Last minute travel plans had me on a jumbled, blurry adventure traveling between countries, continents, and across states all in a matter of a week...
Istanbul, Turkey via sleeper train => Sofia, Bulgaria early morning train => Beograd, Serbia => Budapest, Hungary (overnight in Budapest) =>
Wien, Austria (museum visits) evening train => Frankfurt, Germany (nearly missed train transfer because I fell asleep) => Bruxelles, Belgium => Paris, France (spent the night at Charlotte's apartment)...depart to the USA the following day!
--BACK TO THE USA!--
New York City, NY (14 hours here to sell belongings) => train to Virginia => 1 day in Virginia and began 34 hour solo drive to Montana made in 38 hours => MONTANA!
What was intended to be a 4 day visit to Turkey has now turned into a 3 week long stay, but now I think that my Istanbul adventures must come to a close.
Key lessons learned in Istanbul:
-''Live in the flow''- This, my friends, I have embraced as a way of not letting opportunity pass you by but to take life as it comes to you. Not at all an original concept, but it is something to definitely be mindful of.
-''Tomorrow'' - I swear, the Turkish live by this word. I have never been anywhere where tomorrow is the day when everything that must be done will be done, when great ideas come to life. This, of course, could be perceived as procrastination to the highest degree, but on the flip-side, it could portray a slower, more relaxed pace of life where one is not obligated to complete all tasks in one day.
Sadly enough, I have also learned that everything is so temporary. I was guaranteed to discover this given the extremely ephemeral nature of my project - bouncing around like a ping-pong ball from place to place, host to host, life to life - but it has really hit me here. Friendships are easy enough to come by so long as you are open to making a friend and being a friend, but a deep level of friendship is much more difficult to find. All over the place I have been making new friends, enjoying a life beside them, and being told that I ought to just start my life there (relocate and live in their city)...
I am frightened by the realization that perhaps what I am doing with this project is just as superficial as beginning a Facebook relationship. I am floating into and out of these people's lives without sinking any roots.
I had an interesting discussion with a Polish designer, Maciej, that I met through Özgün (connection chart to come) about the type of relationships our generation forms - temporary, spark-like relationships always with the knowledge of an ''end.'' Maciej claims that it is impossible for us to form the deep relationships that our parents had because the world is a much more fast, extended place than it used to be. Then again, Maciej is also someone that socializes on Facebook while in a room full of people...
Another lesson learned: we are born with a limited number of beats to our hearts, it is a pity to waste any of them. I learned to not waste any of my beats on letting opportunity for fun and youthful indulgence slip through my fingers in Istanbul. I also learned that one waste's one's precious heartbeats on only pursuing fun and stimulation - I need purpose and direction to feel fulfilled.
I came to Istanbul without purpose, direction, aim, goals, and a home. I have lit a fire under myself and am ready to jump! I am ready to make motions that will further me in my path, the hiatus was glorious, but fun loses its zest eventually when its not combined with hard work.
After the wild 36 hours in Rome, I boarded the plane to Istanbul knowing that I would find some sort of relief there (here). After another successful bit of solo navigation, I met my hostess, Özgün, at the Ortaköy mosque. We had both had late nights and felt that we needed to nap, but both of us suffer from the desire to be young and to live in the moment - a tricky position. So, as the past and future do not exist and youth is a terrible thing to waste...we had dinner and took a long snooze, waking at midnight to go out. I felt an instant connection to Özgün, a petite girl with blond dredlocks, and can see a lot of myself in her, vice versa. We went to a few places off of Istikal - and sat at a street where there were so many round lamps that it seemed as though there were a thousand little moons around us. Özgün said ''live in the flow,'' and I listened.
The next morning we had tea at a place overlooking the Marmara Sea with two French fellas and a German doctor of Turkish descent. The German doctor had eyes like a jaguar. I mean it, I have never met a more catlike man. He even described his sentiments toward women and relationshi ps just as a big cat might - ''I like to do my own thing. When women want to be around me and try to keep me around it makes me bored and disinterested.'' Straight up cat statement.
Özgün left for a music festival that evening so I stayed at her flat with her father and strung together broken English conversations over delicious Mediterranean food. I met with Neil and Mika, my American friends, that evening but could not stay with them because a cat lives in their flat. Je detest le chat. I am not certain which came first, the allergy or the annoyance, but cats are not for Lindsays.
