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Matthew 19:26

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Home Again, Home Again

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Everything I did in Barcelona, worth talking about, I did the day I got in from Naples. I took the sleeper train from Milan to Barcelona and arrived in the Morning. The train ride was comfortable and I made it to the hostel without a problem. My room was not ready yet which gave me a couple hours to burn.

Instead of going out and seeing Barcelona, I hung around the hostel and got my flight back to the states in order. Once my room was ready I went up and took a nap. This is how the next two days of my stay went, but when I woke up from my nap I was at least active for that night.

I went down to the common room and met two American guys. They invited me to dinner. We ate tapas and had drinks. It was a real Spanish dinner. The restaurant was an outdoor cafe, we did not eat until 9:00, we had small portions, and drank. All the requirements were met. After dinner we went back to the hostel and discussed going out for the night.

Going out sounded good and I thought I had the energy to manage it. Boy, was I wrong. I was under the impression that going out in Barcelona was the same as every other city. I thought the bars would close at 2:00 and everyone would be heading home shortly after 1:00. This is not the case in Barcelona.

There were live bands playing in the bars until 4:00 and people did not head home until 6:00 in the morning. Don’t get me wrong, it was a great time, but after a two month trip I was way too exhausted to do this. I payed for it the next to days.

I started getting sick and to avoid it I stayed in the hostel. The trip had been too long for me to motivate my self to push through. So my plans for seeing Barcelona were down the drain. Hanging around the hostel I was able to meet a lot of people though.

My last night in Barcelona I went to dinner with an Aussie, said adieu to everyone going out, and set my alarm for 7:00 AM to catch my flight. The rest must have worked because I am on a plane to JFK right now and I am not sick. My voice is gone, but no tylenol is required. That being said, I would call my trip to Barcelona a success. A different kind of success.

It’s bizarre to say that I am on a plane headed home. I do feel like it is a good time to end the trip. Traveling does grow on you and you certainly get used to it. It’s just that I may have gotten too used to it. It will be good to sleep in the same bed for a few weeks, eat familiar food, and speak the native language of the country I am in without any effort. It has been a great trip and I am a disappointed it is over. This plane ride is certainly bitter sweet.

I saw everything I set out to see on the trip and much much more. My train log runs down further than I ever thought it would. Who would have thought I would go to a international soccer game in Brussels, walk through Brugge with a hooligan, have a drink with a chef from one of the best restaurant in the world in Copenhagen, see the gardens of Vienna, go canyoning in Intarlaken, and hike through Cinque Terre? Honestly, I had not even heard of Brugge, Interlaken, or Cinque Terre before my trip so I probably would not have guessed I would end up there.

Backpacking through Europe has had its ups and downs and the downs made the trip great just as much as the ups. It was the downs, usually, that put me in the situation to meet new people. Not that you need to work hard to meet people when you are living with them. Through this whole trip I have seen places that I love and places that I hate, but no matter where I was the people with me had the ability to make it an enjoyable experience. I have to give endless thanks to all the people listed in my “people I have met so far” page and many many more. Also, thanks if you have read any part of my blog so far. I will enjoy looking back on this blog and remembering what I have done and that alone made it worth writing. At the same time, It was a huge bonus to know that people were reading and I was sharing my experiences not just recording them.

This is by no means my last post on this blog. It is just the last post of this trip. I will keep writing and hopefully my life will remain interesting enough to read about…

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Written by davidpaparelli

July 27, 2010 at 3:13 pm

Posted in Europe

Rome, Florence, Venice, Cinque Terre, and Naples

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I apologize if this blog seems a bit inconsistent in the writing. I wrote this long entry over the course of a few days.

Rome, Florence, Venice, Cinque Terre, and Naples. Sounds like a lot to do in ten days and it is. Nick and I have been running around Italy for a week now. I can’t believe that it is almost time for him to go home, which means it is almost time for me to go home. I’ll try and recap our week as best as I can. I have not been able to write until now because we have either been busy experiencing places or moving places. So, to say the least, I have a lot to say. I just hope I can remember it all.

Nick flew into rome early on the thirteenth. I took the train out of Roma Termini to the airport to meet him. Meeting up was uneventful. We took the train back to Termini and settled into our hostel. I knew it was going to be a tough day for Nick, but that was probably an understatement.

He told me that he watched four or five movies on the plane and did not sleep at all. I penciled a nap into our schedule after hearing this. Now there were two things on our schedule. Nap and meet up with Monique and Jason for dinner. Monique and Jason are a couple of my friends from college. They are doing their own backpacking trip (http://moniquegiguere.wordpress.com/) and we happened to be in Rome at the same time. Somehow, we got in contact with each other and were able to plan a dinner. With our day free, me and Nick left the hostel and tried to find some more things to put on the schedule.

Our day turned into aimless walking through Rome. I can’t quite call it completely aimless because we seemed to pick large monuments in the distance and walked towards them. First was one of the many obelisks (each mark the center of their own square in Rome), next was the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and finally Il Coliseo. This walk from the main train station to the Coliseum took us past almost everything in the city. We did not stop for much, but once we got to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier the top of the huge staircase seemed to call to us.

The Tomb is a giant white monument. A flame burns at the bottom of two stair cases and is guarded throughout the day. The two staircases wrap up the building and pass a statue of a soldier on a horse. They end in a large building that acts as the top. The whole thing is white, which makes the small flame at the bottom and the colorful Italian flag on the outside stand out quite a bit. We walked up a few stairs and lost a lot of water weight to get to the top. The view was not anything spectacular, but the monument itself was pretty cool especially for an ‘unknown’ soldier. Thankfully, we found a route down the monument that kept us out of the sun. Reaching the bottom and looking down the main street, we saw the coliseum and started on our way towards it.

