Sunday, July 11, 2010

Roma & Firenze

So after our ridiculous departure, we headed a few hours north to the capital and ancient city of Rome. Here we only ended up staying 2 nights, as we were trying to make it to Florence for Halloween with the Americans we met in Greece.

Rome

Once in Rome, we made our way to The Yellow Hostel, which is one of the more popular hostels. It was pretty nice, pretty much all you needed. A solid place, and worth the price. So anyways, the first day we met back up with Dan, who had been there since our split just before Pompei. The first night we went on the infamous “Spanish Steps Pub Crawl,” which I must say was quite the time, and one of the best ones we were on the whole trip. Unfortunately, the next morning Brent and I planned an early wake up to hit up the Vatican before the crazy mid morning rush. Again, thanks to that hang over (evident by my picture at the Vatican), we ended up getting there later than expected, and were in crazyyyyy lines. We did make it inside though, and saw absolutely beautiful sculptures, frescoes, etc, and to be honest the Sistine Chapel was very impressive. We did manage to sneak a few pics, even though there were armed guards telling people not to. Also, the place is a zoo in there. There’s no chance of taking your time to look around. It’s like your cattle being herded and pushed down the halls at all times. That being said, inside the Vatican is pretty much a beautiful museum. Next, we made our way outside to the Square to take pictures of St. Peter's Basilica. As you can see by my pictures, I wasn’t looking the most respectable. We also decided at this point that we didn’t want to deal with the lines so we bypassed going inside the tombs. A decision that I now regret.

From the Vatican, we made our way to the Coliseum, which was really cool to see. So many tourists outside, and you could just sense the history there. We didn’t go inside because many people say that it’s just a waste of money…..in this case, a decision I don’t regret. We also checked out the surrounding grounds of the Coliseum, which were ruins of the ancient city, and definitely cool

I really liked Rome. I really wish we could have spent a few more days there, but I think we were really starting to be money conscious, and expensive cities like that were hurting the wallet. That being said, I missed out on a lot of cool sites, and only hope that I can make it back there!

Florence………

Well as my title suggests, I wasn’t overly impressed with this city. When we first got there, it took us forever to find out little hostel and it was raining, so we weren’t in the best of spirits. But, looking back, the hostel was nice. The three of us shared a huge double room, and the hostel was pretty much like a huge apartment, just renting out the rooms. Anyways, back to the city.

Florence is actually a beautiful little city, with a super Italian feel. There were some really nice sites, and lookouts of the city, and of course there were the infamous Duomo, and Michelangelo’s “David.” Both of which are stunning. There were also night cobblestone streets, and nice little shops and restaurants to boot! We even made it to a Serie A football match between Firenze (Florence) and Napoli (Naples). This was one of the best parts about the time there, as it was a good match, and we really found out how NUTS the Italian football fans are! I mean some people didn’t even watch the match, rather they just taunted and threatened the others sides fans! Works can’t do justice how fun it was there!

Now, you may ask why I have a hate on for Florence, after just giving the opening account. Don’t get me wrong, I can see why people like it and think it’s beautiful, but I was super jaded after leaving, and obviously still am. Here’s why:

1) When we went to the soccer match the first night, we weren’t allowed to bring drinks in….fine….but when Brent went and bought us all a round, they were non-alcoholic!! WTF! Haha….ok silly I know

2) I found out why people find Italians snobby. In all my life I have never felt so looked down upon. People would literally stare at you and openly check you out, and it felt like they’d spit on me if they could for not dressing to Italian standards.

3) We stood in line for almost an hour for the David. They paid a hefty fee to see it. That’s ok too. BUT, if you’re waiting and paying that much, give us something else to look at!!! The rest of the place SUCKS!! You just stay in there longer to make your money feel like it was well spent. Note: you’re better off standing outside the exit door (many people will be there) and just snap a few pics! I snuck a few pics, but they catch people and make them erase!

