Sunday, 28 October 2012

A Not So Typical Day

I have some more free time these days so I thought I would share the experiences of my past 2 days to give you a more intimate idea of my travels. Of course I picked the most trying times of my travels to blog about, simply for your entertainment!

OCT 27
I spent the day at a truffle convention in Alba. On the way there I helped two nice ladies on the train, lost and looking for the same event. We got to know eachother and in the end they invited me in the future to work on their farm in South Africa! They really were quite exceptional people and have got me seriously considering their proposal.

Later on at the truffle convention I met up with someone whom I had made friends with over a few glasses of wine the night before at Salone del Gusto, the Slow Food annual event in Torino. It was a wonderful day stuffed with truffle history, and samples of wine and olive oils, but no free samples of truffles, since they cost around 4 euros per gram! I was not planning on going back to Torino so I had everything I possessed with me. That is, a large backpack, a smaller but equally heavy backpack on my chest, which contains my laptop and camera gear, and a bag with some food, among other Salone del Gusto paraphernalia. I had to lock up my large backpack at a bar adjacent to the station. Fortunately I have many locks with me, so I secured my bag to a radiator and locked the zippers together.

After the event I had to go to Budapest and decided to get there fast and cheap. There was poor train access from Alba, also Wifi is rare to find anywhere in Italy. Fortunately I had looked up my itinerary the day before, all there was to do was ask where the bus stop in Alba was. I ended up taking a bus to Asti, then from there took four different trains: to Tortona, to Milano, to Mestre (just outside Venice) and finally to Trieste. At Milano, I nearly missed my transfer to Mestre because my arriving train was late. I had to "sprint," although it was more like an awkward trudging, all heavily laden with backpacks and gear, to catch my next departing train.

OCT 28
I landed in Trieste at 2:30 am. Coupled with the daylight savings I had an extra hour to kill in the dead of night in a small town at the extreme east end of Italy. The train station was occupied by many homeless people in sleeping bags or under blankets. One was awake and approached me gently. A bit scared, I gave him my change, which was less than one euro anyway. Once outside the station I found a hostel I previously mapped out. But when I got there it was closed so I ended up wandering the empty city in search of a place to loiter safely. Meanwhile, the wind started to severely howl and rain started to sprinkle the concrete and asphalt. I was wearing my warmest clothes: just one thin Marmot jacket over a t-shirt and jeans with holes in the knees. I ended up finding a karaoke bar to chill out until 4 am. I went back to the station where I managed to slip in a few hours sleep on the cold marble floor. In hindsight, showing up to a hostel in a small town past midnight had been a horrible idea.

After waking up and inquiring to the now open ticket office for trains to Budapest, I learned that trains did not run out of Italy towards Budapest, except for a circuitous route back through Vienna, which only ran as an overnight train. How ridiculous! Fortunately I found buses leaving soon out of this godforsaken town. However, the best route, which was through Slovenia, had already left, so I took another route through Rijeka, Croatia. I've gotten pretty used to these inconveniently circuitous travel itineraries by now. Of course, it was a really beautiful ride which made up for its inconvenience, a reminder of my time traversing this beautiful countryside not more than a month ago.
The countryside of Croatia
The train from Rijeka to Zagreb was nice too. Unfortunately, it got to Zagreb late, and I missed my transfer to Budapest by a few minutes. On the plus side I had visited this city before so was already familiar with it.

Fast forward to the present, and I am sitting in a hostel I stayed at during my previous visit to Zagreb. Earlier on I had eaten a large and cheap pizza, also a revisit, and tonight I won't have to sleep on cold marble, so now I am a happy duck.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

A Tangled Web of Options

It’s 4 a.m. in Torino and I cannot sleep. This sleeplessness has been afflicting me more and more recently. My future is wrought with uncertainties and anxieties that are all spinning in my sleep vision, threatening my normally peaceful slumber. The road I have travelled for 3 months has been long so far but linear, predictable. But, as a spider’s strand of silk meets its web, my options are now branching out in all directions, and it is both scary and exciting.

Since my last blog I have visited Nice in France, Florence and Venice in Italy, Munich for Oktoberfest, the charming coast of Croatia, historic Rome, and northern Italy again, first Cinque Terre and now Torino. Cinque Terre was a real oasis during my travels. I met some amazing people and we shared two relaxing days enjoying blissful beaches, stunning landscapes, lovely wine and good conversations.

Vernazza, Cinque Terre, Italy
It was also my first solo destination after Amy flew home from Rome and signaled a new phase of my travels. Never since have I felt more disconnected from home, having loosed the shackles of the constraining Eurail pass and a travelling partner. No offense is meant to my sister by this statement. After a rough start, Amy soon adapted to the backpacking lifestyle, we slowly overcame early conflicts and in the end I was happy she came, especially to see her growing and maturing before my eyes. I think travelling with her has helped me mature as well. We got to know eachother more in those three months than in our entire lives previous and in that time solidified our sibling bond and provided me with satisfaction at fulfilling my role as big brother. However, now that she has left, I am completely free to fulfill my dreams and to let no decisions become hindered.

Since her departure I have wandered Italy’s countryside, a carefree soul, yet also yearning for some refuge from the constant moving around and unpredictability that comes with travelling without a plan… another problem looms: I am approaching my time limit in the Schengen Area, an administrative region of Europe in which Canadians can travel without Visa for up to 90 days. I need to get out! But what should I do? Work on a farm? A hostel? Or should I continue travelling outside the Schengen Area? I hope I can find these answers soon and silence the voices of anxiety in my mind.

Meanwhile I attempt to fix my gaze on the present. I am in Torino for Salone del Gusto, the ultimate gastronomic event in the city anointed the capital of the Slow Food Movement. In the next two days I will be visiting the event marketplace, which will be filled to the brim with organic, sustainable and ethical farmers and food producers from Italy and around the world selling the best and purest food the world has to offer! As well there will be educational workshops providing food information and cooking tips. My thirst for food knowledge shall be quenched and my hunger sated with just about every kind of food imaginable grown under the sun! And who knows, maybe I can find a job on a farm in Italy? Time will tell.

Bon appetite!