And now, as our summertime travel blog continues......a change of pace and location. Lani and Jon are blogging for your enjoyment from Poland. So sit back, immerse yourselves in their adventure, and vicariously enjoy the food and sites. Carol and Jim, do you see what you started?
Posted, Saturday, September 10th - travels with Jon and Lani
Gdansk is a wonderful, old Polish city with great history. It is on the Baltic Sea. It was where the first shots of WWII happened and where the Polish shipyards' SOLIDARITY MOVEMENT began Poland's independence from USSR.
St. Mary's Cathedral, in Gdansk, is one of the three largest brick cathedrals in the world (others are in Italy and Germany). It is ginormous! Construction began in mid-1300s and it was completed close to 1500 -- 150 years later.
Jon and I spent Thursday through Tuesday morning getting around Warsaw (our pedometers and our feet attested to the 32 miles of walking we did in those 5 days). Warsaw has a very efficient and affordable system of mass transit -- buses, underground metro, and surface trains. Rides cost about 4 zloty ($1.00).
The city has much history, going back to about 1200 AD. But, much of that history was bombed by the Soviets and the Allied countries in WWII. The Polish people have largely rebuilt castles, cathedrals, towers, walls, and gates and have placed monuments all over the immaculately clean city.
I've included three photos of some interesting sites.
The Barbican was a 16th century brick building, attached to brick walls that surrounded and protected Warsaw from marauders. It played an important role in protecting Warsaw from the Swedish marauders in middle of 1600s (who knew that the Swedes were marauders in their early days).
The Palace of Culture and Science is still Poland's tallest building. It was a gift to the Polish people, from Stalin and the nations of the USSR and was built between 1952-1955 (Stalin sent spys to New York City to find out how they built the Empire State Building). It is a massive building! Very few Poles like the building, and most Poles would like to get rid of the building because it symbolizes their repression under the Soviet Union.
The large sculpture is the Monument to the 1944 Warsaw Uprising. It depicts Polish people -- soldiers, marines, sailors, civilian men and women, children, and the Clergy -- who all fought valiantly, but in vain, against Nazi aggressors taking over Warsaw.
More on Warsaw coming up. Lan
WARSAW, POLAND- September 5 from Lani
Dave Saunders has asked for travel updates from my trip (with Jon) to Poland. Dave and Marilyn are tough acts to follow in terms of blogging about their travels abroad. But I shall endeavor to bring some insights and travel fun facts to all who want to read about the most fascinating country of Poland.
The fastest and most direct and most economical way to get from Oklahoma to Warsaw, Poland is by getting to Chicago's O'Hare Airport and then flying the Polish Airline LOT (the oldest airline in Europe) direct to Warsaw. It is a 9-hour flight, overnight, on the absolutely fabulous Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Since Chicago has many Poles (there are more Poles in Chicago than there are in Warsaw), the flight is filled with Poles going to Warsaw.
Consequently, all the airline announcements and airplane discussions are done in Polish. It is a wonderful and expressive language. The airline serves dinner, drinks, and a breakfast and drinks. The airline also has nice individual entertainment centers for each passenger. We ate, drank, watched American movies, slept, woke and ate again and then we were in Warsaw.
Today's discussion is all about food, food, food. Polish food is hearty and basic, with lots of pork. It is not fussy food with lots of herbs, sauces,and stuff like that. It is just flavorful and basic food. Being Polish, I have grown up loving and eating Polish food all my life. So, here is a description and photos of Polish meals Jon and I have had in our three days here along with the price of the meal (Poland is a part of the European Union, but it is not part of the Euro Zone -- their currency is the Zloty -- so, Poland is a real bargain!).
Dinner #1 consisted of a very large order of very tender pork spare ribs over sauerkraut (Polish sauerkraut generally has caraway seeds in and sometimes juniper berries. German and Russian sauerkraut generally doesn't have any caraway). A large salad consists of shredded carrots and apple. Rye bread and mustard are included. Along with two Polish Tyskie beers, the total came to $20.
Dinner #2 consisted of mixed pierogis (boiled dough with fillings of potato and bacon; sauerkraut and forest mushrooms; and ground meats). The salad was fresh sliced tomatoes and onions in olive oil, lemon and dill dressing. It also included two large Zywiec beers (1/2 liter). Total cost came to $16.
Dinner #3 consisted of two grilled sausages with mustard and fresh grated horseradish and sauerkraut. Salad was dark lettuce with pickled red bell pepper slices. A bread basket had rye breads and poppy seed breads with deviled ham spread and cream cheese spread. Drinks included 2 large, different Ksiazece beers and 2 small Polish cherry liquors. Total cost for this meal was $10.
A trip to Poland also would not be complete without eating other staples of the Polish diet, including potato pancakes, goulash, pork schnitzel, meat and rice stuffed cabbage leaves, and stuffed green peppers. Needless-to-say, Jon and Lani are not going hungry in Warsaw.
