Archive for April, 2000

Ten Day Comes to a Close

16 April 2000 at 1:42 pm
by Berck

and hopefully this narrative will as well.

the shift key on this keyboard doesn�t work properlz. sorry.

i�m in m�nchen, drinking a beer, and am really glad this is a fast connection. my train leaves in a couple of hours, and with any luck, i shall go to sleep and wake up in roma. heh, yeah right.

i think i left off in paris somewhere. the details are all ready fading, though.

Robin and I did not do much in Paris, we were there mostly just to get to Luxembourg. We stayed in a youth hostel called “Young and Happy”. Despite its terribly corny name, it was a fun place.

We got to Luxembourg without too much trouble. I was very impressed with the place, it was quite modern, yet still very European, a combination I haven�t much experienced since I�ve been here.

We decided to camp as it would be much cheaper, and the hostel was full anyway. After asking about 5 bus drivers, we finallz ascertained both the number and location of the bus we needed to get on, and even managed to find the campground okay. I pitched my tent, and Robin and I opened up our sleeping bags in the tent and left the windows open so that it would air out. Sleeping bags/tents tend to smell funny when left in their stuffed bags for awhile.

It was a beautiful day, and after catching the bus back to the train station, we wandered about the city. It was absolutely beautiful. The city is cut in half or so by this huge ravine with a little stream in it and fairy-tail looking castles on each side. I shot way too many pictures of the bridges, there were so many, and they were all really neat.

We ate Indian food that night, and really enjoyed it, even if it wasn�t nearly as spicy as it should have been. As we started to walk home, I felt a drop of water, but figured it was from the fountain that was trying far too hard yet not hard enough to be art. Then it started to pour, and we were pretty far from the fountain. “uh, i think it might be a wet night,” i told Robin. She just glared at me, then at the sky. We had a good 20 minute walk to the bus stop. The night was dark by this point, and it was getting rather cold. We got the bus stop, and the bank thermometer said 6 degrees celcius. that�s something like 41F. Which isn�t too terribly cold, save we were dressed for Tunisia and it was raining.

We got the bus station and checked the schedule. we�d just missed a bus by 10 minutes, and the next one wasn�t coming until 23h27, over 45 minutes. The bus finally showed up and Robin and I were warm for about 3 minutes. Then the bus stopped, and the bus driver turned around and told us to get off. Which was sort of a problem since we weren�t anywhere near the campground yet. “Camping?” we asked him. He repleid with something to the effect that the last few buses don�t go to the campsite, and that we�d have to walk. 4 kilometers. In the cold rain. On the non-existant shoulder of a fast luxembourgian highway. It was a long night.

When we finally got back to our tent, we were quite cold. Luckily, our sleeping bags weren�t too wet, just the ends that were near the windows.

What�s worse, is as I was climbing in the tent, my bag caught the top of the tent, which aparently put enough stress on the well-staked rain fly, that it ripped. which really bites. Luckily, it ripped near the bottom of the tent, and so I might be able to sew it.

It got colder that night. _I_ woke up and was cold, which rarely happens unless the tent is covered in snow, which it wasn�t. Everyone else at the campsite was in an RV.

As we were sitting in our train headed for Brusells that morning, it started snowing. I just laughed. Robin wasn�t so amused.

Brusells was enjoyable as well, despite the fact that it never quite raining. It didn�t snow there, which is good I suppose.

Brusells had some pretty cool museums, including a contemporary Art museum I rather enjoyed while Robin groaned. I probably groaned just as much at all the paintings I call “Madonna col Bambino�s”, even though they�re only called that in Italy. In addition to those and the endless depictions of Christ on the cross, there is a plethera of St. Sebastian paintings, all of which somehow intrigue me. I�m not sure why he�s such a popular subject, but the depictions vary wildly–in some he looks about like one would think he�d look with a bunch of arrows in him, and in others, he looks downright happy about it.

