3rd February, 2020
My day started at 03:20 a.m. – After a short morning routine, some stretching and basic exercise, I prepared myself a cup of steamy coffee and arrived at the Engine Control Room for handover from the previous watch. That morning was no different from any other, after the usual hassle to prepare the ship for arrival, we had an otherwise uneventful Watch (these are the best kind!) We then berthed alongside the pier as scheduled (for a change!) at 08:00.
Since we did not have any extra jobs planned for the morning, I took a quick breakfast to try to get ashore as soon as possible, but the last couple of intensive days in Venice had taken their toll, and I ended up sleeping in my cabin.
A good couple of hours later a message on my phone woke me up – it was Andres, the senior watchkeeper of my watch and something like my boss: “Did you wake up? I’m in the city, looking for something to eat – come and find me”. I looked through my porthole – Ancona was stretching outside along the coastline, looking promising. However, I was still feeling sleepy and craving another cup of coffee (sounds like a mild addiction to me!). So I made myself an espresso this time, in honour of the country where we were, I also managed to get a piece of tasty cake and – despite some regulations – went to the open deck to enjoy the view of the city, the fresh sea breeze and the January sunshine – surprisingly strong that day! What can I say – I really love my job (sometimes)!
“Buongiorno!” I greeted the police officer at the port gate 15 minutes later. I may know less than 20 words in Italian, but believe me – when in Italy I use all of them, combined with variety of hand gestures. Everything comes naturally; perhaps I was a Roman at some point in one of my previous lives.
Now, for me there are two options when exploring a new city – either to highlight the points of interest and cover them all one by one, or simply to head straight towards the unknown, and allow myself to get lost. For Ancona, I chose the latter.
I wasn’t sure if I wanted to meet Andres or not, because for him the term “leisure walk” just does not exist, and I guess I was secretly hoping to be a little too late at the restaurant. When suddenly someone shouted my name – it was him, waiting for me on the main street in an ambush! I surrendered and we went onto exploring this little known central Italian town. I must admit – after I read that the city was heavily bombed during the Second World War – I didn’t expect much. I’m not a huge fan of the post-war European architecture. But instead of bomb craters and boring buildings, the city revealed a typical northern Italian atmosphere, yet not obscured by the crowds of tourists, so common for the more famous cities nearby. With exception of a few passengers from our ship and a few truck drivers at the port area, everyone was speaking Italian, and this contributed somehow to the authentic feeling of the place.
Now I probably have to mention that being a frequent traveller has several negative side effects, one of which is – it’s really hard for me to be impressed (although Venice the previous day did!). As with every Italian town, the landscape was dominated by multiple cathedrals – we passed several of them, while heading to the lighthouse above the city, in a search for a good viewpoint.
There were ruins of an amphitheatre, and the small town streets gradually became smaller and smaller, until we ended up in a park, where we had an enjoyable view over the rooftops and buildings of the city centre to the port where our beautiful ship was berthed.
Yet again, like every other day, we were chasing the clock and had to start the return journey to the ship. But I still had one more thing to do, one mission that I try to undertake in every new place – to find a fridge magnet and post cards (and ideally, write and send them, but every time I try to do so, it happens to be Sunday…). Luckily, back on the main street I stumbled upon a small bookshop, where I saw few magnets from outside. Realising that this might be my best shot I went inside, only to find out that there was a family of four ahead of me in the queue – truly determined to choose the best magnet for themselves – with the help of the shop owner. Honestly, I waited for five minutes, but one of the things that I treasure – especially so while working at sea - is my time. Knowing the local culture, I knew that this “deal” could take quite a lot of precious time, so I turned my back and left.
Going back to the ship, I noticed a thick fog crawling downwards from the hill, and later on, by 16:00 when I came on watch, we were completely engulfed by the grey mass. Something, which thankfully, was not a problem for our deck officers, as they performed the manoeuvring of the vessel during departure skilfully as always, and we were soon heading towards our next destination, leaving Ancona behind.
Yanko Velkov, 2rd Engineer, Spirit of Discovery
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