A couple of days later, Özgüun returned from the music festival and I had picked up some new Turkish words (peynir = cheese, tabak = plate, doydoum = i am full...). During the days of her absence, I roamed from Ortaköy (where I am living) over to Sultanamhet (where the aya sofya and the blue mosque stand) in 41 degree weather (celsius, folks - I am CRAZY)...which was a sizable distance in the heat. I sketched the Blue Mosque quickly and had a bit of an audience around me during my sketch routine. A guy asked me, in TurkEnglish, if he could purchase the sketch from me. Being such a terrible businesswoman, I told him that I would give it to him in exchange for two big bottles of water as I was very thirsty. Now he owns a Lindsay Minnich original and my thirst has been quenched.
Two people, Bethany (American from Pennsylvania) and Matoaz (Lebanese), whom are living in Saudi Arabia came to stay at Özgün's, as well. Apparently, Saudi Arabia is more fun than it is cracked up to be and a great place to make and save some money (if you hide it in your house, of course). Hmm...
I observed Neil and Mika teaching their class (they are English teachers at a chain called ENGLISHTIME). This is an easy job to procure for Americans, even without TOEFL certification, though they are certified. Mika's students had many questions for me and even offered to show me around Istanbul a bit. The following day (which day of the week, I cannot recall - I seem to lose track of time here in Istanbul), I took them up on their offer, after first seeing an incredible art exhibition at the Turkish Cultural Center. The artist is named Hüseyin Bahria Alptekin (click on his name). HE WAS A COLLECTER JUST LIKE ME! I have a tendency to fınd lıttle treasures all over the place and take them home with me, in order to create something beautiful with them later...this artist does the very same thing. His artist's statement was written on the wall at the cultural center and I felt very connected to this, as well. It's incredible to me that I had very little knowledge of Turkish art or the movements.
Savaş, the student in Mika's class that offered to show me around, helped me into the Blue Mosque -which was SO gorgeously ornate-and then took me back to his family rug business. We took tea (çay) and ate apricots in a room FILLED with handmade rugs. I love rugs. I looked around a bit and found a gorgeous rug with the most beautiful of patterns and Savaş tried to give it to me - this was a 600 year old rug worth thousands of dollars (and even more Turkish Lira). I told him that I could not accept the gift as it was far too nice for me. He told me that I could work for them and make a large commission just by sitting outside their shop and painting/drawing. It will be a nice thing to add to my colorful CV (along with insurance underwriter, state park worker, hiking guide, and preschool teacher).
That night, I drew a mural on the wall of Neil and Mika's apartment - of the Virgin Mary, of course. I will ask them to send me photos of the mural once I finish painting it.The photo below is me in the process of drawing...
36 hours with very little sleep involved. I went from the European Montana straight into the gay arms of my Montana friend, Kyle.
On the train to Rome from Zurich, I sketched some sleepy Italıans and met an aged gentleman, Gian, who told me about the American FLUXUS group of the 60s. His wife is friends with a gallerist and they knew many of the FLUXUS artists. Artists concerned with LIVING an artful existence and making art public. All things that I can relate to - so I gave him my card and asked him to look at my work. I hope that I get an honest critique.
As soon as I arrıved at Roma Termini and found Kyle (a miracle, really, as he did not have a phone and my train arrived on a different track than it said it would), we went back to his appartamento perfetto on Vicolo del Bologne where a dinner party was about to begin. I had not eaten much during the train ride and as it was so warm the cool white wine offered went down easily and rapidly. We popped open bottles of champagne, Kyle styled my hair (apparently it was a mess from the trainride), and a gang of 7-10 Montanans set out on the streets of Rome. We danced on bridges to the tunes of street performers, went to a club, went swimming in multiple fountains, and finished with street art a la Berlin (tape art) - the four remaining souls, Kyle, Andy, Ethan, and myself created self portraits. True to myself, I depicted myself with arms spread, legs together and feet pointed downard - forever crucified.
If any of you could tell me why I always portray myself as crucified, I would love to hear what you have to say...email me!
(Not to toot my own horn, but I have exciting news! My stats say that on average 200 unique visitors browse my site per day - AND - Kyle´s flatmate, Ethan, said that he had been following my blog!)
Before Rome I had called someone, a great love, my home. He was my home, and his love was the stability and joy a home holds. During my visit to Rome, I lost this home. Now, I am struggling with what home means. I had found bits of home in the landscape of Zurich, in the rich colors and history of Rome, and in the presence of familiar Montana folk.
What is this elusive home? Where is it?
