Back to Budapest

Friday, February 3, 2017
Budapest, Hungary

“Without new experiences, something inside of us sleeps. The sleeper must awaken.” – Frank Herbert

I have a feeling that there will be many posts about Budapest in the upcoming month and a half.
I have posted myself here until the 180 days are up and I can finally go back to Romania! I could have tried to get a job in the USA (that would be difficult since I would only be there for a short while). I also could have saved money and stayed with my parents (but that would have been boring).
Instead, I am helping out at a hostel here in Budapest. Living the life. Meeting new people. Attending all of the ruin bars in town to find the best ones. Getting lost in the city to find its hidden treasures. And inviting friends to come on down so I can personally show them the best day ever.
I remember on my way to Romania, I spent a short time in this enchanting city and knew I needed to come back… why not see all there is to see and more and stay here for a month and a half!:)
In fact, my first night here, I had a whirlwind night of meeting my fellow helpers and going to the coolest ruin bar in town, Szimpla. There were all kinds of neat things to find on the walls and on the floor and the ceiling. The hallways and stairs were narrow and stone so it had a labyrinth-like feel to it.. there was a toilet on the ground floor right by the dance floor (hopefully no one has actually used it).. there was a fish tank upstairs.. the outside courtyard was overrun with great green leafy trees and a big red sports car… there was writing all over the walls.. ohhh it was my dream bar!!! I never got bored just looking around at the hodgepodge of wonderful things to entertain myself with!  Unique… different.. bizarre.. beautiful… enchanting… so very fresh than a normal bar :))  and they had some pretty hiphoppening music to get down to as well! ;)) I have a feeling I will be back in the near future.
I also did a quick walk through of the city again.  Below are the pictures… I will have a bit of an update on the city and the experiences after I have been here longer… but so far it is a tad overwhelming.. I speak no Hungarian, but I recently learned my favorite phrase in Hungarian, “Why not?” I’d say it is pretty useful for an adventurous traveler to know…  Less people know English here than in Bucharest… But ohh the buildings are so beautiful.. and the bridges… and the random statues all over.. I am so glad I chose this place to chill at.. I think the time will pass quickly

What a wonderful view… It is so much prettier in real life.. or in a  better camera… But that is the view of the Fisherman’s Bastion from the Chain Bridge..

I love this little statue.. I saw this guy when I first came here and absolutely adored it,.. Just beyond,.. in the background is the famous Chain Bridge…


Another fun little statue of a girl playing catch with her puppy :)) Just down the walkway from the Chain Bridge to the White Bridge…


I love this little portly police guy :))


The Love Lock Tree :))


St Stephen’s Basilica… I’ll go inside one day… but I love the coffee shop on the right hand side… mostly because it is called “California Coffee Company” and I adore California..


The Green Bridge near sunset.. Just behind me is the huge Central Market Hall where you can find a huge assortment of fresh and local cheeses and meats and breads and fish and Hungarian specialties.. It was so overwhelming that the first time all I came out with was a pomegranate.. but I learned that most of the people know enough English for someone to purchase something since it is quite the tourist attraction too..


The Love Lock Tree :))


The start of the Chain Bridge.. with the lovely fierce lions protecting on either side.


Can you tell that I love this bridge>! :))


And again, the Green Bridge… Ohhhh how I wish I had a better camera to show you guys how beautiful it really is!!


And here is my favorite Market… soOoOoo much fresh meats and cheeses and breads and fish and vegetables and fruits…. Don’t be afraid to talk up the workers, most of them know at least some English since this place is pretty famous and a lot of tourists pop by for Hungarian specialties. :))


