Separating from Ida was more challenging than the last time. I tried not to commit to the next time, but it was impossible. 

“I’ll visit you in Denmark whenever I can go back to the Schengen area.” 

“I hope I can meet you before.”

That afternoon I met Martin again. If you are following my adventures recently, Martin is a Canadian guy that I met in a small aircraft while travelling to the Canadian Arctic Circle. Martin and I have kept in touch via Facebook and commenting on each other adventures.

The last time we met each other, we were in Greenland. He decided to go back to Canada in the boat with the crew while Jessica and I stayed in the frozen island country.

After going back to Canada, Martin went to Switzerland to manage some family business and then stayed in Spain for a few weeks. While in Spain, he decided to continue as a Digital Nomad for a few months in Europe while the Swiss “important family business” concluded. Since he didn’t want to spend all his Schengen Area days waiting for the “business to settle down,” he decided to tag along and explore with me for a few weeks.

Doves in North Macedonia

“Why do you want to go to North Macedonia?” I asked him.

“Long story short: My mom and dad divorced when I was five. It took my mom like two years to feel ok to start dating again. She met a lot of pricks after that until she met this guy Toma from Macedonia, who was “studying French” in Montréal. I said “studying” because he worked in a restaurant with a student visa and sent money home”.

“How did he get a student visa?” I asked, intrigued.

“Well, Toma really looked like a student. This was probably in 1998 and Toma was 19. My mom was 29”.

“Wow. No offence, but your mother was a cougar!”

“None taken. The thing is that after all these douchebags dating my mom for years, she met Toma and I saw her happy for the first time. They met in the restaurant he was working.”

“What happened with Toma? Is he your father-in-law now?”

“Ha, ha, ha! No! I wished! Toma was excellent with me and super supportive with mom. He also liked to talk about his country. That’s how I first hear about Macedonia (now North Macedonia) in my life. After two years with a student visa, Toma had to leave or get married to stay. He proposed to my mom, but she was not ready to marry a 21-year-old kid and face my grandparents. My mom just ditched him and she couldn’t recover for years.”

“Man, that should have been tough for your mother.”

“Indeed, she had to go to therapy to forgive herself. She was in love with Toma but was so afraid of the commitment because he was just a kid. She prioritized her social status over her quality of life.” 

“Did you see Toma again?”

“Never. The last time I saw him, he was kissing mom when I was a kid at the Dorval airport. Mom didn’t want to talk about him”.

“Man, your mother is still young; maybe they can meet now. Are you trying to be Cupid here?”

“I don’t have any expectations. Even though North Macedonia is a small country, it might be challenging to find a guy I know almost nothing about”.

By the time we were having this conversation, we were on a bus from Tirana to Skopje. We were speaking pleasantly in joual, while my brain felt it was resting for the first time. I didn’t have to make an effort to be understood.

When the conversation finished, a girl sitting behind us reached us in French talking super slowly:

“Excuse me, guys. I don’t know what language you speak, but it seems close to French. I am sorry, but I listened to your conversation.”

“You don’t have to worry. We understand French,” said Martin, interested in what the girl had to say, metropolising his accent the best he could.

“If you are looking for a guy in Macedonia, my sister is a private investigator. Maybe she can help you. She knows everyone there.”

Now North Macedonia seems the place to be!

I stayed two days more in Geneva while deciding where to go next. I texted Ida to see if she had any recommendations.

“Would you like to go to a random place with an extraordinary museum?”

“That sounds like me. It is promising. Tell me more.”

“Well, since you are in Switzerland, you can take a couple of trains to reach Schengen, Luxembourg. There is nothing to see there except for the European Museum Schengen. You might learn more about borderless Europe.”

“I’m delighted. I’ll send you a picture!”

“I like your spontaneous vibes, Gunst! Good luck.”

So, I took a train to Basel and another one to Mulhouse, France. In Mulhouse, I realized no one wanted to understand my French, and I used English. It was the worst response. I used sign language and managed to have lunch in a pretty rudimentary place. Later on, I took another train to Thionville, France, where people were more supportive, trying to understand me. Actually, I didn’t have any problems, but I could see they made an effort on people’s faces.

