If you love history, you will never be bored in Europe. Every city has a lot of stories of invasions, imperial conquers and cultural contributions from their diverse population that inhabited that land.

In the case of Durrës, the city I am visiting now in Albania, it was founded by ancient Greeks. Later it was taken by the Romans. Centuries later, when the Western Roman Empire felt, Durrës remained part of the Byzantines and became a Christian city. Bulgarians took control of the town for some years, but later, Byzantines regained it. Then La Serenissima (Venetians) and Hungarians interchanged their power. Anjous, Serbs and Albanians arrived in the 14th Century. Serbs ruled first, but later on, Albans finally took control and established the Kingdom of Albania from there. Finally, in the 16th Century, Ottomans took control of the city until WWI and the population converted to Islam.

The history of Québec is more superficial. There was an indigenous population living there quite comfortably. Then the French arrived and everyone started speaking French. British people tried to invade and they couldn’t. However, we later decided to be part of the same country and proclaim loyalty to the British Monarch. Finish.

As you can see, all these stories about the past sound marvellous to me. So I decided to visit Durrës’ Archeological Museum, which was advertised as the biggest museum in Albania with elements from the Greek, Byzantine, Roman and Ottoman times.

Durres in Albania

When I was about to enter, I got the biggest surprise. Ida was there! She knew I was going to the museum because we talked every day since a few weeks ago, but I didn’t expect her.

“Did you like my surprise?” she said with her captivating voice.

We spent the afternoon in the museum and then went to have dinner in a local Albanese restaurant.

She stayed with me for a week.

After three days on the shores of the Adriatic sea, while we were spending the afternoon, she asked me:

“Is there any other woman in your life, Benjamin Gunst?”

I replied immediately:

“Yes, there is, or there was a girl, to be honest with you. We were never together and won’t be together.” 

I explained to her all the Pietro situation and James Punjabi’s communication.

“So, you called this guy James Punjabi and he told you that the Bahamian girl was looking for her biological parents and suddenly this mafioso guy found them and didn’t share the information immediately? Am I understood correctly?”

“Yes, James Punjabi wanted me to become a James Bond and rescue Jessica without informing authorities or understanding all this shady situation.”

“That’s sounds very mysterious, Benjamin. Thanks, you didn’t tag along. I hope this Bahamian girl is doing ok.”

I felt relieved I could share the whole story with Ida and she understood it. We are having great conversations and enjoying our time together so much. I am starting to think about when I’ll see her the next time. I don’t want to wait six months to be able to go back to the Schengen area again, but also, I don’t want to rush things and make her think I am as crazy as my story. The time will determine it.

The obvious part of this story is the one that I won’t write about. And yes, it was fantastic, like Rome 2. You can read my blog post to learn about that experience.

Jessica has a charm that is difficult to describe. She has black eyes that shine with her smile and enlighten everything around her and nicely styled curly hair where you can be lost trying to delight it.

We had an incredible weekend that I almost forgot what happened in Italy and Iceland. However, the most bizarre occurred the day before Jessica’s flight to Morocco. While having lunch in a restaurant near the Jet d’Eau, Pietro appeared.

“Get the f*(K up the table, Jessica!” He said.

I was shocked and, furthermore, petrified. I wasn’t expecting any of this.

“I won’t do what you say anymore, Pietro; leave me alone,” Jessica contested.

I decided to intervene to protect Jessica, but Pietro took Jessica’s plate and smashed it on the floor. So I was back on my seat, scared like a child watching a horror movie.

“I found them,” Pietro said, and Jessica changed her mood immediately.

“I am sorry, Benjamin, I have to go.”

“No worries, Gunst, you won’t see her again.”

Five minutes later, I was still there sipping my red wine and trying to understand what had happened. The waiter came and cleaned Pietro’s mess and asked me if I wanted more wine. I asked for the whole bottle.

Later I regret this decision as alcohol is costly in Switzerland, and it is twice the price in front of the Jet d’Eau.

