January 22, 2006


Filed under: Travels, Germany — Alex Ravenel @ 1:33 pm

The night before last, I got a call from Ralf, a German who had stayed in the US with my aunt when he had studied abroad a few years earlier on an exchange program. It turns out that, by happy coincidence, he lives in a small town about 20 minutes from Tübingen, in the village of Glems, population about 1000.

Anyways, we had been trading emails back and forth trying to figure out when to get together, and we finally worked things out, so he agreed to come pick me up after he got off work on Friday night and we’d head back over to Glems and get a few drinks. He was picking me up late, 11PM, because he worked the second shift, so the plan was for me to just stay the night over there and he’d bring me back the next morning.

After a fun time trying to describe where I live given that I don’t really know any street names around, we got into his small Audi and headed back to his village. It was a fun drive; I’ve always liked the German countryside with its rolling hills covered with scraggly apple trees and small farmhouses surrounded by massive stacks of firewood. It quickly became clear that his village was really small, as we wound our way through the curvy country roads, passing one small town after another. Eventually we got to Glems, and went inside to pick up his sister.

A quick note about language here. Both Ralf and his sister, who had also studied in the US, in Wilmington, NC, spoke excellent English. Normally when speaking with someone for whom English is not a mother language, you have to watch what you are saying, because (American) English is so filled with idiomatic expressions that non-native speakers quickly get totally lost, especially seeing as they were almost always taught British English, which is much lighter on the idiomatic expressions. This wasn’t so with these two. Both spoke excellent conversational English, and I had no problems speaking freely without having to pay attention and make sure that they weren’t getting lost. Their German however, was another story. They grew up in an area that speaks a very strong dialect of German, Swabisch. To imagine how different Swabisch is from Hochdeutsch, the normal German and the type you are taught in school, think about English Cockney. Ever seen the movie Snatch, with Brad Pitt as the gypsy that had to have subtitles because his accent was so thick? Or ever ridden in a London cab? That’s cockney. It, and Swabisch, are so different from their “normal” mother languages that even natives have a hard time understanding it. They saw the baffled look on my face when they started speaking German and quickly laughed at their accents, and tried to speak a bit more Hochdeutsch for me so I could understand and get some practice.

We headed off to the bar, the Hirsch, probably the only bar in town. This was by far one of the coolest bars I’ve ever been to. It’s not a secret that I’m not a fan of clubs or “party bars,” places with flashy lights, loud music, where the entire point is to get as drunk as possible as quickly as possible. I’d much rather find a quieter place to sit around with a few friends, drink a few beers, and have some good conversation. This place fit the bill entirely. There were probably 15 people clustered around three tables, all just hanging out and talking. There wasn’t even really a bartender, just a guy that sorta worked there and sat at the tables too, talking and having a good time. If someone needed something, they’d call his name and he’d go get it for them, then return to sitting and talking. Some people didn’t even bother with this, and would just get up and go behind the bar to get another beer when they needed. Everyone knew everyone else, and people would freely walk from one table to another. I was sitting at a table with Ralf, his sister, and several friends of theirs. Most of them spoke some English, but aside from the occasional thing that them or I couldn’t get out in German/English, we spoke in German. It was good practice for me, and things went surprisingly well. At the end of the night, when we were the last ones there, the bar owner joined us at our table, and we kept on talking and carousing until five in the morning.

All in all, it was one of the best times I’ve had here. It was excellent to get out with some real Germans, hang out and talk and drink some good beer. We’re planning on getting together again when I get back from my Prague/London travels over the next couple of weeks.

January 19, 2006

The Different Photo Galleries

Filed under: Random — Alex Ravenel @ 12:50 pm

I thought I’d quickly clarify why there are two photo galleries for this site–the main one, and Flickr. The difference is simple. The gallery here, on this site, is for the better images–ones that I think are technically or artistically good, or ones that offer a significant and different insight into my travels. The Flickr gallery is for the rest of them; repetitive, flawed, or just plain bad photos, but ones that still can give a good idea of the subject. Personal photos will also go here. One is more like a portfolio; the other, snapshots.

