Swiss Alps, San Siro and Giovanni
15.11.2009 11 °C
I wake around 6.30 as I have to be at the station to catch my train at 9. My dad taught me very early on in life not to be late, so I have carried that mantra through my life. I don’t like being late for anything and would much rather get somewhere early and wait than be late.
I arrive at the station just before 8 after having my breakfast and heading into the main train terminal by the suburban network.
I board the train for Milan. The man at the booking office the day before was right. The train left promptly at 9.01. The day before when I was organising my ticket collection, I had said to the attendant that my train was at 9 oclock . He promptly told me 9.01. He was right. At 9.01 the Milan bound train pulled out of the station.
The next almost 4 hours was some of the most breathtaking scenery I had seen on my trip so far. The Swiss Alps were totally beautiful. I couldn’t get enough of them. The only downside was my seat was on the wrong side of the train for even more spectacular views. I can’t complain though the views I had were of scenery I am never likely to see again. It was the most enjoyable 4 hour train journey. Travelling all through Switzerland and northern Italy was beautiful.
I needed to go the toilet at one stage and decided to head in that direction. We had not long stopped at a station and some people got on and off. Some of the people who got on were Police. As I was walking through the train looking for a free toilet cubicle, I watched the police. They would stop and ask people if the luggage in the overhead locker was theirs. People would say yes or no depending on what was pointed at. As I got close to one toilet cubicle they knocked on the door of the cubicle. I correct myself, they didn’t knock, they used a metal device, similar in size to a key ring in the shape of a very small hammer, they pounded on the door and demanded it be open. The poor man inside the cubicle did as told and opened the door mid stream. I saw more that day than I planned. I was almost petrified to go into the cubicle myself for two reasons, I would hate to have to open the door midstream for the police and b) I have no idea where the man’s midstream peeing was interrupted and whether it all remained where it should have in the toilet bowl.
The police continued along the passage ways and the peeing man exited shaking his head at me. I took my chances and entered the cubicle wiping the seat down before i let nature take its course. I then sat there in a panic thinking, my luggage is unattended while I doing the toileting. I hope they don’t reach my seat before I get back as they might evict my luggage from the train. I get back and they haven’t yet arrived where my luggage is. They point to it and I acknowledge it is mine and they nod happily. Perhaps I don’t look like someone who would have something in their luggage that they didn’t seem suitable. No idea what it was they were looking for, but it seems my luggage wasn’t hiding it.
There was a younger guy a few rows in front of me, probably mid 20s, when they got to his luggage they made him get it down. They then made him open it and show them the contents. I couldn’t see over the top of the seats what was being shown, but if it was anything like the contents of my suitcase it would have been underwear, socks, clothes and shoes . After about 5 minutes they left him to put all his items back in his suitcase. No one else seemed at all surprised by these goings on, so perhaps this is routine train travel from Switzerland to Italy. They get off the train in Lugano and we continue on policeless to Milan.
On arrival at Milano Centrale it is not as user friendly as my experiences had been so far. There are men waiting with trolleys at the station to help you with your luggage. Again, this is not a free service and for the unsuspecting tourist, they would be asked to pay money for this service. They get a little offended when you don’t take them up on their offer and swear at you in Italian and the one who I rejected then spat at the ground. I guess that’s not a good thing, so I just keep walking.
There is a distinct lack of signs in English and I muddle my way through Italian and hope that I am heading in the right direction. I have looked for the directions of how to get to the hotel from the train station, I just need to work out how to get out of the train station. There is renovations under way at the station, so we are taken on a merry tour around and around and around the station to the exits.
I finally get out of the station, but have no clue if Im at the right exit for the directions I have. Again I have people in my face saying, Signora Signora taxi, taxi. I again ignore them. What is it with people needing to be in your face? I don’t need their assistance, I don’t need their taxi, i don’t need them in my face.
