Bats

I grew up in a small village somewhere in the countryside, in an area of rivers, hills, small forests, and castles. Scattered all over the region around the small village were even smaller villages, often made up of just one, two, three farms, some of them abandoned for many years already. Many hills around the smaller villages were covered in meadow orchards full of old, gnarly trees, bearing rare varieties of fruit: ancient apple varieties in different shades of red, yellow, and green; weathered plum trees; peach trees, strong enough to stand the harsh winters, bearing small, juicy, sweet peaches in late summer; giant walnut trees, and pear variants, like the very small, firm, brown ones that smell so good and taste so sweet at first, until they suddenly numb your mouth. Some of these trees had died a long time ago and their hollow trunks were now inhabited by the bats. The bats also lived in the wood paneling of the abandoned farm houses, in the attics, the churches, the sheds. There’s something equally scary and fun about walking into a dark shed in the back yard in the early evening, and suddenly hearing the sound of what might as well be a million flapping wings right above your head.

It’s been a very long time since I’ve seen the bats. The nights aren’t dark enough anymore, and I’ve been gone for too long. I recently thought of the bats when I thought about how navigation works when you can’t see what’s ahead of you, and that was when I thought of you.

At the point in life where finding someone or something to miss is not more than wishful thinking, it’s very easy to suppress how fucked up missing as a concept and emotion actually is.

We’re 349,854 characters into this, and each character I type could be another step towards turning the haze of ideas into a reality that’s made up of more concrete parts than imagination. Right now, all that’s tangible are the phone screens, the keyboards and the books; routinely executed touches on plastic, in an attempt to create something to hold onto; fingertips working to build another reality made of taps and swipes; fingerprints trying to weave meaning around it.

These are the times when the vibration of a phone still means something.

The meanings are our windows into each other’s lives. The windows are never big enough, and the sun never shines through them, and if it does anyway, it breaks things. The windows are small frames for a hope that’s hard to grasp, with diagonals measuring exactly 4’’ and 13’’ and 26’’. And what we see through the windows are the server status updates, the piles of giant pixels, the red icons with numbers on them. Every single pixel that’s visible might as well disappear any second, and we already know it will. Every connection that’s stable for a minute will not last more than seconds beyond that. Everything that’s present also serves as a gentle reminder of the fragility of things. Everything that we have comes with ten things that we don’t.

This is a heart beating at the rate of a blinking cursor.

This is a head that still hasn’t understood all realities. I look at the pile of all that was, that is, that may be. I take this pile of our realities, sort them, and put them into mason jars. Lined up on a shelf in my kitchen, they look like this: There is our first reality which appeared out of the blue; the second one that is mostly made up of two kinds of wishful thinking; the third reality that starts with a wooden door and ends with a glass door; the fourth one that looks like turning around and walking away, looking at the rain falling from the sky. The fifth reality is a monologue of questions. All of these realities are very different, and between each of them and every single time, something fundamental changed. I would like to understand what they have in common except the obvious element. There have to be constants.

But like everything (and you), they’re hard to see these days.

For months, I’ve been waking up every morning with the taste of the absurdity of things in my mouth. The taste of absurdity is the taste of plastic coloured in silver and black, of wavelengths that are just about 380 nanometers long; the taste of the ones, the zeros, and the nothing in between. Absurdity has the bitter taste of crying in front of a wall, the sour notes of all the times I should’ve been there and wasn’t; it has the butteriness of subjunctive, and the smokiness of longing to listen to another person breathe and only hearing the sound of a computer fan. Absurdity tastes as salty as calendars and endless hours to count, it tastes like holding on to the memory of coming home to you, and like an idea kept alive by fibre. Absurdity is the taste of the berries that are only in season where I am.

On average, things are very normal around here.

I walk along a path from a month ago and it’s not the same and there is something touchingly disturbing about having the familiarity of a decade changed so quickly by something so intense and fleeting. On a train back home, I suddenly find myself accidentally holding a stranger’s hand very tightly; find myself surprised by its warmth, softness. I let go as soon as I notice it, but I still feel the touch on my skin hours later; it makes me think about preservation techniques. Back home, I get water colours and paint more mason jars in bright colours, and line them up next to the ones that hold our realities. No matter what their content will look like, at least they will glow when we hold them up to the light.

None of us know how this is going to work. No matter how good things looked that were there for a moment that ended too soon: there’s nothing to see beyond.

Bats sometimes crash into windows, no matter if they navigate visually or acoustically. The good news is that bats crash into windows less often when they cannot see.

Well that’s right, and that is fine.

A brightness, a view, a poem: Porto in Winter 2017

Musings, thoughts, music, notes. Written down over the course of a few days in December 2016 and January 2017, while meandering through Porto, Portugal.


