Good to be back, writing nonsense in a small grey font over dark background.
The last thing I wrote here before going on hiatus was that I became sick. I remember signing‐off that post while on the train towards Trento in Northern Italy.
Here’s a bit of background information: I am rarely sick. I don’t like being sick, so I took a strategic decision a long time ago to not become sick all too often. Therefore, any case of sickness makes me completely miserable.
I should say though that I may not be too much of an exception, you know, myself being a man (last time I checked) and all. Comparing to women, men are known to have a inferior pain tolerance when it comes to being ill, and my case is somewhat extreme. Past girlfriends would tell you that when I am sick, I become an unbearable person to be with, speak with, eat with, breathe with, communicate with, coexist with. I can be a major, super pain in the ass when I am sick because I see absolutely nothing more important in the world but the cure for my own sickness.
And the reason I wrote all of the above was to introduce this following statement: as the train ride to Trento progressed, the combination of feeling sick as well as tired gave me one of the worst feelings I ever remember experiencing.
In retrospect, the reason for me becoming sick must have been the continuous lack of sleep, combined with the obnoxious stress involved with getting into Poland and out of it. I guess my immune system decided to let some questionable organisms through.
I remember that, during the train ride, I tried to fall asleep but couldn’t. Instead, my weary head went swaying left and right as my eyes were closed, trying to put itself to sleep with no success whatsoever. At some point, I opened my eyes, looked through the windows and thought I was in another world. The views around me were simply superb—narrow & tall mountains, castles, small red‐roofed houses almost completely hidden beneath the vast trees upon the hills. Attempts to take pictures didn’t go well—I wasn’t even focused enough to get a decent picture to serve as a representative to what I had seen as the train crossed the border from Germany to Austria and then to Italy. All I have is this; sorry:
It’s about 4 hours train ride from Munich to Bolzano, then an hour ride to Trento: as the train crossed the invisible border from Austria to Italy, the weather became clearer and clearer and the views prettier and prettier. A resident of British‐Columbia, Canada would probably feel at home here as the views are very similar: green high hills, winding rivers, the occasional waterfall. Add blue sky to the combo and you get yourself something very pleasing to the eye. I was happy to depart the train in Bolzano so I could take some pictures.
On top of being in very poor physical condition, I was also very hungry when I got to Bolzano’s train station. A quick ham sandwich and the hunger went away—one problem gone, but my brain still feels like pulp. I started getting really worried once I realized some weird trembling in my hands and legs, signs of a relatively low blood pressure.
You shouldn’t be surprised, then, to read how happy I was once the train arrived to Trento. Valeria, Daria’s sister, made it clear that she was there waiting for me as she jumped up in joy to the sight of the half‐dead Canadian wandering around the train station aimlessly looking for a friendly face. Daria showed up a few seconds later; off to the car and we drove to Valeria’s apartment, where I ended up staying for the entire period in Trento.
Trento (Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trento) is the capital city of the Province of Trento in Northern Italy. A bit of a hilly terrain, it is surrounded by impressive hills and mountains; two rivers—Fersina and Avisio—meet here, and the view of the rivers—featuring the brilliant “rock‐flour” color I have only before seen in the Canadian Rockies—creates a view that I can really only describe as GRAND.
Call me an ignorant (wait, wait… not so fast, not everybody at once) but my idea of Italy, before coming here for the first time in my life, was different. I never knew that there are parts in Italy featuring such views—it was a great surprise.
Daria and Valeria both live in Trento, a few blocks from each other in this quiet city of Trento. Exactly the kind of place suitable for spending a few days in before embarking on the home stretch of this journey; that is, spend a few days by mostly resting and, due to my poor physical condition, healing.
As we arrived at Valeria’s house, a quick meal and I finally realized that what I’m going through is pretty much the worst thing I could have imagined would happen to me in Italy.
I lost my senses of smell and taste; my nose was running, my throat a bit itchy and I could smell and taste absolutely nothing.
Now, please take a moment to consider this. You probably already know that I LOVE Italian food; and now, as I was in the only country in the world where “Italian food” is actually called “food”, I couldn’t enjoy ANYTHING I eat or drink. How ironic is that, huh.
It’s just outright cruel. Me having a cold while in Italy is like Diego Maradona having a cold while visiting a room full of cocaine. Like you entering Las Vegas’ “Hard Rock Hotel”’s VIP club on a Saturday night with your spouse. Quite awkward and almost positively destined to be a waste of time.
I decided to take a shower immediately after lunch and went straight to bed; and as I thought that my physical condition could not get any worse, how about this—the air in Trento is VERY DRY with relative humidity nowadays bouncing up and down just around the 50% range. It was drier there than in Richard Simmons’ bedroom. Have you ever had a throat infection when the air is so dry?
Well, if you didn’t, may I suggest you never do.
I was very tired, though; somehow, within I believe about 15 seconds, I fell asleep, waking up about 3 hours later.
