I was reading "Afar" magazine lately and came across a word - "Fernweh" this year. It translates literally from German to "farsickness”or “an ache for the distance" - its my word. I don't feel that I've had a chance on here to really unpack the reality that I live in Turkey. Not just in Turkey, but 'not Istanbul' which seems to be the extent of most traveller's foray into the country. Its still a bit mysterious that my neighboring countries are no longer over an ocean. There is something wild and untamed about riding an over crowded dolmus into the city or haggling prices with one of the many bazaar vendors. There are things that ignite my adventurous spirit, and things I feel helpless to address and it all sort of swirls around, sinks into my pores and what unravels is an insatiable thirst for more.
I was able to visit London and Amsterdam a few weeks ago with a sweet friend who has now become more like a sister. (I am convinced that places seen for the first time must be done with a kindred spirit). It was a trip like none I've had before. The experience reminded me of all the time I've spent hunched over anything to do with distant lands - when I was very young, near 5 and 6, I would lay on the living room floor of my parent's small split level home and flip through travel books. The large, heavy books that have now been mostly replaced with travel magazines. I would marvel at pictures of England, Spain, Finland -it stirred something very deep that has continued to stir every time I see a photo of somewhere distant or board an airplane...even sometimes when I lack the means and just have to seek out an unfamiliar street in my own area to quell it.
Back to the trip - Be warned, you will fall instantly in love with London. The moment I stepped out of the Underground station onto Brompton Road in Knightsbridge, I was swept off my feet by the rich beauty and architectural grandeur. My favorite of my first moments (one I will savor until day I die - or at least until I make it to Scotland) was when an elderly Scottish gentlemen stopped me to ask "do you need to find where you're going, miss?" his accent was so glorious, I couldn't speak for at least a moment and when I did, I'm sure the smile on my face looked more like the Cheshire cat. I literally floated down the street toward my hotel, heavy suitcase in tow, Cheshire grin....smiling at every single person I passed -yes, London is just that splendid. (And, fyi, the doormen wear top hats).
Amsterdam. Amsterdam reminds me of a dark red, cavern like lounge. The kind filled with smoke, antique beaded lamps and some heavy velvet. There is nothing quite like wandering the canals (my favorite area was the 9 straatjes) and marveling at the hundreds of bikers swirling around you "tring tringing" their way along. There is something glorious and tragic at the same time about Amsterdam. Its beautiful, yes, with its sparkling water, quaint houseboats and adorable row upon row of homes....but the tragic is something I can't put my finger on. I suppose that means another visit to uncover that first feeling. (Sigh). However, I thoroughly enjoyed wandering the flower market into the 9 straatjes, meeting a marvelous fellow at the Lomo shop on Herengracht......and just soaking it in. Its certainly somewhere I would love to return.
Some of the highlights from my trip:
The Grain Shop - home made, take out vegetarian that you wouldn't even believe is vegetarian. Perk? Toward the end of Portobello Road so a perfect stop after a day of shop hunting.
Sketch - gorgeous interiors, beautiful lighting, insane food...so much so we went twice. My favorite room was called 'the parlour - a mish mash of design, even had Ibride on the walls, so I was sold. The bathrooms. Yes, I said bathrooms. Look at the website or wait for me to update my flickr. Either way - walking into the pods was like going into a sci-fi movie - complete with ambient music. Amazing!
Amsterdam Supper club- it was one of the most fabulous experiences of my life. Performers, dinner on beds, awesome staff. Hidden behind a golden door in an alley-way. Glorious. Must do in Amsterdam.
Chef - tiny little hidden eatery in Centrum. Try the olive quiche and mint tea - bon appetit!
Lomography Amsterdam store - This is a must stop place in the 9 streets. (Which is worth the wander, I assure you!). It was hands on and the shop keeper was beyond a joy to talk to. He was very knowledgeable on all things lomography with a true passion for the beauty of his country and the art of film photography. They even sell rare film! I must have the lomokino, now! :-)
What I've shared can't do it justice. Gut laughs, amazing food, new beauty, tears and conversation...friendships built deeper and new places explored - it was just so good. I saw this image on flickr, and that really sums it up for me. I love people. I love places. I love winding roads, new cities, new faces...I love trying food that I can't even guess what it is....dangerous traffic on winding streets....being stunned by the brilliance of new artisans or simply being altered by something unfamiliar...oh, and I can't forget laughing with someone because we don't know each other's language and we are communicating with hands....connecting with people who grew up in another country, another life - I love it all. I think my favorite is the wild sense of adventure that brings you a little bit closer to the abandon of life lived to the fullest.
I wish you al l to have your own sense of Fernweh this year - who knows where it might take you. Ciao-Anna