Ivrea

(This post is from the night of September 2nd)

Tonight I am staying in a hostel beside the Dora river in Ivrea.  It’s called the Ostello Canoa Club, which I thought was a strange name for a place listed under the “Religious Hostels” section of my guide book.  It’s the only one in town, though, so I called them up this morning when I arrived in the city and asked if they had room for one person for the night.  This place is extremely well organized, even more so than some of the hotels in Ivrea.  There are signs that say ‘Lungo la Via Francigena Ostello Canoa Club’ all over town.  What it is, is a kayaking club that has utilized the run-off from the river to create their own kayaking course, the likes of which I have only ever seen during the Olympics.  It’s a pretty cool little thing, and there were people paddling up and down it all day today.  I suppose the Club was already a hostel for the kayakers who come to visit, and decided to benefit from the Via Francigena traffic that comes through the city.  It is not religious at all, but at 12 euro per night, it goes at about the same rate as a donation to a church would.

I spent much of the afternoon hanging out in the downstairs portion of the building watching the kayakers tackle the course.  I had wandered around town a bit, carrying my bag while waiting for the hostel proprietor to show up and let me in.  I was satisfied that I’d seen enough and was glad to take the bag off and trade my hiking boots for sneakers.  What a difference that makes!  Walking around in the plush-by-comparison footwear felt wonderful after all the time I had spent in boots over the past few days.

Finally the man showed up to let me in and told me where there was a supermarket nearby.  This thing was far more than a Safeway or Giant, however.  It was an upscale Walmart on steroids.  It had all the weird clothing and accessories that Italians seem to love, like Velcro sneakers and Addidas track suits, but it also had an incredibly well stocked and fancy food section.  I bought some salami, mortadella, and bread and I headed back to the hostel to make my lunch.  When I got back, I was informed by the manager that two pellegrine would be arriving later that evening and would be staying in my same room.  I wondered what the women would be like and how staying in a hostel with strangers would be (my only other hostel experiences being with just friends or, luckily enough, alone).  During the afternoon, I experimented with Ivrea’s city-wide WiFi service which worked briefly enough to post a status update on facebook and answer a few emails but not long enough to upload photos for a blog post.  I applaud Ivrea’s effort, but it was more frustrating thinking that you had access to the internet when actually you could only connect for a few brief minutes.

Finally, from my window, I saw the pair come down the path by the river and they were soon upstairs in the room where I had been trying to get online.  They looked like they could be English, and I was secretly hoping that they were so that I could talk to some people with a language and culture more similar to my own.  The first thing they asked me was if I spoke German, so all hope of that went out the window.  I replied “Nicht sprechen kein Deutsch,” or something like that and they said the only other language they spoke was Italian.

It turns out that they were from north-east Italy, near Austria, and everyone there spoke German.  They had walked from that region and were on the penultimate day of their journey before heading home.  They went about cleaning up and then one of them came and asked me, in English, if I would like to come eat with them.  I agreed and thought that we would be going into town to eat.  She came back 30 minutes later and said that dinner was ready.  They had cooked a meal in the kitchen on the bottom floor of the hostel.  I felt bad about not asking to help, but I didn’t realize they were making the dinner themselves.

Dinner was pasta, mixed with frutti di mare—mussels, shrimp, and some other things I couldn’t identify.  They also had some corn that they had picked from a field on the trail that they had boiled much longer than we do in America, making it tougher and taste different from the corn on the cob I’m used to.  The pasta was cooked in the Italian way, a bit tougher than I’m used to, but tasted good with its mixings.  It seems that they had done a lot of hiking and one had even done the Via Francigena two years ago.  They asked me how heavy my bag was and if it was my first time hiking like this.  I said that it was, and they smiled at each other as if it was painfully obvious.  They asked where I had been and what my plan was and said that they had stayed at the Cappuccin monastery too, the night before I arrived there.   For dessert, we picked some figs from the tree that grew in the garden behind the ostello.

I was grateful for the dinner and the company, but apparently something did not sit right with me from what I had eaten.  Maybe it was from eating so much compared to the previous two days, and certainly the heat didn’t help.  Now out of the mountains, it was really hot in Ivrea, and there is hardly any wind.  I feel a bit sick to my stomach but am just now drifting off to sleep…

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~ by pminnig on September 4, 2011.

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