I have been going to Vama Veche, the frontier village at the Black Sea, for more than ten years. This means I have never experienced the paradise Vama Veche used to be at its origins. I only heard stories about it.
Truth is, I am tired of hearing – and saying – how much this place has changed throughout the years, how umbrellas and chaise-longues replaced tents and campers, and how baby strollers pushed hippies and rock music fans to other places. And yet, it is true. Vama has changed, and it will keep on changing. These transformations, however, will not push me away simply because I have not yet found another place in the world to feel what I can only feel when I am here.
This summer, I experienced my first sunrise in Vama Veche. I put the alarm clock at 05:40. The beach was full of people and they did not wake up with the alarm clock. They were there since the night before, dancing and drinking. The music was still on because the music never stops in Vama Veche. “Here comes the sun!” the crowds cheered when the pink horizon produced a bright pearl right above the waterline. Some jumped into the water throwing their clothes on the shore. Others were just watching. I was happy to be there and share the moment with all those strangers, who suddenly did not seem so strange anymore.
After sunrise, when most people went to sleep, I walked to a beach bar to get myself some coffee. I could hear bits of conversations around me: “What do you mean you go to the room to take a pee?” a guy asked his friend, almost in shock. “Go pee in the sea, like everyone else!” he concluded. I had to laugh.
The bartender gave me a long, double espresso, and I could see everyone else was holding beer bottles and cocktail glasses. I sat down and watched the waves. The sea had been agitated for days. Behind the muddy waves, in the distance, I could see the shipyard at Mangalia. I realized there was nothing picturesque about the Black Sea coast in Vama Veche and that was exactly the reason I liked it.
At dusk, my sister took me to the southern end of the village, where a worn out stop sign and two police cars announced the border with Bulgaria. A few campers, tents, and the sea. Nothing more, nothing less. I told my sister that was where I wanted to stay next summer. She laughed, saying she could not picture me living like that. But I knew better. There, I told her there was no place like Vama Veche elsewhere in the world. She laughed again, saying that was just my interpretation, and other places might mean to other people what Vama means to me.
My sister had a point. But I had one, too. And so, Vama Veche continues to be a paradise to me.
August 10th, 2018, Vama Veche
My favourite moment of the day here, at the seaside, is the evening walk. Fresh after the shower, the hair still wet, the skin darker after a day in the sun, I feel light and happy. A drink in hand, I sit at one of the many bars on the beach, right in front of the sea, watching it as one would watch a movie at the cinema. I never get bored of this. The Black Sea brings so many memories and, at the same time, makes me dream of the future. Waves wash the shore ceaselessly. They will never stop, no matter what I’ll be doing in a month, a year, or a lifetime from now. And this is reassuring. It puts things in perspective. It tells me I am not the sea. It tells me to do what I want to do, say what I want to say. It tells me to live.
There are many places in the world by the sea. And there are many seas. Yet, nowhere else can I find what I have here, at the Black Sea. I am sure the Greeks might think the same of the Mediterranean, and that is OK. From all the places at the Black Sea, Vama Veche remains my favourite. It has changed dramatically – more people, more restaurants and supermarkets, more baby strollers. But the sea remained the same. The night sky remained the same, with its countless stars to gaze at, part celestial bodies, part sparkles raising from the bonfire people still burn on the beach every night in summertime. Some things never change in Vama Veche, and this is what calls me back here year after year, no matter how many seas I leave undiscovered in the world.
What will I be thinking of when watching the waves wash the shore at night next summer in Vama Veche?