Saturday night, June 22
We have covered a lot of territory since I last wrote, early in our stay in Florence. All sorts of mundane matters affect one’s travel, and one of them is weather. When we were in Paris, the weather was unseasonably cool and sometimes overcast. When we hit Italy, the temperatures were in the high 80’s. Long days of walking in cities, on cobblestones that seem to heat up and radiate, make for…well…long days!
Doug and I have talked a lot about travel and travel-planning, and especially this irony: while you feel you “should” see certain sites, often the most pleasure comes from the experiences that are spontaneous, and those that occur on the roads less-traveled.
We took a bus to the small, old, walled town of Fiesole just outside Florence. There you can have a picnic and look out over the city. It was fun, though our meals were very heated by the time we arrived! This was one of our views of the countryside around Florence:
We left Florence feeling grateful for the experience of the art and wonderful food, but contemplating that it would have been a much more pleasant experience a different time of year – say spring or fall – when there are a few less tourists and better weather. Next stop was Venice, also hot and crowded, but truly wonderful to see…and Venice will also be remembered as the site of my first major travel faux pas…I mis-read our train schedule and caused us to miss our night train. Fortunately, we found a hotel quickly and were able to re-arrange our travel so that we arrived in Prague in enough time to see the city and stay in the hotel we’d already paid for!
The most famous church in the Czech Republic is St. Vitus Cathedral…the first part of the church was built in 925. We saw a magnificent organ, gorgeous stained glass and other ornamentation such as we’ve seen in many churches throughout Europe. Here’s one picture:
As I walk around these cathedrals, I think about how odd it must be to have your house of worship be a tourist attraction. Almost all of the churches we’ve seen, including this one, are still active churches. I took many pictures of St. Vitus, but was most struck by the worship space itself. In a place with so much decoration, the altar furniture used now is very clean and appealing. The holy table has a beautiful simple cloth and there were fresh flowers. I got the sense that the worshiping community has found a way to make this very old place relevant for them:
Prague is the first city I’ve ever visited in eastern Europe. I’d like to learn more about its history and come back again.
Now we’re in Salzburg. We found the main tourist sites a bit disappointing, the Mozart museum especially, but as we walked through the Mirabell Gardens (where part of Sound of Music was filmed), we stumbled across a concert with authentic Austrian players and singers:
Many people through the centuries have written about travel as a spiritual experience. I am finding it so, as well. Being in different places makes you think about your life in new ways, appreciate home, and consider your values.
We have one week left of our European adventures. Tomorrow we take the train to Switzerland where we hope to hike in the Alps for two days. The last three days we’ll spend in the Munich area. We fly back to the states a week from today.
I’m reading reports about the senior high mission trip, Vacation Bible School, and other church activities and am so happy that everything is going well in my absence…as I knew it would!
As I travel, I think often about my roots at ALUCC; I’m grateful for them, and for each of you.