Prologue

I get home to a freezing cold flat at 9pm. Two hours, some laundry, dinner, a phone call, one unpacked and another packed bag later, I go to bed.
Six hours later, I am standing in a queue at the airport.
Eight hours later, I see Paris at night from a window seat on a plane.
Nine hours after going to bed, I see fog crawling through light green Portuguese valleys like spilled milk.
Ten hours later, I see a blue sky and the sun shining a golden light onto the ocean.
Leave my world just black and white, snatch the sun out of the sky. For the only colour in my life is the memory of you and I.

And this is how it all begins again.


Day 1: The picture

If you knew what to look for when you look at me, you’d know exactly what is actually happening. I fool myself into believing that this is just a passing feeling.

I have coffee and Pastéis de Nata, and believe me when I say that everything I said about pastry another time was a blatant lie. I take a train and think of the last time I took a train on a holiday. It was in another life, at the time I was backpacking in SardiniaAnd when we kissed I felt the deep blue sky.

As I’m heading to a supermarket to get some groceries, I feel the tiredness crawling up my bones. It’s 2pm local time, and by now, I’ve been up for 11 hours. I pass a busker who has a voice like Tom Waits. The supermarket smells like chlorine and dried fish. As per my failure to learn Portuguese, I try to combine some Spanish and French and pronounce it in such way that I feel like it might pass as Portuguese. – It doesn’t.

As I stand in front of the cheese shelf, a very (really very) short elderly lady approaches me and asks me something. At first, I don’t understand what she wants from me – but then she points up the shelf and says something about A vaca que ri, and then I understand – A vaca que ri is La vache qui rit, which is The laughing cow, which can be found on the top shelf and which she wants. Two, actually. I get it for her, and she’s so happy about, and I get so angry at myself for not being able to say more than you’re welcome to her, and try and make sure she understands when I attempt gestures that mean to say my pleasure.

I can at least in some way make my lack of language skills up to her later when she loses 20€ at checkout, and I find them under her shoe and get them back to her. But, once more, she’s so excited, and I don’t even understand it, nor can I say anything nice back.

I go into a bakery and buy random pastry items; later on, half of them will turn out to be sweet, and I’ll find out that the rest is filled with either ham, or cheese, or both. As I go back to my place, I walk past a wall on which someone has sprayed E urgente pensar o amor, It is urgent to think of love. Over the next days, I will walk past many, many more of these.

A vida e super.

Right before sunset, seagulls circulate above my rooftop terrace. Oranges on a tree across the yard are glowing in the low light. A dog watches a seagull fly by, a not even remotely interested look on his face.

The photographer is not in the picture. That’s one of the things I most love and despise about photography, and about being a photographer (when travelling alone, I sometimes rather despise it).

We tend to forget that the photographer even exists, because all we see is what they saw, and the parts of it which they want us to see.

The photographer is never in the picture, but always is.

All alone, all alone, in the darkness of the night.


Day 2: The fire

While, over the last days in another country, I saw several Santas running across (a different) town, now I see Santas climbing up walls. Today only, I saw six of them. I’m fueled up and high, a man among guys.

A vida e dura para quem e mole. — Life is hard for who is soft.

At the farmers’ market, I walk past piles of fruit, buckets full of olives in many shades of green and black; past flowers, honey, all things made of cork, vegetables. I buy some bread and water at a very sweet elderly woman’s place. After she gives me my change, she smiles at me and tells me that I’m very beautiful. I tell her that she’s very beautiful (she is). I may not speak much Portuguese, but that much I understand (and can say).

The January cherries bloom / burn not in you, yet not in you.

I walk past fish, past meat, and past a guy making obscene gestures at me. The sun is setting.

I sit down on a square, where a bunch of teenagers with string instruments are sitting on the floor.

I have some pastry, watch the sunset, walk up to a church and walk on.

Down a different road, I pass a bunch of men hanging out on the sidewalk in front of a garage. As I look inside, I see, in the following order:

  • a crowd control barrier,
  • straw on th floor,
  • a small shack,
  • Joseph, Maria, Baby Jesus, a goat, donkey, some more animal figures,
  • a Christmas tree –
  • and two fire engines.

The men on the sidewalk were firemen, the garage is the fire department, and they haven’t yet gotten rid of the nativity scene they set up.


Day 3: The view

For someone who’s afraid of birds, this is not an ideal place to be.

I cross the bridge, walk up a small hill, and sit down on a bench to enjoy the view.

One minute later, a man approaches me, tells me how pretty I was in three languages, and after I tell him in two languages that I’m not interested in a conversation, he goes on harassing me. I get up and walk away from him and the fucking view. These are the times when one can’t even enjoy a fucking view for fucking five minutes without someone feeling entitled to one’s attention. Among many other things, cis male entitlement can also fuck right off in 2017.

