As year-end reviews go, this one is a bit late.
I decided last month that this year’s look back on 2016 wouldn’t begin until the year was actually over. You know, to allow the flames of the tire fire and train wreck that the year was to finally burn out.
In hindsight it was a good decision; I was planning to open with a vignette about a mid-spring visit to Istanbul, with keen observations about how the massive city’s already heavy melancholy was growing even heavier from the steady influx of terrorist attacks that continue to hit the country in general and the city in particular. Then came the New Year’s Eve attack where more than 40 people celebrating that 2016 was finally going away were gunned down in a nightclub on a Bosporus shore.
I don’t want to dwell on that –or the political madness that the year wrought– but I only brought it up as an example of how hard it was for a difficult year to finally die. And how events outside of our control can so swiftly change our perceptions of place and time.
The memories associated with both the image at top, of Istanbul’s Blue Mosque snapped from the rooftop of a nearby restaurant, and the one immediately below, of a young server at a modest restaurant in the city’s Fatih neighborhood, have taken on different meanings to me over the course of the past eight months, looked at and remembered in vastly different ways each time events in Istanbul captured the headlines.
Especially that of the young man, whose face now represents in my mind, that of an otherwise anonymous victim of a heinous crime who’s usually forgotten before they’re even remembered. It’s a way of humanizing and connecting those we cross paths with, even if briefly, with those impacted by the events around us. Through that, so the hope goes, a way to begin bringing us all just a little bit closer together. That’s critically important in a time when we’re increasingly being torn further apart. I hope he, and family operating the rooftop restaurant with this sublimeview of the Blue Mosque are doing well.
In my corner of the universe, insignificant as it is, 2015 was guided by themes of displacement –mostly that of others, but my own, to a much lesser degree, as well. Humanity was on the move and I found myself surrounded by that forced migration wherever I went: Colombia, Lebanon and here is Slovenia.
By comparison, last year was almost the polar opposite, time spent trying to settle down –as much as I can– after three years of near continuous travel. The feeling of belonging –in a place, in a community, in a relationship– returned stronger than ever. It was invigorating, energizing and inspiring. Not always here on the site, where other things continue to get in the way of the best laid and well-intentioned plans, but in other aspects of my life, both professional and personal. That conspired to add a different dimension to both my travels and to the time spent on Piran Café over the past year, a welcome one.
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Travel-wise 2016 included two more working visits to Doha and Qatar; return trips to Istanbul, Oslo, Lausanne and Monaco; further exploration to nearby northern Adriatic destinations in Croatia’s Istrian peninsula; and 10 days on northern Poland. That was in addition to more roaming about in new and favorite spots here at home in Slovenia. I know I’m leaving out a few but the latter roaming proved to be some of the most memorable.
Here on the website, 2016 was Piran Café’s best year numbers-wise, finally surpassing 2007, my blog’s first full year, when nearly 40,000 visits just that January –primarily to this post about the Amazonian candiru, a fish that swims into and firmly lodges itself inside an unsuspecting swimmer’s penis– skewed my stats forevermore. And yes, it came down to the final day, so I guess I have leap year to thank.
Dandy Dozen Images For 2016
Nearly each year since this blog’s unceremonious beginnings in late December 2006, I’ve ended the calendar year by cobbling together a selection of my favorite images from the previous 12 months. I can’t say this is a definitive top-12 list, but they’d all fall on the short list.
In no particular order:
Top-10 Posts for 2016
What did most of you read?
Unlike the very subjective photo selection above, this one is based simply on the number of views during the last calendar year, so let’s just cut to the chase.
For the most part, I’m again very pleased with what wound up on this list. If you missed any, I suggest you pour yourself a big mug of tea or (preferably) a generous glass of wine, sit back, click away and enjoy. Most should be self-explanatory.
10. A Park at the Planet’s Edge: Argentina’s Tierra del Fuego National Park. A brief guide to a park at South America’s southernmost tip.
9. How Ljubljana, Slovenia Became the 2016 European Green Capital. A dispatch from home. Slovenia’s capital has a long way to go on the road to true green sustainability, but it’s got a solid plan in place. And it’s good to celebrate how much it’s achieved in a relatively short period of time.
8. Sunrise Drive to Khor Al Adaid: Pre-dawn Dune Bashing Near Southern Qatar’s Inland Sea. 4am wake-up calls don’t come easy and they’re rarely recommended. This one is.
7. On the Photoshopped Fictions of Steve McCurry. Thoughts on the legendary photographer, the one who gave us the Afghan Girl twice, and his sloppy relationship with the truth.
6. Report: Ljubljana’s TopVino International Wine Festival – Slovenia Wine Notes. A report on the best event I attended in Ljubljana in 2016. Glasses of successive vintages of Chateau Pontet-Canet don’t get passed around every day.
5. Eleven Minutes With Tori Bowie. A brief candid photo shoot last May with US sprinter Tori Bowie who later in the summer would win three Olympic medals in Rio.
4. Layover in Doha? Here’s the Only ‘Top Five Things To Do List’ You’ll Ever Need. Seriously. It is.
3. Former CIA Officer Amaryllis Fox on Learning to Listen to Your Enemy. See note in intro about humanizing each other.
2. Leaving Drama Behind. A Pic du Jour of a few bicyclists that really caught on.
1. Reciprocity and Visa Fees in South America: A Regularly Updated Guide. Practical info that’s hard to find in one place, still regularly updated. Bloggers take note.
And while we’re at it: number two overall over the past 12 months? 11,000km Later: an Osprey Sojourn 25 Review – my go-to travel bag that I still use regularly four years later. And number three? Hiking Patagonia’s Fitz Roy Trail: El Chalten Day Hike 1 – a description of a place that I’d love to return to, that bag in hand.
Oh, and this: my Pic du Jour daily travel picture project hit 1,000 straight days in September, with today’s serving admirably as the 1,101st straight. I rock, huh?
I try to shy away from public pronouncements (aka promises) that I can’t keep, so won’t start now. I will only say that as was the case last year, I do plan to devote more time to the site in 2017.
On the travel side of things, for the moment I’m really looking forward to a trip to Uganda in March (country #56!) and a return to The Bahamas for the first time since a spontaneous spring break visit during the mid-Reagan years. I wonder how much its changed?
As I mentioned, 2016 has been the site’s best year, a trend I hope will continue in 2017. As always, many thanks for visiting, reading, commenting, sharing and spreading the word. Please don’t stop. Your interest and support means more than you can possible know.