Italia, There's Something About Italy

Slowly sipping my second bottle of Mythos Hellenic Lager Beer I bought for 0.85 euro at the Mini Mart here in Athens, I wonder two things: (a) Will I ever make it back to Amalfi, quite possibly the most beautiful place I’ve been and (b) what the hell movie is this with Cybil Sheppard, Joe Piscapo and Greek subtitles.

I arrived in Athens at about 7:30 p.m. after travelling for over 36 hours – I’m beat, but when I say there was a power outlet in the “common room” of this hostel, I just had to get this entry out, and at least attempt to write an article on Amalfi. What’s Amalfi you ask? You did ask right? Well…

Amalfi is a little town nestled into a valley that empties out on to the western coast of Italy. Cathy and I headed down there from Roma, skipping Napoli for something a little more tranquil and beautiful. We left Roma late, after spending much of the day wandering around Vatican City. No wait, I mean wandering AROUND Vatican City. That’s right – we took a wrong turn coming out of St. Peter’s Cathedral and ended up walking around the outer wall to get to the museum/Sistine Chapel, which was closed. Bah!

Getting off the Metro at Termini Station (the major metro/rail station in Roma) we got our tix to go to Salerno, the closest rail station to the Amalfi Coast. I had heard good things about the place during my travels and Cathy was up for a bit of adventure. Leaving the station we saw a scene right out of an Alfie Hitchcock movie. There was about a MILLION birds swarming in the sky. There is a photo on the site of it – I adjusted the contrast a bit so they were easier to see.

We caught our train at like 7:30 or something and got to Salerno around 10. We walked about 2 kilometers to the address of a hostel we had only to find out it was closed. Shit. I mean, it was 10 and we had no where to stay. Cathy was about ready just to rent a hotel room, but I didn’t want to give up yet, so we found the last bus goin gto Amalfi and hopped aboard. We got to Amalfi, realized the hostel was actually in Atrani, the town JUST AROUND THE CORNER – trust me, as bizarre as that sounds, it’s bang on. So, a 10 minute hike, a bit of complaining from Cath and a few good directions from a girl who replied to our “Do you speak English?” with “Si” – much laughter ensued – we arrived at Hostel Scalinatella (or something like that).

We couldn’t find anyone at any sort of reception – in fact we couldn’t find a reception – so we just started knocking on and opening doors. Eventually we woke up another guest and he told us to use the phone by the door. After a bit of cat and mouse we got the hostel owner down to the regular 15 euro/night (not the 40 euro he started out trying to get from us). And with that we set up shop for three days on the Amalfi Coast.

The second night there we got some directions to a pub called Willy’s that was run by an “Australian” from Manchester (yeah, he was just Mancunian – but the silly Yanks that told us where to go thought he was Australian. I wonder what happened to them – last we heard they were hitching to Salerno to get to Roma for their flight they had misjudged the departure time of). Willy’s, and Willy for that matter, was awesome. Pretty unbusy, but loads of fun. Cathy and Willy hit it off quite well and he scored huge points by giving my first experience with a scooter. He let me take it, by myself, down to the square to get them some smokes and then also let me drive it most the way back home to Atrani.

Friday morning I woke up to find Cathy near unmoveable, and quite content to stay in bed ALL day, so I headed to Amalfi and caught a bus up to a place called Ravello, sort of up the mountain from Atrani. In Ravello I bought a hiking map and began my trek down to Amalfi. It was awesome. LOTS of stairs, and lemon groves, and LOTS of stairs! It was a beautiful walk though.

That night we headed back to Willy’s and I got to live out my fantasies as a big-time club DJ by mixing a collection of mostly scratched (but good) CDs for the bar (all seven of us). After giving up on my Paul Oakenfold asperations, I sat down and played the drinking game Kings with four people that worked/were staying at Willy’s hostel. Oh yeah, Willy has a hostel! I am hoping that perhaps I can come back when it is a bit busier and work for him, as I would just love to spend more time in Amalfi. The night ended with me saying goodbye to Cathy, who had decided to move camps to Willy’s. It was great travelling with her, and I hope that I’ll see her again some day.

So, after getting a whole four hours sleep, I was up at 7 a.m. to head to Amalfi and onto a bus towards Napoli (to take a train to Bari to get a ferry to Greece). Yeah, so I guess there was a point on the bus where I was supposed to get off and get on another bus… I MAY have realized this had a had more sleep and not passed out in my seat about 5 minutes into the bus ride. After MUCH explanation in Italian from the driver, I figured out what I had to do (it now involved another bus and a train). I eventually got to Napoli, and in turn to Bari and in turn on a ferry to Greece (which only cost me 6 euro because of my Eurail Pass).

The ferry left port at 8 p.m. and was set to arrive in Patras (I think?) at 12:30 p.m. the following day. “Thankfully” my pass allowed me a couchette so I could sleep, but as it turned out, that really sucked. I ended up meeting two girls from LA and we chatted until about 1 or so. They were staying in the airplane like chairs, but I knew that there was hardly any couchettes in use, so I suggested they just sneak up there. And that’s what we did. Then a bunch of arseholes from god knows where burst into their little couchette dorm and pulled back their curtains video taping them and saying, “Hey Baby, let’s have some fun!” So, staff was called, all was cleared up, the girls went back down to the airplane chairs and the guys all came and slept in my couchette dorm (previously only inhabited by moi). They woke me up shouting and peaking into my bed and, when they finally calmed down, they stunk up the whole floor with their feet and BO. It was REALLY bad. And apparently it’s not uncommon. Meh… 6 euros.

Today I arrived in Patras, caught the 3 p.m. train to Athens and made plans to meet up with the two girls (Beth and Amy) at a hostel there. And so here we are. I am not sure how long I’ll stay here – it’s pretty cheap, only 10 euro a night, so I may stay a few nights. All I know is I need to kill another 13 days before I go back to Italy and fly out of Ancona to London to catch my flight to Thailand. Two weeks and I’ll be in Thailand – how cool is that! Of course I’ll only have about half the money I hoped to have, which was JUST enough to begin with… but meh, I’ll make due. I’ll have to right.

It sort of amazes me that I’ve gotten this far when I think about it. I’m on about the same length of trip as Cathy is on and I’m on about a quarter of the budget. Well, it’s 11:40 and I’m going to bed. So much for that article. Damnit.

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