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Wednesday, June 16th
Yesterday we got up early and left on a bus for San Gimignano. The ride was about an hour long, so everyone slept through it. The town turned out to be really neat. It's basically an old Medieval city that's small and just quaint. There was some law back in the 1300's that no new buildings could be constructed, so everything now is just like it was--with restorations and modern modifications, of course. We saw a couple of unremarkable churches together as a group and then had free time for almost two hours. Greg and I just browsed the shops and ate our sack lunches. Oh, and we looked for a real toilet to use. They had WC's around every corner, but they were literally just holes in the floor. I still don't know how some of the other girls used them. No way was I going to pay money to use ~that~ if I could wait. Just because it's an old city doesn't add any charm to the rustic restrooms. But overall, it was a pleasant morning.
Then we drove the bus--another hour--to Sienna, which is very very similar to San Gimignano. The town is bigger and had a huge Pisa-type cathedral, but that was really about it. Oh, Sienna is famous for its banking, so we saw a few banks that have been around since the 1300's. Yes, they're still being used now. I thought that was pretty neat. The cathedral there was much like the others except for a few things. Michaelangelo did some sculptures inside, as well as the pulpit--which also looked like the one in Pisa. Also, there were faces of all the Popes lining the walls up next to the ceilings, looking down on everyone. It was kind of odd. Also, the ~entire~ floor was pictures done in marble. Not quite as nice as the inlaid marble we saw elsewhere, but it was still amazing for its size. The pictures looked sort of like coloring books because most of the marble was white with black calking-stuff between all the pieces. Oh, the city also had this ~huge~ square that was really a semi-circle. It's really indescribable, so I'll put up a picture asap. It also rained on us a couple times, which was okay because it was only short showers and I had brought a jacket. Then we had free time for a while, during which Greg and I found a Mc Donald's with a real toilet inside--yea!
The ride back was close to two hours, and everyone was exahausted. After dinner I did some homework, and then Greg and I planned out where we want to go on our free travel periods--the first of which is less than two weeks away. That was a lot of fun, and I really hope everything turns out to be as great as it sounds. So far we're planning on doing Vienna, Munich, Salzberg, and Innsbruck on one trip with one day set aside for a castle-trip in Germany. Then we're going to do Geneva and Paris on the next trip, including a couple short hours through Milan and Vinci. I was really excited about how many concerts there are going on at night in all the Austrian cities, including a Mozart dinner concert in Salzberg that sounds entertaining. We'll probably go see something every night. It was sad to learn that the Vienna Boys' Choir and the major opera houses there shut down in July and August, so we'll have to settle for the summer outdoor festivals. That will still be neat, but not as much so. We still haven't gotten the train schedule books in--they were ordered a couple weeks ago--so there may have to be some rearranging, but everything looks pretty flexible. I just can't figure out how we're going to see everything ~and~ get some shopping in too. Well, we know what the priorities are. ;-)
Today we just had morning classes, and then Greg and I planned to spend more time working out our travel plans, but we just took a nap. Oh, well. That was great, too.
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