California Dreaming

February 2, 2017
Budapest, Hungary


So…. here I am… back in Europe… Working at another hostel.. In beautiful Budapest…
48 hours ago I was slashing around in the Pacific Ocean on the shores of Ocean Beach in California. Going from 24 degrees, sun, sand, salty ocean breeze, tacos, friends and the most gorgeous sunsets in the world to 0 degrees, flooded streets, rain, slush, cold breezes and strangers (3 of whom I went out with last night and now they are no longer strangers but dear friends).
Anyway, I wanted to share some of my photos from California. I swear someday I will move there… to San Diego… Carlsbad… Oceanside.. anywhere on the coast of SoCal.
My first stop was Los Angeles where I had the pleasure and honor of attending the NAMM show. I ran around Anaheim taking pictures of Disneyland and dreaming of heading in to ride all the rides and relive my childhood memories.
That is, until I received my name badge and saw the giant NAMM show sign and the ginormous stage set up…. my excitement to step inside flew through the roof!!
There were SOOoooo many people wandering around on a mission. They knew where they were going and what they needed to do.. meanwhile I aimlessly wandered around taking in al the signs, oohing and ahhing over all of the guitars and testing them out, ‘slappin da bass man’ (I hope you guys love that movie too…), collecting free things, and people watching… So many people that looked like rock stars!! And then.. I saw lines…
Lines? At a convention? The light went off in my head… I remembered people saying that there were signings and meetings with different rock legends at different booths.
So I added that to my list of things to do. I got in lines and waited and chatted with the people next to me. I never knew who was waiting for me at the end and I refused to ask. Honestly, I did not recognize any of them.. but when I showed friends the pictures their eyes bugged out with wow.

Anyway, it was a joyful three days.. and we even got to sleep in the beautiful and fancy Mariott where all the stars slept!!! (I’m sure of it) except we fell asleep early both nights..
We then got to visit Santa Monica and Venice beach and the Griffith Observatory on a terribly rainy day… the sun broke out a few times, but I honestly had to wear a jacket! In LA!! And I kept getting frustrated because my camera sucked and he had this superbly beautiful camera that made everything look phenomenal… and even made me look pretty ok too!!

Sadly, he left  :((( and it will be so long until I see him or anything Romanian again.. so after crying a bit in the car, I was swept away in an Uber to go to my friend in north east LA area. I worked with him back in Alabama and he offered to host me for a night.. we went to Korean food and were quickly back to our old banter and silliness… The next day I got a grand tour of Little Tokyo and China Town before my train south to Oceanside to my friend from Mammoth Mountain.
Oceanside is one of the most beautiful towns that I have ever seen in my life.. beautiful palm trees… the ocean… fresh kombucha… breweries.. blue sky.. tasty tacos.. long pier… fresh fish… surfers everywhere… stunning sunshine.. I spent the next two days with him and his family (he has a pretty groovy southern california family.. the dad surfs and his two sisters are into rock climbing and raki and doing all kinds of artsy things) We caught up on all the things and drank real DELICIOUS IPA’s and biked around town in this little blue bike that reminded me of the one from ET.. just cruising around in the Southern California sunshine with my feet wet and sandy from dancing in the ocean.
Back to my hostel.
ITH Adventure Hostel.
My life for some of the best 4.5 months of my life. It changed so much! The staff room was now another chill area… they no longer cook fresh breakfast and dinner… it changed so much… yet felt the same… all the people that worked there were not there anymore, except for 2.
In fact, Alex, one of my favorites, was the one that hosted the tour to Tijuana!! Him and his gf work at the other hostel that is managed by the owners and him and his lady would come over to visit us at the ITH Adventure Hostel often and she even dressed up as me for Halloween in 2015 with pink hair and screaming “BEST DAY EVEEEEERRRRR!!”
Tijuana… mannn… Totally the best day ever… We took the trolley… walked across the border (It didn’t look a whole lot different… maybe a bit more barbed wire… and before there were dudes in with guns on the Mexico side, but not on Saturday) and ate some of the best street tacos I have ever had in my life.
We went to get margaritas and I kept trying to psych everyone up and bring them to my level of excitement.. My favorite thing was sometimes the waiters/bartenders at the Mexican bars that we go to… they would pick 3 or 4 of us in a big group and do this big shenanigan where they blew their whistles over and over and made a huge deal and sat one of us down in a chair, tilting the head back and pouring tequila straight into the mouth.. this particular place we went to this night did that AND then gave you a short amount of time to catch your breath before pouring beer in as well and then they took you to the dance floor, flung you over their shoulder and spun you around…. THAT was what kicked off the night,.. after that we ALL got up on the dance floor and continued to go to a few different bars and danced the night away… one of them had a beautiful Cadillac in the back that we sat in and drank in… I was in awe… moreso of the swings they had to lounge on while sipping my margarita than the Cadillac.. but anyway, everyone made it across the border into to the USA…  my friend with long blond surfer hair and me (with pink hair) both got pulled to the back room at the border to be detained and asked a series of questions. They brought out the drug dogs. I was a little tipsy and of course my first reaction upon seeing a dog was to pet it… They were not amused. Needless to say they found nothing on either of us, but made us sit there 10 more minutes before we finally got released.. and just barely made the last trolley home.
I love that hostel. So much. Nothing can compare to the ITH Adventure Hostel. No other hostel that I have visited has ever been that much fun, that beautiful, offering all the activities as well as breakfast and dinner. And it will always be my 2nd home, even though times change and the vibe of the workers change, I still made friends with a couple of them and told them stories of the good old days when the dream team was working.

