30-Minute Writing Sketches in Esto-Sadok

PART 2. ESTO-SADOK

Episode 5. A Mid-Afternoon in the Mountains, Esto-Sadok, 2.55pm, April 17

The first morning in Esto-Sadok-Sadok

I am sitting here in my cozy apartment watching the Western Caucasus mountains working magic of their own. My building looks somewhat like a Swiss mountain chalet offering awe-inspiring views of the Aibga Ridge from each of the apartments. Trying to take it in from mine, even after two days up here, I still can’t articulate how I feel about this natural landscape I have never been properly exposed to before except while travelling on the other side of the Atlantic or flying over the Swiss Alps. I think I need to let the mountains just work their magic on my feelings and sensations. In the meantime all I can do is admire the view and breathe this air. 

I am in Esto-Sadok («Estonian garden» in English), a village lying around 50 km away from Adler, with the population of around 1,000. It was founded in 1866 by settlers from Estonia which was part of the Russian Empire at the time. This place was left deserted following the Caucasian War (also known as the Russian Conquest of the Caucasus). After wandering around for some time, a bunch of Estonians started a new life here along with some Greeks residing in the neighboring area. Estonian influence is somewhat present to this day as a short walk from my «chalet» is a house of Anton Hansen Tammsaare, a famous Estonian writer who found this place therapeutic for his tuberculosis. So, the topics of wandering around and writing are also poignant up in Esto-Sadok, which is now a mountain resort situated around 700m above the sea level. 

My Apartment Building

Yesterday I was able to meet the mountains up close and personal when I took a cable car to get to the Rosa Peak (2320 m above the sea level). It was quite an adjustment for my body as I felt a bit quizzy going up. But those jaw-dropping and breathtaking views were totally worth it. It seems like I have reached some intimacy with the Caucasus mountains. Being up there felt like stepping back in time as the mountains were entirely covered with snow making me feel a bit awkward wearing my pink sneakers trying to keep my balance on the slippery surface. I was scared of stepping too close to the edge which almost felt like one into eternity. It was thanks to a nice female skier who asked me to take a picture of her that I now have one of me posing against a one-million dollar view of the raw natural beauty. Skiing is such a mystery to me. «How do you do that?» I asked looking at this woman with all that impressive glamorous ski gear, gracefully gliding along the snow on her pink board. «Well, I’ve been skiing since childhood», she said shrugging her shoulders. There are multiple ways to spend your childhood I guess. I wonder if that child throwing tantrums in the cable car on my way up here begging his parents to take him back to the hotel is going to learn to ski one day as well… I, for one, knew close to nothing about skiing and hotels growing up in the post-Soviet Russia… It is really amazing how much our childhoods shape our later lives… 

Going up
Up High in the Mountains
The majestic beauty of the Rosa Peak

I was happy though I was here contemplating that frightening eternity safely far from the edge and the slippery surface. It felt as if I was taking a peek at the place I wasn’t even meant to see if it wasn’t for that cable car that brought me all the way up here. I wish I had known I would experience all these magical feelings being up here back at high school in Geography classes that were taught by one of the craziest teachers I had ever known. I am so happy that physical maps showing endless mountain ranges, lakes, rivers, oceans, etc. (or to me simply meaningless dots) that she made me hate didn’t put me off travelling and yearning to explore those places for real later in life.

On my way back down I visited the cozy Mountain Olympic village (around 1500 m above the sea level also referred to as Rosa Plateau). It had a distinct European feel lined up with multiple international flags in the centre (which seemed a bit ironic with overseas travelling hardly possible). Of course, I couldn’t help taking a moment to contemplate the majestic mountain views while getting a steaming cup of the famous tea from Krasnaya Polyana («Red Glade» in English). That was the original name of this settlement (Kbaade in Adygean) that the place had before the Caucasian war meant. According to another version, it was named so by the Greek settlers who saw the ground in the area colored with reddish leaves in fall. 

The Olympic Mountain Village

As I am sipping on another cup of Krasnaya Polyana tea I got back in Adler, I am witnessing a mix of fog and snow circulating around the mountain tops making them hardly visible at times. It looks as if there is a big sauna up there with smoke uncontrollably moving in different directions. I wish I was more knowledgeable about physical processes unravelling in front of me — was I even taught about them back at school? Compared to the sea, that is another type of a landscape which projects a sense of magical transcendence. It might have to do with mountains as if hanging right above us, making them seem so close and approachable and yet so far away. Unlike on the coast where all the colors can be clearly seen merging and intersecting, it is harder to play a painter up here because mountains are about momentum, unreachable grandeur… 

I have just opened my window to let some mountain air in. I don’t know much about the science behind it, but I was explained that due to a more significant level of diffusion at high altitudes, the air up here feels different from what we are used to living in congested cities. As a result, you become more sensitive to a whole variety of smells (quite the opposite from the major COVID symptom reported by a great number of infected individuals). You feel as if your nose has been awakened making smells feel more acute: alluring aftershave, gasoline, barbecue grilled by a Caucasean cook… Such a vibrant smellscape! The sounds somehow get muffled and less distinct, but these multiple smells hit your nose really hard. Of course, cars in my area might offset the medicinal properties of this air because just as everywhere in the country, there are way too many of them. Ah, I can’t even register rapid movements of fog above the mountains. How much do we willingly miss in an instant second by choosing to look down at our phones/computers rather than up there..? 

This whole area is an idyllic retreat that makes me brood over the famous Russian writer Mikhail Lermontov and other less famous ones who contemplated the bizarre magic of the Caucasus. I learned about some of them from exhibition stands at My Russia Ethnographic Park in Rosa Khutor, a famous resort that hosted the alpine skiing events during the 2014 Olympics. There as well as here in Esto-Sadok it is hard to say where exactly you are — in a village, a town, a resort? The place certainly owes a chunk of its identity to the mountains. All these acute smell sensations also bring out a variety of thoughts and reflections on bigger things such as who we are and why we were brought to this planet; our natural instincts are experiencing a sort of awakening as well. Or is it just the feeling of being on holiday solo when you are often confined to your own inner thoughts that pop up in your mind? As I was typing this, I must have missed another big circular movement as one of the three mountains is only visible now and who knows if it will still be there before I finish this sentence… No, nothing much has changed — as if I have been able to get it under control. Even though my feet are touching the warmth on my kitchen floor, it is hard not to feel cold looking at that all that snow up there. 