On the way to the Coliseum we stumbled upon the forum and a lot of gladiators trying to take their picture with us. We walked around the coliseum and then walked back to our hostel to check ‘nap’ off our list. One thing we knew after this walk was that we needed a tour of the city. Walking through thousands of years of history and knowing almost none of it is a good indication that it is time to get a tour guide.

It was hard work and took some time but we were able to turn our penciled in nap time into a reality. After some struggle, I woke Nick up and we went to meet Monique and Jason at the central train station. It was great to see some familiar faces and hear about their trip. Their stories made me realize how different it is traveling alone. We had been to the same places and seen a lot of the same things and yet our trips were completely different. Not to say that one is better than the other, just that it is amazing how different traveling alone is. I found this out pretty quickly traveling with my brother and hearing about Monique and Jason’s trip was a good introduction. Dinner went well, as most dinners in Rome do, and the two groups parted ways planning on meeting again for dinner the next day.

As I expected, I woke up before my brother the next day. I went to a tour company, booked a tour, got some money out of an ATM, did my laundry, answered a few emails, and then went back to the room. Nick was still sleeping. I think he was rounding the thirteenth hour of sleep so I figured it was ok to wake him up. He did a stretch, a groan, and settled back into his bed. The same routine I would see for the next ten days. I woke him up again and gave him a little incentive by describing our plan for the day. Surprisingly, telling him we were going on a three hour tour got him out of bed. Well, it was either that or lunch. Either way we were up and out of the hostel.

The tour met at the Piazza Novona in front of the obelisk. Our tour guide was a doctorate of archeology. I don’t think business in the field archeology is booming right now in Rome, which was good because she was an excellent guide. Our first stop on the tour was the Pantheon. This is an incredibly large domed building that was built to worship all of the gods of the Roman Empire at the time. It has since been turned into a church. The dome has a whole in the middle of it that allowed the sun to stream into the building. This created an awesome effect on whatever the light was touching in the building. The problem, I guess, is that when it is raining outside it is raining inside the Pantheon. The tour continued passed the balcony where Muselini made his speeches and then along the same walk me and my brother had taken the day before.

We passed the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, went into the Forum, and then into the Coliseum. The Forum was great to be standing in and interesting to look at but it is not much to see. This was the case for me, I know other people could study it for years. I will say that the senate house was impressive and it was surreal walking where Julius Caesar walked and seeing where he was buried. The tour finished in the Coliseum.

The Coliseum was everything I expected it to be. The tour guide gave us an introduction to the stadium, most of which me and my brother already knew, and then ended the tour to let us explore it ourselves. Nick and I walked up to the second floor and looked out on the underground tunnels and the few seats left. We left after soaking in what we wanted to see of The Coliseum and started our walk to the pizza place where we were meeting Monique and Jason.

This Pizza place was supposed to be the best pizza in Rome. In my opinion the name is not even worth mentioning. The waiters were rude and pushy and the pizza was not good enough to compensate. Having now had pizza from Naples, I can say don’t waste your time in Rome on Pizza. Eat other things and then take the hour train ride to Naples for pizza. I promise you it will be worth it. The dinner went much the same way as the night before. Similar enjoyable conversation with a smattering of complaints about the waiting staff. Dinner ended and we said goodbye to Monique and Jason. This long day lead to some good sleep.

I had to get Nick up a little earlier the next day because we had to check out and get on our train to Florence. We got to Florence around dinner time and ate before exploring the town. Both me and my brother loved Florence. It is a beautiful city with a great feel. We took a bike tour of the city to give us an introduction and a few recommendations on what to visit.

The tour went well. The guide was not nearly as professional as the doctor we had in Rome, but how much can you complain about a bike ride through Florence. He did tell us not to bother climbing the Duomo. Instead, we should go to the Baptista just outside. The guide told us the lines are shorter and it is infinitely more beautiful. After looking at the Duomo’s line, we took his advice, walked right into the Baptiste and admired it for the better part of an hour.

Looking up at the dome you can see stories from the bible that read like comic strips. Giant, gold encrusted, comic strips. I describe the dome as a comic strip in the most respectful and adoring way possible. It just happens to be the only thing I can relate it to. In all honesty, this dome and this chapel were full of character and gave a better indication of who the people of Florence were than most things in the city. Sitting in the chapel for so long apparently got us in the mood for a walk because we decided to go to the Piazzale Michelangiolo afterwards.

I’m not sure if Nick thought it was worth the walk, but I certainly did. This Piazzale is up an enormous hill across the Fiume Arno (the river running through Flornece). A few hundred stairs later we reached the top and looked across the river at all of Florence. We could see as far as the villa covered hills surrounding Florence, down to the Duomo and to the walled gardens at the base of the hill. We gave our legs a rest at the top of the hill before heading down and exhausting them again.

From the Piazzale Michelangiolo we went to the Galleria dell Academia where the statue of David is found. The entrance to this building was so unassuming that we had to ask people standing in line if this was the right place. They told us it was and we waited for forty-five minutes to get into the galleria. Once inside there is not too much to see, but when you round the corner and see the David your jaw drops. The statue itself is impressive and when it is lit by natural light streaming in from a dome over head, as it is, you become taken back even more.

Nick loved the statue and I enjoyed watching him observe every single detail from the vanes running down the arms and feet to the curls on its head. I think we both kept asking ourselves how this seventeen foot statue could be carved from one piece of marble that was almost considered junk? We had taken in all we could of the statue and then we quickly walked through the rest of the Museum before leaving to catch a train to Venice.

Venice was the first city I had been to that had turned wandering into a way of life. Nick and I did some research on the city to see what we should do while we were there and it turns out just being there is the the thing to do while you are there. If that does not make sense I can explain a little further. While in venice our guide book recommended that we eat gelato, go for a walk, sit in an outdoor cafe, and go for a gondola ride. As good as a romantic gondola ride with my brother sounded we both agreed it was not necessary. This left us with eating and walking of which we did plenty.