And now I spend the next month and a half counting down the days until I can go home to Bucharest again.. to my home.. my job.. and some of my favorite humans ever..

Hostel Life

“There are no strangers here. Only friends you haven’t met yet.”   ~Willaim Butler Yates
Monaday October 10, 2016
Day 140
Bucharest, Romania

Life is beautiful.
I am loving it here at the hostel. There are exciting bits and slow bits. People come people go.
There have been a series of metal bands come through the hostel. I love greeting them at the door with some vodka and trying to show them a night they won’t soon forget. Each is different in their own way, but in the end, they are all sweethearts. Big softies. They smile and feel and love just like everyone else. In the morning sometimes they leave me with an autographed copy of their cd or some beer or leftover crisps or some other delightful things…  We exchange contacts sometimes in case my travels take me their way I would have a place to stay.
On that note… I have met people from all over the world here.. a very different sort than the travelers that came to my San Diego hostel. The people here talk of Bulgaria and Serbia and Moldova and Turkey and Morocco. All kinds of amazing stories. The people here are a little more low key. But it’s cool. I still have a good time. If I get bored I chill in my beanbag and watch the happenings of people come and go from the hostel while I search up plans for after I am done. Morocco? Ireland? Moldova? Turkey? I have to decide soon if I want to stay in the area and explore the Balkans after I am done with my time here at the hostel or if I want to book a flight to Morocco and figure out from there how to get back to the USA. I need a sign… an omen.. come on universe! If nothing stands out amongst the others, I’ll just hang around and check out some mud volcanoes nearby and take it a day at a time and one heart wish at a time.
Last night I had a heart to heart chat with a deeply spiritual man who had just come from the mountains to cleanse his soul. He talked to me about chakras and peoples spirits and energies. He suggested that I learn Reiki. The power to heal through touch. To recharge peoples souls and heal their souls and bodies with the power inside of you. Harmony. Balance. Energy. In fact, in the morning I woke up with a headache and he taught me how to rub my hands together quickly to create a warming energy inside of them and then put them parallel to each other on the back of my skull for 2 minutes. Wow. It worked. Unfortunately, I never got to exchange information with him, because he is a local and I could have used his guidance… an actual spiritual cleansing would be nice…