My next updates will cover museums and outings in Warsaw and going to Gdansk. Lani
Happy Labor day everyone! It is September 3rd, a beautiful morning in Reggio while you are sleeping. I have been sick for the past 3 days with that bane of existence - the common cold. I think they are always worse if you get them in the summertime, but I doubt anyone has proven that. Anyway, I have decided to survive, which is good, and I may even be feeling better. Marilyn always know when I am really sick because I swear with each series of sneezes or coughs. Not child approved! We are winding down our trip in Italy, and leave for the good old USA on September 13th. The fly to Rome that afternoon, overnight near the airport, and then on to Atlanta and OKC on the 14th. Meanwhile we are handing our blog off to Lani who will keep us informed about their trip to Poland.
September 1 - welcome to September. Today I have a couple of miscellaneous photos and comments to match. Italy is a sweet country, full of passionate people. Behold, a wedding ceremony where the bride and groom are literally "tying the knot.........
Love abounds here.......just take a look at this Italian coffee maker:
Yes, this contraption is a coffeemaker, pod type. My next photo is of a little clean water fountain. These are still in use around the smaller towns in Italy.
And finally, in a previous article - on august 28th, I reported on a late night (for us) dinner that started about 10pm. We didn't finish dinner until about 1am and so we were walking home on the boardwalk. It was Sunday night but rather than being a ghost town, Reggio was really just cranking up. This is a shot I took on the boardwalk, or lungomare....at 1:30 Monday morning.
And of course after dinner we stopped to have ice cream.....wonder why I couldn't sleep?
Don't buy a Fiat made on a Monday. These folks have not slept in days!
August 30th - lets go fishing
This is the typical coastal Italian fishing boat - used by 2 men. They stand in the boat and use a rather long oar and propel themselves along the coast slowly.
Type 2 fishing boat - the reel at the back is to let out and retrieve a small floating net. This boat has a big "popper" one cylinder motor with a giant flywheel to keep it running. Also oars and a fish container in the middle. Typically they catch Anchovies with this type boat or surface feeding red mullet. Don't think of Anchovies here as the little super salty thing that goes on a pizza.....think of them as a 1 inch round 6 inch long fish that the gut, fill then stuff, then roll in fine breadcrumbs and pan sauté in olive oil. The second photo show a Calabrian anchovy prepared well. It is about the size of a Colonel Sanders chicken wing.
And the final shots are of how they fished for their regional pride and job- swordfish. This first shot I took from a black and white photo in a restaurant. Today, the masts are taller, and they have an oversized boom that a man standout on, to spear the fish. A lookout spots the fish. I have colored the top of the mast and the far end of the front boom in red. People actually stand that far in front of the boat to spear the fish. Net fishing for swordfish is not allowed.
AUGUST 28th- Italian lifestyle
We're in extreme southern Italy, considered by northern Italy to be somewhat behind the times, not so much different from the way the northeast USA thinks of rural Alabama or Oklahoma. The pace of life is different here from anything I have ever experienced. We all know that the european dining habits are different from ours. There is no early bird special, because at 5:30PM , people are still sleeping here, going to bed in the afternoon about 2PM and getting up around 6PM ready for the refreshing night. The stores all close beginning at 1PM in the afternoon for the traditional "siesta", which lasts until about 6, when they reopen for a few hours. Restaurants however do not reopen until 8pm for dinner........and the Italians only begin coming in about 9.
Our dinner tonight (we are meeting some Italian friends) will not begin until 10pm. The boardwalk in front of the sea (called the lungamare) will be bustling with folks walking around. By midnight, the boardwalk will be packed with people, and then by 3am things will be calming down somewhat. It is a different lifestyle which we have not easily accustomed ourselves to.
The photo above, is the town where we spent the last 4 days. A small tourist village by the sea. Our dinner reservations were made at 8PM the earliest possible time. If you look carefully at the photo above - at sunset, the patio is deserted. At 8:30pm, when the lower photo was made, there are two tables filled. By 10, when we departed - it was getting full.
It is a very interesting lifestyle, but it is difficult to make the adjustment to the wake and nap, wake and nap, eat late stay up late system. Having said all of that, the food here is worth the wait....
August 24th - the Mafia
There is considerable effort going on right now to find and convict members of the Mafia in Italy. There is a commission of judges that do this. In Italy, there is no District Attorney job, the Judge simple brings the charges and tries the case. Mafia activity is much higher in the poorer regions of southern Italy, especially the island of Sicily (across from us), and our home base of Reggio.
The regional judge in Reggio has 2 machine gun armed military posted outside his apartment 24.7.........4 are posted when he arrives or leaves.
There have been so many Mafia convictions in the past 3 years, that much industrial commerce has ground to a halt, with catastrophic effects in the city. Apartment and even government buildings which are in various stages of construction from foundation to 90 percent completed - standing idle, construction cranes and scaffolding still in place for years.