Just as with the sea, I wonder how much of this area will be tamed and taken over by humans just to be devoured by a money-making machine in the attempt to generate revenues? When it comes to architecture, as I said, I see a distinctchalet-style here with a certain Russian twist. There must be a degree of consistency to this disorganized chaos of buildings as they all make sense together working for the common goal of generating a mountain vacation vibe. The whole place also serves as a recharge from the main action happening up in the mountains. I feel like a cheat as I am only safely observing instead of sweating in the mountains. 

The highest mountain on the left is totally gone leaving only a vague image of a smaller one in front of me. The smokemerges seamlessly into the sky as if it was the sky itself. When will it choose to open up all of the mountains to our view? It is like a girl having trouble making up her mind about what to wear tossing all the clothes on top of her bed after trying them on. Next thing you know she will be trying on another item just to toss it just like she did all the previous ones… Or is it a cover that the mountains feel like putting on today to protect themselves from my intrusive vision as if they were an innocent girl? 

I can see a patch of what looks like a forest — I wonder how many ecosystems are covered in layers and layers of outfits up there? On the left it might seem there were never any mountains at all — just some grey space — what a master of disguise! The right one which seems well visible and exposed to the view gives it all away. So does a tiny fragment on the left, which looks like like that toe sticking out stopping you feeling all cozy and comfy tucked in your blanket. The cloud above matches the dark cement grey of the mountains with its subtle grey and black. 

There are more patches of snow with more smoke coming out. Who chose the shape — was that a random natural chisel? Watching this, I am being transported into the Borghese Gallery in Rome where I was absolutely flabbergastedby how sculptures were capable of making me feel… Two waves of smoke are coming out from both sides like a dragon with a huge mouth threatening to devour whatever is in its path. Is there a perfect skiing path on top? I guess it will not be possible but it looks like a perfectly designed route for skiing down to me. Easy for me to say, isn’t it? 

For skiiers it might seem I am talking total nonsense but I am just an observer, probably a bit out of place, just like in Las Vegas where I did no gambling (except betting and instantly losing $5). According to the notices in my building there is no walking around in your skiing equipment. Well, I haven’t brought any… Smoke is coming out again as if the show is about to begin and the crowds are about to explode into a roar as the star of the night comes onto the stage.

Another thing reminding me of my time in Las Vegas is a casino right across the road. There is a tacky billboard flashing right on the left. There is a much bigger one I can only see from outside showing Dima Bilan, a famous Russian singer coming from the Caucasus. I am not a fan but knowing he will be performing in a few days just across the road makes me remember his show, the last one I attended before freedom became something we need to reclaim. Seeing him live, I thought he was a definition of a crazy creative spirit (I am not sure if this is down to his Caucasean roots). I played some of his songs yesterday evening. I love listening to tracks which are old enough to take me back in time — they are not always the best ones and nor are some of those memories they bring back, but this transportive magic is indisputable. Anyway, there is no problem with music in the mountains … Ah, there is a very thick layer of snow on the highest moutain — is it being distributed on top like hairspray? There is almost no smoke on the right — has it evaporated? 

The casino and a billboard advertising a Dima Bilan concert

After I finish this session, even though I am not here to ski, I would love to indulge in an après-ski activity and check out a sauna or we call it баня (banya) in Russian. I love how the sound of après meaning «after» in French takes me back to France or the multilingual Switzerland as well as the time when I was eager to continue learning this language of romance. Have I deserved some relaxation despite not skiing? I have been working and it is Saturday so soaking in a steam room should help me to focus on releasing the tension. Even though banyas are a huge part of the Russian cultural identity, I have only had this private and intimate experience once before. Is it going to have any impact on my senses and make my sensations more acute? I have finally noticed some construction happening — is the identity of the place still in the making? The wind is moving the branches of some remote trees. A bold tree on the left is motionless only with its branch tops making slight movements…. Anyway, let the show go on – I need to pack my swimming suit and go let the banya steam work its magic on my mind and body. 

Episode 6. A Morning in the Mountains, 9.10am, Esto-Sadok, April 18

Accompanied by the magnificent view of the Aibga Ridge, I have just enjoyed a lovely sweet breakfast of Sochi-style pakhlava and another cup of Matsesta tea. There are a few variations in the way this honey dessert dating back to the Ottoman Empire is made and pronounced in different nations. In Russia we call it in the exact same way as they do in Azerbaijan, Armenia and Uzbekistan. If you find yourself in Turkey, where it is called baklava, your world will never be the same. As I am still quite far from the famous Hafiz Mustafa shop in Istanbul where I had the most delicious variation of this dessert, I had pretty low expectations of the one I have just eaten. But it was its name that caught my attention. Was that a good marketing tool? I later found out that what is referred to as «Sochi-style» pakhlava is a traditional Azerbaijani type of this dessert that might have been called after the city. The bottom line is that this pakhlava didn’t rock my world the way that Turkish baklava did and nor did the one I had in Cyprus, which is the closest to Greece that together with Turkey claims baklava. But it certainly got me thinking that it is in the border region like this that we get to reflect on culinary identities of nations. What really amazes me is how much the one of this country seems to have been shaped by the neighbors in the East rather than the West. 

As it is my day off work, I can take time to contemplate and reflect on the scene around me. Compared to yesterdaymid-afternoon, the mountains look a lot more peaceful and serene against the cloudy sky. But they still project a sense of grandeur. There is no smoke show this morning as there seems to be hardly any motion, except for a couple of workers laying the roof of a building on my left. It makes you wonder about the prospects the future holds for the real-estate market in the area. If I ever come again (don’t we always want to revisit places while we are still there?), I might see a couple of new buildings amidst these mountains. 

The highest one never fails to win a battle for your attention. There are no words to even describe its shape that makes it look superior compared to the other three ones visible from my window. Its top looks as if it has got inflated. I wish I was more knowledgeable about the geological processes which might have contributed to shaping these natural structures that now leave us in absolute awe. I guess more needs to be known in order for us to fully appreciate this natural wonder. The snow-white of the mountains now seems to be blended in with the black of the ground as if some patches of mud have been splashed randomly all over the mountains. The sun has just tried to struggle through the clouds, but now we are back to the grey landscape which, by the looks of it, is sure to persist throughout this Sunday.

Actually, I am contemplating my honey dessert yet again because I can see a bee creeping on my window sill. It might have flown from the country’s largest apiaries in Krasnaya Polyana where Caucasian bees are busy making mountain honey. This organic product must have been a substantial part of the diet of those wandering Estonians who came here in the late 19th century. Knowing how much the identity of the area is shaped by these buzzing creatures, I choose not to close my my window because I want to examine this one at a safe distance. Just look at how dignified and notthreatening at all it is! I will never grow to love honey (except in desserts) but I definitely have a new appreciation for it now.

