It's been a nice and busy few days since I last wrote. We made it successfully into Padova, as promised, but not without some hilarity on the way. Our train from Salzburg into Padova was a night train. Another night train like the last we took where dozens of strangers were piled on top of one another in a dense layer of human bodies while the conductor turned the heat to full-blast for the entirety of the night. Our cabin had six people in it, like last time. We were the two middle bunks, sandwiched by two British guys below us and two Japanese girls above us, who sat up in their beds for the majority of the night, with the light on, saying over and over in high-pitched voices the only English word we ever heard them speak, "whaaaaaaaaaat?!?" followed by the occasional ghostly yet worried sounding "oooooooooh." This all started after Matt attempted to have a very confusing conversation with them about why he was moving their luggage around to make room for ours.

We arrived in Padova at 5:51 AM, which was 30 minutes before the Venice station where the vast majority of the people would be getting off. The train person woke us up a bit before our stop so we could get our things and get ready to jump off. This woke up the entire cabin however at which point confusing conversation part II took place where the girls on the top bunk attempted to feed their luggage down to us in a frantic daze, prepared to jump off with us at Padova, where they undoubtedly would have been incredibly confused as Padova looks as much like Venice as Kearns Utah. Eventually we resorted to crude caveman like gestures and sentence structures (You Venice. We Padova. This NO Venice.) while they continued the "whaaaaats?!" and "ooooooohs?!" Sometime during this mess the British became alert and also started frantically asking if they were supposed to get off the train now. One of us finally yelled a final, "everybody just stay!" as we hopped off and left them to fend for themselves. We had our own problems and most of the time hardly know where are ourselves. I've wondered many times since whether any of them made it to Venice.

Then Padova. We had a couchsurfing couple in Padova who are some of my favorite people I have ever met. They actually lived just outside of Padova in a town called Sarmeola. We stayed with them for a couple of nights. One of the nights we had a great Italian dinner with more cheeses than I knew existed and some drink (the non-alcoholic option) that tasted worse than any mixture of liquids I could ever come up with on my own. I did a lot of pouring my can into Matt's cup while he wasn't looking, ultimately getting to the point where I was sure I was going to upchuck cheese you've never even heard of all over the table if I had to even pretend to take one more sip. Somehow we got out of drinking more of it (although there seemed to be an unlimited supply and possibly an expectation that we would completely deplete that supply (don't try to make sense of that)). This was because they whipped out the guitar and for the rest of the night we jammed together and sang and laughed and had one of the most fun nights I've had in a long time. We loved spending time with them and were so sad to leave.

During one of our Padova days we took a train into Venice and wandered for the day. The city was incredible. I didn't try to drink any of the canal water (I have a goal to drink water from every lake, river, and stream in the world before I die . . . or until I die . . . I don't remember the goal exactly) because the water was a new color that I don't think I've ever seen before (and here I thought I had seen them all). But other than that, Venice was clean and beautiful and bustling with tourists, which brought us back to not-so-happening Padova, which we thought we could take an entire day to explore, only to find that 27 minutes was actually sufficient. Nonetheless we filled our time doing the usual: eating everything in sight and taking naps in parks.

We left Padova a couple of days ago and trained to Pisa where we stayed for the night. We hadn't planned on going to Pisa at all but we found a couchsurfing host there and thought it might be interesting to check out. This was partly because this was suggested by two guys we met in Venice who were from St. George and who were also travelling through Central and Eastern Europe but having a much different experience than we were. They have been literally sleeping on the streets for several weeks (and they looked and smelled like it too) and had also been robbed in Rome, badly; one of their backpacks with all that they had had been swiped at a train station. I felt badly for them, but then less so when I realized they had some bad karma following them after they explained to us how they had cheated the system to get free train rides in addition to some other perks by falsifying various documentation throughout Europe. In any event, they gave us great advice, and also unintentionally convinced us that sleeping on the street, which we were pretty willing to try up to that point, was actually not a good idea.

Pisa was nice. We had a couchsurfer there who, through some miscommunication on both of our parts, didn't get home until pretty late. We hung out under the pillars of some old church playing poker (with devil cards) while we waited for him to come home, wondering if sleeping on the street would actually happen after all. But he made it home and let us into our room after explaining to us that he has several roommates who are currently out of town, which is why he had so many free beds. We wondered once or twice whether his roommates had any idea that he was letting the strangers of the world inhabit their personal space whenever they skipped town but then figured we would probably be gone long before they ever found out. In any event, mystery roommates probably got the last laughs as their beds and sheets were not so clean and may have given me bedbugs (I'm mostly kidding--but I do have about 300 mosquito-looking bites on my legs right now from that night, despite Matt's crusade against them where he stood and killed somewhere in the hundreds before finally declaring the place "sleepable" and climbing into his bed. I'm now referring to it as "The Great Battle of the Bugs of 2011." Screenplay coming.).

The Pisa tower was incredible. And actually really leaning. More than you would think. There's really nothing else to see in Pisa except for graffiti and kabab stands, all of which we visited in the 24 hours we were in town.

Yesterday we rolled into Rome and wandered the city for the afternoon and evening, looking at the beautiful churches and ruins. Rome is wonderful. Hot and crowded, but wonderful. Today we made it over to the Vatican and did some more city exploring. Rome is the first and only city on this trip where we did not find couchsurfers so we found a hostel near the train station, which has worked out nicely, even though we have serious communication problems with all of the employees (but we're getting used to that).

Matt is flying out in the morning and I'll go with him to the airport to see him off and pick up Krishelle, Heather, and Jonathan so we can continue our adventure for a bit longer. I can't believe it's already time for him to take off. He's been a lot of fun to travel with, plus he doesn't smell that bad, as far as backpackers go.

~It Just Gets Stranger