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Saturday, January 5, 2008

Welcome to Segovia, Espania

The taxi ride back to the train station at the end of a long, difficult day reminded me of the bus ride from it that morning

The train, it appears, was packed. The train station was inaugurated, I am told, 4 days before our arrival. It sits several miles outside of town. At least 100 of us disembarked. At least 100 of us tried to get on the lone bus available at the station. No one tried a taxi--because none was present and the desolation surrounding the station made the possibility of one showing up seem rather unlikely.

After 40 or so of us managed to cram ourselves into each other's personal space, the driver closed the doors.

It took about 5 minutes for us to learn that a disgruntled (non)passenger had decided to stand in front of the bus to protest the lack of buses in general and his own lack of a ride specifically. By that time, some were yelling and others laughing. None went for my idea of singing "we will rock you."

When the police car pulled up, we heaved a collective sigh of relief, thus heavily fogging the windows so that it took another 5 minutes of breath-holding--mixed with intermittent yelling at the driver to open the rear door--for us to learn that the officer had no power whatsoever to move, remove, or in any way hinder the protest or the protester who was hindering our ride.

Soon after the officer's impotence was discovered, another bus arrived. Sadly, the availability of a ride to town could not dampen the lone protester's enthusiasm for bus-stopping. It took yet another 5 minutes to get that obstruction talked into boarding the second bus (his companions who had been cheering him on seemed instrumental in this as they, like us, were freezing their proverbial buns off) so we could get underway.

The cheers, sighs, curses, and laughter the moving bus brought out in us fogged the windows back up.

There are, apparently, 2 whole bus stops in the town of Segovia. We were let off at the it or lump it! The driver was having a protest of her own, it seems, and decided she had fulfilled the duties required of her by the 1.20 Euros we had each paid for the privilege. That privilege, we now realized would include walking the rest of the way to the aqueduct--where the town's flourishing tourist district begins and its flourishing bus route ends.

Thankfully, aqueducts are rather large things, and for those of us with aqueduct-recognition problems, the town fathers had seen fit to erect signs...with arrows. The arrow indicated we should turn right at the traffic circle. But we didn't. Well, we didn't turn right away.

First, we dealt with the mixed luck of finding ourselves across the street from the local police station. I call the luck mixed, for though we saw the building as an opportunity to lodge our bus complaints--many and varied by now--we were hindered yet again in our efforts. This time, the culprit was technology--sort of.

The officer at the complaints desk explained matter-of-factly that the computer system was down. When asked if the lack of a computer meant we could not complain, the officer nodded and returned to checking his fingernails for fungal outbreaks.

THEN we walked to the traffic circle and turned right and trudged toward the Roman aqueduct for which this town is famous. It was a wrong turn in the deepest way. Though we did get to the aqueduct and did spend the day in Segovia, we might have done better to turn around. The morning's events would prove an omen and a metaphor.

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