A little hung over. Out of Hotel Savoy mid-morning, hoping to get a better look at the science-fiction space station house, meandering through the streets of Calea Şagului, all late-19th, early 20th century houses and apartments — most in need of love and restoration — through Parcul Gheorghe Doja and along the tram lines to cross the Bega river back into Cetate. Around Catedrala Mitropolitană again, same for Piața Victoriei, then east-ish into parts of Timișoara I hadn’t seen. Plenty of super-attractive Modernist architecture of the International Style, Functionalist, and Brutalism lot, sits really well with the older, more ornate mixes of Art Nouveau / Deco, even older 17th century Baroque / 18th century Neoclassical — in places it reminds me of Vienna or Prague or Brussels, dead worth more than the two hours of wandering I had. Figure-8-ing my way past an attempt to find Muzeul Banatului (apparently closed for renovations?) back to Piața Unirii, into the side-streets of the north-west corner of the old city, and back to the whole reason I was in Timișoara: Opera Naţională Română, with its three theatre companies, Teatrul Naţional Timişoara, Teatrul Maghiar de Stat, and Teatrul German de Stat. Back to Hotel, and off to the airport.
We usually get home from the theatre around 1am, and another couple of hours for sitting around before properly sleeping means getting up at 10am to go to the theatre again was a wobbly experience. A pause for coffee and croissant and then for me wandering directly south to Monastero di San Michele in Bosco, which I found easily enough, but then my attempt to reach Parco di Forte Bandiera was a complete failure and I ended up wandering among villas along narrow, winding streets without footpaths in the hills with cars being driven with gusto. Coincidently, I bumped into Anna, one of the contortionists while standing in front of San Michele, right about where I took the photos for the panorama.
Arriving from the airport at the start of January, the day being lightly clouded, we could see a hill south of the city capped with a russet basilica, the Madonna di San Luca. Friday just past, being a day off, I decided I needed something non-museum and outdoors, and all maps led to the Portico di San Luca. It seemed to be about 12km walk from the apartment, foiled by a bus from outside the door which took me to Arco del Meloncello, which is where I thought the Portico began.
Up the hill, ascending 215 metres in around 2km, split between steps and incline. The arches began unexpectedly from number three-hundred-and-something, which committed me to diligently following them back to number one on the way back. It was grey, misty turning to drizzle, turning to rain. Visibility swiftly shrunk to a couple of score metres, and arriving at the last turn, the church hove into view as a hulking apparition, a derelict and holed ship run aground.
On my way up, my companions were few of the penitent kind, and rather more of the technical attire clad who tend to congregate in all places in or near cities where the geography can serve as a test of self, here divided between walkers and runners. Some chose to drive most of the way, and a small few perhaps were there for the original intent.
As for me, I was there for that last arch, 666.
Foiled by ambiguous numbering, which stopped at 658, the remaining arches depending on how counted giving a final total between 664 and 669, I decided the last before the end of the steps was probably the intended, the one with the small door. I also paused on the way down to photograph arch 616, the other number of the beast.
Back at Meloncello I followed the portico all the way back to Porta Saragozza, the south-east city wall gate. Another hour of wandering, finding a market near the theatre and generally ambling along still further porticos, and I was home.
Ten days in Brussels, it passes quickly. Tomorrow returning to my other home. I haven’t written much about being here, mostly under a blanket of heat and humidity, like Melbourne in January but with no beach to flee to, or Adelaide without the bone-dryness.
Tonight it rained, just now, angry balls of hail, benthic thunderheads, the sky shuddering. Rain until windows were opaque, streets awash, darkness at eight in the evening and the heat blown across and out of the city on the back of the charged atmosphere.
This afternoon in the height of this swampish warmth I walked through Parc Duden and Parc Forest, my route determined by a mindless and simple switch-backing, first uphill until uphill became no more, then the next downhill until in the tree-occluded valleys of the park, almost enough to feel I was in a forest despite the grizzling penumbra of traffic. Tomorrow perhaps I will do this again. Yesterday also, though more predictable — a circle of the parks by the most distal route.
Days with Gala, last night with Paea and others, dinner and vodka with cucumber, a house on the other side of the park and then midnight or later on the grass itself. Dasniya also, the reason why I came over, to help with her workshop last weekend at Charleroi/Danses — I’ve still not written of this, and waiting for all the photos to be approved and then…
I have spent some time in Brussels now, but seldom wander it like a tourist. Well, in summer like this no one does, or at least those with any sense, and winter also, dancing on the ice. The park though has always been close, from the first time I stayed here, and the hills on this side of town give a sense of a city I feel an affinity for. Back again when? I’m not sure, but likely not too distant a time.
Around twenty minutes before the decent would reach its terminal conclusion, I fell asleep, the Airbus landing, front or side wheels making ominous thunk-thunk-thunk across the apron, the usual rattling of the grounded can, a cessation of metallic, nagging engines waking me up. Slightly late. I buy chocolate.
