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Looking around Do you know that kids show 'Go outside' with the woman and her collie in the biplane? I took her message very much to heart.

Making friends in Turin

UNITED KINGDOM | Tuesday, 16 June 2015 | Views [96]

It was dusk when we arrived at Porta Nuova train station in Turin. Whilst we were trying to figure out where our hostel was we walked down the wide Corso Emmanuelle II. Every town in Italy has a street called the Corso Emmanuelle II. The evening was cool, it was 50% less humid than Milan and the streets were lined with huge trees amassed with deep green leaves. At the end of the road in the direction of the Po river are great hills covered in trees that frame the city. There are many boutique shops, artisan cafes and cute little pasticcerias. The area where our hostel was seemed quite hipster, it was full of bars and trendy pizzerias and a cool art studio/gallery with a quote from Yoda in Italian as its sign. Apparently the residents thought the area is pretty trendy too since someone had graffitied “Via Hipster” on the wall. The hostel itself was even nicer, it is colourfully and cosily decorated, super clean and has a “relax room” with sofas, foosball, a communal guitar and a bar with free coffee. Our plan was to grab a slice of pizza and head to bed by 10:30 so we could wake up early. A pizzeria around the corner called Frattelli Pummarò was recommended to us by the guy at reception so we headed down to pick up a pizza. On the way back we decided to pick up a beer each from the local corner shop. With our bottle of Moretti and our delicious pizza we went to sit in the hostel’s garden, eat, drink and head to bed.

Across the beer garden was a table of guys, chatting away who introduced themselves to us. Three of them, Yaya, Najd and Oli, were in Turin for a conference on environmental building techniques or something and the other, and Mustafa, was just a kid backpacking around Italy like we were. Yaya was an architect from Tehran now living in Liverpool and to say he was passionate would be an understatement. His antithesis Najd, a Moroccan living in Vienna, did something with computers according to the others, a fact he vehemently rejected. Najd spent most of the evening attacking Yaya for being an architect and liking art and music and literature too much, things he seemed to find at least pointless if not completely abhorrent. The rest of the evening he spent abusing his French companion, who used to be his colleague back in Vienna, but apparently wasn’t anymore, and whose name I can’t pronounce let alone spell but sounded like something between Orlean and Oliver so I will just refer to him as Oli. He said it was the name of some medieval cardinal. Oli was a calm, quiet Parisian. He looked typically French. Pale and thin with big eyes and thick curly brown hair, he looked plain and too angular at first but seemed to become prettier with every glance. All night he was silent except for a random fact or awkward comment. Najd seemed to think Oli was very similar to me, which I didn’t know whether to be insulted or complimented by.

Our other companion, Mustafa, was a handsome Turk who oozed mysticism from the shadows of the garden veranda. He was a lone traveller of 23 who doing pretty much our route around Italy but in reverse, from Rome to Milan. He was in his last leg and would be heading to Milan the next day. There was a neat sort of symmetry to our meeting. They were such a funny, chatty group it was hard not to be draw into their dynamic. We talked out in the garden for a good hour and half before the passive aggressive neighbour who kept clapping and throwing water down at the gazebo we were sitting under finally defeated us. The way Italian houses are built, all backing onto each other in a square, makes it uncomfortably crowded and a little to communal. And since it’s too hot not to have the windows open at night, the smallest sound bounces off the walls and into every fidgety slumberer’s bedroom. We all agreed it would be weird to live directly facing three other people’s balconies and bedroom windows, Yaya told us that it was illegal to build houses like this in the UK, and I can really see why, we can barely stand our neighbours sharing a wall with us.

 Instead of taking the opportunity to head to bed we decided to head downstairs to the “relax room” and keep debating about religion, colonialism and which vegetables we would be if we were a vegetable- a question my friend insisted on asking every new person we met. Whilst we tried to stop Yaya, the Richard Dawkins devotee and Najd, the self-proclaimed Radical Muslim (in a ‘I drink beer and eat the occasional bacon sandwich’ kind of way) from going to blows, Mustafa quietly serenaded us with some expert Spanish guitar music. Soon Yaya and Oli headed to bed as they all had to be up early to give speeches and presentations that they hadn’t prepared yet, in the morning. Before I could convince my friend it was best if we went to bed as well, another one of their bunch, a Greek who lived in London and whose name I have probably misremembered as Alexei, traded places with them. Mustafa kept soothingly strumming the guitar in the corner and my friend and I tried to defend ourselves against the Greek attacks about British food and we all tried to explain the mysteries of the Sunday Roast to Najd. Finally, way past 1 am we dragged ourselves to bed, knowing we had to get up in less than 5 hours to go and see the Shroud of Turin. But it was worth it, meeting people you’d never normally meet is almost as good as visiting a new place. In a way they are both the same. These cities and countries can seem foreign at first, a little odd or strange but get to know them, talk to them, explore them and you realise they have more in common with the cities you know, than differences.  

Tags: hostels, meeting people, torino, turin

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