I had such a fabulous time this weeked. I’m not sure whether it was because I was in ITALY *squeal*, eating a lot of ice cream (we’re talking a Nomes’ ‘lot’ here…), hanging out with the grooviest people (Lisa, Lisanne and Andreas), eating gooooooood food (salmon, we love salmon, and roasted eggplant on kebaby things…yum!), not being around smokers (I can breathe, I have a sense of smell…hmmm…hello, you smell nice…), able to justify wearing foolishly high heels for a day (and even better: not breaking anything!), celebrating a good friends success (wedding) or making new friends (hi! You know who you are!).
Whatever it was, it was divine. Yes: diviiiiine I tell you.
Now I’m back. Back to the land of:
- awful haircuts/dyes (yesterday, at Jim’s, I spotted a new one: the pheasant look - where some people might crimp their hair (in a moment of dementia - obviously), this girl had permanently dyed hers blonde (faux, so faux) and put brown spots in it – just like on a pheasant’s body, THEN crimped it),
- smoke (get your cheap lung cancer here),
- bad fashion sense (stonewash, how I didn’t miss thee),
- atrocious personal hygiene (come on people, if garlic soup is gonna be your national food, how about making swimming your national sport – or something that is likely to rid your skin of the stench of your three-day unwashed body every now and again?),
- bad skin (was there a dioxin spill lately?),
- rickets (it’s called vitamin D folks, your tanorexia isn’t from the SUN then huh?) and
- bone density issues (the elderly are immensely frail here – no surprise given the food quality/availability during the communistic period – but it means you’re on a zimmerframe from about the age of 50 here).
Not to mention; heroin abuse paraphernalia greeting me on the stairs up to my apartment (apparently, our stairs are now THE place in town to shoot-up…good to know, good to know *whites of eyes showing*). The boys made good friends with neighbouring pushers and pimps (go you good things, go) and successfully chatted up the staff at the dirty Herna bar/crack den next door. Welcome home.
Oh, but the architecture. *rapture* Keep your eyes focussed on the parapets (and other high architectural words).
This trip to Italy was my first. From the moment I reached my gate in Prague – ready to board my super cheap, super bad-for-the-environment flight (still, hello? super cheap!) – I was the worst dressed person. And possibly the only non-Italian. Coincidence?? Sure, the mullet still prevailed, even on the boys who were (successfully) hiding their oversized hand luggage behind their skinny hips in the queue. ('Before’ the airport debacles resulting from Friday’s-UK-terrorist plot-threat-uncovering.)
I, meanwhile, was sincerely hoping that my poor, unadorned (ie. unlocked), lonely sports bag (9kg people, 9!) made it through to the other side without
hands going through my clean underwear, drugs being dumped in it (a la Corby) my makeup being nicked.
It made it - I made it. To the land of the Vespa.
On the bus from the airport to the town, I figured out why the Italians are so romantic. They make seats too small. The bus was outfitted with those ‘1.5’ seats. I could sit on one with a small child next to me and neither of us would feel crowded. I could sit on the lap of the adult sitting next to me, and we’d be comfortable, close, and probably married by the next morning (or in church confessing our sins, perhaps). But my hips and (even) his (skinny) hips were not about to nestle willingly side by side. Oh no, ONE of us was gonna have to do the ‘support your body weight by doing a continuous ‘squat’ on one leg like a demented ballerina’ thing. Guess who?
There’s a distinct difference between the Italian language and the Czech language (apart from the obvious fact that one stems from Latin and the other from “русский язык” or thereabouts, at any rate). One language is atonal, delivered in a never-ending stream of words, sounding a bit like a Gatling-delivered barrage of information (if only you had the cipher to figure it out). The other is all about music. This is where the word Ciao (four letters, mind) can be said in the full tertian sonority (!) of Db major. It’s beautiful to
pretend to pronounce listen to, despite not understanding any of it (except ciao, grazie, prego, and per favore…oh, and gelato!). Every other garden (en route to city) seemed to be filled with vineyards (!!), and these were interspersed with gardens full of corn plants (“Corn on the cob and wine for dinner Luigi?” “Per favore!” “Prego.” “Grazie.” “Gelato?” “Ciao.” – see? I was fine with my limited vocab!). Each house was painted in the ‘colours of tuscany’ (TM Dulux) range, it just felt like it was Italy.