I ask in a shop just inside the station which exit I am at. He tries to sell me a map. I thank him and politely decline his oh so generous offer. I will work this out for myself, I have after all helped some Canadians on their way to Lucerne!
Thankfully I have written down the instructions and know that looking at the internet before I left that I had to head left. I headed left figuring that no matter which exit I had come out at i would be eventually at the point I needed to be at. I heard someone get told that the front of the station was around the corner, so I knew I needed to head around the corner once to be at the starting point for my journey to the hotel.
It was about an 8 minute walk to the hotel. It was very Italian. That’s the best way i can describe the hotel. Lots of marble, lots of wallpaper, lots of over the top decorations. Certainly not like my 14 pillows black and white themed bedroom at home. I ask about the internet and am told there is wireless internet through the hotel and I have to pay 20 euro for 24 hours usage. I advise the guy at reception that I will come back after I have put my things in my room etc.
I head to my room and it is so very hot in there. I immediately hope that there is a window as fresh air is badly needed in the room. Thankfully there is a window and I can get fresh air. The rooms are what I thought was wallpapered, but it turns out it is fabric with a underlay type feel behind the material. The hotel boasts great soundproofing, so I’m guessing this is part of that arrangement. There is far too much fuss in the room for me.
I decide to go for a walk around the hotel as I always like to do this in daylight so that I can get my bearings for later. I head into where there are shops and decide that Milan isn’t my favourite place. I can’t explain it other than saying it just wasn’t what I expected.
I head back to the hotel and pay my money for the internet connection. I go to my room hoping to do some emails and blog entries and can’t get the internet to work. No matter what I try there is no connection. I go back downstairs and ask the guy and he tells me that it should be working. I tell him it isn’t. I go back and get my laptop and take it back downstairs. He tells me that it is my laptop that is the problem, not the hotel internet. I tell him that i have now used my laptop in 3 different countries, including Switzerland and had no problems until now. He asks if he can have a look at my laptop and tells me, aaaaaah Acer, you will have problems with this. He insists again that it is not their connection but my laptop that is causing the problem. He then tells me the technicians are coming in later and he will get them to check the internet but it won’t be their problem it will be my laptop. I ask him if there is a computer that I can use in the hotel. He tells me that there is one computer and it is being used by someone else at the moment. I ask if you need to book a time and he said no, you just come and get the key for the computer on the 1st floor. I ask if he knows how long the person who is using it now will have it for and he says no. I then ask him if he knows if there are any internet cafes close by. He tells me that there is one a couple of streets away. While I am getting ready to leave another guest arrives to complain about the internet not working, I smile and wonder if he too has an Acer laptop.
I head to the internet cafe and check emails and let people know that I have arrived safely in Milan. The internet cafe is run by Italian/Indians. It is odd to hear Indian looking people speaking Italiian. I don’t know, small things I find amusing I guess.
As with restaurants and cafes through Europe, you can also smoke in internet cafes. This makes my internet time not so pleasant. I decide not to stay too long there and head back to the hotel. When i arrive back at the hotel I ask for my refund of my internet connection that isn’t going to work. The guy at reception grudginfly refunds my 20 euro.
I plan for my night ahead and decide to get a shower and head to the stadium for the big game. Im quite excited about attending the football game at San Siro stadium. I have already established that I am going to travel by train and then walk from the train station to the stadium. The train trip is about 15 minutes the internet tells me it is about 20 minute walk from the station. I head off. I know I am well over 2 hours early, but I figure it best to get there early than run into problems. As we get closer to the stadium, more and more people get on the train wearing their scarves and carrying flags. The mood in the train gets exciting and people start to sing and there is general joviality. I figure I will just follow the other people on the train and get off where they do. I had looked and knew I had to get off at Lotto and was encouraged when they all too got off at Lotto. I just followed them to the stadium
Wow, what a sight I got more and more excited as I got closer to the venue There was a general jovial mood by the people I was walking alongside. A guy who was walking alongside me with his I assume girlfriend, turned to me and asked me something in Italian. I said no, no, Italian. He said NO? With a very shocked expression on his face. His girlfriend told him I had no Italian. I think he asked me where we going in the right direction to the stadium and when I said no, he was shocked. The girl asked where I was from and I said Australia. She was quite excited to tell me that her uncle was in
Sydney. I told her that Sydney was a long way from where I lived. She seemed disappointed that I didn’t know her uncle.
