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Category Archives: Nostalgia

Abandoned places in Bulgaria

To be honest I do not always closely follow all news that involve my home country. Of course, I keep up-to-date with the major events, and strangely with the (less important) news from my region and home town. Certain things (such as political news, corruptions and all kinds of scandals), I prefer to ignore. I, however, do not apply this ostrich approach to humane feature stories; I do not close my eyes and ears for the daily misery and tragedy that engulfs lives of many people in Bulgaria.

There are a certain type of photo features (or you might say photo journalism) that I especially appreciate and devour. These are photo series of now almost abandoned places, usually villages in some mountainous location in Bulgaria. There is so much nostalgia oozing from these photos. I am transported to the days of my own childhood when I used to visit my grandparents who lived in a small town themselves. At the same time, I notice the lonely, small, cobbled streets, the houses which are falling apart, and the few, most often old people living there. I cannot help but think that after them, no one will be left, and these villages will become complete ghost places, until the wind and the rain dissolves and washes away anything left from the old barrack-like structures, and nothing will be left from its former residents. A part of me is saddened that these villages, once prosperous, housing sizeable populations, were bursting with activity and now are sleeping in silence. Yet another part of me, appreciates the silence, even envies it. That part of me sometimes, when life gets hard, dreams of escaping everything and everyone and finding solance and refuge in such a place.

But let me stop rumbling, and leave you strol through some forsaken places in Bulgaria. I can look at these forever..

Disclaimer: I have nothing to do with taking these photos, I found a number of these series on the High View Art site that I follow on social media.

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Posted by on December 17, 2016 in Life, Nostalgia

 

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Browsing through the old albums

Photos are in general pleasant relics. You are reminded of good times you had, amazing places you visited, times with friends and people you love. I do occasionally enjoy browsing through albums and taking a quick trip down memory lane. Different emotions run through me. I feel embarrassed by weird outfits, bad hair choices, or bad choices in general. You know, photos which if now surfaced on social media, you make you delete your account and never return. But in most cases, I cannot help but feel nostalgic.

There are the photos from my student years when I was different from who I am now. I used to go out and party a lot, meet up with friends, go clubbing, drinking and dancing. With some of these people, I have lost contact. You know, sometimes even though you still like someone, they are no longer a part of your life. And if you relocate to another country, keeping up the friendship is even more challenging. The sad part is that some of them were at that point in time among your closest friends. But I guess if it is not meant to be, it is not meant to be.

Then there are those photos of beautiful places you were lucky enough to visit. And it is peculiar how almost every photo carries a reminder of what now seems like a trivial event of an experience that happened during that trip. You know, things you can laugh about now but did not look so funny back then. For instance, the trip in which I got the bad sunburn on my shoulders, the trip during which I broke my camera and then wandered through an unknown city trying to get it fixed; the trip during which I had a bad fight with someone over something embarrassingly ridiculous; the trip during which I had a wardrobe malfunctioning and as a result everyone of a particularly busy square ended up seeing your underwear (so happy I was not with anyone I know during that one)… Oh, these glorious times!

And then, there is another thing photos can evoke – they remind you of the person you were back then and there, documenting your drives, desires, and hopes. One of the greatest things about travelling is that you learn a lot about yourself (and people you are with). So, sometimes pictures could transfer you magically to these exact moments back in time and remind you how you felt in that moment in time. You inevitably get a reality check and compare where you were with where you are now. Sometimes you can end up missing yourself, as in the person you were back in that moment in time, full of hope, full of optimism, expecting your whole life to be ahead of you and believing things will only get better. When life has proven to you time and time again it will not get better, good things do not need to happen a lot, and you need to work hard and fight for everything that you have, you might end up wishing to go back and having that naïve and full of hopes mind-set. But, at the same time, I would not rather be 18 again when life seemed full of possibilities. Now I know better, I am more moderate in my expectations but value the less pleasant experiences as they have enriched me in a way. Enough so that I can soberly wish for the intact optimism and hopefulness, but without losing my wiser and realistic view over things. Perhaps I should regard photos for what they are – a memorabilia of a different person, in a different place and time. And someone in there, is a part of myself.

 
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Posted by on March 22, 2015 in Nostalgia

 

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About love and kindness. And warm, fuzzy feelings

I’ve been on a soul search for home, family, friendship, kindness, and all those things that make you want to get out of bed in the morning — albeit not on purpose. As I was quenching my sorrow in Steinbeck’s genius, I stumbled across the story of his own journey and reflection upon some of these same issues (in his “Travels with Charley”). Returning back to his hometown, he writes:

My return caused only confusion and uneasiness. Although they could not say it, my old friends wanted me gone so that I could take my proper place in the pattern of remembrance — and I wanted to go for the same reason… You can’t go home again because home has ceased to exist except in the mothballs of memory.

