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Belogradchik, Bulgaria – V.1.5

I had originally  made an “out-of-chronological-order” post about my trip to Belogradchik, which you can find here.

I loved it there so much that I could not wait to do it in chronological order.  But there is some information I would like to add, specifically about getting there and back.

When I was researching this, I found out there was a bus.  But the information was really lacking and completely conflicting.  Now that I have been there, I can help.

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At the Sofia bus station, I was told by the information desk that the only bus company that runs to Belogradchik is named Montana.  The internet says there is a second company, I know nothing about this.

The bus leaves at 16:00.  It runs seven days a week, even though some sites on the internet say it does not run on Sundays (I took it on a Sunday).

The Montana ticket window opens late on Sundays since they do not have any early buses going anywhere. I believe it opens at 11:30.  I could not read the Cyrillic sign announcing this, so I spent a few hours trying to not have a nervous breakdown in front of the window, while wondering if it was ever going to open.

The bus was mostly empty.  The seats were fancy and very comfortable.  The air conditioning worked perfectly. We made a couple of stops where we picked up people who were just standing in the road, with no bus signs anywhere.  We also had to stop for a herd of sheep crossing the road.

Here is the only clear picture I have of the scenery outside the window:

bus view sofia to belogradchik

Belogradchik was the place I was the absolute most excited for on this trip.  As we got closer and the rock formations came into sight, I wanted to scream.

Going back to Sofia from Belogradchik:  I confirmed at the Montana ticket window that the only bus they have running back leaves at 6:00 am.   The internet again, has a bunch of other information.  I don’t know anything about anything else first  hand.

I did not want to leave at 6:00 am because it meant I would need to spend two nights there in order to see the Fortress. I did not want to spend two nights in Belogradchik (side effect of having a full time job and needing to see everything RIGHT NOW as you are doing this only on vacation time).

So I decided to take the train back to Sofia.  Advice: do not take the train back to Sofia.

The internet advises you to take the train from Vidin.  There is a bus between Belogradchik and Vidin.  I think this is terrible advice.  Take the train from Oreshets.  It is on the Vidin line, but closer to Sofia than Vidin, so less time on the train.  I took a cab, it was shared with two other people (that the cab driver picked up at the bus station, after leaving me in the cab by myself for about fifteen minutes with no explanation).  It cost me 4 lev, which seemed about right since I had read it was 11.  So he must have charged each person 4.

The train ride is very long.  I believe it was about 4.5 hours (the bus is only 2.5 hours)  There is no air conditioning, it was hot and the train was PACKED.  We also made some random stop for about half an hour, where everyone except me seemed to understand they could get off the train and get some fresh air.

I will never take a train in Bulgaria again.

Now if you will excuse me, I am going to post 3298473 pictures of Belodgradchik (even though you may have clicked the original link in the first paragraph of this post, which has lot of pictures in it) because BELOGRADCHIK DAMMIT.

This little guy followed me for a long time, barking at me.  I asked him if he was going to bite my ankles.  He then ran and got some backup in the form of a HUGE dog that was really mad that I insulted the little ankle biter.  I wish I had Huge Dog’s picture.  But he was HUGE and MAD.

little dog

Belogradchik, BulgariaBelogradchik, BulgariaBelogradchik, BulgariaBelogradchik, BulgariaBelogradchik rocks, BulgariaBelogradchik rocks, BulgariaBelogradchik fortress, Bulgaria

Goodbye Niš, Serbia, Hello Sofia, Bulgaria!

I was taking a 4:30 am bus from Niš, Serbia to Sofia, Bulgaria.   My Niš apartment was on the third floor of a building that had a cement spiral staircase, and no lighting at all in the hallway. Being that I am leaving at this ridiculously early hour, there is also no sunlight in the hallway.

I gave myself an extra half an hour to sit down on the stairs and scoot down them with my suitcase in tow, to avoid breaking my neck and killing myself.  It is times like these that I almost wish I were not solo, just so that someone else could witness how stupid my life is.

steps death

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The walk to the bus only took about fifteen minutes.  As I was boarding the bus, I was shown that on my ticket, it clearly states that there is a charge for storing luggage on the bus.  I cannot recall the exact amount, but it was less than $1 USD.  I flashed back to the conversation I had with the driver’s assistant back in Sarajevo and now realized that I was probably about ten cents short with paying for my luggage on that route.  I had no idea what was even going on.  Now, I know.

The bus ride was relatively uneventful, save for the beautiful scenery outside.  When we crossed over into Bulgaria and had to show our passports, it became clear to everyone that I was from America.   This caused a lot of the usual interested stares I have gotten this trip, but the only person who commented on it was the driver’s assistant who seemed very surprised I was traveling solo.

We arrived in Sofia at around 9:30 am.  I did not even realize we were in Sofia at first.  We were let off at an annex to the main bus station.  All that is over on this side is rows of store fronts that contain only specific bus company ticket desks inside.  It took me a bit to realize that the main bus station was right next door.

I had approximately eight hours to go see Sofia before heading on a bus to Belogradchik (I would be back in Sofia tomorrow for more time to spend here).  I did not want to leave the bus station until I had secured my ticket for Belogradchik.  Finding out the bus information for this route was not the easiest thing.  The internet is so not clear on anything.  As a bonus, today was Sunday and the schedule I had, clearly stated “every day except Sunday”, which I had not realized until I was getting my stuff together when leaving my hotel back in Niš.  Oh I feel a migraine coming on.

