Thursday, November 13, 2014

The people we met

The Roman Forum is made of pale pink marble as is many of the buildings and sidewalks of Verona. Still they shine pink flood lights on it at night. Maybe because it was October?

Piazza Bra, a block from our hotel. Steve was thrilled to find it empty , a sharp contrast to the day before.  He hates people in his photos. Daylight savings had ended in Europe that Sunday morning. News to us when we found the breakfast place still closed but an extra hour in Verona.

No one there. Steve extra happy

Except Sue. They had 'modern' marble artworks throughout the city for an exhibit

Loved the railing

and the statues

and the frescoed buildings

This is yet another Dante statue. Almost every city has one, the father of the Italian language. Early morning light makes photography difficult

love the colors
As I sit here with my ever present cup of coffee, it is snowing. Not hard but ...yuck.

We had gotten to Detroit Metro early as it was an international flight and I thought we could possibly wheedle our way into getting flights together. But as there were 3 different airlines involved, this was not going to happen. Many of the waiting passengers for our minijet had the same iternary as I did. I became buddies with a Chaldean/Italian -American couple going to a large family reunion outside of Verona. I was fascinated with the woman as marrying outside of the Chaldean community is extremely rare. There were several Chaldean families in the area I grew up in (Syrian Christians but their church is closer to Catholicism than the Antiochian  Orthodox such as my son-in-law's family belongs to). This woman just happened to have the same last name as the one friend I had. She was reading a book on Italian verbs when I initiated a conversation with her. I find that learning nouns is a bit more useful or a few stock phrases. Since Steve and I were separated right after we 'deplaned', the couple took me under their wings. I initially had a seat with the husband but switched with the lady so they could sit together. Steve's seat was way back somewhere.

My new seat was smack dab in the middle of on-going party of Brooklyn African-American educators fresh from a convention in Detroit. They brought all kinds of food and quickly made me feel like one of the party, very welcomed as I had skipped lunch and who knows when I was going to get to eat on my Milano fight. They were a group of fun loving ladies. Thank you so much for them.

After a harrowing rush through  a very long path at JFK with my new friends, we quickly got on our big jet and were separated. Portlandia was already seated on her way to a slow foods convention in Torino. She was the Oregon ambassador representing the NW Oregon area. She noted that the Portland area had the same latitude as the Italian bread basket, the Po valley (roughly Bologna). I noted that Charlevoix, Michigan shares that latitude also and although I conceded that Portland has a much milder climate than Northern Michigan, I failed to see orange trees in my brief visit last summer. On the NW west shore of Lake Garda, there is a town named Limone because of its steep slopes of lemon trees surrounding it ( I had wanted to visit it but it would have taken most of our boat trip to go that far north.) We chatted throughout the night and morning. She was going to travel by herself for 3 weeks but did not seem prepared as she had no euros and not a clue how to get from the airport to the center of Milano (thus she stuck with me). She also would not eat airline food. In her big bag, she had all sorts of kale based stuff semi-fresh from Portland. An interesting lady. She has not responded to my friend request on Facebook.

On the Malpensa Express ( I just love that name..haven't looked up how they came up with it..bad thoughts?)we were joined by a handsome French ex-pat now living in Florida ready to meet friends in Venice. He was the one who expressed his concern about the leaking fuel he saw on the wing on the flight. Meanwhile Portlandia plops her open giant purse next to me on the aisle seat (the Malpensa Express is known to be a hotbed of criminal activity). I see a shady character eyeing it (no luggage). Let my lecturing begin. We aren't in Portland anymore, my dear.

Train station scam artists. I have told that many of these are displaced Albanian immigrants. Although there are plenty of safety nets for Italian citizens, they don't exist for the many immigrants who cross their extremely porous borders. Portlandia and I couldn't believe the extremely cursory check of our passports. I contrasted this with the hell I've gone through just passing through Canada on my way to see Shanna when she lived in Boston. I had one officious border guard go through my wallet questioning everything (and you can't afford to piss these people off as they have unbelievable powers). So they make a good living scamming tourists, especially Americans. They pretend to be helpful then extort money. I've heard of them grabbing bags for ten feet then demanding 20 euros. I learned to yell Vai via! (Go away) at their constant approach but I wasn't fast enough when one swooped in to grab my change at the ticket machine. So I was on edge when we were in train stations, particularly large ones. Another variation were the young petition gatherers in Venice. They come up and ask in broken English if you were American so of course you are against drugs and you must sign this petition stopping drugs (which of course makes no sense). I am not sure if they just want your email for nefarious purposes or since they work in groups, pickpocket you while you read their silly petition. Sometimes I stopped them by pretending I was German saying I don't speak English. They were very persistent. Regionale trains also a source of crime. As they sit in the station, various thieves and beggars jump on and off. Some go through the aisles dropping trinkets in front of you. I was on high alert. The reserved trains are usually safer as sometimes they check your ticket before you can get on to the track. This stops some of the crime.

B&B owners. In general, very friendly and gracious people going the extra kilometer to be helpful. Carla in Desenzano, Carmel in Firenze and Paola in Ravenna. Then there was the icy, but good smelling Frau Trocker in Castelrotto. Not too friendly but she at least wrote back to tell me the name of her perfume.

French tourists. Several groups of them initiated conversations with us in French. So much for their negative stereotypes.

Lone American runner in Venice. He had stopped to stretch. I began to speak to him. He immediately wondered how I knew he was an American. Who else would be running circles around San Salute?
We took his photo for him.

Friendly Italian/British couple on our train to Ferrara. I think the 4 of us were the only ones on the entire train. Very chatty. The man, the Italian half, gave us tips about Ferrara.

Americans..I could hear their voices in Florence and Venice. None to be found on Lake Garda. We had read an article in the WSJ on Lake Garda implying that the Italians keep it secret from the Americans. So an area that depends on tourists dollars keeps it a secret? Yeah that made sense.

The Communist rally in Verona. When we first arrived in Verona, we were struck by the amount of riot police there complete with machine guns. What was going on? We got our answer later though there were more police than demonstrators. Were we in for a scene from Doctor Zhivago? (where the czarist police force mow down the Communists with sabers)I had made one of the police useful by asking directions to our restaurant. The next morning, there was the parade of tractors protesting I don't know what. The police had gone home by then.

Last night was the Cooking for Wellness class at the cancer support place. I got there early to compare notes with my fellow traveler. She had an overnight layover in Berlin and took a video of the laser light show there reconstructing the wall with holograms and then tearing it down. Very cool.
My new friend was in Italy for 3 weeks having much longer stays at given places, Venice, Florence and Rome. Probably not as hectic as our schedule. We should have stayed in Italy longer as we were always rushing from place to place. Our class itself featured fiber but the dishes made were for the first time ones I could not enjoy. One was full of beets and the other full of potatoes. Still I am glad I went. The courage and struggles of some of my classmates. The lady who 2 months ago said she would be gone in 2 months was there though her son had to speak for her. She can not eat anymore and fluid accumulating in her abdomen and lungs is making breathing difficult. Why she came out in her obviously last days on earth is a puzzle...

On today's schedule. Start the photobook expiring soon and face the snow. Later help Josh with Allie as Julie is gone again. We at least get dinner.

1 comment:

Elephant's Child said...

People are such a complex mixture - and much the same the world over.
Like Steve I prefer my photos without people. My introverted self prefers time without them too. Often.
Fascinating and inspiring as they often are I need time out.


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