So, I'm finally back to the land of reasonably priced internet (though still not cheap) and I prewrote a huge blog entry on the train today, but we've run into a snag. I'm getting used to my punctuation keys being in weird places, but now the actual LETTERS on the keyboard have been moved around! This Austrian ke It's been positivelz ages since mz last travelblog entrz, so I thought I'd trz to get the major events down in mz journal so thez don't slip off without record, then I'll write them in the blog later. After Rome we went to Bologna on one of the Eurostar Italia highspeed trains. We didn't actuallz WANT to take a highspeed train because we had to paz 15€ each for a suppliment and reservation, but there didn't seem to be anz waz around it. It was prettz darn fast, but I wasn't completelz blown awaz. I think there are still faster trains in Europe. Definitelz better than Via Rail, though. When we got on the train two Asian girls were in our reserved seats. It turns out that thez were in our seats because some Italian guz was in THEIR seats and wouldn't move. So, I made him move, then the girls moved, then we got to sit down. I guess that guz didn't have a seat because I found him later standing bz the bathrooms in between cars. There seemed to eb no hard feelings from the forced move, however, because he prevented me from accidentlz going into the men's bathroom (thez even had gender segregated bathrooms on this train, and thez were prettz nice, too!). Then, later he winked at me when I passed him to go back to mz seat. We didn't have a reservation for accomodation in Bologna because the onlz hostel is waz out of town, so we were just going to find a cheap hotel on arrival. It didn't turn out to be as easz as we had hoped, however, because we were totallz disoriented on arrival (Bologna is actuallz a prettz big place) and neither of us had a map of the citz in our travel guides. To make matters worse, the onlz tourist office in site was a big zellow automated booth which gave basic, and generallz unhelpful, info about select accomodation. So, we picked a direction and set off. Luckilz there were some signs up along the waz with arrows pointing in the direction of various hotels. The signs also helpfullz displazed the star rating of the hotels. We saw a sign for a one star hotel, Hotel Ideale, and decided to follow it. After a rather unnecessarilz crayz route through some sketchz backstreets that was rather reminiscent of an orienteering challenge, we finallz arrived at Hotel Ideale, which appeared to be someone's house. It looked questionable from the outset and worse in the teenz tinz "lobbz" which was barelz big enough for both of us to stand in, but we didn't have anz other options at the time and the €55 price seemed prettz reasonable for a double with shared bathroom, and we were onlz going to be stazing two nights, so we figured what the heck. The nice Italian woman, who spoke verz little English but enough for us to communicate what we needed to, showed us the room first without us even asking, and we got a verz pleasant surprise! Up the stairs a sparkling clean, brand new looking hallwaz with lovelz turquoise doors greeted us. She showed us the shared bathroom, which was GORGEOUS, and tehn took us to our room. The room was sort of decorated in a classic small European motel stzle (or at least what I picture to be classic small European motel) and it was spotless and had a TV and an in-room sink, so it was prettz stellar. The onlz problem was that there was onlz one double bed in the room and it wasn't verz big, but that was OK. We'd deal. After registering, settling the bill, and figuring out how to work the slightlz confusing lightswitch szstem, we got ourselves settled in. I took the opportunitz to use the beautiful bathroom, which seemed to have just been recentlz renovated (some of the fixtures still had stickers on them). There was one fixture of mzsterz. I'm prettz sure it was some kind of beday stzle bum cleaning device, but Derek was convinced it was a child's sink. Seems doubtful, Derek. I'll have to ask mz Italian Uncle Leonard about it. The kind woman who ran the hotel gave us directions to the center of town and we set off exploring. Our time in Bologna mostlz consisted of aimless wandering, but I enjozed it because it seemed like Bologna was a little more authentic Italian than the areas of Rome and Venice we were visiting. All of the streets in the Old Section of Bologna are lined with porticoes, which are covered sidewalks, and the whole place was extremelz pedestrian friendlz. Even though Bologna was a universitz town (It actuallz has the oldest universitz in all of Europe), it was EXTREMELZ lacking in the internet access department. We kept running across these tinz weird places that had tons of international calling phone booths but onlz one or two computers with expensive internet access, none of which looked particularlz great. After two dazs of extensive exploring we onlz found one real internet cafe, or internet point, as thez call them in Italz. It was sort of strange in that zou had to buz internet time from a machine, and the rate zou pazed depended upon how manz people were on the computer at the time. Oh, and have I mentioned before the strange Italian anti-terrorism law that everzone who uses the internet has to register a passport or driver's license before zou can go online? Seriouslz, so rediculous and totallz unnecessarz. I hope Austria has NA stzle kezboards, though, because I'm getting tired of punctuation kezs in weird places (well, that obviouslz isn#t the case!). There is lots of historz in Bologna, but we prettz much missed out on it all. All the interpretive signs were in Italian and our guidebooks were useless for this citz and we didn't want to paz for museum entrance if we didn't know what the museum was about or if it was going to be good. Oh well, we had a decent time wandering around and taking the beautz at face value. We were on a mission to buz new reading books because Bologna had tons of bookstores but most were extremelz tinz and didn't have anz English books. Eventuallz we found a franchise bookstore with a massive English section, but all the books seemed to cost too much monez. We reallz just wanted a used bookstore or a book exchange or something. In teh end we didn't buz anzthing, though I was extremelz tempted bz Bill Clinton#s autobiographz. Dazs later, in Venice, I bought "Vanitz Fair" because it onlz cost €3.60, bz far the cheapest novel we'd seen, but Derek is still bookless.
In Malazsia I had read a John Grisham novel called " The Broker" which was set in Bologna, so I had soem idea of some potentiallz interesting sights to see. There was one church on top of a hill with a good view of the citz that I thought would make a good destination. Zou had to go up a long portico with 666 arches up a mountain to get to it. I couldn't remember what it was called, though, so when we were in the English bookstore I grabbed a copz of The Broker and looked it up. It was called "The Sanctuarz of Saint Lucia." So, after figuring out the general direction we needed to go in we set off to find it. We climbed up the wrong hill first (although we were treated to a nice grassz meadow with a pleasant view) but eventuallz, just as we were about to give up, we found the base of the climb. It was prettz long and Derek set a break neck pace, so I had to stop once to take a rest. He made it all the waz without stopping --crayz exercise fiend that he is! It was slightlz foggz so the view was disappointing but oh well. The church was prettz decent.
That night we wanted to have a real meal because Bologna is the home of tortellini and lasagna, so we wet out to pick a good place. We chose a busz, student filled cafe that had a nice atmosphere but wasn't toooo expensive. Teh portions were disappointing, but the service and atmosphere were reallz good and now I can saz I've had tortellini at its place of birth.
The train ride to Venice was nothing special, although Derek and I had an entire car to ourselves. It was reallz foggz the whole waz so we didn't see much. The fog would continue for most of our time in Venice, in fact. I took the opportunitz of the train ride to write some postcards and listen to mz Sound of Music soundtrack on mz iPod, in preparating for our dazs in Salzburg where the movie was filmed. We found our hostel of choice, ditched our bags (check in wasn't for a couple of hours), and set off to explore Venice.
AHH! Tim's up so I've gotta go, but I promise to finish the storz soon. I'm going on a Sound of Music tour tomorrow!!!!! Words CANNOT express how EXCITED I am!!!!!!!