EUROPEAN SOJOURN: Poster Kids (Days 15 and 18)

Here’s a wicker child from Budapest. (Okay, so it’s not a real kid; I took what I could get): 813

 

And two kids in Belgrade, advertising the latest fashions for wealthy 19th century waifs. (You can see the Hungarian Magyar and Serbian Cyrillic alphabets are very different.)

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EUROPEAN SOJOURN: Hoof-position matters (Day 14)

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According to Wikpedia’s article, Equestrian Statues: Hoof-position Symbolism: “In the United States and the United Kingdom, an urban legend states that if the horse is rearing (both front legs in the air), the rider died in battle; one front leg up means the rider was wounded in battle or died of battle wounds; and if all four hooves are on the ground, the rider died outside battle. . .” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equestrian_statue

Urban legend indeed! Would our tour guide lie to us?

On the other hand, what if the horse is rearing but the rider is standing next to him, still alive? Jerry says it means the horse died in battle.

I don’t think Trigger died in battle. Maybe it is urban legend after all.

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EUROPEAN SOJOURN: The worst thing about Hitler (Day 14)

 

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EUROPEAN SOJOURN: Stumbling stones and empty shoes (Day 14)

484Stumbling stones: In many German towns, we saw these brass plaques set among the cobblestones. These commemorate individual victims of the Nazis who used to live nearby. One tour guide told us the plaques are embedded in the pavement so that people have to bow to read them and thus honor their memory. 470

(Wikipedia: A stolperstein is a monument created by Gunter Demnig. . . They commemorate individuals – both those who died and survivors – who were consigned by the Nazis to prisons, euthanasia facilities, sterilization clinics, concentration camps, and extermination camps, as well as those who responded to persecution by emigrating or committing suicide.)

 

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Bronzed shoes: Commemorating Jews lined up at gunpoint along Budapest’s waterfront and forced to step out of their shoes before they were gunned down, their bodies tumbling into the Danube.347

Headstones. Jewish cemetery.

All sober reminders of what was lost.

 

 

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EUROPEAN SOJOURN: Mozart, Strauss, and Brunnhilde (Day 11)

The Mozart/Strauss concert was marvelous, held in a room of the Hofburg palace. To my relief, it wasn’t formal but was filled with commoners like us who hadn’t brought “dress-up” clothes with them. We sat right in the middle and the row ahead of us was all grade school children, wiggly and impatient, talking across each other and poking one another until the music started. Then one by one the piano and violins and singers drew them in–and me–until I wasn’t aware of them at all.

I had tried to get a program as we went in but it cost six Euros and we didn’t have even one Euro. Someone behind us had bought a copy and I noticed that, as with most programs, the majority of pages were commentary, pictures and descriptions of performers, and ads–all in German. The only part I cared about was the schedule of our concert. That was on a single page inserted loose into the middle of the booklet.

I was grateful for the international language of music and for the humor running through the performance which even non-German speakers could appreciate: the drummer was a comedian and ended up stealing the conductor’s baton and leading the orchestra himself. But there were no verbal introductions to any of the pieces we listened to. The list in the program became more important to me than a mere souvenir of the evening. Most of the pieces were operatic and I had no idea what we were hearing. I could only recognize a few of them.

When we leave, I thought, there will be copies of the program lying around that no one needs anymore, left on seats or at the table in the lobby. I’ll pick up one of the sheets then.

We filed out afterwards and I broke though the bottleneck and went directly to the table where the programs had been sold. I was surprised to see a woman still manning it–and I use the term advisedly. She looked like Brunnhilde, meaty, tough, intimidating.

“I’d like a program?” I said it as a question.

“Six Euros!”

“I just need the insert.”

“SIX EUROS!” She had pulled herself up straight, pulled her nose up even further, and was glaring at me.

“I’m from America–“

“SIX EUROS!”

Lady, I thought, I’ve come all the way from the other side of the world. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed a whole evening of magnificent music I couldn’t understand and all I want is a single piece of paper for my journal, giving me the names of the pieces we heard.

Her eyes were blazing. What had I ever done to her? What had Americans ever done to her? It was as if she was taking out on me, a total stranger, some unforgivable offense I could not possibly have committed against her.

I had flashbacks of the kindness of other cultures where people consider themselves hosts to foreign visitors. A Japanese in her place would have offered us the whole program with both hands, a smile and a bow, waving aside the charge. At the very least, her counterpart in the States might have said, “I’m sorry. I really can’t.” What would it hurt to give out a single piece of paper that would seal the delight of the evening for a foreigner, a piece of paper that would have to be discarded and replaced anyway?