There is a pool in front of one of the houses on my left. It must be wonderful to swim here in the nicer weather contemplating, reflecting and peering at the mountains. My yesteday’s interaction with water had an amazing revitalizing effect on my body. This act of self-care left me with a light carefree feeling circling throughout my whole body. It is funny how we tend to become less self-conscious walking around in our swimming suits once we are totally engaged with whatever makes us put them on: either on a beach or here in a banya. In fact, I had the entire place all to myself at the price of a public visit. Even though I wouldn’t have been scared to have to share this experience with others, I still have a long way to go when it comes to accepting myself the way I am and embracing the whole body positivity philosophy, which might have its extremes. Ironically, growing up in a nation where due to the lingering effect of what we call the Great Patriotic War, women significantly outnumber men, we often have females that we love the most teaching us to hate ourselves. As we grow older, we have to become more self-sufficient in order to be able to tell ourselves we are enough. Why strive for perfection in the world with so many tasty pakhlavas/baklavas to try…? I am still uncertain about how much the feminist movement is shaping my identity as a woman. I am still not sure even how to embrace my gender identity without compromising my personal and professional ones… I am happy to see that as women we are learning to stand our ground and live life on our terms. I only have one and only sister and I don’t think I can call any other woman one, but as females we need to be supportive instead of bringing each other down in a fight for men who might not be even worth our time. I think that female solo travellers (including myself) are sending a strong message to the world or at least to our country, which still has a long way to go in promoting gender equality. At least some people (hopefully including men) start to realize that misogyny and patriarchy have to be done away with. After my banya session, I shamelessly treated myself to a nutritious suvlaki, which is a nod to the Greek influence in the area. It was different from the one I had in Cyprus, but again, I would never allow myself to miss out on a culinary delight and I don’t hate myself for that. 

The banya

Unfortunately, as it was intensely cloudy and even drizzling, during my private banya experience I had no view of the mountains but I could still feel their imposing presence. Even when they seem «stolen» by the darkness of the night, you can smell their effect in the air. Yesterday I was tempted by alluring smells of mulled wine which got accentuated by the moisture caused by a recent rain in Gorki Gorod. This is another ski resort whose promenade looks so much like Nikolskaya Street adjacent to Red Square in Moscow. It has been ages since I went to the capital so I walked it up and down a dozen times to enjoy the lights and some people-watching. Now I feel like coming to try some of this wine on my last night here tomorrow despite mostly trying teas and juices during my time here. It didn’t have to do with me as a solo female traveller having to be extra aware of my surroundings – I just didn’t feel like it. But the friendly vibe of the area strangely took me back to a Christmas market in Ghent (Belgium) where people were congregating to enjoy each other’s company instead of drinking recklessly and starting fights. Of course, this type of a vibe is not typical outside Russian ski resorts , but I enjoyed it nonetheless.There is still a tiny bit of hope for some sunshine today as some white spots are lining up in the sky. The green of the forest down below is yellowish but with a promising spring-like brightness. The white tree on the right must smell fabulous. As it is in a private land plot, I don’t think I can get a chance to see if I am right. In Gorki Gorod I smelled some pink magnolias which are still in bloom but felt nothing. Obviously, nothing beats those alluring men’s perfumes and mulled wine… 

The birds are singing — I can distinctely hear their songs in the early hours of each morning. Actually waking up at 6 or 7 has become not a big deal here but wait till I return home… I’ve just had a glimpse of a train at a distance some minutes ago — that reminds me I will be reuniting with the sea in central Sochi tomorrow. Some men are still hard at work laying the roof. As tedious and demanding as this job is, in this growingly insecure world they can be sure there will be jobs for them here in the foreseeable future. But job market trends are so unpredictable, because just a couple of years ago, being a freelance teacher working and travelling in my own country was something I’d never thought I would be doing, but here I am… Writing and journaling my days here in English is less surprising but it is even more important for my language skills given that I am in Russia and there is no other way of using this international languageanywhere except for work.

A bird has just flown by — perhaps it is in a rush to get some breakfast. I have already had mine, but it would be great to complete my morning ritual by washing it down with a steaming cup of coffee somewhere on my way to Krasnaya Polyana which I have yet to explore on my last full day here in the mountains. Despite its poetic name («Red Glade» in English) for Russians this premium resort is associated with rather ostentatious homes owned by the government members. But all I know is that I will be heading in the opposite direction from the one I have been taking in the last three days. May all of us (regardless of our social status) have a beautiful Sunday enjoying the air with a high concentration of multiple smelling particles and an unobstructed view of the mountains – who knows how long it will last before they get «stolen» or hidden by swirling twists of smoke again…

Episode 7. My Last Morning in the Mountains, 8.05am, Esto-Sadok, April 19

On this grey Monday morning I am sitting in my kitchen watching the spectacle up on the mountain tops for one last time. Just about ten minutes ago, the visibility was much better giving me some fresh vivid ideas for this entry. Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to last as a thick fog is covering the mountains as if the curtain is about to fall marking the official end of the mountain part of my adventure. Honestly, I think I’ve had my fair share of the mountains over the last four days and made a proper acquitance with them – now I am all ready to head back down to the sea. 

Reflecting on my visit to Krasnaya Polyana yesterday, I should say it was somewhat disappointing. On my way there I found myself in the middle of a highway looking for a pedestrian path. It is at these points of solo trips that you might wish you were not alone. But getting through these little awkward moments gives you extra something to smile about back home. Being a pedestrian in this country might make you feel alienated and lonely at times as more and more people are choosing to get a car, which for a lot of them seems more about showing off their wealth or pretending to be rich rather than just getting around more easily. After what felt like an eternity of walking with cars zipping by, I was so happy to see a jogger who was brave enough to jump over the railing to get to that pedestrian path. Watching him do that so easily gave me the courage to do exactly the same. Well, before even reaching the centre, I decided I was not walking back to Esto-Sadok from here… 

Except for one of the central streets commemorating the Defenders of the Caucasus, Krasnaya Polyana seemed absolutely not pedestrian-friendly. Trying to find my way around while looking at all these cottages felt like trespassing on a private territory. I thought I have seen the mountains from various angles, but there is something about the position of Krasnaya Polyana that made them look even more breathtaking than ever. Looking between all those private buildings I didn’t even expect the view I got to be so amazing. It is great those rich home owners can’t block the mountains from our vision. Even though this landscape obviously still had something to surprise me with, I wouldn’t opt for staying any longer knowing that about 50 km away there is the Black Sea waiting for me to rest my eyes of its shimmering palette of colors again. 

