It’s now a few years later and I’m finally posting photos from, in some ways, the two most historically important countries on the trip. But first a rainy bus ride in 2011 to Sofia.
September 19th I think.
Enough. Long bus rides. Many. Long train and road taxi rides. Quite a few. All over the Balkans and more besides. On hot days and now cold days. Rough roads and super highways. Spotless toilets and squat toilets. Past picturesque villages and unsightly mines, Over mountains and under mountains. With bus drivers who are the impresarios of very entertaining little transportation kingdoms and taxi drivers who do not speak for 110 kilometers. Through slow and fast border checkpoints.
I have paid my road travel dues and am switching to airplanes. Not that they are such a joy. But the toilets are better and, while the humiliation and discomfort are greater when flying, the duration is certainly shorter and the ability to get information when you get into the new place is greater.
Yesterday. A bad, bad, bad, good, bad, good travel day. Didn’t sleep well, up at 5 am to get to Pristina bus station at 6. Staying in a very nice little room in a tiny hotel above a store where the hotel employees (a family) go home at night so when I can’t figure out how to operate the shower there’s no one to ask. I take a sort of splashing-about a running faucet bath of sorts. You would be surprised at the number of ingenious devices shower makers have created to make you want to stay at home with your own shower forever and ever.
The weather has turned fall, cold, rainy, gray…my favorite other than the cold part. Bus to Sofia unheated. Even with four shirt/sweatshirt/sweater/pullover combination things it is chilly after a few hours.
I arrive in Sofia without a hotel reservation, not worried because I know a couple of hotel names and there are always a bunch of taxi drivers on the street outside every bus station with many suggestions. NOT in Sofia. There are three guys none of whom speak English and no central area where I can turn on the computer and check some possibilities.
Finally I get one of the guys to find Art Otel in a guidebook. For 20 Euros, more than I paid for the ride from Pristina, we get here. It’s a sweet but cold room. I go to a little Bulgarian food buffet next door for a late lunch and the food is simple and beautiful and fresh and tasty. The hotel gives me a little heater—because I’m old and a wimp and I whine.
I go out to buy some bananas and get totally lost. But the rain lets up and my neighborhood is the art/funky chic area of the city so finding my way about is a pleasure. I come back home to my berry tart and in-room cappuccino and lots of CNN International and rediscover how much I love doing this…for long moments and hours and sometimes even days.
NOW FOR ISTANBUL AND ATHENS.
It is 2016. I’m having a book printed for each year of Time and Place. As I review and edit for the publishing I sometimes find big gaps. Those days and places I meant to write about as soon as there was time. Five years after the glorious jaunt about Eastern Europe including all the the former Yugoslavia and topping it off with Istanbul and Athens, I’m mostly remembering the journey through my photos. Here then is Istanbul from which a big chunk of the world was ruled at one time, and Athens, womb of western civilization (a rather tattered civilization in 2016 it’s true).
AND THE FIRST SHALL BE LAST (or something like that): ATHENS
I loved Istanbul. Not Athens so much. Not sure why except that it was the end of the trip and all of my senses were sated and my feet and back were simply cranky.
OLD STONE THINGS