Two Too-Long Travel Days, with Two-Hour Delays

Thursday we set the alarm for 5:30 so we could catch the 7am ferry to Elba, an island just off the coast of Italy where Napoleon was exiled, having to get by with only 600 men to keep him secure, and palatial villas to live in. Again, when we arrived, we went and redeemed our confirmation for the next ferry ticket. After being routed by Google into a residents-only area inside the walled part of Portoferraio, and chased out by residents, we parked elsewhere and walked around town, visiting the theater Napoleon converted a church into, and his winter home in town at the top of the hill. We drove to Villa San Martino, his summer home, and looked at that. Then we went on a delightful walk in the woods, up to the ruins of a windmill. We raced across the island to Rio Marina to catch our 4:30 ferry back to the mainland. Unfortunately, it was broken and wasn’t running. I don’t know if the guy who gave us the ticket earlier that morning knew it was broken — he sure didn’t mention it. So we had to drive back to Portoferraio and take the next ferry, which turned out to be a 6pm ferry arriving at 7pm, two hours late. Our hotel was in Ferrara, about 3.5 hours away, and there’d be no place to eat there when we arrived.

I looked at the map and found a town, San Miniato, just off the freeway with several places to eat. The first one we tried to find was on a segment of a road not obviously connected to the segment of it that we were on, and we ended up going somewhere else. If I’d used satellite view, I probably would have figured out what went wrong. But the other place we went, Pepenero, was a delightful restaurant where we decided to have the “Menu Toscano”, trusting the chef to surprise us with delicious things, which he did: a proscuitto and cheese plate, tortelli with rabbit sugo, and beef that he didn’t ask us how we wanted it cooked. All levels of cookedness were represented, from the rare spot in the middle, to the deliciously seared edges. A spot of espresso at the end of the meal enabled me to drive the additional two hours to Ferrara. The segment from Firenze to Bologna was quite grueling, with an endless stream of trucks in the right lane, and frequent segments of construction often with only one lane in each direction. But an amazing thing happened: at exactly midnight, I caught up to the beginning of a long string of trucks, and had the completed three-lane-each-way autostrade to myself all the way to Bologna. No trucks, not even any other cars. We made it to Hotel Daniela at 12:30am, where a guy had stayed up to let us into our room. Most places say that they don’t let you check in after midnight.

Friday we returned the rental car to Venice, and hauled our luggage to the train station. We had hoped to stash it and walk around with Ray’s cousin for 90 minutes or so, but the left-luggage room was “full”, and there was a very long line. So we took turns walking around, waiting for our 1:30 train. At about 1pm Ray noticed the train had been canceled. The lady at tourist information said, go to Trenitalia information (even though the train was Deutsche Bahn). At Trenitalia you take a number and wait. Around 1:25pm, I331 came up and two guys put their heads to gether to come up with the information that we needed to RUN with the luggage back across the bridge to Piazzale Roma, and find a “man wearing a shirt” who would escort us to some alternate transportation. The shirt was white and had only the smallest logo of the Austrian train service, but he could be identified by being at the center of a crowd of miffed Germans and bemused Italians. He and his assistant announced without explanation that we were to board a bus to Innsbruck, and then something else.

It was a somewhat slower ride, with views of the Dolomites on the autostrade north from Verona to Bolzano to the pass, which was not even that long a tunnel. More than the current devolution of 280, the stretch from Trento to Innsbruck is a contender for “world’s most beautiful freeway”. After some time, the conductor of the Magical Mystery Tour told us that we should board a train in Innsbruck. We found some good Japanese train station food, since the time of arrival to Munich was pushed back to near midnight.

This was the day before the start of Oktoberfest. I had visions of being on a local train loaded with soccer yobs singing the Horst Wessel Lied but in fact the clientele was half nervous middle class Germans and half African refugees. You may have read that Germany has recently reinstituted border controls. Nothing happened for a very long time but a trio of Polizei did walk through the car, saying nothing, and when we got to Rosenheim, an announcement came that we were to park there for a while and we should present our passports. So we got out our passports and waited for a long time and eventually even more Polizei — not border police like you see on established borders, but regular police — came on, and asked everyone whose skin was darker than a paper bag to show his passport. Most of them did not have one, and they were taken away for delousing. jk. They were all very polite and explained that they were going to be evaluated as refugees.

Nobody blond was asked to show a passport, nor even a ticket. Who knows how many Russian assassins and Bulgarian traffickers slipped past, unquestioned?

Later information: The government thought that the influx of refugees into Munich during Oktoberfest would stress the capacity of the city and lead to fights. There are other cities in Germany that need refugees, because their populations have so diminished that the sewer systems don’t even function properly for lack of flow. You can read stories on the Internet about cities, especially in the Eastern zone, tearing down apartments and converting them to parks. The refugees are officially being diverted away from Munich for the next three weeks. Still, it gives a bad impression when your border exists only for Negroes. White people in Europe still have all the international privileges of money.

We arrived late and had a misunderstanding with Dennis about whether he was going to meet us, or pick us up, or what. For some reason I thought he had a car. Oktoberfest was being anticipated by groups of young adult males who thought we looked like ZZ Top. More on that, later.