(If you want to read this in Italian, you can find it here)
I was born and raised in Rome. Rome is big, hectic, chaotic and messy. It’s warm and loud and alive. Its history spans over two and half million years and you can just tell. You can sit in the beautiful Savello Park and take it all in. You feel as if you could almost breathe its history along with the thick smog and the greasy smell of cooking and fried supplì.
Thing is, when you live in a big city, there’s a lot you take for granted. The nearest supermarket will be five minutes away, maybe even closer. Shops will be open on a Sunday. You are surrounded by hundreds of cafés, restaurants and bars. Some will be cheap, some expensive; some will serve fresh, tasty food, while others might specialise in re-heating dodgy frozen stuff. Yet, you have a choice. If you’re in need of a Thai food fix, you know where to go. There’ll even be a place that serves Brazilian-inspired sushi… for real.
And then I lived in York for a bit. York was smaller, pretty, tidy, but it would still come alive in the afternoon, with hundreds of people strolling along the market stalls. If you wanted to, you could have Chinese food in a Tudor building*, or shop for vintage clothes. Again, you had a choice.
And then Berlin. Now, Berlin is different. It took me a few weeks to fall in love with it, but once it had happened there was no going back. Berlin isn’t pretty, it’s cold and grey and square, but boy is it charming. You know when you meet someone who doesn’t look like anything special, but then you get to know them better and they are amazing, interesting, and different, and you just want to hang out with them as much as possible? That’s Berlin in a nutshell.
Berlin is a place where everything, and I mean everything (including a bunker – true story), could become an art gallery or a club (or both). I loved getting lost on a cold, crisp day and finding the cutest little café or ramen place while drinking overpriced fresh ginger tea. Yes, there were a few downsides (like the complete lack of lifts and blinds), but I felt like everything was possible.
Which brings me to now. Wales. I remember telling people that I was moving to Swansea to do an MA, and the puzzled looks on their faces. “But, why? Why Swansea?”, they would say, “What’s in Swansea anyway?”.
Well, the University, for starters. The beach. A 24-hour Tesco. Shops, maybe not the poshest ones (you won’t find a COS or The White Company here) but everything you need. Boots. Takeaways (people seem to love their fried chicken). Curry houses.
Except I don’t even live in Swansea. I live, as the title of this post says, in the middle of nowhere. To go to said Tesco I have to get on a bus and sit uncomfortably on a sometimes sticky, purple plastic seat for forty five minutes. The only café within walking distance shuts at 3 pm (yes, pm).
Adjusting wasn’t easy. In fact, I don’t even think I’ve adjusted yet. I long for somewhere bigger, louder, perhaps stranger. But then there are beautiful, clear days, when you can go to a deserted beach and read a book in absolute silence and feel like you can finally think clearly and relax. Sure, there isn’t a lot to do here, but you learn to appreciate little things, like long walks on beaches that look like lunar landscapes and coming home with muddy boots. You learn to appreciate trains, and weekend trips, and squirrels jumping around. A warming cup of tea when it rains outside. Snuggling down with a book and a blanket, on a cold night. And strangers being nice to you.
* yes it does exist, and it’s called Happy Valley.