All of the hostels in Brussells were booked, so we were forced to stay in a cheap hotel, the properieter of which was an absolute nutcase. The place was falling apart, and I really don�t think I�m anywhere near talented enough to portray him so that you might understand. He�s a bit shorter than I am, I think, though he always walks, er waddles, hunched over. He�s mostly bald, but has too much hair to ignore, most of which is blond. He speaks very slowly, spewing his really bad breath across the room. He refused to let us walk up the stairs, I�m not sure why. Whenever he caught us, he made us use the elevator. I would try to describe him more thoroughly, but I jsut don�t know that I can. The entire hotel, including our room, was covered in splatter painting that sort of looked like Jackson Pollock, only not so aesthetically pleasing. None of them were signed, and Robin hypothosized that he painted them all himself. I�d think it quite possible.

I also discovered belgium waffles are sweet. Somehow everyone but me seems to know thus. They�re really good, I think i�ll have to figure out how to make them. The batter they make it with is really thick compared to the waffle batter I typically make.

Getting to Amsterdam wasn�t much problem even though we got there rather late at night. This wasn�t that big a deal becuase we�d reserved beds at “The Flying Pig” hostel already. Darned good thing too, there wasn�t much place to stay by the time we got in the city.

The hostel is apparently the place to stay in Amsterdam, and it�s one funny hostel. For two nights, I felt like I belonged in the sixties. On the bottom floor of the hostel is a bar, half of which looks like most hostel bars only with a little more zest. The far end of the bar is covered in blankets and pillows and seems to be referred to as the commune, the village, etc. At any given time of the day, it contained from a few to many people lounging about passing around marijuana in various forms. The bar area is constantly filled with enjoyable American music, much of it out of the sixties.

I walked into the room I�d been assigned to, and it was full of many girls. This wasnt too much of a problem except that there were 8beds, and there were more people in the room than that. “Don�t worry, we�re not all sleeping in here,” one girl assured me as I walked in. “Ahh… I�m not picky, but I paid for bed number eight and I�m not sharing.” There were sheets on it, but it seemed that no one tossed the sheets in the laundry as most courteus hostel-stayers do when they leave. I was too lazy to pull them off, and just put mine on over them. “So, where are you from?” she asked. “Well, I go to school in Texas.” “Where?” “Dallas.” “Where, UD?” Now THIS was weird. No one in Europe except at places UDers frequent know of the school. “uh, yeah,” I said rather confusedly. “what? really? no you don�t!” So I showed her my ID card. “That�s nuts, do you know Jon Bird?” “Yeah, he�s our RA in Rome.” “I went to junior prom with Jon Bird!” she tells us. turns out she!
�s from Boston, and her best friend is Bird�s sister who attends UD. I never ceased to be amazed at such seemingly random connections.

Amsterdam has the largest collection of Van Gogh there is. I�m not a huge Van Gogh fan, but the museum was really cool. In addition to the Van Gogh museum, there�s a national museum with a lot of Rembrandt, which, unfortunately, we tried to see on the wrong day. We got there at 2pm, were informed that they�d let us see the museum for free but that it was closing at 3pm. Turns out they were putting the final touches on a brand new exhibit which the queen was about to preview in a few hours, and apparently the queen gets the whole museum to herself when she wants it. They were rolling out the red carpet, literarly, as we left.

When we got to Amsterdam, I bought a ticket to Munich for Saturday morning, because the Friday night train was booked solid. Our train was supposed to leave at 750am, but it never showed up at the tracks. At 800, we went to talk to someone about it and were informed that they�d closed the tracks to germany and were working on them. This was quite disturbing, especially since that�s a very Italian thing to do, and I�d thought I was free of the Italians for a few days. She printed out a little schedule for us with about 5 connections to make between amsterdam and munich, as opposed to the 1 switch we were supposed to have to make. We hopped on a train to nijmegn or some such nowhere place where we were supposed to change trains. Only, our train didn�t go there, it stopped in some other nowhere town before that. We took another train to nijmign and of course by that time, missed the connection on our schedule. This game lasted all day, and instead of getting to munich at 4pm, we got there at 8pm. This wasn�t that bad, other than the fact that we were supposed to meet our fellow UDers at the Haufbrau Haus for a night of beer and ten day stories, as is UD tradition. We got there eventually, and I was less than thrilled with the whole game. It was really loud, the waiters were jerks, you had to sit down to have a beer (???) and it was really expensive.

