Smelling airports doesn’t count.
The second time I went to Italy I entered at 30mph. On a bicycle. High in the Alps above the French city of Briancon.
Surface travel, with the windows down as cycling inevitably is, allows you to compare smells of countries when you cross borders. Every country I’ve ever been in has its own smell, but I never realised it until that Alpine border crossing.
When Italy hit my nasal passages as I whizzed down the mountains towards Turin, what surprised me was being hit by the absence of the smell of France. When the new smell isn’t as immediately as nice as the smell left behind, it’s a great sadness you feel, like when the back of your camera opens near the end of a roll.
The biggest example of this for me was really missing Hungary the unforgettable moment I first smelled the horror of entering western Romania. And the Asian side of Turkey also has a smell I can never forget, of that day I was locked for hours in a small restroom with no windows.
Which all makes me think of the smell of Kansas City. Lately, as I near the end of my stay in KC - even if nobody believes I’m leaving - the city has been smelling as I remember it first. Well of course it does, I hear you say, because it was this exact time when you moved to Kansas city eight years ago, give or take five days, and seven hours.
And because it’s spring and the smell of spring is everywhere with the rain coming and going combined with the unseasonable heat of 26 degrees Centigrade. Well that may very well be, but it’s not a general spring smell I’m getting a whiff of.
Last night on the bike in a couple of places in the city I cycled under some blossoming trees or other that everybody thinks are pretty - I don’t they get on my nerves, but anyway - and it wasn’t the sweet smell of flowers that was caressing my nostrils, no I was inhaling the distinctive smell hanging from the branches above me of hundreds of pairs of wet knickers. And not in a pleasant way. It was so overpowering I had to check my own underwear. Twice.
Anyway, spring was not my first smell of Kansas City. In the four years prior to moving to the US I encountered KC and its smells four times, none of them in the spring.
So I can’t really describe the smell of the city. There are of course all the smells of KC’s plant life blended in there, but there is also the smell of coffee, of dog poop and spilled petrol, of floor polishing products, cocoa shells, and igniter fuel, of bug bombs, cheap beer, and rotting possums, of open sewers, doughnuts, and wet car seats, of aftershave, old trash, and steaming asphalt
And yes, of wet knickers.
Thing is though, after all these years it’s still an exciting smell for me; I kinda like it.