Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Staying at Hostel 7 Santi – Firenze

Morning came and it was time for me to check out early as it is. By 8 am I was out and slowly making my way by foot to the cheapest hostel in Florence I could find. It was a long walk about 4 miles plus I was navigating off the map. The local map did not cover parts where the hostel was hence very local.

10 Bed Dorm ... Mine on the Btm Left
The hostel used to be a convent dormitory for the nuns and is right beside the church. If looked carefully you can see that it’s actually part of the church but cleverly separated with fence and whatever side door entrance carefully hidden from the backpackers. Most backpackers won’t even notice it I presume. I wouldn’t have notice myself if not for the internet and hostel background check I did.

I checked in for three nights and had to hang around till noon before I could go into the rooms. I guess no one wants to be woken up by a newly arrived backpacker. The rooms were neat and clean and naturally I took the cheapest 10 bed dorm which had a bathroom in it. Barely anyone was there and I proceeded to wash up and do the sink laundry quietly.

I wasted the whole day doing nothing in the hostel as I was tired and the previous night was no help in obtaining rest. Study of the maps of Florence and more study of possibility of day trips to Pisa and Siena. Evening soon came and one by one my roommates checked in.

Ups and Down of a 10 Bed Hostel

Some people shy away from large dorms as it could get pretty ugly and weird. There would be the snorers … (I contributed of coz), the smelly, the messy, the grumpy, the weirdo, the dainty, the creep, the whatever you can think off. Yep there is all kind of people out there and normally the poor budget backpacker resort to the big dorms.

I myself rather live with a little discomfort and save the money for food and a longer trip.

However sometimes due to all budget people taking chances you will most probably make more friends and good companions in big dorms then in small ones. This one bet was the case for me.

My roommates …. Or the one I remembered was a notorious mix of people and somehow it was totally weird cool ??

Everyone came in slowly while I sat on my bed writing into my journal of how much I needed to move on and leave Italy for another country. *Scruffy* came in with his backpack and pointed on a bed … “is that taken?” … dun think so I said and he settle down to unpack.

*K-Pop Boy* soon came in with barely a hello and proceeded to his bunk close off from the work with his earphones and laptop. Twinzies a pair of Australian girls came in and minded their own business as well. All while I continue writing into my journal.

*Tweety Pie* & Friend (Both PRC Girls) came in looked around, looked at me and determined since I was coated Asian Chinese proceeded to ask me which bunk was taken in English. I pointed and off they went unpacking next to Scruffy. While they talked in mandarin I couldn’t help but listen in. I haven’t heard the language in a while and it was fascinating. They asked me another question (I couldn’t remember what) but I unconsciously replied in my poor mandarin and it broke the ice and introductions were made. Somewhere in between Scruffy joined in and all four of us exchanged greeting and the usual backpacker questions.

Scruffy was backpacking across Europe for three months and was towards the end of his trips … a few more journeys down south to Rome, fly to Spain and back to the US. One of the few good buddies I have met during my travel. I would later visit him in the following months, to his hometown Colorado, USA

Tweety Pie was so exited I could speak her language although broken, was more than happy to jump on my bed and help herself with all my books and travel maps of Florence which I was studying at that time. Tweety and friend were master students in Holland going on a weekend short trip to Florence, Pisa and Rome all in three days. As I was planning a daytrip to Pisa the next day I extracted as much as I could on travel methods and found it quite cheap to go to Pisa to my delight. However it also meant that Tweety Pie would be visiting Florence and leaving for Rome the next day as well.

“She kinda likes you”, Scruffy nudged me jokingly grinning…. I just shrugged
I would later in the months to come drop by Holland to experience my first Couchsurfing with Tweety Pie.

My bunk buddy came in later that night when most bed was taken up and when she asked the same question again of which is not taken, I just pointed above.

*Raphaela* from Estonia.

