As a well seasoned cruiser at the age of 17, I hardly expected to embark upon the adventure of a lifetime as I began my journey aboard the Jewel of the Seas. The Royal Caribbean liner was scheduled to set sail from Harwich, England for a 12 day voyage that would take us through a cornucopia of countries, cultures, and oddities; ranging from the rather quiet, cafÃ©-lined streets of
I was a teenager plagued with a dire case of senioritis, tired of my parent’s continual, overbearing, presence and ready to leave the nest. As can be imagined, I was hardly thrilled to be spending almost 2 weeks with my folks, cooped up in a 200 sq. ft. room. Aboard our plane I sat brooding, glaring out the window at the gloomy
The first several days came as no surprise; as usual, nominal arguments with my parents and general boredom. The ship’s activities were geared towards an older generation; I had no interest in shuffleboard or bridge tournaments. It was not until our arrival in
I alighted from the gangway, camera in hand, the sun warming my skin in the chilly air. As we walked towards the center of town I could not understand my excitement over each new sight, a windmill set in green hills overcast by purple blossoms, a rustic church, grandiose fountains, and magnificent statues. I was overcome by the indescribable beauty of the city. That first day brought about a small reconnection with my parents. For the first time in months, I seemed to enjoy their company.
Over the next few days visiting port after port my ease only grew. I no longer felt that I was being held captive, bored beyond belief. With each
Perhaps the most prominent feature of the city was the incredibly stark contrast between wealth and poverty. I was met by streets lined with armed military personnel, a faÃ§ade of protectorates covering the reality of bribery, robbery, and crime. Grey faced communist era buildings, gutted, with broken windows, graffiti, and grime, straddled the most magnificent palaces, churches, and private homes I had ever seen. I was startled to learn that many residents live in communal flats, where 6 families, each with their own bedroom, will share 1 kitchen and 1 bathroom. In order to be accepted into a university or even to receive anesthetic at the dentist one is expected to offer a bribe. I felt incredibly awed by the splendor of the old nobility, yet walking down the grim streets I felt humbled and oppressed with gloom.
This visit completely changed my perspective. Living in the
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