Given that I’ve been to a plethora of places, I wanted to think of one place that really was important to me. It didn’t take long to realize which it would be, but perhaps the reason why I hold onto this memory so strongly, is in fact my undoing. I can say nothing further than what I have already said, and that this is where I fell in love. I give to you… Vernazza, in Italy.

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And so we were sitting waiting for our train to La Cinque Terre when we decided to try to read and learn a little bit of Italian. Funny story to follow; we were reading and listening to the announcements and I could understand quite a bit considering how little Italian I know having never heard or spoken it at all. I understand enough Latin based languages to get the general gist of what’s going on, but we were looking at the signs and we saw one that was the word for train tracks, and it read “Bin Rio” which we thought sounded really weird. So Markus and I were saying it and then we both realised at the same time that the sign was so old that it was missing the “a” that’s supposed to make up the word “Binario” which is the proper word. We had a good laugh and the lady next to us flashed us a hillarious smile knowing that we sucked at Italian. This would be one of our inside jokes from this moment on; calling train tracks “Bin Rio” which made me think of Rio in Brazil, clearly way off.

The train arrived and we struggled to get seats since it was a busy train, and we had no idea what stop we were getting off at so we were looking at all the stops. Oddly they don’t announce the stops, and sometimes you’re under a tunnel so you don’t see any signs and have no idea where you are; made things quite stressful but we were so tired and stressed about having arrived that we were just laughing and trying to learn some Italian. All the people around us probably thought that were high or something, but with all the skankily dressed Italians that smelled poorly walking around we had no idea what was going on. We saw one guy working on his laptop with his underwear showing, but it turns out he was wearing a thong, euww. One guy was walking around topless, and he shouldn’t have been but then we heard another guy who was sitting diagonal from us who was on the phone talking to his mother. He must had been 40 or so and still living at home, since he was single and his mom was asking him what he wanted to eat for dinner. It’s true about the Medeterrainian culture being close with their families, and not leaving them; like ever!

We finally decided that we would go to the farthest of the five villages and get off the train there and work our way back. So Riomaggiore it was and we went staight to the tourist office to get our Cinque Terre Cards so we could walk through the park without problems. The Cinque Terre is a protected park in Italy and is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. On our way out of the tourist office some old woman asked us if we needed somewhere to sleep, and we were like “get away from us beggar” and then read signs all over saying to refuse people who offer. We knew sort of half consiously that we weren’t going to find anywhere to stay since we didn’t have any arrangements, lucky for us we had sleeping bags with us. So the sun was starting to set and we went on the path heading towards anywhere that we could find, and we quickly passed through the most amazing areas I’ve ever seen. Right along the cliffs the path goes, all secured and natural with minimal tourists at sunset. And so we saw sunset over the water, whilst standing on the footpath in awe. I’d never seen something so beautiful in my whole life, with the sky a rash of pinks, purples, blues, and oranges; it was like a painting that was impossible to capture except in the mind.

With the skies clear of any clouds, no picture, painting or artistic rendition of the sight could do it justice; it was just that perfect. So we ventured on through the tiny village Manarola. It was so small that we didn’t even know that we went through it, and arrived in Corniglia after dusk. It was starting to get dark on a Sunday night, and all the resteraunts were closed, and nowhere had rooms available, so we needed to venture into the forests to find somewhere to sleep. We followed the car road, not the footpath about 30 minutes up the mountain, each time we saw somwhere that was an option we continued looking finding betters options each time.

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Markus was determined to sleep at this mini-car parking lot that we found but I refused for obvious reasons, and then we found a ditch, and then a little closed in vinyard, but then we hit the mother load. It was dark and we were just barely adjusting to the lack of light when I saw a tiny footpath leading up to what we call affectionately the olive grove (shown above). It was just a few rocks put in place to get up, and we found the golden place. We went up about six or seven layers until we found a fairly (seemingly) flat place right next to a little stone house that was run down and broken. So we opened up our sleeping bags and attempted to fall asleep. The olive trees would protect us from the rain if it came, but the problem that we had was the lack of levelness. I layed down and within 30 minutes I was halfway down the hill so I had to alter where I was and I ended up not sleeping until about 04.00, and waking up at 06.00, sad but true. Every time I looked over at Markus I could tell he wasn’t sleeping due to his deathly fear of insects. He was huddled up into a little coccon which was hillarious to see. I couldn’t sleep because I was uncomfortable and it was so hot inside my sleeping bag that I eventually just opened it up to get air and resigned myself to the fact I’d be bitten by tons of bugs. There weren’t a large number surprisingly but there were fireflies, the first time in my life I saw them. They danced about entertaining me for hours. After we woke up, Markus found a scorpion under his sleeping bag so he freaked out and I tried to wake myself up. The view that we had from there was amazing, as shown in the second picture, showing the little village of Corniglia.