Kyle was my gay sugar daddy for the duration of my visit, hoping to cheer my soul up. We had DELICIOUS gelato, cool cidar in a pub after wandering about Rome, window-shopping (a perfect activity for a gay sugar daddy and a gal) and catching up. I sketched while he was at a farewell dinner, met an Italian lawyer, then met up with Kyle and the other folk for a pizza meal. After haggling the price with a fellow traveler, Sam, he agreed to pay for my dinner in exchange for the sketch I had done earlier in the day. This is the second meal that I have paid for with art - not so bad! Afterwards, we sat by the Trevi and watched the water dive from the marble and into the pool below, half-expecting to see the statues come to life. Kyle and I spent the entire night walking around Rome, two friends from the past passing points of the past but living entirely in the present.
Hours later, I said goodbye and boarded a plane to İstanbul, Turkey, praying that I would find my way to my Turkish friend of a friend, Ozgun, not being able to even BARELY speak or read the language...
I am in Switzerland (the Montana of Europe) and this visit could not have come at a better time - I had been CRAVING mountains, rivers, and lakes. Ask and ye shall receive!
Me=Kristina (personal friend from NYC)=Andrea (my host)
I am staying with (my darling friend) Kristina's fella, Andrea. I had a day filled with local trains and multiple connections due to the heavy travel rate from Paris and my last-minute method of travel (I typically show up at the train station and hope that there is a seat on a train, as you have doubtlessly noticed). Andrea gave me the most specific instructions of how to get to his home that any host has yet and I made it to his home with very little trouble. Although he was not there when I arrived late Saturday night, I was greeted by a welcome note, a fridge stocked with food, and a bed made for me. The next morning, I met Andrea and immediately felt that he was the older brother that I never had. Later, we discovered that he was born just a few days after my older sister - if you believe in astrology, which I do to an extent, it would explain why he seemed so familiar to me.
My dear host gave me a grand tour of Zurich on Sunday. We went to the "Red Factory" which was once a factory but was converted into an artspace and a restaurant. The exterior was covered in graffiti, which Andrea told me was recently sprayed by graffiti artists from all over Europe, and it was located just on the shores of Zurichsees (Zurich Lake). A POWERFUL storm released its fury on the lake and we took refuge with coffee until it passed. Andrea gave me a proper tour of all the most interestıng parts of Zurıch so that İ could return when he was at work. As the guest I was not allowed to help prepare the meal but Andrea took on the International male role of working a propane grill and we had a nice meal by twilight.
The next few days I spent by the water, either at the Lake ın Schwarzenbach or in the Ljmmat Rıver which runs through the city of Zurıch. The water calmed my spirit and restored me.
Andrea was a fantastic host that really taught me quite a bit about Switzerland. İ truly felt at home and at ease. And being in European Montana was precisely what I had been needing after feeling homesick for... home and stability.
My final evening we had brautwurst outdoors and sipped Pastis and Gin and Tonics. Tranquil. A perfect ending.
Questions that I am asking myself:
Are you willing to invest in yourself?
Are you willing to become stronger than your history?
Are you willing to forgive yourself?
Are you willing to forgive others?
Are you willing to stop being held hostage by the opinion of others?
Are you willing to be motivated by trust instead of fear?
Are you willing to let go of anger?
Are you willing to let go of your need to control?
Are you willing to know the truth?
Are you willing to be transformed?
Are you willing to operate from a place of authenticity?
Are you willing to live an inspired life?
Paris, the second round, was a much shorter visit. I spent about 48 hours in Paris, alone in Charlotte's empty studio flat. An incredible 48 hours, however.
Her walls were alive, simultaneously buzzing with energy and security. For being a small, studio flat it felt so perfect, not too big and not too small - something that Goldilocks would have approved of. Charlotte is a collector, nay, an admirer of the overlooked; her walls were adorned with found and created objects -sticks, mirrors, photographs, poems, handwritten letters- as if she had created her very own ritual space, protected from evil by her treasures. I slept soundly on her bed, a mattress on the floor, and in the morning threw open the drapes and windows to watch the people bustling about Rue de Saint Jacques.
I only had one size of paper, poor quality and torn from my sketchbook, but I felt that I couldn't waste the inspiration that this flat gave me and drew feverishly. I produced a drawing, with charcoal, of an old man that I had seen the night before at an empty bar. He was, and is, unforgettable in appearance: satellite disks of ears popped off his head at various angles and two large eyes were set into his heavily wrinkled face. I wasn't sure if he was still really cognizant of what was happening around him, or if he even cared. I left this drawing for Charlotte on her wall. I think it belongs to her in a way.
I helped a Muslim friend clean his flat and do his laundry. We spoke about religion. He asked me what I believed in, if I believed in God. I told him that I believe in energy, String Theory, Chakras and the power of the Universe, of karma...but he stopped me and said, "What does all of this mean? I didn't ask you about the Universe or energy. I am asking what Lindsay believes in her heart and what she will always believe." I paused. In what do I believe exactly? After a moment I told him: "I believe in love. I believe in the magic of love, love between people, love for the earth -- just love." He said, " Voila! Love is the most important thing to believe in."
