"To finish the moment, to find the journey’s end in every step of the road, to live the greatest number of good hours, is wisdom....Since our office is with moments, let us husband them."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sunday, November 04, 2007

A City on a Hill

Genoa was exactly what I wanted. Exactly. A gorgeous Italian city on the Mediterranean with great weather. For example, what kind of flora first greeted me outside the train station? A palm tree, of course:

This city is famous for a few separate things. First, pesto and ravioli were invented here. Second, this is Christopher Columbus’ hometown. Third, it has a quite extensive medieval quarter. Fourth, it boasts the second largest aquarium in Europe. But that’s it. This is not your typical tourist destination, especially in comparison to other Italian cities. The amount of sights was perfect for my 1.5 days that I spent there.

My second impression of the city – my first was based on the palm tree sighting – was that I felt like I was backpacking as I rode the bus to the hostel for the first night. Never before in my life had I seen so many switchbacks on a road. That’s pretty much all we took the entire way up. What it does create is this very interesting cityscape as the building right next to the one you are in is only 5 feet away, but its also 10 feet lower. This pattern continues all the way to the water’s edge. Supposedly, this is similar to how San Francisco is constructed. I’ve never been to California, so I have no idea.

The first morning Liza and I walked down into town, which was awesome. We went down these narrow alleys and lanes, and numerous staircases, amongst all the houses that line the hill. It gave a really interesting perspective of the city itself. Eventually, we made our way down to the more touristy areas with the old buildings and churches, along with the famous Italian piazzas. We walked around for quite a while until we made our way to the aforementioned aquarium. Of course we went in. It was pretty fun, and of course, to demonstrate that there are connections to other people throughout the world at all times, one of the exhibits was on the biodiversity of Madagascar, which is where one of Liza and my mutual friends is studying. We then ate lunch on a bench near the water and enjoyed the warming effects of the sun’s rays – I had not seen the sun for about a week previously. We then continued to walk around the historic center, where we found an internet cafĂ© where Liza excitedly learned that the Red Sox swept the Rockies to win the World Series. I guess if the Indians had to lose to someone in the playoffs its good that it was the eventual league champions. Another interesting find during our walking was Genoa’s “red light” street. Walking down one narrow alley we intersected another one that was completely lined with prostitutes, and this was at two in the afternoon no less! A more important and useful find was a gelato shop, where I had amazing raspberry gelato. Oh, do the Italians know how to do food. All this walking also led me to another impression of Genoa. If Copenhagen is known for everyone riding bikes – and rightfully so – then Genoa needs to be known for everyone riding scooters. Take a look:

The other interesting tidbit regarding Genoa that came about was the hostel where I was staying. First, it is the only hostel in the city so there are not a lot of options for those travelling on a budget. Still, I was shocked by the clientele making use of the accommodations. There were only a handful of students like me. Otherwise, you hadyoung families, old families, old couples, young couples, and older travelers going along. I have never seen such a hodgepodge of characters at a hostel. Normally, fine accommodations such as these are reserved only for students like me – on a very tight budget.

Just because we were staying somewhere cheap doesn’t mean that our dining followed the same pattern – it tended to be cheap, but very good. For example, that night Liza and I ate at a self-service place off of the main shopping street in Genoa. Imagine a high scale cafeteria. For 13 euro I was able to get a 2-course dinner, salad, fruit salad, and bread, and this was a high quality meal no less. Liza and I were both proud of our find, even if it was recommended to us by a website. We finished dinner around 9pm and when we left we were absolutely shocked to find the streets of Genoa deserted and all the stores closed. Apparently, Genoa isn’t much of a party city. That night another trend continued as I was greeted by fireworks from the harbor as I was getting ready for bed. I never figured out exactly why there were fireworks, but it was an impressive display, and very interesting to see from the perspective of being on top of the hill, which allowed me to look down upon them. This was the third time I had seen fireworks in the last 3 weeks, though. It will be interesting to see if that trend continues. In my room that night I also met a really interesting guy. His name was Guillermo, and he hailed form Le Mans, France. He was 7 months in to a 2-3 year trip biking around Europe. He was not using a motorbike, but rather the standard bicycle. So far he had gone through France, the entire coast of Spain and Portugal, back through France, and was just starting Italy. He hopes to continue along the Mediterranean until he works his way to Egypt and Turkey. There, he’ll make the executive decision about continuing on to Asia, which he wants to do if he has enough money, or to continue through Eastern Europe and eventually head back home. Not bad for 3 years of travel.

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