A Couple of Close Shaves

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May 8th 2015
Published: May 8th 2015
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Wednesday 6 May:

I did quite a bit of research about places before we went. What I read about Treviso is that it is quite an affluent city that is making an effort to cash in on the tourism market. It is close to Venice but is not on the tourist trail. To this end businesses have been encouraged to be more tourist-friendly and people encouraged to learn English. Good plan. The lady at our Villa was quite enthusiastic about Treviso, saying it was known as “Little Venice”. So all in all we had some reasonable expectations (you know where this blog is going don’t you?)

We arrived by bus and headed over to the train station as we needed to use the toilet and also we wanted to know if they had a place to leave baggage – we are travelling via Treviso on Saturday and the only bus from here arrives there at 8:20 and our train to Udine goes at 10:34.

As it happened there was a free toilet facility right next to the baggage drop office! However, the toilets do not appear to have been cleaned since 1993 and not one cubicle in either ladies or gents had any loo paper. They were not pleasant and hardly a warm welcome to the city. The luggage office was open from 7 am yet, despite it being 830, it was abandoned. “Ring the bell” said the sign. Alas, there was no bell. A young German couple were trying to drop their luggage and were extremely exasperated – “We’re not in Germany now” I heard the man mutter, perhaps summing up very succinctly the German attitude towards the Italians since the 1930s.

On our travels I had been exchanging texts with Barbara Hoffmann trying to get her to find out why Heather’s phone was playing up. While on the station platform Lara rang and we sussed out that her phone was trying to download emails and chewing up her credit. It was nice to talk to Lara though.

So next stop was the Tourist Information office. The info I had was that it was in the city centre, in the Piazza Monte de Pieta. But we spotted an office right across from the station. Open at 10am said the sign. Not very helpful.

So using the stuff I had downloaded and looking at a couple of maps we headed towards the centre. We crossed the canal which was quite nice but hardly Venice-like and got to where we wanted. We found the City Treviso café advertising free wi-fi and to our pleasant surprise it worked. I managed to check emails and publish the last blog. Heather downloaded some games for Zachary’s tablet and did what she needed to do. As a bonus the café was excellent. We had 2 cappucinos, 4 croissants (3 chocolate and 1 marmalade), 2 orange juices, and a large chocolate centred cookie for the princely sum of €13.10 (less than $20). I continue to be surprised just how cheap things are here. There was also a lovely old-fashioned carousel in operation which was a bargain at £2 a ride.

We established that the Tourist Office that was in that square was now at the Railway Station and so we walked back. Lots of high-end label shops and we spent a while watching a duck family in the canal. There is quite a strong current and watching the young ducks learning to swim against it was very entertaining. If there is ever an Olympic Games for ducks, these guys will do well!

Remember what I said about Treviso trying to be more tourist friendly? One man only at the Tourist Office and he spoke basically no English. Very helpful indeed. All we wanted to know was if there was a children’s playground in the city. I thought “Parco Bambino?” which translates at “Park, children?” would suffice and he seemed to get the idea but couldn’t furnish us with any info.

So, at this point we gave up on Treviso. Not much for us to do and the streets around the station all stank of sewage. We had spotted a big supermarket and a McDonald’s so we went to stock up our supplies. We have got the hang now of which way to look when crossing the street and the Italian drivers’ attitudes to pedestrian crossings. However, we didn’t expect a car to suddenly reverse at great speed over a pedestrian crossing. This is exactly what happened as Heather was crossing. She managed to jump out of the way just in time although it did bump her as she put her hands out reflexively. She shouted at the driver, choosing to use “Jesus Christ” as an admonishment, which is an interesting choice for Italy, and gave him a good earful. There was also a car coming towards us and if Heather hadn’t been there to stop the reversing car there may well have been a collision. Anyway, no damage done but it was a close call. Why the driver reversed suddenly at great speed is unknown, but I think he may just have had the car in the wrong gear. It is for just such incidents that we have comprehensive travel insurance!

