Intro


Hello. My name is Isaac, 35 years old from Vancouver, Canada. I have set this blog up to document my journey following Mark Knopfler’s 2013 “Privateering” tour, from April 25 (Bucharest, Romania) to July 31 (Calella de Palafrugell, Spain).

Due to Despite the tour’s obnoxious schedule (thanks, Mark), I cannot be entirely sure that I will attend all concerts. That being said, I will try. You are more than welcome to sit back, relax, read, and comment. You can also subscribe to the blog’s RSS feed (see the “Subscribe for Updates” box at the right hand side of the page. For standard RSS readers, select the “Atom” option).

Have fun,
Isaac

Note: The contents of this blog are also available in hardcover and paperback formats. For more information, click here: http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/isaac_s

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Rome to Napoli, Italy (July 14, 2013)

After a very busy day in Rome—including noisy train rides, some sightseeing, and immense mental battle to keep my sanity in check while waiting for the bus heading to Rome’s city center after the concert—the compensation came in the form of a very easy travel day: depart Rome 10:40am, arrive Napoli 11:50am. One hour, one train. Brilliant.

Mark, here’s a small request for your next tour: more easy travel days such as this one. Thank you.

Woke up late, easy breakfast at the hotel and headed to the nearest metro station. Sunday morning, and the streets of Rome’s city center were as empty as they can possibly get: still moderately full with people. Weather was warm, but still too early to be a scorcher.

Feeling upbeat for the upcoming easy travel day, entered the Spagna metro station and headed to the ticketing machine (the day pass purchased a day before was only good till midnight).

Two single tickets… €3.00… no problem. The entire transaction was done in under 25 seconds.

That is, the entire transactions except for the part where tickets are actually printed. Checked once, twice, thrice… nothing. What do you do in such a case? of course: you turn to on‐site staff for assistance. Piece of cake.

Approached the staffed ticketing office. Jeroen did the talking, explaining to the attendant what had happened.

She didn’t immediately respond. Instead, she took out a piece of paper, wrote a number on it, handed it to the puzzled Dutchman and instructed him to call that number to complain.

At that moment, I already realized what was going to happen. I already knew that there was no chance in hell we will ever get those three Euros back. Turned to the Dutchman, and told him that there really is no hope—lets try another method, maybe a different machine.

I grew up in Israel, and Israelis are very similar to Italians in many behavioural aspects. I know what it is like facing authorities in a highly bureaucratic environment; I know how to detect when nobody is going to help me with anything. While not being the primary reason, the Israeli mentality of being harsh to each other was one of the reasons I left Israel for Canada to begin with: I was tired of a society where people care less and less about others as time goes by.

The Dutchman, however, grew up in The Netherlands. Much like in Canada, in The Netherlands, people in general want to be helpful. Chances are higher for a service provider to walk an extra mile for you in The Netherlands or in Canada, than, say, in Italy.

As such, the Dutchman really believed that he could somehow demonstrate to that rude lady that he was right and she was wrong.

I therefore opted at standing aside and watching the dialogue evolve.

Two more minutes of an increasingly heating dialogue didn’t help at all. The Dutchman kept being more and more amazed at the immense rudeness and unwillingness to help exhibited by the tantalizingly stupid attendant, and the latter kept demanding that worrying about issues like this is not her job, and “call this number”. Eventually, she simply said “I am not helping you” and gestured with her hand that we should step aside.

None of the aforementioned was surprising to me; yet, it was fun watching the Dutchman reveal the multiple layers of stupidity, ignorance and rudeness from the attendant. At the end, he muttered an expression involving the F‐word and walked away.

Time was pressing, so I decided to head back to the ticketing machines and try another one. Tried to issue one ticket first (so if the machine is broken, we waste less money)—done. Second ticket printed too. Good.

Heading to the platform, we came across another attendant. Jeroen told him that, at the least, they should be putting an “out of order” sign on that machine so people won’t continue wasting money on it; alas, the attendant wasn’t much inclined to help either. In the meantime, more and more people were using the broken machine, losing money to Rome’s metro station.

Three stops, and back in Rome’s central station, Roma Termini. Easy train ride to Napoli, except for a mature man sitting behind me and constantly talking on the phone, with a very heavy Italian voice. Every sentence he said sounded as if it was taken out of The Godfather. I spent a few minutes listening to his voice and imagining Don Corleone speaking. It was very amusing, and once it was done being amusing, it started becoming annoying.

Fortunately, it was a short ride until the train arrived in Napoli’s central railway station, Napoli Centrale.


