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Experiences, Travels

Streets, smells, and language

A conversation with a German flat mate of mine during my student years in Germany made me aware of the different cultural and personal perceptions of where we grew up. We talked about being abroad and what, if anything (apart from family and friends), we missed from our respective home country. Stefan took a minute to think about it and came up with one significant item that he missed which was the German bread. I needed not more that a second and started pointing out the following: the streets, the smell of blossoming chestnut and linden trees, the language (especially when it came to literature and theater). This didn’t mean that 1. I was particularly home-sick (all of these were simply ingrained in my life for as long as I remembered) and 2. either of us was ‘right’, we just had different ways of seeing it. I have to admit that I envied Stefan a bit for his pragmatic approach which made it much easier for him to handle being away from ‘home’.

This story kept on coming to my mind in the two days I spent in Sofia after a long absence.


The streets are still there – some refurbished, others waiting for an overhaul, but all of them wiser than before from so many years of change. The linden trees are there too, blossoming and filling the air with their fragrance. So are the other smells and noises of a bustling city with busy residents. The written and spoken language is also all over the place (to my delight in many more book stores than before and full theaters).

National theater Ivan Vazov, Sofia

But I wasn’t there for way too long, both physically and emotionally… Today all of these feel known AND distant at the same time. I enjoyed the theater performances I saw (‘Airport’ was definitely worth seeing), started reading a good book by a young Bulgarian writer, walked on the streets and marveled at the views and blossoming trees, but they all remained more part of a past experience than a present cultural identity. Or better said, they are my way of building a new bridge to what I haven’t been missing anymore.


About irinapashina

Marketing professional, blogger, group fitness instructor, reader, theater-goer


4 thoughts on “Streets, smells, and language

  1. Very impressive, Irina. I am looking forward to read more about Sofia and how you see and smell it 🙂

    Posted by Karola | June 19, 2014, 11:06 pm
  2. Thanks, Karola! I am glad you found it interesting. I’ll share more in the next days. Cheers!

    Posted by irinapashina | June 19, 2014, 11:30 pm
  3. What I find particularly interesting here (as well the previous one about heading home) are the feelings and the way you are describing them.It is from my point of view such an interesting and rare perspective on “home” e.g questioning what you called home, find things known and feel distant to them…
    I find it puzzling and I wonder what can happen to one to feel that way. Is living abroad enough?!

    To be honest,now, it makes me sad thinking I could feel this way in some years. I have the feeling for you it not, which is good 🙂 and gives me hope that even if I NOW find it sad, I might feel ok in the FUTURE 🙂

    Have a cheerful time in Bulgaria!

    Posted by Elena | June 23, 2014, 1:56 pm
    • Hi Elena,

      thanks for your comment and for reading my blog. It hasn’t been easy to write about ‘home’ and how I felt/feel about it. I guess it’s a very personal topic (at least to me) and we all have our own thinking and feelings about it. The thoughts I shared in the two posts you mentioned made me sad for a long time until I realized that this was probably the natural result of my choices often shaped and forced by circumstances.

      Don’t worry about the possibility of having similar feelings in the future. As long as you keep the connection with the people and places you love in Romania, I don’t think you could possibly experience a similar perception and ask similar questions. After all, we all have our own distinct story and that’s wonderful 🙂

      I enjoy re-discovering some aspects of life in Bulgaria – I outlined some in the latest blog post today. which you might find interesting 🙂

      Kind regards,

      Posted by irinapashina | June 23, 2014, 11:19 pm

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