Sunday, July 27, 2014

through my friend's lens

Until I can add my own Albania-visit post, here's a link to an overview of our visit from the blog of my friend in Albania. She's a great photographer!

Waggoner News & World Report: Weekend Re-cap

Friday, July 25, 2014

j'adore les balkans

Senj, Croatia
I've just returned from nearly two weeks in the Balkans, and somehow I feel older than when I left. My friend Olivier and I traveled by car, and I now think that's the only way to make such a trip. Any other form of transportation would have left us missing important things.

The trip came together in bits and pieces, and the end result was a really good overview of life in the Balkans and most of the former Yugoslav republics, a region I mostly know only from news reports of war 20 years ago. But at its start the impetus was simply to visit friends who have taken up residence in Sarajevo, Bosnia, and Tirana, Albania, and to have an interesting roadtrip. Reaching the friends happened to mean traversing four out of six former Yugoslav republics plus Albania.

As we made the return drive to France through the coastal mountains of each country--from northern Albania to Montenegro to Bosnia to Croatia to Slovenia--I felt an odd pang of longing and homesickness. Part of me wants to live in the Balkans because there's something honest about people and places who have lived out their suffering and their sins on the world's stage--especially in comparison to the glitz of southern France where I currently live on the eastern edge of the Côte d'Azur, the French Riviera.

Another part of me feels at home in nearly any mountains anywhere. Growing up in the warm embrace of the Appalachians put mountains in my blood, including their melancholy--so astutely remarked on by Olivier as we traversed northern Croatia on Monday. On the backside, the eastern side, of the mountains that could see the Mediterranean Sea from their front side, we found a landscape that made me want to write, one that brought to mind sad but beautiful and haunting Appalachian mountain ballads like those my friend Vanessa introduced me to years ago with her music.

Anyway, stay tuned for posts from each country on our Balkans tour, if only for the photos alone -- it's such a beautiful landscape. (A country by country post is the goal, anyway!) If you are the traveling type, you should put this region on your travel list. And if you're a history and current events nerd, make sure you haven't missed adding this region's story to all the facts you store in your encyclopedic head.