I knew very little of Napoli (in English: Naples. Why? beats me) before coming here. I knew that Diego Maradona played for Napoli’s soccer team back in the times when he wasn’t doing drugs (at least not publicly) and I actually cared for soccer at all; I was also informed that food in Napoli is very good. All and all, I didn’t quite know what to expect.

What I encountered was a very different experience than what I had experienced in the northern parts of Italy.

It started at the central railway station. There, you could already feel that Napoli lives somewhere in the distant past. You could see it on people’s faces, too: to me, people seemed tired and unmotivated. Old infrastructure—older than what you’d expect in the third largest municipality in Italy (after Rome and Milano).

Figured out that we need to take the metro. Down to the platform, expecting to find ticket selling machines there. None. Instead, we found small machines into which you should be inserting some ticket for it to be stamped. OK, that means that you need to buy the ticket somewhere. But where?

Backtracked to the main level, and started looking for information. A lady working on site asked what it was that we were looking for. “Metro tickets”, we said. “Tabacchi, Tabacchi”, she replied.

I already knew what it meant.

OK, so here’s a very useful tip for tourists in Italy. “Tabacchi” means “tobacco shop”. In tobacco shops, you buy cigarettes so you can smoke and kill yourself faster (except for Ingrid. I don’t think there’s a cigarette on this planet strong enough to harm this superwoman); BUT—you also buy other useful things there. One of these things is metro tickets and bus tickets.

Public transport ticketing works differently in different municipalities in Italy. Sometimes, you can buy public transport tickets at the station itself from machines or manned booths; and sometimes you buy those tickets from external vendors. Where public transport tickets are sold by external vendors, usually tobacco shops are your best bet to get those. Sometimes, you can buy such tickets from other vendors—even in your hotel.

Better do your research before leaving home.

We already had too much research to do, so some things were left out to figure out “on the spot”. Finding our way in Napoli’s metro system was one of them.

Bought those damned tickets and back to the platform. Oh, the humanity: what an old, out‐dated metro system. Prehistoric trains, prehistoric tunnels… prehistoric everything. Boarded the train, and the short ride to Cavour seemed to take forever. These aren’t the advanced, modern metro trains you’d see elsewhere in Europe.

Exited the metro station and started walking towards the hotel. The path reminded me more of the older parts of Tel Aviv or Jaffa than of Italy: very old buildings—I’m surprised some of them are still standing—and man, oh man, how crowded they are. Living here means no personal space for you, ever.

It was Sunday afternoon. Not many living souls outside, most shops were closed. The mostly empty streets reveal sights of neglect and slight decay. Weather was hot, and I was counting down the meters left to get to the hotel; was happy to finally make it: Hotel Piazza Bellini, located by Piazza Bellini, turned out to be an island of beauty and relaxation in that area.

Already late afternoon, we decided to go out for a bite. Before heading out, we asked at the reception what would be the best way to get to and from the concert venue. The concert venue was located about 8km west of the hotel, easily accessible by metro, which makes it great for getting there, but useless for coming back as the metro’s last train on Sundays run before the concert’s anticipated end time. The hotel’s receptionist suggested that we don’t rely on buses because Napoli’s public bus system sucks in royal levels, and instead gave us the number of a local taxi company to call.

Great. Was really looking forward for another hectic night, figuring out ways to get back to my hotel. At least, we had a feasible “last resort”: walking. It’s not fun walking 8km at night, but still doable in just under 2 hours.

The hotel’s receptionist gave us a general direction for lunch—just go towards Piazza Bellini and there should be “a few open places”. Those “few open places” turned out to only serve drinks and snacks. Incidentally, I turned my head at some point and noticed people dining in some patio. That looked promising: Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba.

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I was told before, by my friend Daria, that pizza lovers, while in Napoli, must try a simple Pizza Margherita as it is a “Napoli thing”. Who am I to argue? the pizza, along with some spaghetti and a side order of vegetables, were all consumed with pleasure. The pizza was fantastic.

As I am sitting down writing this blog post, I used Google to find a link to the TripAdvisor entry for this pizzeria. I was surprised to also find a Wikipedia entry. Well, what do you know: this restaurant is believed to be the world’s first pizzeria.

Too much food was ordered and eaten. That, together with the fact that the preceding few days were hectic, prompted me to decide to go back to the hotel, do some writing and never leave the room until the time comes to head to the venue. I followed my decision through, and added a good, healthy nap to the mix.


Time’s up—let’s go. Left the hotel…

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… and entered the metro station again. Couldn’t find any ticket selling booth. Where do you go to to buy metro tickets in Napoli? right: the good old Tabacchi. There was one a few meters away from the station.

