Tuesday, June 13, 2006

From the Alps to the Adriatic and back.....

The last few weeks have been pretty interesting.....

From the alps to the Adriatic....
and back again describes the ground that Ive covered. I left you last in St Johann after my experience as Lara Croft. From St Johann I travelled to Venice, Ancona, Croatia, Rome, Sorrento and currently, Siena. Each place has definitely had a defining moment and I'm pretty sure that Ive left my mark everywhere Ive been....

Its extremely cliche but it is such a small world....
About 2 months ago I visited Bath, England, with David Pashley. We shared a dorm room with 2 random guys that turned up drunk at 3am, quietly but wreaking of red wine. We chatted to them the next morning at breakfast and bid our good lucks and farewells. On the morning of heading to Venice 2 guys approached me asking where I was from - we quickly worked out that they were the randoms from Bath!! We clicked straight away after a When in Rome (think Anchorman) call from one of them and spent the next 2 hours in hysterics. Since then Daniel Spitty, Daniel Giddings (Giddo) and I have been travelling together. They are both great guys and have me laughing constantly!

The city of canals, venetian glass and flash flooding....
Not many people can say that they were stuck in a flash flood when they visited Venice but I now can. After wandering around the town centre for a day and exploring all of the shops in the tiny alleyways and tucked away backstreets I made my way to the bus station ready to return to the camp ground. As I was walking back - thoroughly lost, it started to rain. The rain got heavier and was accompanied by lightening and thunder. Whilst I had an umbrella it was rendered useless against this haphazard weather and I proceeded to get soaking wet. Before I knew it I found myself ankle deep in water and waiting for over 45 minutes for the bus! All I could do was laugh. I think it helped that the girl I was with, was constantly whinging and I had to keep positive - after all there was nothing we could do!!!! Despite this Venice was gorgeous.

Giddo, Spitty & I spent the next day visiting the basilica, San Marco Square and Lido. We had a fantastic time and the weather was stunning. Giddo had a run of bad luck which I consider karma after he had thrown bread crumbs at me in San Marco and I was consequently attacked by pigeons. As we walked along the concourse at Lido, Giddo not only had a blow out in his double pluggers but walked straight into a tree. Needless to say Spitty & I were in stitches.

Ancona was the next port of call....(Dan you should appreciate that one)
where Spitty, Giddo, Clare, Kylie and Warren (all people I met on Busabout) jumped on the 10 hour ferry to Croatia. I continued my ploy of travelling through Europe on a budget via a string of not-so-truthful tales and managed to get myself a half price ferry ticket. As a round trip this saved me about €70 so was well worth the puppy dog eyes. The ferry trip itself was pretty uneventful but I was waking up every 2 hours or so like a kid when Santa is coming. I was sooooo excited about meeting up with Darcy in Croatia. Its funny how great it is meeting new people and visiting new places but after travelling alone for 2 months, when a friend is on the horizon it is the most exciting thing in the world! (key in Jess for the South of France - I'm already counting down!)

Diversity (or Mlini)....
was the name of our old wooden ship and it was absolutely gorgeous. Darcy & I were upgraded and given a cabin with our own bathroom. The cabins were really big for a boat so any fears that I had of suffocating were quickly dissipated. The entire week was fantastic. Although the weather could have been better we had a fantastic crew on our ship and met some really nice new people. The highlight of the trip for me was definitely Dubrovnik.

We spent an entire day and night in Dubrovnik and got to see a great deal of the island. Kylie, Warren, Darcy & I hired scooters and rode around the island like BMX bandits. Warren is Russel Coit if ever Ive seen him and he managed to take us off road, down steps, through a close encounter with a snake and somehow get us back to the boat. I feel sorry for Darcy as I think he has lost the hearing in one or both of his ears and is also now the proud owner of a shirt with my sweaty hand imprints permanently marked on it. In the evening our boat as well as 2 other ships full of people went to Fuego, a latin nightclub. We tore up the dance floor (particularly Giddo with his pole dancing and Darcy with his on-stage performance) and drank massive cocktails. The weirdest thing was when I felt a tap on my shoulder, turned around and found my best friend from year 7, Maddy Rex standing behind me!!! It was so surreal. We weren't even in a very touristy spot and I hadn't seen this girl for at least 10 years. I am hopefully going to catch her again in France.

