Saturday, June 30, 2001

06/30/01: Almost my last day. My night train to Paris leaves tomorrow evening, can't wait. This morning I went to the palazzo where Peggy Guggenheim used to live and where her modern art collection is on display. Some of it I actually liked. I've never really been able to get into modern art, most of it seems like BS to me. For example, there were three Pollock paintings, and I'm sorry, but that's just made-up crap, you know? There was a painting I liked that at first seemed to be just a bunch of colors and weird shapes, but when you looked a second longer, the shape of a bicycle and rider became visible. The colors were nice. Altogether a neat painting. I certainly have to admire these painters like Picasso and all the others who could take normal things and distort them so much but still make them recognizable, you know? That has to take some skill.

Walked around some more. I am enjoying Venice, it's a lovely place and ever so much calmer than Florence and especially Rome. Nice to not have to jump out of the way of crazy cars and mopeds. Plus, I don't feel bad about being completely lazy and unproductive, it seems like that's the way of Venice. In fact, the tourist hordes this morning went so slowly I could have slept on my feet.

Once again, had more chocolate gelato for lunch. Wish I could explain the heaven that is chocolate gelato. And, interestingly, raw green beans. Yum.

06/30/01: Still cloudy but muggy. Slept a lot yesterday, so I feel well rested. I walked around a bit and looked at the shops, they all sell glass things and carnaval masks and decorations, it's all very, shall I say, PRETTY? So there, Kristin. ;) (and I will have to talk to you in person for real for these stories.)

So this morning I lazed around and switched hotels. Kinda sucks lugging luggage all over the place every day. But that's okay, everything is nearby, so it's not that difficult. I followed the signs to the Ponte Rialto through a literal maze of little streets. They are much narrower than I am tall. But it's neat anyway. Lots of little shops hiding here and there, and restaurants of course. I love how there's water everywhere! I know, it's Venice, duh, but still, I had no idea what it would be like. It's easy to tell when you're near water though because it quite suddenly smells quite strongly of fish. But other than that, I enjoy it. So I made my way (shocked I didn't get lost!) to the Piazza San Marco. I had no idea it was like that! It reminded me of Orthodox churches, with all the gold and the five or six domes. It was lovely. Definitely unusual, and not your average Notre Dame. Also toured around the neighboring Palazzo Ducale. It had lots of paintings and things. Went through the prisons, too! Fascinating. The cells seem pretty big, but apparently there were six to ten men in each. And some of the doors were only three feet tall. Don't know what's with that, people couldn't have been that short! There was a wine bar in the central courtyard. Dry bread, soup, water and wine were the main dietary staples in the prison. Interesting!

I think I must go; I'm getting hungry and I want some ice cream. Yesterday for lunch I had some splendid chocolate gelato, yum. Today I'm thinking more of that.

Friday, June 29, 2001

06/29/01: Join me in Venice. It's kinda neat here, with the water. I came out of the train station, expecting a big busy street like usual, but instead, the Grand Canal! That was kinda cool.

In Florence, I walked around a bit. A lot, actually. It was tough. According to the internet, yesterday it was 33C. Ick. In the morning I went to the Accademia and saw the David and the Slaves by Michelangelo. David is so huge! I knew it was 12 or 14 or whatever feet tall, but wow, it's impressive. I liked it a lot. What else did I do? I swear I did a couple other things....I went to the Museo Nazionale at the Bargello, which had a lot of sculpture in it, like Donatello's David (with the dumb hat), and a couple more Michelangelo pieces. That guy really got around!

I got back in after the lockout, and just sat around the entire rest of the day. How fabulous is that? There's a terrace in the back of the hostel with a fountain featuring slightly smelly but oh so refreshing water to dip one's feet in. Sat around and talked with people from England and California and a fellow Seattleite. Later we all ended up at the Fiddler's Elbow, an Irish bar in the Piazza Santa Maria Novella. It was fun. Oh, except for the Canadian who was literally no fun. But it was a good time, and we got back late, and I had an early train today, so I didn't get much sleep.

It's rainy and drizzly here but still warm. Had to go four or five places until I found a room in a small hotel. Haven't really explored or anything yet, I figured I would walk around and see what I saw. Obviously. But you know what I mean. Tomorrow morning I'm going to St Mark's, I'm looking forward to that. I enjoy these big cathedrals.

Not much else to say, I suppose. Heard an interesting non-joke yesterday that, since most of y'all never laugh at my jokes anyway, may want to hear. Anyway.