And so we decided that we needed food, bad, having not eaten the day before and running out of water the night before. We headed back to Corniglia and found a public washroom without mirrors, but it had toilets and we were able to brush our teeth and fill up on the probably virus infected water. I didn’t care as I was severly dehydrated, but we headed off to the ATM which this morning was working, and climed up the hill the same way we were. It proved to be tedious and led to nothing so we followed the footpath towards Vernazza which was sure to have somewhere to eat.

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And so the journey began through the steep hills and rock-covered tracks that went up and down and down. The views along the cliff were amazing but for this one there was no protection, so if you fell off you’d be dead on the rocks below. Along the way we found a shrine monument of a grim reeper holding a child, not sure what means but as you can see, Markus and I were interested very much. We figured that there was some sort of death and this was the way for the family to greive and get their revenge; by cursing the land. We got out of there really quickly after that! As we approached the cliffs, the sun w
as beating down on us in the distance and it was obvious that it was going to be a hot hot day, it was perfect becasue Vernazza had a beach and we decided that we were going stay there the whole day. And finally we saw the village, which was quite a bit larger than what we both expected.

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The streets were very somber and silent and dark but with children running around and Italian people being happy we made our way towards the harbour. I bough a new toothbrush on the way which was a whopping 5€, I was not impressed but I felt dirty without it to be honest. And so we finally made it into town, with our trusty Rick Steves’ Best of Europe 2007 travel guide. A little background on this book, it’s hillarious. Markus was given it by his parents to be his guide and it’s the only literature that he vowed to use and it was really useful, but everywhere we turned you saw him with it in his hands with the oh so distinguishable bright blue colours telling us the resteraunts to go to. So at the harbour we found this place which advertised meals all day, so we sat down and the evil waiter who was so laid back I swear he shouldn’t have been paid, told us that it was only breakfast. I was sad becasue I was getting ready for a feast, but toast and fruits did us well.

We were mortified at one point by something that was so hillarious that I couldn’t control myself. There was this man about 55 or so walking around, but you wouldn’t know until looking at him more closely becasue he was wearing these types of polyester pants that blew in the wind and left nothing to the imagination of onlookers. The, what one would call waistband was below his pubic bone, so you could see his pubic hair, bum crack, and skinny frame that made him look homeless. He was walking around barefoot with his dog, searching for a spot to tan. None of the Italians paid attention to him, but all tourists were flabbergasted, we sure were as we nearly choked on the marmelade. We were about to finish and pay when we saw him lay down for a tan, and he took off his pants and I just about screamed out in agony. He was wearing a, I don’t even know what you’d call it, but it was like a tiny little circle in the front barely hiding his penis, attached to literally a string that went around his waist and down the crack of his bum.

I really didn’t know what to think or do so I laughed outloud and Markus was tempting to take photos but we feared it would break some law so we were against it. It was funny to see everyone turn their heads when he passed them, but then, get this, he walked towards the wharf in his little “outfit” and I swear on everything that I hold dearly in the world, I don’t think he could have been wearing any less clothings. Absolutely nothing to the imagination, I was mortified as nudity is not something I’m terribly fond of. Anyways, we chatted some more about family, school, and future aspirations and decided to go grab a spot to tan; because we were relaxing this day.

We went over to where sketchy man had been, and there were some rocks right on the coast of the Medeterrainian Sea so I proposed that we lay on a rock. There was only really one flat one so we shared it, and sad to say there was a bunch of writing on it but we were determined to lay down and get some sun. We put the rest of our stuff in the rocks and stripped down, lubed up, and covered our faces with hankerchiefs. For the next 8 or 9 hours we layed there on the rock, turning over, talking, chatting, laughing and having an amazing time. Reapplying sublock every few hours to make sure we would be okay, I was determined to get tanlines so I was hardcore. Each time we turned we would find new imprints of ink on our skin, which we would wash off later obviously.

At some point we were sitting there talking about relationships and such in the future, and some man was walking along the pavement next to us, and he started yelling:

 CRABS CRABS CRABS.
THERE ARE CRABS ON THE ROCKS, CRABS ON THE ROCKS.

