Balcony Scene. Enter Romeo.

Trip Start Jan 07, 2010
Trip End Jul 19, 2010

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Flag of Italy  , Veneto,
Thursday, June 24, 2010

This morning (Thursday), Nat and I hauled ourselves out of bed (after what ending up being a late night) in time to walk to the station and take the 7.40am train to Verona. We happened to run into Ella (who was coming with us to Verona for the day) en route again so we all arrived at the station together. It just goes to show how little Venice really is since we have run into Ella twice now in the street unexpectedly. Both Ella and Nat dozed back off to sleep on the train to Verona while I just listened to music and watched the extraordinary countryside pass us by. Upon arriving in Verona a mere two hours later, Nat and I checked our luggage into the left luggage office and all three of us enjoyed a seriously good breakfast of fresh fruit, thick yoghurt and chocolate
muesli (yes, chocolate muesli is amazing) at a small but very busy café just tucked around the corner from the centre of Verona. I have really missed all the fresh fruits while living in Sweden and now that we are back in the warmth of the south, I am just devouring fruit at every opportunity. After breakie, we spent the rest of the morning walking around the charming little town, seeing the main squares, many churches and cathedrals and just wandering down its perfectly rustic Italian streets and lanes. Verona also has a pretty spectacular mini-Colosseum that was completed c. 30AD and is the third largest Roman arena after the one in Rome and Capua (some other place in Italy). Since Verona hasn't experienced an earthquakes, its arena is in pretty good condition and gives a fair idea of what the Colosseum once looked like even if on a smaller scale.  

After some time, we met up with Ella’s friend, Nicco (and his bouncy dog) before continuing our stroll through the city – although, this time our stroll was more orientated towards reaching Nicco’s favourite coffee house by the river. The coffee house was just beautiful – built right next to Verona’s rushing river and directly opposite the old Roman amphitheatre and hill top fortress.  We sat on the stone verandah out the back of the coffee house right on the river and enjoyed the "coffee" which was in fact Spritz since the sun was over the yardarm. After a little while, all the nibblies (which had made us hungry) were gone, so Nat, Ella and I left to find lunch and Nicco left for work. We headed towards a region of town near the university for lunch based on a recommendation from Nicco. Sadly, my panini lunch was absolutely rubbish. You would expect in Italy that when you order a tomato and mozzarella panini you’d get the sweet, rosy red tomatoes that fill that markets and creamy fresh buffalo mozzarella. Instead I got the complete opposite – the tomato was green and completely tasteless,  the mozzarella was plastic and also completely tasteless rubber, while the lettuce was so filthy, I could’ve planted a couple of pansies in the amount of dirt left on the lettuce leaves. It was very tragic and I didn’t end up bothering to eat something so lame in a land of such wonderful food.

After lunch we meandered back into town with Ella, who had to take an earlier train back to Venice because her mum was arriving that evening. Walking down one of Verona’s beautiful streets, Ella pointed out an archway through which lay Juliet’s balcony – Verona naturally being the home of the star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet. We said our goodbyes to Ella here because we were to see the balcony and she had her train home to catch. I’m so glad we met up with Ella in Venice – I think without her we would have really missed out on catching a glimpse of the true Venice. Thank you Ella! The walls of the archway tunnel leading to Juliet’s balcony were completely covered (several inches thick) with thousands of love notes in many different languages (many of which I couldn’t even identify). Somehow, it was simultaneously uber lame (with some seriously corny love notes posted on the wall) and yet also strangely beautiful to see so many simple messages of love in all the languages of the world. Juliet’s balcony itself was quite little but sadly was full of lots of lamo tourists taking copious cringe-worthy photos. Juliet did really have a lovely house though, built of old grey stone within a sweet inner courtyard whose walls were entirely covered in ivy.

After visiting Juliet’s pad, it was time for us to return to the station (via the fruit market) for our train on to Switzerland. Once we had collected our bags and settled in the waiting lounge, Nat decided that she stunk and rummaged in her bag only to emerge moments later with her deodorant. She then proceeded, with the entire waiting lounge watching, to apply said roll-on deodorant to both herself and t-shirt while standing at the front of the room!! Several people, myself including, cracked up at this spectacle including a very large pink woman who spent a good while chuckling even when Nat had finished. So, a now non-stinky Nat and I boarded our first train of the evening to Milan – it was a EuroStar, which are typically really pricey but very fast comfortable trains that we’d been hoping to take for some while. It wasn’t as swish as I’d hoped but quick – taking us from Verona to Milan in only an hour and a quarter. In Milan, we changed trains quickly, catching only a glimpse of the glamour of Milan from the fancily attired commuters and from the glitzy station itself (with grand white stone halls and high arching ceilings). The train from Milan was even nicer from the last, and we had an enjoyable ride watching the scenery change as we traveled through northern Italy (with all its stunning lakes and green hill towns) and then into Switzerland. The transition into Switzerland from Italy was very conspicuous – everything (from roads, parks, gardens, houses and even the towns) suddenly became orderly and very neat. Switzerland looks just extraordinary – the mountains are so incredibly beautiful and so majestic. And the little towns dotted in between the forests of a thousand shades of green are cute beyond description. Our final train journey for the day was from Spiez to Interlaken, where we had booked beds at a hostel. We arrived in Spiez and much to our dismay realized: (i) the ticket booth was closed and station was deserted and we had no idea if we needed a ticket (as the Italian ticket office had implied) let alone how to get one from the little empty station; and (ii) that Switzerland annoying doesn’t use the Euro, so we had to find an ATM before boarding the train. Turns out they accept Euro most places anyway and we didn’t even need a ticket. Such is the way of things. I think our last train ride to Interlaken would’ve been the most beautiful but the sun had set so we could only just make out the enormous lake bordered by mountains in the fading light. Absolutely beautiful – it never ceases to amaze me how true stereotypes can be. Everything just looks so Swiss!
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