The counter for the bus company that goes to Belogradchik was not open yet.  It did not open for two hours.  I spent two hours in the bus station waiting for it to open.

Once I got my ticket, I checked my luggage.  Then off to the tram to head downtown.  This was a headache as well as I could not figure out how to buy a ticket.  OH HEY you can buy one on the tram.  Duh.

My main plans in Sofia for today are:  (a) follow the tram directions for the hotel I am going to be staying at tomorrow night, so I know how to get there tomorrow  to avoid getting lost (I AM ALWAYS LOST) with luggage and (b) visit St. Alexander Nevsky Church.

My plans were slightly thwarted when outside the tram window, I spot the holy grail – DUNKIN FREAKING DONUTS.  AAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!  DUNKIN DONUTS.  THERE IS ICED COFFEE AT DUNKIN DONUTS.  I HAVE NOT HAD ICED COFFEE SINCE LEAVING HOME.  I NEED ICED COFFEE.  GIVE ME ICED COFFEE NOOOOWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW.

I get off the tram and bolt back to the Dunkin Donuts.  I was so excited.  I think the guy working there probably thought I was a bit off with HOW excited I was.  Not only did they have iced coffee (well, iced lattes, close enough!), they also had donuts with smiley faces on them.  Of COURSE I am going to buy a donut with a smiley face on it.  I am so happy ICED COFFEE (OKAY LATTE, CLOSE ENOUGH).  I place my order in pretty much a sing song voice, which was even singier when i asked for “smiley faced donut please!!!”

EEEEEE!

dunkin donuts

As if this wasn’t cool enough (it totally was!), I managed to then walk to the St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral without getting lost!  I read a map correctly!  What a fantastic day.

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is gorgeous.  Insanely gorgeous.  One picture will never be enough.

alexander nevsky alexander nevsky church, sofia, bulgaria, sofia, bulgaria alexander nevsky church, sofia, bulgariaalexander nevsky church, sofia, bulgaria

I was really surprised at how empty it was inside.  There were maybe about ten people in there, with about eight of them praying.   You are not allowed to take pictures inside.  Of course, the two other tourists were ignoring  this and doing it anyway until they got told to stop.  I sat in here for quite some time just admiring it.  It was so quiet and peaceful.

After leaving, I wandered a bit around Sofia before heading back to the bus station.

former communist party house, sofia, bulgariarussian orthodox church, former communist party houseCIMG0899central military club, former communist party houseCIMG0890CIMG0889monument to the tsar liberator, sofia, bulgariasofia, bulgariasofia, bulgariasofia, bulgariasofia, bulgaria

How beautiful is Sofia’s backdrop?

sofia, bulgaria

Mentally Melting Down in Niš, Serbia

Today I was able to sleep in a bit since Nis doesn’t have all that much to see.  This means I am up by 8:00 anyway.

First thing I do is Google to see where the train station is, since I had forgotten to do that before I left.  Oh fuck.  It is a 21 minute walk, which is fine.  But there are a lot of turns and stuff on Cyrillic written streets.  There is no way in HELL I am going to be able to find it in the dark at 2:30 am.  FUCK.  This was my whole reason for staying an extra night in my hotel.  I don’t want to trust that I can get a cab.  So I decide that I will just take the bus to Sofia tomorrow.  Good bye dreams of finally taking an overnight sleeper train.  UGH.

Since I am going to the Fortress today, I make that my first stop since it is pretty much at the bus station.  This way I can buy a bus ticket to Sofia for tomorrow. It was an easy walk, passing over the Nišava River.

Nišava River, Nis, Serbia

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Buying a bus ticket was not as hard as I anticipated it would be.  I manage to convey that I want to take the 4:30 am bus tomorrow morning.  The woman working the window manages to convey that it will be 1350 dinar (around $17 USD).  We worked very well together for two people who did not understand a word the other was saying.

After this, I realize I am starving.  I go to a restaurant in the bus station parking lot.  That did not go as well as the bus ticket did.   I asked the waitress if she spoke English.  She did not. I start off by pointing to the huge poster advertising iced coffee.  She brings me a cherry milkshake.  I am not kidding.  She also brought the check so I guess I wasn’t going to get my chance to order food.

I went to the Fortress.  It was so nice.

fortress walls grafitti Nis, Serbia

fortress walls Nis, Serbiapark Nis, Serbiapark Nis, Serbiafortress Nis, Serbia

Obligatory Nis dog picture:

doggie Nis, Serbia

I will admit I wanted to take the tourist train, even though it was clearly for kids.  It had a smiley face on the front and played ice cream truck music.  There were adults on it though.  I just could not figure out where to board so I let it go.

Train in Fortress Park, Nis, SerbiaTrain in Fortress Park, Nis, Serbia

I meander around a bit, being a tourist and taking pictures.  It took forever to get a picture of these fountains because they just KNEW I was waiting with my camera and they were being camera shy. But I got you!

fountains Nis, Serbia

Next stop:  Skull Tower.  I am so excited for this.   I walk to where it is on my map.  I cannot find it.  Flash forward literally two hours of walking around, I do not find it.  I finally give up and decide to go back to the Fortress entrance, where there is a tourist information booth.  It was open when I was here earlier.  It is closed now.

