A few years back, my sister and I experienced a wonderful two weeks touring Greece and Rome. We laughed, we drank, we ate, we saw many a splendid sight. It really was heaven. Our trip was not without its adventures, however. We both love to laugh, but there were those times, I’m afraid, when we were sorely tested. Here are a few of those moments.
Roma is a stranga place
Did you know that the railway unions are on strike in Rome, and therefore there are only 2 trains to Rome’s airport on a Saturday? A 9:22am and a 9:53am, then they are done for the day! Alternative is to take a taxi from wherever you are or a van at 55 euro ($100 bucks). If you get on the train without a ticket you get charged 100 euro ($150 bucks). The train going from the airport into Rome closes at 9pm. No trains into the city after that. So if your flight gets in later, or by chance AL ITALIA loses your luggage, there is literally no way to get out of the airport without taking a taxi. Better people than I (namely, my traveling companion, my older sister) have had to sleep on the airport floor until the next morning when the first train for Rome leaves for the city. My sister, who by the way has Multiple Sclerosis, didn’t need the experience of sleeping on the cold floor of AL ITALIA hell.
Score: Rome ONE, Venice ZERO
Okay, we missed our flight from Rome to Venice. I’m not whining because apparently it was our fault, but we don’t know how it happened. We arrived at our gate in Rome a full hour before our flight. Sat in the extremely crowded food court area, in eyesight of our gate, eating inedible fries. Loudspeaker shouted out constant news in Italian language, which neither of us understand, and besides, the noise level was blaringly high.
So half hour before our flight, we casually saunter over to the gate, where they tell us we’ve missed our flight! How can that be? we ask. We’ve been calling you and calling you, they say. This is not your gate, they say. The flight left from another gate. But…but…we looked at the board and it said this gate. Well, they changed it and we tried to call you but you didn’t answer. We held the plane for you! You made the plane late! But, we didn’t hear our names being called. Well, we called you several times, you made the plane late, and now you’ll have to take another flight to Venice. And since it was your fault, you idiots, you’ll have to pay all over again.
Well, can we get on this flight to Venice, which says it’s leaving in 45 minutes? No. You mean, there’s a plane going to Venice right here but you won’t let us on? No. Why not? Because your luggage won’t be on the same plane with you, and that would violate our policies. When is the next flight? Not until tomorrow, they reply. Where is our luggage? We pulled it off the flight, which made the plane late! You ruined our schedule! Well, how can we get our luggage? You’ll have to go to customer service. Where’s that? Down at the other end of the airport. But my sister has MS and she can’t walk that far. Not our problem. Can you put us up at the airport hotel? After all, my sister is a senior citizen with MS and we have nowhere to go. Not our problem. And her medications are in her suitcase and we don’t know where her suitcase is. And we didn’t miss the plane on purpose. We thought we were in the right place at the right time. Not our problem.
So we traipse back and forth, back and forth, up and down the corridors of the nightmare that is AL ITALIA, trying to find our luggage. After five (FIVE!) hours, we collect my bag. My sister’s is still nowhere in sight. Can’t take a 100 euro taxi into Rome to find a hotel, because we can’t leave without her bag. We don’t buy more plane tickets to Venice, the prices are astronomical and besides, why are they charging us again when they’ve clearly lost our luggage? Not to mention the Gestapo-like security officers and insanely inept customer service staff. (That’s another story in itself.) Airport closes down for the night and we have no choice but to sleep on the cold, cold stone floor of the airport. We build a barricade with the one suitcase and our various belongings, pull t-shirts and other clothes out of my bag to serve as mats and blankets, and settle in for the night. Sister is exhausted and falls asleep without trouble. I lie with my purse underneath me and an eye open, scanning for thieves and rapists. Desperately plotting my revenge on the airline from hell.
Where is Athena when you need her?
Second excellent way to get robbed, Athens style. This is a true story, happened to my sister on the very first day of our trip. She lost 300 euro, $450 approx, plus her wallet, credit cards, driver’s license. Thus we spent much of that night on the phone with the credit card company and the next day searching for the Athens police station to report the crime. Because it’s so difficult to locate addresses written in Greek, this takes most of a day out of our precious vacation. The police were nice enough but basically shrugged. What can you do? It’s these Gypsies. The Greeks would never do this to American tourists. It’s the Gypsies, I tell you. A few days later, we were buying trinkets in a gift shop, told the Athens store keeper about our being pick pocketed. She shrugged. Eh, whoever robbed you probably needed the money more than you do. Looked my sister right in the eye and basically says you deserved it. My sister says, uh, what? Pushes all her little conservative capitalist buttons, for sure. Hahaha! Ah, nothing like travel!