Wednesday, June 27, 2001

06/27/01: Still in Florence and holy crap is it hot here. Did I mention that yet? Someone today said they heard that yesterday it got up to 41! That's celsius, obviously, and it's around 100 F. See what I mean? Pleh.

So today I joined the tourist pilgrimage around Florence (everyone I see is a tourist/backpacker), starting at the Uffizi, and ending at McDonald's. The Ponte Vecchio seems a little overrated to me, especially since all the shops lining it are jeweller's and thus nothing I can look at or afford. Went to the Duomo too, which is lovely on the outside, but rather bare on the inside, and not as light as some of the other churches. But nice anyhow. I went to some gardens, but I didn't stay long because I was tired and hot.

I successfully got a hostel bed for the next two nights, getting here at 6.45 am. Yuck. I think I'm gonna do not much of anything the rest of the evening so as to recuperate. I have to go, there's a line for the free internet. Woohoo, free!

Monday, June 25, 2001

06/25/01: Hey, I am in Florence. Crazy quick. Got the Eurostar and arrived in 1.5 hours. Only L7000 more for a better faster train, yay.

So I got here and found the nearby hostel I wanted to stay at, and it was full, of course. Since I was short on patience and all sweaty and hot, I decided to spring for a hotel room. It's small, but it has a great view, surprisingly! It will be nice to have a room to myself and a decent bed, not to mention a real shower. The hostel in Rome was fine, but subpar to my 'standards of excellence,' ha ha. Tomorrow in the Early Morning Hours I shall try to find a cheaper place, be it hostel or hotel. I figure, why not treat myself? But I do want to meet new people.

Speaking of meeting new people, oh my god Kristin, I have to talk to you! Oh boy.

For some reason I have the fabulous luck to be in European cities when the local teams win football champions. Last Sunday, meaning EIGHT DAYS AGO, the Roma team won the championship (I think of Italy but I'm not sure). This Sunday, meaning yesterday, a full SEVEN DAYS AFTER THE EVENT, not only had there been continual chaos and general running-amok, not to mention lots of car-horn-honking this whole week, there was a huge gathering in the Circo Massimo, presumably to cap off the excitement. Thousands and thousands of people were there, to celebrate and yell, sing, cheer and otherwise make general noise for the players. It was MADNESS, I tell you. Remind me to never be a football fan, because then I will never be crazed like these Europeans.

Oh, so yesterday I was still in Rome, obviously, and looking forward to being in a new place. However, I realized that I was used to being there, that even though I was bored I had gotten to know my way around, not to mention see all the sights. Well, most of them. Did I tell y'all about my piazza tour? Did y'all know that there are a GOOD LOT of piazzas in Rome? Like, almost every other corner has a fountain or a big statue or obelisk of some sort? It's crazy. Very enjoyable and pretty, but nearly overkill.

I joined a walking tour of the Jewish ghetto and the Trastevere area yesterday afternoon. It was interesting and certainly educational; I am not very familiar with the history of Rome or any part of Italy, other than the obvious things like the Roman Empire and stuff. Duh. We went over the oldest bridge in Rome, which leads to Tiber Island. It was built in 63 BC and has not had to be rebuilt. A two thousand year old bridge! Imagine! In the square where the French Embassy is now (in a former Renaissance palazzo), there are giant bathtubs disguised as fountains. The rich family that lived there took the tubs from the nearby Baths of Caracalla, and had seats installed, and then mounted in the square so that the family people could sit there and be important and see all the goings-on. In a BATHTUB. Does this not strike you as terribly silly?

So yeah, I've got however long to be here in Florence, and so that I don't get bored, I decided to relax and spread things out. I haven't decided if I shall do something this afternoon and evening. I'd like to just sit around, but that gets boring pretty quick. Plus, the other day I got these nasty blisters on my toes that obviously make walking rather unpleasant. But maybe I'll go see the Ponte Vecchio, that's old, famous, and free. Oh, I need food. I think I'm getting malnourished or something. I haven't had much more than pears, yogurt, crackers and the occasional ice cream for the past five days and I think that's why I'm headachy and lethargic. I am drinking lots of water, though, which is nice.

Sunday, June 24, 2001

06/24/01: Woohoo, today is the last day here in Rome! I am feeling a bit better about being here, I have been able to find my way around and recognize things pretty quickly, and the days have gone by pretty fast. So it's not so bad. And it's very pretty here. Yesterday I visited the Trevi Fountain twice; I loved it! I think it will be on of my favorite places in Rome, just cause it's so pretty. Have I used that word enough yet? Sheesh.

