Saturday, September 22, 2007

Take a stroll from casa Aff'n'Chris

Casa Aff'n'Chris - our apartment is on the ground floor (the windows behind Aff are ours)

walking on our street, in the opposite direction to the last photo.

and so begins the descent (much better leaving home than coming back!)

still walking on our "street" (more like a stair case really), towards Via Garibaldi (at the bottom of the stairs)

and onto Via Garibaldi, and into Genova's "centro storico".

I never get sick of walking out our front door!

Labels: , ,

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Bravo Rabbitohs !

Don't ask me how they are going this season. All I know about the South Sydney Rabbitohs is that they play Rugby League, they come from South Sydney, and they are planning to remove all "Pokie" machines from their club rooms.

There are few things I hate more than Pokie machines. As Tim Costello explains, they exploit those who are most vulnerable in the community, to fill the wallets of the gaming industry. Sure, a lot of this money comes back to the public through taxes, but who wants to live in a society that exploits, and feeds off the misfortunes of their fellow citizens. In any case, it is public money that will inevitably be used to support those families who cannot afford to eat because of money lost on these machines.

Pokie machines have no place in a civilised society, and I hope the Rabbitoh's decision is the start of something bigger.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Notte Bianco - un'altra bella festa

The festivals just keep on coming, each relentlessly offering more opportunities to sample new food, drink more wine, and soak up more cultural experiences. Last Saturday Genova had it's night of nights, the "Notte Bianco" (white night). There is no deep historical story, patron saint, or crop harvesting that motivates the Notte Bianco, it's just a big street party - and big it was. At midnight, over 700,000 people were apparently packed into the streets of Genova. That, in itself is impressive enough, but it's even more impressive when you consider that Genova's population is only 600,000. Of course, mention this to a Roman, or a Milanese, and they will waste no time in telling you how small and pathetic this is in comparison with their own notti bianci. In any case, Genova's capacity was well and truly exceeded, to the point of rediculousness at times, so 700,000 pathetic attendees seemed like more than enough for me.

Aff and I met up with a few other friends from my work, and spent the night wandering the streets. Many of Genova's most significant piazzas played host to all kinds of entertainment, from medievil reenactments, to the all too familiar sounds of cheesy Italian pop (thank God Italy doesn't enter eurovision .. it just wouldn't be a fair contest). We watched fire works down at the port, danced in the streets, all the while keeping ourselves well and truly at cruising level with molta birre, e rum con red bull. The idea, after all, was to party all night.

One of the more interesting, and unique opportunities of the night, was the possibility of visiting one of Genova's main tourist attractions, The "Acquario di Genova" (the Aquarium). Open until 5.30am, and offering half price entry, and a free breakfast at the end of the night, this was very high on my priority list. Aff and I had not visited the Aquarium, much to the disgust of locals we dare admit this to (though we attempt to disperse this disapointment by explaining that we haven't even visited Melbourne's aquarium). As such, a half price, 5am visit to a major Genovese attraction seemed like a perfectly good idea. Leaving ourselves a questionable 45 minutes before official closing time, Aff and I said our "buona notte's" to our friends (who didn't seem to be as keen on a late night aquarium visit), and joined the back of a queue of around 20 or so others. The line was moving steadily, and all seemed perfectly in place for us to cap off a great night among the fish - that is, until 5am, when we had reached the front of the queue, only to watch the shutters of the ticket window close before us. And there we stood, along with our fellow queue dwellers, staring in bemusement at the closed window.

There are many things I admire about the "Italian way". None more so than there complete self assurity and belief that there is always a way to achieve something, despite all evidence to the contrary. Sure, the ticket window was closed, and there was not sign of an aquarium employee to be found, but this did not stop them (and by association, Aff and I) from walking from the ticket booth, to the stairs leading up to the aquarium. A security guard awaited us. It was pretty clear that the security guard was under strict instructions to not allow anyone in. It was equally clear that the security guard had no clout with the establishment, and was not going to be able to fight on our behalf. This, however, did not stop some of the more vocal Italians in our group (about 18 of the 20 of us) from explaining at length, and with full Italian hand gestures at work, what injustice this was to shut us all out. Interestingly, the security guard did seem to be quite happy to engage in the dialogue. Aff and I watched, waiting to see if we were about to witness some great insight into the way Italian society works. Would the people have there way ? Would we walk gloriously into the aquarium, see our fish, and devour our well deserved free breakfast ?