“Where the hell is Estonia?” I blurted

… and she smiled and said next to Russia. I had to look into my lonely planet book for a while to find it …. Damm Russia is huge … She asked where I was from naturally and I said Malaysia.

“HUH?? Where is that?”, She asked smiling … ( she got her payback I suppose )

Raphaela was an art student in Florence. How cool was that!! She called her top bunk her NEST over the next few days while scouting Florence for a more permanent place to stay during her university exchange program. All the while Scruffy and I torment her of the horrid horrible landlords and landlady of rent and staying with people. Party life young student apartment or family house room or old dying lady house room …. Yep we had fun tormenting her … Partially both of us did not wan to shoulder the blame if the place she rented goes bad so scruffy and I made sure to balance the extreme pros and extreme con of each choices giving her torment and dilemma :p

I would have to split this hostel experience into a few post as it was one of my most memorable one, still that was the beginning point of the adventure. A few key player had yet to arrive *Puppy Eyes*, *Dopey*,  

To be continue ….

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Moving on to Florence – Firenze

My Dilemma of Time

After burning a week of money in Rome I decided it was time to move on. There were still plenty to do in Rome but I was also conscious of the time frame that was left on my trip. Every extra day I spend lingering at one place would mean a cut back on another. I had a limited budget for the whole trip and worst than money was I had limited time.

Time was the limit not money for this round the world trip strangely as it sounds. Due to a sabbatical I was expected back to work after the long trip … extension is understandable within reason but still require me to turn up for work. The other thing was the VISA issue. I had 90 days visa for Europe and within swinging into the U.K (it was part of the plan from the beginning) to extend that 90 days it also means I will cut into time spend in the US.

Dilemma Dilemma

Still I was mindful to not become a touch and go traveler. I did not want to become one of those “ Yay Italy … ok Next country” traveler. But I also settle down to realizing I would never see every damm thing in just six month. If I miss visiting something I could always come back and that was another reason to travel. *grin*

Wasted Ticket Train Ride

Long journey again from Rome to Florence and I was still as equally paranoid which would die down later in the journey only to bite me back in my ass. The usual stock up of food and pre prepared sandwiches was stowed away into the backpack before making way for the train station.

I got the cheapest ticket again ….17.35euro

It was a slow relaxing journey with many stops and watchful eye to the backpack. With so many people walking in and out I dared not sleep in fear of someone pinching my bag and leaving the train.

Nothing much to go by other then just looking out the window…. and guess what … not even a conductor to check your ticket during the whole journey. No one checked when I boarded and it stayed that way all the way to Florence. I could’ve just hop on to the train and got a free ride.

After the whole trip I concluded why there were so many people walking in and out during the small stops … chance of a free ride if you hop in from the outskirts and jump off in the outskirts are high because the conductors only hang around like the first three stops from major cities checking tickets and then hopping off to catch the next train back and checking tickets again. I made the observation throughout my journey and true enough only during the beginning and ending of the train journey (near a main hub) have I ever encounter a ticket officer.

Still the train company was smart. You were to stamp yourself the date you were traveling at a machine provided at stations and that will make it only valid for the day. If caught without the stamp by the ticket officer then a fine would be issued. So even thou I could’ve rode without paying, the ticket was now useless. Unable to re-sell nor pass onto the next fellow traveler I might meet in the hostel.

Party Hostel? I am too old for this shit!!

I am sure most notions of people about youth hostel is to have a good time, meet new friends go out and have a fun time. It could be very appetizing for some or scary enough to deter certain people from ever trying hostel.  Yet I believe to every backpacker on the road will at one point or other encounter a party hostel where every night is Sangria night and curse these following words … or something like it …
“I am too old for this shit”
Well it’s not literary old as per se but more like if you have just traveled so damm long without rest or partied for god knows how many nights evidently there will be one night you'll hate a party Hostel.

