Friday, June 2, 2000
Hello all having a wonderful time, met Kristin on Tuesday in Vienna and then we made our way to John Harris’s fitness club….we spent the day in the pool, then the jacuzzi, then the sauna, and then the steam room…..John has a VERY nice apartment in a wonderful location convenient to everything, which we had all to ourselves. We went out for a drink with John and then crashed! Wednesday we woke up late (to John’s “get up and do something” phone call, and headed to Schonbrunn castle, which was magnificently ornate. Yesterday (Friday) we met John around 115 and rode all of his crazy bikes – there was a high wheeler, a bike built for three, and a low rider thingy…it was so much fun, we rode all over the place, mainly in the downtown area…loved it. Took a night train last night, it was kind of rough, and we just arrived in Interlaken, at balmers herberge, which by the way mom looks nothing like the pictures and is kind of like summer camp, lots of people, I think it will be fun. Well, my time is almost up, I will fill y’all in on the next set of adventures love ya, kit
Friday, June 4, 2000
Just leaving Interlaken after an eventful few days here….we stayed at Balmer’s Herberge, very interesting, actually a lot like summer camp for American college-aged kids……too Americanized for us, but we did not hang around too much. The first day we took a boat around lake brienze, it was beautiful, waterfalls and mountains…..unbelievable view….. Saturday we white water rafted down one of the rivers, I have never been and LOVED it!!! This morning we rode up to Trummelbach Falls!!!! Absolutely unbelievable!!!! A MUST SEE for all European travelers! It was absolutely amazing! We decided to get out of town a little early….balmers was too much for us and the pollen is killing me…..we are headed to Cinque Terre next, who knows what the future will hold….we don’t have a room, we are just going to wing it when we get there….I will fill ya’ll in as soon as I get a chance! talk to you soon!
Thursday, June 8
We are in Siena, Italy, after the most amazing two days of my life. We LOVED Cinque Terre! I didn’t want to leave! The mountains, rocky beaches, wildflowers everywhere, gelati, vineyards, olive trees, harbour, amazing Italian food, hiking trails, magical turquoise water (that is kinda cold) and wonderful local people. It was spectacular!!!!! We hiked between four of the towns and made local friends along the way. HEAVEN!!!!! so, we left Cinque Terre (sadly) yesterday and stopped in Pisa (yes the tower really does lean, and it is a long walk from the train station with a 60 lb backpack) briefly before cruising into Siena last night. This morning we went to San Gimignano, a well preserved medieval town with 14 towers and gorgeous frescoes in the basilica….it was market day, and so we enjoyed that. (octopus, swordfish, everything for sale). We tried boar salami and saw ostriches on our way back into Siena. Tuscany is beautiful. Rolling green hills everywhere. Ate at a genuine Pizzaria last night, supposedly the best in Siena…..well it was definitely the BEST PIZZA I have ever had!!!! Family atmosphere, grandpa working the pizzas, grandson putting them into the stone oven, grandmother at the cash register, and rest of the family as servers. Wonderful gathering place, and we loved it. We will probably see Siena this afternoon and tomorrow, and then head south to the Amalfi coast sometime tomorrow.
Hope everyone is having a great summer!
Monday, June 12
hey everyone! spending our last night in Sorrento, Italy….
Naples is one huge ghetto. We arrived there from Siena late Friday and quickly made it our first priority to get out as soon as possible! It looks like a coastal 70s architectural nightmare. Our original plan was to go all the way to Amalfi, but then decided that Sorrento was a good stopping point.
The next morning, we got up early and went to Pompeii. I didn’t realize how big the city was! We spent the morning and early afternoon there, exploring. It was really interesting! Amphitheater, temples, market, and many artifacts (including people). Funny story: as we were wandering around, we saw one of the buildings had a lot of people in and around it. Knowing that this usually meant that there was something of interest (or else just a huge tour group), we decided to check it out. So, we walked in, and started looking around. “Aw, look Kristin, it was a hotel.” “Oh yeah, look Kit, it even has stone beds in the little rooms. Lie down and I’ll take a picture.” So I lie down, and Kristin snaps the picture. Well, it is about that time that we notice the sexually graphic drawings above each of the doors. We were in the brothel. Classic.
Headed back to Sorrento and walked around downtown. Found a bench that had a beautiful vantage point of Mount Vesuvius and some of the nearby villages in the mountains. We walked down to one of the “beaches”, which was nothing more than a big jetty with a platform on it and umbrellas and lawn chairs and the like.
