Tag Archives: Ryanair

A Return Visit to Wroclaw, Poland

Spring  always seems to be a good time to go away if you ask me and this year I found some cheap Ryanair flights at only £50 return to Wroclaw, the fourth largest city in Poland and as we had thoroughly enjoyed a January weekend there two years previously the decision was quickly made to make a return visit the historic capital of Lower Silesia.

So why go to Wroclaw in the first place you might ask (and some people did) and having been once why go for a second time?  Well, quite simply because it is a fine European city and has a great deal to offer…

… It is classified as a global city with a ranking of high sufficiency and living standards and in 2015 was among two hundred and thirty cities ranked as “Best Cities to Live“. In 2016, the city was a European Capital of Culture and the World Book Capital. Also in a busy year Wrocław hosted the Theatre Olympics, the World Bridge Games and the European Film Awards. In 2017, the city is the host of the The International Federation of Library Associations’ Annual Conference and The World Games which is an international multi-sport event, meant for sports that are not contested in the Olympic Games

And where Iceland has Huldufólk and  Zurich has GnomesWroclaw has Dwarfs…

Before leaving my friend Dai Woosnam provided me with some lessons on pronunciation because although Wroclaw looks easy enough on paper it can prove quite tricky to get absolutely right and is correctly pronounced as ‘Vrotswaf’ with the added complication of a rolling ‘r’.  In attempting to say this difficult word it is necessary to sound like a bronchitis sufferer with a throat full of phlegm. 

I suggest that the easiest way to achieve it would be to fill your mouth with pebbles to suppress any possible movement of the tongue and force the sound into the back of the mouth; either that or go into the garden shed and find a live moth, swallow it and then try to cough it up and you will achieve roughly the same combination of sounds that is required to get the correct pronunciation!  

It is all very well for Dai of course, he is from Wales and the Welsh are used to dealing with unpronounceable place names, like possibly the most absurd of all –  Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch* because even the Germans don’t have place names as long as that and the longest that I can find is Villingen-Schwenningen but that cheats and includes a hyphen and is really two places next door to each other.  On that same basis I am also passing over the claim of L’Annonciation-de-la-Bienheureuse-Vierge-Marie-de-Nazareth which is somewhere in Quebec in Canada.

No one seems to know for sure but the city is traditionally believed to be named after Wrocisław or Vratislav, Duke Vratislaus I of Bohemia sometime towards the end of the tenth century.

But it hasn’t always been so difficult because it only reverted to the name of Wroclaw in 1946 when the city and the whole region of Silesia was taken from Germany and handed over to Poland as the borders of central Europe were redrawn to satisfy the demands of Stalin at the post-war Potsdam Conference.

Up until that point in history Wroclaw had not been a part of what you might call Poland for over six-hundred years and it went by the German name of Breslau, which is a lot easier to pronounce and was an almost exclusively German in a city that had once been part of Prussia, The German Empire after unification in 1871, The inter-war Weimer Republic and the Third Reich of Adolf Hitler.  I’ll tell you some more about that in a future post.

I am always interested to discover how far a place name has travelled but not surprisingly I am unable to find another Wroclaw anywhere.  There is however a Breslau in Ontario, Canada and another in Pierce County Nebraska, USA. There used to be one more, in Suffolk County, New York but just like its Polish counterpart it was renamed – as Lindenhurst in 1891

We left a cloudy and rather dismal East Midlands Airport near Nottingham and a little under two hours later approached Wroclaw-Copernicus airport which was bathed in dappled sunshine.  As we dropped through the light cloud I could see Poland rapidly coming into view.  This part of the country is flat and prairie like with a chequer board pattern of agricultural farms and fields occupying the valley of the River Oder and a long way from the mountains of the south or the forests of the east and still in its state of winter hibernation it looked rather unremarkable and it made me wonder why so many lives had been lost over the years fighting over it. 

After a short thirty-minute taxi ride to the city we checked into the Best Western Hotel on the edge of the Old Town and after approving our accommodation stepped out into the street and made our way to the nearby market square which like so many others in Europe has been expertly and sensitively restored and betrays an eclectic mix of the principles of original medieval town planning and a combination of Germanic and Polish architectural styles that perfectly complement one another.