So it is Sunday and there really isn't much to do that's open. I caved and bought some used books at an english bookstore yesterday, so I plan to find a nice park (see? didn't use 'pretty') to sit and read for awhile. I leave tomorrow morning, so I'm going to buy my ticket today to make sure everything is set, and so that I can sleep a little later. I hope I don't oversleep! That would be bad.

Yesterday I toured the various piazzas around the via del Corso-there are five or six. It was interesting. Plus I had an interesting encounter with a guy. Interesting not in a good way, but at least it was in French. More on that later. Also went out with some Australians from the hostel and was at last validated for my Australian-accented 'no'. Hooray! Had some more ice cream too. Which is always good. I was hungry.

I don't have much time left, two minutes, so I guess I'll catch up with y'all in Florence! Ciao!

Friday, June 22, 2001

06/22/01: Well. Let me say first of all that I am tuckered out. We were awfully pampered in Greece, doing hardly any walking. So Rome is killing me, because I have to be on my feet all day to get around, obviously.

Back to last Saturday, almost a week ago now! Dang. After Epidavros, the bus took us to our hotels in Nafplion. Ours was on this bluff overlooking the sea (I would say which sea it was, but my guidebook, in various maps, gave three different names for it. So.), built into some ruins. The guy who built it was buddies with the Greek President of the time (something with a P, who was incidentally buddies with Nixon), and he (the President) passed a bill legalizing building inside archeological ruins. He undid the bill the next day. But this hotel lived up to the questionable history. We had a cottage-type room, on the bottom level (so no pesky neighbors in our sights), with a magnificent view of the sea, the harbor, and the town. It was so lovely! Sigh. We had to leave in the morning.

I think I covered Olympia and Delphi, right? And Olympia seemed smaller than I'd thought, but it was still neat. The columns of the temple of Zeus are still lying from when they presumably fell during an earthquake in the 5th century, they're in order and everything. They're huge. The altar of Hera is where they light the Olympic torch, but it's just a few stones in a sort of bench formation, so recently they started using a place next to it that has some columns around it, to make it look more interesting and probably more "ancient Greek". Did I get to Delphi, after all? Oh, I didn't. I was disappointed that the temple of Apollo is closed off. And its theatre was not nearly as good as Epidavros. The stadium was more interesting than the one at Olympia, there are bleacher seats instead of grassy knolls.

Oh! Wednesday, we stayed the extra day with the tour and went to the monasteries of Meteora. Wow. They're built right into these cliffs that rise from a huge plain, an ancient lake. We went to the big one, the Grand Meteora. Our guide, who was just fabulous, taught us about Orthodox churches, paintings, and dogma. It was very interesting. In the chapel at this monastery, outside the inner church is a room filled with portrayals (15th century frescoes) of Christians being all kinds of tortured. The monks use this as inspiration!

Okay, Rome. So it's Friday today, good god, only Friday still? Let me explain. For some reason, since getting here yesterday, I have been tired, achy, and cranky. It's difficult to be in a completely new city, alone. Rather depressing, actually, and so I am not really thrilled about being in Rome. I'm kinda indifferent, and I want to move on. But I'm here until Monday, and maybe I will go to Florence as planned, or maybe I'll do something else. Who knows, cause I feel almost bored. Isn't that pathetic? Yes, it is.

Anyway! Moving on! Pretending things are happy and spiffy! Which they sort of are, because it is neat to be here and seeing these things. I just wish I had more energy. And holy crap, I'm spending money like there's no tomorrow! I can't believe how much there is to buy or spend on. But really.

Yesterday, since it was only 2pm when I left here, I had to do something for the rest of the day. So I took the metro down to the Colosseum. Waited in hot sun for awhile, then finally got in and caved to buying one of those phone-looking audio guides, to help me spend time wisely. The floor of the place is pretty small, it seems that most of the space was for seating. Did you know that women were relegated to the highest and worst seats, the nosebleeding fifth section up? Interesting, eh? After that I wandered around the Roman Forum, for a bit. Like I said, I haven't felt very energetic or anything.

