Recently, I made a short trip to Manchester. I was excited to see the city of museums, the second biggest after London and a producer of football legacy. Travelling is exciting, almost an addiction for different reasons. The enactment of discovering new places, the joy to share stories with different people; in essences is the satisfaction of human curiosity as its best, but also the certainty that traveling you will uncover more about yourself. The short trip to this city had the promise of giving me all of that.
Research is the best ally when the time is short and there is so much to see. Found the places my friend Sonia, another lovely Venezuelan, and I wanted to visit. The Imperial War Museum, Manchester Art Gallery, Old Trafford, the Manchester United Stadium; the Town Hall, the The John Rylands Library and the time is running out. Nevertheless, the possibility of being surprised is always something I look forward to, so in that spirit we leave space for unexpected digressions from the original plan.
It was that the reason we decided to ring the bell in a Greek revival looking building that, although it was not mention as a major attraction, it have a magnetic charm for a Latino American no used to this architecture. The Portico Library and Gallery was the name of the place.
Rang the bell and upped the stairs we found a lovely room with a very interesting collection, from which the old travel & voyages books call my attention. The library is mainly 19th century collection and it was founded in 1806. Some of the titles were screaming at me to pick them up and have a look of travel adventures in times different from mine. With my hands almost tide up behind my back to do not touch anything and my growing enthusiasms we went to talk with the man in charged.
We talk about how wonderful were the books in the library, how interesting were and how the library was still open thanks to its members, who paid an annual fee and are the ones who have access to snoop inside those books. We were ask where we were from, of course the English with a sweet and musical Venezuelan accent did not pass unnoticed.
The visit continue and could it be just like any other, without major relevance in our trip if is not because what happened next.
While we were looking around the gallery, the librarian went to climb up one of the stairs and took a couple of old and great looking books. Call us and show us the most amazing discovery in or trip. The books were both published around the 1870 and the thematic was: VENEZUELA. There were books written by explores of that time, who travel to our country and describe what they saw. The geography, the fauna, different regions and their inhabitants.
Reading about Los Llanos and the Andes in a Manchester library, and explain to the librarian the former is a region similar to the plains and the latter a mountain area, while he see the illustrations about caimans and said: “Imagine someone from here seeing a caiman for the first time, there is no danger animals here, just rabbits and a deer are the biggest you can encounter.”
All the experience was exiting, funny, and emotional and in that moment you cannot avoid the nostalgia. Being away from home is as wonderful as it is painful. I cannot say I have ever saw a caiman in Venezuela (my friend actually has done research about them and interact first hand) let us face it I lived in Caracas, the capital. Nevertheless, talking about your country and about what you feel familiar has the power to take you back and find a forgotten pride for a place you call yours.
If the experience could not get more surreal and like in a mystery story; at the end of the book in a pocket that we open with the biggest careful there was a map of Venezuela, bought by the explorer and dated 1865. So in that moment I was the closest I could get to my country and the place I grow up.
Traveling and the path you choose for your life will take you to the most unimaginable places, it will make you humble and question yourself every time you say: “this is the most beautiful place”. But the nostalgia of what came before will find its way in your journey and the country where you first belong to will never leave you.