On my way out, I realized with dismay that I was the only sober person who was staying in the same hostel as I was, and I didn�t know the way back. Outside the haufbrau haus, we were slammed with a crowd of several hundred people, who, i finally gathered, were there to see Bruce Willis. Yeah. I caught a glance at him on my way out, he was bald. The drunk UDers headed to an Irish pub to get drunker, so I gave up, found a map, and found my way back. I really, really hate not having a sense of direction. For some reason I just can�t find my way around, and I don�t know why. If there were some way to cultivate a sense of direction, I�d be willing to work at it…

I spent most all of today at a science museum. it is by far the most awesome science museum I�ve ever been in. I was there all day, and there are tons of stuff I never got to see.

The first room I walked in had a real, full sized german fishing boat built in the 1800s. It was fully rigged and beautiful, at least 60 feet long. There were lots of boats there, actually. INSIDE the museum. Next was the engine collection. There had to be a couple hundred engines, from sterling engines, to steam engines, to deisel engines, to porsche engines. most of them were cut apart so you could look at them. There were also all sorts of jet engines pulled apart as well. I�ve seen engines before, but never THIS many. There were some really neat, really big steam engines, ship-sized.

It just got crazy from there. i walked through what was obviously a fully operational machine show with locks on all the switches of the machines. Boring machines, lathes, planers, etc, etc. Apparently they give demonstrations at set times, the only problem for me being that they do so in German. There was a sign of a full sized mine underneat the museum which one could tour with guides. I spent hours and hours and hours at this museum.

The computer section was just awesome. They had a fully functional electric relay computing device from the 40�s. It was huge, and read film. The exhibit started wtih ancient adding machines, planemeters, gear-driven integraters, and so on. They had a Cray1, it didn�t look functional though. There was an early ibm machine that stored data in mercury delay strands? There was very poor english translations of most things, I figured a lot out though. The number of FUNCTIONING ancient computer stuff was amazing. I got to see them operate a few of them. The exhibit was huge, it had to be with all of the ancient and huge equipment they had in there. The telecomunications exhibit had everything from an early rotary phone switching sytem behind glass that was connected to about 20 phones so you could watch it work, to several banks of isdn stuff and computers with video phone stuff set up. There was floor after floor after floor. I didn�t get to stuff like the musical ins!
trument section, or even the planeterium or the chemistry section. I think I was there for 6 hours until it closed. I�d talk forever about everything that was there, but it was so huge, it�d take me forever.

After that, I saw the glockenspeil, and that was just silly.

Anyway, that was ten-day, and now I�m going to go find dinner and hop on a train.

Chapter 3 of Ten-Day

13 April 2000 at 6:31 pm
by Berck

I’m sitting at an “Internet Koffeeshop” in Amsterdam drinking at Amstel Gold. I don’t think they serve coffee here, the term seems a be a euphemism for a place to buy weed. Which is cool, I suppose. So I far I haven’t actually smoked any, despite it being legal. I refuse to see why I should have to try it just because it’s legal here.

Amsterdam. Wow. I haven’t seen anything of it yet, but it’s clearly quite a city. At least the keyboards are proper… Standard US 101key. So nice.

Anyway, if I remember right, I left off somewhere near Marseilles.

Robin and I arrived in Marseilles rather late at night with intentions of camping. It was dreary, raining, and night. Marseilles was big and ugly. We started walking where we thought we might get to the place to catch a bus, but without any luck. We were in a really bad spot in town. Robin slipped on the wet pavement at one point which seemed to solicit much laughter from those standing around watching. We felt really uncomfortable and walked into “Hotel D’Athens”. It looked really cheap. It was.

