The second 12 days of our cruise began in Venice, where some passengers disembarked, new folk came on board; others like us, had opted for more. Newscasts had been airing pictures of flooded streets in Venice, but the temporary sidewalks that had carried pedestrians above record water levels were neatly stacked to one side by the time our ship arrived. We could walk on dry land, in sunshine, when not floating around on the waterways of that unique city.
After that, our first stop was Kotor in Montenegro. Here fog obliterated much of John’s “scenic” tour up into the mountains. His guide made the trip worthwhile with detailed descriptions and quips.
“Bus service is unpredictable here,” he stated as they passed locals waiting to be picked up. “Those people might have been standing there since yesterday!”
As their large, well-filled coach “bent itself” around tight curves and switchbacks, a passenger asked if this road was one-way. Assuring him that it was two-way, the guide suggested the questioner might like to return during the summer months when roads were hectic – but no straighter. On the topical topic of roundabouts, we saw them everywhere, our 60-passenger buses winding without difficulty around tiny circles, stone statues within. During this excursion John saw one where a wag had inserted a sign: “Limit of two circuits per vehicle!”
While John was on that bus, for some strange reason I had opted for a boat ride. Perfect reflections of the neat sandstone buildings beside the sound, mountains towering above, immediately made it worthwhile. Rain started pouring down while we were inside a pretty church on a man-made island in the inlet.
Approaching our next stop, Perast, our guide said: “We’ll visit the museum first, then you’ll have free time to come back here to the bar/café afterwards.”
It didn’t work out that way. Everyone quickly disappeared into the crowded warmth of that tiny, stone establishment. Eventually, after everyone had indulged in coffee (half a tiny cup), delicious hot chocolate, or alcoholic variations, the guide dragged us out of there to complete the “included” tour of the local museum.
In Sicily, I walked through the hillside town of Taormina along its cobbled streets. Mt. Etna disappeared in and out of the fog beyond. At the end of one road is the open-air Roman theatre still in use today. Sketches outside showed the seating plan which a passenger from the ship was studying closely. “It was constructed in the 1st or 2nd Century BC,” he told his wife.
“Oh, stop reading everything!” she scolded, dragging him away from this ancient but well-preserved site. (I did see her smile when we were on board ship – but only once.) On the bus ride back to the ship along a freeway that is level because it tunnels through hillsides, bridges every valley, and soars above sea-side townships, I grimaced when noticing a forlorn house almost beneath this hectic highway. However, the lady of the house was working industriously in her large, productive vegetable garden, suggesting she was proudly making the most of her surroundings that had first looked so bleak to me. Two totally different lives and approaches to life….