We set off on a sightseeing walk and possibly to find a bar!

The Official Travel Guide in Wrocław – visitWroclaw.eu

It’s Nice To Feel Useful (9)

  

About this time of the year I start to look back over my posts to review what has been going on.  One of the things that I like to do is to take a look at the search questions that seem to bring web-surfers by the site and take a look at some of the more bizarre and unusual.

One of my most successful posts is about the day I attended a Buckingham Palace Garden Party and I get lots of odd Google referrals about this one.  This year my favourite just has to be – do I get expenses to attend royal garden party?”

Cakes at Royal Garden Party

Let me take a moment here to explain.  Just to be invited to a Buckingham Palace Garden party is a bit special in itself and believe me there is going to be a lot of expense involved – new suit, new outfit, overnight stay in London, taxi fares etc. and most people would gladly deal with this just to be part of the occasion so I have to say that expecting the Queen to pick up the bill sounds rather republican to me and whoever asked this should not have had an invite in the first place.

Next up, I really like this one –what did the captain wear on the Titanic?”

Titanic Experience Belfast

Edward SmithI visited Belfast recently and went to see the Titanic Exhibition and Museum.  It was a super place and I recommend anyone to go there and I think what I learned on that visit may just well help here.

Around the exhibition there are lots of pictures of Captain Smith in his White Star Line uniform so I am forced to conclude that except when he went to bed and most likely put on a pair of pyjamas that this was his favourite form of dress.  Another thing that I can be certain of is that Captain Smith didn’t wear a lifebelt because after the Titanic struck the iceberg he went down with his ship and drowned!

This being a Travel Blog I often get advice requests and this year I have picked out these two related topics –What to do in Croatia if it rains?” and  “Will I need my umbrella in Burgos?”  I am not a weather expert of course but then neither are most of the people who claim to be – has anyone ever seen an accurate TV weather forecast?  Bearing this in mind my answer to both these questions is find somewhere to shelter and then let me remind everyone – it doesn’t rain in bars. 

When I travel to Europe I rather like hiring cars but what I don’t like is the hassle of arranging car insurance.  I have had a lot of trouble getting past the car rental clerk and taking possession of the keys so I am well able to answer this next one – how much is gravel protection and sand and ash protection in Iceland” and the answer is quite a lot, probably more than the daily hire rate for the vehicle.

 Iceland Volcano

Sixt in Iceland have come up with a brilliant wheeze.  I thought that I had purchased fully comprehensive insurance but the desk clerk told me that cars suffered so many stone chips because of the gravel roads in Iceland that this had now been excluded and could be purchased at an additional cost of €9 a day under the description ‘gravel damage’ and just to be safe I agreed to buy it.

Then it became almost surreal when he explained that further cover was available at €10 a day for volcano damage.  Volcano damage – WTF?

Upon enquiry he told me that if a volcano explodes it can generate enough heat to strip the paint off the car and that this was not covered either.  Well, I considered this for a moment and came to the conclusion that if I was close enough to an exploding volcano for it to strip the paint off the car then it was almost certain that I was likely to be in a lot of trouble and great personal danger and the last thing that I was going to be worried about as my flesh melted into a puddle of grease was the condition of the paintwork on the hire car (gravel chipped or not) so I sensibly declined the offer to purchase the additional cover and quickly paid up just in case he next tried to sell me snow or rain insurance in case the car got wet!

Ryanair Cabin

I can always guarantee something cropping up about Ryanair and cheap flights.

I first wrote on this subject in 2009 and it immediately started getting hundreds of hits and then in 2011 it just stopped completely.  I reviewed and reposted it and changed the title from the specific ‘Travel Tips when Flying Ryanair’ to the more general title that it has now and hey presto the hits started coming again. – Travel Tips when Flying Budget Airlines.

My favourite this year isRyanair seat 08f”  which, to be honest is way to specific a request for me to be able to deal with and provide a satisfactory response.

