Sunday, August 30, 2009

Nikkumo Nikkadho

It is a good idea to go to South Italy in the summer and why?
- the long days (its sunny atleast until 9pm) give you a lot of time to go around and enjoy the tourist spots
- Italy is the one place where you can always find tasty vegetarian food (mind you, classy hotels and restaurants will not offer pizza, since it is considered a laborer’s meal) and you can sit outside in the good weather to enjoy it

It is a bad idea to go to South Italy in the summer and why?
- everyone knows why it is a good idea (:D) and the reasons listed above, so the place is swarming with tourists ! To give you a perspective, there is atleast an hour and a half of waiting time to even get into the colosseum in Rome
- it is hot, hot, hot and you sweat like a pig. You might think that this will not be a problem for someone from Singara Chennai but there is something about the sun in Europe that I don't get (or get along with!), 35 deg C in Munich is intolerable while I have roamed the whole day in the Pondy bazaar area at the same temperature without even feeling it !

Since we are eternal optimists, we chose to go to South Italy, to Pisa. Since the numerous websites all caution you to rush to the Piazza dei Miracoli to buy your tickets to get to the top of the leaning tower since no. of visitors per day are restricted (what's with all these places ? they have a similar rule for the statue of liberty and thats even more annoying since you spend a considerable amount of time waiting for the ferry to take you to the statue !), thats exactly what we did. Thankfully there is a time slot given in the ticket, so we chose to look at the Cathedral, Baptistery and the churchyard. The beautiful roof of the cathedral, the sound acoustic design of the Baptistery (people working there make sounds to prove this to you !) and the arcades on either side of the churchyard pushed the video and picture capabilites of my camera to the hilt !

By this time, we were totally dehydrated under the scorching sun and decided to take a bite before climbing nearly 300 steps to the top of the tower. Unfortunately we had to eat in the vicinity and prices were exhorbitant - something you cannot really worry about when dying of thirst ! After boosting our energy levels, we were just on time for the tour after leaving our rucksacks in the cloak room.

The climb started normally and as I was thinking about all the hype given in the website, I realized the passages were getting smaller and smaller. At one point, it became narrow enough to fit just one normal person (no place for obese people) and the steps were worn out and uneven and one had to balance using the walls. However when we got to the top, the views made us forget everything else...well...almost....its one thing to be standing on top of a tower and totally another thing to be standing on top of a ''leaning'' tower...there was always this eerie feeling in the pit of my stomach (had flashes of peeping from the mottamadi water tank as a 9 yr old kid, just to prove a point !). You get only a few minutes here since the next group is already waiting at the foot of the tower for you to make your descent. All along, there is still this thought in the background about the tower as an engineering marvel....you know the facts, the figures and the fact the tower is leaning more and more every year and you still cant help wondering about it.....will it still be tourist-friendly when my son or daughter get there with his/her spouse ?! Time has the answer !

The first few minutes of the descent would have been a little uncomfortable had I not been forced to help a 12 yr old who burst out crying and as I was leading her down I had to keep showing off my bravado to let her know that its really easy, once we got down I was really thankful to my comfortable clothes and good shoes !

We then went to the hotel for a quick siesta and I was so thankful that the hotel had AC (many hotels in Europe don't). Its amazing what a couple of hours of sleep can do to your energy levels. We woke up refreshed and the coffee completed the cure.

We then took a bus tour and saw everything else Pisa had to offer. Like every other European city, there was a river with a bridge across it, a square in the city centre and above all, excellent camping grounds.

If you live in Europe, Pisa is a good weekend get away and if you are coming to Italy from elsewhere Pisa should not occupy more than a day of your agenda.
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