We ate Gelato all day, sat in Piazza San Marco and listened to live music while we had an expensive snack, and ended up at Harry’s Bar on our last night in the city. All this eating must have sweetened our blood because the two nights we slept in venice, with the windows open and no air conditioning, had us covered in bug bites. The tourists and the bugs put a damper on Nick’s time in the city and I walked a way ambivalent to what is a lot of peoples’ favorite city. I gave Nick the option to stay in Venice for the day and leave for Cinque Tere at night or leave in the morning. He did not hesitate before firmly saying that he wanted to leave in the morning.

In the morning we took a train from Venice to Milan, Milan to Genova, Genova to La Spezia, and La Spezia to Monarola. We passed Monarola once or twice on the local train and ended up walking there from a nearby town. This got us to our destination, Monarola (one of the five towns of Cinque Terre (five lands)), at around ten at night. The hostel we planned to stay in was booked up but we managed to find room in a hotel in Monterosso, which is the farthest north of the five towns.

The hotel was great. It had air conditioning, no bugs, and I was able to shower without sandals on for the first time in months. I let Nick sleep in the next morning and I had a long breakfast, drank tea, and mentally prepared for the long hike ahead of us. The Cinque Tere hike we were about to embark on is through all five fishing villages along the coast. You hike from Monterosso to Vernazza then down to Corniglia around to Manarola and finally to Riomaggiore. The hike is around eight miles in all and if you do it with out stopping it takes about three hours, but most people recommend allotting five to seven hours.

The views from the cliffside are absolutely spectacular. We had a taste of the view the night before when we walked from Riomaggiore to Monarola. The sun was setting as we walked and it left an unforgettable image in my mind. Seeing the sun set behind all five villages and into the cliffs was remarkable. It is something that I will never forget and will hopefully get to witness again. I woke Nick up so we could see some more of these spectacular views. I gave him a croissant I stole from down stairs, he through on a pair of pants, and we were out the door.

Right after walking out of the hotel we saw where all the tourists were. The only tourist beach in any of the five villages is in Monterosso and it is crowded. We escaped the crowds by starting our clime through the Cinque Terre National Park. Each hill we climbed gave a stunning view. You could see the village you were headed to, the village you had just left, and they were both surrounded by an endless ocean and beautiful cliffs. Besides the villages, we walked past the amazing farming efforts of the villagers, how you can farm on a cliffside is still beyond me even after seeing it, and looked down into the various lagoons at anchored boats.

We reached the last two towns of our hike and decided to take a swim. The rest of the hike was said to be the easiest and having done one leg of it the night before we knew it was not going to be very difficult. So knowing a swim couldn’t hurt we went down into a lagoon.

I had not swam my whole trip and I had been looking forward to this swim a similar length of time. The water felt great after our three to four hours of hiking on a hot day. We spent plenty of time swimming, lounging on rocks, and relaxing before we moved onto the last part of our hike.

On our way into Riomaggiore (the last village) Nick spotted a cliff we could jump off of “safely”. It was a twenty to thirty foot jump into the water. As we descended to the jump I asked a local if it was safe to jump. They did not speak english but I think they said yes just jump out as far as you can to avoid the rocks. There was only one thing left to do. I took the plunge and survived to write about it. Otherwise, my brother would probably be writing this blog right now.

Nick did the jump just as tentatively as I did and afterwards we both did it several more times. We even started to get an audience higher up on the cliffs. This was the last straw of the day. My legs were spent and I was starving. We stopped in the last town and got some fresh fish and wine before heading home to Monterosso.

We slept well that night and we were ready to travel to Naples the next day. To get to Naples we took a train to La Spezia and then got on a train to Naples. The train to Naples lasted eight hours. Once we were in the city, we made it to our hostel.

The hostel I had booked told us that I had accidentally reserved for the next day and they were fully booked for the night. This was terrible news to get so late in the day. We managed to find room in another hostel and take a life threatening cab ride over to it. They gave us a room that we reached just before midnight. Now the challenge was going to be to find food.

Walking down a main street near our hostel we came across a pizza place that told us if we took the pizzas to go we could order. For ten euros we got two pizzas and two waters. Naples is not venice. I don’t want to bore anyone with describing this pizza but it was the best meal of my trip so it has earned a more extensive description in my blog.

The pizza had a thin crust that managed to maintain its doughy nature. On the crust was placed the perfect amount of a sweet marinara sauce. The crust also supported a layer of mozzarella cheese and cured ham that was left somewhere in between bacon and deli sliced ham. What made the pizza were the mounds of ricotta cheese. The ricotta cheese made every bite melt in your mouth. It was arranged in clumps, which not only was aesthetically pleasing but also managed to distribute the perfect amount of cheese with every bite. I was making some pretty unusual noises while eating this pizza and Nick kept giving me odd looks. It would be impossible for me to do this pizza justice with a description. Unfortunately, I will be craving the pizza for a long time and probably fail at recreating it several times before giving up and buying a plane ticket. This hard day of travel was ended on a positive note with a full stomach and air conditioning.

I woke up the next day and asked the girl working at the hostel what we should do for our only day in Naples. She said that we should leave Naples and go to Pompeii or Capri. She had to repeat her self because I was astonished that she recommended that we leave Naples for our only day in Naples. So, after no debate, Pompeii it was.

Before going out to the ruins, me and my brother went to where the guide book told us the best pizza in Naples was. Even though we were pretty sure we had already found it, we thought we would give this other place a shot. There was a line outside before the restaurant opened which seemed like a good sign. The pizza was not nearly as good. It was still filling and tasty yet it could not quite measure up. We burned off the calories of the pizza on the walk to the train station.