Human Penis Museum Iceland Reykjavik

Sex always crops up of course because it is estimated that well over half of all web searches are about this subject.  This is an odd one though – penis shaped door knob”, who for goodness sake is likely to type that enquiry into a search engine? Interestingly however I once worked with someone who used the office internet to make the enquiry ‘knobs and knockers’.  She was restoring an old Welsh Dresser at the time and although her enquiry was completely innocent she had some explaining to do to the IT section when she received the unexpected results of her search.

Not being an anatomist I am not an authority on penises and not being a manager of a Home Depot I am not an expert on  door furniture of any shape but I did visit the Penis Museum in Reykjavik and this is probably close enough to have recorded the visit to the blog.

I am going to finish with this one and because I simply do not have the answer I am going to ask you all out there if you can help – Does a dog die if it doesn’t have sex?”  

Here are the previous posts in this series of weird internet searches…

It’s Nice to feel Useful (1)

It’s Nice to feel Useful (2)

It’s Nice to feel Useful (3)

It’s Nice to feel Useful (4)

It’s Nice to feel Useful (5)

It’s Nice to feel Useful (6)

It’s Nice to feel useful (7)

It’s Nice to feel Useful (8)

It’s Nice To Feel Useful (7)

  

It’s nice to feel useful (7) …

Every now and again I like to look back over my posts to review what has been going on.  One of the things that I like to do is to take a look at the search questions that seem to bring web-surfers by the site and take a look at some of the more bizarre and unusual.

Last year my favourite was is “Why did Shakespeare bring starlings to Australia?”  and I was obliged to point out here that William Shakespeare died in 1616 and Australia wasn’t settled by Europeans for another couple of hundred years or so after that and although there is much literary speculation concerning possible visits by the Bard to Italy I think it is safe to say that he never went as far as Australia!

Vesuvius the crater

Being a student of geography I am going to begin with a couple of wildly inaccurate searches:  Firstly “Vesuvius Turkey”  and secondly “Wales Cantabria”.  When I was a boy I had a book called “The Boys’ Book of Heroes” which had a chapter about great explorers and I am fairly certain that if they republish it that these two enquirers are really most unlikely to get a mention.

Sex always rears its ugly head so let’s deal with that one straight away.  Someone asked about “Getting laid in Germany” and believe me if I had the answer to that one then I would keep it to myself.

I like this one even better – “Medieval brothels images” and I am completely unable to help with that one because most of the illuminated manuscripts in my collection have images of Jesus and the Saints and as Monks didn’t have digital cameras they probably didn’t have a great deal of spare time to draw pictures of brothels.  Perhaps the enquirers were thinking about the red light district in Amsterdam or perhaps they found their way to my post on the Grand Tour of Europe?

The best that I can do is show this picture of a ‘walk this way‘ brothel sign in the ancient city of Ephesus in Turkey …

Ephesus Brothel Sign

There are always some bizarre questions about low cost airline Ryanair and this year these are my favourites: firstly “Can I take tea bags on a Ryanair flight?” and as far as I am aware tea has not been declared an illegal substance so I am certain that the answer is yes but I don’t think you will be allowed to take a kettle and brew up!  Next – “Is agarbatti allowed in flights?”  and I have to say that with Ryanair being a no smoking airline probably not and lighting up an incense stick is likely to lead to Argy Bargy.   I did provide some advice for flying with Ryanair in a post called Travel Tips When Flying Budget Airlines.

Ryanair Fez Airport

Some of the daftest search enquiries seem to crop up every year but here are some new ones from the last twelve months:

“What were gunfighters actually called” and my answer to that one is that although some of them had real names of course like Jesse James, Billy The Kid, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid  I think mostly they were just called gunfighters!

The meanest gunfighter in the West however was…

Next up – “Which state are Johnny Cash and June Carter talking about when they say we been talking about Jackson ever since the fire went out?- I am of course tempted to say just try Jackson USA and you will get the answer – it is that simple!

We got married in a fever, hotter than a pepper sprout,
We’ve been talkin’ ’bout Jackson, ever since the fire went out.
I’m goin’ to Jackson, I’m gonna mess around,
Yeah, I’m goin’ to Jackson,
Look out Jackson town.

To finish two more searches that caught my attention this year – “Jesus give thanks to feed four thousand men” and I can only assume that in an era of cutbacks and austerity that  this enquirer works for the Government because the size of the crowd has been reduced by 20%.  I wrote about the feeding of the five thousand quite recently.

