Job Tips for Campsite Couriers 4 : Planes, Trains and Taxi Drivers
Click on the link below for Part 1 of the series.
- Tips for Campsite Couriers 1 : Packing and Tracking
Tips for Campsite Couriers 4 : Planes, Trains and Taxi Drivers
The fourth instalment of this plucky tale concentrates on the transportation stage of the happy-go-lucky European traveller.
If you want to be there you've got to get there by any means necessary.
Hook or by crook, high road or low road, planes, trains or Italian taxi drivers.
That necessary means to an end on-site.
Tip: Be prepared for early rises at cheap airports
It was Friday, time to leave for our eventual destination, Lake Garda in Italy. I say eventual because we didn't take the most direct route to get there. We got up at 5.00am, an ungodly hour to rise, albeit I don't have a clue what time God rises in the morning.
At least he rested on the seventh day with a long lie in and a read of the Sunday supplement with his breakfast. Me? On my seventh day away I was piling into a van with the rest of them and heading to Beauvais Airport on the first leg of our journey.
I shouted 'Cock-a-doodle-doo' and the cockerel threw a stale baguette at me. How was I supposed to know it was his day off? He was built like Foghorn Leghorn so I didn't hang around to argue....I says... I didn't stand around to argue, there must be steroids in his cornmeal. First time I've heard of a bird throwing bread at humans but it was nice with some soft cheese as I'd skipped breakfast.
We were catching a plane to Bergamo. Still not sure how you pronounce it as I don't know on which syllable the emphasis should be placed. So it's either 'BERgamo', 'berGAMo' or 'bergaMO'.
The more worldly-wise among you will already know, the rest of you can take your pick, the Americans can make up your own rules. And that's Bergamo 'full stop' by the way not Milan-Bergamo as Ryanair infamously name their airports.
As anyone knows who's booked with them the satellite airport can, in some cases, be around 50 miles away from the major city advertised. You've usually still got at least an hours travel ahead of you, humping your luggage on connecting transport at an extra charge.
As it was we weren't going to Milan anyway, much too chic for me among the fashionistas. No, I was going to live a frugal existence at one with nature in the dirt and mud for the next few weeks and I couldn't wait.
Tip: Choose your flight seat carefully for the best views
The flight only took an hour and a bit and that bit was the best bit, right at the end as we descended towards Bergamo, although there was a fairly good bit in the middle. The reason for such bittiness was that almost the whole flight took place over candy floss country as there was extensive cloud cover.
But luckily the clouds broke briefly and we had a sight of the Swiss Alps below on our right (port or starboard? I can never remember). I had sat on the left again (starboard or port? I still can't remember) as I knew they don't have skylights on planes but as it was over half-empty I moved over to the right (it's starboard isn't it?)
So seeing the Alps was a good bit, but an even better bit was when we were on the long descent and Italian mountains and lakes were passing by on our left(I give up!) Excitedly I crossed over to that side and gazed out at the spectacular landscape.
The 'seatbelt' light came on and I fastened myself in. Just as I had done that the bloody plane does a complete U-turn and swings down towards the airport from the other direction.
I considered changing seats again but I was too cowardly as I didn't want to incur the wrath of the air-stewardesses. Well! I don't know do I? How strict are they about these things? I had visions of security being called and me getting frogmarched off the plane pleading;
"I only wanted to see them mountains, honest. I'll be a good boy, I will, I will!!"
"Silenza, stoopid Inglesi" snaps the Carabinieri,
"Oy!! I'm Scottish" I protest in a note of defiance
"Shaddup yo' face an get in da car"
"OK officer!! but can I sit on the other side?"
Fortunately this was all imaginary bravura and I actually sat meekly in my airplane seat and craned my neck across the aisle to snatch a few glimpses of the glories of the rugged North Italian terrain.
Tip: If you want to learn the local lingo, immerse yourself in it
Immediately on disembarking from the plane we noticed that it was more than a few degrees warmer here than in France which felt great. Here I was at last in Italy and after we picked up our luggage we got a local bus to the train station.
Unlike many folk I don't go and see a country, I start reading it. From the airport I was looking at every street-sign, billboard, trash can, bus ticket you name it, just to see what snippets I could pick up on the language. I was keen to learn the lingo.
I quickly worked out that 'plastica' meant 'plastic', I'm a very quick learner. A word I started noticing a lot was 'vietato', which means 'forbidden'. There seems to be a lot of forbidden things in Italy. Maybe the local priests put up the signs.
Tip: Always get a hold of a map wherever you are
I then went in search of an ATM machine to draw some money out, but couldn't find one. Back home they're on every corner but I walked around the area and couldn't find one. There weren't even any inside the train station which I normally take for granted.
I asked at the tourist office and the kind smiling girl behind the counter sent me the wrong way. I went into some sort of money-trading establishment but never saw an ATM, it could've been a bookies for all I knew though I never saw a horse race on overhead screens or men chucking betting slips onto the floor swearing loudly in Italian.
Tip: Stay security conscious on the streets
I plodded on for a couple of minutes and found a 'Bancomat' as they're called over there.
This wasn't altogether reaassuring as it had a security door in front.
This succeeded in having the opposite effect making me feel decidely insecure as I imagined squads of cut-throats and ruthless bag snatchers gathered nearby waiting to pounce.
So I stuffed my €50 deep into my pockets then rammed my hands into them marching away with my best tough-guy 'I know Tae-Kwon-Do' impression to deter any evil-doers.
And it worked a treat as no desperate villains came anywhere near me, they know better than to mess with Shinkicker. We then got on another train, this time to Verona which would take us pretty close to our final destination on Lake Garda.
Before boarding I noticed that the Coca-Cola machines were well secured too in metal cages and considering the prices I wasn't surprised. It's thirsty work being an Italian bag snatcher, especially in the hot weather.
Tip: If you're learning a language, pay particular attention to pronunciation
In Verona we got busy organising two hire vans that we would subsequently use for the next few weeks carrying equipment and supplies around the campsites during montage.
Because there was so many of us, I and a few others had the luxury of being taken by taxi, except for the fact that the driver took us to the wrong part of the site. We had been trying to explain to him in Italian that we were to be dropped off, not at the main entrance to the campsite but around "el backo" kind of thing as there was a rear entrance for trade.
Of course he dropped us off at the main entrance where a lorry-driver delivering gas bottles was talking to a woman behind the gate and they both began to talking to the taxi-driver. As none of us spoke fluent Italian and there was no subtitle service available I thought I might as well join in;
"Questo entrata a qui?" I asked the driver, meaning "Is this the entrance here?"
But judging by the look he gave me I could just have easily been asking "Can we decorate the porcupine?" Probably a combination of my thick Scottish accent and the fact that I pronounced "qui" as "key" instead of "kwee".
Welcome to my basic course in 'Italian for Idiots: Part 1', folks. So we walked our way round the other side on a road up a hill and as we went up the view over the lake just got better and better.
Part 5 : Fraternising with the locals on a day-trip to Venice.
Other links to Hubs by Shinkicker
- A Rough Guide to Bergamo : A Short Break in a Medieval Town
If you're ever considering a short weekend break somewhere in Europe then I would recommend as a possibility the historic old town of Bergamo in Northern Italy. A perfect location for a romantic weekend.