In 2010 I spent significant periods of time, significant in both number of days and the importance of the events that transpired in those places, in seven different cities across three continents. I recently discovered a written account from the time and was struck by how little has changed in my sentiment of traveling and my thoughts on the meaning of home.
In 2013, I spend time in ten countries. 2014 is only halfway over and I am already on my ninth trip across the globe. Wasteful, perhaps. Going entails returning so if I just stayed put I wouldn’t have to always be in an active state of getting there or going back.
But here I am now, once again having lunch with my carry-on and waiting for a flight back. Back? These days I refer to most of my flights as flights back. I can’t decide if this instinctive denomination is a product of the round-trip phenomenon, or of my own adaptability and skill to turn every place I inhabit into some version of home.
Food is the cornerstone of Bulgarian holidays. Most celebrations happen around the dinner table, family and close friends gathered together for hours. And it’s not just a table, it’s a trapeza, a word not found in the English language that means much more than furniture. Trapeza describes a table laid for a feast; it means a tablecloth, dishes arranged in attractive containers, wine poured in carafes, a loaf of bread regally placed in the middle, a candle. It means taking a moment to appreciate a blessing, in ways religious or not.
Christmas eve and Christmas day are two occasions that offer especially glamorous views into the Bulgarian holiday trapeza. Of course, every home has different ways and traditions may change over time, but for the sake of example I will draw on my family’s tradition, which, I recently learned, hasn’t changed much since the time of my grandmother’s grandmother. Today my mom and sister prepare the same dishes that my grandmother and her grandmother created years ago.
It is no secret that over the last few years London has been exhibiting the characteristics of a growing startup ecosystem. The Silicon Roundabout area in East London was home to over 1,000 startups last year and the digital sector employs over 440,000 people in London alone.
This concentrated multinational market is what keeps UK-based entrepreneurs like Richard Morris in London. “If you are successful, you’ve monopolized London,” said Morris, who is currently a partner at London-based startup Handmade Mobile, and advises a handful of startups. “It’s much easier to go from there.”
On our first night in Marrakech we had one of those meals I’ll always remember as excellent.
A traditional Moroccan dinner is a lengthy affair that will send you to bed with a stomach close to bursting. A typical dinner starts with something small to nibble on, some olives or peanuts in tiny plates. Then come “mixed Moroccan salads,” which have nothing to do with salads as we know them, but consist of close to magical spreads of equally magical bright colors: tomato, carrot, olive, eggplant, cucumber, beetroot. There is a zucchini dip that tastes like jam, an olive and green onion one that reminded me of a dish my grandmother makes on Christmas Eve and a lentil dish that no one noticed because it was the least colorful. You dip piece after piece of soft white bread in these heavenly dips and are already satiated but your meal hasn’t even begun!
Marrakech is a crazy place. This sounds like a big cliché, I am aware, but it’s true – I had no idea what I was in for. First off, Marrakech has two very distinct faces. There is the new town, the area called Gueliz around the 16th of November square that commemorates the return of the royal family from exile in 1955. The new town is not too exciting but you can find some good restaurants, bars and general shopping, including, surprisingly to me, the likes of Zara. In fact, if you stand between two shopping blocks and happen to only see women dressed in clothes you are used to, of whom there are many, you may think you are in one of many other cities in the world. People go by, cars go by, the sun shines with scorching heat over you, the bareheaded tourist. The only thing that might strike you as different here, if you haven’t gotten used to it by now, is the rosy red color of the buildings. Marrakech, the Red City.