Dear Osijek, I am a bit overwhelmed. It has been awhile since I felt this strangely comforting sense of dizziness; an intoxicating experience of euphoria.
Your response to my letter was something that, to borrow cliches, beyond what I could had ever imagined and now I am compelled to reply you. All that I wrote about you in my first letter, I was right about everything. You are my home precisely because you are an exceptionally loving, caring and affectionate city that loves all her citizens unconditionally. And they love you back with an equally powerful passion.
Over six thousand people, a vast majority calling you home, had read what I had written to you and shared with me their love for you. Your local online portals published articles about the writing to spread the word about how beautiful you truly are. And not just you, they complemented me as well for the letter I crafted.
Dear Osijek, I have never wanted to write you although you were the first city in my life that I considered to be home. But the circumstances that brought me, a 20-year-old Finnish boy of Indian ethnicity who never before visited the Balkans, were, well let’s say unusual at very best. They were something what you would only expect to see in a movie or read in something written by Nicholas Sparks.
I had just dropped out of college in the United States where I was on a full scholarship to move in with the most handsome person that you calls you home. The man that I had just nine months for one week in France and then again for a week before I left Europe for the States. I had never heard of you before meeting him. And Osijek darling, cities and countries are perhaps the only things I am able to memorise without an effort whatsoever. Maps were my best friends as growing up, which might colour the image of my constant need to travel and see the world. But I had no idea even about your existence until I fell in love with your jewel. Continue reading →
Istanbul is a pot where one could boil sugar and salt and serve the end result as one of the tastiest hot drinks in the world. Dazzled with influences from around the world, the city brings together both the best and worst aspects of the Western and Eastern world. Even though Istanbul sits on two separate continents, she does not let the two worlds co-exists side by side. Rather she put them the two odd ingredients into to the pot with warming water and as a result we have one of the universe’s most unique cities.
She does not come as aggressive or overcrowded as most Middle Eastern, Asian or Latin American metropolitans. Although even she can have quite a temper and then the drivers, helplessly stuck in the midst of her chaotic mind, attempt to find salvage in the sounds of horns in spite of knowing the jam is there to stay, at least for a little while longer.
Bust most of the time Istanbul is tender, loving and heartwarmingly welcoming who are visiting her. She is a world-known architect whose work keeps bewildering even those closest to her; the bulk of her monuments such as Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace and Sultanahmet Mosque are located in the old city what used to be called Constantinople, one of the cradles of modern civilization that we so endlessly admire. She shows us the history we are so blissfully unaware of; the past that is now wrongly used to define the difference between them and us. Continue reading →
I know I have not written to you in awhile. Honestly it has been so long that I am not even aware of where to start from. I could go back all the way to the time when I re-fell in love with you. Though I do not think it is an accurate way to describe the moment as I do not believe I had ever loved you before. Regardless how to paint that period, it already happened a year ago and there is so much between then and now that I cannot go through it all. Perhaps I should stop explaining myself and write.
I think too much as you know. I have tried to unlearn it but without much success.
My friend from university visited me last week and I had a really nice time with her. Thank you for being so wonderful and beaming while she stayed with us. I think she really enjoyed you, everything about you. We had a delightful brunch at Pacisifico and even I had forgotten how different you are from all the cities when it comes to brunch. On weekends all your cafés and bars become this sort of a safe haven for all the foodies who have been smart enough not to drink too much the previous night. And she particularly noted grocery stores, my darling. It is amusing whenever my foreign friends visit me, they all are totally mesmerised by the range of products in the supermarkets. I do not know why you are not famous for the cosmopolitan culinary experience.
She left last Sunday and since then I have had too much time to be on my own. It has been rather difficult to adjust to a routine after visiting Bologna and my friend coming over, partly because there is no routine to follow. My bosses are on summer holidays and I am all alone in the office without many tasks. The mornings, days and evenings are dreadfully slow and due to the apathetic environment, I lack any sort of energy to things besides related to work. I am glad that university will start in less than two months but I am afraid student life does not really create a routine. We will see how glad I will be in fall. Continue reading →
Honestly I never expected to miss you after our brief engagement yet here I am writing to you and admitting you caught me by surprise. I think of you and wish I was with you again. Visiting you made me question once again my relationship with Helsinki, the experience of belonging to her at this point of my life. I know I will recuperate as the time slowly but surely leaps forward, but right now I cannot shake off the feelings you embraced in me.
The conference you hosted reminded me of how exhilarating pleasing it is to connect with people in a heartbeat and share stories that even the friends you have been lucky enough to have do not know about you. I remember before coming to you I was slightly intimated of meeting you and all other fifty people, none of you having the slightest idea what I am. I imagined withdrawal, alienation and solitude. It had been months, perhaps even years since I had to meet so many people in a new context. I had forgotten what strong capacities us humans have to bond with complete strangers.
And for you my Bologna, as much as it saddens me to concedes this, I had no inclination despite the polygamous character of my relationship with cities. You were no Florence or Venice or Rome that everyone so warmly speaks of. I envisioned yet another city who so foolishly strives to convince all the foreigners of his worthiness. I even booked my flights so that I could stay one night more in Italy and see the actual Italy that so many tell me about. But I never left you in spite of my plans.
You took my heart and made it yours.
And you gave me yours and made it mine.
Your vibrantly majestic and lush Parco Montagnola embraced wholeheartedly the smiling people that strolled in perhaps your most beautiful part of body. Students spurred out from every corner as you boasts with the knowledge of being home to the oldest university in continental Europe. Graffiti paints your lukewarm orange, red and yellow walls and doors that have seen so much more than any person in the world. Torre degli Asinelli and Torre dei Garisenda proudly stand in the middle of your historic centre, watching over people who call you home. For its visitors enchanting Basilica of San Petronio tenderly awakens in their minds the feeling of comforting serenity. But what makes you so special are your porticos that you so proudly carry. The most stunning and lengthy roof structure over a walkway mesmerised the world I owned. The stroll up to Santuario della Beata Vergine di San Luca with 666 arches was one of the tiresome but simultaneously rewarding hikes I ever did in my life. Continue reading →