Attaboy.ca

Over There (in the UK)

October 3, 2001 at 11 AM

Transatlantica

It truly is a remarkable thing to wake up in one continent and go to bed in another.

Two nights ago, I returned to Montreal from my month-long travels in Europe. Although my body stepped on the plane in Amsterdam and touched down at trusty ol’ Dorval International, I’m not sure, in some respects, that quite all of me has returned.

When I initially left, I reckoned that a month in Europe would fly by with utmost speed — that it would be over before it started. In fact, I feel as though I’ve been gone for an eternity, thanks to the almost unbelievable compression of places, people and experiences that filled the space inbetween. In 30 days, I traveled a circle by train from the Netherlands to Germany down through Eastern Europe to Greece and Cyprus, by ferry to Italy and back up through Switzerland, France and Belgium. It is a fascinating way to travel, this voyager’s ‘taste-test.’ For although I invariably regretted leaving any particular place (for having spent so short a time there), I feel incredibly fortunate that I saw, heard, smelled, tasted and felt as much as I did.

I passed through the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, and felt the cobblestone remains of the Wall beneath my feet. I climbed the stairs of royal gardens and palaces in Prague and absorbed their Bohemian charms. I waited patiently to cross streets while an anachronistic horse and cart passed me by in a small Transylvanian town. I explored the Acropolis, the Colisseum and the ruins of classic, ancient civilizations. I crossed my first U.N. buffer zone in the Cypriot ‘last divided capital,’ Nicosia. I sampled Turkish apple tea, Roman pizza, Swiss chocolate, Belgian frites, and beer from just about every tap under the European sun.

And I am left now with an equal measure of paradox and confusion. It’s no accident that I haven’t posted any thoughts since September 11 in Budapest. I feel like perhaps I ran away from my comfortable Western world at just the right moment, but the isolation of being in Hungary and Romania in those few days after the terrorist attacks was also surreal and... well, isolating. I feel strangely detached. The world seems both much larger and much smaller to me; I know I have seen so much, yet so little. And man alive, if I, like everyone else, haven’t become ashenly, gravely philosophical in the last few weeks.

No doubt I will have opinions and links to offer on all that currently unfolds around us, but I will save my anti-war rhetoric and my criticisms of hollow anti-Americanism (oops, I guess I’ve already tipped my hand) for the moment, since I don’t really think they serve any particular need at the moment. Instead, bask in the poignant, defiant brilliance of last week’s issue of The Onion.

Comments

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Previously: Utterly unbelievable

Subsequently: Old World Charms

October 2001
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