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Roma, Day3

How to speak Italian with limited knowledge of one romance language

OK, since today I decided to walk around the non-touristy areas of rome, I ran into pretty much no one who spoke english. While before I said Spanish was next to useless, I realize now I shouldnt have been so harsh, it was absolutley all I had to rely on in various situations, including a computer store, looking for a battery charger (I busted out the word Litio for Lithium, tell me THATS not impressive), ordering in restaurants, ordering ice cream, and also small talk in a cafe. Here is the best way to communicate:

1) Have a limited knowledge of another romance language, probably spanish is the best bet.

2)Get very good at shrugging, making non-comital gestures and saying "meh" or "eh." I just try my best to mimic some of Marlon Brandos expressions in the godfather

3)When in conversation make non-commital gestures whenever its your turn to speak and have them continue to elaborate till you hear a word you understand and then postulate what they are talking about.

4)Respond in Spanish with a strong Italian accent. When they look confused, repeat the keywords only, dropping most supporting words such as (es, esta, el, la, etc) words, again using a strong italian accent

5)When they respond with a similar word in Italian that sounds right say "ah, si si"

At this point if they havent started speaking in English, repeat steps 2-6 until they do or till you understand one another or until he or she thinks you understand him (your call, sometimes its better to just roll with it if you arent ever gonna understand him) and repeat. I find this methodology particularly useful in small talk at a cafe where I had one conversation with a guy who (I think) was talking about politics and how he supported the war in Iraq. It lasted about 10 minutes and that was all I got. None the less, he seemed very content by the end of the conversation and I got the experience of "speaking" italian.

Please note this doesnt work very well in certain situations. For example at a restaurant it wont do to respond "meh" when they ask "what would you like to order" or "what flavor gelatto would you like" In these situations its better to just blurt out everything you want in one long phrase to minimize their ability to ask questions. For example "Por favo...(trail off there becuase its a little diferent in Italian than spanish, but you arent sure how )..una copa grande de gellato chocola...(trail off there for the same reason) y una coca cola, gratzi."

In this way you dont have to worry about them asking you for a size or a drink. Same goes for ordering at a restaurant. Thats a lot tougher though, and sometimes blank stares are neccesary to communicate you have no clue what they just said.

Anyway that was about it for my travels today. Tomorrow its up and early (for real) to venice, or someones butt is getting kicked. Im not getting up at 3:55 again for nothing, even if it means I jump on the back.


Posted by JohnnyPing 10:26 Archived in Italy

Roma, Day 2

The Vatican and more

But before we get to that, let me re-cap the rest of my day on teh 22nd. So thunderstorming made touring close to impossible. Instead I went to a little cafe near here where there was a chess game going on. I ordered an espresso (awesome) and the one guy was beating the heck out of another and I was watching. After he lost, the guy who won gestured me over. I was like I dont speak Italian and he kept gesturing and the guy who lost said in a thick italian accent "he said you want to play chess?" Looking at the weather and figuring this was the chance for me to expose myself to some real italian lifestyle, I said yes.

It was a good match, but I Got the upper hand with some better positioning moves. I didnt really get to do much until I pinned his rook to his king and then took it with my knight. He looked at the board, looked at his friend and started speaking Italian, he spoke back, they started yelling at each other, while gesturing to the board, me, each other and just about everything in the room. I guess I looked white as a ghost cause they finally looked at me after about a solid 30 seconds of yelling and then the guy who lost the last game said "he says, you make very good move." After that I wasnt sure whether to throw the game or just go for it. Ultimatley we drawed, which was FINE by me.

Anyway after that I met the other people in my room, a cool couple from San Francisco and a Japaneese guy. We hung out for the rest of the night and I actually showed the Japaneese guy where the korean youth hostel was... he had a reservation there the following night...

So onto the 23rd...yesterday...my supposed last day in Rome before Venice. It was up and out early and I pretty much went touring all day with the couple, their names were Cody and Brenda. Very nice people. We went to the Vatican, got there about noon and the line to get in was UNBELIEVABLE. Of course, I figured if there was one spot in the world where I shouldnt start cursin about the line and show a little patience, I was there. So I bit my tongue and about two hours later we got into Saint Peters. Wowowow. ITS HUGE. We got a free english tour and this guy really knew his stuff. He was promoting a later tour for that evening. St. Peters is decieving, because it doesnt seem that big until you start to realize that other cathedrals in the world can fit in it... and further that the statue of liberty could be stood up inside of the center of it. In addition the sculptures by Michalangelo, Bernini and others are HUGE and stunning. Breathtaking actually. We wondered around there for a good two hours...till about four...which was our mistake because the Sisteen chapel CLOSED at 3:10. I couldnt believe it, that I was here in Rome and wasnt going to get to see it. But fate, it would appear, would be on my side (depening on your perspectve).