Anyway we made it to the supermarket and got a 1kg tray of really nice strawberries for €4 ($5.80) and some meat and veges for dinners. 660ml bottles of Peroni beer were only €1 ($1.45) – alcohol is freely available (all supermarkets and small shops sell wine, beer, and spirits) and is much cheaper than NZ, I guess owing to less taxes. It is interesting to compare prices, especially as petrol prices are slightly higher here (remembering how quick supermarkets etc in NZ were to raise their price when petrol went up). I have no idea what people earn here, but food is certainly a lot cheaper.

Had some McDonald’s (specifically so Zachary could have some chips) which is actually not that cheap here and we decided then to just go back to the Villa and have a quiet afternoon and have a fuller day tomorrow in Venice. The bus was packed with kids – does school stop at 1pm here? Ironically as we left the city I spotted a nice looking park with a playground in it. We waited for 10 minutes at a railway crossing which was next to a station and this brought back some bad memories of Monday! Got back, had some strawberries, chilled out (Zachary is quite getting into Italian kids tv), and Zachary and I wandered into the town to get some money out of the Bancomato. On the way back we saw about 10 of the lizards that are prevalent here out sunbathing. They are like the skinks we get in NZ but about twice as wide and sort of a speckled brown. They move pretty fast! We also saw a very large locust sitting on a wall and gave him a wide berth as I didn’t think it would be pleasant if he flew at us. Zachary had a bath and decided to “comb” his hair with Heather’s razor! Then we had dinner, and recharged batteries ready for a busy day tomorrow. Hopefully that bloody owl that hooted loudly all night last night gives it a break tonight!

So not a superb day, but at least the weather was nice and our laundry is getting dry. And we found Knight Rider and The A Team on tv (in English).

Well what have we learned from today’s experiences, combined with the rest of our time In Italy so far?

Italy is more multi-cultural than you might think. We have seen lots of Africans and Asians (mostly Koreans), especially in the region where we are staying now.

Most Italian motorists (including cyclists) seem to think they are F1 Grand Prix drivers;

Young Italians are generally very rude – They block footpaths and push past older people and happily take up reserved seating on buses and trains and refuse to move. However older Italians are nicer and we have found people helpful and appreciative of our poor attempts at speaking the language. Zachary has been popular with elderly ladies;

Smoking is very common across all age groups and there seem to be no laws about buying tobacco;

Litter and graffiti are everywhere;

Don’t believe everything you read in tourist guides;

Put a roll of toilet paper in your day pack.

Finally some advice for the city of Treviso: Clean up your act! We almost didn’t even go into the city after the disgusting toilets at the train station and the smell of sewage around the place. If you want to attract tourists at least make the gateway to your city less like a shit-hole and for goodness sake have your Tourist Office open at 8:30am and staff it with someone who speaks English! Should we ever return to Italy, Treviso is certainly going to be on the must-avoid list.

PS – the underwear is all good!

Thursday 7 May

Made our way back into Venzia (Venice) this morning and with the intent of visiting the islands of Murano and Burano. It was a clear morning and we had great views of the Dolomites with the odd tiny bit if snow visible. This is the first time we have really seen them. Zachary has recovered from his cold, but Heather seems to have picked it up so first stop was a pharmacy for some lozenges for her throat and some paracetamol.

We got a vaporetto to Murano first and went to see a glass-making display. It is amazing how quickly they can produce a beautiful vase. We were all suitably impressed and Zachary is going to learn how to do that when he grows up. We met an Aussie family on the vaporetto and chatted to them for a while. I asked where they lived and he said Canberra, to which I commented “Really?” His wry response was that somebody has to. Fair enough I suppose. Apparently it is a great place to live but not much of a place to visit although my friend Alex (who lives in Sydney) has mentioned to me that he has visited it and liked it (those of you who know Alex can take from that what you like!)