I fall asleep again between Nord and Gare du Midi. My suitcase handle is broken. James says I can buy a cheap carry-on at Muji. I stumble through breakfast with Gala, not seen since April. She says here is my first home. We walk through the city, becoming familiar now, on my fifth visit (perhaps sixth?), fall into a bookshop, fall out again, an urgent need to sleep stalking me, overcomes me.
For some time now I’ve been thinking of photographing the dancers around me, friends, people I know from class also, but friends first. The thoughts of how, portraits perhaps where they dwell, or in rehearsal, or in that liminal moment coming off stage, departed from but before returned to self.
I recognise each of my friends, and other dancers by their feet. I can see a pair of feet from ground-level and know to whom they are attached. So it seemed only fitting I’d photograph feet. It turns out to be difficult.
Gala’s feet I have known – along with the rest of her – for six years now. I’m sure I’ll come up with a better photo in the coming days, but…
I thought it was a park to walk through, but it was a graveyard. It is the Alter Friedhof der St. Nikolai und St. Marien Gemeinde in Prenzlauer Allee. We walked through, not sure it was possible to exit amidst the dead trees and headstones. Then to Volkspark Friedrichshain, circling around the central hill above a thinly glazed lake, ducks pushed forlornly to one coast as the cloud-dulled sun failed.
Last time I was here it was autumn. Today with Gala, the day after her birthday, cold but again blue sky, wind blowing the clouds to long trails, walking from Nikolassee to Grünwald…
A few small things to remember by. A room in a house on a street called Borstal. A windmill visible on the hill up the road, squat and dark, like black-stained wood. A giraffe called Orelie. Amy fucking a chicken. Reading. Cheese, unpasturised and smelt from across the road, a sweet oily stench. Gluten-free bread that was bread-like, edible and wonderfully tasty. Fresh mussels (I am remiss in not eating Oysters). The beach, the waterfront, the harbour, the coast, all those words that miss where the wind hits sharp across my face, stinging pricks of rain. The groins also, and the tiny plant islands contained within each, sheltered from the wind. Yes, the wind also. The walk down narrow, muddy, tree-shrouded paths between beach and house, and the mold streaked concrete railway bridge, from the top all this was visible. I’m forgetting now, already. The train that sped me away, the airport, the airport, waiting, reading, arriving, Berlin at night. My heart has been taken by a hobo baker.
Avoiding rain by staying in bed with cups of tea, chocolate, various cheeses of distinct smelliness, perhaps to have arisen early when the sky was lifting. Bedeckt is the German word for overcast, it sounds as if something has been nailed down across the sky. We prepare to leave, the greyness lowers, a pause for more tea.
Outside is cold and sharp. I confess to a delirious addiction to this, and so we walk again through the paths towards the dyke huts – which really are – and this time west, towards London, or at least the muddier and less exposed parts of the Thames estuary. The groins are full of a slapping tide, not yet ready to fall as it is pushed onshore by the wind. The sky hangs with pendulous black clouds amidst the untidy grey, not infrequently disposing of its load upon us.
Further west. Faversham, where we have not reached nor will this week is home to the Islands’ largest repository of apple trees. I’ve been reading about these and their Kazakhstan history in Wildwood. The sky hands lower, just to walk a little further to the lone dark wood house at the end of this curve of the pebble and stone strewn beach. Seagulls swarm and wheel above, hovering on the north wind, gathering in ever larger crowds, waiting. The tide retreats some more, a flat gravelly island comes out of the water and here they dive towards.
We turn back, a vast dark occlusion stalks above us, walking the beach it stings, pricks, strikes, tries to blow us over. A delight in the shock of feral elements normally seen from within somewhere safe, inside, though glass. We decide in our wetness though, the third time in three days we find ourselves in this state, to walk home along the road. Almost lost, not sure if it will lead us astray. The yellow traffic diversion signs and a street name, Joy Lane, lead us back to food, chocolate, my last night in Whitstable.
Various rains, mists, hazes, dampness the entire day, and we still decided to walk from Whitstable to Canterbury, some 11 kilometers, I struggle to convert from the miles used here to what I grew up with. By the time we reach the open fields out of Whitstable proper, my trousers, so absorbent, are soaked, and remain so for the next few hours. Oh what else to say? It was beautiful, haunting in the quietness and saturated colours of the overcast and wet afternoon. Later in Canterbury, home of Marlowe as well as Chaucer, and stores for Bears Paddington and Rupert, we found ourselves in the low-ceilinged backroom of an old Old Fellows Lodge, now a café, bar, I imagine its tables crammed and loudness, drinking, bu for us, almost the only ones there, we occupy a sofa to ourselves, eat sandwiches, cakes and drink coffee, and later catch the bus back the way we came.