In the middle of a square, there’s a giant Christmas tree ball which looks like a meteor that crashed down from space right into this square (and left a giant crater). The body as a subconscious, and desire takes place somewhere, everywhere.

Later this day, I will accidentally buy a ticket for a concert that starts 45 minutes later, get locked inside (!) my apartment and not manage to get out for 20 minutes, almost give up just before I get help, run through the night like I never ran before, out-run what a map app estimated as my time of arrival by 50%, get there just when the concert starts, walk past 500 people because my seat is in the middle of the front row, sit down, and only then realise I ended up at the local music school’s annual end-of-year concert.

Three hours and a much more relaxed way home later, I will be very happy I went there.

Shouldn’t I be okay out here on my own?


Day 4: The signal

I remember how good it is for me to do some exercises in the morning before I start my day. How my body feels more set, and how I feel more together; more prepared to take on what the day will bring. As I have my morning coffee on the square by the fountain, I just sit there and wonder if I’ve finally achieved some inner calm, or if that’s just another level of tiredness (again). You let your feet run wild. Time has come as we all oh, go down.

While I was chasing the sun in Helsinki, now I’m looking for shade. Aside from that, what I’m looking for hasn’t changed.

I accidentally run into a herd of peacocks, which, of course, reminds me of the conversation I had with a couple of friends a few weeks back, and reminds me that it’s not called a herd in English, but a muster, ostentation, or pride of peacocks. Really, English? — Really.

In the park, I walk between trees, stand on the tips of my toes to see the river behind a wall. There are so many rose bushes, and a perfect rose lying on the floor; I wonder why it dropped. I have so much to say, but much more that’s not for everyone. Remember the heart, the one that beats beneath you.

All my plans, like ice cream vans in the summer, they go by with hope still in my eyes.

I remember a question I saw a long, long time ago on a dating platform about which way one prefers to show affection: Touch, actions, gifts, or words; pick one. All the air is glitter. In a pastry shop by a graveyard, I get into a conversation with an old man who works there. He says you’re one of the nicest Germans I’ve ever met, and I’m not sure what to make of that, and then he teaches me how to say Happy New Year in Portuguese.

There are so many more things that I would have wanted to know; so much from your past that would help me understand so much of my today (and possibly future). But we never got to talk. Midnight where we used to dance underneath the ugly halogen lamps. Oh, it all went away so fast.

After almost seven years in Berlin, I have mastered the art of eating Döner. But will eight days in Portugal be enough for me to master the art of eating Pastéis de Nata without looking like I just got into a puff pastry storm? — Stay tuned.

One of my all-time favourite lines from a book is from one of my favourite authors who once wrote Ich bin beschädigt, ich habe Zeit — I am damaged, I have time. I read this line for the first time many, many years ago, and it has come back to me many times ever since.

It all breaks at the moment you float down the stream and if I won’t be by the shore, I’ll wait for you inside the sea.

A butcher is standing in the door to his shop talking to a woman. Her dog is a little bit too excited to see the butcher. This is the day of very random songs being stuck in my head with no reason. In order of appearance: Rocking around the Christmas Tree, Only You, Walking on Sunshine, Last Christmas, Bang a Gong (Get it on), Are you gonna be my girl. Com a insistencia, vem o triunfo. — With insistence comes the triumph.

Two dogs in the middle of a barking battle. More street harassment along all ways (and I only won’t mention it further over the notes for the next days because why even). Excuse me Mr I’ve got other things to do than to stand here listening to you.

Sometimes I try to parse the signals that my body is sending me like they were a foreign language.

Nobody here that keeps you in the shade and ever owned you.


Day 5: The music

I find Paredes que falam – walls that speak. It took me a long time to understand that it’s possible to trust myself, while still staying able to question my own work, beliefs, and view of the world. All our running is a crawl, and burns for us right through the fall.

A busker sitting on the street side that I walk past is singing Breakfast at Tiffany’s. A few minutes later, I return. He has stopped singing, stood up, and is tracing a sign at a storefront. The sign says últimos dias – last days.

A tag on a wall says I bleed.

I look at your silhouette in the mirror and I wonder about your dreams last night.

I get this feeling like it all could happen, that’s why I’m leaving you for the moment.

Sonho que um verso meu tem claridade
Para encher todo o mundo! E que deleita
Mesmo aqueles que morrem de saudade!
Mesmo os de alma profunda e insatisfeita!

I dream that in just one of my lines is a brightness
enough to fill the whole world! Delighting,
even those whose hearts are sore and broken!
Even those with profound and yearning souls!