So I still don’t understand the matter with Pietro and Jessica. What’s the meaning of “I found them.” Why Jessica said Pietro was in Italy while he was here? Should I give Jessica the benefit of the doubt?

At this point, I don’t think polyamory is something between them, but Pietro seems to have some control over her. I believe they still have some physical connection involved.

Italy was no different than this time, except for the violent part. I had the feeling that they were in a relationship. However, with the “I found them,” I got confused. While in Rome, I felt sorry for myself being involved with a lady who didn’t communicate with me properly. Now I feel sorry for her because she is definitely into something shady with this guy.

While paying the astronomical check in the restaurant, I found out that Jessica had left a business card on his chair. The card said:

James Punjabi

Flugvallarvegur 15, Reykjanesbær, Iceland

I put the address on Google Maps and couldn’t find the location. I couldn’t find anything about James Punjabi as well. What was that business card? Did Jessica leave it by mistake or on purpose? There wasn’t a phone number or an email address.

I don’t think I have more time for this madness. Now I have to focus on my last week in the Schengen area before Russia continue advancing.

It took me a few phone calls to make the decision. The hardest part was lifting my mood. What made me decide on going to Switzerland was: 1. I cannot stay longer in the Schengen Area, so I had to choose wisely what could be my last region for the next 3 months, and 2. Jessica was there, and God knows when I will see her again since she has to depart from the Schengen area.

I think I am crazy for this Bahamian girl. Am I following in my uncle’s footsteps?

My grandma would be amazed knowing that their grandchild and possible great-grandchild had Bahamian blood.

I didn’t want to ask Jessica about Pietro, just for me to feel valuable, expecting that Jessica would read my mind. I was genuinely jealous and overthought a lot if he would be around. But in the end, I managed to ask her about him.

“I don’t know why you care, but he is in Italy,” she texted back. That message left me with more questions than answers. Are they polyamorists or something? However, it felt good not to deal with my insecurities during my stance in Switzerland. I’ll try to understand this better when I see her.

So, I took a bus and a train to reach Bologna and then another 9-hour bus until Geneva.

I stayed 24 hours in Bologna. I didn’t do much there. A guy who met me in San Marino mentioned that Bologna was the city full of the three “T”: Towers, Tortellini and Tits. The first one wasn’t difficult to notice; the town holds many medieval towers. My hostel was a few blocks away from Le Due Torri, the city’s main tourist attraction.

Next, I went to a trattoria to have good tortellini. But, I couldn’t find any particular taste in the dish I got at the place where I went. Nothing different from Montreal’s trattorias. Next time I am in Bologna, I will try to go with an Italian friend to guide me better. It was interesting to learn that there is an ongoing political and religious fight in Italy about the filling of tortellini: pork vs chicken. Some claim chicken tortellini are not traditional and they are just to please Muslims. From a Canadian prospective sounded quite silly.

The third T was difficult to notice on girls, and I wasn’t focusing but thinking in Jessica. Later on, I learned from a guy that shared a vino della casa with me at the trattoria that the third “T” might have come after the Nereids of the Neptune’s Fountain. So I went there and didn’t find it attractive at all. It reminded me of Katy Perry at the end of the California Gurls’ video.

It was precious to come by Flixbus to Geneva as I could see the beauty of the Italian and Swiss highways and appreciate the landscape surrounding them. I arrived at the Geneva Central Bus Station and hoped that Jessica was waiting for me, but no. She didn’t even ask how I was supposed to come. This Bahamian girl really makes me feel insecure.

So I walked around the station and started listening to French again. Since I was in Québec a few months ago, I haven’t listened to French on the streets. It was nice to hear the Swiss accent.

I stopped in a Starbucks and ordered a classic macchiato. The guys behind the desk asked me where I had learned French “nice accent, bro.” I didn’t have an answer. I wanted to say “at home,” but I assume people are not used to Quebecoise here. I swear I tried to fake the Metropolitan accent the best I could.

A few minutes after my first sip of the macchiato, Jessica arrived.

