Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Relaxing in Bologna

If you’ve been reading K’s four part special on our Italian food tour, you know that we had to get up crazy early to stand outside and wait for our ride (who was late). The single gulp of coffee I was able to choke down before running out the door was scalding hot on the back of my throat, and I was in a fairly pissy mood.

As we drove to our destination, I noticed all of the angry drivers laying on their horns and realized that it was a Monday morning. Glancing at my watch, I saw that only two weeks before, I would’ve been driving to work. Now I was watching the sunrise over the Tuscan countryside on a highway to Milan. I continued to stare out the window, seeing the tiny villages give way to vineyards dotting the hills, and couldn’t help but smile. Never again will I start off my week with that commute.

We originally decided that we would stay in Bologna and day trip out to Florence and Pisa. On the day we wanted to go to Florence, we stood in four different lines at the train station, looking for a ticket machine that would accept cash since our American credit cards are pretty much useless here. After 30 frustrating minutes, I turned to my adventure partner and said, “I’m just going to throw an idea out here, and you can throw it right back. What if we just said ‘fuck it’ and stayed in Bologna for the day?”

He quickly agreed and after a few minutes of walking, we ended up at this amazing park over looking the city. I was surprised how many people were in the park, considering it was a Tuesday morning. For the most part, they were sitting around on the benches, chatting with each other, and smoking cigarettes.

The scene reminded me of Spain. Our tour guide in Barcelona had explained that unemployment amongst young adults in the city is at 52%, so they have some free time on their hands.

Whether in Barcelona or Bologna, no one seemed to be in a hurry to get anywhere. After an hour or so, we wandered from one end of the city to the other, and ended up at a different park. Same story. Loads of people sleeping in the sun, picnicking, and chain-smoking their way through another long afternoon.

I thought to myself, ‘When in Bologna,’ and sat down next to the pond. I watched turtles, fish of all sizes, ducks, and geese splash in the water. I played 15 games of Sudoku (the difficult ones, IN PEN!!). I drank two cups of espresso and ate some salami from the co-op. I spent another hour people-watching. Pleather is making a huge comeback here.

I returned to the park today, where I read a book for an hour and drank a beer in the sun. Then I lay in the grass and watched the clouds for a while. I think the last time I watched the clouds was when I was a child, and I’ve been missing out. When I was kid, I would think to myself, ‘That one looks like a marshmallow!’ My adult brain is much more creative. ‘That one looks like a three-legged Welsh Corgi laying on a throw pillow next to Charlie Sheen!’

My brain can only focus on cute things now.

My ever-pragmatic adventure partner says that the last two days should’ve demonstrated to me why the European economy is in the toilet. For now, I’m choosing to ignore that fact. Maybe it’s the sun or that I’m just not as stressed out from continually hating my job, but my time in the park has been some of the most relaxing few days of my life. I’ve finally had a few hours to simply sit in the grass and think. I didn’t worry about what I had to do next, and for once I wasn’t in a hurry.

I might not be able to maintain this lifestyle forever, but I hope that when I return to “normal” I’ll still take the time to watch the clouds, if only to see what shapes emerge. Most of all, I hope I can cling to my newfound ability to slow down and (literally) smell the roses.

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