Jun 30, 2005

I Take A Bath

Our last night in Veinna, we made Gnocci at the hostl which actually turned out very nicely. The last day we crossed the danube to the 30-k long island, went to Kunst Haus Wien, (a real gaudi ripoff), and looked around the gardens of the Schloss Schunbrum. It is the palace of the Hapsbugs, a pale reflection of versaille with its french gardens, but had a decent hedge maze to its credit.
Train to budapest was nice, and Chase ran into a woman on the train who worked for the Budapest tourist board. She gave him a map, and showed him how to find the hotel.
Budapest is Vienna's poor country cousin. It's got amazing architecture buried beneath grime and neglect, everywhere you look. It reminds me of Moscow, but not nearly as green. Food here is dirt cheap, and it feels really weird getting 10 grand from the ATM, although its actually about 48 dollars. The hotel is ok, not the nicest we've stayed at, but it had availability at a good price. The breakfast room has a bunch of hunting trophies on the wall that look like they had been taken by the hapsburgs. That night, we ate at a great trendy cafe, including dessert for less than 12 dollars, including drinks.
Today we went to the baths. In this amazing neoclassical/baroque complex, there were huge hot outdoor baths, and a lap pool. Inside were countless saunas, steam rooms, and cold plunges. Chase got a Thai massage. We spent three incredibly relaxed hours there for less than 7 dollars. Afterwards, we went to the big mall to try to see War of the Worlds, but it was only in Hungarian. The mall is called "WestEnd Shopping Center" and looks like metrocenter. I kept my eyes peeled for the Orange Julius. Chase said it reminded him of Texas. We had lunch in their food court and then went on to see the gothic parliment building. At this point, we were caught in amazing downpour of rain, which completely drenchd us. Took the metro home. The metro cars are the same that run in moscow, as the city shares strong historical ties to the soviets. Tonight, we'll try to find a good place the book recommends.

Jun 27, 2005

The Vienna Opera Mosh Pit

Yesterday: caught a 8 am train to Fussen from Munich, a two hour train ride. From Fussen, its another 20 minutes by bus to the jumping off point for Castle Neuswanstein (or however its spelled). Like its Disneyland counterpart, it was packed with hordes of american and japanese tourists. Lines were phenomenal. We ended up walking there and forgoing an hour wait for the 35 minute interior tour. Got some really nice pictures from the bridge overlooking the castle, then hopped back on the bus, then the train back to Munich. Our gear we left at the hotel for the day, so we hopped off the train, ran back to the hotel, picked up our stuff, ran back to the train station and boarded a train within 15 minutes. That train departed less than 2 minutes later. It was the direct line to Vienna that we didnt even consider catching. Our luck on this trip has remained nothing short of spectacular.
On the train, we sat in a compartment with Peter, who turned out to be an international emerald trader, one of only 20 people worldwide licenced to do gem business in Colombia, where he packs a pistol. We meet a lot of interesting people on these trains.
Vienna is a lot like the other european cities we have visited so far, but its a much more musical town. This morning, we did laundry and played chess on big peices outside. This afternoon, we went to the Haus Der Music, a sort of science museum for the ear, with lots of interactive exhibits and stuff about Beethoven, Shubert, Mozart, etc. By far, the coolest room was a stereo room, an oval room pumping out 10,000 watts of music from 30 high end speakers, 7.1 surround sound, 2 woofers. It was incredible. The msst perfect stero system I have ever heard. Something to work for once I pay off this trip.
After the museum we walked to the state opera house and bought standing tickets to a Puccini opera that evening. They missed my flip flops, and I got in. Tickets were 3.50 euro. I dont remember the name of the opera, something like L----- M------, but it was the worst opera experiance I have ever had. At 3.50 these tickets were overpriced. When they say standign room, they mean, in the aisle, unless you arrive more than an hour before the show. I was kicked away from the side of a standing bar because it had already been 'claimed' with a scarf. I ultimately ended up with a decent view of the stage, almost in the exact middle, but literally in the back of the theater. There was not even room to move it was so packed.
The opera was really really really boring. The music was nothing special, despite being conducted by Ozawa. It opened with a bunch of ladies looking at windows. The most exciting thing that happened in the first 45 minutes was that someones car was stolen. Not even violenty. As far as I could tell, what I saw was that one guy asked a girl to elope with him in a stolen car. I left after the curtain fell on the scene. First rate opera company, Fourth rate Puccini, Tenth rate 'seats'. We found a cafe on a city street and had a snack as we watched the sun set on the hapsburg palaces.
We are planning on hitting Budapest next, just 19 euros from here, and off the eurail pass.

