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Le Ciel Rose du Soir.

A thought track I wrote at the weekend about reflection. Feel free to share with anyone who this may be of use to, or give your own input in the comment section below. 

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In a long, drawn-out, thought provoking attempt to piece together my own opinion I’ve sit myself down on a Saturday evening with a pen, paper and the privilege of time. It’s my 24th birthday and for me this one is quite significant. Not for most people. Or maybe it is. Normally it’s the number 18 or 21 that push people into some form of unadulterated frenzy. The landmarks that symbolise the new beginnings, the next steps or the turning of corners. ‘Starting a fresh!’ Naturally turning 24 isn’t one of those. A purgatory of age. Which in fairness is probably why there is a deeper significance than its predecessors. Turning 24 has done exactly what it says on the tin.

It hasn’t been a new beginning. A next step. The turning of a corner. Or a fresh start.

It hasn’t been any of them. And thats where my thoughts begin to rumble.

Every time a birthday came around, or a trivial occasion like new year (mibby even a win for the Scottish national team at the fitbaw) I suddenly became enthused at the thought of an opportunity to redefine myself. Big promises were made and a few prayers were said (depending on whether I believed in the Lord Almighty at the time.. He always seemed to pop up for the big moments.) resulting in sparks of genuine hope to seek out new levels of self-fulfillment. A desperate ploy to make life bearable disguised as renewed ambition. Eventually the fatigue set in. The mask slid off and left me helpless. Stranded. Exposed in the glare of a million spotlights. At least thats what it feels like when the walls are closing in.

This years anniversaire has come and gone without the chance to notice it. It is turning 24 after all. I’m a big boy. Nae presents and parties at this age.

But I don’t have that desire or thirst for radical change. I’m toying with the notions of a challenged contentment and doleful dullness. No complaints of an urgent nature. My position, my direction all seemingly positive. Its the first time in my life I’ve felt responsible and (to a certain extent) capable. I’m growing as a person and I’m enjoying it. And in the grand scheme of things I would say that this is a basic requirement in the quest for accomplishment.

So whats the deal with the doleful dullness?

From a young age I understood what it meant to not have control over dangerous situations that impact greater than what is feasibly contained. Losing that control would be another harsh lesson despite the willing endeavors to avoid and resist. To describe the emotions of revisiting certains memories is a difficult picture to paint. On a personal level, an arduous notion to grasp. How does a 12 year old know how to act in life changing situations that will go on to shape him for the rest of his life? Even with hindsight an answer isn’t clear.

What I’m trying to say is, I’m in a good place right now. And I have been for a while now. But it’s always there. That back-to-earth feeling whenever I go to take those fucking happy pills. Every day I remind myself theres two 50 milligram capsules of Sertraline waiting to align the chemical imbalance in my brain, and one day sooner or later when the time is right I’ll have to restart a battle with an old foe in order to win my freedom again.

Yet how does one approach a battle with himself?

Honestly I take great fear in this. I know what its like to already feel defeated and I know what its like to look up from the pits and not see any lights. I don’t want to go there again. I was afraid of everything. Afraid of myself. Afraid of my surroundings. I didn’t work or go out nor could I bare to eat. I had turned on myself to a point of almost no return. My mind began to run riot and in some cases tricked me. One day at my lowest point I went a walk along the River Clyde with the intent to find some headspace. . I stopped beside the river and looked across the water, gazing intentedly, trying to make sense of it all. My head filled with darkened fear. I was losing control again. My mind drew my eyes into the middle of the water and I felt the river speak to me. There weren’t any voices, just this magnetic-like energy drawing me to the barriers. My entire being locked in for a few minutes and then I pulled myself away. I remember this time as clear as day. Birds flew over the river but they didn’t settle me and the sky was a cruel mixture of very deep, hoar clouds and a bitter, crimson sky.

