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7 August 2006 / April

European Odyssey: Italy

Note: Due to slow internet connections and obnoxious photo uploading sites, the rest of the accompanying photos of this entry will only arrive at a later date. You can visit here for all my photos from the trip, but they have no descriptions and will therefore probably just confuse you. Have patience. If it makes you feel any better, I’m probably much more annoyed than you are.

Oh look, and somehow my pictures from the Coliseum vanished into the void. That’s okay, I can upload them again… later.

See also European Odyssey: France.

“It’s not like I’ll ever forget it.” -My journal

The overnight train ride to Italy was a lesson in how well you can get to know four other people through their body odor. Our beloved AC didn’t get cranking until after the train started moving, which was an hour later than planned. Plus the compartments were about the size of bathrooms, and the bathrooms the size of shower stalls, and there weren’t any showers, needless to say.

And poor little April got stuck in the bottom bunk, which is (do you see where this is going?)… the smallest. It was an experience. We got some laughs out of it though.

What made it all worthwhile—more than worthwhile—was waking up at 6 AM to see AN gazing transfixed out the window. I looked. We were passing the Swiss Alps.

We sat silently together, just staring. I didn’t get any photos. And it doesn’t matter.

“It’s ice cream on crack.” –BH

Venice was incredible and I wish dearly that we could have spent more than a day there. The absence of cars, the abundance of canals…

… and pigeons…

… and amazing architecture…

… and pants…

This being the first Italian city I visited, it was also where I first learned about the Italians’ dessert and comfort food of choice: gelato, described quite concisely by BH above. I must have had like ten servings a day, no lie; on every occasion we were blessed by the delegation leaders with free time, the popular cry was, “Let’s get gelato,” often accompanied by incoherent screams of joy.

“But it has no wings!” –Me

We had lots of long bus rides in Italy, since we visited many different cities (as opposed to the other countries, where we mostly stayed put). Thus, we came up with new and exciting ways to amuse ourselves, such as sleeping and making funky hairdos.

(JE and CS)

Plus we played hangman, during which time I introduced my new friends to the random side of me with the above quote. It became an ongoing inside joke between BK and I: “Look! The chair has wings!” “The pasta has wings!” “The airplane!” “Your head!” “Hahaha!”

Again and again, our bus drivers impressed us with their impeccable skill in making hairpin turns on steep mountain slopes with no guardrails, parallel parking on crowded streets no bus should have to parallel park on, and stopping on a dime in a most hair-raising manner. For instance:

Check out this bus window view. Not only are we about to make a 180-degree turn on a narrow, steep road with another bus coming our way, but there is also a pair of legs sticking out of a rock. That’s pretty intense.

“April’s a bomb!” –BK, TC, CS, KR, etc etc etc.

It was all because of a misheard statement and became a running joke that continued throughout the rest of the trip, resulting in funny looks from fellow delegates and complete strangers alike. Imagine walking down the streets of Rome and hearing, “I can’t believe they let us bring a bomb into the country,” and you’ll see why.

“What if the tower falls?” –RG

In Assisi we participated in a program called Full On, which was run by a crew of “aww-some” New Zealanders with correspondingly “aww-some” accents, and one of them with an unbelievably cool belt.

Much of the program involved acting as insanely as humanly possible (think hopping around and playing rock-paper-scissors with complete strangers while loud music blares), learning to overcome your fears, and teambuilding: a lot like summer camp, except it seemed a lot more fun, somehow. Maybe it had to do with the thin Italian air up there in the mountains.

The highlight, however, was rappelling down a medieval castle wall.

(That’s me on the left! Woo!)

For those who don’t know, I shall elaborate. Rappelling involves slapping on a harness and helmet, tying your shoes, and leaning back over 100 feet of unhappily unsupportive air as your New Zealand leader reminds you cheerily to keep your shaking knees locked. After going over the edge, however, it’s not nearly as bad, as long as you’re a bit heavier than I am and won’t get blown around by the wind like a feather on a string.

Seriously, though, it wasn’t as terrifying as I’m making it sound, even when my feet left the wall completely and the only things preventing me from plunging 50 feet to experience death or permanent injury were two ropes. I’m really glad I did it. No, really.

And I wasn’t nearly as frightened as RG, who fretted that this tower—which has stood sturdily for 800 years and will no doubt stand another 800—would fall. “I wish they’d just put a box around you while you’re going down.”

I thought about that. “…Like an elevator?”

HB laughed, a bit nervous himself. “Yeah, why don’t they just put an elevator there? I could go down in that.”

I told him, “You’d probably get stuck.”

“I guess they’re really strict about their turkeys.” –TC

Rome was every bit as fascinating as you would expect it to be. You’re walking down some perfectly modern streets and suddenly you stumble upon a fabulous site of ancient ruins—and by the standards in Rome, they’re not even exceptional! They’re just “normal” ruins.

I suppose very little is amazing in comparison to the Coliseum.

During our three-day sojourn at Rome, we also paid a visit to that country with the distinction of being the smallest in the world: Vatican City. The more stringent dress code led TC to think that they must be “really strict about their churches,” but I misheard her, to comical effect.

(TC, walking by series of maps depicting growth of Roman Empire. I actually really like this picture, personally.)

We arrived as early as possible, yet the line was still long enough to encircle the walls of the entire country. Now that’s a wait. About a one and a half hour wait, in fact. But it was all worth it.

“Does your box of rocks rock your socks?” –Me

Climbing Mount Vesuvius wasn’t nearly as torturous or even challenging as it could’ve been. You were given walking sticks, and there was a nice winding, fenced-in path.

Plus the views were glorious enough to give you the energy to go on.

BG, SA, and I had a truly crazy time at the top, belting songs at the top of our lungs (not a good idea when you have a hike down to complete and only a few drops of water), curbing certain people’s violent tendencies to push people into the crater, and shopping at little mountaintop souvenir kiosks. SA purchased a box of very special rocks, giving rise to such delightfully musically phrases as the one quoted above. I myself just picked up rocks from the mountain itself.

Stealing? Nah. Just being economical.

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5 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. meofcourse / Aug 8 2006 11:39 am

    Hangman…how I miss that randomness!! Smile at the bird seat April…and I don’t remember the rest of my pledge!! I guess I had too much gelato. =-P

    You got to see the Swiss Alps? Oh man I wish I had…I had no idea we were going through Switzerland!! I was even awake at 6 but I didn’t look out the window in the compartment. =-( Stupid me!

  2. OHMAGEE ITS TESSA! / Aug 27 2006 6:04 pm

    Hehe Bonjourno April! On the phone with Bailz at the moment…she’s crazy. I loved that pledge! We were always so hyper! I guess being in Europe with a bunch of yor friends does that to you.

    I didn’t look out the window when we were in Switzerland either, I wish I had!

  3. Tess again / Aug 27 2006 6:06 pm

    And YES they are very strict about their turkeys! =D

  4. meofcourse / Aug 28 2006 11:49 am

    I hate you Tessie! =-D

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