Saturday, August 31, 2013

Baloney - Bologna


You may have noticed that pictures were posted for Bologna, but I did not blog about the city. I was totally underwhelmed with it. As the taxi took us from the train station to the hotel, my heart dropped to my kneecaps. The outside of the hotel and all surrounding area was so covered with graffiti, you only knew the walls were there as a support for the paint.

The hotel as listed as a 2 star, which was fine with me when I booked it since it was only for one night and it was cheap. However, once we made our way through the scribbles, doodles and drawings, like maneuvering through a spider’s web, the hotel was extraordinary. The lobby extended to two rooms, with modern leather and chrome furniture, a bar fully stocked, an inviting breakfast room, and a snippy young man at the desk.

Having been up since early morning, we were tired and hoped; Ron presumably prayed that we would get an early check-in. Mr. Snippy-Snappy had difficulty finding our pre-paid reservation and then when he did was quick to inform us that check-in was not until 2pm. We had 4 hours to kill, but left the carry-ons behind, but the backpack with my wallet and laptop were still melded on to my back.

It is still not clear to me why I was not crazy about the city, though I honestly tried with exhaustive enthusiasm. It is the seventh most populated city in Italy. Perhaps it was the fact that there was more paint dabbling on the public walls than one sees in a modern art museum. It did have extensive damage from WWII, but still it is proclaimed to have beautiful and significant architecture. Other than the 4 towers that remain from the original twenty, there were some lovely buildings, but none that truly stood out as spectacular.

When we were able to get into our room, it was huge, clean, and ultra-modern. The bathroom was conspicuously recently remodeled. The view was of a side street with truck parking, but so what. The problem came at night. Being around the corner from the University of Bologna, the noise was incredible, but the heat was still such at midnight that it behooved us to leave the window open. By 4am, I could not take it any longer and shuttered the window, which thankfully, blocked all noise.

In the future, Bologna may be on my list to fly in and out of, but not to stay. Photos are in the photo blog if you want to check them out here.

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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Italy - Bologna


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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Wave Hello to Jesus


Once again, I hate this bus system here. We had to get up extra early to get breakfast as soon as they opened the doors, in order to get the 8:36 bus to the train station. Today’s trip was to Ravenna. I owe particular thanks Sandra Molyneaux, our friend from Democrats Abroad who put me onto this city. I would never have known about Ravenna if it weren’t for her sending me a note advising me of the unbelievable collection of mosaics that are throughout the city.

For the first time, as we were approaching the train station stop, a woman flagged down the driver in between stops, which at first seemed quite strange until we watched people squirm. She was a ticket inspector; though the bus was full, she was not able to dispense one fine.

A couple of our train tickets I bought online and printed them out. Other tickets were bought from the self-service machines in the station. What I had forgotten about was that the machine tickets have to be validated before you get on the train. It was not until we were half way to Ravenna when it popped into my mind that we had not done this simple task. Failure to do so is fineable, understandably so as tickets are valid for 3 months unless validated. We reached our destination without incident.

After gawking at some of the architecture, we first entered the Basilica di San Giovanni Evangelist where there is a display of grey and ivory toned mosaics displayed around the church on the walls. They are not protected in any manner, so you can run your fingers over the surface, which of course tactile people like me had to do. This was an impressive display and I love mosaics, yet I could not help but wonder what all the fuss was about if these were prime examples of the work.

When we reached Sant Apollinare Nuovo, we had to buy a 5 church/museum ticket for €9.50 each. Dating back to the 5th or 6th century, it had differing names, but the current one came about in the 9th century when the relics of Sant Apollinare were placed here. Nuovo was added to distinguish it from a smaller church with a similar name. Just walking in will take your breath away. Unlike most churches,  you will not find any pews or chairs, but one long sumptuous empty space. Corinthian columns line the hall while above them are the most spectacular mosaics in primarily shades of gold, green, and white. Directly above the columns on either side there are rows of people with halos, presumably saints. Above these are bible stories including Jesus at the wedding in Cana, Jesus multiplying the loaves and fishes, on the other side,  there are scenes from the passion and resurrection. These are unbelievably stunning. Later I read that the different scenes were from different periods, hence different artists created various facial features and expressions. From the floor, it is difficult to tell.