Saturday, I got a new tattoo. The other week, one of the crazy nights at the hostel, I met this guy who said he did tattoos. He is friends with the receptionist and was given the seal of approval. I went ahead with it. I actually went first to see him Thursday and again Saturday. The first night I went to get my first tattoo, he seemed troubled. He was going through some things due to a recent break up. He was filled with negativity and anger. Darkness flowed from his words. I stayed quiet. I figured he needed to vent. To talk it out. I let him talk. That was what he needed. To be listened to. No advice. Just acceptance of his words. I left him that night filled with curiosity. I was intrigued. I immediately found another tattoo in order to go back. I was determined to show him that the world was beautiful. To give him a friend. And it was a beautiful day. We talked. Mostly he talked, but this time I had some input. We talked mostly of love. What is love to different people. About regrets and what we learned from past relationships. About love lost and love found in strange places. About our greatest fears and happiest moments. About the times we thought we were going to die and the times we thought we would lose the one we loved the most. It was an intense day. A beautiful day. I love those kinds of discussions. He was a very intense person. He participated in cosplay and had a sensei and went to him to work on his skills.. His sensei practiced tough love. He was not easy on my friend, but the most important thing, my friend said, was that his sensei looked at him like he believed in him. We decided that yes, everyone needs someone to believe in them.
When asked what love was to him, he replied, “Love is coming home after a long day and she rolls a joint without having to ask how my day was. And we spend the evening laughing together in each others arms…. you know.. that feeling you get with that special person.. where nothing else matters… no one else matters.. you can be you…”
I’ve been struggling with similar things too revolving around the theme of love and acceptance. My tendency to fall for people and then run away when things get too real. I don’t want to get hurt. It is easier to separate myself before that can happen. Have this person here… this person there… beautiful weeks or days or so.. suspended.. hanging like beautiful stars.. nothing more, nothing less… unfinished, yet wrapped up with a pretty little bow full of happy memories.. of bliss.. could I have had more with some of them? Maybe… but it is easier to run off to some other beautiful shiny and new place…
I want to explore these concepts with more people… sure some small talk I can handle.. but I like to get down to the nitty gritty. I like to know what makes people tick. What makes people glow. What makes people cry. How different, yet the same everyone is. I want to see emotion and feeling. All the shades of the rainbow.
What do you want to do before you die?
When did you cry last?
What is love to you?
When did you feel most happy?
What do you get lost in? Something that you can do that makes you forget to eat or pee or sleep?
What is a new habit you want to form?
What do you think about when you wake up?
What is your spirit animal?
Where would you like to wake up tomorrow?
What is your favorite word?
My tattoo.. the dandelion. My childhood favorite thing to do. Blow them to make a wish. I am all about making wishes. I would spend many summer days picking them and blowing them with all the air I could muster in order to make all of the helicopter-like seeds drift away in the wind. Some people told me that if I blew all of the seeds away, the person I loved would love me back. I remember squeezing my eyes shut and wishing hard. I still, to this day, find them and complete the ritual. Love. Doesn’t everyone want to be loved? I think, yes. Love. Give out love. Bring love in. Pass love on. Everyone deserves to feel that love. I fully and truly believed my wishes would come true. Wishing on shooting stars. Wishing on dandelions. Wishbones. 11:11.  The first star of the night. Wishing wells. My wish jar. Four leaf clovers….
I shall continue to believe…
And look forward to diving into the brains and hearts of others I meet…

Beautiful Budapest 

“In Budapest, you’ll find experiences like nothing else in Europe: Feel your stress ebb away as you soak in hundred-degree water, surrounded by opulent Baroque domes… And by speedo- and bikini- clad Hungarians. Ogle some of Europe’s most richly decorated interiors, which echo a proud nation’s bygone glory days.” ~Rick Steves Thursday September 8, 2016

Day 109 

Budapest, Hungary 
Budapest was amazing. Way too much to do in that city. Way too many places to see than 38 hours can provide. I do wish I could’ve had the chance to stay longer. Preferably with a local. A CouchsurfEr. I didn’t get to feel the real vibes. The real feel of the city. 

I was so lost when I got there. Thankfully, the dude in front of me on the bus worked at a hostel in Budapest and said it was only 9 dollars. Totally. For sure. I’m down. And since my phone was dead he escorted me all the way there. He had just finished a 4 day music festival up in Pula, Croatia by the beach and was telling me stories of his adventures. Once we got to the hostel he was invited into the arms of his hostel friends and I never saw nor spoke to him again. That’s ok. 

