I was born in a vast country, where it took more than the time between the sun's setting and rising to drive from east to west and a full day from the north to the south without any stop-overs. Having a hometown that was situated in the centre gave us the mobility to travel to more parts than someone near the Turkish, Afghan or Iraq borders could. Then we moved to England, a small country less than a fourth of my homeland. And although we had Wales and Scotland in driving distance, we were still on an island, a sea away from other countries. Driving to Scotland or Wales didn't give me the feeling of crossing borders, for English was still spoken widely in both countries. For some reason my understanding of "another" country was attributed to the how foreign the language sounded. And then I became a grad student in Heidelberg, an hour away from the French border, a couple more from the Swiss and three short ones from Luxembourg. And they all spoke different languages! (I'm going to risk insulting the Swiss by saying that what they speak does not sound German.) It was exciting to think so many foreign countires sat closeby. So when a Persian friend from my undergrad days invited me to her wedding, held in Northern Italy, I could not maintain myself to the thought of driving down to "another" country. The wedding, however, sat with close proximity of another, at which Timoteo (my plus 1) was the best man. Working in PR and event management, he was quick to plan. And while I was bringing a thousand reasons why it could not be possible, he typed in the destinations on Google maps and emailed me the spots we would see along the way. And so it was, a roadtrip from Germany through Austria to Italy and back up to Germany only to touch Austria once again as we head to Czech Republic to spend a night in Prague before settling in Dresden for a good four days. The trip could not have come at a better (or worse time). Coinciding with my thesis submission and change of apartments, the roadtrip didn't seem as exciting at the beginning. But as soon as we decided on how to unload my furniture in the new apartment and hit the road without setting my room, it appealed to us more. Hotels got booked during a tea-infused booking.com surfing session, with our laptops on our bellies as we sipped on our drinks.
We toyed with the idea of driving down in a Porsche, but no matter how smooth the thought of driving 280 km/h on the highways was, the reality of our massive luggage holding suits, dresses and shoes enough for two weddings and several sightseeing days scratched the notion of luxurious roadtripping. We did, however, upgrade to a station with a boot large enough for a third wedding's luggage.
Living in a studio apartment for two and a half years has given me a lot of independence and freedom. However, each time the cooler seasons and longer nights approach I find the idea of coming home to an empty apartment gloomier and less appealing. This year I decided to face it head on and find myself a flatmate, for early evening tea sipping sessions and movie nights. When Bella told me about the availibility of a room in her apartment situated in a calmer part of Heidelberg, hardwood-floored and brightly lit with windows sprinkling in light through a filter of leaves swaying to the soft breeze rising from the river Neckar, I knew I had to take it. The moving collided with the last day before the roadtrip, leaving me with no choice to pack my travelling suitcase way in advance (we're talking three weeks in advance), for I am a freaker-outer when it comes to forgetting to take things on trips. That had to be prevented. With the help of Timoteo's big abs and his bigger car, I managed to throw my furniture and boxes in my new room, lock up and forget about it for the next 11 days.
Our drive to Italy was as smooth as the slippery rainstricken highway leading us south. I had made a batch of Olivieh Salad (known as Russian Salad to some, except we Persians pack a thick layer between slices of sandwich bread or Lavash bread and wash it down with gulps of Coke) and stuffed it in the humongous cooling box Timoteo had meticulously chosen and ordered specifically for our roadtrip experience, next to the smoothies, vanilla cokes and juice cartons. With a few lunch stops (I tend to get hungry way before lunchtime approaches and still feel pangs of hunger an hour after the midday meal) and bathroom breaks, we arrived in Verona just before 6 pm. Italy welcomed us with sunshine and blue skies, just as Timoteo had predicted. Although I am not quite certain about how much he believed his own augury on "the moment we pass the Alps, the rain will stop. You'll see", with him knowing how much of a sunshine addict his other half is and how grey skies bring her mood down, I appreciated his devotion to "happy thoughts" (seems appropriate to pay tribute to the man who brought Peter Pan to life, in flesh and blood, in human form, in grown-up form, in a believable form. As of yesterday that man, Robin Williams, is gone leaving us in hopes of him feeling nothing but "happy thoughts" in Neverland).
