October 28, 2007

10/28/07 Verona Italy

Montecchio di Negrar Italy

Again, no matter how much I plan, or how many successful trips I log, I always get nervous traveling. Yeah, I know - silly! But that's the way it is when jumping into the unknown, which modern travel is these days. So, I didn't sleep very soundly. I kept waking up. About 6AM, I just couldn't get back to sleep but laid there as if I didn't get up, all this travel nonsense would go away. Hah!

Both parents have been pleasantly surprised that the children have slept in longer in the mornings since I've been here. Maybe it's due to too much playing in the evening with 'that man' as Alani calls me. But it was even more surprising this morning because it was day-light savings last night when you gain an hour.

After breakfast, we loaded up the kids to make the drive from Wunnewil to the train station in Bern. Although the weather looked pretty bad when we awoke, in Bern the sun was quickly burning off the clouds. Grabbed a few quick souvenirs as we headed for the train.

I will never be able to thank Daniel and Ariane enough for having me as their guest. I was given the Royal treatment. Even this morning, Ariane had made me some sandwiches and snacks to take on the train with me. As I took my set, I looked out at my friends and their beautiful children. Poor Lorin was still a little asleep but he still managed to wave. And Daniel signaled through the glass that Alani was crying a little bit. Even though she never said my name the whole week, I knew she liked me. I was glad we had the glass and a train full of passengers to insulate me from my new Swiss family, otherwise I would have been bawling too.

Saying goodbye to Ariane, Lorin, Alani & Daniel

I took the train from Bern to Brig along some of the curviest railroad track I've ever seen. We snaked our way along the side of valleys so deep with peaks towering overhead that you knew you were in Switzerland, land of the Alps. The train actually was packed with day hikers, most of whom got off before we crossed into Italy to spend the gorgeous day in the mountains.

After I changed trains in Brig, we crossed the Italian-Swiss border somewhere in a 20km long tunnel. the only interesting thing about this train was the police going up and down the aisle with their drug-suffering dogs. We took on more passengers in Milan and left the mountains behind as we continued on to Verona.

I was a little nervous leaving the train. One hears so many stories about pickpockets and thieves associated with train stations, especially in Italy. But I made it through the station with all my valuables, even after stopping at the tobacco shop to by a phone card and a bus ticket.

The instructions I got from Marta was to take the #24 bus to Quinzano. But all the buses had numbers in the 90's, so when I saw one with Quinzano on the side, I jumped on. Marta later told me the numbers change on the weekends. The last part of my instructions were to take the bus to the end of the line and then call.

Marta's house above the family restaurant is another twenty minute climb up into the hills. Even though we've kept in touch, this was the first time I've seen Marta since I met her and her mother on the Camino de Santiago in Spain five years ago.

After dropping off my bags, I ended up in the kitchen. I think my father would have loved it here, in this old-fashioned Italian kitchen. Even though they have an old gas stove, they still prepare some foods in the huge fireplace. Today is a bit slow for the restaurant for several reasons. Marta tells me that even though Sunday afternoon is usually the busy time of the day, not many people have showed up because they have scaffolding outside the building for repairs some people think they are closed.

Luigi, Marta's father, opened the restaurant in 1964 and they have worked hard not to change it too much in all those years. Most of their customers like the homey, relaxed atmosphere. It's a whole family run business. Luigi has gardens which supply the vegetables they cook with and also vineyards for the house wine. Marta and her sister Anatella alongside their mother and her aunt in the kitchen.

I ended up eating homemade pasta with the whole family with Marta translating. There were plenty of questions about politics, the USA, religion along with plenty of wine that kept the conversation fluid. I left the table early to head for bed. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute with the family.