I know this makes for troublesome reading. Nevertheless it would be easier to pretend this didn’t happen at all. For the sake of comfortability I could swear to never mention it
for as long as I lived. Comfortability for you. Locking it away in a forgotten chamber in my head for it to scream at me sporadically like a damned and caged soul. I’d call that regression. This year alone I’ve achieved too much to start going backwards now. I’ve broken personal barriers! Wandered down unfamiliar roads! Crossed foreign & disputed borders! (due to entering Kosovo while on my Balkan wanders, I’m now very likely to have some issues should I ever visit Serbia. They, along with Russia, don’t recognise Kosovo as an independent nation.. in the eyes of the ruling Governments I entered Serbia illegally. Probably a good thing I don’t plan on going there any time soon then). I urged myself to live in ways I didn’t know I was capable of and still I yearn for more. Despite the trials, troubles and tribulations of it all I am the Wide-Eyed Scotsman and every waking moment is more significant than those before.

So long may it continue…

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“It was as if that great rush of anger had washed me clean, emptied me of hope, and, gazing up at the dark sky spangled with its signs and stars, for the first time, the first, I laid my heart open to the benign indifference of the universe. To feel it so like myself, indeed, so brotherly, made me realize that I’d been happy, and that I was happy still. For all to be accomplished, for me to feel less lonely, all that remained to hope was that on the day of my execution there should be a huge crowd of spectators and that they should greet me with howls of execration.” 

― Albert Camus, The Stranger

 

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Sofia in Picture.

Dobre došãl! Добре дошъл! (That’s welcome in Bulgarian, ya dafties).

I spent five great days in the capital. After only planning a day visit, I met some great folk and loved the city. Here are some of the sights I took in during my visit.

“While two Bulgarians are arguing, a third one always wins.”
Двама се карат – трети печели

(Bulgarian Proverb about strength in unity).

 

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”Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. The posterboy for every Sofia tourism campaign.”

 

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”Sofia”

 

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”Levski Stadium”

 

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”Life after Revolution”

 

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”Chupa Chups”

 

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”The former house of the Bulgarian Communist Party.”

 

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”Difficult following Cyrillic signs..”

 

BULGARIA

”Until next time, Sofia. Благодаря ти..”

 

Feel free to follow, comment on or share the Wide-Eyed Scotsman if you find something of interest/ potential value. I regard this personal project mainly as a facility to continue my own education. If you believe the content could impact, intrigue or inspire (or if there are any constructive criticisms) then your interaction would be greatly appreciated. 

Aidan X

 

 

 

Posted Missing.

Hello all, salut!

I’ve unfortunately neglected my duties to this project whilst I attempt to adjust to my new chapter in life. My partner and I moved into an apartment in Grenoble around two months ago. My time has been dedicated mainly to my new career (Landscaping and Green Space Management), part time work to keep the rent coming and improving my French so I stand a chance of understanding my studies.

Yes, I am studying entirely in French. It’s tiring. Ça me fatigue. But it’s utterly rewarding and I can’t begin to tell you just how putain smart I feel. Now things are settling and I have more of an idea of my routine I hope to continue writing and sharing my experiences with you. I still have many pictures and stories from my Summer trip in the Balkans which I hope to upload in the coming weeks so please bare with me. For now, I’ll leave you with some snaps of my new home, the city of the Alps. I can’t wait to share this wonderful region with you all…

 

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”Le tram de Grenoble.”

 

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L’Art de la Rue.”

 

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”Parc Paul Mistral”

 

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”The mountains of the Alps at my doorstep.”

 

Don’t forget to follow. À la prochaine 🙂

 

The Hidden Life of Trees.

“A tree’s most important means of staying connected to other trees is a “wood wide web” of soil fungi that connects vegetation in an intimate network that allows the sharing of an enormous amount of information and goods.” 

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“There are more life forms in a handful of forest soil than there are people on the planet. A mere teaspoonful contains many miles of fungal filaments. All these work the soil, transform it, and make it so valuable for the trees.” 

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“When you know that trees experience pain and have memories and that tree parents live together with their children, then you can no longer just chop them down and disrupt their lives with larger machines.” 

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“If we want to use forests as a weapon in the fight against climate change, then we must allow them to grow old, which is exactly what large conservation groups are asking us to do.”

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My hope is that the wolves’ stewardship of natural processes in Yellowstone will help people appreciate the complex ways that trees interact with their environment, how our interactions with forests affect their success, and the role forests play in making our world the kind of place where we want to live. Apart from that, forests hide wonders that we are only just beginning to explore. I invite you to enter my world.

