“If you ask me where the Paradise is”

Milenium – written with one l – is the name of the shop, because the owner is called Milen. People have realized that Milen takes care of bikes like nobody, and just over a year the small shop has been crammed to the ceiling.

The old bicycle workshops in the city have disappeared. In the middle of La Rambla there was one where I used to bring mine when the problem was so big that I could not fix it alone. That was a dark cave, the walls and the floor black with grease. A grumpy bear lived in it, dirtier than the walls of the shop. He always wore a sort of blue apron and sat on a three-legged stool before a zinc tub of water to find out from the bubbles where the hole was on the rubber. That fabulous place was converted into an anonymous drugstore a thousand years ago.

The cave of Milen is white and gets abundant light through the glass wall. He is not a bear. Among the many animals in the forests and rivers of the Bulgarian Thrace where he was born, on the southern slopes of the Rhodope mountains, just above Greece, there are no bears. I ask him about his town, Ivailovgrad, and Milen washes his hands, opens a drawer and carefully takes out a plastic bag with some photos and a book about the region. He shows me the pictures and lends me the book to read it. He says: “If you ask me where the Paradise is, I know it is there.”

That day I read stuff about Ivailovgrad. The Paradise is obviously there. Also there. I just wonder if it is because it is far away or because it is in another time. From this Thracian Ivailovgrad that I have just got to know, starts a road that leads directly to the zinc tub in the bear’s cave, right in the middle of La Rambla, a thousand years ago. Sometimes I wonder if there is a Paradise in the future. If yes, I’d like to get there by bicycle.

Broken bicycles (Botanica)

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