A Travellerspoint blog

Erm free hour?!?

This place is riddled with bugs! I think i just got a free hour!! I think a lady just bought an hour from the guys and they mistakenly attributed it into my account. Although i said i felt bad cheating them of their money, this time i can justifiably sit here and continue typing here: I really have nothing else to do anyways. This is my day of vacation from vacationing! I am actually heading into the Tuscan countryside right after this and hopefully ave a delightful time there! I am quite sick of the cities. I can barely remember the 'feel' of the lesser ones, ie, Modena, Bologna, Lucca and Pisa.

Verona... ah it was a lovely place to be. In Bologna, the deterioration of the buildings were detrimental to the image of the city; not so for Verona. The stains of time on Verona buildings actually gave the city a beautiful touch. When strolling through the city, one can truly appreciate an old city in modern times. I forgot that this was the city of Romeo and Juliet until i looked at the brochures from the TI. For a tourist hotspot, Verona was a city quite unfazed by the hordes. Make no mistake, downtown was downright all about tourist: there was a street, the main shopping mall/street with all the posh shops you could ever find, gucci, emporio armani, stefanel (i have stuff to say about this brand, guess the feature model) LV etc, restaurants all around the piazza, multiple TI.s and all the mimic posers. Yet somehow, the buildings retained their ancient facades and the streets felt like they were no different from when they were first built. Needless to say, one can easily imagine how it was like for a local during the golden times of the city. One only needed to close ones eyes. Indeed, Verona is possibly one of the most beautiful cities in Italy.

I happened to stay at hostel that was just their third day in business. It was backpackers verona. Apparently the plan was to have this dormitory structure open up during summer when all the students were away doing whatever it is students do in summer. The accomodation was like a 3 star hotel, two bed rooms, a private bathroom, a desk and individual lamp to each occupant and a bedside stand and lamp! I havent had such luxury for awhile and i welcomed it indeed! However, the kitchen was quite horrible... Although it was evident that the students who lived in the dorms cooked, one dare say that they don't do it often as the fuse jumped every so often when one was cooking! Are the students who study in Italy rich or something?!?

I must say that when i was at the bus station, i overheard a couple of young chinese students (i mean from china) talking. They were talking about their lives as student in Italy and somehow the subject of money usage came up. It was quite appalling how nonchalant they could talk about using the large amounts money given to them. The girl said the one thousand units of money was not even enough to buy her clothes! I say thousand units of money because i am not quite sure they meant the chinese currency or in euros! I stagger to think she might have meant euros! Firstly, a thousand ren min bi could buy her a ton of presentable clothing in china and secondly, a thousand euros could buy her quite a few pieces of clothing even in the expensive boutiques in italy!! I suppose i really shouldn't be suprised as i know that the chinese younguns that attend foreign universities are all from rich families back in China. Then again, coming from China, one surely must have seen the hardships endured by the chinese nationals in their country on a daily basis; perhaps they could have learnt the value of money? Can one's life get that sheltered?? I guess so... I am tired of typing today. Ciao!

Posted by kyhans 07:56 Comments (0)

Yet more continuation...

Yeah... i think the title is getting old. Had to log out to top up my internet time. They have a flaw here. If i start up the computer and click on the internet explorer etc. i bypass their charging program. They realised this the day after i got my free internet period. I guess they can monitor from their computer the traffic that goes on their network of computers. I don't know why they didn't come up to me that day an make me log in and use my minutes... I actually feel bad for using that free time. They are after all just trying to make a life. It simply isn't right cheating them when they are giving ou good service. I feel no remorse cheating the XXX system in Italy though, its my little revenge for their unfriendly tourist industry. Although sometimes i think the tourists are to blame: there are so many of us and from what i've seen of other tourist (and probably sometimes myself) we are an irritating lot. Nevertheless, i think the italy economy is financed quite a bit by the tourism and irritating as we are, we still deserve a right to a decent experience...

Boy i do crap a lot. So, at cinque terra i did that hike everyone does, the only hiking path denoted by a fat blue line. It was a pretty alright hike along the coastline. As all who did the hike can tell you, the hike takes you through all the five villages of the cinque terra region. That is actually the lifesaver in my opinion. There really is no shelter from the sun all along the hike. I like the sun but not quite that much! By the time i reached the third village i felt like my head was fried. In my humble opinion, I really could've done without the hike, the view wasn't all that spectacular really... All five villages are quite alike in the sense that they are built right on cliffs along the coast. One can fantasize or dream about a time long ago when Ulysses returned to his cliffy island (was his palace on a cliffy island? I can't remember that well... My point is that time you know... yeah that), there's the magic.

