Road – by Karen

28 May

Goodness me. I was totally in awe of Justyna’s road post, and in between thoughts of how insane she was, I started scanning my memories, wondering if I’ve ever been on any dangerous road trips. Then I dug up my old travel journal, which lurks in the bowels of my computer, too cringeworthy to read, too singular to delete. It recounts tales from my backpacking moment in my early twenties, and mostly features paragraphs like this:

“This morning I got a cappuccino and biscotti for breakfast and went to check out the main drag of Salerno. I made my way down to a sunny park by the water, and was seated there happily until some middle-aged man decided it would make excellent conversation to pinch my cheek repeatedly while beaming and crying ‘molto simpatico!’ or similar.”

In between tales of encounters with affectionate middle-aged men, there are gushing descriptions of scenery that are CHILLINGLY similar to those travel emails our parents’ generation have started sending.

But there is also a veiled reference to what is in fact the most dangerous road trip I ever took. While I was sitting in Siena, bemoaning the endless galleries of gold leaf and crushed lapis to my journal and praising the ordinary sunshine like the Philistine that I am, I was approached my a rotund, balding, middle aged man. For whatever reason, I accepted his invitation to go to a nearby wine cellar and try some Tuscan wine. The wine cellar was a beautiful and historic (and public) one, so no nasty surprises. He professed to be a chef at a local restaurant who just loved hanging out and meeting international visitors.

When he heard that I was travelling on to Rome the next day without seeing more of Tuscany, he was horrified, and offered to take me on a tour of the surrounding villages. Purely because I was too broke to afford to see them any other way, I merrily agreed.

The villages looked like this:


We had an aperitif and a snack in one of them, and drove around the hillsides at dusk. My diary includes a painful description of the hills’ “improbably mathematical regularity”. We then returned to Siena, to his HOUSE, still unaccompanied, where the poor fellow cooked me dinner from delightful fresh ingredients. His story of being a chef did seem to check out.

Then he offered me a reiki massage, at which he said he was also very proficient. I declined, and was driven home.

That is all that happened on my most dangerous road trip ever. I conclude that I don’t really deserve to be alive, so anything that happens from now on is pretty much a bonus.


10 Responses to “Road – by Karen”

  1. Tabitha May 28, 2012 at 7:14 am #

    SOLID GOLD IN EVERY WAY. “This morning I got a cappuccino and biscotti for breakfast” – this could be the title of a stage show in which people read excruciatingly embarrassing extracts from their youthful travel journals.

    In said travel journal, do you make mention of the fact that you cheated certain death? Or do you nonchalantly chalk it up as just a normal experience for a carefree wanderer of the world such as yourself? Also: how is your travel journal on your computer? Did you use to type it up in internet cafes?

    My abiding memory of travelling alone in France is also of being harassed by middle-aged men when just trying to sit on a park bench (to write in my travel journal). Never took any of them up on their offers though. BECAUSE WHY WOULD YOU.

    • Karen May 28, 2012 at 10:18 am #

      In the diary I mention it in passing to make clear my carefree wandering ways, but not with enough detail to make clear my idiocy. It’s on my computer because I (wait for it) typed it up later. So I would always have it. Forever.

      • Tabitha May 28, 2012 at 11:01 am #

        Typed it up. Sigh. So early 2000s.

  2. Beth May 28, 2012 at 10:49 am #

    Solid, solid gold.

    I was once propositioned by a foot fetishist, with glasses held together with tape, at a ferry terminal in New Orleans. He managed to feel up my gross sweaty socked foot and told me that he knew what organs all the parts of the foot represented, naming them creepily, as he massaged it. How he got to be holding my gross sweaty socked foot is due to my own naive idiocy. Karen, I mentally high five you.

    • Karen May 28, 2012 at 11:00 am #

      Love it Beth! Especially that you kept the sock on.

      • Michal June 3, 2012 at 11:23 am #

        This post made me chuckle hard. Loved it!! And made me think of my travel time alone, when got dumped by ex, who left me in Greece. That was good.

        I would hitchhike and have my pocket knife in my pocket. Just in case. Um, that is idiotic.

        The men in Greece were usually gross. I got propositioned on a beach once. But usually they would just flash their penises at me from various bushes. Beth, your sock man wins though.

      • Karen June 5, 2012 at 3:49 am #

        Is this comment really Michal :-)?

  3. mischb June 4, 2012 at 3:26 am #

    great post, karen! i’ve been on a few similar ‘back of the motorbike’ adventures!

    in retrospect i have put myself in so many silly (dangerous) situations. i’ve also hitched a lift in greece only to find myself sitting next to a few shotguns; gone hiking in the tasmanian wilderness for 3 days with a german i had only just met on the bus; been followed down back streets in southern spain; been chased by vicious dogs on a solo hike in greece (that was the scariest of all!). and had lots of similar park bench experiences and penis-flashing, public masturbation and inappropriate massage incidents. from your accounts, it seems these low level indecent assaults are scarily common.

    hiking with the german stranger didn’t even occur to me as being dangerous until i got back and told a friend and she said “oh my god, he could have been an axe murderer!”.

    i don’t think i’ve learnt much about self-protection from all this though. i’d probably still do the same thing. i do think i’m pretty good at sensing when i’m in danger and getting out of there though.

    fortunately (or unfortunately) i’ve never kept a travel journal. i’ve tried, but it always made me cringe even as i was writing it. my future oh-so-mature self judging my naive present self?

    • mischb June 4, 2012 at 3:36 am #

      but justyna’s experience would scare the shit out of me! if it’s interpersonal danger you’re proposing, i’m your gal, but put me at risk of plummeting hundreds of metres to my death and you’ll find me well behind the safety fence.

    • Karen June 5, 2012 at 3:47 am #

      The vicious dogs sound pretty horrible to me! Humans somehow seem more handleable 😉

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