Lowlights were numerous but humorous.....
Incident 1: I had my first shower on the boat and managed to drop my watch and smash it, thank goodness it was the older one and not the one mum and dad had just given me prior to departure.
Incident 2: my camera met an unfortunate death with the floor of a bar in Mkarska. After taking about 40 photos of himself doing ridiculous things (ala Morts), Giddo dropped my camera and it is now no longer functioning. As you can imagine I was lost for the next few days without it before we got to Dubrovnik and was completely overcharged and ripped off when forced to buy a new one. Thank goodness insurance covers stupidity enhanced by alcohol.
Incident 3: saw me exert an overgenerous amount of energy at a beautiful beach on the way to Hvar. I swam about 300m to and from the beach to the boat and in the flourish of exercise I lost an earring.
Incident 4: After arriving back to Split on the Friday night we all hit the town. We all had a great night but the next day was a different story. It was raining and we had the unfortunate job of finding accommodation. Kylie and I took on the role of bag minders whilst the boys headed off in search of a home for us. Giddo was in a bad way. When they finally found a pension for us to stay in, we all crashed. Giddo crashed and burned. He spent the next 12 hours with his head in the toilet revisiting everything he had consumed over the previous week. I have never known someone to be so sick. It actually warranted the mother of the house that we were staying in to give him a cup of tea and some Andol.
Recurring incident 5: I have no idea how this is happening but I seem to have lost a pair of underwear in every single country I have been in. Whilst I am by no means partaking in any acts of promiscuity I can only assume that I manage to drop them on the way to and from the shower. On the boat, in a room the size of a desk in an open plan office and an accompanying bathroom one would assume that the mystery of the lost underwear would for once come to a halt. Unfortunately this was not the case and I yet again managed to lose a pair. I started out with 10 and now have 5.

This run of luck seems to be the theme of my trip at the moment....
After a night drinking cheap red wine (no 3 day growth) in Rome, I returned to my room to find a very ill lady and her husband. They were complete stoners and the husband was droning on about how he had tried to find me earlier in the evening to ask me to move as his wife was so sick (his description was punctuated with a plethora of hippy words such as whoa dude and maaaann). Long story short - he wanted me out. I proceeded to the boys tent planning to sleep on the floor only to find that Giddo had also been left high and dry after Spitty had picked up. Of course the only sensible thing left to do was scale the 2 metre fence into the pool and sleep on the pool lounges. Here we see the reason one is not allowed to use heavy machinery, drive a car or be responsible for others when under the influence of alcohol. I expertly hoisted myself to the top of the fence only to come crashing down and sprain my ankle upon landing. I woke up the next morning feeling like an overcooked frankfurt in a sweaty hot dog bun with a foot the size of a football and a bruise to envy the one I got from the rollerskating incident (yes Kate & Mich, I know - unbelievable).

My first day in Rome was somewhat marred...
by the sprained ankle and horrendous hangover. It took all of the energy I had to whinge constantly to the boys and limp like I had one leg shorter than the other. I quickly got over being such a sook and we ended up wandering around St Peter's Square, St Peter's Cathedral and the Colosseum. Despite the immense pain I was in we had a fantastic day. St Peter's Square literally took my breath away. The size of it is simply not comparable with anything I've seen before. Despite Australia having some of the most gorgeous features in the world I have never been overwhelmed by them. The sheer size of structures here in Europe just continues to blow me away. The Colosseum was also amazing. I can't get my head around how intelligent the Ancient Romans were. It was raining a bit so we stayed in the Colosseum for a few hours before heading back to the camp ground for a good nights rest.

Wednesday morning the boys & I went to visit the Pope. This again was an overwhelming experience. I felt like I was walking into a Big Day Out type of festival with security and metal detectors everywhere. The crowds were huge but luckily we got a good position on a water fountain. The Pope circled St Peter's Square and we were standing about 10metres from him. It was great to seem how emotional some people were getting but also quite unbelievable for us. We didn't realise how close we would be to the Pope, I guess I never thought that he would be so accessible.

After wandering around the Vatican City for a few hours I went and joined an Ancient Rome walking tour - made difficult due to my inability to walk properly - which was well worth the €18. The guide was an archaeologist and gave me a great insight into how and why certain things in Rome had been built. The Trevi Fountain was my favourite part of the tour but I also saw the Colosseum, the Pantheon, Palentine Hill (and Julius Ceaser's grave) and the 'wedding cake', an incredibly imposing government building. The evening once again witnessed the wrath of the 3 (Spitty, Giddo & I) on cheap red wine - €3 for 3L.

The trip to Sorrento was long, hot and uncomfortable.....
We caught a train from Rome to Naples then from Naples to Sorrento then a bus to the camping ground. I am so happy that I didn't make an effort to visit Naples as the train station itself was disgusting. We saw a pickpocket in action and Giddo had an unfortunate experience in the men's toilets with perverts hanging around. Luckily we were all in a delusional state by the time we got on the train for Sorrento and managed to amuse ourselves with a stupid, non intelligent game of 23 reasons.

Sorrento was well worth the effort. The first night we had the best meal (well Spitty says top 3) that any of us had had since being overseas. It was at little tucked away restaurant with great Italian staff and fabulous food. We all felt like we could roll out of the place but had to trek back up the hill to the campsite - this was probably a blessing in disguise considering how much I'd just eaten.

