Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Days 1-2

I apologize for my delay in posting the next chapter of my trip; the journey to Murlo. It took us about 21 hours of traveling time from when we left Detroit to the time it took us to reach where the actual dig will be taking place. I would also like to apologize on any grammatical and spelling errors you may come across in any of my posts as spell check is not an option on this tablet. I am also still attempting to figure out how to upload photographs to the tablet from my SD card, once I have that sorted, expect more of those and less writing. I continue to use the term 'we" vaguely, let me begin by explaining who "we" pertains to. There is another girl (Katie) from Grand Valley that accompanied me in my travels participating in the program (beginning in Detroit) and a boy (Anthony) whom attends the host school through which this program was made possible. Our flight wasn't bad; smoothing sailing, terrible food, no sleep, and arrived in Rome earlier than scheduled. Katie and I waited once our flight arrived for Anthony. Upon our first arrival, we were shocked that we didn't have to go through customs. We went to a local coffee shop in the Roman airport....amazing and cheap espresso, can't complain about that. I was surprised though that signs were in English and charging stations for your phone were located almost everywhere. We felt almost out of place in our t-shirts and shorts because almost no one had them on themselves-people in dresses, suits, skirts, pants, etc. It was pretty apparent who the Americans were. The locks for the bathroom were slightly hard to figure out...not sure if I actually locked the door or not. While we were waiting for Anthony though, it was shocking to see two girls from Grand Valley, whom I recognized fom the Classics Department, walking through.

Everyone always says to not have expectations when you're in Italy as to how things will go. I'm beginning to see that. Having met up with Katie, we had a game plan: from the airport we were supposed to take the Termini train to downtown Rome for 14 euros, from there, take a train to Sienna (with a train exchange at Chiusi) for 20 euros, then a bus at 6:15 bus from Sienna to Vescovado di Murlo. What actually happened......   We arrived at the downtown station after the first train ride, purcahased our tickets and had about 2 hours till the departure of the next train, which was fine. We relaxed a bit and 30 minutes before our next train decided it was time to search it out...we didn't realize how large of a train station it was. It was here that I have paid to use the restroom for the very first time. It was only 1 euro, but the machine does not offer change. Thankfully we had change from our earlier espresso. *Mental note: always carry a few euros when traveling to larger cities in case you need to use the restroom* The gates are similar to a toll bridge-no way of getting through. And for exiting? Look for the red button located at about waist level. There were 12 trains and lines in all, chaos everywhere - people everywhere and trains everywhere. All signs identifying where each train was headed was down and so this is where we hit a bit of a temporary crossroad in our journey.  Information on the tickets don't match up in accordance with that on the large overview sign that listed all the upcoming departures and arrivals of trains. We asked around, and though language barriers were partly a problem (thankfully we had Anthony as he studied Italian for 5 years and was capable of communicating with the fellow commuters), no one really seemed to have an answer. A young man then approached us and took us to what was "our train", just as we arrived to the "right platform", he demanded for a tip. We expected maybe a euro or two, but another young man joined him and the two demanded 30 euros -15 each. We refused having realized we had been schemed. They stormed away and we began to question as to if we had been taken to the right place, or a random train so they could get the money, and so we left. We ran into another set of police and asked, they couldn't tell us which train, but they mentioned to look for a train headed Northbound seeing as the train we were supposed to be on left at 14:58 and we had probably already missed it (It was 15:00) *Mental note: trains are AlMOST ALWAYS on time with the schedule*. We found one headed towards Florence and headed towards that platform. Again, uncertain, we asked another man in a uniform and he pointed to what we believed to be the train behind us. He said that as we missed the train to Sienna, we would have to travel instead from downtown Rome to Ancho, Ancho to Orte, Orte to Chiusi, Chiusi to Sienna, then bus to Murlo. As we began to hop on, a woman offered help with getting our luggage onto the train, helped us validate this ticket *note: always validate your ticket for risk of being fined anywhere from 50-200 euros (or so we were forewarned, it didn't happen to us in particular)*, and then to our seats. She then insisted on being paid for her "help" even though we told her no thank you and she "offered". *Mental note: don't accept help from people who are not in uniform, especially when at a train station as large as the one in downtown Rome*. We now know our lesson.
Once on that train (leaving in 10 minutes), we began to realize that there were assigned seats, and seeing as our tickets (though it hadn't expired just yet and was good for 2 months) didn't have any seating specification to it. It was when we were kicked out of our seats that we began to second guess if we were on the right one. So we hopped off and ran into the officer that had helped us not 20 minutes prior. He corrected us and pointed to a train about 300 meters away that was leaving in about 5 minutes. We sprinted and made it. So the journey began. Our train hopping venture consisted of sprinting from one train to another, a few delays that left us wondering if we'd ever make it to the next one on time (many of them didn't have delays in between them that lasted more than 5 minutes), and we were seconds away from missing the one in Orte in particular (thankfully that one had had a 7 minute delay otherwise we would've had to wait another hour or so for the next). But as the man said, we traveled from Rome to Ancho, Ancho to Orte, Orte to Chiusi, Chiusi to Sienna, Sienna to Vescovado di Murlo. While in Chiusi we ran into some Americans who were off to the site as well to visit one of their friends that was a returning excavator and so our last little bit of travel was accompanied by the two recent grads. We arrived in Sienna around 8 and having missed the last bus, the 5 of us split a cab to Murlo *Mental note: AVOID CABS-they re pricy unless split by at least 3-5 people*. Least to say we were more than happy to arrive and a glass of wine was well needed. We hadn't eaten during the entire journey to Murlo and food was the only thing in mind. It's a small town (apr. 900) and we are only in a suburb of the town. We met a few of the other team members which was a blast! I hadn't had that much fun in a long time! Everyone seems great, it's a rather nonchalant atmosphere; I can't wait for the rest of the 6 weeks! At least by now, we can say that any issues one may have with public transport, we have already encountered and they hopefully won't be an issue in the future.

