Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The 10 EUR Nap

The Olympics, right, I was there last weekend sort of at the womans ice hockey game of Germany v. Italy and I have pictures to proove it.

Notes before the story:

The original plan was to take a night train from Rome to Milan, where we would check into our hostle and maybe see one sight before hopping on a train to Turino. In Turino we were to take a bus to the ticket office to collect the tickets, then to the Official Enormous Souvanier Store of Doom, then to the game which began at 6:30. After the game we would take a train back to Milan. We would spend Saturday sight-seeing in Milan, and then take an Express train back to Rome on Saturday night, arriving before the busses would stop running because none of us had been able to make heads or tails of the night bus schedual.

In honor of the lady in the pizzaria behind the Pantheon, from now on Treco's name is Mr. Boy.

I forgot that Nick was going to be in Nurnburg when I ordered the tickets, and Lauren decided to go to the woman's retreat, a fact which I also forgot. The Doppleganger, Mr. Boy, and I ended up splitting the cost of five tickets three ways.

I decided to take my large backpack, the one with the waist strap and the internal frame. I did this 1.) so I could bring an extra blanket and sweater and 2.) so I could make absolutly sure that I had all the straps adjusted correctly before Greece and 10 Day. I'm glad I did that, because I did have to make several adjustments, but remember that for most of this adventure I was carrying a 30 pound backpack. The Doppleganger and Mr. Boy also had bags, but nothing on the order of mine.

On with the story:

As we were entering the Metro station at Anagnina Mr. Boy said that he had a bad feeling about the out come of the trip, which I seconded. The Doppleganger's Bad Vibe Detector (TM) is apparently broken, because she said she was feeling pretty good. Our conncerns were written off as hunger, nervousness about our first attempt to use the Italian train system, and the relization that Mr. Boy had forgotten his camera.

We got our tickets in Termini, ate in the station, and made our train with no problems. The conductor was nice, we did not over sleep, we were not tobbed by gypsies during the night, and when we woke up in the morning, we were in Milan.

After the grief we gave her for not printing the confirmation for our hostle in London, the Doppleganger was careful to have confirmation and directions in hand once we arrived in Milan. We were able to navigate the Milanese subway with little difficulty (they have three different lines, 0_o) and were able to find the hotel with little trouble. The hotel bore all the signs of being a private residence recently repurposed (one bathroom on the 2nd floor, a non-sensecal floor plan, a front yard) and was owned and run by a Chinese family (the only sizable ethnic minority in Italy). The owner didn't know much English, but he knew enough to tell us that we were too early, and that we should come back afte 10 a.m. He was nice enough to let us leave our luggage behind the front desk (which looked like it was orriginally a breakfast bar). Thus libberated from our bags, we set off down the street in search of breakfast.

The neighborhood was a little more graffitti-ed then I would have liked, but the pedestrians were all well dressed, and we saw more than one mother walking with young school-aged children so that was reashuring. Besides, the backyards of most of the buildings here look like the less plesent parts of some 3rd World countries, so who am I to complain. To tell the truth, the most unnerving thing was seeing billboards all over the place advertising Quintin Tarintino's new movie Hostel. Any way, we found a bar and grabbed pastries and coffee. We were able to stay for the next hour and a half, as we plotted our plan for the next day, by continually purchising more food, and then consuming it slowly. For instance, the Doppleganger got a cup of hot chocolate so thick that the spoon did not sink when placed upon the surface. Swiss Miss eat your heart out.

We went back to the Hotel and checked in. Then we decided that instead of going to see St. Ambrose's relics, that what we really wanted to do with the rest of the morning was take a nap. So I set the alarm on the phone for noon, and we were all out like lights within ten minutes. About 11:45 we were woken by knocking at the door. It was the owner's son, who spoke much better English than his father did, arrived on the scean to tell us that there was a mistake with our booking.

It turns out that the Doppleganger made this reservation late at night, while simultaniously plotting for 10 day, and trying to write a paper, and that our reservation at the hotel was for the 17th of March, not the 17th of Febuary. They did not have any extra room in the hotel, so they were very sorry, but we had to leave. They refunded some of our money, but seeing as how they would have to change all the sheets (which we slept on top off because we were to lazy to do anything other than just crash >| )... they would only give us half the money back, which means that we each paid 10 EUR for a two hour nap.

Armed with directions to a main street where we were assured that we would be able to find a hotel, we gathered up all our luggage and set out. We spent the next hour and a half walking around searching for a hostel, or a hotel, or something. We found zip, nadda, and nothing. After an hour and a half, we decided to cut our losses and go to the train station so we could catch the two o'clock train to Turino. At the station, there were several palces that advertized hotel reservations, but as we found out, in addition to handeling the overflow from the Olympics, there was also some sort of exhibition in Milan last weekend and the cheapest room to be had would have cost over 200 EUR a night.

Wandering around for so long for no purpose would not have been so bad, except we were no where near the city center and our map did not extend out as far as we were wandering (we had to ask directions to find the Metro again, thankfully we do know the Italian words for that). Just a note if any of you decide to go to Milan, the northern part of town is the grungy industrial part of town where the buildings are all windowless boxes with fences around them.

