Sunday, August 28, 2011

Missed trains and a plane

So as previously mentioned, I was travelling with my mother August 12-23. We were in Italy and then in Nice, France (which was her last minute decision because she likes that boring and extremely overpriced and overrated place, I actually had flights and a hotel booked for us in Bari).

We had flights out of Milan, hers back to Russia via Istanbul, mine back to Berlin, both within an hour of each other. To cut a long story relatively short, first and then second taxi failed to show up to drive us to the train station  in Nice (we were supposed to take 3 trains to get to Milan and then a bus to the airport there), people in the street refused to help us get there (for $, obviously), regular cars wouldn't stop, it was 04.30am, so no public transportation, policemen didn't give us a ride (in films they always do...), we missed the perfectly timed trains and my actual worst nightmare came to life.

I kept thinking that I will probably wake up soon.

If it had been me alone, it wouldn't have been so bad, or me with a friend. But with my mother it was the worst, because, first of all, the stress was enormous for her and secondly, she wouldn't like... run and do something crazy like I would do to make it for the train and so on.

We took later trains, with them we had a small chance of making it for my mother's flight, but the last train was 10 minutes late (I mean this is Italy we're talking about). This was already 8 hours after the day had started for us. From Milan central station we took a taxi to the Bergamo airport (which cost me 100EUR!.. last winter I paid the same amount for 6 or 7 flights with Ryanair) and even though I called the airline and asked them to please hold the check in because "my mother has been discharged from the hospital late", they didn't and we arrived 13 minutes after the check in was closed! Talk about devastation.

My mother had already lost it several times by then and was completely uncooperative when it came to coming up with something, just crying with her sunglasses on which added to the already insane situation. I had only 45 minutes left to check in for my flight and I had to do something. There were options for her to go to another airport and fly from there, but I had no Internet and couldn't be sure there'd be tickets and she'd actually make it, also I wasn't sure my sister was skilled enough to buy a ticket from home without my supervision and so on. Plus, on top of not being perfect with directions, my mother doesn't speak enough English to get by. And I couldn't leave her in a foreign country by herself! I couldn't stay because how else would I go back and we had a limited amount of money on us. Also, we couldn't rebook her tickets for anything earlier than like 5 days from Tuesday, for an enormous fine, and we didn't have enough money for this many nights in a hotel anymore.

This was all happening in an overcrowded airport, 40C/105F outside, etc. etc. Somehow it was extremely emotional and nerve-wracking, I'm afraid words don't relay that very well. Eventually I bought a last minute ticket for her for same Ryanair flight to Berlin (the most expensive one-way ticket I ever bought, 300EUR, I had enough money by accident... I normally prefer not to take a lot of money so that there is no temptation to spend it).

We flew in here, she spent these 1.5 days in our flatshare. And then, on August 25, her birthday, she flew home. We actually had a good time here and except for the lost money, it all turned out fine, but I don't think I've ever been so stressed in my life. I mean, lots of people have missed flights in their lifetimes and probably it's not the end of the world, but it felt like it was...

Monday, August 22, 2011

Milan & Turin, Italy + Nice, France (genius title, I know)

Traveling with one’s mother is definitely no sugar-coated thing. My mother does not like to walk fast, to walk much, to be in the sun, she wants to live in cheap but great accommodation, somewhere intensely close to the main sights of a certain place. I could go on and on.

The thing is, I had our trip well planned until my mother had to change her mind last minute. We lost 4 plane tickets all together as well as about a trillion of my nerves and hair. We planned to go to Milan, Turin and Bari in Italy. Now we’re doing Milan and Turin in Italy and Nice, France. By chance I found a great 1-bedroom apartment in Old Town of Nice, booked new train tickets literally several hours before my flight out of Berlin (prior to that it’d been a week of frenetic looking for hotels, comparing prices and so on) and off we went.

I’m not a fan of Milan, but it so happens I’ve been there twice in the last year. It’s a good hub for the south of Europe, I guess. Since I’m no fan of shopping anymore (in fact, I find it really hard to make myself go buy some new clothes), Milan is a bad place for me to go because there’s nothing but shopping there (although it’s better in other cities, but somehow Milan has had good marketing). Shopping, Duomo and The Last Supper. But thankfully I only had several hours to lose there and all I did was have lunch with my sister and mother and then I had a short walk in some park where I saw a big fat rat and dodgy looking people. My sister then stayed in Milan for several more days and my mother and I went on further.