(Florbela Espanca, excerpt from “Vanity”)

No matter where I go, there is one thing that is already there, even before I arrive. I have reached a point now where I can laugh about it and almost mean it.


Day 6: The dance

On another day, in another time, there’s a van driving a giant pink heart around town, and it makes me equally happy and sad. The noctuous heart beats loudest, the old and steady and content.

I rarely find comfort in the company of strangers. There is a dividing line cutting through the will and the design.

The thing with scenic outposts is that people easily forget that there’s often so much more beauty of a different kind in the opposite direction. – And forget to even take one look that way.

A woman passes me. She’s walking a black dog and asking a seagull what’s going on. The air in the tunnel smells of fried fish and piss. A couple of pigeons are feasting on a can of pringles that someone tossed near a garbage can. A tiny puppy, only a few months old: runs across a square, stops, looks at me, and starts following me.

Everything that you’re going down, you will go back up eventually. You will have to go back up again eventually.

An old man feeding birds. I wonder if, when I’m old, I’ll become an old lady who feeds birds (despite my current fear of them). And how much shorter I’ll be by then. In a museum, I find a portrait of a woman that has the same facial expression like me when looking at my unfiltered mentions on the website www dot twitter dot com. I get ice cream.

In another museum, I look at photos of a woman and a man, trying to hold each other, but also not. The last piece in the exhibition is a film of a printer that prints photos of the couple, which are transported on a conveyor belt, and shred to pieces at the end of it. The hurricanes, they always come. We won’t stay here too long.

And then there’s always the question if we’re dancing or just walking around each other. And the question who follows whom. And then, how do two people even find balance, when they’re each only tiptoeing on one foot? And when you hit the pause button, does anything really pause, or don’t we at least have to keep breathing?

How I wish you there running to me silently.

Back outside, I take my camera out of my backpack again, and accidentally drop the backpack. It lands in spit. I don’t have anything on me to clean it. Now I’m carrying someone’s spit around town. The rotten air is stuck in the narrow streets today. I have menstrual cramps from hell.

Much of my last year has been about getting used to silence in a very, very different way; it went much better than I had feared. You will stay with us.

If I’m honest, all I want to do is become stronger. I’m moving on. I find a lamppost that has two stickers on it: one saying j’existe, another one with je suis partout written on it. If you show willingness to get out of people’s way, they sometimes misunderstand that as an invitation to get into your way.

Even if some things go as good as they possibly can, it doesn’t mean that they’re not going to be tough as fuck anyway. Let me just tell you this one thing.

Even when you’re very certain, be careful when you tell yourself that a certain time in your life is over and never coming back. Among all life events, such times are the shoulder patches, and they’re going to get another revival within the next decade.

I feel sad about the many books I can’t read in their original language they were written in. I know how carefully I choose each word I use, how often I compare or weigh options from my vocabulary against each other. I’d like to be able to see the options a writer originally chose.

(But then, I don’t see many new languages in my near future, since I already know I’ll have too much to do this year; and it’s only January 02. Thinking of this date makes me think of someone’s birthday. It’s a thought without emotion, except for traces of a feeling of tragedy.)

I go out on the balcony and look at the streets at night.

As I return to my room, what I see is a bed that’s covered in several books spread across it, a laptop quietly playing some calm music, a phone, a water bottle (no, autocorrect, it’s not a water buffalo; although a water buffalo in my bed sounds cool, but may also be frightening), half a dozen pillows, a few pens, and some notebooks. And somewhere in the middle, there’s still a tiny crater with the shape of my body. I look at it and think to myself that this is, unintentionally, probably a very accurate picture; though not a picture of what it seems to be.

I get along swell by my goddamn self.

I count and I guess I said about 70 words today; it might have been less.


Day 7: The art

A tourist guide approaches me and asks need a boat?, and I want to say yes. The sky is cloudy, but the sun is shining, and every once in a while, it comes out for a bit. I sit down by the water and look at the waves, the sparkles of light on the water. Em qué esás a pensar? The light has lost its warmth, and its ability to warm. A black pigeon crosses the street.

I think back to last year and some things I did, other things I had to do, some of which I was anxious about for weeks. I need more islands. I need less extremes, and more islands.

Over the past year, I’ve noticed how some things start at different levels nowadays. Less casual, more serious.

There’s one piece of street art that I keep walking past, and that always fascinates me. On the side, it says:

Minh’alma de sonhar-te anda perdida meus olhos andam cegos de te ver não és sequer razão do meu viver pois que tu és já toda a minha vida! – My soul is dreaming you are lost, my eyes are blind to see you, you are not even the reason for my living, because you are already my whole life.  — Florbela Espanca

I take a photo it on my first night.