We grabbed a bit to eat at the station and got on the train to Turino. It wasn't Express, which meant that we had to stop in every thorp along the way. On the other hand Fila, which apparently makes the ski gear for the Italian Olympic team handed out free lip balm on the train. It was attached to an advertising booklet, which would probably have been more interesting if any of us skiied.

In Turino, we left our bags in the Luggage Depository, and changed our train tickets. One of the many advantages of train travel over air is that (at least in Italy) once you have a reservation on any train, going anywhere, at anytime you can easily change it to a different reservation on another train, going somewhere else, at a completly different time and the only thing you have to pay is the difference in price between (if any) between the tickets. So, we traded our express train home on Saturday night for a night train leaving Milan on Friday, figguring that we had come to see the game and Milan had just been an after-thought anyway.

A phone call to the ticket office, and a short conversation with an American employee revealed that all we had to do to get to the office to pick up our tickets so we could acrually get into the game would be to take bus 67 to the end of the line (about 10 minutes) and the office was just off of the piazza. We found bus 67 at the bus stop right outside the station, and hopped on. A few moments later, Mr. Boy and I felt our danger senses tingling, but as we had no knowledge of the Turino bus system, we let it go after all, it was bearly after 4 and the game started at 6:30, we had plenty of time, right?

Turino has really cleaned everything up for the Olympics, it's quite a pretty little town, as is at least on of its suburbs. We should know, because we were on the right bus, heading in the wrong direction. We spent the better part of 4 hours ridding buses around Turino. We finally make it to the appropriate end of the line and see nothing that looks like the right office. I call again, and one of the locals working there is able to guide us in. We collect our tickets and hop the bus to the stadium.

It is now about 8. The game started at 6:30. There is no line at the security check point.

We come running up, and the first minion to encounter us looks at our tickets, and tells us that ice hockey is being played in one of the other stadiums. We say "grazie" and walk away a bit. The Doppleganger cries for a bit, and Mr. Boy and I say things in the "I'm mad at the universe line." Then Doppleganger decides to take pictures of the outside, in order to show that we at least made it that far. I, not to be defeated by a mere minion, look at the ticket again. On it, the name of the stadium in which the game is played is printed clearly. On the side of the stadium I can see the same name printed in very large letters. Mr. Boy confirms that my eyes have not decived me. We grab the Doppleganger and run around to a different security check point, where we are let in.

We arrived during the break between the 2nd and 3rd periods. After securing our seats (and they were good seats - the second row on the Italian end) the Doppleganger and I went back into the concorse and purchased souvaniers. We went back into the arena just after play resumed, and were back in time to see Germany's fourth goal.

The crowd was overwhelmingly Italian. By overwhelmingly Italinan, I mean there were small groups of well-organized German fans scattered around the stadium, but most of the spectators either were Italian, or if forigners, had bought their tickets blindly like we did and were just cheering for the home team. As it turns out, Italians are really good at cheering for sports, but unfortunatly they arn't any good at playing sports.

We don't think we were in the news, because the camera crews were standing in front of us, facing the ice. Not only that, the other side had cheerleaders. I kid you not, sitting on the stairs and periodically standing up to (supprise) lead cheers were girls with pom-poms wearing the most attrocious neon orange and yellow uniforms that I have ever seen. They even had gold trim, if you looked for more then a few seconds then your eyes would start to water.

It turns out that "Forza, Ragazzi!" (Go Guys!) is the appropriate cheer to use for any Italian team, regardless of gender (ragazzi is male plural, ragazze is female), except the national soccor team. If you see them you should yell "Forza Azuri!" (Go medium-blues!*). Because blue is randomly the color for their national sports teams. It's not in their flag anywhere, but there you have it.

Germany ended up winning 5-2, but we didn't get to see the end of the game because we had to go so that we could get on the train back to Milan, so we could get the train back to Rome.** We crunched the numbers and realized that we had each spent 10 EUR for each of the seven minutes of game play that we actually saw.

On our way out the door, Mr. Boy stoped to buy a pin for his collection at the souvanier stand, and the Doppleganger went back to picture taking. There were a number of cops clustered near the door, waiting for the game to let out. One of them took a picture of all three of us. As soon as I get a copy of that one the Doppleganger I'll put it up.

We got back to the station and then on to Milan and Rome without a further problem. We talked on the train and agreed that the problem was the bus, because if we hadn't spent four hours riding around lost we would have seen most of the game, and then we could have lived with not seeing the very end. As it was the whole weekend was just sort of a bust.

Lauren didn't have a very good time on the retreat either, as it turned out. Then Nick arrived and poured salt into everyone's wounds by reporting having a great time in Germany -- the land of punctual buses and food that actually includes sugnificant quantities of meat***.

Tune in next time as I return to Rome and go exploring in the Pantheon (hear the origin of Mr. Boy), Piazaa Nuvona, and the Trevi Fountain and then into the Colusseum and the Palitine Hill with the Art and Arch class. Also, it's mid-term time, so that means a round of Funny Professor Quotes.


*Light blue is celestia and dark blue is... get ready for it... blu.
**Train stations are far less secure then airports, for starters, there are no doors to the outside, everything is just sort of open, and no security like at airports. We wern't about to spend the night in a station.
***Dad, we may have a lead on the world's perfect Saurbrauten, as prepaired by a little old lady operating a hole in the wall resturaunt in Nurnburg.

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