His prose is spot-on and beautiful and gives me goose bumps. But I also tend to disagree. And this is not another where-is-home post. It is about everything else wonderful and not so wonderful in life that we often question, seek, and pursue. I now know home is not a place, but a feeling. Or a person. Or a certain feeling only a certain person urges in you. Who just by being part of your life makes everything better and easier. And that person, being well, can contain all the happy moments in your life with their presence. And it is so numbing when they are away, or in pain, and all the love in the world is not enough to help them through their troubles…

But human beings can sometimes do great things out of love and they can perform tremendous acts of kindness. When Gwyneth Paltrow’s father died on her birthday, Chris Martin wrote “Fix you” for her and it is a truly beautiful song. Pipi Longstocking (if I remember correctly from my primary school classes) was created after Astrid Lindgren was making up the storied about the adventures of the little girl with red hair to entertain her sick daughter. Mendelsohn’s sister was also talented at composing music (some accounts say even more talented than he was) but allowed her brother to present some of her compositions as his own (ok, here the fact that it was unthinkable for women at the time to compose music might have mattered as well). Or Wagner, of all people, composed as a present for his wife on her 33rd birthday a symphony and then with the help of an orchestra woke her up in the morning playing the work he created. Joe DiMaggio’s love for Marilyn Monroe outlived their brief marriage and according to some stories I’ve read in the media, he continued sending red roses to her grave 3 times a week for the next 20 years. Keanu Reeves became a popular meme with his sad, sitting-on-a-bench-eating-a-sandwich photo. Then details about his personal life emerged and it became widely known that he has been through profound personal losses (his father walked out when he was an infant, his best friend died in his early 20’s, his child was stillborn, and then his very depressed fiance died in a car accident) and at the same time, he has been known for being unbelievably altruistic, generous, kind, and down-to-earth. Sort of a modern day quiet hero.

And much greater acts of kindness surround us. Perhaps some of them we are able to perform ourselves. Perhaps others we can witness and feel awe and inspiration, a strive to be better human beings, to cultivate our souls and try to engulf into a bubble of goodness others as well. And when our dearest people suffer, we can only love them more — in any way that they need us to — so that they find the strength to embrace and battle their demons. And when they are in their best and around us, we can love them with all that we have and be grateful they ever happened to us.

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2014 in Happiness, Nostalgia

 

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What saddens me about going back to my home country

I first wrote “home” in the title and had to go back and delete it. Having left the place I was born more than four years ago, I think I am comfortable enough here to call it my home (and as I have already extensively discussed in previous posts, and will not repeat again). The bottomline is that over time, the things that move you, upset you and sadden you when you go back to the motherland, are also likely to change.

At first, I was feeling sad and remorseful about all the connections and acquaintances and (semi-) friendships I would cut lose, or which would simply run out of their course. It feels strange when you go back home and you barely know anyone apart from your family and some few lifelong friends. As one of those lifelong friends cleverly pointed out to me, you do not need to move away to lose these connections. You could very well be living in the same city and still lose touch. Not necessarily because you do not like each other anymore, or have nothing in common. Simply, life happens.

I became accustomed to change number 1 and was soon faced with others. Change number 2 was everything happening in the lives of those close to you, everything that you knew or did not know about, and happened without you there. Of course, it is great you each have your own experiences, and together also build some small, beautiful treasures. But somehow, it is difficult not to feel replaceable. Even your own parents, who surely should miss you profoundly, are doing alright after all.

The third thing that would frustrate me now, but not before, were numerous details from the everyday life, mundane observations if you like, but somehow those small things that make all the difference. Such as customer service, bureaucracy, litter on the streets, impoliteness, crudeness of people, their constant whining and complaining. It was overwhelming! To the point that I’d be having a terrible headache the first few days back home and I would feel like hiding in my room where I could be sheltered from all the negativity, noise, and what felt like poison for my peace of mind.

Of course, all of the above still can to a great state describe how I feel every time I get to spend a few days back home. Naturally, though, I am also always happy to be there. If nothing else, simply to be pampered and spoiled for a few days by my friends, catching up with some few dear friends, whose presence is like a balm from a sore soul, visiting my grandmother who every time would look scarily smaller and frailer, or reminiscing about the past, which I have conveniently selected the goods parts of.