When I woke up, I wasn’t tired anymore but my nose started running so badly that I couldn’t possibly get away without some tissue for more than 2 minutes. I mean it: 2 minutes. The two beautiful Italian women I had the greatest luck in the world spending time with, were already waiting for me in the living room for a trip to a restaurant.
Yes, it was a trip to a restaurant. Not your typical 10–15 minutes drive to the city centre: the restaurant we were at was a restaurant serving food that is unique to that particular area of Italy we were at. “Malga Brigolina” (that’s the name of the restaurant) was located at the peak of Bondone Mountain, requiring about 25–30 minutes drive uphill to magnificent views of Trento & its suburbs all around.
It was then when I fell in love with this area, as well as felt the sense of victory over the shit I had to go through. Fucked‐up train ride into Poland? Missed train out of Poland? Polish taxi‐cab driver speeding 160 km/h to catch up with a train? Seriously, fuck it all, I say. At the end, I remained standing at the top of the mountain, overlooking absolutely gorgeous surroundings and knowing that I’ll get better during the upcoming days.
I had to summon each and every brain‐cell in order to get the tiniest sense of the taste of whatever it was that I ordered (or: whatever it was that Daria & Valeria ordered for me). I can’t recall what it was called (Daria, hit the “comment” button now) but, from the very little taste that I managed to interpret, it was a really tasty dish. The experience altogether was quite surreal: a small restaurant, basically located inside a shack; outside, a few people that look like park rangers sitting sipping some drinks; their dog lying around next to them looking aimlessly at a few bugs that kept buzzing around it. Toilets? outside, in a separate tiny shack.
And the views… Oh, the views.
An hour and a half at the restaurant for a full, proper meal and we went back. Tucked myself in and blessed the Lord Almighty for the fact that I had NOTHING to do the next day.
… I am lying. I did have a few things to do: buy some T‐shirts (as I had to get rid of the spring clothes I brought with me. I find it hard to believe I’ll need a coat and four thick long‐sleeve shirts for the next few weeks), buy elegant shoes for the Monte‐Carlo shows, get a haircut… but I couldn’t do any of these. Hell, I couldn’t even concentrate on writing anything for my blog; my sickness got to its worst part as my nose was running like crazy, non‐stop, and I had a terrible headache for the entire day. I had a proper night sleep the night before, but when you’re sick, you tend to get tired faster.
Screw it, I thought. A quick phone call to the Doctor and Valeria fixed me up with an appointment for noon. Went there, and heard the verdict: basically, a throat infection with all bunch of side‐effects. My sentence: antibiotics and anti‐cough syrup for one week. You know what? It was worth paying €55 (I was too tired to even consult my travel insurer for this) just to know what the hell is going on with my body and when it’s (supposedly) going to end.
That day (July 7) was obviously on its way to be a waste of a day as I couldn’t do anything. This is such an annoying thing for a person like myself who has trouble sitting down doing nothing for too long: always has to create something, do something, learn something, optimize something.
Witnessing that it wasn’t going to be a very productive day, I resorted to completing my travel arrangements for this journey. Locarno hotel—booked (unless someone here is driving from Locarno to Milan after the concert and is willing to give me a ride); hotels for Spain—booked. The only part that remains open is the last day in Spain, July 31 (Bilbao to Gredos)—still have to decide how I’m approaching this.
At the evening, Daria and I went to a restaurant in Trento’s city centre that, according to Daria, is in the business of selling very good pizza: Alla Mostra. On our way there, I was crossing my fingers for my taste‐buds to get some sort of relief—to no avail. I had to concentrate really hard in order to get even the slightest hint of smell. It was very good; what I could easily notice, though, was that the crust—such a majorly important element in a pizza that is often overlooked—was perfect. If that pizza really tasted as I think it tasted, then I think I found the Italian peer to “Wooden Heads” (Kingston, Ontario, Canada; so far the best pizza I ever tasted).
Millions of tissues later and we went back home—that is, Daria to her own apartment and myself to Valeria’s. Off to bed, hoping for my sickness to fade away the day after.
And you know what? It did. In the morning, I woke up feeling very alert; clear nose, headache is gone. I was excited: did I regain my senses?!
Let Ben Johnson consume steroids for one year straight, and he still won’t do the run from bed to the fridge as fast as I did. Pulled out the syrup, added water, stirred, started drinking—
No taste whatsoever.
COME ON, I screamed internally at my body. COME ON, WE ARE NEVER SICK. And this is FUCKING ITALY. I NEED TO BE ABLE TO TASTE STUFF HERE. WHAT THE HELL, COULDN’T MY SENSES BE SHUT IN BELGIUM INSTEAD?
It didn’t appear to help much.
Well, at least my physical condition was pretty good, so I decided to make the day productive. Went with Daria to the city centre to get some T‐shirts and shoes—this time, armed with my camera. Here are some pictures I took from the 5 minutes drive to the city centre—this should give you an idea of what the surroundings of Trento are all about.
