Madrid. Probably the only city you can walk around with Tenosynotivits (a painful cord infection close to the ankle) and actually not feel any pain. Too distracted by numerous local shops, street artists, dripping ice cream, incomprehensible conversations and the sound of Spanish music dancing through the streets.
Planning a whole afternoon with dense sightseeing, we immediately end up in a street café overlooking the city next to the Royal palace of Madrid, sipping fresh Sangria and nibbling salty chips. The city seems to be just as laid back as we feel, sitting deep in our wood woven chairs, absorbing the calmness. There is no rush, it’s seems as though time has a different meaning and hours pass without even the tiniest tinge of guilt. After tasting a couple of national specialties and wiping the grease from our fingers, we head into a crowded salsa bar.The scene is fantastic – men and women swirling lightly on the dance floor as we watch them in awe, our feet glued to the floor, clutching our mojitos to feel a little less out of place. After a while, we are also challenged to dance and as the sweet rum kicks in, we let go of our fear and give into the rhythm, forgetting our sorrows until the morning rises.
The next day – after crawling out of bed to a time I will not admit to in public – we manage to start our initial plan and have brunch at a tiny local place with terrible service but wonderful food. Afterwards, we join a free walking tour. Strolling along the Gran Via, Plaza Major and Retiro Park, we finally stumble into the most amazing place called Café del Círculo de Bellas Artes. This is a breathtaking rooftop bar, with soft, white deck chairs overlooking the entire city. We order more Sangria and watch the sun slowly sink between the roofs of Madrid.
The time in Spain was too short. It felt as though we had barely landed and were already packing our things. On the plus side, this is just another good reason to return.
Traveling to Italy. Not too far or necessarily expensive and – most importantly – always worth it. People from Australia or America envy Europeans like me for being able to enjoy breakfast between the walls of my own kitchen and sip afternoon coffee facing the Pantheon in Rome.
But what exactly makes this city so special? Is it the sun beaming down on old cobblestones or the smell of freshly brewed espresso around every corner? Is it that little church resembling a peasant from the outside but symbolizing a king from the inside? Maybe it’s the thinnest slice of pizza or the glass of red wine numbing your thoughts as you blow out cigarette smoke, wondering why on earth you fell in love with this place so unexpectedly.
Walking inside the Colosseum (do not try to take a rock with you – it leads to a fine!), my inner eye sees Russel Crowe in a deathly battle in “Gladiator”, a movie we saw in history class about three times. I also remember our teacher telling us in her endless enthusiasm, how Rome was founded by Romulus in 753 BC. Roman legend says that Romulus had a twin brother called Remus. As babies they were abandoned in the area which later became Rome. A she-wolf found and raised them, but when they grew up Romulus fought and killed Remus and became the first ruler of Rome. Rome became the capital city of a unified Italy in 1870 after taking the title from Florence. I want to see everything in only three days but give up to quickly as I realize that modern Rome has around 280 fountains and more than 900 churches.
I have come to believe that the best thing about Rome is that it doesn’t try so hard to look significant and marvelous. One of those natural beauties. Comparable to a woman who avoids wearing make-up but still appears drop dead gorgeous. Similar to the city, she can even get away with a little dirt beneath her fingernails.
Rome is so many things; furious and loud or romantic and silent. But no matter which side it shows, Rome never wears a mask – Rome always stays real.
This is my report to you from the first capital of the United States, the “Big Apple”, originally named so by musicians meaning to play the „Big Time“ in New York City. Finally, after years of dreaming and talking about this and endless applications, I have come to the city that never sleeps. And it is true. New York is the busiest, loudest and most colourful place I’ve ever seen. Even though this city has 922 miles of subway tracks, I try to avoid the underground Sahara-like degrees and prefer to walk those 30 minutes to work every day. In doing so I have the chance to catch a glimpse of the very first sun-rays peeking through the gigantic skyscrapers and to wake up with hundreds of busy New Yorkers. I watch gorgeous models with long wavy hair, their high heels clicking as they clutch their bags underneath their skinny, twig arms. I spot millions of Asians, selling newspapers, bubble-gum, smoothies or hot tasteless coffee. On one side, there are sharp-dressed business men, wearing shiny black shoes and stiff ties, while they are pushing against the crowd, their minds racing just like their legs. On the other side, I catch sight of sportsmen, muscles fletching, wearing shirt that are just a little bit too tight. I spot kippahs, hijabs and beautiful, long saris. It’s multicultural, and diverse. Throughout its history, New York City has been a major point of entry for immigrants and as many as 800 languages are spoken here.
They say that more than two-thirds of adults in the United States are overweight or obese? Given the fact that you are almost knocked over by tasty temptations, I believe they handled it pretty well. It’s truly fascinating. No matter where you go or what time it is in Manhattan, you will always have the choice between authentic Mexican, spicy Indian, greasy Italian or a simple sappy American burger. You can order your dish vegan, gluten- or lactose free; therefore no one really has a waterproof excuse not to find something they might regret later on. Further, I notice a rare nicotine addiction and dirty, mean looks if you happen to stand on the sidewalk in front of a bar, thoughtlessly lighting up a cigarette because the overpriced, sweet white wine has quickly gotten to your head.
According to statistics, almost 40% of New Yorkers are single. Even through all the hustle and rush on the streets they still find the time to gaze at each other and it seems to me as if people here are constantly trying searching for something. Or someone. Maybe to feel less lonely in between those 8,5 Million people. Interestingly, I barely notice a family or children, not to mention older people. It almost seems to me as if this is the perfect place to come, live and leave.
It’s a wonderful time to be in this city. The summer doesn’t seem to come to an end, the winter is just a thought, still hanging in the back-most part of our closets. The 70th Session of the UN General Assembly has taken place. Obama still knows how to inspire, Putin exasperates and Ban tries to pour oil on troubled waters. I am observing, listening and living the moment.