Robin and I have a knack for being on the 4th floor. I should also point out that for those of you that don’t know, the ground floor in Europe is the 0th floor. So the 4th floor is really the 5th. Which is a long walk with a big backpack. We did get lucky in Nice, we were in room 42. I felt a strange connection to Mulder as the hotel made erie sounds during the night…

It was room 48 in Marseilles. There is some really annoying music playing in here. The sole lyrics are “My house is your house and your house is mine.”

We really weren’t having a pleasant experience in Marseilles and really wanted to head north anyway. We were thinking Geneva at first, but then got this wacky idea to do Luxembourg, Brussels and Amsterdam. So we went to Paris.

To get to Paris (in order to get to Luxembourg), we had to go to Lyon first. I used one of the nifty little ticket machines in the train station that spoke flawless English and even gave me a reservation. Robin, however, had to go stand in line for her reservation, which is compulsory on all TGV trains. Her Eurail pass was good on the TGV trains, but she had to pay a supplement/reservation fee. Unfortunately, the nifty machines won’t do it. She got her reservation, and we boarded the train. I was in voiture (car) 2, and she was in 14 which, much to her dismay, was a smoking car. So, I told her I’d just meet her at the front of the train in Paris if nothing else. We both were booked through to Paris, with a short connection in Lyon.

The TGV to Lyon was fast, but stopped frequently. I found Robin in Lyon no problem, and we waited for our train to Paris. In Italy the trains are usually waiting at the station for hours on end and big stations, you board a half hour in advance, and take off. In France, the trains, especially the TGV trains, show up 4 minutes before the departure time, everyone files on, and then as the last person is squeezing on, the doors close and the train takes off.

Our tickets were one car apart, and so we figured finding each other in Paris would be easy. The train was a duplex, or double-decker. There was no room for lougage, and it was absolutely packed. I sat in my seat, crammed between a smelly frenchman and the wall, and wondered what would happen if I couldn’t find Robin.

About then, she came walking through the car with her bag. “Robin!” I said, trying to get her attention. She looked at me, and said through gritted teeth, “They screwed up my resercvations, they’re for the 22 of April, and I don’t have a seat, and the train started moving before I could get off, and so they’re probably going to kick me off.” She didn’t give me much of a chance to respond.

I got out my guide book, and told her to copy down the name of the place we were staying and direction and to meet me there since I didn’t know when she would get to Paris if they kicked her off.

I checked a copy of the timetable which I found in Nice, at the Thomas Cook place I wasn’t looking for, and discovered the TGV from Lyon to Paris doesn’t stop. So they couldn’t kick her off. I looked back to where she was standing in the gangway talking to the conductor. Eventually the conductor made his way into the car and continued checking tickets. Robin came by in a few minutes and said that he was just going to let her sit in the hallway. Which was good.

I looked out the window at the sheep flying by and decided we were going fast. How fast? I tried to figure it out. I got out Cassiopeia, and found out Paris was 244 miles from Lyon. And I checked the timetable and found out the train was 2 hours and 4 minutes. That would be 120 miles an hour. Only it had to be fast, because that would be 120 mph in a straight line, and an average speed. The train track on the map wasn’t direct, but pretty close to it. In any case we were going darned fast.

Once in Paris, we checked into the Hostel we had reservations for. “Young and Happy.” It was so corny sounding I couldn’t resist. They were all out of dorm beds, so we had to settle for the more expensive double. It was a good little hostel, and not far from food.

Robin and I went wandering and looking for food. We’d stop every few feet and get an egg roll or a Gyro, or something odd. At one point we turned a corner and this HUGE church was in front of us. “Wow,” I said. “We should take a picture of it and tell people its Notre Dame,” Robin said. “It could be Notre Dame for all I know,” I said. We walked toward it and it seemed to get bigger. We then noticed that the street we turned on was Notre Dame. And everything was called Notre Dame. Including the Cathedral.

