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

Au Revoir, Nice!

Bonjour! That was it – our last morning here in the belle Nice! Our plane was due a couple of hours later and all we had time for was to take a quick stroll around the central area. The Lebanese guard at the hotel was very emotional when he learned we were leaving. “You go, why????” Well, c’est la vie.

I was so reluctant to tear the image of the tranquil Place Massena off my visual memory and part with it.

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We took some photos of some national flags lining up the Promenade des Anglais and took a moment to see the local copy of the Statue of Liberty. Who knows what travels are coming my way – it might have been me that this victorious female figure was beckoning to join gazes with it across the Atlantic!

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I decided to get a final feeling of the Mediterranean on my skin and I couldn’t force myself to get my feet out of there. My jeans would stay damp till after we got to the airport. Au revoir, la mer! I will miss it like one addicted and crazy person!

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I shed a tear I had to hide behind my sunglasses as I stood watching the water cascades in the park dancing to some football championship inspired tunes…

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When I heard the hotel receptionist say “Taxi”, I turned to see a gorgeous taxi driver dressed in a beautiful white shirt. A final sigh of admiration… He seemed charmed as well and snatched my suitcase out of my hands. It was quite surreal to be driving through the Promenade driven by someone like him… Almost like a fairytale that would be totally and overwhelmingly impossible back home… It took us a bit of waiting to board and the last thing I wanted was to say goodbye… Ah why, ah why? Pourquoi…?

 

P.S. As I developed this very special connection with Nice and was treasuring the most belle souvenirs of the place (memory is the best souvenir after all), I was totally devastated when I rushed to switch on a news channel on July 14 (Bastille Day) to see those streets we walked feeling so happy and determined to live and enjoy being filled with blood and tears following a brutal terrorist attack. This tranquil city had never seen anything so horrendous happening in its entire long history. I was asking “Why” but this time it was tearing me apart more brutally than when I was saying my goodbyes. I couldn’t help shedding a tear. Nice isn’t just a place for posh extravagant people, it’s THE place where I was happy to be happy. Yes, it will never be the same after it had been hit by this tragedy killing about a hundred innocent people who came here just like us a month before to enjoy a beautiful Mediterranean evening… A growing terrorist threat won’t stop me from dreaming of coming again… I’m still not entirely certain as to my future with science but I’m still wondering and questioning and I’ll get to this missing piece one day… Merci, Nice! J’aime très fort! Both the French and Italian – all of you!

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