I was grumpy for one, when I reached Florence that day after spending the whole morning in the train and arrived in wet weather *rain*

Walking in the rain and cold was not pleasant when I did not even have a proper jacket. The nearest hostel it was without thinking and I headed to downtown old Firenze in the cold “eurohome hostel". I was greeted with an even grumpier reception as it seam I have woken the person from a good nap. He was not happy when I did’nt even have a reservation and told me the hostel was in a lock out during the day. He took my money kept my bag and kicked me out of the hostel back into the cold and told me to return only after 4 pm.

First Signs of Pickpockets

Piazza Del Duomo - Firenze
So there I was in the streets grumpy and cold decided to walk around old Firenze in the rain to try and waste two hours. I found a nice sandwich store and bought my lunch and ate by the road standing and just watching the people bustle by and of course the never ending tourist armed with their ponchos and umbrella admiring the

End of my lunch and proceeded to smoke a cig near a dustbin as I saw many tourist police officers patrolling the grounds.

Then came a garbage crew…. The lady opened up the bin I was standing next to and I moved away a little. She then went into a string of Italian ballistic I could not understand and I just stood there smoking my cig when I saw her reach into the bin and fished out a women's wallet. The wallet was devoid of all money but full of identity cards, credit cards and the sort. Some poor lady out there got pick pocketed and the remains was in the bin. The lady continued on with the ballistics to the tourist police and handed over the wallet never stopping her string of disgust.

Beware of pickpockets …. Yep I noted that sign carefully.

One night and away we go

Back to the hostel I was allocated a bunk poorly done and heavily crowded and full of party goers. I decided this was not going to do for me and search for another hostel on the web. Booked the cheapest hostel I could find in Florence or in Italy for that matter and bore my time writing into my journal and sleep.

I am just too old for this shit …

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Sightseeing Rome

The Vatican City

The Vatican was one of the places that were not pleased of the twisting nature of the fiction movie (Da Vinci Code)….. People were confused and it drove them nuts. Their audio guides for the Vatican museums would have small references to the movie as a post note from now and then debunking the myths and ushering the people into the light. The little boy in me of course heard only what I wanted to hear …. Whatever you say …… I was going to look anyway.*grin*

As I made my way through the crazy vast and huge museum (Vatican) trying to absorb as much art and inspiration I could gather it was overwhelming indeed so much so it became dull. That’s when I decided never to enter more than one museum a day in Rome because you loose the ability to focus. It drains the energy just trying to absorb everything at the same time and reading and looking and listening to the explanations …. PHAW …

Don’t get me wrong, I love the arts, and as much as I love em, I never understand them. Some people would tell me stories of a piece of why it’s a masterpiece but I wouldn’t listen anyway. If I see a piece and it draws me in I could look at it for hours but even if it’s a masterpiece and I dun get drawn to it then I guess I just dun like it. I treat art like a delicate taste of food, but too much spicy food and you’ll loose your taste.

Hence the no more than one museum a day policy


There were so many things to do in Rome but I decided to stick to the cheapest and value for money as much as possible. I bought the ROMA pass … which was a mistake since a lot of the good stuff is not included in the pass and the price doesn’t give you good discount unless you go into more than three museums. You still have to pay but at a discounted rate. Yet knowing how massive these museums are they only give you three days validity for the pass.

One upside was the unlimited ride you could take on the metro in Rome. But with all the ruins running around the city, the new engineers could only make two lines which run outside the city center making the lines practically mostly useless. So much for the ROMA pass

Borghese Gallery

Appolo & Daphne

Borghese Gallery was one of my targets to see. I heard from a fellow traveler back in Naples that it takes a booking + money to get into the museum. I had to see what was so special about this one museum which seamed so exclusive. I got my ticket, paid the fee of 13 euro and had to wait three days for the slot, plus there was a time stamp. You can only go in during your allocated time indicated on the ticket and you only have 2 hours in the museum before they kick you out and another group goes in. Oh and they dun allow cameras and had so many post station people making sure no one sneaks a shot.

