Archive for May, 2000

Greetings from Budapest

15 May 2000 at 7:04 am
by Berck

Friday night I just hopped on a train heading to Wein in three minutes. It wasn’t until a few minutes after the train pulled off I figured out that Wein is Vienna. Got there okay at about 8am, saw a small, free, and pointless contemporary art museum, then rode the public transportation to Suberbia Vienna where a campsite was located. Paid about $6 for a campsite, rode back, and saw a good bit of Vienna. Vienna is ridiculously expensive, so after getting up at 10am the next morning, I just went ahead and hopped on a train to Budapest. I met a guy from Florida named Chris while waiting for the train, so we’ve been roaming around Budapest together which is nice, because traveling is somehow less nerve wracking this way. And you don’t talk to yourself as much. Budapest is dirt cheap. We paid $7 for a hostel bed last night, and tonight we’re sleeping on the floor at a different place for $2 with a bunch of Japanese people that make us take our shoes off when we walk in. Plus a weird Canadian whose favorite expression is, “Man, that’s the shit.” (usage: If you want to say Prague was really cool and really cheap, you say, “Man, Prague’s the shit.”) Chris and I plan to hit a few museums, walk over to Buda, perhaps play in the Turkish baths a bit. Had bread and sour cherry nectar for breakfast ($1.50), along with a 33 cent ice cream cone. I’m liking Budapest. I dunno where I’ll head from here, I’m thinking Slovakia for a little bit, maybe just Bratislava, maybe I’ll head out in the country side. But Slovakia’s no good on my Eurail pass even though it’s quite cheap, so I may just head back west toward Germany. Maybe see a bit of western Austria. Who knows.

Last night Chris and I were propositioned by two hookers, a guy who wanted to sell us hash, a girl at the train station who tried to get us to stay at her hostel because she worked as receptionist there, and would take us there personally, and show us the pubs… Heh, still not worth $16 a night instead of $7.

And someone finally checked my passport and stamped it, I feel very official and important. Anyway, 10 minutes of this is a lot of ice cream, so I’m heading out. Ten minutes is all you get:)

Still in Termini

12 May 2000 at 10:41 am
by Berck

Well, somehow I got the feeling as I walked through the gate of the UD Rome campus onto Via dei Ceraseti that it wasn’t the last time I’d be on campus.

It wasn’t. Anne never showed up at 20.45, nor had she shown up by 21.30. In fact, I haven’t seen her since I wrote you. I have no idea where she is, or even if shes alive. I don’t think she would have gotten on the train without me, but… who knows. It’s all quite weird. I didn’t get on the train, becuase I was worried that something had happened to her. I still haven’t figure out what. I went back to campus last night, slept in my sleep ing bag. No one on campus had heard anything from or about Anne or Maria, who was with her when I last saw her. This means that they probably didn’t wind up in the Hospital, because the school would most likely have found out about it. If they got on the train without me, though, I wuold have thought that they would try to contact me.

So, I was thinking about just hopping the train tonight to Munich, and then up to Copenhagen and maybe we’d find each other, but the train to Munchen tonight not only doesn’t have any free couchettes, the seats are booked solid as well. Which means I’d be spending 12 hours tonight in the Aisle of a train car, which is a really crappy way to spend the night. I’m thinking abotu checking the train to Paris or Vienna. I decided to head north because I’m hot. Maybe I’ll just go look and see which train is both on the top of the board and heading north and just hop on.

Still in Termini,

Arrivederci Roma

11 May 2000 at 12:02 pm
by Berck

I’m in Termini, perhaps for the last time of my life. This is, of course, doubtful, but nonetheless a definite possibility. I can’t imagine not being back before too long.

I’m tired. It’s 17.34 here, and my train leaves at 21.15. I got tired of moping about the mostly empty campus this afternoon and decided to just head on down here. I’m meeting Anne at the traditional meeting spot in Termini: The McDonald’s that overlooks the tracks from which you can drink a McBeer and watch the board for your train to appear.

I ate at Spizeco, only I doubt its spelled properly. It is the Italian equivalent of McDonald’s. It’s fast food pizza. Not Pizza Rustica, but just.. greasy fast food pizza. It’s difficult to explain. It’s also hot here.

I’m exhausted. I finished my last paper yesterday afternoon, turned it in and slept a bit. I slept through convocation mass, and got up in time for convocation. Our special Rome campus convocation. Girls (and some guys) were quite teary-eyed. We listened to one last lecture from Dr. Crider, he gave us our farewell speech. After all the talking and thanking and present-giving was over, we headed up to the mensa to find–WHOA! Vino! UD bought wine for us one last time, but in the mensa. Every other time they’ve given us wine we’ve been out to eat. Dinner was actually surprisingly good, they even gave us potatoes that weren’t yellow. Tasted… good.