Today I took the metro to the southeast part of the city, and I did nothing there. Then I went up to the Spanish steps. They are pretty cool. Too many tourists, of course, but still impressive or something. I got some gelato at the McDonald's down the block-yum. Yes, I know, McDonald's. Why not? From there, I decided I had better get to the Vatican and St Peter's, it being almost the weekend. I got turned around and almost lost, it took awhile to find the Vatican museums. They were interesting, a lot of paintings or frescoes actually I suppose, and then got to the Sistine Chapel. Even though it was literally crawling with people, and those people were too noisy, it was pretty fabulous. The audioguide told me all about the various frescoes. Did you know that where Michelangelo's Last Judgment is, there had been two more windows that he had frescoed around? Some pope guy or something wanted a different thing there, so that had to be all covered up. Interesting. I wonder what it looked like then. Oh, and they recently finished the restorations, and the colors are incredible. It indeed looks like it would have looked freshly done, it's all shiny and glowy and marvelous. :) From there I found my way to the Egyptian exhibits, which were extensive. They had a female mummy on display, unwrapped. ! Her nails were really visible. She was so tiny! Only the head, feet and hands were out, but they were so little! I know most people were a lot shorter then (in 1000 BC!), but wow.

From there wound around to get to St Peter's Basilica. Holy cow is it huge! I had no idea it was so big inside. It just goes on forever. The altar is beautiful. People taking flash photos all over the place, which really detracted from the ambiance. And Michelangelo's Pieta, of course, was fabulous. Still more flash photos, of a glass wall for god's sake, stupid tourists. Buy the freakin' postcard and save the exposure and stupidity. Whew.

I climbed up the however-many stairs to get to the top of the cupola to look out over the city. At one point, both side walls slant inwards, which was really trippy! I get dizzy so easily anyway, that didn't help! After that I made my way back to the hostel. And I am tired, and my feet and legs hurt. Boo hoo. I have no idea what I'm going to do for two more entire days. Wah, help me!

Thursday, June 21, 2001

06/21/01: Phew. I have just arrived in Rome. Yay me! The train arrived at Termini (in Rome) about an hour ago. I have a hostel for four nights, all paid up, so that's a great thing to get done right away. After this, I am thinking about exploring a little. Maybe not too much, so as not to get lost too much immediately. :) So, what's happened between then and now? Let's see if I can remember...

Saturday was the biggest day, actually, and I skipped that. We drove over the isthmus of Corinth and saw the canal, then drove down the Pelopponese and first visited the Ancient Mycenae site. The ruins were smaller than I thought they'd be, but fascinating nonetheless. That's where the famous Lion's Gate is, and the whole thing dates from before the '12th century BC. Can you believe that? I have a hard time getting that through my head--several thousand years ago! The so-called Mask of Agamemnon was found here by that phony Heinrich Schliemann, but it's too early to be really Agamemnon. His brother was Menelaus, away from whom the infamous Helen ran away with prince Paris. The two Mycenaens then began the Trojan War, after, of course, the wind didn't blow for two years and the daugher Iphigenia was sacrificed to the gods. (Actually, I have heard conflicthing accounts as to whether she was actually sacrificed or saved at the last moment by the warrior Achilles.) Plus, the view from the acropolis that the ruins are on is amazing-a large valley and mountains all around. Greece is second only to Norway in most mountainous European nation--25% of the country is covered with mountains. We drove up and around some of them on the two-story tour bus, which was an adventure in itself!

So Mycenae was really interesting. Plus, to get to the top of the ruins, one must clamber up a rather slippery marble slope. But I made it, even though my sandals don't have much traction to speak of.

After Mycenae, we drove through Nafplion to the ruins of the sanctuary at Epidavros. It was a hospital founded by Asclepius thousands of years ago, I don't remember when. The theatre is the best preserved part of the site, because it had been buried under mounds of earth. The acoustics are astounding. The middle of the circular orchestra has an altar to Bacchus, and when you stand on it, your voice sounds as if you have a microphone in front of you. It's amazing. The theatre seats between 14 and 17,000, so you can imagine what it must have been like. I wish I could see a production at an ancient theatre like that, I'd probably hear it better than anything else! I have to go, my time is almost up. I will keep going very soon.

Sunday, June 17, 2001

06/17/01: Hey, thanks for the emails, guys! Nice to hear from everyone. :) You can email Mom at, for those of you interested.

So it's Sunday now. Day five I think. Currently we are in the town of Olympia. This afternoon we visited the museum and the ruins of the ancient Olympic site. It was really interesting! I love all this ancient history, and the sculpture is amazing. Yesterday we went several places, and stayed the night in Nafplion, in a gorgeous hotel built into ruins on a cliff overlooking the sea. It was so fabulous and incredible. I really wanted to just move in and stay forever, looking at the town spread below us. Sigh.