At the bottom of it, what else is there to believe in?
I was told by a traveler I met during this second round in Paris that traveling alone will really mess with you at some point, it will become a cathartic experience, unsettling, lifting up, and clearing out years of emotional gunk. This traveler also told me that it will bring up questions and help me to redirect and refocus my life path. (Speaking of which, my life path -based on numerology- is a 6 which I find to be SO fascinating because it is spot-on...look yours up!) I was advised to buy a "wee travel bear" to talk to...at this point, buying a travel bear might not be such a bad idea because I am just BURSTING with revelations and INTENSE discussions that I am not certain any of my friends or random strangers will want to involve themselves in...
The fates had me here. I went to Centraal Station in Amsterdam to get a ticket to London, however that proved IMPOSSIBLE with such late notice.
Ticket Attendant: You can't get to London until Monday at the earliest, all of the seats are reserved.
Me: Damn. No chance at all? (it was Wednesday)
TA: No. I am sorry, but you need to book these things in advance.
Me: Um...how about Zurich? Could I get to Zurich?
TA: One moment...unfortunately, no.
Me: Ok. How about Berlin?
TA: You're flexible? That is good. Going to Berlin is no problem.
Me: You've got to be flexible when it appears the Fates are at work.
Me: A ticket to Berlin, please!
I spent a few days (June 30-July 5) in Berlin and stayed with my dear friend from Pratt Institute, LJ, at her flat in East Berlin. Horatio, another friend from Pratt, came up from Essen to see me while I was in Germany. This was the very FIRST host that I was directly connected to! It was nice to have that familiarity, the ease of conversation or silence, that comes with an older relationship. That's not to say that I don't enjoy cultivating and planting seeds of friendship, but this was just a much-needed pre-established connection.
Horatio and I strolled from outer East Berlin toward what was once the communist city centre. In the pouring rain. Two and a half hours. We stopped into a photography exhibition of Sibylle Bergemann at C/O Berlin - learn more about her on the link below... ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sibylle_Bergemann ) The exhibition was wonderful! It made me want to purchase a camera ASAP to take beautiful, sensitive photographs just as Sibylle had. There were some inspiring quotes, too:"It's the fringes of the world that interest me, not its center. THe non-interchangeable is my concern. When there is something in faces or landscapes that doesn't quite fit." -Sibylle Bergmann"Being a child means existing in a state of expectation, anticipating the fairy tale of life." -Jutta Voigt
I feel that I might be a child, as Jutta Voigt describes one, for I'm always looking at life as though it is a fairytale with every single day containing a bit of magic.
I could feel the dark energy of Berlin's past and it began to weigh me down a bit, making me a tad more exhausted every day. I spent some time alone wandering from LJ's flat in outer East Berlin to West Berlin with few special encounters/connections. I found it interesting that there is still a bit of sensitivity toward WWII - the Germans that I spoke to exhibited a desire to break free of the "Nazi" stereotype that history has placed on them. Though, I was surprised to discover that there are a LOT of neo-Nazis in Germany, just outside of Berlin. It's got to be difficult to break a stereotype when your countrymen are just perpetuating it...
I did make two friends at a club on the Spree - one of them began our conversation by espousing Virginia Woolf's romantic death by saying, "I should like to throw myself into this river and be drowned, to let the water take me away." We discussed art and literature. She invited me to share her flat in Berlin if I wanted to stay (to live) there.
I don't believe I want to live in Berlin.
All in all: Berlin is like a HUGE, much much darker Brooklyn (in NYC); clubs open on Friday night and don't close until Monday morning; Germany is less expensive than other countries in Western Europe.
I left Berlin in the same way that I came to it - with an unclear direction and allowing the Fates to guide me. I went to the train station, asked about trains to Zurich (which were full, again) and asked for the next train to Paris. An hour later, I was riding the ICE back to my darling Paris.
I met a gentleman from Canada in the train galley (can you call it that when not on a ship?) who asked me if he could possibly be an artist. What am I supposed to say to that? I told him that I think that he needs to work, work, work to make art but that there's a degree of madness that comes with being an artist; perhaps he has it, perhaps not.
The Scottish (a bit rough) gentleman seated next to me in my train car told me these useful things:
1) "Listen to your heart not your mind because your mind is a fucking fear machine - it prevents you from doing what's important and if you listen to year head all of the time you're fucked."