I find a big map of Nis, including all the tourist sites.  On it, they show a picture of the Skull Tower.  But it is not on the actual map.  Are you freaking kidding me?

By now, I am just about done.  I agree to do the following:  go back to my hotel, go online, re-Google the stupid skull tower, consider taking a cab.

I get to my hotel and my key won’t work.  Will not work.  Cannot open the entrance to the door on the third floor.  I know the woman who checked me in yesterday mentions she is one floor above.  I go up one more floor.  There are three doors, none are marked.  I try again and again and again.  I try kicking the door.  I am now freaking out and breaking down and sweating and about to burst into tears.

I go back down  and outside to ring the bell to get her to come out.  She meets me at the door.  “Oh Jennifer” she says.  Then she takes my keys and tries to unlock the door and she can’t.  See?  It is not just me.  Oh but it is because she tries again and on the second time, she gets the stupid freaking door open.

Okay.  Problem solved.  I get to my room and the wifi is not working.  Oh fuck no I am not going back down two flights of stairs again to ring the bell to have her meet me.  I Google the Serbia country code on my flip phone – which will probably cost me a million dollars since my data service isn’t covered in Serbia.  I call the number, and someone appears and fixes my wifi.  I am now supposed to re-Google map the Skull Tower, but instead I opt to just burst into frustrated tears.  I tend to have one meltdown on every trip I take; this was this trip’s meltdown.

I thought I might stay here for a bit and relax and build up the mental strength to go back out and see the ONE THING I AM DYING TO SEE HERE.  But it did not happen.

So now I am in Nis to see one thing I did not see.  I am taking a bus that leaves at 4:30 am, instead of one that left at 6:30 pm, which was the better option all around.  You know, so I could be here later to take the overnight train I am now no longer taking.  Everything from the moment I entered Serbia on my layover two (was it two?) days ago has gone horribly wrong.  Serbia hates me.  I still don’t hate Serbia though.  It is not Serbia’s fault I lost my magic trip planning skills.

One Day Spent in Sarajevo, Bosnia

I had originally done a “quick picture post” of Sarajevo, here.

I had not planned to spend any time in Sarajevo.  I wanted to go to Mostar, and planned to use Sarajevo as a home base to travel to Mostar from, as a day trip.  However, after arriving in Sarajevo, I just felt like I wanted to be here.  I can’t really explain it.  I don’t know if the city affected me in any way, if I was just mentally exhausted, if I was so over Rome and all the people or what. I just knew I wanted to stay here. I woke up early and was raring to go.  I wasn’t really sure WHERE to go though.  I hadn’t planned on staying here, so I hadn’t done any research.  I hopped on a tram and took it to the end of the line and walked around a bit.  I found a cool park. park - sarajevo, bosnia Sarajevo has so much beauty.  I could not get enough of gazing at the multi colored houses in the hills. Sarajevo, Bosnia Sarajevo, Bosnia

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The Bascarsija section of the city:

Sarajevo, BosniaSarajevo, Bosniasarajevo, bosniasarajevo, bosnia   silver guitars sarajevo, bosniasarajevo, bosnia I spent some time in a casino and won about $30.  That was kind of fun as well. Then there is the abundance of leftover war damage. War Torn SarajevoWar Torn SarajevoWar Torn SarajevoWar Torn SarajevoWar Torn SarajevoWar Torn SarajevoWar Torn SarajevoWar Torn SarajevoWar Torn SarajevoWar Torn SarajevoWar Torn SarajevoWar Torn SarajevoI actually had a very nice, relaxing day.  That made me feel like kind of an asshole.  Hey Sarajevo – thanks for the relaxing day I spent taking pictures of the leftover damage from when your city was destroyed in a war!

But in the end, I got punished for having a nice day.  When I got back to the guesthouse I was staying in, I wanted to take a picture to send my sister.  At the end of the block was an adorable stray dog napping in the sun. I wanted to get him in the picture as well.  There was someone walking down the street, preventing me from doing this.  As I was waiting him out, a little kid came up and demanded “GIVE ME MONEY”.  Oh hell no.  “GIVE ME MONEY”.  No.  “I SAID GIVE ME MONEY”  I SAID NO.  “GIVE ME MONEY” NO NO NO NO NO NO NO.

Then he starts playing the repeating game. “NO NO NO NO NO NO NO”  Oh you are an annoying little shit head “OH YOU ARE AN ANNOYING LITTLE SHIT HEAD”.

I never did get my picture.

Goodbye Rome, Hello Sarajevo!

Today I am leaving Rome and heading to Bosnia.  This section of the trip is both where I got all frustrated while booking it, and then even more frustrated living it.  I originally wanted to go from Rome to Puglia and take an overnight ferry to Dubrovnik.  Well today is Wednesday and guess what day of the week that ferries do not run?  Yes.  Wednesday.  So I opted to fly to Bosnia.  This was the start of several days where I watched my “Best Travel Planner EVER” crown turn to rust before my eyes.

Hotel check out is at 11:00  My flight is at 4:05.  I decide to go to the airport this early because I don’t want to be in Rome anymore. Plus my flight has changed and I am not all that sure of the new time because there is no wifi in my room and I am limited on what I can see on my phone.

There was no one upstairs when I checked out of my room. I just left the keys there.  I had to restrain myself to keep from leaving a note about YOU LYING BASTARDS. THERE IS NO WIFI HERE.

