Glimpses 5: Czech Republic, Germany, Switzerland, China

March 20, 2017

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.. 

Coaster from U Fleku, Prague

Coaster from U Fleku, Prague

Czech Republic: Prague: Jacky, Jörg, take us to U Flecku, an incredibly old tavern some distance from the town’s center. Scarred wooden tables. Loud men-talk. Hearty laughter. Many mugs of Urquell disappeared from our table. How many dreams had been started, thwarted, and realized in this ancient beer hall? The following day, Cornelia and I visited the newly-opened Mucha Museum, while Jacky and Jörg explored elsewhere. (Note: We met Jacky Sparkowsky and Jörg Iwan in Berlin through the Jarczyks and have visited and traveled with them in Europe extensively).

Germany: Bergisch Gladbach: Walking back home with Heinz after a visit to his favorite art shop, we stop along the way at one of his favorite haunts — a small Italian restaurant where they warmly welcome him. Our order? An espresso and shot of grappa — enough to spur on at least an hour of small talk!

Germany: Leipzig: We find a tavern on the small square and see what we can get for lunch. As we sit at our table, I discover that this was the very place where Goethe wrote part of his “Dr. Faustus”. I try to conjure up his shade and absorb his spirit. All I come away with is the taste of beer. A short distance away, the church where Bach was choirmaster. My mind whirls with history.

 Switzerland: Somewhere in the Alps: Taking a short side trip on a local train from our Eurail route from Germany to Italy, we are in a carriage filled with young skiers. Rounding one mountain as we come from shade into full sunlight we unexpectedly come upon a sky filled with multi-colored hot air balloons, all sailing past our window at eye-level! Fantastic to see their tropical, parrot-like colors against the backdrop of snow-covered Alps!

China: Beijing (1999): A city of bicycles! (I hear that now they are rapidly being replaced by automobiles in China’s burgeoning economy. It was already a city of dense smog and pollution in 1999!). Beijing — A city of signs we cannot read!


Glimpses 6: Czech Republic, Italy, Germany, Japan

February 23, 2017

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.

Czech Republic: Prague: We walk across Karl’s Bridge with Jacky and Jörg and go to a restaurant under the abutments on the far side. Like walking into a grotto. Who had sat in my seat in the past? I can’t recall the food. The next day I find an art shop and buy a print of the bridge. It now hangs in my dining room and each time I look at it I am reminded of the restaurant, the castle up on the hill, and the artists working along the bridge. 

Town of Colonnata, Carrera Italy

Town of Colonnata, Carrera Italy

Italy: Carrara: Cavi di marma loom, white marble glinting in the sun, the road narrow and twisty as we rise in our little rented car above San Pietro. At the end of the road, a small town — Colonnata —full of old men in the square, all with some visible disability (seemed like I was visiting some home/place for the disabled) ..found out they were all local, hurt in accidents from their mining work. A monument honoring the men and the marble stands at the edge of town. Intermittent dynamiting disturbs the quiet little town. How difficult must it have been without modern technology during Michelangelo’s time!

Germany: Bergisch Gladbach: A small gathering at the home of Heinrich and Christiane Jarczyk celebrating Heinz’s 70th birthday, several of the people “new” to us, apparently friends and neighbors who were outside his artistic circle. At one point during the evening, an elderly gentleman, ramrod strait and very formal, remarked to me in a clipped and precise Oxford-English, “You call him Heinz?” “Yes,” I said somewhat lightly. “That’s his name.” The old man — I could picture him with a monocle and fencing scar — pulled back his head and said emphatically, “I know Herr Doktor Jarczyk for almost twenty years — and I do not call him (a slight hesitation here) ‘Heinz’.” I shrugged. “Well, I’m American, you see. We do not stand on such ceremonies. We are friends and he calls me ‘Ray’, and I call him ‘Heinz’.” I bowed slightly to his rigid glare and moved to take part in another nearby conversation. He did not deign to speak to me again for the rest of the evening.

Japan: Narita International Airport: On our departure flight from Japan to Beijing I was watching out my window as we taxied to our runway and noted a line of workers — baggage handlers? I was not sure, but they were all dressed in a white, work uniform — facing our plane and, as we taxied by, bowing deeply at the waist. I’d never seen anything like that and, to this day, do not know if it was a customary farewell to all airlines or was there perhaps some political VIP up in first class. Whatever, it was an extraordinary sight and strangely comforting to me as we took our leave.