Day 9 – Mount Vesuvius
Sunday, 23rd April
yesterday we dived deep into Italian culture. The main principle: At best, rules are suggestions on how to do something if you can't think of anything better.
A good example is number drawing, which determines the order. As soon as the drawn number appears, it's your turn. A simple rule that can be varied.
We wanted to buy a ticket. The machine informed us that the ticket we wanted was not at disposal. We couldn't believe it and wanted to get to the bottom of it. So we looked for a counter clerk.
When you enter the ticket hall, you take a number. So far, so insightful.
And now the variation: You line up and an employee comes by to hand out numbers. Depending on whether she likes you or not, the new number is much smaller than the one originally drawn.
At some point it was my turn and I asked Fidelio, the counter clerk, about our desired destination.
His company is not responsible for that, Fidelio said accusingly. All that was missing was for him to raise his voice and declaim: "What? You want to join the enemy?" In Italian, of course, it sounds much more impressive.
What should you do if only your opponent will bring you to the destination of your dreams?
Smile to be safe.
Despite their penchant for drama, Italians are incredibly helpful. Fidelio told me – almost on the quiet – which company would take me to the desired location and even where the relevant office was.
After a short search we found the right counter. In front of us, Jessica and Frank, an American couple, visibly overwhelmed Bernardo.
"Buon giorno," I greeted after the two pretended to withdraw. Then the two turned back from the ambush and wanted to clarify everything that had been discussed. Not much was missing and Frank would have consulted his lawyer. A case of extreme lack of imagination, which requires crystal-clear rules.
When Jessica and Frank were finally gone, Bernardo closed his eyes and took a deep breath.
I tried my best to make my request without tormenting the troubled man too much. Bernardo's Italian soul rejoiced. He accepted all grammar rules as suggestions and took my reinterpretation of his language calmly.
Matthias and I got two return tickets, found our train and reached our destination: Mount Vesuvius.
The internet said that tickets to the volcano's nature park had to be booked online. In fact, that was not possible. This led to a lot of confusion. Not a problem for Italians, a test of nerves for us tourists.
It took a while, but in the end we got two bus tickets and two entrance tickets.
We had two hours until departure. Enough time to visit Herculaneum and to eat.
At the bus parking lot at the top of Vesuvius we had about an hour and a half to climb up to the crater rim and down again. It was doable, but very tight. I would have liked to just sit there and look around. There wasn't enough time for that.
Back in Naples we decided to go to the old town. What a crowd and honk! Pedestrians and cars take the same route. There would be no room for an official division into lanes and footpaths. The streets are just too narrow for that.
We found a fish and chip stand, got fried anchovies and incredibly greasy fries, and were munching away when Ricardo and Francesco showed up.
They had their parents with them and made the dinner an event.
After a while Matthias asked if we should move on or if I wanted to keep looking into the big children's eyes.
The choice was difficult, but the two little ones were close to the tipping point. The eyes get small and the mood sinks. A blessing for those who moved on in time.
We drank our beer far away from Ricardo (3) and Francesco (almost one year), but close to our beds.
On the way we bought some souvenirs to take home.
Starting tomorrow, rules will once again be the norm with far less wiggle room.
Too bad actually.