This is a long page, so it will probably load slow. These are pictures from the three trips I made to Italy from December to February for yet another NATO Exercise/Evaluation. The map to the left will give you an idea of about where Aviano Airbase is. Approximately one hour North of Venice. In total it was two one-week practice exercises, and one two-week trip of one practice and one evaluation (aka "the one-game football season"... Commanders like to use football analogies much to everyone's dismay).
Due to the short weeks and 12-hour shifts, there wasn't much opportunity for travel and sightseeing. So here's what I did see.
Trip #1 December 2005
Between Venice and Aviano is pretty much flat. Lots of farming, and even more vineyards.
One of the nice bits about the base is the view of the
mountains. However, evil clouds and haze thwarted most attempts to get a
good picture. Hence "The Evil Clouds":
Naturally it cleared up at night... so I got some good
sunsets and take-offs... but it would have been better with my new digital
camera (at least that's what I tell myself).
The ancient (1950's? ;) ) dorm we stayed in. At
the beginning we used all three floors. Everyone had a bottom bunk.
It was nice. The next trip they said the Army was going to be cycling
through on their way to/from Iraq so we had to give up the largest floor...
then it started getting cramped. The third trip we lost one wing of the
next largest floor, basically packing everyone into a very small space. In
the end... we never saw any Army... EVER.
The best bit (heavy sarcasm here) was living on the 3rd floor
(American 4th). Eighty-three steps.. carrying heavy loads (i.e. my 25kg
suitcase and 10kg backpack... and chemical gear.. and groceries.. and...)
At least I was able to do something at work to keep me occupied. Twelve-hour shifts of doing nothing gets old quick. So, I helped out with cooking dinner on the flightline. Since we weren't able to leave the line to get food, you either bought and brought your own, or ate what got cooked (paid for with a $10 "donation" by everyone once per trip- our per diem is better when we aren't forced to eat at the chow hall). Fortunately (at least this trip) what was cooked were steaks and corn on the cob :D Later trips degenerated to hamburgers and hotdogs and eventually, fast-food chicken.
On the last day of the first trip, the clouds cleared enough
to get a good photo of the mountains. Hooray ;) I took this about 5
minutes before we left for the airport.
And finally for the first trip, we were delayed at Venice
because of fog at London-Gatwick Airport. As you can see, they weren't
lying! This was about one minute from landing in London.
Trip #2 January 2006
The next trip starts out again at London-Gatwick Airport
and a view of their Sky Bridge that goes to the new terminal. Kinda cool
to watch a commercial airliner taxi UNDER you.
The Swiss Alps through a frosty window on the way to Italy.
Yet another Aviano sunset.
This trip saw an excursion to an indoor Go-Kart track.
Anyone who has heard of Ferrari or Lamborghini should know the Italians are
obsessed with racing. For each 15 minute run our group did, there were one
or two Italians who raced EVERY run. These guys had their own helmets, own
custom embroidered coveralls, and thin-soled shoes to feel the pedals. And
it wasn't just for show. The track kept the best times for the month and
over all, and these guys were the top two spots of all time. Seconds a lap
ahead of us (MANY seconds in my case... I had a bad car.. the brakes didn't work
and it kept spinning... Honestly!) These are 200cc engine carts, capable
of more than 40kmh (about 25mph) on the straights. Slow for a car, FAST
for a seat with four wheels that has a tire wall coming directly for it!
One really good thing about Italy... Italian food.
Every place we went to had EXCELLENT food. Better than Olive Garden even
Trip #3 February 2006
Venice... the only picture I could get of it from all three trips.
Fresh snow in the mountains near Aviano, yes, taken from
the bus (you know who you are :P )
And the only side trip I was able to do, to Bologna, a few hours away. We mostly walked around the old city for a few hours before we had to go back to be in to work at 4am. No real sightseeing that I was able to catch on camera.
And old building.... fortress? Church? Don't know, didn't stop. Which is why sightseeing with four guys that don't have an interest in old buildings like I do isn't much fun.
A typical side street off of the main streets. Nice old brick paving everywhere.
In the Piazza Maggiore, center of Bologna, just outside of the Basilica di San Petronio, 10th largest church in the world. Can you spot the four Americans?
And some pictures that aren't mine (wish they were, didn't have the camera for it/you're not allowed to take pictures) but ripped off the Internet :) The Basilica di San Petronio was built in 1390 and meant to be the largest church in Italy until the Pope put an end to construction so that it wouldn't be larger than St. Peter's in Rome. Ah well... anyway, it's the opposite of Westminster Cathedral in London, which annoyed me. They've finished the inside of the church and it's quite nice. But due to the Pope, they didn't finish the outside (planned to be encased in marble) so it looks dull on the outside except for the bottom bit... which matches the inside and would look nice too if it was finished!
As you can see, very large. Would have liked to look around more but we were pressed for time to get back. The next weekend we were planning a trip to Torino (Turin) to see something of the Olympics, even if we didn't get into any events. Well, the Aviano AB Commander decided to schedule a 15 minute briefing at 2pm on Saturday (so we didn't have to get up early... isn't he nice?) which shot any plans of leaving the area.
And that was Italy. Did I mention good food?
Go back if you want to see anything else :)