I wandered the streets a bit. It was midnight. People were still ambling about drunkenly. The bars were exploding with music. I stopped at some deli for some food. They had all kinds of bready delicacies. Some flaky, some cheesy, some more bread-like and some more dessert like. I opted for this little pillow of bread with a nice melting if cheese and some meat layered on top. I have no idea what it was called but it was 180, which was $0.65, and a beer for $0.75 and they warmed m it up (the food not the beer) and I was so hungry I didn’t even wait until I got out of the shop to bite into it. Not that great. Kinda shitty. But it was food. And the beer helped wash it down as I walked down the street. I still feel naughty walking the streets with a beer in my hand. I remember when I worked at my hostel I was always shocked when the guests would walk on the streets on the way to Taco Tuesday or Drunk Thursday with a PBR in their hand. Now I fully understand. And it will be hard to go back. It feels so good to be able to wander around with a bottle of wine to share in the park or a beer while listening to an open air concert. 

Anyway, I went back to the hostel shortly after to sleep. There were just 2 other people in the 6 bed room. It was a couple. They were sleeping together on the top bunk. It was sweet. But it made me sad. It reminded me if traveling with my Swiss German and how we would squeeze into little bunk beds to be near each other in the short time we had together. And now the way he acted toward me hurt, like I was nothing. Bittersweet memories started to flood in. I shook them away and went to sleep. 

The next morning, I mulled over the suggestions of people I had asked on Facebook. There was an island with trees and nature to discover. Margaret island I think. The spas and thermal baths, since Budapest was known as Spa City due to the thermal wAter below its grounds. The caves below the hills that were used as cellars and a hospital. They were created as a result of the limestone rocks and natural hot springs beneath the city. Other caves in one of the other hills allowed for you to explore on a more wild level, crouching through tiny holes miles below where the sun touched the earth. The bridges. The food. The Basillica. The Jewish quarter. The museums. 

I decided to start off slow and do one of the free tours. Technically, they aren’t free, you need to tip them at the end. No one could ever compare to my first free tour in London. Sweet Olly ❤️❤️ so animated and fresh and fun. No other tour I’ve been on, even the paid tours have been comparable to the show he put on. 

Anyway, this dude gave a brief overview of St Stephen’s Basilica and how there is the preserved hand of Stephen, a king of Hungary.  I spaced out while he was talking in his monotone voice. Why would he be a tour guide when he lacked so much enthusiasm? He gave us a brief talk on the local foods and drinks, but said them so fast and in Hungarian. I had no idea what they were. I asked him about them later and wanted him to write them in my phone, but he pretty much ignored me because I have him a mere 500 as a tip and others gave him more. 

He talked of the Jewish quarters and the Turkish baths and how everything in the city was destroyed during WWII. He told of the famous Chain Bridge that was constructed by some Scotsman, but was destroyed in WWII and had to be rebuilt. 

One thing I remembered was that the Rubix cube was created by a Hungarian math teacher. And the way to say hello in Hungarian sounds like “see-ya” in English. 

We walked across the bridge and up on top of the palace on Castle Hill. Beautiful view of the city. Once again, I forgot all the stories because I saw butterflies fluttering by. Smetterling in German. Farfalla. Mariposa. Pappion. Or j saw something that reminded me of a song and I started singing it in my head instead of listening. I am the worst. 

We ended at Matthias Church and the Fishermans Bastion.  Apparently, the Fishermans guild used to protect that part of Castle Hill and it was my absolute favorite. It reminded me of a castle! Columns and stones a grand walkway from the street below and circular stairs that wove their way to a second level with lookout towers. It looked far too fancy and decorative to be used as a defensive building. And learning more, I found out it was actually built after the Buda castle was no longer in use as a castle, so it was more of a lookout or terrace to enjoy the panorama. All with a wow view of the parliament and the river and everything beyond. 