This shop is closing, so I’m signing off for now. More to come.

Ten Day: Part Deux

11 April 2000 at 2:04 pm
by Berck

Well, the z and y of Luxembourgian kezboards is swaped. Other than that, I seem to be able to tzpe okaz. And zou’ll just have to deal with it.

I am, as zou might have guessed, in Luxemburg, the proper spelling of which seems to vary with the language.

So, I left you as were heading toward Milan. I’m still not really sure just why I decided to go to Milan, something to do with the mountains I’m sure. The train from Rome was long. It left at least a half hour late, and then stopped in some place called Orte at about midnight for a good 45 minutes, during which time they split and rearranged the train. While sitting in the dark because the train cars don’t get electricity when the engine isn’t attached, I had this instant realization that I had not validated my ticket. This is the, count it, third time I’ve had this problem. In Italy, and France too it seems, one purchases a train ticket, then sticks it in this stamping machine to validate it. This game is a game for which I don’t fully understand the necessity. I understand the necessity well enough to realize that I really didn’t want to get thrown off the train at 3am for not having stamped my ticket. So, in Orte, I ran off the train with my ticket, leaving both Robin and my stuff in the compartment. As I was stamping it and re-boarding the train, I realized that I was REALLY lucky they didn’t take off without me, because that would have left Robin with both of our bags heading to Milan, and me in Orte, (No, I hadn’t heard of it either) and not another train to Milan until the morning. Let’s just say I’m quite glad this did not happen. What made this adventure even more exciting is that a few minutes earlier, Robin said something to me about taking our bags if we ever get off the train for some reason. I responded with something like “Of course we would.” However, this problem could have been further complicated by the fact that had I taken my bag, I may have missed the train as I cannot run with a good 35 pounds strapped to my back. Well, I can’t run WITHOUT 35 pounds strapped to my back, but the weight certainly would have slowed me down. Moral of this story? When in Italy (or France), stamp the damn ticket BEFORE you board the train.

Robin and I were lucky on that train for other reasons as well. We had a six person compartment to our selves, which meant we could sleep lengthwise across the seats. With three people, you can pull the seats out and sleep crosswise, but its much shorter, and I don’t fit very well that way. However, at about 530am, I woke up to three loud obnoxious italian girls plowing into our sleepy little compartment. They stretched out, and robin and I sat up. Such is life. We got to Milan at something like seven in the morning. It was cold and rainy, and Robin and I still hadn’t a clue where we were going for ten-day. We decided to look for a Thomas Cook time table because it lists ferries in Europe as well, and we decided there might be ferries from Genoa or Le Spezia to Tunis. A Thomas Cook money change place that sells the time tables is on every street corner, it seems. Except in Milan. Or any place else when you might happen to be LOOKING for one.

Milan was cold and rainy. We talked about heading to Norway, which started sounding like a really good idea, despite the fact that Robin was packed for Tunisia. I was too, but being a guy who brought almost nothing to Europe with me that I don’t have with me right now, I was packed the same for Tunisia as I would be for the Amazon or Alaska. I probably would have brought my sweater if I were heading to Norway though. My jacket doubles as my raincoat, so I had it with me. (This arrangement is fine except when its not hot enough to get wet, but too hot to wear my jacket…)

The first thing we tried to do, was, once again rent a car because I had this urge to drive the Alps, and Robin liked the idea. We talked about it a good bit, sort of thought about where we’d go and so forth. All the cars in Europe are standard transmission (the Europeans are so cool that way), but Robin doesn’t know how to drive a real car. I agreed to teach her if we could find an empty place. Maybe it was a good thing no one will rent a car (or motorcycle) to anyone under 21. At least not in Rome or Milan. They will, however, rent mopeds. I guess they want us young people to die from being run over rather than running over something.