 
At first I didn’t think he was talking to us, but then we found that we were the only ones so it had to be us. I couldn’t figure out if there were actual crabs on the rocks, or if he was talking about us? We just put our heads back down and tanned some more. Late in the afternoon we decided to pack up and go swimming to cool down. Markus was burnt to a crisp, and to my surprise with my fair skin I wasn’t burn at all and was nice and tanned even then! PF 40 really helps me after 8 hours in the sun baby! We swam for the first time I was at a real beach, and the water was so salty. We had to shower afterwards and had a water fight and layed on the beach for some minutes before going back into the town. I applied Aftersun on all of Markus because he needed it desperately as he was fire red and in pain. We had a good laugh at all the tourists walking by being so surprised about one guy putting cream on someone else; what’s the big deal? If your friend was in pain, you’d do it too you fools!

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We decided that we would trekk to the final and largest village for dinner and find accomidations. Rick Steves said that the hike from Vernazza to Monterosso was the longest, and most difficult so we mentally prepared ourselves. Saying that it was difficult was a huge understatement. My baithing suit was too large since apparently I’ve gone from XS to XXXS ???? so we had a little bit of nudity in public as I quickly changed into shorts upon the mountain whilst looking down at Vernazza. If you can look on the right side of the photo you see the coast, and those little jagged things are the rocks we tanned on for all day; right next to the wharf where tons of tourists came on and off of boats going to various other destinations nearby. We went on and the path was so run down, narrow and steep that I thought that we were going to die. Frequent rests, lots of water, and climbs that seemed to go on forever, and decents that went on forever as well killed my body and by the time that we passed the super-expensive hotel on the hill (250€ per night) we knew we were there.

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We sat down and enjoyed the sun that was going behind the mountains and opressively bright. The benches were a glory in the village, and then out of the corner of my eye I saw some other guy holding the same book as Markus. I pointed it out to him and he was so excited like a kid in a candy shop, so he ran over to the guy wanting to get a photo. I awkwardly followed being the photographer, and we went to talk to the guy who turned out to be American from California just arrived and bought a room for 150€ the night at the only place with accomodations. He was nice, but he was really pushy about asking where we were staying, and we were like “It’s a secret”, knowing that we would be sleeping on the beach illegally again (after our tresspassing law-breaking adventure the night before). He seemed odd, and then kept pushing for us to come
out for cocktails, but we weren’t budging. I took the photo of the Rick Steves’ twins and then he went off to find somewhere to eat, something that we needed to do soon also.

The moment that the guy left our presence, Markus and I looked at each other and laughed saying in unisin “sooo gay” and falling to our knees in laughter. The guy was trying to unsubtly get us to come back to his room with him, because apparently he wants a threesome? But we both caught on pretty quick and that’s why we kept rejecting his offers. We fell over and then went into the town for some food. After running into the guy again like twenty times (we decided he was stalking us) we went to this little resteraunt owned by a fat man and ate whilst a band was playing in the street. They weren’t bad, and the food was really good. I had a cheese platter with meats, and he had something simlilar but different. I needed to fill up on water in my Nalgene but couldn’t figure out to hide it to get into the bathroom, so I ran in and got my water and ran away. The man wasn’t very nice to us because we were foreign, but we were happy to finally have food in our bellies.

With our bottle of Polish Vodka still in Markus’ bag and the Grapefruit juice mix, we headed over to the beach. There is a platform above it looking out onto the water, and we sat there and started to down that bottle. Over the course of the night we got the entire 2 leters done and needless to say we were quite tipsy and in need of finding places to go to the bathroom. I found some semi-public urinals and did my business, and Markus thought he found it but really he just went in a random corner. Oh the drunkness of two guys on a wharf, was hillarious. Markus got cold and we huddled under a blanket whilst having very personal and revealing conversations. It was really deep conversations about things that were very private, and we were luckily feeling very comfortable in each other’s presence; so it was all okay. Huddling under the blanket was nice whilst the wind blew against us. It was so strong it was unbelievable; but eventually towards 02.00 we decided to go set up camp on the beach since it had become quite dead.

So we stumbled, and struggled (understatement) down to the beach and since there was thunder and lightning in the distance we moved kind of close to the enclosure and put our sleeping bags down to create a huge sleeping area where nobody would see us unless they peired over the side of the wharf. With the wind blowing on us, and the beautiful air and sounds of the sea lullying us to sleep we stayed up for a few more hours talking and spending lovely time getting sand everywhere to our delight and enjoyment. During the evening the was a car that came onto the beach and we freaked out and pretended to be asleep as the lights were directed on us. I didn’t want to be arrested, that would just suck!

