Along the old railroad tracks & among the new plants of the High Line | New York, USA

Note: the pictures above can be viewed in a slideshow. Just click on an image to look through them separately.

Each and every day of the week I got to spend in New York was an absolute joy – whether it was while attending my dear friend’s wedding, getting to witness another two friends’ wedding dress and tux fittings, waiting for 2+ hours in the rain to see an exhibition consisting of rain at the MOMA, getting drinks, eating lunches and dinners and hanging out with old friends, visiting my erstwhile haunts (including our former apartment on East 11th Street), roaming around and discovering new places in Manhattan and Brooklyn, even simply riding the subway – I loved every minute of it.

But one of my favorite days (and the only day it didn’t rain) was spent walking along the High Line with my friend Maria. The High Line is New York City’s newest park, which stretches along the former railroad tracks that used to carry the freight trains supplying Manhattan’s largest industrial district until 1980. The structure, elevated 30 feet (about 9 meters) above street level, was redesigned and turned into a public park, whose first stretch opened to the public in 2009. It is an exceptional place – not just because of the extraordinary way in which the structure was transformed while many of its original features were kept (such as the actual railroad tracks, as well as many of the species that originally grew on the rail bed) and incorporated into the park’s landscape, but also because walking along it makes for a kind of green “escape” from the city while never having to take your eyes off of it. And that is my favorite kind of escape from New York.

P.S. I wrote a little story [in Bulgarian] about the High Line, complete with more pictures – you can see it here.

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Mellow Music Festival, Borisovata Gradina | Sofia, Bulgaria

This was taken during the first edition of the Mellow Music Festival, which took place in Sofia at the end of May. (If you squint hard enough, you might be able to see the stage lights reflecting off my jeans.) Stretching over three days and nights, the festival had two stages – an open-air one on a big green meadow in the Borisova Garden in the afternoons and evenings, and an indoors one, where performances started just before midnight and went until the early morning hours.

Apart from giving me the chance to see and hear bands that were previously unknown to me (The Phenomenal Handclap Band and Jahcoozi were two favorites), the Mellow Festival was particularly special for me because it marked the moment I felt summer was finally here. It took place at the precise point when my spring-induced euphoria was starting to wear out and I needed a fresh breath of summer.

You see, every year, it goes like this: As soon as the weather starts to warm up in April, Sofia’s young crowds enthusiastically rush out from the indoor smoky bars and into the city’s parks, where they occupy any and all available surfaces suitable for sitting – benches, curbs, postaments of monuments, where they then sit and drink copious amounts of beer. This is interrupted only by quick trips to the nearby bushes (beer, as we all know, has the tendency to quickly go through the body), or – more permanently, by bouts of pouring rain.

While the warmer temperatures and the feeling of spring in the air are enough to sustain the frenzied euphoria for a couple of months, after a while it just gets old. Eventually, you simply want the anticipation to be over and for summer to finally be here.

When it comes to parks, though, the Borisova Garden is one of the best places your spring euphoria could take you. It is one of the city’s biggest, and surely its most pleasant, parks. Walking along its cool alleys, lined with lush old trees, practically makes you forget you are just meters away from Sofia’s busiest intersection – Orlov Most (Eagles’ Bridge), and the main highway out of the city. There are plenty of benches to sit on, and the kids’ playgrounds – complete with miniature house-like structures, are the perfect place to hide from the spring downpours. The Lilies’ Lake, near which the Mellow Festival’s stage was, is also quite popular, and the frogs’ sculpture in its middle is rendered a bizarrely realistic twist by the real frogs’ ribbiting.

So, to return to the Mellow Music Festival, it was that turning point for me this year. It’s not that it didn’t rain during the festival. It’s just that, as I stood in the middle of that big green meadow in the park, I decided that summer – with its long days, melting heat in the city and breezy nights at the seaside, weekends full of open-air concerts, and just hanging out, was finally here.