26 May 2010

Crazy Locals & Public Transport - Sicily [Day Two]

I had been told about this beautiful costal town, Cefalu - apparently the undiscovered gem of the Mediterranean. Sunday morning a few of us from the hostel decided to go and check it out. We set off to the train station to catch the train leaving at 10:05am. We purchased tickets, then tried to get on the train. It turns out we purchased the wrong type of tickets, so with only minutes until it departed, we went to try and swap them. No luck. We thought screw it, we will just get on the train anyway and plead ignorant tourists. We got back to the train with enough time to watch it pulling away. After a trip to the information desk we found that we couldn't get our money back, and the next train wasn't until 1pm! This was my first lesson in Sicilian public transport. There were more to follow...

We couldn't waste the day sitting in the train station, so we decided to go to Mondello - a beach just outside Palermo. The bus was meant to run every 20 minutes, and take approx 20 minutes to get there. This is where I learnt lesson number two. We waited about an hour for the bus to arrive. As it was a nice day, Mondello was a popular destination. The bus was absolutely packed! As it turns out, there was a huge football match on that day also - meaning traffic and people everywhere. The 20 minute journey took at least another hour. To date, it was one of the most unpleasant hours of my life. Mainly for one reason - the people. Specifically Itallian (or maybe just Sicillian) teenagers. Extremely loud, ignorant, rude and inconsiderate. I know I sound like an old man right now, but this was like nothing I have ever experienced before. These people were just out of control. And noone did anything about it. It was as if it was normal behaviour. So that, combined with being packed into a tiny space, the heat, having to stand in one spot for an hour... it wasn't fun.

I was so happy when we arrived I could have cried. We went straight to a small shop on the beach selling paninis and drinks, and bought more than we could carry. Relaxing on the beach with a beer and a panini I immediately felt much better.

We spent the next two hours relaxing on the beach. It really was beautiful - sunshine, nice sand, crystal clear water. It was so relaxing I fell asleep for about 30 minutes at one point. I went for a small walk along the shore and saw people kite surfing, a few super-yachts anchored out in the bay.

After we had been there about an hour, we were once again blown away be the behaviour of a group of teenagers. There were some guys wandering up and down the beach sellings beads, cheap sunglasses and other bits and pieces. The group beside us blatantly stole from at least three of these guys over about a 30 minute period. I mean they took things right infront of the guys face. Then threw them to their friends or just walked away. There was nothing the poor guy could do but just stand there - there was a whole group of them and only one of him. It was absolutely disgusting - these kids didn't even want what they were stealing.

We had leant not to trust the public transport system, so after only two hours on the beach, we decided to make our way back into town. It was 4pm, and our flight didn't leave until 9, but better safe than sorry. It was just as well we left early, because we had an even worse return journey. A bus arrived after 15-20 minutes. After 10 minutes on the bus, the driver got completely stuck between two parked cars. There was no way he could go without causing major damage. So we just sat in the bus with the driver beeping the horn, hoping to get the attention of the owner of either of the cars. This went on for at least 30 minutes until finally one of the owners came along. I thought that was quite lucky actually - they could have been out on a boat all day or something. Anyway, so were finally on our way.

This is when our third experience with the teenagers occured. One of the guys who was selling things on the beach was on the bus. This group of kids had him surrounded and were yelling at him, pushing him around, slapping him, and they stole his hat! It wasn't just the guys, some of the girls were involved too. I can only think it must have been a racial thing - the guys selling things were indian (I think). Whatever the reason, it made me sick. What was even worse was the fact that with a bus full of people, noone did a thing. There wasn't really a lot I could do - I'm not a big guy and can't even speak the language. I know that anywhere else I have ever been, the bus driver would have stopped and kicked those kids out.

The return journey took TWO HOURS in total! By this time I had lost all faith in the Sicilian public transport system. We ran back to the hostel to grab our bags so we could get on a bus to the airport. When we returned one other guy was on the same flight as us - and as it turns out - it was cancelled! Not cool...

Thankfully there was room in the hostel for the night. I tried to rebook my flight with EasyJet - no luck. There was seats avaliable on a Tuesday flight (you could book them on the website for about €200!), but they were not transferring people onto it. And the next EasyJet flight wasn't until Saturday. I ended up booking a flight out of Trapani on Tuesday morning with RyanAir. It was about €70, which I thought wasn't bad for booking only 30 hours in advance.

Later I went out for some dinner and a walk with a couple of others from the hostel. We got an arancina bomba (a ball of rice filled with meat, cheese, mushrooms etc, covered in bread crumbs and then deep fried - reeeeally good for you). And for dessert, a canolle (tube-shaped pastry filled with ricotta cheese). After dinner we went for a wander along the waterfront, then out for a beer.

So day two was... an experience. I saw a side to Sicily that I hadn't expected. I was completely blown away by the behaviour of the young people there. Then with the flight being cancelled... Things could have gone better. It didn't ruin the trip for me, but I guess it kind of tainted it.

Next Post - 'Determined'

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