I walked downstairs and the dude who checked me in is out there!  He asks me how my stay is.  I say “there is no wifi” and he says “yeah…”  in this sheepish tone that causes me to FLIP OUT on him.  I am so pissed off,  I am yelling about how I never would have stayed here, this is bullshit and false advertising.  I basically just keep yelling at him.  He basically just keeps standing there.  I finally walk away while giving him the finger.  I am still so mad about this.  It is so irrational but I hate liars and to knowingly lie about having wifi when you don’t just really set me off.  The hilarity of all of this is that this is the first trip ever in my life where I have brought a laptop type thingy.  On any other trip to any other place I have been to in my past, I wouldn’t have even known that this hotel is a liar liar pants on fire.

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PS – When I got home, I emailed booking.com to tell them that this hotel is a LIAR.  They responded letting me know they would contact the hotel.  I guess that didn’t do much because these lying bastards are STILL advertising wifi.  THERE IS NO WIFI.  I AM STILL MAD.

So anyway.  There is a train to the airport for €14 or you can take a bus for €4.  No brainer.

I walked to Termini to catch the bus.  The weather is absolutely beautiful today.   The best weather day I have seen since I first landed in Europe.  Of course I am spending this beautiful day traveling all day long.  Or rather sitting around airports all day long.

First flight – Rome to Belgrade on Jat Airways, operated by Alitalia.  It is interesting to note that it said “Alitalia” nowhere at all anywhere on my confirmation.  I only figured it out via a combo of a screen with ticket window numbers for each flight happening to be an Alitalia window.  The Jat Airways window was never open at all the entire time I was there.  Also annoying, when I was on the line for Alitalia, I asked a woman who worked for them if I was in the right line, since my ticket/confirmation said nothing about this.  She told me yes, I am Alitalia and that I could skip the line if I wanted and go check in on the other side.  Guess what happened when I went to the other side?   I was told I had to go back to where I just was.  Great.

The seats on this flight are large and slippery.  I keep sliding out of mine.  This is so stupid.  I had also picked seat 3F – right side of the plane because I naturally lean to the right when I sleep sitting up.  I am now somehow in 4A and I cannot manage to sit still because I am on the wrong side.

Layover in Belgrade wasn’t too bad.  Got to buy a carton of sketchy cigarettes for €5.  As much as I started today just annoyed over losing an entire day to travel (my own fault) I will say it ended up being a nice relaxing day.  I have not had any free day in my life in months to just do nothing.  I got caught up on writing and picture sorting. I had time to think about the rest of my trip without making a panicked mental list of what I still needed to do before leaving.  The only way today could have been better is if I weren’t an idiot and didn’t leave my zen thingy in my luggage before checking it in at the airline counter.  Then I could have had a fantastic soundtrack to my thoughts.

Just so we are clear, I enjoyed all-day-transport-day more than I enjoyed Rome.  There, I said it.

My flight from Beograde to Sarajevo was delayed by over an hour.  The Beograde airport is perhaps the most boring airport in existence.  There is pretty  much nothing open after 8:00 pm.  Finally we board, finally we arrive in Sarajevo.  Finally I get to see this awesome Roulette wheel luggage conveyor belt:

roulette wheel luggage conveyor belt, sarajevo, bosnia

When I arrived in Sarajevo – twelve hours after I left my Rome hotel – I had a driver waiting for me.  That was cool.  As we drove from the airport to my hotel, he asked me how I liked Rome.  I told him I hated it.  I told him that there were too many people  I gestured to the empty streets we were on right now and said “LOOK!  NO PEOPLE!  THAT IS SO COOL”.  He pointed out that it was close to midnight and of course, that is why it was so quiet outside.  Oh.  Well anyway…

I am staying at a guesthouse tonight.  I am arriving both late at night and even later than I was supposed to, due to my flight being delayed.  The owner was kind enough to not make me feel like a disruptive asshole.  She showed me to my room, showed me how to use the fan, informed me that there is hot water as if this was a big deal…which made me realize how lucky I am that it would never occur to me that there would not be hot water.

After she left, I realized that FUCK I did not ask for the wifi code.  We are now on day four where I have not seen the internet.  I felt too bad to go up and chase her to her room to ask for the password so I just went to bed.

Rome, Italy: Colosseum, Palatine Hill, Roman Forum and St. Peters Basilica in Vatican City

Today is my last full day in Rome.  I will not lie; I am looking forward to my stay here being over.  I am just dying to go east.  I am doing that thing again where I wonder why the hell do I keep coming to places that are not even in my top 100 places to see before I die.  I keep getting sucked in by famous tourist spots. Like how can I not go to Rome and see the Sistene Chapel or the Colosseum?    I need to guide myself away from doing this in the future.  The three days I have spent here could have been spent anywhere east of the Adriatic and I would have spent these three days in absolute heaven.

But then I think of things like my time in Naples or last year in Florence.  I fell in love with Florence.  I loved my time in Naples and all its surrounding areas.  I wasn’t really expecting either of those things to happen.  I am so glad I went.  I love finding new places I love that I hadn’t planned on falling in love with.   It makes me feel like I am learning about the world and growing as a person.  I guess I am bipolar about my vacation destinations.

But anyway, less deep thoughts with Jennifer and more back to Rome.

