Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Fall Break Part 2

On Friday the 29th, Erick and I caught an overnight train to Florence and by coincidence 3 of my groupmates were on the same train as us. The two of us grabbed two seats in a compartment because, frankly, all the sleeping cars were booked and they were too expensive anyway. The other 3 were in other compartments, I went to visit them once or twice, but the corridors were a little full and I was quite sleepy.

I slept on and off for some of the ride and I, with the help of the Italian man sitting across from me (who spoke little English and no German), had to schoo off many people trying to grab a seat in our full compartment. I was able to see some of the Alps when we got to the Italian side of the border, but at that point it was around 1, so I mostly just saw shapes. Really big, majestic shapes.

We arrive in Florence at 6:30 in the morning. My group mates were spending the week in Florence, so they went to their hostel to store their bags and catch a nap before going out exploring. Since Erick and I were only there for half a day at most, we decided to go out exploring and then meet back up with them for lunch before catching a bus to Siena.

Erick, who has been to Florence several times, showed me around the town. We saw the Duomo and the Sante Croche churches and walked around the old streets. It was quite nice being up so early. The air was cool, but not cold, there weren't many tourists, and we watched all the shops and street vendors setting up for the day. We also were able to see the sunrise over the Arno River, which is one of the few sunrises I've ever seen and was awesome.

The famous cathedral and dome in Florence
Around 10:30 we started getting tired of lugging our duffel bags around with us (there were no lockers to be found in the train station), so Florence was starting to lose its appeal. Before we made out way back to our meeting place, however, we stopped in a small cafe to grab an espresso and it was probably the worst espresso I've ever had. And I'm including Starbucks and McDonald's in that. We watched her prep the shot, by which I mean she didn't bother wiping down the dispenser after the last shot she pulled. Being baristas it was thoroughly horrifying for us. Go figure I would have the worst espresso of my life in Italy.

There was some pretty interesting street art and graffiti throughout the city. I'm going to attach a link to my online photo album of this trip and I took a few photos of the things we saw. You should be able to navigate from there to the other albums of this trip.

I called the others around 11 and they were still in bed, so Erick and I hopped on the next bus to Siena, which took about and hour and a half (and through which I slept after thinking I could stay up to see the Tuscan countryside, haha). I checked into my hotel right outside the city wall, settled in, and then met up with Erick again to get my bearings in the city.

We did a general walk around and I learned the basics of what to look for to find myself again (il campo, the duomo, the main street). The rest of the trip (of 3 days) was spent walking around in the rain seeing the sites around the city and thoroughly enjoying being in a place completely different from Munich. I love Munich but it was so refreshing to be in a city like Siena. Its small with small, winding streets, interesting churches, stucco walls, and tiny, fascinating niches all throughout. Munich is definitely a big, modern city in comparison. There was an outcropping on one of the taller hills of the city (JEEZ that place is hilly!), which looked out into Tuscany and offered a great view of a garden/farm at the base of the city. I could have stayed up there for hours.

Among the high/low-lights of the trip was eating the worst Italian food of my life. It was a 4 course meal which cost 15 Euro. This perhaps would have been a tip off, had two of the courses not been meat and cheese and salad. The two bigger courses in the meal were a debacle. The meat in the meat sauce on my pasta was so dry it could crumble and the chicken in the chicken cacciatore was also incredibly dry and was more bones than meat. Also, the wait staff was being pretty sketchy. So, after some fuming we deemed the meal "poison cacciatore" and moved on.

Erick's roommate, Douglass, came back from his adventures in Barcelona and Amsterdam on my second night in the city. The three of us went to a tea house in the city which served each of us a big, individually steeped, pot of tea. Each pot of tea was a different shape, color, size, or design and the tea inside was Delicious. Douglass kept forgetting to strain his tea, understandable considering he had been up/travelling for about 30 hours but still amusing.
San Francesco near my hotel

So the three of us hung out the next day, which was All Saints Day, not conducive to them showing me their favorite church in the city. Later that day I boarded a bus back to Florence and, eventually, a train back to Munich. The 3ish hours between the bus and the train were spent in a wonderful pub near the train station, eating delicious gnocchetti and drinking one of their specialty brew beers.

Oh. And when I say the three days were spent walking around in the rain, I really mean it. There were very few moments in Italy when it Wasn't raining. It wasn't so bad though, Italians have a habit of throwing out perfectly good, if not a little beat up, umbrellas, so we partook in those to stay at least a little dry.

Click here for all the photos!

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