Saturday, April 25, 2009

Still in Italy, but I'm not complaining

Day Ten:
We awoke early the next morning to catch the Metro to Vatican City. Steph, Tyler, Taylor, Julia, and myself left our bags at the hostel, but Luke didn't want to risk anything so he took his with him. Taylor wore shorts to the Vatican and you're not allowed to wear shorts so he had to wear a pair of Luke's jeans. Taylor is SUPER tall and Luke it a regular sized guy... you get the picture. The Vatican was awesome. Seeing all that artwork was incredible and to think that it was done so long ago. We also got to see the Sistine Chapel where they had professional shhh-ers and we weren't allowed to take pictures. It was beautiful. We had a train to Venice in an hour after we left Vatican City, so we went back to the train station and boarded. The train was long but it arrived on time. There, we met up with Kjell. Colleen was also there on a missions trip so we got to hang out with her for the night. Venice was one of my favorite cities. Probably because after traveling around for so long, Europe starts to look the same - beautiful, but redundant. Venice was so different and that was probably because they had canals for streets. Colleen knew exactly where our hostel was so she took us there and we got ourselves checked in. Then we decided that we would all go out for a nice dinner with pasta and wine so we did. It was really neat. We dressed up in our nicest clothes (which isn't saying much), and had a good time talking and catching up with each other. Then we went out for gelato. That night, it started to rain a little bit so we decided to go back to our hostel room and play a card game called Scum (like President/Butch) and just chill. Kjell and I swing danced in the rain first which was sooo much fun. I am teaching you all how to swing dance when I come home. I've been doing it since I was a sophomore, but I had forgotten how much fun it was until Bekah and I taught it to everyone at Holsby. After dancing, we joined the rest of the group upstairs and played for a few hours until we all got tired.

peace, love, and dancing.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Have you had your fill yet?

Day Eight:
We checked the times in the train station around 6am to see when we could leave, the soonest being 7:45am. Our stomachs were growling at us because we hadn't eaten in a really long time, so we went back out to the streets of Milan to see if anything was open. Unlike America, McDonald's doesn't open at the crack of dawn. They usually don't open until 10am in Europe, so that idea was 86'd. We wandered around for a while with no luck of finding anything and then went back into the train station. It was close to 7:15am at this point and as we were walking in, we ran into our friend Brady who had just gotten to Milan and was sitting on a bench. It was good to see him again. We sat with him for a bit and he gave us food and water (since nothing was open) and we all just talked. Eventually, he walked us to our train and said goodbye to us. Around six hours later, we reached Rome. We found out where our hostel was by asking the Tourist Information booth and started to make our way there. It took us a little longer than expected, but we managed to find it with the help of a nice restaurant owner. Steph, Tyler, and Luke were checked in to the hostel, but they were out wandering the streets of Rome. Taylor, Julia, and I decided to get checked in and shower (it had been three days since our last one) when one of the staff asked us for our passports like most hostels do. Taylor and I gave the guy ours, but Julia still hadn't found hers. After 30 minutes of searching, she started to get frantic. We looked through all of our packs - nothing. Apparently, either from Pisa to Milan or Milan to Rome, Julia had lost her passport. Thankfully, the guy said it was okay and he gave us the number to the Canadian embassy for her. It was Thursday evening and the embassy was only open Monday - Thursday, 9am-11am. Julia decided not to worry about it until she needed to, haha. We got cleaned up and were starving when Steph, Luke, and Tyler came through the door. We greeted them with hugs and hellos and filled them in on the passport situation. After that, we all got ready and went out for dinner at a little place down the road. It was really good. Following dinner, we went to the Trevi fountain, made wishes, and got gelato. Mmm, gelato. Then we walked around a bit more before we went back to the hostel to sleep.

Day Nine:
The first thing we went to see after we got ready in the morning was the Colosseum. We paid 20 Euro for a tour of the inside and of Nero's palace across the road and of the ruins of Rome. It was incredible. Walking through the Colosseum was a weird experience. On one hand, it was awesome to experience that part of history, but on the other hand, it was awful the things that happened there for sheer entertainment. I guess you could say it was bittersweet. Next was Nero's palace. Also bittersweet if you know what happened there. Walking through the ruins was cool. We got to go down into Paul and Peter's jail cell, which was also bittersweet. Unfortunately, we had to pay for all these places, so we didn't eat very much that day. We were planning on going to see the Vatican after the other places, but it closes at around 4:30pm and it was 5pm. Instead, we went to an internet/international call cafe so Julia could call her parents and so we could email the school about the situation. As it turns out, and what was a major answer to prayer, Julia's dad's REALLY good friend and his family were living about 30 minutes from where we were staying and Julia could stay with them until the embassy opened and she got a temporary passport. Unfortunately, that meant she couldn't go on the rest of the trip with us, but might be able to meet up later. We were leaving for Venice in the afternoon the next day and Julia would come with us and stay for a night, but she'd catch a train back to Rome the day after. Everything was worked out in an hour and a half, so we went back to the hostel and chilled before bed.