Dr. Crider asked us, rhetorically, what were we going to say when asked, “So, how’d your Rome semester go?” I don’t know how I could possibly answer that question in a meaningful way. This semester has changed me more than I think I’ve realized. I’ve been noticing things about myself lately that I’ve not noticed before. We were warned that everyone back in the states would be expecting the same person that left in January. Yeah, right.

I’ve learned more this semester than any other at UD, and made worse grades than I have in my life. Are the two perhaps related? I think so. I learned, I think, what my school sent me here to learn. Everything we’d been doing for our core classes all somehow comes together in Rome–so much that it’s hard to tell whether we’re in an Art, Philosophy, or Literature class.

In a somehow fitting experience for my last day in Italy, I tried to mail a package to myself in the states. I succeeded, but it took over two hours and $50. And I didn’t sleep last night. My endeavor wasn’t helped when the power went out in the post office while I was signing about 16 different forms and writing the address I was sending it to at least a dozen more times. After I took the package to the Cartoleria where I got it wrapped in brown paper, and taped. She taped the heck out of the thing. So much so that I couldn’t find a spot to write the address on. Apparently it was supposed to be tied in twine as well…

I left a lot of stuff in Rome. And I’ve still got too much stuff on my back. A tent, a sleeping bag, toiletries, a pair of pants on me, a pair in my bag, a shirt on me, three in the bag (one longsleve), and about 5 days worth of socks and underwear. Also a G.K. Chesterton book on Aquinas, and two guidebooks with places I won’t be going to ripped out. Then my waterproof jacket with a lining, my journal and a camera on top. And it’s all still too freaking heavy and huge. I don’t know what else I can comfortably take out. Carying around the tent and sleeping bag is what’s tough.

There was much party and revelry last night, our last night together in Rome. Bird’s bathtub was full of beer and.. ICE (?!? We still don’t know how he got it. Ice doesn’t exist in Italy as far as we knew..), there were bottles of wine, and professors cooking and mingling with us. The night was a blast. The professors smoked Romeo y Julieto cuban cigars, much to our amusement as they are constantly chiding the UD population about their smoking habit. (This is a topic of conversation for a different letter. Something about an intellectual campus induces smoking or vice versa. Over half of UD students smoke. It’s quite disgusting.)

There was also a pig. Italians do weird things with pigs. They cook them whole, then just slice into them and eat them. I find it a bit revolting because I’m just not a big pork fan, which makes one of my actions last night most peculiar.

Justin Chopin was cutting on the pig, and held out a chunk of meat in my direction. “Eat,” he commanded me. So I did. Let me point out that it was dark, and I’d had just enough beer to trust Chopin, always a mistake. As I was chewing I noticed that nothing was happening. It was like… Chewing rubber. Not really tough meat, nor fat. Rubber. It didn’t taste much either. “What am I eating?” I ask, a little confused. “Pig snout,” Chopin reported, simultaneously exploding with laughter. I spit it out rather quickly.

This is a couple days after the prankster herself, Meg Hamlet, was served justice for many a prank she’s pulled this semester. A couple of guys bought a pig’s head and put it in her bed. It gets better. She didn’t discover it for three days, despite the stench, and the fact that she slept with it. She’d left her dirty laundry on her bed, and was sleeping on it because she was too lazy to make her bed, and so just attributed the smell to her dirty laundry.

I have five minutes left on here. I think I’ll go read or something.

Anyway, no one really went to bed, and a big group left on a bus at 7:15am to catch their flight back. After they took off, I collapsed in the soccer field for a couple of hours. At 10am, I got up and went to Albano to mail my package and pick up my glasses with new lenses and a pair of sunglasses.

And it’s off to Copenhagen. I shall write more later, I’m sure. (Provided I can handle a Scandinavian keyboard.