So we left the Vatican and did a little shopping for postcards, etc. Then it was time for a little nap...we walked EVERYWHERE in Rome and Termini to the Vatican...is quite the hike. Then it was on to this walking tour which ended up going very long, but was very very good. Same tour guide, this time we had to pay, but we saw everything, the pantheon, the fountain of Tranini (sp?), through the ruins again, the spanish stairs, where Musallini got wrecked, the column to Marcus Aurelieuous (sorry bout the spelling again). It was a great tour that just took a long time. By the time we ate (ordering in Spanish with an italian accent...comical) and got back to the hostel it was 12:30 and I had to be up to get to Venice at 4:00 AM.

WRONG! So it is a hike to where I had to go to get to Venice. About a 45 minute bus ride. So I was up at 4, all ready to go. I get there, and theyve over booked. The best they can do is put me on tomorrow...nothing else for the rest of the day. What are the odds of that?? So its back to the hostel where I have checked in for another night and will get another day in Rome and a chance to see the chapel, all be it on 3 and then 4 hours of sleep with a two hour break in between. Also Ill have one less day in Venice, but I can live with that.

So my Roman advventure continues here, and again, sorry for not posting sooner, Its been tough getting internet here for a long period of time. Ill do my best to post again tonight

Miss you all very much

Posted by JohnnyPing 02:27 Archived in Italy

Roma, Day 1


(Please note this was written at 4:26 PM on 9/22 and posted today, 9/24)

Wow. There is really no other way to put it. Sorry for not updating for a while, traveling from Vienna to Rome is no easy task and pretty much my last two days have been a lot of waiting and a lot of traveling. Ive caught up on both my sleep and my reading (Hari Seldon is the MAN). Eithere its that or the fact that the powers that be liked my last entry so much they made this the featured blog on the main site travellerspoint.com... and I didnt want to ruin whatever it was they liked so much ;-).

But alas, the time has come to post again.

I arrived last night, after a HUGE delay, in Rome at about 10:30 Pm. This was an enormous problem. I was supposed to get in at about 6:30...that would leave plenty of time to find an internet cafe and a hostel before everything closed. Getting in after everything closes with no place stay...trouble ahead.

And trouble it was, I was pretty terrified. I dont want to say my spanish was useless, because compared to Hungarian, I felt fluent in Italian. Of course I wasnt close to fluent in Italian. And I got to the center city at about 11:30 last night. Way late. Fortunatley I met up with someone with whose combined English, Italian and Spanish, he managed to communicate to me how to get to Termini...sort of the times square and port authority of Rome. When all else fauils, go to the busiest part of the city and youre bound to find something.

Eventually I did find a hostel, a Korean Youth Hostel. IT was pretty silly, but a t midnight and not knowing where else to go, I took it. They were friendly people, even if they only spoke Italian and Korean (once again communication was fairly comical).

So I was up early this morning and used their internet to find anotehr hostel. The place was a little expensive and not very social for me...seeing as my korean isnt what it used to be. So I was out early and to another hostel which I had booked by about 11. Then it was off to tour the city.


I started at the Coliseum whcih in itself is unbelievable. Its situated at the base of the Roman forum. After walking around that and the Constantine GAte, it was INTO the roman forum to walk amongst the ruins of what was once the downtown of Ancient Rome. I think I spent close to 3 hours there alone...and I left very reluctantly. To stand where Augustus stood. To stand in the Temple of the Vestals. To stand at the base of the ruins of the temple of Saturn...and so much more... just indescribable. Vienna may have had its aesthetic beauty but Rome...Rome is Rome...and I imagine very little can compare to that. (worthy of not: My camera battery died at this point, picture taking dropped exponentionally)

After that it was off to the Imperial Forum where I saw the temple of Tragam Trajans forum, Augustus's forum, and Ceasers forum. Again, stunning.

