Showing posts from July, 2009

The Black Sea

Most of my treasured memories of travel are recollections of sitting. —Robert Thomas Allen For me the Black Sea has always been the most remote, forbidding, and enchanted of seas, a fabled and unconquerable territory of Amazons, Argonauts, Scythian savages, sea monsters, and Tatar pirates, all around a moorland of pitch waves, black with sediments. After Hellenes colonized the barbaric shore the Greeks called her the Hospitable Sea, and Varna surely is: an easy and uneventful place, where the only culture is topless tanning, beach volleyball, and drinking to various electronic music. I received a long lecture on this subject from a dedicated English raver, and it is from that dreary island that 90% of dance music originates. From what I can remember, Trance is the most elemental electronic music, without a solid bass-line; House adds the bass, Techno adds more Pop-style composition, Electro adds strange sounds, and Drum and Bass reduces the genre to the most simple beats. Then there a

Among the Bulgars

So we will share this road we walk, And mind our mouths and beware our talk. 'Till peace we find tell you what I'll do, All the things I own I will share with you. If I feel tomorrow like I feel today, We'll take what we want and give the rest away. Strangers on this road we are on, We are not two, we are one. —The Kinks, “Strangers” The six hour bus ride to Sofia would have been restful if I had not been roused at the Bulgarian border to hand over my passport, and if I had not lost an hour due to time zones. Walking in the early morning, I found a hostel, dropped off my bag and began to wander the city. Perhaps because of its boring reputation, my own low expectations, or the little time I spent there, I really liked Sofia. It seemed a Western European city, something born between Germany and France which had immigrated to Thrace after the fall of the Soviets and mostly survived that leveling of culture and the ensuing meltdowns, so that Bulgaria is today a prosperous con

Let's Get Out of Here

Autobots, let's roll. —Optimus Prime After leaving Crete, I was sorely anxious to leave Greece entirely. I planned the following days  with selfish efficiency. For the Fourth of July, I went to the new Acropolis museum, got a newspaper, and feasted at the Amerikaniki Agora. The market hall's high roof echoed with chopping cleavers and the butchers' rabid peddling. On learning of his death, I mourned quietly David Carradine, who passed a month ago without fanfare, hung naked in a Bangkok wardrobe. At the hostel, I met two Americans from California: one an ROTC cadet from the University of San Francisco studying in Germany for two semesters (and refusing to shave for the eight-month duration, just to enrage his commander back home), and the other an Orange County stoner with a Jewish grandmother, who used that connection to move to Israel, near the Syrian border, four months ago. We talked about beer, and I realized how much I missed hops, for there is no pale ale on the Medi

Farewell to Kriti

Anywhere I lay my head, that place I call my home. —Tom Waits The city of Rethymno strikes east from a triangular peninsula, which ends in the walls of the Fortrezza. Canopied restaurants encircle the old Venetian harbor on the peninsular flank, defined by a limestone jetty and lighthouse, which flashes green at night. There is little room to maneuver down this promenade, and the proselytizing maitre d's block the only route with desperate appeals to fill their empty tables. "You want rest and drink?" "Look at these fish. You can have any of them for eat." "You know Frommer's? Well, I have a Frommer's guide right here — and look, we are in it!" "Why are you wearing that Albania shirt? Don't you have any other shirts to wear? You wear it every day!" (I'd never worn it before!) The Greeks are incorrigible schemers, who are constantly and inexpertly considering possible enterprises, and who follow through with a single-minded det