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Ciao Rome!

Tuesday, November 20th, 2007

I have never in my life had gelato as delicious as it is in Rome!!!  And the pizza…ohhhh gracious, my mouth just waters thinking about it.  We arrived in Rome via a train from Venice with a plan to stay five days before flying to Africa.  It was a little nerve wracking to think that we would be leaving for a third world country in a few days, but we were also amazed at how quickly time past while we traveled Europe.  It is strange to think that the first leg of our trip was coming to an end.

Steve was my hero when we arrived in Rome because he had taken the time to book us a really nice apartment just two blocks away from the Coliseum…and about 50 feet away from the best gelato place in all of Rome!  The apartment was perfect for us to get some R&R and take care of lose ends before we left for Africa.  Plus, with its great location, we could explore Rome very easily.  We also needed to have an address in Rome that Steve’s parents could ship a package to us.  Before we left home, we gathered up our hiking equipment and extra clothes that we needed for our Kili hike and boxed them up to ship so we didn’t have to carry all of that stuff through Europe with us.  So, once we had the address in Rome, Steve’s parents sent the package off via Fed Ex.  It was of course suppose to arrive two days before we left for Africa, but does shipping a package ever go smoothly?  We tracked the package on line and the day it was scheduled to arrive, we waited around at the apartment so we didn’t miss it.  Well, we waited and waited and waited.  We got such cabin fever that we had to take turns going for walks.  I visited a chathedral by myself and then when I returned, Steve went off to an internet cafe.  The package was set to be delivered by 8:00pm.  When it looked as if the package wouldn’t show, Steve started making some phone calls.  But of course, the customer service was Italian and we had a hard time communicating with them in English.  After calling three different phone numbers and being told everything from “It’s on its way” to “We don’t know where it is” to “Sorry it is set for delivery tomorrow,” Steve was able to track exactly where the package was and requested that it be held until he could pick it up himself the next morning.  The next day, we woke up really early.  Steve decided to travel across Rome by himself and I would wait at the apartment in case the package actually did get delivered.  He ended up having to take two trains, a bus, a trolley and then walk almost two miles through an industrial area to reach the Fed ex office where he could pick up the package, which luckily they held for him. 

By the time he got back to the apartment, it was noon, so whe high tailed it over to the Vatican and Sistine chapel, which was the last place on our list to visit.  Wouldn’t you know it, it was closed.  Of course I was pretty pissed by this time because we had wasted a day and a half  doing nothing, but then I realized  that this would  be my excuse to come back to Rome!!!  I love having an excuse to travel.

All in all, Rome is an amazing city.  There is so much to see that I cannot begin to describe everything, but to think that all of beautiful marble architecture was built over 2000 years ago is just amazing.

Venice…are we ever going to get there???

Tuesday, November 20th, 2007

We all know Venice is a beautiful city with its canals and bridges and singing gondolas…but that would all have to wait for Steve and I.  Let me tell you about our little adventure to the Italian border…

