Thursday, 10 March 2011

And on the first day........

This portion of the blog will be a little long. In our excitement at being in a foreign land we neglected the blog for a few days. I will attempt to catch up in this one section, so be prepared for some long-windedness.

We were very impressed by the starkness and lack of efficiency of the Munich airport. The plane had to taxi for what felt like miles before we finally reached the terminal. Upon arriving at the terminal we walked a loooong way, ascending several floors before plunging back to the lowest floor. There we walked again until we finally arrived at our gate. There were few chairs to be had. The few chairs which were not occupied were single chairs between people. I snagged one and hung out waiting. After a while the person sitting next to me got up and left, and Rachel had a spot to sit.
Eventually we boarded a bus which ran us around the terminal and up to our plane. The plane was tiny, but we had some nice views of the alps on the trip to Florence. As we approached Florence we started seeing groves of what we later confirmed to be olive trees. The landscape went from jagged alpine mountains to gently rolling green hills. We were surprised at the lack of any kind of customs examination. The only formality was that a drug/explosives dog came over and sniffed our luggage and had to be pulled away by the guard.
We walked out of the baggage area and were greeted by Alden.  He looked really good. Italy seems to be agreeing with him on all points. He walked us out to a taxi zone and we boarded our first thrill ride in Italy. It was a taxi, but it turns out that a taxi is a thrill ride here. The driver swerved in and out, narrowly missing bicyclists, pedestrians, and large trucks and busses with equal skill. Sometimes we came to a rapid halt when confronted with imminent collision. Other times we were slammed back into out seats as the driver accellerated to take advantage of some temporary void in the traffic. To her credit, Rachel didn't scream once.
Upon arrival we thanked the driver (we both said "Thanks", Alden said "Grazzi". )

Alden has been taking Italian courses since he's been here and is much better at speaking Italian than Rachel or I.

We entered our new domicile and proceeded past the guard, and took the elevator up three floors to our apartment. The signs indicated a few business names, but nothing like the name we were looking for. We tried going up and down all the floors but nothing matched the apartment we were looking for. We called "Chiari", the lady who owns the apartments, and she assured us that she was waiting in our apartment to welcome us. We explained what we had done, and she laughed and told us that we had taken the wrong elevator, and we were on the other end of the building from the apartment. We went down to the bottom floor and went to the other end of the building. Sure enough, when we went up to the third floor on this one, the apartment was there and Chiari was there to welcome us. She showed us the apartment and went through common operational protocols so we would know how things worked. We have a clothes washer, but no dryer. All drying is done on a clothesline or on a drying rack in the bedroom in the event of wet weather.
The King sized bed is actually two singles pushed together, so usually one of us "falls in the crack" during the night. The view out the back window and from the balcony (where the washing machine is located) is of a beautiful garden.

The view out our back window
The windows have an intersting option that I have never seen before: a wooden blind that draws down from outside and completely obscures all daylight.

Chiari left and we settled in. After a long trip, one of us had to go to the bathroom right away. I won't mention any names. Anyhow, after I had "done my business" I found that the toilet didn't flush. I worked on it for a bit, but since it was a "yank tank" variety with a push buton and I didn't have a ladder, I had limited options.
Rachel wanted to call Chiari right away, but I made her wait until I had time to fill a bucket from the utility sink and manually flush the toilet.
After airing the place out, we calld Chiari, who sent the handyman right away to work on the toilet. He fixed it in less than 5 minutes. I wish I'd had a ladder to watch him work.
Now that we had a flush toilet, life was good.

Rachel was burnt to a crisp, so she went and took a nap while Alden and I went out to procure supplies.
We went to a public market located near the "Duomo".  I picked up a belt at the first stall, and Alden cautioned me that I would regret it. Sure enough, half a block later there was another stall selling the same belt for 1/2 the price. We went into the food portion of the market and found what most americans would probably consider a nightmarish scene.There were major body parts scattered all about the cooler case. Lungs, stomache, tongue, backbone; all lay exposed to the eye. You can order pieces that look like the meat back home, and the butcher will whack it off for you, but you will generally have to confront the sight of a good-sized chunk of what was once a living creature in order to do it.

I bought bread and wine and Alden did the same (legal drinking age in Italy is sixteen). Outside the market we said goodbye and he went home to Borgo Pinti and I went in search of further rations. I found a small store front labeled "Supermarket". Alden and I had poked fun at it when we walked by, because it was only maybe 8 feet wide, and could hardly be a proper market of any kind. I entered, and found that the "Supermarket" consisted on a single aisle that stretched on for a long, long way.

I went through and picked up several useful items. I made my way home with my bounty and made our first supper in Italy, consisting of sausage, cheese, bread, and wine. We then both passed out from sheer fatigue (18 hours of travel), and woke up when it was dark. We figured it was the next day, but it was actually 7:00 P.M. We went back to bed and slept until 5:00 A.M. the next day.

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