Sometimes the sun is shining, the birds are chirping and yet I can’t wait to get to the next city. My grumpy mood could be a result of difficulty finding a bathroom, hunger, long walks with all of my bags, or plain lack of sleep, but in the end I just want to leave.
When someone asks me what I thought about a city that I didn’t really like, I try to account for those erratic influences when I remember my trip. Just because I nearly froze my toes off while it snowed in Berlin doesn’t mean it isn’t a wonderful place with unique culture and delicious beer. But my memories are of standing in front of the Reichstag four years ago, unable to feel anything below the knee while I waited in line for 2 hours. Just because it was windy and cold in Barcelona in March doesn’t mean the beaches aren’t luxurious during the summer. But they sure weren’t when I was there.
Sometimes you just got off a 18 hour bus ride in a new country where you don’t speak the language and you’re lost, but you still feel welcome in your new destination when a stranger smiles at you as you cart around a 20 kilo backpack. And other times the opposite is true, you are visiting your favorite city and a pigeon poops on you.
Sometimes it is raining for days and you forget what sunshine feels like. In fact it has been raining constantly for what seems like the last 3 weeks. In the Balkans there is a dangerous amount of flooding so it is certainly rainier than usual for this time of year. It started raining when I arrived in Zagreb and the next three weeks were marked by the few days it didn’t rain: one day in Dubrovnik, one in Sarajevo, two days in Belgrade, and one in Budapest. It rained when I arrived in Krakow, it rained while I explored the old Jewish quarter of Kazimierz, it rained while I walked to swing dancing (both nights), the wind blew my umbrella to pieces, and it rained when I visited the local dragon, which didn’t breathe fire because of the rain. But I’ve found when the rain stops and the birds start, the day is even better than if it hadn’t been raining at all.
So I had a cup of hot tea when I was cold, I ate delicious borscht when it started to pour, I ducked into a chocolatier and had thick hot chocolate when I needed to rest. While I walked to the swing dance in the rain, I heard the sounds of choirs singing echo through the streets. My shoes haven’t been fully dry for days so I learned to rotate three pairs of socks, wear the least wet pair while the other two dry out. The light sprinkle turned to pouring rain while I went on a run around Krakow one morning and I mentally turned it into a pre-shower rinse.
Maybe it’s that chocolate speaking but sometimes a place strikes a cord and you feel like you belong. The rain may pour and the wind may howl but it can’t ruin your day. Some of it is mentality and attitude, some pure luck and happenstance, but a little sunshine never hurt either.