During my first week in Milan, I traveled out to the center of the city. When I say the center of the city, it is literally in the center of the city of Milan. In the center, there is a main cathedral called the Duomo, which is a term used for church, more specifically a catholic church. The Duomo is literally in the center of Milan. Then from the Duomo, the city is built as a circle that radiates outward. The structure of the city can be described as a small circle as its center point, and then a circle of buildings built around the center, and so on and so forth as it keeps radiating out.
Above is a picture of the Duomo that I took from behind. It is absolutely stunning. The building is so large, with hundreds of handcrafted sculptures of famous disciples, and people described in the Holy Bible. This church took about 600 years to build, and it is still under reconstruction (if you notice to roof of the building)! I know from pictures it just looks alright, but it is similar to looking at a picture of the ocean, and actually going to the ocean; two very different experiences.
I was not allowed to go into the Duomo the day I took the picture above, because I was wearing shorts. The entrance guards were really strict about what kind of clothing one could wear when entering the cathedral. It was understandable, because they viewed this as a place to meet God, and they wanted people to wear respectable, very conservative clothing, so I have yet to still go inside, which I am sure is just as beautiful. This small encounter with the entrance guards was a slight culture shock for me. At my home church, which is a protestant church, I am allowed to wear whatever I please as long as it was socially appropriate, so shorts and a T-shirt would have been no problem back in many churches in the States, but here at this specific cathedral, they wanted people to dress better when entering a building of God.
Moving on from the Duomo, I was walking around taking pictures of everything around the center plaza and my friend was taking some pictures of me too when a man came from nowhere, just grabbed my hand, and put bird food into my hand (see picture below).
He lifted up my hand and walked away, and right after that, pigeons flew towards me and ate everything in a matter of a few seconds. First, I hate pigeons…I sometimes see them as rats with wings. And secondly, once the pigeons (although the picture has just one pigeon, about ten came) landed on my hands, I immediately thought of bird flu. After that very unenjoyable experience, the man walked back towards me with another friend of his and he pointed to my hand and gestured for money. He spoke to me in Italian but I understood what he probably said, which was something along the lines of, “You used my bird food and now I want my money from you”. Him and his friend kept getting closer and kept asking for money so two thoughts flew into my head. First, for some odd reason, I was quite enjoying this experience. Maybe because it was the first time I got hustled and I was waiting to see how I would react. Secondly, I was thinking that they chose the wrong girl, because if they knew anything about my father, they would have known that he has done a good job teaching me not to waste money, and I was sure not going to spend money on these guys. So I told them I did not have money. They kept following me still so I said in a harsher voice, “I don’t have any money” and walked away (which was quite an obvious lie, since I had a very visible fanni-pack). They followed me and kept gesturing for a couple minutes but I walked quickly and made sure I was by other people so they eventually gave up. I know this situation could have been much worse if it was later in the night or if I was alone with not many people around but thankfully that was not the case. After this experience, I noticed that there were so many people trying to hustle money from tourists or people who looked foreign. I realized that just because I am Asian, I will probably be targeted more often than other people of Caucasian ethnicities because I will have a harder time “looking” like a typical European. Also, it won’t help my case that Asians often come with the stereotype that we are all rich, and innocent…especially since I am a short Asian girl. From this experience I learned to be more aware of my surroundings, to not let strange men give me bird food, and to not wear a fanni-pack around.
Near the central plaza of Duomo, there are hundreds of stores just around the corner selling beauty products, clothing, and accessories. Milan did live up to its title as the “Fashion Capital of the World”. There were several malls in which only designer products were sold. Just below is a picture of a shopping mall that only sold designer products. There were many expensive cafes next to the shops as well. Some stores even had their own cafe such as with Gucci, in which they had their own Gucci cafe right outside their store. The architecture of the mall was beautiful as you can see in the picture below.
Of course I could not afford to buy anything, but I was happy to just walk around and take everything in. It was a beautiful day, with blue skies, nice friends, and a lot of experiences, with many more to come!