I’ve come close to moving to Berlin a couple of times, including just last month. Both times the Berlin ambition fell through.
This time was disheartening as I felt that I could have done something to be proud of in Berlin and that I could have actually survived the 3 month internship. On the plus side, I passed my probation at work so I could still earn a living and I had some holidays booked.
I didn’t want to go to Germany. I was in Hamburg last year and the Berlin wound was still a bit raw, so despite my love for Deutschland, it didn’t feel like a particularly smart choice at the time. Eventually I opted for Italy, largely due to my fondness of 90’s-early 2000’s Calcio and pizza. Against my principles, I didn’t learn any Italian before I flew out as the decision to go to Milan was as-good-as last minute.
I hadn’t been this unprepared for anything since I sat my GCSE maths exam.
The flight itself was rather generic, the metal detector at the airport caught me a few times and I did pay for an overpriced (but very tasty) bacon and sausage muffin. Typical airport experience really. But the excitement was building.
Flying is horrible. I detest the physical act of flying, and this time was no different, but thankfully I had Curb Your Enthusiasm and the latest episode of The League to kill some time and make the flight a bit more tolerable. The sight of the Alps from above is something to behold though, it really is a remarkable sight.
Eventually I land and it is very warm in Milan, it felt like an English summer. My unpreparedness showing as soon as I set foot on Italian soil. The trains were also on strike on Friday, which meant either getting a shuttle bus to Centrale Station or paying for a taxi.
I really am not ready for Milan at this point, this city could very well break me.
A taxi from Malpensa Airport to the centre of Milan is over 100 EUR, but thankfully 4 other people were in the same position as me so we each shelled out 20 EUR for a taxi to the central station. Being on my own I had to get used to the kindness of strangers, but I did not want to get used to being crammed into a taxi in 20 degree heat. The taxi journey was great, we each discussed our plans and got to see the city first hand.
Finding the hotel itself was a bit of a headache despite it being quite close to the train station, but eventually I found it and got settled in. At this point it’s about 5 in the afternoon, which didn’t leave a lot of time to be a tourist, and I was very tired from the 6am wake up, the travel and the heat.
It was time to find a bar and wet my whistle.
The street that I was living in is home to a lot of Egyptian natives, meaning that very few people speak English on that strip. Even the Italian bar owners had a bit of trouble with my accent.
“How can I really enjoy my trip when I can’t even speak to anyone?”
Good luck ordering a pizza with “Grazie”, “Arrivederci” and “Andrea Pirlo”.
The first bar I went into was a fairly small restaurant/bar owned by a lovely Egyptian man who was very warm and accommodating to my lack of Italian. He recommended the local beer he had on tap and we chatted briefly about Juventus, he also let me hold a lobster that the restaurant staff will eventually smash with a claw hammer and serve with pasta.
This beer was about 5 EUR a glass, which is standard price in Milan. I think most of my budget went towards overpriced beer. Very few beers in Milan are actually Italian, the majority is imported, which is a shame as Italian beer is about as strong as its German counterpart and equally as tasty.
But hey, I’m in wine country, this is to be expected. To be fair, a lot of the imports are beer that I’ve never had before, so that was a plus.
My hotel was located near a fair few pizzerias, and I love me some pizza, so of course my first proper meal in Milan had to be a pizza. The standard pepperoni was not on the menu, and I thought it would be positive to try something new that I wouldn’t order in England, so I opted for a pizza known as the Sicilian which is anchovies, olives and capers.
I quite like olives and anchovies are great on a pizza, I still don’t exactly know what capers are, but hell, I had an import to wash it down with. It took me a couple of days to get the taste of olives out of my mouth, and took me a fair few beers to get the disappointment out of my mind.
My thirst for beer was still unquenched, so I found a tiny bar called the Bar Gluck and settled there for the night. I struck up a very disjointed conversation with the very kind lass behind the bar named Francesca, she served a couple of slices of free pizza and a small plate of pasta, quite possibly out of pity.
A couple of her friends come and go, but one guy named Roberto stuck around. He and his friends really dig this bar and they were on their way. Thankfully Roberto is fluent in a handful of languages, and English was one of them. He invited me to hang out with his Italian speaking group and translate if need be, which I obliged because I wasn’t ready to go back to the hotel yet.
Even though I couldn’t speak to the majority of these people, there was a kind of warm acceptance. Roberto kindly offered a couple of cigarettes, I don’t smoke but I’m drunk in Italy so go on then. For some reason the tequila started to flow, I don’t drink tequila anymore but I’m drunk in Italy so go on then.
I really should be cutting the beer out of my life, but at this point I felt good about myself and felt good about the trip. Carpe Diem and all that.
Eventually the clock strikes 2am, I’ve just finished a cigarette and it’s time to get back to the hotel for some sleep.
2am Rhys is having a good time, but morning Rhys will not be happy.
I say my goodbyes, grazies and arriverdercis to the group and we left the Bar Gluck for the night. The first time since boarding the plane I think to myself:
“I’m going to enjoy Milano”.
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