With no plan but a guide book, Robin and I plowed into the drizzling rain to see Milan. We stopped by the duomo, expecting to see a fairly boring Gothic church. We climbed out of the metro tunnel, turned around and dropped our jaws. The duomo of Milan is this HUGE, very Gothic cathedral. Turns out it’s the third largest in Europe, after St. Peter’s in the Vatican and something else. We spent a good half hour in the church, watched people file in for daily mass, and we took off.

We also stopped by this really big and cool looking castle, and discovered a large collection of museums inside. We couldn’t find anyone to pay admission to, though the sign said there was some. So we toured it for free. It was rather neat, but nothing terribly exciting. The castle was the neatest part. I suppose I should be excited that it contained Michelangelo’s last work, one of his Pietas, but it was unfinished and very boring looking.

We headed back to the train station and decided to go to Norway, and decided we needed to get to Hamburg to do so. I was all ready to do it until I discovered that the ticket to hamburg was roughly two hundred dollars. Yikes. I couldn’t spend that just getting to HAMBURG then have to get to Norway, then BACK. This depressed me, and Robin and I weren’t at all sure what to do. I felt really bad because Robin had a Eurail pass and so transportation was free for her, and long trains were even merrier for her because she doesn’t have to pay for a place to stay when we sleep on a train. I told her she was free to take off and not to let me stop her, but she didn’t seem too keen on Norway by herself. We talked about heading back south to Palermo (Sicily), but it seemed so stupid to waste the night getting to Milan, turn around and go back south past Rome. Frustrated, depressed, annoyed, and still without a clue we decided to go to Nice. I bought a ticket, and the board in the station said the train left 710am.

We found a hostel for 13 bucks a night per person, breakfast included. Only, breakfast didn’t start until 8am. Oh well. I was assigned bed and locker number 86. Or was it 68? I couldn’t tell because the number was on a key chain. Worse, the key opened both locker 86 and 68. However, 86 had stuff in it and 68 did not. Robin and I agreed to meet outside at 6am to head back to the station. I set my alarm for 515am so I could take a shower and have plenty of time.

I woke up Saturday morning at 615 to Robin shaking me saying “Berck! Wake up! It’s six fifteen!” I’m sure the other three people in the room much appreciated being woken up. I threw my pack on my back, dropped my sheets at the counter and we set off briskly toward the metro. The train took forever to show up. We got to the station at 703am. We boarded the train as the doors were about to close. It wouldn’t have been too big a deal if we missed the train as the next one was in a few hours, but we wanted to sped the day in Nice.

We arrived in Nice and decided to look for a place to spend the night and ditch our bags. Strangely enough, we had a heck of a time finding an ATM in Nice. Both of us needed one as Nice is in France, and the French aren’t too happy about lire. We could have bought francs with it, but you lose a fair amount of money buying and selling it like that, where as you don’t pay a commission on ATM withdrawals.

HOLY FREAKING CRAP. Robin just came over and told me that, guess what, Dr. Pepper is sold here. This just made my week. Oh man. I haven’t had one since I left for Europe. I think it tastes a little different here, but I’ve not had one in so long, I could be wrong. Oh man. This is so good. Wow. I wonder what I payed for it. They gave me a glass with ice too. Geeze. I LIKE luxembourg.

Anyway, as we exited the train station, the first thing we saw was a Thomas Cook exchange place. The trick is the same as that for a locating Pizza Rustica– don’t look for one.

Man, I’m sitting at a keyboard sipping Dr. Pepper. Life is good.

We found an ATM eventually, and started looking for hostels. Every hotel that had dorm beds was booked. We finally found a double with two beds and no bathroom for roughly 28 dollars a night. Not bad split two ways. They didn’t even charge for use of the hall shower like some places do.

