Do Brovnik, Go Italia

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Sarajevo Film Festival
My last night in Sarajevo, I went out to the 11th annual Sarajevo film festival (which, incidentally, had its first year in the middle of the war - talk about not letting things get you down) and wound up watching a screening for an upcoming Greek movie called Hostage, about an Albanian who takes over a bus and tries to clear his name of wrongdoing, but has to resort to taking money instead, and taking his hostages with him to Albania. It started a little slow, and I think some editing but became riveting and the two Canadians I met at the show were as impressed with it as I was. The director and a few of the actors sat right behind us, too, so we had pretty good seats. After that, I went to a bakery they knew about (having been in town for about a week) and got some great and dirt cheap stuff. I wasn't tired, so I went over to the City Pub and met some Aussies from the hostel there for a few beer.

I caught the bus the next morning (7:15 AM) for Dubrovnik, not realizing that seats were first come first serve and almost not getting a spot at all. I did, however, get a spot, and it turned out to be next to a little 4 year old girl who could speak three languages (Bosnian, English, German) and embarrassed me to several degrees of red. Granted, she wasn't exactly fluent, but hey, she could count to 10 in English, and I could only get to about three in hers. So, she taught me the numbers to 10 and I taught her the "give me five/on the side/up high/down low" game. Fair trade. The bus was stifling, no air conditioning, sitting on the top floor, and no windows that opened. We sat in our own sweat for over eight hours, made survivavable only because the bus driver enjoyed taking frequent stops for smokes.

Dubrovnik Walls
I got into Dubrovnik and negotiated with a lady for a decent price considering that I was now single and only staying one night (these guesthouses like to fill their rooms up and do so for a couple nights to save them stress). I discovered that the old town was a 1 hour walk from the main bus station, so I hopped a city bus there and walked around the city walls. Which, aside from a few beaches, is all there really is to see in Dubrovnik. It's beautiful, but dull. I was actually on my way down from the walls to check out the closest beach when I ran across my two English friends - again! It seems that they have some sort of homing beacon on me or something, the odds seem rather stacked against. They were heading out that night, so I went with them, got a couple beer and a tasty burger at one of the few places that was hopping, and then we said our goodbyes yet again.

Meanwhile, I finished my walk around the town walls, strolled through the old town, getting a little lost in the process (all part of the fun!) and finally discovered freedom. I was still in shorts and a shirt and wanted to change my attire for the evening, not to mention finally call home (it's been quite a while!), so I picked up some bus passes and a phone card and went back to my place. Which, I should say, was nowhere near worth the price. Not exactly clean (the toilet was still dirty from the last guy that must have stayed), and while she was nice enough to offer me snacks when I'd checked in, the wafers were soggy, the grapes looked old, and the popcorn I didn't dare touch given that it was doubtless also soggy, had hair in it, and, well, was among the more disgusting culinary delights I've encountered since Portugal. As has been happening a lot lately, and probably in part as a response to me getting in at 2:30 AM and waking at 6AM the night prior as well as sitting on a hot bus, I wound up not going out. My attempts to call home were exacberated yet again by a big thunderstorm that hit, and so I stayed in and finished my latest book, Star of the Sea by Joseph O'Conner, which I must review with the highest of praise. It was an excellent book, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for something to read from a new author.

The way out of Dubrovnik
It turned out that I missed nothing in Dubrovnik that night anyway, I ran into a few fellow travellers the next day and they all confirmed this for me. Also, since I was leaving and had no use for them, I gave away my phone card and a few bus tickets to some nice people I met. It was time to leave, time was tight and I didn't really need to be there another day. I left my place and went down to get a ferry, only to have the woman tell me they didn't have a spot open for another few days. As a matter of the utmost fortune, an Irish girl (whose name, forgive my spelling, was Sefra) sitting in the corner nearby overheard my plight and whispered to me that there was an undocumented ferry running from Dubrovnik to Tarni at 3:30, which only takes 4 hours (as opposed to 8) and is therefore twice the money. I checked the other line, which also didn't have a ferry today, and decided this was what I would do.

Irish Cohorts
So, I got my tickets with them and met her friends, who were all very nice and shared their spot in line with me, ensuring that I got on the boat with them. Marcello, Dan, and Keira were their names, and again, I felt very lucky to meet them. We got primo seats, or so we thought, right at the front of the boat, looking out over the water, and shoved off only 45 mins late - a miracle in this country. It turns out we were sailing right into a thunderstorm with force 4 waves, and I should mention at this point that while peeling fruit like oranges and kiwis is a great way to take your mind off the rolling sea, it's not exactly cost effective given that you don't get long to digest it. Further to this, sitting in the middle or the boat seems the best bet for combating seasickness, rather than right at the front. The more you know...

Irish Cohorts
We arrived in Italy in the heretofore unheardof town called Tarni, and after an excessively long but exceedingly friendly customs stopover, grabbed some pizza, and beer and a train to Bari. From there, I was to go to Naples, and they were off to some small town. Marcello, as the name might have foreshadowed, is of Italian descent, and his parents have a house in a little town nestled in the hills between Rome and Naples (or Napoli as it's called here). We were at the station in Bari at about midnight and I was trying in vain to figure out how to get to Naples as the hotels are quite expensive in Bari (it's the main port town for Croatia and Greece) when Marcello invited me to his place which was only an hour from Naples though possibly on a different train. I tossed the idea around and eventually knew I HAD to do it or I would regret it, so I took the train with them and history was decided.

Italian Fog
Our tickets, unfortunately, didn't have reserved seats, and so I wound up being one of those people I always feel sorry for, the backpackers stuck in the narrow hallways. However, it was quite fun. We got some beer, played some cards, I used my little travel speaker and iPod for tunes, and we had a little party on the train. That was great until about 4AM, when tiredness overtook everyone (for my part, I wasn't really tired, but I felt like I should sleep and also my bones were aching). The attempt at sleeping in the area at the end of the cars where the washroom is seemed futile, so I grabbed the washroom and attempted to sleep in there, with the seat cover down of course, and my head on my little toiletries bag (how ironic) on the counter. It didn't work, and I gave up and ventured back into the hall.

Maison OReilly
We had to switch trains, which was a bit of a panic, and made it to Cassino, where we caught a taxi to the small town. Even the taxi driver had never heard of it, but Marcello knew the way, so we were off. We arrived in a 8 AM and were all excited by this veritable mansion and the promise of double beds. The drive itself was beautiful, a light fog, but turning into low clouds as we climbed into the mountains. And the house was incredible, I once again felt VERY lucky to have met these great people. And then, suddenly, VERY tired (I had travelled about 24 hours in the last two days, if you don't count the early morning of this most recent day as a third day since I hadn't slept). And so, with no reluctance whatsoever, we went to sleep.

<Bosnia Photos>
<Dubrovnik Photos>

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