It is only a few days after my return home that I find the picture and translate the words on the side. That’s when I realise I read these words somewhere else – the poem they’re from is in one of the anthologies I bought during my stay.

I go out onto the terrace and look onto the streets. An almost romantic scene: down the street to my left, a group of young people is laughing and the LEDs in front of the stores are blinking like it’s a competition. A few people with pizza boxes are crossing the square to my right, lightened by the remaining Christmas decorations. Straight ahead, the big spotlight on the crane is producing light like daylight, and my uterus is cramping like there’s no tomorrow.

An almost romantic moment. And the question is, what am I getting myself into? And how about you?

I realise that, if there’s anything that happened in these past weeks, it’s that I’m suddenly very comfortable with having nothing to keep my hands busy, and nothing in front of my face – neither camera nor book nor notebook nor display (except for the glasses, these I’ll keep on).

It doesn’t matter so much where we’re going, as long as we’re enjoying the journey. (But then, how much and how far can you travel, do you want to travel.)

No matter how many streets I wander, I keep seeing you; you’re in the way this one person holds their coffee, in someone else’s hair, or the way their shirt is lightly blowing in the wind around their body. No matter where I go, I keep seeing you. There’s no way to tell you that, and there never will be, because things are what they are now, and they will stay like this forever. (I don’t believe in forever; but there’s only so much one person’s beliefs can do.)

It’s time to take my own / take my own advice.

I’m very happy I got to make my first mobile typing experiences on a phone with keys the size of my fingernails and T9. I would like proper keys and T9 back. Kids, those were days.

Not all the things that you gain can be, can be possessed.


Day 8: The ride

When memories fade, it’s funny to see which bits stick in the end. And the remaining pieces that remind me of you, where they are, what they look like, and why, are for another story and another time.

I love when the music I’m listening to functions as an actual soundtrack: when the music gets to the most epic point exactly when a plane takes off; when people around me unknowingly walk exactly to the beat; when the song gets faster as the train speeds up, and suddenly, the sea is right there.

I finish up some writing, then look out of the train — on villages, small houses, olive trees, lakes. Mini forests, citrus trees, gardens; beach houses, wide gardens full of fruit trees; pines; reed.

I fall in love so easily: with one line in a song, even if just a few seconds long; with a few words in a poem, a sentence in a book, a line in a piece, a detail in a painting. Every one of them I want to hold so close and store deep inside of me, and never let them go. Falling in love with art is easy, it’s unconditional, it’s fast, it doesn’t require lots of work (except for finding what to fall in love with; but that’s usually the bigger problem anyway). Falling in love with art is amazing.

Villages composed of a few houses between forests. Industrial complexes, steam rising from chimneys. Orange trees, orange trees everywhere. Flooded acres. Tiny rivers. Maybe, one day, I’ll be a person who wants a garden with an orange tree. A ceramics factory in a red brick building. A graveyard. Lemon trees. Dried, brown corn plants on a field. Dark grey sheep.

No matter how hard we try, there’s always so much that gets lost along the way – words that drop in calls, gestures that are too fast for cameras to pick up, facial expressions that get lost when the video call connection slows down; meaning that doesn’t come across in written form, intentions that remain unclear, feelings that are never expressed, thoughts that aren’t understood, ideas that remain unspoken, thoughts that are forgotten.

I sometimes wonder if there’s a place where all of these lost pieces are collected, stored, waiting for someone to pick them up – waiting for someone to collect all these lost details, nuances, meanings, and give them a new place to live elsewhere. I write an incomplete list of items that belonged to me and someone else, and that I’d like to pick up again, just in case such a place exists.

I don’t know yet what I’d do once I’d picked them up. The least I’d try would be to re-deliver them. But with some of them, that won’t work, since the pieces are the same, but the space in which they were transmitted in the first place doesn’t exist anymore. I might put them into tiny frames and put them up on my walls. Collages of what we never knew we lost, but are lucky to have found again

Slim white birch trees. Dark green bushes close to the ground, lit by bits of sunlight. Light travels fast, sound travels fast (though slower) and brains process fast. Still, all we see, hear, notice is past. Like all on this train ride, and like I didn’t know how much I wanted you until I looked back.

White, brown, black horses. Sheep. I’m not a fan of demands to “live in the present”, because they ignore so much, and often come from such a privileged position. But I wonder what it takes to notice more, see more, appreciate more.

White and dark brown sheep in a field of dried corn. Red soil. A white goat under an orange tree in a back yard.

Over the past weeks, I slowly decreased my walking pace. I stopped walking in a way that would almost qualify as running, and started actually walking. Meandering.

The train goes from blue skies and sun to fog and sun to blue skies to fog… for the next hour.

