Δευτέρα, 30 Ιουνίου 2008

The Canadian Invasions pt2

The first thing that strikes someone who first arrives at the port of Bari, probably is the seaside. Well actually it is the coastal boulevard, wich is full of massive hotels, of the kind that actually distorts the local ambience to a very irritating point. Apparently the lessons of Southern Spain have not been learnt in the coasts of the Adriatic. Other than that Bari looks like the typical nondescript Mediteranean coastal town, with its beaches and its bars, and its wide streets.
The bus ride from the port to the central station is- even by italian standards, frantic. Imagine a bus full of backpackers, packed in it like sardines in a can. Now imagine this bus trying to swerve around obstacles and curves, with the passengers trying frantically to find something to hold on to, before getting mashed into each other, while the bus driver never lifts the foot from the gas pedal, even when trying to negotiate a turn in a street that can just hold two cars. In the end the bus screeches to a devastating stop and the drivers just finishes us off, by screaming "Arrivederci" at the top of his voice.

Now there is a funny thing when you see a bunch of backpackers squeezed into a bus, trying to break free, just in order to file into a qeue in front of the ticket offices. But, the long qeue notwithstanding, all of us poor travellers that had to suffer through the Italian bus ordeal make it to the one 'o' clock train to Rome in one piece. Yes everybody's going to Rome. Apparently mpost of the backpackers in the train are Canadian, though I don't fail to notice the token Spanish girl, plus an Argentinian, some Finns and a few Americans. The train ride to Rome takes about six hours, but it is really worth the try. After the train leaves the plains around Foggia, the really interesting part begins. The train starts to climb on the apenines, and before it reaches the area of Campagna, you get to pass through green valleys, traditional villages and ancient Roman aquaducts. Then you swiftly pass through the campagnan countryside, and reach the tremendously beautyful coast of Amalfi. Then, before you even know it, you pass next to a giant graffiti sign writing "Bienvienuto a RomaYork" (Welcome to Rome-York). The eternal city is laying before my feet, just waiting to be conquered. (to be continued on Friday, with Roma:Cittá Aperta)

Παρασκευή, 27 Ιουνίου 2008

The Interrail Diaries: The Canadian Invasions pt1

The bus ride from Athens to Patras is not really long, especially if you take into account the events of the previous morning and their devastating aftermath. In fact the only thing along the route to indicate any souch thing has happened, is the intense movement of military and relief agencies up and down the highway. In fact there are convoys of police busses making their way in and out of the capital, in order to move reinforcements into the earthquake zone. The city of Patras does, in fact, seem to have survived the ordeal, but for the villages just a few kilometres south of the city the aftermath is devastating. Adding up to these, are the fears of my parents, who actually fear of aftershocks and tsunami waves hiting the area. But my stay there is not going to be prolonged, and my slow boat to Bari appears to be one of these vessels that have the ability to move with undeterred, under almost any weather conditions. Plus, I am sailing across the Adriatic, wich is not particularly notorius for its tsunamies.

I witness a great deal of suffering though,coming out of the tv screen of one of the port´s café´s wich shows, at full blast, news reports from the wrecked villages. Fortunately enough, the casualties are not really heavy, but building structures were totally wrecked, leaving a lot of people homeless. As if they didn´t suffer enough last year from the forest fires! Plus soon enough, the governmentwill show almost no help towards these people. Though eventually every damaged household will get some money for rebuilding the home and new furniture, later in the week, reports that local New Democracy party officials (rememeber they are in the government) actually lead relief funds to people whose businesses or houses remained intact (but hey were ND members or voters). This will probably add up to the popular discontent towards both ND and PASOK, the two parties that are sinking day by day in opinion polls.
My boarding time finally arives, and I enter the big boat. To my dismay the boat is half full, but there are no beds available, so I will have to spend the whole evening on a chair, or a couch. And since lying on the couches is actually prohibited by the staff, I just sit at the air-seats, waiting. The composition of the passengers is quite interresting. A large group of greek tourists taking a guided tour of Italy, truckers (the majority of whom are Italians), and holidaymakers of various types (backpackers, campers, elderly people on an adventure etc) making their way into Italy. Most of the backpackers have a canadian flag on their backpacks, and claim to be canadians, but there are also some token english people, two fins and a spanish girl travellingon a eurail scheme. Later on I will learn that a lot of these "canadians" are actually american tourist, too afraid or too ashamed to say that they are americans in Europe, mainly because the American Exteral Policy is not really welcome in Europe, but also of the fear of being mistreated due to being americans (mind you this is a stupid fear, europeans love america and its people, they just don´t really like american presidents and the NRA crowd).
I (like everyone on the boat try to spend my time sleeping (after seing Italy being thrashed by the Dutch in the Euro), bot that is not an easy thing. So I basically wait until the stewards dissapear into their quarters, so that I can sneak into the comfy sofas and couches and take a nap, a thign that does not happen until like 3 AM. So I get to catch some five hours of sleep until breakfast time when I get rudely awakened by the steward.
I get some cheap Bclass English type breakfast at the food lounge, wich will keep me strong enough for the remainder of the day. And straight after that, I am ready to disembark at Bari, and start my iterrail adventure..... (Continued on Monday, with Canadian Invasions pt2)