Of course, i liked the waters of that sea too! I liked it so much that i actually jumped into it! I did not even do that in Nice! I also rented snorkelling gear! A tip for you guys who might want to do the same thing, you can get the mask for the same price of renting a mask and fin. If you don't usually use fins then don't, although personally i appreciate them since i scuba dive & i don't know how you would stay afloat easily without. It really was a nice snorkel until i decided to be foolish. I'll show you the scars and tell you the story if you ask!

I lived with a whole bunch a canadians plus an irish the whole time i was there. I liked their company quite a bit, even though i did not speak much throughout the stay. Canada was the subject quite a bit and also about how they actually knew people from each other's lives... I didn't mind that actually, some might consider it impolite; for some reason i didn't feel too talkative those days. I think i was missing France... I definitely like these Northern Americans more. Enough said. Forgive the generalization, in light of the other nice and interesting northern americans i've met and lived with.

After Cinque Terra i headed up to Bologna. Midway, i stopped at Modena and to my disgust found that the luggage containers at the train station were not functional. They were sitting there looking perfectly safe and all but it was permanently shut down and the only place i could have my luggage stored safely away, according to the officials, were at the Bologna train station. What sort of logic was this? Some sort of scam yeah? I tried asking to store my luggage at hotels but, according to a nice old italian gentleman, italian laws forbade such practice. I understand the logic of such a law i guess but taking away the baggage service at the train station... Maybe there was some underground politics going on yeah?

Modena was not that impressive, but still worth the visit: those few hours i trudged along under the sun with my very light backpack. I have always been a balsamic fan and of course i looked up the famous local concoction. I ended up leaving the shop with a small bottle of balsamic worth 82 euros. I figure its worth a dollar a ml... I couldnt resist buying it. The liquid is heavenly. & that is probably quite an understatement. Look i up if you desire: the modena balsamic is very hard to come by and i really do believe it after tasting it. I tried all three versions: the young, the middle and the very very lovely old. Guess which one i bought?

Bologna was quite different from Modena, although it wasn't all the far away at all. The buildings in bologna were all plus size. The city, perhaps, was trying to make a statement. In its olden days it must have been quite something really. I do not think downtown has changed much since the old days: that says something i suppose... It is a shame the city is not very well preserved. The few buildings that were helps one's imagination. I suppose being sick in Bologna also didn't help the matter very much. I am not sure what brought it on... was it the balsamic? (heck its over a century old...) or was it all the weird bacteria you can get from corals? Again, i have to say: i was in the main piazza and was fully prepared to pay to go into what is supposed to be the 5th largest cathedrals in the world only to be met with a couple of fat, trying to be macho looking pauchy italian guys that forbade my entry because i had a backpack. That is fine, there wasn't a line and there was a signboard saying so too (right beside those guys) but upon asking if they had a place where i could store my backpack, they said Bologna train station. The lid just blew of my head i think. I think it was then i had a grudge against the italian tourism sector & all things connected to it. The train station was a very well 20 minutes walk away!

All that being said, I must say other cathedrals in Italy, the ones i visited after Bologna do provide the service. One wonders if they did that with foresight or because millions of tourists filed complaints that the government had to do something. I have no more time left... so its goodbye for now! My next stops were the cities that started with V : Verona and Venice! Cheers!

Posted by kyhans 06:48 Comments (0)

More Continuation?

Yeah... from Gap to Cinque Terra. It was a loong long long train ride. Stopped at Marseilles for a transit and also Nice (as packed with college/high school kids as ever!). From the train station Marseilles looks like a forlorn sort of city and actually not particularly safe to walk around. The reason being not because of all the black skinned people around, no racism intended indeed but because of the overwhelming amount of police everywhere... I've heard Marseilles ain't a safe place and perhaps it ain't! All rumours really have a strand of truth in them, and many times more than just a few strands.

