Posts tagged “travel

The Stories We Tell and the Stories We Take

Posted on 7 October 2018

Use of the Hammer and Sickle in Former Soviet Territories and Outside These Areas What do you say when someone tells you their father was sent to the Gulag? He came back from the war and off he was sent – Stalin’s orders, to the lager! Z.’s back was to me as she hunched over my bed, fixing the sheets, curling into even less space than her short body could claim. “He came back from the war, from the front, with children’s books in German, because I was studying German, you see?” A German book claimed a life where a war could not.   Ghosts occupied every shadow of the apartment. Molotov-Ribbentrop. A siege. Young girls, starving but never quite dead. An unlikely reunion…

The Paris Marathon & I

Posted on 27 August 2018

Sometimes, things just work out. My partner, Ben, was going to be attending a work conference in Nice in April and we could take a bit of time off work beforehand to travel. Even better, my friend, Ellie, was living and working in Paris so we could visit her as a part of the trip. Ellie and I ran our first marathons at around the same time, and though she has outperformed me by far since then, running a bunch of others, we had been talking about doing one together for a while. So, when Ellie pointed out that the Paris Marathon would be taking place when Ben and I were planning to visit, we decided to sign up. It would be my second…

Before Us / Beneath Us

Posted on 20 August 2018

There are over 6 million people artfully scattered and stacked in tunnels beneath Paris. The problem of overflowing and stinking cemeteries in the late 18th century was answered with the availability of tunnels leftover from limestone mining centuries prior. Between 1786 and 1860, bones from a handful of cemeteries were relocated into these passageways, but more than that – bones were carefully arranged into decorative walls and pillars. The catacombs of Paris aren’t open in their entirety to visitors, but their sheer volume is conveyed by the mile that is. It takes about 45 minutes to wander through the ossuaries. The scale of death expands and compresses. Each bone you see belonged to a person, a life in its expanse – and bones are…

A Taste of Bruges

Posted on 4 August 2018

The two most common reactions I’ve gotten when I mentioned visiting Bruges have been, “oh, it’s so cute!” and “oh, it’s really crowded.” Both are true; it’s crowded because it’s cute. And yet, we managed to miss the crowd crush and enjoy our few days in the city. We arrived by train from Brussels (so comfortable! so convenient!) and wandered through the drizzle with our backpacks to where we were staying. This set the tone for our stay: walking under grey skies and in the rain. We did get some sun while there – and some strong downpours – but in large part, we had to content ourselves with being wet. We still walked around, but I suspect many others did not, leaving the…

A Haunting

Posted on 10 June 2018

My most vivid memory of Saint Petersburg is this: Listen. The cold sun glares at me as I walk along the Fontanka embankment. I walk southwest to where the canal meets the Neva, and then turn around and walk back on the other side. I keep my gaze fixed straight ahead and step in time to the music in my ears. The grey of the streets and the buildings blends with the blue of the sky where the white light of the sun rubs them together. As a woman, I stick out with my flat shoes and casual clothes, but I’m stopped and asked for directions anyway. I’ve been here long enough, have been walking around long enough, to often answer. I walked a…