Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Where I was: Padova, Athens, Budapest

May 19, 2007

After Greece we made a pit stop in Padova to see my host family (from when I studied abroad there), which was so far one of my favorite parts of the trip. We got in late from Ancona and walked down Corso Garibaldi to the pizzeria that my host family owns. It was so nostalgic being back in Padova.

Before getting to the pizzeria we stopped at Pinguino Blu for ice cream, which was double the size and had a different name than when I lived there. This was my favorite place for gelato. After ice cream we went to Gianni's. It was so good to see everyone at the restaurant again. I miss eating there so much.

Although we had just eaten ice cream, Gianni had us get strawberry tiramisu--the house special. Then Lisa and I headed home.

My host mom Laura waited up for me and gave me the biggest hug ever. They got a cat who had four little kittes. Lisa loved the kitties. We stayed in the room next to my old room because a Romanian girl now rents my room out.

In the morning Lisa and I said hi to Laura and Gianni, and then headed downtown. We stopped by the BU center and it was nice to see everyone there. Then we ran some errands while we were in a country where one of us had a pretty good handle of the language.

After we did some sightseeing. I took Lisa to see Prato della Valle and San Antonio.

We headed over to the pizzeria and had pizza with Gianni. It was just as good as I remembered. After lunch we went to the market and each bought shorts, which was a fun and random buy.

We went back to the house and I got to hang out with the family. I saw all of my host sisters, which was great. I said bye and then we walked to the train station. I also stopped to say goodbye to Gianni again.

Lisa was amazed by having to say goodbye again, but I guess Italians have serious detachment problems. We got to the train in Venice where we had to get our bags that we stored there for piece of mind.

We were off to Budapest on a rickety old train. We went through non-Schengen countries (Slovakia and Croatia) so we got passport stamps. At one stop an officer said "no timbri, solo baci," which means no stamps, only kisses. Real nice.

We got to Budapest Keleti station, and after arriving, we got attacked by a million people about hostels and where to stay. More later because I don't feel so hot and want to get sleep for Prague tomorrow.

May 16, 2007

The ferry ride to Greece was pure torture. We stuck it out, but this meant we had to sleep on the decks outside. In natural European style there was a sketchy man. He spoke Italian, and thought we were friends. We befriended two boys our age, which in the end helped us stay safe from the sketchballs.

Jamie and David were from Colombia and were also backpacking. We went to the "disco" on the ship, which ended up being all old Greeks dancing. We fell asleep there. At 2 a.m., however, the music switched from traditional Greek to techno. It was so loud. I woke up and was like--Lisa, this is the soundtrack to my death.

We also got woken up when Jamie informed us that sketchball was staring at us sleeping. All in all it was an awful night. We went upstairs in the morning and took in the sun. We arrived in Patras to the most willy nilly scene. Lisa and I exited the ferry with a million trucks and when we went out there were just cars and trucks going every which way.

We went into the port and asked for stamps which confused the Greeks, but they understood the fascination of Americans with passport stamps. We went towards to the train station.

We got feta cheese pie on the way. The most rickety metal box rolled up at the train station--our train.

I felt like I was in Calabria (where my family is from in Italy). The ride, though bumpy, was beautiful. We traveled across the Peloponesian coast, which dons rocky blue shores all sun-kissed and naturally perfect. This is what I expected Greece to be.

Lisa really wanted to see blue and white houses, but they are more common in the Islands so we didn't see any.

We switched trains in Corinth and got on another train to Athens, which was much nicer. We arrived in Athens and headed straight for our hostel. Since it was 9:30 p.m., Lisa and I were lucky to get the last two beds in the place, but in separate rooms.

We headed to get some food and had stuffed vine leaves and Greek salad. This was also what you expected from Greece.

Then we went back to the hostel and both showered--first time in three days. That night I had the best sleep of the whole trip--especially after that gross night on the ferry.

Lisa and I got up and went to breakfast where we met David who did some sightseeing with us.

We went to the Acropolis where we saw Dionyisis Theatre, the Odeon and the Parthenon. It was all so incredible. Our hostel had a view of the Parthenon and we had seen it the night before from the roof. I was in awe. It's just something that you don't get over, especially when you begin to think about what it is.

We also saw the Temple of Zeus, the original Olympic theatre, Hadrian's Arc, the Greek botanical gardens. We even had time, and went to see the present-day Greek parliament.

Then we tried to find Socrates' prison cell and it turned into a crazy search up a mountain, which I did not enjoy. Our tag-along David kept going up. I was annoyed and just wanted to leave, but Lisa was trying to be nice and patient with him. After a while of the chase, I split off. I felt bad for being a brat, but it was hot and flip-flops are not the greatest for climbing up mountains. Here is where I realized how deprived my city-girl self is of nature--I just can't do it sometimes because I never experience it. When Lisa asked me if I had ever been camping--I said, "yeah, inside the Hall of Science."

Later I apologized to David who ended up finding the cell while Lisa and I shopped. I got my mom a greek moo-moo and my brother discus shirt. After, I bought myself and Athena ring, the goddess of wisdom.

We watched the sunset over the acropolis from the roof of our hostel. We went out that night, which made me miss Dublin because of the all of the music.

We woke up in the morning and did some last minute shopping. The trains were on strike--although we just thought the metro was on strike. So our non-English speaking cab driver who couldn't tell us what was going on dropped us off at the bus station. Getting a cab was really difficult--and the hot Greek sun made this even worse.

The bus station was willy nilly with arrows every where. We got some food in Patras and then went to the ferry. This time Lisa and I booked beds, which ended up being half the price were were originally quoted. We decided to treat ourselves to Greek salads on the boat since the beds were cheap.

Then we relaxed in our room--luckily the other two beds did not get filled. We even went to the ferry disco, which was better than the last.

In the afternoon we mosied from bed to the deck to get some sun. We took some funny "model" pictures and got more salad since we've been craving veggies. They are harder to get when you are on the go. We took showers since we had the luxury of a shower in our ferry room. We joked that the ferry was the most luxurious place we staying all trip. This ferry ride was much more pleasurable than the last.

After the ferry we stopped for some pizza, and now we are on the train to Padova. I am so excited to go back. Sitting on the train looking out the window makes me realize how very much I miss Italy.

I've also been listening to the radio in all of the countries, which has become a fun little cultural experiment for me. I love Italian radio--it is so upbeat.

Greece was worth the 60 some odd hours or so of travel--it was everything I imagined--any anyone who hates Athens is crazy. It's definitely in my top 3 of all of Europe.

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