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All quotes taken from ‘The Hidden Life of Trees‘ by Peter Wohlleben. Just this week I plunged myself into a new career path. I’ve begun an apprenticeship in landscaping and green space management. l’Aménagement des Espaces Verts.. Paysagers.

It’s a whole new world to me. A path in my life which opened after reading this book. It details a fascinating insight into the lives and communication systems of the forest and trees. I came across it at a time not long after a very upsetting episode where my health took a hit. And the combination of moving to an area of the world with an abundance of ecological wealth and the ‘luck’ to find this book on a spontaneous visit to the Argyle Street Waterstones in Glasgow City Centre, has given me a certain belief that this may just have been meant for me. It’s no surprise to me that the quality of my life has vastly improved since redirecting my focus down this road. And it gives me great motivation to work harder to succeed in these challenges set out for me.

I took these pictures in two separate places. The 2nd, 4th and 5th at the Old Kilpatrick Hills, Scotland. And the 1st and 3rd at the Gorges du Versoud, France.

Crossing Borders. A Three Part Series.

Part 3. Sofia & Stefan.

Now I was focused on finding somewhere to camp. Being on the outskirts of the city would prove to be an advantage, even if I still had to be fairly cautious. I started to walk along the road and my bag weighed me down again. ‘Why did I bring so much?’ Very generously a taxi driver stopped and offered me a lift. I told him I was headed to a fairly large district on the very edge of the city, Boyana. It took its name from an old orthodox church dating back to the 1600’s. The day after I managed to get a swatch of said decrepit temple, but thats another story all the gither. Originally I planned to make my way up past the church and to a waterfall some way into the national park. So I would find somewhere for the night before embarking on any sort of waterfall quest and head for the Boyana waterfall the following day. Despite the language barrier the taxi driver seemed a good man. His wife and child were in the back and we shared some laughter about the comical situation now taking place. They weren’t even going this route in the first place but he took me further down the road in my decided direction and let me out where it was easy to navigate and settle for the night.

There and then I found myself in the middle of this great, stretching road which went on and on until the heady beginnings of the city of Sofia could be seen to commence. Behind lay nothing but neglected fields of despondent, moribund grass. I could only gaze forward which in truth to anyone passing through on an ordinary day in Boyana, Sofia this road would have been just like any other road. Not for me. ”Fuck” I thought to myself. I couldn’t believe I was there. And so quickly aswell. How did this happen? Why did I do this? What do I do now?

I skipped along the road (like a mad fanny to be honest) and cried out cheers of an unburdening joy. ”Yasss!!” A possessed loony among streams of cars passing me on each side, drivers bewildered at the exhilirated ginger traveller playing a game of proverbial chicken. I didn’t care. My hopes now are maybe they read the situation exactly how it was and felt a deep sense of gratitude for witnessing my watershed moment. Or maybe my wishful thinking played no part in their experience and they only seen some foreign alien prancing about oddly on the road. But whatever meant nothing to them meant everything to me. The demons within me who had held me back for so long fought hard to derail me and they didn’t go down without a fight. I had learned to resist however and inspire the adrenaline to sail through me only to instill happiness, periods of absurd peace of mind in situations where usually i’d lose the nut. These weren’t the times when such calm feelings were expected yet for many years I had waited, dreamed and worked for times like this. Truly the small moments that make life worth living.

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”My Watershed Road”

It was too late to enter the city at this point so I searched for a nice spot to pitch my tent. A single person Ferrino Lightent 1.. Snug and secluded. It’s actually class and I seriously regret not using it more. (I only used it twice through my whole trip; this night and then another time outside Bordeaux Airport behind a bush.) Along the road and to the right there was this small lake, kinda like a pond, and a wee dusty beach area on one side. Cars surrounded the pond and the owners sat outside, fishing quietly. The beach area was empty. I kept my distance and went there, far enough to be left alone or to not disturb anyone around. Well I started to set up the Ferrino for the night until a young guy came along and asked me to leave. It was a private fishing lake. I had no idea but I wouldn’t cause a fuss. I started to repack my things into my bag, gutted with my predicament. Then the same guy stumbled around for a bit, spoke on his phone with someone in Bulgarian. He returned to me shortly after.

