July 16, 2010
I’ve made it from Prague to Venice.
Bags packed, I took off a little after 9 Wednesday morning to get myself to Rome by air and then to Venice by rail. Turns out my flight’s delayed, now leaving by 1:30pm, and I finally arrive in Rome a bit after three; still suffering from gastro-intestinal distress and now wilting from the heat (how quickly one goes from shivering on the plane to melting in a heat wave), I didn’t make to the railway counter quickly enough. When I did, I got a reservation on the high-speed rail from Rome -> Venice, departing at 5:45pm. I asked the ticket agent (twice!) if the train was leaving right from the airport station, and he said yes. Lesson learned: double check. The train I needed was departing from Roma Termini, and all the trains from the airport go there (about a 40 minute ride). I then naively wait until 5:45 to board the train… and realize I’ve now missed my reservation.
We roll into Termini at 6:21pm in terminal 26, and I see that trains leave to Venice each hour at 45 minutes past, so the next train leaves at 6:45pm — but it’s also the last of the day. Fortunately, terminal 26 is as far away as it is possible to get from terminal 1, so I hoof it over there. I again make a naively strategic error and go to “1est” thinking it’s terminal 1 — but it turns out there is terminal 1 and terminal 1est, and 1est is out in the god damned boonies; I had actually -passed- my Venice train to get out to it. It’s now 6:41, so I turn around and literally run, backpack and camera bag and all, to catch the last train from the station. I am successful.
I do not, however, have a reservation, and the train is packed. I end up standing in the space between cars for a while, before wandering around and finding an open seat next to a well-dressed woman in her late thirties/early forties who seems none too pleased with having a traveling bum like me sitting next to her (I am admittedly disheveled at this point [and might smell]).
Risking causing further irritation to the woman next to whom I’m sitting, after a long period I ask to get my laptop from my bag (which is up in the storage rack above). Then, upon reviewing my email, I see that Julia (the bride) requested that I text her when I got on the train so that they could send someone to pick me up, but I was never able to find a prepaid phone (or wifi for Google Voice). I’m now considering what to do when I arrive in a strange town without a map long after dark. Twelve hours into my travels so far today, I do not relish the task of schlepping all my gear and finding their house. What if no one answers? Serious considerations of sleeping on the curb versus sleeping at the train station enter my mind.
In a divinely inspired moment, I open up Lightroom to poke around a bit through my Prague photos and — immediately — notice the formerly irritated woman sitting next to me taking a keen interest. I take off my headphones and she asks “did you take these?” in accented Italian. I turns out she’s a classical architecture professor at an Italian university (specializing in 17th century Baroque). We chat for a while, and I tell her I usually shoot portraits, and not buildings. Her brilliantly poetic response: “No, these are portraits of cities.” I then ask a favor: might she send a text message for me?
She gets a response 5 minutes later: “We’ll be waiting at the end of the platform.” My day is saved.