But it was hot. And I forgot my water. And there was a fountain. The sound of the water gushing forth made my throat constrict with want. I saw people put their water to their lips and my mouth couldn’t even water due to lack of such delight. I ended up staring at them like some weirdo as they gulped the precious liquid. My body felt shriveled and dry. 
I made my way down all the steps and found a little shop. I have grown fond of bubble water since here in Europe. I always felt too unsophisticated drinking it. Now it was normal. 

I walked along the river. I knew somewhere down that way was the Rudas thermal baths. I was excited. Everyone told me it was something to experience. The water had medicinal powers. With all the nutrients in the near boiling hot, natural hot spring waters. This past winter, at Mammoth Mountain, where I worked, there were natural hot springs. But you had to off road to get there. And people most certainly didn’t flock there to heal themselves. They flocked there to warm up and soothe their aching muscles with a cold beer after a long day on the slopes… So I guess in a way, yes they went there to heal too. 

Even the walk from the city was gorgeous. I found a little garden off to the side with marble steps leading up to a terrace lined with smooth white columns with green ivy twisting up and down. Once again the view overlooked the city. Fountains with mermaids and angels were every 150 meters or so. The grass was thick and green. And beyond that was the other hill. It was further from the main bits of the city and had a rocky cliff face that was covered in green. Marble steps zig zagging up and in the middle was a beautiful trickling waterfall. It looked wild. It looked untamed. It looked like my kind of beautiful. I had to stop and gawk for a bit. 

Then I made it to Rudas. To my disappointment, the main thermal area was reserved for men that day, but the wellness option, which offered a smaller version of the thermal spas, was available. I debated. I knew it was highly unlikely I would be motivated enough to find another Budapest Bath, since I was tired from walking and it was already 3:55 and I still had to eat and figure out where to stay that night. I paid the money, 3,000 (or $11) and was told a string of unclear directions. They gave me a bracelet. Said something about a locker and waved me on. 


I wandered down a hallway. Off to the left was an entryway. Two men dressed in crisp white uniforms were standing around talking. I asked them where I should go. One guy smiled and made a gesture for me to come into the room where he was. The other guy shrieked and waved his hands around to block the walkway, “No! No no! I’m sorry but this is men only day!”  


So I continued on and ended up finding the lockers. How was I supposed to know which locker to use? I scoured the receipt looking for some clue. Nothing. I asked another guy in white. He smiled knowingly and explained I could choose any locker I wanted, but I better remember the number or I might never find it again. 

Fair enough. I wandered to the back. Old men, old ladies ambled about… their weathered old skin wrapped up in tiny towels barely covering their private bits. But they looked happy and relaxed. 

Dude. Was I the only “young” one here? 

I had worn my swimsuit under my clothes so I didn’t need to change, just take off my clothes. I was nervous about wearing my bikini again, with my scar and all. But I decided it was the best way to get comfortable with myself. With my own body. Acceptance. 

I wandered, trying to figure out where to go, following the signs for “Wellness”. It was beautiful inside. Stunning. Huge marble columns. Tall ceilings. Sparkling waters that cast a blue shimmery light on everything. Gorgeous tile work on the floors and walls. Lion statues poked their heads out of the walls and spat out drinkable water. There were 4 pools, each with different temperatures. The two biggest were lukewarm, where most people lounged. Every few minutes there were mini waterfalls that spewed out from the sides into the pools. The tile work and lighting were stunning. There were smaller pools to the side. One was raised and the cool blue light and ice blue tiles tipped me off that it was probably cold. And then I noticed a hole in the wall on one side of it and ice cubes slowly trickling out into the pool. Ok. Yes. It was cold. The other one had wArm red and orange lights. It was the “healing” one. 42 degrees Celsius with all the elements in it to heal and soothe aching backs and joints and cure the soul. I spent most of my time jumping from the ice water to the super hot one. I am not the best at relaxing, but I did get to play in the waterfall 🙂 And then I discovered there was a rooftop spa. A hot tub on the roof. It was round, circular, with the building off to the side of the city, looking down at everything . Wow. 

