Into the Alps (part 1)

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April 6th 2015
Published: April 6th 2015
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I saw the Pyrenees a week ago, now I'm seeing the Alps. There is quite a difference. I'm very glad I made the change in itineraries, for various reasons. But one of my favorite is that I get to see the Alps more than once on this trip. This weekend was nice and restful, but today I bit the bullet and did the touristy thing. I was rather surprised at the number of tourists around the town today, but I guess it's a holiday in Italy, so I shouldn't be all that surprised.

Bergamo is not the typical tourist town in Italy, though there are plenty of quaint things to see. It has nothing particularly impressive except the views from the upper town. From there, you can see pretty far, including several snow-capped peaks in the Alps. You get to see all of your typical European roofs, as well as some green lands for miles beyond the town. If you come to Bergamo, you have to do the funicular up the hills. They don't really save much time, since the line for the lower funicular is about 25-30 minutes' wait. You really do it for the experience, because how often do you get to visit a town via funicular in the USA? And Bergamo has 2!

A good bit of my day has been spent waiting, as sometimes one must. I'm about done with this hotel, in more ways than one. I check out tomorrow, but this morning was about the final straw. It's pretty clean, and the location is quiet, so I'll give it that. But there's no carpet anywhere, which means that any noise out in the common area gets amplified. This is worse when a family with 2 young children is staying here. I'm not against families going on vacation, but when I get woken up at 6AM on a day when I didn't have to set an alarm, I'm not a happy camper. At least the noise died down and I got back to sleep around 7. There wasn't much other activity going on at the hotel today, so I took my time and did my final schoolwork for the week for TCU before deciding to hop in the shower around 10:30. We have 2 shared bathrooms here, and neither one of them wanted to produce anything but ice-cold water. So, I didn't get a shower this morning. I did brush my teeth and shave, with freezing water, and I put on new clothes, but I would've preferred a shower in there, too. To top it all off, the guy who was servicing the rooms knocked on my door around 11:30 and asked if he could do the room, while I was still in here and trying to get my stuff together to go touristing. So I let him in, and he's trying to have a conversation with me in broken English while I'm putting my shoes on, getting my stuff off the bed (rather inconveniently) and making sure I have everything. Except the shower.

I walked to the train station, since it's pretty much the gateway to everything else from the hotel. I decided to pick up my tickets for in the morning, since the website where I ordered them recommends being there at least 20 minutes in advance. Good thing I did it today. There was one guy working the booth with a line of at least 15 people in front of me (a trend in Italy, it seems). He wasn't in any hurry. After about 10 minutes, another guy opened a window, but that didn't help much. I don't know what those people at the front of the line were doing, but man, they broke the system. After about 20 minutes, I finally got up there, gave him the numbers, and in less than a minute had my tickets. Success! Now I can get to the train station tomorrow with no worries about that crap.

Afterwards, I walked down the main street of the lower town, which is fairly uninteresting. Some graffiti, a lot of shopping, and even more traffic. It was about a mile to the funicular station, and when I turned the corner and saw both it and the massive line waiting their turn, I nearly did a double take. I went and bought my ticket - 24 hours of public transportation of any form in the city for 3.50 euros, so not bad. Again, I waited for probably 25 minutes in line before my group was allowed to board. The lower funicular runs 2 cars, and they each take 40 people. The boy in front of me was so cute, when he first saw the car that would take us up: holding his mother's hand, he said, "Che bello, mama! Che bello, che bello!" The ride was only about 3 minutes up the slope, but we were rewarded with great views along the way.

Once at the top, there are fewer cars and more people. As I said earlier, today is definitely a holiday in Italy. There were SO MANY kids running around. I took a visit to the Rocca, or fortress, in the upper city, and it had some nice views of the lower city and mountains. After that, I was getting hungry, so I stopped in this little bakery that was doing some major business. I got 2 big slices of pizza for 5 euros and then stopped off in a corner next to a big tower and enjoyed the perfection that I was consuming. Pizza anywhere else just can't compare. Next, I headed to the big plaza of the upper city, where there were museums and a massive church. There was also a gelato shop, and I now have a new favorite flavor: Spagnola! It's vanilla with cherry swirled in, but with real cherries in it, too. The guy scooping it up made sure that there were cherries in it. My gut was satisfied, for the time being.

I walked around the rest of the upper city until I found the 2nd funicular up to the San Vigilio area above the upper city. I guess it's the upper upper city. Whatever. There was a much shorter line for this one. Maybe 10 minutes to wait, but it only has one car on the line. We made it to the top, and the only thing to do up there is eat, shop, or take in the views from the castle. So I did the last of those. They were the best views of all! You can see further, naturally, but you also get views of the upper town that you just can't get anywhere else.

By this point, my feet were starting to hurt. They had been real troopers today, so I decided to accede to their demands. I went back down the funicular to the upper city and caught a bus back to the train station. I've now got all 3 of my train tickets printed for tomorrow, so I'm a happy camper. I'll be spending 6 hours in Venice tomorrow afternoon before heading on to Trieste for the evening. It'll be nice to be able to leave all the touristy things behind, but I am excited about seeing Venice.


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