”Bring your stuff over here man.”

We walked around the lake to the busier side and stood next to this old wooden cabin with some benches outside. I was allowed to set up directly beside it. Phew. After I had my things sorted, Stefan invited me for a drink at the benches outside the cabin. It was his uncle’s place and they made their business by charging folk to fish on the lake and supplying them with food and drink. He spoke better English than me to be honest. We spoke a lot about his life in Sofia and his future, his dreams. It was cool to speak to someone like me apparently and he hoped one day the opportunity for him would also be there to venture out like me. But money was an issue. Bulgaria is officially the poorest country in the European Union and Stefan would only make 12 Euros for a 12 hour shift. 1 Euro per hour. I felt guilty turning up with all the bullshit I had in my bag. I tried to level that with advice of my own and stories from where I’d come from. With each passing topic or story I felt proud and extremely grateful for my start in life. There’s an unsettling discovery to be found in conversations like these. And even if I couldn’t help be born into my opportunities it certainly didn’t lessen the effect of his words.

I didn’t get a great sleep. The cabin was directly beside my ‘watershed’ road and cars drove past frequently as if the traffic never stopped. When I woke up all the fishermen were still by the lake, fairly obvious they had stayed the whole night. Stefan took me to a tram station, much further into the city.

”It’s important to help others out I mean.. isn’t that what you’re supposed to do?”

Where would I be if it hadn’t been for people like those I had met in my cross country adventure? Without hesitation these folk saw me as another person in need rather than an unwelcome stranger. Stefan later told me that his uncle was ready to let me stay at the beach the previous night but they were concerned about others mugging me for all my stuff. He said anyone like me was particularly vulnerable. I didn’t resemble anything other than a lost foreigner. He fed me Bulgarian sausages in the morning and helped me find my way to the centre without hesitation. We could all learn a lot from a young guy like him.

Stefan.. When you’re reading this, I want you to know how grateful I am for that time and all the help you gave me. You didn’t need to do any of that but since you did there’s nothing but love on my behalf. I look forward to the mad adventure we take on when I come back to Sofia.

Once again.. Thanks mate.

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”Boyana, Boyana”

 

Crossing Borders. A Three Part Series.

Part 2. Eugene & Monica, Bulgaria.

I shuffled past the various cars and trucks who sat attentively in an orderly fashion at the first border patrol, leaving Romania. The road stretched on for a good while with nothing but green grass and the base of a cemented broken road barrier surrounded by the broken segments of its former upper layer. Wild masses of green bush overflowed and the painted road lines had faded to such an extent it was difficult to tell if they were lines at all. At the end of the road there was a sharp turn where the Bulgarian border patrol lay, rendering it invisible from my current view. I found myself in No Man’s Land. Up until now it was obviously easy to be alone on my journey but now I never had a location to comfort me. I couldn’t say logistically ‘I’m in Romania’ or ‘I’m in Bulgaria’. The history of human behaviour will tell you that not having an answer is enough to turn someones life upside down. We crave answers, thirst for knowledge and push ourselves to unthinkable limits for a whiff of understanding. It’s an absurd assurance like this that calms an anxious mind in unsettling moments and keeps the flightful brain from derailing hopeful ambitions. And yet here I was.. free from security. Utterly bereft of my psychological safety net. Except for the Sertraline which often robs me of my own pride in portraying any glory and ridicules me whenever I begin to believe in myself. Considering the circumstances I’ll give myself this one. The road gave me this one.

I sat for a while at an inning in the wall, protected from sunlight by the adventurous shrubbery. This travelling business had really hit me. Emotions ran high frequently. It’s such a fucking buzz. And the adrenaline of pilgramming in these far and distant lands implored me to bask in my awestruck incandescence and lay my spinning head down on my bag for a short time.

‘I’ve come a long way from Clydebank.’

And it’s true. Looking at a globe I could’ve gone much, much further. To the Western shores of the USA, or the most Eastern point of the Asian
continent.

‘In time. Be Patient.’