January 18, 2006

On The German Language

Filed under: Random, Germany — Alex Ravenel @ 7:25 pm

It’s pretty well known that Mark Twain liked to write all sorts of damning comments about the incomprehensibility of the German language, most of them quite accurate. Here’s a similar comment, but one that puts it into terms non-German speakers might understand with a very pertinent example.

A shortcomment on this ongoingdebate I have. In German biglongwordsthatcontinueforeverwithnoendinsight there are. Bigdeal. Two biggerproblems there are. First, in the Germanlanguage, verbs at the end of sentences or clauses go. In normalconversation, which is a question or which is a declarativestatement vocalinflection indicates. But in the writtentexts, only at the endofsentences with a period or a questionmark when you the difference can tell isn’t it? Second, negatives the noun not verb modify.

What the ruleimpact of this in English try to imagine would be. We ever where until there we got would we know are going? Many famoussayings notmemorable would be: “Before you leap look,” “Notcart before the horse put,” two examples are. Richard Nixon would have said, “I a notcrook am.” Connie Chung to the Newtmother would have said, “Why not you to me girltogirl it whisper?”

If you the Billandhillaryclintonhealthplan indecipherableandhardtounderstand as it written was think, it not according to germanizedbureacraticliterarystyle with all the verbs at the endofsentences be glad written was! Otherwise, we Harryandlouiseprotest would have had to hear, “To this listen! They my choice away take! I my notchoice to keep get! And this muchminemoney will cost! This stinks!”

And letterstotheeditor really, really no sense with Germanrules would make.”

By Donald Sensing.

A truer thing has never been said.

January 16, 2006

Coming to a Close

Filed under: School, Personal, Germany — Alex Ravenel @ 3:22 pm

I haven’t made this terribly public yet, but most people already know it, so I figure it’s time to just put it out there, and explain my thought process on the whole thing.

Originally, I was planning on staying in Tübingen until mid August, a period of time of one year here. However, as I got further and further into my time here, I started to question whether this was the right decision to have made. About a month and a half ago, after some long and hard thinking on the subject, I decided that I would not return here for the second semester, and would instead return to the US after first semester here ended in February.

My reasons for this are many. Not least of which, I’m bored. I only have classes two days a week, which, while it sounds like a blessing at first, quickly becomes tiresome–I have nothing to do, ever. I’ve never felt so unproductive in my life. Sitting in my room, or a cafe, or the library, or wherever, while wonderful for a while, quickly becomes boring. I need to do something, accomplish something, and I don’t feel that I can do that here. Also, while having five day weekends is great for travelling, I’ve become somewhat tired of that, too. Living out of a suitcase, sleeping in hostels… I’m tired of it. I’ve also become bored with Tübingen. Tübingen is a wonderful town, and is intensely beautiful, but one can’t help get the feeling that there’s just really not much to do here once you tire of the cafes. And if I’m tired of travelling, but tired of Tübingen, I just can’t help but get the feeling that maybe I shouldn’t be here.

Then there are the personal aspects. I’ve yet to really meet any Germans, one of my primary goals in coming here. Germans are notoriously “cliquey,” and while every one that I’ve met has been friendly and outgoing, I’ve yet to strike up anything resembling a friendship with any of them. In addition, many of the Germans here go home on the weekends, or at the least to Stuttgart, leaving the town dead for 3-4 days a week, and it makes it even more difficult to meet anyone.

