I have been back in the US for a full week now, and I have gone through the expected jet lag (although not as bad as it was in Romania). While I'm not back to my normal routines I am back to the reality of living in America. Traveling does many things for a person, and I am no exception. I think every trip and every location holds something special. Each of the three countries I visited this time also held some special connections. Romania, what I thought would be a land of vampires, turned out to be a country rich in a complex and sometimes upsetting history. Our buddy Vlad is actually considered to be a national hero and bears no resemblance to the mysterious vampire that is Dracula. While disappointed at first, the folk history and the stories of the Ottoman Empire turned out to be much more interesting.
Bulgaria was a bit of a different story for me though. I found it very difficult to make much of a connection with the city of Sofia and my visit to the nearby Rila Monastery. There was no shortage of history, but there seemed to be gaps which can be filled no doubt with stories like that of Romania but no one was willing to talk about it. My connection with Sofia lies with the BCES conference and the lovely people I met. I was even invited to come back again next year. If only it was in a more desirable location.
Finally, Istanbul, a city on two continents was a completely different world from the difficult to navigate countries of Romania and Bulgaria. It was a beautifully overwhelming combination of old and new. I don't know if it was the fact that I was alone or not, but the people were some of the most hospitable I have ever met. Everyone was eager to help and share a bit of history and culture too.
While I will probably not find myself in Romania or Bulgaria again, I'm so happy to have experienced something new and off the beaten path. From my short visit to Istanbul and the fortune in my cup of Turkish coffee, I'm almost positive that I will return. There are so many new things to see and so many new adventures yet to be had. While the next trip is uncertain, I do know that I am going to spend the next couple of weeks with family before I jump back into the world of international education.