Palazzo detto di Teodorico offered free admission, but didn’t inspire my photo bug tendency. I only took 2 pictures here. This is the ruin of a brick building; it is thought that it dates back to the 6th or 7th century. Its original function is still being speculated, but it is believed to have been a guard room. Inside there are a couple of mosaic floors.

Museo Archivescovile or Museum of the Archbishop of Ravenna did not allow photos at all. It is four rooms with impressive displays that alternate in the historic environment, archaeological finds and works of art.  There were marble pieces that date back to the 1st century. What was truly sad was the ivory throne created for the archbishop. We hope there were not a number of animals killed to make it.

Nearby is the Orthodox Baptistery, Neonian Baptistery, or otherwise known as Battistero della Cattedrale. The exterior is an unassuming building but the interior is filled with mosaics that will make you gasp for air. They date back to the 5th century.

After a lunch stop, we continued on to Domus dei Tappeti di Pieta, but didn’t go in. A small Byzantine palace was discovered here; it dates back to the early 6th century. To enter, you have to go through Church of Sant Eufemia. It was not one of our five, so we skipped it.

With each venue, the mosaics just became more awe inspiring than the last. At the Basilica de San Vitale,  there were still more incredible mosaics and fabulous artsy marbles. This basilica was consecrated in 548. Aside from the outstanding artwork with the mosaics, the marble columns were fascinating too. Each one had a different design like a Rorschach psychology exam. They were beautifully unique.

The pièce de résistance is no doubt the Mausoleo di Galla Placidia. This is the oldest building of its kind, dating back to the late 5th century. Each vault of the four arms of the interior ceiling is covered with mosaics. Many areas are filled with concentric circles with gold stars on indigo blue backgrounds. This is where you will find the mosaic of two doves drinking at a fountain, a theme that is often replicated on many tourist items for sale in the area.

We took a coffee break, before looking for the local COIN department store. Being full sized, it was surprising no shorts on sale. Disappointing!

When I bought the train tickets online, I had purchased our return to Bologna for 6:30 pm, but now we wanted to get back there earlier for more time to explore. We tried changing the ticket, but since it was an online ticket, they could not do anything. Instead, we chucked it and bought another for an earlier train. We just made the bus back to the hotel and dined again at the Blue Café.

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Italy - Ravenna


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Monday, August 26, 2013

Adriatic Resort Claims Tourist Hearts


Yesterday took its toll with all of the exercise going up and down hills. Up until yesterday, my pedometer read 14.9 miles that we covered since leaving Budapest. Not all of that was on easy walking sidewalks either. In San Marino, we reached nearly nine miles according to my pedometer. This alone was a terrific excuse to sleep in later and relax. If we needed a secondary excuse, it would be that the museums are closed on Mondays. There are so few here, it is not of importance anyway.

We just about covered Rimini other than running through the residential areas, though we did do some of that also in our wanderings. Basically, we did all that a respectable or even excellent tourist could do other than spend days on the beach soaking up the sun. Hence we took our local #2 bus around a loop through the city, getting off at the Augustus arch. After window shopping, it was curiosity that brought us into one store called COIN.  Truth be told, it was also the need to find a bathroom, besides curiosity. Just browsing I did find some great shorts on sale for €20, reduced by half price. The pair I bought was brown, but I was tempted to get another salmon colored pair, until Ron made a comment about some show host he watches, who gets razzed for wearing salmon colored pants. Like a fool, I didn’t even look to see if they had my size in that color. Being they were close-outs, the selection was limited.

Walking around the downtown area, we honestly didn’t do much of anything. As it turns out, the castle is only open for special occasions, and not for touring. Thinking about a picnic, we made our way to the covered market for a selection of cheeses and snacks to lunch on. After thinking about it, we did not have knives or any other silverware or plates, so this limited our selections. Finally, we bought some cheese that could be ripped apart and another that looked like flying saucers.

Going back to the hotel always raised the challenge of getting to the bus stop at the right time. With only one bus per hour and no buses after the 7:26 pm run, it made it difficult. Once there, we took our stash to the solarium on the top floor where there are tables, regular chairs, and lounge chairs if you want to sunbathe.