Some time had passed and I lifted myself to carry on my merry way into Bulgaria. I stuck the thumb out and a car stopped almost immediately after. Surely hitch-hiking isn’t always this easy? It was a classy Audi brief, real expensive gear. The Romanian couple inside who I came to now as Eugene and Monica were my new guides into another world unknown. I was shitting myself at first in fairness. Aggressive tones, reluctant to crack a smile and despite picking me up they seemed to be stressed out their box. I told them of my plans and they reacted with bemusement.

”Why do you want to travel alone in these countries?”

For the kick I guess. Monica explained that her work took her all across the region and avoiding Bulgaria, Macedonia and Albania would be more than wise. These countries were poor and I knew of the risk but I did not feel it would be as bad as what they were telling me then. I believed in trust, and aswell good people. But they spoke positively only of where we just came from, Romania. Everything in Romania is the best in Europe allegedly. The culture, the food, the people. Cluj Napoca has the best nightlife in the world. The women of Romania are the most beautiful you will ever see. I admired their pride. It was quite similar to Mihail. They were driving straight through Bulgaria and onto Thessaloniki in Greece. Very kindly they offered to drop me off in Petric at the Bulgarian/ Greek border. From there I could go straight to Macedonia. This was never my intention but I could sense a great distaste for Bulgaria and so I pondered my options.

We spoke about Romanian history, Dracula and football. A couple of times we stopped at petrol stations and Eugene even bought me some food and beer. ‘Romanian hospitality’ he called it. We even took selfies and sent them to his friend. Monica was driving, and like a maniac too. Dodging and weaving through traffic and overtaking when she had no right. I didn’t think I would see another day. After a while we had already passed Veliko Tarnovo and on the way I decided to get out at Sofia.

They dropped me at a station just outside the city. Bucharest to Sofia in no less than 6 hours. My intention that morning was to simply cross the border and camp  at a river just over the way. I had surpassed that and then some. Spent 0 on expenses, and some memories to boot. Eugene and Monica didn’t believe my decision was the right one to make but I knew that my perspective from the outside would allow me to feel differently on matters like this. The sun shone brightly as if to say I wouldn’t be disappointed. So I grabbed my bag, said my farewell’s and wandered on down the side of the Bulgarian motorway with the city of Sofia clear in my sights..

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”Sofia.”

Crossing Borders. A Three Part Series.

Part 1. Leaving Bucharest, Mihail & The Romani People.

Excerpts from my journal, updated and rewritten for your reading pleasure.

Boyana (A small town on the periphery of Sofia, Bulgaria).

I left the hostel around midday and took a few buses to the outskirts of Bucharest. I feared finding a lift to take me further on my journey would prove unsuccessful but to my surprise I was picked up almost instantly by a young guy. Mihail was heading for a town not far from the Romanian/Bulgarian border and so very kindly offered to take me directly there. I couldn’t believe my luck. We got to talking about all things Romanian and about my presence in an impoverished area. How he felt compelled to pull over and help me as there were never many foreigners in this part of town.

He began to speak about the persistent stereotypes of Romanians around the world, specifically as ‘gypsies’. Gypsy is a more commonly known term for the Romani people, an ethnic population who have wandered and settled across the Eurasian regions of the world for over 1500 years. And although the names are very similar Romani’s are not Romanian. Instead their origins are thought to be based in specific regions in India and Pakistan whereas Romanians are generally believed to descend from a combination of Balkan, Latin and Austro-Hungarian cultures (Obviously with every other country in this region, it isn’t so clear). The Romani’s are normally referred to as a ‘stateless’ group, similar in nature to the Israelites who were regarded in the same category before the 1948 occupation and settlement of what is now known as Israel. The Romani’s have never had the pleasure that the Israeli people now have and its caused many issues wherever they have gone. Whether they are to blame for this is another story altogether.

Mihail spoke to me of the wrongdoing the Romani’s were guilty of that gave a bad name to Romania. They would apply for social benefits from the Romanian government while simultaneously travelling across Europe working, hustling or begging for money in the Metropolitan streets of Europe. Once they had achieved whatever felt necessary they would return to Romania and enjoy the fruits of their cunning methods and continue to enjoy government handouts and a lifestyle that contributed nothing to the system of their home nation. At one point we passed a huge house currently being built on the edge of a small town. Mihail explained this was a Romani owned house. The same people who owned this house would probably own a nice fancy car. For him this is a common occurrence to happen all over and it angered him greatly how the guilty in question were ruining Romania’s reputation abroad and holding down the country’s efforts to improve at a structural level.

