Mozzarella and Tomatoes 4 : The good, the bad and the ugly

Somehow, the best moments on a trip are the ones that aren’t planned. Their were little lacunes in our strict scheme where we ahd the greatest time. I mean, seeing all those wonderful places was great too, but the spontaneous actions of oneness are different. They aren’t planned.
For example, one guy bought 6 bottles of wine and a few of our group sat together in front of the hotel and we drank all the wine together. We didn’t even have to pay the wine. It was very cosy. I like the feeling of oneness, and that moment had that feeling, also because there were only a few people of the eighty people on the trip. And just because we were all on the same trip, we could just talk to anyone. As soon as you have something in common, you may talk. Weird, but true. Me like.
There were a lot of Belgian and above all Flemish schools over there, and when we met another group at the metrostation, we started to sing our very beautiful, high-quality song ‘It’s silent on the other side’. Soon to be followed by the song ‘Hookers’, with these lyrics:
And so on.
We were each standing on our own platform and screaming that at each other. It’s a Flemish sign or recognition, you know.
In another metro station, we also sang our Belgian hymn together. I mean, we have our real hymn and the hymn that is played at the Olympic Games. But our real hymn is like this (repeat every sentence in your head because that is how it goes):
Everywhere we go
People want to know
Where we come from
Where we go
So we tell them
We’re from Belgium
Pretty pretty Belgium
And if they can’t hear us
We sing a little louder
(Repeat louder)

If you hear people singing this, it’s quite obvious where they’re from, right?

But there were bad moments too. The first of April here, is the day of practical jokes. But our first of April was full of things going really wrong. It started with one pregnant teacher being nauseous. She immediately returned to the hotel. Minus one leader. Later that day, another teacher fell of a stone and his shoulder was dislocated. Another teacher accompagnied him to the hospital. Exit two more teachers. And then someone’s wallet had disappeared. The wallet with all the money, with the ID and stuff.
That evening, we would take the metro and train back home together. (I wouldn’t have done it alone anyway) But we missed the last train and we had to walk home, which took us 45 minutes. We had been walking all day long, we were all fed up an,d then we had to walk… Two girls and I played word games and we made it, but still. It was midnight and we were walking there… God.

Further on there were some pathetic drunk people and stuff, but after all, this was a great trip with lots of memories to talk and laugh about. You never forget this kind of trips, you know. They are so amazing and all. I had a great time.

Mozzarella and Tomatoes 2 : Been there, done that

Why would anyone go to Italy, or even more specific, to Italy’s most well-known cities?
To see ancient stones, of course!

We have visited Pisa, Firenze, Siena, Rome, Vatican and Venice. And most part of what you see in those cities are ancient stones, ancient buildings and ancient paintings. After having studied Latin for six years, it was very nice to finally be able to use it by translating Latin sentences in Rome for example, or to see buildings and places we’ve been talking about such a long time. Next to that, I discovered that marketplaces are mostly the best places to visit if you want to get te atmosphere.
But let me start at the beginning, as we say here. In Pisa there isn’t much to see next to the ‘lawn’ with the three buildings: the cathedral, the tower and the baptistery. These buildings are really white, that was what struck me in the first place. And let me tell you, the tower is really leaning. If you come too close, you’ll feel slightly uncomfortable out of fear that it will fall. These buildings are impressive, just like all the other buildings in Italy. Soon enough you get used to this kind of high and great buildings, but they are worth seeing, really.

In Firenze (Florence) there are impressive buildings (surprise!): the cathedral and the baptistery. They are so over the top decorated and colourful that they make you instantly happy. I’ve never seen such a colourful church as far as I can remember. I always try to imagine people making and building such buildings. Those people were real artists. When you see the carving, you just can’t imagine real people making those with their own hands. So detailed and correct, so stunning. And the gate of paradise is as amazing as the rest. Although the gate in Florence is a copy, it is such a masterpiece… I always find it a pity that I can’t see all the details.

Siena was for me the most cosy place. There aren’t any leaning towers, just one cathedral (‘just’), but the marketplace is the best marketplace I’ve been so far, and Siena has an authentic feeling. We’ve been to the (highly decorated) cathedral and to the house of Saint Caterina (whom I didn’t know). We’ve also seen her head and finger. Weird. Visit Siena if you want to feel the Italian atmosphere.

