Class Trip to Basel, Zurich, Milan, and Venice
(Written for the Iowa State Study Abroad Center)
I have traveled 14 of the past 18 days: by bus, by train, by plane, by boat, by car, you name it. I am so grateful for this crazy part of my life. 20 of my classmates and two of my professors took a week long trip to the Northern part of Italy and Switzerland. We started our trip with a flight into Basel, Switzerland, stayed for just a night, and then headed off to Zurich. Switzerland was beautiful, despite the extreme increase in price. After a night in Zurich and a few museums, we headed to Milan. It rained the whole time we were in the city, but that didn’t stop us from dancing in front of the Duomo, seeing fascinating pieces by Leonardo Da Vinci, and finding amazing places to eat. After our quick stay in Milan, we took off toward our final stop in Venice.
We arrived by train late Monday night to a sinking city. My friends and I grabbed a nice Italian meal and explored a bit of the city before returning to our hotel for the night. The next morning, we woke to pouring rain and sirens blaring throughout the winding streets. We were being evacuated. The staff at our hotel said Venice was projected to reach record flood levels that afternoon from the high tide coming in. With that warning, we packed up and headed to the nearest boat dock. Our group evacuated to a new hostel on another island as the rain started to pick up. We were given two options: stay at the hostel (safe and dry) or take the risk and go back to the island we had just evacuated to see the museums originally scheduled for the day. Some stayed behind while some decided to take a chance on the unpredictable conditions. I wanted to see Venice, so I boarded the boat and headed to the museum. We all stood, crowded, not knowing what the day would hold as our boat swayed in the tumbling waters. The sea is an indescribable and terrifying part of this world that we continue to destroy with each passing minute. I stood there admiring the beauty of the rain and wind tossing us back and forth. Once we arrived at our destination fully geared and prepared, our professors decided to take cover at their hotel to ensure they would made it back safely.
A group of us continued on to attempt to see the museums. It turned out both museums were closed due to the weather, so we decided to explore a little bit of the neighborhoods before boarding the boat back to our hostel. A number of the boat routes were already shutting down so getting back to the hostel ended up being a lot harder than expected. With a number of connecting boats and a long walk through deep waters, we reached the island of our hostel, but we had one problem.
Because of the high tides, we had to get off the at a stop much further from our hostel. We stepped off into thigh deep water and 30 mph cross winds. We had a 20 minute walk to our hostel that turned into an hour hike through high water. We were being tossed against brick buildings by extreme winds with falling rain pelting us in the face. People were searching for shelter everywhere, restaurants and shops were completely flooded, and light poles and countless debris had fallen from above. Searching for our hostel, we continued our trek through the conditions, trying to make the best of a bad situation laughing and smiling through it. Once we found our hostel, bootless and soaked from the rain, we were stranded inside for the rest of the night. We met a lot of other young people in the same situation, so we hung out and bonded over our shared adventures. We could all agree on how grateful we were to have seen Venice before it really does go under water for good.
The next day, we opened the windows to a rainbow stretching across the bright lit sky. The sea levels returned to normal, so we headed to the historic Biennale that reminded me again just how beautiful art is. Everywhere we go, we are surrounded by art and so many of us take it for granted. These moments standing in front of a Michelangelo painting or even in front of the tumbling sea remind me to never look past the beauty I am so fortunate to be surrounded by.
After the museum we headed home to Rome. We bounced from hostel to hostel, paid ridiculous prices for a good cappuccino, walked through countless museums, and formed many new friendships. Though I walked away with a few bed bug bites, I also carry stories I will tell for the rest of my life. It was a great week with my professors and classmates: an amazing experience that I will always remember.
As I sit on yet another train home from Florence gazing out at the mountains and writing this, I can only smile at how fast this time has gone. With only six weeks left on this incredible journey, I am excited for what lies ahead, not only with my final trips but with the rest of my life. My incredible life journey doesn’t end when I step off the plane in America six weeks from now. This entire experience is only just the start.