Friday, November 30, 2012

Let's go

Contrary to appearances, squishing one year of life in 70 liters isn't such a challenge.
Last half an hour in my room, last one hour in Bydgoszcz, last seven hours in Poland, last fifteen hours on the Old Continent.
I'm still thinking whether I haven't forgotten anything.
Destination Ankara.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Somewhere over the rainbow

There's something in my travel style of last months that I find extremely worrisome. Before I wanted to be on the go at no end, discover new places, travel with no route, wander aimlessly, get lost, but happily. But how many months have passed since my everyday looked like this? I have to own up to it, I think I've settled too much into a conventional, comfortable and worry-less life - in France, in Scotland - and actually I liked the fact that tonight I wouldn't have to search for a clandestine place to rest my wearied body, go dumpster diving or freeze my ass outside waiting for a ride on a road where a car passes every half an hour. Of course, I love uncertainty and bruising encounters much more than ever-present comforts and total lack of surprises. Sometimes I feel remorse for these lost opportunities but recently... I just don't feel like. Because where I am, I already have great companions, because I came to a place to spend time with a friend instead of straying, because I don't really need adventure and adrenaline at the moment, because leaving this security is too daunting and the perspective of traveling suddenly doesn't seem exciting at all.

Same happened in Sardinia. I came to see my friend, but didn't want to stay confined to only one city all the time. Eventually I had no zeal to explore anything. Strange, isn't it? I changed my mind when Asia told me about her recent trip to Bosa. She described it in such loving detail and awe that I was aching to go. The fact that I could stay there with Asia's Turkish girl friends added up to my excitement - and I wasn't wrong - the time spent with Tuğçe and Deniz was another proof showing that Turkish hospitality is second to none. Never-ending discussions about life and traditions in Turkey and slideshows with photos of Tuğçe's family, hometown and neighboring areas; accompanied by ayran, pilaf, lokum and other Turkish delights (not only the sweet ones) definitely enriched my stay and provided me with useful information just weeks before leaving for Ankara. Unfortunately my wonderful host had to leave early for work the following day, so we couldn't spend too much time together. In the morning I meandered Bosa's streets and byways on my own.

In spite of its location in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, chronic water scarcity has plagued Sardinia since ages. The usage of ancient water pipes marred with leaks combined with suffocating heat and drought during the summer bring about one of the most serious water shortages in the Mediterranean area. Bosa is not an exception; water going off for a couple of hours even during the daytime isn't something exceptional. But it has something that other Sardinian towns lack: being set along the peaceful banks of the only navigable river on the entire island; Fiume Temo (55 km). Tirso, the longest river of Sardinia (152 km), puts it to shame, but it's thanks to this tiny stream that Bosa is surrounded by lush verdant green rolling hills; that it had been already flourishing when other Sardinian locations were getting their first inhabitants; that fishing and agriculture play an important role in local economy.

Wandering winding, medieval streets of Bosa's centro storico will make you feel as if you're really in Italy - all because they're so full with life. I'm sure if I understood more than just very basic Italian, I would definitely become the third party in locals' two-way conversations. Many doors and windows are open ajar and there are noises coming from the houses as well - a lively family discussion during the pranzo, very loud football fan shouting profanities at his team losing a goal, the clinking and hissing tools used in home workshops. There is laundry hanging on the balconies or outside the windows. Many houses are adorned with flower pots placed in front of the main door or on the windowsills. And these colors! Bosa's houses lining its steep, maze-like lanes are flooded with bright, saturated hues and are a staple to the area. While in Sassari I barely ever had the urge to take my camera out, in Bosa, one after another, I shot pictures of violets, blues, rusts, greens, pinks, turquoises and ochres. The houses continue all the way to the hilltop, which is crowned with the ruins of old Castella Malaspina. From there only one color speckles the distance - the red of tiles covering the roofs. Another wonderful view presents itself from the right bank of Fiume Temo, near historical Ponte Vecchio, where I debauched myself at gelato alla Nutella, watching the world at the foothills of Malaspina Hill go by.

Despite its picturesque beauty, the town wasn't at all untrammeled by tourists. Just like in Sassari, you won't see massive crowds there. But unlike the major city in the north of Sardinia, Bosa has some life to it. Its very relaxed atmosphere definitely left me with a positive impression of the place and made me remember the island as a destination where not only millionaires venture.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Sassari, the ghost town of Sardinia

Before my arrival in Sassari, Asia, who's temporarily living in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, gave me a warning: "it's like a ghost town. There's absolutely nothing going on here." Her words couldn't express the atmosphere in the city any better. Although I barely ever experience boredom when I travel, in Sassari I really had a feeling that even my not-so-vibrant home town makes more exciting destination for a visitor and offers a bigger variety of activities. I arrived in the biggest city in northern Sardinia at midnight-ish, on 1st November. The old town was almost people-less, which made the city appear sad and forlorn. "Holiday," I thought and turned a blind eye on the sleepy image of Sassari. Later, every time we went out at nighttime with Asia and her friends, I noticed a slight improvement in the nightlife of Sardos, but I wasn't thrilled. There were tourists and locals on the streets - but still far cry from Bydgoszcz, where when the lights go out, the streets seem too narrow for the life that's crammed itself into them. I was surprised to find out that a mass of clubs or bars are open only during the summer season, especially when the Erasmus students are in the city.

The former appearance of Sardinian flag, consisting of four black heads of blindfolded Moors on a white background, separated by St George's Cross was supposed to symbolize the stupidity and ignorance of Sardos. If you compare this conviction with local people's mentality, you can easily conclude that such pattern wasn't chosen for nothing. The demeanor of Sardos definitely doesn't fit the stereotype of bubbly, loud and outgoing Italians. Most of the locals I met seemed quite grubby, narrow-minded, reluctant to accept anything that doesn't fit in their mindfield, with malevolent attitude towards visitors. It has never happened to me elsewhere that locals would react aggressively when told there's something you don't like about their city, stupidly squeak "aaaaaaaa turista!!!!!!" upon finding out I'm not from Sardinia or shout their heads off "that's a tourist in the northern Sardinia. And she's totally lost. Hello! What's your name? Comment tu t'appelle?"

Sardos from Sassari are proud of their origin, love their land that is gorgeous for its sea and nature and are deeply connected to it, but they sadly admit - there's nothing to do there. Many young people go to the mainland for education or work; they wait for an opportunity to leave the island and as soon as it presents itself, they seize it. In the summer season sandy beaches and translucent sea attract wealthy tourists from all over the world, but then the warm months are over, numerous resorts become totally deserted.

I always used to undervalue my city, but having seen Sassari, I finally started appreciating my own neck of the woods, which doesn't happen very often. The sleepy streets of this town of 130 thousand inhabitants reminded me of Bydgoszcz ten years ago, devoid of places where people go wild at nighttime or relax during the day. If you think the place you come from is boring, come to Sassari and you'll change your mind. Saying this, I can't forget about the sole exception, which is all Erasmus students I met there. What this piece of Italy lacks in iconic attractions, activities and friendly locals, it more than makes up for it with this bunch of people from all over Europe  who found themselves in this drowsy town and don't fail at making its ever-present boredom more tolerable.

Ticket booth

Please note that apart from two exceptions the schedule is convenient only for connections to continental Italy.