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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

ITALY

ARRIVAL TO ITALY

Italy seems best suited for people who like to travel with large groups of people they may eventually come to be lifelong friends with or despise forever.

Disembarking the ferry, there were two taxis and two buses.  The taxis immediately filled up and left.  The tour buses were for group tours.  Nothing for me.

I walked my ass out of the docks.

To those of you who have never been to a shipping dock before, that sentence may not strike you with the appropriate force.  Carry your twenty kilos plus for a couple football fields (American or soccer, doesn't matter) through thronging traffic and contradictory directions to get a better feel for it.

Eventually, I was sent to a travel agency called "Morfimare" outside of the docks.  The old man whose job was apparently to make sure nobody lugged the building off - and no more - told me that nobody was there who could help me but 'an agent' would be back at some indeterminate time.

Hopefully, not this agent.

After twenty minutes a guy showed up and confirmed that it is the Salerno docks I needed for the 'big push' into Tunisia.  The agent directed me to a 'one euro' (ed note actually 1.5 Euro) bus to take me to the train station.

A cabbie offered to take me for just ten euro because he wanted money.  I told him 'no, gratis'.   He went away which is more than I can say for most cabbies in Italy who have much in common with the leech in that they won't let go.

Unless you apply fire to the cabbies.  Which is awesome.


On some, but not all of the buses (check!) you need to buy a ticket then get it stamped in the bus via a machine.  Who the hell buys a ticket from the bus driver then is accused of not paying due to not stamping?

Why Logan, of course.



ATTEMPTED DEEP DICKING BY THE ITALIAN BUS COMPANY

Sitting there with all of my luggage.  It's obvious I am 'just passing through'.

A couple guys from the bus company get on and want to see my ticket.

They tell me (in rapid Italian) that since it is not stamped, I should bend over and prepare to be fucked with a huge fine.  The bus was stopped and one guy popped out, probably to find a cop to have me arrested.

Logan:  "Oh, this needs to be stamped?"
Evil guy:  "Yes."
Logan:  "Is there actually a machine on board to do that?"
Evil guy:  (points at machine)
Logan:  (examines machine).  CLUNK!  (Holding up the ticket)  "Perfecto, yes?"

The bus representative just rolled his eyes in exasperation.  It was now a 'my word against his' thing and I already had other plans (contact American embassy, make them or myself look foolish, decry the bus company for preying on innocent well meaning tourists who obviously did buy a ticket and were not going to be trying to reuse it) but since I was not being physically detained I grabbed my shit and headed for the exit.

The bus driver said (and had the look of) "Good one!" on his face.

Rather than saying "Yes, I really fooled those guys and got away with something." I just kept up the "I'm a stupid tourist" and said "Huh?"  I even managed to cock my head with a perplexed look.

Since I was near the bus station, I then 'disappeared into the city'.  I didn't want these guys coming after me.



HOW TO DISAPPEAR

Instinctively, people believe a simple matter of distance is what determines if you 'get away'.  You have to overcome this.  Also, don't flee 'up'.  It use to work when we lived in the trees but now if you go up you are often just fucked.

It's about choices and corners.  The more corners you can turn to cut off the persons vision of you and the more choices they have to make ('did he go left or right?') will determine whether you have gotten away or are still being pursued.  Most people won't put that much effort into pursuing you for some minor infraction.  If you jay-walk, it is a desperate lonely cop that will chase you down for a kilometer.

Walk, don't run for the nearest corner.  Round it.  Then you can begin figuring out 'left or right' and play that game on your own.  Sometimes, just rounding that initial corner may be the difference between any pursuit or the pursuer thinking 'fuck it, he's gone'.



BUS BUS FUCKING BUS!

Long story short, I'd bought a ticket for the wrong bus.  It didn't come to where five different people told me it would, so I had to go back to the ticket office to get a ticket for a different bus which did come to...the same place the other didn't.

Ain't that a bitch?

It was maybe six hours of waiting.  The street people thought "Why the hell is this American guy homeless?"  Yes, they really did.

Now, in any other country I've been in, you can wait in the train station.

Not Italy.

Their train station is infested with such scum (taxi drivers, pickpockets, drug users, serial rapists and possibly even American bankers) that they have to flush all of the shit into the street every night.