On arrival at stadium I then had to work out how to read my ticket as it was in Itallian. Ingressi means gate, I think, or entry or something, so my ticket said Ingressi 3 and thankfully so did the big sign. All along the way from the station there were food vans, drink vans, probably about 30 or so along the way. And they weren’t small little vans, these were the size of semi trailers that they would then come and tow away at the end of the night. Very impressive. There was mountains of food in them, pizzas, burgers, sandwiches, ice creams. They all sell both soft drink and alcohol. I didn’t purchase anything but there didn’t seem to be anyone asking for ID for the alcohol, but maybe they did when you were actually buying something.
I entered into Ingressi 3 and then had to wait in a queue. The actual stadium wasn’t open as yet. I was early!
I only waited about 10 minutes and then the stadium opened. My passport was checked to ensure that the ticket was for me. When this fact was established I was allowed to enter. I found my seat and noticed there was still 2.30 hours to kick off time. I didn’t care that I was early, I was at San Siro!
Some of you may wonder how I got to actually be at San Siro to see AC Milan vs Real Madrid. One of my friends, is an absolute football fanatic. He loves football. He loves sport in general, but he is a football purist and loves it. When he found out I was going to be in Milan he half jokingly said i should go on a tour of San Siro stadium. Until that conversation I hadn’t even heard of San Siro stadium. I thought ok, I can do that. I went online to see if I could do a tour and the website informed me I couldn’t as it was game day. I then looked into what game was being played and was surprised to find out it was a UEFA Champions League. For all you non football fans, this is a big thing. I half heartedly thought it would be awesome if I could get a ticket to go and watch the game. Went down the path of clicking on the website to purchase a ticket and was surprised to find I could, albeit quite expensively, but I thought this is probably going to be the only time I will be in Milan and it just happens to be on the exact day I am arriving in Milan as I had already booked my train ticket from Zurich through the Swiss Alps ending in Milan.
I made a split second decision to purchase the ticket at 195 euro plus 30 euro delivery. The payment was processed and I was advised that I had just purchased a ticket to the game. I emailed my friend and told him that he would probably hate me but this is what I had done. He wrote back saying he didn’t hate me but he was freaking jealous and that it was awesome!
So, I have him to thank for one of the best experiences I had on my holiday. So, thank you Jonathan.
I sat in my seat and just watched as the stadium filled up slowly. I love watching people and being in an atmosphere like that I had a great time.
The clock on the scoreboard counted down to kick off time. When it got to under an hour, the stadium had started to fill more. They then showed highlights on the screen of AC Milan games and when goals were scored the crows went insane. I knew I was going to be in for a huge night if the highlight reaction was any indication.
Some of the Real Madrid players came out to do a warm up and kick the ball around. They crowd booed them. I’ve been at many an Aussie Rules game before, even Grand Finals and I can’t explain it, but this was just different. This was raw passion, this was emotion evoked at birth, this was what it was like to be among people who knew no more than to follow their team wearing their hearts firmly on their sleeves and not being ashamed to show that passion. There are pockets of supporters like that in AFL games I have been to, but this was everyone there. You can’t help but get caught up in the emotion of it all.
The national anthem is played and people are almost crying. It is a different atmosphere to when I have been in sporting events when the Australian national anthem is being played. Perhaps it’s the fact the tune is a different sort of tune. I don’t know, nor can I explain it properly. We had been given pieces of plastic on our seats with instructions written in Italian. I had no idea what the instructions said but figured I would just follow the people around me when the time arrived. I didn’t realise but the same section at the other end of the ground also had bits of plastic on their seats and when the national anthem was being played, we each held out pieces of plastic up to make a sign that read Tongiht. What a buzz. After the anthem, and the field is cleared of non players and officials it is kick off time.