Now I am more and more moved by the sadness and bitterness, by the negativity and desperation. Unfortunately, the discrepancy in my country, the difference between the poor and the filthy rich is preposterously immense, and a major part of the population lives on the verge of poverty, scraping for survival. It makes my heart bleed to read so often on the news how people have set themselves on fire simply because they cannot take it anymore. It is one thing (and bad enough already) to be desperate enough to take your own life, but from all the manners in which you could do it, choosing to set yourself on fire, to die a slow and painful death, is probably an indication enough of how unimaginably overwhelming in pain someone must be. Old people, instead of enjoying their retirement after working hard all life, can barely make ends meet. Just taking a road trip around my country, feels me up with squeezing pain. You see abandoned houses, half-ruined buildings, remnants of better times, of perhaps more joyous life. In many of them no one lives anymore, in others there are still some scarce inhabitants, sitting on a bench in front of their house, basking in the sun, waiting. Waiting maybe for the neighbor to come over and share the loneliness for a while, waiting for perhaps their children, either living in a bigger city, or abroad to remember them, or waiting for it all to end. I’ve read so many articles recently about the disappearance and depopulation in smaller towns and villages in Bulgaria. People move either to the capital, or if they are brave enough, move abroad.

From one hand, this saddens me because it makes me feel guilty. I feel guilty because I am struggling to build a better life for myself in a country where I can pursue and get a better, fair job that corresponds to my skills and knowledge, where I will be rewarded for my efforts, and will be able to have a comfortable life. I know that for everyone back at home, people like me seem to have it easy and I don’t deny they have it hard enough. Of course, none of these people probably has the slightest clue how it feels like to move far away from home, where you know absolutely no one, where you have zero support system, fighting every single step of that way, all on your own. I did not choose the easy way, but I chose a way. It comes with a huge cost and I decided to pay it. I simply choose a fight where I stood a chance. So I definitely did not pick the easy way out by leaving the country. But perhaps someone might rightfully blame me that I didn’t have the courage to stay, either.

But now I am accustomed to seeing people living normal lives. One of the things I appreciate most about the Netherlands is that you do not need to be a rocket scientist and know the right people in order to survive. You could very well be a shop-assistant and could still lead a normal life. Of course, you won’t be excessively rich, but it won’t be the case that you need to ration down your salary/pension/allowance so that you could afford bread maybe every other day.

Don’t get me wrong, it is not the poverty that saddens me. I was well aware how things were back at home, after all this is where I spent most of my life. And, of course, I am aware there are many many countries out there which are worse off. What bothers me is that the situation is deteriorating and there are no easy solutions. It bothers me because I understand where this desperetion comes from, and it bothers me because I am afraid it is not likely to go away soon. It bothers me because it is so immense, that its magnitude overwhelms me so that my heart starts bleeding.

 
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Posted by on November 9, 2014 in Nostalgia

 

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What you do not get to learn/see when travelling but maybe wonder about

As I am reeling from my recent excursion and looking forward to the next, hopefully more relaxed one, I got to think about how much travelling enriches and changes us. Isn’t travelling just great — simply in the small ways we learn to be more open about the world, more perceptive, more tolerant and knowledgeable? There is a new, magical world opening up in front of us, making us forget about the problems we have had back home in a heartbeat.

So far so good. However, for me, there has always been something very nostalgic in travelling. And it has nothing to do with me quickly falling for a place, finding my peace, and satiating my curiosity (all of these things do happen to me regularly though), so that I do not feel like I want to leave it. I feel nostalgic when I am there because as much as a new world is opening up in front of me, just as much of it remains hidden, perhaps never to be explored by me.

When you travel and visit new places do you ever wonder how does the average person live? Whenever you take a guided tour through some historical place, such as a castle or other monument, the guides always seem eager to explain what the king/queen did, how he/she acted, what he/she was famous for, mixed with a funny anecdote or two. No one ever tells you about how the average people lived, what they did, what kind of values they had, what was important for them in those days…simply what was ordinary life like.

Or as I am wandering through a new (often gorgeous and fascinating) city, I often ask myself if I would be happy living there; and how do the strangers I meet live like. Or what is life like for whoever lives in that corner house on the small square with the many flowers on the balcony. And strangely, these are questions I do not ask myself whenever I am back home, wherever home might be. Perhaps it is the transience of it all — my brief glimpse on the small square with small, colorful houses and the flowers of the balcony, and my subconscious knowing I will probably never return the this place again and thus trying to hold the memory for as long as possible. There is hardly a way to explain it without sounding corny. Whatever it is, it is definitely something to be cherished — a slightly sad feeling of not belonging, or everything being fleeting, or nothing, including you, lasting forever. You blink and it is all over.

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2014 in Nostalgia, Travel