As the next team arrive we have an exchange of confusion as they were not the team who was second on the text. They must still be in Verona. Turned out this couple, the organisers, had been stuck in Innsbruck (we were even more happy we went to Ljubljana then). We also had an awkward moment with the hostel owner as we had been waiting there for hours and using their internet, but hadn’t actually planned to stay with them. We’d used the internet to find a couch surfer, David. He wasn’t very impressed with our plans telling us it was illegal to use the internet without staying there? I’m sure it’s not.
We left as we were about to meet up with Paolo, at St. Marco Square, who had stayed over in Tina’s room for a MUN thing. The magic of the internet. We found him in the crowded square and explained we had to also go meet our couch surfer near the Academia bridge. We didn’t know where that was and with only a google map from Paolo we had fun trying to find it. David was also hosting some other couch surfers so it was a little more challenging as they were moving around too. We found David sitting on a well outside the Gallerie dell’ Accademia where the other couch surfers had gone to look at the Leonardo da Vinci exhibition. Tina said we must go there tomorrow, I said I don’t like fine art.Tina spotted “Grom Gelato” which she was very excited about, and as I said we needed to buy ice cream when we got there, we did exactly that. The other couch surfers, who were French, eventually emerged and we all had our greetings, including the kisses which you know exist, but forget about and are a little shocked as you think they are going in for a hug.
We walk around the confusing streets enjoying the sun and chatting. We stop at a little cafe and get Spritzers, which are a traditional Venetian drink. It consists of white wine and a mixer such as Campari or Aperol. I wasn’t that taken as it tasted of wine, but Tina enjoyed it more. We chilled out by the canal and had a chat with everyone. 48 hours ago we were in Utrecht worrying about exams.Paolo had to get the train home so after a stop at another bar to wait for the French to catch up we negotiated the winding street following the signs “Ferrovia” (train station). Paolo also enlightened us of an interesting linguistic fact. Venetian, is actually more similar to Spanish than Italian. Which is odd when Venice is on the other side of Italy to Spain. Who knows?
We hugged (and kissed) goodbye. Paolo was a really nice guy and I generally liked him a lot. He said we could stay with him next time we are in Venice instead of with some random people. This was really nice and, as Tina says, there are often cheap flights to Venice it wasn’t so implausible that she could be back. I’m glad that we met up.
After a hunt round the station for David we eventually found each other and got the train and bus back to his place. As we got off the bus we had an awkward conversation where the French wanted to buy food from a supermarket (and one was particularly adamant about it), even though David said he had food at his house we could help ourselves too. We said we were fine with what David had to offer and in the end so were the French.
When we got back David had to rush back to Venice as he had to go back to the bar, which left us to cook. Annoying when he said he would cook for us! Oh well I guess it would be up to me. He had pasta and some veg and so my student eyes could easily see a meal out of that. I raided the cupboards too that people had missed and also found some tinned sweetcorn and garlic. I did the usual frying everything in one pan and then put it on the pasta. It went well and everyone complemented me, including David who would have his helping the next day. This is a little odd to me as this kind of ‘recipe’ is just a way to get rid of all the veg you have in your fridge. Or I have some kind of awesome cooking skill I’m not fully aware of 😉
Tina and I then had a much-needed shower and promptly collapsed on the floor as when hitchhiking you do not get that much sleep. Especially with Tina only having had the one hour.
We awake in the morning and have breakfast of cereal and chocolate spread. We try to impress the French with our Specaloos spread but turns out they have it in France and it’s a French company. My ideas of the Netherlands are shattered! The French are leaving today and so we head back into the city. Our plan was to get a late train that day from Venice to Ljubljana so we left our bags at the station for the day. We got some pastries from Bar Pasticeria Rio Marin. I get a mini Pizza thing it was very tasty.We walk around but it starts to rain so we dive into a chocolate shop for shelter. The French’s train is coming soon so they have to leave and we say our goodbyes. Whilst there we see a way not to stack fruitand I get myself another pizza thing. We wander around a bit more and see Rialto bridge and also get a gondola ride for €0.50. Local knowledge. David appears to know everyone in the city. We see a smoothie place where he knows the people working there and decide we will have a smoothie as their tasters are so nice. We actually get a way bigger serving then we were supposed too 🙂 We also grab a few more gelatos along the way, I get Smurf flavour and Tina gets Pino Pinguino. They are amazing. David says he feels very touristy.
