The car ferry between the Albanian port of Durres and the Italian city of Bari went smoothly. The eight hour boat ride was comfortable, thanks to the two-person cabin that we were able to book for the paltry sum of Euro 15 extra. The tourist season ended and that means that are 'deals' to make. When we approached the ferry port of Bari, most people went down to the car decks, with the goal to disembark as soon as possible. However, the vehicles on car decks are parked very close together, making it difficult to reach the cars, especially if you are for example an obese Italian with too much luggage. But eventually we made it all to our vehicles, where waiting started for the disembarkation process to begin.
In front of us, an older Italian man stands next to his car, and he is visibly irritated about something. His not so happy facial expression is combined with the typical Italian hand gestures, who Italians often use to showcase their emotions. It does not take long before he approaches us in Italian. If we make him clear that we do not speak Italian, he seamlessly switches to English; English with a heavy Italian accent of course. He lived a large part of his life in Australia, but since last year, he moved back to Italy. And that was not a good decision for his health, is our opinion. Over the years, he is accustomed to the effectiveness and efficiency of the Australian society, and is very annoyed about how things work (or not) in Italy. The initial reason why he approached us was to make clear that he is irritated about the way the ferry company decided to park the vehicles on the car decks. Half the number of the cars is parked with the nose of the car in the ‘wrong’ direction, so that the drivers have to manoeuvre their cars backwards between the other cars to find a place to turn.
But it does not take long before he cuts to the next topic; Italian politics. 'They are all lining their pockets’. There is only one reason in Italy to go into politics and that is self-interest. Did you know that the Italian president is costing 100 million Euro per year more than US President Obama? We shake our heads bewildered while he already started to explain how budget policy works in Italy. He says that there is no budget policy, while his blood pressure must have reached dangerous levels by now. He continues: "In Australia they have a budget which the government must adhere. But not in Italy. If the government needs money and looks into the money pot, it is always empty”. Looted by the biggest thieves of the country; the politicians! But it is not only the Italian politicians who are the culprits. Also German Chancellor Merkel gets a slap in the face. She is wringing our necks, he snorts, while uses his two fists to make the well-knows and universal neck wringing symbol.
It never comes to a real conversation. It is and remains a monologue of our Italian friend whose battery appears to be everlasting. Now he expresses his opinion about the gays and lesbians. The Italian family life isn’t the way it was anymore. Sons decide to become gay and many daughters suddenly turn out to be lesbians. The family as a central part of society falls apart, just like the rest of Italy does. That too, is better arranged in Australia is his opinion. In Australia gay and lesbians are part of society. They even have respectable jobs, for example as manager at the Australian national airline Qantas. But not in Italy is what he assures us, while the first cars are starting their engines and are leaving the ferry. No, in Italy they can only dance with their pink shorts on boats. We get a firm handshake, after which he walks back to his car in order not to disrupt the disembarkation process. Ciao is what he yells, then slamming his car door, starting the engine, and driving into the chaos of Italian port of Bari.