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Back on the road: Amsterdam and early Italy

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Sep. 4th, 2009 | 01:59 am
location: Napoli, Italy
mood: tiredtired

Hello again, friends! I have once departed from my workplace, and so it is time to update this journal again.

I was given an opportunity to take a vacation in Italy with my previous traveling companions, and I jumped at the chance. I had visited what is now called "Europe" briefly back in my days as a priest in Phoenicia, but had never gotten the chance to return.

We left very early from our home in Grass Valley and traveled first to San Francisco. I had initially though that like last time we would be traveling overland by motorized carriage, then by boat to Rome, but it turns out that we were going to fly - how exciting! (And much faster! To my surprise, the trip did not even take a fortnight.)

The plane was quite large - two stories, in fact, and seeing all the different people who would be joining us on this adventure in the sky was very exhilarating indeed. The flight waitresses were lovely and made sure we were comfortable the entire trip, bringing us wine, food, blankets, pillows and anything else we might need. Even though it was a Dutch airline they were very accommodating in English.

There was less to see from the air than I expected, because my companions kept their window largely closed in an attempt to catch up on much-needed sleep. However, we were excited to discover that the plane traveled almost directly over our journey's starting point! We were on the correct side to gaze out at the city containing our residences and I made the observation that I could see our house from here. Truly I am the soul of wit.

After dinner and a glass of wine, my companions finally tuned out the bawling of the four young children in adjacent seats (Bax was heard to remark "I am Sisyphus, and this is my punishment") and I spent the remainder of the flight in a period of mediation.

We finally landed amid temperate, cloudy weather and I was informed that we were not yet at our destination, the Italian capital of Rome -- we were in a northern Europe city named Hamster's Dam or some such. Our journey had been planned to allow a side trip to this place - with 10 hours between our morning flight in and our evening flight out.

Once we took a train to the main section of the city, we walked around Hamster's Dam. It was very navigable by foot and bicycle, but the motorized carriages had quite a time in the tiny and twisting streets! There were a number of dams (in fact the city was criss-crossed by multiple canals) but I never once saw a hamster, so I confess I am confused as to the origin of its name.

Our first stop was at the building that once served as the home to a young girl named Anne Frank. Apparently her family hid from foreign invaders during a large war 65 years ago - I can sympathize, we often had to flee from barbarian attacks during my time ministering to cities at the edges of our empire - but was captured and died. Apparently she wrote a journal of her tragic experiences. I got a look at the notebook containing some of her original writing and found it quite compelling. I hope it is published some day.

We also walked through the District of Red Lights, the area of the city where prostitution is legal, and waved to the many ladies of the evening. I am told it is called "the world's oldest profession," but as an authority on old things I must protest; both farming and religion are far more essential to civilization.

The remainder of our stay was unfortunately disrupted by my companions suffering from bouts of vomiting due to what appeared to be some spoiled food. It grew so dire in Bax's case that he ultimately limped into the airport hospital clinic to lie down for some recuperation. By the time he was able to stand again we only had 20 minutes to board our outbound flight. After some tense running through the airport (and another round of dry-heaving aboard the plane) we made it with only moments to spare. It's fortunate that we were not delayed more because that would have cost us all of our remaining air travel tickets!

After that close call we wanted nothing more than to get to our hotel room and sleep - my companions had reserved a room in advance at a hotel near the airport. The quickest method of transport was a taxi and we took the first available. Unfortunately, perhaps due to the language barrier, my companions insist that we were overcharged; there was some driving in circles and a "luggage fee" that brought the total to 30 "euros" (the local currency -- apparently dinarii have not survived the centuries). The hotel room was hot and stuffy but we were all so exhausted from our ordeals that we managed to sleep anyway.

The next day - our first full day in Italy - was taken up with travel and recuperation. We headed south to Napoli (which my fellow American residents know as Naples) via the train line and another local train called the "metro". Once again we were stung by the foul beast of overcharging: when the automatic machine ate our 2-euro coin we were forced to buy tickets from a vendor, who gave us incorrect change for a 10-euro bill and shorted us 5€. Our 1.10€ tickets ended up costing us over 9€! I could tell this upset Bax greatly, especially after the taxi incident. But fortunately we found the hostel that shall be our lodgings for the next 3 nights without further trouble.

It has been a long time since I have seen my fellow travellers so grateful to find accommodations - and after the drama of the preceding days I find it hard to blame them. The remainder of our day was spent catching up on sleep (again the rooms are rather hot and humid, but we are beginning to adjust), punctuated by a brief dinner stop. I must say that I was impressed by the restaurant at which we ate! The local specialties seem to be thin-crusted pizza and seafood; both were ordered and enjoyed greatly. And for the first time in our trip, everyone feels that we got a bargain, considering the quality of the cuisine. Between that and the extremely reasonable rates of the hostel, we may yet remain within our budget for our Napoli stay.

Now we shall go to sleep and prepare for our trip to Pompeii - an excavated city that was buried by ash almost 2,000 years ago. I expect to be instrumental in showing my companions around during this journey. They shall be glad they took the effort to bring me.

As a post-script: My companions have taken many photos of our first stop, but none so far of Italy, due to their exhaustion; it also may be another day or two before the Hamster's Dam photos are processed so I may share them with you.

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Comments {4}

Krinn DNZ

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from: krinndnz
date: Sep. 4th, 2009 01:56 am (UTC)

Bax was heard to remark "I am Sisyphus, and this is my punishment"

Hmm! I've heard that bon mot before, but I can't remember where. Pity. At any rate, I'm glad that you and your companions are getting along well, despite the Inconveniences.

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Wally P. Priest

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from: wallyontheroad
date: Sep. 18th, 2009 10:20 am (UTC)

I am told that the original quip was "I am in Hell and this is my punishment," though I confess that even with that version I do not possess a complete etymology of the phrase.

Thank you for your good wishes! We have returned home safely, although much remains to be written of our adventures (another post just went up tonight).

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Krinn DNZ

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from: krinndnz
date: Sep. 19th, 2009 03:02 am (UTC)

Hah! I found it! Mr. ceruleanst may be experiencing an unfortunate slump, but he's a very sharp writer.

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Kevyn Jacobs

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from: kevynjacobs
date: Sep. 4th, 2009 04:34 am (UTC)

Wally! So good to hear from you again.

I wish you and your companions a Bon Voyage!

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