If I thought there was passion before, boy was I wrong. These people are crazy!
The noise is deafening, the atmosphere electric. There is chanting, singing,, swearing. They stand as one when the ball comes down our end and there is possibility of a goal being scored. They sit as one and sigh putting their hands to their heads when that goal isn’t scored. The Spanish crowd have been put in an area behind portioning. I suggest this is for their own safety. When they start chanting for their team, the AC Milan supporters turn to them and chant Real Real ah fungool. Now I remember from my Italian friends at school this is not a good thing. They point, they swear, but it’s almost a fun thing as they do it in tune.
When Real Madrid score the first goal I think oh dear, this could get nasty. Apart from the pocket of Real fans, there is a deafening silence permeating across the ground. I sit there quietly afraid if I show any other emotion than being one of them, I might get bombarded. Not long after that, a penalty is given to Rhonaldino and it is then I experience football at its best. He scores and the stadium erupts. There is a guy behind me that was very vocal and getting the crowd geed up previously. You can hear him singing passionately through the national anthem that i recorded. It is then that I feel my head being grabbed and split second wonder of what is going to happen. He then plants a kiss on the top of my head. A signora signora. I turn around and he gives me a high five. This is football emotion at its purest. He then realises what he has done and says scusi scusi. I tell him its ok while I am smiling and I think he understands that everything is ok, I took no offence. He then asks me Italian? I say no. Again he says NO? There is a guy sitting a few seats up from him that must have seen what was unfolding and said to him, no speak Italian English, English. The kisser man nods and says ahhhh. I tell him tonight I am itallian for Milan and he smiles and takes both my hands in his hands and kisses them. Funny stuff these Italians.
At half time with the score at 1 – 1 I am sitting there happily when I get a tap on the shoulder. I turn around and the kisser man has a chocolate for me. It is a Baci chocolate. He gives it to me saying, scusi scusi again. I think he thought I was offended by what had happened. I wasn’t at all. I thank him for the chocolate and gesturing with my hands that it is all ok. He insists i take the chocolate. The man who had briefly translated to him my non Italian skills then offered me a Lindt ball. It is very difficult to decline offers from Italian men. I don’t know if this is a regular occurrence, so I happily accept the Lindt ball as well.
The game continues and no more goals are scored. There is still chanting, singing swearing right up to the end of the game. Then everyone files out and heads back to stations, cars etc.
I think road rage originated in Italy. I have made this assumption from the very brief exposure to Italian drivers I have had, only arriving this morning. At traffic lights, the second the light turns green if the car in front hasn’t moved a centimetre the horns start honking incessantly. It doesn’t stop until the traffic is moving freely. If you are walking on a crossing and the lights flash from green to amber, that means you are about to get run over, up and get off the road quicksmart!
I follow the throng of people back to the station and there is a train waiting. You wouldn’t have been able to fit someone the Z girls size on the train at this time yet they are still trying to cram more and more people on the train. I figure that there will be another train along eventually and decide that it isn’t worth risking being injured to cram into a train with thousands of people, not many of them being female. Another train appears about 5 minutes after the previous train had departed and we all cram in like sardines. The train trip home is jovial. I hear snippets of conversation and most revolve around Rhonaldino. They worship him in Milan. There is more singing along the train journey home. I’m glad it was at least a draw as I don’t know what the atmosphere would have been had Milan lost. I can only imagine what it would have been like had they won.
I get back to the hotel and get a shower and head to bed, what a day!
I’m still really excited by the whole experience of the game and take ages to get to sleep, hearing chanting and singing in my ears still. I wish there was another game that I could go to again the next night!