I had been in Munich (München in German) for over a year, and had not done all the traveling I had originally planned, primarily because I was spending time with my German boyfriend. But there came a holiday weekend in early Spring when he was going off to visit his family and everyone else I knew in town had plans. So I decided to take an overnight train to visit Florence.
Of course my mother would have had a fit at the thought of me traveling by myself to a country where I did not know anyone or speak the language. And friends had warned me of problems on the overnight trains and pickpockets, etc. But of course, I was 29 and invincible. So off I went!
The trip was uneventful, except for being slower than I expected. On the German side it was a high-speed train, but in Italy I think it turned into the milk run. Literally. We stopped at every little station and seemed to load some sort of freight on, but very few people. This went on all night long!
Finally I arrived in Florence or Firenza as it is called in Italian. I booked a hotel room via the tourist bureau at the station. It was within walking distance and set out to wander around and find it, getting a bit lost but seeing wonderful sights at every corner. I got myself checked in and went exploring. Of course I don't do anything unprepared so I had a couple of guide books that I followed and it was glorious. Looking back now, with the perspective of many years of a full schedule and parenthood, I really squandered the leisure time I had!
I walked slowly, lingered over lunch al fresco, got lost and backtracked and had no real destination. I did not try to find the best times to visit the museums as it did not matter that I had to stand in line for hours. And while I did see most of the sights on my list in the 4 days I was there, I ran out of time and did not see everything. But I figured I would come back another time. Little did I know it would be with 2 kids, DH and my Mom and her walker in tow. The two trips cannot be compared!!
Of course I visited the museum where Michaelangelo's David is housed. In those days they did not have to search your bags, and cameras were allowed so you could take your own pictures. I took a lot of photos, but later realized I would have done better to spend my money on the postcards! But at some point I decided I wanted a picture with me in it. So I asked an English-speaking couple and they were happy to oblige. I wanted a picture of myself admiring David. And so I posed in profile, with my chin pointed slightly up in order to lengthen my neck for a more flattering image of myself. I smiled a serene smile and held the pose without realising where my eyeline was directed. Yep, just as the camera clicked, it dawned on my that I appeared to be closely examining David's privates. Needless to say, while this is a very flattering picture of me, it was not one I used on my Christmas cards. In fact, I think there is only one copy in existence!
I had a fantastic time and did not at all regret making this trip on my own. My Italian phrasebook got me through most situations, and I was adopted by a waiter in the restaurant near my hotel where I stopped to dine more than once. He could not believe such a "stunning beauty" was on her own. Of course he flirted outrageously, which I'm convinced is a genetic trait in Italian men. And when I would not go with him he tried to fix me up with his cousin! But he was not offended when I turned down all offers and the third time I was there he took over my ordering and brought me the most wonderful dish that was not on the menu: chicken breast cooked on a bed of asparagus and covered with baked over Parmasean cheese with Tagliatelli noodles. That with a wonderful local Soáve and perfect Italian Spring weather made for a truly memorable meal.
Finally it was time to go home and I headed for the train station with just under an hour's time to spare. The station is smaller than the one in Munich and so I was not surprised when they did not yet have my destination listed on the departure board. I spent some time looking through the gift shops there for any last minute souvenirs I might have missed. Thirty minutes prior, still no train bound for Munich/München. I looked at my return ticket and saw that the track was listed so I headed on over to where it should come in. There was a train there, but it was bound for Monaco. But of course I was an experienced traveler and knew that in Italy, things did not always go according to schedule, so I wasn't worried when at 15 mins. prior to departure, there was still no train to Munich and the train to Monaco was still on the track.
Now I knew that Monaco was in a different direction from Munich, so this could not be my train. I checked the departure board to see if there were any other trains going to Germany, as I knew (again the experienced traveler) that sometimes they listed the end destination for a train that might be stopping at the destination you were traveling to. No trains to anywhere in Germany.
Now I was starting to get concerned. At 5 min. to departure time, I started looking for a conductor. I found one on the platform closing the doors to the Monaco train. I asked him about the train to Munich. Of course he did not speak English or German. He tried to put me on the Monaco train. I showed him my ticket. He nodded insistently as the conductor on the end of the platform was blowing his whistle to indicated the train was about to depart. I took a leap of faith and jumped aboard.
Good thing too. In Florence (Firenza) they call Munich Monaco. To quote Mark Twain, "Those foreigners have a different word for everything!"