We approach a hill full of dark trees above a valley in which the air is still clear, and fog is rolling down the hill like it was poured onto it from the sky – while the sun is still lighting the whole scenery.

One of the things I admired most in Porto where the colours and shapes of things. The vibrance.

As the airplane takes off, as we get past the dense fog and clouds, the lights of the cities under us are orange and white dots on a black rug of clouds. Night has fallen and all the stars are coming out. A few minutes later, I see my favourite constellation. It’s the same constellation which I saw for the last time many, many hours further south, under a very different sky.

And this is how it ends.


All photos are also on Flickr.

12 Days of Summer – Melbourne in November 2016

Observations, music, thoughts, notes, written down under over the course of 12 days in November & December 2016 while meandering through Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.


Jetlag, maybe, and something about cloves

When abroad, my general rule is: everything that’s within a distance I can walk, I will walk. So I walk to the place I want to work from today.

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I love the sound that the pedestrian traffic lights here make when they switch to green; it sounds like it was directly adopted from BB-8’s sound register.

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I keep bumping into people because I walk on the wrong side of the road. I walk past a road called Club Lane; it looks like less of a party than the name suggests. I google signs of jetlag because I’m not sure if I have it. Friend C. says: “If you had it, you would know.” I have very bad tooth ache.

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There’s someone on a delivery bike with super adorable neon green/yellow hair. The trees are so green here. Coming from grey, dark European winter, this is just so beautiful.

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I’m torn between freaking out about the tooth situation, and telling myself that it will be fine. I decide to act like any reasonable grown-up would do and suppress the topic.

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I walk past a playground with three giant nested dolls lined up. I want to take photos of them, but they’re too far away. First, I’m too afraid to cross the road. Then I do it anyway:

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They do have great trees here. It starts raining. There’s the answer to my earlier question whether to take an umbrella with me (of course I didn’t bring one). We go to the most pretentious place I’ll probably ever go to — a pastry store.

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And suddenly, the yawning sets in. It’s the kind of yawning that comes from very deep within, and that comes with a tiredness that crawls up your spine. I go outside and stand in the sun for a few minutes. They say that exposure to sunlight is supposed to help. But I’m afraid of getting sunburnt.

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One of the things I always find strangest abroad are locks. Just the basics of how locks work are often so different from anything I’m used to.

Do you wanna dance?

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As I walk home, I wonder if the light here is special or if my glasses are dirty. Irgendwas in mir will leuchten / Something inside of me wants to shine. I think my body is still trying to figure out whether or not to punish me for this weird situation I put her into. And suddenly, a very strong smell of weed. I suddenly start tripping without apparent reason.

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I have officially reached full on zombie mode. I’m trying to find a grocery store and accidentally end up in a mall. It’s rush hour, there are too many people, it takes me 5 minutes to find the exit again. I keep frantically checking all my bags for my camera, my laptop, my wallet, my keys. Every 3 minutes. Because by the time I’ve gotten to my keys, I’ve already forgotten if my camera is actually there.

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I still can’t find a grocery store. What I find instead are places with the following names:

  • Pop Culture Specialists
  • Lüneburger – German Bakery
  • Lord of the Fries
  • Moo! Moo! Pho
  • Naked in the Sky
  • Naked for Satan

They really got something going here with naming things. (Of course I will lose some of my notes with more great names before I manage to write this post; it just means I’ll have to go back and restart my research.)

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I find a grocery store. I wander through the aisles trying to find cloves (for the tooth). Suddenly, they’re playing All I want for Christmas is you (the version from Love, Actually), and if things were less sweaty, less tired, less jetlagged, less unromantic, less sad, and generally just very different, this whole scene could be decent content for Love, Actually – 2. But that’s not what’s happening. What’s happening is that I can’t find cloves and I’m about to just lie down between the nuts and bananas and hug the box of cornflakes I got and fall asleep.

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I pay for my groceries and ask the person at the checkout if they know a shop where I can buy cloves. She tells me the name five times because I keep forgetting it. The sunset is so pretty tonight.

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I hug my fake sheep fur neck pillow while I try to fall asleep.

One item I always buy when I’m abroad is cloudy apple juice. I never have it at home.


Golden days and less golden years (for sure)

At 6:30am, I wake up to a beautiful morning. The sun is shining directly into my room. I open my laptop, say hi to my coworkers who are still up, work for 2 hours, make breakfast, put on sunscreen. I talk to someone on the phone who’s 16 hours away. These are the moments when I look at this modern life and it amazes me.

I head out to the coffee place around the corner again and get my usual. I completely broke my shoes tripping in zombie mode yesterday. They’re my golden sneakers that I love very much. I get to a major crossroads and immediately know where I am and where I need to go. I love these moments. 90% of life are about being there when you’re needed.