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Again, those ugly, noisy trains. Long, noisy ride. Left at the closest metro station to the venue and started walking towards the venue, guided by an online map. It was a long walk through a major, busy avenue.

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We were a little unsure where the venue really was: in the online map, the arena seemed to be a part of a huge complex, so it wasn’t clear where we should be turning off from the main avenue. Shortly after, I found an indication where to go: the fake concert T‐shirt stands. You can always count on those to show up nearby a Knopfler concert venue. Turning right from the main avenue, I was in the middle of a huge complex, still not having a clear direction where to go so. Others seemed to know where they were going, so following them seemed like a great idea.

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It worked: Arena Flegrea was right there.

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Collected the tickets, and then decided to see whether the people working in the ticket booth know anything about how to get back from the venue to the city center. Again, Italian service at its best: there were two women working in that booth—one handing tickets to people and the other, facing another window, typing on her phone, looking completely apathetic to whatever was going on around. Asking her, she gestured as if to say she has no idea, and turned to her co‐worker who then said “don’t know”, followed by a shriek.

The ticketing booth now had two panicked women in it. Ticket collection stopped. The entire world stopped for a few seconds. The reason? one of them discovered a huge bug underneath some paper.

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Up the stairs and entered the venue. It was a little weird: the area where the concert was to take place was outdoors, but to get there, you had to go through some sort of a building. That building looked relatively well kept, and I’m guessing that it was new (I can’t find much information about this venue online).

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Looked like a small venue with one strange feature: between the front row to the stage, the distance was about 10 meters. A fence separated between the front row and that 10 meters gap, and the gap’s height was about 2–3 meters: clearly no Running of the Bulls tonight, as that would involve jumping over a fence, breaking a few limbs while doing so, and then being completely unable to watch the concert as the stage was a few meters high above the gap area.

Another feature of this venue was the two concrete walls to the side. I immediately realized that acoustics were going to be a problem. For added scenery, the venue backed into tall green trees, giving you the feeling that you’re watching a concert inside a forest (if you were to ignore those huge concrete walls).

Seats?

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A few readers of this blog came to say hello: one from North Carolina, one from Manchester and one from Switzerland. Another United Nations sort of thing. The common to all: nobody knew exactly how to get back from the venue to their hotels, and everybody who tried to get any sort of information about the subject ended up encountering a huge wall of complete ignorance.

It was decided, then, to get together in an agreed‐upon spot (conveniently located right in front of my seat) after the concert, so we could figure things out as a group.

The concert started pretty much on time, and right at the beginning I realized that I won’t be able to watch the concert fully from where I was seated. I was seated to the left, and the high volume was going to kill my sensitive left ear. A few songs into the show, I decided that I’m not risking going deaf so I watched most of the concert from the very back rows, high up the stairs.

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Was a good concert overall, with Brothers in Arms being played for the first time in a while. I watched the last few songs from my seat: people kept sneaking to the front for the purpose of taking pictures, then hurrying back to their seats. The guy sitting to my immediate left videotaped the entire concert.

During Telegraph Road, someone decided that he was going to Skype the entire song to his friend, using his tablet. He arrived, armed with a tablet and his girlfriend, fired his tablet, Skype‐called his friend and held the tablet so his friend could see and listen to what was going on. During the quiet part of Telegraph Road, the recipient of the Skype call decided that it’d be a good time to start talking.

So many idiots live on this planet that I start feeling lonely.

Concert ended, and five tourists gathered together trying to figure out how to get back to the city center. We decided to head back to the main avenue and try hailing a taxi. One taxi signalled that he was turning around to pick us up, which he did—but while doing so, he was hailed by someone else and let them in. Great service.

Went to a nearby bar. Amann, a nice fellow from Switzerland who was in our group, happened to be speaking Italian so he grabbed the phone number of a taxi company from the bar’s owner and called for a taxi. A minute later, a taxi showed up, but it wasn’t the taxi that we called for; plus, it could only hold three passengers.

We had no choice, then, but to break up: Jeroen, Amann and myself went into the taxi, and the others remained behind waiting for the taxi that Amann called for minutes earlier.

The ride to the hotel was one of the scariest taxi rides I took in my entire life. I would never drive in Napoli. People here drive like complete and utter idiots. Sort of like Istanbul: you can never anticipate who’s going to do what. You can’t take anything for granted. Numerous scooters ridden by people who were under the impression that they owned the road.

One of the scariest moments took place as we drove through a tunnel. In front of us, three scooters—two people on each. At the left shoulder of the tunnel, a girl was walking by. The people on the scooter right in front of us decided that this would be a perfect time to stop the scooter to chat the girl up. May I remind you, again, that we were in a tunnel. How our taxi driver got out of that one—I don’t know. We nearly hit them.