Unemployment has soared as a result of the Mafia stopping all construction projects, since construction has employed many, many workers. The unemployment rate in the provence of Calabria for under 25's is a whopping 59%.
Bank loan delinquencies have risen to an all time high, forcing 4 banks into receivership here. This is the law of unintended consequences. Add several thousand Syrian and North African refuges into the mix (and more arriving weekly) since Reggio and Sicily are one of the closest points from Africa and you have the beginnings of a problem.
August 24th - lost in translation:
(I think it is a baby clothes shop, but am not sure)...while the name clearly does not spell gigolo......it is close enough when viewed from a distance to cause wonder. Actually it is an island not far from us.
A few Italian social items:
Posted Monday, August 22, 2016
Every country has their little social customs, which separate us foreigners from the locals. Here are a few from southern Italy.
1. Everyone greets each other BOTH when entering and exiting a shop or restaurant. You greet the other customers and the proprietor who all greet you in return. When leaving, you say "good day" to everyone and they all say "good day" back.
2. In a restaurant, forearms ok on the table, elbows NO! Hands in lap? NO! When dining, it is ok to have your forearms resting on the table but not your elbows. Likewise, it is not at all ok to have your hands quietly in your lap.
3. No breadplate and no butter. Bread is to be eaten by itself and without butter.......and by breaking off one small bite size piece at a time, leaving the rest of the bread to lie quietly on the tablecloth. There is no bread plate, it just stays on the table until eaten.
4. Table for 2, not so romantic. Due to the large size of Italian families, and given that the family does everything together, it is not so easy to find a nice well placed table for 2 in a prime spot. They are more likely to have a small table for two or three in a cormer where a table for 8 will not fit.
5. Taxes and tips are not add on items, they are included in the price of dinner. There could however be a place charge of about $2 per person. This is not obvious when you arrive, but obvious on the bill.
6. The old fashion Italian lunch or dinner consists of 3 courses....first the antipasta which is a 3/4 sized one item meal (today I had mussles in white wine sauce.....and then the Primi Plati or first plate (usually a full plate of spaghetti, and then the secundo plati, or second plate which is typically what we call a main course. Salads and desserts follow the meal. Times are changing however, and it is now permitted to order any one of the three.
7. While almost all Italians smoke heavily, many of the restaurants have a no smoking policy inside. Smoking on their terrace is quite permitted. Italians smoke an average of 1,448 cigarettes per person per year versus about 900 in America.
8. Restaurants are often closed on Monday, but a very few do open...beginning at 12:30. Dinner does not begin for Italians until 9PM. Nobody is open before 8PM, making my adjustment from the early bird special very difficult.
9. There appears to be no such thing in Italy as a bad pizza. The pizza Margarita, typically with cheese, basil, and tomatoes.....was first invented to celbrate the unification of Italy as a country in the late 1800's. It has the three colors of the Italian flag represented in the ingredients. Cheese in Italy is all white - they do not add any food coloring like we do to Cheddar. Every restaurant serves pizza, and it is typically thin crust. To eat the pizza you either choose a knife and fork......they do not know what a pizza cutter is, or you tear off a piece and fold it in half so the crust is on the outside, and eat it like that. Now THAT is a good way to eat pizza. Crusts are rarely eaten.
10. One side of the menu are items from the sea, the other side are items from the land..... Typically you don't put things like cheese on the seafood, the land and sea don't mix as they say.
11. You can get potatoes, but typically a meal comes with just the one ingredient on it - pasta in different forms and the various sauces, seafood or meat. You don't see things like "mixed vegetables" or corn on the cob, or cole slaw, or any "meat and two" plates. A fish plate for example will contain "the fish".........just the fish.
12. They do have a couple of hamburger places here and I am going to try one in a few days. There are 2 MacDonald's here, one on the highway and one in a suburb, and I promise not to try one of those. Not much fast food in downtown. There is one place called "Queen's fries" (an Amsterdam chain) where they sell fresh cones of newspaper wrapped melt in your mouth fries. Your choice of about 30 different toppings.....including Nutella and peanut butter.
And that is my report for today.
Saturday, August 20th - it has been several days since I wrote something on the blog. Marilyn and I have been up to a few things you might find interesting:
We took a ferry to Sicily and then a train trip in Sicily and then went to the top of Mount Etna, still an active volcano.
The train runs right along the Sicilian coast for miles and miles and this is a typical view from our seats on the train. This is a regional train and so it has about 4 coaches, all second class cars (which is still far more comfortable than coach class air travel in the USA). Regional trains run about 80 mph, whereas intercity trains run about 150 mph. Even in Italy the trains run on time.
We get to our bed and breakfast and ooops....there is something wrong with the room. But this being Italy...not to worry, the staff has booked us in a nice hotel about 3 blocks away. The owner of the B&B asks us to follow her and in a few minutes she has us in a comfortable hotel room for a couple of days. No changes in price.