It was a hard decision to make, however. I was, and still am, worried that now is my greatest chance to travel, to see things, and that I may be throwing that away by heading home. However, like I said, I’m tired of the travelling, and have already been lucky enough to see more than many people twice my age. London, Paris, Rome, Venice, Berlin, Munich, soon to be Prague and potentially Vienna–I’m very lucky to have experienced all these wonderful cities. But through it all, I can’t shake the feeling that they aren’t mine, that I am just a visitor, that despite my best efforts, I can’t call them, or anywhere else on the continent of Europe, home. It’s all becoming a blur to me, and when you start to lose that magic spark of travelling, when you wouldn’t cross the street to see another Monet, when Paris is “just another city,” I think it’s time to head home.

If nothing else, this experience has led me to realize what I have at home and how lucky I am. It’s put a new perspective on myself, my life, my friends and family. I know more now about what makes me tick, what I want out of life, and how important the relationships of those close to me are, even for someone like myself who tends to have a loner streak. I am thankful for this; this is perhaps the best thing to come out of it all, even beyond all the incredible cities and sites I’ve gotten to see over the last six months.

Anyways, I still have over a month here. My flight back to the US is on February 21st, and before that date, I’ll be travelling to Prague and London, and hopefully going skiing as well, so there should be plenty up here in the meantime. I’d also like to cram in a trip to Vienna, but I’m not sure that will happen.

For better or for worse, the decision has been made, and at the moment, I’m glad I made the decision I did. In the future, I may post more about my thoughts on Tübingen itself, and why it is a great town to visit, but not one I want to live in, among other things.

January 15, 2006

Germany: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, Part II

Filed under: Random, Travel Tips, Germany — Alex Ravenel @ 11:44 am

This post is part of a series. See the first entry here and the third entry here.

The Good

  • The Trains. Germany’s rail system has the reputation of being the most punctual in Europe. I must say, this seems to be true. The trains are almost always on time, and it’s typically quite easy to get anywhere in Germany on the excellent rail system. Seven minute connection? No problem, your train will pull into the station just on time and give you enough time to get to your other train.
  • Sales Tax. The sales tax in Germany is included in the price. If something says it costs €3, it costs €3. No funny change at the end because of some 6.5% sales tax or whatever. Of course, the sales tax here is much higher, but at least it’s already in the price…
  • The Wine. And not just German wine–of which there are plenty of good ones, mostly white. But in general, I’ve found good wine to be much more accessible and cheaper than in the States. I don’t know what it is about the wine industry in the US that makes it extremely difficult to find even a decent table wine for less than $8, but here, decent wines can be had for €5. You can even find several places that will let you fill up a liter from the barrel for €3 or €4. The availability of affordable, drinkable wine here is astounding. Great wines are still expensive, but good, drinkable wines are cheap and readily available.

The Bad

  • Washing Machines. German engineering at it’s finest. The washing machines, at least the ones in all the dorms, suck. First, they are tiny. You can fit about two pairs of pants and a couple of shirts in them before they are full. Which means that it takes several machines to do a load of laundry. Second, they are slow. It takes two to two and a half hours to run a load. Third, they don’t do a very good job, and oftentimes your clothes still have a bit of soap in them. And then they don’t really do the whole dryer thing here, so you have to air dry everything. Laundry is an all-day affair here.
  • Credit Cards. No one takes them. Most hotels do, but that’s really about it. Everywhere else, everywhere, you basically have to pay in cash. Germany is the single reason there is a 500 euro bill. You go to the Saturn, the German version of Best Buy, and buy a 3000 dollar television, and have to pay in cash. I guess they don’t get too many impulse buys…
  • The Trains. Yes, also a good thing. But good lord they are expensive. I have a BahnCard 50, which gives me 50% off all German rail travel, and it’s still expensive. With it, it cost me 42 euro round trip to Nuremberg, a mere three hours away. Without it, it would have cost me 84 euro. To go three hours away. Ouch.
  • Beer Selection in Bars/Restaurants. This isn’t to say that the beer is bad, but rather that it’s hard to find anything different. I haven’t confirmed this, but I’m pretty confident that the bars and restaurants here must sign a contract with a beer distributor allowing them only to sell that brand of beer–I have never, ever seen a place that sold more than one brand of beer. Meaning that every place has a pilsner, a hefeweizen, maybe a kellerbier, and this time of the year, possibly a bock. That’s it. No selection. None of the places where you can stroll in and pick from 15 different beers. And because of the reliance on regional brewers, normally a good thing, sometimes it can be hard to find a beer from a company that you haven’t already had, a hundred times over. Sometimes you just want something different.
  • Water. Not the stuff out of the tap in your apartment, the stuff in restaurants. They don’t do the whole tap water thing here. If you want water, you’ve gotta pay €4 for the stuff in a bottle, frequently carbonated. Some places will grudgingly give you tap water if you ask for it, but they don’t like it, and some won’t give you refills. Other places flat out tell you they don’t allow customers to order tap water. I’ve been known to take a water bottle with me to eat because I don’t want to pay exorbitant prices for something I can get for almost free from the tap.