The train to Pompeii was easy enough to find and Pompeii was easy enough to get to. When we walked up to the ruins of Pompeii I knew that we were going to be in a similar situation that we were in in Rome and we better get a guide. A relatively cheap tour was offered and we took it. The tour was great and it was incredible how well preserved the city actually was. Some of it is reconstructed, but the majority of it is original. As we walked through the city I could clearly see what life was like two thousand years earlier.

The restaurants showed how people ate, the perfectly preserved paintings depicted life in various parts of the city, entire houses showed the lifestyle and standard at which people lived, ingenuity of the baths and fountains showed the creative side of the native Italians, and the brothels showed the dirtier side. I liked these ruins better than the forum because you could imagine people populating the city so much more vividly. This was a well worth while stop on our trip.

We had to leave the ruins a little earlier than I wanted to to try and catch a bus up to Mount Vesuvius. When we got to the ticket office the attendant made it clear that the volcano was closed for the day and would not open until tomorrow morning. So we missed out on seeing where it all originated. We headed back to the city earlier than planned and went to our favorite pizza place to end the trip.

Nick and I were on the train to Rome at 7:50 am the next day. This got us to Rome at 9:00 and we were on the train to the airport by 10:00. This is how my whole day went. Nick was lucky enough to escape the trains, get on a flight, and go home. I was trying to get to Barcelona in a day by train and so in the 24 hour period that I was traveling I took five trains not including the metro. I successfully landed at my last stop of the trip (Barcelona).

Written by davidpaparelli

July 21, 2010 at 2:43 pm

Posted in Europe

Between Two Lakes and in the Swiss Alps

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What can I say about Paris? One thing I can say for sure is I will have to go back. It was not my favorite city, it is probably not even in the top ten, but there is so much to see and I did not go in any buildings except restaurants and the place I was staying. My two days in Paris were spent relaxing, enjoying a comfortable bed, and recovering.

I stayed with a girl named Tiffany from Marietta who was gracious enough to let me stay in a bedroom she had available. She was incredibly nice and I could not have been more comfortable. The day I got in from Munich I dropped my stuff at her apartment and she took me to see the Eiffel Tower. Just like Big Ben, this overused icon did not disappoint. I don’t think I need to go into too much detail because everyone knows what the Eiffel Tower looks like, but I will say that it is gigantic. The kind of gigantic that I, being slightly afraid of heights, got a little uneasy just looking up at it. The crepes we got on our walk to the base eased whatever concerns I had and we moved to the park on the other side. We sat and looked at the enormous tower for an hour and then we had to get back to the apartment for dinner.

For dinner we ate Pizza. I have to say I enjoyed the company more than the food. While we ate our pizza we watched the Germany/Spain game. Germany put up a good fight but Spain proved they were the best in the tournament. After the game I had a decision to make. Should I go to The Netherlands or to Spain to watch the World Cup Final? I decided The Netherlands were closer so I would try and get a train the next day.

Along with getting a train, Tiffany drew a great sketch of paris on a scrap piece of paper and showed me walking tour I could take. I walked all over paris. I saw all of the main sites and made it to Gare Du Nord to book my train. The line for Eurail passes was not very long so I queued up.

I thought I got lucky. There was a short line in a train station! I overlooked the fact that there was a large group of young Asians in front of me. They took up both windows and commenced to plan their entire trip with the incredibly annoyed attendants. One thing I learned from watching the Asians run back and forth between windows with their train schedules was that it was going to be very hard to get out of Paris.

As I walked up to the window I could not tell who was more annoyed, the attendant or me. Even after having gone through thirty minutes of pain, the attendant was very helpful. I asked him if I could get to Rotterdam. He said no. I asked him if I could get to Amsterdam. He said no. I asked him if I could get anywhere in Spain. He said absolutely not. Desperate, I asked him if there was any major city I could get to outside of France tomorrow. He told me southern France was impossible to get to, but Zurich was a possibility. Without hesitation I booked my ticket to Zurich.

So that was Paris. A view of the Eiffel Tower, a long walk, some wine, a crepe, and Italian food. That was good enough for me. I will have to go back.

When I got back to the apartment from the train station I started looking at hostels in Interlaken and booked one. The plan was to take my train to Zurich, immediately head to Interlaken, and then day trip around the Swiss Alps for the next few days. So what actually happened?

On my way to Zurich the next day I realized that I did not book the night I was getting into Interlaken but the next night. Well, I was not going to show up in a small town in the middle of Switzerland without a place to stay so I ran around zurich trying to find a place. After going to a couple places I got to a hotel at 11:45 at night and was able to find a room. Luckily, the front desk was open forty-five minutes later than they were supposed to be. I wanted some familiar food after a day like that so I went out for a late dinner.

I found a Mexican restaurant amongst the sausages and beer. This may not be a surprise to anyone but Swiss Mexican food is terrible and expensive. Disappointed and exhausted I went to sleep.

The next day I was determined to get to the Swiss Alps. That is what I was looking forward to about Switzerland and I went to the train station in the morning to make sure I got to Interlaken that day. I saw that I could get to Ibach on the way to Interlaken and I jumped on a train to the small town. Ibach is where Swiss army knives are made. So before I got into the Alps I took a train to Schweiz. From Schweiz it is a twenty minute walk into downtown Ibach. I don’t think I have ever seen two towns this small. I am not really sure why they are considered two different towns but I’m sure it is historically significant. I saw the Victorionix company, bought a knife, and got back on the train.

Before I got to Interlaken, my train went winding around lakes and through mountains. The train ride was amazing. I hate to say it, but Switzerland rivals Colorado. Actually, it probably beats Colorado in terms of beauty, just not skiing. The entire country is lakes running into mountains and rivers falling off glaciers. Interlaken was the same way. I went to bed that night surrounded by mountains.