I was the only solo person there. A couple groups of girls were there, giggling and talking amongst themselves. A few couples, mostly older. The younger couples spent the entire time in each other’s Laps or locked in embrace. A few groups of lads came through. A few people even tried to make conversation, including an Australian man bun trio. So, despite how much my mind perceived me and my body to be grotesque, I suppose other people didn’t think so. They saw me wearing the least amount of clothes I’ve ever worn and still wanted to talk. 


Anyway, I wandered back to my hostel, booked another night and went to watch the sunset by the river. Magical scene to watch the colors wash over the city. It turned out there was an open air concert at a bar next to the Chain Bridge. I went and bought a cheap (but shitty) gyro, since I had forgotten to eat that day and needed something quick and wasn’t about to go to a restaurant by myself. I bought a few beers too and wandered over to have a listen. The music was wow. Jazz funk rock. Right on the river with the Chain Bridge lit up in the background.  

I am not a clubber. I am not one for going and getting hammered at bars and talking up strangers. That’s why I like Couchsurfing and getting to know people and drinking and talking and listening to music. I missed it already. I wished for a friend. Though, sure I do enjoy bArs with a few good friends too. But I can be totally fine watching live music by myself. Some guy from tinder ended up recognizing me and came to talk for a bit, but I was a bit tipsy and way too involved in the music to talk. 

I discovered the Ruin Bars. A hip area of Budapest in the old Jewish quarter. Buildings, stores, homes were abandoned and they were left to decay and rot. Walking along the street, you would never know the thriving nightlife inside. From the outside it looks like just another old, nearly abandoned building.  Not much noise or signage or people lingering. But inside… Thrift store furniture. Crazy art. Funky vibes. Things hanging from ceilings. Nothing matched. Artsy. Ecclectic. The courtyards overrun with weeds. It was amazing. 

I ended up going back early. Around midnight. Parties were still raging outside. But I had a fulfilling day. I got to wander the city. I got to go to a Budapest bath. I heard some live music. I watched the sunset on the river and the colors change the facade of the Basillica. I climbed to the top of a castle. 

And since my room way right by the street, I pulled my headphones on my head, and put on my “Best Summer Ever” playlist. With every song that came on, I couldn’t help but let out a sleepy smile as I remembered where I heard that song, who I was with, what we were doing, how I was feeling… Reminiscing on this beautiful nearly four month long solo journey. ❤️ not quite ready to go home. 

Roma…  :)

“Rome was a poem pressed into a city”. ~Anatole Broyard
Saturday August 20, 2016

Day 91

Rome, Italy 

I left my hostel and walked into the sunny streets of Rome. I had made a promise to myself to avoid hostels, but my CouchsurfEr was sick and I didn’t want to be a burden. So I left. And dropped my bags at a hostel.  Sweat collected in the small of my back in a matter of 10 minutes. The streets at first werE wide. Impersonal. I turned to the side streets. My favorite ones.

Colorful Vespas and Vespa rental shops were everywhere. 

Graffiti. Beautiful scrawlings in Italian everywhere on all the buildings. But only from shoulder height down. I wish I could read what they I said. 

Turning down random streets.. I was Surprised with old, worn down historical buildings or modern, uncharacteristic boring buildings or intricately designed churches or charming little streets with ivy covered walls  

Streets and alleyways jutting off in every random direction. 

Gelato and pizzeria shops everywhere. Advertising air conditioning and wifi. 

Military tanks and men in full garb and equipped with giant rifles stand guard everywhere, instead of filling me with a feeling it safety and security, a feeling of sadness. 

