Originally intended as a small book, “Glimpses: In which a Casual Traveler Ruminates on Passing Scenes—1989-2011″, I should like to share it with my readers in a more informal manner as a series of Blogs.
Switzerland: Ritten, in the Tyrolean Alps: On our way to Munich from Verona, our hosts (Gabi and Norbert Witmer) ask us if we would like to take a brief side-trip tovisit one of the small villages nestled at the top of a mountain. We of course quickly agree and soon find ourselves winding through one horseshoe curve after another as we slowly ascend. At one lookout point, we look down far below at the Italian city of Bolzano that we had passed through earlier that morning. Grapevines covered the steep sides of the mountain, each vine meticulously pruned and cared for, prompting our wonder at how the workers could work on such a precipitous slope.
Finally we reach the top and park in a small lot in front of a restaurant. The village has a handful of houses, a church abutting a cemetery. The restaurant seems to be the only visible business establishment. As our waitress brought us a light lunch (excellent soup!), I remarked on the striking likeness of the young woman with my sister Rita — or at least as she looked when she was also young. After lunch, we strolled the little village, seeking better views of the Dolomites looming through a lowering sky. At one point we stepped into the small church — it might have held thirty people — and stood silently in the rear as a sole occupant, an elderly woman, knelt at the altar. It was as we waited for the woman to leave that I began to have the feeling that I had been in this church before and, as the sense of déjà vu deepened, it began occurring to me that a good bit of the town had also seemed familiar to me. Strangely, I was convinced that I had been there — yet, I knew that I had never before traveled to this part of the world, had no connection whatsoever with this German village called Ritten. Months later, in thinking about the odd experience, I began to wonder how it connected with my studies of ancient history shortly before we left for Europe. I had recently completed the 8 volumes of The Barbarian Invasions of the Roman Empire by Thomas Hodgkin, a good deal of my curiosity centered on my own “barbarian”, Teutonic roots. I had come to the conclusion that my forebears came from the Allamani tribe, the very tribe that eventually settled in the Alps after they left the northern part of Europe. When I related this ‘adventure’ to Christiane Jarczyk, she immediately said, “Of Course. That is where your grandfather’s people lived!” So, had I been in tune with some lingering vibe from an ancestor who lived atop this mountain? An ancestor whose progeny included that waitress who resembled my sister? Nonsense, undoubtedly — but still?