Afterward, Ron napped while I wrote. But later, after feeling rested, Ron wanted to go swimming to say he swam in the Adriatic. This required another warm body to protect his clothes and anything else he took with him. I am not certain this would be necessary. As you wander through the rows of beach chairs and lounges, people have their beach bags and other items sitting on their chairs or hanging from the umbrella hooks. They are truly trusting, whereas I have a bike lock with me at all times. There have been a plethora of beggars around the downtown asking for money; it surprised me that they have not made it to the beach area to steal

The beach has been pretty empty today with the weekenders all gone. With undue optimism, the beach crew goes through straightening hundreds of lounge chairs that may have been pulled from their neat line up and at the same time, they unfurl the corresponding umbrellas. This strikes me as tedious busywork. If the chairs and umbrellas need to be rented, which they presumably do, they should open them as needed. When they are all opened, it seems impossible to tell which one has actually been rented and which just have squatters. I looked for some sign to solve this mystery. There were no distinguishing factors between the chairs that were occupied and those that were not. This is a riddle to be solved at another time. 

After Ron cleaned up, we walked to the ferry boat for a ride to the other side. It is less than a two minute ride, for 80 cents, it is worth it for the novelty of it. Before it got too late and the lack of sun caused a temperature drop, we went on the Ferris wheel. I would have liked to know if it is permanent or just a summer event. It is identical to the one that was in Budapest until it was moved to the Sziget Festival. We never did ride that one. This one was not well attended. From watching on the sidelines before paying our €8 each, we counted maybe 9 people riding. There are 42 cabins plus one VIP cabin. This one was pink with gold crowns on either side. Who would get to ride in this one is anybody’s guess. Each cabin can hold 6 riders legally, so this is a considerable capacity to have only 9 riders. When it was our turn, there was only a family of 4 behind us. The height it reaches is 60 meters, giving a sufficient view of the surroundings, but the prettiest part was the sunset. Having glass panels over the doors, it was difficult to take pictures, but we managed.

It started to get chilly out, yet we were both still in shorts. This is the first night that the temperature has dropped enough to cause a chill. Not wanting to get into a rut with restaurants, we walked around on this side of the harbor until we decided to take a chance with Restaurante La Buca for dinner. There was one table open outside, but with the chill, we took refuge inside, which was pretty empty. We both ordered salads; Ron had scallops, I ordered gnocchi with gorgonzola cheese sauce and walnuts. Both of our choices were excellent and will make it into a TripAdvisor review!! As we were eating dinner, the place slowly filled until be the time we were ready to leave, it is full. It must be well known amongst the locals.

Having full stomachs, a walk was needed, so Ron suggested we go to see the horse fountain lit up at night. There were a number of people out; astonishingly there was an equal mix of senior citizens and young people.  From here we walked back to the ferry, which runs longer hours and on demand, unlike the bus system. From there it was a pleasant stroll to our seaside home.
Tomorrow we leave early for Ravenna.

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Sunday, August 25, 2013

September 3, 301 Anniversary Seduces Others into Tourism


Thunder ripped through the silence accompanied by the plop-ping sounds of fat raindrops hitting our balcony. As the lightning illuminated the sky, thoughts that our trip to San Marino would be a wash, my spirits were as dampened as the patio chairs, but I rolled over and slept until the alarm went off.

By the end of breakfast, the sun was shining with such determination; everything was as dry as the day before without a hint of rain. Ron had mentioned that since the country and the capital are on a mountain, it may be cool. We both carted along jackets as insurance. Due to the lousy bus system, we had to leave our hotel early to catch our bus to San Marino, causing us a forty minute wait once as the station.

Once the bus arrived, the driver was a nasty SOB, screaming at Ron and I to wait our turn and the Lilliputian sized octogenarian Italians shoved us out of the way when we were first in line having been there before anyone. I was tempted to make a scene, but have concerns about being banned from the bus. Time was of the essence; waiting for the next bus was not an option. 