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We woke up with the sound of a naked couple running across the beach and someone using the beach shower. It was overcast and we were both hung over horribly; and to better things for the drunken me, I was rolled onto in a frantic to wake up. It wasn’t painful by any means but certianly something that woke me up, and then we went for our bathroom duties, getting changed and laying around for awhile until it started to rain and we ran for cover. Breakfast at this really nice breakfast place was nice, and guess who we saw there, sketchy gay American stalker guy. We laughed and continued to look for food and explored the village in the rain. There wasn’t much to see except for beautiful flowers and the beach that extended through the mountain.

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We walked over to the train station to look at train times, because Markus was continuing the journey the next day and I had to go back to Nice for my flight. Trains were fine and we had nothing to worry about; he decided that he was going to Florence, and we checked e-mails and internet stuff quickly. We went searching for a resteraunt on the other side of the village. In the tunnel there was a flute duet that was really nice, so it put me into sort of a mood and whilst sitting on a bench on the far side of Moneterosso I spotted a tree with flowers.

The wind in our hair, and the company of each other with the other tourists was just so pleasant. We took some photos of some girls from Wisconsin, and Markus proved to be quite the photographer, with the flirting of the girls never-ending. They took it pretty poorly when he gave them the bad news, and they all went off in a scruff probably to get drunk. We needed food so we went to a pizzaria with some kids, and got some pizzas which were the best I’ve ever tasted. They even made them without tomatoes for me, so I got quite bad indiestian with the four types of cheese on mine; but boy was it satisfying.

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We went back to the wharf on the other side of the village and the flower tree was still there and I have to admit that I had a moment of pure artistic genious. It might have been mixed emotions of high school and Ms. Matsushige always mentioning that my writing was “flowery” but the flowers were so beautiful that I had to pick some. I artistically placed one in Markus’ hair and one in my own and went on a photo shoot. The results were awesome photos us in the setting of nature, in clothes that hadn’t been changed in some days, and of course the lovely flowers making us just plain awesome.

We headed back into town and took a stop to get some wine or something at the local wine shop which was the only thing still open besides cafés. We decided on a Cinque Terre classic lemon liqueur called “limoncello”. We took it back to our place, got under the blanket and had another awesome night drinking the tasty lemon drink. It was very very strong, but the lemon taste mostly masked the liqueur taste so we got pretty drunk pretty quick. Again with the wind and the lightning which was beautiful, we struggled down to the place again when it started to get quiet. We layed down and after some more talking and funny moments, we started to fall asleep when we were rudely awoken by yelling.

I started to open my eyes in a drunken phase, when I heard some girl saying “Oh my God yeah do it! I’m going to poar that shit on them” and then we got all wet. The fucking group of Americans were poaring their beer on us from up above, and we were too drunk to do anything about it, so we just changed our clothes and huddled to keep safe under the wharf. The only remorse that we heard was this guy in the back saying that it wasn’t very nice; no shit Sherlock. They were there for awhile until they all realised that they were too ugly for each other to hook up with each other. We snickered knowing that we were awesome and twenty steps before them. I had half a mind to get up and go kick some ass though, but I was far too drunk that I couldn’t even lay down without being dizzy. A nice massage helped with that, and we fell alseep again at dawn when it started to become more light.

We layed around for hours and hours when it was too light to stay hidden, and we just layed there talking about what we were going to do and where we were going and our plans. He decide
d finally and then we layed around for some more before going to the train station to get our respective tickets. As it turns out our trains were leaving at the same time on opposite tracks, and we sat in an empty waiting room for our trains around noon. I acted as the pillow for a few hours as Markus took a nap, and we got eyed by the window washers. We snickered and continued our adventure to the binari *lol*.

Guess who was standing at the platform? The guy that was stalking us, we both laughed and then the trains were arriving. The goodbye was sad, long, and emotional, nearly leaving us both with missed trains, but we were able to wave to each other from the windows as our trains left at the exact same moment in different directions. The rest of the afternoon was me sitting with Italian people on a train going to Genova Principale Piazzi to Ventimiglia then to Nice. The contemplation that goes on during times of goodbyes made me sad and I slept to keep myself from crying. I arrived, got on my train to Ventimiglia and got another train to Nice to which was jam packed with people getting on from Monaco. It was crazy and I was just wanting to get to the hostel that I booked for the night because my flight was early afternoon the next day.

Our adventure had finished, so sadly but with a week of enjoying each other and exploring Italy, a place that I never thought I’d be. We were both happy to have done what we did, and I certianly didn’t regret being a stalker and following him to Nice; because it turned out to be the best times of my life that I will never forget until the day I die. It was just magical in so many ways that can’t even be expressed in words.