peace, love, and trusting God.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The break in spring

Day Six:
Taylor, Julia, and I checked out of our hostel in Bern, Switzerland at around ten and went to the train station to catch our train to Zurich, Switzerland. The train was a few hours so I got caught up on some sleep. When we got there, it was snowing a bit so we walked around to try and find some sort of shelter. We ended up in a bookstore, reading about Zurich. Apparently, it has 60 movie theaters, or something. The weather eventually cleared up and we went and walked around some. We didn't have a hostel in Zurich because we were going to take a night train to Pisa, Italy that night, so we carried our packs around with us all day (they were about 22 lbs.), which wasn't too bad, but it did get tiring. The three of us decided to not spend a lot of money on food for the next few days, so we bought a kilo (2.2 lbs) of bread and ate it with jam for lunch and dinner. We didn't really do anything in Zurich except walk around and see stuff. It was a neat city, even though there wasn't a ton to do. We had about 45 minutes to spare before we needed to be at the train station, even though we were so close, so we just stayed relatively near to it. For some reason, I had a mini break down and started crying. I was really missing Sennit that day; I miss him every day, but I don't cry every day. Julia and Taylor just sort of stood there hugging me for a bit, attempting to make me laugh. They succeeded. Even though I was still a little sad, I felt better. We got on the train for Pisa and broke out the bread for dinner. But then we decided to have our own communion, which was cool. Taylor read from the Bible and broke the bread. Afterwards, we sang a song. We were the only ones in our compartment at the time. The other three people filed in at the next stop and then we all attempted to sleep on the train.

Day Seven:
Even though we were pretty tired from not getting a whole lot of sleep the night before, we were excited and ready to roll. We only had a few hours in Pisa before we had to catch our train to Milan, so we immediately started asking around as to where the Tower of Pisa was. We talked to a few different people, and they gave us the direction, but the way to get there was different from all of them. Finally, we just went back to the train station and found out we could take a bus directly to it. The tickets were only two Euro, so we went for it. There were a TON of people there, which was expected, but it was absolutely hilarious seeing all the other tourists pose like they were holding up the Tower or leaning against it. Of course, what did we do? The same thing. We also did some walking around and found this side street with super cute shops on it. Taylor, being a nice guy, let Julia and I go in almost all of them. I bought a necklace in one and a shirt for my brother, and Julia bought a cute skirt. Then we caught the bus back to the station to get on our train to Milan. The train took two hours longer than we were expecting, so we didn't get there until probably around 8pm-ish. We had a hostel booked in Milan, so we went to one of the Information desks to ask where it was. Unfortunately, we didn't have the address but the guy seemed to know where it was. He gave us a map and put a dot on it and sort of told us where to go. We went to McDonald's (because it was cheap, and open) for a quick dinner, and then went out and walked around, looking for our hostel. When we got to the place that was "dictated" on the map, it was a big industrial land fill. Yeah. WHAT THE HECK?! We thought that this COULDN'T be it, so we found a nearby hotel and he told us that it was in a different direction. Long story short, we ended up asking people in restaurants, people on the street, etc. We got a different direction every time. After walking around for three hours (it was 11pm now), we decided to give up on the hostel and go to the train station and sleep. Thankfully, there was a waiting room, but it had the most uncomfortable wooden benches ever (they were like church pews, but awful) and they opened the doors at night to get all the smoke out. Side note: it gets cold in Europe at night. Taylor stayed awake the whole night to keep an eye on us and our stuff so Julia and I could sleep. The two of us curled up on a bench, and made an attempt at getting some rest. I managed to squeeze in an hour (if that), but Julia slept for about three. I played cards with Taylor for a while to help keep him awake, and all "got up" at around 5am. We all agreed on getting the first train out of there so we could get to Rome and meet up with Steph, Tyler, and Luke at the hostel we had booked.

peace, love, and you don't know the half of it.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

More spring break

Day Four:
This was our last day in France. We got up early enough to check out and walk around some more before we had to catch our train to Bern, Switzerland. Finally, we found a creperie and had crepes in France. They were delicious. So we got some more. Also, I was able to eat ratatouille while I was in France. It was basically just a vegetarian dish (I didn't know that). We continued exploring for a few hours, went into more souvenir shops but didn't buy anything, and just had a good time. Then we went back to the train station and headed to Bern. I think we got to Bern sometime around 4pm, and we got to see the Swiss Alps as the train was coming close to the stop. They were beautiful. We found our hostel after trying to find someone to help us find it. We decided to just stay in for the night because the three of us were pretty tired so we bought pasta and sauce and made spaghetti for dinner and chilled in the hostel.