Verona oh Verona, with its arena sitting proudly in the centre and Juliet's balcony attracting giggling hearts and flustered cheeks and the high-end fashion shops charming the pebbled pavements. We did the clichest of the cliche, drank Italian wine while comfortably seated outside with a view of the arena, ordered Mozerella dishes, and gnawed on breadsticks. Timoteo accompanied me through my travelling routine of buying one attire item from each city I visit. Verona had me a pair of burlap shoes, a bottle of body mist and a pair of ripped denim jeans richer, how un-romantic and badass compared to the flowy blue dress Thessaloniki had offered me. However, Padova later gave my shoe closet a splash of colour, bright yellow and comfortable.
After filming a short video message to later be used as a present on Giulietta's balcony, we donned our smarter clothes, cushion in hand and cooled white wine in a thermos, with pieces of cheese to nibble on in our bags we headed to the opera. Timoteo's grandparents had updated us on how magnificent the experience of watching Carmen in the arena had been only a few weeks prior to our visit. We decided a little picnic under the moon to the sound of flawless vocal cords would be a nice little semi anniversary adventure and it colliding with the performance's 100th anniversary gave it more glitter. (When in Rome (Verona), be as cliche as you possibly can...) We did take the "under the moonlight" experience furthur to spend an hour on the rooftop of the hotel where a Jacuzzi, with water too green for my fickle health, gurgled. Beer in hand we carried a bit of German culture to the rooftop. We did not take the German stereotype too far and avoided wearing sandals with socks or laying down multiple towels on sunbeds.
Niusha's wedding was set near Treviso, not far from Padova where we were nesting in our hotel after our three day Verona experience. With three other Persian guests squeezed in the back, clicking fingers and singing along to our "Roadtrip Playlist," we headed to the Villa Caprera. Oh that villa. Trust Niusha to throw a lush rustic chic outdoor event. With the perfect number of guests infatuated by details put into the Persian-Italian wedding, the party began. No element of Persian culture was ignored, while fully embracing Italian customs. The guests arrived in flowing dresses and tuxes under the blue skies, strolled in the vineyards, glasses of Prosecco prancing between their fingers. Walked down the aisle by her parents, she said Baleh (I do) to verses from the Shaahnameh, a Persian equivalent of the Homer's Illyad. And the party began. Timoteo's surprise at how fast the ceremony went from a quiet exchange of vows to groups of people dancing around the Sofrehye Aghd was adorable. His mischevious smile convinced me that he could not wait to get on the dance floor. My German-Spaniard waited patiently, although fidgeting at times, for the closer relatives to give their gifts and head towards the front yard, decorated with tables and tables of appetizers, drinks and fruit, one after the other, before busting his moves on the dance floor. Every now and then he would come to me with a slight shadow of frustration the heat and bow tie were forcing on him, but would soon forget when the DJ, happy, skillful and Perisan flown in from the Netherlands, would accelerate the beat. The party went on until 3:30 am with the bride's cousin extending the 2 am deadline with some sweet talk to the planners. Promising to play just "one last song" the DJ stretched it into a full hour of "the final song". My German man simply could not understand how that was possible "but he said it's the last song" he would say with a twinkle of joy in his widened eyes- like a schoolboy starting mischief knowing he would not get into trouble because his parents were donators to the school- each time one song smoothly blended into the next. In our case the parents of the schoolboy were not donators, but just Persian event holders knowing that bending some rules would not hurt anyone if it meant spending more time on the dance floor. "It's a remix" Saaman would wink at him, himself sufferring from a severe case of DC-Venice jetlag, forcing him into zombie-esque dance moves. His 1% remaining body battery lasted well into the early hours of the morning.
We drove back arriving at the hotel at 4 am, with aching feet and dizzy heads from the fine wine and hot Italian sun, went straight to bed while a breeze washed through the open windows and refrained from getting up until noon. Hungry from the night's dancing and late rise out of bed, Timoteo and I headed to Treviso, for an Italian brunch prepared and served by real Italians while summer rain poured...
Our Italian adventure did not end there. Venice happened... with its blueness and glow. But that requires another post, with my readers refreshed from reading this chapter of our travels. Video footage, verbal footage and photos set on a sapphire landscape is promised and can be anticipated...