Today has been a day devoted primarily to getting from one place to another. We are still in that process, on a high-speed boat from Messina to the island of Lipari. The island sounds like a pretty cool place to hang out, and it has the added bonus of being a stone’s throw from another island, Stromboli. There are many volcanoes hereabouts, but Stromboli is a particularly consistent one, throwing sparks out more or less all the time.
The best time to witness this phenomenon is at night, we have read, when the sparks are easier to see, so night tours to climb the volcano are a popular thing. That’s all the future, however, so I’ll wait until we actually do it to write about it. (This process is called ‘journalism’, I’m told.)
It was a tough call deciding to go this far afield, since the time spent traveling is time not doing something else. In the end, however, there are beaches all over the place, and Greek and Roman ruins more places than this. Active volcanoes, however, are a little more unusual. fuego called a hostel in Lipari, made a reservation, and we were decided. Now all we had to do was get there.
At the train station we checked the schedule and saw that a train was heading for Messina in… two minutes. The next one didn’t leave for hours. In fact, the guy in the tourist office said the next train wouldn’t be running because of a strike.
The train was still sitting there. We dithered for a moment and then I said, “let’s go get our other bags and see if the train is still here.” Without much hope we went back to hostel (just up the street), quickkly collected our things and hauled them back.
The train was still sitting there. We hauled our stuff out onto the platform and fuego asked someone if we could buy tickets on board. Nope. fuego stood by our bags on the platform while I went in to the ticket window. The woman there buying tickets in front of me was a Problem Customer. Time dragged. I stood, dripping sweat, while the ticket guy tried to work with this lady. Every time it looked like they might be about done she came up with some new way to introduce a problem into the transaction.
Worst case: the moment I buy tickets the train pulls out. The train remained put, however, and the uniformed guy who had answered our questions earlier would poke his head into the station to check on me once in a while.
Problem Lady left the window, with her son there to hold her place. The buildup behind me started saying something, and the ticket guy shrugged and gestured. “I’m in the middle of a transaction,” he seemed to say. “There’s nothing I can do.”
Uniformed Guy didn’t buy it. I don’t speak Italian, but I think he said something like, “The train can’t leave until you take care of these people! Screw the Problem Lady!” Whatever he said did the trick and sixty seconds later I had tickets. Uniformed Guy then showed me how to validate the ticket in a little machine and we were on our way. Well, almost on our way. It was still quite a while before the train departed.
Transfer from train to boat went smoothly, but it appears that we are not allowed up on top, and the windows are pretty much opaque, which limits sightseeing. It feels more like air travel than sea travel, right down to the crying children.