Saturday, June 5, 2010

Day 9: An Idyllic Country

Switzerland is an entire country like the Shenandoah (my favorite place in the world). It is gorgeous everywhere. Hills. Clean cities. Rivers that are clear. Rivers. When was the last time you saw a river that looked like the Caribbean? The entire train ride from Basel to Milan has some of the most beautiful earth I have ever, ever seen. We rode through our interchange to Gimmelwald. It was sad. But it was still beautiful. In warmer weather, I'm sure we would have moved in. We passed through one Italian town in particular named something like Sestria. Wow.

Our decision to come to Italy two days early wasn't made lightly. Now I know it was the right decision. That feels good. Today we travelled from Strasbourg past the Black Forest to Basel. We stopped in Basel for a little bit. Then to Bern, where we also stopped for a little bit. Then to Milan, where we stopped again. Then to La Spezia. Then to Vernazza. All told it was 12+ hours of trains and walking and layovers. But it was great.

We talked with a British dude on the train from Milan to La Spezia. He was some pharma guy in Verona, Italy of all places. He helped us with the Italian train announcements and we talked about politics, the economy, writing, our lives. It's so interesting meeting so many interesting people. I mean, here's this guy in our train compartment that is British, marries an Italian girl in Genoa, lives in Verona, and is on our train telling us his life story and listening to us tell him ours. It was incredible.

We got into La Spezia late. It was one of those no-matter-how-much-you-plan-something-still-sneaks-up-on-you-no-matter-what moments. I couldn't find a bancomat/ATM all day. So we had no money in La Spezia. I had 3 euros and 10 cents to my name. That's it. We walked around La Spezia trying to find a bancomat. No dice. Luckily the tickets from La Spezia into Vernazza were only 1.50 a piece. But we were arriving to our hotel at about 11:00pm. And they don't accept people after 9, not without at least a call. But we couldn't afford a call. And even during times when we have been able to afford making calls, I haven't been able to figure out the dumb pay phones.

So there we are on the La Spezia platform hoping for the best when we hear these two extrememly loud and obnoxious American women in their late 50s/early 60s. I scoffed and told Jo they were the kind of Americans that gave Americans travelling in Europe a bad name. Turns out they were some of the most kind, open, and hilarious people I've met. MaryAnne and Janice. Two single mothers from Ohio and Kentucky travelling as best friends on the other side of their mid-life crises. They had huge whooping laughs and were just so nice. We all talked about where we had been and where we were going and Jo and I described our current circumstance. And, of course, they offered us to come and stay with them in the first Cinque Terre town, Riomaggiore. How nice is that? "Here random strangers, you can come stay in the little place we rented if you don't have anything."

Well, we made it to Vernazza and the people at the Trattoria Gianni (our B&B) did get my emails and they were waiting for us and the reception is the same place as the bar so everyone was up still at midnight anyway. So, here we are in our little Italian Pensioner. #43. It is such a small place, and the buildings just lean on each other here, and the walkways are so narrow and covered that it is crazy dark. So I accidentally tried to unlock like 3 other rooms because I didn't know which one was ours. I bet I scared the crap out of people. I bet they don't sleep tonight. Ha. Sorry. Tomorrow we see the Cinque Terre.

Basel above and below

eating swiss chocolate in Basel, Switzerland

the train rides really were fun, this was just deep-in-though time

Gimmelwald is somewhere behind that mountain

outside the Milan train station, which is roughly the size of Texas

Milan train platform to La Spezia

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