Sunday, October 28, 2012

Civitavecchia, October 15, 2012

Civitavecchia – October 15, 2012

The end of the Black Sea Cruise and transition day to the Mediterranean Cruise.  The Black Sea Cruise was very good; the Black Sea countries were very interesting.  Bulgaria is in the European Union, and their economy is far, far better than the economies of Romania and Ukraine.  Bulgaria is not in the greatest shape economically, but Romania and Ukraine are far, far behind.  Those countries are really struggling right now.  Under communism, everyone had a job, a small apartment, health care coverage, and a pension.  Now they have none of those things.  There are far too few jobs, far too few apartments, no health care coverage, and no pensions for old people, who are left to be supported by their children, and many of them are left begging on the street.  It is very sad that the people in those countries have lost so much in the transition.  Even in Bulgaria, people no longer have health care coverage or pensions, and the new apartment buildings are far worse than even the poor “communist apartment buildings”; in the recent earthquake, the old communist buildings were fine, but the new buildings suffered a lot of damage.   It seems that the government no longer has building codes to ensure building standards.  It was very interesting to visit these countries to see what it is like there now.

Athens and Istanbul are two of my favorite places in the world.  The narrow streets of Istanbul are a beehive of activity – so many people on the narrow streets that it is hard to take photos.  Athens is modern, but still interesting; Istanbul is modern in places, but in the old town, it is ancient, exotic and wonderful.  Santorini is a beautiful, picturesque place, and it has almost as many cruise ships as St. Thomas.  Santorini is an island of photos, all waiting to be snapped.   

The last port of the cruise was Naples.  The ship was supposed to dock in Sorrento, but the weather was stormy, and the ship was diverted to Naples instead.  That change was great for me; I love Naples.  In the morning, I went to Pompeii; I had not been there before, and I found it very interesting.  Pompeii was a city of 20,000 people in 79 A.D. when it was buried by the volcano.  In the afternoon, I went for a walk in the old part of the city of Naples.  For lunch, I wanted to find a sidewalk restaurant and have Naples pizza, the best in the world.  It was Sunday, and everyone in Naples seemed to be out for a walk; the pedestrian streets in the old city were filled with people enjoying a sunny Sunday stroll.  It was wonderful to sit in a sidewalk café, eat Naples pizza and watch the people go by.  After lunch, I walked for hours on the narrow streets of old Naples – narrow streets with high- rise apartment buildings on both sides of the street, forming a canyon so dark in shadows that photos are difficult, streets so narrow that apartment balconies on opposite sides of the streets seem almost to touch, and almost every balcony with laundry hanging out to dry. 

Civitavecchia, the port for Rome, was the last day of the Black Sea Cruise, and the first day of the Mediterranean Cruise.  Almost all the passengers from the Black Sea Cruise departed in the morning, and new passengers came aboard in the afternoon.  Friends on the first cruise left, and new people arrived in the afternoon.  I will miss friends from the Black Sea Cruise, and I am unlikely to meet others I will enjoy as much.  Still, I will go to new places, and I will enjoy those new places. 
The first port on the Mediterranean Cruise was supposed to be Portofino, a beautiful village that I have previously visited.  However, the weather has been stormy for the past two days, and continues to be stormy, so the captain announced that the ship will not stop in Portofino, but will be diverted to Genoa.  The weather has been so bad, and the ship has been rocking so much that many passengers are sea-sick, so much so that two people got sick just before the entertainment began in the Cabaret Lounge.  I had planned to take the ship tour to the Cinque Terra, where I have wanted to visit for a long time; however, the best way to see the small villages of the Cinque Terre is from a sightseeing boat or ferryboat, and rough seas prevent visiting by boat.  Instead, the tour will be by bus and train to two of the five villages. 

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