Oy. I don't even know where to start. I was thinking on the train on the way to... where? I have no idea... that I almost need a day or two to just not do ANYTHING new and let all the experiences, sights, sounds, and various other sensory input sink in. I think my brain is getting overwhelmed. Where did I last leave off? I think I was in Zurich. Man, that seems like a lifetime ago. I think it's been three days.
I really really enjoyed my time in Switzerland. It is SO beautiful there, and the people are so friendly. One highlight - out of so so many - would have to be "renting" a bike - they're free in Zurich! - and riding along the lake until, when I was at the farthest point of my ride from the city, a big black cloud rolled in, the wind picked up, the skies opened, and it started to POUR. I figured, there's nothing I can do about this, so I may as well enjoy it. I had some fun with my camera and my umbrella at the water's edge. Again, as soon as I can, I'll get some photos up.
The great thing about having a rail pass is that whenever you want, you just head to the train station and hop on a train to wherever you want. It's so easy! I decided to leave Zurich for Luzerne in the late afternoon. I also decided to jsut hang out at the hostel in Luzerne that night to try to meet some people. That's another nice thing about travelling. Don't like the way things are going (ie. eating alone all the time)? Change it! I bought some groceries - which was an experience in itself: picture me, after learning that none of the staff in the bakery or deli spoke English, ducked around a different aisle with my dictionary looking up how to say "Where can I buy a little bit of mustard?" in German - and made dinner back at the hostel. I ate with four people from New York. One of the couples seemed intent on talking about how pot and prostitution should be legalized, and telling stories about how they bough hash in France and got busted as soon as they stepped off the train in Italy. Something to be proud of. Sheesh. The other couple, though, was really nice, and we ended up hanging out the next day, too.
It was grey and raining in Luzerne, but both this other couple (Liz and Andrew, they do have names!) and I figured, well, we only have one day here, so let's go for it! We wanted to go for a hike, so we headed for Pilatus, a nearby mountain. It was really raining when we got there, and we decided we'd be miserable if we hiked, so we took the gondola waaaay up, walked around at the top (nearly freezing our fingers off - it was near zero the whole time, and super windy. Brrrr!), had lunch, and took the world's steepest cog wheel railway down. Most of the time it was a 40-48% grade!
All the "Swiss stereotypes" are there for a reason. The little brown and white houses dotted all over the hillside, red flowers tumbling out of window boxes. The dingle dangle of cow bells from high up on the hills. The hoot of the train whistles or steamboat horns sounding as they transport people up and down the alps and accross the lake. It really is incredible. I of course took full advantage of being in Swizterland by going to a folk show. Cow bells, yodeling, flag throwing, alpenhorns, the whole bit. I even got to try an aplenhorn and got bitten by a cow! It was such a hoot!
On my way from Luzerne to Verona, where I am now, I stopped for a few hours in Lugano, in the Italian part of Switzerland. It is way south, and I figured it would be sunny there. What a great decision! It was ab-so-lute-ly beautiful! I walked waaaaay down from the train station to the lake and enjoyed a lazy afternoon of strolling along the water, hanging out under a tree with one of the most beautiful views I've seen yet, going for a swim, and lazing around in the sun. La dolce vita!
I got in to Verona at nearly 11pm, and realized I had no map or directions to get to my hotel. Of course, the tourist office was closed. So, Hillary had another little adventure, with even less Italian thant I had German, relying on people knowing how do decipher my broken broken Italian and knowing where I wanted to go. Hee hee. Adventure abounds! (Don't worry, mom, I'm safe and sound, see?)
I've spent today roaming around Verona, seeing various castles, the ruins of a Roman theatre, and just generally enjoying the very distictly Italian city. I might have even treated myself to two gelatos today. But shh! I'll never tell! In about 15 minutes, I'm going to go see Aida in the Roman arena here. Last time I was in Verona, I got shafted in seeing the arena, so this time around, I'm not going to miss it! Just for kicks and giggles, click here for a picture of my at 17 in front of the arena. Promise not to laugh? That's me in the Mickey Mouse T-shirt. Uggg. High school. Say no more. For those of you who know the story, see the ice creams? Grrr! (For those who don't know the story, see the post below!)
Hmm... the lady at the internet cafe just rolled down the big metal gate-thing in front of the door. I think that's a sign. I'm going to head off. I have my inflatable pillow in my purse, all ready for the opera (hey - YOU try sitting on stone steps for three hours!).
*UPDATE* Well, actually, you never saw the original, cause for some reason it never published. I saw the opera! It was SPECTACULAR. Spec. Tac. U. Lar. Only, we didn't get to see the last act, because all of a sudden, thunder crashed, lighning flashed, and the first few drops began falling from the sky. The orchestra fled for shelter and the opera was suspended, then cancelled as it began to POUR! People - in all their opera finery - were making mad dashed for the exits, covering their heads with umbrellas, cushions, programs, whatever they could. It was incredible how fast the vendors whiped out little rainjackets for sale. I made my way out to the street and walked back to my hotel, laughing my head off all the way there.
Opera. In a roman arena. Cut short because of a freak thunder storm (which continued all night!). Walking down narrow Italian streets, soaked to the skin. Singing, "Well, I love a rainy night!"
Life could not have been better than it was right then.