I didn’t suppose there was any chance she’d let me see a copy, much less jot down the names of a few of the works.

I came away disappointed and indignant. You’re the only German I have ever met. You may be the only one I ever meet. You’re it, right now you’re the representative, the PR person for your whole race. (Oh, I know, you’re probably Austrian, but still–.) You and Hitler are the only Germans I know and as far as I’m concerned, you’re just like him. You’re the stereotype of the bossy, arrogant, cold-hearted, downright mean Aryan. You’re why I don’t like Germans and never had any interest in my own German heritage. 

Thanks for leaving me with a bad taste in my mouth when I think of this night. I don’t really want to dislike you, so by the grace of God I will let this go.

 

Photo from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hofburg_Palace#mediaviewer/File:Wiener_Hofburg_Orchester_Hofburg_Festsaal1.jpg

 

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EUROPEAN SOJOURN: Exodus to the Grand Hotel, Vienna (Days 11, 12)

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674With only 24 hours notice, Program Director Michael found accommodations for all of us. We would be leaving the Viking Embla, staying ashore for two nights, and transferring directly to her twin sister, the Aegir.

Embla’s entire staff–cooks, servers, bartenders, housekeepers, engineers, managers–turned out to move the luggage of 180 people off the ship, down the gangplank, into the buses. Then they scrubbed the staterooms, prepared the welcoming meal and put on clean clothes and smiles to welcome 180 new passengers that same afternoon.

Meanwhile, we’d all sort our luggage out, except for the pieces that got lost, when we checked into Vienna’s Grand Hotel.

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Our room was sumptuous, right down to the duvet and the bidet. It seemed ungrateful but we had one miniscule complaint: it was a room for smokers. Nothing else was available. Within half an hour of moving into it my throat was raw, my eyes red and my nose running.

After the bus-and-walking tour around Vienna the next morning Jerry and I spent our free time searching for an apotheke. (Try asking for an antihistamine in a country where you not only don’t speak the language but can’t even remember what the language is.)

I filled our hotel wastebasket with menthol-scented tissues and breathing was a chore. Before long my allergy would become a cold which Jerry would catch. Our colds would become bronchitis and by Bucharest, our last stop before flying home, Jerry had pneumonia.

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EUROPEAN SOJOURN: Change of plans (Day 10)

From my journal: We didn’t sign up for any optional tours. I would have liked to take the in-depth historical tour of Nuremberg and even more, the Mozart and Strauss concert in Vienna. But we wanted to save some of our children’s inheritance.

Last night Michael, our Program Director, invited aboard three opera stars to delight us with an hour of Mozart and The Sound of Music. When the sample was over, he talked about the concert tomorrow night. Reservations were already closed. As he talked I prayed inwardly, I’d like to go to the concert, Lord. If You want us to go, please work it out! Then I let it go.

This evening when we assembled in the lounge before dinner so Michael could given us his usual summary of the day to come, he led us all in several rousing choruses of “Que Sera Sera.”

When he started his announcements, we understood the song was a segue into a change in plans. “Our plans are always dependent on the availability and condition of the locks along the rivers,” he began. “A large lock between Melk and Vienna has suddenly been closed for extensive renovation.”

Groans.

“When we go ashore in Melk to see the Abbey, we are not coming back to the Viking Embla. We are transferring by bus to the Grand Hotel in Vienna.”

Cheers.

“And then to the Viking Aegir.”

Laughter. The Aegir was the ship we were originally assigned to. It was making the trip we were making but in the opposite direction. Something–low water at one point–had delayed its return to Amsterdam in time to collect us, so we had been re-assigned. Now, with a full complement of passengers, it was stuck on the other side of the bad lock, needing to get where we were.

So the ships were going to trade passengers and directions.

In the meantime we were told to pack everything for transfer to the hotel where Viking (Enterprises) would be putting us up for two nights.

“And,” said Michael, “to make up for your being inconvenienced, we will be paying for all of you to attend the Mozart/Strauss concert tomorrow night!”

Louder cheers–mine, with both arms raised! It seemed hard to believe God would close a lock, disrupt 400 passengers and crew, change plans and schedules, costing Viking thousands of additional Euros, just so Jerry and I could attend a concert we didn’t want to pay for but which I wanted to attend.

I’m sure God has many reasons and purposes for everything He does but I feel He heard me and that answering my prayer was at least a tiny part of why He chose to do what He did.

I’m awed.

 

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