Visual Diary: Once Upon an Afternoon in Sofia

“To me it is the melancholic beauty, abandon, and loneliness of Sofia’s backyards, with the narrow, often dilapidated balconies hanging above. And the trees, the lindens above all. In early summer there are whole streets lined with them, and the smell of linden blossom can make your head spin. Then, there is also Mount Vitosha, with parts of the city creeping up its slopes. Of course, a mountain can hardly go unnoticed, but I remember that as a child I used to believe that every city had a mountain, so natural it seemed to have one so close.”

— Bulgarian writer Elena Alexieva, when asked to name an extraordinary detail about Sofia

Continue reading “Visual Diary: Once Upon an Afternoon in Sofia”

Notes from Skopje

This piece was originally published in The Hindu Sunday Magazine.

The cobblestoned streets of Skopje’s Old Bazaar are lined by barbershops, grocers’ and Ottoman-era inns, offering a portal to another time. Nearby, the 6th century Kale Fortress overlooks the city, and the historical Stone Bridge connects the Old Bazaar to the main square. As you make your way across the bridge, however, authenticity becomes increasingly harder to spot, obscured by newly erected buildings with classical facades, shiny bronze statues and marble fountains. Continue reading “Notes from Skopje”

Visual Diary: Visiting the Markets in Split, Croatia

Every morning, from 6.30 am, the old quarter in the Croatian city of Split is abuzz with activity. In an age where supermarkets dot nearly every street corner and stock everything from food to toiletries and cleaning supplies, it’s refreshing to see that Split’s morning markets offering fresh produce and fish remain popular among locals. The markets are located in the heart of the city, round the corner from Diocletian’s Palace.

I spent some time in Split during my travels across the Balkans last summer. At the vibrant Green Market (Pazar), vendors sell fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as an assortment of other products–nuts, cheeses and eggs, flowers, clothes, inexpensive souvenirs–and call out to passersby to slow down and take a look. Continue reading “Visual Diary: Visiting the Markets in Split, Croatia”

Notes from Mostar

This piece was originally published in The Hindu Sunday Magazine.

The bus rolls slowly into the central station in eastern Mostar, the familiar crunching sound of gravel under the tires signalling the end of the ride. The journey from Sarajevo had taken just a little over two and a half hours, and we’d got to enjoy the sight of the enticing emerald-green waters of the Neretva river along the way. Continue reading “Notes from Mostar”

Visual Diary: A Winter’s Night on Shimla’s Mall Road

Earlier this month, I ran for the hills – quite literally – fleeing Delhi (and its toxic Diwali smog) for Shimla. The crisp winter air was invigorating as I walked along Mall Road and the Ridge, taking in the surroundings. People gathered outside popular local eateries, busied themselves with shopping, gazed at watercolour paintings displayed at the Gaiety and enjoyed late-night strolls around Christ Church. Continue reading “Visual Diary: A Winter’s Night on Shimla’s Mall Road”