A 500-character story written for one literary contest.


Every city has its own charm. Karim knows it better than anyone. In each city, he visits a local bar. One that is not usually written about in TripAdvisor. Sitting there he always orders something stronger from the local. Karim likes to watch from the sidelines. For him, the bar is a slice of the city. Everyone goes to bars — parents and children, city guests and locals, representatives of different professions. Karim collects bars the way other travelers collect coasters or magnets, and is sure to bring a history from each trip. He’s got a lot of them.


I like the one that mixes past and present, love and hate in a single rhythm. The story of a bar hidden in the shadow of the Gothic quarter of Barcelona.

That evening, the JazzSí Club was transformed into a theater: at the head of the bar there is a stage, alcohol is sold at the entrance, passing further, you take an empty seat on the first floor or on the floor above. There are a lot of people and all sit close to each other, but no one is confused. But what is it? The lights go out, and a spot of light catches two guys on the stage, who begin without preamble. In their acting, everything that Hemingway was fascinated by in Spain in the fifties — the impatience of bull, the skill of toreador, the grace of bullfight comparable to ballet. And while you are in your first convulsions, a woman in red dress comes into play. She sings, breaks into a scream and immediately whispers — the very embodiment of Catalonia, its bright colors and character, passionate and expressive. Flamenco pours out of the guitars and voices fill the soul. At that very moment when you are about the next catharsis — the scene freezes. And then the woman starts tap dancing. The audience is drowning in emotions.

Karim exhales the smoke of a rolled cigarette. He says this is the real Barcelona, a captured image of the Catalans, with their love of life as it is — with the perfect balance between work and life. Spaniards give themselves up to life without looking back — I realized this not at La Rambla, but here, in the bar, where you feel that life is given for enjoyment.


But Karim’s favorite story is about a bar in Skopje, the capital of Macedonia.

To the New Orleans bar Karim was invited by its owner. The mysterious man in expensive suit, with a neat beard and elegant long nails, resembled Mr. Cyphre from the old movie «Angel Heart» — also walked with a cane with professional carelessness. Mr. Cyphre met Karim in the center of the capital. «If you want to see the city, come to Orleans,» — he said. And Karim came.

«New Orleans» is going to be distinguished by an incredible atmosphere of tension-interest in what has already happened and fear of what will happen next. The bar is located in the Albanian part of the city. On the way Karim noticed children with guns.

«My bar is no man’s land. No matter who you are outside, inside everyone is equal.»

There is an undercurrent in the air. This all is accompanied by beautiful music from black and white movies and a bizarre and mysterious play of shadows.

Skopje, throughout its history, ravaged by barbarians, Goths and Huns, earthquakes and cholera, has developed and preserved a fatality. This was felt in people, in the way they treated life. This is a poor country, but the pride of its inhabitants inspired respect.

Mr. Cyphre rolled the joint. He talked — about how he, a refugee from Albania, had opened a bar here; how he had made it possible for the warring parties to leave their enmity behind the door.

«There are enough religions for people to hate each other, and not enough for people to love each other» — he says. Shots were heard outside the window. Maybe it was fireworks.


Karim knows best about travels. He talks about them better than I do. Karim has been almost everywhere.

And I was there with him, listening to his stories.