Acolo & a slanted ferris wheel – Vama Veche

(No.4 of the Romanian series)

Vama Veche. I saw it on the map first. A tiny dot before the Romanian coastal border. The images lining google maps showed a shopping street, people dancing on the shore, a fire, pubs, a hostel and a stretch of sea. Reading more, the common strain in most opinions was that Vama is no longer what it was. No longer a paradise for the lost soul. No longer a village for simple living with the sea. But there were the loyal wanderers who made sure to camp out at Vama every summer. Time could change anything, but they would keep coming.

I expected Vama to be sparser. Lesser shops, lesser people, lesser pubs, guitars and no electronic music. But I liked it the first time nonetheless. Then I went back. I’m not sure why I went back. Perhaps I wanted to have that feeling with a place too. Be able to talk about it this way. Make a promise to keep coming back no matter what. So I chose Vama to quietly celebrate an early birthday. For once, I’d have the luxury of time to recap the year that’s about to go by and say solemn words to the one about to come my way. All this, while lying in front of the Black Sea.

This was the night Stefan and I went on the machine operated ride in Vama before heading to Acolo. I don’t know what to call it. A slanted ferris wheel? The sea and the sky were dark already. Disorientation was easy to develop. A desire for deeper disorientation was in the air. Why be disoriented in the midst of such conversation? Did I want it to match the pace of the sea or the pace of the winds or the moon? What was it?

We ride the slanted ferris wheel, not very fast, with lights of its own. Every time it goes up, the lights of Vama and the darkness beyond come to view. It isn’t difficult to tell that I’m cross with myself. I’ve come back to check Vama, see if there’s a change in the village that I can notice. Any change I can talk about, as an observer of Vama. Track something in Vama. Be allowed to. Then with certainty say it has changed, but not my affection for it. But I cannot see any. It’s too small a gap in time to notice any such change. It’s a similar crowd, the sand is the same, the people too. I’ve only noticed a giant swan which wasn’t there before. Weeks later, after leaving, I’d come to think of Vama differently…

Acolo is simple, more crowded than the last time I was here and plays music difficult to dance to. But that doesn’t stop anyone. Acolo in Romanian means ‘there’. It is a play on the response to the question

Unde pleci? (Where are you going?) to which one says
Acolo’ (there).
Unde acolo?’ (where there?).
Acolo’ (there).

I don’t think much here. But remember the last time I was seated with two friends, one of whom took a melancholic dip into the cold night’s sea. The other laughed at it and called him strange. I couldn’t resist following my melancholic friend into the sea. I try to remember what we drank that night, what we spoke about (a little about India) and whether we danced for a long time. Everything is coloured with disorientation but I remember the part where the cold sea licked me.

I leave sooner than I have to, wanting to spend some time alone on the night’s shore. Nothing is resolved. Maybe I become less cross with myself and go about freely.

The next night marks the end of summer. A Sunday night. The crowd was down by more than half. So the tents, so the cars. I’m surprised to see the shore empty, the music restricted to the individual pubs. There is no erratic dancing in a chaotic crowd in the centre of the shore. It doesn’t seem like yesterday when I was walking the same shore, dodging people, dodging crushed beer cans and shadey men.

I keep telling myself, ‘I was there’ and ‘there’ and ‘there’. Acolo, acolo, si aici, acolo, si aici. But it was almost as if I hadn’t been there.

I don’t sleep that night. Watch the sun rise and walk to the still cold sea, smell the emptiness and see the change. Be with it for a few hours before leaving. On the bus back to Bucharest, I sleep like a baby.


Location: Vama Veche, Romania.

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