Mount Etna rises about 11,000 feet above sea level on the island of Sicily. It perches about 28 miles across the straights of Messina and from our daughter's villa on the mainland, you can see Mt. Etna from her rooftop terrace. Etna eruptions are difficult to predict. On August 11th, a 90 foot wide fissure opened on one of the summits, exposing molten red rock just at the surface. Perhaps had we known this we would not have decided to adventure to the top! The photo below shows the effects of lava vs stone house during the 2002 eruption. Time to move!
The view from near the top is remarkable (wisely they don't allow you with 500 feet of the top crater). It was a relatively windy day and our guide said that the wind dissipates the sulphur smell that filters through the cracks in the volcano as well as the steam from the vents.
Notice that we are all wearing coats (which they thoughtfully rent for about $3. It was 45 degrees where we were, and 88 degrees down at sea level).
We are looking at a steam vent where you can pick up the tiny lava rock and it is warm.....I wonder what lies a few feet below the surface? (I suspect I know the answer to that one, just look at the house above).
Changing subjects completely, we went to a non-tourist restaurant the other night. It is called the "Princess", and you see why in the photo. Way into the heart of a residential area, the Princess is owned by, what else.......an aging "princess". In the photo below, the Princess has her photo taken with our 6'11" foot tall son-in- law, Kim. Princess is standing on a restaurant chair however, and still comes up about 8 inches short. I guess the princess could be anywhere between 70 and 85....but you just can't tell. She flits around in her Betty Davis attire and visits and serves and cleans up. Her husband, disguised as a normal person, runs the kitchen and check-out.
The thing about this restaurant, in addition to the odd theme, was the value of the food. The restaurant is a fixed price of $11 US per person, which INCLUDES all of your beer and your red wine (not just one per person), and taxes and your gratuity. They serve perhaps 7 plates of appetizers, ranging from a little crustless sandwich bite (think canapé) ,fried cheese squares, two different breadcrumb coated stuffed rice balls called Arancini (fried of course).....to loaves of hot fresh bread and olive oil for dipping. Then you order the main course which is a full sized thin crust pizza.......per person. The leftovers are efficiently bagged and you have the next 3 meals!
I'll end this missive with a final note about personal space. In the USA, we have a certain personal space, the distance between us as we stand together and talk, the distance we give each other when passing on a sidewalk, how closely the tables are spaced in a restaurant, how closely we follow another car. Throw all of those distances out in southern Italy and cut them in half. If you are not close enough to spittle all over your friend... you must be mad at him! The distances are about half of that in the USA, which takes some getting used to. And some spittle.
AUGUST 10th - With so many Gelato stores in every block...selecting just the right ice cream can be stressful..............UNLESS, you realize that tomorrow is another Gelato day. I think it is required somewhere in the Italian civil law that it be eaten daily. And move over Blue Bell, there is a Gelato in town! The frozen granules of fruit (what we might sadly call Sherbert) are called Granita and can be equally tasty because the fruit is local and it has no preservatives, just like the Gelato....it melts!. This is just the Gelato section of Sotto Zero Gelato Company, the Granita has its own cooler.
AUGUST 7 - breaking the code
Marilyn and I have been fortunate to travel to a number of different countries over the years. Each country has a system they use to do basic things in life. Purchase a chicken, make a phone call, reserve a hotel room, order a meal. These systems, may or may not be EXACTLY like the systems we know in the USA. That doesn't mean their systems are bad, just different. The systems work for them. We like to call it "BREAKING THE CODE!" Once we figure out how to do something that is different from the way we do it....we have "broken the code".
Breaking the code reduces the stress of traveling in a foreign country. A few examples from Italy:
Checking into a hotel: You need to present your passport. They will make a copy. That is ok! In the US, we might be asked for only the Visa card, or maybe an Oklahoma drivers license, but nothing more. In Italy, no passport, no check-in. Once you have figured this out, all is well.
Taking a public bus: Well, first off, they don't take money. So you have to go to a tobacco store, don't ask me why, and buy one ticket. When the bus arrives, you get on THE BACK of the bus, and insert your ticket into a yellow machine that cancels it. In Mexico, you get on the FRONT of the bus, and give your pesos to the driver. Different counties, different systems.
Paying freeway tolls: Essentially the same as in the USA, EXCEPT there is a lane where you can pull up, insert your VISA debit card, and it will deduct the fee and raise the gate. Don't insert your credit card as half the time it is denied - debit cards only please!
Making a phone call....can't tell you as we have not broken the code on this one yet! We are using something called Viber to make most of our calls over the internet.
Buying an ice cream........first, you decide what you want. Then you go over to the cashier (usually the owner) and tell him you want a medium cup of Gelatto.....he rings it up and you pay for it, getting a receipt. You take the receipt back to the counter where the ice cream is displayed and hand the receipt to the soda jerk who gets your ice cream, and then tears the ticket to indicate it is done. Of course the ice cream is so good here, if you had to stand on your head to get one - it would be worth it.
