Doug McLean World Tour 1999-2000
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Date: Thursday, November 11, 1999 3:28 PM
Subject: Ravenna, Italy: Oct 20-Oct 23, 1999

Current Date/Location: Nov. 11, 1999. Back at parent's house in Jarrell, Texas (512) 746-5205...enjoying having a car and a fridge at my disposal.

Current Itinerary: USA for about 2 weeks...Renaissance Festival this weekend (14th), DFW next week sometime, couple of days on the Big Tree Ranch next week sometime, Madrigal Dinner (19th), Los Angeles to play some volleyball (Wknd of 20th) and see friends, some more time in Texas, then off
to S. America!!!

Journal:

Oct. 20, 1999

Gabriela and I left the hostel in Verona, Italy and went to the train station. She had to go to meet friends and visit Paris and I had to go meet up with a friend in Ravenna, Italy...Tchau for now...

Arrived in Ravenna that afternoon, walked outside the trainstation, and saw my friend Sissi waving at me from her car out front of the station. Now, this may not mean much to ya'll...but to have a friendly face meet you at
the trainstation in a foreign country, a long way from home is pretty darned special to a backpacker...I really appreciated it. I hopped in the car and we were off to her flat (American Translation: apartment).

OK...some history for ya'll...I met Sissi in Munich at Oktoberfest. She was part of the group that went out dancing late...she had given me her e-mail and said if I came to Italy again, I should visit Ravenna...so here I am. Sissi is from Sicily, but is studying at the University in Ravenna.

We arrived at her place and I met most of her roommates who all went to University also...Barbara (affectionately nicknamed, "Barbarella"), Rita (from Portugal...ahhhh...another chance to practice my Portuguese!), Bepino (a friend who had lost his apartment somewhereelse...so he was temporarily sleeping on the couch), and I would later meet the other roommate Rafaella (who would be graduating in the next week). We all stood in the kitchen chatting and talking...which would become a normal activity in the household...the kitchen was always the center of activity and conversation...very nice.

There would be a big dinner party at a friend's house that night, so we hopped in the car and went shopping. We bought huge amounts of bread, wine (good stuff for the house...cheaper stuff sold by the gallon for the dinner party...ahhhh...college life is the same the world over...), cheeses, lots
of vegetables (I mean bucketloads!), and all sorts of other stuff. As they lived in a large communal environment, the costs were added up and then divided by all of us...very cheap and very easy for everyone.

We headed back to the flat and got ready for the evening. More conversation in the kitchen, and general grazing on a bowlful of vegetables. Really, it was amazing...they always had a huge bowlful of vegetables on the table that everyone snacked from...carrots, celery, sliced tomatoes, and other stuff that I don't know what was (I am not a darned vegetable expert...I am from Texas, where vegetarian is a 4-letter word!). Anyway, we ate vegetables dipped in a wonderful oliveoil/basalmic vinegar solution...it was actually pretty good...this bowl of vegetables would always be on the table and be continuous snacking for the entire time I was there...these folks eat more roughage than most of the cattle on our ranch!

They really lived in a pretty enviable communal environment...the entire time I visited I didn't notice any animosity or problems between anyone...and we all would go out and do things together...lots of fun. That
night we went out to the big dinner party...lots of people there (probably atleast 20)...really artsy fartsy environment (the place was like a big loft/studio with art all around)...very cool. Dinner consisted of a special kind of pasta that one of the guys knew how to make (he was from La Spezia (near Cinque Terre))...it was good, and a unique treat for everyone (yes, even most of the Italians there had not tried this type of pasta...hmmm...being from Texas we generally think that there only a few types of pasta...not true...the Italians have made a specialty of having lots of different pastas, cheeses, and breads...I can feel myself getting fatter...ahhhhh...Mangia! MANGIA!

Anyway...after the dinner party, we picked up Barbarella (she had to work that night) and headed to the disco! We partied like it was 1999 (look...I know it is cliche...but we only have a limited amount of time now...gotta use it while we can...) into the wee hours of the night...closed the place. Crashed at 3am...

Oct. 21, 1999
...today, I did almost nothing...it was great! Woke late...hung out in the kitchen...chilled.

