Naples does the New Year right. The only day to be in Naples if you must be in Naples is the New Years. The fireworks started to consistently go off around 9pm, but were crazy from about 11:45pm to 1am.
We were planning on going off base to a friend’s place, but Justin was on call and we were not able to find a ride to return in time. So we packed a backpack with mimosa mixings and booze and headed for the highest point on base with a view-the roof patio of the TLA (hotel). There was surprisingly, or maybe not so surprisingly, no one there. We had a whole huge area to ourselves, which was nice.
Our best New Year in Naples was our first one when we were in the middle of it all on our balcony at our Gricignano house. Our second New Year’s here we were on the top of a parking garage at the airport, and this last New Year’s on a hotel roof deck. The good parts about the last two spots were that we had a view as far as the eye could see of thousands of fireworks (and we did not eventually choke on smoke forcing us back indoors). But it does not compare to being surrounded by fireworks only feet away, still the view as far as the eye can see, and having to scream at each other because it is so loud.
I apologize the video is long and not too interesting, but it’s just in case you’re interested.
I went all over the Balkans the past couple of weeks…aka the former Yugoslavia plus Greece and Turkey. I bused around via an Australian company called Busabout. The bus takes you from city to city, lets you wander for a day or two, pick you up again and move on.
I traveled to Turkey (Istanbul, Gallipoli, and Eceabat), moved into Greece (Kavala, Meteora, Thessaloniki, Athens, and Parga), Albania (Gjirokastra and Tirana), Montenegro (Budva and Kotor), Croatia (Dubrovnik and Split), Bosnia and Herzegovina (Mostar and Sarajevo), Serbia (Bosnia and Nis), and Bulgaria (Sofia and Plovdiv). This sounds like a lot of countries and cities…and it is…but they are all pretty tiny and neighbors of each other.
There was so much history in the area from practically the beginning of time that my brain kind of turned to mush once I hit Serbia. I won’t go into too much history or this post will never end, so you can look it up yourselves. I will give you bits of information I found particularly interesting in each place.
Turkey is full of mosques! Duh, right? They really are everywhere, wherever you look! Baklava…mmmmmm. I learned I hate Turkish delight, sad, because every desert shop was filled with nothing but the stuff.
Greece, awesome…so much to see and do. It’s funny how they were at the top of the world back in the hay day. I think they figured they’d done the best stuff for the western world and decide not to progress any more (for the past few thousand years)…you still cannot flush toilet paper in the toilet or drink the water. Sadly Athens is starting to look a lot like Naples with all the graffiti and crumbling and unfinished properties…due to the tanked economy. Did you know in Greece if you don’t finish building your house you don’t have to pay property taxes? So many people finish their house then leave one part looking unfinished so they can claim they are not done.
Albania, I think my favorite country on the trip. They just got rid of communism about 5 years ago, so it is like a different world there. If a building is unfinished they will hang or pretend to be killing a puppet or stuffed animal from the construction, so evil spirits won’t enter the place. There are bomb shelters everywhere…I visited one and there was a squatter living there, lol. Albania is dirt cheap! People only started driving in the country a few years ago as well…cars used to be reserved for only the top government officials, it was buses for everyone else. I climbed a former communist leaders mausoleum (which Albanians have desecrated with graffiti and smashed the windows). You can crab walk up the side to the top to get stunning views of the city, and slide back down like it’s a playground. They build a tower a few years ago that was supposed to be the new highlight of Albanian architecture and a feature of the city (also in the very heart of the city)…once they had built the entire structure’s framework they realized it was leaning so they gave up and left it…the leaning tower of Tirana! Also due to mass migrations out of Albania and some genocide here and there Albania needed to boost their population. 20 years ago the average amount of kids per woman was 11. Nowadays it is 7.
Montenegro, party party party! I was at a club on the 4th of July and they happened to shoot off fireworks…probably not for me, but just because they know how to have a good time. =). I swam, boated, visited the fortress, and everything in between.
