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Wednesday, 21 November 2018

2 cities that drove me wild this year: Trapani & Plovdiv

One in spring and one in summer.
Both underrated.
And surprising.

I’ll start with western Sicily and then end with southern Bulgaria.
I got to know Trapani well after sunset, under a light wind that soon turned aggressive. Navigating the narrow streets while searching for our accommodation felt like treasure hunting, all the while dodging the papers that were furiously thrown in our faces by the gusts.

On our way to hip Il Barbagianni – the new craft beer joint in town –, at which I had previously booked us a table via Facebook and still found it overcrowded, I let my eyes window shop and wander about designs and styles that seem possible only in the Mediterranean boot and its islands.

Dinner was superb, so were the beers – and I must say that Overdose kicked in and we decided to go to bed.

In our quaint bluish apartment that brought the islands closer. Time and space wise.

We were going to run comparisons the following day.
So, how should a morning in Sicily start? On some sweet notes. Caramelle alla carruba and a plateful of Sicilian specialties packed by the pastry chef of the most famous place in town – Pasticceria La Rinascente. I shook his hand and devoured everything down to the crumbs. I smiled to the old men selling fresh vegetables, I caressed old door frames, and I got lost looking at the delicate balconies and windings that those alleys brought forward.

Moody Erice split our time in Trapani. The afternoon sun got deceiving as we started wondering whether the bus would drive us up the cliff or not. It did.

Clouds started coming and going. We walked the old streets, basked in the views [they reminded me of Rio and, honestly, I liked them more], chose to get back into town by cable car. The panorama was… aham.

And then came the heat, haunting us to the port – quite difficult to find by foot –; the kind locals helped us and we were soon on our way to the Aegadian Islands.
I still miss Trapani.

Another Old Town was set to fascinate me mid-July.
Plovdiv, the second largest city in Bulgaria, had always been disregarded by me, although there were some cafés calling me there. Even when a city is under massive reconstruction, we can still know its worth.
We parked, we started climbing, we kept nodding our heads.
Not even the rain could stop our enthusiasm; after a splendid lunch at Rahat Tepe, we climbed some more to check out the view – it came with wows.

Those followed while we visited the artisans on our way down. Jewellery makers, bag knitters, puppeteers. Marcel stopped. Played. And rushed me to find an ATM and buy himself an old Macedonian tambura – I couldn’t believe how quickly he had made his mind up. The kind blue-eyed artist gifted me big red wooden earrings. They were my favourite pair.

As the sun started piercing the clouds again, we found the amphitheatre closed. We didn’t mind.

The whole vibe had enchanted and re-enchanted us through the joy we felt fully and we knew we’d be back. Our passion for watersports would also surely fuel our return to Plovdiv, to paddling competitions worth attending. After all, it hosts the most beautiful rowing channel in the world, I was to find out later on in Sofia.

As a very kind gentleman told us after asking us if we were artists, too—
‘Nowadays, people travelling the world only smile in selfies. You two are different. You do it from all your heart.’