I woke up finally in Interlaken. I went down to the front desk to ask what I should do for my less than two days in town. Both girls behind the desk told me I have to go canyoning. I booked the 12:30 canyoning trip for that day and asked what I should do until then. One of them suggested that I take a nearby train to the top of a mountain. I went out and found the train she was talking about.

The train took a near vertical route almost to the top of a great mountain to hike around. Thinking I was incredibly close to the top I decided I would hike the rest of the way up the mountain. Forty-five minutes later I realized it was going to be tough getting to my canyoning appointment. The top of the mountain gave a great view of the town and the surrounding areas. It helped me understand why the town was called Interlaken (between two lakes). I could only enjoy the view for a few minutes before I had to hustle back down to the train. When I got to the train tracks I looked at the schedule and saw that I had missed the train by five minutes. The next train was after my canyoning appointment. Well, I had seen the mountain and thought I must be around halfway down it. I thought if I ran I would be able to make my appointment.

I ran for about an hour before I made it back to the hostel. I got there around the same time I would have if I would have taken the train. The girl at the front desk called my canyoning company and was able to get me rescheduled for 3:00 that day. This was probably a good thing because my legs were not up for canyoning after this run. I sat down in the lobby and waited until 3:00.

3:00 came quickly and I struggled to stand up. I got outside with some effort. The tour guide pulled up in a big empty van to tell me that I was the only one on the tour and he could not take me up as just one. Our only option was to reschedule for the next day. This was fine as long as I made it back for my train leaving for Rome at noon.

In the morning my legs felt a lot better and I was ready to go. The van came, picked me up, and we were off. Canyoning, by the way, is exactly what it sounds like. You put on a wetsuit, life vest and a helmet and walk through a canyon. Besides walking I also jumped off waterfalls, went down natural watersides, zip lined into the river, and repelled into the canyon. It all seemed incredibly dangerous but they told us no one has ever been severely injured. There is probably a big difference in what they tell you and what has actually happened. None the less, it was a great time and I made it to my train a little more sore than the day before.

The entire day I was happily hobbling through train stations to get to Rome. It is insane that you can be canyoning in the Swiss Alps in the morning and eating ravioli and drinking red wine in Rome by dinner. I was going to Rome so early so I could meet my brother the next morning at the airport. He is joining me for ten days of my trip and it has been great so far.

 

Written by davidpaparelli

July 17, 2010 at 4:19 pm

Posted in Europe

Too Much Pork

with 2 comments

The day me and the Brazilians got into Munich the hostel would not let us check in until three in the afternoon. We got to the hostel around 7:00 am so we had some time to kill. We decided to go on a tour of the city. The problem was the tour wasn’t for four hours. I crashed on the couch in the lobby and went to sleep.

I woke up a couple hours later and saw that one of my friends had fallen asleep as well and the other was complaining about not being tired. It was an hour before the tour and we had to leave to make it. My unconscious Brazilian friend painfully got up and we struggled towards the hauptbahnhoff. We made it to the Glockenspiel where the tour kicked off.

This tour turned out to be an awful idea. Walking around for four hours on a hot day and listening to history are both things I do not like to do when I am tired. Half way through the tour and after little debate, we left the tour. The Brazilians and I gladly found the metro to head back to the hostel.

We still could not check in. Germany was playing in the quarterfinals of the world cup soon and we were told that if we wanted to watch it in a biergarten we needed to go early. We left for a nearby biergarten frustrated. Biergartens are definitely unique to Germany. They only sell beers by the liter and their menu consists of five or six pork dishes with different types of potatoes. Well that’s pretty much all restaurants in Germany and not just in biergartens, but in the biergartens you become more aware of it I guess. The biergarten we went to was the Augustine Biergarten named after the Augustine Beer.

Getting there more than an hour before the game, we figured we would be able to find a seat in the giant outdoor restaurant. We could not find a seat anywhere and settled in on the floor in an area where we could barely see the tv. There were five thousand drunk and screaming Germans there to watch the game.

They sang the same four drinking songs over and over again one of which was the national anthem. Only the Germans could turn their national anthem into a drinking song. There were a lot of happy Germans by the end of the game and it wasn’t just the beer. Germany killed Argentina. Just as the game was ending, we were ready to get back to the hostel so we did not stick around.

Finally, we could check in and take a shower. It had been two days since any of us had showered and there was nothing better. I took a shower, read some, and then quickly fell asleep. My much needed sleep came to an end when a girl from Manchester came into the room. She accidentally woke me up and we talked for awhile.

She had just come from watching the game as well and seemed to be very talkative. She was fun to talk to but I had to cut her off because I was supposed to meet the Brazilians in the lobby to watch the next world cup match. I invited her along and she was happy to join me.

Thankfully, we watched the game in the lobby and not on the floor of a biergarten. I did not care too much about the result so I was only vaguely aware of what was going on on the tv. My time was spent talking to the girl from Manchester and the Brazilians. After the game ended the Brazilians smartly went to sleep and I went out without the girl from Manchester to find food.

I must admit I was exhausted. I think I got to a point in my exhaustion where it didn’t matter too much. Is there a point where you’re so tired you’re not tired anymore? That may (and probably does) make absolutely no sense. That is how felt going out to find food.

Everything was closing but we managed to find food at a pizza/kebab shop and then went and got drinks at an outdoor restaurant that was still open. We stayed out too late especially since I had to get up at 8:30 the next morning. Every morning in Munich I was in a different room in the hostel. This meant that every morning I had to wake up and check out and then check back in at 3:00. It was a brutal stay. The next morning was the first of a couple check outs.

I met up with the Brazilians the next day and that morning they were going to the BMW museum. This particular museum didn’t sound too interesting to me so I told them I would meet up with them later. That morning I hung around the hostel lobby and relaxed waiting for my friends to return. They came back and we went to the next stop on their itinerary.

