… for a city. Not sure if you have it as well but when I travel somewhere I either like to fall in love with the place or not. Last time I mentioned that New York and I will never have a thing as there is no chemistry. So you can even call it a one night stand 😛 However there are three places which I’m completely in love with.
The first love
It was, is and always will be Krakow. As the first love is extremely difficult to forget, so is my love for Krakow. I visited the city for the first time with my parents when I was four years old and got struck by the absolute magic of this place. By that time, it was so cool to feed pigeons on the main market square, ehem now I wouldn’t go near a pigeon, bleh flying rats that shit everywhere especially on freshly washed cars.
Anyhow… There are contradictory opinions about Krakow. Some say it’s conservative, polluted, boring and more a larger village than a proper modern city. Others on the other hand see its beauty, diversity and fantastic atmosphere. I think it is a bit of both. OK the air in Krakow is polluted especially during the winter, traffic is a nightmare or urban planning could use more attention and logic. However, if you look behind those drawbacks you notice that Krakow has a soul that the city created for itself over the years. All those artists, writers, musicians that lived and worked here, like Stanislaw Lem, Wisława Szymborska or Roman Polański. All those students that attend classes at Jagiellonian University – which is one of the oldest universities in Europe btw, or AGH University of Science and Technology makes me think, damn what a fabulous place to live. That somehow gives the city the bohemian vibe and the pinch of fabulousness.
Nowadays despite many arguments, Krakow is diverse. Like two days ago when Germany was playing against Hungary in the Euro Football Cup I went to an outdoor pub to watch the game with friends and like 90% of the people there were foreigners. Another reason why I love Krakow is because when I’m not on the road travelling I can find places in the city that look a bit like the countries I went to. There is for example the street artist that plays back pipes, which reminds me of Scotland. A fragment of Grodzka street that leads from the Main Market square to Wawel Castle looks like Croatia and xiao long bao dumplings in Jinling Dumpling restaurant transport me straight back to the streets of China. Besides Krakow has so many faces and so much to offer to tourists and people who live here permanently that it’s difficult to get bored. Last year I even fulfilled my bohemian dream I had since student times. I’ve rented an apartment in the attic of a tenement that has a fantastic view over the city. Think it has to be very cool as all my friends who come over for dinner or a drink take pictures of that view 😀 How to describe Krakow in one word? Magical!
The difficult love
That title goes to Singapore. Why? Because Singapore gave me the cultural shock of my life during my four months of the student’s exchange programme. It was the first country in Asia I visited. I remember as it was yesterday when I left the air conditioned airport building, the heat and humidity struck me hard, making it difficult to breathe. I got used to it after some time, and even liked it in the long term.
Singapore is special as it showed me so many different types of food, behaviours and customs, plus I had to learn how to properly eat with chopsticks. Feelings I had while being there for the first time were a mixture of excitement, happiness but also being lost, confused and overwhelmed. In the beginning I didn’t understand many local customs like taking off your shoes before you enter somebody’s home but with time I learned. There is one thing I can’t forgive myself. I didn’t use the time in Singapore fully. A year after coming back from the student’s exchange programme it occurred to me how stupid I was to focus lots of my energy on missing home than on enjoying the time in Singapore. It’s odd but I started to miss the heat and the humidity, the food like my favourite Japanese rice jelly cakes filled with red bean paste and most of all I missed the smell of that heavy humid air. It was the feeling like I lost the love of my life because of my own ignorance. Weirdly enough I started to recreate the dishes I ate in Singapore.
Spent most of my time and money in expensive oriental grocery stores and searched for laksa recipes on the internet. I desperately wanted to have Singapore back. Luckily three years after coming back from the exchange programme I went with my now ex-partner to Southeast Asia for holiday, Singapore was one of the places on the list. Geez, going back there again smelling the air was like coming back home or like a warm embrace from your lover who you didn’t see for a long time. It were only two days but in those two days I visited my old campus, ate the black pepper chicken noodle I loved so much and went to Bread Talk to buy red bean buns… can’t live without red bean buns 😀 Last time I went to Singapore it was in December 2019 and have to admit the both of us – the city and me matured a lot. Don’t know why but it felt like that. As the city wasn’t wasting time, new cool sights were built which obviously I had to see, like the Jewel which is the tallest indoor waterfall or Marina Bay Gardens – truly jaw dropping. Also I went for a stroll around the Merlion Park, China Town and Clarke Quay and for a delicious dosa lunch to Little India. I was there for four days and it was so incredibly relaxing. It felt like two old friends meet together again who had a thing for and with each other in the past but worked it out. How to describe Singapore in one word? Fascinating!
That’s Hong Kong, the one and only true love that you meet once in your lifetime but the love is not blind only full of respect, passion and free of judgement. I lived in Hong Kong for one and half years and the moment I landed at Chek Lap Kok airport I knew it was love at first sight. Although it was my first time in HK I felt like I finally came back home after a very long time. Can somebody explain that to me coz I can’t.
To be frank I have difficulties describing Hong Kong. Firstly I don’t think you would like to read a hundred page essay on how beautiful the city’s skyline is or the deliciousness of crispy pork belly. Come on, for example how would you describe why you love your partner? Awww he has such beautiful green eyes. Yes, so what? Awwww and he is so tall and smart and handsome. Again, so what? And he makes me laugh. Bingo! Although the exterior playes a huge role in why we find some people or in this case cities attractive it’s also the how does it make me feel. I did find places in HK that I really liked, for example Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade. I adored sitting on one of the benches and looking at HK’s skyline, regardless of the day or night time. Also going for dim sum was always a delight. However the best thing was that Hong Kong made me feel good about myself, it filled me with peace, happiness and huge joy. Not sure if it was because of the weather, the food, the job or the amazing people I’ve met over the time of nineteen months but Hong Kong just felt right.
Didn’t want to leave but unfortunately I had to as my contract was expiring. Now, if I got the chance to go back I would pack my bag within 5 minutes and jump on the earliest flight. I know deep down in my heart that I will return there one day. Maybe not today or tomorrow or not even in a year but one day. After traveling to quite a few places I finally found my place on planet earth. How to describe Hong Kong in one word? Perfect!
And there you go, cities or countries are like men. There are those which are nice to look at – Paris. Those which are nice to talk to – Bangkok. Those which are good only to sleep with – New York. Finally those who have it all – rare to find but not impossible.