We came down the monument of Shumen, still giddy from the impression of standing in the artistic presence of Bulgaria’s past but we had to hurry. The city choked in fog and chill, and thriller movie-esque night was descending. We went to our next destination, Veliko Tarnovo – the capital of the second Bulgarian Empire and the “city of tsars”.
We barely arrived in our hostel, having gotten lost in the winding streets of the ancient city, when the reception guy herded us back out to a main plaza. In the fog and moonlight we could see across the Yantra River, high up on the Tsarevets hill the old imperial fortress and castle. Other international and national tourist and locals milled about when the lights of local businesses and the surrounding hills cut out. Embalmed in darkness, silence and anticipation spread when the show began.
The next day, I explored on my own and visited the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Holy Ascension of God. According to wiki, it was the seat of Bulgarian Orthodox church during the 11th and 13th centuries until it was destroyed in 1393 by conquering Ottoman Turks. Reconstructed in the 1970’s and 80’s it features one of the most amazing frescoes I have ever seen.
“Now… there are two kinds of movies: those
with an ending, and those that don’t have an ending.
This movie needs an ending.”
– Enzo, CQ (2001)
That afternoon we found ourselves back on the misty mountain roads heading towards Sofia, the culmination of our trip where Joe and I would bring in the new year in a freezing square with hundreds of delighted strangers, clutching hot greyano vino (mulled wine) and counting down the final seconds of 2013.
For the past few months since my trip back to the US I was feeling a little lost. I had thought about extending my Peace Corps service for a third year, but recent events had left me exhausted and weary and I was ready for a change but every option looked the same with the same flat gray of the misty landscape we had only recently escaped.
3 min and 28 seconds away. Joe and I, exhausted of conversation are entertained to look at those around us who gather tighter in the final minutes. I remember advice from multiple sources and conversations I’ve had about finding your personal passions and making the most of them. 2 min 50 seconds. I think that at the end of the day the thing that really gets me excited is film and storytelling and that I am known among my friends as a walking film database. 1 min 13 seconds. I think this is crazy to suddenly change directions in my life to pursue something so different from anything I’ve trained for. 56 seconds. I think I need to not be afraid and to embrace love and a new beginning …because death is coming. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. It’s 2014. Joe and I congratulate each other on being alive as fireworks burst and circle dancing begins. We start heading back to the hostel hours later, turned around by yet another new city and a few glasses of mulled wine. It matters not. I may not know where I’m going but at least I have a direction.