After an exhausting and frustrating train journey (frustrating because i was cooped up in a train chair for so many hours in which i could not get a good nap! Too many train changes & damned loud italian talkers! Looks like i'm taking cheap shots at italians whenever i can. Sorry... guilty as charged! I don't know why i'm holding such a grudge against the people of the nation... i digress) I arrived in Riomaggiore around midnight, in a train car filled with noisy italian high schoolers, sorry, to be greeted by the most specatular night view ever. Never have i seen a night view as beautiful as that with mine own eyes before in my short life. Gracious! The sky that night was just perfect: the right amount of moon, the right amount of clouds, even the right amount of stars! The train station i stepped right onto was a deck atop the innermost point of a cove. On the right side of the cove was a lively pub, with nice classical and perhaps jazz music floating out from it. The owner of that pub had tastefully installed a spotlight to shine onto some waves crashing onto rocks that jutted out in the middle of the cove. It was quite something to see the turqoise or dark transparent blue coloured sea under that spotlight. Tha same blessed spolight brightened up the view enough, with help from some other lights from the train station, that one could see the dark shadow of a cave on the left side of the cliff enveloping the cove. The mystery of the inside of the cave was truly intriguing and it lent to me a sense of greek myth coming true. I managed to take a few shots (i set up m stuff almost immediately!) and i'm crossing my fingers that they come out right! Truly that day's train ride, as bad as it was, was worth it! Thanks to it i managed to catch this awesome view! In fact, i found no view like that one for the rest of my stay there.

Posted by kyhans 05:58 Comments (0)

I think i have free internet. Just today...

Yeah so i have been here about an hour i think. I shall be here a little longer, just as soon as i feel like i'm done crapping. Besides, i dare not stay until too late anyways. I wonder how safe it is to wander the streets of Florence at night alone... Then again, hopefully i can catch the bus, god only knows when the last one is.

Anyhow, I was talking about food from Gap i think. Yeah that comes to mind because today i found prune flavored biscuits in italy!!! I was in Lucca today, ran out of food ( i seem to eat a lot these days... or i just pack too light of a lunch and end up ravenous and hunger driven ) and went to a supermarket, Pam. Yeah when i saw it i thought it was some sort of solace because last night i found out the DVD of the russian girl i met, possibly containing MTV.s of her was broken. I can't say i was really surpised, but i was crossing my fingers... I dont have a hard case trolley or anything aye. I only have a backpack... yeah so i packed it in between clothing etc. That worked pretty well for the last three weeks. It was perfectly alright a week before but now its broken. ARGH!! & i never even viewed the contents yet! Curses!! The computers i am using now have DVD-roms! CURSES!!!

Solace... or not. They were the most horrible tasting biscuits/snacks ever!! What is this italian fascination with making their biscuits to be cereal like? Biscuits that taste like cereal... and i mean those Kelloggs cornflakes, special K sort of cereal. Granted i found a brand that had pretty tasty cereal biscuits. BUT i would not want them on a hiking trip etc. etc. They taste healthy... I don't feel energised or rejunevated when i crunch down on them and taste NOTHING. Thats how the prune biscuits tasted like. I think on the box its supposed to be 20% made of prunes. Yeah so what the heck happened? Did they squeeze out all the prune juice, sugar flavor and all and used the leftover fibres to make the damn biscuits?!? God knows what they were thinking...

Yeah so i sound pretty mad. I suppose i'm just popping my lid a little concerning Italians. Italian economical food is REALLY economical. I have the right to say this i guess because i have sampled all the cheapest meats etc. etc. from the supermarket chains in Switzerland, Belerux & France. While i can't say which country has the best cheap budget food, I can definitely say Italy has the worst cheap food. Seriously, lets just take chocolates. My god... the cheapest chocolate they have, not really cheap in the first place tasted horrible. Then bread, in no way bread in Italy is cheap. But what cheapest bread they have is horrible horrible indeed. Super stale bread, though fresh maybe for the first hour or so out from the oven sold for the price of darn good cheap bread (that lasts good for days!!) in switzerland. However, manufactured goods aside, for some reason, in Italy you can get really really really juicy and sweet fresh nectarines, peaches, prunes for dirt cheap. Maybe its the season and all but 1 euro for a kg of peaches/nectarines?!?! Actually.. today i got 1 kg of nectarines for 0.76 euros! & they taste just fine!!!

Hmm... looks like i havent made any development at all journey wise and it looks like i have to go.. its 10pm. I am leaving early tomorrow for Siena so i have to at least shower today. heh heh. Cheerios! I'll give you guys a hint though, my next stop after Gap was the Cinque Terra. phew.. it was a really long full day 12 hour train ride to get there!

Posted by kyhans 12:35 Comments (0)

Continuation...

-17 °C

Yes Bern... I already forgot what i wrote about it. Its nice to visit, i heard its nice to party there too. Unfortunately iàm not quite the partying type. Well when i mean party i guess i mean night life in this case. I am too poor to drink beer... I seriously dont know how other travellers seem to be able to drink beer during the nights... I have been surviving on sausages and the cheapest bread for god knows how long and i still cant afford it. What do they do?!?! skip all their meals?

ANYWAYS... met a couple of nice and interesting people at the hostel in Bern. I found out that in french canada everything is done in french, whereelse the rest of the country, things are in english. Funny system that... i suppose its too hard to change it but well... no more comments.