Bus rides lasting forty-five minutes are about my maximum duration, especially when the scenery is not all that much of anything. All this changes, though, when you get the first glimpse of the castle on the hill. The first siting is like something out of Harry Potter. As the mists clear, a tower appears. It is a magical experience.

Let me reiterate the reason for this trip or how it came to be. I had come across an article on the 10 smallest countries in Europe, which was fascinating, but also presented a challenge to visit them all. As luck would have it, San Marino was founded on September 3, 301. Ron and I are celebrating our twenty year anniversary on September 3, 2013. Combining a challenge with a celebration seemed like an ideal combination. 

Once the bus gets you to the capital city, you are on your own as it is uphill from there... There are hundreds of steps if you plan on really seeing most or all of the sites, but even the paths are large flat stones. Interestingly, there were a number of families with babies in strollers trying to negotiate the walkways without giving the child whiplash, but the real trial was getting these strollers up the dozens of stairs before reaching a landing to rest before the continued uphill battle. Most people were having difficulty just carrying themselves. Thankfully having been a regular at the gym and Ron being spry, we were like gazelles compared to the majority.

Our first encounter was the Museum of the Republic of San Marino, which had free entry today for permanent collection. This combined a mix of archeological finds, paintings, and sculptures. It is an intriguing mix and when you realize that San Marino is the oldest continuously uninterrupted country in the world it is mind boggling. In the temporary exhibit hall, they had a Chagall exhibit which would have cost non-seniors €10. Ron was admitted free, so I chose not to go. Incredibly, they were able to get over fifty of his sketches from private collectors from around the world to show here. It was a real treat to take in what I was able and Chagall is not that high on my priority list.

Following the suggested itinerary from the San Marino City Board of Tourism, we next walked to the crossbow quarry called Cava dei Balestrieri. Here they hold crossbow tournaments during holidays and festivals, the next being September 3rd. When not in use, it looks like a grand hole in the ground with the name of the space on the back mountain wall.

Continuing on we visited Regents Hall; tickets were €4.50 each, but included St. Francis Museum. As the name suggests the hall is their version of parliament. Two regents are elected from the entire group of representatives. I believe there are sixty in all. Regular representatives are elected for 5 year terms. The two regents serve for 6 month terms only. Installation ceremonies are held every April 1 and October 1. The country has been ruled continually according to the same constitution since the 1200s. The hall is basically the large meeting room for all of the representatives and the offices for the two regents, but it is palatially decorated.

The country founder was a man named Marino. He established the country with a small parcel of land and held to strong Catholic values. He was given more land by the reigning pope, so the country is 62 square meters in size. The Basilica de San Marino honors the country founder.

Challenging our fortitude was the hike to the 1st Tower – Guaita. Exercising does not end once you reach the tower, because the highlight is the view from the top; more steps to climb. Once you have reached the towers crown, you are rewarded with the jewel of a panoramic view of the country below. In some areas the mist is wafting slowly throwing its blanket over parcels of land, while other sections are waiting to be tucked in. There is a contrasting feeling of being in a magical land while still trying to conceive of the history that we are walking through. It is sensory overload at its best.

To reach the second tower, we had to cross Passo delle Streghe (Passage of the witches). This is a narrow passage known for its history of the place where those who were proclaimed to be witches were hanged. Finally, you reach the 2nd Tower where the Museum of Ancient Arms is displayed in the lobby. Admission for both towers is €4.50 each. Again, the view from this tower once you have done an incredible amount of climbing is breathtaking. I expected to see wizards flying through the air at any minute. Instead we found the justifiable proud people of San Marino and their rich history in spite of their country’s size.

Uphill, uphill, hundreds of steps, parent with strollers struggle out of familial love or lack of patience for the kid to grow up, but what in the name of fashion possesses women to wear the incredibly stupid shoes that they do risking their health in numerous ways? This just floors me to see some women tottering on dangerous shoes in the name of what exactly?

This area is filled with small cafés, but few full-fledged restaurants. We did encounter the Cesare Hotel Restaurante, where one would expect the meals to be overpriced, yet here they were reasonable. We each had a decent salad for €6 each and we shared a healthy dish of spaghetti for another €6 adding in a glass of wine for each.