Jun 25, 2005

The Munich Sewage Ride

Today was a really good day. We started out at the hotel breakfast buffet, sausage and scrambled eggs, then went to the museum of modern art. They had a really good exhibition of tensile structure architecture, an area which ASU program really lacks, and a really good exhibit of Der Speigal cover art. Der Speigal is amazingly opinionated and partisan by American standards, so it was really interesting to see. They also had a great collection of classic modernist furnature from Thonet up to Aalto, to Panton. Their art collection was decent for only being a few years old: quite a few Warhols, a couple of Picassos and a few Dalis. The architecture was strongly modern.
I've really been surprised by how much I like this city. We were too short on time after the museum for Dachau, but I'm sure we'll get our fill on the holocaust in Berlin or thereabouts. In the afternoon we went to this massive public park in the middle of the city, in the same sort of style as Central Park. There was a force fed river, more like a canal actually, about 10 yards across with a really fast strong current, such that even at top speed, I could not swim agianst it. At the start of the canal, there was a permenant wave, and guys on short surfboards would take turns carving up the 10 yards of wave. We actually dove in near this point and were carried for about five minutes rapidly from where our clothes lay. We actually went too far, and ended up in alge green canal water beyond the park boundaries. We managed to climb out, no small feat considering the current, and make our way back to sun dry in the large grassy clearings. For dinner, we went to an authentic Bavarian beer and food haus, Andachser An Dom, where we got the best beer I've ever tasted. We both got the pork with dark beer sauce and potato balls, with spicy sausage. It was really good, the pork was excellent. Tomorrow, we are going to see Castle Neuschanstein, then continue on our journey to Vienna.

Jun 24, 2005

James Bond at 10,000 feet

My last day in Gimmelwald, I decided to hike up to Schilthorn, a peak normally accessed by cablecar. The cable car fare to the top was about 80 euros, so I decided to hike it. It was one of the most grueling hikes I've ever done, including crossing two freezing waterfalls, hiking across massive snowflows in my treadless sketchers, and a perilous ascent up the craggy ridge to the top. The building at the top which included a restaurant in the round had a large room where they screened clips from 'On her Majesty's Secret Service' where schilthorn was the villians lair. I took the cable car down one stop, not trusting my flat bottomed shoes to a decent on ice and loose rock. In total I think I hiked about 10 miles.
Today I am in Munich, and this evening enjoyed the city center. Its pretty and baroque and modern at the same time. More later.

Jun 21, 2005

Auf wiedershen, Interlaken; guten tag, Gimmelwald

The train from Venice to Interlaken was really nice, passed through the italian alps and through the lake como reigion which is another amazingly beautiful area of italy. Interlaken is situated between two lakes, in a massive valley surrounded by snow capped peaks. The Swiss alps are amazing, just launching themselves straight up into the sky. The town of interlaken itself was a major letdown. Its one of the most touristy places we have seen so far. Despite a population less than 15000, interlaken sported a Hooters, a McDonalds, and about three trillion boutiques selling swiss army knives and watches. The hostel, Baumers was a dissapointment too. A massive, sprawling affair in wooden, camp buildings, it crawled with boozepackers, mostly americans and canadians. The hostel had several happy hours, serving from two different bars. This was hardly the swiss experiance we had been anticipating. We spent the night and checked out the next morning. I had difficulty falling asleep on my bedroll under the eaves, as a group of drunks on the roof were loudly discussing how cool skydiving was. We checked out this morning, and Chase found a great village in his guidebook so we set out at once.
We took a train, then another train, then a bus, and finally a cable car to get up here to Gimmelwald, in the Jungfrau region. Its a tiny village, not even a town center, really, just a collection of wooden buildings, high up on the side of the mountain valley. THe hostel here is amazing too. Its hard to say which had better views, here or positano. Try googling Gimmelwald or the Lauterbrunen Valley. Anyway, today we had to hike 40 minutes uphill to get to an ATM. We sat on the side of the valley and enjoyed the view while we drank lager and ate chocoate and gummy bears. Also dunked ourselves in alpine glacial runoff later this afternoon. It was a little cold. Now, to see the cows grazing outside.