We woke up early in the morning to check out of our pension in Bled, Slovenia so we could catch the 8:00 am bus to Ljubliana, which is the capital of Slovenia.  We wanted to catch the early bus so we would have more than enough time to catch the 10:45am train from Ljubliana to Venice.  Piece of cake right?  The owner of the pension dropped us off at the Bled bus station before 8:00am, on the morning of Nov. 1st which is All Saints Day, the day after Halloween.  Now,in the states, this makes no difference.  But, unbeknownst to us, Nov. 1st is holiday in Europe.  So, we sat at the Bled bus station waiting for our 8:30am bus to arrive.  At 8:45, we realized that the bus wasn’t coming.  No worries, another bus was scheduled for 9:30am which would still give us enough time to get to Ljubliana to catch the train.  So, we waited and chatted with a couple from Austria who were also waiting for the bus.  9:45 and still no bus.  Now, we were beginning to wonder.  So, Steve inquired at a  nearby hotel about the bus schedule and the lady assured us that the buses were running on normal schedule.  So, nothing to do, but wait for  the 10:30 bus.  We waited and waited and began to get nervous as 10:30 approached and no sign of a bus.  So, off Steve goes again into a coffee shop, but this time, the girl tells him that buses are not operating on their normal schedule because of the holiday…which we didn’t know about.  She assured us that the 10:30 bus should be arriving and  confirmed it on-line for us.  Around 10:40am the bus finally pulls in, but we know that by this time, we will not be able to catch the 10:45 train to Venice.  Since we assumed we would be on the 10:45 train, we didn’t bother to check to see if there was another train to Venice later in the day.  We arrived in Ljubliana at 12:00pm and raiced into the train station to check Venice train times, only to discover that the next train to Venice left at 2:00am the next morning!  So, we had to come up with another plan…normally we would have just waited and caught a train the next morning, but we had already booked a hotel in Venice, which is expensive and we didn’t want to be charged for the night without being there.  Luckily, our Lonely Planet guide had a suggestion, take a train to the Italian/Slovenian border, walk across the border into Italy, then catch an Italian train into Venice.  So, we inquired and wouldn’t you know it, there was a train leaving for the border at 3:45.  So, we booked our tickets and cruized around Ljubliana for a couple of hours until we could catch the train. 

We borded the train and we were off, but it certainly wasn’t smooth sailing from here.  Our train actually took us back to Bled where we just came from that morning where we had to switch trains (which we didn’t know and luckily we didn’t miss the other train).  Our new train was now bound for the border, but it was getting dark, so it was hard for us to see when our stop was coming up.  Neither one of us could relax the entire train ride because we were afraid we would miss  our stop. Finally, we arrived at the border town (whose name escapes me, but it’s   so small you wouldn’t know it anyway), but the train station was closed and dark so we couldn’t ask anyone where we needed to go to cross the border.  Luckily, a younge teenager was picking up his family outside the dark trainstation so Steve went up to ask him how we were suppose to cross the border.  Thank God this kid spoke fluent English (he was  Slovenian, love those people) and he was shocked that we planned on walking across.  Apparently the only place that you can walk across was about four miles away from the train station, so the family told us to jump in their car and they would drive us to the border so we could cross.  We never would have found it in the dark and if it weren’t for this nice family, we would have spent the night on the  ground outside the train station.  So, he dropped us at the border and told us to walk across, get our passport stamped by customs and then ask them where the trainstation is.  So, we did just that, except there was no sidewalk so we ended up waiting in line with the cars to cross  the border checkpoint in the middle of the rode.  It was a funny site to see us walking along with our packs following a line of cars.  Anyway, the border patrol stamped our passports and told us that the bus station was 200km straight ahead, which was  great because the bus station and train station are right next to one another.  So, we  walked straight ahead…no bus station.  We kept walking….no bus station.  We began asking people in horrible spanish/italian mixed language where the bus station was.  One lady said straight, so we walked straight.  The next lady said, back, so we walked back.  The next girl said, oh no , the bus station is about 20km that way, are you sure you want to walk?  By this time, we were ready to lose it.  It was after 7:30pm, which means even if we did make it to the train station there may not be a train to Venice.  So, we walked and walked and then finally this young Italian girl pulled us on to a bus that was headed to the train station.  However, we didn’t have bus tickets so for the entire ride I was sure we were going to be caught and fined.  Luckily, we arrived at the train station without being caught without a bus ticket and we ran in to  check the train  schedule.  There just happen to be a train leaving at 8:00, which gave us seven minutes to buy the tickets and board the train.  Shewwww, we made it onto the train, gave each other a high five and began to relax.  Fourty-five minutes into the ride, the train stops.  We wait for almost thrity minutes before they kick everyone off-there’s a problem with the train.  So much for a smooth ride.  Luckily, they brought in a new train and we were off again.  We arrived in Venice at close to 11:00pm, just in time to check into our hotel.