This is something I wrote while still in Bucharest, a few days ago.
It’s a hot summer evening in Bucharest. The light of the day is gone, but the night hasn’t fallen over the city just yet.
Exhausted by the heat, I am lying in my bed, typing at my sister’s laptop. I decided to travel without my own on this occasion, dreaming of spending time in distant places, disconnected from the virtual world.
Through the open window, the familiar sound of the traffic along the Unirii Boulevard is reaching my ears. For good old times sake, I even smoked a cigarette on the balcony earlier, staring at a panorama just as familiar. It doesn’t really take much effort to pretend this is still the view from my window, and this is still my room.
I am back to Bucharest after a week spent in Vama Veche, the duane village at the border with Bulgaria, turned into a low-key destination at the Black Sea. Just as the Danube Delta, Vama is one of those places most linked to my Romanian nostalgia, and it’s hard for me to imagine a summer when I’m not there.
Back in the days, when I was not even born yet, Vama used to be a bohemian paradise, where peace, freedom and love reigned. Although the magic is long gone, with hotels and bars popping up where there was once only sand, some things, however, have stayed the same: you can still spend the night on the beach, with a beer in hand, watching the waves breaking against the shore, and staring at the sky full of stars. Remembering past romances that Vama has witnessed is not mandatory, but try to resist it if you can.
Hard for me to understand how someone could dislike Vama so much to leave it the next day. Even more so, when this person was a friend of mine, and we had planned this holiday together since two years ago.
But there is always something, a mysterious energy that, in the end, manages to put things into order, perhaps the way they’re meant to be. It’s as if looking through a kaleidoscope: a new, surprising image is generated each time.
My friend returned to Bucharest and so I cancelled the trip to the Danube Delta – our next destination after Vama – but the days that followed were more than I could have wished for. They were marked by some very interesting revelations that I’m going to tell you about next. For this, I can only thank to my Romanian friends – and to their friends, too – who happened to be in Vama Veche and around at the same time I was there. In their good, reassuring company, I spent my days at the seaside – extended from only two to five full days – enjoying not only Vama, but also Limanu and the Bulgarian coast, where we drove when the heat of the day was just too strong to sunbathe.
The absolute highlight of this holiday was the night walk in Mangalia, the quaint beach town in Romania, where Andrei and Andreea insisted we went one day after dinner. We were five people walking its streets that night, following random alleys, staring at old and new hotels, eventually ending up on the beach. Reflected by the dark waters of the sea, the lights of various resorts spread along the Black Sea coast – places where we used to spend summer holidays during school years – brought up some precious teenage memories. Five people, one nostalgia. In spite of growing up in different parts of the country and, in some cases, without knowing each other very well, we shared this strong feeling. And right there, on the beach in Mangalia that night, I felt the absolute joy of belonging and was grateful for being able to appreciate such moments. This was one of the revelations. When we raised our heads, surrendered to this beautiful feeling, we gazed at all the stars and constellations punctuating the clear summer sky.
Another revelation came in the shape of a human, a friend of my friends, a guy I was meeting for the first time. He came to Vama Veche soon after my friend left, and just a few days after he had suffered a big loss. Vama was just as new to him as it was for my friend, and he soon realized he was not a big fan of the place either. But our company and the good times we had – be it on the beach, driving in Bulgaria, queuing for pancakes, or lifting lanterns on the night sky – were enough reasons for him to stay until the end. To be able to appreciate life and friendship, and to remain open to new experiences even at times of grief, that is definitely something to admire and learn from.
The most powerful of the revelations, however, came as I had a taste of my own– bitter– medicine. My friend’s discontent attitude towards Vama Veche put me at the same table with a previous version of myself, when I was also hurting people by acting in a similar way. I had to lose considerably – lovers, friends – to understand that was not the way I wanted to live my life.
So, yes, it’s been one interesting week at the seaside, and I’m quite happy with the way things have worked out in the end. “You had three revelations in Vama Veche?” one of my friends asked visibly surprised, stressing on the word “three”. He, too, was there with us. He continued: “I just know I played football on the beach and had plenty of beers. That’s my revelation!” We laughed.
The traffic on the boulevard has finally come to a stand. That’s good, as I’ll sleep with the windows wide open tonight. How else to accommodate the heat of Bucharest summer nights?