The Ugly

  • Smoking. Everyone smokes here. Everyone. Far moreso than in the US. To make it worse, they don’t really do the smoking/non-smoking sections here–they’re just all smoking. And the bars… Most of them are built into old cellars, so there isn’t much ventilation, and when almost everyone in them is smoking, you can’t see the person sitting next to you. They’ll even smoke on the trains here. I’ll never forget my trainride to Munich for Oktoberfest, with over 200 people crammed into a train car meant to sit 100, when the train broke down on the tracks, and everyone started smoking. Nothing like tons of smokers in a traincar to make you unable to breath. Not to mention I’m tired of all of my clothes perpetually smelling like smoke despite my not being a smoker.
  • The Bureaucracy. I know I already said this in the last one, but it has to be said again. The German bureaucracy has to be seen to be believed. It takes forever for anything to happen here, because 47 different bureaucrats have to sign 92 pieces of paper to replace a roadsign, or something else as trivial. And the blind insistance upon following every rule to the letter is maddening. No one will bend a rule, no matter how silly the rule or how light the bending. Want to send that package that is 11 grams over the 500g airmail weight? Sorry bud, not happening. Open it up and pull out the equivalent of a couple paperclips worth of stuffing paper. Since I’m sure that plane is going to crash because I had 11 grams too much in my airmail box.

Thats it for now. I’ve got a few more brewing, so there will probably be another similar post in the future…

January 13, 2006

The Year in Cities

Filed under: Travels, Random — Alex Ravenel @ 5:54 pm

I saw an interesting post on Kottke, The Year in Cities. Here’s my 2005, in cities that I’ve spent the night in:

Charlotte, NC
Chapel Hill, NC
Lansing, NC
Sparta, NC
Charleston, SC
Columbia, SC
Bonneau, SC
London, England
Rome, Italy
Florence, Italy
Venice, Italy
Tübingen, Germany
Stuttgart, Germany
Berlin, Germany
München (Munich), Germany
Nürnberg (Nuremberg), Germany
Colmberg, Germany
Paris, France
Amsterdam, The Netherlands

With study abroad, it’s been a big year for me in terms of travel–though my American travel is noticeably small. I’ll work on that this year…

Email List

Filed under: Random — Alex Ravenel @ 3:48 pm

I upgraded the Wordpress software to the newest version. With it, I added a few new plugins–namely a mailing list plugin. Sign up your name in the box on the right, and you will be notified everytime there is a new post. You can remove yourself from the list at anytime.

Less noticeable, under the mailing list registration form is now a list of my most recently played tracks from Last.fm.

January 12, 2006

Christmas Trip: New Years

Filed under: Travels, Germany — Alex Ravenel @ 2:38 pm

Note: This post is part of a series:
Christmas Trip: The First Days
Christmas Trip: Venice
Christmas Trip: Rome, Part 1
Christmas Trip: Rome, Part 2

We made it to Stuttgart without any fuss, on what was, despite being a budget flight where all five of us flew for cheaper than the fare for one person from Charlotte to New York, a nicer flight than most of the “big name” ones I’ve been on. A pleasant surprise. We landed in Stuttgart in the early evening, and made our way into town, before getting totally lost trying to find the hotel. Thank goodness for GPS–I don’t think we ever would have found that hotel.