We wandered round the island a bit then went on to Burano which is known for lace and very colourful houses. Zachary was most impressed by the pink ones so he now has it sorted that when he grows up he will live in a pink house, drive a pink car, and make glass. We found a small playground and had some overpriced and underwhelming gelato and milkshakes before unsuccessfully looking for the public WC (thanks to the nice staff at the museum for letting us use theirs) and then heading back to the city. We strolled around a part we hadn’t seen yet before we spotted the “Old Wild West Steakhouse” so we had a traditional Italian dinner of beef burger (me), steak (Heather), and fries.

Back to the train station – I suspected we would miss the train to make the last bus from Castelfranco so I had already sussed out that we could catch a train 50 minutes later to Treviso and get the bus from there. It was actuallycheaper and we got here only 10 minutes later than we would have so that worked out well. As well as the playground we noticed yesterday we also spotted a park full of rabbits and some other green spaces around the canal. If only the Tourist Information Office had been able to tell us about these …

When we got back we found “Jake and the Neverland Pirates” on the Italian KidZone channel which Zachary found entertaining. To be honest he has been a huge pain the rear today. His ears were totally non-functional and he was very argumentative. Despite that, and Heather’s unwellness, it was good to see more of Venice and visit the islands. It is a beautiful city.

Not much happening tomorrow. We’ll stay in Cavasagra as Saturday is a long travel day. We have to make our way from Treviso to Udine which is in the north-east corner of Italy. From there we bus to Villach, Austria and then it is a train to Zagreb, Croatia, where we arrive about 9pm.

Lovely weather today. Clear skies and temperature in the mid 20s. Nice to be in shorts, t-shirt, and jandals for a full day. The owl was kinder to me last night, but it took me bloody ages to chase a very large and very stupid fly out of the room. It will be nice to not have to set the alarm tomorrow and maybe sleep in!

Heather has gone to bed early so I’m tempted to put on some pants and go to the pub down the road, but don’t think I can be bothered.

Friday 8 May: VE Day:

Every day we have gone out this week we have had to wake Zachary up at 7am (6:30am one day) to get the bus. Today, we all had a chance for a sleep in so he woke up by himself at 6:35. Contrary little bugger!

Anyway, for some reason, nobody seems to be answering my text messages (I don’t know if they aren’t getting them or if they are and I’m not receiving replies or if they are just ignoring me) but the lady at reception said I could use the office computer to check my email. Unfortunately Hotmail wouldn’t let me log in and insisted on sending me a security code. They have my NZ number on file and so I put my NZ sim card in my phone but alas, no code arrived. As I really need to access my mail and I don’t trust Treviso’s luggage drop to be open tomorrow, I have headed into Treviso this afternoon to sort out the train connection to Udine and where there is a café I know I can access mail and so I’m publishing the blog at the same time. Zachary and I are then going to find the rabbit park and the playground and catch the bus back from there.

We borrowed some ping-pong bats and a ball this morning and Zachary is learning how to hit the ball properly. It didn’t take him long before he could hit the ball back to me, and we have even managed a rally of 3 shots on the full sized table!

We have had a lot of military jets flying over in the week we have been here but there have been heaps this morning – it has been a constant stream. I guess we would have been told if Mad Vlad Putin the Pillock had decided to invade so I assume it is just exercises of some sort – but one would think that a country that has an economy in the toilet had better things to spend money on…

So that’s it for now. Italy has been a mixed bag. I don’t think I’m in a hurry to come back although it would be good to see Pompeii and maybe Florence. Venice was cool but having seen it I don’t think there is any great urgency to return. Looking forward to getting to Zagreb (one of my must-visit places) and then to Lake Bled which looks to be beautiful!


11th May 2015

Canberra - really?
I don't recall saying that I like Canberra. After all - it's full of the worst type of Australian! Fantastic blog, you realise that now I don't have to visit these places because I feel like I already have done so :-)
12th May 2015

Your memory fails you
I recall you very clearly saying you and Patrick had been to Canberra and how much you loved it. I thought it odd at the time, but having known for over 20 years I wasn't surprised... Perhaps as you reflect on your visit you are seeing it in a more realistic light?

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