Jun 19, 2005

The Lido

After living in two global cities with major commercial/leasure centers styleing themselves as 'the lid0' we decided to see the real thing. Its a nice beach town island which chase said reminded him of the east coast beaches. Too many men in speedos though to be American. Ate lunch from a grocery store and went back to an interesting church in the round with a very dramatic white round center area. Lots of marble. Called the family this morning for Fathers day, caught them in the middle of a tour of a Turkish palace in Istanbul. Geographically, we are actually pretty close.
After the church we split up- chase went to the Peggy Guggenheim collection, I to the Gallery DAccademia. To each his own taste in art. However, my museum was pretty dull, with only a few interesting Tiziot's. It did have a reliquary which displayed what was billed as two fragments from the True Cross.
Sundays are a cacaphony of bells. They seem to ring constantly with no apparent tune. Took a nap this afternoon. After chase wakes up, well go for some pizza. Good light now for pictures. I have taken approximately 550 so far. Oh! Jen got into upper division along with 19 other students into the Interior Design program at ASU, hats off all around. (Like there was any doubt!). The tension mounts as July 1 approaches....

Jun 18, 2005

Ah, Venice!

Yesterday we managed to see Michaelangelo's David, do a complete tour of the Uffuzi, and find our way to the hostel in venice where we are staying. We waited in line for 2.5 hours to get into the Uffuzi, the lourve of Firenze, and it was the size of one wing of one floor of the lourve. It did have its share of Botticellis and a few DaVincis. Sadly, I have no clue what Dan Brown is talking about. They did have the Birth of Venus, however. We paid 16 euro to see the David, and I must confess it is the most compelling, astounding sculpture I have ever seen.
Venice is like the pictures portray, very picturesque for the first half of the day. After awhile the heat gets to you. I like the canals, but a map and compass is virtually useless in these winding dissected streets. We find our way by intuition. This morning, we went out walking aimlessly and ran right into the grand canal vaparetto (water taxi) stand's first stop. We got off and saw St. Marks square. Mom, when you come here, avoid this place like the plauge. Pigeons run amok, and vendors sell feed so you always see tourists literally covered in pidgeons, giggling and laughing like they are covered with butterflies instead of flying, diseased rats. The church is amazing, with a fused style of romanesque and byzantine. gold everywhere inside. More museums tomorrow, and the day after that we strike for the matterhorn!

Jun 16, 2005

not so amazing cinque terre

After hearing nothing but rave reviews from all of the people we have met so far on this trip, I must say that cinque terre was a dissapointment. The hikes between the villages were really nice and picturesque, but the villages are overcommercialized and stuffed to the gills with American and Canadian tourists. Positano has spoiled us I am sure. Anyway, we caught a train there this morning and hiked around. Had a really nice lunch in one of the villages. I had the beans (no clue what they were when I ordered them, they just looked cheap) which actually were pretty good, and chase got a pasta with pesto sauce, about double the cost of my beans. We also split a small bottle of white wine, locally grown in cinque terre and bottled in La Spezia the gateway town. It was a hot sunny day, so we split from part of the trail and headed down the jagged igneous coastline. No beaches, but craggy rocks jettign out into the water. We jumped off and swam around a bit, heading back from the mouth of a sea cave after discovering that it was both really dark and also swarming with jellyfish who drifted in. Probably my last taste of the Med for awhile. Caught a train back here to Florence as the sun was going down. Really the best way to experiance the city is at sundown. Washed off the salt water, and now waiting to go grab a slice of pizza for dinner.
At least the high school tour group left.