The San Francisco Church and Museum took an excessive hunting and stair climbing before we found it. It is tucked away down a side street that is not clearly marked on the map.  Once we did find it, it contained an extensive collection of religious works of art, none that were terribly impressive. A temporary exhibit was about musical tones. The entire exhibit consisted of tones being played on various brass drums. Each drum played one tone only. The English translation was not sufficient to explain what this was intending.

Not wanting to waste any opportunity, we took the funicular ride for €4.50 round trip.  €4.50 seems to be a common theme when it comes to pricing events and admission, but until now, we received our money’s worth. This however was the exception to the rule. The ride lasted 1 minute and 30 seconds. I asked the attendant. The length is 60 meters. Due to the crowd in the gondola, there is not much opportunity for viewing and with the shortness of the ride, it passes you by rapidly. Once we were at the bottom, we walked around thinking we would see another district of the country. The bottom is another district, but apparently not as tourist minded as the capital. Here nothing was open, but it is Sunday and we were approaching the 6 o’clock hour. We turned around and went back up only to return to wait for our bus back to Rimini.

We were exhausted from the walking; regardless of the altitude, it was hot. The jackets we took for insurance were just another burden to cart around. Both of us wore sneakers rather than sandals, which were opportune considering the trails and terrain, but they were also hot. 

Getting a seat on the bus going home was as much of a struggle as coming. Twenty minutes into the journey, we pull over the side of the road and a woman walks down the aisle saying the bus in front of us was going to Rimini in one stop. Of course, this was only in Italian, so there was a mad rush. Thinking our bus was not going to Rimini after all, we rushed to the 2nd bus as well.

Once back, we sat and waited for our #2 bus to take us back to the hotel. It was suspicious that there were so few of us waiting, when someone came over to say the last bus left at 7:28. That was the end of service until tomorrow morning. Great! Taxi time.

Returning to the Blue Café in Rimini for dinner, I had Strozzapreti (priest strangler) pasta with ham and mushrooms. The sauce is similar to macaroni and cheese, but with some tomato and chunks of ham with sliced mushroom added.

This was a perfect anniversary celebration. I could write pages about San Marino, its incredible history and the wealth of treasures it has to share, but space and time are keeping me under control. Besides, I wrote this while on the train, my computer froze up and I lost everything. I just could not do it all again.

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Republic of San Marino


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Saturday, August 24, 2013

American Living in Budapest Attacked by 2 Italian Crazy Ladies


This is explore Rimini day, right after breakfast. I am shocked and bit dismayed at the extensive breakfast buffet the hotel provides. What I find perturbing is the vast number of sugary selections including 7 different cakes and desserts and 3 heavy coated sugary cereals. Starch and sugar are king and queen for breaking the fast. My choices are the 4 types of ham and one of cheese. Okay, it will do after 4 trips to the espresso machine.

The bus to downtown leaves right outside our hotel, but only once an hour at 36 minutes past the hour. At 9:36 we are waiting with tickets in hand. A covered market is our first discovery; it is like a small version of the great market in Budapest, but without separating stands. All the sellers are joined at the hip without the benefit of walls or anything that may assure privacy.

St. Rita’s Church was the next item on our tourist map for the historic things we must see according to the tourism bureau. While we were standing outside reading the sign explaining the church, suddenly I felt something brush against my arm. Thinking it was Ron, I only slowly turned around, but then was jolted into another state of reality. There were 2 unseemly women at my side, one with a babe in arms and the other the likely grandmother. They started begging for money, but when refused, they showed their aggressiveness by starting to paw me. This tactic surely was to get into my shoulder or cut the cord of my camera from my neck. I pulled back and yelled firmly “Stop!” I have had better success getting dead animals to follow my commands then I did these two. It was like I was using telepathy rather than vocalizations. They kept at me. Ron suggested we enter the church. It felt like sanctuary where the vampires could not enter and neither did these two. 