I still can't believe I'm in Greece. Greece! At last. I am loving it. I wish I had more time to visit more of the country. Alas, I'll be moving on soon. As much as I loathe "tourists" and being stuck in that category myself, it's certainly convenient. We've seen a lot of things in just two days. Mostly of parts of the Pelopponese. And the guide is great. Hidden bonus: this tour is in both English and French! Go figure. So not only do I get to learn stuff, I can listen to French. Of course, then I try to speak it and remember that I am in Greece. Today I learned to say "good morning" (kalli mera). I am able to sound out most of the words, which is fun. I wish I understood some of them! Maybe later.

I can't wait to show you all pictures and things. Ask me about the art on postcard stands. Especially you, Kristin. I'll give it away by proclaiming it "interesting." Ha.

Anyway, must run. The one street of Olympia is probably shutting down soon. Do write more, I enjoy hearing from everyone, even if I can't write back just yet. This country is amazing! And my trip has "only just begun."

Friday, June 15, 2001

06/15/01: Day Three, but really only the end of Day One, at 9.45pm.Wednesday afternoon Mom and I flew to Vancouver and got a connecting flight to London. Thursday afternoon we had a nine-hour layover, so we took the tube into London. We went to the Victoria and Albert Museum, and sort of to the Science Museum (does the gift shop count?). Also had some dinner in Leicester Square. It was so fabulous to jaunt into town and run around. Good fun. I love London!

Thursday night we flew to Athens, arriving at about 4.15 AM, local time (ten hours ahead of PST) today, Friday. A driver met us at the airport and drove us to the Hotel Oscar Inn, in the Omonia district. Oh, and Mom's bags somehow got sent to Copenhagen, boo hoo. I could't sleep when we got here, and I wanted to get an early start exploring. So I organized my stuff and finally got a shower and all that. Mom was not happy because I was waking her up or something. Whatever!A little later in the morning (my god, I can't believe that was just today! crazy), she finally agreed to get up and go with me on my expedition. So we walked through town a little bit and wound around the long way to get to the Ancient Agora, then climbing up to the Acropolis and the lovely, wonderful Parthenon. I still can't believe I'm actually in Athens! I was at the Parthenon! I've been waiting so long for this. Anyway, it was lovely up there, despite the construction and the ever-growing crowds of tourist groups. The sun shone brightly, and there was a refreshing breeze. I was surprised; in pictures the Parthenon always looked white, but of course it's not, it's kind of a marbly beige-type color. The view of Athens from the Acropolis is amazing. It spreads out everywhere, into all the corners that you can see. Four million people live here. The traffic is indeed crazy and insane and everywhere. It's sorta fun walking around, navigating the cars and shops and people. We passed a market area this morning, fish on one side, nuts and more fish and meat on the other. We bought some fruit and bread for our meal; after three days of business-class airplane food (pretty darn impressive stuff!), we don't need much!

So we had a busy, long day. And we were back in the hotel by noon! Strange. Anyway, then I proceeded to sleep until 8.00 tonight. Ha! I hope I can get some sleep tonight. Tomorrow morning we meet up with a tour group. I'm very apprehensive of being an actual tourist, but I suppose it is the best way to see a lot of things quickly, and to learn something about them.

I have decided that I really need to live in Paris. Not only will that be fabulous in itself, but I can visit London as much as I want. I also now know that after Paris, I'm living in Greece. Except probably not, because I know absolutely nothing of the Greek language, and I hate that. Actually, when we took the metro (very nice and clean and new! like a cleaner version of the Paris metro) on the way back today, I helped a French couple figure out where to go. French keeps popping into my head, because I'm in a foreign country and apparently French is my default foreign language. I'm weird.

So I'll just say again, I love this! Athens is really neat-o, and I'm so thrilled to be here! I'm looking forward to seeing other parts of Greece too. So write me, y'all! I want to hear from you people. I don't know how many internet cafe's I'll find in the next two weeks, so write soon!

Tuesday, June 12, 2001

06/12/01: Hey wow, we leave tomorrow. Graduation was last Saturday--woohoo!! Thanks to all who were at the ceremony and reception, plus other assorted friends and relatives who couldn't make it. I am a college graduate--is that scary or what? So today I packed, and I'm pretty sure I have everything I need. Got to go shopping and stuff this weekend. I seem to be all set. The temperature in Athens was 92 degrees today. Looking forward to that, I am.

Wednesday, June 06, 2001

06/06/01: Alright, folks, here we go again. I write today as it is today the end of all my schoolwork here at UW. I took my exam and wrote my paper, and graduation is a scant three days away! My packing list is set, but I need to do more shopping. :) I leave in a week!!!