In Transit to Slovenia

Trip Start Mar 16, 2004
Trip End Jun 13, 2004

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Flag of Italy  ,
Saturday, April 3, 2004

I pack up and leave the Hibernian Hostel at my leisure. The boat doesn't,t sail till 8pm so loads of time. After doing the housekeeping, internet, postcards, that kind of thing, I cycle into Valletta for the last time and take it easy ( and a few more photos) in the afternoon. The sun is shining again and the city looks even more impressive in the sunshine.

Check-in for the ferry is at 5pm, so knowing Grimaldi I arrive at 5.30pm. I passed one of the crew on the way to the boat, plenty of time. There was two other bikers waiting to board. They were a Belgian couple and had just spent 3 weeks on Malta doing voluntary work on the island.

The formalities of check-in and boarding were very straight forward and I was soon on the deck of the Eurostar Valencia looking over the Grand Harbour. As I was trying to capture the last few rays of sunshine a pensioner came over to me and started talking about how great the digital cameras are. He had recently bought one and loved it.

He told me he'd grown up on Malta and I asked if he remembered the war. He said he was by the harbour and watched as the HMS Illustrious was bombed by the quay side and pointed out the spot to me.

Below decks I had a pint with Joseph and his wife. We were later joined by Alan who spends as much time on the island as possible when not working as a consultant. As they discussed the affairs of island life I learnt quite a bit about Malta and its politics.

The ship sailed at 7.30pm and I had a very peaceful night's sleep. We were due to dock at 10am. I was on deck quite early to watch Italy approach out of the mist. We were outside the harbour at 9.30 but had to wait for a container ship to leave. All the passengers were assembled in the restaurant expecting to soon be on Italian soil. The Italian authorities however were incredibly slow and the formalities took until noon (and a few coffees) to sort out.

I made my way to the train station to book a train to Venice. After a lot of consulting the computer, whilst the queue built up behind me, the official sold me the ticket, change at Rome. The catch was I had to dismantle the bike again and put it in the bag. A bit of a nuisance, but I'm getting good at it.

Once on board the 2.43 train to Rome I can see why the bag is needed. There is little room for luggage. The only place was to leave the bag in the corridor outside the compartments and tie it up to the handrail so it didn't fall over.

I shared the compartment with a couple and a two year old baby. the child's words consisted of "mama", "papa" and "BOOM", which he used interchangeably and to the great amusement of the other two passengers who joined us for the journey.

In Rome I struggled up the platform carrying the bike bag over my shoulder and the holdall in my arms. Trollies were like gold dust and well guarded by those lucky enough to get one. Naturally I was near the rear of the train and furthest from the station. The information office was right by the platform I arrived on and to my delight the train to Venice left only two platforms away. There are well over 20 platforms at Rome station. The walk down the platform was one of the hardest parts of the trip so far. The bike is supposed to carry me, this is all wrong.

I picked my spot on the platform and got a bit to eat as I waited for the train. Once on board I am joined by a Swedish family. Anna was studying in Bologna and her parents and sister were taking the opportunity for an Italian break. Her parents were both Polish and spoke no English. The girls, Anna and Monica translated for us all. Their father was fascinated by my trip and happy when I said I intend to visit Krakow his home town. He claimed that if he had a bike he'd come with me. The girls had each spent a year working in Dublin which explained why they could understand my accent.

They got off at Bologne. I dozed until our arrival in Venice at 1am. I was hoping the train would be really late but it was not to be. Exactly on time!! I found a place on the platform by the station and made myself comfortable till first light. I locked all the bags together and using my sleeping bag in its bag as a pillow actually got a fair amount of sleep sitting against the wall with my head on the bike bag.

My original plan was to set out on the bike from Venice to Trieste. Howver I checked the timetable and found a train was going there at 7am. I decided to save two days cycling and go by train. 15 minutes to get the ticket and onto the platform. I was on the train and settling into a seat when I suddenly realised I didn't know where my wee bag with the valuables was. Must have left it on the platform. Hurriedly I got everything off the train, left it and sprinted back to were I had slept. Not there. As I was heading to the office to see if some honest person might have handed it in a glimmer of hope. Did I not put it in the bike bag last night for safety. So another sprint down the subway and up onto platform 4. I fumbled with the key to the lock and peeked inside. I was so relieved to see it in there. The train hadn't left yet so I started throwing my gear up into a carriage. Still half sleeping I took my seat in the same compartment. The only other passenger in it sleep through everything. Everyone else must have wondered what the hell I was up to.

Two hours later I reassembled my bike outside Trieste station and began the long trek to Estonia. Trieste looks like a nice place to spend some time, but I wanted to get on the road again. Being Sunday everything was closed except an interesting little food and book market in the town centre. I found the signs for Slovenia and followed them up the hillside and out of Italy.
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