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3 weeks and 1000km through Europe’s boot

“He is Like Baby”

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As we wandered around Rome we continued a common theme of our trip – lost.  Ross and I had been perpetually adrift for the past 3 months…pleasantly and happily lost but lost none the less.  We often strolled the streets choosing our path at random, curious of what we would find around each corner.  We used this method of chaotic drifting frequently and sometimes we won while other times we lost.  The day prior we won the gamble when we stumbled upon a little nugget of a place that served the best gelato either of us had ever had.  I thought Ross was going to combust from pure joy as the friendly girl behind the counter offered him sample after sample.  Apparently this was a life changing event for him because I found him still discussing the gelato as we went to sleep that night.

Yum!

Yum!

 

We greeted another day in the Eternal City in a similar fashion yet this time I found Ross to be a little more systematic with his wandering.  He was uncharacteristically taking control over the directions as we walked about the town and I was relieved to have him take the reins.  I wasn’t aware of an intended destination but he seemed to be on a mission.  I started to notice some familiar architecture and store fronts.   As I brought it to Ross’ attention an expression crossed his face like that of a child with his hand caught in the cookie jar.  It was at that moment that I noticed the entrance to the gelato place from yesterday just a few steps away.  Ross acted as if it was a coincidence and feigned surprise when he stated, “Look, it’s the same place as yesterday.  Let’s go inside!”

As we entered, the same smiling face greeted us from behind the counter, “Ah, welcome back!”  We laughed and went about stuffing our faces with samples again.  Ross wasted no time choosing his flavors and digging in.  He was grinning like a Cheshire cat while digging into the ice cream.  The girl from behind the counter laughed and pointed towards Ross, whose head was bobbling like a toddler’s, and cried out, “He is like baby. So happy.” I looked at the massive smile on his face and veneer of gelato on his face and couldn’t agree more.

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Adrift in Italy

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Nug had her heart set on seeing varied places in Italy so we rented a car.  They asked if we wanted a GPS for 12 euro per day extra.  “We are good,” I scoffed as I figured a map and road signs would suffice.  Little did we know that road signs in Italy are inconsistent at best but more often than not are non-existent or dead wrong.  It got to the point where we would bet on how many times we would have to stop and ask for directions before finding a destination.  Thankfully, the Italians we met were over the top friendly and helpful. Without their guidance Nug and I would have probably found ourselves in marriage counseling.

One time we were searching for an Agriturismo in Cerreto Guidi.  An Agriturismo is a working farm that puts up travelers.  The one we staying at produced wine and olives out in the middle of nowhere and I assured Nug it would be easy to find.  We were bickering and driving around in circles when we decided it was time to stop and see if some kind soul would point us in the right direction.  We met a tiny, cute old woman and asked if she could help.  She spoke no English but assured us that her husband was fluent.  She led us through several back streets and into a beautiful courtyard with an impeccable garden.  She insisted we come inside and sat us down at the kitchen table while yelling to her husband.  He came in and said, “Hello,” before we showed him our intended address.  As we commenced another game of charades it became apparent that his English was as limited as our Italian.  Frustrated he held up one finger and walked upstairs.

We spent the next few minutes attempting small talk with the little old lady but mainly taking turns smiling at one another before he returned.  He had his hat, a coat and the car keys.  He waved us to follow while saying, “Come for we take you there!”  He helped his wife out to the car and we followed them through a labyrinth of turns and back roads in our little go kart to a place that we would have had no hope of finding on our own.  As they pulled up to, and pointed at Borgo Vigna Vecchia enthusiastically we couldn’t help but grin from ear to ear and thank them in our elementary Italian.  We all exchanged heartfelt goodbyes and later as we checked into our room I gloated to Nug, “I told you it would be easy to find!”

The go-kart

The go-kart

Room with a view

Room with a view

We made it!

We made it!

We made it!

We made it!

Agriturismo wine

Agriturismo wine

Well deserved wine down.

Well deserved wine down.

Songbird

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The sky was threatening.  We decided to take our chances and wander the labyrinth of streets in Venice anyhow.  Once we were a solid 20 minute walk from our accommodation the heavens opened up.  We ducked into a small Murano glass shop on one of the corners.  We made small talk with the shop owner and Nug reminded me that she had wanted to buy an umbrella the day before.  Another couple walked in to escape the pelting rain as well.  The guy walked around the store and loudly commented on everything he saw.

The radio was playing classic rock.  He blurted out, “You guys listen to classic rock here!  Wow!  I can’t believe it.  I thought this was only popular in America.”  The shop owner looked at him to see if he was joking.  Then, unfortunately, the song “Africa” from Toto came on.  This was a difficult song even for the lead singer of Toto to belt out.  The goon smiled from ear to ear and in a small yell let us all know that he adored the song.  He then proceeded to tarnish the song beyond comprehension.  Nug, the shopkeeper and I looked at each other in horror.  I looked out at the rain and back at the crooning American before deciding that getting soaked was the more agreeable option.  I looked at Nug, “Shall we go find an umbrella?”  She answered by taking my hand and leading me out into the pouring rain.

Nug running

 

St. Mark’s Square

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gondolas

St. Marks Square

The Texan

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Vienna has an abundance of museums, palaces and great restaurants.  It is also packed to the gills with tourists.  After a couple days there we took a bus to Slovakia to try to escape the madness.  The small cobblestone streets, beautiful architecture and lack of crowds were a great change of pace.

Bratislava

On the Danube

Vienna

 

 

 

 

 

As we were waiting for our bus back to Vienna that evening we met a woman from Texas.  She asked about our upcoming time in Italy and what our plans were.  Nug and I looked at each other a bit unsure.  “We are getting a car in Venice and returning it in Naples 3 weeks later but other than that we don’t know,” I told her.  She proceeded on a 10 minute discourse about Croatia and Slovenia.  “If you want to escape the crowds this is the place to go!  It is amazing.  We loved it…”  She continued on with a religious fervor.  We thanked her for her insight and took it with a grain of salt.  Several days later we were snaking through the back streets of Venice and dodging tour groups on the main thoroughfares.  The city was absolutely amazing but the time had come to make our next move.

St. Peter’s Square

Venice

Hey Nug

Hanging with the Garlands

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The thought of the Texan on her soapbox came to mind.  “Maybe we should check the Adriatic Coast,” I ventured cautiously as I knew Nug had her heart set on maximizing her time in Italy.  Luckily she was amicable and we spent the next few days exploring the nooks and crannies on the coasts of Slovenia and Croatia.  The scenery and complete lack of tourists were stunning.  As we motored back towards Italy after our successful side trip Nug pronounced, “I’m really glad that we listened to that old Texan!”

Croatia

Croatia

Slovenia

Slovenia

Slovenia