A Moveable Feast | Rochester, NY, USA

flowers_dayThis year, as it happens every once in a while, the “Western” (Catholic and Protestant) Easter and the Orthodox Easter coincide, and so do – by extension – Palm Sunday and Tsvetnitsa, respectively, both of which happened to be today.

And, as far as I’m concerned, there was no better way to spend the day than by walking around Rochester’s Park Avenue area, where – luckily for me – spring has spring. I even got to see some blooming crocuses/croci. What an ugly name for such a beautiful flower, although I have to admit that the Bulgarian минзухар (pronounced meen-zoo-har) is no feast for the ears either.

Speaking of feasts, while thinking of a title for this post, I came across an explanation of why Hemingway’s posthumously published memoir was called A Moveable Feast (the term is originally used to describe Christian holidays that don’t take place on the same date every year, such as Easter and Palm Sunday). The title was apparently suggested by A. E. Hotchner, who supposedly remembered a conversation, in which Hemingway said, “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”

I like this idea of carrying past experiences around like a moveable feast, and my time in the States somehow feels like that to me.

Snow in August | Aiguille du Midi, the Alps, France

mont_blanc_rangeGoing up to Aiguille du Midi was a both pretty intense and quite insane.

cable_carTogether with a hoard of probably around 60 other people, we packed ourselves into the cable car, the Téléphérique, which climbed the almost vertical ascent from Chamonix to the summit in about 20 minutes – this is pretty mind blowing, considering that the altitude gain it made in that time was over 2,800 meters (Chamonix is at 1,035 m and the peak of the summit is 3,842 m). In that time, as I tried not to think about the fact that we were suspended on a rope in mid-air, we basically went from a pretty lush mountain and green mountainscape, through bare and wind-swept slopes, then onto glaciers and finally to the level of the snowy peaks. It felt as though we were taking off in an airplane.

Once we reached the top, slightly weak in the knees, we stepped out of the cable car and onto the packed snow.snow

We went out to various terraces and viewing platforms and watches mountaineers come back from their expeditions and climb over the railings, while some of the tourists shivered in their sandals and I felt smug at having had the foresight to wear closed shoes and a few layers of clothes, despite the fact that it was August.

dizzyIt was cold, windy, almost blindingly bright, dizzying and a little hard to breathe.

stairsBut very much worth it to see Mont Blanc from close-up, at what seemed to be about eye-level (though technically it was another, almost 1,000 meters higher) – it felt somehow like cheating, like it shouldn’t be so easy to see it without having climbed it.

mont_blanc_heightIncidentally, the date we went up there was just a couple of days after the date of the first ascent of Mont Blanc, in 1786!


Woohoo for (virtual & archival) snow

snow_collageThe option to get some virtual snow here on wordpress (woohoo!) coincides perfectly with Sofia’s first real snowfall this winter (double woohoo!!!).

I love the novelty and purity of every winter’s first snow, and the silence it brings with it for the hours and sometimes even days after it sticks to the ground and accumulates. There really is something magical about it (kind of like seeing the sea for the first time each year)… until it gets cleared and/or turns into brown slush…

This time, though, I’m not in Sofia to witness all that. I’m now in Montpellier and it hardly ever – if at all – snows here (during all of last winter, it only snowed once, for less then an hour and the lace-like snow that stuck to the ground disappeared in even less time than that), which – apart from days like today, is actually good news, as the novelty of new snow wears off pretty quickly, making space for months of unappealing cold and annoying trudging through slush.

The photos above are from the archives, which you can go and check out if you’re not able to enjoy real snow today: one is a post about snow and marriage; the second is from when snow covered the ground on the leap day of February 29 this year, which is when miracles are said to happen; and the third is from the artificial snow in a mall in Dubai.

Happy first snow to everyone, whether it is virtual or real!

Two things on Tuesday | Montpellier, France

First: we’re not even all the way through July, I haven’t gone on summer holidays yet and there are already fallen autumn leaves on the ground. What’s up with that?