Sunday we went to Amalfi. The bus was packed, so we ended up standing on the steps at the front of the bus. We had an incredible view……of our impending deaths! Amalfi, Positano, and Ravello are connected by quite possibly the most winding road known to man, which runs along the side of the mountain. The road isn’t quite wide enough for two full sized cars, let alone a huge bus! We were petrified! But, I have to say, it was worth it for the view. Spectacular mountains, bright little towns scattered along the mountain, beautiful flowers, lemon trees, dazzling craggy coastline, and a dazzling blue sea. spent the afternoon in Amalfi on one of the small beaches….they are grayish black and pebbly. God’s land. We didn’t want to leave!
Today we went to the Isle of Capri. When we got up we were a little disappointed because it was overcast and even raining a bit, but we decided to trek it out there anyway. I’m glad we did because everything cleared up and it ended up being a gorgeous day. Went to the Grotto Azzurra….we got in tiny rowboats, paid our 7000 lire to get in and then 8000 lire to get out (both before we entered), and then went in a tiny opening…..the water is azure, a pure sky blue, from the sun reflecting off of the rocks up into the cave. The men rowing sang Italian songs…….it was beautiful. The waters around Capri are a deep royal blue, almost navy. Crags and boulders stick out everywhere, and villas perch atop the mountainous crags. After a quick lunch, we went in search of the beach. New definition of rocky beaches. This beach was nothing but big rocks about the size of a fist. Not exactly the most comfortable to walk or lie on, but definitely a new experience!
Tomorrow we are going to Bari, Italy. Kristin has distant relatives that live there. Judging from the fact that they speak little to no English and we speak little to no Italian, it should be an interesting day. I’ll let you know. After that, we’ll be on the train for about 18 hours headed to Paris. Southern Italy has definitely been an adventure!
Hope all is well!
Some time later
Hey all! It has been a while since my last update, so hang in there, this might be a little long….
After Sorrento, we hopped a train east to Bari, Italy. Kristin has very distant relatives there, and we figured “why not”….
Arriving in Bari, we attempted to find the tourist desk at the train station. No such thing. The guy behind the desk looked at us and said “Tourists….in Bari?” before handing us his personal 1950s map…..so we walked to the “old town”, which “was built with a multitude of winding streets in the 12th century to confuse invaders”……well just call us invaders….we got SO lost trying to find a couple different churches, including the Basilica of San Nicholas (and his tomb), which, by the way, is crooked! inside! (dad, I could have worked on that construction team)……the columns were different heights and the square mosaics on the ceilings were a lot more like parallelograms! Great engineering!
so, we made our way back to the train station, where we were supposed to meet Kristin’s relatives…..all of a sudden a greasy ( i mean GREASY) dark skinned guy with a bandage on his hand and red eyes walks up to us…..””Kristin? Kit? We are Family”……..”Se habla espanol?” “”um, si, un poco” (yes, a little)
well, that was my introduction to Paolo……one of the daughter’s boyfriend……turns out he is from Argentina…….well, no one in the family speaks any English. We don’t speak ANY italian…..but Paolo speaks Spanish, and I, well, I had a little Spanish in high school (A REALLY LONG TIME AGO!). So begins the evening of Kit the translator via Spanish…..very humorous, I think by the end of it, Kristin pumped gas for a living, I was a pharmacist, and who knows what else! It was frustrating, but hilarious at the same time! We got to their house and suddenly there were about 25 relatives in the room, all who wanted to know how Kristin was related (should have studied my Spanish vocabulary a little more)…..had a delicious dinner with olives that Pietro grew and homemade wine! And, they washed our clothes (WHICH IS PRETTY PROFOUND) the next day we hopped a nice 18-hour train to Paris, where we spent the day wandering around….went to Saint Chapelle, which is one of my favorite churches anywhere! Also went to the Conciergerie, which was also very interesting. After lunch we explored the Catacombs – “beware, you are entering the realm of the dead”just about sums it up. Met my friend Emily at her dorm, cleaned up, and went to dinner…still not sure exactly what we ate, but it was good.
The next day, we went to the Musee DÓrsay, which is my absolute favorite! After a quick lunch, Em and I went to the Maison de Victor Hugo, and then the Picasso museum……Picasso makes more sense once you understand his background. I really enjoyed that museum, I didn’t realize how many different styles that Picasso went through. “so, where is the man, and where is the mandolin”
On Saturday, we went to Chartres…an incredible cathedral outside of Paris…that afternoon we went up to Montmarte, and the artist quarter where we bought paintings (i hope they make it home!) and Sacre Coeur….had crepes and cafe latte in a little cafe…..ate dinner in the Latin quarter and watched the Eiffel tower light up for the millennium.
