The Epic Backtrack: Part Deux

Initially there wasn’t supposed to be a Part Deux but after today’s travels, I think a quick recap is in order. I’ll note my ridiculous mistakes…

When we left off I was heading to Amsterdam to get on a night train to Zurich. From Zurich to Milan soon thereafter, Milan to Rome, then I would figure out a way to get from Rome to Sorrento.

[Mistake #1: When I looked up where my final destination (Sorrento) was I thought I had seen it next to Rome. That is geographically very incorrect. In fact, it is about an hour southwest of Naples.{To save those geographically challenged from Google mapping Italy, Rome is a few hours north of Naples on the west coast about mid-way down on the boot that is Italy (yes, I’m saying this with full knowledge I may be disrespecting some of my readers…)}]

So, I left for Amsterdam and got there easy enough. After all, I had done that train before. Picked up some pasta and fries with mayo while waiting for the night train to Zurich and when I got on I met my two bunk mates. One from Southern Germany and the other from India (a travel agent who was more than happy to share her not very free tours of India with us). We all slept well and arrived on time in Zurich.

In Zurich I caught my train to Milan on time. The ride to Milan was incredibly beautiful. I highly recommend it to anyone. Unfortunately, it was also about an hour and a half late which meant I missed my train to Rome (please note this hour and a half…). I talked to information in Milan and they said no problem just get on the next train to Rome because they run every hour. I did so and arrived in Rome quickly and with no trouble.

 

Now I needed to get to Sorrento. I quickly realized my initial geographic mistake when the man at the ticket window told me I had to go to Naples first. Oops. Bigger oops because my high speed train from Milan to Rome actually went all the way to Salerno with a stop in Naples. That would have been EASY. But on my day of birth, easy was not to be.

I got my ticket to Naples and looked at the board to see where my train was. There were two leaving at 18:39, one to Salerno and one to someplace that started with a C. MISTAKE #2: I took the one going to the place starting with a C. I believe at the time of the second mistake I thought the high speed train to Salerno couldn’t have been my train because the reservation fee for my ticket to Naples was too low. Ergo, I must be taking the other train. Poor thought process. Especially in retrospect. My lack of Italian geography knowledge also hurt me again because I didn’t realize that the city which started with a C was actually north of Rome…Oops.

When I got to the end of the line I realized my mistake and quickly tried to figure out what to do next. When I asked someone they told me to hurry up and get back on the train going towards Roma Termini. Of course this didn’t make much sense to me at the time because I thought I was on the way to Naples and going back to Rome seemed counter productive. Soon after that train left for Rome I realized my situation (a.k.a. mistake #3) and took a deep breath, grabbed some pizza and waited for the next train back to Rome 40min later.

I was quickly running out of time in the day and a complete trip to Sorrento started to seem a bit out of the question. It looked like I had to decide whether to stay in Rome or Naples for the night. I figured I’d let the trains decide for me. My train from city C arrived in Rome at 21:49 and the train to Naples left Rome at 21:50. Unfortunately, I also knew that the tracks for the two trains were separated by 400m.

I arrived in Rome about a minute early and started sprinting through the terminal with my large and small backpacks swaying back and fourth. As I approached the platform for the train to naples I took a quick look at the time board. Not only was the Naples train still there but it was also running five minutes late. Phew. I slowed down a bit and got on the train still panting lightly. I asked the conductor if I had any chance to make it to Sorrento that night and it was a definite no. So I took out my travel book and checked to see what they had to say about hostels in Naples. I found one near the station and recommended for late night arrivals. Perfect. I got to Naples at about 23:30, walked through the piazza to the far end, passing a few roadside hookers, then found my sketchy cheap little hostel on the second floor of a scary looking building. I fell asleep easily that night and looked forward to finally reaching Sorrento the next day.

So that was my birthday this year. I’d say 23.5 hours of it was traveling. Not too bad. And it was nice to check my e-mail and find all the facebook posts on my wall wishing me a happy birthday afterwards. Thanks everyone!

-Phil

 

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