And finally for this time – “is there a weight limit for the Cresta Run” but I am afraid that I cannot help with that one at all.

What is the strangest search engine enquiry that has brought someone to one of your blog posts?  (This is not a quiz!)

A look back at previous silly search questions:

It’s Nice to feel Useful (1)

It’s Nice to feel Useful (2)

It’s Nice to feel Useful (3)

It’s Nice to feel Useful (4)

It’s Nice to feel Useful (5)

It’s Nice to feel Useful (6)

Poland (Wroclaw), Travel Advice and Ryanair Improvements

Wroclaw Postcard

January always seems to be a good time to go away if you ask me and this year I found some cheap Ryanair flights at only £50 return to Wroclaw, the fourth largest city in Poland and as we had previously been to Krakow and enjoyed it there the decision was quickly made to visit the historic capital of Lower Silesia.

Before leaving my friend Dai Woosnam provided me with some lessons on pronunciation because although Wroclaw looks easy enough on paper it can prove quite tricky to get absolutely right and is correctly pronounced as ‘Wrotswaf’ with the added complication of a rolling ‘r’.  In attempting to say this difficult word it is necessary to sound like a bronchitis sufferer with a throat full of phlegm. 

I suggest that the easiest way to achieve it would be to fill your mouth with pebbles to suppress any possible movement of the tongue and force the sound into the back of the mouth; either that or go into the garden shed and find a live moth, swallow it and then try and cough it up and you will achieve roughly the same combination of sounds that is required to get the correct pronunciation!  

It is all very well for Dai of course, he is from Wales and the Welsh are used to dealing with unpronounceable place names, places like Llanystumdwy or the most absurd place name of all –  Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch* because even the Germans don’t have place names as long as that and the longest that I can find is Villingen-Schwenningen but that cheats and includes a hyphen and is really two places next door to each other.

This had been the first time that we had flown with Ryanair since it announced its package of customer service improvements and although I was not expecting a lot of difference I was soon to be surprised and top marks to Michael O’Leary for being true to his word. 

The website is much improved and easier to navigate and once at the airport there is now common sense in respect of women’s handbags, which no longer have to be crammed inside the one piece of hand luggage and passengers can also take on a bag of duty free purchases. The staff were helpful and smiled instead of snarled as we got on and off the plane and the relentless address system assault with a succession of hard sell announcements had been significantly reduced.  On the down side there is still that annoying fanfare upon landing to announce ‘another on time flight from Ryanair’.

As we dropped through the light cloud I could see Poland rapidly coming into view.  This part of the country is flat and prairie like with a chequer board pattern of agricultural farms and fields occupying the valley of the River Oder and a long way from the mountains of the south or the forests of the east and in its state of winter hibernation it looked rather unremarkable and it made me wonder why so many lives had been lost over the years fighting over it. 

Dai had visited Wroclaw a couple of years previously and had some sightseeing, culinary and accommodation tips for me including a strong recommendation to stay at the £12 a night Stranger (or was it Strangeways) Hostel close to the railway station but although I was grateful for the what to see and where to go tips and even for the dining suggestions I had to tell him that the chances of Kim agreeing to stay in a hostel in a dormitory with a bathroom shared with strangers was some considerable way below zero on the probability scale of acceptable accommodation.

As it happened we got a very good £50 a night discounted deal at the five star Sofitel just off the main square so after landing and passing through customs at Wroclaw Copernicus Airport we considered our options for getting there.

Outside the terminal building there was a bus stop and the 406 pulled up and this looked like perfect timing but there turned out to be a complicated automatic ticket purchasing system and by the time I had worked it out the bus driver had become impatient and closed the doors and revved the engine to indicate his imminent departure.  I thought briefly about standing in the road to prevent him pulling away but he had the look of a psychopath so I thought better of it and he drove away with a sneering grin leaving the two of us and quite a line of irritable people in the queue behind us to wait for the next one due in twenty minutes or so. 

