Ein Platz in der Sonne

Trip Start Mar 02, 2009
Trip End Aug 20, 2009

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Flag of Italy  , Lombardy,
Monday, May 18, 2009

In terms of health, I assume I'm back to normal...or close enough (for horseshoes).

Decided on Thursday that I was going to try and make the trip because I really didn't want to miss out on Italy and thought, "I'm going to be spending a lot of my time there lounging ANYWAY...so this will be good....and probably quieter than staying here and trying to do the same."

In retrospect, I think both things were true.

Thursday itself was a bit hellish.  Every train I got on ended up hitting a delay.  Not big ones either...  Seven-nine minutes each.  Just long enough to destroy each and every one of my connections and force constant re-planning of the route.  I think the most frustrating moment was watching one of my transfers pull away as the train I was on approached the platform at a glacial pace.  I watched the doors close and the thing start to move out of the station from behind a slab of metal.  Had I been able to manually open the door, I could've run across the platform and made it just in time.  But no, the danger of stepping off a still-moving train -- albeit one going slower than an escalator -- meant the doors were locked by some good ol' keepin-me-safe technology.  Violent clawing at the handle got me nowhere...  And then I had to wait on a bench for an hour.

Eventually got into Como.

It's unbelievably cool.  The town is gorgeous.  The lake, even more so.

The only flaw:  My CS host (there) fell through.  We'd planned that he wasn't going to be able to show me anything or go out for dinner/a drink as he was spending the day in Milan for work and would be doing the same on Friday.  I was totally fine with this...and spent my time checking out the town while I waited on a text to find out when he'd be home.  I got one around 9:30 saying he was stuck at work, wouldn't be in until very late and wondered if I had another place to stay.

Alright.  Deal.

I started checking out motels.  The flaw with a small town in a cute place when the weather's good:  Last minute booking does not happen.  The only vacancy I could find was obviously a rip on price.  I don't have to speak Italian when body language is enough to give this away.

"90 Euros."
"For a shared bathroom?!  You're not even close to anything!"
"OK.  Includes breakfast."
"Not for that much."
"You find nothing better!"

I went back to the train station.  Some two hours later, a jolly tub of Italian checked me into a place on Milan's north end.  44 Euros + 3 for a subway pass got me an interior room on a hallway by myself, my own bathroom and a huge breakfast.  Find nothing better?  My ass.

"Oh, Italy!" moments from Thursday night that are worth including before moving on:

(1) When I went back to the station, I purchased a supplement for a train that would take me from Como direct to Milan Central.  I thought this was a good decision as it was getting late and I didn't want to strand myself someplace (taking too long to get in and missing the last tram/subway of the night).  The machine printed the ticket.  I walked out to the platform and waited.  The information popped up on the board...the clock counted down...said the train was arriving...had arrived...then, after a few minutes, all the information disappeared.  There was never a train.  Just me.  Alone.  Holding a ticket.

I went back inside, looked when the next train was to arrive.  Walked back to the platform and waited another 15.  The thing that pulled up is point two:

(2) An unexpected late night theme park ride.  The train couldn't have been a day younger than 45 and didn't look like it'd been cleaned for 44 of those years.  Vent's broken?  Eh, leave it.  Spilled an entire cup of soda on the seat?  Leave that too.  Solar tint?  Hell no!  We got graffiti and assorted bodily oils smudged by only the filthiest of hands on these babies...  The note to say a door didn't work and was being repaired had yellowed and curled at the edges from sun exposure.  And some of the seats weren't quite bolted to the floor anymore...so the configuration shifted during the trip.  I was cracking up the whole time.  It felt just like middle school when the bus would break down and they'd send the stick-shift pile of duck tape and Naugahyde as a replacement.  It's a shame no one else got to join in the experience.


Friday was the trip to Luino.  Spent the weekend in an old house up on the hill behind the town.  Middle of nowhere.

Spider webs like you wouldn't believe.

Detached kitchen out back.

Great panorama and view of the lake.

The nearest house had a shrine to Mary built on the side of it.  Also, chickens.

It was a fantastic escape from noise, computers and pretty much the world.

I slept incredibly well.

Came home today and was surveyed by a guy from die Bahn.
(translation of the first minute, my favorite part)
"I saw you sleeping earlier.  ICE trains are GREAT for sleeping, aren't they?"
"You saw me with things in my ears and something on my face because there were very loud children.  I never found true sleep.  This situation seems to repeat itself each time I travel."
"We offer a quiet compartment for travelers like yourself.  No cell phones and--"
"Oh, I know.  All TWELVE seats were filled when I looked."
"Ah, well...pity."

I have no beef with quiet children...but it seems I never have luck finding that variety on trains, planes or in, you know, any public setting.  In the words of my HS history teacher, "Don't they have a salve for that?"

Mut(ilat)e-a-child.  Someone should get on that...
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