Sorry for the delay. I’ve been basking in the opportunity to talk to someone other than myself & have not wanted to spend one nanosecond at the computer. Now en route from Florence to Rome we happened upon a train that has not only individual seats but even a power cord rendering my laptop usable & an update possible with an hour & a half to kill. Something tells me we’re not in Kansas anymore. In my humble opinion, the trip has been nothing short of a dream filled with laughing my head off with Mom & tolerance for our eccentricities from Maw Maw & Aunt Jane. I feel kind of like a whole new person with the opportunity to speak more than 200 words a day to people I love & have missed dearly, experiences in crazy lovely new landscapes & cities, a whole new summer wardrobe courtesy of my stylish father (who knew?), a short haircut & even my very own vacuum cleaner. Life is good. But you hear quite enough from me, so for some guest blogging, here’s Mom’s highs & lows of the vacay…
High: Leaving Chicago first thing in the morning.
Low: 7 hour layover in New York.
High: Hugging Alei. Table full of unique (?) Ukrainian treats prepared by a babusia. Meeting Alei’s host family.
Low: 7 people+ 110 degrees + van (?) + no seatbelts + doing 100mph = welcome to Ukraine
High: Showering. Kyiv. Church district. Head scarves. Bazaar in Morozivka. Watching Maw Maw & Auntie Jane climb onto the top bunk of the midnight train (who knew they were so flexible)
Low: Showering outside with water “warmed” by the sun next to the duck & chickens. Same unique Ukrainian treats at 10am. Real pig heads at the bazaar. Getting myself onto the top bunk of the train in the 95 degree heat & total darkness.
High: Waking up in Vapniarka on a train. Deciding to skip the marshrutka (bus) with 75 of my new friends & opting for a private taxi instead. Bazaar in Yampil. Beautiful river Dniester. Old church.
Low: Hot. Dusty. Spooky walk to the well (just one man’s opinion).
High: Visiting Alei’s school. Seeing some of her students. Getting nails done for $2.50. Building a screen door for Alei to keep out the spiders.
Low: It was all good. Dusty, but good.
High: Walking to meet Alei’s knitting friends, school friends, & neighbor friends. Taking the bus to the train to Lviv. Seeing the arm shoot out of the dark train car when we opened the wrong berth at midnight (it was late & the language barrier was an issue).
Low: Lugging suitcases in the dark to the far platform & almost missing the train when the attendant was reading a paper instead of opening the door for us.
High: Waking up in Lviv. Walking in a postcard down 700 year old cobblestone streets. Bus tour. Finding Gloria Jean’s & her clean/free bathrooms.
Low: Getting accosted by crooks on the tram at 7am. Creeepy entrance to the hostel (700 year old staircase?).
High: Did devotionals in an 800 year old church. Coffee on the square. Walking tour of medieval square: churches, parks, & fortified walls of Lviv. Met up with Emily (Alei’s Peace Corp friend). Saw a ballet. Drank a cup of chocolate.
Low: Finding a man in our hostel room. Waking up 400 times a night to the squeaky floor.
High: Coffee on the square. Breakfast of gelato & crepes. Climbed to the top of the belltower (didn’t even cry). Drank another cup of chocolate. Saw a church from 1252. Taxied to the airport on time. Landed in Venice at 10:30pm. Found the hostel at 12:00am. Alei let me sleep in her bed.
Low: Practically stripping at customs to locate my passport (strategically placed on my person for complete security) much to the amusement of security & the other passengers. Plane was an hour late. No seat assignments, just a stampede of pushy strangers on the tarmac. Toting luggage 100+ miles through dark alleys & over 1000 bridges (very slightly exaggerated). Finding a huge bug/creature on the wall of our bedroom. Auntie Jane being overcome by bedbugs & then taking my bed.
High: Transferred to new hostel sans bugs on the island of Giudecca. New/clean digs. Maw Maw & Jane slept. Alei & I walked over scenic alleys & crossed bridges all day long. Gelato, licorice, risotto, café americcano, Nutella & amaretto biscuits. Got lost in the beauty of a city on water. Also got lost on a mad hunt for more licorice.
Low: Lots of rain.
High: Took Jane & Maw Maw to Venice. Toured the Doge Palace. Marched through Saint Mark’s Basilica in 6 inches of puddles. Fed pidgeons. Drank a cup of hot coffee in a cozy restaurant. Early to bed.
Low: Rainy & cold. Service fees to eat at a restaurant.
High: Hot coffee & chocolate croissants. Took a water bus to Murano. Toured glass factories. Shopped. Took a water bus to Burano (another postcard with each home a different color). Snacking our way through town. Seeing lace being made- 7 women x 4 months = $1000 square of lace the size of an endtable (don’t worry Bob, I didn’t buy it).
Low: Rainy & cold. Little boat accident, nobody hurt.
High: Coffee & croissants (noticing a trend). Water bus through Venice. Sunshine. Didn’t miss the train (barely). Sat & ate cherries, crackers, olives, & stinky cheese- life is good. Train ride through mountains & villages of Italy- breathtaking. Arriving in Florence. A campsite with a view that redefined beautiful. Wandering along the fortified wall. “Drank our dinner”. Only 2 spiders in our tent.
Low: Got off at the wrong stop of the water bus & had to run through Venice with luggage…again. Bus 1.20 Euro. Carsickness & a few years off of our lives- free. Tents are cold at night.
High: Touring San Croce church & seeing the tombs of Galileo & Michelangelo. Alotto gelato. Climbing the steps to the “Gates of Heaven” church & happening upon an Italian play. Sunset overlooking the city with Alei & a bottle of wine.
Low: Being left by Aunt Jane & Maw Maw (pretty big city without a phone).
High: Blue skies & warm weather. Another chance to walk the city & wander through churches. A parade celebrating St. John the Baptist with men dressed in Medieval clothes. More gelato (sensing a trend?). A perfect end to the night- sitting on a balcony overlooking the mountain, playing cards with Alei, drinking wine, eating cheese & watching an hour-long firework show. Ahh…
Low: Cold shower. A fellow hosteller throwing up wine for a solid 7 minutes on the patio at 7pm (see what happens when you don’t have a drinking age?).
High: Coffee & croissants overlooking the city. Relaxing on a train watching the Tuscan countryside roll by.
Low: Cranky train seat partners.
Overall, the word breathtaking has truly been redefined for us. If you’ve seen it in a book, we’ve seen it in real life. More to come from Rome, Athens, & Corfu. Wish you were here!