Sunday we took the train to Brussels. John Harris put us up in a 5-star hotel in the heart of the city…Brice, our friend from Vienna, showed us where to go and we made plans to meet him later that evening. We walked around, the Grand Place was incredible, guild houses and intricate buildings! We really liked Brussels. That night, Brice took us to sample some of the local brews. We had a fabulous time, and I am never drinking a bud lite again!
Monday we trucked it to Groningen, which is where my friend Janneke lives. (we met last year in Denmark at the Danish Atlantic Youth Convention) Don’t ask me how to pronounce anything in Flemish, I’m working on it! Just so happens we ended up in Groningen on the hottest day in 100 years, with no air conditioning! Groningen is a college town, about the size of Tuscaloosa……terraces and cafes and tables with umbrellas on every corner! It is like a giant Phil’s! We relaxed that afternoon. Yesterday we went to a nearby lake, which was picturesque, well except for the excessive nudity…..
Today we went to Amsterdam for the afternoon…the Euro soccer tournament is going on, and Holland is playing France tonight in Amsterdam…the city was crazy, filled with wild fans…..faces painted, wearing soccer jerseys…the official dutch color is Orange (from William of Orange back in the 17th century)…..it was so much fun, we got free hats and orange shirts, and everyone was fully decked out. The national spirit is wonderful! We were entertained people watching all afternoon. Went to the red light district, and took a canal tour. Now we are in Utrecht, spending the night at Janneke’s boyfriend’s house and watching the game here tonight (completely decked out in our Dutch gear). I head to Dublin tomorrow, and Kristin heads back to Milan to fly home. It has been great traveling together, and it will be quite an adjustment to be completely by myself, which is only for a few days, so I think I’ll make it.
I have many more details and stories (funny ones) that I will fill you in when I get home (July 9th)…..hope everyone is having a great summer, talk to you all soon!
June 21, 2000
I“m in Germany – Bonn, actually…. but I“ll get to that in a minute….
last week, after watching Holland crush France in a prelim game, Kristin and I went our separate ways…..she has to get back to the states to start her job, luckily I get to play a little longer…she went through Luxembourg and then flew out of Milan, and I headed to Ireland. Spent the night in Holyhead, Wales, at a cute bed and breakfast after a 13 hour train day the next morning, I got up and took the ferry to Dublin. The fact that the safety demonstration took 20 minutes wasn’t exactly calming! Oh, and did I mention that Ireland and Wales are the equivalents of the Antarctic, at least to me (don“t forget I“d been in Holland during the hottest days in over a century – Mobile, Alabama in August with NO air conditioning)….so needless to say, I was about frozen! After getting quite stranded at the ferry port (note – do not always believe your map, and don“t assume that there will ALWAYS be a bureau de change nearby), a fellow backpacker helped me out and I made into Dublin itself.
That afternoon, I saw the Book of Kels and the accompanying library (forgive me for sounding ignorant, but I was much more impressed by the library than the book). I walked down Grafton Street and around St. Stephen“s Green, and made my way over to the Temple Bar district. Not sure if I would the next morning, got up early to catch the train to Dingle, Ireland (in case you are wondering “why would she want to go to Dingle?”, don“t worry, I“m STILL asking myself that question)…..on the way to the station in the bus, the bus driver asks “well, do you know if you can get to where you want to go?”….turns out the train operators were on strike……so, I made it to Dingle, but just wasn’t sure how long I“d be there…..that night I went out with two Irish girls to a few of the pubs….live Irish music (that they said was as authentic as it gets) the next morning I decided to rent a bike and explore the area….I met two nice chaps, one from Australia and one from New Zealand, who wanted to do the same, so we all set out together…..29 MILES LATER, we were back where we started. Our original plan wasn’t to bike the entire peninsula, but somehow it just happened! Beautiful coast! Definitely rivals the Italian coasts that I saw earlier in the trip. Sheep everywhere, farms, Celtic ruins, beaches……..unbelievable! I really liked Dingle….it had a lot of charm, and a lot of traditional Irish characteristics everywhere. The whole town was nothing but pubs!
The next day, I went back to Dublin…..went to the Guinness Brewery, walked through the old part of town, and then went to bed early.
I think this brings us to Tuesday….traveled back through Wales (passing several castles and the place with the longest name in the world (i counted 42 letters, but then the train started to move)… arrived in London late that evening…I walked up the stairs from the tube to see Big Ben and the House of Parliament….it was a nice welcome. After taking a tour of London with the taxi driver, finally found Rachel. We went for Indian food, “a curry”, as they call it. (supposedly the best curry in London). I liked it! She and her friends are all members of the Labor party and fairly heavily involved in politics, so we had quite a bit of banter going on, including about the upcoming U.S. presidential election. After dinner, we crashed at her boyfriend“s flat nearby.
