Where was I? Literally.

Italy is very different to what I imagined. It’s both beautiful and also not quite my thing. That’s the best way I can describe it right now. I’m a little over seeing children as young as 10 smoke openly on the streets or seeing a gorgeous mid twenties lady pull out a fag and take a drag. It all just disappoints me a little. Yesterday I dubbed the Italian culture as the Boulevard of Broken Jeans. Simply meant to symbolise that every one of them is obsessed with culture, and fashion, and outward beauty, but in a twisted disappointment like their ripped jeans it’s all a little dirty and tattered. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a beautiful country, the people are loud and expressive, and their eating and drinking culture is something I’m not quite able to wrap my head around. When you sit down to dinner at a restaurant at 9.30pm but have been drinking non stop since 9am I begin to wonder how you manage a life around it all. The landscapes and buildings are simply mesmerising and I cannot get enough of them. All in all it’s a rather marvelous mixture of beautiful history and modern influences and I guess you can’t have it any other way and still call it Italy. To leave this segment with a positive note – I am so impressed with how the South Tyroleans go about food and the environment. From my journal: ”

One of my personal favorites about this area is their devotion to localised products. Everything worth eating is made within the area. They have a festival for everything – speckfest (ham), kartoffelfest (potato), brotfest (bread), honigfest (honey), kaesefest (cheese) – the butter is from local dairies, apples from orchards, and a real love for its continuity. Some of the beer I’ve drunk was brewed in vats beneath my feet at local restaurants. They have a far greater commitment to recycling than Australia (which isn’t hard to be honest as we’re pathetic) but theirs is next level. Actually their bin system reminds me of Japan’s. Because of these factors the food is healthier, the area around the town is cleaner and the people are lean and healthy looking. Very rarely (once) have I seen an overweight person. There is an obsession with fashion here in Italy that instantly makes me stand out as either poor, silly or an outsider with my 3 shirts and two pairs of jeans…and thongs.”

Onto other matters:

I’ve been rather busy since we last left off. I’ve hiked a mountain to halfway…realised we’d freeze to death with our equipment and then sprinted back down the thing with a boyish grin on my face.

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I’ve been to the local museum in Bolzano to see Otzi the perfectly preserved mummy from the neolithic age and found out that some of my friends are definitely related judging by his face.

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They’re not related 😉

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I’ve checked out the beauty of Northern Italy and discovered that they simply replace “beach” with “river/park hang out”
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I’ve learnt a lot about myself, and a lot about travelling in a few short days. I’ve documented everything but I need to choose which to share and which to keep for myself. In keeping to the honest voice of this blog I’ll share this most recent, and most important message. *** Disclaimer if the idea of stomach bugs makes you queasy i’d skip to some pretty photos (of non stomach bugs).

I’ll begin this by saying the cost of going to a public toilet in South Tyrol is 1 euro…

Last night I thought I was going to die. It seemed fairly likely, and if not dead then at least very much in strife. I was to travel to Vienna, Austria and seemingly out of nowhere, and inconveniently just as Sabrina was about to leave (for good) to go back home my stomach decided to play up. One of the negatives of Europe so far has been the glaring lack of public bathrooms and after 9pm this becomes a real problem. Next issue was my guide and friend was leaving in mere minutes so I was suddenly, and for the first real time this trip, alone. My phone has no wifi and was rapidly losing battery. The train station in Bolzano is separated from the main city centre (where there is wifi, food, people) by a park which is quite dodgy. Gangs of people hang around and it is nothing short of seedy. I was carrying over 2.5k worth of equipment on my back (Baggage storage shut at 6pm – bus to Vienna was 1am, and Sabrina left at 8.30pm – as a point of reference) and wasn’t feeling much like a sprint or battle at this point in time. I went to stay at the train station, but they shut the bathrooms around 9pm, and this left me thoroughly screwed. I had to brave the walk into town, and go to a maccas – Free wifi and bathrooms, but unlike in obesity central Australia it wasn’t 24/7, but rather open till 10. So I rebraved the walk to the train station thinking the bathrooms were open later (wrong), and afterwards simply said “Fuck it”, and walked to where my bus was supposed to leave… This was also a mistake. A typical bus stop in Australia is well lit, populated to an extent, and decently central – it doesn’t seem to be the case in Bolzano.  So I arrive in this dank place 3 hours early, and definitely feeling ill. A bus arrived and he refused to let me use the bathroom really quick, so I cursed his name and returned to my misery. 30 minutes later (around 11) I realised this was a foolish mission and rebraved the walk to the city central and wi-fi. I took a different route to skirt the park rather than split it and I’ve still never been so scared in my life. From 9pm to 1am I was truly shaking. Truly terrified. Truly thought something was going to happen, and had made peace with the idea that I had my passport, cards, phone in my pocket and I’d drop the rest and run for it if anything went down. Making it to wifi was only a minor relief as the connection seemed to refuse to let me send out messages and so my connection to some warmth, friendship and companionship for the final 2.5 hours was lost.
Around 12.30 I made my way back to the bus stop to find a slow and steady arrival of humans who looked just as terrified as me (seriously, the amount of solo girls or girls in duos was utterly bewildering) and I began to feel a sense of safety.
The bus was crowded (not a single free seat once I sat down) and the toilet reminded me of the compost toilets we used out in the bush while working just with the added difficulty of being on a moving bus. The Italian guy next to me complained from start to finish and wouldn’t sit fucking still. It got to the point as he stroked my leg again with his leg for the umpteenth time that I was in such a mood I had considered more than once a swift elbow to the throat would solve some issues – thankfully my brain remained in control. When he did eventually piss off to a seat further back I got a full hour of sleep. Yes, I am writing this in a cafe near my hostel on an hour’s sleep and I have no idea if it’s making any sense, or is even worth your time. Thankfully Vienna is a very easy city to travel in. It reminds me a lot of Seoul in terms of the subway and it’s simplicity. No issues at all jumping on the subway to my hostel and here I am writing in a nice restaurant. A few euro down after a meal, but at this point I’m 2.5k up in terms of winning after last night.
So I learned some things about myself and about travel.
Travel isn’t always fun.
When it comes to late night transit research is your best friend.
Eat responsibly – Street food isn’t always your friend and a few euro more is a price worth paying.
Get a sim card.
Have a portable travel battery (saved me these past 24 hours)
Offline maps are the best thing since sliced bread.
And most importantly I learned that I can do it. It was tough, it was scary, I was terrified to the point of wanting to quit, I honestly thought last nights combination of miseries were enough to defeat me, but I’ve realised I have fortitude. I love these discoveries on the road.

Anyway, enough honesty – I need a nap. Here are some photos to bring us back to neutral.
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Huge shout out to Sabrina for taking care of me this past week. She’s a regular on this blog and she’ll be with me in Canada in four months time! She was nothing but a wonderful host and guide and I’d never have enjoyed South Tyrol as much without her. Her friends were lovely and welcoming and I’ve enjoyed such wonderful food and drink with them that it’ll remain the crown jewel of memories of my first week in Europe.

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