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I am up early to get to the Colosseum before it opens.  I want to get in before it gets too packed. I was not the only person with this idea. The line was so long before doors opened.   It turned out okay though because I had bought a ticket before I left so I go to pass everyone and go straight inside.

Colosseum, Rome, Italy

Rome ColosseumRome ColosseumRome ColosseumRome ColosseumRome Colosseum

I had a combo ticket for the Colosseum, Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum.   Out of the three, the Roman Forum was by far the most impressive.  You can also pretty much see it for free from the street.  Just so you know.

Roman Forum and Palatine HillRoman Forum and Palatine HillRoman Forum and Palatine HillRoman Forum and Palatine Hill

Roman Forum and Palatine HillRoman Forum and Palatine Hill

At some point between Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum, it started pouring again.  I am getting so over walking around on uneven and slippery ground in the rain.  I am walking around like an octogenarian, while literal octogenarians whiz past me.  At one point, I drop my new camera – that I had to buy on this trip to replace the one that broke on day one of my trip – onto a cement block where it bounces off into a puddle.  You have got to be fucking kidding me.  Somehow nothing happens.   The camera still works fine.  I don’t know how I got to be this lucky since I am the opposite of a lucky person.  This does however, encourage me to walk even slower since I am now so petrified that if I slip and fall, the camera will not withstand a second smashing into the ground.

Once I am done, it is still pouring, even harder now.    I hate wearing a yellow poncho.  I hate fearing my camera will get wet.  I hate worrying that everything in my bag will get soaked.  I am sick of dodging assholes who do not know how to not poke my eyes out with their umbrellas.

Rain in Rome:

rainy rome

I go back to my hotel for lunch.  As is the norm for me, when I get off the train at my hotel, there is no rain.   Of course.

I eat and nap and give Rome one more chance.  This evening’s itinerary is St. Peters Basilica, where I was just unable to force myself to do when I was RIGHT HERE two days ago.

This place is a mess.  So many people.  There are no signs telling you what line is for what.  So I just went where there were less people and it turned out that line was to enter the church.  The church is absolutely beautiful inside.  I am the opposite of a religious person and it saddens me always to see how beautiful churches are, when so much of what they stand for is the exact opposite.  It just seems like such a waste.

St. Peters Basilica, Vatican CitySt. Peters Basilica, Vatican City

St. Peters Basilica, Vatican CitySt. Peters Basilica, Vatican CitySt. Peters Basilica, Vatican City stpeters

I wandered around inside for quite some time and then went back out.  I think I was planning to go up into the dome but I got sidetracked.  Then when I saw the line, I was just never going to do this.  I sat down and tried to talk myself into it.  Dude, this is your last night in Rome.  Last time you will ever be in Rome.  Go up in the freaking dome you dumbass.   But I just could not do it.  I am done with this city.   I don’t like it and it surely doesn’t like me.  I cannot do this one last thing.  I cannot.  I seriously sat for about an hour having this internal fight with myself.   I was never able to convince myself to go.  I do not regret not going.

Although Vatican City is considered a country of its own, it does not have a passport stamp.   So instead, they market their post office.  People just love to buy stamps or mail themselves post cards so that they have a Vatican City stamp.  This was the post office I saw:

vatican city post office

After leaving here, I again made the mistake of trying to find the internet again.   I will spare you this rant. I will say though, that the limited access I have from my flip phone shows me my flight to Bosnia tomorrow is changed.  I cannot see what has changed since it’s an attachment and flip phones do not do attachments.  I am also being picked up in Sarajevo tomorrow night by the driver for my hotel.  Am I arriving at the same time?  Who knows.  Rome hates letting people use the internet.  I am not too worried about it though since check out at my hotel is 11:00 am and my flight is (or was?) at 4:05 pm.  This hotel does not do luggage storage since there is no reception or anyone working here. So I will just go to the airport all those hours early and figure it out when I am there.

Rome, Italy: Train Mishap and Where Is My WiFi Dammit?

I do not like Rome.  This is not entirely Rome’s fault.   I acknowledge that.  But I do not like it.

I was leaving Napoli today.  I last left off leaving Castel Sant’Elmo.  I had to go back to my hotel and pick up my luggage.  Dying, hot, sweaty, death.

I walked back over to Centrale to buy a train ticket to Rome.  The next train was leaving in ten minutes, I wanted a tiny bit more time to do things like buy an ice cold drink (DYING, HOT, SWEATY, DEATH) and smoke a cigarette.  I look at the later times and see prices €40 and up.  What the hell, I thought it was going to be like €10.  Then I notice the too-soon train is only €11.20.  Perfect, I will take it.  Who needs a cigarette and ice cold drink when you will be in Rome in about an hour for only €11.20?

Ugh.  Did you know they have slow trains between Naples and Rome?  I didn’t.  I am now on a three hour train.  I boarded late so there are no seats left.  I am sitting outside between the two cars, burning hot.  There is a guy selling cold water, he does not have change for a €20 bill.  I don’t have anything smaller since I just put all my change and smaller bills into the ticket machine.