Now, my memory escapes me...so I really don't know if it was today...or a different day...but one of the most interesting things of my visit was the TV show "Friends". OK...OK...doesn't sound interesting...but listen to this. The TV was almost never watched in this apartment...everyone was always either studying, talking in the kitchen, eating, or going out...TV was the rarity, rather than the norm. With the exception of Friends...which everyone wanted to watch...so we would all be talking in the kitchen...then all go into Barbarella's room (where the TV was located...note, no real living room as in American houses...hmmmmm...maybe a good thing...)...anyway, everyone would go into Barbarella's room to watch
Friends as a group activity...then after it was over, we would resume talking and eating (or grazing...remember the huge bowl of vegetables???) in the kitchen. They treated watching Friends on TV like most Americans treat going to see a movie...as a special event to be shared with friends and as a
group event...hmmmm...pretty refreshing.

Anyway...to the best of my recollections about the rest of the day, we toured the city a little (I think this was the day they took me out to a cool little bar along the port and we sat and watched the big ships roll in and out of the harbor (harbour for my English friends)...went to another great dance club...danced until 4am...crashed.

Oct. 22, 1999
I walked around the city of Ravenna by myself today. It is an interesting city...and is known for a couple of things...the incredible mosaics and for being where Dante is planted...which is actually more involved than it seems.

OK...here is the story...during his life, Dante lived in Firenze...but was not looked on as an esteemed figure...so they basically cast him out (I believe exiled him from the city is appropriate) and he went to live in Ravenna, Italy for the final 10 years of his life. Now...years after his death, Firenze noticed that he had become rather popular and not wanting to miss out on a tourist attraction, they requested to have his remains returned to Firenze, where they would place them in the newly created crypt in one of the big famous churches there (NOTE...I do not know the name of the church...guess it is not soooo famous). Anyway, Ravenna basically laughed at Firenze and said that his remains will remain in Ravenna...so
there is a big crypt to Dante in the center of Ravenna...and if you go to Firenze, you will also find a crypt for Dante (which they are loath to tell anyone that it actually does NOT contain Dante...it isn't as if anyone
actually is going to look inside)...so if you want to see the place that Dante is planted...head to Ravenna.

I also visited the basilica that contains some really amazing mosaics. I know it is hard to describe or to visualize...but these really are amazing sights...if you are in the Venezia area and want to see some wonderful mosaics...head to Ravenna. (Remember, this recommendation comes from someone who has seen lots of darned boring churches...so this might actually really mean something...

I think that we went and hung out at a bar for a while...no disco tonight, and got home fairly early...I think around 1am.

Oct. 23, 1999
Went with Rafaella and Alessandra (another friend of Sissi's...a nice girl also studying at the University) to a Enviro-Convention in Rimini. I think I forgot to mention that most of the students at the University of Ravenna are in Environmental studies...so we went to this big fair/convention that showed great products for recycling, reusing, and gathering all types of garbage and toxic stuff...kinda cool...kinda scary. It was fun we left in the driving rain (good thing I had a plastic bag over my sock...shoe still broken...oh well...life on the road) and went to another friend's house in Rimini.

We had biscoti at his house with his parents...and then went out to the restaurant. Again...eating in Italy is not as much for nutrition as much as for the entire experience. The place gave us course after course of food (pastas, cheeses, plates of proscutto, etc.)...we talked, laughed, they smoked (remember, it is Italy and Europe...), and drank for hours. It was a wonderful time and a great dinner.

Then we headed for downtown Rimini...walked around on the pier for a while and went to a club for a short time. We were all pretty tired...so called it another early night...got home around 1am.

Final Notes on Ravenna: I had a wonderful time in Ravenna...I was brought into the communal group and treated as a long time friend...it was touching.  My new friends also felt comfortable speaking in Italian around me (which I encouraged) and I found myself picking up on some of it and understanding
more than I had thought I would...a very pleasant experience. Again, I was shown incredible hospitality by Sissi, her roommates (Barbarella, Rafaella, Bepino, and Rita) and her friends (Alessandra, Stefano, and others)...thanks to all of you. Congratulations to Rafaella on her graduation (sorry I missed the party).

Final Notes on Italy: Without a doubt, my past 2 weeks in Italy have been some of the most colorful in memory. Staying with two different Italian "Families" (The Vidottos and Sissi's University friends) have added incredible depth to my experiences in Italy and Europe...it goes well beyond what can ever be read or experienced out of a travel book. Again, I encourage everyone to try to stay with locals whenever possible...I think that both you and your friends will benefit from the experience...I know I have, and I hope that my hosts did as well. To my friends in Italy I offer my deepest thanks and appreciation, and if any of you ever would like to come to Texas...I extend the warmest invitation to you from both myself and
my family.

Doug