From stopping all the buses in Pompeii to travelling like a salmon against the current of 20,000 people, over the next two days I will bring you five of the best travel stories that ended with “Wow, that was lucky!”

  1. Nearly getting chased down by ticket officers in Berlin

When I was in Berlin three years ago, I jumped on the train one morning to see the Brandenburg Gate. It was only a few stops from my hostel (at least I think that’s true) and so I decided I didn’t really need to purchase a train ticket – it would all be good because I was a cocky 21-year-old (I know this is true). Plus, I had never even seen a ticket collector on these trains in the 8 hours I had been in the city. So, I jumped on the train. The only problem was – you guessed it – as the train approached a stop in between my hostel and the Brandenburg Gate, two ticket collectors appeared.

I decided the best approach was to act casual and slowly rise to get off at the next stop. As the doors opened, the ticket collectors were very close to me. I disembarked trying to act cool, only to see out of the corner of my eye the two ticket collectors disembark and start running on the platform after a girl that had obviously pulled the same trick as me. I thought, Am I next?  So, I decided to amp up the suave lost traveller identity and stood for a time pondering at the map of the train lines.  The ticket collectors walked off with the girl – probably to slap her with some huge fine – and I left promptly afterwards to purchase a train ticket and keep going on my way.

My advice? Always purchase a train ticket.

The Brandenburg Gate, Berlin. I arrived to find maintenance was being undertaken. Karma.
  1. Losing (and then Recovering) 3,000 photos

On that same trip to Berlin, my camera died. Now this is not really remarkable or devastating, except that the camera in question was an expensive dSLR holding more than 3,000 photos of my trip (I know, that’s a ridiculous amount of photos, I deserve to have lost all my photos). But, I decided, all hope was not lost – I was in Germany, a country filled with tech-heads. So, off I went to the equivalent of Harvey Norman or JB Hi-Fi in Berlin. “No, I’m sorry, the card has corrupted.” I was told. My heart sunk, my throat constricted, my eyes glistened. All. Those. Photos. Those memories, just gone, no! “There may be one thing I can do.” And so far the next two hours I sat patiently while the tech-head I had found worked tirelessly to revive my photos. Never before have I seen such a successful resuscitation! Afterwards, the techy gave me the response you always want to hear after an operation, “I can’t believe that worked.” It was a technical miracle! And all it cost me was missing out on pork knuckle (I actually have never gotten over this – pork knuckle, I’m coming for you…soon).

My advice? Back up those photos, people! Back ‘em up.

One of the photos I could have lost if it wasn’t for the Berlin tech genius I found. And it would’ve been a real shame to lose this because I could never Google it and find it.
  1. Fighting a tide of 20,000 to save my Ray-Bans

This tale takes us to the Vatican and more specifically the Sistine Chapel. And what a work of wonder it truly is. Well done, Michelangelo, well done. As I sat in the Sistine Chapel looking up at its beauty, I thought to myself, “Perhaps I should ask for something from God, or, you know, whatever Holy and Divine Power is out there?” I mean, it doesn’t get much Holier than the Pope’s city and an ancient church where silence is imposed on all its visitors.

But, as I retrieved a tissue and cleared my congested nose (the pleasant side of going on bus tours), I realised I already had all I needed. There wasn’t much more to ask for. So, as our tour guide whispered it was time to move on, I left with a slightly clearer nose and a mental snapshot of that ceiling. I was still thinking about the chapel as we walked back through more of the building and slowly outside, into the sun. I reached for my sunglasses and came back empty but for a sinking feeling in my stomach and a slow replay of me putting down my sunglasses in the Sistine Chapel to retrieve that tissue.

Me, my Ray Bans and some Vatican guards.

I raced to the tour guide in the belief that she would have some kind of security contact in the chapel who was responsible for Lost & Found. Instead, she told me, “They’re probably already gone but you can go back and try to find them.” The thing about the Vatican is, it has like 25,000 visitors a day. To make sure the place isn’t torn down and works efficiently, everyone moves in a clockwise direction – one way – throughout the various exhibits. And now, here I was, moving against the tide, jumping over prams and running in what felt like slow motion (probably because it was extremely slow and I would have been better to walk, but y’know high tension situations and all that).

I got back to the Sistine Chapel and my pace finally slowed. I was so nervous. I found where I was sitting. A large man was now in my place. I asked him to move forward slightly so I could see the shelf behind him. And, lo and behold, there they were – my Ray Bans! It was an actual miracle!! And, I truly believe, I would not have been so lucky had it not been for me not wasting a prayer.

My advice? Don’t go on bus tours and get a chest infection; don’t visit highly populated places when you have a chest infection; always put your sunglasses on your head or in your pocket if you need to blow your nose. It’s simple people!

I’ll be back tomorrow with Part II and the best story yet – why all the buses were stopped in Pompeii for one girl.

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