Turin was a curious experience. It’s the first Italian city I’ve been to that totally corresponds to the stereotype of being nearly dead in the summer. Most shops were closed, so were many restaurants and it seemed like not many people were around. But it was still quite interesting. They have a complicated bus system there where the map isn’t necessarily up-to-date and the buses are not on time, but that shouldn’t really surprise anyone who’s visiting Italy. It was nice overall, although it turned out to be smaller than I imagined it. They sell lots of good wine there.

Nice, on the other hand… I know it there is a risk of this sounding pretentious, but Nice, France has to be one of the most boring places I’ve been to. Last time I was here was exactly 2 years ago and I was bored out of my mind. A couple of people I was travelling with went to Cannes and I was majorly excited because I’m such a movie buff still, but it was disappointing. Yes, there are palms and there is the sea, but then there’s also the outrageous prices, old+rich people in abundance and that’s it. It's hard to find anything but Italian food here, I'll be honest with ya. Nice is the same. This time around I’ve come to establish that there is some nice live music in the evening about a block down from our apartment and then there's that fantastic posh cemetery with a view on the Mediterranean Sea, but otherwise Nice, France is not my choice for vacation. My mother, on the other hand, has been heard to call it heaven on Earth which just makes me want to chuckle. :) Ah, you know me. Me and my difficult character.

Some price comparison:

Pizza Margherita (not the supermarket version): Nice - from 9EUR (average price 10.5EUR), Milan - from 5EUR, Berlin from 2.5EUR (average price 4EUR)
Tomatoes, 1kg: Berlin - 0.5-1.5EUR, Nice - 1-4.5EUR
Nectarines, 1kg: Berlin - from 2kg for 1EUR to 1EUR per 1kg, Nice - 2.5-5EUR.

And so on.

The good thing is, I’ve been working on my tan. I haven’t been this well-tanned in something like 3 or 4 years now and I must admit I do get a kick out of seeing my skin go darker and darker. I feel a bit like a valley girl when I say and think that, but what can you do. Nothing but keep on tanning and swimming.

Anyhow, in about 32 hours we’re taking a train (or more like 3 trains actually) and then for me it’s a flight to Berlin and my mother will fly to Krasnodar via Istanbul.

As always, I’m happy to return to Berlin. I hear the weather has been good for once. Baffling! It better stay this way so that I can strut my tan.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Microsoft Word is not my friend

Pfftt... I love it when you bang something out in Word and then want to save it and yet hit "no" instead of "yes" if Microsoft Office asks you about saving. I need a cigarette and a drink now. My life does not depend on it (although for a while it felt like it did!), but it was a blogpost where I described in details the events of the 4 weeks I've been in Berlin. Man. I wanted to scream, but I have three other people sitting all around me in the living room here.

Well, the short version is: all is well and even better. Meeting old and new friends and buddies, going out, hanging out, cycling, swimming, kissing, chilling, slacking off, working, receiving friends, going to art galleries and a supposedly exclusive fashion fair (although that does nothing for me) trying out nudist beaches, eating 1m long pizza and just having an overall good time.

This does not even begin to scratch the surface of the time I'm having, but... I am. Ha. Ha. <Insert funny one liner here.>

I'll be going vegan again tomorrow. Means I'll move from my temporary place in Kreuzberg to a less temporary place in Neukölln. Will have to part with eggs, milk and some other stuff for a while.

Thanks to fleetingness and Andreas for stopping by, again. :)

Mari, I must have overlooked your comment to the previous post while packing my stuff! I studied languages (although, admittedly, I squeezed out more from the Internet than school and university ever taught me re: English) and they are a personal interest of mine, but the overall knowledge of English in the country is far from being great. Although I understand now as US-based social networks are gaining more leverage in Russia, there's some progress in this department. Thank you for stopping by here, though! And here's to Berlin finally having a good hair weather day!
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