Jun 14, 2005

Under the Tuscan Sun (along with half of detroit)

Yesterday we saw the ruins of Pompeii, which was really cool despite being swarming with tourists and japanese tour groups. The city layout is untouched and its a very personal look into the homes and businesses of a roman city, as many mossaics and wall paintings were intact. Today we left Positano and finally arrived in Florence a full ten hours later. The romance of train travel wears off quickly, but we had a really nice ride from Rome to Florence. We passed through a rainstorm and so saw tuscany with the late afternoon sun shining down through the clouds. Florence was much the same, like a botticelli painting with the sunset on the river and teh narrow cobblestone streets. Its more crowded, and reminds me a bit of paris and a bit of rome. Calizone for dinner. Our hostel is in a scuzzy part of town near the center, and is jam packed with high school studnets on a school trip. Fortunately for you, dear reader, the chapperones shuffled them off to their rooms. Unfortunately for us, our room is one of them with ten beds, 5 bunks arranged military style. Florence looks very promising and we have some tough decisions to make about cinque terre, which everyone has raved about. Hopefully we can figure some way to enjoy both florence and the hike, perhaps taking a day or so off of venice, which is apparently only a weekend town at most. I finished Moby Dick this afternoon, adding it to my list of books read this summer. Tomorrrow- the duomo and david

Jun 12, 2005

Amazing Positano

Our room has a tiled terrace which overlooks the town and the ocean. the breakfast here is free cappuccino and coissants. Positano is kind of like if you took the na pali coast of kauai (hence the name) built a little town along its cliffs, and staffed it completely with italians. The only tourists here are other italians. Today we rented a little wooden 8 hp motorboat to explore the coastline. It was the cheapest option, at 80 euro for three hours. We took turns driving, learning quickly in the fortunately uncrowded harbor, and then dropped anchor near a few sea caves, diving into the clear water to swim out to them. We both got severely sunburned today. Spent the rest of the day lounging, reading, and writing. Im working through moby dick and chase is reading my copy of da vinci code. Working also on a title for the travelouge I am going to publish from my writings and photographs. How to say "Tap water, please" in forty-eight languages. etc. please submit any ideas. Caio for now

Jun 11, 2005

Positano

Quick post, internet pricey here. After 2 hours on widing roads on the sides of these jagged cliffs, we arrived in positano. Its absolutely amazing, still cant get over it. Check out pics online. just do a google image search for Positano. we are staying at a really cool hostel, the only one in the little town. with a great view. cell recpetion is bad, so still no phone. will try later. Dinner was overpiced, but great anyway. pizzaria tomorrow night. The town is full of steps as its literally built into the side of a cliff. Maybe tomorrow we can find our way to the bottom of the beach. More later. Goodnight!

Positano Ho!

Quick Recap: Yesterday morning we got chase's visa back from the embassy with no problems. Everything looked correct. It's amazing what money will do. Then we saw the pantheon at midday. Finally, we ended up on the old appian way, the ancient entrance road to rome, where cars drive over the same stones where the chariot wheels wore grooves. There went down the crypts of san sebastian, the ancient meeting and entombment place of the first christians. There were no bones, as nothing survives 2000 years. It was a dissapointingly short tour, affording only the most breif of glimpses at the complex labrynths of tunnels and crypts. We saw the resting place of San Sebastain, and apparently, St. Peter and St. Paul were also originally buried in the area. It's quite an experiance, trying to imagine walking in hte same footsteps of these men, only 2000 years past! The appian way is really pretty and rural, with ruins of villas beside modern restored villas.
Last night, we walked along the Tiber river, which is little more than the salt river in arizona. We walked past the church of St. Bartholomew, which contains the relics of the apostle who was skinned. In fact, in sculpture and in painting, he is always seen holding his own skin.
Today we depart for Positano, a mountan side town so isolated, there aren;t even any cars. We have to catch a train to Salerno and from there, continue by local train and bus. I'm looking forward to losing the hordes of tourists cramming the city, and just kicking back in the isolated beach town. Rome just wears me out. I go to bed completely wiped every day I've been here.
Yesterday we went to the grocery store and bought a bunch of fruit to catch up on our vitamins and minerals.
The weather here has so far been very mild for Rome. The first few days here were pretty miserable, but then it cooled off after a rainstorm, and even been cool enough in the evenings for me to need my euro sweater.

