So I am writing this right now hanging out of a four story building in Riomaggiore,Italy.
Yep, it is the only place I can find good Internet connection! But it doesn't even bother me because Italy rocks... Like France doesn't hold a candle to this place. It's pretty, the beaches are better, and there are no trash lined sidewalks. Next time I am just skipping France and coming straight here!
So this morning we said au devoir to the Pink Lady bright and early (still wearing her see through shirt, I might add) so we could get out of France as quick as possible. We picked up some fruit and croissants at the little shops along the street before boarding the worst train ever. You would think France would get it together and get some better trains with air conditioning or something, because the sweaty, cramped, and stuffy ride to Vermille was the worst! It was a breath of fresh air (literally and figuratively) to get off at the Italian border and transfer to something a little less cramped! On our train from Monaco to Vermille we met some guys who were also headed to Cinque Terre, so we bummed around with them all the way to Italy.
Italy is all I'd ever imagined it would be. And more. The atmosphere of this country is completely different from France- tenfold better! During a layover between trains we went to get a little food, and then down to the beach for a little feet soak. Wow the water was amazing. We couldn't stay very long because we were short on time, but it was a great precursor to what I know the rest of Italian beaches will be. We cannot wait!
At noon we boarded our train bound for Riomaggiore. Okay, France, I must say your trains are a little less rickety and a little less ghetto, but at least the Italian ones have windows! We tried to get as comfortable as we could on it, and tried to mentally prepare ourselves for the 5 hour journey. Yay. We love trains.
Things on the train actually didn't go that bad... that is until the train police showed up. Actually, this guy was just a ticket taker and doesn't even deserve any title with the word police in it, but he sure acted like he had the authority of a law officer. As we saw him approach, everyone got out their tickets to have them checked. We followed suit, handed them over, and expected him to give them all back after a quick glance... only he didn't give them back. He started going through them, checking every one, and then in broken English, told us that we all owed him 50 euros. What? We had paid almost 300 USD for these bad boys, and now Mr. Police wanted more? We demanded a reason why, and he told us we had broken the rules and hadn't written down our travel date on the pass. You see, we've got 5 days of travel, and I guess you're supposed to write the date of every day you travel "before arriving on the train" as Mr. High and Mighty put it. We tried everything to get out of the tickets. Our new friend Jaquamo speaks Italian, so he tried to talk some sense in him, trying out anger, kindness, bartering, and more. Nothing. This man thought he was a hard A, that's for sure. I tried next. I calmly explained we were just students who had never used Eurail before, we were trying to learn about Italy and their language, had no idea of the rules, and pleaded with him to show a little Christian charity on us- we needed this money to eat! We couldn't afford to drop 50 bones on nothing! Yep, the man without a soul didn't care. He just kept writing out tickets and telling us that either we paid up or we got our Eurails taken. We had to pay up :( As he wrote my ticket, I made it a point to tell him that I hoped he felt good about doing this, and that this money better go towards getting some better trains because this one sucked. Either he didn't understand English very well, or he just didn't really pay attention to me. Either way I was still mad, and the rest of our train ride was not as happy and exciting as the first 2 hours had been. How light my wallet felt without that extra 50 :(
Life got a little better when we arrived in Riomaggiore.... actually a lot better. This place rocks. Cinque Terre means 5 Lands in Italian, which basically means that there are 5 small cities along the Mediterranean that are connected with little paths, beautiful views, and lots and lots of water. Riomaggiore is the first city, and thanks to our planning ahead skills, we found a good hostel here for a couple nights for pretty cheap. It's not the Pink Lady, but it'll do :)
Basically this place is unbelievable. You MUST get to Cinque Terre sometime in your life. Google it becuase I can't upload pics right now. It's amazing, fun, and has a great atmosphere about it. All the cities are known for different things, have towering buildings built all along the coastline which are painted lively colors and attract the young and old alike to spend some time in the Italian countryside. .... And when I say spend some time, I mean prolong our vacations. Right when we got here we fell in love, and we may or may not have canceled our hotel in Bern so that we can stay here a little longer... nope, no more Switzerland. We'd love to go there, but after our train experience today, we're not feeling too excited to ride more trains, especially those lasting around 8 hours minimum up to Switzerland. So, here we will stay until Thursday night. I can't wait! The beach is calling :)
After rearranging our plans tonight we got some dinner. Seeing as there was a huge gaping hole in everyone's wallets, we just settled on some cheap pizza to fill us up. Yeah, it wasn't that great, but it was cheap and all we needed. We've got plenty of nights to go splurging on our Italian! And when we'd finished off our pizza we got more gelado, too. Oh, the ice cream... I am an addict.
After ice cream we went to the bar to watch Spain play Honduras. Brittany and I love soccer, but we couldn't really stomach spending at least 2 hours at the bar when we could be exploring beautiful Italy, so we ditched the boys and went on a hike in the hills. Oh.... I don't even know what to write because words do not do the view justice. The combination of the trees, the sea, and the little city below just made for a perfect ending to an almost perfect day. Pictures will be coming soon! After our hike we got back to the bar just in time to see the end of the game- Spain won, if you didn't know. Viva La Roja! The nightlife in Riomaggiore is really funny. This is quite the "get drunk and have a good time!" spot, and it attracts a lot of young travelers, so it was pretty fun to be around so many people, accents, and unique ways of life :) My favorite part was talking to our completely wasted roommates, a couple from Ohio, who managed break a wine glass and beer bottle in the 20 minutes we spent talking, and learning all about their lives. The hostel experience is one everyone must have once in their life.
When Spain had won and we were done with the bar, it was time for a little fun. Dan had his heart set on seeing some beach, so Britt and I took the clan down to the waterfront to show them the crashing waves and loads of boats. Well, all I have to say is boys will be boys, and once Dan and Cade saw waves crashing on some rocks which jetted out into the bay, well, they got it in their mind that it was important to go climb them. In the middle of the night. On the slippery rocks. Amid the 12 ft waves crashing on the craggy cliffs. When we told them they were crazy and might die, Cade only uttered 7 words. "You've just got to time it right!"
And "time it right" they did. Well, kind of. They managed to get out on the rocks, but returned soaked... but with a good story, nonetheless. It was hilarious to see them out on the cliffs, trying to dodge loose rocks, huge waves, and a little dance with death... or injury. It was funny, that's for sure, and they were pretty much giddy with excitement to have completed their little task.
After wards we did some more chatting with random fellow backpackers sitting on the cliffs about their experiences and our own, then came back to the hostel for a little sleeping in preparation for our endeavors tomorrow: the 6 hour hike to all the 5 cities and a lot of swimming at the end of our journey. Oh, and lots of Italian food. Buona sera!