Friday, September 28, 2012

Post-travel superlatives

I know I still owe you an account of my last two travel-days, but I think I can cut it short with a-sentence-per-destination:
Rijeka: cute medieval castle, but other than that a bustling transit hub you won't want to stay in longer than a day or two.
Trieste: imperial, neo-classical city that reminded me more of Paris than any other Italian town and also has the meanest money exchange (at the train station. I should have known better, but I didn't find any others in town) that ripped me off so much when I exchanged my remaining kuna that it took me half an hour to enjoy the city, but eventually the stunning views won me over even as I lamented corrupt traveler-exploitation (run-on sentence much?)

Venice: always a pleasure, but particularly at 6.30am before any other tourist has entered town - well worth getting up at 5.45 am my last morning.

To end my travelogue for this time, some superlatives:

Best gelato: Sicialian cannoli flavor, at Gelatauro in Bologna (closely followed by Pino Pinguino flavor, a local couchsurfing favorite in Campobasso and Ancona, which includes thick strands of Nutella woven throughout. Oh, and ricotta and fig gelato in Ravenna. Ok, gelato superlatives are too hard. Moving on.)

Best high-end meal: tortelli di zucca, squash-filled pasta in sage butter, at Bella Venezia in Ravenna. For good reason a local specialty of Emilia-Romagna.

Best low-end meal: Burek sa sirom, a deep-fried filo-dough-pastry filled with zingy cheese, served piping hot in a bakery in Brac and enjoyed on a ferry ride back to Split. I also didn't have dinner that night because it was so filling (and probably contained my daily recommended calories all in one serving.)

Best cafe (read: espresso): at Cremcaffe in Trieste. Trieste is actually really well known for its coffee roasteries (torrefazioni) and Cremcaffe is the town's oldest. Figures they'd do it right.

Best sunset: viewed sitting on a medieval castle wall in Sibenik (though the best caught-on-iPod is probably the one over the Elafiti islands pictured below).


Best sunrise: viewed swimming in the Adriatic in Dubrovnik (though seeing magenta clouds over the Canale Grande in Venice - below - is a close second.)

Most ridiculous adventure: climbing a mountain pass road on a rental bike in Korcula, in the process nearly breaking its handlebar and acting out charades with a Croatian couple to get it repaired (runner-up: the whole getting-caught-in-a-downpour-on-a-motorbike-TWICE deal).

Most interesting hostel-dwellers: Elisabeth the numerologist (though her name would be more fortunate if spelled with a z) and Dragan-alias-Drag the future best-selling author, especially with that pen name, in Korcula.

Most demanding linguistic challenge: figuring out whether I was supposed to use the 'signore' or 'signori' door when using the bathroom in Bari.

Most demanding instruction-reading challenge: finding my hostel in Venice-Mestre (which was located close to the highway between Venice and the airport), a treasure hunt that included directions such as 'take bus #5 or 19, press the stop request button when you pass under the blue and white bridge witht he ropes attached, cross the pedestrian bridge and walk 200 metres until you see a tan building'... Did  I mention that I did this after dark? I may or may not have whooped when I found it.

Freshest fish: at 6.40am at the market in Venice where it was (LITERALLY) flopping off the market stand. Kind of disconcerting, actually. Plus I stood there watching the fishermen set up for so long that one of them called out to his friend 'hey, I think somebody is in love with you!' I booked it out of there after that, though I swear I wasn't watching JUST that guy. He was cute, though.

I could go on for hours, but I think that the fish story is a nice closing line. While weird and slightly embarassing, these sorts of encounters are what my trip was all about: going off the beaten path, joking around with the locals and, yes, occasionally (rather often) making a fool of myself - all in the name of experiencing the real deal. Which would have been impossible without all my generous, kind-hearted and oh-so-inspirational couchsurfing hosts to whom I am indebted so much in real-deal experiences and the best times I had. Encountering them was really the superlative of the trip, so Salah, Maria Grazia, Arianna, Maria, Antonio, Yixin, and Mladen - you are truly the best!! For me, meeting you really embodied this quote by Tin Ujevic who I learned about in Split: 

"Do not fear! You are not alone! There are others but you
who unknown to you live your life too.
And everything you were and heard and dreamed
with the same fire, beauty, cleanness burns in them."

No comments:

Post a Comment