The drive took about 10 minutes but it felt like forever. I was sure we’re going to end up in a hospital somewhere: insane drivers. Luckily, got back to the hotel safely. Took a few minutes to see what was going on in Piazza Bellini, right in front of the hotel: seems like a popular destination for youngsters in the evening, a few cafes full of people, and others enjoying their time by the fountain. Some police was present on site, to maintain order.

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Back to the hotel and off for a good night sleep, knowing that the next day was going to be hell.


Signing off this post from the hotel room in Taormina. So much happened over the last couple of days… what a rush. Off to the concert now. Will try to complete the next blog post during the ferry ride to Malta tomorrow.

Isaac

10 comments:

  1. HMmm.. despite what you wrote, Israelis seem to be NICER. Hard to believe.. I know.

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    Replies
    1. I didn't write that Israelis are worse, or better. I wrote that there is a lot of similarity between Israelis and Italians.

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  2. Haha Isaac, no way I am superwoman. I will die like anyone around. Yes, I have the bad habit of smoking. It might harm me (and die earlier) or not (I might get lucky). The question is: will I be lucky if I don't die younger. Almost all females in my grandmothers family (on my mum's side)got Alzheimer disease. They all went pretty old (between 80 and 90). I have seen what Alzheimer is at my grandmother. Do I want to be old? Not when I end up like she did. I don't know what my genes are, if I am lucky I will not get Alzheimer disease. Then it's better to quit smoking and live longer. Maybe I have those genes and I get Alzheimer disease. Then I better start smoking more to be sure not getting older than maximum 80 when it really got worse with my grandmother. Maybe I quit once, maybe I'don't. Maybe I die from a caraccident, or I smoke and get old without real troubles. I am happy I don't know about the future. Live life to the max now! Then you know what you have.

    And to all people: if you don't smoke, don't start. It's addictive and becomes more expensive every second. It's unhealthy and a big chance you die younger. I started once, and didn't quit so far. Will I quit? I don't know, not now because I don't really want to. Maybe one day I say: it's done, I quit. Just like other things I do: now is the time, so that's it. And then it's easy to do. Just my 2 cents on this beautiful morning

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    Replies
    1. Ingrid, please attempt to stop smoking. You really don't want to end up like my father; a man of 100 kg whittled down to 28 kg when he finally passed away at 60, or my mother; so medicated that she was halucinating during her last weeks of life... both all because of smoking (2-4 packs each per day... 50-200!! cigarettes per day).

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  3. Nathalie, FranceJuly 17, 2013 at 1:57 AM

    "So many idiots live on this planet that I start feeling lonely."
    Well, you're not the only one feeling that way... At the start of the show in Nîmes, a woman seating next to me was using her iPad to take pictures, from the 2nd row, blocking the view for anyone seated behind her. Really annoying and distracting! Thankfully, she moved further away after a while. But I wonder how she managed to get through security with that kind of equipment.

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    1. They don't really check.
      From my experience, more emphasis is being put on not bringing food or beverages from outside, than on electronic equipment. On-site staff doesn't care at all about the performance: the staff is employed by the venue and their instructions are meant to maximize profit (for the venue). God forbid if you bring your own bottle of water inside (otherwise how could they charge you ridiculous prices for water?), but an iPad? Sure, go ahead.

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  4. Issac...did you see any petty criminal activity...I mean like bag or phone snatching amongst the crowds? Surprised you did not know that tram/train tickets are available at the tobacco kiosks..they are in most cities. Another question. The women is the Israeli Army. Are they representative of women in Israel?...boy they are good lookers...or do they chose certain ones for PR releases?

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    Replies
    1. No, I didn't see any petty crimes taking place.

      About Israeli women in the military: I believe you're referring to their external appearance. Obviously, the ones pictured for formal publications are of the prettier ones (beauty sells. Sad but true). Israel consists of people coming in from all over the globe, so appearance-wise, you'll find everything there, both male and female.

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    2. External appearance and beauty..skin deep. Yes. That great song we never here anymore "six blade knife" Yeah I know exactly. Now I would say sex always sells...maybe I don't see a beautiful woman..just a sexy woman..haha..the difference between lust and love.

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  5. Isaac, it's incredible, what you'r writing. All of the things and problems happened to me too. In particular a horror of a taxi ride back to city center.
    http://www.erde-in-bildern.de/reiseblog/allgemein/italia-italia/

    Thanks for writing your blog!

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