Wednesday, November 17, 2010

europe - part three (pisa)

When I was preparing for this world trip, I knew that I would be catching up with my friend Michaela who lives in Munich. In fact the original plan was to travel through Europe together for some time. Anyhow in the end, that plan wasn’t hatchable, so we had to scrap it. Instead, the two of us decided that we would take a side trip from Munich for a couple of days. The destination of choice (and budget) was Pisa, Italy. So I travelled over to Munich from Amsterdam, and Michaela from her holidays in the US, we repacked our backpacks and headed to the airport early the next morning.

I had a preconception that Pisa was a big place with the Leaning Tower (Torre Pendente) and all… but as it turns out, it’s actually a pretty small town, and everyone recommended us to check out the sights of other nearby towns.

On the bus heading to the train station Michaela mentioned that the Leaning Tower should be nearby, I spotted a group of tourists clumped around a corner of a building and thought it looked a little odd and made a comment to Michaela about how funny looking this looked… I was mesmerized by the expressions on the tourists’ faces… two seconds later Michaela busted out laughing and pointed in the other direction and low and behold the Leaning Tower was right there. And comments like this went throughout the trip, the two of us were constantly saying to each other, ‘Where’s …? It should be here somewhere.’ And the minute we made the comment, we would either discover that what we were looking for was right there, or we had walked right past it and needed to back track. The absurdity of the situation left us in hysterics.

After checking-in to our hotel, we swiftly headed to the train station and jumped on the train to Florence (Firenze). When we arrived, the weather was pretty miserable so we decided to hop on a bus tour and take in the sights of the city before heading back to Pisa for the night. We got to see quite a bit of the city at dusk and the highlights for me was meeting David at Piazzo Michelangelo (a statue larger than I had originally thought) and Ponte Vecchio (a bridge with houses on it). I will be back in Florence at end of the month so will update more later.

Early the next morning, we set off for Cinque Terre, five ancient but still functioning fishing villages built right next to the Mediterranean coast. I had heard lots of stories about how amazing the place was and that it was a place that might no longer be intact in thirty years time. Due to the rain from previous days, we discovered upon arriving at our first town that some of the connecting paths to the villages were closed, so we ended up hiking up a viewpoint and took in the breathtaking landscape. The weather turned out to be sunny and it made the day magical. In the end, we visited four of the five villages and discovered just how beautiful they really were for ourselves. Cinque Terre is definitely a place I would recommend everyone to visit at least once (if you don’t know where it is… google it!)

In Pisa, we did see the Leaning Tower up close and personal, and got to try out the local Tuscan foods (I even tried rabbit) and wines. The short trip was definitely very memorable. Thank you Michaela for organizing the trip!

Quirks I discovered about travelling to Pisa:
- Wear a Stanford t-shirt, and you will have people staring at you and even start up a conversation with you (example: Michaela… and no that wasn’t her alma mater)
- Talk about the book Eat, Pray, Love and there’s bound to be somebody who has read it and happy to have a book club style discussion with you
- Pisa has an American naval base near the city

Pics from trip:
Pisa - part one: (from my camera... hopefully will be able to upload part two soon as it was on another camera)

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