After ditching our bags in the hotel room, we set out for the Musea de Beux Arte. Turns out it was quite a collection, lots of important French pieces there. Most notably was Rodin’s “Kiss”. This work didn’t excite me much until I found out it was originally titled “Francesca de Rimini”. For those of you that don’t know, she’s a historical figure that was supposed to marry this guy Paolo’s brother whose name I really should know. The problem was, she really wanted Paolo, but the families had her marrying his brother for political reasons. (why else would you get married?) One day, while reading the story of Lancelot aloud to Francesca, Paolo dropped the book and began passionately kissing Francesca, whereupon the guy she was married to walked in and killed them both. This story, true or not, was immortalized by Dante who places them in the fifth (?) circle of hell where sins of the flesh are punished. Anyway, there was something really neat about having my UD education let me understand a chunk of stone in Nice that otherwise seemed merely to portray a random kiss.

Dr. Pepper is such good stuff.

Robin and I decided to head to Monaco in the morning, then back to Nice in the afternoon to catch a train for Geneva. We did in fact go to Monaco which is worth seeing just because it drips of wealth. I really wanted to see the Prince of Monaco’s collection of “110 of the sexiest classic cars” (according to my guide book), but Robin wasn’t too interested and I’m nice enough not to drag her. In addition, we couldn’t find it and admission was supposedly pricey, like everything else. Most things in Monaco were closed on Sunday, and there weren’t as many cool cars on the street as I’d been lead to believe there were. There was, however, the coolest square rigged sail boat sitting in the harbor that I’ve ever seen. The weather was quite windy, and the spray that leaped over the boats was impressive.

We ate pizza for lunch, and headed back to Nice, but Geneva wasn’t easy to get to. Instead, we decided to go to Luxemburg. In order to do so, we decided to send the night in Marsaille and then the night in Paris. This we did, and will be featured in the next chapter of Berck’s Ten Day which sees Berck wandering the streets with a three foot baguette trying both not roll around on the ground laughing at himself or kill anybody with it.

Au revoir.

Ten Day

10 April 2000 at 6:02 pm
by Berck

I just figured out how to switch a French keyboard to an English one, which works just fine as long as I don’t look down, which I don’t do anyway…

This is necessary because, unlike an Italian keyboard which merely has the symbols in strange places, a French keyboard has all the letters in the wrong place. I have no idea where the french keyboard layout came from, but it seems even less intuitive than Qwerty, which I never thought possible.

So, now, I suppose, I can actually compose something. It sucks, because I just spent 45 minutes reading e-mail and composing a few sentences to you guys on the French keyboard before Robin was nice enough to come over and tell me that some of the computers have switchable keyboards. The computer I was at didn’t.

Since I’m using a French keyboard, I suppose it you’ve gathered by now that I’m in France. Though, I wouldn’t be surprised if they used French keyboards in Tunisia, and I could be writing from there.

The possibility of my sending email from Tunisia is not necessarily as far fetched as it may sound. I spent our 5-day break in Sardenia, and I’ve not gotten to a keyboard to write you guys about it. I went by myself to Sardegna, and discovered that I was quite lonely all by myself in a place where NO ONE spoke ANY English, and there weren’t even any fellow travelers. It seems that most Sardenian tourists are German, and they only travel in July-Aug. At the end of March, I was the only tourist I came across. (Even if calling myself a tourist sends chills down my spine…) Anyway, I was traveling by myself in Sardegna, and got quite lonely, and began thinking that my plan of heading to Sicily and then Tunisia all by myself for 10day break was stupid. I tried to think of other places to go that I wouldn’t later travel to with a Eurail pass, thus defeating the purpose of waiting to buy a pass until after the semester.

I was running out of options when, on the night before break, I tagged along with other UD students to The Old Pub across the street for some beer. This was exciting for some, because the Old Pub, a three minutes walk from campus, had closed shortly after our arrival in Due Santi.

(Random note, I’m hurried, and quite annoyed this e-mail is of inferior quality as compared to previous e-mails you’ve gotten from me. Sorry.)

