Saturday, July 6, 2013

Pistoia - Italy

--Há uma versão em português logo abaixo--

One day on this trip that's always full of excitement is the day I cross the border into another country. In the morning I already know that it's a "border day" so as I see the line on my GPS getting closer, the excitement of arriving by bike in a country that I haven’t been to before, really gets me. In 8 weeks on the road I've
already experienced that 5 times.

And it was no different when I got to Slovenia. What was different was the trouble I had finding places to stay there. My greatest problem using CouchSurfing during this trip is that I can't predict in advance where I'm going to be, so I send the requests only two or three days before, sometimes one day or even on the same day I arrive, and because people nowadays, due to the social medias, don't check their e-mails very often, sometimes I receive the reply one or two weeks after I've already left the place.

Slovenia was the first country where I arrived without having a place to stay on my first stop, as well as the first country where I was not able to find a host in the capital, which made me leave sooner than planned, crossing the country in one week.

Maribor was my first stop in Slovenia and when I got there I learned that the people I'd sent some requests to wouldn't be able to host me, and because I didn't have any route planned, I couldn't go on the day after. I was too tired to camp and it was already too late to try a church. So I started sending requests on CouchSurfing hoping that someone would read my message, and by 22:00 I had almost given up. It seemed that the only way would be to find a place to camp and leave the city the morning after.

I decided to wait no longer than 22:15. It was 22:13, I closed all the pages and had only my e-mail open, and when it was exactly 22:15, I received an e-mail announcing that a nice couple had just saved the day. Oh boy, It felt like a miracle!

So I slept two nights in Maribor, visited the city and had a good time with my nice hosts.

Leaving Maribor I slept one night at the Catholic Church in Zalec and got to Ljubljana the day after, where an extended national holiday made things a bit complicated for me, since everyone was leaving the city. So in three days I slept in three different places, having to camp one day in the backyard of the Catholic church, then I decided to go back on the road, where things were smoother.

Before leaving Slovenia, I stopped in Predjama to visit the Predjamski Castle, a renaissance castle built within a cave mouth, which in the 15th century served as refuge for the knight and robber baron, Erazem Lueger.

I camped in the area and the day after it was again a "border day". But it was not a normal border day, it was the border of "Bella Italia", and I can't say how much I’d been looking forward to arriving in Italy, ever since the beginning of this trip. Not only becuse of the places I wanted to visit, but also for the culture and the language that I like so much.

My first stop in la Bella Italia was in Muggia, a town next to Trieste. There I slept two nights. My CouchSurfing host was a journalist, a great opportunity to have nice conversations about everything.

On the first night we went to eat some pizza, to celebrate in grand style my entrance in Italy. It was very funny, when I heard the "buon appetito" I started laughing, I've heard that everywhere, but for the first time it was the "original one".

Next day I went to visit Trieste, but being already so tired from walking the whole day as a tourist, I chose this time to relax and spend the hot day in the water. It was my re-encounter with the sea after 7 years, and now for the first time I was able to swim. In Holland, before starting this bike tour I had taken some swimming lessons, worried about the fact that I'd be travelling alone and that every place where I came across water could be dangerous. So in Trieste it was time to test my new skills, and I must say I really enjoyed it.

Knowing about my passion for the Italian language, my host gave me a small Italian dictionary. I have made it a rule not to accept anything from people I meet, I take from them only memories, our pictures and their signature on my flag, since I already carry a lot of weight and have no place for anything else, but in this case I decided to make an exception. I don't want to leave Italy with the same "Buon Giorno" , "Mama mia", and "Buono apetito" that I already knew.

Leaving Muggia, I had a nice meeting on the road, I met a Korean guy, Beak, who's also travelling by bike. He started his journey in South Korea and intends to finish it in the UK, having already cycled more than 15.000 km. We stopped for half hour to talk and share our stories, I became really fascinated by his journey. He signed my flag and I signed his notebook. When we met again in Venice it was like we were already old friends.

I camped in Portogruaro area, and the day after I headed to Venice, which I'll be talking about in my next post..