The French Steps

3 May 2000 at 12:45 pm
by Berck

Greetings, mine ever-growing list. Not much exciting has happened of late, the semester is winding down and I’m… not at all stressed though I should be. I’m two papers, two days of class, and a set of finals away from being done here. I plan to depart Thursday May 11 (That is a Thursday, right?) from Due Santi. Dad sent me a one month Eurail pass which I received in the mail yesterday, and I hope to activate it and head off to Scandinavia with Anne Johnson. (“Who are these women?” I keep getting asked. I don’t travel with RANDOM women, but almost. I don’t know Anne very well, though we were in a freshman literature class together our first semester. She hung out with Dustin, my roommate freshman year, quite a bit. She’s a good little Catholic girl, maybe even better than average, which probably means we’ll have to find mass on Sundays. I can’t remember where she’s from though I’m sure she’s told me. It so happened that she was staying in Europe this summer, going somewhere I wanted to go, and seems to be the sort of person I can travel with and maybe even the sort of person that is patient enough to deal with me and my whims. She’s also willing to camp, and seems to be interested in the same sort of travel I am. It has come to my attention that I probably should have included a “Who is Robin?” section with my ten-day travels since I’ve gotten so many questions. I didn’t know Robin very well either before I traveled with her, but she too seemed like someone I could travel with. Heck, if she’d agree to go to Tunisia with me… She’s from Indiana, a non-Catholic though Christian of some sort (Non-catholics are rare at this school) and quite intelligent. I probably wouldn’t travel with her again, even though we had a decent trip. She and I have somewhat clashing personalities, and I wouldn’t really want to spend that much time with her again, though I’m sure we’ll remain friends. I was quite impressed that she put up with me as well as she did, though she seemed pretty glad to part my company at the end. Traveling with someone is tough for both parties involved, and I knew it would be from the start. Traveling with Robin was much more enjoyable than traveling by myself would have been, and I don’t regret it at all. Robin was even more sore than I was about not getting to go to Tunisia, and I’m not sure if she regrets sticking with me anyway. Anyway, as a final note, I’m not at all “romantically involved” with either Robin or Anne, for those of you nosy folks.) Anne has a flight to Israel from Roma on the 22nd of May, and so we shall part company sometime before then. I imagine that I will then proceed south through Europe on my own, unless I happen to find someone else I’d like to travel with. Anne will return from Israel before too long, and be plowing about Europe as well. Assuming Scandanavia goes well, I’ll probably meet her in Switzerland where she has friends that have offered us a place to stay for a bit. If I do that, I’ll probably spend a few days there, making day trips and coming back to a free place to sleep. She’s also got friends in other places near Switzerland, and I may stick with her for some time. At some point her mother is coming, and I’ll probably leave her then, if not before. My Eurail pass should expire the 11th of June, at which point I hope to be in England and meet friends of my parents who have offered me a place to stay… Jim Gresser in London, and a friend of Lloyd Parsons’ in Summerset. My return plane ticket should be the 4th of July from London to Atlanta. But the fun doesn’t end there… I hope to drive the Miata to Boston and meet Jon Bird on July 12th or so. Bird’s flying back to the states for a month or so, and wants to go to the Grand Canyon, which sounded swell to me. So I should pick him up in Boston, and head down to New Orleans with him where he grew up and has friends. After a weekend there, we plan to head through southern Texas and then up to the Grand Canyon. Back to Dallas by the 23rd or so. He’ll probably fly back to Boston and I hope to find an apartment. I don’t know if I’ll try to find a place and move in right away though. If I’m not dead from exhaustion, I plan to go to Florida and visit my mother for awhile. I would love to stop and visit those of you on this list in Mobile sometime toward the end of July or beginning of August. I plan to make it to Knoxville at some point this summer as well, probably in conjunction with spending more time with Dad in Atlanta. If I’ve got any time, money or energy left after I find an apartment and move in, I may try to make it to Colorado and visit Neal Brugman, a UD friend that lives there and go camping for a weekend or something. I still haven’t gone to Seattle and I’m just itching to get over there as well… One of these days I really am going to drive down the left coast, at least part of it, but going to LA doesn’t really appeal to me. So, I almost sort of have a plan for this summer. Exciting, eh?

At the moment, I’m in my little net cafe with a bottle of water from a Bernini fountain (much better than that sulfurous crap we drink on campus, though I doubt Bernini has much to do with it) because another Walking Tour with Professor Gish dragged me into Rome. Not that I mind being in Rome at all, but it takes an hour to get here, and an hour to get back, and I really should be writing one of those papers…. Er, both of them. The walking tour wasn’t much of a tour, as we hovered about the French (Spanish) Steps and Piazza de Spagna all afternoon. The lecture was good despite its wretched location.

Piazza de Spagna isn’t really wretched, but I try to avoid it. It’s always PACKED with tourists, people trying to sell you things, string guys, and other random gypsies. Amazingly, I actually got through the afternoon without feeling compelled to threaten someone’s life, something that can happen after enough guys with string ask for my finger and other guys try to sell me flowers, often while trying unsuccessfully to pickpocket me.

I doubt I’ll be back to the Spanish…er French Steps any time this trip, but I keep thinking that and I’ve been there many a time since. Nonetheless, I have a better appreciation for their importance after hearing the lecture.

It was really pretty night last night, so I dragged a blanket off my bed along with my pillow and slept in the soccer field. Save the dog barking at 3am, (Well, there were dogs barking all night since all the Italians within miles of us have both a dog and a vineyard…) I enjoyed such a pleasant night I think I’ll sleep out there again tonight. My classmates seemed amused as I dragged myself from the field to class this morning.

There’s a talent show tonight, in Neal and I are supposed to take part in vicious impersonations of our beloved faculty, so I should probably be heading back to campus.

It’s almost summer here in Rome. The women have shed their poofy coats, and the men smell worse than ever. The tourists are here in full force–I avoided Rome during Easter as there were so many people that there were LINES to get on the PLATFORM of the metro at times.

It’s a bit sad to see the semester coming to a close, I’m going to miss this place.