Thursday, August 24, 2006

i'm okay, euro-kay.

alright, long time no blog. i'm back from my travels on the european continent and let me tell you, it was a fantastic and eye-opening blur. if you haven't gone, save your pennies and go. okay, so i really only did two countries - holland and italy - but what i saw only served to grow me an appetite for more.

rome was amazing and beautiful. ruins dropped in the centre of a metropolis. or rather, a metropolis built right around said ruins. i could have OD'd on all the history, buildings and statues. i am in love with statues after going to rome. the colosseum was pretty cool, but shocking to see what little respect the visitors had for it. there was garbage and cigarette butts everywhere! any available crevice was stuffed with wrappers and empty water bottles. beautiful old buildings were spray painted with graffiti. we dubbed the colosseum the world's oldest and largest ashtray. it was awful, but thankfully, not so much so that it could detract from the experience. on the more pristine end of things, i walked around st. peter's basilica with my mouth hanging open soaking in its humbling ornate beauty. before we went in, we were able to catch a papal address on some screens that were set up in the piazza outside the basilica, part of which was in english. i was totally catholic for the day. i bought some rosary beads. judge me if you will, but i have always found rosary beads to be alluring and beautiful. however, we were horribly crushed to find that the sistine chapel was closed on the day we had allotted for the vatican and would be closed the day we returned before i flew out, so we sadly missed out on that. we did tour the papal tombs though, which was cool, but we were rushed through, particularily when in front of the tomb of john paul the second. there wasn't even time to take a photo or reflect, but when you think of the crowds, and what john paul meant to a lot of people, i suppose i can understand why. he was, after all, the first humanitarian pope. trevi fountain and the spanish steps were absolutely PACKED with people. couldn't even get close enough to the fountain to throw in the customary coin to ensure my return.

we wandered around the city and went to what seemed to be some kind of riverfront festival with music and all kinds of booths selling jewellery, clothes, food, liquor, gelato, you name it, they sold it. we stopped by this one tent that was selling football [soccer] related items where we saw this fabulous shirt with a guy who looked kinda like john holmes or similar porn star with similar porn 'stache on it. we immediately decided we must have one, and each bought one. turns out he is an italian football player named "bomber". so the back of the shirt has the name bomber and the number 9. i'll take a pic of it and show it to you guys, it's fucking great.

we met a very nice australian couple while in rome and ran into them twice. once on the night we were in trastevere and tried desperately to get a meal - they were waiting trying to get their bill - and the second night when we were having a beer outside our hostel. we talked to them for over an hour just out on the street. it both our and their last night in rome. they were funny and shared a lot of our views on rome, travel in general and the world. kat and i were reminded of the lines from "franco unamerican" about the canadians and the nice australians. :)

after rome, we flew to rotterdam in holland and took an hour long train ride to amsterdam. it flash rained most of the first day we were there. by flash rain, i mean it would pour and by the time you got your jacket on, it would stop. 20 minutes later, it would rain for another 5 min and the stop. it was crazy. we stayed at this amazing hostel called the bulldog. we were in a room with 10 other people and it was full the entire time we were there!

of course you know what one does in amsterdam and we got to it fairly early on - smoking some fine dutch pot. well, being canadians, i think we underestimated dutch pot. it is frigging crazy crazy stuff. once we got used to it, it was fine, but the first time we smoked it was in the coffeeshop in our hostel. they were playing this techno music and i found it very hot inside the coffeeshop. i started to feel totally tense and wanted to leave the coffeeshop pretty much immediately, i felt like i was being smothered. once we got outside, it was much better, we started laughing our asses off and being silly like proper stoners. that night we walked around the red light district and went to the sex museum.

the sex museum was only three euros and probably the best deal out of all the museums we went to. there was so much fucked up and funny stuff there - statues that would pop out and flash you, a bench flanked by giant brown erect penises, a stairwell full of wallmounted plastic bums that would fart at you as you walked by - all kinds of insane and hilarious things! i can't even explain it, you have to see it for yourself. the redlight district was crazy. basically, there were walls of glass doors with women of all colors, shapes, sizes and costumes trying to entice you to purchase their services. some dressed as cops [officer naughty], nurses, dirrty era christina aguilera, whatever you could imagine, and they were smiling, talking on phones, rubbing their tits against the windows - whatever they could to get attention.