Friday we made our way along the Amalfi coast to Amalfi. It was absolutely stunning. I regret not just taking a book along and spending the day on the beach. After walking around for a few hours we headed to Positano which was equally as beautiful. This is where the day got funny for anyone who saw me but very un-funny for me. As we started to walk back to the bus I made the, in hindsight, very stupid suggestion to walk to the right. This lead us up about 1500 steps. This is NOT an exaggeration. By around the 300th step my ankle felt like it was ready to snap off and we all stank like we had been working on a cattle farm in the 40° heat. This may have been the stupidest suggestion I have made all trip and one that I immediately regretted. When we finally got to the top (about 40mins later) there was a rolling drunk man sitting at the bar. He was quite funny but had the most revolting toenails I have ever seen. After he complimented the boys on the beautiful lady they were with (cue me) they thought it would be amusing to find more disgusting things about him and point them out to me - I'm lucky I managed to keep my lunch in my stomach.

After one last huge night out together (3 x 1.5L bottles of red wine between 3 of us) it was time to say goodbye. Everyone says that on these sojourns you make friends that you will keep for life. Until this point I hadn't felt like I'd made any friends that I would even keep for a week but the time I spent with Darcy in Croatia cemented our friendship and the 3 weeks with the boys has left me with a greater sense of faith in all of those who gave me the 'friends for life' spiel. Giddo & Spitty have had me laughing since the moment we started travelling together and I can't wait to meet up with them again in Australia. I guess my lesson learnt here was to be patient and the right people will come along.

Well I bid you all farewell for the moment and will write with more stories soon.

Next leg is Siena, Florence, Pisa, Cinque Terre then the South of France.

Lots of Love

Loz xxxx

Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Alps to the Adriatic

I have covered quite a distance in the last 2 weeks…. I last left you in Austria where I had been running around pretending to be Lara Croft.

The trip from Austria to Venice was relatively uneventful except to meet up with 2 guys (both named Daniel but for ease of understanding their nicknames are Giddo and Spitty) that I had spoken to for about 10 minutes when I was in Bath – Dave Pasho you should remember them, the red wine in the park boys???? They recognised me at the hostel in Austria and we hit it off straight away with an hours long quoting session from Anchorman. The boys are from Melbourne and are a great laugh. The first night in Venice was spent drinking at the camping ground and getting to know the other people on my bus. I was rooming with a girl from Perth called Clare.

I am sick of the cities of love….
Travelling is great and I’m really appreciative to have this opportunity but it absolutely sucks when you go places that are just full of couples in love and enjoying the sites together. The first day in Venice I spent by myself. It was quite overwhelming. I got thoroughly lost but made friends with a 4 month old dog that wouldn’t walk across a square that I was sitting in. The first shop I walked into was full of Venetian masks. It was incredible. I spent about 45 minutes talking to the store owner who was an architect by trade. He was lovely and explained the relevance of the masks and how he made them. The first day in Venice also heralded my first experience of the Italian Stallions in their own country. Whoa are they forward!! I had one guy follow me for about 5 minutes yacking away about my eyes so I took refuge in a shop only to find him still calling out to me from the entrance. Having shaken this bad smell I walked up a small street to get a cup of tea only to be bombarded with ciao bellas and bellissimos from the windows above. I was talking to Giddo about stereotypes and we agree that the Italians perfectly fit the stereotype with which the western world defines them – stylish, lovers of pizza and pastas and romantic (depending on how you interpret their actions).

Pigeons and laughs….
pretty much defined day two in Venice for me. After a night of playing Kings – a drinking/card game I met the Giddo and Spitty on the bus and we all fell into hysterics. Anything that could go wrong for Giddo inherently does to the great amusement of Spitty & I. We visited the basilica and took in the view of San Marco square from the top. It was an incredible site and really funny to watch all of the people surrounded by pigeons! After lunch in the square and an inevitable attack on me by a flock of pigeons (thanks to the boys throwing crumbs at my feet and hair) we moved onto Lido via a ferry. Giddo subsequently was served a terrible coffee, snapped his thong and walked into a tree. Spitty and I were in hysterics. As the day drew to a close we made our way back into the town centre and searched for a gondolier that would take us for a cruise for less than €160. It quickly became apparent that this was a nonfeasible feat and we met up with Kylie and Warren another couple that we had met from Busabout.

I could dedicate a whole email just to this guy. Think Russell Coit crossed with Troy Dan and Rex Hunt. He is absolutely hilarious but exhausting. If I’m not laughing with Warren I am laughing at him. Kylie deserves and award for being able to out up with him and his antics. I don’t actually think I can do the man justice by writing a description here so I may send an email of quotable Warren quotes – await this instalment.

The trip to Ancona took 2 hours longer than necessary after the GPS system sent us into Slovenia instead of the south of Italy. Upon arrival it was laughs all around with Warren and the boys. Luckily as 4 out of 6 of us had student cards we were able to book cabins for the 10 hour ferry trip to Croatia and save ourselves €70 each. The ferry trip was quite good as I slept the whole time. I did however wake up every few hours as I felt like Santa was coming the next day. I was so excited about getting to Croatia and starting the sailing trip as well as meeting up with Darcy.