Love letters to cities

Travel notes and some photos

On Valentine’s Day 2018, prompted by Remote Year’s #citynotsweethearts I started writing love letters to cities who made their way into my heart. It’s become a habit ever since.

Amsterdam — 1

I snapped a picture with my phone as I was walking home. I thought myself happy to rest my head in those streets for a while.

The corner unfolded. Bright against the leaden sky, there was one rainbow, two rainbows.

People stopped their bikes to look. People turned their faces up and smiled. Moms pointed up and I saw myself also a child, driving home with my dad pointing at the rainbow. I couldn’t find it at first, he told me to look to the right and I didn’t know where was the right either. My dad showed me right and rainbow and I saw myself a brand new adult, the driving examiner asking me to turn right and me following an old rainbow still.

A lady next to me smiled, I smiled back. I was Dutch-less and also speechless, but it didn’t matter. We stood there with rain and sun and colours and an untamed smile.

I teared up.

Sometimes I dance for hours and try to freeze that moment. You can’t hold on to the sun, a nice meal, a good love. I walked home.

The sun was still kissing the rain. I was falling in love.

Amsterdam — 2

I was taking out the plastic for recycling when I saw a broken mirror reflecting a thousand bright Sunday mornings.

I’ve been enjoying this new-found domesticity in a country only half familiar. Searching for home in overpriced shabby rooms sometimes makes me wonder why am I here, why have I decided to pay so much to have to dress three layers of clothes to step outside. But I’ve been hyper-aware of happy babies, of the joy of riding a bike, of street markets, of the pleasure of playfully switching to Spanish. When half of my Instagram seems to be in Bali, sometimes it’s hard to remember I’m happy right here.

Sometimes you need a broken mirror blinding you with sunlight to remind you that you are whole.

I smiled at the mirror and my secret joke. Weeks ago, in this spot, a double rainbow welcomed me here. What is it about this square, I wondered, but it’s not about this square at all.

Sarajevo

In Sarajevo, a “rose” is a mortar wound, a mortal wound. Inflicted on those denied weapons, sent ancient cans of pork meat. Resorted to opening a tunnel to the pockets of drug cartels on the other side of the world, to defend those who are now mourned.

You see the scars and you don’t see the scars. There are roses and sarcastic monuments to international help. “Talk about Sarajevo”, they tell us, “and when you go home, tell everyone to come too. Tell them about our war, and tell them that we’re more than that.”

Come see Sarajevo.

This Muslim and drunk city, Austrian and Turkish and so herself, where the twentieth century effectively started and ended, without us giving it much more importance than a “such horror” between spoonfuls over dinner.

The war ended twenty years ago, but the scars are still there, the walls and the souls. The streets flourish with postcards and fridge magnets and life going on, in a country with three presidents and a byzantine political system designed for survival, not for healing.

Berlin

You’re all my first love cliches.

As soon as I set feet on you, I was lost. It was a warm and sunny Summer. I was 20 and I had a backpack, what did I know? Could I possibly have resisted when you held my hand and took me through day and night, with all your charm and wit and wine? Four days became months under a love spell. We stormed and matured and eventually parted ways, not without a heavy heart.

We’re different people now, but my heart still races when I think about coming back. We’ll always have some fun left.

Delhi

And then there’s you. The place I said I would never be able to live, only to move there 5 years later — time and a more open heart make you swallow your arrogant words.

But you weren’t easy, love.

You hit almost to the point of breaking. You chipped through layers of fears, and I found myself underneath, and one day those hits were no longer. They were home. You are home, love. Oh, and by the way, see you soon.

Bogotá

It’s not your fault that I’ve been to Medellín first. “It’s too cold”, they said. “It’s too city”, they said. “Altitude sickness, concrete jungle, not nice at all”, they said. They said lots of things about Bogotá.

I’m happy to have not formed my opinion based on someone else’s views.

Because Bogotá is cool and city and I did get some altitude sickness, but I also felt at home in this capital so artsy, so cosmopolitan, and so Colombian.

I love your thousand wicked dancers who always invite me to share their space. I love your food and sprawling markets. I love the parks and all the puppies. I love your designers who landed me oh so many compliments. I love the lightness with which you call me “mami”, “reina”, or “mi amor”, no matter who you are, man or woman, young or old.

Warsaw

Porto

Ainda não sei se o Porto é um moribundo ou uma fénix, se calhar depende dos dias.

Gosto de desbravar as ruas à noite. A espera arrastada do terceiro dia tem um cheiro diferente, o ar é extraordinariamente leve, na escuridão pairam histórias e sinfonias caladas.

Todos os gatos são pardos e muitos são parvos, e foi assim que eu aprendi a desenrascar-me.

Technical Writer at InVision, previously with Remote Year and Zomato. INFJ. Dosa enthusiast. Find me on lauracunha.com