Jun 9, 2005

quickie

Lets see, last night we decided to go on an adventure according to pre-written clues. We started by taking the metro the farthest out of the city and went from there. Our travels took us back to a church near where the hostel is, and we gave up the chase when the busses stopped running. Today we walked through the Roman Forum and Circus Maximus. I wasnt impressed with CM. It was just a grass hollow with a worn gravel track. The forum was cool, although packed with tourists. Afterwards, we hopped back the the hostel, where we ate at this pizzaria which sells good cheap pizza by weight. Read some more in Moby Dick and and then we set out to find the Old christian catacombs and secret meetign chambers. The map we used was bad, so we had to turn back, but only after we stopped in to San Giovanni.

Our Audience with the Pope

Yesterday we went to the Holy See and arrived in the middle of the benediction. St. Marks square was absolutely packed. The Pope himself was there with the clergy, and they were delivering blessings in different languages. The clerics with him took turns announcing which groups were present that the Pope was going to bless specially. The English speaking cleric read a list of about thirty names of groups including a high school in texas and and a college band. Everyone else who spoke english was blessed too. Afterwards we went to the Vatican museums, where I was miffed to see that they had crammed all the ancient roman statues into one narrow hall, and outfitted them with fig leaves. The museums were nothing special, but they were packed with a herd of people migrating to the sixtine chapel. Way too many people in there, took hours to wind our way over. The chapel itself was good. The painting was immaclate adn brillianly done for optical illusions. However, it was packed with tourists taking pictures despite the signs everywhere which said it was expressly forbidden.
After we left, we climbed to the top of the dome and saw rome from the hieghts before going inside. The line to see John Paul IIs grave was huge, so we decided to pass.

Jun 8, 2005

Hadrian's villa

Yesterday morning we got up and caught a train to a Tivoli train stop about 15 miles outside of town. The day before I had asked the desk guys how one gets to Hadrians Villa. This was clearly an unprecedented request, as only the native italian had any idea of what I was talking about. I got off the rail stop and found a deserted station that didnt even sell tickets. I asked a shopkeeper and he told me to catch a bus down the street. We eventually found the bus, and took it to Hadrians Villa (villa adriana). The area was an ancient roman resort town and Hadrian was an emporer who built himself a villa there. Its out in the countryside, very picturesque and rural. The villa is ruins, but very interesting and expansive. Many of the arcades dome and arches still stand. I really wish I could have seen it at its full glory. After that, we ate at a pizzaria and I tried to find Villa D'Este, a renaissance villa world renowned for its fountains and gardens. We caught the bus again and took it up to a hill town I had seen in the distance, Tivoli. The villa was nothing spectacular, but the waterworks were amazing. There were grottos everwhere, water everywhere, fountains of all fantastic shapes, even a line of 100 faces spewing watter from a mossy wall. Caught the bus home to roma for gnocci for dinner. Dissapointingly it tasted like chef-boy-r-dee.

Jun 6, 2005

Chases' adventures in Visaland

First thing this morning we got up and got over to the Consulate, luckly only about a ten minute bus ride from the hostel. We had previously located hte hostel the day we had arrived and learned its operating hours. It is open for visa stuff from 8:30 to 11:30 AM only M-F. So we arrived in line outside at 8:30. There was a woman at the gate in a little booth whose only function was to make sure only a limited ammount of people went into the building. That, and to scare away small children. She spoke no enlglish and took pointed to the sign on the window when he indiciated he wanted to go in. We figured out that she wanted his passport. She photocopied it, then waited until some people exited to give him a little ticket that said Enter on it. He went inside with all his visa info. I waited outside for a little less than an hour. He came out and told me that they needed 94 euros and that the soonest they could have it done was by june 16th, several days after we left. They made him modify his own forms, and initially refused to loan him a pen. these are for visitors, they told him. I am a visitor, he told them. Not special enough apparently, but he finangled it somehow. I convinced him to get the money from an ATM and we went back. Cerburus at the window stopped him and refused to express any sort of care or recognition when we returned ten minutes later. She demanded to see his passport, which was inside along with all of his identificatoin papers. She made it clear in no small motions that unless he had his passport, he couldnt get inside, even when it was evident that his passport was already there. We grabbed an exiting woman who translated for us. (once again, saved by the kindness of strangers). Even with the translators help, cerburus refused to let him enter the embassy. Finally, we mentioned that we had not paid and, surprise, she let him in immediately, and me too, only pausng to photocopy his drivers license. Inside the line was short, and the cashier had a hard time understanding chases desire to pay 57 euros, but quickly accepted the 94. June 10th, she said. Save the reciept, I said. This is ridiculous, he said.