The Alianz Stadium. This was our next stop. The stadium is where Bayern Muenchen plays. There are actually two teams from the area that play there and the entire exterior changes to either red or blue based on who is playing that night. When we went the stadium was white, which is the color the stadium stays if the national team is playing there. I’m not sure if this is a usual tourist attraction but it was a pretty cool trip.

When we got to the stadium we hopped on a tour. The tour we went on was in German because it was the only one available. When we got in the stadium, we sat down and tried to figure out what the tour guide was talking about. Our ears perked up when we heard an English tour on the other side of the field and we quickly switched. On the tour we saw the locker rooms, warm up facilities, team bench, and, of course, the gift shop. We left the bubbly looking stadium after the tour and headed back to the city.

We were finally going to do something I was really looking forward to. The three of us got off the metro and headed for the famous Hofbrauhaus for what the Brazilians called “beer time”. We did reluctantly get food with our beer. At this point I was getting really tired of pork. Germany serves fried pork, roasted pork, grilled pork, roasted pork that is then fried, and it goes on. Honestly, I don’t know how they can eat that all the time. Despite the food, Hofbrauhaus was enjoyable and afterwards we moved on.

The next day it was time for the Brazilians to leave. I had planned to stay one more day in Munich and asked at the hostel if they had any availability. Unfortunately, they did not and I got the same response from the three other hostels I went to. Thinking I would be sleeping outside, I went to the train station as a last result. There happened to be a sleeper to Paris available. I called the one person I knew of in Paris and was able to get a place to stay for two nights. So Paris it was.

I said goodbye to the Brazilians after one more beer time and thanked them for letting me tag along for so long. They thanked me too for spending their entire trip with them. I had a great time with these guys and was sad to leave them. Knowing a little more Portuguese and glad to have a place to sleep I got on the train to Paris.

Written by davidpaparelli

July 9, 2010 at 6:14 pm

Posted in Europe

Schloss Schoenbrunn Summer Palace

with 2 comments

I spent my time in Vienna with the two Englishmen, the Brazilians and some Americans. The night I got into Vienna I met a group of Americans. My braves hat has done wonders introducing me to people and it was once again successful in Vienna. A girl approached me in the bar and asked if I was from Atlanta. Our conversation led to her introducing me to her friends. Her friends were a brother and sister from Fortworth. I had a great time that night and they invited me along the next day to see Vienna.

The Brits were already in Vienna and I felt a little bad leaving them, but I knew that they would not get up until noon so I figured I could get something done in the morning while they were sleeping. They obviously did not mind. So the Americans left the hostel early while the English slept in.

The group wanted to go to Schloss Schoenbrunn (the Hapsburg summer palace) and that sounded good to me. I am glad I went. This was one of the best parts of my trip. The Palace has a garden attached to it that must go on for a couple square miles. This would be a heck of a backyard. The gardens are indescribable but I’ll give it my best shot.

They are separated out into sections by enormous walls made out of trees and bushes. Wandering along the walls of the garden we came across fountains and beautiful flower arrangements. I’m not sure you can call them flower arrangements when the flowers are organized on such a large scale but, I guess, for lack of a better term, I’ll go with it. The flowers were arranged with every imaginable color in every imaginable design. There was a free flowing nature to the gardens but at the same time they had a strict conformity in terms of lines, shapes, and detail. After walking through the gardens for the better part of the day we came across a large fountain that was at the bottom of an enormous hill.

We started climbing the hill. The climb was exhausting in the ninety degree temperatures that the sun was beating us with. As we walked up we started realizing that it was completely worth it. None of us knew what to expect and the surprise made it even better.

The view from the top of the hill was of the gardens running up to the palace and the palace fading into the backdrop of the entire city of Vienna. The gardens looked like colorful carpets from so high up and the palace was towering over them. Once we got to a certain point on the hill we started to see that beyond the palace was the entire city. This view was better than the view of London from the eye, better than the view of Prague from the castle, and even better than the view of Pest from Buda castle. I think the word breathtaking is overused but it fits this moment perfectly. We spent a couple hours on top of the hill and then reluctantly headed down.

For the rest of the day we wandered around the city we had just seen so much of. We did not see too much before we headed back to the hostel to relax and clean up. That night the Brazilians came into Vienna, the English were reved up to party, and it was the Americans last night in the city. The combination of these events lead to a great time and a miserable next day.

All of us invited people we had met out and the group neared thirty people. I had told the Brazilian guys and the Brits so much about each other I was excited that they finally met. Every individual in the group was a hero (to borrow a word from my English friends) so collectively you can only imagine the result.

The next day I went outwith the Brits and their new American friends. They wanted to go to the gardens after hearing so much about them from me and I was not going to complain. I was looking forward to going back. The second experience was just as good as my original one. I met up with the Brazilians later on and decided to follow them to Munich. I booked my spot on the sleeper and my hostel and I was ready to go.

I reluctantly said goodbye to my two English friends and they left for London. I watched the Uruguay vs. Ghana soccer game with the Brazilians and we got ready to go to Munich. That night we got on the sleeper from Wien to Muenchen.

This was a pretty stupid sleeper to book. In fact, I am incredibly confused why the Brazilians decided to take this train. The train ride from vienna to munich is only three or four hours. Sleeper trains usually extend their trips to get into the destination city at a reasonable time, but in this situation the train ride could only be extended to six hours. This gave us about five hours of sleep on a train and got us into Munich at six in the morning. Overall, a terrible idea. I actually got laughed at when I told a German girl in Austria that I was taking a sleeper to Munich. We got off the train a little dreary and had a long day in Munich ahead of us.

