The State of the State
Having enjoyed two weeks in a different world, it has taken a bit of time to get back on my feet.
As I wrote my April newsletter, I was headed to Europe and I anticipated I know not what. There would be the river cruise down the Danube, plus time in both Prague and Budapest at either end. Save for history books and a few Rick Steves programs, all the places we visited were new to us. The only way to really know a place is to see it first hand.
It was difficult not to have expectations. But we were unprepared for the grandeur–the richness of architecture, art, and history that awaited us. I arrived powered on a burst of adrenaline that stayed with me until the last day of our trip–a good thing, since we had some serious walking, observing, photographing, and eating to do. I can say with certainty that we held up extremely well.
We enjoyed delicious food both on and off our ship, and perfect warm, sunny weather. We met many wonderful people on our cruise and were able to share meals, excursions, and animated conversations with them. All added up to a trip far beyond expectation. And the best part was sharing it with my daughter.
We both enjoyed the time on our AmaWaterways ship, the AmaSerena. I’d start the day up in the lounge writing and drinking coffee, watching the river flow, and getting myself straight with the Universe while Wynne slept. After breakfast, the excursions began at 9 a.m. Sometimes we went together, other times separately. There were walking tours, a bike trip for her, a couple of castle hikes for me, all led by excellent local guides, plus time to explore on our own. I learned strudel making; Wynne tasted local wines. In the evenings we’d relax at dinner and share our day’s adventures with our new friends.
Now that we’ve done this trip, I am confident Wynne could run a country. A veteran traveler, she travels extensively both for business and pleasure. She’d look at her phone and say, “This way,” and off we’d go…to the coffee house or the castle or an Airbnb rental in old Prague, it really didn’t matter. It was a mystery to me, but we always ended up where we needed to be and when.
Time went quickly, and I came home sated, my mind stuffed with information and sensations and ideas, delightfully unraveled. In that brief period we passed through five countries–the Czech Republic, Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary. We visited palaces and parliaments, we felt the horrible toll taken by the Nazis as countries were torn apart during World War II. Budapest is still trying to erase memories of the 1956 uprising and horrible architecture remaining from the Soviet occupation that ended in 1989. Through it all flows the mighty Danube, the heart of a civilization dating back 15,000 years, the ancient freeway through central Europe.
Our favorite stop? Both of us loved Budapest, but each city showed us its own special charms. I particularly enjoyed Austria’s Wachau Valley for its for its Renaissance villages, vineyards, and apricot orchards; the trip to Salzburg and Mozart’s birthplace; and seeing the Alps for the first time as we passed through the countryside .
When we travel we see things through new eyes. We find ourselves, without effort, fully in the present. And we are changed forever. I needed this new look at the world and this change. I will cherish it for the rest of my life.