5 min read

Walking in Leiden, Walking in Barcelona with Alina

Walking in Leiden, Walking in Barcelona with Alina
Photo by Kira Laktionov / Unsplash

I met Alina Jitari in a cosy café in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, almost ten years ago. We were both volunteering at the same student organisation and we started chatting over mulled wine at the NGO's winter gathering. We both remember that we quickly forgot the world around us and that we talked and talked and talked for hours.

There are so many serendipities and heartfelt, goosebumps-giving conversations that connected us throughout these years in which we lived apart.

Since last year we finally have the chance to live again in the same country, in The Netherlands this time. Alina is that kind of friend with whom, whatever happens, wherever we live, I know that we will last a lifetime.

I have asked her a few questions some weeks ago about her walking experiences in Leiden, Barcelona, and around the world. Below you can find her written answers.

Hi, Alina!

Thank you for taking some time to answer these questions for The Flâneurs Project. 

Please tell us a bit about yourself and about any creative projects that you are passionate about.

I am originally from a small town in northern Romania, but I am currently living in The Netherlands. I moved here last year (2022), after spending more than 5 years in Barcelona. Maybe this says something about my way of bringing extremes together.

In 2023, I decided to work with more engagement on my artistic project ‘Picking Colours’ where brushes, colours and a bit of creativity compose a visual story about the small things in life. 

Besides this, I am an economist, a flâneuse, a curious reader, and, for sure, a searcher for meaning in life.
brown brick bridge near brown concrete building during daytime
Photo by Ruben Hanssen / Unsplash

What is your favorite street / area in Leiden and why?

Even if most of the time I find it difficult to choose a favourite something, once I saw this question I already visualised Pieterskwartier. To be more specific, I am always walking through Pieterskerk-Choorsteeg with a feeling of equilibrium. 

Leiden is decorated with over 100 poems on the buildings. The Pieterskerk-Choorsteeg street starts with one of Pablo Neruda’s poem and when you move further there is a feeling of balance between movement and stillness, similar to the moments when you leave behind a metropolitan area and let yourself be absorbed by the silence of a tiny street.

What café or restaurant did you visit the most often in Barcelona?

In a city with such great diversity I was most of the time tempted to try new cafés and restaurants, to get in touch with different cultures, enjoy their food and lifestyle without taking a plane to another country.

Camelia Art Cafe is a cosy place where you can enjoy a lovely cup of coffee.

What do you miss about walking in Barcelona?

I would say that I miss the element of surprise. 

Some sort of dynamism is present in Barcelona’s streets. Every neighbourhood has a different personality given by the architecture, mix of culture, position and history. And even if you know an area pretty well, everytime you can be surprised by something.
lighted string lights on building during night time
Photo by Pelayo Arbués / Unsplash

What city brings you joy whilst walking?

Porto is a city that I could visit a million times. The rich history is floating in the air combined with the scenic views from every corner. 

Seen from across the Douro River, it seems that the city is a stairway to heaven, getting lost between iconic buildings, vibrant colours and the ocean side is such a complex experience. You might think that you are walking in a different city at every moment.

Please share a serendipitous moment from a walk. 

Arriving in Lanzarote, my favourite island from the Canary Islands, made me feel more aware than ever that an ending implies a new beginning. 

I was walking surrounded by the volcanic landscape, the peculiar rock sculptures and the sensation that I am on another planet when I realised that without destruction this place couldn’t exist. 

No doubts that these treasures are in front of our eyes and this moment of serendipity made me feel more connected with nature, but also brought me a level of acceptance regarding the cycle of life.

Lanzarote, photo taken by Alina

Please share a story of a stranger that you met or passed by on the streets and why that moment stayed with you until now.

This story took place in Mérida, one of the most important Roman cities in Spain.

I saw an old man in front of an antique store. It happened to be the owner, an archeologist and art history professor. 

Engaged in a one hour conversation, it seemed that we were old friends that found each other after a long time. In that hour, I discovered everything about a stranger that spent 20 years in Syria, his lovely French wife, his mother and his pure passion for cooking, inherited from her, different career paths that felt so organic in his life and, of course, what brought us together - a passion for art and history.

We said goodbye with a hug because it seemed natural to do this. Now that I am thinking, I am not sure if he is a stranger or a momentary friend.

What is your personal definition of the flâneur / flâneuse?

I would say that a flâneuse is somebody who experiences a connection with a place by simply enjoying the small things, by observing without a purpose. Maybe a meditative state in movement.

What part of Leiden would you like to re-enchant and why?

What I love the most about Leiden is the wonderful balance between city and nature. 

I would like to re-enchant the courtyards known as ‘hofjes’ in Dutch, to see the historical city centre from a different perspective, crossing the Rapenburg canal with a boat and chasing Leiden's poems displayed on the walls.

If you could name a street – what name would you choose?

Such a good question that makes me think about what a street could bring us. Wandering on the streets I found meaning, connection, peace of mind.

I would choose ‘Finding Street’ because it could be a great reminder that when you step outside and embrace what is meant, your findings will change you forever.

If you could move to another city tomorrow (and have every expense covered, job security, a new home) what city would you choose, if you had to go with your first gut instinct?

After searching so long for a new country and city to live, I honestly cannot think about another place to move to. Also, I have found here a rhythm that is synchronised with my own.

Anyway, if I looked many years ahead, I would probably choose a village in the south of France.

If you want me to share a social media page or a website (about you and/or your projects), please share your links below:

Picking Colours - https://www.instagram.com/pickingcolours

Alina's art

Thank you, Alina!

note from Patricia: Alina and I are planning a weekend trip in Paris together this year, and I cannot wait to get lost in that city by her side. I am sure we will both find our very own versions of that "Finding Street".