So the train station closes.
And the ferry station closes.
And the metro line stops.
And the whole city shuts down.

Aside from the worst elements in society.

I had to find a place to stay and quick.

Fortunately, I'd written down a hostel.  It is one of the highest rated in the area.  For two nights, it's about 40 euros.


Getting to the hostel involved getting packed tight into a subway with a bunch of drunken high school or college age students, then dropped off in an area described as 'bad' by my local contacts.  This was really the only option because the extremely handy 'connected with the train station' hotel was a shocking 100-130 euros.

So I'm at the hostel which is yet another high density feed lot set up.  No idea how many beds they have but they get a lot of groups of thirty or more people.  The hostel has the charm of a bedpan and is about as clean.

Downing a couple of three euro beers, I chatted with some Italian school teachers who were on vacation.  The fact they are staying here I take a proof that school teachers are wildly underpaid here as well.

They mentioned Pompeii was closeby (an hour or two) away and cheap.  Less than 8 euros to get there and only 11 euros to get in.

Obviously, I had to go.  Despite feeling 'shattered'.

This hostel (the cheapest beds) has no privacy.  The bathrooms are pretty much unisex (since they are unlabeled) and the showers are so small that you have no choice but to get a naked Logan in the bathroom preparing to go shower.  I just thought about the movie "Starship Troopers", shrugged and got a shower.






POMPEII

Tourists bring their baggage of banality and stupidity with them where ever they go.

Since I'm just as interested in people as a bunch of old ruins, I paid attention to the other hordes of tourists.

Heard a lot of stupid shit being said.

Usually people were just bitching about how hot, tired, sore, uncomfortable they were.

The winning comment was given by some lady who asked "What kinds of stuff did they make in the old days?  Like, volcanoes?"

Can't make this stuff up.

Aside from the tour guides, I didn't hear anyone talking about Pompeii or anything historical.  Usually it was more along the lines of where to buy cheap phone cards.

Sad.

Important safety tips:  Strollers, flip flops, heels are all bad choices here.  I recommend sneakers at a minimum.  Better would be extremely comfortable hard soled shoes.  Believe me, nobody looks good after a couple hours baking in the ruins.  If you are extremely fair skinned, a sun parasol for the women and a bit of 'hardening the fuck up' for the men is recommended.



BLACK PEOPLE

I was chatting with some during my long ass wait.  It's weird, they seem mixed right in to the population here rather than incarcerated.   It's different from the ole USA!

Afraid so, Mr. President.



NOTE TO SELF

Do not go around grabbing the locals and demanding to know "Who runs barter town?!?" due to massive sleep deprivation.

They don't know anyway...



OFFICE HOURS

It is often frustrating when tourist things (such as 'tourist information kiosks' etc) keep 'normal business hours in places with high densities of tourists 24 hours a day.  Makes you wonder 'what the hell?'



BEGGARS

Always resist the temptation to hand women who display their (or a borrowed) baby to you begging for money to just give them a condom.  While it is true they are dressed better than I am and demonstrably have had sex more recently, it would not be a 'classy' thing to do.



THOUGHTS ON TRAVEL IN EUROPE

After going through all of the shit I've gone through here (with more to come), I'm now thinking for most people the best way might be to get an 'all inclusive package tour'.  The kind you go with a guide who does all of the hard travel work, like figuring out where the hell your bus has wandered off to.  Yes, you'll pay a premium for it but avoidance of the stress of travel and wasting hours and hours waiting for transport might be a good thing for people on a strict time table.

For me, I think I'm done with Western Europe unless I suddenly come in to a very large amount of money and need to spend it quickly.  When money looms over me the whole trip the shadow it casts just dims all the wonders too much.



ALTERNATIVE VACATIONS THOUGHTS

Most people like to try to do the 6 countries in 10 days type of vacations.  Though the number of countries and amount of time vary, generally people are rushing around and spending most of their time on the road.

Some people do this for 'bragging rights'.  As someone who has visited a fair number of countries, I can tell you 'most people don't care'.  You may get questioned once or twice on it but generally, the amount you are able to brag on it aren't worth the money spent.  If you try to keep inserting it into conversation, you just look desperate.