This had better be worth it !!
 The Borghese Gallery features mainly Bernini’s work which is of exquisite taste in my point of view. The artwork was definitely more dynamic and well worth the hefty fee to see. Pictures would not do it justice I realized and it didn’t matter once I was in there just being stunned by the works. My fav was Apollo and Daphne …

Coliseum & Roman Forums

The largest Roman Coliseum in rome and I was not going to miss this regardless of the price. Lucky thing thou it was included in the ROMA pass that I have bought earlier. It was a sight to behold once you got out of the subway and saw the magnificent structure which was built so long ago.

I got in saw the big huge ass structure which was nearly three storeys tall and could not help but wonder how the heck they built this back then without modern technology. Then again the amount of time they took wasn’t short either. One of my bad habits I guess was always trying to find the old vs the newly reinstate or reconstructed to preserve the monument. Its almost unavoidable to not disturb such an old structure but to do it with skill and hide all the new marks and trick people into thinking its was from back then was a marvel. Cosmetic at it best.

Let Your Legs Leed The Way

I was developing this culture for every place that I venture into now. Close the map and just walk around for the day. Sometimes it was a good and interesting walk and others times it could be the bore and monotonous view of building after buildings, especially when your legs bring you into the industrialized area and not the touristy part of town.

I found the Spanish steps, Fontana di Trevi and the Pantheon this way. Walked by and didn’t stay long.

Part of the walk was always to find local food and snacks and hopefully find something outside the lonely planet guidebook. Local buskers and entertainers was always a charm especially when I stopped and see a finger puppet show by an elderly cutely playing out a romance drama with his fingers. He gathered quite a crowd and a few *klings* in his tin.

Painters, magic tricks and all sort of street performance was sighted … I later found out it was in the lonely planet book for place to go to see odd local interesting things. Oh well … I did try …

Friday, 15 February 2013

Tourist & Rome

10 Euro ticket from Naples to Rome

I was starting to enjoy solo travel by now, taking my time stopping whenever I feel like it, detours, exploring without a plan and just plain doing nothing. After the journey I had in Greece I was confident in just winging it. All brief research I did with my Smartphone showed pricy tickets from Naples to Rome. I took my chances and walked up the ticket counter at the train station and ask for the cheapest ticket they could sell me. It was 10euro, local train only. Well more stops and slow train never hurts when you have so much time traveling but just be careful not to board the wrong train with the cheapest ticket. You don’t want to be fined or kick off in the middle of nowhere. Train ride to Rome was splendid and I was there in four hours with plenty of daylight to spare.

Strike Out

First thing I saw when I reach Rome while hunting for my hostel was the demonstration / protest / strikes that were going on in the city. Now how many did I saw so far now? There was Athens, Igoumenitsa, and Rome. You could really feel the weight of the Euro debt crisis. Back when I was planning my trip all I thought from watching the news was HELL IT’S A DISCOUNT TRAVEL TIME. This was not the last of it and so far non- had impacted my travel plans ….. So far ….

Tourist City Rome

Of all the places I had been there were always locals you could ask for help. They may be reluctant or they may even reject helping you but there are always locals. Rome was a tourist city to me. You can tell everyone here is a tourist. Just look at the maps.

Everyone and I mean everyone was holding the tourist map in their hands everywhere in the city. I decided to pocket mine and guess what I am a local now. People started strolling up to me and asking me for directions. Did I look Italian? Nope, but not holding a map in your hand and ogling your eyes out at every building implies that you are local.

Sheesh ….

“Sure I know the way to the Vatican. Just let me take out my TRUSTY TOURIST MAP and guide you Tourist folks on your way. Look you are here and ……… ” , amused by the shear shocked on the tourist faces.

Ever heard of the invisible girl when she wears a wedding band? Yep I could turn invisible too just by flicking out my tourist map.

