onsdag 3. oktober 2018

City on the hill

In the 90's, Norway managed to qualify for the world championship in football. And one of the teams we beat the the qualifying, was San Marino. We won something like 10-0. Even though an easy win, I remember a lot of people, even in Norway, felt sorry for the "little guys" in this liliputan nation. And I was a bit fascinated by this small country. I wanted to go there someday. And since I am now travelling through Italy, a small detour into San Marino was of course, a necessity. And boy, am I glad I did. This is a fascinating little place. Especially the "capital", San Marino city. It lies on top of a steep mountain. With buildings and old castle towers hanging on to the steep hillsides. It was truly fascinating.
I took the train to Rimini, in order to take the local bus to San Marino town. I had no idea where to get the tickets, so I just assumed I could get them anywhere. I walked over to the closes ticket-booth I could find.
"San Marino?" I said and looked at the old guy behind the counter with a hopeful smile. He waved his hands in the general direction across the street and said a lot of words in Italian, of which I understood none. Then he continued looking at his smart-phone. I nodded and walked across the street. After walking back and forth, I finally noticed a small sign saying "San Marino, International". I walked into what was basically a small shop.
"San Marino?" I asked the lady behind the counter.
"10 Euro!" she said.
I paid and got two tickets. One for each way. I smiled and left. I found the bus stop a few meters away. The bus was leaving in one hour. So I bought some snacks and waited. And waited. And waited. Together with an increasing crowd of increasingly bored and slightly annoyed people. Half an hour late, the bus finally arrived. We got on board and we were off. I had no idea what to look for, so I just hoped the bus would stop when we arrived. At one point, the bus turned back the same road it drove. Si I was wondering if this was the endpoint. But since nobody got off, I assumed it was not. But after a long drive and me thinking "Are we there yet?" every 100 meters, the bus finally stopped. Way up on a hill. I pulled out my phone and checked the GPS. Indeed! We had stopped on the outskirts of the town.
I got off and looked around. It became clear to be early that this was going to get my heart going. Steep streets all around. And the town clinging to the hills above me.
I took a few photos of the beautiful view in front of the bus station. We were a few hundred meters above the plains below. Then I turned to walk up to my hotel to check in. As expected, the road was steep. And after walking a couple of streets, I arrived at the entrance. A traffic cop was stopping traffic so pedestrians could cross the street to the entrance. Inside, more streets, even steeper, took me skywards to my hotel. Passing souvenir shops and shops that sold all kinds of soft guns, swords and knives. A bit surprising. I have no idea why that was so popular here.
The entrance to my hotel was in a steep (of course) street. I checked in, and the lady in the reception said my room was at the -1 level. One level down. I think that was a first for me. But given that the town was lying on a steep hill it made sense. When I looked out through the window of my room, I was a couple of floors above the street below. The room was wonderful, stylish and cheap.
After dumping my luggage, I went out and wandered around the city and enjoyed the spectacular views from different trails dotted around the area. Simply stunning views from the straight rock faces around the city. At some points on the path, you could literally stand on the edge. No fence or anything. And look straight down to the village below. The spectacular views in themselves would be reason enough to go to this place. They had some great restaurants and some nice shops. And great icecream...
What can I say? Highly recommended to detour into this small country in the middle of Italy. If only just to take in the scenery.

My hotel. The Titano. Smack in the centre of the tourist stream.

U stop right there, and let these pedestrians pass!

Elevator to the street level below...

This train used to run down inside the mountain and down to Rimini.

Walking path through the small forest.

Where the world cup football team trained?

søndag 15. juli 2018


Our plane had just been pushed from the gate, on time, when the captain came on the speakers. "Ladies and gentlement, we are sorry to inform you that the european air traffic control has not given us a spot to fly south until 45 minutes from now, so we have to wait. We apologize."
Nice start on the holiday. But I didn't care. It was only 45 minutes anyways. And the captain promised to push the "pedal to the metal" on our way south. And he did. As soon as we left the tarmac in Oslo, he stepped on it, and we landed just 15 minutes late in Venice.
I travel light, so I only had a small backpack as carry on. So I didn't have to wait for mu luggage. Out the doors, I found the ticket office for the bus to Piazzale Roma. The last point where cars are no longer used, and boats, or feet, take over. I walked over to the bus, proudly showed the driver my ticket, and he pointed to a stamping machine. I waled over and tried to put my ticket in. It refused to go in I tried several times. The driver came over to help this helpless tourist. He slid it slowly inside. The machine gave up a happy "Bazzzzzzzinga!" and when he pulled it out again, it had a lovely stamp on it. I was now allowed onboard.
A few minutes later, we were on our way. Not long after, we were crossing the bridge leading to Venice. Or Venezia, as it's true name is. We stopped at Piazzale Roma, and we all got off. I pulled out my phone and found the hotel on the map. Walking through this wonderful waterworld was just as I had imagined. Lots of nice little bridges across the "canali", small restaurants, shops and a zillion tourists. I landed in the high season. So there were a lot more than usual now. But I didn't mind. Too much...