After bern was Gap, in france!! I have been trying to do some couchsurfing, but due to lack of preparation ( i only found out about it right before i left) and expensive local internet, i have not much luck with it. But! i got to crash on a couch/futon in Gap France, with the most wonderful host/friend/woman ever! However, it was no thanks to couchsurfing.com though. I met her in Bruges! It'll take too long to explain... so i won't. Hooray i found the ' symbol. Somebody write a comment and thank me.

The town was quite cute. Its not very toouristy and so retains quite a little bit of the french countryside town feel. From a high vantage point ( like when you're on top of La Clarance, about 2300m up), you will see that Gap is really too big for the area. However, you certainly don't feel it when you're living in downtown (where she lives). Gap is like Zermatt, overdeveloped but far far less touristy. My experience there was phenomenal. I was introduced to french cooking ( yeah she is a good cook. Now i have a valid reason for a french maid, if i can afford one ever ), and the hikes in the nearby area were the most beautiful hikes ever! I am told in summer there are many outdoor activities, free ones, in Gap. They are mostly musical festivities but the thing is, they are weekly ones! Twice if not at least once weekly! Now, the french really know how to enjoy life! French kissing, yeah that probably came from france. Where else?!?! By the way, i have to mention that there is a food native to the region called tourtons. The first ones i had were a little bit like curry puffs, minus the curry spice. The later ones i had, the sweet ones, were spectacular!! The had all sorts of flavors. Unfortunately i had quite a bit to eat already and had no chance to sample them all. I am salivating right now just thinking of it!! The berry/currant one i had was the best! It was soft and sweet and yet it had that sour currant/berry tang to the slighly crunchy crust that enveloped the (duh) filling. Now that we're talking about food i hve to mention this lovely biscuit: prune flavored biscuits. They were given to me as a snack on my hike up La Clarance (by myself). I had it and the top and if i wasnt so amazed by the taste i'd had shouted my orgasmic pleasure (i apologise to the children who read this, please don't look up the dictionary for clarification. You'll find out later in life by youself.). Someone has GOT to introduce this type of biscuit to whereever i live... i would buy them by the case! These biscuits had just the right amount of saltiness and sweetness to it. Perfect for snacking!!!

The hikes -- I won't bore most of my readers with all the details, but i have to say, wandering around the national park (yeah she took a day off work...how much better can a host be?!?) in france, i got to see the true beauty of alpine summer time. The wild flowers were in bloom, the wild berries and all were in season... It is quite something else to be able to just pick off the wild berries and eat them while you're hiking! The mountain tops weren't that impressive i suppose, but the hikes were quite something else! I love the beauty of the place. I dont remember the name of the park, but its the one that has Le Sirac in it.

Aside from Gap, i also got to see Embrun, a small resort town half an hour train ride away. By the way, my experience in laid back out back france was lovely. The people were friendly and generous. The saying that the french are rude etc etc so far has not proven true yet. Now... the italians however... I will mention that later. Maybe. The town was quite a bit more touristy than Gap. It was by a very beautiful lake. I think Embrun is also a hotspot for the french themselves... Most of the brochures i saw were only in French... Well, maybe i am again very very ignorant. Anyhow, I wished i could windsurf. I've tried once before back home in Malaysia with disastrous results, you can ask me personally and so haven't picked it up. I spent about half an hour watching them people having quite the time of their lives! It was a particularly windy day i am told and boy did those windsurfers shoot across the broad lake! I am quite sad i didn't get the chance to spend more time there, i had an errand to run that evening so i had to make it back to Gap early. Overall... i wish i could've spent more time there. When i go back, whenever that is... i'll make sure i can speak ok french. I think i will really really enjoy myself then. I might be falling in love with France!!

Of course i have to say my experience in Nice wasn't memorable. My host has more than made up for it (along with her friends and colleagues) however and then too, she did say the french up north are generally gloomy and unhappy... (Yes i know Nice is in the south. I have come to the conclusion that the french in cities are the bad ones. Of course.. thats a generalization too, everything is. generalization makes life easy. one has just got to remember its a generalization, not a judgement locked in stone).

Hmmm well i guess i was able to gloss through a lot there... hooray! I will stop now. I have actually spent quite a bit of time doing this!! Too much in fact... Till next time! BTW i am in Florence and will be for awhile. Since there is cheap internet here you guys might be in luck! I actually found out u can see how may people has viewed my blog... thanks for doing so! & i hope people will check in again and leave comments!!

Posted by kyhans 09:20 Comments (0)

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