Krasnaya Polyana (Red Glade)

Getting to my lunch spot in one of Russia’s 100 top restaurants was quite an adventure as well. I didn’t mind a slightly steep walk up but at some point I found myself literally having to jump over a small but menacingly flowing creek to get there. A few Caucasean men reassured me that I was on the right track. Well, I was already cursing the notoriously bad Russian service wondering why on Earth someone would build a fancy restaurant in such a location. After walking along the edge of the creek for a bit, I didn’t muster the courage to walk any further and thought I would just cancel my reservation. But a moment later I changed my mind and decided to take a detour despite my map telling me that I would be walking in the opposite direction. In spite of my passionate love for travelling, I am not an adventurous spirit, but I couldn’t reconcile with the thought of walking all this way here just to return to where I started. A few minutes later I was so amazed to see that I had made it. I walked into the restaurant sweating and panting but feeling happy I had made a reservation because a few people without one were being put on the waiting list. I ended up getting seated in a corner table inside the restaurant instead of the terrace. I hope in the future restaurants (especially of this calibre) would be more accommodating of solo visitors’ needs because more and more people these days are choosing to eat out alone. Watching the majestic familiar view of the mountains through the glass window during my lunch I heard a song which went like this «I am the mountains, I am the sea». I thought it perfectly captured my time here trying to navigate between two natural wonders getting an equal taste of both… After enjoying the mountains from a few more unexpected angles, I got a taxi back to Esto-Sadok. 

The view from the restaurant

From there I walked the much more pedestrian-friendly path to Rosa Khutor in the rain. Do I need to say that being here almost on my own (except for a few random passers-by) added a dramatic touch to my last evening here in the mountains…? I took a while to take in the postcard view of the Rosa Khutor City Hall Building. I have seen the view a lot of times on TV and in those cards I have sent to fellow postcrossers around the world. After sending and receiving more than a thousand cards, I don’t find this card-exchanging hobby as exciting as a few years ago, but I am probably one of the last generations who grew up without the Internet so we are still sentimental about cards, physical books, audio cassettes as tokens of the past… This square might look a bit tacky and touristy but at that moment it reminded me of Venice and St.Petersburg at the same time. The Mzymta River flowing across the area reminded me of canals and dark mysteries these two waterfront cities with incredibly complex histories hold… It wouldn’t stop raining on my way back to Esto-Sadok and I had to look for a shelter at a shopping centre in Gorki Gorod where the smell of mulled wine wasn’t as distinct as the night before as if blocked by the moisture of the rain… 

Gorky Gorod
The Rosa Khutor City Hall

It is drizzling this morning as well and this might not be a perfect day to spend either in the sea or the mountains. But I think I love the former in the rain better. I can now see only the highest peak and another blurry one at a distance, the other two tops are completely hidden. I am convinced that the view will look different in the days to come for anyone taking the time to look up. It seems as if there were mountains on top of one another. An intense smoke below is covering the dark yellow and emerald green of the trees. 

I might return one day but I guess it might have to require me trying to learn how to ski in order to take my relationship with the mountains up to the next level – or would that be too early..? Again, I might have not gotten 100% out of my four days here by not skiing. But at least I have gotten to breathe and contemplate the incredible physical properties of this air – that was what I originally intended to come here for. Walking the streets yesterday, I realized how the presence of the mountains is visible even when the evening darkness has already settled in and the rain is dripping. They are certainly felt in the air! So will breathing back down by the sea feel different..?

The birds are singing their customary song just as on each of my mornings here. Instead of skiing today, holidaymakersmight have to indulge in less mountain-centered activities such as drinking at bars, shopping, soaking in banyas, gambling, etc. I can assume everyone finds their own way of keeping busy even while not skiing. Surely, I am not the only one taking it easy with the mountains not sweating it out up in the slopes… 

The view of the mountains hasn’t changed much since I started. So probably it’s time to let the them be and prepare for the performance of the day. I can now safely say I have seen and breathed the mountains here in the Western Caucasus. From now on, I will secretly smile to myself whenever I hear any reference to the place and the artwork it has inspired. Spending time here solo has been truly soul-enriching. How could it have been any different when it is only you and your thoughts and reflections circled by the mountains..? 

Thank you very much, the Caucasus mountains – I will never forget you. But I am in need of the sea to be able to process you more profoundly. Goodbye, all the four mountains (only two are now visible), the mystic fog, the yellow and green trees as well as the blooming white tree on the right!  Rest assured you will be perpetuated on this computer screen and imprinted in my mind for years to come. Thanks and goodbye for now, Esto-Sadok!

30-Minute Writing Sketches in Adler

INTRODUCTION

Throughout the eight years of my travelling career, I have been struggling to find a perfect way to document the countless memories I have made. Normally it would take me months to actually sit myself down and write some detailed reflections on the things I did and saw. But I knew I probably shouldn’t have waited for so long, because inevitably as time goes on, some feelings and emotions (no matter how strong and intense) tend to evaporate. 

On this first post-pandemic trip, after 1.5 years of mostly staying within the confines of my home, I decided to do things a bit differently. Over 2.5 weeks I spent workationing (working and travelling) in Adler, Esto-Sadok and Sochi (or the Greater Sochi area) of Krasnodar Region, Southern Russia, I gave myself 30 minutes to write about whatever the current surroundings made me think about (simply describing what I saw or giving in to deeper reflections on a random range of topics). 

Here is how I got inspired to do that. During the year I spent doing my research at an American university, I was able to attend a Creative Non-Fiction course. The professor would start each class by giving the students a thought-provoking prompt that would encourage them to «get something on the page», which they only had 15 minutes for. I thought that doubling this time frame would work great and would not lead to me spending all of my workation time on my computer. As much as I love writing and contemplating, I didn’t want to end up writing throughout the whole limited time I had in each of these three places.

By using my landscapes (which were all stunningly beautiful and stimulating) as my writing prompts, I also set out to practise mindfulness. I know how we tend to get distracted from experiencing all the beauty we see by trying to capture the memory of it by taking way too many pictures. For these writing sessions, I decided to choose just a few per post so that whoever is going to read these sketches will have more left to their imagination. 

There was no system or consistency as to when and where those writing sessions took place. I wrote whenever I had time in between work and wherever I happened to have my computer with me. Of course, sometimes I chose those places on purpose especially after a few days of getting to know them. 

With these sketches I am hoping to inspire people to travel mindfully and suggest writing as a way of enhancing these experiences that we all seem so much more appreciative of now. I decided not to publish those pieces raw so they were a bit edited and polished. Even though the final product ended up taking more than the original 30 minutes, I hope these sketches have still managed to capture the raw inspiration and amazement that we feel once we get back home from another jourrney in ways that my previous writings might have not. 

