I woke up at dawn. The train was rolling along smoothly, the teenage girls in the next compartment had finally giggled themselves to sleep, and the sky outside was filling up with light. I got out of bed and looked out the window.
Outside was an absolutely flat plain. Fields of straggly, unhealthy looking corn alternated with fields of sunflowers. Miles away in the distance, at the edge of vision, a line of cypress trees marched against the horizon.
And that was all. There were no roads. No towns. No grain elevators. I looked in all directions but I couldn't see... anything. Just absolutely flat land,
Man, I like Belgrade.
Not that Bucharest isn't just fine. Bucharest is very nice. But Belgrade... Belgrade has that special something.
It's hard to put my finger on just what. It isn't a particularly beautiful city architecturally; there are a lot of nice old buildings, but also a lot of nasty crumbling socialist stuff. And the air's not very clean, and it can get really unpleasantly sticky in summer.
But it doesn't matter. Somehow I just like Belgrade. Is it the cherry strudel at the little cafe on Teraziye? The view from the top of the Hotel Casina? The friendly booksellers on the Knez Mihajlova? The summer outfits? The mostly honest taxi drivers? The countless little cafes? The rivers?
Or maybe it's just that I have friends there, so I see the place differently.
Anyhow, it was good to be back. I took the overnight train on Thursday night, which gave me three days and two nights. The Hotel Casina is a grubby little place with painfully slow elevators, but it sits in the center of town, and if you know which room to ask for, you can get a balcony with a breathtaking view: eight stories down to Teraziye, with the cathedral to your left, the pedestrian mall on your right, and the Sava River directly in front of you. It's really something.
(Oddly enough, the balcony rooms cost the same as the no-balcony rooms. This suggests to me that the Hotel Casina is still owned by the state. In a few years someone will buy it, and turn those rooms into very, very expensive apartments. Progress, I suppose.)
It was a very full three days, with friends and business and shopping and more friends. At the end, I was very glad to collapse back on to the train. There was something wrong with the electrical system in the sleeper car and the lights wouldn't work and -- this is how tired I was -- I didn't care. I didn't even want to read (well, not much). I fell asleep as soon as we crossed the border and didn't wake up until sunrise, seven hours later and 500 kilometers further east.
Mm, Belgrade. Hope to see you again soon.
The Palace of the People was Nicolae Ceaucescu's great monument to... well, himself, really. He had to destroy much of downtown Bucharest to build it; it was completed less than six months before the Revolution. Life Problems for Dictators: you finally get your house finished the way you like it, and then you're put up against a wall and shot.
Anyhow, the Palace of the People is either the second or the fourth largest building in the world, depending on who you talk to. The Lonely Planet says that "Romanians have a love-hate relationship" with it. Maybe. I haven't yet met a Romanian who didn't hate the damn thing.
This weekend I was walking around the downtown for several hours. (It beats sitting at home bored and lonely and missing Claudia. Also, I'm running out of books to read.)
"Blocked milk ducts" sounds so harmless. It's PAINFUL! Plus, it comes with fever, which I hate, and very frustrating nursing sessions with David. The poor little one doesn't understand why it's so hard to get some milk out all of a sudden. He's constantly hungry but in order to get rid of the block, he has to continue nursing on the painful side.
Is this TMI?
Probably. But that is what is happening in my life right now - and you wouldn't believe how much pain can reduce your world to one particular body part. I can't even muster enough righteous indignation for Bush's hugging of Berlusconi, it's that bad.
Having a newborn and a toddler is more demanding that I had anticipated - and less. I forgot about the interrupted nights and how taxing those are. David is recovering from his jaundice and nursing stronger and stronger with every passing day - which means that the nursing sessions get shorter and more effective. Which also means that we don't have to be up half of the night and I am more rested in the mornings (mind, that is comparative!). With Alan, I could just rest when he rested. Now, when David sleeps, Alan demands his rights. But so far, we're handling it pretty well. Last night, David slept five hours straight which was pure bliss. He's also a very content and calm baby - not a screamer, not a fusser. He just lies in his crib and looks at the world with this curious expression on his face, sometimes smiling as if we were the most amusing thing he's ever seen (which is probably true). We are very blessed. Another high-maintenance baby like Alan would definitely not go over so well!
... was very gentle. I only trimmed the very unruly, very long bits of Alan's hair, most remained untouched. He looks, hm, very German now, in that 30's kind of way. It's a good thing that he has this very "unneat" expression on his face, otherwise it would creep me out.
Late but finally being announced - Spawn II. Born on July 7, 2003 at 9:08 in the morning. He weighed 6 lbs. 9 oz. and was 20 inches long. He's doing very well, I'm recovering and trying to get adjusted to nightly wakings again. It's funny how quickly one gets used to nights of uninterrupted sleep!