Day Five:
We let ourselves sleep in to catch up on our rest, but then we went to the grocery store and bought stuff to make breakfast. We didn't actually get out and see Bern until probably around 3pm. Part of the reason was because we didn't know we needed to make a train reservation for night trains (something I forgot to mention: we bought Interrail passes which allow us to get on any train we want within a certain number of days. The only thing extra we had to pay for was reservations and we only needed those for the few night trains we took.) We were planning on going to Zurich, Switzerland and then on to Nice, France, but the night train to France was full already so we had to come up with where we were going to go next. We decided on Pisa, Italy. After we got our planning worked out, we bombed around Bern for a bit. There wasn't a lot to do except walk and look, but we had a great time while we were there. After dinner, I was pretty tired, so I went to sleep while Taylor and Julia went back out to see more of Bern. It was 10pm when they left and probably midnight when they got back.

That's all for now.
peace, love, and out of time.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Spring break adventures

Man, it's been a while since I've written anything on here. I am so sorry for that. I know some of you check my blog (or used to, anyway) every day. Hopefully this will help.

Day One:
It was pretty much just a traveling day. Our trip started off with Julia, Taylor, and myself and the first step was to get to Stockholm. We took a few busses and made it there with plenty of time to spare so we decided we'd just get something to eat or drink in the airport. There was a group of us that was taking a missions trip to Bosnia and we ran into them at the airport. It was pretty cool because we got to chill with them before we caught our flight to Frankfurt, Germany. The flight wasn't too bad. The three of us ended falling asleep, but when we got there it was around 9pm. We were supposed to take a bus to get to another part of Germany so our friend Dave could pick us up, but it didn't leave until 10:15pm. We chilled in the train station for 45 minutes or so to wait for the bus. The ride from there to another train station was two hours so by the time we got there, it was 12:30am. Dave and his mom were there to pick us up. Unfortunately, they lived an hour away. Thankfully, the Autobahn is in Germany.

Day Two:
Dave and his parents were SO hospitable the entire time we were at their house. We got to sleep in as late as we wanted (which ended up being around 11:30am) and they had a big breakfast waiting for us. After that, we all went and hung out with Dave up in his room (his house in incredible) and it was a nice day outside so we sat on his balcony. Then we climbed up on the roof to enjoy the weather up there. At 4pm-ish, we went and played volleyball with Dave and some of his friends in the neighboring village. Or as the Germans would say, willage. After saying goodbye, we headed back to Dave's to get ready for the ultimate free-loading experience. Dave's cousin and cousin-in-law were having their 25th wedding anniversary that we somehow ended up being invited to. Let's just say we were the only underdressed people there (each of us only packed jeans and t shirts and like one nice shirt in our packs), but I'm pretty sure everyone there knew we weren't from around there. Haha. We enjoyed delicious catered food and entertainment. It was all in German, but when Dave's dad got up to talk about God in marriage and stuff, we could almost understand exactly what he was saying. It was pretty neat. The fact that he used tangible objects probably helped. After the anniversary party, we went to Dave's friend's birthday party. Then we stopped by his church to hang out with one of the friends we met earlier and after that we went back to Dave's to get some sleep before we were going to head out the next morning.

Day Three:
Again, Dave's parents had breakfast waiting for us when we were done getting ready in the morning. Dave drove us on the Autobahn to the train station going at around 21o kph (130 mph, for those of you who don't know the metric system. It's okay, I don't either.) and said goodbye to us as we got on our train headed to Strasbourg, France. We arrived there some time in the afternoon and the first thing we did was get baguettes and eat them. We realized at the beginning of this trip that we probably weren't going to be eating a whole lot more than bread and stuff, so we were content with that. Plus, baguettes in France are so much cooler. After that, we found our hostel, dropped our stuff off, and then went and explored Strasbourg. There was an art festival going on so we walked through that and saw some neat pieces of art. Then we found a MASSIVE cookie in a souvenir shop so, of course, we had to get it. IT WAS DISGUSTING. We basically wanted to cry as we were eating it, haha. We ended up feeding it to some swans that were hanging out in the river near us. Then we found a Claire's and Julia had been wanting to get her second holes pierced, so we went and did that. I considered getting a tattoo, but then I thought I'd wait until I knew the artist that was going to do it and that there wouldn't be any communication problems. We did a little more exploring (mainly searching for a creperie but couldn't find one) and then headed back to our hostel for some sleep.

That's all for now. Don't worry, you'll have a lot more to read. I was traveling around Europe for fifteen days. And this is only three.

peace, love, and sojourns.