From Thionville, I took a 35-minute bus to Perl Gare Routièr, Germany, just on the other side of the Moselle River next to Schengen, Luxembourg.

I found out that hotels in Schengen were costly, so I stayed in a Youth Hostel in Remerschen, just 8 minutes away from the fun by bus.

I won’t tell you the Schengen agreement history and expansion details, as you can find it easily on the Internet. However, I want to mention that I took a selfie with the Danish flag and sent it to Ida.

She replied to me with the smiley face blushing emoji, which paid for the trip to Luxembourg.

So on my last day in the Schengen area, I woke up and had a Kaffi (the way Luxembourgish call breakfast) that consisted of a plain croissant and coffee. Then did the check out at the hotel and took my stuff to the German train station. I went straight to Frankfurt am Mainz and took a Lufthansa flight to Tirana, Albania.

Why Albania? Well, it was the cheapest option for the next day. The flight cost me the same as the wine bottle that I drank last week to process my broken heart in the restaurant in Geneva.

When I was about to turn off my phone, I received the strangest SMS in decades. It came from an +354 number:

Hi, Mr. Benjamin Gunst.

This is James Punjabi. We need to talk.

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.

The second city of Denmark is different in many ways from the cosmopolitan Copenhagen. Aarhus has a smaller population of around 350,000 people, and it is the youngest city in Denmark. As it is a university city, many young people are part of its demographics.

So you can feel the juvenile vibe around, with events in bars, shops, and most importantly, cafés. “City of Café” is Aarhus’ moniker, as there are a bunch of specialty coffee shops all over the town. On my first day, I consumed the whole afternoon working from an Iraqi-led cafeteria with delicious Arabica coffee. The next day I spent the morning in an Italian-Danish coffee and pastry shop. I didn’t know how I was going to be able to be fit here.

When I reached Aarhus, many people criticized me for going during the autumn as most Aarhus fun happens in the summertime. However, coming from friendly Canada, I enjoyed the fall here, as indoor activities connected me with more people than I expected. I spent two days in a row having friendly conversations in local bars. During that time, I met Mariana, Kristina and Julianne.

Mariana was born in Colombia to a Danish father and Colombian mother, but after the Covid crisis in that country she moved to Denmark. She met Julianne from Geneva, Switzerland, Kristina’s husband, and fell in love with him. Kristina from Kolding has been married to Julianne for 6 years, and she is a psychologist focused on couple behaviour. She had heard about polyamory thanks to his clients and helped them go through it. Still, she never experienced it in life until Julianne confessed to her his love for Mariana.

Kristina, whose self-esteem is as high as Mount Everest, asked Julianne: “Do you still love me?”.

He replied, “yes, I don’t still love you. I love you more than anything in life.”

After that, they decided to continue together, and Mariana and Julianne started a loving relationship. Later, Mariana met Kristina and then they became friends. In the beginning, was arduous, but with time they shifted toward being best friends.

So I learnt about polyamory in Aarhus. I am wondering if I have known about this before, I would have forgiven Jessica for what she did. I will never know, to be honest, I just hope she is enjoying her life with that crazy Italian.

Mariana was driving to Randers the next day to visit her Colombian-Danish cousin Ida. As I didn’t have any plans, I decided to go with her, and she only asked me to share the gas money. Giving money to your friends when they offer you a ride is a cultural custom in Denmark. It is a nice one, knowing that this country has the most expensive oil prices globally.

I spent my last day in Aarhus visiting a park. It was freaking cold, but coming from the North Pole was nothing. I enjoyed the colours of the last days of the autumn, the gray of the sky and the hot coffees on the street.

I took a photo of a tree and sent it to Jessica via WhatsApp. I didn’t know why I did it. When I decided to delete it, it was already late. She replied, “So you are not in Iceland anymore; it is wonderful to know about you.”

Where are you, Benjamin Gunst?