By this time, it was around 9 and we were all hungry, so we headed out to find something to eat. All being tired of German food, and wanting something different than Italian, we wandered into an Arabian restaurant and enjoyed an excellent meal, with an excellent beer (Andechs double bock), and were even treated to a bit of belly dancing–interesting, to say the least.

Not having any plans for the evening, we decided to take it easy and head back to the hotel after dinner. Just at midnight, as we were about to get in bed, we started hearing popping, bangs, whistles, explosions, shouts–looking out the window, we were treated to the most incredible fireworks display I have ever seen. This wasn’t some massive city sponsored show, but was all small, personal fireworks. The kicker was that everyone was shooting tons of them. Everywhere you looked, the horizon was just filled with rainbows of exploding fireworks. From our 5th floor windows, we could see it all, and just sat there, taking it in, for 30 minutes. The street below us was filled with celebrators, and we could see bottle rockets bouncing off cars, people, and buildings–one even hit the window next to me. The sheer number of the fireworks going off overtook any professional display I have ever seen. It was, by far, the best fireworks “show” I’ve ever seen–and maybe even the best New Year’s I’ve ever had.

That was really the end of our trip. The next day, we ambled around Stuttgart’s meager sites, Wilson went ice skating, and then we just hung around. Not much to report on there. The next morning, I caught the train back to Tübingen, and the rest of the family headed to the airport to fly home, thus bringing a close to our Christmas trip.

January 11, 2006

Christmas Trip: Rome, Part 2

Filed under: Travels, Italy — Alex Ravenel @ 9:56 pm

Note: This post is part of a series:
Christmas Trip: The First Days
Christmas Trip: Venice
Christmas Trip: Rome, Part 1
Christmas Trip: New Years

Vatican StatuesThat next morning, we got up early and headed out. Grabbing a quick breakfast at a local cafe, we then boarded the Rome subway and headed over to the Vatican. Coming out of the station and back into the sunlight, we were disheartened to see a massive line, looping around the block, to get entrance to the Vatican museums. Turning down an exorbitantly priced tour that would, however, have gotten us past the line, we decided to head into the Piazza and then Saint Peter’s itself.

Saint Peter'sComing through the line of columns surrounding Piazza San Pietro, I was once again struck by just how huge the Vatican is. The enveloping line of massive columns, four deep, topped with hundreds of statues and the millenia old obelisk in the center are enough to strike one dumb with amazement. Add to that the solid marble mass of the basilica rising at the end of it all, and you have easily the most impressive sight I’ve ever seen in my life–until going inside, that is. We quickly hopped in the line to get inside, moving with surprising quickness through the security line, and then headed into the basilica proper, stopping for a moment to look at the Swiss Guards standing stone still in another entrance.

Swiss Guards, VaticanWe entered the Basilica of Saint Peter, and I was as awed as I had been the first time I’d seen it. Rising to seemingly impossible heights, with ornate decoration covering every surface, the scale and magnificence of the place is unmatched. Everywhere you turn, the sheer size of the basilica astounds; the cherubs on the wall that look small and cute are actually eight feet tall. PietaEvery available surface is covered in decoration, and the sculptures and paintings (now mosaics, replaced to protect the originals) read like a who’s who of Renaissance masters. Michaelangelo’s Pietá, sitting in an alcove all to itself, is predictably crowded by visitors peering at it’s lifelike mastery from behind the bulletproof glass, erected after a vandal attacked the statue with a hammer in 1972.