2) "Keep BALANCE in your life. This is the key. Think about what you need to feel fucking stable, whatever those aspects are, and make sure you keep everything balanced."
3) (after I told him that I think I love too deeply and a bit too passionately) "So what? You love. This is what's important is that you LOVE. If you love until it hurts you and you feel deeply and you care and you give, then it's great. Don't try to keep your heart from loving. Loving to pain is better than not loving at all...some people don't ever love."
Me = Maddie (friend from Montana) = Jaap (a friend she met in Australia)
through Jaap I met: Kevin & Marco (his flatmates)
Me = Donovan Spaanstra (artist)
I had been to Amsterdam a few years ago with a Dutch friend, Ginger (boy), so I didn't feel the need to really play much of the role of tourist this time around. I wanted more authentic experiences.
The moment I tumbled out of the Centraal station in Amsterdam (it had been a very long, delayed, broken-down train, unexpected transfer sort of journey), I was met by Jaap and his bicycle. When he had said that he was to pick me up, I as a car driving American assumed he had meant in a car. I have an enormous backpack that easily weighs more than Kate Moss, so when Jaap told me to sit on the back of his bike and balance while he biked us to the flat, I was apprehensive to say the least. BUT I DID IT! I sat side-saddle and balanced over bumps and cobble-stone roads to the flat on Hazenstraat in the Jordaan district of Amsterdam. After settling into Jaap's room, he was kind enough to sleep on a mattress in the living room for my behalf, and learning the one rule to the room: No bringing men back to the room, we went to the park to meet some of his friends.
The following day, I wandered Amsterdam and began sketching at a canal when another artist, Donovan Spaanstra, came over to sketch with me. We spoke of the madness within ourselves, of love, of the pure joy that comes from living life. It's not often that you meet someone that you know understands the madness in your soul instantly. We spent the day talking of this-and-that, drawing, gathering new art supplies, and sipping on wine/beer. At the art supply store he bought me new pens so as to teach me a different drawing technique but had the gentleman behind the counter giftwrap them as they were intended as GIFTS. We had a jolly time pretending that it was my 91st birthday and that we had been dear friends for ages; the gift of pens was my birthday gift. I opened the package with feigned surprise. :)
I was met with such genuine generosity and amicability in Amsterdam. Kevin and Marco took me out to dinner because I'd been subsisting on Dutch cheese, rolls, and bananas. Everyone was really keen to get to know me and to speak with me. Amsterdam felt that it could have been home, as well.
I saw a few churches and an exhibition on Russian Orthodox art. I love stylized, religious art! I'm trying to think of how I can incorporate this into my own work.
Two things learned from the exhibition:
1)The Easter egg symbolizes the Holy Trinity.
2)Blue is Mary's color as it represents purity.
I made a split panel painting for Jaap's household with my signature continuous line faces, always falling from the sky, always without bodies.
Where is "home"? What makes any place "home" over another?
How does one "repay" generosity and hospitality to their host? Is it even necessary or is it a pay-it-forward sort of thing?
A week in Paris. A week of new connections. New friends. New lessons. New experiences.
My chart (using the keys on a keyboard) of link to people is something like this:
Me = Clarissa = Isabel = Joaquim = David, Raphael, Joaquim's brother
Me = Ibrahim (cafe owner/new friend)
Me = Charlotte (long lost friend from Florence, that I unexpectedly spent time with in Paris as she's now living there = Charlotte's friends from the theatre company
But I've now also been able to connect Charlotte to Joaquim! ;)
Lessons learned in Paris:
1) Always keep yourself open to opportunity.
I may have some sort of employment soon - the cafe owner, Ibrahim, has a friend that needs an assistant and he said that he would try to help me out. I would not have even had the slight chance at finding employment had I not been open and receptive to meeting Ibrahim. I also would have never been able to play bocce with old French men (and meet them) or to discuss life with an artist in a bar or any of the other things that I was privileged to do in Paris had I not kept myself open to opportunity.
2) Trust is a beautiful thing.
My hosts have been so trusting to allow me into their homes and lives without even knowing me.
3) Nothing is permanent (everything is temporary) and the present is all that exists - the past is but memory and the future is but an idea.
-Wise words from Charlotte, a wonderful woman that quite literally dances and sings through life (so beautiful).
4) Act when inspiration hits instead of waiting until later.
You could actually see inspiration strike Joaquim and he would immediately act upon it - even in the middle of a conversation. I like that. I typically procrastinate in most things...
All in all, I'm learning that keeping an open heart and an open mind (my old mantra) has proven to be 100% successful. A bit of controlled recklessness?