Croatia…hmm what to say…Dubrovnik was nice, walked along the wall surrounding the old city. Stunning views galore!
Bosnia and Herzegovina was neat. Had some amazing ice cream in Mostar as I wandered about. I visited the spot in Sarajevo where WW1 started with the death of Franz Ferdinand. Sarajevo was pretty interesting in general. Their last war during 1992-96 left people in the city unable to go out at night or risk getting shot by snipers. The people were unable to collect dead bodies to have funerals (or they whole funeral would get bombed and therefore have lots more people dead), so they would bury people as sneakily as possible in any field or park. So all of the cities parks and even just grassy corners of streets are filled with tombstones nowadays…and they are everywhere! You can still see bomb blasts and gun shot marks all over the buildings in Sarajevo.
Serbia was kind of boring. There was a nice park with great views of Belgrade across the river though. Dinner was good.
Bulgaria was great in Plovdiv. Lots of neat Ottoman architecture and windy little get lost-in streets. Sofia was kind of bland. There was a protest going on in Sofia in the main center. They were protesting their dislike for being a member of the EU…as their economy is not as good as it used to be before they joined.
Enjoy the photos and videos!
So New Years this year was a little different than last. Justin and I went up to the airport and watched the fireworks on the top of a parking garage with a view of Mt. Vesuvius in the background…of course it is too dark to see Mt. Vesuvius in the video, so you’ll just have to believe me. Again, fireworks were everywhere and incredibly loud. We had a bit of distance this year between us and the closest fireworks, so it was more of a view of thousands of fireworks versus being in the middle of it. Not as good as last year, but Naples is still the place to be on New Years. The video is not very good quality, but hopefully you can see all the little lights everywhere are different explosions of fireworks way off in the distance.
Saint Andrew (Sant Andrea) is the patron saint of Gricignano, the town where I live. Fireworks are shot off all over town, I hear about one an hour from 7am to 1am. The celebrations last a few days, with nothing terribly interesting actually going on. This year the big parade started at the end of my block so I caught the whole thing on video! Sadly, this is better than last years.
It’s hard to catch the fireworks when they start, and by the time I get my camera and get outside they are basically over. So enjoy the tail end of some fireworks…some you can’t see though, sorry…it was day time when I shot these. I dedicate these videos to my Mom and the Black Cat firework crew.
So the Triple Crown horse race was last Saturday night. For us it didn’t start until midnight. We threw a party full of steaks, crab legs, and drinks and invited a bunch of Justin’s work people over. One of our guests, Evans, decided he wanted to get some fireworks. So him and another guy took off in their car to find them. For those of you who don’t know Naples, particularly our neighborhood of Gricignano, is obsessed with fireworks and will shoot them off for any reason at all at any time of the day or night. So anyways, off they go. They stop at the gas station and mime fireworks whizzing and exploding (they don’t speak any Italian). The gas station guy tells them “piazza piazza piazza” a few blocks from our house. They arrive at the piazza, where Italian men always seem to sit and chat all day and never do any work. They asked a random guy there, rather they mimed a booming firework again, and the Italian guy motioned for them to follow him in their car.
They go to a house a few more blocks away where there are security-looking guys standing on the balconies and guys at the front gate. They give our guys a look and deem them okay to come in. Two Italian guys lead them and two follow our two guys. They said it was super shady and thought they might get clocked on the head and robbed. Anyways, they led them down into the basement, making it seem even more shady. Then into a little room in the basement which was full of fireworks. Evans decided not to try to negotiate pricing with them. He paid E400 for the stack of fireworks you can see in the video. The Italian men warned him in particular of the home-made looking one…run after you light it. Evans came back and was pretty sure he had just dealt with the Camorra.
So we shot off the fireworks off and on during the day and night and ended up missing the horse race. We have no idea who won…but the main horse up for the Triple Crown “I’ll Have Another” got tendinitis and wasn’t racing, so we aren’t too concerned anyhow. Sorry Mom, the fireworks were not Black Cat =(.