Schrijver, vertaler en redacteur Carolina Pihelgas uit UNESCO City of Literature Tartu, Estland is een maand als writer-in-residence in Leeuwarden. Lees hier wat ze in onze stad meemaakt.

To arrive to Leeuwarden, I had to board a train. I love trains, there’s nothing better than to gaze out of the window for hours with a book in your lap, as the carriage is trying to rock you to sleep. Dreamy, hazy landscapes passing by rhythmically, green pastures and fields, as far as one can see, and the windmills. Some people think that the modern windmills are ugly, but I disagree. I’ve always felt that they carry a sort of elegance. There is also a kind of comfort knowing that you can charge your phone thanks to the wind, and not, for example, because oil shale is being extracted, as it is the case in Estonia, or that the trees are being logged in the national parks – also something that’s happening where I’m from. Windmills create a certain notion of safety – probably illusional, but we also need illusions from time to time.

One of my illusions, coming to reside for one month to Leeuwarden, is that being away from home and the thousand small chores that inevitably accompany everyday life, I could take some more time for writing. And, of course, getting to know Fryslân a bit.

I’ve been appointed a local poet Arjan to show me around, and dutifully he takes me around the city on the next day after my arrival. It’s a rainy day. At first it seems just a drizzle, but then the wind kicks in. And then the real rain comes. Arjan offers me his big green umbrella, but it seems safer without. I might become Mary Poppins and just fly away, really. And where would I end up then?

We enter the Tresoar. Arjan puts his umbrella to the umbrella holder, and jokingly says, that this is where one gets free umbrellas, because apparently absent-minded readers tend to forget their belongings. We look around, there are some poems on the walls, a café, which doesn’t serve any coffee, in fact doesn’t serve anything, but one can come and sit down at the table and have an illusion about being in a café. Also, it doesn’t cost anything. That’s why libraries are great, you’re not expected to buy anything. Also, books are great. But that goes without saying.

We walk around the city, and after having a cup of mint tea and some food in a real café that does serve food and drinks, Arjan realizes that he forgot his umbrella to Tresoar. As we return to the library, we can see that his green umbrella is waiting for him faithfully. But suddenly we hear a loud bang. Did someone fall down the stairs? The librarians hurry from their desks to see what happened. Turning around, we notice that an old lady on a mobility scooter had crashed into an exhibition, the floor is covered with pieces of plastic. A man asks the grey-haired lady : “Have you been drinking?” The lady answers abruptly: “Yes!”, puts her foot on the accelerator and speeds off.

I see the old lady again the next day. It’s a bright, warm morning. She rides her scooter slowly, because someone is accompanying her on foot, a younger man. She looks happy, almost serene, her grey hair wind-blown. She nods most gracefully and says hello.