I learned this in Turkey first, but it is true all over the world. We headed off to see Ephesus. A flight to Izmir and a bus to a mall… a train to where? wow, were we lost. The train was supposed to get us to a bus station that would take us to Selcuk (pronounced Selchuk). We were at the end of the line but there was no bus station. There was no one who spoke English. We had the name of the stop where the bus station was, but where were we. We asked the young man in the coffee shop, but he spoke in Turkish and we did not understand. Go back on the train. We were trying to figure out what to do and a man walked out a waved for us to follow him. We boarded the train and headed back the way we came. Ah, there was our stop. We all got off the train in a residential area. Bus stop… none to be seen. We followed him up six blocks. I started to think he was taking us home when we hit a large street. He pointed left and there it was - a bus station. He walked in a spoke to the ticket counter and made sure we got onto the correct bus. People are amazing. He was amazing. Now in the scheme of things if we got totally lost we would grab a taxi (would he understand us?), get a hotel where ever we were, or find a younger person who could speak some English and get help. But on our first International trip this was a great experience. Turkish his not the first language you want to learn. Spanish was hard enough and the alphabet is the same. We made it to Selcuk on the bus and got to our hotel - Atilla’s Getaway is just outside of Selcuk and had a great stay. This was one of many experiences with the Turkish people where they were helpful and a pleasure to be around.
We arrive in Matera on a bus and are dropped off in a dirt lot. We are supposed to be dropped off at the Central Bus Station. We have a screen shot of Google Maps for the 10 minute walk to our Airbnb. We can not find a street name to matches anything on our map in any direction. It is frustrating. What do we do?
I spy a police station in a strip mall. The door is locked. It is a dark, cool evening. There is bar next door. It is time for a drink. We order whiskey. We speak with the bartender, but he does not speak English and my Italian is nonexistent. We show him a map on our phones, but we cannot get a directions. He says “taxi?” “Si!” Okay, we get it figured out.
A customer speaks to the bartender. He waves for us to follow him. We walk outside and he opens up his car. We put our bags in the back and Sally gets into the backseat. I get into the front seat. I show him the map and the museum we need to get to on my phone. He starts driving and talking. He keeps talking. He does not stop talking for the next 15 minutes. He drives us on a tour through town. He drives by the actual Central Bus Station, he drives around a huge castle, a couple buildings, and down streets. He keeps talking and I keep nodding. He has to know I do not understand a single word he is saying, right? In about 15 minutes he pulls up to a barrier. These are the poles that raise out of the ground to stop cars from driving in a pedestrian zone. He gets out and waves for us to follow him. We walk 30 meters to an overlook. We are looking at Matera at night. It is AMAZING! The stone white city lit up at night is an incredible site. WOW! I am impressed. From our vantage point, the lights extend along the curve of the canyon valley. It is a beautiful sight.
I am more impressed when I turned around and see the museum in front of us. He drove us exactly where we need to go. I offer him money but he declines. I would have paid for a taxi. Remember Rule # 1 People are amazing. We walk down the wide pedestrian walkway and our host is 50 feet in front of us. She walks us down to our place.
We traveled on a number of international trips. I really believe in Rule # 1. Never did anyone treat us bad because we are American. Never did anyone try to mislead us or steal from us. Never did anyone try to take us somewhere we didn’t want to go. Did people try to charge us too much, sure. Many places expect you to bargain so they start high. Only one the time while traveling did met someone who was rude. One person out of the hundreds we came across and interacted with. People are amazing. Believe it.
To new travelers: Italy is a great place to start a lifetime of travel. The Italians, followed closely by the Turks are nicest people we have interacted with. Everyone is great. Italy and Turkey stand out. I left the Canadians out of that. Canadians are nice. Canadians are too nice. At a four way stop sign they keep saying you go first to each other. Oh no, you go first. I insist, you go first. Please you should go first. Nice? yes, but stupid nice. SOMEBODY USE A FUCKING GAS PEDAL! I do love Canada, but stop being so nice Canadians. It’s annoying (says the California driver). Another thought on Canadains: Who says Canadians are nice? They stab maple tree and drink their blood. It's weak Canada, but keep trying.