Time is a funny thing. Our recent trip to Europe felt way too long and way too short at different points - but every destination brought a new lesson. Here is what we learned at each of our major stopovers:
Milan, Italy. Right across from the train station was the 500-year-old Sforza Castle containing Michelangelo's final sculpture, the Pietà Rondanini. Our hotel was just steps away from DaVinci's Last Supper. And as we walked down a street with gelato in hand, the jaw-dropping Il Duomo suddenly came into view around a corner.
Our biggest takeaway from Milan was that beauty can be incorporated anywhere and everywhere - in murals decorating the walls of the Milano Centrale train station, in marble used as sidewalks, in a potted plant garden in the tiny hidden atrium of our hotel. Beauty restores and refreshes the soul, and makes even the commonplace a wonder.
Sofia, Bulgaria. The hospitality and care of our hostess, Savitrimurti, was thorough and considerate. We arrived to our own apartment, thoughtfully stocked with fresh fruit, Ganesha statues to bring good fortune, homemade meals - even brand-new slippers for our tired feet. And the students for our workshops were all eager, polite and extremely welcoming. Atmadarshan especially was struck by the pure emotion a small thing, sincerely offered, can bring when one is far from home. We both look forward to sharing our spaces more openly and generously than we have before.
Plovdiv, Bulgaria. This city is renowned for a laid-back attitude of "aylyak": doing everything at a relaxed pace, going with the flow and not being a slave to the clock. Plovdiv, like many other sites in Bulgaria, hosts spectacular ruins from the Roman Empire; when we asked our guide, "How old does something need to be here to qualify as an antique?", the answer was, "At least 2000 years old". In Plovidiv, we learned a different relationship to time.
The Rila Lakes, Bulgaria. If Milan was beautiful, this mountainous site was majestic. No matter how hard humanity strives, Mother Nature will always be miles ahead, creating wonder while seemingly doing nothing at all. This sacred place reminded us of the power of simply being and being present with all that naturally unfolds around us.
Venice, Italy. We both heard unappealing stories of Venice - the crowds are too thick, the gondoliers' "songs" are really a series of insults in the Venetian dialect, the smell is horrible in the summer. We purposefully stayed outside the city on one of its neighboring islands, the Lido, and found a wonderfully laid-back, uncrowded venue where leisure and family time are considered as important (if not more so!) than work time. We can all learn a great lesson about working hard and letting go from the Venetians. This lesson was the perfect one with which to end our trip, as we purposefully took time to linger over meals, to ride the water ferries to nowhere in particular, and to amble through the less crowded areas of this great city-state with no agenda whatsoever. Oh, and there was no smell!
May your season be filled with adventures that bring joy and wisdom not only in the moment, but for years to come!
Our very best,
Atmadarshan & Nityatara