I'm not entirely sure what day it is, what the time is or where I am right now.
I believe we are in Vicenza, Italy at Caserma Army Base.
It's been a long week.
We were hustled out of Rota Spain (A place not very friendly to American ex-military, everything is closed to retired military, spouse or dependents of Military... so we could not shop anywhere and needed special passes to go everywhere) and onto a train out of St. Maria.... something or other station. We were pretty exhausted when we got to the station, so I don't really remember the name.
We've become rather accostomed to sleeping only once or twice a week and eating perhaps oce a day, usually a meal comprised of Train Fare or the energy bars we brought with us.
So far all we've really seen of the country sides was what was visible through train windows. In this medium I can say: Spain is lovely, I've never seen soil so richly red with such brightly contrasting crops of Orange, gold and green. The mist that covers the fields in the morning only adds to soft beauty and color of the land.
France is mostly yellow.... and varying shades of orange-beige, the castles, the houses, the fields... all variants of these colors and not much changing. Also full of confusing grafitti reading "Classe, classe, senior classe Kilt (or Kille? something with K I and L in some order)" For miiles and miles.... I don't know what it means.
Italy is beautiful, the architecture is rich and old. Also oddly Reminiscent of Assisins Creed II... those game makers were on their game when they made the scenery, very accurate.
We have been riding the trains now for .... 3 or 4 days? Whenever we left Rota after thatlast entry. The reason for this is, we needed somewhere to go to get our bearings and figure the rest of our route out. Someplace with showers, laundry, net and a general goods store for supplies. So we set our sites on Vicenza, which many from our group had spoken of as being a good base for all these things, also centrally located for enjoyable daytrips. On this advice we set out and have been on non-stop trains since.
We stopped in Madrid and Barcelona. We sepnt the night in Mardid and camped out in a local park. Our Train got in just as the station was closing and there were no cheap available hotels, so we wandered the streets of Madrid and took in the night life before settling down in a local park near the train station and in front of the Botanical gardens, to while away the hours until the station opened again. We discovered where many, if not all of the cities museums and art galleries are located.
It was an interesting night, Madrid truly is a city that doesn't sleep. People walked through the park the entire time. Many of the bars were open until 3 or 4 in the morning, serving carne, arroz, cervesa and cafe. There was an interesting campaign against human trafficking set up on one of the sidewalks, comprised of black and white maniqiunns with barcodes, names, ages and stories of people who had been traficked. A gaurd was on 24 hour watch to make sure the exhibit wasn't vandalized and a man with a bag who spoke to himself stopped and loudly began to read the stories to the world before running off to chase the park cats into the garden, shouting obscenities at them.
We attracted the attention of the local police, but they didn't bother us. Just circled us a lot and asked us once if "Todo Bien? (all well)". On our way out of the park back to the train station we accidentally stumbled across a couple enjoying the night together in the nude that we had earlier seen benignly talking on a park bench. We averted our eyes and hurried on, they didn't seem to care and were unaffected. I wonder now though, if the police circled so much not because of the two odd foreigners sleeping on the park bench, but the more interesting two lovers in the bushes. The peeping toms.
From Madrid we went to Barcelona and tried to get a train to Milan. However, the Trains to Milan are not only popular and mostly booked up, but also only leave once or twice a week and cost 100 - 200 euros to ride (and thats WITH the unlimited global Eurail pass). So we were forced to find an alternative route made up of many local trains that ran through France and into Italy instead.
We met a Londoner who makes his living as a professional violenist and a father and daughter from Canada (They lived not an hour from Gander Canada!) who shared 3 of our trains with us. We made conversation the entire time and exchanged travel stories. It was fun.
When we got to the final leg of our trip, the last connections ( an overnight train from Dijon-Ville to Vicenza) the lady at the ticket boothe gave us the wrong information and nearly cost us our ride. We went to get our tickets (some local trains don't require tickets and flashing your Eurail pass is enough) and instead of giving us tickets or helping us make reservations (Some trains require a few extra euros for 'reservations' on a train, in addition to the Eurail pass) for the train, she looked at our pass and directed us to the platform it was leaving from. When we got the platform the conductors refused to let us on without tickets. We tried to explain the situation, but they kept sending us to the next car to talk to another person. The train started to leave and in desperation (we hadn't slept or eaten in over a day, and hadn't rested, unless you count our night in Madrid's park where I sat and read for 5 hours while Bill slept on a bench) and frustration and fear of being stranded we jumped onto the train without tickets.
It was very cramped on the train and difficult to move with our luggage. We then had to try to find an open room. The ticket collector came by and after a flustered and desperate attempt at explaining what happened he asked to see our eurail pass, which he then snatch away from us. He told us to follow him in French and led us all the way to the other end of the train, he put us in a compartment with 4 other people, demanded 25 euros each and then asked to see our passports, which he also snatched from us. Not sure what was going on I tried to get mine back, but he wouldn't give it to me. A thousand nightmares of getting in trouble with the French Police or being blackmailed for more money by the ticket collector ran through my mind. The Ticket collector told us he would be back in the morning, asked our stop and left.
The people in the compartment looked put our for being woken up by our abbrupt and rought arrival, but seemed willing to tolerate us and tried to make it easier by offering us a flashlight. One woman was standing, her legs had all cramped up. Bill used his pressure points and massage training as a peace offering and soon the woman's leg cramps were allieved and the others in the compartment less put out at our presence. They asked us to open the window and settled down. We scrambled into the bottom bunks and fell into fitful sleep as exhuastion took us over.
In the morning we were woken by a steward giving back our passports and 50 euros. He told us we could get breakfast in the dining car and that our stop would be coming up in about an hour in French.
We stumbled to the dining car and ate. It was all packaged food. Toast in a plastic sleeve that looked like it came out of a vending machine, plastic wrapped crossoint that looked like it came froma 24 pack, jam, butter, some juice and yogurt. After not eating for 2 days it tasted great and one of the stewards brought us cappuchino and coffee. The tiny meal cost 9.50 euros each, 19 and some change.... but we didn't care much, it was food.
While eating however, we lost track of the time. The train stopped, we looked out and saw a sign reading 'Vicenza' ... our stop. We scambled to get our luggage and race to the door in time to get out, but were unsuccessful. We had to wait until the next stop.
We reached the end of the line and got off the train.... surprised to find outselves in nowhere other than Venice, city of water. I wonder how many people come to Venice accidentally?
After wanding around Venice for about an hour and finding it impossible to navigate with so much luggage and also put out at all the bathrooms requiring you pay to use them, we returned to the train station and back tracked to Vecinza with the help of some nuns and priests in training. So... here we sit in the USO office, waiting for a room to become available at the 'Italy Inn' and trying to plan our next move.
No pictures to post this time, but when I upload them I will put them up.