There are so many things to see in Rome and its no wonder why it’s such a touristy city. I mean you have other great city but this one take the cake for tourist inbound. Its full with history for one and then there is the pilgrimage of the Vatican, the monuments, and just the shear dynamics makes Rome a must go place. I was a bit concern on how much this city was going to cost me. I knew a few days wasn’t going to cut it yet I was worried if it would dig a big hole into my shallow pocket and there was still nearly 5 more months of travel left. I had to be careful here

Da Vinci Code Tourist

I wonder how many people decided to come to Rome after seeing that Da Vinci Code movie!! You could hear all the tour guides around telling people where the relevance of the book or movie is to the real world and which part of it is real and which part of it is fabricated. I didn’t join any tour groups by the way other than audio guides from the museums. You just can’t get away from tourist in Rome and I guess they couldn’t kick me for just being there. Hence I heard the usual documentary for free without paying the fee whenever I needed.

The movie however did its job Rome. It opened the flood gates and those who were not interested in arts were suddenly experts. Wrong experts but still proud ones until they get the eyeballing look from the tour guides.

For some reason my mind decided to chase down this fictional story so much that I could not tell which one was real and which was not. I mean I was going to be a tourist anyway so why not put some fantasy of finding hidden treasure in it to spice up the adventure.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

You Mad? Don’t Go There, Its Dangerous

 I never did understood half of the warnings people give me. Probably a good thing too since if I did I would never had left the comfy bed and go out everyday to enjoy life. People are paranoid! Period! Heck even I get paranoid sometimes trying to be adventurous.

Despite some of the best warnings which I somehow failed to comprehend I was always glad to be there and experience the so called dangerous place and survive it.

My uncle told me when I was pit stopping in England.

“When you go to Ireland don’t go to Belfast. It’s not safe.”

All I heard was

“Go to Belfast” = new location recommended J
Get the general picture? Yes people are paranoid about dangers while traveling and especially more when you are alone plus world news never help when showing all the bad things in the world. Still if I would had listen … I would never had left Malaysia.

Southern Italy, Naples

Naples was one of the places where I got such warnings.

“Go there and find a safe place to stay and just go see Pompeii and make sure you get back before dark and get out as fast as you can.”

Apparently Pompeii was such a good recommend my uncle decided to risk my life and suggest me to go see it despite the dangers. Naples turns out to be one of my favorite Italian places. The danger however was not a joke. Many fellow Italian that I met along the way told me the same thing.

Naples was down to earth. The kind of place I like to visit. The real people and the real life not hidden by the entire good tourist picture painted places. You could see rubbish piling up everywhere, despite standing in a place with so much detailed architecture. Poverty can be seen through the richness of the old days and the locals seem to reject the outsiders.

I met two Mexican friends in the dorm who has been on the road for nearly two years and that was a real inspiration for travel. Why limit yourself to a gap year? I ended up tagging along with them walking around Naples looking for the infamous pizza place. My new friends was determined to find the most famous/delicious pizza in Naples which he had heard from another traveler and I of course loved to tag along on a hunt. We found the place eventually and boy the crowd made a long queue outside the small pizza shop. I was glad in a way because I would have never dined there if I were alone for you had to get a queue number and wait your turn to be seated. They call out every number in Italian and they only speak Italian. Good thing my new friends were Mexicans as they told me the language was very similar.

About an hour we waited and chatted up a few people waiting in the queue. All confirm of the quality and taste of the pizza here (All translated by my new friends).

Plus you could always understand Italian even if you dun understand Italian. The body language is extreme in junction with the facial expression. It seams they are trained to express their feelings by sign and body language as they talk. Wave’s arms in the air … make kissing sounds, blissful sound of satisfaction and finger pointing to the pizza shop. Yep I could clearly understand their Italian explanation that it was a good pizza shop

Our turn came up finally and we were seated in a table for four. Before we could order another random customer was seated with us. The place was so popular they sit people together regardless if you know them. It was good too in a way for this was a local guy who worked in Venice and he could speak little English. There were only two kinds of pizza in the shop. The menu had only two dishes.

