Situated at the carrefour between Balkan, Austrian, Italian, and Hungarian realms of influence, the Slovenes have managed to carve out a distinct identity for themselves: a unique mélange of Alpine and Slavic heritage with a spritz of the Mediterranean. The country’s landscape is diverse, ranging from hills and vineyards to breezy coastal towns on the banks of the Slovene Riviera.
Bled, located in the northwestern region of Slovenia known as Gorenjska, lies at the foothills of the Julian Alps. (‘Julian’ after Julius Caesar, who founded the Roman town of Cividale del Friuli on the other side of the range.) Here, the mark of the mountains is evident at first glance: wooden chalets with balconies of cascading of geraniums evoke a suspicion that Heidi might be hiding just around the corner.
Continue reading “Finding Bliss on Lake Bled”
Those last days on Moskenesøya passed by in a blur. Up and down the stairways of heaven I went, pushing every muscle, ligament, and tendon in my legs to their very limits. More mountains, more ferries, more freedom and air and life for my thoughts: friluftsliv for mine tanker, in the words of Henrik Ibsen. I wanted to disconnect, to feel a genuine calm, to find inner tranquility in the wilderness, to get to know another me.
Continue reading “Moskenesøya: Mountains, Fjords, and Cloudberries”
On the paved road back to Moskenes, I spotted a solo traveler ahead of me. We walked in synchronization, wedged between the mountain and the sea, our footfalls a hundred meters apart, our boots brushing by countless flutes of large-leaved lupine growing wild along the guardrail. I was content with my long-distance companion, and had already begun crafting a persona for this hiking Viking when he turned his head, spotted me, halted, and waited. Continue reading “Idyll on Horseid Beach”
My love affair with Scandinavia began with the Norwegian fjord. I loved the dramatic peaks and drops of those heady mountainsides and the way they plunged into the deep, brackish inlet. Thinking back to my most treasured memories, there is one place above them all: 68 degrees north of the equator, in Norway, is a pelagic paradise, where the land slices into the sea, sharper than the claw of a lynx. Snapshots from Lofoten dangle in my mind’s grotto, forming a dazzling mobile of rosy euphoria and estival gold. It was the very first days of August, 2014. I was twenty-four, and anticipation was the only thing I knew. Continue reading “Å i Lofoten: At the End of the World”
Towards the beginning of May, the waters around the Balearic Islands begin to come alive. One by one, the shorelines of Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza, and Formentera cast off their winter colors in exchange for the well-known summer hues of transparent turquoise and cerulean blue. The full blare of the Mediterranean heat has yet to descend, but to the south of Palma de Mallorca Airport, along the seemingly endless palm-fringed avenue of S’Arenal, the bars and shops are already bracing themselves for the impending flocks of holidaymakers in search of sun, sand, and sangria. Continue reading “Mallorca, in Transit”
Without knowing, without ever really having been conscious of it, I staked my entire existence on the tracks of the north-south axis, a line borne out of centuries of incessant toil which saw the mighty Alps finally conquered by spike and steel. I realize it now each time stepping into the wagon of a EuroCity in Zurich. To ride the train to Italy is to go back in time and unravel the stitches I had previously sewn shut, whether triumphantly or unwillingly. Continue reading “A Journey to Lake Garda”
Long before the Soviet Union and the Russian Empire, when Moscow was still a small settlement emerging from the marshlands, Kyiv was the capital of the Rus—a Slavic people from which all Russians, Belorussians, and Ukrainians trace their ancestry. Over the course of a millennium, this city by the banks of the Dnieper River flourished, floundered, and rebuilt itself on more than one occasion. Today, it is Ukraine’s economic center and a podium from where its citizens demonstrate time and again their resilience, determination, and strength in the long struggle for freedom and justice.
Continue reading “Kyivan Heirlooms”