In our new special series with writer, speaker and punk rocker Craig Lewis, we have teamed up to tell you 10 different stories through original interviews and short commentaries about different aspects of life, unveiled during Craig’s physical and mental journeys that led him to get inspired and develop his mindset. In part 3, we give you another portion of Craig’s story and a quick recall of his European trips and one particular trip to Sofia, where he met a street musician playing a red clarinet.
Growing up in the United States in the 1980’s, we were taught next to nothing about the countries of Eastern Europe, other than that they were the enemy. I learned at a young age that when someone tells you something bad about someone else yet cannot give a sensible explanation as to why; they are not being fully honest.
In 2018, I was fortunate to visit Ukraine, and it seemed like a fun idea to travel by minibus and car from Odessa Ukraine to Prishtina Kosovo. For those who don’t know their Eastern Europe and Balkan Geography, you know this is a crazy journey to embark on and it is definitely something a punk rocker who is on a mission to find himself and become happy will kick ass in doing.
The first stop after leaving Odessa was the border crossing into the separatist zone of Transnistria. Please keep in mind that I do not speak any of the local languages and that they are also written in Cyrillic. I had no idea what was going on; all I could do was go with the flow. Thankfully I passed the border check and about 30 minutes later, after checking documents, entered into the country of Moldova. With 3 hours to kill until catching my ride to Bucharest; I ate pizza at a friendly restaurant with wifi. It was delicious.
I arrived in Bucharest Romania around 7 pm. I have fantasized about visiting Romania for decades and back in the US I have at least 20 Romanian punk tapes that I collected via letter writing over the years. I only had about 9 hours in Bucharest before my early morning bus to Sofia, Bulgaria. I was in 6 different countries and a separatist zone, all in the course of 6 days.
I arrived in Sofia and had to wait an hour or two for my friend to meet me. I went to the supermarket (always a fun thing to do in a country where it is hard to read anything) and I then had an espresso at an outdoor cafe. That evening the event organized at Fabrika, was one of the best of my life. What a gift it was for me to be introduced to the Bulgarian hardcore punk activist community in such a wonderful way.
The next day I went on an adventure walking from the sleeping space into the center of Sofia. I met a street musician in the underground tunnel. This is a video of him playing and our conversation (mostly in my atrocious Spanish). His name is Christos. He played a red clarinet. When I was a kid I played the clarinet. I was good at it. Meeting Christos and listening to his music, helped me find some peace in my heart. I thank him and I thank all the people who made that journey as amazing as it was.
Before I knew it, my time in Sofia was up, and I grabbed the bus to Skopje, Macedonia, where I had an espresso at the bus station cafe and then grabbed the minibus to Prishtina, Kosovo. I love all the people I met on this journey and all journeys. What better way to learn necessary life lessons than to rough it and do it the hard way?
There is a very big difference between truly living and being alive; and what a beautiful lesson that is.
And somehow just as I stated at the end of this video, “I think Mexico is calling”.
This text was written while sweating in the mountain town in Mexico where I lived for one year.
I’m going to fix everything that needs to be fixed and create everything that needs to be created, ongoing… This is the life.