A Travellerspoint blog

June 2016

My Beautiful Soul

Making train friends.

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Looking back it’s hard to say how exactly both my energy and I fit on to the train carriage. I boarded my train bound for Sondrio, a journey of about 2 hours in which I was looking forward to looking out of the window and playing with my broken camera lens in case two solid hours of fiddling could fix it.

I entered the first carriage of the regional train and saw a man looking at me. I ignored him and went to find the conductor. After walking several carriages down to no avail, I figured I would park myself back in the first carriage to help my case when I get in trouble for fare evading.

I sat down and started looking out the window. A few minutes later the man comes over and starts speaking to me in Italian. ‘You speak Italian?” he asks. I say, “no” in which he replies that I can, he “believes in me, he believes I can”.
“Righto”, I think, I zip up my bag and sit up straight ready to see how this is going to pan out.

He sits next to me but motions that he is not going to touch me or bother me.

He asks me to repeat a bunch of Italian. Thanks to several months of using an Italian app, I can parle a little Italiano so I was repeating after him something along the lines of “Io sono fotografo" (I am a photographer) as I had my camera. He started showing me some pictures on his phone, he explained that he is a poet and showed me some of his drawings and verses. He shared a few of his best lines, something about how “a woman is stopped inside her bag”. He asked me if I understood and judging from my blank expression, said it three more times pointing to my bag each time. Thankfully his phone soon went flat.

He then parked opposite me and continued to talk to me in a mixture of Italian and English. He was picking up on my vibes and it was blowing his mind. He went to leave but then came back and started singing to me, “blue eyes, blue e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-yyyyyyes,” he sang but he would pronounce the e-e-e-e-e-e like he was letting off a round of bullets. “Blue e-e-e-e-e-e-e-eyes” He was singing right in my face. He wanted me to pay attention to his vibrato. He did it again and pointed it out, “blue e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-eyes”. He seemed to think he was nailing it.

“Blue e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-eyes,” he continued to sing, staring into my eyes and getting close to my face.

I wondered if there was another verse?

I have one of those faces, and evidently one of those energies that attracts odd people. There is something about my aura and something about my face that really puts crazy people at ease. It usually makes for an interesting tale.

He assured me again he won’t touch me and he won’t bother me but he was hanging around and wanted to say something it seems. So he sat back down and told me in a mixture of English and Italian about how big my energy and soul is. He was overcome with it. He could feel it soon as I got on the train. He talked at me at length about my soul. How he was attracted to it, not like a man and woman. He was “49. Old” he would say but regardless my soul was throwing out all sorts of vibes and this guy was tripping on it. He didn’t know what to do. He couldn’t leave. He just kept saying something about my soul and talking in Italian. He was flipping his lid and the song really wasn’t getting across everything he wanted to tell me.

There was nothing else to do at this point. My energy was evidently getting bigger and bigger and drowning this poor fellow, as I sat stiller and stiller on a rattling old, graffitied train carriage. Tired, quiet and now somewhat amused. He couldn't take it any longer, he clasped my hand in his and closed his eyes. I was looking on with a smile but also wishing I had a camera. He stayed there like that for some time. His eyes were shut tight and his lips were quivering like he was draining all my energy with a spell. Think the curse Severus Snape is doing when Harry falls off his broom during his first quidditch match. He was holding my hand like the way an old lady would pray to a statue. They pray so emotionally and passionately their lips quiver. They care so much. It was like that, but instead of the Madonna and some candles, it was an overweight, sweaty Australian girl standing there like a lump while someone mumbled verses at her feet.

So if you can picture the scene, i’m sitting on a train, my backpack on my lap with a man crouched beside me holding my hand with both of his, mumbling in italian, his lips quivering and his eyes shut tight. I am looking all around the train carriage trying not to laugh. Or to catch someones eye and be like “shhesh, this guy ey”. His mumbling started to turn English intermittently “you beautiful women”, he would say. Staring at my face. “No, you are. You beautiful women”. If he said it three times he said it 300 hundred. Again, he is holding my hand, I am looking at the ceiling awkwardly.
“You beautiful women, You beautiful women. You beautiful women," he would repeat.

I’m not sure he has blinked in 20 minutes.

“…ah thanks," I say.

“nooo, no you. are. beautiful women”.

He kept reminding me he wasn’t talking about sex, though he is a man, he is a poet and love is not for this world. I am a beautiful women and my soul is blowing the roof off this carriage.

He tries again to explain it all. I am like the big woman, (rude, not that way) which I think i’ve heard the translation before, being like the Madonna. Big, as in almighty. He means spiritually I am very big. He then goes back to old faithful, “You beautiful women” he says again, insisting I repeat it back to him.

“You are beautiful women”.

If I didn’t repeat his mantra he stared even deeper into my eyes. So trying not to laugh I followed his mantra “I am a beautiful woman” I say, correcting his plurals. We would chant it together a few times then I threw a “io sono bella donna” in there - that one nearly blew his head off.