This takes us to best bet that after having been up for over 50 hours straight and traveling for 21 hours straight, we slept in. And by "slept in", I mean that we were up at 9:30am due to all the noise and commotion outside. We ate some fruit and bread from a local mini mart around the corner. About 4 of us left for a hike in search of some castle ruins I had discovered online to be in the area (roughly 15 minutes away it stated). It ended up being about a 5 mile hike there and back (15 minutes...HA! Try 2 hours). I couldn't have asked for a better way to spend my day though. The views were absolutely amazing, I will post the photographs when I figure things out. We accidentally walked into a private vineyard, walked up a wrong trail that we believed would take us up to the ruins (we could see them at this point, but wasn't sure how to get to them), only for us to realize we had hiked all the way up the wrong hill (whoops aha) because it seemed the right route at the time from our perspective. We were beginning to think there was no way to the ruins, told ourselves we'd round the last corner, and then head back. Good thing we did, just around that last corner was the entrance trail to the ruins (Entitled Crevole Castle). Oddly enough, there was a sign for apartments at the top of the hill. We hiked up to get a closer view of the ruins, which were unfornately sealed off, but we stumbled across a tiny little village of villas with the most wonderful view. We returned and later took a little stroll through town and visited the main section of Murlo. It's nice being around authentic Italy as opposed to the touristy areas. It contributes more to your appreciation of the country and the history of it all. Words can't describe this town. Small, but beautiful (again, the view <3). We were given a tour of the town by one of the returning crew members (given a recommendation for a good local restaurant). There is a grave yard we had a glimpse of seeing from the outside gates that we will be visiting tonight, as I hear the lighting and care for the graveyard is most appreciated at night time.  Tomorrow the excavation work begins and many of us have plans afterwards to visit more ruins in Rada (about 7 KM from our house) and hopefully soon I will be viewing the Murlo museum (containing artifacts from all previous Poggio Civitate digs). It will most definitely be a busy next 6 weeks at the rate we are making plans of things we wish to see and do and because walking is all we really have to et everywhere local, quite the workout as well!

Stay tuned for more and hopefully my next post you will begin to see more actual photographs than writing.

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