Testing Murphy’s Law and Silver Linings
Murphy’s law states that anything that can go wrong will go wrong. While I at first thought that this “Murphy” was some sort of physicist/scientist, after a bit of research though (aka wikipedia) turns out he was a cartoon used to teach marines preparation tactics during the 1950’s. while Murphy may be fictitious, I think his overall theory is sound, especially when it comes to backpacking through Italy. Just about anything that could’ve gone wrong (catching trains, seeing sights, walking trails, weather, etc) has gone wrong…
But don’t think that this is going to be a ranting monologue of the troubles I’ve had, as the title suggests, there is a silver lining.
So, as my last post said, fabulous week in Lyon. Comfy, cozy, warm, clean bed; delicious food, and delightful company. It was a dream week. But, this past Monday, my cloud nine travels were thrown some turbulence. My friend Kathryn flew into Lyon this past Monday and I picked her up from the train station. The plan was, that night, to take a train from Lyon to Geneva, Geneva to Lausanne, Lausanne to Florence. We were planning to arrive in Florence in the morning around 8am. Since she got in that morning we went back to the Klopp’s apartment, dropped our luggage, and went on a tour around Lyon.
Climbing up to the cathedral on the hill, eating crepes, dodging traffic, the works. That night we have a lovely goodbye dinner, catch the bus to the train station, and grab our first train to Geneva. One of the first things that should’ve alerted us green travellers to the impending complications was the fact that the Lyon station had no record of our connection between Lausanne and Milan (earlier we had been making train reservations). We booked the fast train from Milan to Florence, but couldn’t book the one from Lausanne. “No record…. Must be a fluke in their system, we’ll book it when we get to Geneva,”thought I in my naiveté. Little tip, if the computers at big stations don’t have record of a train existing, most likely, it really doesn’t exist. But, my fancy iPhone app and my train guide both had it listed, so we plunged ahead. We arrived in the frigid weather of Lausanne in the wee hours of the morning to find that 1)there was no train to Milan 2) there was no shelter from the biting cold. We went back to Geneva (about a hour train ride), and decided to catch the next train to Milan departing at 6am (it was, then, 2am).
As we huddled ourselves on the cold linoleum floor (and as I put on four layers of light jackets, leggings, pants, and two pairs of wooly socks) we were entertained by the drunkards asking for a light, the “not-so-right” in their minds station groupies, and the other few weary travellers also resigned to floor space overnight accommodations. We passed the time with crosswords and hoped not to be bothered our neighbours on the floor. Finally 6am arrived and we went to reserve our seats to Milan only to find the price really hiked up in order to maximise the revenue made from those travelling home for Easter. We begrudgingly paid, and were delighted to get the heck out of Geneva to the warmer climes of Italy.
We arrive in Florence, eventually check into our hostel (around the corner from the Duomo) and decided to walk for a bit. We contemplate climbing the dome, but decide to wait for our friends Meg and Gordon (arriving that night) in order to climb together. We awaken early the next morning (to avoid lines) get to the duomo, and find it is closed until the day after we leave for the holidays. “Crap! That totally stinks! We should’ve climbed it yesterday when we had the chance!” But, que sera sera. We still had the rest of Florence. We climbed the bell tower, looked at the beautiful statues near the Uffizi, saw two fake Davids (the other at piazza di Michelangelo) ate pesto, and found a lovely church atop a hill overlooking Florence. Besides the duomo (and realising there were multiple people inside an itty bitty apartment we thought was all ours) Florence was a great experience. The next morning we were off to hike the cinque terre.
By this time, a friend, Evan, from Bristol had also joined our group. Since he was only going to be in Italy for a week, and then back to Bristol, he did not have a eurail pass (which gives you the freedom to basically hop any train at any time) and was buying each ticket individually. This is important for later.
We board our train, arrive at Riomaggiore, with our big heavy backpacks, and are excited to begin our 5hr hike through the “Italian riviera”. We find out two things when we arrive 1) the last station we could’ve stored our luggage at was about an hour away; hence we would be hiking in our backpacks 2) the trail between Riomaggiore to Manarola was closed due to land slides, and it was raining. But, the women at the station said that if we get to Manarola, we could catch the trail there. so we get to Manarola. we begin walking along the stunning path, taking pictures of the ocean, the cliffs, the gigantic aloe plants and the succulents in bloom, only to come to a metal gate blocking our travels due to, you know it, landslides. We regroup, should we stay here and walk around, or go onto the next town? well, since i had really wanted to see Corniglia (and I had planned the adventure for the day) we went to Corniglia.
