Friday, June 13, 2014

Italy PDA - Part 5

PDA stands for President's Day Adventures, in this case. ;)

Click here to read Part 1!
Click here to read Part 2!
Click here to read Part 3!
Click here to read Part 4!

Welcome back! If you're just joining us, please use the links above to read parts one through four.

When last we left our intrepid travelers, we were standing on the sidewalk outside the Toyota dealership in Genoa, preparing to walk to the train station. (You could check out this video for a succinct wrap up of the situation.) Armed with our trusty iPhones, complete with the Navigon GPS app, we programmed in the nearest train station, and struck out, intent on getting to Genoa in time to catch the train that would take us all the way to Parsberg, the nearest train station to home!

Now, we have used the Navigon app for the iPhone in MANY different countries. Probably all of Western Europe. The app has helped us find restaurants, hotels, airports, and train stations literally all over the world. We had every confidence that we would easily find the train station with ease.

The trek started out fairly uneventfully. Although it was dark, and we were in a large, Italian city with which we were not tremendously familiar, we were together, and we were moving forward! Soon we would be on the train heading home!

Pretty soon, however, the GPS started leading us away from the city center and up in elevation. Not up some gently rolling hills, but up hundreds -- if not THOUSANDS -- of stairs. At this point in the journey, I started to lose my cool. My mood was not improved by the breaking of my purse strap on step 783 (approximately). Eventually, we made it to the top of the stairs and found ourselves in the middle of an Italian neighborhood, complete with barking dogs and people driving home from work. We were beginning to be a little dubious about finding a train station, but we continued following the GPS's directions, and even asked a woman we passed about the train station, and we convinced ourselves that what she said in Italian was, "Yes, of course you're going the right way!"

Before long, we came upon a train car (success!), sitting on train tracks (yahtzee!), next to a small building! And the GPS said the words we had longed to hear: "You have arrived at your destination!" Unfortunately, although the building we had found was in fact a train station of sorts (it serviced the train that took you up and down the mountain that we had just climbed via thousands of stairs), it was not a main train station, nor would a train be coming to that station that could get us to a main train station. At this point, knowing that our window of time to possibly make it home in time for work on Tuesday morning was growing ever more narrow, we decided to cut our losses and take a taxi to the main train station. Thankfully the gentleman at the mini-train station was able and willing to make the call for us, and the taxi arrived shortly thereafter.

At the end of our brief taxi ride, you can imagine our surprise at the beautiful memorial statue to Christopher Columbus that greeted us across the street from the train station! That's right. Less than 36 hours earlier, we had stood in that exact spot, taken pictures of the memorial, and used the restrooms inside the train station! (Major face-palm moment!)

(Quick Travel Tip: If, after hearing your plans to walk to "x" destination, a native Italian offers to call you a cab, LET HIM! Italians walk. A lot. If they think you're crazy to choose to walk and try to insist on a cab, it's a really long way away, and you will need a cab! ;D)

The beautiful Stazione Principe Genoa, as taken on our day of sightseeing in Genoa

At this point, Austin again got on the phone with the roadside assistance personnel to attempt to secure their promise of financial assistance with our trip home, and the three of us hustled into the station to get our tickets for what was sure to be the last leg of our journey. Hopefully.

It seemed that we had finally caught a break, because we had made it to the train station with barely enough time to catch the last train of the night all the way back to Germany! Unfortunately, we were too late to buy tickets at the kiosk, so we had to high tale it to the train and pay for our tickets once we were underway! (Something that is generally frowned upon and that can result in a hefty fine, but thankfully the conductor we spoke to was kind to us and allowed us to purchase all four tickets without a fee!) The standard train route back to Germany was from Genoa to Milano to Zurich to Munich and then into Parsberg.

In order to make it to the end of the line, the first hurdle we had to jump was to make it to Milano in time for our connecting train! Should have been no problem, but, the European train system being what it is, our trip hit a couple of delays which got is into Milano exactly two minutes after our connecting train was scheduled to leave! Ever hopeful, we were waiting at the doors when we arrived in the station and we ran to the designated track. Along the way we were encouraged to see that the connection we were running for had, in fact, also been delayed! We made it to the track, but unfortunately the train hadn't been delayed enough. We had missed it, thanks to Italian trains and Murphy's law!