“Let’s unpack your stuff at the hotel and have a nice conversation, Benjamin Gunst,” she said.

This weekend is going to be exciting.

From Roma Termini I took a train to Rimini and then a bus to reach the city. San Marino has no train stations or airports, so land is the only option to get there.

Here is a list of things to do in San Marino for a weekend stay:

Get your San Marino passport stamp

The first thing that I did was to get my passport stamped. Even though this is not mandatory, authorities consider this ‘souvenir’ stamp as official. It only costs five Euros, and you can get it at the Tourist Information Centre.

Museo della Tortura (Torture museum)

This museum will marvel at you with a journey through human cruelty. The most valuable is that they go beyond Catholic Inquisition elements (very cliché in this part of the world) and showcase torture elements used in others ‘civilizations’. 

(I sent a picture to Ida, and she replied with an emoji)

Visit the Basilica di San Marino

Located in the Piazzale Domus Plebis, this is the most prominent Catholic building in the city. It is not as impressive as the Roman Catholic buildings I visited last week. Still, it has significant value as this place is dedicated to Saint Marinus, the father and founder of this small republic.

Go hiking at Monte Titano

There are a few hiking trails to enjoy on Mount Titan. To find them, you can go to the Cesta tower (one of the three famous towers of San Marino) and walk through the gateway to the right of the museum entrance. 

Monte Titano is a UNESCO World Heritage Site alongside the historic centre of the city. According to UNESCO, you can witness the continuity of a free republic since the Middle Ages in this place. I certify that.

Eat at Righi

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t feel there are many differences between Italian and Sammarinese food. However, if you want to experience some so-called Sammarinese taste, you should go to Righi. This place is the only Michelin star restaurant in the country and it is worthy of every Euro spent. You won’t spend more than 80 euro between antipasti, primi and secondi. However, a great tasting plate is available for 90 euro. This one can give you an idea of the overall Sammarinese flavour. 

Drink like a local

Don’t forget to try any of the local coffees and wines. They have several exciting notes given by the geographical position of the country.

The local beer Titanbräu and the limoncello are also worth it.

I have an important update on my relationship with Jessica: she is leaving (me) again.

I definitely don’t want to talk about the details. But Pietro, from Rome, is still alive. She invited me to bike to Switzerland, and I rejected the idea of being close to him. So full stop, no more love, no more beautiful chaos and no more Rome.

So I am back to basics again; I am Benjamin Gunst, a Canadian freelance Graphic Designer and Digital Nomad. I love meeting new places and dream of visiting as many countries as my life permits.

Next stop: The Vatican City.

After the infamous event with Jessica occurred, I decided to go to Bukowski’s Bar to forget everything with the help of alcohol. I chose the place because of the name and nothing else. The place decoration and music selection marvelled me so much that I decided to drink a few more beers there; therefore, I met Giovanni.

Giovanni is from Bellinzona, Italian-speaking Switzerland and is in Rome working as a Pontifical Swiss Guard of the Holy See. The next day was off for him, and he also had some things to forget with alcohol.

Giovanni’s wife and daughter had returned to Ticino. He didn’t want to mention why or if they lived in The Vatican with him, but he was profoundly sad. “I just hope I see my little Aurora again”.

“What’s your plan for tomorrow?” he asked.

“So far, having a reason to wake up”.

“I’d give you one. You are one of those crazy travellers, right? Do you want to do a Vatican Tour guided by a Swiss Guard?”

The next day I was in The Vatican with a resident, an actual, local resident of the smallest country in the world.

I will honour Giovanni’s request not to disclose what happened there. But I just want to say that I was fortunate to meet him and see all of The Vatican’s wonders with an actual resident.

Next week, I went to Roma Termini to repeat goodbye to the beautiful and chaotic city. Giovanni also came to say bye. This time was no rain, no protests, and Roma Termini was clean and bright. I am just grateful that I had one of the most significant experiences in my life, thanks to Jessica. I wanted to tell her but was still not ready to do so. She might be reaching Switzerland now with Pietro.

Next stop? San Marino.