As an experiment, I have also decided to include the audio version of each episode I recorded back home. 

So, I hope you enjoy the results of my morning, afternoon and evening writing sessions in the sea, mountains and the sea again. Keep travelling and writing! 

PART 1. ADLER

Episode 1. A Morning by the Sea (7.56am, April 13, Adler, Krasnodar Region, Russia)

This is a morning so many people entertaining the idea of becoming (full or part-time) writers might be really inspired by. I am currently writing this swaying on these white swings overlooking the Black Sea. As I see, you are actually supposed to pay to rent one, but as it is a shoulder season, they are totally free to use — what a bliss! Again, these are not the kind of swings reminding me of my childhood in the South-Eastern Russia but are rather a nod to more remote, exotic, warmer places such as Bali, for instance. There you could pose for a glamorous photo (aren’t more people growing into Instagram maniacs these days?) or do some freelance work sipping on your cocktails (isn’t that what people picture thinking about freelancers and writers?). The only difference is that these swings are in Adler (Адлер),the southernmost city on the Russian Black Sea coast. Where I am is an easy walk from the 2014 Olympic Games sites and the border with Abkhazia, a partially recognized state lying between Russia and Georgia. There are multiple versions as to the origin of the word Adler depending on who inhabited the area at different periods. Artlar meant «a harbour» in the Abkhazian language (or some even say it comes from an Iranian group language, which is quite surprising). The place was later renamed into Adler, which is «an eagle» in German. All we know is that movement and mixing of tribes and individuals living here in the mouth of the Mzymta River resulted in intricate linguistic riddles like this one. Don’t we still have this urge to move around these days as more of us are choosing to become freelancers to be able to experience nomadism and vagabonding or simply working and travelling at the same time? 

Going back to writing aspirations, here comes a (probably cliche) line I have been dreaming of typing for so long— I can hear the waves crashing against the shore … Well, creaking of my swings which might need fixing (just like those from my childhood) is the only audible interruption to this perfect scene. Apart from describing the sounds, I wish I were a painter in order to artistically mix colors and make this landscape in front of me come alive on canvas. But the tool any aspiring writer like myself has instead are words.  I hope that I am able to try to make this landscape come alive on paper (or rather the screen of my computer, my one and only travelling companion on this trip). It is hard to do any landscape justice using words, though, but let me say the sea looks like a very subtle alliance of light blue and green. It still seems like words don’t suffice, because whenever I looked at the sea working its color magic through my previous five days here, I couldn’t help thinking about a famous Russian painter Ivan Aivazovskiy every Russian remembers from their school art classes. Of course, I am not in Feodosia which lies in Crimea, the region that inspired his countless seascapes, and again I am nothing of a painter, but that was still the same Black Sea he had in front of him, right? Don’t we all have an urge to be more creative when we are at the sea coast or at least to remember those who were really good at capturing its beauty with whatever tools they had available? What is beyond any doubt is the potential of this scene to bring out the artistic side of us that we might have been hiding and to reignite that creative spark. 

The closer you are, the easier it is for the sea air to penetrate your lungs with its moist iodine smell which is always a sure sign to your senses that there is a sea nearby. On this windy morning I have chosen to position myself safely far away from the sea which is getting even more menacing by minute. As I progress into my early morning writing session, its waves are crashing against the shore more aggressively and persistently as if begging for an aspiring artist’s attention. 

For some reason, doves are one of the few living creatures (apart from some human early birds) making up my current landscape. We would typically expect seagulls to make the scene look like a stereotypical film shot. By the way, this Adler beach is called Чайка, which means «a seagull». Well, now I have detected a dog sleeping right next to theneighboring swings which are creaking even more annoyingly than mine driven by the wind. 

Don’t we all feel exposed to the world of our own innermost thoughts on the seacoast, this grand immensity that we can’t help staring at and contemplating? Unlike kids who mainly see it as a playground to splash and generally have fun in, as adults we feel our relationship with seas evolving. What is this body of water to an educated adult who has had the privilege of seeing a few seas while travelling? We see them not only as carriers of water flows and homes to seacreatures (some of them eventually find their way onto our plates) but also as bridges between nations and cultures and thus generators of cash flow, too. As I am sitting here contemplating which way I would go from here to reach Turkey, Bulgaria or other Black Sea nations I haven’t visited yet, I am not only reflecting on the past travels and planning possible news ones, but I also can’t help thinking about how the geographical position of this place reinforces its economic ties with other regions and lands. That is hardly what I had contemplated during my high-school Geography classes when I hadn’t even got to see any sea yet… In fact, I didn’t until I was 24.

Now I can hear footsteps of another dog approaching and it is standing right to the left sniffing for some food. Sorry, doggie, I have nothing to share with you after my breakfast of a strawberry doughnut I got from a chain supermarket store (that is what I eat when I get nostalgic about the U.S.) and a glass of locally grown tea (coming from the one of world’s northernmost Matsesta plantations lying around 40 km from here). Now I seem to see a seagull soaring over the sea in its solitude. Is there any law behind how these feathered creatures choose to spend their time — alone or in a flock? Now there is a female runner (I don’t think I would dare to recreate this seaside dream — at least now). But when I get older, I would definitely love to be that senior lady taking a leisurely promenade along the coast, the wind rustling through her short blond hair… 

Fifteen minutes later it is just me and four more empty swings with the same dog still asleep next to one of them. I am swaying a bit – probably to get the creative juices flowing. 

These same swings a day before. I am now sitting on the ones on the right

Whatever orchestrates those waves crashing against a wooden pier is doing a great job as they seem perfectly choreographed. I wouldn’t want to be standing on that pier on my left where I was after 10pm yesterday night as now it is getting ruthlessly flooded in another sway of this improvised dance. There are two more spectators joining me and other two are starting their exercise routine by the sea. The woman on my left is listening to her music — is it really necessary as it muffles the sound of the main performance that we are all here to watch totally for free? As we are still in a kind of a pandemic, I can see a man on the left wearing a mask. There was one lying on the stairs on my right yesterday evening but it is now gone. 

