the glamour of backpacking through
Europe. Of course, the glamour comes
with a price as I found in Siena,
Siena is located an hour or so outside
of Florence, Italy. My handy dandy
guidebook suggested it was a side trip
that just had to be made. A medieval
structure located behind protective
walls on the top of a hill. The central
area was generally closed off to cars
and it was a taste of true Italy. Who
was I to argue?
As I sat on the train, I check my
backpack for any excess weight. I had
already discarded or sent home unnecessary
items and was feeling pretty light
on my feet. Next thing I knew, the
train had stopped and I was standing
on flat road next to a rolling hill
covered in trees and homes. Siena proper
was at the top.
The thing about rolling hills with
lots of foliage is they are simply
evil. You can never get a grasp on
how far it is to the top. You keep
thinking the top appears to be a few
hundred feet in front of you until
you reach it. Then you discover it
is just a dip before another upward
section. The hill up to Siena is just
such a rolling hill. Throw in a road
that twists all over the hill like
a drunken sailor on leave, and you’ll
never scoff at a moped again.
Getting in touch with my inner mule,
I began to climb and tame the great
beast. As I trudged along, I thought
of all the great people that must of
walked up the same hill throughout
history. As I stood in the shade panting,
I thought all of those great people
probably hitched a ride instead of
walking like me.
After thirty-five minutes or so, I
was seriously starting to think about
hitching a ride. Of course, this would
mean admitting defeat. The battle between
my genetic male stubbornness and “this
sucks” attitude was intense.
Like a mule, I kept going. Five bends,
three dips that I could have sworn
were the top.
Just as I was giving in…a wall.
A really big wall. I passed it and
suddenly was in a large parking lot
area with tourist buses. Hands on knees,
shirt soaking, I tried to maintain
my dignity as the tourist looked at
me like I was insane. Did that moron
walk up here? One even took a picture!
After composing myself…err,
getting my breath back, I booked a
room in a little hotel. The young lady
working the desk seemed hesitant, but
I made some comment about it being
a long way up from the valley. She
started giggling and I had the room.
I showered and went looking for trouble.
Well, trouble that was on a flat surface.
In the town centre, I stumbled upon
a small café selling Mexican
beer. Being from San Diego, this was
nirvana. My inner mule was quickly
appeased and the hill of stop forgotten.
Reflecting on my climb from a historical
perspective, I learned a good lesson.
It is far better to be behind the wall
than trying to attack it!