Friday, March 21, 2003

after a long day of travel (no strikes, but my train was delayed over a half an hour...) stepping out of the venice train station onto the canal was... breathtaking. venice is so un-like anywhere else i've been so far, and it's so beautiful.

had a little bit of trouble finding a place to stay last night (and trouble finding things in general... maps aren't much help in venice) but eventually found a place that had room for the evening, but after that they were full because of a group coming. so i dropped my stuff and went out to find an internet cafe to try and book the HI hostel (which was only *not* available on the first night i was going to be here - how perfect, huh?) for my next two nights.

so a good nights sleep - and a great free breakfast.... CEREAL!!! i haven't had cereal in forever! so it was only rice krispies and corn flakes, i was still really excited. then i took a water taxi over to the hostel to see if i could leave my stuff. the hostel is on an island and can only be reached by vaporetto, it's right on the water with an amazing view of the main part of venice.

so today i've been wandering around the city, not worrying so much when i didn't know where i was (the beauty of having to take a vaporetto to the hostel is as long as i can find a vaporetto stop, i can find my hostel, unlike my first night when i didn't venture farther than a couple hundred feet from the place so i wouldn't get lost!) and now my feet are pretty tired. i was only truly lost at one point where i ended up back in the very same spot two or three times before i found a vaporetto to somewhere else.

no sights today, or at least not the insides. this is just such an amazing city, i love it. :) and can you say.... shopping? i haven't bought anything yet, but i think i might. (obviously something not too big, since i have to carry it with me for another month)

i was sad to hear that we have actually escalated to a war, but i am not coming home and i am just as safe now as i was last week. i'm continuing to be careful and safe, so no worries. :)

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

it was a beautiful day to explore bergamo today. and with all the hill walking - i didn't even have to wear my coat most of the day!

bergamo is divided into the "citta bassa" (the lower city) and the "citta alta". the prices of hotels and restaurants go up with the altitude, so obviously i'm staying in the citta bassa and shopping at the supermarket. some traditional bergamese dishes are horse and donkey with a side of polenta. so i got a little polenta from the grocery store - don't think i'm quite brave enough for the horse or donkey...

there isn't really a whole lot to do in bergamo, but it is beautiful and it was a great day for sitting around and people watching... a couple of things worth mentioning are these awful backpacks that are for some reason "cool". they are big and flourescent with giant buckles. and they are hideous. and everyone carries them. everyone. even adults. to me they just look like something someone in second grade would carry. and then there are the beautiful girls walking around with guys who are wearing these backpacks. call me shallow, but i would not date a man who carried a bag like this.

also a lot of the men who consider themselves "well dressed" look strikingly similar to the women. and that's a little frightening. of course not all italians are this weird, but there are enough of them to let me know that this is at least exceptable. i'm scared.

tomorrow i leave for venice, and hopefully the strike on the damn trains is over!!!!!!

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

how do you say "oy vay!" in italian? i wish i knew... very long morning today.

i got to sleep in a little this morning, leisurely breakfast, checked out and headed to the train station. the train i planned to take to bergamo was at 11:25, i looked up at the departures list and there it was, so i stood in line to buy my ticket. when i got to the front the woman at the desk told me that there was a strike on the trains, and she didn't know if the train would actually be going, so i should go check with information on the second floor.

so at "information" (imagine me making quotes with my fingers there) the womans says she doesn't know... there's supposed to be a train at 11:25 (i know) and the next one is supposed to be at 11:55, but there might not be any trains until after 5 because of the strike. so basically what i had to do was sit and wait to see if a track number showed up next to the train time on the schedule. 11:25, no. 11:55, no. so i decided i should maybe look for a bus instead of waiting until 5 o'clock to get a train.

well, according to my guidebook there are buses that leave right outside the train station and there's a schedule posted there. well i walked all around the station and i didn't see any bus schedules. so back to "information". she sends me to tourist information and they actually tell me where i need to go to get a bus to bergamo. (the same place i arrived in milan). so off i go, buy a ticket and i'm on my way. but this bus was packed! plus you'd think this was a city bus, there were so many people that some had to stand in the isle - you'd think it was a city bus or something. it was an hours ride.... glad i wasn't standing!

so i've finally arrived, i'm here. went to my first hotel choice and was able to get a room, though it was a little more than listed in my guidebook, i don't really care at this point. so hopefully by the time i leave for venice the strike will be over and there won't be as much confusion.

at first glance bergamo looks lovely. it's a nice day out and i'm going to explore a little bit and find a grocery store to stock up for some dinner.

Monday, March 17, 2003

tried to post yesterday... but there were some issues at the internet cafe i was at.... and then internet explorer ate my post and i didn't feel like re-writing it. mi diaspace.

so where to begin... the bus ride to milan was 13 hours long... and i was one of 2 people on the entire bus who did NOT have their own 2 seat row to stretch out it. some large, annoying boy decided he was going to sit with me. so ugh. needless to say got hardly any sleep, at least not for more than 30 minutes at a time... i arrived in milan around 8am and was able to manage the subway ride to my hotel (though i kept saying "merci" and "oui"... still mentally in france). and though reception was open at 9, i couldn't actually check in until 2 o'clock. though they did let me leave my bag, which was nice.

so i walked around the city a little bit, got a coffee at mcdonalds and sat there for nearly two hours writing in my journal and reading my guidebook. there was a big rally going on in the main piazza, which was for sure a peace rally - all the flags people were carrying said "pace", which means peace in italian, but what kind of peace i'm a little fuzzy on still.... see the flags were the rainbow gay pride sort, so i'm not sure what kind of peace exactly they were looking for. although, perhaps the flag doesn't have the same meaning in italy. who knows, i don't speak enough italian to ask any questions beyond "how much does it cost?".

needless to say i went to sleep rather early saturday. after checking in at two and the frustration of trying to figure out how to make a phone call i napped for the afternoon, then had a little dinner and went to sleep again.

sunday was a sunny, but cold day (as is today as well) and i walked around some and sat in the public garden for a while, looking in my guidebook and getting a little sun, despite the chill. though i suppose milan is sort of close to the alps and all that... i'll be moving south soon, though. :)

so tonight i'm going to make myself (there's a lovely, completely stocked kitchen in the hostel) an instant version of the local specialty - risotto alla milanese - which is risotto flavored with beef shank and saffron. and a bottle of cheap italian wine. should be good.

today is my last day of exploring milan, and frankly, that's fine with me. i'm not all that impressed with it here, it's just a city, with a coupla old things in it. tomorrow i move on to bergamo, which is a little smaller and, i think, a little cuter.