So, I was sitting next to Robin Kniskern who, though she’s not a smoker, asked me for a light. I carry around a lighter, even though I don’t smoke. This has something to do with the fact I really like to be able to make fire at will. I lit her cigarette (is that spelled right?) and informed her she was going to hell for smoking. This is a fun thing to tell the average UD student, because they occasionally believe me. “If I knew WHERE I was going it would be much better,” she muttered. “You don’t know where you’re going for ten day?” I asked in astonishment. “Nope.” I was shocked. Every UD student has been planning since arrival in Rome, or before, where he would go on our ten day vacation in early April. Except me. I figured I’d figure it out even though I still hadn’t a clue, and the stein of not-so-good but really cheap Italian beer wasn’t helping any. So, I found myself quite surprised that Robin didn’t know either. “I HAD plans until yesterday,” she said, which made things make a bit more sense. The people she was traveling with had plans to stay with friends who didn’t have enough room for her. “Want to go to Tunisia with me?” I inquired with little aspiration toward a positive answer on her part.
“What’s in Tunisia?” she asked.
“Yeah, what else?”
“I dunno, you wanna find out?”
“Maybe, I’ll let you know tomorrow.”

I was astonished. _I_ might have someone to travel with? Wow. What a thought. The night progressed with much merriment which progressed with the very cheap and increasingly enjoyable Italian beer. (By cheap, I mean a litre for $5. Which is, well, cheap. Especially for Europe.)

The morning found much excitement and hustling and bustling of people preparing to go places. I found, in my mail box, a little slip of paper with some of the most exciting words I’d seen all semester. “You have a package in the office, pay �4.000 to pick it up.” The package contained a pair of black army pants and some socks my mommy sent me, just in time to head out for ten day, perfect timing. This was good, because it was a bit chilly to be running about campus in my bathing suit, which is basically my only choice when I decide to wash my two pairs of pants. I didn’t intentionally take a bathing suit to Europe, it happened quite by accident, but I’m glad I did, because otherwise I’d be doing laundry in my boxers, which might upset the campus a bit. They tend to get worried enough about my bathing suit.

I went to lunch, still in my bathing suit, and downed the compulsory pasta and potatoes when Robin showed up at my table. “Okay, fine, I’ll go,” she says. “Really?” “Yup.” We decided that we’d be ready in an hour or so to head to the train station. I retrieved my laundry from the dryer which is as lazy as everything else Italian and packed them in my bag still damp. I closed the shutters, tossed my stolen cafeteria items into the dorm lounge in case they did room inspection, and locked the door.

Robin and I then checked the time table for the Ferry from Trapani (Sicily) to Tunis. In 1999, they left and returned on Mondays only. Which sucked, because it was Thursday, and we had to be back not on the next Monday, but the Monday ten days following. We were unsure about additional ferries, but decided to head to Sicily, and find out there.

While waiting for the bus to Rome, the first of which didn’t stop, someone mentioned that I’d locked my roommate out of the room. To begin with, he should have his key. In addition, I thought he was on his way to wherever. Regardless, no one with a master key could be located, and so I had to let him in. Sure enough, as I start walking back toward campus, the bus pulls up. “Meet you in Termini?” I ask Robin. “At the McDonald’s. Downstairs.” There are three McDonald’s in Termini, quite disgusting really. I let my roommate in, caught the next bus to Termini, and found Robin standing in line at McDonald’s. By this point, it’s at least 6 in the evening. Robin has a Eurail pass, which means she doesn’t need tickets, but still has to get reservations for trains with compulsory reservations. Turns out the train from Rome to Palermo, Sicily was one such train. No problem, we take a number, and talk to a ticket person. Problem. You have to make reservations 5 hours in advance in Italy. And the train leaves at 8pm, in less than two. So, not wanting to spend another night at campus, we think of other options. We tried renting a car, but they won’t rent to anyone under 21. Robin just turned 20, and I’m 19. So, for the hell of it, we decided just to head north. I bought an overnight train ticket for Milan.

It’s midnight in Paris, and the metro stops running at 0030, so I’ve got head back to the hostel. More to follow. Sorry for the rushed composition.

I’m headed to Luxembourg city tomorrow morning, I’ll send more later…