Saint Peter's, BaldachinoWe continued wandering toward the other end of the church, ending in the center, peering at Bernini’s massive bronze baldachino and the huge dome, the first dome to take the crown from the dome of the Pantheon, which was the largest dome in the world until St. Peter’s. The baldachino, reaching toward the skies, is made of solid bronze, and required so much bronze to make, that they had to melt down the bronze tiles inside the Pantheon to build it after exhausting all of Rome’s bronze supplies. Saint Peter's, InteriorAfter walking around and back down the other side, still gaping at the size of it all, we went back out the front and got into the line to climb to the top of the dome. We waited for about an hour for our chance to climb the dome, but it was all worth it. We filed in around the side of the basilica, climbing to the first level, which affords views into the basilica from the cupola of the dome. Here one realizes just how huge everything is, seeing the size of fellow visitors in comparison to details that looked small from the floor. Saint Peter's, Dome and BaldachinoThen it was back up the staircase towards the top, this time between the interior and exterior wall of the dome, with the walls curving around you and throwing off your balance making it hard to walk. Eventually you come to the top, and are rewarded with expansive views over all of Rome, extending all the way to the snow capped mountains in the distance.

Piazza San PietroFrom there, we headed down and out, deciding that we unfortunately didn’t have the time to wait in line to see the Vatican museums and their treasure troves, which also unfortunately meant that we wouldn’t get to see the Sistene Chapel. Despite my protests, we ate lunch at one of the tourist cafes near the Vatican and ate the most overpriced, poor quality food I’ve had the misfortune to eat, with the worst service I’ve ever had. After discovering that we weren’t about to spring for delights such as their €8 a scoop gelato, they ignored our table, being slow to bring anything we asked. Our glasses were dirty and still had lipstick stains on them, the food was bland, and after waiting for 30 minutes after asking for the check, I had to track down the waiter and demand it from him.

Pantheon DomeNext stop was the Pantheon, just a few blocks away. On the way we stopped to admire Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers, one of the most amazing fountains I’ve ever seen. After I quickly walked around the Pantheon and saw Raphael’s tomb, something I’d somehow missed the last time I was there, we wandered around the corner down a back street to find Della Palma, an excellent gelateria that I had visited last March when I had been here. The gelato was just as spectacular as I remembered. I had four scoops–mandarin orange, strawberry, and two of mango, my favorite gelato flavor. All were incredibly intense, mixing the perfect amount of sweetness and tang, with strong flavors that just exploded in your mouth. Absolutely worth a visit.

ColosseumThe next morning, New Years eve, after yet another spectacular meal in a local trattoria the evening before, we headed to the Colosseum in a light rain. Unfortunately, the Colosseum doesn’t afford much to the repeat visitor, so I somewhat ambled along behind everyone while the others took it all in–though I did notice many more details than I did the last time I was here, when we had been rushed through it. Afterwards, we walked back to our hotel around the corner through the parts of the Roman Forum that had been closed due to the late hour the day before. It’s a very impressive thing to see the incredible engineering that went into these things, two millenia earlier. Once back in our hotel, we packed our bags and caught a shuttle to the airport for the very reasonable sum of €55 for 5 people and bags, all the way to Fiumicino. Not bad at all. The flight to Stuttgart was on the budget carrier German Wings, and was very uneventful, and mercifully short.

As always, more pictures in the photo gallery, and check out my Flickr page for even more…

January 8, 2006

Christmas Trip: Rome, Part 1

Filed under: Travels, Italy — Alex Ravenel @ 11:37 am

Note: This post is part of a series:
Christmas Trip: The First Days
Christmas Trip: Venice
Christmas Trip: Rome, Part 2
Christmas Trip: New Years

The next morning, we had a leisurely breakfast and headed over to the train station to catch our train to Rome. We rode in style, first class the whole way–though not by choice. Unfortunately, when we had gone to the train station to buy our tickets the day before, all of the second class seats on every train to Rome had been sold out. Without any choice, we shelled out the €380 for the tickets. It was quite nice to experience first class, but I maintain that, unlike on a plane, there is little use for first class on a train–second class on trains already has plenty of leg room and comfy seats. The ride itself was uneventful, and we made it into Rome without a hassle.