Buying a train ticket...you can do it either at an automatic machine at the train station, on the internet, in front of a human, or at the tobacco store. If you do it on the internet, you have an electronic ticket which assigns both the rail coach number and the seat. If you do it at the station.....you MUST put your ticket into a machine on the train platform and "validate" the ticket BEFORE you get on the train. Failure to validate results in a $6 fine per ticket, or you may exit the train at the next stop, validate your ticket and catch the next train. This is a hard fast rule and we have watched several people, in heated arguments, have to leave the train.
Buying gas or diesel.... no problem at the full serve stations.....they fill it, they take your money. At the self serve however, you put your money into a slot, pump your gas, and if there is money left over (there usually is), a ticket is printed out showing you have a credit of lets say 18 Euros ($20). There is a code on this ticket similar to a car wash code in the US.....you must hold on to this ticket until the next time you get gas, and enter the code into the pump. A very difficult and ugly system.
And THAT is what we mean by....... BREAKING THE CODE!
Cloudy today, temperature in high 70's
August 6th, a Saturday trip to the barber shop.
I have always been a believer that men should get their hair cut at the sign of the red white and blue rotating barber pole, not in a franchise "Cut n' Curl".
In Norman, that manly barber shop is Midway and my barber has always been cRc member Mike McKorkle. Mike always does the best job possible, having very little to work with on my head. Midway is typical of the small city barber shop, lots of chit chat between the barbers and their customers. Mike and I update each other on the status of our various car projects as he skillfully cuts my hair. Mike is shown in the middle here. Some of you don't see him often because he works on Saturdays.
But what is a haircut like in Italy? I needed one badly and so I set out to find out.
I pass a little one man barber shop near the house and venture inside. Today, the barber had a customer in the chair and I walked in, parting the vertical strings of glass beads hanging in the open door (keeps out flies). The barber spoke only Italian and we quickly established that I did not speak Italian. This fact did not deter him from continuing to speak in rapid fire Italian and offering me the morning Gazette. I accepted because it is full of photos. I can read photos.
What are the differences between Mike's Midway shop and Paolo's barber shop? Many.....
1. Mike's shop is well air conditioned, Paolo's shop has an air conditioner that is turned on and making an air conditioner like sound, but with the door open (and possibly the air conditioner not really doing anything except making noise)......it was hot inside. I was leaving little perspiration tracks on his new morning newspaper, probably not the best way to make a new friend.
2. Mike's shop would pass OSHA, Norman code inspectors and Oklahoma barber license inspections in a heartbeat while Paolo's would not. Not that there are any actual regulations in Italy. Regulations are more like stop signs or paying taxes here, merely suggestions to be ignored. Masking tape splices on the 220 volt electric shears, lots of electric cords overloading the one socket with three adaptors and not a drop of the pretty blue bactericide that USA barbers buy by the case to keep us all safe from something or another like DNA cross contamination!
Since Paolo was the only barber (there were two chairs and customers alternated between them)
the electrical outlet overload was not an issue. After all, how many electric clippers can you use on a customer's head at one time!
3.Paolo told me in Italian, not to worry....then he said that he had been cutting hair for 60 years (which put Paolo at about age 80). His hands did not appear to shake, and I don't understand exactly why, because everyone drinks small cups of heavily caffeinated coffee all morning! You can feel the rush when it reaches your heart!
He proudly showed me his 3 large barber trophies.....(I am going to ask to see Mike's barber trophies when I get back to Norman :) :)
4. He began to cut my hair with grace and style, using only scissors and a comb. It was like he was performing a haircutting ballet....humming softly an Italian opera. He used the traditional barber straight razor (pearl handle if you please) on the back of my neck, but used it dry with no cream. The razor was so sharp it did not need cream. I never felt anything. I may go back one day for a shave. Hopefully on that day, he will use cream!
While I was there, Paolo had 3 more customers come in. I was glad to have arrived early. When he finished, he looked at his work and gave me a smile and a "thumb's up"........I paid him the 15 Euro ($16.50 U.S.) and through the glass beads I went, back on the street and to the house. A morning well spent!
Mike, I am hopeful that you will decide to learn a bit of Italian while I am gone, so that you can hum a few bars of La Traviata when I return in September.
Below I am sporting my new haircut!
August 3rd, timeline of turning in the rental car.
It came time to turn in the rental car in Salerno (12 miles south of where our hotel was located in the village of Vietri) and this is how it worked:
8:30 - I arrive across the street from the train station, where the rental car office is conveniently located. I am happy that I have navigated into the town, the rental car is unscratched.
8:35 - Complete rental car paperwork, walk to train station. I am 12 miles from our hotel.
