Monday, October 18, 2004

Italy

The trip to Italy was totally great. If it weren't for unlimited email access and seeing you guys, coming home would have been a total loss. There were a couple mishaps - one day it took 5 hours and a 55 EU taxi ride to reach our hotel and another day the train workers went on strike. But, other than these 2 things, the trip could not have been better.

New York.

For logistic reasons, Sven and I spent the first night of the trip in New York. We didn't have a lot of time, so mainly we just walked around downtown. The only memorable event was sitting on a park bench in Central Park. It was early afternoon and there was a gentle autumn breeze. The birds sang softly and we watched the squirrels and talked about life. As we sat there, I contemplated the wondrous sound of rustling leaves and how, although we take it for granted, it actually takes millions of tiny little air particles colliding with thousands of leaves to produce this sound.

We happened to be in a semi-remote area, so eventually, I laid down and put my head in Sven's lap and we gazed into eachother's eyes. I couldn't help but think about all those times when I was single and I'd pass some couple in the park having a romantic moment and I'd be monumentally jealous. I smiled an evil smile inside because finally I was on the other side of the equation and hoped there were some jealous single people walking by.

However, as time passed, I became increasingly aware of some imperfections in Sven's facial hair. The longer I looked, the more urgent these problems became. I didn't say anything, but mentally added plucking near the top of our to-do list. At this point, I should have been able to let it go, but instead I laid there miserably wishing for a pair of tweezers. It could have lasted a very long time, but at some point Sven made the observation "Boy, you sure can see a lot of detail in daylight." Touché. If only this had happened years ago...

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An alley in Central park.

Rome.

We went to pretty much all the big tourist attractions: Colloseum, Forum, Pantheon, Vatican, St. Peter's, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps. We also got to do this one special tour of the tombs under the Vatican thanks to Laura. It was all very interesting, but here are the things I thought were most interesting.

1.) Colloseum - Did you know there were women gladiators? I'm not sure they were called that, but evidently, women did fight sometimes. Also, the top level of the colloseum was called the fornicatoreum. I'm sure you can guess what it was for. Lastly, since they didn't have indoor plumbing back then, there were no toilets and so people would poo into a bag and throw it off the roof. For #1 I think they just went inside on the wall somewhere.

2.) Roman Forum - In the old days, while they were yaking their food up, the Romans would get these nasty stains on their togas. To get the stains out and disinfect, they would soak the robes in urine. Of course it smelled pretty bad, so they added fresh bay leaves to the mix.

3.) Vatican - The thing that made the most lasting impression were some of the tapestries in the Vatican portraying soldiers killing infants - mainly because it was so violent. I also saw a mummy.

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The Roman Forum.

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Sven and myself in front of the Roman Forum.

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I forgot what this is called, but its sort of like the capitol building for Rome.

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All of us on the Spanish Steps.

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View of Rome above the Spanish Steps.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us The Pantheon.

Venice.

To be honest, I wasn't expecting much from Venice, but we had a great time here. The best part was eating gelato in the San Marco Plaza. At night, there are these two competing restaurants with what I can only describe as a small symphony ensemble. We also saw this guy playing songs on wine glasses with water, like in Miss Congeniality. It was very romantic and fun. I wish we had seen more of the palaces but we accidently slept in very late the day we spent there (oops).

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A Street in Venice.

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View from afar.


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San Marco Square at Night.

Florence.

The main things we saw in Florence were the Duomo and the David.

The Duomo was very cool - we walked to the top - 500 steps in these tight, winding staircases. All I could think about was the painters back then. First of all, holy shit. I can't imagine being up that high on a scaffold. Secondly, Oh my God. You know that at least once a week they got to the top and were like, "Damnit, I forgot Blue."

Also, Sven noticed it first, but it is surprising verging on disturbing how violent and graphic the depiction of hell on the ceiling of this church are. It's based on Dante's Inferno, which I have not read, but suffice to say, sex offenders are adequetely punished. I guess this is where the phrase "Light a fire beneath his ass," comes from. Although, I have to say its more of a shoving motion in the picture.

The David was incredible. I didn't realize the statue was so big - I really have to say it is a powerful piece of art. It was also interesting to see some of Michaelangelo's unfinished sculptures - partly because you got to see how the statues were made, and partly because you suspect that he got frustrated with some and just quit sometimes. The other thing that got me was how the blocks of marble were passed around between artists - I didn't know that.

The other great experience in Florence was this restaurant we went to. We had to wait an hour and a half to get in, but trust me, it was okay. We met all these people outside, and they brought us wine, cheese, and salami for free while we waited. Once inside, it was the authentic Italien experience I never dreamed actually existed. We got to sit with some of the people we met outside which only made it better. The menu was short - some pasta, roast beef, roast rabbit, roast pork, or roast duck. But, then they brought out all these appetizers and sides and drinks and desserts we didn't even order. The only word that comes close to describing the evening is "jovial". (With "sloth" being a close second.) Definitely the best evening of the trip.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Our picnic in the train from Venice to Florence.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Climbing the Duomo.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us View from atop the Duomo.

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Sven and Dean have a romantic moment over roast rabbit.

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Ourselves and our new friends.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us The happiest moment of our lives. As you can see, we each have our own grappa, glass of chianti, and champagne. What you can't see are the extremely large plates of biscotti that I took home and ate for breakfast the next day.

Siena.

While in Florence, the four of us visited Siena and some wineries in the Chianti wine region. Not much to say here - I was carsick most of the time, but the scenery was great. Loved Tuscany.
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Overlooking Chianti wine country.

Pisa.

We stopped in Pisa on the way to Cinque Terre, and I took a picture of the Leaning Tower of Pisa in the pouring rain. Sven tried to convince me it was romantic. Maybe it was a little bit.


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The Leaning Tower of Pisa in the pouring rain. Look closely and you can see the raindrops.

Cinque Terre.

In CT we stayed in Vernazza. Like I said, the day we arrived it was storming, but it looked awesome. There were these huge black clouds behind the alps, and the water was crashing into the rocks below the city. The first night we found this little pastry shop - the owners (who we lovingly refer to as the Pastry Brothers) were super friendly. Laura and Dean weren't supposed to come in until the next day, but by talking to PBs, we found out that they had just stopped by - not important really, but a funny coincidence. Also, the PB's had this hot chocolate made from pure chocolate - it was as thick as soup - the english language does not have words to express how great it was.

For the rest of our time there, we went hiking, took picnics, and hung out with the PBs. Also, there was a wedding while we were there and the bride and groom threw chocolates down from a balcony while people cheered below - easily one of the happiest moments of my life.

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Looking towards the Alps after the storm.

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From the trail during a hike. I love this picture!!!

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Rough water at sea level after the storm.

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City at Sunset.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Sunset over the ocean.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us With our friends, the Pastry Brothers who inspired and fattened us all.

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The Newlyweds toss candy to the masses.


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Laura, Nancy, and Jamie attending church in about 40 years.

Germany.

We concluded the trip with a quick visit to Hanover to attend Sven's dad's retirement party. His parents and family were lovely as was the party. Once again, I failed to bring back enough chocolate.

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Sven with Sisters and Mom. Birgit is on the left, Silke is on the right.

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My favorite souvenir from the trip. This authentic Hot German Man 2004VSX came with dual-language settings and cooking skills.