I felt rather guilty about all of the others that had missed the transport so we walked away towards the taxi rank and although, as I have explained before, I have an aversion to using cabs there was an advertised price of fifty zloty (about £10) and this just seemed too reasonable a price to stand by my principles at this particular time so we loaded our bags and climbed in the back seat and while Kim looked out of the window I kept my attention firmly fixed on the meter!

The down side of expensive hotels is that they have a way of making me feel uncomfortable at check-in as though the staff know that I would probably be more at home in the hostel and the Sofitel had that thing that I hate most – the uniformed commissionaire waiting to give unnecessary assistance with the luggage. 

He insisted on taking our bags and then hovered around through the check-in formalities and then escorted us to our room when we were perfectly capable of finding it for ourselves.  After he had introduced us to the facilities with the speed of a retreating glacier as though this might make it seem more important he stood around waiting for a tip and this you see is my problem – I have no idea how much to give them.  A few bits of loose change looks mean but I am not going to give a large note for just a few minutes work.  Luckily the Polish notes come in small denominations so I handed over the smallest that I had worth about £2.

Polish Zloty

Although Dai would not have agreed, on account of its corporate and ubiquitous style, it was a nice room with a bathroom full of complimentary soaps and shampoos so as we carried out an inventory we congratulated ourselves on a good choice and then found our scarves and gloves and went outside to the streets of the city.

* Although often claimed to be the longest place name in the World, there is in fact a Maori place name in New Zealand that is even longer – Taumatawhakatangihanga­koauau­o­tamatea­turi­pukakapiki­maunga­horo­nuku­pokai­whenua­kitanatahu but personally I discount that because it isn’t the name of a town or a village but rather a hill.

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Beginning

Bari Airport Railway Metro

Beginning of a Train Journey…

It turned out that this railway line was only opened six weeks earlier on 1stAugust and was so new that there were still staff on hand to help people with the ticket purchase procedure at the automatic machines.  The journey took no longer than fifteen minutes and outside the station we emerged into the balmy night air of Bari and being fairly confident of the location of the hotel we strode past the taxi rank, ignoring the various offers of a lift and walked in the direction of the old town.

Read the full story…

Review of The Year – 2013

Writing Paper and Pen

Please excuse me a self-indulgent blog to begin the new year as I look back over the previous one.

The top ten most hit blog pages in 2013 on my Travel Blog have mostly surprised me but then I don’t understand how search engines work.  I say hit blog pages rather than read because I am neither conceited enough of sufficiently naive to claim that a hit equals a read.

In 2012 the blog recorded 170,889 hits and the upward trend continued into January and I was optimistic that this number was just going to keep going up but then Google changed their search criteria it stopped and fell back and has never recovered.  I have finished the year with less than half of the previous year total with only 79,450 hits but in November I did manage to limp past half a million in total.

These are the Top Ten blogs of 2013:

No. 1 

Krakow,  Salt Mine

Cathedral Wieliczka Salt Mine

First posted on April 6th 2010

This post is up from number 3 in 2012 to number 1 this year with 5,030 hits. I posted this in April 2010 after returning from a visit to Krakow in Poland.  It was a good trip but I am not sure why so many people would hit on it.  It is not as interesting as my trip to Auschwitz or the Crazy Mike Communist Tour.

No. 2

Mount Vesuvius

Vesuvius still smoking and active

First posted on March 25th 2010

4,220 hits and a second year in the Top Ten and up three places.  A bit of a surprise because this is the account of a day trip to Mount Vesuvius whilst on a holiday to Sorrento in 1976 with my dad.  From my memories of the same holiday I posted several blogs about visits to CapriNaplesPompeiiThe Amalfi Drive and Rome but these have only achieved a handful of hits between them.

No. 3

Moscow and Lenin’s Mausoleum

Lenin Mausoleum

First posted on July 6th 2012

Strait in this one at number 3 with 1,740 hits.  Cameras and mobile phones are strictly forbidden because the authorities don’t want snapshots of Comrade Lenin turning up on the internet in peoples’ Blogs or Trip Advisor reviews so they have to be left in a locker room and if anyone tries to defy this and is caught by the thorough security checks then there punishment is to be sent to the back of the queue!  It seems however that a couple of visitors have somehow sneaked a camera in and I found the pictures through Google and I assume people find my post in the same way.