Though they did not enter, they were blocking the doorway to leave once we were done. Two young woman were standing on the other side wondering what was happening and trembling slightly. Ron walked through them without cause, but this was the token freebie for the hour, now I had to pay the toll to cross over to daylight. Regardless of what words I used, all English mind you, and with no deference to tone or decibels, they were immune to any verbal actions. They stubbornly refused to budge, so I had to try to move through them. This is where it went from bad to disgusting. There was a stringent attempt to molest me, not for sexual reasons, but for whatever goods I may have on me. Knowing the feeling being violated, reality left while survival kicked in. Like a linebacker, I made it past them, sending them flying to the sides of the doors as I rushed onward. It took hours to temper the memory.
There is an extensive chapel, very interestingly decorated. It looks like each section was designed by a different artist. Marbles of varied colors adorn the walls and balustrades while a wide assortment of small statues are placed on them. There are no pews and few chairs. Best of all, there no women waiting to attack.

It is not clear whether this is a Saturday thing or a general occurrence, but the main streets within the center of the city were primarily pedestrian. We even witnessed a police officer stop two autos trying to drive into the center.  There were an incredible number of bikes with riders ranging from pre-teen to octogenarian. Some of these frisky seniors mounted their motorcycles, donned a helmet and took off down street.

Our own walking tour included the Gate of Augustus Caesar, St. Augustine Church, and the open air market, which surrounds the old castle and wraps around to flow to the lower level. Here they sell produce, plus anything else you can imagine. There were humungous dealers with hundreds of pairs of shoes and another with just as large assortment of purses. We found the castle closed, so touring the interior was impossible. Later we were informed it is only open for special occasions.

One of the best ways to learn about a city is to visit their city museum. As will many things Italian, the museum was closed for a 2 hour lunch break, so we waited in the nearby park for it to open. With a mix of art, architecture, and history, this was a delightful couple of hours. It was additionally relaxing as we had the entire 4 floors entirely to ourselves with the exception of a guard on each floor.

Across the street from the museum was a Greek restaurant. With good intentions of lunching there, after seeing the door wide open, we walked in and sat down. It was empty, which can play either of two ways. The food is either so horrible, the locals will not eat here or we were just off kilter with our eating times. The latter turned out to be true. We were informed it was too late to serve food. Apparently 2:30 pm is their bewitching hour. The restaurant across the street was happy to host us and served up delicious salads.

Fortified with nutrients, we walked to the river, then to the train station. We bought our tickets for San Marino’s excursion tomorrow. They were €9 Euro each for a round trip. Not bad considering an individual bus tickets within the city is €1.20 each.

Just for the fun of it, we took the ferry back to our side of the shore. It is 80cents per person.

Dinner was at Newport Beach Restaurant. With menus only in Italian, we had to suffer with having pizza again. It was the only thing we could interpret. With every table filled and only 2 waiters, we did not ask if either could interpret, but when we ordered we realized it would have been a fool’s errand anyway; his command of English was equal to our Italian.

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Friday, August 23, 2013

You Want to Go Where?


I always have this optimistic idea that if we take an early flight, we will have plenty of daytime left once we reach our destination. Failed attempts to prove this a truism have still dissuaded me from being hopeful for some future time. Here is how it went downhill.
4:30 am the taxi arrived to take us to the airport
30 minute ride to the airport
33 minutes waiting to check in with Alitalia (they don’t have web check- in from Budapest)
15 minutes in the Diners Club lounge for multiple cups of espresso and some rolls, before running to the bathroom and then another run to our gate
6:30 am boarded the Alitalia flight to Rome
1 ½ hour layover in Rome - hunt down the Diners Club lounge
40 minute flight to Bologna on Alitalia, wait for carry-on suitcases, because I have a backpack this counted as my one carry-on.

I had pre-purchased train tickets from Bologna to Rimini via the Italian train website. The train was scheduled for 2:45pm, so we had a couple of hours to kill. With carry-on luggage in tow, it does not make for great sightseeing, so we walked with the luggage long enough to find somewhere to eat. There was always the left luggage in the train station, but A.) we would have to hunt it down, B.) it is an extra expense, and C.) you never know if they will really be open when you return. Opening and closing times in Italy are just suggestions.

We found a pizzeria where they claim the crust is digestible by anyone, because is it filled with vitamins, nutrients and “pulses”. Don’t ask. I am just retyping what the menu claimed. It was a great pizza with the fresh ingredients they promised. What I was not able to digest was the bill; at 37 Euros, I am calculating that into dollars and getting knots. This was the price of a good dinner, not pizza.

