In Limbo

This blog entry about the events of Sunday, June 24, 2007 was originally posted on July 10, 2007.

PART 7:  “I’m really sorry we missed it,” Steph apologized as the only ferry to Croatia’s Hvar Island had already departed from Pescara, Italy.  We had arrived only ten minutes late for the once-a-day 10:30 a.m. ferry across the Adriatic — the next was twenty-three hours and fifty minutes away.  Up until we knew this, I wasn’t worried because I figured there was probably another ferry at some point leaving from Pescara, but I was wrong.

“It’s okay,” I told Stephanie, clueless as to how our day would turn out that morning.  “This’ll be one of those unexpected detours I wrote about on my blog.  It’ll be fun.”

Our absence on the ferry bound for Hvar Island, Croatia wasn’t completely Steph’s fault; I partially blame myself, but more so the situation earlier that morning:  our visit to Pacentro wouldn’t have been complete without a quick, early morning walk up to the castle (and our short-lived re-enactment of Disney’s Beauty And The Beast) — and then we hit traffic on the Autostrade en route to the port town of Pescara, which should have only taken half an hour to get to.  Then, we couldn’t find the Hertz rental office to return the car, and ended up on a wild goose chase asking — in broken Italian — gas station people and other rental car offices for Hertz.  “It’s complicated, it’s complicated,” the guy at Europcar told me when I asked for directions.  By the time we found the Hertz office in a hidden corner of town, returned the car, paid our bill, and hitched a taxi to the port, the ferry was already ten minutes out at sea.

“Il est ce qu’il est,” Steph told me.

“Que sera sera,” I said.  “Whatever will be, will be.”

THERE ARE SO MANY OPTIONS when you don’t have a definite goal in mind — just like in Life — and with a whole day to play with, we speculated flying to Croatia (or elsewhere even), hanging out in Pescara, or finding some other island to take a ferry to.  With the suggestion and aid of an extremely friendly young Italian woman behind the window of a tour agency at the port, we decided to make our way to the coastal town of Ancona, 150 kms. away up the Adriatic coast — it was the closest port town with an overnight ferry to Split, Croatia, departing at 9 p.m. that evening — we had all day to get there.  We walked our bags out of the port to a city bus that took us to the train station.  I couldn’t find a way to pay for our bus fare.  “Just play stupid,” Steph suggested.  We rode the bus for free.

As we moseyed our way into the Pescara train station, Steph was all smiles at our latest unplanned adventure.  “This is so cool.  I like this!  Just going like this.”

“You never did this before?”

“Just once, in Europe with friends,” she answered.  (Most of her worldly travels were done with planned itineraries, growing up with travel-savvy parents.)

“Welcome to my world.”

We secured train tickets to Ancona and left our bags in storage so we could wander and kill time, and maybe grab some lunch.  Looking around at the buildings outside the port, I felt back in my element — a state of transit.  “I forgot we were even in Italy for a second,” I said.  “It’s like a generic port town.”

“It’s generic E.U.,” Steph said.  “It’s limbo.  And whenever I’m in limbo, I say, ‘I can do whatever, I’m in limbo!’”

Whatever we wanted included riding a bear statue in the train station, and then reverting back to our old habit in New York:  getting Chinese dumplings.  Fortunately there was a Chinese restaurant down the road, Mai Cheng, which made Steph smile.  “Isn’t it funny how Chinese restaurants all around the world look the same?” she noticed.  Perhaps Chinese food is the official food of limbo, I wondered.

We ordered our ravioli al vapore (steamed dumplings) and a couple of other Chinese dishes — a nice change of gastronomical scenery from our recent regiment of Italian fare — and then raised up our drinks for yet another toast.  “Here’s to being in limbo,” I said.

“Here’s to being with someone who doesn’t mind being in limbo for a day.”

“I live in limbo.”

