The story begins Fourth of July weekend, 2006. We were living in Germany at the time and frequently made last minute trips around the country. This time, however, we decided to be adventurous and go to Italy. We knew we could make it down there in just a few hours (Austria is, like, way small) so we figured we'd have more than enough time to drive down, see Venice and hopefully get a place to stay at the military base in Vicenza that night.
So we pack up the Explorer (a mega-beast of a car in Europe, we were practically screaming "WE'RE AMERICANS!!") and our 2.5 month old baby girl and start driving. Southern Germany is freaking beautiful, as is Austria, although I could do without their tiny two-lane roads up and down mountains in the rain. Anyway, we make it to Italy late in the morning and drive straight to Vicenza to get gas.
This is where the story gets interesting. You see, in Germany, the military bases have gas stations on them with cheaper-than-what-the-Germans-are-paying gas. In Italy, they give you coupons to use at Italian gas stations. Not only that, but apparently they are super stingy with their coupons. You only get so many- after that, you're screwed paying $10 a gallon like every other paisan. Also, if you aren't stationed AT Vicenza and you aren't on official leave, you can't even GET the coupons. This is where prior planning may have come in handy. Luckily we found someone who took pity on us and gave us a few gas coupons. Next we went to the hotel and guess what?! No available rooms. Again, planning may have helped.
At this point we're getting pretty low on gas, so it's off to find an Italian gas station. After driving around for quite some time (and let me tell you- Vicenza? Not so nice. Lock your doors), we finally find a gas station. There are two options- "gasolio" and "senza piombo."
I tell my husband "why don't you ask someone to translate?" and he says in typical male fashion, "ehhh...." and starts pumping gas.
|The skull and crossbones sticker was an omen|
About twenty minutes later a tow truck pulls up and the guy starts motioning for me and the baby to get in. It's the size of a pickup truck. There's no way three adults would've fit, let alone three adults and a properly restrained baby seat. So I tell him that I'll wait at the gas station, thinking it'll take 10 minutes to drain the tank. Luckily, an American family saw our plight and offered me and the baby a ride to the mechanic. And yes, I took it. I got into a car, with my baby, with people I've never met. It's amazing how being in a foreign country will give you a ridiculous sense of faith and trust in your fellow countrymen. Anyway, they didn't kill us, so we're all good. In fact, they gave me their gas coupons for when we had to refill the tank with unleaded. Nice people.
So we get to the mechanic and they're closed. We're sitting there thinking "oh my god. What do we do now? Camp in the truck overnight??" when the owner, who lived right next door, walks over with his very pregnant wife. Or maybe his daughter. Could've been his sister. My husband is trying to explain what happened (to much uproarious laughter) and I try to have a conversation with the slowly growing crowd of women who want to ogle my baby. "Piccola!" they say. "Bella!" It was cute but insanely awkward and I'm pretty sure the mechanic and his friend (or brother? Son?) were more busy chatting it up with my husband than working, because it took like two hours. They gave us just enough gas to get back to the gas station and we were on our way.
|His "I finally put the right shit in the tank!" face|
"What the hell does this have to do with Venice??" you may ask. I'm getting there. I promise. So we go get gas and get back on the road, heading east to Venice, which we decide is too close not to go, and we'll just find a place to stay there. We're about halfway there when traffic stops. And I mean STOPS. No one is moving. Then cars starts driving in the opposite direction on the shoulders. We think they're just impatient people trying to find their way around, but no. A polizia walks up to our car and tells us to turn around, Venice is closed.
"VENICE? Like... the whole city??"
"Si, si. close-ed. You go now."
Uhhhh... okay. Husband looks at me. I look at husband. There's nothing else we can do- we just have to laugh at our incredibly shitty luck and turn around. We got back to Germany late that night, exhausted, sweaty and embarrassed, but by god! We saw Italy! And that's my overly explanatory explanation of how I went to Venice but didn't. The End.
|The only picture I have of me in Italy and THIS is what I look like. Figures.|