Bahir Dar


We left before day break. We were offered a free ride from Gonder to Bahir Dar. The caveat? We left at 5am when the city would still be sleeping, or so we thought. As we made our away out of the city we passed dozens of people, slowly meandering in the same direction, all of them cloaked by white blankets-the same sort priests in Lalibela wore. They were going to church at this absurd hour. And to think, the torture I felt by having to go to church at 9am when I was a child! They seemed solemn to me, or perhaps it was just the warm dim lights of the street lamps just barely illuminating their figures. Or perhaps, like us, it was too early to function properly. As we made our way along the road, passing various villages the white robed people continued their walk, changing direction based on which village church they were headed towards.

In Bahir Dar, an almost Mediterranean feeling city, with wide palm tree fringed streets and a mysterious lack of dust, you’re meant to take a boat out onto the water to visit island monestaries. This sounds intriguing, in theory. But then you see the water, an odd dirt-green color you think you’d prefer not to actually touch, even if it is natural. And then there are the guides you’re required to take, whom are reported to be high obnoxious. Then there is the price. But, you’re meant to do it! We didn’t care, it sounded, unimpressive.
I would think this would be a new development, the sort that comes from ample travel, or road weariness. But, in fact, as long as I can remember I’ve been this way. I’m just lucky Alex is too. Back when I was eighteen my best friend and I were in Paris for the first time. We went, naturally, to the Louvre. While my parents slowly made their way around, we sped our way through finishing in two hours flat. And then we got cappuccinos. We decided we were simply efficient. Preferring to wander the streets and observe daily life more than stare at old (impressive!) works of art. Nearly a decade later, this hasn’t changed, only now? I don’t feel bad about it. I’m not a museum person, and I’ll see the “must-sees” if they strike me. Otherwise? Nope.
So, if you weren’t going to do what you’re supposed to in Bahir Dar, what do you do? First, you get to your guesthouse and marvel at the great luck you have to find a blow dryer in your bathroom. “Alex, look at this! A blow dryer! I can shower in the morning now instead of before bed, how great is that? Oh, and the shower is a fully separate unit, how fancy!” It occurs to me I’ve adapted to traveling here. That familiar sense of knowing, at least, a little what it means to travel around this country. What to expect, what to pay. And now in this easy state of recognition, well, I feel like meandering around, eating, reading, writing and spending far too much time in pursuit of this wine bar we can’t seem to locate.
Pelican Wine House is recommended by lonely planet. It also says it’s easy to find, with directions on the map pointing a simple arrow with a 500m distance off the map. What it doesn’t tell you, is you have to turn. We wandered a long time before giving up and going to Lake Shore where we ordered a $5 bottle of wine and ordered fish dulet. They’re known for their fish here, fish from the murky water we didn’t want to go out on. It’s telapia stewed with delicious hot sauce. It is the best thing I’ve eaten here. It is so good. I’m almost glad we didn’t find the wine bar, if only so we could eat this. And then go back the next day for a second round.
But the next day, instead of going to those monasteries, we go again in pursuit of the wine bar. A tuk tuk, of course, takes us right there, which should have been easy enough to do if our stubborn selves had been willing to ask directions the previous night. We just hate being thwarted. And was it worth it? Better than the monestaries? I guess we’ll never know. But, tipsly wandering around Bahir Dar after mango wine? Well, that was pretty enjoyable.


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