  1. Pizza Margherita
  2. Pizza Marinara
As we waited for the pizza to be served we scanned the old shop decorated by time, and saw all the news clippings, trinkets, little photos of friends and family, memorable moments, happy joyful customer and famous dinners. AHHH … we now know why this place was the infamous pizza place …. Apparently one of the famous dinners was Julia Roberts and it’s the filming place for the movie “EAT, PRAY, LOVE”.

Drat it … another tourist attraction boomed by a movie. This might not be the best pizza place in Naples after all we thought. Might just be hype! A fake! The pizza came and the first bite washes all doubt away. Yep this shop was popular even before the movie and looking again at the old shop the clippings and photos goes back way before the movie. Still a bit of advert never hurts I guess.

Walking Around Naples at Night

Finished with pizza we decided to take a stroll around Naples and take in the night scene. There were three of us. Three guys. It should be save enough. As we walked around the city, it was poorly lighted and filled with people loitering around (African as far as we guessed) All of them were in groups just hanging, some played football in the streets and cars had to stop to let them play. Eyes were watching us and we could feel it too. Were they so many during the day? Not that I remembered. 

We were not combatable even with three of us together. It felt dangerous and we were not about to challenge it. Always trust your guts instinct. We turn back avoided walking into any groups and headed back to the dorm.

I wouldn’t know if it was a dangerous place or not or were we just being prejudice and judgmental of people. Who knows, they may be good hearted and was just chilling.

Still it’s always good to be careful but not too careful you don’t leave the house.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

UNESCO World Heritage POMPEI …

City of The Dead

Pompeii is one of those dead cities where nobody lives. It used to be a city long long time ago but Mount Vesuvius Volcano erupted on AD 79 and before the people could ran and leave the place it was buried in volcanic ash. Everyone died I think and the city was preserved until discovered and excavation dig was done (1748) to reveal the once majestic city. The city itself has almost everything and documented by its murals and distinguishes differences you could even see to this day were city walls, houses, town hall, butcher place, temples, necropolis, coliseum, theater hall, and the main tourist attraction would be the fact it has a brothel house within the dead city.

The place itself is massive and very dead as nothing was left other then the rock sturdy ruins made of stones. Only tourist now ventures into the city flocked with cameras only to find it a monotone of ruins. Well that’s because all the good stuff were preserved in the Naples Museum. (I found that out later when I visited the museum)

The museum showcases most of the artwork salvage from the Pompeii site itself, murals, mosaic, pottery, coins and trinkets. Due to the sudden death of the people living in the city during the excavation and conservation works some bright idiot decided to pour plaster into the corpse of these people.

The result was a live / dead sculpture that is as real as the time the people died long long time ago. However they died, sleeping or sitting or collapsed on the ground it was captured by the plaster and the face showing horror was no exception. The eeriness could be quite compelling hence I kinda understood why they only showcase a few of the plaster sculpture to the public. You could even see the actual hairs and skins still present within the plastercast. 

Sex Figurine
One of the hidden parts of the museum features the brothel section of Pompeii City. One have to cleverly stumble upon it if you are not looking or search like crazy to find it to see the amazing and incredible and disturbing items displayed in the sex museum department. Vivid Japanese otaku sex fetish is not a thing of the modern world I guess. It is very present in the old age too.

Often overshadowed by Pompeii is Herculaneum which is a town, much smaller than a Pompeii City but equally UNESCO worthy. Herculaneum suffered the same fate as Pompeii no doubt but the ruins were much better preserved. Three stories of building ruins can be seen today going deep into the ground where it was excavated.

One could only wonder how life is short and you never know what’s going to happen.

