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Published: January 27th 2007
Italy from the Train
Sorry, it's my only Italy photo offering thus far. More are sure to follow!
Hi there! A very happy Jess, reporting in. Unfortunately, however, these Italian keyboards are the strangest I've come across yet in my travels, and are greatly impeding my typing ability. As a result, this entry might not be as detailed as I would have liked, because I have much to tell about!
I've only been in Rome for a couple of hours, but so far it's great. The buildings are ancient and incredible, but still really nice. We found Athens to be a bit run down, which we weren't expecting. Granted we were staying in a really, really bad area of town, but we didn't actually see a lot of "good" areas of town. The ruins and museum were amazing, though, that's for sure. A quick run down of things we'd been up to since I last reported in. After I finished with my last entry, we walked to the main tourist district of Athens, Plaka, and found a taverna to eat in. We had one in mind that we'd stumbled upon the previous day. The proprietor was really nice and really wanted us to come back, plus he said that they had live Greek music at night, which was a must for us. We actually found the place, which was a big accomplishment because it's one giant maze of cafes and tavernas and shops. I found I was a bit disappointed with the food, though, because it was, well, plain! REALLY plain. The salad had tasty ingredients, but only oil for dressing, no vinegar. The pork in my souvalki was just bbq'd pork, with no seasoning of any kind and no tzatziki. And there was some steamed peas and carrots which could have just come out of the freezer bag and plain rice. None of it was bad, just very bland. On the bright side, the banana ice cream they served us for dessert was very tasty. Oh, and we made the mistake of eating the bread put on the table (also very plain), which we had to pay for. We'd read about that and should have known better. Oh well. I suppose it WAS traditional Greek food, though, because there were lots of local Greeks and obvious regulars in the place. The music, on the other hand, was EXCELLENT and we enjoyed it very much. Two very old Greek guys with various stringed instruments, and an occasional third vocalist. The atmosphere of the place was great, too. It was small, not very touristy, and full of old pictures of Greek entertainers and stuff. And the service was good. So, everything was good except the actual food =)
The next day we got up very early to take our train to the Greek port town of Patras. The ride was pretty good, and we passed through some neat Greek scenery, including many, many orchards of oranges and lemons. I know oranges grow on trees, and there were actually a ton of orange trees lining the streets of Athens, but I'd never really thought about lemons before. It was pretty funny (for me, at least) to see all these lemons sticking out of the leaves at odd angles! Lemons are kind of a funny fruit to begin with (again, to me). We travelled through a variety of small villages and larger towns, so I saw quite a bit. My favourite sight had to be a old Greek man dressed in very simple, traditional clothing, leading a mule who was laden down with chopped firewood from some ancient tree that had seen better days. It only lasted for a second as we sped past, but it was really neat just the same. On the way, the conductor told us that we'd been overcharged in Athens for our ticket and we should get a refund in Patras. We managed to communicate this to clerk in Patras, and found ourselves 3.60Euros richer. Yah! We also had that guy validate our Eurail pass, but he didn't really know what he was doing and didn't actually do it right, so we had to finish the job ourselves. That's a BIG no-no, but hopefully we don't run into any problems. We used it all today and never got hasseled at all. Once in Patras, we got tickets for the ferry to Ancona, Italy. Our Eurail passes entitle us to free deck passage, which litterally means sleeping on the deck, so we were prepared for a cold, possibly miserable night. It turned out to be anything but! First of all, this ship was AMAZING!!! Definitely the biggest, fanciest ship I've ever been on. It was like a mini cruise ship, or a hotel on the water. After being greeted by a man in a fancy uniform, we traveled up a long, well decorated escalator corridor to the "reception," where we were told that technically we were supposed to go to the third deck, outside, by the pool (which was closed for the winter). However, we could find a nice corner in the lounge, by the disco, to snuggle up in!!! The lounge was great--carpeted with lots of tables and comfy plush chairs. Certainly better than the cold deck. Plus, they had TVs showing non-stop Fashion TV! No sound, unfortunately, but I have now watched pretty much every high fashion show for the past 2 years. I honestly watched about 8 hours of Fashion TV yesterday. Haha, good prep for Italy, I guess. We also took the opportunity to really plan out an itinerary for the rest of our Europe trip. I had it all worked out and was PERFECT, until today Derek realized that Poland and the Cheq Rep. aren't actually part of our rail pass. Rough. That screws things up a lot because we had reaaalllly been looking forward to going to Prague, and had planned to be there for 5 days. Oh well, we'll find something else to stick in there, I guess.
We had a bit of trouble figuring our train travel out in Ancona, Italy because we first were at the wrong rail station, but once we figured out how to get to the major station all was good. The train ride to Rome was simply lovely, and I can tell we're going to have a great time travelling by rail here. It's so easy, so comfortable, and you see such great scenery!!! The sights I saw today were wonderful. You really get a glimpse into the culture of the region you're in, too. For example, today I saw a TON of soccer being played. You can tell what Italy's passion is! We're here in Rome for 4 nights. Tomorrow we're going to Vatican City because the Sistine Chapel, which normally costs 12euros to enter, is free on the last Sunday of every month. Guess what tomorrow is? Perfect!
Well, gotta go. Derek's already back at the hostel but we only have one key so I have to meet him there to get in. It's nice to be back in a neighbourhood where it's not unsafe to walk places by yourself! Oh, and I've posted some pics and videos for last entry so have a look. Having a great time, bye!
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