Florence, Italy – Europe Day 29 – June 25

I woke around 8am to the lively bustle of Florence, grabbed a quick shower and then walked to the train station to find a train to Vienna, Austria, my next stop. Waiting in line for the ticket vending machine, I met two girls from Colorado who were going to a nude beach in the Cinque Terre. They seemed crazy in an awesome way. We talked about music festivals and Burning Man, then I wished them good luck and told them to bring sunblock. The ticket vending machine didn’t work for international tickets, so I had to transfer lines and wait all over again. Long story short, I made it to the front, they were out of tickets from Florence to Vienna, so I had to make a stop in Venice first.

Tickets now bought, I made my way back into the city to wander around in hopes of meeting up with Laura and Katie. Just then I spotted Katie in the market. I walked up and said hey. It wasn’t her. Dejectedly I kept walking. Then I spotted her. Cautiously I approached, not wanting to look like an idiot twice in 10 minutes. It was indeed Katie and Laura. Both Katie and her doppelganger happened to be in the same market in Florence at the same time. We laughed we cried, we reunited and discussed scarves. They were buying them so they could go to a church, Duomo.

Duomo had an epic line so we skipped it and wandered Florence, seeing many churches, the Uffizi Gallery, from the outside, Florence’s famous shop-covered bridge, Ponte Vecchio and Michelangelo Park. Everything was beautiful and quaint. Florence was a happy medium between Switzerland and insane Rome/Naples. The city had the energy of Italy with the tranquility of Switzerland.

At the end of the day, I said my goodbyes to Laura and Katie and made my way back to my hostel to retrieve my backpack. When I arrived, there was a different guy working at the hostel. This guy didn’t have dreads but seemed just as stoned. I explained to him that I was just there to pick up my bag and leave, which he seemed fine with. I reminded him that I hadn’t paid yet and asked if I could. He had no idea what I was talking about, and I probably could have left without paying, but I didn’t want to stick Reid with the bill. After about 10 minutes of searching the hostel, he found the list of guests and I gave him a 50 euro note. Still no change. So I offered him 18 euro instead, a trick I’d refined from haggling with sock dealers in markets across Europe. I told him that was all I had if he didn’t have change. Fortunately for me, this worked out, as it often did with the sock vendors.

I walked to the train station and as I was scanning station for a timetable, who should I see, but my old buddy from Lisbon, Colorado John. Reunited, we got coffee across the street and he introduced me to his Polish friend, Iwona. She lived in London and offered to show me around in August when I got there. After coffee, the three of us walked back to the train station and John returned to Pisa, Iwona saw us off, and I got on my train for Venice.

The train ride to Venice was great. I met an Italian guy named Eugene who was visiting Bologna to see his girlfriend. He knew very little English and I knew no Italian, but by this point in my trip that didn’t matter. We talked the entire train ride about movies, university, and music festivals until he got off in Bologna. I stayed on til Venice, where I got off, bought a kebab and waited for my night train to Vienna.

The train that arrived seemed like a piece of crap. It was old, rusty, and not at all like any of the trains I had previously ridden on. The train cars were broken up into compartments, connected by a long hallway on one side. Each compartment had 6 seats, and most compartments were completely full. I shared my compartment with the worlds saddest 20 something woman, who was beautiful but looked like the “before” picture in an antidepressant commercial. Sitting next to her was a creepy guy that might have been on “To Catch a Predator,” which might explain why the woman next to him was so sad. On the other side of him, by the window was an older woman who seemed like the mother/aunt of the androgenous prepubescent boy/girl sitting two seats to my left. He/she was either an unattractive girl or an unattractive guy with long hair and hairless legs. It was weird, and finally, sitting next to me was some guy in a red polo sleeping.

As the ride went on, people slowly disembarked until it was the mother and child, me, and a German guy that joined us in the middle of the night, wearing a khaki vest. At some arbitrary point in the night, it became spoon o’clock and we all reclined the seats facing each other into beds that laid flat and spooned. It was bizarre, but hey, when in Austria, which I’m pretty sure we were at that point.

In the morning, around 4 or 5am, time means nothing on night trains, the mother and child got off and we put the seats back up and I slept across the three on my side and Mr. Khaki slept across the three on his side.