D is for Discovery: Not dismissing safety precautions
Day 16: Trento, Italy, Trentino-Alto region, So. Tyrol. Felt like walking along Adige. I then found a bar. Yay! Band was setting up. Sun was going down. Nobody spoke English (this was far outside of the duomo piazza tourist area). I ordered a negroni. Delicious and perfect. Even though it was near an intersection and cars were heard over my shoulder, I turned and watched the bridge over the river connecting Trento to an old church with a typical square red-topped steeple. The group beside me leaves the shared table and I hear a couple approach speaking English. I continue to chat on text w/friends back home and take in the view. Finally, I’ll make convo. Negroni set in and I’m willing to talk.
“Where are you from?” I say. Typical opening question if there is nothing relatable or practical nearby. They are from Sweden. Just came back from Lago di Garda for a week. On their way to Munich. We chat about immigrants coming to Sweden, etc. etc. How Sweden has accepted more recent immigrants per capita than any other European country. He dislikes living there: mediocre wages and a disproportionate tax rate. From what I know it’s true—the middle class is shrinking. His girlfriend sits and we are connecting like girls do when a cable car comes zooming into where we are. She tells me it’s 5€ and wishes she could go if not for her bus to Munich in 20 minutes.
I say I’m off and will try it just to see a view over the river. Being sick on this leg of the trip has kept me mostly homebound and I should fit something worthwhile in! I go up. Just me and a beautifully very dark-skinned African guy. Young and fit. From Mali he says. He speaks French. I now gather by his casual, bored posture and disregard to the scenery that he is commuting via this cable car. Given what I’ve seen of Italy, Spain, France and Turkey, he is probably part of the help somewhere or in some kind of supporting role. Living in the outskirts where he can come home to feel belonging and rest.
Once off, there is nothing but a parking lot nearby but he is walking through it. I trail behind far enough so we don’t feel the need to finish our mangled conversation, but close enough so I can see where he is headed. I want to see a new village! What do the houses look like? Finally, is this where Europe is hiding all the diversity that is nowhere to be seen in any areas I’ve been for 19 days? I must know. Beyond a building and down a slight hill, the space opens up and I see a bar! Yes, I’ll be back for you. Unless of course this hidden town has better, more authentic options with a little more suspense.
I stop to take in the view and a few houses well-manicured, fenced in, same alpine shutters the nicer houses have in this area. The rest have a metal gate. Effective against the hot midday sun and ubiquitous. I see a village just below this crest. It is set up similarly to Tramin with rectangle shaped apartment buildings, homes in various yellows, oranges and whites. A few mint greens, but all pretty rich in tone. No blues, reds, browns. Too garish--these are elitist Europeans and not need to disguise shoddy houses with color, nor does it match their staid persona.
This is the moment I feel connected to the travel experience rather than solving a geographical or language issue. I travel to step out of my comfort zone--embracing uncertainty of what’s to come. I’ve been pretty tame this trip since I’ve had the luxury of generous friends by my side in all the cities so far. Barely lost and typically in the know brings you a lovely vacation experience, but a spontaneous trip in a previously unknown box in the sky to a “secret” village that I still cannot find on the map is thrilling. And a bar!? With delicious wine at a quarter of the price in the US?! Yes yes yes. Discovery with a tiny bit of risk is where I’m at. I guess only the slight bit risky because it’s somewhat desolate and I only know how to say “Posso avere” (I want) and “Grazie” (thank you). Pushy, illiterate American I am.
So I’m trekking down the hill and I see the same French guy standing with a friend waiting for a bus, or so it seems. I pass and smile and keep walking, taking in this feeling of adventure and discovery. After a bit, he runs after me yelling “Miss! Miss!” Using his google translate (at least someone gets service this high up!), he asks if I’m alone. Note: I dislike this question and it’s always risky to answer. My method of operating is to immediately revisit the tabs I have taken on the situation, time of day, methods of available transportation, amount of people nearby, how I’m dressed. Usually the only way someone is even asking this question is if I’ve already read this person as being (mostly) harmless and have had some sort of interaction. I proceed.
Next question from google translate: Are you married?
“Yes” (not a lie even though will be filing for D when I return to the US)
He exhales as if in defeat. Shoulders slump, but he wants to understand more.
Next: Are you traveling alone?
We exchange polite looks and I ask while pointing “Is there a bus that goes by here?” I motion toward the cable car. I need to strategize on timing, daylight and a ride home.
I look up at the sky showing my thoughts on daylight hours like a farmer would when deciding if winter is near. The sun has set, but setting over the Alps gives a lot of indirect light for a few hours. The town is still another 10-minute walk. I say “Thank you” and “Enchanté” and head back to the cable car bar for some vino on the hill to toast my unplanned discovery.