Tuesday, August 25, 2015

World Traveler!

Dear Jules,
So when we told people that we were going on a big European adventure and that we would be taking trains through Italy, into Austria, and to Hungary, they thought we were crazy.  Who takes a four-year-old, much less a four-year-old with "special needs," on a trip like that?!
I must admit that I was anxious when we started out.  What if you couldn't sleep on the train beds? What if you fell off?  What if we got pickpocketed?
As often (almost always) happens in life, the things we are most anxious about are not the things that end up causing us worry.  A few things were difficult on the trip.  First of all, you did not sleep on the plane all the way to Fumicino Airport in Rome.  You insisted on watching television the entire time, playing with me and with Daddy--who desperately wanted to sleep--until we finally landed.  Then, when we got to baggage claim, when were were only a few hours away from being at the hotel, there was this:
We couldn't check in right away, of course, so we ended up taking you to a restaurant and our first Italian meal, which you slept through.  Also on that fateful plane ride, a little kid kept on sneezing and not covering his mouth and, of course, you caught a cold that, during the course of our trip, would develop into an ear infection so bad that your eyes were oozing mucus.  That is why your glasses are so conspicuously absent in these pictures!  When we got to Hungary, Nagyi's wonderful friend, Agi, had her daughter examine you, and you were finally given antibiotics for a sinus infection.  I am so grateful that Nagyi, Agi, and the medical staff at the Debrecen University Children's Clinic for taking such great care of you!  It did cause us difficulties.  You were so tired that you did not want to walk almost at all, Italy is not very accessible (only 2 of the metro stations had elevators), and so we ended up schlepping that stroller up and down many flights of stairs  (your Daddy made this into an art form, so that in Venice, he would bump you down the stairs and you would squeal with delight.  In Pompeii, he managed to get the stroller up huge rocks that the villagers would step on to avoid road debris).

So those were the bad things, but the good things far exceeded them.  You LOVED the train and slept just fine, we did not get pickpocketed (we came close, but an authority at the Rome train station warned us), and, despite the sinus infection, you thoroughly enjoyed everything, as you tend to do.

The very first day, to avoid sleeping and to maintain a schedule, we went to the Colosseum, which is nice because it is right outside of a subway stop.  You walk (dragging a stroller) up some stairs, and there it is:
The next day, we went to the Forum, which involved similar bicep exercises up stairs (and along the rocky paths) but was really worth it.  Every afternoon at three, we would retreat to our lovely hotel, the Relais 6, where we would take the most wonderful naps to escape the scorching sun.  This hotel was a real haven for us, and you became good friends with one of the staff, Enrico:
I would normally go for a run in the area, which I enjoyed, and then at night, we would all go in search of some gelato.  You became quite the connoisseur and would request it every day, signing vigorously when you did not get it.  You would start demurely signing ice cream--you sign it like you're licking an ice cream cone--and then, if we didn't pay attention, the licking would get more and more vigorous.  If we still did not get it, you would start signing and saying, louder and louder, EAT!  So the gelato was a hit:

One of your favorite things to do in Rome was to go to the fountains, where we could cool off and enjoy the spectacular architecture.  

And you also loved the Borghese gardens, where we finally found some shade and also went on your first (of many, I'm assuming) amusement park rides. 

In Pompeii, our accommodations were not as great--they put us in a handicapped accessible room (ironically enough considering the lack of accessibility) that had neither a tub nor a toilet seat nor an enclosed shower area.  But the ruins were amazing and you especially liked running around the amphitheatre.

And, because the people in Pompeii proper were not as friendly as those in Rome, we found our own haven in a little Greek restaurant (we ate there for two days straight).  Here you are with one of the owners:

And then we headed to Florence, the city of Michelangelo, Dante, museums galore...except that your mom planned for us to be there on a Monday, when everything was closed!  So what were we to do?  In the heat, we found a local swimming pool:

I did love how, even at the pool, the architecture of Florence was not forgotten!  And then we took a train to Venice, the city of gondolas, water, the Bridge of Sighs, but this is probably not what you remember.  For you, it was the city of birds.  And not only did you chase them, but you tried to stomp on them, with unequaled ferocity (unless you were signing for food).

From Venice, we took our first overnight train to Salzburg.   It wasn't great--the air conditioning was not working--but you did sleep and we made it at 4 a.m. to our hotel, also without air conditioning.  In fact, sweating profusely is one of my biggest memories of Salzburg.  That and the Sound of Music 
tour, which you really loved.

I had a video of the trip on the bus, but I can't find it any more, alas.  They played the soundtrack as we drove through the mountains, so that was pretty amazing.  
The other amazing thing in Salzburg was the Wasserspiel Hellbrunn, which was the inspiration of an Archbishop 400 years ago.  Basically, he wanted to invite guests to his house, get them drunk, and then have them be "surprised" by water.  Here is a table where they would sit and drink.  All of a sudden, water would splash up every seat, except for that of the archbishop Markus Sitticus.

In addition to this table, which you and I tried out, there were a variety of little "tricks," including a fountain in which the figure stuck out his tongue.  You loved this, and you also loved getting splashed!!

From Salzburg, we took another long train ride to Budapest, where we went to the Széchényi baths, which you, of course, enjoyed:
And then we went to Margit Island, which was amazing, mostly for its musical waterfall.  

We did return to Budapest at the end of our trip, but at this point, your father left to go back home, and we spent the rest of the time with family, which, because this is so long already, warrants a separate blog post!
Anyway, everyone said you wouldn't remember this trip, but one very smart person said you would remember the feelings associated with it.  I do hope that is true; I know that for me, being with you on this journey made it the trip of a lifetime.

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