Since I last left you, I have spent somewhere around 1200 hours on  trains. No wait, that can't be right. However many hours it is, it feels  like somewhere around 1200. We bought tickets in Rome to Venice several  days ago after being told that all of the trains were full until 2075  but that we were welcome to buy "standing" tickets, which  train-station-man seemed to think would be a perfectly fine option for  us. We didn't like the sound of "the train is full but here are some  standing tickets" but we also didn't think we had much of a choice, so  off we went to find out what "standing" really meant.

Krishelle later pointed out that she was impressed that the train  station was able to sell 4,000 tickets for only 400 seats. This was  probably very little of an exaggeration as we boarded the train and were  immediately forced to stand with our bulky backpacks and luggage in the  incredibly narrow corridor outside of many six-seat compartments that  lined the train. And we were not alone. The entire corridor from end to  end was totally packed with panicked looking people who each had a  minimum of 17 bags and had apparently also encountered the same greasy  salesman in the train station who made the standing option sound like a  pleasant stay in a 5 star hotel. The packed corridor somehow did not  stop cart-man who miraculously pushed his way through, back and forth,  for the entire day selling warm drinks and stale cookies, making us suck  in our stomachs, stand on our luggage, and guard our appendages from  being run over. This was like a very tricky game of twister most of the  time. But I had bigger troubles to worry about than cart-man because  Heather and Jonathan asked several times how long the train ride would  be and I repeatedly lied to them and then had to engage in some very  tricky mind-games and manipulation to keep them from finding out the  truth. I told them it would just be a few short hours. Truth: we were  scheduled to arrive in Venice no sooner than 6 and a half hours after  take-off. I'm sure they were strong enough to handle the truth but I  figured that after the Naples experience, I shouldn't risk it.  

And so we rode. And we rode. Through the hot Italian deserts while  hairy, sweaty, stinky, Europeans walked the length of the cabin back and  forth, for no apparent reason, occasionally stopping to rest on top of  us and in our laps. This misery continued until we finally arrived in  Ferrara. Never heard of it? That's because the place is a dump. And we  know that it is because that is where our train practically exploded.  Well, we think it probably practically exploded because we can't  understand what else could have caused a scheduled 2 minute stop to take  2 and a half hours. This is no exaggeration. Every 20 minutes or so the  conductor would announce that we would be leaving in another 30  minutes, which we optimistically believed, over and over, like the  abused in an abusive relationship (and believe me, we were the abused in  a very abusive relationship with the entire train system of Italy by  this point). Unfortunately for all of us, the tiny bit of air  conditioning that had been coming from a couple of unclogged vents  completely ceased for the duration of the break, leaving us to continue  to bake in the 100 or so degree conditions.  

The train finally moved on and arrived in Venice several hours later,  pulling in about 9 or 10 hours after we had initially sat on the  corridor floor in Rome. We think that we can relate to the pioneers now.  Or some other group that has suffered. We will likely share this  experience in a church lesson later mid tears (while also making up a  few facts so that it actually relates to the lesson).

When we got to Venice we never wanted to climb aboard any transportation  again. So we found a great apartment in the center of the city for a  good deal and camped out for a couple of days. Venice was wonderful and  we all felt it was well worth the trauma above mentioned to get there.  We wandered from end to end of the city, visited St. Marks, ate our  weight in gellato, and explored many incredible churches.

Yesterday we put our brave faces on (for the kids) and decided to make  our way to Slovenia. While Venice and Ljubljana, our desired destination  in Slovenia, look to be within walking distance on a world map, one  finds that the train from one to the other takes literally 9 hours. This  is because the train goes through Arizona to get to Ljubljana (ok, so  Arizona is an exaggeration, but it actually does go all the way through  Vienna, which is nowhere near either city at all. For comparison,  imagine taking a train from San Diego to L.A. and having it go through Phoenix. This is actually a pretty accurate comparison). So we instead  took a train to Trieste Italy for a little over one hour and then found 2  hour bus tickets to take us the rest of the way. When our bus tickets  were sold to us, the four of us stood in shock, staring at one another,  waiting for the catch, because we were positive that something had to go  wrong since we hadn't had a seamless travel experience up to that point  yet. But alas, the trip to Ljubljana went very well and we arrived  safely.

We found a hostel near center that seemed like a good choice. The four  of us were immediately placed in a room with 6 other strangers. We  welcomed the adventure. Until night came. Four Indian men came into the  room around 3:00 AM and marched around, taking things out of their bags  loudly for about one hour as they prepared to go to bed. None of us can  figure out why on Earth it took them so long to get ready for bed, or  why they needed to be so loud about it, but they did. We sighed a major  sigh of relief when they finally climbed into bed at 4:00. But the peace  did not last as all of their alarm clocks began to go off in 4 minute  increments starting at 6:00, which they each responded to by pressing  snooze over and over again until Heather finally sat up and screamed  "SHUT UP!" at 7:00. This is a true story. Any of you who know Heather  are probably very shocked right now because she is so mild-mannered and  typically very patient. But we found her limit this morning at exactly  7:00 AM. In her defense, it took an awful lot to get to that point. And  to her credit, it worked like a charm because the whole room immediately  fell silent at her request and stayed that way until she was ready to  get up.

Ljubljana is gorgeous and clean and sans tourists. We love it here.  Today we took a bus to Bled and swam in a gorgeous lake that sits in the  mountains. Unfortunately we didn't think to bring anything to swim in,  but the water was so clear and beautiful that we couldn't help ourselves  so we made make-shift bathing suits with whatever clothes we brought  (which may or may not have involved extensive amounts of forest nudity  to get to something workable) and just hoped that we would dry off in  time to climb aboard our bus back to Ljubljana at the end of the day. It  all worked out very well. We swam and hiked and never wanted to leave.  It truly was one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.

Tomorrow we'll head back into Italy. Not totally sure where to just yet.  Probably Verona or Florence or wherever we can go that doesn't require  "standing" only tickets.

~It Just Gets Stranger