don't make eye contact with dutch hookers lest you buyin' some time. ahahahahaha.

the next day, we got up early and went to anne frank house. that was incredibly profound and saddening. when i left i felt less sad for anne herself and much more so for her father, otto. he was the only one of the people in hiding in that house who survived the war, the rest died in internment camps. after the liberation, he didn't know of the fate of his friends and family and when he learned of their deaths, it was very difficult for him to even believe that it was true they were gone. anne had died only mere weeks before the liberation. it was said by one of her childhood friends that she had assumed that she was an orphan and was lost after her sister died. perhaps if she had known that her father was still alive, she might have held on long enough to see her dreams of the liberation come true.

after leaving the museum and having a hearty lunch, we went back to the hostel and did some laundry and then headed off to the heinekein brewery museum - our plan to cheer ourselves up after going to anne frank house. i wasn't sure what to expect out of the heinekein museum, but my god was that a good time. we got three free beers during the course of the wander through the museum, which was definitely helpful. after the first beer, we found this room were you could send photo and video mails as well as film a hilarious karaoke to a tradtional dutch song. if i have not emailed you this, please ask me to as it's frigging hilarious.

after heinekein, we had dinner in a little pub and then did another little walk around and smoked some more pot. we had a craving for ice cream sundaes, but there wasn't really anywhere to get one, so i am slightly ashamed to admit we bought sundaes at a dutch mcdonald's. however, a dutch mcdonald's a pretty humourous place to be after smoking some pot. kat and i were hysterical while waiting for our sundaes to be built. we had ourselves a time while the clerk was looking for the nuts to put on our sundae ["kat, kat, where are our nootjes (the dutch word for nuts)? that bastard better not forget our nootjes!"]. we sat on a bench people watching and cracking up. it got even better when this thing i like to call a trash zamboni drove down the street followed by these workmen in jumpsuits who were sweeping up the garbage with brooms that - i shit you not - were fucking witch brooms out of harry potter, prompting me to sing a song in a munchkin voice about the magical garbage of amsterdam. kat and i chased this one workman almost all the way back to our hostel because i was trying to take his picture. i was only mildly successful in capturing a picture of his witchbroom.

in amsterdam, in the main streets, they pile their garbage for pickup right out in front of the stores instead of in the back in dumpsters. weird.

amsterdam is terrible for pervy men who cat call. we were propositioned by a man who called himself "dr. feelgood", a man who asked us if we wanted sexual massages and another winner who made whistling and kissy noises like one does when calling a dog. ewwww. at least in italy the men who are trying to proposition you or pick you up aren't outright pigs. they might hit on you, but it's more like a "hey, how you doin'?" type way. well, except for the pervy gladiator outside the colosseum who liked my breasts ["are those real or silicone?"].

on our thrid day in amsterdam, we took the train from amsterdam to a village called vlissengen to meet up with an older cousin of kat's who lived there. he was this completely sweet and awesome guy named hermann. he met us at the station in vlissengen and took us for a coffee before we picked up bikes [which he had rented for us, the darling] and rode to this tiny village called groede. he had wanted to take us up there as it was the village kat's great grandpa was born in and the only village in that area of holland that had survived bombings of ww2 as it was a red cross settled area with hospitals for all sides during the war. it was about a 5km ride and we stopped at various points along the way to tell us about the history of the area. he pointed out old bunkers from the wars, original land mounds which predated the dykes of the area, the farm where kat's great grandpa lived. cool things like that. he made us these very detailed brochures about the town before we came which included cd roms of pictures and songs about the town. he used to volunteer as a museum guide there and even lived there as a child, so he has a very intimate knowledge of the place. it was quaint and beautiful and had so much history. the church in the main square of the town has been there since the 1300's. we toured the town's museum which was amazingly well preserved and detailed. after this, we rode back to vlissengen and feasted on a dinner of fresh steamed mussels and met this guy who was part of a group that dressed as cops from canada/the us and drove police vehicles [mostly motorcycles]. we didn't really get much of why they did it, but they lets sit on one of the canadian bikes and take a picture which was pretty cool. after dinner, we bid hermann farewell. he was such a gracious host to us and told us if we ever came back to holland, we could come stay with him as long as we liked. i felt like i had a new dutch relative when we left. he was such a cool guy.

