There is a type of love I’ve felt before that can be best described as a bit painful. It’s a melancholy kind of love that I feel only when I have passion and devotion for the thing I love. It feels like I can never be worthy enough for this thing that I love but that I should spend my whole life trying to get there. That’s how I felt this year as I stood in the little mountain villa on Stara Planina in Bulgaria. “Stara Planina” means “Old Mountain” and it has protected the people of Bulgaria for centuries. Wars between the Byzantines and the Bulgarians were won by Bulgaria simply because the Byzantines feared the ominous Stara Planina. And near the highest peak of Stara Planina lies Shipka Pass the scene of four battles of the Russo-Turkish war, which ended Turkish rule in Bulgaria and gave my people their freedom.
â–º QUARTER FINALIST 2012 TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
I had never stayed the night on Stara Planina and as I looked out at the expansive scene of greenery and flowers that surrounded me I felt a warm feeling of comfort in the pit of my stomach. I felt as if the mountain was protecting me, just as it had protected my ancestors. It was giving me a home, a place to feel connected, a place to feel melancholy love.
The Villa we were staying in was well over 300 years old and it was also a representation of melancholy love. As we walked up to where we would be spending the night my heart jumped into my throat. It was stunning. Dark wood boards held up the white stone frame of this paradise. I went into the family room and I felt like I was in a scene from “The Hobbit”. Everything was so small, it didn’t seem like it was made for regular sized humans, and all around I saw pieces of Bulgarian history. They were adorning the walls, sitting in the kitchen, the architecture, everything was so elegantly old and Bulgarian, and it felt as if I was living in the past. My friend and I ran all around, smiling from ear to ear as we explored this piece of the 18th century that was living and breathing here in the 21st. Then we met the man who allowed this place to exist. He was short and thin, his face was weathered and his eyes had wrinkles that indicated he had spent his years smiling; he stood on the porch happily watching us explore the house that he had spent his life and his passion restoring. I walked downstairs to introduce myself and thank him for what he had done and as I approached him I saw that his eyes were glistening with tears. “I made this for people like you,” he said “I made it for people who have the eyes to see what this means.” In that moment I felt very connected to this man. He gave me that place, not just for one night of euphoria but for a lifelong memory, and I gave him the gift of loving that place just as much as he did.
As we were leaving my friend and I walked down a little part of the mountain and stared at the gentle world that we lived with. There in the mountain the strife of the world is distant and foreign. Butterflies began encircling our legs and brushing up against our skin. In that moment nothing existed except for the mountain, my friend, the butterflies, and the sweetest kind of melancholy love you could ever imagine.
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