Rome was amazing, after repeating all the tourist sites, slightly more knowledgable than I was when I was eleven and fourteen, I took great pleasure in exploring the old vintage bookshops full of dusty hardbacks, watching a jack sparrow look alike dressed in full atire running off with Maki's hat, eating gelato at every occasion, finding myself capable of informal conversational skills in Italian. Italy is far more interesting when you know a little of the language! The last day in Rome was spent lying on a bench in the pantheon, watching the clouds from the open circle at the top of the dome, strolling around the centre and local neighbourhood area of our hostel, and dreading leaving Rome.
We 'slept' at the airport the night before setting off for Athens. There was an intense storm in the early morning which kept me awake for most of the night. I drank coffee, listened to french dialogues on my ipod and watched the people coming and going, whilst listening to the thunder. Six days in Athens was certainly enough, especially given the current protest campaigns occuring in the city because of the financial situation at the present time. The first taxi driver was pleasant but uncomfortably blunt. He asked us how long we were spending in Athens, after our reply of 6 days he said "six days is too much! I hate Athens, one day would be enough". Of course, I asked why, "People just drink and sleep all day, they are lazy, the city is too busy. I hate Greece". I soon discovered this was the general opinion of the public. A taxi driver even shouted abuse at me for asking for the fair price, to reduce what he said to something more tolerable and polite "what the ***, you english come here and expect a 5 euro trip, what the ***". I hastily got out of the damn taxi and found someone more fair. That said, the ruins themselves were spectacular, the temple of Poseidon (I met Poseidon himself there in the form of a tortoise), Delphi, Agora and the parthenon standing out as highlights. Contrary to what I expected, Greece is not ideal for vegetarians and the diet is not that diverse. The baklavas were too sticky and sweet, as was the coffee. I found Italian restaurants there to be more appealing. For veggies, there is Greek yogurt with honey and walnuts and greek salad with feta. For vegans there is... fruit :( The climate was almost unbearable, though it did allow me to return to the hostel and rest in the afternoons, a luxury I never feel need of when in Scotland.
The sea in Greece is beautiful, the land a little too arid for my liking and the people a little too pessimistic. I would love to return to visit the Greek islands, just at a time when Greece is more prosperous. The day we left there was a strike so we had to take a taxi instead of the bus or train. This time, I was relieved to return to Italy though having enjoyed my short time there for the most part.
The final day together with Dorothy and Maki was spent travelling; Athens to Rome in the early morning, pasta for lunch in Roma prior to taking the express train to Milan. There I left the others and met up with Roberto. Together we took the more familiar train to Cremona. I was to return to Milan the following day to meet up with the others after Robbie's english exam. How I was happy to be back in North Italy! I certainly enjoyed the previous two weeks, but for once in my life I had need of something comfortable and familiar. We briefly strolled around the university of Milan, the duomo square and Castello Sforzesco, ate pizza and said goodbye. Fortunately Maki was to stay with us in Cremona the following night, she got a taste for the city and Italian life before heading back to Milan, to continue with her travels in Northern Italy. I was pleased to hear that Dorothy's aupair job was going well, the family were nice and it seems she's going to have a lot of great opportunities handed to her on a golden plate. I have spent the last two weeks lazing, watching movies, eating good food, studying French and Italian, baking Norwegian and English traditional cakes, walking and cycling. There are fireflies near here and last night there was a massive storm, an exciting spectacle, especially when the lights are all turned off. Yesterday I also went the province of Como and met up with a university friend of Robbie's.
Over the last few weeks I have also been reading a lot, I finished l'etranger (in English, I don't know enough French...yet!) which was beautiful until the end, an unpredictably tragic ending. I have been working my way through classic fairytales, finally got round to reading crime and punishment and am currently reading il gattopardo (the leopard). I was disappointed to find my Italian couldn't stretch to reading the book in its original language, so I am reading it first in English. There are elaborate descriptions of the vivid life in Sicily, and the events surrounding the unification of Italy.
I have another recommendation for fellow language learners, buy pokemon for nintendo DS in your target language! I feel I have effortly learned sooo much and became faster at reading in Italian, having Pokemon Nero for nintendo DS. It is dangerously addictive, so take care. I should do the same with French really, for now I am still working on the present tense...
I need not say that which I enjoyed the most. ;)