the next day, we left for naples by train. we had a little trouble that morning as we JUST missed our train to paris where were to catch a connecting train down into italy. we were able to find another train that would get us there that ran through brussels and then connect to paris with enough time for us to catch our connecting train to milan where we'd catch another to naples. this was such a gong show of a day. off and on during the trip, i had been dealing with nausea issues, the occasional vomitting, but i had been trying not to let it interfere with my good times. but on the trains that day, i got reallllllllly sick. it was first diarrhea party, then vomitting city. when we got to paris, we took a cab from gare du nord to gare du lyon, after which i had fun trying to get to a bathroom where i could vomit. in some places in europe, you have to pay to use the bathroom. well, when i tried to use the bathroom in gare du lyon, i had to pay, only i had no change, so kat gave me some. i ran to the bathroom and the woman in the pay area told me i needed 30 more euro cents. so i had to run back out, get 30 more euro cents off kat, pay the woman, run in and puke. whhheeeeeee. after this, kat sat me down in a cafe with a perrier and all of our stuff and ran all over finding me medicines for what ailed me. she came back with what became my best friend on my travels, an anti-nausea, anti-vomitting drug called vogalib. it came in these quick dissolve tablets and worked amazingly. she also got me some tuc crackers [delicious to my nauseous tummy], some sleeping pills and the holy grail of sick people in europe - gingerale. seriously, other than the gingerale kat bought me, i only saw gingerale in ONE store in all of the places we went. i was delighted. we got on our train, i took a vogalib, a sleeping pill and crashed off and on for five hours, after which i felt SO much better. i don't know what i would have done without her that day and thank my lucky stars that this happened on a day where we weren't out and about and a toilet - even if it was a nasty train toilet - was always nearby.

we caught our connecting train in milan after getting in a half hour late and being so freaked out that we were going to be stranded there for the night, only to get on the shittiest train we had ever seen. we had spent a ridiculous amount of money reserving a sleeper car and they weren't even beds and they weren't even clean. basically, it was sleeping on the seats of the train with dirty sheets put over top of them and little pillows - no blankets. we slept in our clothes. i was wearing short pants and noticed at the end of the next day that i had a rash on part of my leg. ewwwww. they didn't even give kat sheets at all. it was nasty.

we got off the train in naples and found our hostel, only to find that reception was on the seventh floor and you had to pay for the elevator and we had no change. we hauled all our stuff up to the seventh floor of the building and we were met by the sweetest, nicest people running the reception. they immediately gave us a bottle of water and tokens so that we wouldn't have to pay for the elevator. they knew we wanted to go to pompeii, so when they heard we wanted to do laundry, they offered [actually insisted] that we let them take care of our laundry for us as it would take so long that we would have very little time at pompeii if we waited. so after we were shown to our room [we splurged on a private room here. SO wise.], we changed and headed off to pompeii.

we were not prepared for how large the city really was. we probably only saw about a third, maybe half of what there was to see there. it was just so hot out and it started getting close to closing that we really didn't mind packing it in, but that place was truly incredible. the level of preservation was astounding. some places even still had their original frescoes and colorings to the walls. i took probably 150 pictures there. this was my whole reason for wanting to come to italy and i am so glad to have gone there. i can barely put into words what i felt walking around the ruins. we didn't see the little boy and his dog though, i imagine they're probably in a museum somewhere.

after we left pompeii, we got fabulously lost looking for the trains back into town. we took directions from a couple of people, even some police officers, but unfortunately, most people in that area didn't speak a lot of english, so their directions kinda sent us off on a wild goose chase and we ended up basically walking in a big circle to a place about 25 feet away from where we came out of the damn ruins. oh well. once back in naples, we went out for dinner at this cute restaurant that tried to rip us off. they switched the salad that we ordered for this one that was basically a giant hunk of cheese situated on a bed of iceburg lettuce and then tried to charge us 2 euros more for it. also, they charged a cover just for coming in and sitting down. a cover in bar i can get, but a cover in a restaraunt? you've gotta be kidding. we haggled the price down on the salad, but they wouldn't take off anything else, so we stiffed them on the tip. the food was okay though. just a LOT of cheese.

