As I leave Europe and enter Asia, I reflect upon the places I’ve felt happiest. With the exception of cities in which I met unforgettable people, the places that come to mind recall rolling hills more than flashing lights: the air here smells as green as a freshly mown lawn, as wet as an afternoon before the storm sets in, as unpredictably fresh as a city park can be. It is easy to go back to these places. I just need to close my eyes and breathe.
I remember watching the purple-pink-orange sunsets splay across the sky at the ostrich farm in Bulgaria.
I remember tipsily looking over Chateau Vartely’s terrace to the storm clouds marching toward us across the valley.
I remember serendipitously finding myself lost in Warsaw’s Łazienki Park, six story trees blocking the city beyond and rain above.
I remember paddling through the bogs of Estonia’s Lahemaa National Park, smirking at my Oompa Loompa orange skin, stained by the peaty water.
I remember Peter the Great watching over me in Moscow’s Gorky Park, where I spotted rollerbladers rolling, ping-pong players whacking, and BMXers doing whatever it is that they do, all amidst fairy-lit cafes and reflecting lily ponds.
I remember much more than the airy moments I lingered in these parks and valleys. I remember how I smiled, my up-turned mouth holding its pose for long after.