Other people just seem to be trying to grab as much as possible in their 'once in a lifetime experience'!  The problem there may be thinking of it as a 'once in a lifetime experience' rather than something you will be doing again in the future.  If you want it bad enough.

Instead of trying to collect as many check marks as possible, alternatively you could delve more deeply into one country.  Just tour around one country - relax into it if possible.  Dally in the spots that take your fancy.  Get to know the people - I find them much more interesting than the ruins.



TIPS FOR WESTERN EUROPE

Bring a lot of small change.  Collect that heavy crap.  You may need it for automated machines - like the metro - which do not give change because they are evil.

Italy isn't as tourist friendly as I thought a major tourist hub like this would be.  Missing signs, not made really easy, etc.



PRICES

500ml Nestea, 2 euro

Note that in some 'West European' countries, food is a little cheaper if you get it as 'take away'.

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PICTURES

{{2011}} London, GB | Rail N Sail | Amsterdam, Netherlands | Prague, Czech Republic | Budapest, Hungary | Sarajevo, Bosnia | Romania | Chisinau, Moldova | Ukraine: Odessa - Sevastopol | Crossed Black Sea by ship | Georgia: Batumi - Tbilisi - Telavi - Sighnaghi - Chabukiani | Turkey: Kars - Lost City of Ani - Goreme - Istanbul | Jordan: Amman - Wadi Rum | Israel | Egypt: Neweiba - Luxor - Karnak - Cairo | Thailand: Bangkok - Pattaya - Chaing Mai - Chaing Rei | Laos: Luang Prabang - Pakse | Cambodia: Phnom Penh | Vietnam: Vung Tau - Saigon aka Ho Chi Minh City

{{2012}} Cambodia: Kampot - Sihanoukville - Siem Reap - Angkor Wat | Thailand: Bangkok | India: Rishikesh - Ajmer - Pushkar - Bundi - Udaipur - Jodhpur - Jasalmer - Bikaner - Jaipur - Agra - Varanasi | Nepal: Kathmandu - Chitwan - Pokhara - Bhaktapur - (Rafting) - Dharan | India: Darjeeling - Calcutta Panaji | Thailand: Bangkok - again - Krabi Town | Malaysia, Malaka | Indonesia: Dumas - Bukittinggi - Kuta - Ubud - 'Full Throttle' - Gili Islands - Senggigi | Cambodia: Siem Reap | Thailand: Trat | Turkey: Istanbul | Georgia: Tbilisi

{{2013}} Latvia: Riga | Germany: Berlin | Spain: Malaga - Grenada | Morocco: Marrakech - Essauira - Casablanca - Chefchawen - Fes | Germany: Frankfurt | Logan's Home Invasion USA: Virginia - Michigan - Indiana - Illinois - Illinois - Colorado | Guatemala: Antigua - San Pedro | Honduras: Copan Ruinas - Utila | Nicaragua: Granada | Colombia: Cartagena | Ecuador: Otavalo - Quito - Banos - Samari (a spa outside of Banos) - Puyo - Mera

{{2014}} Peru: Lima - Nasca - Cusco | Dominican Republic | Ukraine: Odessa | Bulgaria: Varna - Plovdiv | Macedonia: Skopje - Bitola - Ohrid - Struga | Albania: Berat - Sarande | Greece: Athens | Italy: Naples - Pompeii - Salerno | Tunisia: Hammamet 1

{{2015}} Hammamet 2 | South Africa: Johnnesburg | Thailand: Hua Hin - Hat Yai | Malaysia: Georgetown | Thailand: Krabi Town | Indonesia:
Sabang Island | Bulgaria: Plovdiv | Romania: Ploiesti - Targu Mures | Poland: Warsaw | Czech Republic: Prague | Germany: Munich | Netherlands: Groningen | England: Slough | Thailand: Ayutthaya - Khon Kaen - Vang Vieng | Cambodia: Siem Reap

{{2016}} Thailand: Kanchanaburi - Chumphon | Malaysia: Ipoh - Kuala Lumpur - Kuching - Miri | Ukraine: Kiev | Romania: Targu Mures - Barsov | Morocco: Tetouan

{{2017}} Portugal: Faro | USA: Virginia | Michigan | Illinois | Colorado |

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