We did laundry today, its good to be wearing clean clothes. We lost the drunk middle aged scottsman, and got a party of 5 KU girls, probably sophomores. Apparently they had lost a member after he fell out of a window and had a scull fracture and brain hemmorhages. They took him to a hospital in Genoa, and continued on their way. They talked about it like a train delay. I was releived to learn to that hte mother immediately hopped a jet over.

I cant stand these boozepackers looking to get eurotrashed. It just makes me ill. Why did they come here? To hang out with other american backpackers and get drunk at pub crawls? What an opportunity. What a waste.

I picked up a copy of the da vinci code. While I enjoyed reading about places I visited in Paris, theres little mention of Rome, adn the story gets more ridicuolous and contrived as it goes along. Quick, fun read though. Bruce Willis is a good choice for the role.

Jun 5, 2005

The Italian (hair) Job

Yesterday afternoon, I got a haircut from an Italian barber. I just pointed to the phrasebook that said "I want a haircut" and short, and he gave me a very short haircut. It feels a lot cooler. Last night we went to see the colluseum, forum and the king memorial lit up at night and we ate gelatto. This morning I got up early and went to S. Maria Maggiore, an interesting basillica as it has a flat, coffered ceiling. It is also the resting place of Bernini, the architect and sculptor. I found a department store, and bought 2 pair of boxers and a pair of shorts. Its just hot and humid here. Later this morning, we went to the Trevi fountain and saw the spanish steps. We didn;t even know we were on them until we got to the bottom. I didnt think they were that spectacular. There are tourists everywhere here, and tons of tourist junk on the side of the streets. Yesterday we bought a week transport pass that gets us unlimited transportation on the metro and busses. Its a good way to get an overveiw of the city. Last night we ate lasagna and a glass of wine. Its much cheaper here than in paris. Anyway, if theres something you thing we should see in roma, leave a comment.

Jun 3, 2005

The Ancient City

Well, we made it to Rome ok from Nice. For some reason, we assumed that the Cinque Terre hike would just work itself out. However, my plan A of starting in La Spezia and hiking for the rest of the day was hampered by the fact that there were no available rooms anywhere in the city. We decided that a plan B would work better. We caught a train in the afternoon to Roma, and so we will just make the CT hike a day trip from Florence. Our roma reservation didnt begin until tomorrow so today I booked this hotel, papa germano, from my cell phone. I am really glad I got GSM. Its been a lifesaver. Anyway, all the hostels and hotels concerned with me are in the Termini area, kind of sketchy at night, but much safer than south of the termini station. The hotel we are in tonight is pretty secure, as it takes 3 keys to get to our room. Chases LOI came in to the hostel so we are going to pick it up tomorrow ahead of schedule. We met a gentleman on the train who spoke very little english, but we got him to recommend a few restuarants for us, and we went to one of them tonight, a pizzaria. My pizza had egg, procscitto, mushrooms, and olives. Really good.

Ah yes, last few days in Nice, a quick recap. Yesterday we went to Cannes, a 2 hour bus ride away. We just hung out at the beach, swam and made sand chairs. The beaches are sandy and wide, and cannes had huge murals of movie stars everywhere. The day before that, we took the bus through this amazing midevil vilage, even more ancient that that place we went to, mom, overlooking the coast. Its called Ese Village. Afterwards went to Monaco and Monte-Carlo casino. I had no intent on losing money so I waited outside and watched millionares drive up to the hotel in thier bentley convertables and aston-martins. Made scottsdale look like Tempe.Chase won back the 10 euros cover charge and quit. However, he blew 20 on a vodka martini at the Bar Americain in one of the most exclusive hotels in the world, Hotel Paris in Monte-Carlo. I got a water. Anyway, back on internet that costs money, so thats about all the time I have.

Still doing well, staying mostly hydrated, and eating fairly well. Big day tomorrow as our first day in roma, so Buenosuerta!

Medium is the message

I moved the blog again. I deleted the Tumblr account and moved everything to Medium.com, a more writing-centric website. medium.com/@wende...