November 16th, 2017 - back in the bubble
Hey there everybody,
It's newsletter time, yet again, and this one here marks the little 5 1/2-years-on-the-road Miles-stone (my editor still got my back on this terribly intended and just terribly terrible pun, so I'll keep it coming)!
I skipped last month's newsletter due to travel-busyness, and the optical as well as the acoustical resemblance of travel-busyness to travel-business is uncanny and says it all; the gist of what it feels like to travel two months at light speed:
It's just too fast. Over the last 5 1/2 years I have voyaged the world slooooooowly to get a feel for places and not just see them. But for the last two months I really stepped on it and soon I remembered why it isn't for me. I had the choice between staying another month in Ethiopia or exploring the Balkans at fast forward speed and, since I had long wanted to venture the latter, I waved Africa goodbye after a year.
So here I was to explore the Balkans, but what it really was can only be called consumption - Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Albania, all in three little weeks. I feasted on sights and encounters, but the substance was little.
Yes, traveling fast paced is a feast for the eyes, but a diet for the deeper understanding (fun fact side dish: after thinking about this sentence for awhile, the term "deeper understanding" came to mind and hit the nail of what I wanted to say splendidly - maybe it was conjured alight by an album I'd been listening to extensively during said light speed journey: A Deeper Understanding by The War on Drugs - terrific record).
cemetery in Sarajevo
Old Bridge, Mostar
glimpse: LIKE NO/ANY OTHER | Looking at this scene I see two streets: one that is like no other and one that is like any other. It’s an everyday street, a street next door; ordinary, yet unique. It’s made from the same elements as the others; still its particular characteristics are found in no other. Maybe it is both like no/any other in equal measure; or maybe it needs your angle to be one or the other. So what do you see? Fill in the blank for yourself: a street like […] other. | Sometimes it only takes one picture to tell a photo story. You can find more of these glimpses here, dispersed throughout the photos section and on social media.
Dubrovnik / Croatia
Kotor / Montenegro
Perast / Montenegro
Apart from the dizziness caused by rapid travel, my head spun quite a bit for another, more important reason: I was back in the "first world" bubble, which blurred and warped my vision more than ever before. After 2 1/2 years in Latin America I didn't really feel alienated living in posh Aix-en-Provence, France, nor did I when moving to Montreal after a year in the less wealthy parts of Asia. But, after a year in Africa, stepping back into the bubble with its ice cream cones and haute couture uniforms left me utterly torn.
On one hand there were the parts that I truly enjoyed, manifesting foremost as a certain freedom. I would blend in again instead of standing out. Nobody would pay attention to me and I could just walk for hours through any neighborhood of Sarajevo, at any time of day or night, without being noticed or without having to be cautious of certain perils caused by said attention. Don't get me wrong - Africa is a much safer place than most make it out to be, safer in some ways even than the bubble. Yet, being an easily recognizable foreigner there, I can't navigate the streets of say Joburg as easily and freely as the ones of Sarajevo or Dubrovnik. And so I roamed, for hours and hours, while slowly realizing how much I had missed this. There is also a certain beauty in European cities that I grew up with and crave, whether I like it or not. It is undeniably rooted very deeply in my sense for architectural esthetics, which, therefore, is best met here.
On the other hand I was repelled by the same beauty. It's just a little too easy on the eyes after having seen how people outside the bubble live. I don't know why it struck me more after Africa. I had seen much poverty in Latin America and Asia too, but somehow I was more torn this time. The contrast was just so tremendously stark - here the palaces and clock towers, there the shanty towns; here the women with jewelry and superfluous make up layers, there the women who have one pair of underpants. Everybody seemed so self-absorbed, trying real hard to look pretty, without an existential worry in the world, oblivious to the suffering out there and only ever meeting you with a hard stare if any. No more smiles shone my way, no more friendly greetings. And this in one of the arguably warmest parts of Europe. I couldn't grasp it, couldn't stand the pretentious fanciness, especially considering the very recent past of a war in the region. Only when I moved on to Kosovo and Albania, which seemed less bubbly, my torn halves slowly merged again into a unified image of a world in which everything isn't bad and everything isn't good.
Bill Clinton statue, Pristina / Kosovo
Prizren / Kosovo
Tirana / Albania
It's hard to stay mad anyway, when you move on to Greece and find this one here...
... and such simple beauty...
Milos / Greece
I made a quick pit stop in Barcelona, where revolution was supposed to be in the air, but pretty much everybody was actually doing something like this:
With the media thriving of sensationalism, it's easy to forget that life goes on ordinarily for most while the political stage is consumed by flames.
For November and December I returned to one of my favorite cities on earth, a first love on second sight, Granada.
Sacromonte, Granada / Spain
where to next
Hard to tell really, but I imagine the Stan-countries! Until then, I have a lot of fresh content coming up on MilesAstray, so stay tuned!