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I finish my second coffee. It’s 10:11am and I have blisters on my feet. It’s Friday and when I think about what I’ll do tonight, I remember the advice that S. gave me which was to avoid bars on Fridays because of guys like him. It’s incredibly windy. Suddenly, the smell of flowers. At 4:30pm, I walk home, and I need to buy pizza and a basecap. There’s a peeled lemon lying on the street.

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I run into three women as I try to get on an elevator on the wrong side. I apologize. One of them smiles at me saying “Oh, it’s one of these days, huh?” I nod and think to myself, “one of these years.”

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I’m getting ready for the weekend while most of my friends and coworkers haven’t even woken up (or gotten to bed the day before) yet. Being in the future is very strange.


The Night

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At a party. I have sparkling water with lemon juice and as I walk home, I write a letter and send it via SMS.

I love cities at night. That’s the reason why I’m walking home. The light is so different, but still fantastic. It bothers me that I didn’t bring my camera tonight.

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I’ve only been here for a few days, but I know where I’m going without a map; that makes me happy.

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I walk past a guy who kicks a streetlight. Two of the three pairs of shoes I brought here broke during the trip.

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It’s 16°C and the streets feel warm, it smells like flowers in some places, like BBQ in others, then there’s trash, bar smell and car smell. The prospect of summer is in the air. Summer’s not fully here yet, but very, very close.

I say “home” and home is now a hotel, and it was a place with a view only 36 hours ago; the concept of home, what can it be.

And I see a very bright star that’s not a star.

Nothing really means nothing
Is the saddest thing I know
So deliver me from sin
And give me rock and roll.


Daisies, Dragonflies, and a Choir, maybe

I didn’t have a good night, and when I wake up at 5:45am, I feel very detached from the people I care about the most. At 8am, I shower, and try new eyeshadow (three shades of red and rose). At least the eyeshadow is good.

I head out for breakfast and work.

I find people particularly annoying today; especially the people sitting at the table next to mine, who keep complaining about their eggs, the service staff, this hipster place. I pay and head back home, hoping for some peace and quiet.

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Back home, I try to take a good selfie. I need that today. Selfies can help us make sense of the world, see ourselves in a different light, or connect with ourselves. All of that is what I need today.

12pm. During sync, my note-taking app erases all notes I’ve taken today so far, and I don’t even know why. I just want to cry. I get back to my work.

A few hours later, for a few moments, I can hear the sound of a choir singing from afar, louder than all the roadworks and street noises. Then it fades. I open the balcony door and step outside to listen. It comes back, fades again, comes back. I lean against the balcony door and listen carefully. It’s just so beautiful.

This is exactly what I needed today.

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The sun comes out, I decide to go for a walk and resist the urge to only take pictures of trees (or to hug a palm tree).

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The smell of daisies. Dragonflies. And then there’s this thing that I still can’t grasp that I’m even here. From the corner of my eye, I notice a weird, bright yellow statue. Turns out it’s a runner, leaning agains a tree and stretching.

I sit down on some rocks that the sunlight has warmed up, and listen.

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Wake me up when this summer comes.

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Nature (even the park version of it) sounds just so different here than at home.

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On the ground in front of the symphony building, there are quotes about music and art. One says: The gift of art is one that lasts a lifetime. Across the street, big signs say Merry Christmas.

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I look through some pictures I’ve taken over the past months. Funny thing is that, after doing photography for more than half of my life, I can tell exactly just by the way I look at things when I photographed them how I was doing at the time.

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The light. For my last birthday, someone wished me Always great light. And that’s probably one of the most beautiful things someone wished me so far.

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You’ll always be the brightness in my dark.


Coffee, coats; no goats

In the morning, I get my coffee at my usual place. The barista has the most beautiful, most sparkling eyes I’ve ever seen.

I sit in the same small street I always sit in. A woman leaves a building and waves at me, smiling as if she knew me. I wave back. I don’t know her, but we’re wearing the same coat.

At midday, I stand outside in the sun a bit. Someone sings Mad World, and it’s so beautiful. A barista apologises to me because she doesn’t remember my name. I’ve been to this place once. 4 days ago.

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A few hours later, as I’m standing on the balcony at home, I hear one of the neighbours playing a song I started listening to again a few weeks ago.

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Cause there’s nothing else to do
Every me and every you
.

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One of the greatest perks about traveling alone is not having to share pillows with anyone. La Trobe would make for a great rapper name. For the first time since I got here, someone asks me for directions.

The sunset is incredibly beautiful.

I was hugged by two people today, and I needed these hugs. I realise I only have 3 nights and days left and it makes me very sad. I walked 11,000 steps in heels today.