At this point, discouraged and hungry, but not defeated, we headed across the street to McDonald's in the hopes of some late night food and wi-fi to figure out our next steps and whether or not we had any hope of getting home before 8am on Tuesday!

The wi-fi system was a Milano; however, and it required that you buy tickets from a tobacco stand to be able to log on. Nikki and I stayed with the stuff in the McDonald's and Shane and Austin took off for the closest stand, aided by directions from the local policeman. They fortuitously made it to the stand before the attendant closed the gate for the night, but with standard Italian logic, the cards that they could purchase there could not be activated until the following morning. ("Domani, domani!" Lol!) Needless to say, they did not purchase said cards, and we moved on from the McDonald's (which was good because the staff were getting ready to close and they were giving us the stink eye because we had yet to purchase any "food.")

On their walk back, the guys had discovered a sweet little doner place that boasted its own wi-fi, and we were way more excited about eating doners than McDonald's! We hauled all of our possessions into the doner place, ordered food, and hooked up to their Internet to try and find a solution to our ever-worsening situation.

image credit

Since we had missed our connection and the traditional route was closed to us (since all of the trains had departed for the night), we decided that moving in the right direction was better (and cheaper) than waiting out the night in Milano until the bright and early morning train would get us back to Germany. We caught the next northbound train in the wee hours of the morning, and made the short trip to Verona.

Side note: I'm probably a major theater nerd, but whenever I hear, or think, or say, Verona, the very next thing that comes to mind is this little ditty from Kiss me Kate!:

We arrived in Verona at oh-so-very-dark-thirty, and once we were able to get out of the train station (a sometimes difficult proposition when in an all but closed, smallish train station), we knew we needed to find more Internet and a bathroom! According to all of the schedules we had seen, we had a couple of hours until we could catch another train heading in the right direction. We followed the directions in a large advertising sign to the closest hotel, and banged on the door until the overnight front-desk guy got up from his nap on the lobby couch. He came to the door, and let us in only to tell us that they were absolutely full, and no, we couldn't stay in the lobby and use the Internet because the Internet was for guests only. Oh, and no we couldn't use their restroom because that was also for guests only. After that rather unfulfilling conversation, we found ourselves back on the street looking for another hotel.

Thankfully one was not far away, and the front desk gentleman there was much more accommodating. For a small fee we were able to avail ourselves of their restroom and their Internet as long as we would be gone before the hotel owner got back!

The next train going North would get us as far as Bolzano, but unfortunately we couldn't get from Bolzano to Germany in any kind of a reasonable amount of time. And as we had found earlier, the cost of a one-way rental car was absolutely exorbitant! Then, my brilliant husband hit upon a solution! We would get a round-trip rental in Bolzano (we needed a car once we got home until our Prius was fixed anyway), and then we could return the car when we had a more flexible time frame! We arranged for the rental car via the Internet and a phone call (adding to the ever-mounting roaming bill), and made our way back to the train station for our early train ride to Bolzano.

We arrived in Bolzano around six in the morning. Since the rental car place didn't open until eight, we had to wait. Since we were back in the higher elevations, and it was COLD, we took a taxi to the rental car agency. By the great grace of God there was a great little bar (remember, that's often Italian for "coffee shop") right next door! It was open, and we trundled ourselves inside to enjoy what, blessedly, would be our final Italian breakfast on this trip! (The cappuccino and brioche in Bolzano did not disappoint!)

Cappuccino & Brioche
image credit

Though we're on the downward stretch, we're not home yet, and there remains more to this story! Will Shane get arrested for being AWOL? Will the Prius ever run again? There's only one way to find out! Come back for part 6! ;)

Have a great weekend!


Click here to read Part 6!

To see a list of ALL of our travel stories, in chronological order, click here!

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