With still an hour to go and no other place to waste time, w went to train platform. It was this or risk loitering charges at the restaurant. We tried reading with our sagging eyelids. The train ride to Rimini is 50 minutes. Not a pretty ride scenery wise, so sleeping is okay. However we just had a guest leave us in Budapest before we left ourselves. She went to Eger a 2 ½ hour ride from Budapest and had her entire suitcase stolen from the luggage rack above her. I was not going to sleep and risk any loss.

Ever since knowing Ron our first stop anywhere is the tourism office. Without a map in hand, he doesn’t feel fulfilled. Generously, they were able to fill our needs for Rimini, Ravenna, and San Marino. They also sell bus tickets, so we bought those too. Each ticket is €1.20.

Here is where Rimini misses out on making it big time. The busses run one time an hour. In order to get the bus we needed, we would have had to wait 45 minutes, about 40 minutes more than our tired eyes would vote for, so plan B was to take a taxi. Ron asked how much the ride would cost and was quoted €12. As much as I hate parting with money needlessly, this seemed really a need at the time. Coincidentally, when we reached the hotel, the fare was exactly €12.

Our hotel is lovely, with the sea directly across. Once you walk the equivalent of a block seaside shops, beach tennis courts, a children’s racetrack, bocce ball courts, and changing rooms, you find yourself at the lounge chairs with over-sized umbrellas for rent. The Adriatic waits. From the balcony off of our room, besides a view of the beach, there is one of a Ferris wheel. To reach it from here, you walk to the end of our parcel of land and take a ferry across for 80 cents. We were too tired to do this tonight. However during our walk, we were impressed with the architecture of some of the buildings, both hotels and apartment buildings.

Dinner was at the Blue Bar Pizzeria on Via C. Zavagli N.156. Both of us had a mixed salad and lasagna. This place offers craft beers, so I tried one. I could only wish I could get it in Budapest.  After dinner we went for a coffee elsewhere. This strip is filled with hotels on the shoreline. One offered Karaoke, another had guests dancing. After being voyeurs for about fifteen minutes, we went back to crash.   

One more thing: I had no idea Rimini existed until the bug bit me after reading the article the "10 smallest countries in Europe". It was then I discovered Rimini is the gateway to San Marino. What a great discovery.

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Italy - Rimini


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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Custom Wedding Band Designer


Okay, I need suggestions . Many years ago, I had a design for a wedding band that was basically a row of oak leaves alternating with pomegranates, two things very significant to me personally and our relationship. The design was never created due to lack of funds. I want the ring made now and need some design advice and jeweler to create it. The original design is sitting in storage in NJ. Not really accessible.
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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

There Are Wedding Bells Ringing


Friday, we will leave for Italy with the express purpose of visiting San Marino. San Marino is one of the 10 smallest countries in Europe, ranking at number 3 after Vatican City and Monaco.

Our 20 year anniversary is September 3.The tiny Republic of San Marino is the oldest surviving sovereign state and constitutional republic in the world, founded on 3 September 301. Although it would be fun to celebrate there on our actual anniversary, time slipped by, and we booked guests for that date and beyond. Fortunately, it is a former Fulbright scholar and her husband whom we are genuinely fond of, so it will not be a hardship at all.

During the course of events in the US with the Supreme Court decisions, it just seemed like it was time to take that final step into the realm of legality. The overwhelmingly heterosexual connotation associated with the word marriage makes it get stuck in my throat when trying to voice it in connection with gay couples (gay being sex inclusive) and their vows. Yet, when Ron and I started the dialogue, the concept has transformed from an annoying weed in the yard I wanted to ignore to a welcoming full-fledged botanical garden.

Just for the record, no one proposed to the other. It was just like 20 years ago when it went something like “Well what do you think about…?” It worked then, so why change now? Guess who raised the question both times!

