Let us reveal at once: We are in Denmark, and have been here a little while, settling in, looking for jobs, apartment, old friends and getting used to the weather. The last bit might turn out to be the hardest.
Maybe it was the increasingly good roads. Maybe it was the landscapes, which, in spite of the occasional mountain, looked much like Denmark. Maybe it was the weather. Cold, dark, wet and windy. Just like in Denmark at this time of the year. Maybe we’re just eager to reach our destination.
Five days after we crossed the border from Turkey to Bulgaria, we were out of Eastern Europe. So I can’t say much about our experience of Eastern Europe. But let me sum it up:
Bulgaria: Good wines, friendly people, but it is a police state. A traffic police state. They are lurking everywhere with their speed guns, just waiting for you to break that 80 km speed limit. The only time we were stopped, though, was when an officer wanted to tell us, that in Bulgaria you have to keep the lights on at all times - even in the daytime.
Romania: Good wines, not particularly friendly people. And the roads are terrible! On the other hand it was the first time since Ethiopia we had to break for sheep and horse carts on the road.
Hungary: Good wines, great roads. But the traffic situation in Budapest can drive you insane.
And then, suddenly, we were in Austria. We hardly even noticed the border.
East or west? Europe or the Middle East? Our discussion about the state of Turkey is resolved for us, when we pass a bridge in Istanbul, taking us to the European continent. A sign declares: Welcome to Europe.
But there’s another indicator that we are now in Europe: The traffic!
Or, alternatively, stand in the highest tower, look out over the landscape beneath you, imagine that you are a temple knight, sword by your side, red cross on your chest. You are surrounded on all sides by Muslim armies, and today is the day you will have to defend Crac de Chevalier for the last time…
So lost that nobody knows where you are – including yourself?
Then you should venture into one of the souqs in Syria. While walking the ancient, narrow streets, you will be offered anything you can imagine – spices, coffee, shoes, jewelry, meat, tea, fruit, carpets, antiques, paintings, car parts and I could go on.
Old men are smoking nargileh and playing backgammon in traditional tea houses, others are praying in the nearby mosque (and there’s always a mosque nearby), small Chinese trucks are trying to navigate in dangerously narrow streets while pedestrians jump for their lives and small kids try to convince you, that your shoes need a shoe shine.
They are there, in every big city of Syria, just waiting to be explored. You walk in “just” wanting to buy a bag of raisins. Three hours later, you’re still looking for a way out…
This ancient city, established by the Nabataeans in the third century BC, and annexed by the Roman empire some 300 years later, is a wonder for the eye and a great place to play hide and seek. Unfortunately it has now been conquered by hordes of tourist groups who dominate the city completely.
After a couple of hours Lidet and I escape to a nearby hilltop with a monastery, a friendly guard and amazing views over the desert landscape.
On the contrary, Lidet took her divers license (with flying colors, of course), and I had a few dives myself.
After completing her course, the dive instructor was full of praise. He recommended, though, that Lidet buys her own bcd. Having a petite (XXS) frame, she sometimes had trouble emptying the bcd for air, which resulted in some involuntary ascents to the surface.
A few times while diving, she would suddenly disappear. We looked right, we looked left. No Lidet. Then we looked up…