Staying overnight at airports is no one’s first choice. Staying overnight at Bergamo airport should be everyone's last choice.
Ever. I’ve already had the misfortune of traveling to/from there a handful of times. It’s hard to pick which ‘experience’ was the most awful. What follows is a chronologically-detailed report of my last night in BGY – which is, and everybody knows that, the worst airport ever. Or one of the worst.
I arrive at BGY on a flight from Lviv. As I have a very early flight to Bucharest the morning after, I decide to stay overnight at the airport – having spent a night at Bergamo’s youth hostel previously, I know that’s not worth it anyway. I head to the shopping mall in front of the airport, stock up on food and head back to the airport. After 10pm it gets pretty crowded so as a professional hobo, you need to find a nice spot.
Too late. BGY basically doesn’t have ‘nice spots’; the few that can, quite generously, be considered so are already occupied (early sleepers, these people). I go outside for a smoke and then begin my wi-fi hunt.
There’s no free wi-fi. Of course there’s no free wi-fi. It’s freaking Bergamo. I’m quite broke, but the prospect of staying at BGY the whole night dreads me. I go back outside for another cigarette this time just out of pure frustration.
While I was smoking I decided to check for wi-fi connections near the airport shuttles…et voilà, there was one that was staying for another 10 minutes parked there. I subscribe to Brussels Airlines newsletter and I have 10 minutes of facebook messages and notifications.
The shuttle has left. Shit.
I’ve replied to the e-mails I got, cleaned my laptop and lined up a couple of other things. But I have not much else to do without wi-fi and now my battery is dying. Let me ask that nice information desk lady about the whereabouts of power sockets. Surely they must be available, even in an cattle airport like this.
I’m bewildered. My exchange with the information desk lady was this, ipsis verbis:
“Hi, I need to charge my laptop, could you tell me where I can find any power sockets?”
“No, they’re forbidden.”
“They’re for…come again?”
“They’re forbidden!” (exclamation mark to emphasise how welcoming the lady in question was).
“Really? Why? I mean, I really need to charge my laptop because [any fake excuse], isn’t really any way, even if just for a few minutes?”
“No, they’re forbidden.”
At this point I might have murmured something vaguely insulting in Portuguese. Very well, Bergamo: I didn’t like you from the start, and you certainly didn’t like me or any of the cheap people sleeping here everyday. But this is way too much. No plugs? Challenge accepted.
I thought I wouldn’t, but I did. Found a plug in a pretty surprising place: in the men’s washrooms, by the door (eventually I found out another one behind Terravision’s counter and there was a third one…can’t remember where). Result: I never spent so much time in a bathroom like right now.
Still in the bathroom charging my laptop and cellphones. It feels like a good time to have that cheeseburger I bought almost three hours ago.
By now the airport is completely packed. Basically all flights for the day have already landed and what seems obvious is that a big part of the passengers are doing the exact same thing as I am – staying overnight at the airport and flying somewhere else in a early morning flight. All very well, but by now you can barely find any space. I find myself sitting near the exit doors right in front of the 24/7 café…which makes me hungry enough to eat the last cheeseburger I bought. There’s a couple of drunk passengers running around with the trolleys and a couple of homeless people (i.e. not travelers in disguise) are also hanging out inside the terminal…this is fun.
A free wi-fi just popped up right where I am…and it’s working. I’m not even kidding. Praise the Good Lord.
They closed half of the airport – they do this every single night at Bergamo. Airport cleaning staff closes the check-in area and literally evict everyone who tried to find a place to sleep/spend the night there, sometimes by spraying them with water if they don’t wake up/refuse to move. At 3 am, they repeat the same procedure on the other half. It’s ostensibly for cleaning purposes but it really looks like out of pure spite. A night in Bergamo airport is a buffet of displeasure.
From this point onward, never mind the time. I keep going back and forth between the place where I get wi-fi and the power socket in the bathroom/at the Terravision counter. I make friends with a Canadian-Indian guy who wasn’t supposed to be here: he had a flight to meet a friend somewhere in Germany (was it Munich? Can’t remember the city) and he got the train to Bergamo 4 hours before his departure time…expect that he really didn’t get to board the train until 2 hours after scheduled as Trenitalia was delayed. I help him finding him a last-minute ticket for the next day (maybe it was Nurenberg. Ah hell, I really don’t remember). We exchange facebooks and ‘good lucks’ and talk about previous travels. Smoked some cigarettes, came back in…eventually at 5 am checked in and moved to the departures area, sleep deprived and just feeling like I could use a shower after laying on the floor of an airport where thousands of people walk by everyday. I surprise myself when I for some reason land in Bucharest in good spirits – for all its discomfort and sheer hostility towards those who spend the night there, spending a night in Bergamo is…fun. Well, I’ll never do it again. But it was fun. That night was probably the closest I ever got to – and ever will – to anthropology.
Photo taken from sleepinginairports.