I moderninzed a little bit after that, going to the Monument to Victory Emanuel II; it was a monument commmemorating the unification of ITaly and it was a beautiful building. From tehre it was to the Capitoline which is a plaza at the top of a hull that includes a monument of Marcus Aurelius which sits in a plaza which was designed by Michelangelo. It also includes two palaces on either side of the plaza, both designed by good ol' mikey.

I was making my way to the Panthenon, but along the way it started to rain a little and the clouds looked foreboding. I made my way to the metro instead and got off at the termini bus terminal. Im five blocks away from termini and when I got off it was THUNDERSTORMING like crazy. The lightening took out the internet at the hostel, so I will post this as soon as I can.

Rome is lovely

Posted by JohnnyPing 02:14 Archived in Italy


By far the most beautiful city I've ever seen

18 °C

At least here in Europe...

So last night, despite the tiredness I was feeling I ended up going out with a professional magician from the states and a canadian. He tried to do tricks to get us drinks for free. It worked well at first, but the more he drank, the less impressive his drinks were... Anyway we did a little bar hopping and next thing you know its 3 AM. I partied a little too hardy last night and had a rough morning becuase of it.

Hangover or not, however, I wasn't about to be denied my tour of Vienna. I was up and out by about 11 and started by touring St. Stephens, a cathedral built by Franz someone or another to try and attract a Catholic archdioses to the city. It was a little run down, but like most european cathedrals was completely stunning.

After that it was on to the seat of hapsburg rule for over 500 years, the Hoffburg palace. I was unable to tour most of it becuase it is currently the presidents residence and office, but the library that is housed in its walls is the second biggest in all of Europe. It was surrounded by a park and trees and I was unable to get a good shot of the building, though I did make a few efforts.

Next it was to the plaza of Maria Teresa which sits between the national museums. It was gorgeous as well. Vienna really had a great feel to it.

From there it was on to a park near by where one of four nazi gun towers still stand as "a dark reminder" of the city's past. It was quite the contrast, seeing this huge gun tower dominating the skyline in a park where little children were playing. It was sad really. The people did a good job of converting it, however. Inside it houses an aquariam and outside people do some wall-climbing up the side.

From the gun tower it was onto Maria Teresa's palace (her "summer home") in the south-west of the city and I spent the majority of my day here. The gardens were unbelievable and huge. I have some great pictures of the place. Just breath taking. The view from the hill in the back yard was unbelievable. You could pretty much see all of the city.

After that it was off to Karlplatz to visit a monument dedicated to the lives of people lost during world war II. Its small but is in one of the most prominent parts of the city and thus has drawn a lot of controversy since it directly recognizes Austria's role in World War II. The monument itself was quite moving.

After that it was back to the hostel to grab my computer and then here to the same (wonderful) cafe where I updated from last night.

The plan is to take it easy tonight, I gotta be up and out early tomorrow.

Take care everyone

Posted by JohnnyPing 11:23 Archived in Austria

Travels on the Danube

Safe and Secure in Vienna

Hey everyone!

So the whirlwind continues. I gotta say I am indeed safe and secure in Vienna. I'm at a cafe where I just had a wonderful sandwich with strong cheese, jelly, lettuce and onion. I am also on my third coffee since arriving in Vienna, not even because I'm tired, but rather they have amazing coffee here.

But to bring you up to speed, last night I was out with some people who were at my hostal with me. This was a bad idea seeing as I had to get up at 7 to catch the boat up the Danube, but I went out none the less. I met a fellow American who was in Iraq and on two months leave. Army Specialist Mark Schneider from Michigan. I bought that guy all his drinks for the night (he didn't have much, he hadn't drank in a year), but I mean he drives an army humvee around Baghdad. That guy's the man.

So it was up and out early this morning and onto the boat on the Danube. On the whole I was sort of disapointed in it. The mean age of everyone on that cruise probably hovered near 60. I slept for the beggining part (figuring I'd catch it on the ride back) and got a lot of good pics towards the end of the cruise.

Arriving in Berlin, I was in about as much trouble as I was in Hungary, but I was reassured because everything was well labeled, where I could get a map, where my hostal was, etc and I made it to the hostal without a problem.

Currently I am here at this cafe with a guy named Edin from Bosnia using the free wireless internet. Its pretty sweet. The plan for the night is pretty much to plan tomorrow, maybe meet some people at the hostal and go to sleep.

Miss you all very much


Posted by JohnnyPing 09:57 Archived in Austria

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