I had been to Rome once before, last year during spring break as a stop on the way to meeting friends in Florence. The feelings I’d had then upon entering Rome flooded back, and not all of them were good. Immediately upon entering Rome Termini train station, you are bombarded with the essence of Rome. Unbelievably crowded, tens of thousands of people shove and cram their way past you, all moving haphazardly in one direction or the other. Don’t lose sight of the people in your group, it might take you a while to find them again. Keep your hands on your valuables, the pickpockets in Rome are notorious, and immediately upon entering the train station you get the feeling they aren’t an urban myth. You make your way out the main exit of the train station into the parking lot and taxi terminal, to be bombarded by sketchy people selling umbrellas or offering you an illicit taxi. The taxis themselves don’t pick up from a designated point, you must practically fight for one in the only place I’ve ever seen with fewer taxis than people waiting for one. People, seeing the luggage you are carrying and the dumbstruck looks on your faces, will offer to find you one for a small “finder’s fee”–it may or may not be worth it to take them up on the offer. Finally making it into a taxi, you’ve got to make sure not to get ripped off by a driver claiming “thats what it costs.” Rome is intensely sketchy, dirty, overcrowded, but above all, alive, and despite the potential to get ripped off, pickpocketed, or otherwise have a bad experience, it’s a welcome change from the sterile German cities with which I have the most experience.

My foremost impression of Rome is that it is a city of contrasts. Intensely dirty, crowded, and leaving one with the feeling that he could be ripped off at anytime, it is nonetheless a city of intense beauty, a city that moves, breathes, feels alive. Two thousand year old Roman architecture mingles with 17th century Baroque masterpieces in a beautiful, if disjointed, amalgam of building art and mastery. Friendly, sincere Italians mingle with rude, opportunistic ones intent on taking tourists’ money. This abundance of contrasts is what makes Rome what it is, and is the reason I like the place, despite all the negatives I’ve listed. I got this impression last time I was there, and a second visit only served to reinforce that.

Roman ForumWe got checked into the hotel, and, with daylight fading, walked down the street to the Roman Forum. I had walked by part of the Forum on my last visit, while we were on the way to the Colosseum, looming in the distance just down the street, but I had never gotten to actually visit it. This time my Mom, Dad, little brother, and I walked over everything that we could, unfortunately not much as the light was fading fast. I scrambled trying to take as many pictures as I could in the low light, all while admiring the 2000 year old ruins surrounding me, crumbling columns jutting into the air with remnants of their less fortunate neighbors haphazardly littering the ground all around them. The amazing thing is that large parts of it had been buried over and built over, only to be rediscovered a hundred years ago when a neighborhood was torn down to be renovated. While we were walking, I also took the opportunity to look around me and take in the domes of all of the churches all around me on the horizon, the sheer abundance of beautiful architecture astounding me once again.

With the light now totally gone, we headed back to the hotel, and soon, to a small neighborhood trattoria on a nearby sidestreet. We walked in the door, sat at one of the tables, covered in red and white checked tablecloths, and started with a liter of wine and some bruschetta. For dinner, I had Cacio e Pepe, a pasta dish with finely grated cheese and freshly ground pepper on top, while everyone else had various pasta dishes, all of which were uniformly excellent. While we were eating, several accordion players wandered into the restraurant, playing tunes for tips. The first one did reasonably well, collecting tips from most tables; the second had the bad luck to come in 5 minutes after the first left and was promptly chased out by the owner, not wanting his customers to keep having to tip the performers. When we finished, we paid the astonishingly low tab and wandered back up the street and around the corner to our hotel, getting to bed early to get as much rest as possible for the next day–our biggest day in Rome, primary event, the Vatican.

As always, more pictures in the photo gallery, and check out my Flickr page for even more.

0.177 seconds WP 2.0.1    Based on Deichnetz    xhtml css