Year in Review: 2011 | Here, there, everywhere… and even from Mars

Before jumping into 2012 with both feet, I thought I’d do my annual Year in Review post. This time, thought, I am doing things a little differently and instead of making a list of all of my favorite posts, like I did last year, I have picked just one post from each month of 2011. Some of the posts I chose are more informative, while others are more fun to look at than to read (and vice versa), but I enjoyed browsing through all of them and hope you will like the trip down memory lane too. Good times!

In the spirit of reflection that unavoidably comes with a retrospective post like this, I have to admit that looking through my archives has made me realize the continuous fortune I’ve had in the past year of being surrounded, reunited, encountered with, hosted, welcomed and accompanied by wonderful, fun, lovely, inspiring and gracious people, some of whom are mentioned in the posts below. Without them none of my travels would not be what they are, if they were to be at all. So this review is also a big THANK YOU to all of them, for making 2011 a great year for me.

So, here goes. My highlights of 2011, month by month, were:

January 2011:

On the threshold, where nothing is permanent | Mahabalipuram and Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
My whole trip to India was nothing short of amazing for many reasons, one of which was that it coincided with the Pongal harvest festival, which meant there were beautiful, colorful hand-drawn decorations on the ground to be seen everywhere.

February 2011:

Blue Valentine | Kuwait

March 2011:

Oh so pedestrian | Sofia, Bulgaria
Not really much of a choice here, since I only posted once in March, but actually one of the texts that was the most fun to write this year.

April 2011:

Nobody puts Baby in a corner | Sofia, Bulgaria
A clear example of my belief that anything is worth writing (ok, blogging) about.

May 2011:

Eat Pray Love | Sofia, Bulgaria
Doing some of my favorite things with my favorite twins.

June 2011:

In the Palace | Balchik, Bulgaria
Not just because I was at the seaside, nor just because I was at a pretty fun and exciting film festival, but also because I was with one of my favorite friends at the most beautiful place on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast.

July 2011:

La belleza de las letr¡ah!s | Madrid, Spain
I have been pining to go back to Madrid and this year, ever since I saw the Letras neighbourhood, whose streets are beautifully engraved with literature several years ago. Cute guys lying down on the ground for my photo-taking pleasure were not part of the plan, but are always welcome.

August 2011:

Bits and pieces, in pairs | Barcelona, Spain
Probably the happiest, most carefree trip of the year. Luckily for me, though that was neither the first nor the last time I went to enchanting Barcelona and got to hang out with my friend Slavka.

September 2011:

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree | Moscow, Russia
I didn’t get to go to Moscow myself, but the photo comes from my beloved jet-setter dad, with a short text from me, whose writing led to the discovery of the idea of Kilometer Zero markings, which I had been unaware of until now, despite previous sightings.

October 2011:

Off-season girls | Bodrum, Turkey and elsewhere
My trip to Bodrum was a real joy, not just because of the treat of swimming in the Adriatic in the beginning of October, but mostly for the chance it gave me to meet and spend time with a group of wonderful, amazing and inspiring women, some of which contributed to this post, and all of whom left a lasting trace in my heart.

November 2011:

Finding my feet | Montpellier, France
A bit of a nostalgic post, but a real pleasure to write.

December 2011:

Martian, like the planet | Lake Salagou, Languedoc Roussillon, France
…and, as promised, finishing off the year with a post from another planet!

Year in Review: 2010 | Here, there and everywhere

To kick start the New Year, I have put together a selection of my favorite posts from 2010, as a sort of retrospective and in case you missed anything.

Yellow Brick Road | Sofia, Bulgaria
The yellow cobblestones – here right in front of the Bulgarian Parliament, are a kind of proverbial symbol of central Sofia, as they only pave several streets in the very center of the city. “True” Sofianites (as opposed to newcomers from other towns and villages, I suppose) are said to “have been born on the yellow cobblestones.”

Gaudí’s Un-Gaudy Tiles | Barcelona, Spain
Sure enough, the whimsical buildings, the multicolored mosaic dragon/lizard fountain and the slanted colonnaded tunnel under the viaduct were all there. But what surprised me was the discovery that Gaudi even designed some of the outside floor tiles himself.