So there I am, barrelling down the railway into the region of my ancestors. Sitting in a carriage chanting “I am a beautiful woman” with a poet come cyclist who is holding my hand and staring at my face. Keep in mind I am wearing hiking shoes, 3/4 pants and a T-shirt. My hair is large and curly and I quite frankly look like a 60 year old cat lady on a day hike. I am not a beautiful women by any definition.

When he finally calmed down and stopped feeding on my energy, he also told me that I am an archangel. To which I said, “thanks”. He asked if I knew what it was to which he explained that me and my soul, we are not your run of the mill angel, or “white lady” as he called me first, I am an archangel, the powerful angels that make the other angels strong. They run shit in heaven is my guess. He scribbled the name Ulcia on some paper after repeating it several times. I’m not sure whether I am Ulcia or I need to look to Ulcia for guidance when I am unsure about my life choices. Ulcia is the archangel Uriel who according to Wikipedia has a flame in her(?) hand, is the angel of Sundays, poetry and the patron of the arts. Story checks out.

Eventually he gave me my hand back and with a few hundred more “you beautiful women” he caressed my cheek and then paid for my train ticket. He also wrote my mantra down on my notepad which I had taken out for some quick note taking when he went to chase the train conductor to buy my ticket. He soon returned with my ticket and another note scribbled in Italian on the back of a business card.

“io space il mondo sono bella come il mondo che e rotondo”

I plan the world is as beautiful as the world is round”

He kissed me on the cheek, and he got off with his bicycle and set off to cycle in the alps. Mountain cycling: A sure sign of being mentally unstable.

I guess I made his day. My soul and I went back to looking out the window.
Just saved myself €4,20 - cheers Ulcia.

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Posted by The Tipsy Gipsy 01:42 Archived in Italy Tagged train italy friends train_travel the_tipsy_gipsy 2016 Comments (0)

All Roads Lead to Rome

An Old Girl Needs to Nap

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Bleary eyed I wait patiently in immigration. My turn arrives, my Italian immigration official is talking to his colleague. I stand there awkwardly, I’ve approached the desk ‘to quickly’ and been reprimanded before. He reaches a hand for my passport, still continuing his conversation. He briefly glances at it and then tosses it back to me. Literally flinging it back on the counter with a careless toss.
I stand there. Is he done? Is he mad at me? Can I go?
I interpreted his grunt as ‘enter’ so with a bounce in my step I entered Italy. No stamp means no one knows i’m here, plus free travel through the EU. How perfectly reckless of him…hmmm how easy it would be to stay forever, eat gelato and be clothed exclusively in a floral housedress.

Suckers.

After 30 hours I arrived into Roma with the morning sun. Naturally I couldn't check in until 3pm so forgetting that I am no longer 23 I hit the pavements of Rome. A fantastic city that never ceases to amaze and inspire. The perfect mix of dirty garbage-filled metropolis and charming Italian cityscapes. And rocks. Lots of rocks. If you love old rocks that were once something, boy are you in for a treat. Also if you like sandwiches, they do those well. Rome is also an amazing city for map readers to lose their cool in. It’s intricate old streets are sometimes missing and it’s easy to get lost.

Despite functioning on 4 hours sleep, I just had to fill 8 hours until I could check in. So I set off feeling good about my chances of doing a quick round-a-bout of the sites to fill my time and refresh my memory. 8 hours, piece of cake! I admired the colosseum, laughed at the fools lining up by the hundreds to go inside. Within 40 minutes I had parked myself on a ledge underneath a temple ruin from thousands of years ago. From my floor level-bin adjacent location I looked over at the Roman Forum and ate a panini in the gutter. I thought about how glamorous travel can be and how I really don’t embody that in anyway. I was in the same clothes that I put on at my house at 8am Saturday and this was now the equivalent of 8pm Sunday. (EDIT: actually, my mum suggested that my choice of plane outfit looked disgraceful and so I stopped at Big W en route to the airport, bought an outfit and got changed in the back of the car).Either way, by this point the clothes were walking on their own and just carrying me along for the journey. My soft, winter feet got blisters immediately and my legs began to chafe. This began to chafe my nerves as I got further and further away from my hostel and the crappy bunk bed I was looking forward to lying on. I soon soldiered on. I’d been out for several hours and completed my itinerary. My hair, though clean upon departure was now greasy with the germs of 300 international travellers, its fine knotty strands perfect for capturing the germs and fart smells of others. I felt gross. Looked gross and was incredibly tired. The few selfies I took will serve of a reminder to just photograph scenery. A flea market that was less other people’s fun trash and more African migrants selling knock off sunglasses was the last straw, I decided for my own wellbeing I had to go back to the hostel and sleep, on the reception couch if need be.

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I obviously then got horribly lost.

I was off my own map. I couldn't navigate myself because as far as the city of Rome was concerned I was not longer in an area worth being in. Hey, you bastards I thought all roads lead to Rome?

Recalculating. Recalculating.