Note :
I wrote this without any reference other than what i wrote into my journal.
Link to Official Pompeii Website for more accurate info : 

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

First Train Ride In Italy

Emergency Rations
With my first hand education of train rides in Greece I was going to be well prepared this time. I still bought the cheapest ticket I could find …. still a budget backpacker …. Only difference was this time I was going to be prepared. I stroll down to the supermarket got a load of grocery / supplies in case of emergencies. Nope I was not going to be hungry again traveling without food and seeing other people with picnic lunch box were not helping. I got bread, a bottle of wine ( it’s dirt cheap in Italy ), ham, cheese, and chocolates.

It was to be a 4 hour train ride from Bari to Naples. Train was on time and all was good. After trying to navigate Greek Alphabets, Italy was easy. I still couldn’t read speak Italian but I could now match the words on the ticket with the signs. Roman alphabets Hurray !!

The ride brought us through the deserted countryside where no civilization was seen. Not even agriculture. It was barren mountainous terrain but not the beautiful kind. Still it was a smooth and nice ride. I arrive Naples on time as per schedule, and the hunt for the hostel begins again. The first hostel I found easily after taking the metro but it was full.

The nice hostel owner however referred me to another hostel up the hill which I found and it was bed time.

Not too bad … maybe I was getting the hang of flying blind … or maybe it was just Greece. Still I felt comfort in knowing I will be there for a week at lease.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Pit Stop Bari

Cargo Boat Ride ?

As I woke up from the CARGO boat … sure did seam like a cargo boat compared to the boat I took from Patras to Corfu because for one, everyone on deck class was squeezed into a room? Given there were limited cabins and a dining area and a living room but it was really really small. If I would to compare it was like having a house party only all of us was trying to sleep after the bummer event in Igoumenitsa. Plus the boat look like a slap together last minute call to get us away to Bari.

I contributed to the snoring I suppose. Alice was rambling whole morning about the horrible way of spending the night again. She was on deck class too and I guess she could have afforded the cabin. Doubt she will ever take a boat ride again in Greece. Apparently I missed a *free show* that night according to Alice, and another wave of rambling begin. *rolls eyes*

So far my long distance traveling solo was not working very well. Always there seam to be some force of event that would throw me off the plan. Funny thing is I was getting used to it and was enjoying the adventure despite the roughness. The sun rose and the boat docked in BARI, ITALY.

I made it to Italy ……. and ……… the boat broke down just as it docked keeping everyone stranded on the boat just a step away from dry land. That was another three hours of waiting as the crew struggle to lower the huge steel doors to let the passengers down and away.

Italy … new country new challenges new adventure

It was late by the time we got off the boat and I parted ways with Alice leaving her somewhere she had agreed to meet her Italian boyfriend. Italian pizza for lunch and it was hostel hunting after. Finding the hostel was a pain in the ass. I had a practice of researching a list of hostel and noting them down before going on a long distance journey.

Santa Clause Hostel was located smack within the maze of other puzzling buildings which I knock and an old lazy opened the door clearly eating dinner of some sort. The door slammed in my face.
I finally found the hostel, tiny as it was and checked myself in.

Bari was to be a pit stop just a port which I was heading towards Naples. Thing about traveling solo without a plan is that you never know who you are going to meet and what thing will be thrown at you.

I’ll type in the raw entry from my journal below for Bari 

Now Bari was a stopover which i did not plan and i seam  to enjoy all the mishaps more than the no problem route. I mean i got stuck at Iguomenitsa when i tried so hard to avoid it and that's where i had a nice company for two days from a brit girl and a canadian family. Bari was no exception i got to the hostel and it was small, very small and i tought its just gonna be a night but the people that stayed there made my day. Now all four of us had like no plans to stay in Bari. I got stuck on the boat and Peter and Jane was sleeping on the train platform because they miss their train and Eddie was stuck in Bari coz he could'n go over to Croatia due to not having his proof of vehical ownership. What beautiful coincidence. Definately the best dinner i had so far. Beauty of the unplanned.
Next Up ... Naples

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Where am I ? “ Welcome to Igoumenitsa ”

Igoumenitsa – The Town I didn’t Plan to Visit

With barely any sleep the sun rose and we headed back to the ticketing counter. It was a Saturday and the possibility of the counter not going to open suddenly hit me. Do boats travel on weekends? Corfu did not have any public bus on Sundays back when I first arrive there a week ago. Still early in the day about 7am I just kept wondering.

