Sunday, August 16, 2009


Monday, August 16th, 2004 Cremona, Italy

Must be a travel day; Jim was awake at dawn and by 7:30 am we’d paid the hotel bill and walked down the block to a Bar for coffee and a roll. Our first train didn’t leave the station until 8:35 am; we’d chosen that train because it loaded on track #1 and was going in the right direction. The train was in the station early so we loaded everything on and had to wait about half an hour for the start of the trip.

Heading west toward Milan we enjoyed a morning of farmland. Noticed that the vineyards are different here from France; in France they are only about four feet tall and here they are at least six foot plus. Took a little over an hour to get to Bologna and we were faced with a change of trains. Down and then back up the transfer tunnel; don’t know what the handicapped do as there were no hidden elevators; we looked. Got to the right track and when the train pulled in we headed for our car. It was so packed and running late that we decided to get on the next car (first class we found out) and then transfer into our coach. We did have seat reservations on this portion of the trip. But, after getting aboard we discovered the car we needed to go into was so packed that there was no way we could get to our reserved seats. Intercity trains like this one don’t require seat reservations so you have a lot of people standing and sitting in the aisles on the second-class trains. Regional trains don’t have any seat reservations and when on the Eurostar both first and second-class require seat reservations. Positioned our large suitcases against the wall and settled in for the hour ride to the next station, sitting on top of our luggage.

Actually other than having to help people open and close the door between the cars it was cool in the vestibule, we had easy access to a bathroom and we could be the first one off the train when we arrived at our next station. We only had a few minutes to make the next connection. Small station and the conductor actually came to help me with my luggage; yes we had to go down and back up again! One more station and we had a bit more time to make this connection but it did involve another down and up tunnel. Why you may ask were there so many different trains? Our goal today was Cremona, a town located in the middle of Italy, south of Milan; no direct train connections. This town’s claim to fame is the Stradivarius Museum; this was the home of the creator of the famous violins. Since we were near the area, we thought we’d take the opportunity to visit. Good sized town just not well connected by train.

Arrived in Cremona and didn’t have to go through a tunnel to get into the station. Jim took the hotel information and went to look for a taxi. No cabs but a bus driver felt sorry for us and took us to the hotel in the center of town. He wouldn’t take any money for the bus trip! He only had one other passenger, it was siesta time and everything, and I mean everything was closed including the shop where we needed to purchase our bus tickets! Neither of them spoke English but they thought it was great that they had passengers from California with them on the bus. Our weather has been great, not too hot but sunshine. Weather reports look good for the rest of our trip.

Being Monday we weren’t sure about the Museum being open and after our arrival we found out that it is closed today. But the home and workshop are located here and are open today and that’s what Jim really wanted to see. We’ve seen Stradivarius Violins before. Jim is off to see those and other sights while I enjoy the peace and quiet of my room. I went downstairs to use the Internet Point machine in the lobby; opps….not working I found out. But, the manager allowed me to use her computer to check emails. This was how we found out news from friends about Hurricane Charlie’s path in Florida. We’d not heard anything about it going over Orlando. So glad that one of our neighbors sent an email that everyone was ok. Do hope that their damage is not too bad. I also received an email from other friends in Florida that they were close but doing ok. It is so sad to hear of the damages and deaths in Florida from this terrible storm.

Looks like I may be sending this from home on Thursday unless I can get online in London. But will just keep typing until I’m able to send.

Note on expenses for those that travel; I averaged the cost of the car for thirty-seven days and it came out to about eighty euros per day. That included rental, gas, toll roads and parking fees. Second class on the train is working out to be about forty euros per day for eighteen days. That includes Eurorail pass, seat reservations, taxicabs and additional trains and buses to get around in the towns. But, as Jim would point out, that doesn’t put a price on the waiting for trains and struggling with luggage. Personally, second class has been a fun (for me only) experience but I would definitely go first class the next time. Also, fewer and smaller pieces of luggage are a must when traveling by train.

Jim returned and said I HAD to go see the Duomo (Cathedral)! So off we went to the center of the old town; this is actually quite a large city. The Duomo is one of the largest we’ve seen; comparable to St. Mark’s in Venice in size. Has one of the highest bell towers that we’ve ever seen. Also has a separate Baptistery; the whole layout of the buildings reminded me of Pisa except nothing was leaning! Built in the twelfth century, it is a combination of marble and brick construction. The interior was completed probably in the sixteenth century. Jim felt that the fresco paintings inside were influenced by the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican; a combination of fresco painting and oil paintings. As the Eye Witness said; it is the reason that tourists visit Cremona in addition to the violins.

On Jim’s exploration trip he had obtained a list of violinmakers and was amazed to find that there were a hundred or more carrying on the tradition of Stradivarius; creating violins for orchestras of the world. He visited many of their workshops where they had glass windows so you could watch the workers and also see the wood aging, some of it hundreds of years old. Many of these workshops were also closed for the traditional August vacation.

On the way back to the hotel we again noticed how quiet everything is; streets are empty except for bicycle riders. I have figured out that the cities in Italy that have level terrain use bicycles for basic transportation and the ones with hills such as Rome and Sorrento use motor bikes and/or scooters. All of this because of the cost of gasoline, when they do drive, the cars are all small in size. Rarely see an SUV type vehicle; and even those seem smaller than we have in California. About seventy-five percent of the businesses have signs on their doors that they are closed for vacation from August 1st to August 22nd; seems to be the magic date for return. Even the real estate offices and news racks! They literally shut down for about two weeks in August! Amazing!

We enjoyed a wonderful dinner in the hotel dining room; also recommended by Eye Witness travel guide book.

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