The city centre of Trento is very pretty with well‐decorated old buildings pretty much everywhere you go. Lots of shortcuts here to get from one place to another through almost invisible passages—after following Daria for about a minute I was already feeling lost and disoriented.
Quite a few people roaming the streets in mid‐day. Cafes, restaurants and shops abound—all laid out and inviting in a way that just screams “Italy”.
I loved every piece of it.
Gelateria (see photo above, to the right) is an ice‐cream parlour. “Gelato” means “ice cream” in Italian, but that’s not your typical cream‐based ice‐cream; it is actually based on milk—less fat and, typically, much finer taste.
Shopping for T‐shirts went as fast as only shopping for MEN’s T‐shirts can go. 15 minutes and we were out.
Now look at this lovely fellow at the picture above to the right.
YES, WE ARE IN ITALY.
Back home for a rest, and then we all decided that it’s about time to do something fun. These two sisters are by no means lazy—ski, snowboarding, paragliding, you name it—they already did it. They decided to take it easy on me this time—no extreme sports, just a short sight‐seeing trip.
The ride itself was too pretty to neglect taking pictures of. Mountains all around you everywhere you go, and more wineries than people. Often, the road becomes a tunnel, crossing the mountain range. The duo mocked me for being enthusiastic about those seemingly‐boring views, but I couldn’t stop taking pictures.
After just under an hour of driving, we arrived at our destination: a town named Molveno, a superb little town just at the foot of a mountain‐range called Dolomiti di Brenta. Temperature was a bit milder here as we already were in high altitude.
A cable‐car exists there, going all the way up to the summit.
Now, myself having cable‐car experience only from the prestigious Canadian Rockies, I was thinking about a closed, extremely safe gondola to put my trust in. But no… things here are different. The ride up the mountain had two parts—the first one done in a metal box smaller than a typical shopping cart, and the other—on an open two‐seater.
The views from the gondola were breathtaking (see pictures below, on our way down; on our way up, the gondolas’ cables were a bit too obstructive).
See Valeria enjoying the view?
After switching to the two‐seater—about 80% on the way up—we started hearing some bells ring. A look down and—hey! Lunch!!
A few more minutes of gondola ride up, and temperature dropped by another degree or so. Perfect, absolutely perfect… especially considering these views as seen from the top.
At the summit, there’s a small restaurant / kiosk, as well as a playground for kids. We spent about an hour there, enjoying the magnificent views and the fresh air; we also took a few pictures to commemorate the experience.
Now you tell me that I’m not the Sultan of Swing…
If it was up to me, I would build a house on the top of that mountain spend an awful lot of time there. A superbly refreshing experience… and we had to go down before 6:00pm otherwise we’d have to walk downhill.
… And as we were going down, the views started becoming even more amazing.
Just click on the last image (bottom right), enlarge it; turn the lights off, shut the curtains; avoid any external interference and just focus. Now imagine that you’re there: on the gondola, between earth and sky; sweet breeze on your face, silence all around. So silent you can hear yourself thinking about how lucky you are to be alive.
Back to the car and we went for a ride around the lake, on our way to a restaurant that we had plans dining at. The views along the way? well, you tell me.
Such fantastic views that I just had to ruin them.
We parked somewhere by the lake and made our way through a winery to the restaurant.
See the castle in the last picture? That’s some very old castle now turned into a restaurant. That’s where we walked to.
Castel Toblino was the name of the place. Beautiful old castle; we looked at the menu and Daria said that it looks too “pretentious”, so we decided to not eat there but instead take pictures of the surroundings.
See Daria’s work‐of‐art photography… the last picture (bottom right). This definitely is poster‐material.
Returned to the car and went to a different restaurant—one that Daria has had previous experience with so we all knew that we were going to someplace well worth going.
Just look at the interior.
Food shortly arrived. It looked fantastic, and by the very little taste & smell I could sense, that place obviously has something worthy to sell.
During dinner, I continued practicing my Italian. Daria & Valeria claim that I’m a good student—learning quickly and my Italian accent is very good. Italian, by the way, is a very sexy language: while every sentence in French sounds romantic, every sentence in Italian sounds like something well worth being said during love‐making. The accent, the flowing of the words, everything about this language is just very, very sexy.
I made a few attempts to demonstrate some artificial sexy accent, to see whether any of the ladies would find it anywhere near close to “charming”.
It wasn’t, and the best indication for that was that, while I was trying my best to impress Valeria with the sentence “your eyes dazzle my soul”, she wasn’t even looking at me but instead decided to completely and utterly devour her fish.
I guess that was the point when I gave up.
Desserts shortly followed…
… and we spent another half an hour there before heading back home.
Phewwwww, what a day! What a great way to end a stretch of four days off, now that I’m almost completely healthy.
None of that would be anywhere near the realm of possibility had it not been for the sweetest hosts in Italy: the Daria & Valeria duo made all the difference. Right from the moment I was collected at the train station, the two went out of their way to help and take care of me. I really felt like home in Trento, thanks to my wonderful hosts. Here’s a big kiss to these two sisters: MUAH.