Guess what’s there to see in Rome? Oh yes, ancient stones all over! Forum Romanum (Roman Forum), for example. It takes loads of imagination to see what it once was, because now there isn’t much left but fractions. Still, the feeling of ‘people once walked here, lived here, when all the buildings were still buildings…’ is worth the trip. I cannot catch the idea that 2000 years ago (even longer) people did not know that so many decades later, tourists would come to see their city. They have touched the stones too, they have seen them, they have breathed there, and now we did that. The Colosseum gives the same feeling. What was extremely amazing about that giant place, is that they were able to remove the people in only 15 minutes. Loads of people could sit there, and still it only took them 15 minutes to empty the Colosseum! Of course, the ‘greatness’ is as well stunning, but I already told that.

At the Vatican, we climbed the dome of the Saint Peter’s Church. Fascinating place of course, and if you consider climbing the dome, make sure you are prepared! I’m not a scaredy cat, but when we climbed the final stairs and the walls were bent to the right (both of the wall were bent to the right!), I started feeling slightly claustrophobic. It was soon over, because after those stairs, there were wider stairs, later on varied with very small but straight ‘walled’ stairs. Climb the dome and you can do whatever you want ;). Many steps. Many steps. But a great view when you’re at the top of course!

But it was Venice that stole my heart. It has this authentic feeling, beautiful buildings and a fairy tale-like atmosphere. The San Marco was built in 1027 (or was it 1072?) and it still looks fresh and shining. All the bridges, the Doge’s Palace, ahh, the water and the gondolas, the shops with all the masks… For a girl, that is just too seducing. I imagined myself in an ancient, beautiful, silk dress walking through the small alleys. Maybe it’s due to a book I once read, but Venice is for me the most mysterious and intriguing place.

So much for he essentials, this is what we did. Slightly boring maybe, but necessary for the futher parts of Mozzarella and Tomatoes. Make sure you understand that we followed a strict (but always wrong) scheme, with not much time to shop or eat or whatever. Sorry for the ‘secness’ of this post, but the next ones will be about the food, the people, the many things that went wrong… Stay tuned!


Mozzarella and Tomatoes 1: Sleepless in Seats

I’m back and I really want to thank you all for your enthusiasm!! I’ve only been able to read your comments today, but it makes me smile that you are such nice people. I like you all!

So, I’m back and exhausted. Seriously, we had to wake up at 7 every day, sometimes 6.30, and 12 o’clock was mostly the hour of going to sleep, if it weren’t any later. Also, never even consider sleeping on a bus. Welcome to part 1 of ‘Mozzarella and Tomatoes’!
Today, I’ll tell you about our bus trips. Use Google Maps if you’d like to know how far away Italy is from Belgium, but believe me: when driving to Pisa, you spend a lot of time in your tiny bus seat. Bus seats are made for sitting, but not for sleeping. You can lay them back, but only if the ones sitting behind you agree. Otherwise you might crush their knees, which won’t improve the atmosphere. I’ve never traveled with a bus like this time, so it were my friends who told me how to organise sleeping: one should sleep on the ground, the other one should sleep on the seats.

Now that doesn’t sound to difficult. Nor comfortable actually. My friends and I are (close to) 1m80, so that was serious folding before we could actually lie down… And do not consider moving as soon as you lie down! There simply no chance to do that. Also, if you’re lying on the seats and you are unable to fold you knees enough, there is but one thing to do: stretch them out and use other seats to let them lie on. My feet have used other seats more than the floor or my own seat. But lengthy legs demand space, room, wideness, which wasn’t available at all. I wasn’t the only one. We should have taken a picture, because there were just blankets and bags and legs everywhere. We were like a puzzle of sleeping people. ‘Sleeping’. When I woke up at approximately 4 a.m. because of the most terrible earache I’ve ever had, I wasn’t the only one who wasn’t sleeping. It was like everywone was awake. But when lifting my head at 8 a.m., I saw everyone sleeping like they were just knock-out due to the previous sleepless hours.