We also see a young art exhibition in a window, which had an egg made out of kinder surprise toys. We go in and look at all the art it was really cool. I get a bit disappointed by the descriptions as it is about the negatives of consumerism where as I would prefer it to be about being childish or something.
We need to go to the station to collect our bags and look at trains. It turns out no trains or buses go to Ljubljana at all so we have to get one tomorrow, €5 wasted on bag storage. This seems ridiculous when Ljubljana is a capital city and they are so close on the map. We discuss our options of trains, buses and hitchhiking. We talk to the train directors and we decide we will get the first train to Trieste in the morning, which is on the Italian Slovenian border and then get a bus from there. Our host for Ljubljana has also contacted us so everything is set for tomorrow.
This evening we are supposed to meet the other hitchhikers for dinner but haven’t heard from them yet. We are nearly on the train back to David’s when we get a message from them. They say to meet them in St. Margherita Square. David knows how to get there and has to pick some forms up from his old job on the way. He also tells us a story of how he hopes we aren’t going to a particular bar as the person there wanted to kill him. He was very vague. We didn’t ask questions.
We met the UCUers and went for dinner which was subsidised by €10 from the UCSA. Even for David! We got told a tragic story of Mischa who had decided to hitch alone and without a map. It sounded very foolish and in the end he had to get a train to Venice. We exchanged lots more stories and we felt a little guilty that ours had gone so well. In hitchhiking competitions you either win or get stories and we had won so we had very little to say about this hitchhike. Our common response was “yeah last semester…”. They had all had problems with Innsbruck and now they all disliked it. I wasn’t pleased for this as I really enjoyed it when I went with the Explorer Scouts. Oh well hitchhiking makes your opinions, we now love Germany and hate France, it’s just how it goes.
David gets a call during dinner and coincidently it is the bartender he has history with. He wants to chat and David thinks he can sort things out with him so he goes off. He returns saying everything is fine and when we are done we can go over. It turns out to be a really cool bar with UV lights and signs from universities that have visited before. Tina and Eva get to making a UCU sign. I finish off the rest of the Bellini which was our prize for winning. We are glad to have David around as he gets us cheaper prices for all the drink, yay!
Now the unforgettable event of the trip comes along. The bar has a sign that says they play beer pong and we want to have a go. Gael and the bartender win over Sam and Keir (obviously), but then some Americans enter who want a match. Maggie is on the American side with her boyfriend and has the most annoying American stereotypical voice ever and all the mannerisms to go with it. They yell funny things at each other like “I’m thirsty, give me a drink”, which is funny at first but the Americans don’t seem to get that a joke does get old after you say it about 50 times. As beer pong was invented by the US and as the bartender owns the bar you’d think it would be a short match but it dragged on forever especially when they were down to one cup each. They argued insistently about the rules, with the bartender also being stereotypically Italian, punching the wall and swearing on his mother’s life that was how it was. This was a very visual thing, so is hard to describe, but essential it was a day you were happy to be European.
After this we said our goodbyes to the UCUers as we were leaving the next day and went back to David’s. On the bus David asked if we would remain friends with them when we got back to Utrecht, to which we replied “No”. Perhaps we would now smile at them when we see them but that is probably it. With hindsight we were too optimistic with this. There is no smiling – it is actually more awkward than before as you know these people, but you don’t say anything to them. It’s really silly. I think if TripCo has socials like they do at Exeter where everyone just meets up for a night then maybe our friendship could’ve continued.
David had a good night though and said it was the most fun he’d had in Venice in a while. He was moving to Malta soon to work at a youth hostel. We were jealous of his life, just moving where he wanted to and where the jobs were. Although he didn’t seem happy and he later blurted out why while Tina was in the bathroom. He missed his ex so much. It was a little awkward as at the time I was just talking about getting the train tomorrow..
This night we got to sleep on the bed and not the floor, which was a plus. We had decided to get the second train of the day though and so at 7am we were off to Trieste. We had left David some Dutch biscuits as a present.