that night we stayed in and watched a movie. naples was a really run down city and it was a little scary at night, not as well lit as rome was. besides, we were going to capri the next day and wanted to take it easy as it was hot as hell out. the forecast for the day we went to capri was a high of 37 degrees!

we took a ferry from the harbor in naples to the harbor on the isle of capri. capri was beautiful. we went swimming in this tiny beach. there was nowhere to change, so i swam in my t-shirt and underwear because there was no way i was going without a swim. there was also nowhere to lock up your stuff, so we swam in shifts. the water was glorious! the beach was a rocky beach, not a sandy one, but the rocks were pretty small so it didn't hurt your feet. i swam around for a bit, but then sat close to the shore, sifting through the rocks for pieces of colored glass that was mixed in. they had been in the water so long they were smoothed over, very pretty. after our swims, we went and had lunch in a restaurant in the port. the meal was delicious, but the bill was a shock - they charged us 5 euros each for our cokes. we just about shit our pants. we got one can of coke each. this means we paid about $7.50 canadian for one bloody can of coke! it was sort of our fault as we didn't look at the drink part of the menu, but honestly, the entrees were so reasonably priced, we had no reason to believe we were going to be so badly gouged!

never eat in a port. lesson learned.

after lunch we headed to capri centro. the signs were pretty decieving, it made it seem like capri centro was nice and close, when really it was a great hike uphill. and by great, i mean i thought i was going to die. my legs started to fail me about 3/4 of the way up, only i didn't know it was 3/4 of the way up, so i was contemplating giving up and going back down. well, we had a map, but couldn't see any road signs. i sat while kat went and had a look to see if she could find anything to orient us. when she came back and said she couldn't find anything, i had had some rest and decided to keep going. i'm glad i did because it wasn't that much further up and the view was amazing from up there. we wandered around and shopped all through the centro. they had a lot of cute little shops. i bought myself this gorgeous amber necklace, amongst other things.

once we were all shopped out, we decided to see how much it was to take the train back down and though it was cheap, they station was not air conditioned and was a disgusting sweat factory, so we decided to walk back down again. it was much faster walking down, but when i got the bottom, any time i stopped and stood in one place, my legs would tremble and wobble. we hopped the ferry back over to naples and this time ordered in dinner at the hostel and ate a positively delicious pizza for only three euros! no rip off! hooray! we watched gangs of new york and then called it a night.

now, our trip was coming to a close. we hopped a train back to rome and checked into our hostel. afterwards, we wandered around and did more shopping before sitting on the side of the road outside our hostel just drinking beers, sharing my ipod and listening to nofx. there's nothing like being half-cut and singing along to "philthy phil philanthropist" much to the chagrin of passersby. we had some of the simplest fun just sitting on that ledge on the side of the road snapping pictures and singing. good times.

we got up early the next morning and scammed a free breakfast using a leftover breakfast voucher from the hostel we first stayed in in rome, and then it was back to the internet centre to check some stuff out and drop kat off at the train station, she was bound for switzerland. i went back to the hostel and picked up my bags and took a train to the airport where i chilled out until my flight back home.

i'm okay, euro-kay. home again and trying to regulate the sleep pattern. god, i'm tired of typing and you're probably long past tired of reading.

but, before i go, i have to say a quick thanks. thanks to kat for being a good sport with all of my ills and for showing me such a great time over there. i never would have gone had it not been for you, so thanks for talking me into it! :) love ya!

also, gotta say thanks to my husband for being so great and so patient about this trip. i know it had to be hard not getting to talk on the phone as much as we'd like, but i have to say chatting with him on the computers when i was all gooned in amsterdam was so much fun! i know i don't give you enough credit for how it must have felt to hear about all the fun stuff and wish you were there too, but i should because you never once made me feel guilty for having a good time and for that i am grateful. i love you ever so!

okay. now i'm going to run far far away from my computer for a while. later.


Blogger lifeindeadtime said...

That picture makes it look like you should be six feet tall.

I'm glad you're back.

7:54 PM  
Blogger rebelbarbie said...

i'm not sure how you see that, but i'm flattered. :)

8:07 AM  

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