You can also use other people to lean on, something I did as well (with their approvement). You have to help each other and respect each other’s place, for everyone’s sake. That also means that you can’t just leave the bus. When you want to go outside, you have to act like Tarzan and you have to use the handrails of the seats as stepping stones. Otherwise you’ll probably step on someone’s face, hidden beneath a blanket. Or you step on a bag and you’ll break the souvenirs. There is no other way than using your flexibility!

Another thing that was quite bothering, was the radio playing above our heads. The on/off button didn’t work, the horror, the horror… And we passed a lot of tunnels, which caused an annoying rush ever time… When we woke up in the middle of the night because the drivers changed, we heard the radio playing one very cheery melody. You don’t want cheery melodies when you are fed up. So the guy sitting in front of us said: “Put off that radio.” “Impossible”, said the guy behind us. “Ram” was the very professional advice then. When you are exhausted an in terrible need of sleep, that answer is too funny to handle.

And can you imagine a qeue of girls running through the rain because they have to go to the toilet so desperately? If yes, then you know why I laughed so ahrd at that point. You see, this trip has given me loads of subjects to talk about. It was amazing and I cannot wait to share it all with you!

Off for Italy

My dears, as I have told you, I’ll be gone for more or less ten days. Keep calm, breathe deeply, because I will return.

I’m off for Italy, where the sun shines, and we’ll see all the great stuff and we’ll be sleeping too little and we’ll get wine for free at dinner. Can you imagine anything better? (Just say ‘no’).

But it does mean that you’ll have to wait for my return. You still have each other though :). Have fun!

What to take with you to Italy

Last post, I told you about the horror of not finding clothes and shoes, but I didn’t give you any context, which I should have done so that you could understand why that was even more frutrating than normally. So here’s the one and only context:

I’m leaving for Italy in a week and we’ll be staying there for eight days.

Now that changes some things, ain’t it? When you’re on a holiday in a warm country for eight days, you have to take quite a lot of stuff with you. I mean, T-shirts, pants, skirts for when it’s really hot and so on. Good shoes that you can wear all day long without feeling the urge to die straight away. I have these golden sneakers (but not of the big sneaker kind, more subtle), but I already have them for four years (can you imagine? they just keep on fitting, while I grew like 10 cm!) and my mother has a veto. I don’t really have dresses or skirts, by the way, that fit these shoes. And ballerina’s all day long, only the idea hurts me already. Maybe sandals. If the weather is really good.

But, what else to take with you when traveling? I’ll give you a list of stuff I take with me anyway:

* a big bag, for all the following stuff
* an umbrella; Italy is known for rainy weather when all Belgian schools move over there
* a ballpoint.
* another (plastic) bag, because you never, ever know
* scissors. Never underestimate scissors. They always come in handy. My father once forgot his razor blades, and he could use my scissors instead. Or when you buy new clothes over there, you can at least remove the price tag and wear it right away.
* a scarf. Although surrounded by nude paintings and sculptors, the Italiens freak out when they notice that you wear shorts. Be a good catholic girl and cover yourself.
* some knowledge of Italian and French. It’s quite well known that Italians don’t get why you can’t talk their language.
* battery charges for your camera, mobile phone and iPod. We’ll be spending lots of time in a bus, so music is needed.
* patience. Eight days with people, all getting tired and annoying. Have patience with them. Spare them of your sharpest tongue. Just put on your iPod (so don’t forget the charger!)
* tissues. It’s not because it’s a warm country, that you cannot get a cold.
* Tic tacs. Get refreshed. (That is Tic Tac, right?)
* The Belgian Elle. Because for less money, you have the Flemish AND Dutch version, which you might need when everyone around you is bitching because they’re tired.
* all logic stuff. ID, money, blahblah
* playcards. We are card game fans.
* sunglasses. Duh.
* makeup. To cover up your inferiority complex. (Dear Google translate, why do you seem so unreliable sometimes?)
* it might souns silly, but nail clippers. (Do you know what I mean?) For when your nials grow long, or you break one.

With this list, you will have packed half of what you really need. Congratulations!