It was just rather unfortunate that the first industrial flag-carrying indications of having landed on Italian soil (water?) was a FIAT show room. However, within the following 500m, it was superceded by the Ducati showroom…*drool*...
…AND we hired an Alfa Romeo 159 (the joys of being permanently carless – you get to pick and choose when you hire a car) which was okay, but not as great as driving our little Škoda Fabia that we took to Berlin (for some reason – diesel?). Just in case you’re in the market.
Venice. Is. Stunning. Of course, the bit that I saw was from the Piazzale Roma around the outside of Venice to San Marco, then up the grand canal. All for a measly 5€ and a bit of a flirt with the water taxi driver, “I should stay here? Right here? Oh, where you can keep an eye on me and play that ridiculous ‘I’m in a jail cell’ game with your hand on the window pane that separates us?”. *pause for thought* Hell, it IS only 5€, hand me that receiver!
This high-speed island tour was conducted because we were collecting the car to drive to Grado: a small town on the coast – north of Venice (there was a jpeg map complete with hand drawn arrows, time to: and dates but it wouldn’t load properly on Thursday) for the evening. And thankfully, that highly desirable sea stench, you know; the mix of diesel, rotting fish and brine, was present whole way.
I hadn’t realised how much I miss, I would miss, and I have missed the sea.
Grado to Ljubljana – and the rain. Oh my goodness did it ever rain. The temperature dropped to the mid-teens and we were more than a little concerned for our ‘going to be’ bare legs for the wedding. We’d freeze. Am VERY glad I packed a long jacket.
The wedding: beautiful. Varya will definitely keep Maarten in line. The atmosphere (despite being terribly damp) was friendly and warm, especially once people actually started mingling (reception) instead of standing in the “ooh, someone I know!” clumps that we tend to aggregate into. We were ‘sat’ at dinner, and Maarten did his job brilliantly of putting the two single girls (Lisa and myself) on the table with the best looking blokes. All of which (except the ones under the age of 16!) had girlfriends already, damnit. But he made the effort. I was sat between two lovely tall dutch ex-rowing-friends-of-Maartens (why, hello!) and I had a thoroughly delightful time (remember: they had girlfriends, not to mention my Dad reads this – hi Dad! – so no salacious gossip to report, sorry! Will try to do better next time!). Best speech award goes to Maartens oldest younger brother (15) who currently displays all of the high-self-esteem that expat brats grow up with (it’ll all come crashing down around his ears when he hits his 20s) and played the piano in the morning over breakfast (Maarten informs Lisa and I we’re to keep our predatory intentions well away for another three years…).
Then Trieste, where Andreas had found us a hotel on the waterfront. We swung the double doors out onto our balcony (okay, the hotel was expensive, so we were sharing rooms…trainee salaries, remember?) and overlooked the entire harbour. It was a stunningly beautiful place for my tired hangover (I was tired of HAVING the hangover, at any rate) and to wear the remainder of my cleverly packed wardrobe (I brought it, damnit, I’ll wear it!).
The trip home was relatively lonely. The train to Venice was a mite painful – with the only available seat being in a carriage full of school children. I played peek-a-boo with some (“Dear God, I’m sorry for what I did, honest, and I promise never to do it again, just let them leave me alone to my book and miPod, please?!”) and then fully entered the spirit of things from my third replacement seat (couples everywhere – and they wanted to sit next to each other? “Er, it’s a 1h50m train ride…you need to sit…okay, fine…have my seat, just snog quietly…please?”) when the kids initiated a carriage based game of balloon ‘upsies’.
Then the plane to Prague. At the airport, after my last gelato of the holiday (it had to be done!), I followed the large collection of stonewash wearing mullets at the airport, who were intermingled with a bunch of ‘natural shade’-shirt-and-shorts-combination-with-hiking-boots wearing English speakers with guide books and knew I was at the right place.
And now, the laundry is clean, the bag is unpacked and stowed (will need larger one for the upcoming travels) and I need to check my flights (to avoid sudden panic/adrenalin rush of last Wednesday evening). The shopping’s done, I went and saw Jim last night, and all in all: I hate the crash landing after a weekend like that.
Thank Fugu for links like this in my Inbox this morning…else I’d never have made it through the day! (hint: ignore the arrow in the middle of the picture – use the big “play” button underneath!)