No. 4

Norway, Europe’s most Expensive Country

epcot-norway-viking

First posted on February 15th 2011

1,510 hits – that’s about 2,000 less than the previous year but still holding on to fourth place.  This was a second blog about my trip to Haugesund in January 2011. It contains some interesting facts and figures which might explain the number of hits that it has received but I am not really convinced that this is the reason unless top European economists are using it for research purposes!

No. 5

Travel Journal 2

Fifth place with 1,060 hits and which demonstrates the importance of an About page.

No. 6

Royal Garden Party

Palace Invite 3

First posted on June 26th 2009 and therefore the oldest post in the top ten.

1,000 hits and staying in the Top Ten and up one place from number 7.  This one has always been popular especially around the Spring and Summer when invitations to the Royal Garden Party are going out and when people are wondering how to get one or what to wear if they have one.

No. 7

Travel Tips when Flying Budget Airlines

Ryanair over the Alps

First posted on August 2nd 2011.

940  hits and also going up one place.  I first wrote on this subject in 2009 and it immediately started getting hundreds of hits and then in 2011 it just stopped completely.  I reviewed and reposted it and changed the title from the specific ‘Travel Tips when Flying Ryanair’ to the more general title that it has now and hey presto the hits started coming again.

No. 8

Twelve Treasures of Spain – Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

Sagrada Familia Cathedral Barcelona

First posted on March 2nd 2013 so the most recent post in the top ten so at under a year I will be interested to see what happens to this one in 2014.

With 750 posts a newcomer in the top 10 this year.  The “Twelve Treasures of the Kingdom of Spain” was a contest/poll that was conducted by the Spanish Television Company Antena 3 and the radio broadcaster Cope. The final results were announced on 31st December 2007.  I thought it might be interesting to take a look at the eight out of the twelve that I have visited.  Tenth in the competition and the final Cathedral in the list is the unfinished Gaudi masterpiece Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.

No. 9

Onyx UK and an Inappropriate Visit to the Moulin Rouge

Moulin Rouge Naked Dancers

First posted on August 23rd 2011.

Another post devastated by Google changes and only 696 this year so dropping like a stone from number 2 to number 9. I have written a few times about my recollections of working in waste management in the private sector in the 1990s.  All of the posts manage a respectable number of hits but this one gets the most.  I don’t suppose for one minute that people are interested in my stories of mismanagement, incompetence and rubbish collection but they do like to read about dancing on a nightclub stage in Paris.

No. 10

Sorrento, Mount Vesuvius – Living on the Edge of Disaster

52 Naples

First posted on March 23rd 2013, two days before the Vesuvius post at no. 2.

This one surprised me with 690 hits and a first show in the annual top ten because it is an old post from May 2010 which only goes to show that old material sometimes has legs.

There is a famous phrase that says ‘See Naples and die!’ which originated under the Bourbon regime and means that before you die you must experience the beauty and magnificence of Naples.  Some, less charitable, now say that the city is so mad, dangerous and polluted that death might possibly be a consequence of a visit there and my post is about Vesuvius, Pollution, Pizzas and Crime!

If you have read one of these posts or any of the 1,140 others on my site ‘Have Bag, Will Travel’then thank you very much!  I guess it proves that George Bailey (It’s A Wonderful Life) was right when he said: “The three most exciting sounds in the world are anchor chains, plane motors and train whistles.”  

Dropping out of the Top Ten this year were:  Norway, Haugesund and the Vikings,  Pula, Croatia and Onyx UK and the Dog Poo Solution

Vikings

Roman Amphitheatre Pula Croatia  Dog Mess Solution

And just ‘bubbling under’ …

Alternative Twelve Treasures of Spain – Antoni GaudiGermany, Triberg the Cuckoo Clock Capital of the WorldTwelve Treasures of Spain – Seville Cathedral and Russia, Tsars in our Eyes – The Grand Palace at Peterhof

Italy and Puglia, Arrival in Bari

Puglia Map

“A man who has not been in Italy, is always conscious of an inferiority.” – Samuel Johnson

Every September since 2004 our late Summer travelling has been to the Greek Islands and it hadn’t really occurred to me that that we would break that habit and that 2013 would be the tenth year in a row, after all there are roughly one thousand four hundred of them and I have only been to about twenty-five so there are still a lot left to visit.

