Last night Heather and I left our hostel and wandered around the block in search of food. We entered the first restaurant we happened upon, and when we were handed menus by the waiter whose first language I could not speak, I flipped through in numb confusion.
Kebaps. Lamb. Beef. Gyros.
What country was I in?
There was a moment when I honestly could not remember.
I looked around me for clues. There on the wall was an engraving of a mosque with six minarets that looked suspiciously like the Blue Mosque.
No. We left there ages ago. I was tired from little sleep and a long bumpy bus ride, but surely I could remember where I was.
Austria. Vienna. I was in a Turkish restaurant in Vienna. The waiter spoke German.
Since leaving Cape Town, I have been in nine countries. European cities are old and beautiful, with extremely old churches and museums that hold things you studied back in middle school. But after so many cities with so many holy spaces and outrageously gorgeous gold or marble or painted decoration and cobblestone streets and languages that you don’t speak and bizarre, jilting, rolling, long train rides and bus rides that you try so hard not to sleep through for missing the countryside but end up waking up four hours later when a Croatian turns on the light in your berth to inform you he needs your passport, NOW, or that’s what you think he says because it’s in Croatian and he seems bossy and official and he’s got some kind of enormous black stamping mechanism, you fumble through your bag and you don’t mean to sound ungrateful, it’s amazing and you’re learning so much, but you’re a little exhausted and you want to stay put in one place long enough to maybe learn some of their language or watch the sunflowers turn their heads.
I wrote this journal entry on the train ride into Serbia from Bulgaria:
I find myself in a train compartment, and books come to mind, The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters, trains full of people going to some grotesque party I am not privy to,
Heather says they’re gypsies.
But here I sit and across from me are three women tumbled atop one another, speaking a language I do not understand, they don’t understand mine either, so we sit and they talk about me and I talk about them, they smoke cigarettes and have husky middle-aged voices and blonde hair, black hair, cleavage, like Dallas people but something different.
People everywhere gypsies.
Part of the appeal and the confusion and the adventure of this trip is the overwhelming bizarreness, the incessant shifting, the suspension of reality.
I am Alice.