Second: I love this necklace for many reasons – it reminds me of the wonderful Christmas market in Toulouse where I bought it from, it’s made of two-sided, square pieces of encased Japanese fabric with patters and pictures, each of which is never repeated more than once, it makes a nice, light rattling sound when I move and it matches absolutely everything I own – including, as I surprisingly discovered after I took these photos today, my red shoes. [Can you tell I’ve been reading a lot of style/fashion blogs lately? It’s been way too hot to do anything more productive or thoughtful, so let’s just go ahead and blame this observation on them. Ok? Great!]

Nautical theme | Nea Skioni, Greece

Three things:

1. Today marks the 100th anniversary since the sinking of Titanic – an event that caused the death of 1,514 people (making it one of the deadliest peacetime maritime disasters in history) and that, in the century that followed, became the iconic subject of endless paraphernalia, books, movies, exhibitions and proverbial sayings. (I highly recommend reading this unusual story about the mark left by the Titanic’s sinking on an otherwise unremarkable Bulgarian village.)

2. The color of the Aegean that you can see on the left edge of the right picture above is exactly what I had in mind when I wanted to paint my living room’s wall “the color of the sea”. I almost gave up, as I looked for paint everywhere and almost became convinced that this color doesn’t exits anywhere but in my imagination, but finally had it made especially (to pretty great results, if I say so myself – you can see the resulting wall color here).

3. The first glimpse of the sea still takes my breath away, although it was neither the first time I saw the sea this year (after the Atlantic in January and the Mediterranean in February), nor was it the long-awaited first sight of the Black Sea from my childhood (that I have written about here).

I’ve spent the last 40 minutes trying to pick one of these three things around which to spin a nautically-themed post, but then I thought, why not include all of them? Then, I proceeded to ignore the possible answers to that question (such as: because they are neither related nor equally compelling or interesting to read) and did it anyway. I hope you find something worthwhile here either way, and – at worst, that I’ve made you think and dream of the sea, which is never a bad thing. And by never, I mean all the times you do it while managing to banish nagging thoughts of maritime disasters.

In full bloom | Sofia, Bulgaria

While most of the Christian world celebrates Easter today, Bulgaria – which goes by the Orthodox Calendar (Easter is next Sunday, according to it) marks Tsvetnitsa (the equivalent of Palm Sunday, whose name is derived from the world tsvete – ‘flower’).

Besides the religious meaning of the holiday, Tsvetnitsa also has a markedly secular spirit as the name day of people whose names are related to or derived from flowers, trees, or anything from botany or nature in general, such as Lily, Violeta, Margarita, Tsvetan(a) Yavor (‘sycamore’) and Yasen (‘ash tree’) –  and yes, those last two are very common men’s names.

This is usually kind of perfect, as the day falls right when spring has finally arrived and seems set to stay. Or at least that’s what it looked like yesterday, when the sun was shining and flowers were in full bloom. Today it’s rainy, gloomy and cold, but that’s spring for you, I guess.

Happy April Fool’s Day! | Sofia, Bulgaria

Since practical jokes, pranks and other such shenanigans are a bit hard to illustrate in the format of this blog, I thought I’d share the enlightening story of how the first day of April came to be an occasion for such activities.

April Fool’s Day seems to be connected to the switchover from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian one. According to the former, which was used until the second half of the sixteenth century (in most European countries, through some abolished it later), New Year’s was celebrated and gifts were exchanged on the first day of April. The new Gregorian calendar that replaced it thereafter moved the beginning of the New Year to the day on which we still mark it today – January 1.

But every year – just like the days following the time change for daylight savings (and I will not mention how I a certain somebody who went through the better half of last week, thinking that time was still one hour behind), some people didn’t catch on very quickly – they stuck to the old calendar and continued to celebrate the New Year and show up with gifts on April 1. Those “fools” were mocked by their friends, which stuck paper fish to their back and called them Poisson d’Avril, or April Fish.

Nowadays – according to the ever-so-wise Internet, “April 1 is a day for practical jokes in many countries around the world. The simplest jokes may involve children who tell each other that their shoelaces are undone and then cry out “April Fool!” when the victims glance at their feet.”

So there you have it. Happy April Fool’s Day and I hope you are either the source or, in the less enjoyable case, the butt of at least one good practical joke today! (Although it must be said that the weather this morning pulled a good one on all of Sofia’s residents – it was – and still is – snowing!)