8:45 - Study the incomprehensible train timetable, determine that a train leaves for Vietri at 9:20....a "metro" train. A metro train is not a regional train or a subway, it is a metro train, whatever that is......
8:50 - Speak with an elderly lady in a flower shop who points me to the tobacco shop to buy a ticket. Elderly ladies in flower shops can cause problems.
8:55 - Buy a one way ticket for $1.30 at the tobacco shop.
9:05 - Study the various signs that point this way and that and select the one that most closely represents the direction I need to go to catch my 9:20 train.
NOTE: Trains are coming into and out of the station all the time on at least 10 different tracks. Other than the big Italian speed train which looks like a Ferrari, you can't tell one train from another.
9:10 - Arrive on platform 7 with plenty of time to spare. Wait, watch, look, listen.
9:22 - Note with some sadness that a very short train is pulling out of a remote part of the station, but not on track 7. Track 7 is like a barren wasteland.
9:30 - Decide that I missed the train and better move from Track 7 to a new location...I go back downstairs to the central tote board to study some more. Another train in 10 minutes.
9:35 - Note that on the tote board, there is a tiny icon that looks a lot like a bus rather than a train.......I begin to ask a few questions and figure out that this train is actually a BUS to Vietri and not a train at all.
9:45 - Note that I have missed the 9:40 bus or metro or train or whatever it is.
9:50 - Go outside the train station and look carefully at the 6 giant busses that are parked just outside the station. These are "substitute trains", contracted by the Italian train system during high season when they don't have enough train seats to fill the need. NONE of the substitute trains are going to Vietri.
9:55 - First thoughts of anxiety are roaming around in my brain.
9:56 - Have a diet coke.
9:57 - Show a police woman my ticket and I say the word "VIETRI, VIETRI" and she says the word "SITA", SITA".....which means to me this is a ticket on the SITA bus lines.
9:58 - Go into the "SCTA" office near where I turned in the rental car and hold up my ticket saying.... "VIETRI?" The man says "SI, VITERI" and says with his hands that I need to catch the number 4 or number 9 bus.......and that the bus stop is a couple of blocks away in the center of town.
10:06 - Uh-oh......I find a bus stop marked "SCTA", and also a second bus stop marked "SITA", a block away. I have seen the "SITA" busses in Vietri because I have almost been run over by several so I choose "SITA".
10:15 - I quickly learn SITA is the wrong choice, as I knock on the driver's door of each bus and say "VIETRI?" and the drivers all shake their heads no......
10:30 - I relocate like a homeless man to the SCTA bus stop 200 yards away....
10:40 - I see a number 4 SCTA bus approaching with the words "POMPEII" lit up in front. Pompeii is about 25 miles north of Vietri and definately in the right direction. I take this bus, thinking well, if it gets me just a little closer to Vietri, I do have my running shoes on and can jog back to the hotel! I seriously consider doing that as I note that the bus is indeed making progress.
10:55 - The bus rounds a curve and indeed I have found my village of Vietri!
11:00 - I have completed the rental car turn in process!
The "Amafli" coast is especially stunning as you drive from town to town, cliff hanging 800 feet above a sheer drop to the sea. When done in off season, it is probably a wonderful leisurely trip of about 90 miles of picturesque coastal towns........BUT.......it is high season in Europe and all of Europe wants to be on this one little coastal road...well, things can get pretty interesting as the three short videos below demonstrate......
This is a "typical" T-intersection where two heavily traffic leaden streets come together. There is no traffic light here, but rather the citizens are left to hake heads of tails of it all. Watch the way the scooters just zip in and out of the cars.
What happens when two public busses meet on a tiny Amalfi coast road? Well, a tint Vespa feels the need to pass. The Italian drivers ALWAYS feel the need to pass. It doesn't matter if it is an 80 year old great grandmother in a 500cc Fiat...there is this need to pass. Our rental car remained undamaged for the duration of our trip. It was like a miracle.......the close calls were too numerous to make note of.
6:47PM July 27: For reasons known only to Italians.....at precisely 6:47 PM every evening, the Church of Saint Anthony, shown across the way from our lovely rooftop terrace.....carols their bells for a minute or so. This is the highlight of my early evening. There are other highlights later like "what is for dinner?", and "oh wow it is bedtime!"
Tuesday, July 27: There is a pedestrian street downtown where all the nice Italian shops are located. This gentleman was playing sweet accordion melodies as I went past, so I stopped for a listen. Sounds pretty Italian doesn't it!
July 24 - Our daughter's friend's Willy and Marcella invited us to join them at the beach on Sunday, and then come to their house for a typical "Italian BBQ". We arrived at the "Lido" or private beach about 10 in the morning and Willy already had everything in place. Umbrellas and chairs or lounges right by the sea. The beach here is a pebble/ round rock beach, due to the volcanoes, so you need to wear beach shoes, or proceed with extreme caution. The water is crystal clear and you can easily see the bottom 20 feet deep.
