Moving On

Tuesday, May 06, 2014 Road Junkies 0 Comments

Day 15:  Marrakesh, Morocco to Tremezzo, Italy
After a very difficult Monday night in which Ken was again besieged by TD, we gleefully checked out of our Marrakesh hotel and went outside the entrance to catch a taxi to the airport.  After a full-blown argument that almost erupted into a fist fight between two cabbies, we chose a third and made it to the airport in time to join the line for EasyJet bag check.  Even though we were not checking any bags, we were in need of a stamp from the airline on our boarding passes before we would be allowed to enter security screening.

When we exited our taxi, I was given Ken's 44-liter backpack and my 32-liter was handed to him.  As a result, the EasyJet ticket agent decided she needed to check my backpack because it was too large.  A bit of pleading later, she passed us through so we could enter the next line—security screening.  There was no guidance regarding what was required, so we followed the typical TSA regimen of removing belts and shoes, pulling out laptops and liquids.  It turned out none of that was necessary.  All passengers were separated by gender into two lines for screening.  Our bags were given a cursory examination while the agent manning the x-ray machine socialized with colleagues.  After the metal detector, however, we both were frisked by gender-appropriate agents, as were all passengers.  Two lines down, only two to go.

Next line up was passport control, another lengthy procedure involving submitting our embarkation document and passport for examination by government officials.  Finally we were released to the departure gates.  By the time we reached the gate area, we had 50 minutes to spare before departure, so we popped into a local snack bar to buy a couple bottles of water.  As we exited, we noticed that passengers at our gate were being checked in for boarding.  When we dutifully passed through the Speedy Boarding line, we followed the leader down a set of stairs to wait in yet another line for the signal to pass through to the tarmac to actually board.

It will come as no surprise that we have sworn off tap water for the remainder of this trip.  Despite all our efforts at caution in Morocco, we are convinced it was the tap water that did Ken in, not from drinking it, but from its use in washing fruits and vegetables, which were then not heated to the point that local bacteria were eradicated.  While he ate lunch in Marrakesh yesterday, I decided to fast until we reached Italy.  Interestingly, the meals which we believe put Ken under didn't come from some street vendor.  They were both eaten at restaurants in reputable international hotels, proving once again that no hotel is better than its local employees.  We're pretty sad about our experience in Morocco because we really wanted to enjoy our first foray into Africa.  We will just have to try again at another time.

The 3.5 hour flight to Milan was blessedly uneventful, so we both caught up on a bit of sleep missed last night.  Upon arrival, we had three burning priorities:  getting cash, obtaining food, and picking up our rental car.  The first ATM machine we visited at the airport was owned by a bank that has a reciprocal arrangement with our U.S. bank and charges no fees.  Much to our surprise, the bancomat accepted our ATM card, asked how many Euros we wanted, and promptly dispensed them with no fuss.  
Hooray!  Life was back to normal, as we have previously experienced it, though we have no illusions that we won't again encounter bankomats that demand a card with a security chip.  Money in hand, food was easy, and Hertz had our car ready and waiting.  "We upgraded you at no charge," the agent brightly reported.  Not only was our Volvo V60 larger than expected, it also came with an onboard navigation system, a definite plus once we figured out how to change the language from Polish to English.

Our first reaction to the bigger car was gratitude.  Larger and heavier vehicles are safer, right?  In the U.S., probably; in Italy, doubtful.  Things were fine as we drove out of Milan on the Autostrada A8, the world's first dual highway, which opened in 1924.  From A8, we exited onto another historic motorway, the A9, into the Lake Como area.  From these divided highways, as we entered the world of Italian secondary roads, we were reminded that in Italy, smaller is often better when it comes to car size.  On these roads which vary from two full lanes to barely one, a car better than six feet wide and more than 15 feet long is definitely not an asset.

Not meant for large cars
In so many Italian villages and towns, as in other parts of Europe, the buildings preceded the roads.  When the traditional pathways were later paved for automobiles, their width was constricted by the presence of existing buildings.  Even when secondary "highways" run through towns, their width often narrows down to barely one lane.  Local drivers, of course, find this perfectly normal and follow a system of stopping and waiting when an oncoming vehicle is too wide to share the section of road ahead.

Only inches to spare
Watching two large buses meet on these narrow lanes, where cars are often parked at the edge of the roadside can be quite entertaining.  Fortunately, Ken is a very competent and confident driver and handles these challenges in a manual transmission car with great aplomb.

Finally we reached our hotel in Tremezzo on the shores of Lake Como, a lake of glacial origin near the Italian Alps.  The lake has been a popular retreat since Roman times and is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful lakes in Europe.

Regular ferry service runs between villages around the lake
We're hoping this is where Ken will reach good health again before we head further east toward eastern Europe on Thursday.

Big bus, small lane
Tremezzo village