how his pants were drying, which they weren't, so he draped them over a shrubbery outside the door only to find them frozen stiff in the morning.
After Radda in Chianti, we headed back to Florence and spent the morning there walking about before leaving on a train to Venice.
Here's a view from the main bridge crossing a canal in Venice, just outside the train station.
What a great, rambling, watery city. We went for an early morning run the next day and were completely lost within minutes. Every time we'd come to a dead end we'd change directions and head down another alley. We probably ran over 50 bridges somehow managed to come out to the main square. It was great to have the whole place to ourselves without all those crazy tourists : ) The dead ends were just an alley that stopped at a canal and if you weren't paying attention you could just run right off the street into the water. We got so riduculously lost that Heather insisted on asking a couple of Japanese tourists if they could point where we were on their map.....we were a long way from home. We started off in the general direction and were quickly lost again. Then, out of no where, we saw the train station appear across the channel. We were showered and eating pastries and coffee within 20 minutes.
Leaving at 5pm from the ferry dock in Venice with the sun setting was a great way to wave good-bye
to a wonderful time in Italy and hello to our
Here's Heather going to give her street music man a tip...he was so much fun to watch. He played the accordian, had jingle bells on his hat that rang when he shook his head, and a base drum on his back that would beat when he moved one foot and a cymbol when he moved the other! He was playing through the streets of Venice all day long...literally.
last stop in Europe: Greece. It's hard to believe that we have already gone so many places and seen so many things...time is going by rather quickly. Here we go again, with a different version of Ben & Heather's way of doing things "AK Style"....we had bought tickets for the deck, wanting to be resourceful with our money and thinking it would be much like our experience 6.5 years earlier on our ferry to AK. Well, for one thing, there were no heating lamps out on the outdoor solarium to keep you warm at night and no lawn chairs to lay on. Not wanting to freeze, we moved inside and soon realized that the ferry was pritnear' empty! Here was my great idea: let's stay inside among the "airplane" seat sections where no one was and camp-out there on the floor! We ended up doing that for our 2 nights on the ferry, getting some sleep but not really much to speak of. The first night we were cold and woke up frequently to the smell of smoke (yes, people were allowed to smoke on the ferry...nasty) or loud Greeks talking. The second night we only slept a few hours,
Ferry ride leaving Venice
Here's Heather saying goodbye to Venice while on the ferry heading to Greece.
as the Greek music (terrible) from the bar was blaring loudly across the whole level and the TV's all over were blaring the Greek soccer game. What made matters more interesting was that there were approximately 7-10 others staying in the seats (with hundreds of other seats empty)...all men. Most of them appearred to be Greek and rather odd. We later found out that most of them were probably truck drivers who had their trucks below on the vehicle deck. Well, let's just say that they were an interesting crew...strange. Overall, not our greatest first-impression of Greece.
There are more photos below