Port of Igoumenitsa
Between cigarettes and getting some cool fresh air outside to wake me up I noticed shops that I couldn’t see at night and slowly took in the new mysterious town that I was thrown into unwillingly. It was just one road with a dozen at most shops and a port. Further down up the road seams more settlement was present but I dared not venture too far from the port fearing many things. I did notice that one of the shops had the shipping company name as a signboard exactly the same as printed on my ticket. It was not open thou.

8am soon came and pass. 9am, noise of footsteps and finally the opening of a counter by a grumpy lady being force to work on a Sunday. I was the only one there so I had to ask despite not speaking any Greek. She was so unhelpful that it gave a bad impression of Greek people at work. I begin to feel I knew why their country was in chaos with the bad debt crisis and everyone going on strikes and refusing to work. These people are lazy I concluded. (Not my best moments). Few more attempts and the only reply was her asking us to wait. While we waited she was happily clipping her nails, eating breakfast, reading newspapers and when she finally got onto the phone it sounded more like idle chatter than a work kinda talk.

Alice was still tagging along. I became the person she could voice her opinion on about rude Greek people. She did it loudly hoping the grumpy lady could hear her but I wondered if she could even understand. I felt that the grumpy lady got the feel of the anger directed to her from Alice, which only made matters worst in trying to find a solution to the problem.

“Calm down …. You can have her once I get these tickets exchange for a new one, but till then we are at her mercy”, I said

This was not going well … fellow stranded people from last night begin to pool in and got the same treatment from the grumpy lady. Apparently some got their ticket change yesterday night but could not catch the boat in time. So it was not because I couldn’t speak greek …. That lady was just awful.

Going for another smoke I couldn’t stop looking at the shop across the road. It was open now and I thought there was no harm trying. A nice old man was smoking his cigarette outside when I walked up and he saw me holding the boat ticket in my hand.

“Did you miss the boat yesterday night”, He said.

He spoke English!! I was saved!! So they were the company that the original boat we were supposes to get on at Corfu. Apparently the boat broke down, according to them and had to redirect all passengers to their competitor boat. Within minutes I got my new ticket for Bari but at a price (Not Money). The next boat leaves at midnight. I was stuck at Igoumenitsa it seams for the whole day. Someone made it very clear I was to visit this small town at all cost. I got back to the port and told the Alice, and Grandpa (finally showed up), and directed the crowd to the shop for the change of new tickets.

Then Wait.

The Town - Igoumenitsa

I figured if I was going to be stuck here the whole day might as well explore the town that has magically pulled me here. I stowed my backpack away said bye bye to Alice as she was too tired from all the FUN last night to go exploring and set off to the far off settlement I seen earlier. It was about an hour walk I presume, maybe about 4 kilometers.

Igoumenitsa was nothing fancy, a small town which survives by being a port. People come and pass by this area but no one really stay for anything. Walking around the town it was, I think the size of three football fields. Very very small yet if you are retired and love a slow life with visitors once a while to buy your trinkets it was a nice place to be.
Walking on I passed by what seem to be another protest of some sort. The second demonstration I have seen since Athens. U-Turn was my immediate action as I didn’t wan to get caught in it. I did found a nice kebab store and finally had a nice Brunch and finally head back to the port.

Night came after long hours of waiting and idle chatter with the Gramps and Alice and finally we were on our way.

Farewell Port Igoumenitsa it’s been fun GreeceItaly was next