(An old, incomplete post which I never actually posted.... but here it is anyway: what is left of my travel stories...)
Wow! What a week! I am very much enjoying traveling around a bit more!
Jessica and I went to Rome on Friday afternoon with about 3 words of Italian, and I left Ciampino on Tuesday morning, able to properly communicate with a slightly better vocabulary. Rome was incredible - very touristy - but there is just so much to see. We arrived quite late in Termini which is basically the center of the city. There were millions of Hotels in the area and many tourists, so in these parts basically everyone spoke English. (Apart from one woman at a tourist information booth - go figure!) When we arrived at the station, we had no idea where we were going - all we had was an address and the knowledge that the hotel was nearby. We asked a 'taxi driver' and he told us it was just around the corner and that he would take us there for 30 euros - Jessica became quite offended by this, and so we carried on walking into the dark with our suitcases and no map. After walking a while we sat down and I had a look in my Europe book, and found that there was a map of the area, and we walked straight to the Hotel. (Thanks Kate!!) Was a rocky trip there with my suitcase which is very easy to move around on flat ground, but on the old italian roads it was quite difficult!
We were so excited about eating the incredible food, but it was late so we just had to go to the closest restaurant which wasn't so great. While we were eating, a Cat wandered into the restaurant, which of course I found a great novelty and was possibly the highlight of the night.
Saturday morning we got up fairly late and then headed in for some sightseeing, after having some really good lasagna! It is pretty incredible - you'll just be walking down the street and you'll come across some enormous monument built in 103BC or something. We saw ' The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier,' which we just sort of stumbled upon. It is massive, and very impressive - just like most of these monuments around the place. We then wondered down to the Pantheon. It was built in 27BC, which is just inconceivable, considering that they had no trucks or cranes, and they say that even today it would be considered a massive architectural achievement. We also had a look at the fontana di Trevi and threw a coin each to apparently ensure a return visit to Rome. Then we had a look at the spanish steps.... to be honest I'm not quite sure what the story is here, but the view from the top was pretty good. We took a look down Via Condotti, where every big designer label has their own shop.... and then we continued into some of the more affordable shopping streets... including some of the ones where men will yell at you to come and look at their fake hand bags and sunglasses. "A moment miss! Miss! A bag for you!" They have it all set up so that when the police arrive, they can just run away, so you could be in the middle of a transaction and they'll just disappear. A friend got a pair of sunglasses for free this way, however we weren't so lucky. Jessica bought some sunglasses and we both bought a fake prada bag. Prada probably don't even have bags that look like the ones we got - but they were cheap, so who cares. I bargained mine down from 65 euros to 15. The more you don't want it, the more they want to give it to you! We were so tired by then, so we went back to the hotel and had a nap before heading out for dinner.
We thought that we were more likely to find a decent restaurant outside of Termini, so we went for a walk into the student district to find one of the places suggested in our lonely planet book... it was not there. So we just went somewhere else, which also wasn't great - but better than any Italian food we'd be having in Australia! Every restaurant we went to had incredible wine for no more than 5 euro for a litre! So delicious. I was happy to get out of Termini as well, to see that Rome is an actual city where people live, and not just a city of tourists! Everyone seemed to know each other and the people sitting at the table next to ours kept having new additions to their table cause someone would drive past and beep - and then they'd wave them in. I think 5 people joined them like this while we were having our dinner!