Written by davidpaparelli

July 4, 2010 at 9:06 am

Posted in Europe

Boa Noite Budapest

with 4 comments

I am on the train to Vienna right now. A few questions are running through my head as I write this. How did this happen when Vienna wasn’t even close to making my list of cities? Where am I going to stay when I get in the city? Is this a ridiculous move on my trip? Will Dantes be able to get any sort of satisfaction in killing Danglars and Fernand? Well, I think I can answer all of those questions except the last one (I’ll have to finish the book I’m reading to answer that one).

The Brazilian guys I met in Prague told me to send them a message when I got in so we could meet up for the soccer game. I sent them a message well before I got in with my arrival time. With the game about to start and no reply I had to go with a group of people from the hostel to watch the game. The group was lead by one of the people working at the hostel. In the group were two Americans from the Air force Academy and two Londoners. All having recently graduated from university, we had a lot to talk about.

We walked into an outdoor bar of another hostel. It was absolutely packed and we were late to the game so we had trouble getting a view of the tv. Nothing was right about this game. I was late, when I arrived we were already down one goal, and I couldn’t see for a good part of the game. With all this having gone wrong it was only appropriate that we lost the game as well and were eliminated from the World Cup. Disappointed, I bought a hamburger and hung out with the Englishmen and Air force graduates.

Man, what an entertaining group. They all had great stories and great personalities. One of the Englishmen was in a fraternity (not sure what the word is in England) at his uni. This experience yielded some hilarious stories. Even better, since the air force grads were swapping stories with this Englishmen, it almost became a competition to which organization had worse hazing. The Englishmen came pretty close to taking the top spot, but how do you beat the Air Force Academy? I don’t think its possible. It was entertaining watching him get close though.

When we got back to the hostel I finally received a message from my Brazilian friends. They were sorry they couldn’t make it and asked if we could meet up later on. I responded yes, of course. They never responded back. I hung out with the Englishmen the next day because the Brazilians were not responding. We spent the day eating, looking at the largest church in Budapest, and watching soccer. England played Germany in, what was called, payback for 1966.

It was getting close to game time and we had not found a spot to watch the game. None of us knew any bars in the area except for the one we were at the night before so we rushed to the outdoor bar. England lost by three goals. My friends were not surprised, but still decided to drown their sorrows as any good Englishmen would. Somehow we managed to have a better time this night than the last.

The whole night they were trying to convince me to go to Bratislava with them in the morning. The only thing holding me in Budapest was the Brazilian girls I met in Prague told me they wanted to meet up the next day. We had not made any firm plans so I told the Brits that if plans were not made by the morning I would get on the train to Bratislava. When we got home I checked my message and the Brazilians had told me where to meet them and given me their number. As much as I hated to say it, I would have to call that firm plans.

After shouts of “bros before hoes”, cursing, and a handshake the Londoners got on the train to Bratislava without me. Before they left, I promised them I would meet them in Vienna. The bromance (their words not mine) was not over yet. We still had Vienna to look forward to. The boys left me and I left to meet the ladies.

The Brazilian girls and I were meeting at Buda Castle. Some frustration for both parties finally led to us finding each other. We headed for the Cathedral in the center of the Castle from the National Museum where we met. To our right was a beautiful view of Pest so we decided to go take a look. We took pictures and while we were admiring the view I got slapped on the back. I stepped to the side, looked back, and heard a shout in my ear. “Brazil! ” The noise brought a smile to my face. I had just, coincidentally, run into the two Brazilian guys from Budapest! I introduced all of my Brazilian friends and we made for the cathedral again.

I was catching up with one of the Brazilian guys and he told me they were headed to Vienna. They would be staying at the same hostel in the same room as the English guys. It was settled. There was no way I was going to miss Vienna. The room at the hostel only holds six people and five of the spots were taken up by me and my friends. This should make for a great time. The rest of the day we spent looking at the castle and walking around the city.

Since I watched the English game with Englishmen I guess it was only fitting that I watch the Brazil game with Brazilians. That night Brazil played Chile. All my Brazilian friends and I went to the park and watched the game on a huge screen. The atmosphere was filled with songs and beer. Brazil won and I spent the rest of the night celebrating with a Brazilian flag wrapped around me.

Today, I was able to relax after a couple hectic and fun filled days. I woke up, paid the hostel to do my laundry, and went to the famous baths. I got to the baths and got a massage then went to the pool and just relaxed. I was torn away from the warm water because Vienna was calling me. The train is just pulling into Vienna and that is where I will end this post.

Written by davidpaparelli

June 29, 2010 at 4:42 pm

Posted in Europe

Brazilians Everywhere

with one comment

My first day in Prague I slept. I arrived to the hostel too early to check in and decided not to go out and explore the city. The fifteen hour train ride and the little sleep I got on the trip had exhausted me. The wait to check in went quickly because the hostel had a bar and restaurant in it with wifi.

I checked in and finally got to my room. I walked into the room and the window shudders automatically opened and the lights came on showing me clean beds supporting comforters and giant pillows. Since I had stayed in one or two pretty bad hostels I was incredibly happy to find such a comfortable room. I picked my bed and went to sleep.

At around 6:00 pm I woke up to two Brazilians entering the room. They introduced themselves and we talked about our plans for the next day. I did not have plans so I did not have much to talk about. They were going to Prague Castle and that sounded much more exciting than what I had planned. I asked them if I could come along and they happily agreed.

The next day we walked across the Charles Bridge and up the hill to Prague castle. The castle was enormous and yet there wasn’t much to see. The Vitus Cathedral, in the center of the castle, is the most recognizable part of the castle from a distance so not knowing what to do we headed for the large gothic tower.

The line to get into the cathedral was thirty minutes long, but we had to see it so we waited. The exterior of the gothic church was intimidating to say the least. It is dressed in statues with horrified expressions, gargoyles, and dark jagged edges. Thankfully the interior was a little more welcoming.