Willy, who is 65, is decked out in his Speedo, which it typical of all of the Italian men.......all of them regardless of body type. Not a pretty site. This "beach is about 70 feet wide and backs to a cliff. It has a little restaurant, bathrooms, and a shower. It works perfectly for them.
The water is cool to cold and takes a bit to get used to, but once you are in - wonderful. The salt level in the water is higher than we are used to, so you float like a cork. The waves are about a foot tall and very close together.
Swordfishing is a big deal in Calabria and the boats are specialized for this. Those are guys who are fish spotters in the very top of the mast. That's not all. Look VERY carefully extending from the bow (it looks sort of like the shoreline) is a long pole, a bit longer than the boat itself. It extends over the water and once a fish is spotted, guys will walk this narrow pole all the way out, holding a harpoon, and try to harpoon the fish.
We watched these boats slowly troll back and forth, about a mile off the shore all morning. We left the beach about 1pm, went home for naps, because Italian dinners never start before 9pm. We arrived at their 7th floor rooftop apartment about 8:30 and sat on their terrace overlooking the city. Very pretty. Willy first cooked what looked like short fat hot dogs on a kabob, but were anything but that. You take a piece of meltable cheese, wrap a thin slice of steak around and around the cheese, roll that thing in olive oil and fine bread crumbs, and then grill them. Nice flavor, much like a rolled up Philly steak with no bun. Next came thick sliced pork, looked about the thickness of 4 slices of our bacon, but it was pork meat, not bacon. Then finally, a piece of Italian sausage about three feet long and the thickness of your middle finger. It was fresh with the fennel spice and excellent. This was served with crusty bead and a lettuce salad, olives, and pieces of Parmesan cheese that you ate like potato chips. We finished about 11:30pm and waddled back to the car and home. I will report later on the big difference in mealtime later.
July 22 and 23rd - a road trip over to Sicily to walk in 2500 year old Greek ruins. The Sicilian town of Agrigenti (Agra -gent-ah) was built in 584 B.C. and parts of it are still standing, providing us with an opportunity to walk through history. This is an important USESCO World Heritage site and to get there, we must first take a car ferry from the mainland, over to Sicily...it is a smooth 20 minute crossing.
Here, the old city is shown in front of the current city of 60,000. This was a walled city with the "walls" being formed by the steep cliffs surrounding the town. The Greeks simply excavated down about a dozen feet inside, using the rock they removed to build the temples and homes. Erosion has taken its toll on the walls, plus this is an earthquake area, being only 50 miles from Mount Etna.
Mount Etna gets carried away every now and then. This week it is only smoking slightly, but in this photo from the internet....it can get interesting.
All along the way, there are these beautiful little Italian villages which cling to the rock cliffs overlooking the sea. This one is Taromina, and it has a preserved Greek amphitheater which they use today for concerts. That is Mount Etna, smoking in the distance. On most days you cannot see the summit of the mountain, which is 11,000 feet above the sea. It is cloaked in clouds, steam and "VOG" a combination of volcanic emissions and steam, the volcano version of SMOG!
We are back in Reggio now, and going to the beach today. It is expected to reach 90 today, which is hot for this area. It is hot and dry here.
That's all for now, remember to always motoron!
I try to use my own photos whenever possible, but sometimes the upload speed is just too slow for big file photos, so I will shop the internet for similar ones.
Wednesday, July 20th a road trip to the Church of Santa Maira of della Isola......or Saint Mary of the Island.
Well, it was once an island but over the years the sea closed the inlet behind the church and then trees began to grow and so on. The church is quite pretty, as is the entire area.
And of course the stunning view from the church.
Tuesday July 19th a train adventure to the seaport town of Scilla (pronounced Shee-la)
Think we shall take the Italian regional train about 40 minutes down the coast and have lunch.....then take the train home. Got to the station in plenty of time, as I had checked the timetables the day before while out on my run. Automated ticket machine in the station was not functioning, which throws a kink in my plans as I now have to go back into town to a Tobacco store and buy a ticket.
At an Italian tobacco store you can: Buy cigars and cigarettes, buy a train ticket, buy time on parking meters, pay your electricity bill, win the lotto, buy magazines and a host of other things. One way train tickets are $2.60 one way per person for a train trip that is about the distance from Norman to Edmond. Trains are clean, reasonably on time, safe (well, except for the headon collision here last week that killed 28 people). The regional trains are all 2nd class, but better than flying coach in the USA.
In Europe, you must "self validate" your ticket BEFORE you get on the train. If you don't do this (it is like a time clock stamp), there is a $5.50 fine when the conductor sees your ticket. The other choice is to get gently tossed off the train at the next station, validate your ticket there, and wait for the next train. He tossed 3 people off our coach for not having the stamp.
