Friday, July 22, 2011

Part 5

Tuesday, July 12

We finally got our bags today!

When I woke up this morning, I took a look at the cell phone to see if there had been any developments. There was a text message from the apartment landlord telling me that our bags had been delivered to the Hotel Marconi at 10:00 yesterday evening.

I went round the corner to the Hotel Marconi ... and there they were!

So, this is the point in our story where I tell the tale of the missing luggage.

When we arrived in Rome, it seemed as though luggage for *all* of the Schengen arrivals (i.e. non-Italian EU) had been sent to the same baggage carousel. We recognized some people from our flight, but there were many others we didn't recognize. We waited ... and we waited ... and we waited. Eventually, even all of the familiar faces from our flight had left. The realization that we had had the misfortune of arriving once again in Rome without our luggage started to come through.

I knew the routine; go to the ground-handling agent responsible for the airline and file a report. In this case, it was FlightCare. We weren't the only ones in this predicament, and I'd waited about half-an-hour for my turn. The agent took the information, but made no offer of any toiletry kit or other amenities. We were on our own with only the things we'd carried on board.

My sense was that the bags had failed to make the connection in Washington ... and that they would be coming along on the next day's connections. I was thrown for a bit of a loop when we were told in Vernazza that they would be unable to get our bags to us there. No worries, they could leapfrog ahead of us and be in Venice when we got there.

Unfortunately, it didn't work that way, and by the Sunday, I was starting to get concerned. I became *really*concerned when I kept having to call back to Canada to get any information. In email correspondence, Lufthansa kept saying all the right things, but the actual "doing" was a lot less. Lufthansa said that they were "directing" their local ground handling agent in Venice to contact me, but I never heard a peep.

And, it seems that only after I spoke to Air Canada baggage yet again yesterday evening did anything actually start to happen.once we get home, Lufthansa will be on the receiving end of a pointy letter and a mitt full of receipts.

I took the bags back to the apartment building and loaded up the elevator. With our bags in hand, we all took advantage of having access to fresh clothes and proper shoes. We left the apartment a little after 10:30 heading for the train station.

It was quite a shock to all of us ... for my part, i had gotten used to traveling so lightly-loaded. Marg (and Helen) both said that they now realized that they had overpacked ... and began making plans for off-loading some of their stuff into another bag for Helen to take back to Canada when she leaves on Sunday.

We took one last ride on the vaporetto to the train station; arriving early enough to have cappuccino and espresso before boarding. For this leg of the trip, I sprung the extra 10 euro for "first class" tickets; the seats are a little wider, the air conditioning a bit more powerful and the car not quite so crowded. We're now on the train, headed to Gorizia.

We almost missed the stop in Gorizia. I'd been following our journey on the GPS and knew we were getting close, but the last few kilometers seemed to pass by very quickly. We scrambled off the train into the mid-day heat.

The plan was to transfer from the train station in Gorizia, Italy, to the Slovenian train system in Nova Gorica, Slovenia ... a concept not entirely foreign to someone who lives in Sault Ste. Marie. We had considered walking between the two, or perhaps taking a cab, but the local bus was right there ... if only we could figure out the ticketing system. Well, it's always best to ask a local.

We were glad that we'd chosen the "bus" option. Maybe he had a longer route that he had to follow, maybe it was all the stops;whatever it was, it seemed to be a lot longer than the walk that we'd thought it would be ... especially now that we were carrying our own baggage. We finally arrived at the small plaza that sits in front of the Slovenian train station. At one time, there was a border crossing point here, but now, with Slovenia part of the EU, the border is nothing more than a series of planters (to keep the vehicles - particularly commercial vehicles - from crossing) and a line on the ground. On one side, it's "per favore" and "grazie" and on the other, it's "prosim" and "hvala".

I think we'd been spoiled by the Italian train stations. Even the smallest ones seem to be true hubs of activity with restaurants, shops and lots of hustle and bustle. By contrast, the Slovenian train station was a dour, dark building with only a single, rather disinterested ticket agent occupying a dark booth. Granted, there was a small bar that spilled out of the front of the station onto a small patio, but that was it.

We got our tickets for Ljubljana, went to the bar and had a glass of "lemonade" (actually more like lemon juice cut with water). The "train" was actually a pair of self-propelled cars ... think "bud" car in Canada ... that were covered with graffiti. We climbed on board to get seats in advance of a rush that never came. In the end, there were only 5 of us in our car, and perhaps a few in the other car. We ate the lunch supplies we'd bought before leaving Venice and enjoyed the scenery.

The countryside is very picturesque. Old churches on forested hills, little towns in valleys, a beautiful blue sky ... almost like riding through some sort of postcard.

We were supposed to change trains in Sezanna. Judging from the number of tracks running through the station, it seemed to be a mo "substantial" sort of town. We got off our train and saw another with "Ljubljana" on the front. But a local agent instead directed us towards a bus - telling us that it would be faster. OK ... I'll go along. It was a large intercity-style bus; we threw our things into the luggage compartment, and were off!

The bus was a nice way to see more of the countryside. Windy roads, not much traffic, small towns ... at least we weren't on some big "interstate" style roadway.

We eventually got to another train station (sorry, I can't remember the name of the town) where we re-boarded another two-car train to finish the trip to Ljubljana; we arrived a little before 19:00.

I'd called Miro, the local apartment rental agent and he gave directions on where to find their office. We were just at the final intersection, trying to decide how much further we'd have to go to find him, when a young man came across the street ... and introduced himself ... Miro.

Miro took us to the apartment and showed us its features. After he left, we cleaned up and headed out to find some supper.

I'd read that Ljubljana is not going to be the next "Prague"; trendy/arty/fun. That's Krakow. But from what I saw of Ljubljana that evening, it's not far behind. Cafes and bars lined the central downtown riverfront, the streets in behind were filled with small boutique-y shops, the pedestrian-only streets were filled with people enjoying the evening.

We ate dinner at a restaurant near the river, and afterwards joined the street parade. But not for long. It's been a long day ... and it's time to sleep.

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