**Since coming home I have researched a little into the Romani story. It seems that this portrayal is not as black and white as it’s portrayed. Romani’s are subjected to very shitty treatment. From casual racism, unfair representation on a political level and even having their homes removed without being resettled. In some cases their story reflects those of other ethnic struggles in countries all over the world. In all honesty however I wouldn’t go any further as I am just an outsider looking in and learning to observe rather than intrude is a powerful skill I’m beginning to acquire.**

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”Romani.”

We continued to speak about various Romanian issues. Of the country’s natural beauty, it’s struggle to move on from the era of Communism and the very serious problem of governmental corruption. Even now as I write this I am saddened to learn of the ongoing demonstrations against these problems. But as I am sad, I am also proud to see these people stand up for what they believe in. I admired Mihail’s pride and dedication to his country. He spoke humbly, honestly and with a blunt frustration because he believed that Romania still has much more to give than what it currently displays. He pointed to the growing number of tourists visiting, and of the nightlife which has begun to earn a name for itself internationally. Allegedly tourists would come to Romania simply for the reputed volume of beautiful girls who contributed to a kind of ‘sex industry’. However he continued to add that prostitution was also a concerning issue.

And so Mihail dropped me directly at the border. I thanked him for everything before I trudged on over in the blistering Balkan sun, past the trucks and the tollbooths and set my sail for Bulgaria…

We should all feel the rain sometimes.

It’s a particularly dreary Sunday afternoon during this predictable Scottish Summer.
I’m home in Clydebank where I had lived most of my life before.
A mazy cluster of flat and grey houses, all packed in together ‘lit a tin a sardines’.

I don’t mind being home.

After embarking to pastures new I toiled with emotions of longing for familiarity.
It takes a strong-minded person to embrace new beginnings elsewhere with a status quo so far removed from what has always been the reality.

Yet alternating between differing realities can provide great strength in times of upheaval. And being ‘home’ is a great reminder in why it felt so necessary to seek better horizons in the first place. To stay here would be to accept this reality but i’m not
quite sure this one is for me. The process of living requires understanding and growth.
How can one grow in a bleak and introverted universe without seeking a liberation
of the mind from afar? It doesn’t ring true to continue on here, trapped by a prevailing
system engulfed in the ideals of a society built on fear and survival.

I don’t want to survive…

I want to live.

I open my door and the grey exterior fills my sight with the heavy burden of an enduring gloom. The rain comes down and the streets remain quiet but for the comings and goings of the buses and cars. Any other day and the rain would keep me inside. But in doing so would lend a hand to victory for this current reality and repress my beliefs of the nature of this facade. We should all feel the rain sometimes. We should listen to the wind and let it cross us contentedly. We should not allow ourselves to grow easy in a world where difficulty is regarded so negatively. To be at ease is to be comfortable and comfortability breeds pain in restless minds.

For the restless such as I.. This ephemeral lifetime is not meant to be comfortable atall.

Bucharest.

Taken from my journal, 1st June 2018.

Zen Tribe Hostel – Strada Radu de Afumati, Bucharest.

I wouldn’t spend long in the Romanian capital. Last night I stayed at a hotel not far from the Airport. A few locals offered to drop me off in their taxi free of charge. They explained to me that the North of the country was much more beautiful than where I would see and even asked me to join them in another renowned Romanian hotspot, Brasov. However I politely declined as I wanted to focus on my original plan of heading South to Bulgaria.

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”For a short while I took some time to chill  under a bridge. Trying to figure what the hell I was going to do.”