Our journey through limbo continued on the train, which zipped up the Adriatic coast with its beautiful beaches and turquoise waters.  I working on handwriting my blog while Steph slept in my lap.  We arrived in Ancona a couple of hours later — which looked like another generic E.U. port town — dropped our bags off in storage, and then found our way to the port to secure tickets for the night ferry. 

“I’m hot, Tom Cruise,” Steph said quoting “Planet Unicorn” again.  It was sweltering outside and we were getting all schvitzy — or, as we’d started to say for the past couple of days, “schvexy,” a cross between schvitzy (sweaty) and sexy.  “Did I really make that up?” I asked Steph.

“Yeah.  It’s sweaty and sexy,” she said.  “Sort of like the feeling you have after sex.”

“I want you to spread that word amongst all of the Jewish people!”

Cooling off from our schvexiness in limbo involved whatever we wanted:  Steph shopped for looser and cooler clothes in an air-conditioned Zara; I got cantaloupe gelati in a nearby cafe.  “Are you taking another picture of my boobs?” Steph said as I took a picture of my food at table level again

At the ferry port, choosing one of two boat lines was easy once the computer system of one of them went down.  We secured an “internal cabin with services” on the more-cruiseship-than-ferry of the Croatian-run Jadrolingjia company, a line proud to have taken Pope John Paul II across the Adriatic.  Perhaps this trip inspired the Christian pilgrimmage tour group that boarded the ship with us, a group of about thirty Americans of varied ages — probably on their way to Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina I reckoned.  Steph speculated that one teenaged cool guy was just in it with his parents for the trip to Europe.  I wondered (and confirmed) that three middle-aged Filipino women were from California.  “Should I ask them where they all got their anal beads?” I joked to Steph.

Our cabin was humble but accommodating, a four-person bunk situation re-purposed for two.  “I rearranged things when you were in the shower,” I told Steph.  “I rearranged the furniture and put in some track lighting.”

The “services” of the cabin we paid extra for were totally worth it: our private shower was a very welcome amenity after being all grimy and schvexy all day.  We cleaned up well, changed into comfortably dry clothes, and hung out on deck as the crew prepared the ship for departure.  The sun set down the horizon as we sat and sipped our sunset cocktails, our feet dangling below us.  Soon, the ship departed out of Ancona port (picture above), bound for Croatia across the Adriatic Sea.

“Arrividerci Italia!”

Goodbye Italy was right; with the country gone, so did its lovely cuisine as we soon discovered in the Croatian-run restaurant that evening.  “It tastes like Chef Boyardee,” Steph commented on her less-than-stellar spaghetti Bolognese.

“You know Chef Boyardee is Richard Dickinson?” I taught Steph.  “Boy Ar Dee.  The initials, R. D.  Richard Dickinson.  He was the son of the company.”

Steph didn’t fall for my made-up dinner conversation, but almost did for my next whopper:  that “The Three Little Pigs” was actually written by a bricklayers’ guild lobbying for the increased use, sale, and labor of bricks.

There wasn’t much to do on the ship after dinner; the little cinema was closed and the bars were empty.  We managed to entertain ourselves in our room instead, away from the Croatian crew and the American Christian pilgrims, for the remainder of our journey through the international waters of the Adriatic, the limbo between Italy and Croatia.  When you’re in limbo, “You can do whatever you want,” Steph had told me — although we couldn’t exactly order Chinese food on that Croatian boat once it was out at sea.


FUN FACT:

On the Ancona city bus from the train station to the ferry port, we encountered a young African father with a cute — but rather bored — little girl in a stroller.  However, she jumped out of her chair, smiling and excited when Steph started a secret game of peek-a-boo with her from across the way.





Next entry: Dalmatians 101

Previous entry: The Mountain Town




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This blog post is one of twelve travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip: Two in The Boot and Beyond," which chronicled a romantic getaway through Italy, plus jaunts to Croatia, Switzerland, and London.

Next entry:
Dalmatians 101

Previous entry:
The Mountain Town




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