This trip so far has been a bit of a mixed bag. Which is really frustrating, because when you spend months anticipating a vacation, tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of much-devalued rubles to pay for it, and settle on your two favorite countries as destinations, you want and expect more than just an “ok” experience.
Signs of trouble could be spotted before the trip even begun – with anxiety that now feels more like a premonition of things not going as smoothly as I would have liked them to. Various new issues crept up along the way. And no, I don’t think it is a case of a self-fulfilling prophecy, as much as of ignoring the signs, or being too overwhelmed to preemptively address them.
First of all, I over-packed. And it’s all my mother’s fault. I pride myself on my ability to travel for 10+ days with just carry-on luggage, assuming it’s summer. A few pairs of shorts, tops and bikinis fit perfectly well into an overhead bin. Instead, my mother insisted that I must have at least 3 outfit changes per day. I don’t know who it was supposed to impress (or who was supposed to document them, as the first part of the trip was spent with the photo-averse German and the second – solo), but, as a result, I got saddled with a 40-lbs suitcase stuffed with silk blouses and statement necklaces, which I won’t wear even once. I was too tired and stressed to think rationally or argue, I guess.
To be fair, a quarter of the suitcase is being taken up by my riding helmet and boots. Normally, I wouldn’t take issue with this, as these items are a necessity for when I ride horses, because I tend to fall — except I might not go horseback riding even once during this whole vacation. More on this later.
And now, the issues with the trip itself, in chronological order:
- I got to Germany in the middle of a record-breaking heatwave. During my first day in the country the temperatures reached 42C (108F) in our area – and nowhere was there air conditioning to be found. You could wring out my clothes after 15 minutes outside.
- THE BUGS. All sorts of mosquitoes and horse flies are out in full force, eating me alive day and night. There isn’t a part of my body that’s not covered with painfully itchy red bumps.
- Despite my love of meat and potatoes, German food might not be my thing after all. It’s just kind of….big and basic.
- I had epic dining plans for Frankfurt, courtesy of ReloKate. These were a bust. The French/Japanese buffet place where I wanted to have breakfast only served said buffet starting at lunch. The African restaurant where I planned on having lunch was only open for dinner. I learned those things after walking across town from one place to the other.
- The overnight trip from Munich to Bologna was HELL. The train was NOT AT ALL what I looked up before booking it. Imagine spending 9 hours in the middle of the night (after an exhausting, packed day) stuffed in a stiff narrow seat – that does not even recline!!! – in an unventilated compartment where it is 30+C inside.
- Disappointingly, Bologna is not my kind of town. It’s just so… harsh. If Bologna were a man, the Russians would call him “brootahlny muzh-cheena” – a brutal, rough man. It’s all brown, red and orange stone, narrow passages, nary a green leaf in sight. Heavy, oppressive. In spots in feels – to me, I know this is hugely subjective – like an outdoor prison.
- The food in Emilia Romagna is ok, this far (it’s my 3rd day here). I am yet to have a game-changing gastronomic experience. Yes, I know all about the dangers of having inflated expectations (I’m looking at you, four months in Paris), but come on! I am in the culinary heart of Italy, for crying out loud! I don’t want to be sitting in one of the best regional trattorias, eating pasta in the place that pretty much invented and defined it, and thinking, “eh, I had better in Rhode Island.”
- Places like grocery stores and restaurants are closed at the most random times, like middle of the day, for HOURS. Not to mention on Sundays! I don’t care how ignorant it sounds, but it’s stupid, and 24-hour (or even normal business hours!) convenience is the reason America and Russia are superpowers.
- Italian countryside has to be explored with a car. Which, ok, seems logical, as it IS countryside. The problem is, I hate driving. And I am not a good driver. I like traveling solo, but I cannot be in a car by myself in a new place – I need a co-pilot. Without a car, I am restricted not just in sightseeing, particularly of the beautiful landscapes all around me (I think I will have to forgo the balsamic-making tour of Modena and cheese-making tour of Parma too), but in basic activities like getting lunch or even a bottle of water at a store. I have to either walk to take a bike – which I haven’t done in like 15 years, and yeah, you CAN forget how to do it – in sweltering heat, over crazy hills.
- Which brings me to my final frustration of EuroTrip 2015: horseback riding, or lack thereof. The nearest riding place is 12 km away, over a giant hill. I’m not even sure I would make it there on foot or by bike, considering it is always at least +35C (100F) and outside, with blistering sun. There is no Uber. And if I were to call a cab, the cost of a single outing would run me well over 100 Euros. That’s 4 lessons in Moscow, or 8 !!! 3-hour treks through the picture-perfect hills of Crimea. Horseback riding in the countryside is my greatest, most favorite escape, and it might be quite literally out of reach this whole vacation.
There you have it. TravelBitchFest 2015.
Obviously it’s far from all bad. The German was endlessly patient, driving me hundreds of kilometers per day to see all the places on my Germany to-do list. The Rhine Valley and Rothenburg were just as beautiful as I had imagined. The Bavarian Alps and the castles nestled in them surpassed all expectations and took my breath away (I have since added the Alps to my Travel Wish List). I met up with fellow travel blogger Allane in Munich – and she was an absolute delight. I fell in love with Apfelwein and Weinschorle in Germany – they agreed with me much better than German beer (once a Bud girl, always a Bud girl, I guess).
My Agriturismo farm/villa just outside of Bologna is picture-perfect, with vineyards and a refreshing pool surrounded by rose bushes, and the view of those insurmountable rolling hills outside the window of my perfect, comfy room. Oh, and it’s owned and run by Federico, the most welcoming and attentive man, who goes out of his way to find solutions for all my #TravelProblems.