Where do I start? I suppose at the beginning.
I left Santorini on Monday night on the overnight ferry, which was packed to the rafters. Somehow managed to snag a seat inside for the ride, along with a girl from the hostel that I was with. It’s never good when you realise after talking to someone for five minutes that you have absolutely nothing in common with them except for the fact that you stayed at the same hostel for a couple of days, it’s worse when you realise you have to sit next to them for eight hours. I should have realised when I first spyed her leopard-print pull-apart, I definitely realised when she launched into a description of the book she was reading, which her pastor gave her. At least I was able to get some sleep.
Arrived in Athens with under an hour to make my first of three trains to Olympia, and of course was thirty seconds late after arguing with the woman at the station. (Shamefully was a stereotypical English-speaking tourist, when she didn’t understand what I was saying, I just spoke louder.) Had three hours to kill at Athens Station, which was roughly the same size as Footscray Station with a similar demographic, so the time passed relatively quickly.
As I’d missed that first train I’d missed the last connection of the day to Olympia (the last being at 3pm) so a four hour trip ended up taking me roughly twelve hours. The town of Olympia was great – nice and small, and all the shopkeepers wanted to chat with you, and not in a pushy way. The site itself was incredible – I visited early in the morning so there was a mist over the site which made it feel eerily historic. OK, some people are going to think I’m crazy for what I did when I walked onto the track – I cried. For God’s sake, I’ve seen the Mona Lisa, Big Ben, the Acropolis and even Lord’s and not a tear, here it was like a burst pipe. I stupidly kept wiping them away and everyone was looking, so I told myself to get a grip. This only lasted five minutes, as when I found the spot where they light the flame, waterworks again. It was so simple, just a few rocks really, with a tiny sign, but the scenery around it just felt so… Olympic. Don’t think there’s really a word for it.
Also paid a visit to the Archaeological Museum, which honestly doesn’t do a lot for me. I much rathered the Olympic Museum, which was strange – it didn’t look as if it had been updated since Moscow and come to think of it the whole museum gave the impression that it was funded by the KGB. They had the torches and the original clay pots from the lighting ceremony from each Games, with everything from 1984 onwards just shoved in the same cabinet. Felt that if I had the money, it would be one of those museums I’d donate a large sum to. That is, if I had the money.
The ferry back to Italy was fairly uneventful, until I woke up, that is. A few nights ago I had assumed I had been bitten my a whole lot of mozzies, but it was not until the ferry ride that one had started to swell up and the bites started not to look so mozzie-like. Of course, my mind was racing, feeling a bit medical I diagnosed myself with everything from chicken pox to poison ivy. When I got to Bari, I took myself down to the chemist, where they swiftly directed me to the nearest hospital. Oh, joy.
The hospital was massive, probably the size of Melbourne Uni. I was so lost (and also carrying the Beast) and nothing was in English. Went back to the station to get directions, where I was told by the woman behind the information desk, “I don’t know… we only give information about trains.”
I stared at her. “Do you live here?” I asked in my most polite-I’m-not-frustrated-at-all voice.
“And you’re telling me that if you needed to go to hospital, you wouldn’t have the slightest idea where to go?”
Somehow I found the pediatric ward, told them my age and that I spoke hardly any Italian, and all of a sudden I had my own minder. They drove me to the other side of the hospital, poked me, prodded me, and sent me off to the dermatology unit and then infectious diseases. I think if I was Italian the whole thing probably would have taken me all day to work out, but they seemed to take me under their wing and wheelchaired me around everywhere. Apparently the backs of my arms, my legs and my back were covered in ugly spots.
With two prescriptions, directions to the station and a warning to take it easy, I was free. What, don’t you want my insurance papers or at least my passport?
One of my minders looked at me strangely. “In Italy, gratis. Free,” he added, noticing my confusion.
But for once I wasn’t lost in translation. “Yeah, yeah,” I said. “For Italians, free. But for foreigners?”
He was getting impatient. “Free,” he said, using my trick and speaking louder. I almost kissed the spotty bifocaled fellow. All of a sudden, I loved Italy. Berlusconi couldn’t be that bad!