Scilla is a beautiful town perched by the sea. A castle, build high on the rocky point and a church, complete the scene. You can see the castle and the church in this photo....as well as part of the town. The rest of the town is on the other side of the hill. It is really quite pretty. In the foreground is a "Lido" or private beach club. For about $20 per couple you get two nice beach chairs, a table, and umbrella, rights to use their restroom, showers, and buy their snack bar (or sometimes fancy) food. This beach will be impassable after 11am in August when all of Europe goes on vacation.
Seafood is really a big thing here and seafood on pasta, which we have a hard time imagining in Oklahoma, land of seafood...is really quite tasty. I had the restaurant's lunch special which was, you guessed it....mixed seafood over pasta. Ordinarily this is not my favorite, but it was amazing. Mussels, squid, cherrystone clams, razor clams, and a rock shrimp or tow, in a light olive oil and tomato sauce.
This is a heavy lunch by US standards, but light by Italian standards, (they have an antipasta plate, a first course like mine, and a second course about like mine again.
After this nice lunch we had accpomplished mission, and so we wandered back to the train station to return to Reggio. Hummmm, there is no ticket window, and no "ATM" type ticket machine, and all the tobacco shops are closed for the afternoon break (1PM until 4PM).
An elderly gentleman and I did enough French, Italian, Spanish, and sign language for him to let me know you bought your ticket on the train. Fair enough. We board the train and wait for a conductor, and wait for a conductor, and wait.......and then the train is back in Reggio at our station and everyone gets off. Free ride home for the entire train! No wonder the trains lose money. Tomorrow we are going to visit another cliffside village and see what is there.
cRc regional offices now open in Reggio Calabria, Italy
searching for cool cars all over!
Monday, July 18 12:40PM Reggio time, 5:40AM Norman time:
The newly opened offices of cRc Reggio are now ready for business. It is not exactly a corner office, because it has no windows....at all. This is my daughter's "rooftop garden" which I have commandeered for the morning, early afternoon, late afternoon, and early evening. This is my desk....which she mistakenly believed to be an outdoor dining table. Silly girl!
If you look at the mountains in the distance, they are on the island of Sicily, about 12 miles away. Sicily is about the size of Rhode Island. Between the cRc Reggio office and Sicily are the Messina straights, a deep cold water Mediterranean Sea path between coastal Italy and Sicily.
Our cRc Reggio offices occupy the roof of a 3 story villa. The owner lives on floors one and two, and Christy and Kim live on floor three. Christy gets the rooftop included with the apartment.
The offices don't need a clock, because there is a massive church about a half mile away whose bells sing out every quarter hour. Charming! More of our churches need to do that in Norman. Because the Italians close almost everything between noon and 4PM for their rest period (dinner does not even begin until 8pm at the earliest)...the church bells are silenced between noon and 4 in the afternoon. There is this rooster somewhere in the city that takes over about noon and practices his "doodle-doodle-doos" all afternoon.
Our cRc offices have internet connection, downstairs, and some phone connectivity via "What's app".... so we are ready to investigate the various Ferrari, Maserati, Fiat, Lancia, Alpha Romeo classics that are bound to be here. Thus far I have seen a few original Fiat 500's......but I have some Mafia types on the lookout for a Topolino (example shown below). There is one reported to be in the city.
Sunday, July 17th -we go to the Ionian coast about 20 miles from Reggio and rent a beach "LIDO".............cold cold water, pebble beach.
The Ionians were one of the 4 major Greek tribes....in Italy long before it was Italy or Roman.
Saturday, July16th....I believe we are getting over our jet lag. We were up last night until about 11pm and slept until about 9am this morning.
That should do it.
Everyone is a bit on edge here following the attacks in Nice and in Turkey. The Italians, however, think they will be the last in Europe to face terrorism....don't fully understand that thought process.
I walked to a large weekly market today. It was clearly divided along ethnic lines. A big food and vegetable market occupied one half of the field and was full of Italians loudly singing out the praises of their potatoes and tomatoes....scroll down a little bit to hear the action.
. A few feet away, and separated by the small trucks which haul all the wares from town to town....was the clothing market. Stall after stall of designer knock off shoes and handbags and blouses and jeans.....all sold quietly and without a sound by North Africans. Moroccans, Tunisians, and Egyptians quietly offered their items in contrast to their loud and raucous counterparts 10 yards away. Nothing intermingled except the customers. I felt far less intimidated on the African side because the folks were quiet and not hollering every 4 seconds to buy onions!
Well of course I bought onions!
The Italian flag is red, white and green. This is as close as I could get....red and green with white letters. Today is Friday, July 15th and while you are still tucked into your beds in Norman, it is nearing lunchtime here. Lunchtime for jet lagged Americans. The Italians are up and about....but wont be thinking about lunch for a couple more hours. Everything closes except the restaurants from about 2 until 5pm while the restaurants open. Dinner does not start here until about 8pm......where are we? The toe of the boot of Italy. We can see Sicily about 12 miles across the straights.