At An Unnamed
Hotel on An Unnamed Border Crossing
Story & Photos by Richard Frisbie
My wakeup call came too early.
There was no way to tell the time in my hotel room on that first morning
in the country. Even the suns position only said early. The TV
was no help, the modern set had no visible controls and
the remote was missing. The room was clean and spacious, a gussied-up,
decades old anachronism in a once -bustling border crossing now robbed
of meaning by the European Union.
It took awhile to figure out the shower. Modern plumbing,
circa 1960s, was designed to confuse as much as look sleek and amorphously
new. Then there was only a packet of bath salts, no shampoo or conditioner,
or even a bar of soap not already in the sink. I washed guy-style, hair
and all with the hand soap, glad, at least, to be clean of the filth
traveling at 35,000 feet can leave.
It was still too early.
Modern abandoned concrete shell on the
Art Deco bas-relief with peeling gridwork
The day was clear, with a magical horizontal light that
gives even no-longer-necessary villages a reason for hope. I walked
out into the morning along a roundabout of abandoned commercial buildings,
dead plants still visible in the remaining windows. There were border
stations nearby; both countries had impressive structures flanking the
once-busy crossing. They were protected by sleepy-looking policemen
in patrol cars parked to take full advantage of the rising suns
warmth. Later, as the day heated up, they would move to the shade.
The Art Deco bas-relief entrance still looked new with
promise, but the peeling paint on the buildings façade
told a different story. An overgrown lawn wreathed the hardiest of roses
still blooming in a circular weed bed in the neglected yard. The open-border
policies left no reason to care for them.
Perfect garden reflected in glass walls of train
In the public park next door the water sprinklers, necessary
in this arid region, wetted a green manicured lawn and crumbling marble
walkways indiscriminately. Here the roses also bloomed, but vigorously,
from the care an unseen gardener lavished on this perfect gem in the
shadow of an abandoned border crossing.
This flanked a dirty glass building built to display
the mighty train engine it now entombed. The body of a bird, broken
against the glass, lay amongst the litter on the floor of the graffiti
Dead plants in window of closed hotel
It was a moth-balled border crossing, with closed restaurants
and hotels, their windows a parched desert of abandoned houseplants,
with the few open shops selling liquor, religious knickknacks and lottery
tickets; all the essentials for a dying community. It was a village
of lost purpose, its economic engine so defunct it should be in the
glass display in the park. It reminded me of the string of castles and
hilltop fortresses, now lying in ruins, that once defended this ancient
border. They are also the unnecessary remains of a more prosperous time.
Ruins of ancient hilltop fortress
In such hardship lie the seeds of opportunity. The whole
place looked as if a clean-up crew could have it sparkling as new should
the border become necessary again. If either country collapses under
their weight of debt, or God forbid if the entire European
Union collapses, a return to the old pre-Euro days would have this village
open and prospering in no time. Until then, I rolled out the sidewalks
as I walked the empty, dusty streets, and rolled them back up as I returned.
Until, finally, it was late enough to begin the new