The paintings and the statues on the inside were colorful and their expressions were more joyful and less terrifying. The cathedral itself was a little strange. It was built over a period of more than five hundred years and you could certainly tell. I felt like I had just walked into the Russian doll of churches. There was a church inside of a church inside of a church. The whole thing was open air, but you could see each specific church and the different architectural styles and statues within the large building. There is even a couple statues of people in twentieth century suits because the building was finished in the 1900’s and the architects felt like they needed to commemorate themselves. It was interesting to see five hundred years of progress even though Vitus is not the most beautiful cathedral in Europe.

After the Vitus Cathedral we explored the rest of the castle grounds. We saw the changing of the guard and bought tickets to see ‘the story of Prague Castle exhibit’, the old royal palace, and the convent. It was good that we bought tickets to the exhibit because a large part of the royal palace was taken up by the exhibit. If we did not go to the exhibit we would have missed a lot of the royal palace. This wouldn’t have been too bad because the palace wasn’t much to see.

The palace wasn’t very large and only had a few rooms. I was looking forward to the exhibit because I do not know very much Czech history and I figured this would catch me up. After having spent five days in Prague I can say that I still don’t know very much Czech history. I read through the Exhibit, saw pictures, watched a movie, and saw animations and the history is so confusing and hectic I could barely remember any of it. Next to the old royal palace is the convent so naturally we headed into it.

I told you in my last post that I was going to avoid national galleries and try and do other things. Well Prague Castle was in the ‘other things’ category. When we entered the convent, I was horrified to find the national gallery. The convent houses the national gallery. The Brazilians and I briskly walked through most of it. I did stop to look at a few paintings. Most of the paintings were beautiful landscapes of old Bohemia. They showed what life was like and what the country used to be. It ended up being a good thing that we stumbled upon the gallery because I learned more about Czech history from these paintings than I did from anything else on the trip.

Once we were outside the national gallery we looked at each other and knew that it was time to leave Prague Castle. So after three hours, we moved down the hill, saw some of the gorgeous views of the city the castle had to offer and headed towards the hostel.

We had to get back to the hostel because the U.S. was playing Algeria soon. This game was going to decide if we were going to move to the next round of the world cup. The two Brazilians and I walked into a private room, apart of the hostels restaurant, to watch the game. The room was full of Americans ready to watch the U.S. win after such a long and unfair world cup so far. In additional time the team finally scored to make the final score 1-0. The room exploded! People started flipping tables and chairs, hugging, jumping up and down, and of course yelling at the top of their lungs. The owner had no idea what to do and neither did the American fans. We just won our group and were moving onto the second round!

I stayed at the bar for dinner and then watched the next world cup matches that decided who we would play next. I met a couple of Canadian girls who said they were doing the free walking tour of the city the next day and they offered for me to come along. So the next day I met up with them and we walked to the old town to begin our tour.

The walking tour was fantastic. The German tour guide was the perfect mixture of hilarious and informative. The tour was four hours and he managed to keep everyone interested the entire time. We saw the famous astronomical clock, several squares, the historical Jewish part of town, and the Charles Bridge. The history of Prague became a little more clear on this tour, but I would still call it unclear in my mind, just less unclear. The best part of the tour was the German’s emotional and sympathetic story about the Jewish Museum/Synagogue, which I was going to go to the next day. The tour finished and I left my two new Canadian friends.

I started walking along the river back to the hostel and I ran into a guy from Mexico City I met the night before. He was sitting on a bench, relaxing, and looking out at the river. After walking for four hours, this looked great and I joined him. Looking out on Prague Castle and Charles Bridge was almost as good as giving my legs a rest. Motivating myself to move, I got up and, again, headed back to the Hostel.

I was almost back in the hostel and I ran into the two Brazilians I hung out with the day before. This is how my entire time in Prague was. No matter where I went I would somehow run into someone I knew and through the people I knew I would meet more people. I think by the time I left the hostel I had met twenty people, probably ten of which were Brazilians. Anyway, I told the Brazilians I would meet up with them later too watch the football match and continued on to see if I could actually get back to my room.

The next morning my two Brazilian friends left for Budapest and I went to see the synagogue the German tour guide talked so passionately about. He was right when he said that it was the one thing everyone should see in Prague. The synagogue is now a museum and it pays tribute to the Czech Jews who were killed in the Holocaust. This was the most heart wrenching holocaust museum I had ever been to.

The 100,000 names of the Holocaust victims lace the walls of the synagogue. When you see the walls the number of people killed is no longer just a number. I started to read the names and where the people were from and they became real people to me. I was no longer able to distance myself from the event. If seeing the names wasn’t enough, the museum also contains a gallery of art made by children in concentration camps. The children were encouraged to draw by the older Jews as a form of therapy. Most of the pictures were not of Nazi’s or Terezin (the concentration camp), but they were of their homes and old lives that they would never return to. Holocaust museums have always contained a powerful message, but this one, in particular, had a powerful delivery. Somber and reflective, I once again walked back to the hostel.

I walked up to my room and found the two girls that replaced the two Brazilian guys. I asked them where they were from and, sure enough, they were from Brazil. Well I had such a good time with all the other Brazilians I met I figured why stop now. They invited me to get some food with them and I ended up hanging out with them the rest of the night.

Today, I said good bye to my newer Brazilian friends, knowing that I would probably see both sets of Brazilian friends again in Budapest, and hopped on a train to Budapest. It has been a gorgeous train ride so far, taking me past fields of flowers, mediaeval castles, and old towns. When I started writing this lengthy post I actually felt kind of bad that I was not enjoying the view. After seeing how long this post became I realize that it is good I took the time. If I would have waited another day I think I would have had to publish it as a novel. Well, if you made it this far you are probably one of the few. I hope this one was worth it and thanks for reading.

Written by davidpaparelli

June 26, 2010 at 2:46 pm

Posted in Europe