Grey is Not the Color of the Balkans | Sofia, Bulgaria

One of my favorite places to walk through in Sofia is the staircase that links Dondukov Boulevard to Moskovska Street, which starts right after Budapest Street stops in a dead end.

The two flights of stairs are a convenient shortcut for pedestrians, but whenever I’m in the neighborhood, I always make it a point to go and climb them even if they’re a bit out of my way, just for fun. There’s something whimsical, quite unusual and surprising about this open-air staircase right in the middle of the city, surrounded by greenery (or dried foliage, depending on the season) and built into the slope that separates the two streets – to me the stairs seem kind of like Harry Potter‘s Platform 9¾ and whenever I climb them, I half expect to come up not to one of Sofia’s central streets, but into some fairytale world. Once, I even saw a baby hedgehog on the landing between the two flights, as if it had fallen out of some Brothers Grimm story and ended up on the landing.

I was in the area recently, after having spent a few months away from Sofia, and decided to go by the stairs. This time, they looked even more whimsical than usual, as I found them painted in all the colors of the rainbow. When I got up to the landing between the two flights, I noticed a stencil that read, “Grey is Not the Color of the Balkans.” The colorful intervention apparently dates back to the beginning of September and was done to show solidarity with the “quiet protest” and wave of stairways-painting in Istanbul (where, unlike Sofia, such pedestrian stairways don’t seem to be a rarity) and the rest of Turkey. Also unlike Istanbul, it seems that the Sofia Municipality didn’t bother to paint the stairway back to grey – a feat worth celebrating, especially considering its proven record of speedily wiping away all traces of such colorful (and political) transformations of public space. So, although it’s a little faded by now, the rainbow is still there today. To me, it was a good reminder of a year marked by protests, not just in Bulgaria but in many other places around the world, as well as a welcome burst of color on a drab and grey January day.

When it rains, it pours | Bodrum, Turkey

Lately, it seems that every time as I leave some place where the weather has been nothing but wonderful throughout my stay, the skies suddenly open up and all the rain and gloom that have been collecting in them during my cloudless sojourn pour out precisely as I make my way to the airport (cases in point: Barcelona in early September and now, Bodrum).

This definitely makes for a dramatic departure and adds nostalgia to the already melancholy feeling that leaving brings with it, but also – adding insult to injury on a more practical level, it means that I am stuck in damp clothes for the much of the trip that follows. But, as we all know, there is nothing like pretzeling yourself around a public toilet hand-dryer to make you forget your sadness.

Off-season girls | Bodrum, Turkey and elsewhere

In Japanese, there is a concise word to describe the feeling, upon first meeting someone, that the two of you are going to fall in love.

In the first week of October 2011, ten women gathered at the Adriatic seaside town of Bodrum in south-western Turkey. They called themselves The Off-Season Girls.

Belkıs | “Once I was a ghost and I was staying in Büyükada. I was found so I got scared and ran to the forest. They found me. Somehow we started to dance and it rained colorful paint.”

Yasemin Nur | “When I found out Uranus entered Aries, I decided that I would from now on do whatever I felt like. So, when I wanted to, I would wear high-heeled shoes to art openings and, if they made my feet hurt, I would simply take them off. I didn’t mind the dirty streets.”

Rebecca | “The sun is retreating, the blossoms have been scorched and paper lantern like litter the ground. Life is drawing down into the good earth beneath our feet. I feel its lingering warmth still.”

Iz | “this is where i dream of being when i am not there...”

Ekaterina | “In anticipation for my magic carpet to materialize. The one that just now appeared in my coffee cup’s fortune, that is.”

Şafak | “Our feet are our connection to the Earth; they are our roots to the Earth. A solid connection with the earth helps to keep us grounded which helps to balance the whole body. Capricorn is an earth sign. I love to sleep as a Capricorn and wake up as a Sagittarius. GET UP, GIMME FIRE!”

Swantje | “ feet in the german fall, colorfully expecting to go walk into the blue or bodrum or somewhere else, but then the knee breaks, the achilles' heel is the lack of light, is the missing place, is the rain on the leaves of the fig tree in my garden in cologne...”

Nazlı | “Art is what makes life more interesting than art.” - Robert Filliou

In between | Istanbul, Turkey

As September turned into October, in the span of 20 hours, I traveled from the East to the West and then back to the East: across seasons, months, continents and languages. Flew over Sofia twice. Passed through Istanbul once. Waited and exited. Waited and entered. And now I am here.