I did see some cool scenery though:
View train from Rome to Naples

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I finally get to Rome.  I actually find my hotel with no problem at all.  Even with Google Maps lying about it being down a street it is not down.   It is one of those “In a building, not the whole building” kind of places.  I ring the bell, I am buzzed in.  I see this:

hotel "lobby"

Um, where am I going?  After a few seconds, I hear someone yelling “HELLO” at me.  Hi.  And you are where?  A young man comes down, says hello (again) and carries my bag up to the second floor.  No elevator.  He checks me in.  Asks for my credit card.  Oh no, nuh uh.  This was paid in full when I reserved it.   He says no.  I say yes.  Special rate, 100% charged at time of reservations, no refunds.  He tells me I was not charged.  I do not feel like arguing right now because I am tired.  So I hand over my credit card with every intention of looking up my credit card statement as soon as I get into my room.

My room.  I hate my room. It is really tiny.  I think I knew that before I got here and was okay with it.  I just think that coming from a nice room where the terrace alone was literally five times the size of this room, makes it seem worse.

tiny room

Also my window.  It actually opens onto the hallway and on the other side of the hallway is a window that opens to outside.  So in other words, anyone passing by my room in the hallway, can stick their arms right inside my room.

window view

First thing I try to do, go online to check my credit card statement.  What the fuck.  Why won’t the internet work.  I go back out to get the guy and he is gone.  This place does not have full time reception or any reception really.  Once I was checked in (I was the last one of the day), he leaves and there is no one here at all if you have any questions.  Example of a question you cannot ask since there is no one here:  “Excuse me, can you please help me with the internet?”

God dammit.  I need to see my credit card statement.  Fine, I will call them.  From fucking Italy.  I call card #1 (I don’t know what card I used).  I get someone on the phone.  He asks for my birthday as a security question.  It turns out we have the same birthday.  That’s just great.  What?  What am I doing for my birthday?  I lie and say I don’t know because I certainly have no intention of explaining to this person that I am celebrating my birthday at a hardcore fest.  He tells me he wants to travel for our birthday.  Oh god help me if this turns into some solicitation, I am in Italy, this is an international call.  Can I please just tell me if I was charged for this hotel on March 14, like I am positive I was.  He starts listing charges from that date.  One was JetBlue.  I start to get a bit confused  by that because what the hell is the JetBlue charge?  Where the hell am I flying them to?  I have too many vacations I cannot keep anything straight anymore.  I actually ask “Does it say where I am flying to?”  No.  It doesn’t.  No it’s not a problem.  I am sure I made that charge.  No, I don’t want you to do anything.  Oh my god.  You know what, I am going to hang up the phone and go outside and find a McDonalds and go online.  Thank you.  Yes, you enjoy our birthday too.  Okay bye bye.  I SAID “BYE” TWICE NOW WHY ARE YOU STILL TALKING.

So I will go outside for the internet . There are two McDonalds at the train station I was just at.  Plus I want to find the Metro anyway so I don’t get lost tomorrow morning.

Find the Metro no problem.  One ticket it supposed to be good for up to 75 minutes.  I take the Metro one stop to the train station thinking I can also take it back and save myself the fifteen minute walk each way.  I am tired.  I am also still really thirsty, still.  I went to fill up my water bottle before I left but instead I dropped it and it rolled under the bed.  I left it there thinking I would just get some delicious peach iced tea at McDonalds while I use the internet.

I get to Termini.  I go to McDonalds.  I order fries and peach iced tea.  I go upstairs to sit.  My iced tea doesn’t make it. I drop it and it completely empties onto the floor.  I start to cry.  Okay that last part was only internally but it did happen.

I sit down, take out my laptop type thingy and guess what.  McDonalds in Termini Station doesn’t have wifi.  Are you freaking kidding me?  I SAID ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME.  I can’t even.

I finish my fries, I am eleventy billion times thirstier than ever before in my life.  I find that the deli type place next to McDonalds has wifi but I have already eaten and I am not going to eat twice.  So I head back to the Metro to go back to my hotel.  Son of a BITCH I have been lied to.  You cannot use the freaking Metro ticket unlimited times in 75 minutes.  I do not want to walk.  I do not want to buy a new ticket.  I am so thirsty.  I begin to completely zone out, in front of the turnstile.  I begin to wonder about where the gangs of teen aged robbers who hang out at Termini that I always read about on the internet are.  Then I begin to wonder what is wrong with me that while I am having such a bad streak of luck I wish to seek out gangs of teen aged robbers .

I buy another metro ticket.  And a peach iced tea.  It was delicious.

I get back to my hotel without any incident. I do laundry in the sink.  I notice a pack of ants in the bathroom.  I type out this rant.  I play with some of my pictures.  I start typing like a caveman. I go to bed.  Good night.

Naples, Italy: Castel Sant’Elmo

My last morning in Naples.  I wanted to spend a few hours here before leaving for Rome.  Especially since I have now mastered the fine art of not being murdered by a Vespa when crossing the street.  (Hint:  walk with a local in between you and the direction of oncoming traffic.)

Naples chaos:

naples chaos

After a last game of catch with the cute dog who lives at my hotel, I was off.

b&b doggie

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I took the subway to the Montesanto Funicular (I LOVE FUNICULARS.)

funicular, naples, italyfunicolare, naples, italy

This funicular was inside though, so I didn’t get that cool outside view that makes me love funiculars.

