Introducing the CRAWLINGS FREE PRESS travel section
The old and frail Turkish merchant, sitting on the curb selling oranges, looking out over the vast landscape accented with long ruby shadows from the setting sun that stretched from Mardin across the wasteland as far as you could see toward Syria, smiled at me with sparkles in his eyes and said, “Isn’t it beautiful, isn’t this the most beautiful place in the world.” Yes, I said, it is absolutely beautiful.
Simon, a Massai warrior, with five lion kills, points to the land he is building his new house on, he is getting married this fall, and the house must be completed, or he can’t get married. Some giraffes are eating leaves on the nearby trees, a pair of waterbucks saunter through the brush after a refreshing drink in the reservoir he built to store water during the dry season. It is an open savanna, and all animals are welcome to come for a drink, for survival. “Isn’t it beautiful, isn’t this the most beautiful place in the world?” Yes, I said, it is absolutely beautiful.
With his lovely wife, four beautiful daughters and three strong sons, the Albanian farmer and sheepherder, who rescued us after two flat tires trying to drive in the Accursed Alps, invited us into his humble mountain home for the night and fed us a hot meal, points out across the valley, the snow-tipped peaks in the background, the quiet is overwhelming, except for the tingling bell of the lead sheep, he says, “Isn’t it beautiful, isn’t this the most beautiful place in the world.” Yes, we said, it is absolutely beautiful.
Ants, 86 years old, carefully piles more wood on the fire for the mid-summer night’s festival. Old folk music drifts across the garden from the village square in the next block; sausages are roasting carefully on the grill, stacks of fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and sun-ripened strawberries are being nibbled by all. The light gray from the sun that doesn’t really set in the midsummer sky illuminates and accents the fires that are glowing across the village. Ants smiles at me and his expression says, “Isn’t this beautiful, isn’t this the most beautiful place in the world?
In my youth, sitting quietly on the bench waiting for the time when I had to read the prayer to sanctify the bread and water, I listened to the speaker for the Sunday service explain how the night before while travelling home from a distant city, he drove over the pass into our little Idaho valley, and the sun was setting in the west with the most beautiful sunset, nowhere else in the world can there be a sunset over a valley like this. “Isn’t it beautiful, isn’t this the most beautiful place in the world?”
These words stuck in my head.
I have traveled with these words stuck in my head since I was blessing sacrament at the age of 12 in America. And guess what? Every single person I have ever met in every single country I have traveled in and through has said this. The fact is, they are right. The entire planet is a beautiful place.
However, the deep truth is that the beauty comes from the souls and passion of the people, the friendly ones, the nationalistic loyal ones, those who will stop and take the time to talk to a foreign traveler, giving directions, asking how they can help, even jumping in the car and travelling for fifty kilometers giving directions all the way so we didn’t miss the beauty of the lake at sunset, the mysterious lake that rests on both sides of the border between Tanzania and Kenya. “Isn’t it beautiful, isn’t this the most beautiful place in the world?” Yes, we said, it is absolutely beautiful.
Passion also shines through the garbage and the negative, the poor, the beggars, the criminals who would assault you. The little kids begging for money, or selling postcards at the monuments in Jordan. They are trained to beg and are reprimanded if they don’t succeed. The gypsy kids in Romania dive their hands into your pockets, testing to see who is faster, can they get something before you stop them?
The CRAWLINGS FREE PRESS travel section will attempt to give an insight into the souls, the passion, the worries, the economics, and yes, the politics of all the most beautiful places in the world. The section will not rate hotels or restaurants, or museums and tourist sites, but will detail places stayed, places visited and why, and if they were liked, or not? But most important, what do the local people say? What’s on their minds? What do they worry about? Are they religious or not? What is their family life like?
This travel section is not a news section. It is what my wife and I are the most passionate about in life. We love exploring different and remote places and mostly talking with the local people who will take some of their precious time to talk with us. I have 314 stamps in my passports, going in and out of 74 countries, not counting my many trips in and out of Mexico and Canada. I was also inspired in my youth with songs like Don’t Fence Me In, and, I was born under a wandering Star.
Kai speaks eleven languages and can get by in many other dialects, easily understanding the phrases, and has been to 56 countries, traveled to China and South Africa as a diplomate for Estonia and, lived and studied in Israel for two years. I understand most nuances and gestures of people, and I am also a journalist and photographer, driver and geographer able to navigate in and out of the labyrinth of cities without too much damage and only a handful of tickets. However, my wife remembers all the names of every place we have been. My wife was born and raised under Russian occupation in Estonia, where she struggled for hard fought glimpses of an outside world as she yearned to see and feel the world outside of Communism.
For seventeen years we have adventured around Europe, Russia, Ukraine including Crimea, Transnistria, Norway, Finland, all of the main western countries of Europe, Turkey, Iran, Morocco, Jordan, Albania, etc., etc. We invite you to join us as we report our current and new adventures in this travel section. We will also go back in time and write about past adventures, like the time we were held under rifle fire in a Kurdish ambush.
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Sincerely, Craig and Kai