In the summer of 2006, I worked in Munich and hungered to see the world. I was able to get 8 days off my summer internship and decided to go to Austria (Vienna) and Italy (Rome, Pisa and Sicily). After that chaotic trip, I wrote an email to my family and friends chronicling my adventures and these are the tales I will share with you for the next few weeks.
I got to my assigned seat, and there was these creepy old Sicilian dude sitting there who was the carbon copy of Al Pacino. He was not smiling, not talking. Just sitting there and watching my every move really intently with furrowed brows. Watching thekenyanexplorer pretend to look for something in her bag. Watching thekenyanexplorer apply lipbalm. Watching thekenyanexplorer look out of the window. Watching thekenyanexplorer pretend to read. I was so happy when my other cabin mates arrived. They were two guys and one girl- all Sicilians and really friendly….all around my age. Creepy dude was still watching me, but atleast I didn’t mind so much now that we had company. Our train was due to arrive in Sicily around 11am (12 hour journey), and I really wanted to sleep. My nice cabin mates agreed for us to all slide our seats down and therefore have each two seats join up to make a long bed. So we ended up with two really long beds next to each other. The seat next to creepy dude was unoccupied, but no one was willing to move there. So the four of us had two “beds.” We were all stretched out really well, and dozing off when I inquired about the light. In all the other night trains I had taken we would switch off our light. They gave me a funny look and told me “If we do that we will arrive with no luggage in Sicily . The South is a dangerous place.” Fear filled my heart, and I started wondering if it was really a good idea for me to travel alone to Sicily . Anyway finally we slept with the lights on. However my suite mates were really active people and kept on waking up and walking in and out of the cabin. Everytime they would leave the cabin I would be unable to sleep for fear of having our bags stolen as I slept. Every time they left I would wake up feeling watched, and quite true I would find creepy dude sitting on his seat, dark eyes boring into me…still watching me in these wee hours of the morning. Man…there are some creepy people in this world, and I happen to meet most of them. So on and off I slept. At some point I woke up to find my suitemates leaving yet again. Then they told me we were on a ferry. I thought I was dreaming. I looked out of the window and we were moving though the train wasn’t moving. I could actually see people standing next to the train, and unable to understand the complexity of the scene I went back to bed. When I awoke we were passing some lovely landscapes, and I noticed that the people in these parts were much darker and taller than in Northern Italy . They actually looked like North Africans which shouldn’t be surprising since Sicily is an island and South of Sicily is the island Malta , and to the West of Malta is North Africa . On the journey back to Rome from Sicily was when I realized that the whole train got on a ferry to get to Sicily - yep, believe that! A train on a ferry. Dunia ina mambo!
We arrived in Sicily at 1113. It was unbelievably hot. It must have been in the high 40s. The first thing I saw in the train station was a dog that had passed out due to the heat, and was just lying there on the ground looking dead. It was alive though, just dog tired. Later on in the day I would see doves that had also passed out. It was the strangest scene….four or five doves lying on the ground looking dead, and only slowly walking away when some naughty kid started stamping on the ground. Honestly when was the last time you saw doves passed out on the ground. My arrival in Sicily was marred by uncertainties. Though I have an eurail pass that allows me to hop on trains in Germany , Italy , France and Austria , some of the trains require a reservation. I had reserved my ticket to Sicily for 3 euros, but when trying to get one back, the ticket officer had told me all reservations were sold, and I would just have to hop on a train and hope for the best. I felt very unstable being in Sicily , and unsure of how I would get back to Rome . The train I was to take needed a compulsory reservation, and I did not have one. Reservations usually cost around 3 to 4 euros, and sometimes for night trains can be as high as 7euros. The most I had paid for a reservation had been a shocking 15 euros from Venice to Rome, but that had been because the only train from Venice to Rome is a high speed train and therefore really costly. I decided to get into the long line in Sicily at the ticket office, just to make sure I could make a reservation. I finally got to the counter, and the counter guy only spoke Italian. I wrote down what I was looking for and he told me all seats were full. I panicked. I had no room reservations here in Palermo , and yet he was telling me I couldn’t leave tonight! I went to the information office to see what I could do. As I was there I heard these three girls behind me speaking in German. They also had the same predicament. They needed reservations for the night. We instantly bonded since we had the same predicament. The guy at the info. Office told us that our best bet would be to take the train at 1800 since this would be the only train that wouldn’t fine us for traveling without reservations. Ps-fines can be up to 40 euros which to me at this moment sounded like 1 million dollars. The girls and me got maps of Palermo and instantly went off to explore the city.