August 3, 2009
After having been turned down by 5 places to sleep, and over 4 hours of hiking in 90 degrees with my pack, I can safely say: This is the most beautiful place in the world! I may even beat Bariloche. I am sooooo happy to be here! Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy. This is my dream come true.
I waited for forty minutes at the top of a hill outside of one of two hostels in all of Cinque Terra. This was just to try and see if they had an opening, and I was not the only person present. In fact, there were several tiny clusters of us waiting to see if we could get a place to sleep when the hostel reopened from siesta (I don't know the Italian term) at five. It was here, chatting with a young Pennsylvanian, that I realized that every day in Cinque Terra, all of the clock towers chime at exactly 4:13 PM. I believe that it is a mass shared alarm clock letting the locals know that it's time to get up and get back to work. There is another convenient universal alarm in the morning.
I was third in line after five o'clock to get in. The first group had a reservation, and when the second man was up at the desk, I became extremely disheartened. The clerk stated that he only had one bed left and that is was his. Bummer. I went up to the desk to plead anyway after the man had finished. Luckily, it was male beds that they only had one left of, and being that I am a lady, it worked out. I filled out a form that indicated that I wanted to stay three nights, along with some other basic information, and returned it to the desk. "Oh no!!! Oh no!!" said the little old clerk in that adorable Italian drama, "I only have tonight for you! Please, oh please, come check later tonight and we will see if I can find one for you tomorrow."
I returned later that night after dinner. "Oh no!!! NO!!! I don't have any openings yet. Please, please, check with me in the morning. We will see if someone cancels." "Yeah sure, thanks," I replied as I tried to keep an entertained smile suppressed. This wonderfully dramatic little old man so reminded me of my Italian mother in my home-stay in Buenos Aires. It was weird to see such a close connection between two people who lived in two completely different countries, and completely different from my own, across the globe.
When I came back in the morning, I had to wait as the clerk was sorting something out with some other guests. When I greeted him, he took my hands and with the look of uttermost sincerely, he whispered loudly to me, "I am so happy. I am so happy because (dramatic pause) you get to stay here tonight! It was my dream that you would stay here another night." I smiled and thanked him. As I walked away, my smile grew and grew as I thought about how wonderfully expressive this man was to make me feel that I, with whom he had had very minor contact, could influence his very happiness. The world would be such a better place if people should let their feelings fly a little freer.
August 4, 2009
I apparently have a knack for finding nudist beaches. I took the most arduous trek of my life (the kind where you have to use both your arms and legs while going both up and down), and that's where I wound up. I weaved between the picturesque villages at Cinque Terra, and I was nearly brought to tears by splendor. I decided to take a chance (a really ridiculous one upon reflection) on a small white sign marked with dirt and black sharpee; "Free Beach. 20 min."
It was extreme hiking, especially my off the path trek to the nudist beach, which involved a tunnel possibly formed of bamboo shoots and contouring my body both vertically and horizontally into shapes I'd never known any body, let alone my inflexible one, could form. At the bottom of the trail I entered an apparent alternate universe that included a small homeless camp, a statue of the Virgin Mary, an abandoned gelataria where multiple cats had taken residence, and a cliff side below which I could view nudists of all ages and sizes. I could not, however, figure out how to get down to the beach, which my sweaty and achy body desperately wanted at this time despite the nudity involved. I wanted to jump in the water so very badly, but I simply could not locate the trail to the actual beach and my calls to the nudists were drown out by the waves of the Mediterranean. Alas, I went the only direction left; back up. I emerged from the trail in a state of sweat-drenched disarray to the actual trail, where I met a lovely American family and their clean khaki hats. I made it to the next village after this two hour detour (20 minutes???) and climbing what may very well have been a thousand stairs, and there I found my second glorious gift after the area's beauty: water.
I hiked for six hours today and then I jumped into the Mediterranean! I am burnt to a crisp! I am thrilled (THRILLED!) to be here. I'm sure it costs a fortune, or that there are laws against it, but I hope that this can be the location of one of those Eco-friendly Fitness Bed and Breakfasts that I hope to open some day. It is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. It could very well be just that: the most beautiful place on Earth! It's also very romantic, which definitely makes me miss Ben, or at least wish he was here. He would love the awesome hiking, and his forehead would get exceptionally sweaty.
Lucca had been a cool city with intact medieval walls, a very skilled Italian Beatles cover band, a gigantic and official looking hostel, an unintentional hitchhiking jaunt, and a reunion with Kat. But Cinque Terra? Its glory was simply unreal.
Two days later: All is well being reunited with Kat and Katie. My mood, which had been wavering into negativity before encountering Cinque Terre, has been replenished to full excitement mode. I think those couple of days in the most beautiful place on Earth were enough to recover. Kat and I hiked, swam, and kayaked yesterday, met Katie and went to our afficamere (missing some letters, but it was basically a little shared apartment since the hostels were full, but still pretty cheap). We cooked our own pasta after picking up some homemade pesto from a little lady in a little market down the street. We hung out for several hours with the Australian couple staying in our place, while the cantankerous Canadian slept in the same room. I think his life purpose was to attempt crankiness in the most beautiful places on Earth, which seemed like a remarkably challenging task given our current location. That could be a misconception, however, as I was also convinced that the names elegantly scripted in his lovely arm tattoo were "Zebra" and "Beethoven." J
It was a wonderful night to add to this adventure. Now, we are on the train again, which is such a key component to this backpacking excursion that there will never, EVER, be a lack of justice given to it. We're making our way to Switzerland for the night before jetting to Lisbon.
Cinque Terra was my dream.