Unfortunately those haven't existed for me today.
I took an impromptu trip to Munich this weekend. It was great. I met new people, took part in a very German celebration in a bierhalle that involved lederhosen and dirndls (if only I had known I would have brought mine!), learned some Bavarian German (different than both regular and Swiss German!), and overall just had a really great time!
My train left Munich at 2:30 this afternoon, and I was scheduled to get back at 7:50, in just enough time for the weekly pub quiz.
It's now midnight, and I'm still on a stupid train.
From Ulm, my first stopover, it should have been 2 hours to Schaffhausen, in Switzerland, and then not far to Zurich and then to Luzern. However, 2 hours after leaving Ulm, I found myself not in Schaffhausen, but right back in Ulm where I started.
It was infuriating.
I was bewildered, and wondered if I was just a complete idiot. But I knew I got on the right train, so really I was just bewildered.
Turns out that the "mountain had fallen" on part of path between Ulm and Schaffhausen, and the train couldn't pass, so it turned around and went back. If there was an announcement, my engrossing book and lack of German skills would explain why I didn't get any of that.
My new itinerary had me sprinting to the train and adding 4 stopovers and 5 hours to my trip. Then at the next stop I had to move cars because they were leaving the one I was in at the station. That would have been quite a surprise to watch the train move away without me. Then, of course, the next train was delayed for an hour, making me miss my other connections.
Have you ever felt like the world is having a laugh at your expense?
So here I sit, nearly 10 hours later, still on a train.
It brought to mind stories of being stranded overnight in a tiny Italian town with no train, no taxi, and no hotel, but that's another story.
Living in Switzerland can sometimes be like living in a bubble. But as much as I enjoy embracing the unexpected when I'm traveling to other places, I'm quite content to return to the predictable, reliable trains of such an organized country. 5 minutes to Luzern :)
I was living in Charlottesville, VA, in my third year of college. My oldest sister had just had her first baby and I was a doting aunt completely in love with my niece (well, that part hasn't changed). My other sister was living in Kenya, engaged to be married in just a few months. I had just cleared out my things from my college room to store them at my parents' house and said goodbye to roommates Katie, Kathryn, and Katie.
I was 20. And I was terrified.
I was facing four months living in a new country, with new people, a new language, new customs, new experiences, and no idea what to expect.
And it was fantastic.
Ah Florence (and Siena as well). I studied the Italian language and the Italian mafia, and we took field trips to Leonardo da Vinci's home town. I lived in a piazza and learned to appreciate wine, coffee, spinach, and mushrooms. It's an experience that I am so thankful to have had.
By the end of four months I was homesick and ready to return, yes.
But oh the memories. Let's travel back to 2007 for a minute...
Six years later I finally returned. Travel buddy Liz endured (and endured well, I might add) a day full of
"Oh hey I went there!" and "Oh! I remember that!" and "Oh look! It's that place I went one time!"
We went to my old apartment above the Ristorante Celetino, where my roommates and I had made friends with Nick the waiter man.
As I was taking this picture a waiter came out of the restaurant (not Nick, unfortunately) and told me that his friend lived in the apartment I was pointing at and taking a picture of. I felt like a bit of a creeper after that.
We had lunch at Gusta Panino, now called Gusta Osteria and expanded to have a Gusta Pizza down the street. I used to go here for lunch a lot because they wouldn't serve me unless I ordered it in Italian. They knew I was learning.
They no longer serve paninis over the counter inside the door but their risotto is good. And they're in a fantastic spot for people-watching.
Finally, we attempted to have a drink at Friends' pub where, besides the apartment, I have the most memories from Florence. We spent countless hours drinking coffee and using their wifi (the only free internet besides the terrible computer lab at school), making new friends, and celebrating birthdays.
Sadly, it was closed.
I'm still bummed. The sign is still up, so maybe it's just temporarily closed?? I can only hope.
Ah Florence. Six years later, still fantastic.
We shopped, we ate, we people-watched, we ate. We had a great time!
Now we did have a slight mishap (or 2 or 3) with the train ride back.
We left Florence around 8 PM. It should have taken us about 2.5-3 hours to get back.
We arrived back at our hotel at 5:45 in the morning.
But that is another story.
I just spent 7 days immersed in many of my favorite things...
narrow cobbled streets with steep staircases at odd angles
brightly colored buildings
For six years I have looked forward to returning to this wonderful place. The four months I spent in Florence and Siena during college made a lasting impact to the point where all you have to do is say Italy and I smile, thinking of the Tuscan countryside, the streets and churches of Florence, Friends pub,
cooking class, my apartment right by the Ponte Vecchio, the gelato...
Ah but I digress.
Last Tuesday Liz and I packed our bags and hopped on the train in Luzern, my new home :)
Six hours later we arrived in the teeny tiny town of Corniglia, smack in the middle of Cinque Terre.
Cinque Terre is an area on the Mediterranean coast of Italy, five small (really small) towns connected by trains and hiking trails.
We stayed in a room rented to us by Stefano, easily one of the friendliest people I have ever met. He stayed there talking to us for at least a half hour after giving us our keys, telling us about Cinque Terre and who knows what else.
It rained every other day. Which means that on the sunny, beautiful days, we were either hiking or walking around the towns. The rainy days were spent sleeping, reading, or drinking coffee and wine
(and eating. Definitely eating).
Liz also made it to the town of Riomaggiore (she went to all five towns!) but alas, I slept through that day.
We also spent a day in Florence!
Certain things have new meaning when in Italy. Pasta, for instance. I don't know how they do it, but something so simple just tastes so much better in Italy than anywhere else.
But I ramble.
There will be numerous Italy posts over the next few days.
I'm realizing that, while I love Switzerland, Italy...well it's just special.
Maybe it's the memories. Maybe it's the language.
Or maybe I just really like the food.
Whatever it is, don't be surprised if I announce in the near future that I'm leaving Switzerland to go live the Italian life.
Kelly is an American teacher living in Switzerland and enjoying everything the country has to offer.