Queuing for the Vatican, climbing a active volcano and getting sent to Australia for a visa.
29.04.2007 - 05.05.2007 27 °C
"I knew I shouldn't have thrown that bloody coin in that fountain last time I was here", I thought to myself as I stepped off the train in Rome. I tried to make myself look less hung-over so as to meet Karolina who had flown over from Stockholm for the weekend to see me. This time we managed to meet on the platform without any police involvement and found our hostel which luckily was not one of the nightmare places that I have heard about in Rome on my travels, as long as you don't mind dodging the dog crap on the floor.
So it was off into town to soak up some of that sun and check out the usual sights, Coliseum, Forum and the Palatine hill. This was followed by fighting our way through the crowds into the Pantheon. The Pantheon still manages to amaze me even if there are 2000 other people under its dome. Of course the Trivia fountain and the over crowed Spanish steps were also visited. I neglected to throw another coin in that dam fountain this time as someone had expanded on the myth that if you do the second time you marry an Italian girl.
Next day was the Vatican museum (Ange you'll get a laugh out of this) 4 hours standing in the pouring rain was what it took to get in. For those of you that have been, the line went right back around to St Peters by the second set of columns. So after checking out the Popes art collection which I have to give Raphael's work a big thumbs up and have to laugh at the irony of being told to be silent in the Sistine Chapel over a booming loud speaker (every two minutes in three different languages). Of course no trip would be complete without a visit to the Basilica and then it was off to Piazza Novena for a nice dinner.
After goodbyes at the train station Karolina was on the bus to the airport and I was heading south to Naples to have some pizza, a quick look around and then a ferry to Tunisia to get into the thick of my trip.
After dodging scooters and a fine on the metro for not validating my ticket using the "If I talk really fast you can't understand me Mr Ticket inspector plus I'm a dumb tourist" technique. I walked through the door to be met by the words “Buongiorno I'm Giovanni, welcome".
Now Giovanni’s is a hostel set up in his apartment, the second you walk in you are made to feel welcome. Giovanni sits you down, highlights a map with what you have to do, what trains you need to catch and what time you need to be on them. He highlights the best pizza place in the world and finishes by saying " Now you know Naples is not a safe city so stay out of these areas" then proceeds to high lights in blue 50% of the city leaving a corridor in the middle for you to get out an see the sights.
Having had worse mission orders given to me in the army it was with my map that I was kicked out into the streets of Naples to go and see every museum as it was 1 Euro entry day. Then I arrived home and have a huge slice of lasagna placed in front of me cooked by Giovanni himself. I don't think there was a day that I was not given a meal of the best pasta I have ever had and a glass or two of wine to wash it down with. This would be followed by the guitar being brought out and a bit of a sing song being had.
The next day saw me wandering around the streets of Pompeii. Pompeii is the ruins of a Roman city that was caught in the 79AD eruption of Mt Vesuvius. The city was totally preserved under 6m of volcanic ash and this place is huge it would be 1 kilometre squared and you literally walk around it streets and go inside the homes of the Romans. There are amputheres (see the photo below) and forums and the creepiest thing is where the archaeologists have poured a plaster in to the voids left by the bodies of the dead and you can see the expressions on their faces, their hair even the folds of their clothes.
In the afternoon Dave decided to go and climb Mt Vesuvius, being a Kiwi I could not bring myself to get the bus up so I walked from the train station. After 2.5 hours I battled with clouds on top for my summit photo and then wandered back down to the car park.
I waited for the bus which was whistled out by the inspector and told to get on. As I jumped on the driver asked me for my ticket "ah I don't have one I walked up" I mumbled.
He started making a motion with his hands which I took to be to get off the bus.
" But ...But" I stammered dreading having to walk another 13km back to the train.
to which he replied "Just sit down please" obviously feeling sorry for the sweaty mess standing in front of him and trying to get me on, on the sly.
So after a big day of sight seeing and "mountain climbing" it was off to the best pizza place in town, and I tell you what , this pizza was only 3 Euros tasted amazing and was so big it hung over the plate. In fact I ate here for the next three nights in a row.
I don't know what made me check but something just didn't ring right in my head about going to Tunisia. Valeria was a young Italian girl who worked for Giovanni at the hostel, her opening line to me was "Dave what is the 8th wonder of the world? A Kiwi with a return ticket!" So we got on great guns. Conveniently she had been living in Syria and spoke Arabic and French so I got her to ring the Embassy just to check what the story was, but the visa for everyone but New Zealand citizens was very clear. As she hung up that phone she turned to me with a smile of a teacher talking to a five year old. "Yes you can have a visa but it will take 12 days", she informed me.
"Hmmm that's no good I have to be in Libya in 7 days". I said through clenched teeth.
"Okay tomorrow we will go down there and see what we can do, normally it is easier if you are there in person." she offered with that same smile informing me that I was an idiot.
So first thing the next day I was on the metro heading to the embassy which was deep in the blue no go zone armed with my translator, passport photos and other required documents feeling very confident.
10 minutes later I walked out of the embassy having been told that I could not get a visa at all because I was not a permanent Italian resident. When the guy asked me where I was from, insisting that we use English (to show off in front of his colleagues), I said New Zealand. After five minutes and Valeria telling him in every language that she spoke he finally worked out where New Zealand was then told me that I needed to get my visa back home. "But there is no Tunisian embassy in New Zealand" I bluffed!
"Then you must go to Australia" he said with a shrug.
"It's a 4 hour flight" I screamed figuring out the reason for the Perspex screen separating us.
"And Allah willing you will get your visa" was his only reply.
"Maybe I could pay a penalty "fee" for the visa here" I suggested much to Valeria's dismay.
"No I can't help you" he said.
"Whatever happened to Africa being corrupt" I mumbled to noone as I stormed out the door Valeria in tow.
So that was that idea over before it even started. There was only one thing for it beer, the best pizza in the world and a phone call home to tell Mum and Dad how unfair the world is, a concept that I am sure they were not familiar with till that moment. A bit of tough love from Dad to the effect of stop your moaning and get on with the bloody trip and I was saying goodbye to Geovanni and Valeria and on the next train north to catch up with some mates and crack on with my new route along the Adriatic Coast.