Day 430: The Italian Job

06.03.10: I stayed the night in the Koine Hostel, a decent enough place, but with that cold puritan edge that sucks all warmth, happiness and laughter out of most European Hostels. The shared showers didn’t make me too happy, especially as one of the guys I was sharing my dorm with was as weird as they come – I pushed the bench up against the door lest I was forced to share my nudie space with some half-deranged Johnny Foreigner. A bit excessive having five showers to myself, but sod it, I’m not in jail any more. The train for Bari, the port from whence would depart my ferry for Greece, left at 2pm, so I had myself a lovely little mooch around the rather spanking town of Salerno. With hills cascading down to the sea, tons of old buildings and a tree-lined promenade along the…

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Day 429: Come, Armageddon, Come

05.03.10: And so I found myself lashed to the mast on the grim grimness that is the Grimaldi ferry. And you thought going to the Aldi Supermarket on a wet Wednesday afternoon was pretty grim... my word, you ain’t seen nothing. On board the ‘Sorrento’ for the forth AND UTTERLY FINAL time, I found myself without a bench seat to lay on and therefore had to make do with two cafeteria chairs pushed together. I woke up with the worst backpain I’ve ever had. They still hadn’t cleaned the toilets (I don’t think they every do) and the three flushing toilets (no urinals, that would be extravagant) were covered, utterly covered in poorly-aimed Arab piss. I had to hitch up my jeans and kick the seat up with my foot. Nice. At £2.50 for a can of Coke, you can probably guess that I elected to…

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Day 420: Lie To Me

24.02.10: I thought I would have a few hours to mooch around Rome in the morning, but I found myself unable to prise my worthless body from my bed until after 10am. By the time I had breakfast and tried (and failed) to find a free wi-fi zone, it was time for me to take the train to Civitavecchia, Rome’s port and the place where the boat to Tunisia left from. Urk. The boat to and from Tunisia was horrifically horrific last time, and this time it was no better. Same boat, same company, same unholy rip-off. For a start, the boat was two hours late boarding, which meant that I was left standing in the car-park like an unsuccessful prostitute for longer than would otherwise be sensible. Once (finally) on board, the horribly familiar interior of the Sorrento loomed into view. I had a 'deck'…

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Day 419: Roman Holiday

23.02.10: At some disastrously early hour, I was roused from my slumber by our rather impertinent arrival in Milan, which necessitated a change of buses. Didn’t get to see too much of the place, but there’s something about just the name of these places – Verona, Genoa, Venice, Napoli that gets my pulse racing… old school, you know? It’s the same thing that affects me exhausted, bladdered and half-awake watching the sun rise after the last night of Glastonbury – a sense of history, that damned feeling of belonging to a world that’s gone that’s nagged me for years now. All these countries I visit, most of them are shiny and new (comparatively), they don’t have the weight of millennia baring down on them, there are no layers to dig down through. Yes, I find the Kingdom of Benin interesting, Manchu Picchu is sweet-as, and you…

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Day 134: Monte Carlo Underground

14.05.09 I had about a zillion train connections to make today. In fact, if I just wanted to get to Toulouse, I could have (get this!) got the super-duper fast TGV to Lyon and then back down again in less time, but I had to pass through Monaco, so I had to stick to the coast. Although in terms of seeing a place, Monte Carlo ranks along with Jamaica - at least in Jamaica I could stand on the bow of the ship and gaze out over Kingston's city lights - no such fun here - the station is underground! As Monaco is one of the (if not the) smallest states in Europe, it was going to be blink-and-you'll-miss-it affair as it was. Oh well. I got to see the Monte Carlo underground station - WHO SAYS I'M NOT SEEING THE WORLD?! Then the bloody train…

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Day 133: San Marino A-Go-Go

13.05.09 It was supposed to be a 23-hour ferry trip to Civitavaggio near Rome, but of course it took longer than that. Not being able to afford a cabin, I made do with sleeping on the cushioned bench seat. The GRIMaldi ferry had just three toilets between every male on board, which were of course trashed within minutes of leaving Tunis, so I spent the entire journey trying to keep the turtle's head at bay. I'll tell you what is cool, though, the book I'm currently reading, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, is set in the Dominican Republic - and DR1.com gets a mention - extra cool when you consider that the book won the Pulitzer Prize for literature last year. Go Robert and Lu! Yeah!! I had my train connection times scrawled at the back of my Lonely Planet Europe, as long as…

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Day 126: The Sicily Circuit

06.05.09: Our ferry got us into Pozzallo, which is not the same place we left from (Catania), so we raced to the train station and hopped on the OLDEST TRAIN IN THE WORLD up to Catania. One of those trains where you can OPEN THE BLOODY WINDOW and STICK YOUR HEAD OUT!! Health and Safety be DAMNED I say, be DAMNED. The conductor was bo-diddly crazy, and everyone on board didn't seem to be heading anywhere - they were just there for ‘the craic'. I can't express to you, the joy of windows that OPEN - in buildings, in trains, on buses - give me AIR! Not phoney, dry through-the-(might-not-be-working)-AC air, real immediate O2 - air that you do not have to ask someone else for, air that can't break down on the hottest day of the year - fresh, flowing, cool democratic air. Happiness is…

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Day 125: Dear Rome, Please Help Me

05.05.09: And so on to Rome... I arrived at some ungodly hour, which I thought was actually quite appropriate. I slung my bag into the Pop Inn Hostel (with crazy guy Cesar running the joint, I warmly recommend it - it's right by the train station too), and hit the streets - I had to step foot in Vatican City tonight. And so, I found myself walking through Rome with my heart on a string, dear god, please help me. I'm so very tired of doing the right thing... It was past midnight when I got to Popesville and there I found that the entire Piazza di San Pietro was cordoned off. No public access tonight, young Hughes, you atheist dog. Oh well, might as well see if there's a back entrance (I would expect that of the papacy, wouldn't you?). So I set off for…

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Day 124: They’re Digging In The Wrong Place!

04.05.09: It all started so well... By 5am in the morning, I had already stepped foot in both Liechtenstein and Switzerland. My logistical powers were at an all time high and so far in Europe, I hadn't made one serious cock-up when it came to getting the right train to the right place at the right time. That was before I realised that there were two San Marino's in Italy, and they are jolly close to each other. One is a city state, a principality with it's own Grand Prix and everything, the other is a small village in the foothills of the Alps. Guess where I ended up today? After an impossible number of train changes, I was on a train that was going to a place called S. Marino (which I naturally assumed LIKE AN IDIOT stood for ‘San'). After half an hour in…

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