Tag Archives: italy

Guten Tag

What a day I had yesterday.

It began at 9:00 AM with a shuttle to the La Spezia train station in Italy and ended around 10:00 PM at my hostel in Lucerne, Switzerland. The first leg of the trip- a train ride to Milan- went smoothly enough but I had only 20 minutes after arriving to catch the 2nd leg to Arth-Goldau in Switzerland, and I hadn’t pre-booked my ticket for fear of arriving late. As it turns out, my 2nd leg is a pretty popular route and both the next departure and the one after that were fully booked. Great. Now I have a 3+ hour layover and I get to pay 50 extra dollars for the privilege. Overall I spent more than $160 USD on the trip by train so I’ll check cheap flights next time. Luckily the Milano Centrale train station is an incredible structure so I killed some time just walking around admiring this monstrosity.

It’s interesting to travel between countries by rail; a first for me. In Italy you hear Italian and in Switzerland it’s all German, but on inter-country journeys you hear mixtures of both, sometimes from the same person.

But I digress. As the train for my 2nd leg pulled into the Arth-Goldau station there was an announcement that a train waiting at Track 5 was bound for Lucerne, my final destination. Now, when you arrive in a new country, whether by bus, train, or airplane, it takes a bit to get your bearings. People are pouring out of the train and rushing every which way, you can’t read the signs, and you don’t yet know how to purchase tickets. Time was of the essence though, so I hurried around a corner and spotted the train on Track 5. Great! Now how the hell do I get a ticket?!? Ah, there’s a self-service kiosk (these were so easy in Italy). It’s all in German! Where is the little British flag for me to click!?! Hurry! A couple of young guys come up behind me and I let them go ahead because they appear to need the same ticket and I’m clueless. I try following the blur of the guy’s fingers but there is no hope. I don’t recall what I said but he offered to help even though I could see the apprehension on his face as the train will pull away in a matter of seconds (Swiss and German transportation doesn’t mess around). He guides me until the payment section and then runs off toward the train. Hurry up machine! Print the ticket! I grab my ticket and lumber toward the train, as fast as my back and frontpacks will allow. The attendant is yelling something in German to my blonde-haired savior as he is fighting against the train door, looking at me, preventing it from closing. I board the train and thank him profusely.


If only that were the end of my day. I had printed walking directions from the Lucerne train station to my hostel and it looked like a pretty easy mile or so. Near the hostel I heard a live band playing from behind a wall, crowd cheering, Eddie Van Halen-like guitar solo. “This’ll be a cool area”, I thought to myself. I arrived at the hostel, thrilled to drop my pack on the floor and ready for a hot shower after a long day. The receptionist had no record of my reservation and we soon figured out that I had walked to the wrong hostel; mine was across town. She became my second angel of the evening by going out of her way to give me bus info and solace as I donned my packs once again and headed back to the train station. This time the band was playing a cover of AC/DCs Highway to Hell, which seemed appropriate and put a smile on my face.

Finally reaching the correct hostel by bus from the train station, I checked in 10 minutes before reception closed for the evening. I have no idea what plan B would have been had I shown up late.

So that was yesterday. I still haven’t told you about Florence and how I liked it better than Rome, nor about the nearly vertical hiking trails in Cinque Terre that are to blame for my sore calves two days later. Hopefully I’ll get time to put up some images instead of all these words!

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It’s been so long that I’ve almost forgotten how to blog. After my trip to Australia/New Zealand I came home, learned how to program Android apps, visited Colorado and Oregon, played around in Louisville and now I’m in Italy. I figured why not make my sabbatical a true year-long deal? The plan is Rome to Dublin over two months. And……. go!

I’ve never been to Europe. I’ve never been to a country whose primary language was something other than English (Aussies and Kiwis don’t count). This will be a challenge. That’s the point.

I landed in Rome at 8:30 AM, which is EST 2:30 AM, with no sleep. There’s a six hour time difference between Louisville and Rome but I wasn’t about to lose daylight in a hostel room. When my head finally hit the pillow I’d been up for 37 hours with a one hour nap. Blame the fun-loving folks I met at the hostel (two Brits, an Aussie, a Kiwi, and a Korean).

First Impressions of Rome

I’m only in Rome for three days and then it’s off to Florence so I’ll be the typical tourist doing typically touristy things. Riding into the city on an airport shuttle you see what appear to be remains of huge city walls and I thought to myself… These are probably the oldest man-made structures I’ve ever seen. Not a lot of 1,000 year old buildings in the US.

The next thing you’ll notice is the traffic. It’s a perfectly orchestrated symphony of madness. Tiny little cars merging, honking, scooters zipping around pedestrians, busses, each other, and not a single accident that I have seen. It’s like they’re all plugged into The Matrix. If you should find yourself in Rome, be acutely aware that crosswalks are mostly for show. This isn’t Portland, kid, and no one will stop just because you’re standing there looking pitiful. Locals saunter across, gazing into the drivers’ eyes or putting up their non-cigarette hand in defiance, but that takes guts.

The best advice I can give for surviving Rome is to be aggressive. It runs counter to American sensibilities but it’s kill or be killed here. There are no lines or queues: when the bus/train pulls up you just shove your way on, little old ladies be damned. I assume that if you’re comfortable with the flow of NYC or similar then you’ll do just fine.

Days One & Two

The hostel is within easy walking distance of lots of interesting things as well as the main transit terminal so getting around is a breeze. Day one was spent checking out the Trevi Fountain, the stunning Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels and the Martyrs, and just generally checking out this buzzing metropolis.

Day two started with a bit of a panic thinking that a hostelmate had checked out with my phone in his possession but it was later found behind the dresser. A real-world reminder about the importance of security is necessary every now and then.

After this life lesson I hopped on the subway and spent the day at the Vatican. I knew the Vatican was an independent city-state but I didn’t expect it to look like a fortress with 30-foot surrounding walls. It was both impressive and imposing. The museum was definitely worth it even though I don’t go nuts over the visual arts. I wish I had taken better pics!

I leave you with the first two photos of my new collection: Asian Couples Who Dress Alike. Aren’t they cute?

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