This brings me again to the role of the sea in generating money (not travelling amidst this kind of a pandemic). We all pay to come here so probably this sea performance is not free after all..? Anyway, it is mind-boggling to think of the amount of money even this particular sea strip has generated since a former seaside village became a sea resort (in the 1960s). How much more will it yet produce as tourists from all across the country come here once this current scene changes for a warmer one? As charter flights to Turkey, Russia’s most favorite seaside destination, have been suspended, this region will definitely see more travellers from across the nation flock here during the summertime. I am pretty happy I am experiencing the place at a much more affordable price. It is not so cold after all as there are sun rays warming me from my left and I can now see a stone on my ring sparkling a bit and my skin looks more tanned from Thursday when I got my first proper dose of vitamin D here. Now there is some golden sparkle on the sea as well and its green looks more like unfiltered water (I have been taking extra precautions not to get poisoned on it as the quality of local water is notoriously bad). There is a dove taking a walk and now it is gone somewhere under the pier… 

How much have humans tamed the sea? These piers raised above the water are a way of us saying that we are somewhat in control of this mass. A white seagull has just catapulted right into the sea like an underwater rocket. It was International Day of Human Space Flight yesterday commemorating the Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin and his first journey into outer space, hence the reference. This same dove has performed an effortless dance of its own. Three more are flying in the direction of the Abhazian border. Are birds social? Are there introverts and extroverts among them? Two more are chasing one another — that looks pretty extrovert to me!

It is time to wrap up my morning writing (or painting?) session as it is 8.27 and I am teaching a class at 9. Would I have to religiously and meticilously edit this piece or will I leave it as it is? I think by too much editing I might paint over the colors of this light blue, green and subtly gold Tuesday morning I have been trying to perpetuate during these 30 minutes…

Now there are a few women taking pictures. It makes me wonder how many have been taken and yet will be. It is great we are going to have a reminder of an unusually cold early April when coming here to Russia’s only subtropical region, we were expecting to be wearing something lighter than our jackets and hoodies. After 30 minutes of enjoying the scene, I feel my fingers shiver a bit (should I have put on my gloves which I have in my suitcase and did Aivazovskiy’s fingers shiver as well?). My left hip is experiencing a contrasting warm feeling radiating around it. Some other dogs are interrupting the end of my creative process as they are in the middle of a fight barking furiously. The man on my left is no longer wearing his mask, but now he has sunglasses on instead. I can’t and don’t need to wear mine as I am wearingmy regular eyeglasses as without them at least 50% (I am not good with numbers, though) of the colors of this morning scene would be blurred by my slowly decreasing vision). No, this is not a human I thought for a moment I had seen in the sea and luckily, a dog has just passed by as I have no treats to share with this one either.

A swirling water move is a final brushstroke to this scene and I am ready to start my class and get on with my freelancing (no cocktails in view — I will actually head back to my hotel room for this as I am worried about the sound and this student might not be as keen on listening to the sound of waves crashing against the shore as I am). Have a great Tuesday, Adler. I am trying not to contemplate the origin of the name too much as I really need to go…

Episode 2. My Last Evening in Adler (April 13, 5.32pm)

The picture I can see from this wooden bench I am positioned on has gained a shade of playful pink which matches the color of my sneakers. I know that for sure as I am sitting with my feet up on a stone plate bringing them a bit closer to the horizon. Well, honestly, even after ten years of being a translator for an architectural journal, I am struggling with what exactly to call this structure in either language I know…

The waves have been unforgivingly rough today (definitely the most intense in these last five days). Scooters are hugely popular here and honestly, I am a bit tired of trying to be extra cautious not to be run over by one. So, sort of ignoring this popular means of transportation parked on my right, I will choose to focus on the increasingly blurry silhouette of a mountain instead. Actually, I have come to this exact spot on purpose. I am close (but not too much so that I could get a nice full view) to one of the country’s oldest operational lighthouses built in 1898. It looks very low-key and somewhat deteriorating, but anyway the night before I spent a good ten or fifteen minutes staring at its beacon shining every few seconds against the dark sky. A cliche thought of this being a humble sign of hope amidst the immensity of the sea wouldn’t leave me… 

The Adler lighthouse

Just as yesterday, a radio station called relax.fm is playing from loudspeakers. I don’t think I can hear it distinctly asthere are people out and about. The night before one of the tracks that wouldn’t leave me either was one called Tears in Heaven by Eric Clapton. At that moment my mind wouldn’t think of heaven as a euphemism for everyone’s final destination (anyway, I would like to think we will all continue travelling forever even when hope for salvation is no longer there). Instead heaven seemed to me a quiet idyllic place where you could spend eternity listening to the sounds of waves crashing against the shore. This pensive serene song was a perfect background symphony to the majestic seawhich does and will always dominate this soundscape day and night and hasn’t it for ages? I have heard this track by the famous English guitarist and singer countless times, but I will never forget listening to it standing almost on my own (except for a couple enjoying a romantic moment on a neighboring bench) with his soft voice acting as a back vocalist for the Black Sea. I have been having a kind of dilemma when it comes to music and the sea. We can think of tons of tracks we would like to listen to while sitting on the coast, but I am somewhat happy yesterday I had one chosen for me by this radio station. Even though I have some tunes in mind that would be perfect for this scene, I haven’t listened to any here yet. As solo travellers, we find it easy to unplug from the surroundings by burying our ears in music. But aren’t we going to miss out on the whole sensual experience of the sea by allowing ourselves only to see it? As I have chosen to let the sea dominate my soundscape during the whole time we have together, I’d rather listen to some music in my earphones back at my hotel… 

Imagine listening to “Tears in Heaven” watching this…

So, on my right there is the mountain Akhun (Ахун) I only got to see clearly on my fourth day here as it is obviously not distinguishable behind the clouds and in the dark. That was exactly when I would walk this area during my first days – we often seem to do little justice to places right next door. It is astounding to think that here we are surrounded by two mountains — Akhun and the awe-inspiring Caucasus.The one I am closer to now looks smaller and less imposing, but it reminds me of my brief trip to Japan and its iconic Mount Fuji I didn’t get to see. What also mentally takes me back to this mysterious and impenetrable land is the sakura season that is happening there now. I have also enjoyed some blossoming here in Adler in the Southern Cultures Park founded in the early 1900s. I am still trying to remember the names of some of the flowers which can be seen there. I took tons of photos for Mum during my visit, because unlike me, she is good at not only observing plants but also growing them. Seeing those pink flowers (matching my sneakers as well as my jacket) reminded me of cherry blossoms I got to see on a one day road trip from Northern New Jersey down to Washington DC with a group of wonderful international friends three years ago. But it was good (especially after 1.5 years of not travelling at all) to partake in this ritual accompanied by a bunch of fellow Russians as well. 

