It constantly amazes me when I arrive in a new foreign city, set out to be intimidated by how “different” it is, and realize… It’s really not. It’s people, and people like to eat, drink, shop, sleep. It’s Eastern Europe, it’s not Antarctica, and there are far more different places than where I am. Even if I write you from Bulgaria or Serbia.
Twice now, trips to Bulgaria have reminded me of home. Nothing unusual, nothing mind-blowing to take pictures of captioned “look how these people live here!” Sofia. Any small, pedestrian friendly city in America whose mayor just decided to use shapes and squiggles on all the signs instead of letters. The oddest sight? The dumpster engulfed in flames outside our hostel one evening. When warning the reception girl, she laughed. “Yeah, sometimes that happens. Just a still lit cigarette. People are not so smart sometimes.” But true statement, Bulgaria has the best pizza you’re ever going to eat, and it is in restaurants and windows all over town.
Belgrade. Amazing architecture, beautiful streets. Andrea and I were debating taking a walking tour yesterday, and in the next twenty seconds my well-worn greek sandals (worn in eight countries now!) lost their grip on the marble steps twice. With a bruised elbow and twisted knee, we skipped the walking tour and went off at our own pace.
My knee held up, and we walked for six hours, in every direction. Ended up at a massive fortress, with all its beautiful walls, and row after row of preserved tanks and cannons on display. “We’re in Serbia!” is the incredulous statement we make quite often. I have no pictures of tanks and cannons. Andrea and I travel well together, with photos and interests in different things. People versus places, faces versus spaces.
That said, the view from landmarks such as castles and fortresses are always beautiful.
And sometimes, they are perfect… lovely.
We went out last night with everyone from the hostel. Today… Not so much. Today might have started with my first (ever so slight) hangover since college. Out earlier then back for naps, we’ll venture out shortly to grab coffee, write postcards and chat. Three more days with Andrea.
Serg, the owner, just came in here to fix the air conditioning. Serg, the owner, looks like Fabio. Told me to come check out the beach with him, five minutes away. Five I asked? “Ten minutes by bus,” which just made me assume this trip would be by private motorcycle. Heh.
But then I had a moment of clarity, remembered the deep nap I’d just awoken from, wiped the drool off my face and politely declined.
It’s the tenth anniversary of September 11th. I just went looking for my 5-yr anniversary piece published in the Albany diocese’ Evangelist but the link is broken. First week of seventh grade, California, woke up and joined Mom as she watched The Today Show. I started watching just before the first tower fell. I’d never heard of the World Trade Center.
Ten years later, I’m in Serbia, and yesterday I walked by buildings still scarred by the NATO bombings of 1999. Construction walls are up and life goes on around it, but it’s there, it happened, and it isn’t forgotten.