Then something went wrong for Faye Wray and King Kong
They got caught in a celluloid jam
Then at a deadly pace it came from outer space
And this is how the message ran
.


It’s a bat town

I meet Doc, the dog:

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At the zoo.

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Major disappointment when it turns out that I won’t be able to participate in the Wombat meet & greet. On the other hand, this is just another item on my Reasons for coming back list.

“The female bird will have 4-5 male birds that bring her food.” #lifegoals

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And then we leave the birds behind and I laugh when suddenly, they turn on some music, and this is the first time in 6 years that I hear I like birds, and I still haven’t forgotten about last time (and very sure never will).

Watching a Wombat sleep is likely the cutest things I’ll get to do this year.

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There’s this thing about travelling that, very often, by the time I’d finally grasped where I was, I had to leave again. This is happening here as well. And it is what it is.

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And then there’s this thing about knowing that you’re very likely not going to see any of the people you meet again in a very, very long time. That makes me incredibly sad. And it is what it is.

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As I walk back home, it’s 30°C warm, and someone is playing Jingle Bells.

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I love cities at night.

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At night, bats are flying above our heads. For the first time since I got here, I can see the stars.

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On the way home, I would just like to stay out here forever.

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Maybe then we will see all those things
That I have truly lost along the way.


Walking in a winter wonderland

I chat to a barista about work (their work, my work) for a while. I get my coffee and go around the corner and sit on a bench and wait for the sun to dry my hair.

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I still have time left, so I get up and get another coffee. As I sit at an ugly street corner somewhere in the city center, I think about what happened. This was the year of constant change. I think about how much things must have changed to make them look the way they look right now.

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I write a list of my favourite moments on this trip. And then, I get ice cream.

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And then this is it. This is everything.

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I walk over to where my taxi is waiting. Someone is blasting the same Backstreet Boys song through the streets. This is how it all began, and this is how it ends. ‘Cause I want it that way.

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There’s a love and a sense of direction
in the matter that keeps us apart
there’s a light coming out of the woodworks
from a crack in the door to my heart.


All photos are also on Flickr.

Für alle Leute, die schiefe Horizonte, Sonne und schöne Bilder mögen

… hätte ich da was. Lautsprecher an, Kopfhörer auf, und viel Spaß.

Video description & credits:

11 cars. 21 drivers.
11 days. 2,400 miles east.
From Berlin to Astrakhan: Silkroad 2013.

This short german-russian fairytale is based on scenes shot in August / September during the first 11 days of Land Rover Experience Tour 2013 on the track from Berlin to Astrakhan.

Made with fantastic music by the following artists:
P.W&DEE — ??????? ?????
????? ???? — REKA
Aris Appaev — Uzak
?????? — ??? ?? ???????
Aris Appaev — Desire (Master Version)

With many thanks to everyone who made this journey possible and with whom I spent a great time in cars, parks and bars. And special thanks to Alex Kahl (@probefahrer) for the support.

— remember all your journeys and they will last forever.

Entlang der Seidenstraße von Berlin nach Astrachan – Teil 2, Abrechnung und ein Dankeschön

10 Tage, 4.000 Kilometer, 11 Autos und 21 Menschen, die sich noch nie begegnet sind: von Berlin nach Astrachan entlang der Seidenstraße. Eine Reise, immer gen Osten. Zu Teil 1 (Berlin-Sewastopol) hier entlang.

Nachtrag, 22.09.: und hier ist das Video zur Reise:

Tag 6: Sewastopol-Jalta

Am Morgen eine Bootsfahrt im Hafen von Sewastopol, ein Matrose, der mit freiem Oberkörper das Deck wischt. Zum Frühstück gibt es Kwas, einen Brottrunk, der wider Erwarten gar nicht säuerlich schmeckt, sondern wie abgestandene Cola.

Aufbruch und Abfahrt nach Jalta, erst off road in den Wald, dann weiter in die Berge, erstmals im Auto für eine Viertelstunde schlafen, während der Fahrer die Serpentinen hochkurvt. Größter Vertrauensbeweis unter Fahrerteams: bestanden.

Plötzlich auf 1200 m ü.NN., es ist eiskalt, ich stehe frierend am Abgrund, unser Fotograf erzählt, er habe unterwegs Brot und Honig gekauft, und fragt, ob ich auch ein Stück will. Wenige Minuten darauf an der ganzen Reisegruppe mit einem großen Honigbrot vorbeimarschieren und zwei Leute abbeißen lassen, mit dem Mitfahrer den Rest teilen.  Continue reading “Entlang der Seidenstraße von Berlin nach Astrachan – Teil 2, Abrechnung und ein Dankeschön”