Yesterday I got up reasonably early and started to hitch-hike into the city centre. A bus driver picked me up fairly swiftly and took me to the outskirts of town. I took a path through a park, next to a river, but the determined heat was arduously difficult. I paused frequently on benches and even lay down on a wall at the edge of the riverbank and used my bag as an effective headrest. The day before had been enduring and left me jaded, somewhat haggard. But the excitement of this whole affair was carrying me and my bags to ceaseless glories and immutable perspicaciousness. A taut adrenaline had gripped me firmly for days leading upto now and I needed the time to gather my thoughts. Questions unravelled one after another and my thought process lost direction so I promised myself to take it one step at a time. It took me two more hours to get to where I was going. Getting lost on the local buses, dozens of eyes staring questionably at the sallow skin and red hair of the foreigner in their midst. We travelled through some local suburbs before taking a turn onto a massive road. I couldn’t believe it. There was a roundabout up ahead as we approached and in the centre an exact replica of the French Arc de Triomphe sat proudly. I didn’t know why this was here but the whole boulevard and its towering centrepiece was identical to the original classic of the city of Paris. Maybe I’m wrong and the French copied the Romanians? It was bizarre nonetheless. Unknown to me of course, it was a local holiday and the buses were crammed with people. Air conditioning was non-existent and some of the passengers were not shy in telling the driver exactly what they thought. I got off the bus while an older gentleman barked complaints with a couple of other disgruntled passengers seeming to agree. I felt sorry for the driver but for the time being I had other things to worry about.

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”The man on the tram.”

I wandered through some run down streets searching for my hostel and with some luck I found my way without too much difficulty. On the way I walked past a doorway lying wide open to some sort of community hall. A group of men were sat in a circle, listening to very loud traditional music. At the corner of a street a couple of drunks tried to make conversation but I couldn’t understand a word they said. Upon arrival at the hostel I met Alexis, a young Romanian who owned the place with his cousin. He spoke of the city and his experience of previously living in Scotland, in Oban and Glen Affric. He isn’t working today. I plan to head off for Bulgaria and I won’t have a chance to say goodbye. But I have plenty of opportunities to meet other interesting people along the way so I’m not too disheartened.

In the evening I ventured out into the city to get a taste of what Bucharest is like. I planned to get into the Old Town. The public transport was shitty & filled with lonely, abject characters and the buildings accompanying the tracks of the tram where mostly run down and destroyed. It’s a country with issues so I didn’t expect more but its true what they say, you never really know what it’s like ’til you’ve seen it yourself. There was a marked contrast between the affluent areas and the surrounding ghettos, left to rot by a thoughtless society a long time ago in a country aiming to jump up the ladder of desirable destinations. I didn’t see many inhabitants of the buildings themselves to be honest, just some construction workers in amongst the rubble of this abandoned metropolis. Political graffiti condemning anyone who mattered by the forgotten representatives of a forgotten class hoping to make change from the ground. It saddens me to say this but it looks to me that the message will fall on deaf ears.

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”Exuberant Romanian nightlife. (This picture doesn’t do my point any justice sadly).”

I thought the Old Town might have resembled a bazaar of the East but I was completely wrong. Instead I faced huge buildings of wealth and culture. What once was historically something completely different from the modern day Bucharest, the streets were filled with clubs, pubs, restaurants and eager revellers desperate for good times. Pretty girls stood outside establishments attempting to entice the swathes of young people into their workplace. Outdoor terraces brimmed with drinkers and cigarette smoke. Trashy dance music boomed from soundsystems and bright lights filled the night. At one point I passed a place with an outdoor stage set up and this huge light show spread boldly across a building block. Tourists like me loitered the streets taking in every inch of the Old Town’s liveliness. I had already learned about club culture in Eastern Europe. It exploded suddenly after an amicable peace was resolved in the Balkan region and the disillusioned populations found a new way to escape the horrors of what they had experienced.

P1000881

”The Old Town of Bucharest.”

I’m heading to Bulgaria today. From the hostel it should take around an hour to make it to the edge of the city, to a town called Giurglui, and from there I’ll try to hitchhike across the border into Velika Tarnovo, Plovdiv or Sofia. The hostel has been great and I could’ve probably stayed for longer if I wasn’t ridiculous in my methods of scheduling. I appreciated how much effort the guys were putting in to make it their own and I hope the future brings them the success they are looking for. And as for Romania.. I haven’t afforded myself the time or experience to see much and for that I bow to return again, to see Brasov, the region of Transylvania and the Carpathian Mountains of the Northern reaches. Or to Cluj-Napoca, Timișoara and Craiova. At least I know next time I won’t be in a rush to leave.

P1000889

”One Night in Bucharest.”