Saturday, August 26, 2006

All Good Things Must Come to an End

Right now the final moments of twilight are drifting by, floating downstream along with the current of the Neckar river that runs beside Heidelburg. The lamps that flank the banks of the Neckar cast an undulating glow on the rhythm of the river, as if the city is swaying toward sleep. It is our final night in Europe and I watch the light fade with a large degree of pensiveness. When Aaron and I were first married we always spoke of his sabbatical with reverence, and we crafted several scenarios of what we would do. At one time we thought we’d go to Bora Bora or Brazil. But in the end I persuaded Aaron to embark upon this journey of exploration of the way of Western civilization. We wandered up the spine of central Europe, from Rome to Berlin, and then down again to Austria, then up again to Frankfurt. We’ve missed a huge chunk of the continent, of course—one must visit so many other seats of seeds of our civilization, and I’m not convinced that there isn’t a vibration that circles the earth from every corner of humanity—but we’ve seen a good deal. A lot of art, a lot of nature, a lot of folk craft, culture, regionalism. I think we’ve been deeply enriched.

And now this thing that we looked toward for years has come to its completion. This year has already been fraught with endings and good-byes for me, so perhaps this evening carries the baggage of my fear of the milestones that have mounted in this my 43rd year. My life’s milestones tended to previously contain negative connotations such as divorce, or infertility, or debt. This year they have been sublime, yet the emotions they evoke still contain the residual panic I cultivated upon my old failures.

So tonight we sat and sipped wine and watched the fading day while we reflected on how much this trip has impacted our outlooks, how it has bonded us and challenged us and given us the precious gift of fond memories, and maybe better yet, the knowledge that on the worst of days, in the most seemingly insurmountable circumstances, we could rally ourselves (and each other) and find the light or the lesson as necessary. I’m a bit closer to a sense of understanding about my roots, which was very important to me. I have never had any sense of how place and ancestry has factored into my being in this world. I often feel very alone, ungrounded for the lack of connection to my roots. Wandering around Berlin with my mother, having her show me the modest apartment where she grew up, the places where she once danced, or where she pushed my baby buggy, was good for me.

Unfortunately I am no closer to understanding the holocaust, but I will write about that in another post with our photos of Dachau.

Europe is a fascinating, complicated continent. The initial gilding faded somewhat for me as our trip wore on, stripped away by a more clear perspective on things like local suspicion of outsiders, regional cynicism (aka nationalistic tendencies) and historical truths. But today, as we traversed up a steep incline called “Philosophiger’s Weg” (philosopher’s way), which culminates in a spectacular view of Heidelberg surrounded by wild and tame gardens, with wonderful friends who drove 200+ kilometers to see us before we left, I experienced a supreme satisfaction and sense of wonder about this trip. We were so fortunate to have had this opportunity. I wish I could confer it upon everyone I know, as I think it was mind-expanding (or maybe that was the absinthe I had again last night!).

I have many, many stories to tell in the next few months. I wonder how I’ll ground them all as they swirl around me in the postcard images that occupy my newborn memories.

It’s time to finish packing and sip the last of our wine which we purchased in a small market in Ruhpolding, Bavaria. Wish me well as I fly home—I’m a big chicken when it comes to tons of metal hoisted up into the sky. As they say in my beloved, albeit sometimes obnoxious, home country, auf wiedersehn, chuss, servus!

In front of the bulky and ostentatious Berliner dome (in the former east Berlin)

Friday, August 18, 2006

More Pictures, Yada Yada Yada

Back again. We must buy internet access at this hotel in Munich where we are staying. It costs 12.50 euro/day, making connecting a bit of an expensive luxury at this juncture of our trip. I have reached the point of looking forward to coming home, having not bonded with Bavaria on a level deeper than superficial enjoyment of a place with attractive surroundings. Maybe it is unfair, as poor Munich has come at the end of our trip, and it's not a particularly characterful city.

In an attempt to catch you up with our travels, I post the following photos:

This is the main square in Zagreb, Croatia. I am the white-panted girl standing before the statue of a man whose name I no longer remember. Statues of men on horses are big in Europe!

A small street leading to the cathedral in Zagreb.

Aaron standing by the traditional statue of a woman at market, designating (surprise!) the market area. We bought a big wheel of sheep's cheese and bread there.


Schonbrunn Palace, rear view.

Marble god, vigorously riding horse in Schonbrunn's "backyard" fountain.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Our Amateur Shots of Venice

Posting pictures on the internet, this forum for such artful photography, can be somewhat humiliating. My explanation is that Aaron and I take pictures with a low-end, digital camera with an eye for what we are doing and seeing from the most novice of perspectives. At the moment we know no tricks, and just take honest pictures--we hope to improve someday! :-)

I think that anyone who has been there will agree that you don't forget the first time you lay eyes on St. Mark's Square. This photo doesn't do it justice, but I remember how inspired I felt when I first saw this magical place, and I also remember how uncharacteristically uncrowded it was (for a summer afternoon)--therefore I've included it.

The weather worked against us in Venice--that kind of heat tends to render the vibrant colors and symmetrical architecture harsh. Nevertheless, our pictures of Venice already make me happy.

St. Marco's Square, late afternoon

facing out to the Adriatic from Venice

Empty gondolas flanking the grand canal, white heat again.

The palette of Venice, and the wilting of tourists during July, 2006

Monday, August 14, 2006

Less Words, More Pictures

(Boboli gardens, Florence. The Medici family villa's "backyard")

Since we arrived in Prague at the end of July, our trip has been plagued by rain and cold weather. In fact, the conditions are very reminiscent of Portland in the fall. Last night I shivered all the way to the restaurant on our way to dinner. It's been somewhat disheartening to go from scorching, hottest-summer-on-record weather, to this unseasonably cold stuff. We simply haven't the clothes for either extreme.

The new airline regulations will pose a problem for us, since my carry-on will have to be checked (aren't carry-ons for cosmetics and a change of clothes?), and we've of course accumulated some new stuff. Although we only checked two pieces of luggage originally, we were assessed a $50 fee because each piece exceeded 50 lbs. (you try traveling in all this different weather for 8 weeks !).

So here are more photos from Italy. We won't have wireless again for a while, but maybe we'll make it to an internet point and move my blog up closer to real-time journaling!

(a view of Florence from Michelangelo point)

(In front of our agriturissimo, Podere Marciano)

(The extraordinary pool)>

(The colors at sunset)

(bicycling around the former rampart that surrounds the lovely town of Lucca)

(The tower, it is a-leanin'!)

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Finally, some photos

(Temple ruin in the Roman Forum, and view of the forum)

We have nearly 300 shots of Europe from Rome through Regensburg! And, as always, we look at the slideshow of our shots so far and wonder how we failed to capture the color in this shot, or the heat in that one, or the utter beauty of another. One must settle for the artistry of one's own mind when recalling experience I guess.

I'll just splatter a few from Rome here and there with brief explanations and hope you enjoy them for starters.

(Interior of the Collesium)

(View of St. Mark's Square from the Vatican cupola, and interior of vatican dome taken by Aaron--I made it up to the dome interior and then plastered myself to the wall until he came down again! Fear of heights was reaffirmed)

(Leaving the wonderful Suite Oriani, Alessandro, the owner, is on the right.)