| castle (masculine noun) | /ʃɑto/
One year ago I organized a solo trip through Eastern Europe. I had never travelled alone, but I was determined to finally overcome my fear of solo travel by plunging into a ten-day adventure through Hungary and Romania. Flights and hotels were booked. I would take an overnight train from Bordeaux into Budapest and then finally arrive in Transylvania, the main attraction.
But I fell apart. It was the day before my train was scheduled to leave, and I was weak and unintelligible. How could I possibly survive ten days alone in this condition? I panicked, craving the comfort of home. I needed my dog and mountain vistas and people who had known me my entire life. At this point, I didn’t want to be challenged, I wanted to be held.
Within two hours, I had cancelled all of my hotels and trains and booked a flight to the United States. God, how I hated myself. I had always dreamt of visiting Eastern Europe, especially Transylvania, and I had been so damn close. How could I have let it all slip away? I blamed my weakness, my fear of solitude, my fragile mental health. All of this contributed to the erroneous idea that I could run from my despair. So I ran home.
But last night I returned from Romania. I climbed the battered stairs of Bran castle and sat delirious at the base of Mt. Tampa. I ate mamaliga and sausages and got drunk on Romanian beer in Brasov. I rode a train through the Carpathian mountains, and I smiled the entire way.
Those broken Transylvanian castles have history. They seem to breath like sentient beings. There is trauma and longing and joy and desperation within those walls, and I can only look back in awe at what they have suffered and survived. I hope that I too will one day inspire awe. That you will look at me and see that despite my past, I am breathing.