Share |

Mike's Excellent Adventure to Europe 1993

Part 8: Bolzano

We finished up our last week in Germany, and on the following Saturday, I drove the rest of the guys in my office to the Frankfurt Airport in the Vectra (we had to take two cars because we were carrying removable hard drives in big hardened cases).  On the way back from dropping them off, I was driving down the autobahn in the left lane doing 200 km/h, which is approximately 120 mph.  As I looked in my rearview mirror, I saw a car in the distance flash its headlights - the universal signal that they are going to pass you.  I got over in the right lane (still doing 120 mph) and no sooner did I get over than I got passed by a yellow Ferrari in the left lane.  To tell you what it felt like, imagine that you are parked on the side of an interstate and cars are passing you at 70 mph.  That is how the Ferrari passed me, as I was doing 120 mph - he had to be pushing 200 mph.  He was past me and gone in a few seconds.  If I would have blinked, I would have missed him.  God, I love the German highways!

So, I got back to the base, picked up my boss and his wife, and we all hit the road on our way to Italy.  My boss, just having spent the previous weekend pleading with the police in Austria to give us back our Astra, thought about going to Italy by way of Switzerland or France.  But, since we were supposed to be there as soon as possible, we decided to go through Austria.  He decided that since we were traveling in the Vectra instead of the Astra, we should be safe (what he didn't knew was that on my trip through Austria on our way to Switzerland, I had committed about a dozen speeding violations in Austria, and someone in Bregenz told us they use cameras to catch speeders; I thought the autobahn rules in Austria were the same as in Germany (no speed limits) -oops).

So, we went to Munich, then cut down and went through Innsbruck and the skinny part of western Austria (minimizing our time that we were in Austria in case we were still wanted individuals).  Our boss, still smarting from the parking problems in Innsbruck, did not want to stay in Austria, so we pressed on until we got to Bolzano, Italy.

Bolzano, Italy (called "Bozen" in German) is situated in the northern part of Italy in the Italian Alps.  The city is bilingual - nearly everyone spoke both German and Italian.  One problem, though - all of us only spoke English and Spanish. 

A nice Italian villa.
Our hotel in Bolzano.

We checked into the hotel, and one of the funny things is that at the time, I was living in Rome, New York, which is a small town just west of Utica in the Mohawk Valley at the foothills of the Adirondack mountains.  While everyone thinks of New York with skyscrapers and such, actually very much of the state is wilderness, and around Rome, there are actually lots of farms. 

So, I was filling out the register, the woman behind the counter noticed my address.

"You live in Roma AND New York!?" she exclaimed.  I could see the excitement in her eyes.

"Well, our Roma is very different from your Roma," I explained. 

"But New York!" she said, holding her hand up to signify the skyscrapers.

"No," I replied, "where I live there are farms - agriculture - granja."  I said.

"But Roma AND New York!  Wow!" she said.  I decided not to break her illusion and to let her think I lived in the most spectacular place on earth (which it was not).

Anyway, she gave us our keys, and directed us to a nearby restaurant.  We sat down in the restaurant, and a waiter gave us a menu - in Italian.

"I don't speak Italian," I told the waiter.

"Ah," he said, and flipped the menu over - where it was written in German.  "I don't speak German either," I told him.  He just smiled, oblivious to what I was saying.

So, we were all trying to figure out what was written on the menu.  Some of the Italian looked very similar to Spanish.  I saw an entry for something called "Pollo Pepperoni."  I was intrigued.  I knew from Spanish that "pollo" was chicken, and I knew what pepperoni was, so I ordered it.  My boss, his wife, and Scott (he was one of the contractors who came to Italy with us) all didn't know what they wanted.  Just then, a guy came over and helped translate the menu.  He was an American.  Turns out he was a Mormon missionary in the area, and he helped us order dinner.  I even talked him into translating the wine list, although I know this gave him a huge moral dilemma.  We had a nice conversation with him.  He was glad to be able to speak English to someone and to be able to talk about home in America.  For the first time, I realized that although I was having a blast in Europe, there were a lot of things I missed about America.  After my conversation with the woman in the lobby, I realized how people outside America view it; what I saw as a mundane town, this woman saw as the most wonderful place on earth.  This part of the trip made me realize how great America was, not because of what this place didn't have, but for the ability to see America from a foreigner's perspective.

Anyway, my dinner came, and it was a chicken breast in a red marinara sauce with huge slices of green pepper in it.  When I asked the waiter about the pepperoni, he indicated that the pepper slices were "pepperoni."  The Mormon guy told me that the "pepperoni" we get in the states is called "salami" over in Italy.  Oh, well, it was good either way, but I was just surprised.

The waiter tried to talk to us in his broken English, and the restaurant was nearly deserted, so some of the wait staff came and joined us also.  So, we all had a good dinner conversation - us, the Mormon guy, and the kitchen staff - and we talked all about America and Bolzano.  At the end of the evening, the chef gave us a complimentary dessert and a bottle of wine.  Since Scott and I were the only ones who drank, there was plenty for us.  I have to say - that evening in Bolzano was one of the happiest moments in my life.  It was weird; we were all from different places, spoke different languages, and yet, we all had a great evening of laughter and fun.  That, or maybe it was the free wine...

Anyway, I went back to the hotel, and the woman in the lobby continued to ask me questions about America.  I had a conversation with her in broken English and Italian (I could translate some words from Spanish), and it turns out she wanted to be a fashion designer in New York, and so she was intrigued by everything American.  Everyone I met in Bolzano was extremely nice.  If you ever get the chance, stop by there.

Where did everyone go?
A random street in Bolzano.

The next day, we visited the town square, the Waltherplatz, where there is a statue to Walther von der Vogelweide, a German poet.  In 1935, the statue was removed by the Fascists, but it was brought back in 1985.

A statue of a German poet in Italy.
The Waltherplatz in the town square.

We also went past the Duomo, a gothic cathedral built in the 1300s.

Big cool church.
The Bolzano Duomo.

What is funny is that I still think that Bolzano is one of the greatest places on earth, just in the same way that the Italian woman at the hotel had visions of Rome, New York being the best of both Rome and New York City.  I only spent a very short time there, but I had such a great time, I hope to go back here again someday.

Well, we had to be in Vicenza to go to work the next day, so we had to hurry up and hop on the highway.  So, we got in our cars and off we went.

Continue on to Part 9: Vicenza