From the funicular, it is a short walk to Castel Sant’Elmo.  Even I did not get lost.

castel sant'elmo, naples, italy

This castle is an odd thing.  It was completely dead.   I saw maybe 20 people tops the entire time I was up there,  which was weird since this is the view:

Castel Sant'Elmo, Naples, ItalyCastel Sant'Elmo, Naples, Italy

Castel Sant'Elmo, Naples, Italy

Naples is a madhouse.  Any time you are outside, you are on the verge of being murdered by a Vespa.  The sound level on the streets is unlike anything I am used to.   The sound of the Vespas, combined with what seems like never ending sirens (likely from emergency vehicles tending to pedestrians who were murdered by Vespas) is so nerve grating. This is coming from a New Yorker mind you.  So being up on top of the world surrounded by peace and quiet, while gazing out at beautiful scenery was fabulous.  I can not get enough of combining gorgeous views with independence flavored self pride at having gotten myself to this very spot.  LOOK AT MEEEEEEEEE I GOT HERE ALL BY MYSELF!!!!

So of course it is hot out, it is May in Naples.  I came prepared with 100 spf sunscreen.   However I am now beginning to wonder if I am allergic to the sun because any time I go outside in it, I end up clawing my skin open to stop it from itching.  I don’t even know if you can be allergic to the sun.  All I know is that my face and hands are basically black and I can not stop clawing at them.

While up on this roof burning and clawing away at myself, I stepped into this lookout post:

Sant'Elmo look out

AH COOL AIR!  The temperature in there was at least thirty degrees cooler than in the sun.   I never wanted to leave.  Unfortunately (and OF COURSE) despite the fact that there is pretty  much NO ONE UP HERE AT ALL – I mean come on, look at these pictures, look how there is NO  ONE UP HERE:

castel sant'elmo, naples italycastel sant'elmo, naples italy

As soon as I find solace in my cool lookout, a family comes up and the kids want to come in and play in the fort.  MY fort.

Ugh.

The kids aren’t even being obnoxious dicks about it.  I only know they want to come in because they ran up to the fort and stopped in the entrance when they saw me.  They both apologized and stepped out.

It was so nice in there, I was cooling off, it felt so great.  I tried standing with my back to the entrance.  Oh hey kids, I can’t see you, la la la la laaaaaaaaaaaaa.  But I knew they were out there.  They were simply waiting quietly, pretending to be busy with other things.  Never whining, never melting down, never anything.  At first I intended to hold my ground.  MY fort, MY FORT YOU STAY AWAY.  But as the time went by, I had to wake up and face the reality that I am a 41 year old woman going completely out of her way to prevent a couple of well mannered kids from playing inside a cool looking fort that is really more suited for their age than mine.  SIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHH.  Time to go.

I walk back to the funicular…oh hell no I don’t.  I walk and get lost looking for the funicular. I actually end up back at the castle.  Oh here we go.  Let me try that again.  This time I find the funicular, coming from the complete opposite direction I had left it from.  Oh hey, what’s that?  OH HEY – underneath the bench outside the funicular is a cough drop and….MY FLASH DRIVE.  They both must have fallen out of my bag when I left the funicular.  I cannot believe that (a) I lost my flash drive and (b) I found it.  All my pictures are backed up on there.  Not even just from this trip, but from every trip I have taken in the past year, including all of last year’s Euro extravaganza.  I also have all my budget information and daily reports (like the one I am typing right now) backed up on there.  I cannot believe how lucky I got that I spotted that on the ground.

My time in Naples has come to an end.  I think if I had visited the castle on day one, it would have made my trip so much different.  I spent the past couple of days viewing Naples as a place you visit because it’s a conveniently located place from which you can easily visit other places.  I didn’t really view Naples itself as a stand alone destination.   I wish I had spent one more day there.  But when I booked my trip, I didn’t know I would love Naples.  I also didn’t realize I would hate my next destination, which is Rome.  (Spoiler alert:  I hated Rome.)

An Easy Side Trip to Sorrento, Italy from Pompeii and Naples

I last left off in Pompeii.  I wanted to go to Mount Vesuvius.  I know it is cold there, always.  This should have been a draw since I was slowly dying in the heat in Pompeii.  But I could not get my mind to believe that a volcano would be cooler.  So I decided to go to Sorrento, which was burning hot of course.  Meh, whatever. At least I had the joy of being able to switch my plans last minute and not have to deal with anyone else because I am solo lalalalalaaaaaaaaaaa.

Leaving Pompeii and buying a train ticket for Sorrento was a bit difficult.  The ticket booth guy was not at the window, but instead could be seen from the window gabbing it up with his coworker.  The maniac behind me in line starts smashing at the window. Of course, the guy thinks its me since I am the one standing there when he comes over.  Great.  I ask for a ticket. He gives it to me and tells me “You need to run to catch the train”.  Yeah well I wouldn’t have if you had been here instead of over there….whatever.

Since it is later in the day now, the Circumvesuviana train smells even worse than it did earlier in the day.  I am from New York, I can handle this.

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Sorrento is a sleepy, fancy place.  There was a point in my planning where I considered staying here.  I am glad I did not.  It seems like a great place to be if you are looking for a place to relax for a few days, or have a romantic getaway.  My trip was the opposite of both of these things.  Sorrento would not be for me.