Day 2 in Rome, we just went to the Colosseum! This was the main thing that i wanted to see, and it was very impressive - but no surprises really. A bit like seeing the eiffel tower - you've seen it a million times on television - except you're just there in real life. I had always been quite jealous of all the Italian students back in year eleven when they all stranded me for the Summer - so I feel that I have fulfilled my desire to see it now. After a little while of listening to the audio tour, it started to rain quite heavily and we didn't have an umbrella or poncho so we went and sat inside the mini museum and waited. The rain did not go away, and it began to storm. I was STARVING and I really wanted to leave, but the street outside was cut off for road works and there were no taxi's or buses, and it was quite cold so Jessica refused to leave and get wet. (We later found out that there is a subway station right outside that we could have taken it almost all the way home!) We were trapped in the colosseum for about an hour until I talked Jessica into leaving... as soon as we got to the gate, we peered outside to check if anyone was selling umbrella's nearby - and a man literally put one in my hand before we even got outside... it turned out there were men EVERYWHERE in the city selling umbrellas... they must have boxes of them in their homes and then just watch the weather and run out with a bag of them when it rains! We paid 5 euros each for one, and then a little gust of wind completely broke mine. I walked ages, holding it in place, except anytime there was any wind it would go inside out again. Jessica's was fine of course.
We had a really good dinner that night at a small family run restaurant around the corner from our hotel and then we went home and watched a movie!
On Monday we woke up really early to go to the Vatican before Jessica flew back to London. The Vatican was by far my favorite if all the sightseeing. The Basilica was really lovely and the Museum was really great. We were told that we would have to wait 2 hours and the line was really VERY long... we thought about buying our way in with a tour, but I'm glad we did, because it was the fastest line I've ever been in and we only had to wait 30 minutes. I think we waited longer for our McDonalds at the airport on the way over! We were really excited about seeing the Sistine Chapel - and I spent most of the day trying to explain to Jessica what the Michelangelo painting was on the roof ... She claims that she has never seen it - which I believe to be impossible - it's got to be one of the most famous paintings in the world. I kept saying - you know, the pointing one. I think we built up the Sistine chapel a little too much and it was a little underwhelming in the end.
After a quick lunch, Jessica and I parted ways - She was heading home, and I was going to check into the youth hostel in Ciampino! I decided to stay in Ciampino because the cheap flights all fly out of the airport there, and I figured I'd rather stay close to the airport and see a smaller italian town. It was a lovely little place, but I hated my time there and I wish that I stayed in Rome for the night! I arrived at the hostel in a tiny little bus about the size of a maxi taxi. It was down the end of quite a long street and it was fairly run down, with a broken plane in the car park and half of it abandoned. When I went inside, the man on reception was having a nap on a couch and quickly jumped up to check me in. It seemed that the place was empty apart from myself, and even though I had booked a shared room, I had a room to myself. It was WELL creepy.
I decided to go for a walk and try and find some dinner, I had seen a few small places on the drive to the hostel, but all the streets were so long and bare (lots of grapes and olives) and I took a wrong turn and ended up in I think a different town to Ciampino.... one with very little to eat. I tried to get some money out, so that I would be organised for the next day, except BOTH of the two ATMs in the area were broken! I walked forever along all these roads with no pathways with cars driving very close to me (often containing old italian men who would leer and beep and yell CIAO BELLA!! ) and weeds whipping my ankles!
I ended up making it back to the backpackers after very good use of my tiny Italian vocab, after becoming quite frightened that I wouldn't make it back before the sun went down and I became actually lost for the night in the Italian country side.
I hated the backpackers - it was terrifying. I seemed to be the only one staying in the whole place, yet because I was in a room for eight, I felt I had absolutely no privacy. I thought that the man at the counter would come into my room and attack me, much in the style of Norman Bates.... (my shower was a very swift one. )
I had also left the window open during my walk of hell, and so a billion mosquitos came inside and buzzed around my room! The room sounded like a beehive... for about a two and a half hours I took part in a war against the mozzies, running and bashing them against the wall... There was much evidence of previous wars all over the room.. I eventually went out and asked Norman for some bug spray and then emptied the whole can into my room... I slept okay after that, surprisingly. ( with a torch and a can of bug spray in my clutches. I wished that I had Zaac's "intruder knife." )
Anyway, I lived to see another day. I was up at 5.30am to catch the only bus in town to the train station, and then the airport... and then I was off to Berlin!