Life got really busy the last couple of week so I apologize for being late with this post. At the moment I am two weeks behind on my blogs because the weekend before last I was on a plane and last weekend I was moving to a new flat. Here I am, doing exactly what I didn’t want to do; staring at my computer screen after a long day of staring at my computer at work. Whatever, I need to get these memories down before I forget them.
Off on an Adventure
If you’ve been following my travels then you probably noticed a trend of me waking up ridiculously early to catch trains and buses. Well, this trip was no exception. In fact, it’s my worst example yet! I got home from my ten hour day at the office, folded laundry, packed my bags, and got ready for bed just in time to take a one hour nap, wake up and get ready to catch the last S-bahn of the night to the Frankfurt central train station.
My bus didn’t leave town until 4 am but (other than an expensive taxi or a potentially unreliable and lengthy night bus) I really didn’t have another option other than chilling with the hobos in the train station for a couple of hours. No worries though. There were plenty of police officers watching over the station and homeless so I wandered down to the warmest platform I could find to wait out the night.
I boarded the bus to Frankfurt Hahn and was able to sneak an hour(ish) of sleep. For those who don’t know (and a great tip to first time travelers of Europe), there are two “Frankfurt” airports, Frankfurt International and Frankfurt Hahn. Frankfurt International is the second largest airport in all of Europe and very near the city of Frankfurt. Frankfurt Hahn is an airport exclusively for budget airlines (i.e. Ryanair) and about 2 hours by bus from the city of Frankfurt.
The flights out of Frankfurt Hahn are incredibly cheep but you trade that off with the cost of transportation to the airport and time wasted in transit. For broke travelers like myself, the trade-off is well worth it when you can get a flight for €9. Also, there are several hotels near Hahn if you want to avoid the early morning mess that I went through but that completely defeats the purpose of the cheep flight if you ask me.
Anyways, I got to the airport extremely early which was good because I had the security check of a lifetime. I unpacked my bags and took off my hat, belt, coat, etc. for security just like every other airport. I thought everything was fine until I went to start repacking my bag and a worker tells me to stop and proceeds to go through each one of my many pouches individually. Apparently satisfied that he can’t find anything suspicious, he lets me repack and be on my merry way.
As I am about to walk out of the security area, another worker flags me down and has me come over to another station where she runs a little piece of “bomb detecting” paper all over me. Of course the test came back clean but I was a bit worried for a second that I would have some sort of “poppy seed=heroin” type of mixup. I was so stoked to be headed to Italy in just a few hours that I didn’t even mind. In fact, it’s possible that my overt excitement and friendliness is the reason I got flagged in the first place considering that type of behavior really stands out in Germany, especially at 4 or 5 am.
Either way, I finally got on the plane headed for Treviso airport where my good friend Elisa and her father picked me up and drove us into town for a day of birthday sightseeing in Venice.
My first day in Italy was one for the books. I don’t think that I have ever hit it off so immediately with someone as I did with Elisa. We met at a welcome party our university hosted way back in September and basically became close friends after talking the night away. We have very similar taste in food and like the same things so whenever we went somewhere and it was just too time consuming to translate everything for me, I’d just have her order for me.
Shortly after arriving in the city we stopped for coffee and Frittelle which are fluffy little pastries covered in sugar (but there are a lot of variations after those basics). We wandered around the city for hours before crossing the Grand Canal on the Ponte di Rialto (Rialto Bridge). We came to Piazza San Marco (St Mark’s Square in English) and wandered through the free parts of the Basilica di San Marco (Saint Mark’s Basilica/Cathedral) before going next door to check out the museum in the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace).
Everywhere we turned, shops were setting up in preparation for Carnival. Ornate and colorful masks were around every corner. After some more sightseeing, pizza, coffee, and souvenir shopping, we finally circled back to the car and headed for Elisa’s home near Udine.
At her home, I hate some real, home cooked Italian food by Elisa’s mother and met her sweet little broken doggy. She’s a rescue so it’s very difficult for her trust people but I think by the end of the stay she was starting to warm up to me. Needless to say that after over 36 hours awake and spanning two countries, I slept very well that night.
Cividale & Udine
The next day Elisa drove us to the small town of Cividale (but not before cooking some risotto for us for lunch). The main purpose of our visit was to visit a shop with a special type of pastry to pick up as a souvenir. We also wandered around quite a bit and walked over The Devil’s Bridge despite the blustering winter wind. Finally, we ended up warming back up in a lovely cafe where I had real hot chocolate and macaroons for the first time. The cocoa was amazing! It was basically liquified white chocolate with a hazelnut swirl. So many calories but so worth it.
From there we drove to Udine and wandered around some shops. Elisa took me to sample some Italian wine and he boyfriend ended up joining us for a bit. On our way home we stopped at a really nice bakery to pick up some Crostoli which are basically crispy wafers of fried dough topped with powdered sugar. There were so many amazing tortes and pastries there that I picked up a small assortment for myself which included a baby sized biscuit/puff with frosting sandwiched between called Baci di Dama (which roughly translates to Lady Kisses).
The next morning we got up and drove to a smallish hillside town called San Daniele to eat the second best prosciutto in the world for lunch. It’s actually the very best in Italy; supposedly the best in the world is in Spain. Either way, it was heaven. They served Elisa and I a HUGE platter of prosciutto, Italian salami, and lardo (which is basically super fatty, thin slices of ham). We ate this with bread, soft goat cheese thopped with herbs and an olive oil drizzle, some form of hard/sharp cheese, artichoke hearts, and pickled(ish) mushrooms. I could easily eat that for every meal for the rest of my life.
Aside from the food, Sand Daniele was nice. We walked up to an old church/homestead/park at the center of the city where we got some pretty views and we visited the oldest church I have yet to see. On our way home, we stopped at an ice cream (gelato) shop which was pretty yummy and the rest of the day we spent relaxing at home.
On my last full day in Italy, Elisa and I took a train down to the costal city of Trieste. Our first stop was a super well know seafood restaurant. We had seafood pasta and salmon lasagna which I have to say tasted much better than it sounds. We wandered around a bit more and then stopped into a gorgeous coffee shop/parlor for some delicious coffee and apple cake.
When we got home it was time to go to work and earn my keep. I had brought Elisa and her parents a little present of some American food that I had, namely taco seasoning. None of them had ever had Mexican food before so Elisa and I made a trip to the grocery store to see if we could find the rest of the ingredients. Come to find out that Italian supermarkets resemble American stores much more than they do German stores. I even had a choice between types of tortillas and salsas!
Elisa, her boyfriend and I set to work preparing dinner while her parents and a family friend relaxed for the evening. I think it’s pretty safe to say that the tacos were a huge success. Everyone had lots of fun figuring out how full to stuff them and what flavor combination they liked most. I don’t think I have ever cooked for so many people before so I was very relieved when it all went smoothly.
The next morning Elisa and her father drove me back to the airport. I’m happy to say that the security check was much less intense than the first time around and aside from a boarding delay, the trip home went very smoothly.
I cannot thank Elisa enough for 1.) making my birthday so special and 2.) being such an excellent tour guide. I feel like I can truly say that I got to visit parts of Italy that most tourists never get to see. Through all of my adventures, getting off the beaten track and catching a glimpse at everyday life or untouched nature is the biggest thrill. Getting to see it all with a local and close friend is even better. This trip was definitely one I will remember for years and years to come.