The Southern Cultures Park

I have just seen what looks like a seagull (yes, I am still at the beach called Seagull) flying shyly in the sky just to disappear into the vastness of the sea. Strangely, this got me thinking about where we are positioned in this grand seascape. I mean, are we present on its edges as tiny meaningless dots going out and about or are we literally out of this picture, spectators in an art gallery trying to make out what is there in front of us? If artists ever created 3D experiences of places to be seen live and online (have they already?), everyone around the globe would be able to join in the excitement me and other shivering strangers are feeling strolling along the promenade in anticipation of the golden hour. There is a promise of one as I see a hint of pink on the right. It looks like sparkling splashes of champagne casually spilled at a cocktail party – knowing that champagne sold all across the country is produced in this region might have inspired the comparison.

Plunged into a foggy mass of dull blue grey clouds, the mountain on my right is getting even more blurred. There is a cute red dog sneaking right beneath my feet which are still perched on top of the that structure I don’t know a proper name for. A father is throwing his toddler up into the air and a flock of birds is flying right above them. Don’t we humans find our own unique way of getting into this perfectly natural picture after all..? The color of the hour is dirty grey blue and a tiny bit of flirty pink. There are lights strung on a cafe roof looking kind of cozy. A child is screaming and another quiet one is checking out the seafront. The levels of our curiosity and marvel at the scene must be pretty equal. My hands are freezing (I don’t have gloves with me again). I think I will continue my stroll a bit further and have some quick dinner before my evening work session. Hopefully I will get to see the golden hour before my class. Have a nice evening, Adler! 

Episode 3. My Last Morning in Adler, April 14, 7.58am

Here I am sitting on the exact same white swings as this time yesterday. It is sad to be leaving this place as I feel I might bedeveloping a new routine: waking up super early (without grumbling and complaining), grabbing some breakfast in my room washing it down with a steaming glass of Matsesta tea just to finally get down here to say hello to the sea. 

Throughout my week here in Adler, whenever I saw this seascape emerging right from around the corner of my hotel, I was anticipating something new, something different from the night before. Needless to say, the sea never failed to suprise me. Its capacity to change colors with a dazzling degree of variation is absolutely incredidle. It is truly fascinating how unlike in technology, a set of options in store is boundless. 

Today the seascape looks a lot calmer with warm shades of blue and green seamlessly merging with the sky, which holds a promise of some sunshine later today. There is a woman taking pictures further away from the pier. The sea is a wonderful photo model, indeed. Observers and admirers will never stop obsessively photographing it. Of course, this compulsiveness sometimes takes away from the whole experience making us glance at it through the lens of our cameras instead of actually being emotionally engaged with the sea.

There are tiny birds running around — starlings (I had to look this name up, to be honest). Somehow I associate these with Russia and no wonder I didn’t know the English name for them. I think I have just seen a few seagulls as well. Do they always wait for a storm to go away to make an appearance? In this state the sea seems quieter and less stimulating to the senses leaving us with nothing but a feeling of tranquility and disbelief that it was the same sea yesterday drenched in the rain. The polished water surface seems tamed and shiny as if someone has just ironed it. There are some bruise-colored clouds on the left though, which means that we might be in for some nasty weather as well. I am wondering which side is going to win — luckily, for now the quiet, light blue and green part seems to be taking the lead. There are some birds chirping at a distance – they are a good reminder it is spring which hasn’t been assertive enough yet. Despite my general pessimism and one more cloud hanging above my head on the left, I feel it will be a much brighter day worth staying a few extra hours for. 

Today I am heading up to the mountains and I know I will be missing the sea unless the former succeed in winning me over. Unlike the sea, I can’t yet articulate how I feel about mountains – sometimes they charm me with their majesty (like in New Hampshire where I got the closest look of them ever), other times they frighten me with their sheer size and an image of something unknown they project. After five days up in the Caucasus, I will go back down to reunite with the sea in Sochi and I hope my feelings about these both natural wonders will be more clear. 

Hearing the sea making elegant low sounds makes me feel nothing but quiet but also ashamed at any alarming thoughts occasionally creeping in (does it have to do with me working and travelling at the same time?). The sun is shining a bit more assertively on my left shoulder. There is a light green rainbow circling the sea – I wonder whether this is an illusion. After a few days of clouds and rains, any signs of calmness seem more like lull before another storm. The sky doesn’t fail to suprise and dazzle either. I see different shades of blue – a very pronounced one on my left and a much more subtle one right in front of me. Given family history, I might be somewhat color-blind but with this landscape offering itself to my vision, I am capable of reading deeply into it as if it was a novel that I am intending to analyze for hidden messages and sentiments. 

The sun is getting even more assertive by minute making me sure in the knowledge it will be a glorious day indeed. It might be a lull before the storm – I don’t care as I am about to give in to another natural power up in the mountains later today. There is a cute dog on a leash running around, which makes me miss my cat back home. Someone I know (who actually suggested we got that cat) once mentioned that life could be so changeable that despite being a happily single cat lover, I might see myself being married and getting a dog someday. Well, the being married part still sounds ridiculous to me but I think I might consider adopting a dog someday. It would be nice to walk mine just like that along the sea coast – and I would have no issues doing it alone. 

Hoping for a fine day ahead, I am finishing this morning sketch and am ready to head for a final long walk along the coast to observe more colors the sea and the sky have in their palette to dazzle me with.

Episode 4. My Last Afternoon in Adler, 1.32pm, near the Russia-Abkhazia border

I think I have a perfect spot for my last sketch from Adler, my very own «place of power» I discovered on my first walk here six days ago. Imeretinskiy Boardwalk is a lovely area that is so nice for a promenade due to a newly renovated surfacing. There used to be swamps inhabited by mosquitos that caused massive outbreaks of malaria lasting on and off for decades till the disease was contained in the 1950s. These days we can hardly picture this area looking so different a few decades ago as we can see California-like pieces of real estate alluringly lining up one of Russia’s most glamorous promenades. While here, you can’t help but think of how much it reminds you of Los Angeles, Nice and other glorious tourist playgrounds. It is so suprisingly pleasant that here Russians seem to be more relaxed and smiley than common stereotypes give us credit for. 