My hotel was on one of the "tourist-trails" through the city. So it was relatively easy to find, and it also meant it would be easy to find all the famous sights everywhere. Albeit with the downside of having to walk in a queue more or less constantly. I walked into the reception. The guy behind the counter greeted me with a big smile. I gave him my passport. "I have a reservation!". "Yeees." He gave me the key to room number 12, and instructed me how to get there. I managed to find it on first attempt. Not bad for me. I opened the door, and the smallest room I have ever stayed in, appeared behind the door. No private bath. Not even a toilet. Hmmm. I looked up my reservation. It clearly stated "private bath". "With shower". I walked down to the reception. I showed him my reservation. He looked at it. "Yeeees!" He scanned through the reservations. "Aaaah! You in 21, not 12! I make mistake!" Room 21 was how I expected. I unpacked my stuff, and decided to walk around the city, and get something to eat. My first italian meal in Italy. I was excited.

It felt like every corner I passed, every street I walked, had something to see, to photograph. I went into many churches and they ranged from ok to stunning.

This particula roof painting was simply stunning. When you stood just beneath it, it was like it stretched all the way into heaven. It is simply impossible to depict without standing there yourself. Simply amazing work of art!

In one church, a amn and a woman was sitting behind a veil, restoring an old painting it looked like. When I took a photo of them behind the veil, they came out as if they themselves were a painting. Or at least, thats what I think.

After some wandering around, I landed on a small restaurant in one of the narrow streets. "Lasagna della casa" sounded like the thing for me. It was delicious! After the fill-up, I was ready to search for the most visited place in the city, the Piazza San Marco. As expected, I walked in a queue for most of the trip, but I did some twists and turns in the streets, so I ended up in some streets that nobody else were walking. In the end, I arrived. Much to my surprise, there weren't many people at the time. Maybe a few hundred. But then again, they had closed everything. So all one could do, was to walk around taking pictures, and buy souvenirs. I shot a few images, and walked back. I had planned to get up really early the next day to beat the crowds.

From the San Marco church.

I set my alarm clock to 5 am. And got to bed. I was tired, and fell asleep fast. My phone woke me up at 5. I yawned and wondered what the sound outside was. It sounded familiar. I walked over to the window, and sure enough. Rain. And just to complete the picture, lightning and thunder. I went back to sleep, and didn't wake until almost 8. Had a shower and breakfast before going back to Piazza San Marco. The lines to San Marco church was already hundreds of meters long, so I gave up on that. And decided instead to take the elevator up the bell tower to get a better view of the city, and the piazza below.

The bell tower.

San Marco church.

As always, I note small things. And in the elevator, I found the name to be funny.

The view from up there was spectacular. I shot a ton of images of the city. And the interior of the tower itself. If you are ever in the neighborhood, the view is well worth it.

One of the bells int he bell tower. 

I loved the way the pendulum had made a dent in the bell over the hundreds of years. 

The rest of the day, I spent walking around, enjoying the streets. Especially the narrow ones. The bridges, the small restaurants and shops. And the canali.

Whenever I walked into a street like this, I would wonder whether this was a deadend, straight into the water, or, like in this case, it turned right into another street.

Narrow street where you had to walk sideways if you met someone.

Wash hanging out to dry.

Some of the boats were beautiful shiny mahogany boats.

This is actually the fire-boat. Back from a mission, backing into the firestation "garage".

The Rialto bridge. One of the bridges you have to cross to get to Piazza San Marco.

I saw this tower lurking behind some building I was taking photos of. And I thought it was leaning. At first I thought it was just the perspective. But as I walked up close to it, it was obvious it was indeed leaning. And it is referred to as the leaning tower of Venezia...

Here you can see some support at the bottom. The 53 meter tower is leaning 1.8 meters. So it obviously need some support to prevent it from tipping over.

This is the kind of waterworld I can enjoy. And it has been a goal of mine to come here some day. And now I can strike that off my list.