Stranger's Delight Down the River

Novinite Insider » EDITORIAL | August 21, 2004, Saturday // 00:00

A sun-kissed, happy face in the middle of the sparkling turquoise surge - that's the picture one gets while talking over the phone to Australian Cindy Budai.

It may come as a surprise that Cindy is not bathing in the warm Pacific waters, nor getting sun-tanned on Bali within nearby Indonesia. Together with her husband, she is floating in a kayak alongside the Bulgarian Danube banks.

Riverside towns and villages, small and rather unattractive for the Bulgarians in comparison to the seaside, have turned into a paradiso for the Australian couple. They hired a kayak in Germany to join an international regatta, traveled through Austria, Slovakia, Hungary and former Yugoslavia. But it was the last country on the way to the Danube delta that gave them the feeling of holiday just getting started.

Some of the small Bulgarian towns that Cindy has dropped in are strange to many of the Bulgarians themselves. But she spells out their names perfectly, just like if she was having a trip in Milan or London. The mud, the mosquitoes, the blazing sun, the soaking wet clothes - you wouldn't believe she has been living with all that for several weeks, listening to her joyful voice.

It was the people that inspired Cindy's enthusiasm.

"Each country impressed us in a certain way. But the Bulgarians are different. They live for the day, and just enjoy the river, the company, the friends," Cindy says, and my receiver suddenly sprinkles out the most happy laugh. "Tomorrow we'll think about tomorrow!"

She is amused by the fact that the Bulgarian mentality resembles that of Australian people. The locals have no trouble starting a conversation, take their time, and have an adventurous approach to everyday routines, like having their meals.

And, of course, the river. The deep, calm-flowing waters between the Romanian and Bulgarian banks, which Cindy finds so clean.

She is sorry that I am stuck in office, unable to see the water, the people, the boats drifting along... And promises to email me some pictures when back in their Australian home.

What I forgot to tell her is that I've actually seen it all a hundred times, years ago.

But the memory of the soft smell of marshland, the whirr of mosquito squadrons all around, the touch of reed stems on your bare feet came back clearer than ever, brought by a stranger.

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