So, with our favourite vagrant in tow we made for Florence and the promise of another apartment-style hostel. Once again we met a hoard of American students studying abroad who proved good to have around for a couple of nights entertainment. Actually I´ll mention at this point that between the boat-loads of Australians and the large helpings of Canadians and people from the States who are currently knocking about in Europe, one rarely gets the chance to properly meet any locals. I floated the suggestion that perhaps an axis of prominent western countries may indeed be planning a siege on mainland Europe and have deployed large numbers in the 18-25 demographic to do their bidding. Hmmm just a thought.
An unusually enjoyable overnight train ride...
Then tired and hungover first thing next morning...
Killed time with a relatively underwhelming day-trip to Pisa. Having been there in a previous life I did struggle to get anything out of the leaning tower on second viewing though admittedly the tower-virgins of the group did seem to enjoy it. Thankfully a subsequent sojourn to Sienna gave us the opportunity to to see a bit of authentic Tuscan countryside. Truly one of the most beautiful parts of the world.
Florence itself remains one of my favourite Italian cities. Like so many of the places we've been before; the streets, architecture and people really made the city for me and it was good to spend a few days just walking round getting to know JP.
Two hours south took us to the capital where the bar for cool hostel owners was considerably raised. That I'm constantly referencing the places we stay rather than talking about the cities themselves may, I can imagine, grow slightly tiresome but as a backpacker I promise that a good hostel normally correlates to a good time. So I will continue to do so.... So there.
Anyway at this particular place we were surprisingly greeted with several bottles of beer and a very relaxed atmosphere. Met a gang of people there including Kiwi Andrew; a member of New Zealand's U19 cricket team and also part of the curiously named "Touch-blacks," the country's touch rugby team and others such as English Matt (questionable morals), Boston Craig (top bloke), Canadian Lindsay (hooked up with English Matt... nuff said) and Massachusetts Matt (a scholarly chap but still cool).
Letting off some steam...
It was admittedly slightly odd rocking round to some of the worlds most famous monuments with random followers met only the evening before over rather drunken conversations. Once again, I had previously visited alot of Rome's major drawcards but it was certainly worthwhile revisiting and gaining a new appreciation for the city's landmarks. Of the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, St Peter's, the Vatican, the Trevi fountain and the Spanish steps I was probably most taken by the Basilica of Saint Peter. Having traipsed through what feels like hundreds of Europe's cathedrals over the last few moths the intricacy, significance and beauty still struck and overwhelmed me more than any other I've ever witnessed.
But back to the hostel and after being told by Lorenzo (the owner) that what we were planning to was a terrible crime, he left and returned with many shopping bags of dinner ingredients, dozens of beers and one nasty 5litre jug of vino. Soon almost all the hostel was helping to cook what became a particularly delicious pasta dish and somewhat of an in-house party quickly ensued. Eventually around midnight around 15-20 of us headed to a local cocktail bar before later filling an empty restaurant and downing several rounds. A pretty cool night all round.Three fairly similar evenings later Team Travel was to split up for really the first time. With Rory and Liam keen to investigate Italy further and JP eager to continue the party they made for Naples with myself and Tristan venturing to Venice en route to Switzerland.
Now there's not really a whole lot that this amateur blogger can say about Venice that hasn't been said before. It really is a delightful place to just walk around (and get slightly lost) though unfortunately ones budget tends to dictate just how long you can linger. For Tristan and I that was to be about 7&1/2hrs of walking which I maintain is still enough when not in the company of the fairer sex.
The next morning saw us embark to Basel to stay with some old Uni friends of Tristan's dad; Ken & Sue. Once again we shamelessly leeched off the kindness of others, this time for six days staying in their particularly nice inner city apartment. To give those geographically unaware an idea of where Basel is located, a brisk 30minute pre-dinner walk with Ken saw us cross from Switzerland to Germany, across the Rhine to France, then back to Switzerland. Pretty cool huh?
The problem with writing about our time from then on in Switzerland is that no collection of clumsy adjectives I could string together, no photo I could ever take with my moderately priced camera would ever possibly do justice to just how stunning the countryside really is. After Ken and Sue took us in the Beemer to the top of impressive Voges mountains, Tristan and I decided that forking out a little extra would be worth it to reach the peak of Mount Pilatus. Situated in the heart of one of the most picturesque sections of the Swiss Alps, Pilatus truly gives 360° views of the surrounding countryside and mountains. Certainly one of the most incredible places I'm ever likely to go.
View from the Cog-train going up.....
The enjoyment of our remaining time in Switzerland was only tempered by one grave and most upsetting incident. On uploading the new Radiohead album (which incidental, is absolutely brilliant) I somehow managed to wipe all the music off my iPod. As a traveller one generally has decent amounts of spare time on their hands and it is in these times that I usually revert to the sanctuary of my music. So to only be able to salvage 1/6th of my songs was demoralising though it was of some consolation that I was able to pick and choose from Tristan's library. Still, a traumatic experience by anyone's reckoning.
We bade goodbye to Ken & Sue some days after, having been spoilt by there generous hospitality and made for Munich.
It is here that I shall end this weeks post. Though I'm currently writing this from an Internet cafe in Berlin, almost a week since we got to Munich, I'm sort of running out of time and energy and feel we'd all benefite if I waited till Holland in a weeks time to write again. I will quickly say that Germany has been fantastic and it is a need to see some of the capitals major sites that has made me hastily wrap this up.
Gelati in Sienna...
Till the next of these,
Oh and thank you to Rory, Liam and Yunei from the hostel in Rome for most of the people photos.