Here are the tentative plans. If anyone attends the nuptials at all, chances are some attendees will be from Ron’s Iowa family. Same sex marriage is legal in Iowa. Iowa is centrally located making it travel accessible for others coming from other parts of the country, especially those from Michigan, Illinois, Wyoming, and Pennsylvania. This is not to say that regardless of where you live, you are not going to be invited and welcomed to attend. You are more than welcome to join us, but no pressure if you cannot travel. The location will be
Des Moines, Iowa. 

To fit into my school schedule and spring break, we are looking at Saturday, April 19th the day before Easter. Not that it was a conscience decision, but the timing seemed perfectly suited to the season of rebirth and renewal. Iowa being in the Midwest, it has some symbolic feel besides as it is in the middle of a divided country, yet it is a state leader in liberal thinking. The more I think about it, the closer to perfect it falls on the scale of best choices of venues. Here is hoping all goes well. There is a 3 day waiting period for the license. This may be tricky.

Then after realizing that spending six weeks in Panama and Nicaragua in December and January will severely be truncating our planning time; we had to speed it up. We are making calls to ministers in Episcopal, Unitarian, and other liberal churches in the Des Moines area. Interestingly, I found a list of 150 Iowan ministers who signed a petition supporting same-sex marriages. From this list, we were able to get other ideas for potential churches, but I favor Unitarian or Unity, but will flex enough to go with an Episcopalian. I wanted a 5 minute ceremony; Ron wants 30 minutes at least. After 20 years, we are still working on comprising. That never ends.

Keep us on your radar for the continuing saga and plans as they unfold.

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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

St. Stephen's Day Parade


Taken with my phone.

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Anonymous Wrote:


Anonymous Wrote:
"EEC is the original part of EU, so they are the same today. You most likely mean EEA which is EU countries, except Croatia, plus some additional countries forming internal market." 

I respond with: 
This is partially true and accurate. What happened was some of the museums actually had EEC on their menu of tariffs, so I had to come home and research it. Later on, I did find other museums who use EEA. Then I thought maybe, just maybe there was a problem with alphabetic transposing of letters, but I do write my notes carefully when I am in museums for the very fact that I don't want to return immediately. My notes are clearly EEC and EEA. 

That said, the reason I don't use Internet research and DO go to every single museum, restaurant, etc, is because I have found websites that clearly show they have not been updated since 2004 or earlier. This may be true with the admission rate cards they are still using. Who knows? Either way, it was educational for me and hopefully for readers too. 

Thank you for commenting so I could clarify.

Another realization: After writing this, I went to another museum. Their discount is for anyone from an EU country, but excludes EEA or EEC. They are all claim this is due to being state funded, yet the differences from one set of museum regulations to another is totally perplexing.

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Monday, August 19, 2013

Can You Take a Ribbing?


I managed to arrange a dinner with 8 people we know for dining at Remiz Restaurant Saturday night. The reasoning had multiple motivations. The last two times we have been there, they had the best barbeque ribs outside of Texas. The full portion is 2 full slabs. During the summer, they have a lava stone grill outdoors. I needed to do a restaurant review for Frommer’s and finally I thought it would be fun to introduce this diverse group of individuals to each other. Getting to this place way out in the 2nd district is a pain which is why we have seldom visits.

We arrived at 6:30 pm and did not leave until 10:15. We had a great time talking and discussing a plethora of topics. It was wonderful and everyone enjoyed the company. This is more than I can say for the meal. My ribs were fine, Ron said his tasted like they were recooked from a previous time. Not all had ribs, but there were mixed reviews about the different dishes as well. This will all go into the review.

I thought we would be swallowed in the crowd of diners as this always was a very popular place. In addition to our table of 8, there was another table of 4. That was it. All other tables were set with place settings, but empty the entire time we were there. The host told Ron it was due to the long weekend; Tuesday is the feast of St. Stephen. A vocalist playing a guitar took turns between sitting on his performance platform and coming over to serenade us. He seemed to realize our deep discussions were not to be interrupted by his playing, though he had an excellent voice for John Denver songs.

Sunday, Ron and I hit the 3rd district so I could revisit three museums: Varga Imre Kiállitása, Victor Vasarely Museum, and the Kassák Múzeum. We leave Friday for Bologna and San Marino, so I am trying with great tenacity to get as much done as possible before school starts again.

Run, run, run!

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