4) We met up with the Americano’s to hit up a Halloween party at a local club. So we all dressed up, and had a great time. BUT while there they give you like a punch card for drinks, where you pay at the end. But there system is ridiculous. Most people think you pay at the door on the way out! NO NO NO, they make you go all the way inside to pay at the bar, and of course when they’re closing, half of the bar is doing the same, so you have to fight to just pay to get out. This happened to me. Of course I got a receipt for paying…then most likely threw it out, because when I got to the door they wouldn’t let me out!! Instead they said I would have to pay like 75Euros bc I lost the receipt and thought I lied. At this point I flipped out. Everyone else was outside at this point, and the bouncers surrounded me!! Anyways, I pretended to look for the receipt, and when I had an opening I made a break for it….which included karate chopping the bounces arm who tried to stop me, and I just kept going…..STUPID bar and STUPID scenario

5) Then as were making our way back to the hostel, Brent and his lady were ahead, and some young locals decided to be tough and push him, hard, into her. Of course, I was still pissed and tried fighting them…hahaha, Angry Jim was on a rampage!! Anyways, we made our way back, and the next day Silly Florence was just a memory.

Again, it’s a beautiful city, but now you can see why I dislike it. It only takes one bad experience to ruin your outlook on something….I had more than one reason why.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Ciao Italia - Pompei & the journy to Rome

Upon splitting up from our Corfu group, and Dave going his own way, me, Brent and Dan made our way to Italy. After countless hours on crappy local trains, seeing more hopeful stowaways lurking in the streets at the port city of Patras, we finally got on a ferry to make our way back to the good ol' town of Bari, Italy. Now for a supposed shithole of a city, I actually grew quite fond of this little place. It gave an authentic Italian flavor, and we had a much better 2nd outing there. However, we didn't last too long there, as we pretty much just walked directly across the town and to the train station. After checking our bags, we walked around for a while, only to just end up at the train station. Eventually we boarded our train, sans mon chapeau, which Brent left....still sour. hahah. Along this journey, we split from Dan for a few days as me and Brent were going to the ancient city of Pompei, and Dan was going to Rome.

Once we split, our excitement began....well not really. First we ended up at some shady station waiting for a connecting train, and as we were there, a creepy Swiss kept talking to us, and he actually followed us and stayed at the same hostel as us......now looking back, he was probably harmless, however, a middle aged traveler asking tons of questions is also creepy. Also, while waiting, there was a legit Schitzo there. Literally walking around, saluting the cops, and then making barnyard noises....doing this straight for at least 30 min. Finally we got on the next local train and off to Pompei

Pompei

The actual city of Pompei (modern day) was nice, just a small Italian city. Luckily for us it was the weekend, and the nights really come alive then! We hit up a small restaurant for a delicious pizza, and then had to scurry back to our hostel. Now, this was the first "Y" hostel we stayed at...it was the AIG YOUTH HOSTEL (HI). It really wasn't that bad, the place was massive...huge rooms with few beds, etc. However, they have strict curfew rules, and gave a shitty breakfast....but really it was good for that little town..i guess

So, the ancient Pompei ruins. Unbelievable! I mean in the background you see MT. Vesuvius, the volcano that exploded thousands of years ago and buried the city in ash! I mean some of the fresco's looked no worse for the wear! The architecture and layout of the city, the intricate decorations, the planning of the city (streets, gutters, districts, etc) were astonishing for a town that existed so long ago....and then of course the perfectly preserved bodies!! It was pretty crazy. I really enjoyed our time there, even though it was basically a day trip, but definitely worth it!

Rome

After leaving Pompei, we made our way to Rome via Napoli (Naples). This is where one of the craziest stories of our journey happened....we have no pictures or videos, but believe me, this was mayhem. SO, we're at the main station in Naples, and we're just about to board our train (trains in Italy of wayyyy overpriced for the old pieces of shit you ride on! Really...they're a huge rip off!!) Anyways, so we get on, and all we hear is like a crazy rally. Shouting, Cheering, Yelling, Megaphones, Whistles....anything you can think of. So me and brent stick our heads out of the window and literally see HUNDREDS of seem to be Africans and Middle Eastern/Indians running at the train. In seconds it was like water breaking on rocks....the train was flooded with these people, and next thing you know we have people basically sitting on us. I mean trying to sit on the arms of the chair, etc. At this point I was ready to drill someone......then all of a sudden, someone outside starts yelling and they all get off.....apparently they didn't all of tickets. So, we're now we have no idea what's going on, ask the usher when we're going to leave, and he tells us to go on the train to Rome across the platform....So we grab our bags and scoot over to that car. Wouldn't you know it, as soon as we enter that train, our original one takes off!! Now we're shitting that those jokers will come on this train! Luckily for us, minutes later we're off, and left that foolishness behind in Napoli.