I never understood how much i love Bratislava until some people, that i care about very much, said bad things about it. They arrived in visit, and for the first few days i was with them, walking in the center, to cofee shops and lemonades, to the Aquapark in Senec. Then they wanted to the Blue Church so we went to the Holly Mass in the Blue Church. Then the 4th day i fell sick with tonsilitis and high fever. Being a public holiday i rushed to the emergency room where i was prescribed an antibiotic. Apparentlly i was alergic to it as i got a very violent alergic reaction. Back in the emergency room i received antihistamine shots, penciline and rest in bed for a week.
My visitors, all the rest of theeir stay in Bratislava called me only one time to ask me if i am still sick. My husband offered to take them to a one day trip to Viena or Trnava or to Rusovce, they refused. I have already told them tens of places they could visit but they stayed only aorund the mall Eurovea. The day they left my beloved city they posted on the Facebook "Happy to finally leave this Bratislava". The words pierced me like a knife through the heart. For a minute i felt guilty. How many times have i wanted to show my friends just how wonderful Bratislava is and now i missed my chance just because i was sick.Then i realised it. I had no fault at all. It was not my fault i got sick. We tried everything to make them happy here and if they were not it was not my fault, or my husbands fault or the cities fault, it was theirs. They do not know how to enjoy the travel.
While my husband mumbled nervously under his breath i felt no anger or need to curse, i felt a deep sadness for my Bratislava, i wanted to take her in my arms like a friend and tell her i am still here and i still love her. I understood then that i have become to love my adoptive city more then any other city, even my hometown.
My love for travel started many years ago when i was doing volunteer work in a student organization called BEST. There i was helping in the organization of courses and trips and other events for students all over Europe. The volunteer work came also with the mockeries of many of my friends. They couldn't understand why i would waiste my time and energy for free. Why i would orgazine, present, convince students to apply, run, arrange things for them, make them feel good without gaining anything. Why i woud stay nights without sleep in order to clean after them or walk whole days as a guide without getting payed. They called me stupid, naive, they laughted behind my back. But in my heart i felt sad for them, because what i was gaining from this unpayed work was much more precious then anything they could have gained with money. The student life traveling and communicating with so many people from so many countries, seeing their cities, learning their culture, eating their food and hearing their stories opened a new door for me and in the course of my student years i learnt things that my friends could not understand then and some of them don't understand even now. I will dispose of some of this lessons now.
1. There is no such thing as a perfect vacation. There will always be something that you did not like. When organizing any course or trip there was always a summ of money put aside for unpredictable events and we would always spend it. The vacation will be as good as you are wiling to make it. Prepare yourself. I don't mean the lugguage and the money. Prepare yourself for the visit with heart and soul. Read about the places you are going to, about the country, the city, the lifestyle, the food, the places you can visit based on the things you like, ask questions and search for travelling blogs. What is the point of beeing in Rome if you don't know what you are supposed to visit in Rome. If you are going in an organized trip or with the travel agency listen to them and to their explanations and again ask questions.
2. Every country, every city and every place has beautiful things and ugly things. What you see is what you want to see. So try to see the beautiful in everything. In all my travels there were always some places that i did not like or things i did not like but i always tried to find something beautiful in them. I tried to remember the beautiful violet flowers twisting themselves around the white pillars in the entrance of the hotel and not that the room in the hotel was crappy. I tried to remember the cool night air on the terasse and the moon reflecting itself in the water of the pool and not the cleaning guy with a bucket trowing chlorine in it. I tried not to remember the small and stony and ugly beach, but how the water of the sea changed from azzure to emerald when the sun was covered by clouds.
3. Discover. Look in the city for things and attractions that were not in the brochure or the internet, let yourself roam on the streets of the city and look at the building and architecture, the statues and everyting around you. Maybe you will find a small church hidded between buidings which you think it's amazing, maybe a statue or some small shop, maybe some cofee place or some view that simply takes you breath away.
4. Create memories, take the time to be amazed, do not rush and do not be scared to change your schedule. Sometimes you will need to give up on some attraction you wanted to see, sometimes you will find a new one. On my first trip, the first night i reached Athens the organizing students took us to eat at a taverna. On the road one of them stopped me: "Where are you rushing? You see, here are the Akropolis." I turned my eyes up to the skyes and on the top of the hill between houses and trees i saw the majestic monument and it left me breathless. The organizer was right, where was i rushing? I took a moment to imprint it in my memory. Today when i think of Athens i remember that image, the night, the songs coming from the tavernas, the smell of the greek air in my nostrils, the historical monument on the night sky under the moon.
Create memories, there are seconds that can became an eternity for you, and they will be more precious then all the photos and the souvenirs you took back with you. In my travels i managed to create a large bagage of this wonderful moments: the sweet sound of the water running in the fountains in the St. Peter's square, God Touching Adam and the silent reverence in the Sixtine Chapel, the blue water on the white marble statues on the Fontana di Trevi, the sand castle like Cathedral in Mallorca, the golden endless beaches in Greece, the umbelievable blue water and the white pebbles on the Navagio beach in Zakynthos or the impressive and breathtaking Blue Caves, the sun setting down and making the sky purple in the Temple of Sounio, the little St. Antonio church in Can Pastilla in front of which children came to play footbal every evening, the sound of the sea on the shore in the night while you hug your husband in your first vacation togheter.
5. Be open minded, be ready to try new things, try the local cuisine. What is the point of going to Rome if you do not try the pizza or the gelato, or going to Greecce and not trying the delicious meats and cheeses and pies and salads. I have never understood the people who live on MacDonals, Coca-cola, fries and supermarket food in their vacation. How can you understand the people if you do not try their food.
6. Do not complain all the way. Don't get me wrong, if you are getting bad service for the money then yes, complain. But i have seen tourists who complained non stop. That the food is not the same like in their country, that the sun is shining, that it is not shining, that the people are too loud or on the contrary too quiet. They do not like this, they do not like that, they can't wait to be home. Do us all a favour, stay home!
And last but not least the 7th lesson: respect. Respect the people you meet, their ways and their traditions, their food. Do not make fun of them and do not dissmiss them even if you do not like them. If you don't like something, it doesn't mean it's bad or ugly, it means only that you do not like it. The ruddest thing in the world is to talk bad about somebodies country, language, traditions, food. It is insuting and it hurts people. If you don't like it keep it to yoursef or express it in a way that is not insulting. Do not compare the country you visit, traditions and foods to yours or believe yours are superior, we are all different and we must all accept and understand each other. Do not be proud or ignorant.
As an endding i would say there is beauty and hapiness everywhere and in everything, it is only in our power to discover it.