Corniglia is an isolated town atop a hill overlooking the ocean. To get to the top you must surround some 350 steps , but when you do, you arrive at a quaint town that is surrounded by mountains and, on that day, enshrouded in mist. This made the area feel like a hidden rain forest. We walk down to the rocky water and are stunned by the power of the waves hitting the well worn rocks on the coast. the sight of the sun setting just beyond the grasp of the rain clouds made for a spectacular view of contrasting light, and shadow,whose drama was highlighted by the rhythmic pounding of waves against the rocks.
We climb the many stairs back to corniglia, where I eat pesto and try a tiny glass of their famous dessert wine stracchiterre. While the wine was nice (and makes for a good story), I don’t think I could justify spending €5 for such a paltry amount ever again.
We decide to go to the train station and go to Vernazza. We arrive to find the train cancelled. So, we decide to go early to Pisa. That train never comes as its delay is announced and extended from 10-30-50min until they give up the pretense and admit that the train ain’t never gonna come. After a few false starts, some card games and frustration with Italian trains, we catch our original train connecting through to Pisa and arrive around 10pm at our hostel. Finding the hostel was a bit of an ordeal, but we get there and I collapse onto the bed, sketchy looking sheets and all.
Next morning we see the leaning tower (again, horrid rain), walk the streets of Pisa, and catch our first connection to Naples. This is where Evan’s ticket situation comes into full glare. Our first connection was running about 10min late to Rome, shortening our once comfy connection time from about 20min to only 9min. Evan runs off to get his ticket, while the rest of us sprint to our platform. Four of us arrive there just as the train is about to leave. We get on, while the jarring sound of the conductors whistle assaults our ears, and we try and decide whether to wait for Evan or not. The vote comes down to wait for him, and we disembark only to watch our connection to Naples slowly chug away. We now have an hour in Rome.
We walk around for a bit, see the horned Moses fountain, and nostalgic memories of Wheaton in the Holy Lands and our time in Rome flow strongly through my mind. Anywho, the next train was also late, and we end up stranded in Caserta missing our final train to Naples by 3minutes with the next connection at 5am 7hrs away. We decide to catch a taxi to Caserta, are told it’ll be €70 for the five of us, and we gratefully agree. I plug into my music and hope to relieve some of the stress that I had accumulated from the day of 10hrs in transit. Evidently, our driver had terrible road rage (my eyes were closed, and I was checked out) and got lost frequently. We finally get to the hostel, find the price jacked up to €100, and are too weary to argue about the meter and his incompetence to follow his gps. We pay and are so glad when an extremely kind women greets us at the hostel with words such as “you poor things”, “we will take care of you”, “here is your clean bed and fresh towels”. She was and is such a kind kind woman. Again, I collapse on my bed physically and mentally exhausted.
The next day we find out that if we want to eat we will need to hurry down the mountain to the shops to buy food before they close for the Easter two day holiday. After we are fed delicious croissants and cozy cappuccinos from our host Andrea, we wearily hike down to find some grocery store. While most things were closed/didn’t accept credit cards, we find one bank open, withdraw money, and get groceries. We walk our burdens up the massive hill and collapse back at the hostel. And, yet again, it was raining. So much for a beach day. Yesterday, in Naples, I didn’t leave the hostel except once to buy groceries. I was so drained from the stress of planning and executing strategies orchestrating the travels of 5individuals that the very idea of going beyond the front door was utterly horrid. So, I confirmed reservations for the rest of the trip, took a much needed shower, got the knots out of my tangled hair, shaved my prickly legs, and washed the smell of trains from my skin. Then, I took a nap, and afterwards, borrowed Meg’s computer and watched a movie. I wouldn’t suggest “The Hangover” to many, but it was the perfect sort of stupid humor my mind needed to recuperate and laugh.
Kathryn and I redid our plans for the rest of Europe, cutting out Prague (including the 16hr transit there and back), and choosing to focus on quality rather than quantity. Go to fewer places, and do day trips from one hostel rather than jumping all around. Right now I’m on a fast train to Milan, and tomorrow afternoon we head to Lucerne, Switzerland.
While there were plenty of hard times, the silver linings were abundant. Time with friends, good food, stunning views, kind people, and days of rest, all made Italy enjoyable though still extremely frustrating.
I’ll end this already much too long post here, and hope to fill you in on our Swiss adventures soon. As of right now, I’m happy to be leaving Italy and their unreliable train system, but i will miss the happy people and their lovely coast line. Be blessed! Ciao!