Interrail day twenty – Bari to Venice

17 May

After almost three weeks, this is the only day that has been a total pain so far, and threatens to be a pain all day.

The ferry that had started out delayed got more and more delayed. To be fair, this meant that I could sleep later and have a leisurely shower, but it also meant all my connections were shot. I should have had an hour and forty minutes to disembark, get to the station and make a reservation, and if that wasn’t enough time, there was another train an hour later. In the end, the ferry was over two hours late and despite getting a taxi to the station (which I shared with a guy called Gazmir who was also going there), and having fifteen minutes to make my reservation, I still missed the second train.

I have said before that I don’t like Italy. You can imagine what warm thoughts were going through my mind as I waited in the ticket queue (there was no one at the reservations stand), watching the minutes tick away, while the staff dealt with the passengers with all the speed and efficiency of a hungover sloth. I think there were about fifteen people who missed that train because of the execrable service.

So I had to get the next train, which was only 25 minutes later but, because it is a slower train, will get me to Venice Mestre (not actual Venice) after nine in the evening. So much for strolling by the canals. And that’s only if I make the 11-minute connection in Bologna.

I had time before the train for a quick coffee and to buy some water – although I didn’t actually buy them, since Gazmir insisted. I felt a bit bad because he also insisted on paying half in the taxi even though he had been going to get a bus, disgusted with the price of the taxi, and I said he should come with me since I was going to get the taxi anyway. (Or perhaps he was pretending so that the taxi driver would lower his price, but I didn’t have time for those games.) However, he did then talk my ear off until he reached his stop about the state of Albania and Albanian proverbs and life in general, and I listened politely, even though I really just wanted to read my book 😂

I will be on this train for over seven hours. After four hours they saw fit to announce where you could get some food. The offerings were pretty paltry – coffee, cold drinks and overpriced snacks like crisps and biscuits – but I had already finished my packet of Bake Rolls so I made my way down. I tried to get a coffee, but it wouldn’t work until someone told me you have to put the money in first – even though no prices are displayed. Then I tried to get some crisps and the machine spun its metal spiral and the crisps moved forward – and stayed there. “It’s you!” said the man who had also seen me struggling with the coffee machine. He was right, it’s just not going my way today. But he felt sorry for “la ragazza” and gave the machine a shove, whereupon it released something completely different. But who cares? I thanked the man and made my way back through the five carriages to my seat.

This is a long coffee and a packet of crisps.

It’s not been all bad. The train hugged the coast for most of the journey and I was on the side with a sea view; the later train was much cheaper to reserve than the earlier one; you can move around more on a train than a bus, which is good because my back is complaining about all the bus riding and backpack carrying (including for half an hour on a crowded staircase before they finally opened the ferry door); and I have had a lot of time to read my books. I finished Ripley Under Ground, which ended with a cliffhanger, irritatingly, but then it had the first chapter of the following book at the end, so I found out what happened 😂

After getting later and later until it was 26 minutes behind schedule, the train started making up time and eventually arrived in Bologna early – although the only warning I got was from Google Maps, as short notice of forthcoming stations is another one of the annoying things about Italian trains.

I rushed down to the concourse, hoping to find a nice cafe but there were just the terrible vending machines again. However, one of them had sandwiches in! After a few goes I finally got it to accept my card, and it duly dispensed the sandwich. Then I tried the next vending machine for some water. It wouldn’t accept my cards but it had a slot for cash so I tried that. It swallowed the cash and still wouldn’t give me a bottle of water. I tried the card again and this time it worked – but it charged me twice. So at £4.50, Bologna Station is leading the race for ‘Most Expensive Water’ so far, displacing Noa bar in Alexandroupoli.

The next train started late, naturally, but with a bit of food inside me I was feeling more sanguine.) By now the sun had started to go down, and while it would be a shame to be so close to Venice and not see it, I’m not sure if it’s feasible. The internet claims there are buses to and from the island of Venice until very late, but the internet claims a lot of things.

Anyway, after getting to Venice Mestre and finding the hotel (not too hard) the night receptionist confirmed that there are still buses going to the island of Venice, and the last bus back is at midnight, so I’m going to chance it. I just missed a bus, which was good as it would have been going in the wrong direction 😂 and then asked a guy at the opposite bus stop. I still looked the wrong way for the bus for the first several minutes, though. He probably wondered what I was looking at! I’ve got better at keeping to the right rather than the left (you don’t even notice you’re doing it until the European passer-by moves to the right, and the Brit to the left, and you’re still blocking each other) but looking the correct way at crossings etc is something I haven’t got down yet.

The bus came, and after a few minutes driving through the town we were on the long bridge over to Venice, and I started enjoying myself for the first time today. There’s a car park, a bus station and a train station all quite close to each other, and after that it’s only boats and pedestrians.

The rules in Venice are very strict! My hotel sent me a link to them. Here are some of the things you may not do in Venice:

  • Swim
  • Ride a bike
  • Wheel a bike
  • Eat sitting down (except in restaurants)
  • Stop on a bridge
  • Sit down almost anywhere

Venice is like one those guys who knows how good looking he is. It’s not an appealing trait, but you can’t deny that he’s right. Venice is expensive, crowded and high maintenance, but it’s still worth seeing. It’s not like a real town at all, more like a film set. Almost every shop is a souvenir shop, and apart from those there are only restaurants and hotels doing any business. And what does it smell of? I don’t know about in summer, but tonight it smelled of baked goods – bagels, pizza, cannoli.

This charming little local restaurant made me laugh out loud.

I had a reasonably priced (for Venice) ice cream at a shop and got a fritelle (like an Albanian petule, or fried doughnut) to take back to Mestre. Although I was functioning entirely in Italian tonight, I don’t think Venice is monolingual. I got the impression that they were humouring my Italian efforts. Maybe it’s nice when people try, since many people probably don’t.

Now it is super late, and I need to go to Salzburg tomorrow (Isn’t that just surreal? Less than an hour ago I was by the canals of Venice, tomorrow I’ll be in Mozart land.) so I will say buona notte.


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