I reached the Colosseum. My destination. It was Beautiful. Huge. Magnificent I wanted to touch its walls. Hear all the stories it’s walls had to tell. My walk down to it was tainted with the people all around thrusting water bottles and souvineers in my face, incessant that I buy their things. I walk by, shaking my head no, no, no I don’t want your selfie sticks or colorful straw hats or mini replicas of the colosseum. I want to hear the colosseum whisper to me tales of gladiators and peasants and emperors and aristocracy and slaves from long ago. 

Once again, clustered with tired, hot tourists eager to get that perfect selfie. 

A girl spoke to me from the crowd, “Do you want to go inside?” She had one of those tourist group tags hanging around her neck. I declined politely and walked on. As I was walking, I hesitated… Yes I hate tours groups, but this was my chance to hear the stories. Ok. Fuck it. I look for signs on this trip. Omens. Sure. She speaks to everyone, but I want the rich history. I turned around and had her lead me to the meeting spot. 

Inside. I got to touch the walls. Imagine what it was like. The intensity of the crowds cheering like crazy. I saw the old bathrooms. I saw where the gladiators fought. Where the emperor got to watch the games. The aristocracy. The common people. The slaves. I imagined it in all its glory. With the frescos. The marble. The mosaics. The 24 flowing fountains. The 2 entrances for the rich and the 78 others for the rest of the people. (I wasn’t totally paying attention so cuz I kept daydreaming so I am sure the numbers are wrong) The hungry animals they kept in deep dark caves with no foid for 7 days, releasing them in the center of the ring, hungry and angry and ready to eat anything in its path.. The trembling, terrified slaves and enemies of Rome.. My feet were covered in dust. The three water spigots has lines of exhausted, sunburned people staring longingly, waiting for their turn. 

Of course the walls were falling apart. Crumbling. The marble and frescos and mosaics were “recycled” in the 14th century to build different cathedrals and churches and other palaces. It’s hard to believe this crazy beautiful structure was build in only 8 years… I was filled with a desire to time travel. I closed my eyes and willed it so. Only to open my eyes and see crowds of people taking selfies and couples kissing, locked in blissful embrace. 

I walked out and headed on. 

I realized I probably looked worse than all of them. Crazy travel plans made it so I shy had a shower in a few days. But I didn’t care. I was here for the sights. The stories. The feelings. Not to look good for people. I looked around. Everyone was glistening with sweat. Their clothes starting to grow dark and damp on their backs and under their armpits. It was scorching. Where were all those guys selling the water for a Euro??? 

I gave in and bought one. Fur 2 euro. I eagerly put it to my lips and drank. It lasted 2 gulps. It was the most delicious thing. Where was the rest? I surely didn’t finish it all in 2 gulps… Ice… 3/4 of the bottle was pure ice. Awwwwmannnnn I wanted it now. Now now now. I didn’t want to wait until it melted… An hour later it was still frozen. As I walked around I noticed a few more people struggling to get a sip our of their frozen block of ice. I felt comforted knowing i wasn’t the only one peering into my water bottle trying to figure out how to squeeze liquid out of it. 

And I wandered through the maze of ancient ruins. My tummy growling. And I left the ancient ruins. And I wandered the streets again. And then I found it. 

A CAT SANCTUARY!!! I happened upon a little square.. There was a wall around a bit in the middle.. More crumbling ruins lay inside… Intriguing… What was it??  
And then I saw a cat!! And another!! As I walked around it I saw a sign proclaiming it as a cat sanctuary for homeless cats… There were stairs to one side you could walk down and go inside and pet the cats. Hold the cats. There was air conditioning and water for the cats. Wooaawwww!!! I spend a good hour holding and petting those beautiful things. They smushed their head into your hands. Eager for more love. And by golly I gave it to them. I needed to be needed by them. 

And then I wandered some more. Across a bridge that brought me to the most beautiful bits of Rome I’ve ever seen. This was what I thought of when I thought of Italy. Tiny streets. Ivy covered walls. The smell of pizza wafting through the streets. The clink of wine glasses. Loud, animated conversations in Italian. The streets lined with colorful vespas.