We were persuaded to make a change to our normal September routine when the Ryanair website offered return flights to Bari in Southern Italy for the bargain price of only £70 each (no hold luggage, no priority boarding, no pre-booked seats obviously) so we snapped them up and started to plot our way around the Italian Region of Puglia one of the least visited by tourists and most traditional areas of the country.  We have travelled to Italy several times but mostly to the north and certainly never to this part of the boot.

It was an early evening flight to Palese Airport in Bari so as we weren’t arriving until quite late there was no real option but to stay close by in the city.  Ordinarily this wouldn’t have been an issue but some of the guidebooks are rather quite unkind about Bari with some less than flattering reviews. 

I was also put off by fellow Blogger Richard Field who had this to say:  

“But first things first, Bari. Guidebooks describe it as the kind of place you might not want to hang around in – and they’re probably right. To be fair, we only had four hours there, it was raining and we were tired, but it looked the kind of place even the staunchest Italophile would struggle to say anything positive about.

So taking all of this into consideration at the planning stage we didn’t consider staying for more than one night and planned an early departure the next day.

After passing through immigration control the first issue was how to get into the city because being a natural travel skinflint I really didn’t want a taxi which I had read can cost up to €50 for the fifteen kilometre ride!  My alternative idea was to try and find a bus but was then delighted to find directions to a railway station and I was surprised by this because my research had suggested that there was no rail link to the city centre.

Bari Airport Railway Metro

It turned out that this railway line was only opened six weeks earlier on 1st August and was so new that there were still staff on hand to help people with the ticket purchase procedure at the automatic machines.  The journey took no longer than fifteen minutes and outside the station we emerged into the balmy night air of Bari and being fairly confident of the location of the hotel we strode past the taxi rank, ignoring the various offers of a lift and walked in the direction of the old town.

It was busy at the railway station but the hustle and bustle soon evaporated as we walked towards Corso Cavour into a common feature of railway stations – grime and general untidiness and the unfavourable city reviews started to come back to mind and the fact that not so long ago Bari was identified as the second most dangerous city in Italy, after Naples, for petty crime.  There were dark shadows in every doorway and down the narrow alleys that leaked away from the road and I imagined a cut throat or a brigand with a deadly stiletto lurking in each one.

Gradually the pavements became incrementally busier and it began to feel safer but after a while I became concerned that we had walked too far and missed the hotel and yes, as it turned out we had.  Directions from the locals and the shopkeepers were generally unhelpful and soon we arrived in the old town where at least there was a tourist information booth where staff knew exactly where the hotel was and sent us back down the road that we had just walked along and then with the mistake rectified we thankfully booked into the four star Hotel Oriente.

After settling down and making ourselves comfortable we walked back to the old town which we found to be unusually busy for a Tuesday night where the pavements were flowing with people like lava spilling from a volcano, the piazzas were packed, the pizzerias overflowing and the gelaterias noisy with babbling chatter.  Eventually we found a trattoria with a vacant table and enjoyed a first simple but excellent meal and then walked it off with a stroll around the moody streets of the old town lined with bars and restaurants and late night diners lingering over a final espresso.

In the main square there was a gelateria with an eye popping, mouth watering range of ice creams that we were unable to resist and with a cone stacked high with hazelnut, chocolate and pistachio we walked around the harbour area with moonbeams dancing on the water  and into what was obviously a fish market by day but late at night was a massive alfresco youth club with hundreds of noisy young people all of them at least forty years younger than the two of us. 

There was no one else of our generation here and I wondered if we would be there at all but no one seemed to mind the intrusion but, out of our comfort zone, with no one else remotely in our age group anywhere in sight and with the last of the ice cream leaking from the bottoms of the biscuit cones we left the busy harbour and returned to the hotel.

Actually, I was beginning to like Bari, I was challenging the guide book descriptions and Richard’s assessment and was already beginning to think about changing our plans and staying there a little longer than originally planned the next morning and then coming back this way later in the fortnight and I was certain that those unfavourable guide book descriptions need to be reviewed.