It was a good introduction. I arrived in Poznan, Poland, by train from Berlin and after a day of travel originating at 3 am in Istanbul, Turkey, I needed food. Polish “milk bars” define no-frills eating, as if your high school cafeteria was redesigned without all that fancy decor.
The first bombs fell about 10 pm. Their arrival was no surprise — journalists left the city two days prior. Residents gathered in Cold War-era shelters as the air raid sirens wailed and radio reports warned of the need for gas masks. The state-run television station blinked out. Explosions erupted around the city and the lights went black.
My visit to Italy lasts less than five hours. The lines long, the hostels full, the breakfast expensive (but still exquisitely delicious), I’m out of Venice in under 45 minutes, moving eastward again to Trieste, where a bus takes me across the border to Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. Its beauty is classic.