Bolzano– few hours north, and a complete world away. Gus and I did some last laps around our favorite streets this morning, grabbed a chocolate croissant and headed off to the airport to meet his group that he will be spending the next 2 weeks with. As we waited at the meeting point for flights from all over the US to arrive, Gus and I noticed a girl who looked so familiar, but neither of us could figure it out. These are college (and a few from high school) kids from all over the US. Finally, Gus caught a glimpse of her violin case, and he realized she’s the student that gave us the music tour at Oberlin! Music is a small world. I left Gus in the capable hands of the directors and teachers and took a taxi back to the train station. I had a 1:30 train to Bolzano, which unfortunately was a regional train (all that was available on Sunday), so it made lots of stops and was un-airconditioned. Europe is experiencing its own heatwave too, and today was the beginning of the latest one. It was in the 90s today in Bologna. Luckily, as we approached the mountains, it started to cool off a bit. My apartment is an easy 6-minute walk to the train station, and I can see the main square out of my 5th-floor window. The town is the capital of the Alto-Adige/South Tirol region of Italy. This region has a fascinating history because it had been part of the Austria-Hungarian Empire, and was promised to Italy as an incentive to abandon the Germany/Austria-Hungarian Alliance during WWI. Mussolini instituted a full-scale Italianization of the area in the 1920s, wherein people lost their language and their names. In the 1960s there was violence and a secessionist movement from the ethnic Germans, which resulted in an agreement that it is an autonomous region of Italy. Most provinces’ taxes go to Rome and then are distributed, but South Tirol money stays in South Tirol. It is an extremely prosperous region with lots of tourism, especially in winter with ski resorts such as Cortina d’Ampezzo, wineries, and agriculture. At any rate, I met my landlord and explained to him (in German) that it would take me a few days to switch to thinking in German because we’d been in Italy for 3 weeks–completely forgetting that I am still in Italy. It’s that hard to wrap your mind around. Bolzano is evenly split–you are just as likely to hear Italian as German being spoken, but in smaller mountain towns and closer to the Austrian border, that changes. In Italy, everyone takes one look at me and tries English first. I thought it was because I probably look like an American despite trying really hard to blend in. But now I think it’s because of the pale skin and light eyes. Everyone hear approaches me with German first. Even though there was plenty of pizza and pasta to choose from, I opted for the turkey schnitzel and roasted potatoes, followed by a strudel, of course. Tomorrow I will explore the outdoor produce market, stock up on some groceries and get started with the town’s sights.
Gus reports the town he’s staying in is beautiful and all is well so far.