I wanted to find the lemon grove.  I thought I did find it but it turns out that instead, I found what looks like a lemon grove if the lemon grove had a man standing at the entrance yelling at me that this is private property and I can only enter if I am staying at the hotel.  OKAY then.

sorrento, italy

I kept walking around.

sorrento, italy

I came across an alleyway full of shops, pretty much all of them lemon themed.  Sorrento takes its lemons VERY seriously.

shopping alley, sorrento, italy

lemon everything, sorrento, italy

How adorable is this?  Table and chairs outside an ice cream shop.

cute ice cream shop chairs sorrento, italy

Then I found the water.  This was so nice.  You can take an elevator down to the beach and back up.  I did not want to.

CIMG0475sorrento coast

I stood at this spot and day dreamed for a while with “Gold Coast” by a band called Capital playing through my head “and you sit in your house on a hill, with a view of the worrrrrrrrrrllllllllllld……….”

coast houses, sorrento, italy

Napping Sorrento dog:

dog, sorrento, italy

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After a bit, I got really bored.  As I said, this seems like a nice place to be to relax and that is just not me.

I walked back to the train and went to buy my ticket. No one is at the booth.  The line behind me grows and grows.  People seem to think it is my responsibility to make the ticket seller come to the window since I am first.  No, no it isn’t.

I finally get my ticket and it would not work.  I bring it back to the booth.  The guy took it and wrote on it and told me to go through the side gate.  Okay but it is locked.  I went back to tell him it was locked and he was not there. Again.  So I ended up just sneaking in I guess.   It is possible to maneuver the turnstile so you can get in by moving it out.  This is illegal and I do not recommend it, but I did have a ticket so I am okay with it.

I get back to Naples.  Whiny, crabby and hot.  Burning  hot, BURNING  hot.  I get to my hotel with plans to lay down and nap in air conditioning before going back out.  Oh hey.  There is a team of repair men in my room fixing my air conditioner.  It was not broken when I left.  This almost set me off.  I was trying to not meltdown mentally since it was not like I could blame any hotel owner for being proactive and making sure the air worked when I am sitting here dying of heat.  So I just sat there burning up, sweat pouring all over me, while they fixed the not-broken air conditioner.   This took about an hour.  By the time they were done, I was done.  My plans to nap and go back out were now replaced with “shower and bed”.  I don’t even think the sun was down by the time I fell asleep for the night.

Naples, Italy: Side Trip to Pompeii

Today is one of those days where I am reminded how much I love traveling solo.

My original plans for today were to overdo sightseeing.  I was determined to go to Pompeii, Herculaneum and Mount Vesuvius all in one day.  The internet says it can not be done, I say it can.  I guess we will never know now though because I ended up making a very last second decision to go to Sorrento after Pompeii, rather than keeping my original plans.  Changing plans last minute always seems to be so easy when you are solo and so difficult when you are not.  I didn’t have to confer with anyone, all I had to do was get on the train.

First stop:  Pompeii.  I took the Circumvesuviana train here from Naples.  At the Naples train station, some random guy approached me and asked me if I was looking for the ticket booth.  I made the mistake of saying yes.  Oh here we go. He then tries escorting me through the train station, out the other side and down a new entrance. I do not want him to do this because I know he is going to ask me for money.  I actually say to him “I am not giving you any money, I can make it the rest of the way by myself”.  He ignores me.  We get to the ticket window and he tries to pay for my ticket.  I think the trick  here is that he pays for my ticket (it was something like €2.40) and then would hope I would not have exact change and give him a €5 bill).  I keep insisting “DO NOT BUY MY TICKET” and he will not stop.  So I then yell to the booth guy “DO NOT SELL HIM MY TICKET”. Then I think I will outsmart him and pay with a credit card.  No change, no cash, sorry guy.  But the Circumvesuviana does not take credit cards.  ARGH.

So I pay in cash and turn to leave.  My unwanted escort asks me to buy him a cup of coffee.  NO.  I find it so completely annoying when people do things like this.

The train comes and its every bit as run down and rickety as the internet told me it would be.  It was also hot as hell on there.

We get to Pompeii.  Walking from the train station to the entrance is about a five minute walk, during which you are offered to purchase a bunch of things such as slushies, sun hats and souvenirs.  I almost bought an enormous sun hat as my 100 spf sun screen is not working and I am so burned up.  But I resisted.

Pompeii is HOT today.  Burning hot.  There are just about zero spots with shade inside here.  I had to keep reminding myself “you know, people here died from being buried under volcanic ash, I bet they would love to trade spots with you”.

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The entrance through the city walls was one of the many “I AM GOING TO FALL AND DIE” moments of my trip.  It is steep and there is nothing to hold onto.  I was watching people twice my age zip past me like it was no big deal.  I envied their bravery.  If you have never been to Pompeii – on the right side is a drawbridge type thing, once you walk across it, you continue up that steep hill.  Sure it doesn’t look like a big deal in the picture.  But it would have been if I had died!

entrance to pompeiiOnce I survived the scary entrance and got into the actual site, I spotted this cutie. It was so hot that I actually thought he might be dead.  Thankfully, he was not.

pompeii dogPompeii:

pompeii, italypompeii4pompeii2pompeii1pompeiipompeii colliseumhouse preserved

This was Pompeii’s fast food restaurant.  I took a break over here because there was a water fountain and a ledge to sit on.  Every tour group that passed by stopped here and every tour guide would talk in whatever language with “McDonalds” being the only word I understood.

fast food restaurant

This looks like a Rorschach face.

face

This looks like a Rorschach dog.

dogI love this picture:
pompeii, italy with vesuvius in the background

 Up next:  a few hours in Sorrento.