So my slow stroll turned to a trudge. I trudged on. Stopping to sit at every large stone, butt-level building ledge or bench I passed. Getting lost is part of good exploring,, only doing it when you are having trouble putting one foot in front of the other is particularly traumatic. I followed my nose compass, which is well developed especially as I get older and my nose seems to be growing rapidly. So I trudged on in a vague ‘thataway’ direction, my patience wearing thin and hoping my body too may wear a little thinner from all this walking. I trudged down dead end streets. Suburban streets. Past weddings at local churches. Through urine soaked alley ways. Up annoyingly steep hills. Past housewives hanging out in crappy inner city parks that are in desperate need of a mow. Occasionally wondering why in life traffic lights make me anxious but I very little fear of being alone in small back alleys in foreign cities. Stopping regularly to sit, rest a minute and hope a street I was on reappeared on my map. Cursing how flea markets are like cat nip to me. I was so misled. I was also chronically dehydrated despite the copious amount of water I was drinking. A result of the high sodium level in their water or the 20 hours on a plane or a combination of both. Still I trudged on. And I mean trudged. One step at a time. Exhausted. Too exhausted to cross the streets safely. I had to summon all my energy to remember to look in the right direction and double check in case I was hallucinating. Where the hell am i? Where the hell is that giant-ass colosseum? My aim was three-fold. I made myself the promise that if I could find a metro I would take a train back. I just had to find a metro. As that wasn’t happening at all, I needed to get myself back inside what the tourism centre of Rome deems ‘map worthy’. Or thirdly, get high up and work out where I am. I walked on following my nose compass. I was getting higher and the street I was on was either going to be a dead end or have a nice, educational view.
As I approached the end of the street there was an open gate and I saw people sitting in the shade. I saw a free Roman drink tap. Was this real? It was like an oasis. I literally stumbled into an oasis; a rose garden with park benches and flowing water. I entered and considered putting my feet into the fountain to cool them down. And also maybe sitting in it to sooth my chaffed legs. I was high up, in a rose garden overlooking the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. I collapsed onto a park bench and contemplated just staying there the night or at least taking a power nap there to give me the energy to keep going because right below me was Circus Maximus, the ancient roman chariot race track, the bottom of my map and the location of the Metro Station I was looking for. Proof, I was significantly below the map.

I laid on a park bench in the sun briefly then psyched myself up and made a beeline for the Metro. The red M was glimmering in the distance. Funnily on a street I was on before but diverted off from because I decided it was safer to head back towards the river so I could follow it if I needed to/throw myself in out of misery. I had €2 in my pocket, bought a ticket and went in. Much to my severe disappointment the trains were going the wrong way. I needed to go across the street. The army man with the huge automatic rifle told me so. He also thought my ticket would let me out and back in across the road. With one last energy burst I crossed the street and got denied entry. I needed a new ticket. I was “displeased” which I showed by swearing and angrily feeding my ticket into the gates and having it return it to me 20 times. I guess hoping to trick it. I had no more coins. I could only find notes which the ticket machine obviously also kept spitting back out at me. Finally, I found another €2 in my pocket. I was on the home straight. Naturally there were no seats so I had to carefully stand so gypsies wouldn't steal my stuff and focus on keeping myself upright. Hoping that the chaffing, blisters and fat sore feet I had given myself within 4 hours of arriving wouldn’t put too much of a dampener on my holiday. My legs ached. My eyes were stinging for lack of being closed. Everything felt heavy. I was tempted to lean on a strong looking person. In what was in all likelihood, a unconscious walk to the hostel and I soon checked in, washed the stench of long haul air travel off me and laid down. I slept. With washed but unbrushed hair I slept so soundly I had a lot of trouble waking up. One alarm went of. Then another. Then another. By then my hair was dry and sitting straight up but I wasn’t. I kept trying to psych myself up. I lay there with my phone checking out some social media to adjust to the idea of being awake like I do every morning but kept falling asleep and dropping my phone.

This is perhaps part of travel in your early thirties compared to travel in your early twenties. Soon I was awake enough to get up and leave before I fell back asleep so I went out again in a haze of zinc powder to watch tourists taking selfies and posing while throwing coins into the Trevi Fountain. I considered finding a hill to climb to get some nice pictures of Rome in a golden, afternoon setting sun glow but then remembered how much I enjoy sleeping and how old and unfit I am and decided to head back via some cheese and salami. (Too tired to dine out, that’s how tired I was) I was in bed by 9. How things have changed? I listened to the girls in the hostel recount their week to their parents via Skype. I remembered fondly how busy and carefree the gypsy life was. Checking in with home and rattling off a bunch of places you’ve been, how you’ve caught a cold, how much you need some new clothes and about the great beaches you saw and the cool people you met. It’s nice. I wish it was still me but alas I have a job now and a greater than ever desire to sit down and rest. So I retired for the night. Ready to start a new day of old spinster lady travel. Sitting down at famous sites. Taking photos of food and stray cats. So my dear friends and readers, the Tipsy Gipsy is on the road again, but i’m not walking far... also what’s for lunch? Whose got an Aspirin I’m gonna get DVT on this 4 hour train journey? €3 for coffee that’s outrageous!

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Posted by The Tipsy Gipsy 22:37 Archived in Italy Tagged italy rome the_tipsy_gipsy Comments (2)

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