Wednesday, we slept in, and then walked for several hours through London, including Hyde and Green Parks, Park Lane ( I found my future car!), and through the shopping districts. We met Rhodri (my friend from Oxford) who came over on the bus. That night we went to a pub and then had Thai food for dinner (another first!) It was great to see both Rachel and Rhodri! I hadn’t seen them since last year in Denmark. We had a great time!
Yesterday, I took the train underneath the English channel (plus a couple others) and got to Bonn around 2:30. Met my friend Christopher. He gave me a great guided tour of the city. Saw Beethoven“s house, walked along the Rhine, and the city centre. I like Bonn a lot! Until two years ago, the German government was here, so it is a well-developed city, but it“s small and it has character.
Today we’re going to a couple museums, and then tonight I“m taking a night train back to Vienna. One week in Vienna, and then I“m home. I can“t believe it has been 5 weeks! I have had so much fun, and many adventures! I also can’t wait to see everybody!
See you soon!
July 3, 2000
Hey yall! in the home stretch…..hard to believe I have been over here for five weeks! How the time has flown! I have had a fabulous time! Unforgettable memories…I would love to move to Europe somewhere, exact location undetermined…..but, back to my adventures…. Friday Christopher (my friend from Bonn) and I went to an awesome museum in Bonn – the history of Germany from the end of WWII until the present…..well done, and very interesting, (it helped that I had a personal translator, of course), I HIGHLY recommend it to everyone! Bonn used to be where Germany’s parliament was located (until a few years ago), so it is a well-developed city considering its small size…..we went by the old parliament building and walked around the downtown area again (including Beethoven’s house)….. then we decided to take the train to Cologne and see the cathedral….it was ABSOLUTELY UNBELIEVABLY HUGE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Even more amazing is the fact that it survived all of the bombing of WWII ( you should see the pictures of the German cities, including Bonn and Cologne, there are nothing but ruins)….we also went to a local brewhaus…where they brew the beer on the premises…….dark wood everywhere, large groups of friends enjoying a Friday afternoon…..it was great atmosphere, and lots of fun! Took the night train Friday night to Vienna, and arrived here Saturday morning around 10 or so…….went to the secession museum, which has a famous frieze by klimt……not impressed, honestly. The dome on top of the museum was neater, actually, it was a circular gold ball shaped like leaves. Walked through the Naschmarkt nearby…………………..you want it, they were selling it……Huge barrels of olives, pickles, live fish, lots of junk, fruits I’ve never SEEN before……..afterwards met John Harris for lunch, we went to a palace that has been partially converted to a restaurant and hotel…….the royalty still live in one of the wings……pretty gardens, and so serene! never would have guessed we were in the middle of Vienna! We left in John’s Bentley and rode around town for a while, before I was delivered back to Fleischmarkt (the apartment) where I proceeded to make it an early nite (no sign of Ryan at this point, we figured he was wandering around Yugoslavia somewhere) Sunday I went to Mass @ St. Stephen?s Cathedral (since I understand so much German and all….) and then walked over to the Kunsthauswien…..which is a museum designed by and featuring the artwork of Hundertwasser. I fell in love with his artwork! The building itself is a piece of art, crazy corners and tile and uneven floors, and trees out of many of the windows….he is really cool! Afterwards walked back and watched a street performer fit himself through a tennis racquet (high quality entertainment!), and met Ryan, John, and Allison (she goes to Duke and is working at John’s club this summer). We drove out to John’s house, went searching for cows (and found em!), and hung out and ate dinner! Nice, relaxed evening.
This morning I got up at the CRACK of dawn and hopped on the 645 train to Budapest……..never thought I would end up in Budapest, Hungary….I loved it! It is a really neat city! took a guided walking tour, and then went to the baths at Gellert Hotel…………..didn’t have time to get a massage (15 minutes for $3), but I am definitely headed back to Budapest! on the train this morning, I got asked for my passport 3 times in 10 minutes, by 4 really big men who were heavily armed……they were VERY curious as to my destination, how long I was staying, etc.etc….. I found it amusing, especially when you add on the fact that the guy sitting across from me didn’t have a passport or anything of the sort (i am guessing, I don’t speak magyar very well) and paid off two different guards with a huge wad of American bills (twice), and they left him alone. Budapest (buda, and pest) was fascinating! (and really cheap!) well, off to bed, hope all is well! see you all soon!