About 10 mninutes later, the police turned up, and we were asked to leave, and so we all did.

After a sneaky kebab from our favourite late night out kebab shop, and a 10 minute walk home, Aff and I were nicely tucked up in bed by 5:45am.

Un'altra bella festa in Italia!

Now for some photos. You may get a sense that the evening had two distinct phases...

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Swiss Alps I - Aletsch Glacier and Bettmeralp

Labels: ,

Mia Genova

Cost of ticket on Funicula to top of surrounding hills: $1.20 (euro)

Cost of picnic lunch: $10.25 (euro)

Finding a quiet place to eat lunch while looking over Genova:

.... about $11.45 (euro) actually ..... but worth every cent.

(photo taken by Andrew Dankers)

Labels: ,

Monday, September 10, 2007

"Festival delle Sagre" in Asti

Italians do like a festival or two, and will seemingly organise one for just about any excuse under the sun. On Sunday, Aff and I decided to make the journey to Asti (pop 80,000, about 90 minutes train ride from Genova (on the way to Turin). We had originally planned to make the trip to Turin, but after reading that the second Sunday of September is Asti's day of days, The "Festa della Sagre" (basically means the festival of the town), we thought this might be worth a visit.

Asti didn't dissapoint!

Having just caught the 8am Intercity train from Genova, we managed to arrive just in time for the start of what must surely be the world's longest parade. Asti is a regional centre to a whole bunch of villages in the area, most of which have strong connections with the local wine industry (they mostly produce "Spumante", that sickly sweet sparkling wine so many of us became aquainted with early in our drinking careers), as well as corn growing (for polenta). As a result, most of the parade consisted of elaborate floats, paying tribute to the production, and consumption of food and wine (which I guess doesn't really distinguish it so much from other Italian festivals). There were other floats, dedicated to landmarks, and historical events from the region, but it didn't take long for another float to go past, depicting a bunch of old Italian blokes drinking vast amounts of vino rosso .... they played the part quite well ... if indeed they were playing the part at all.

After the parade, which took no less than 2.5 hours, including no less than 40 different represented regions, the real fun began in an adjacent car park lot, where around 40 food stalls lay waiting with many different local foods, and wines to taste. Without a moment to lose, thousands of Italians, and two not so well informed Australians, made their way on mass to the food. This event really did sum up everything I love, and hate, about life in Italy. The food on offer was amazing, and the prices next to nothing. The wine also it's usual high standard, and was virtually free once you purchased your 50c glass. Italians know, probably better than most, how to put on a town festival. These festivals seem to embody the pride of the region, particularly with respect to their food and produce. Nothing is expensive, and everything is top notch. On the downside, at least for us Australians used to a little more space, and order, is the enormity of the crowds, and the crushing "queues" one must endure to obtain the popular dishes. "Festival queueing" in Italy is an art form in itself, and requires a special kind of assertiveness, tolerance and endurance ... and that's just to get your food and wine tickets, then you have to line up seperately for each item you wish to take. Of course, none of this is helped by the constant defending of your place, and the hot north Italian sun baking the bituman surface below. To be fair, things did get consderably easier as the day went on, and the length of the queues lessened. Aff and I managed to visit a number of stalls, and sample a reasonable amount of the local wine (well, perhaps I sampled a little more than Aff did ). Like I said, they virtually give their wine away at these festivals. I can't imagine what kind of a mess such an event would end up being in Australia ... the Italians, to their credit, generally keep their consumption of alcohol to moderate amounts, which allows events like this to remain enjoyable for all.

Now for some photos. First, the parade, for which I unfortunately cannot add much of an explanation. There was an announcer, but my Italian wasn't quite up to understanding what the hell these floats were all about.

Yes, it's a cow!

Now for the food....

yes .... it's a little fried fish
(I thought they were chips)

yes .... the wine was plentiful!

yes ... that's a dog at the dinner table.

and yes ... I may have had a few.

It was a great day!

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Parisian girl

Labels: ,

An eye-full of Eiffel

Labels: ,