Reaching the edge of this boardwalk six days ago, I don’t think I was ready for the exquisitely majestic beauty I was about to see right in front of me. As I saw the azur (I knew it wasn’t Nice!) water of the Black Sea surrounded by majestic mountains, I allowed myself to shed a tear… I knew I was going to see both the sea and the mountains on this trip — but together like that? I certainly didn’t see that coming. I didn’t mind my joy and bewilderment ruining my eye makeup which I think I might have forgotten how to wear over more than a year of restrictions and lockdowns in the attempt to contain a questionable invisible enemy. What was more scary was that I thought this whole uncertainty might have made my feelings go numb. But it was such a relief to find out I am still me and as all of my previous trips have shown, it is easy for beauty of any sort to leave me speechless. That was what happened on that late afternoon… So I savoured the moment and felt no shame in being vulnerable. I was just happy that no restrictions are capable of stopping me from crying those happy tears… 

So I knew for my final writing session I had to make it to this exact place. There were no more tears every time I came here over these last five days, but memories of being emotionally caught up in that moment of experiencing this perfect alliance of the sea and the mountains made it special every time. This place doesn’t just call for creativity, it simply demands it with a vigour of a persistent Caucasean man who doesn’t take no for an answer. Not that these advances are always pleasant, but creation isn’t supposed to be an easy ride and sometimes (unlike with men from anywhere in the globe) we are better off just giving in to see what comes out. 

What I see on my left (my neck might start hurting a bit from constantly looking that way) seems like a range of mountains hiding one behind another. Actually I was right about the weather forecast in the morning and today has been all bright and sunny so far — a perfect day in Adler and sadly my last one before I hopefully get lulled into a tranquil sleep oblivious to the world up in the mountains. I am not sure what the weather up there will be like, because those clouds up above make for a sharp contrast to what I see on my right where the central Adler and my now former hotel is. I have just texted my Mum saying that the closer you get to Abkhazia, the more fabulous and pristine the sea colors look like. It is ironic that here with another country just across the river Psou, you have to remind yourself you are actually in Russia. As huge as this country is, there is some kind of consistency about how various places and landscapes look like. And yes, we have to be in places like this one to remind us that this country actually has borders! I visited Abkhazia, a partially recognized republic which is just on the other side of that fence on my left, on a day trip a few days ago. I can say it was distinctively different despite being tailored for Russian tourists that local people seem to be heavily dependent on. I kept getting the feeling that as is often the case in tourism, there is an underlying motive behind the smiles (and multiple flirtatious looks). All of these food tastings seemed too much (even though the wines and cheeses were really good). Of course, the awe-inspiring mountain views as well as countless waterfalls I experienced on my jeep tour gave me a proper taste of what the Caucasus is in a way that no literature which largely seem to romanticize it never could. 

As a foreign language teacher with a perhaps unhealthy interest in anything «foreign», of course I am still left wondering about what is behind this border. This is human nature to be extra tempted by what is behind the fence, something that has us cranking our necks trying to get a closer look. This is where Russian will be spoken with a hardly distinguishable foreign accent, signs will be bilingual. As a linguist I am also on the lookout for such transformations and here you don’t have to go far to experience them. Also being interested in identity construction and language policy, I can’t help contemplating how these border regions are a place of conflict, ambiguity and of course, identity negotiation. Local people’s national and linguistic identities would certainly depend on political alliances of the current leaders. Of course, it is the case everywhere but in a region straddled between two bigger states this struggle must be even more real and tangible.

Abkhazia and a sign in three languages: Abkhazian, Russian and English

A wineyard in Abkhazia
Trying to capture some national character
Lake Ritsa, Abkhazia

Also, as a translator for an architectural journal interested in observing how buildings are employed to manifest and communicate identities, I can safely say now that the surroundings across the border send a different message than what I see here in Imeretinskiy Boardwalk. So much taxpayers’ money went into creating the latter in the run up for the 2014 Winter Olympics. I am actually pretty ambivalent about the Fisht Olympic Stadium which hosted the opening and closing ceremony of the Games. The name for this place comes from the Adygean language meaning «white head». Mount Fisht that the stadium was named after lies in the western Caucasus Mountains. I am going to see it for the last time once I start walking back towards my hotel. Honestly, I decided to refer to it as an «egg». Somehow, it is so much more out of place here than all of these fancy establishments. I always experience conflicting feelings looking at famous gigantic architectural structures like that in my country and unlike Red Square in Moscow, this one doesn’t really make me patriotic… I am not going to go into how I feel about this country hosting one of the most expensive Olympic Games in history — I am mainly here to recharge my batteries after experiencing the consequences of recent political decisions. So enough politics for this afternoon… 

Imeretinskiy Boardwalk

Turning back to linguistics (which I know is so intrinsically related to politics), I am acutely aware of my currentsoundscape and sometimes this is the only thing especially in this newly constructed part of the coast reminding me that I am actually in Russia. This feeling is both conflicting and comforting as sometimes it feels it is too much detail but also, it makes you feel linguistically at home, with no danger of a little turn of the phrase misinterpreted and misunderstood. You are hardly likely to be asked this pesky question «Where are you from?», because most people soaking in this sun in the Black Sea coast are mostly originally from somewhere in this country or a few neighboring ones. These occasionally result in a degree of variety to the place’s soundscape as throughout my time in Adler I have occasionally heard some Caucasean languages being spoken. Of course, I have had people speak Russian to me with that very familiar Caucasean accent as well. Well, I will have to admit that it has certain connotations for Russians especially coming from men (yes, those same ones who won’t take no for an answer). It has been a butt of jokes in multiple comedy shows. Here we go again – it is hard to speak about the relationship between Russia and the whole Caucasus region without getting political… 

I feel the sun warming my body which has been a bit overwhelmed by the rainy and cloudy weather of the last few days. I count my blessings of course and can’t complain but again that is pervasive human nature making me wish this beautiful day had come at least a couple of days earlier. This strip looks somewhat secluded compared to the rest of the boardwalk because from here once you get to the fence, all you can do is start walking back. Probably not everyone makes it all the way out here, but that is what makes it much more special as a place of power and solitude. Thesewords capture my current state. I feel pretty self-sufficient so there is no urge to start a conversation with anyone, whichI find super productive for contemplation and reflection. This is what we introverts do best… 

Walking back

My hands are a bit chilly because I am super close to the water, but this sensation balances out the sun which I still need to get used to. The mountain range is now partly hidden by a mist. This looks like a life of its own up there. I will make sure I stay long enough to indulge in the vibe of anticipation with lots of alluring colors before I go up there. I think the sky has a beautiful surprise in store this evening. After the rain, the sun always shines. I think with all that irritating chill in the last few days, we have deserved a day like this, the one I will certainly remember. 

I am going to head back all the way to my hotel area (taking lots of farewell photos) and to get my dinner at a Georgian restaurant where I couldn’t get a table a few days ago. Well, I think for now mountains can wait and will forgive me for taking my time to enjoy and savor a glorious sunset. 

Thank you so much, Adler! You have been nice despite the mostly chilly weather. I have to leave in a few hours because as my fridge magnet from New Hampshire says, «Mountains are calling and I must go». But not before I see the sunset of course, that is. I hope I will be back, thanks again! 

The last sunset in Adler