Stumbling Stones, Große Hamburger Strasse | Berlin, Germany
As we walked, the shiny brass squares set between the cobblestones of the sidewalk made me pause. As I looked at the words etched into them, the quietness became daunting and no longer peaceful. Each plaque read “here lived,” followed by the name of a person, their date and place of birth, then the year they were deported and the place where they were killed.

Seeing the sea for the first | Sozopol and Lozenets, Bulgaria
No matter how many seas or oceans I’ve been around, it still feels special to see the Black Sea for the first time each summer. The glorious, shimmering sea, with the late afternoon light reflected off its surface!

Summer in the City | Sofia, Bulgaria
One of the reasons I love Sofia in the summer much more than during any other time of the year is that only then, it is possible to go out without having a plan…

Crossing into my 30′s | Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
In the Old Town of Sarajevo, a very distinct line divides the Baščaršija – the Ottoman quarter, from the town’s Austro-Hungarian part. Today, I am crossing the border between my 20’s and my 30’s. That line is a little more blurry.

Broken Flowers | Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
The spot in the ground where the mortar shell hit bears a scar with an almost floral pattern. It could easily be mistaken for an irregularity in the pavement, but once I knew to look out for them, these scars – now bitterly known as Sarajevo Roses, were all over the city, serving as a constant reminder of what was happening there less than 15 years ago.

Tina Nina Ekaterina | Mali Vrh, Slovenia
I met Tina and Nina at the start of a documentary filmmaking workshop at Trška Gora in Slovenia. The two have bravely bore my fascination with the idea of twins, showing  gracious patience with my infiltration efforts, constant pestering, idiotic questions and frequent urges to prod them. By now, they’ve gotten used to the jaw dropping, I think.

Love* on the Butchers’ Bridge | Ljubljana, Slovenia
Despite the cheesiness potential, I thought the padlocks on the Butcher’s Bridge were rather charming. I found their shimmering brass blended quite well with the bronze sculptures, and created a cool combination of intentional art with a more incidental participation by the public. And since Ljubljana is no Paris, these declarations of love didn’t seem overwhelmingly tacky.

September, not spring, is the new beginning | Sofia, Bulgaria
This year, fall came suddenly to Sofia. And I was once again reminded of my feelings for September – a very different kind from the high-strung expectancy of spring, the careless euphoria of summer or the pure glee of the first snow in the winter.

Faith, Hope and Love | Sofia, Bulgaria
It took a surge of inspiration, a ladder, a bit of creativity, some blind faith, a little hope and a lot of my sometimes wavering, but – when push comes to shove, unconditional love for Sofia – the city, to take this picture.

Night(s) [and day] of museums and galleries | Plovdiv, Bulgaria
Amid all the roaming around, the bathroom breaks proved almost as enlightening as the exhibitions. Some shared my obsession with pictures of feet on the ground, served as clichés to entertain the masses, while others made for unintentional contemporary works of art.

Tough love | Sofia, Bulgaria
I have a theory – not scientifically proven, but one I know in my gut is true. According to it, the sorry state of Sofia’s sidewalks and streets is directly correlated to its inhabitants’ general indisposition and gloominess.

Before sunset | Bratislava, Slovakia
For such an uneventful town, Bratislava’s street surfaces turned out to be surprisingly lavish and full of decoration, made even more beautiful by an accidental leaf or two. The mellow autumn sun didn’t hurt either.

Serendipity and Baader-Meinhof | Budapest, Hungary
This, it seems, is a classic case of the so-called Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, which describes the experience of happening upon some obscure piece of information and then encountering the same subject repeatedly, again and again.

New York, I Love You | Sofia, Bulgaria
How strange, almost creepy, it was to walk around some New York City streets, among things that were so recognizably of New York – underneath fire escapes and awnings, by traffic lights, street signs and lamp posts, past parking meters, a subway entrance, blue postal boxes and yellow newspaper dispensers, in front of delis and bistros….

On snow and marriage | Sofia, Bulgaria
The hours, and sometimes days, after the first heavy snowfall are always magical (unless you happen to be traveling, all transport is grounded and you end up being stuck at airports for Christmas, in which case they are just plain annoying).

Whew! What a walk down memory lane that was… Here’s to another year filled with fun trips, making new friends and reuniting with old ones, exciting film festivals, (re)discovering familiar places and visiting unknown ones and many, many more grounds beneath my feet!