Travel Musings

Post Date: May 28th, 2017


My husband and I traveled to Vienna, Austria; Budapest, Hungary; and Prague, Czech Republic. What follows are musings from those fourteen days in May.

Young men roamed around the Viennese Opera House approaching tourists to sell tickets to cultural events such as concerts and the ballet. One of them began to sell us tickets to a Mozart-Strauss concert. We first began to be suspicious when he offered to carry our credit card halfway around the outside of the building in apparent deference to me with my lopsided gait as I favored my sore, arthritic knee. Our doubt deepened when the tickets he produced had no row number or seat number despite his showing us our supposedly reserved seats on a concert hall map. We checked the name plaque he wore around his neck for authenticity. He reassured us that it’s traditional in Vienna to sell tickets this way. Nonetheless, we paid in cash rather than leave our credit card information with him. I lost sleep thinking of all the little indicia of the scam. How could we be so gullible? But what could we do except go to the concert hall and present our tickets in case they might be real? I was astonished when we were seated where the ticket seller promised. Sometimes when someone I know dies, I think, “Now they know the truth” about something they were blind to when they were alive. But I didn’t need to die to find out the truth about the ticket seller. I only needed to show up at a concert hall with his tickets.

Warned of pickpockets and dishonest taxi drivers, I was not particularly looking forward to coming to Budapest. But she charmed me with her beauty in geography, architecture and statuary. She knows how to adorn her architecture with night lighting, and some of her statutes convincingly demonstrate movement. She has reclaimed her proud heritage after Nazi and communist takeovers. And now she even sports pedal beer bars on hot Friday afternoons. What’s not to like? 

No one makes fashion statements in Budapest or Prague, and few women wear make-up. In Paris, by contrast, an aged woman stepped out of her apartment building dressed in black leather, glazed with make-up, to walk her dog. 

The Danube is now a beautiful river, not green and odiferous as it was in the 1980s. She carries many tour boats between her shores as she courses through Europe. She is quieter and gentler than the Bosporus Strait between Europe and Asia, a fiercely energetic waterway with tankers and ships. 

I think that by wearing a knee sleeve, taking frequent sitting breaks, and regularly imbibing anti-inflammatories and analgesics, I am pampering my arthritic knee. But by the tenth day I realize I actually am merely mollifying the aggravation I’m causing it by walking three or four miles a day in European cities over uneven stone, concrete or tiled surfaces. So sorry, dear knee. I promise to take up swimming upon my return to the States. 

People visit large European cities for the museums, architecture, central squares, worship spaces, food, people and flora. I especially enjoy the latter, taking pleasure in photographing flowers when I travel. But flowers are scarce in Prague. On the other hand, cobblestone sidewalks and streets are ubiquitous. These surfaces, comprised of two-inch squares, eight-inch squares and mixed-sized rectangles, are physically challenging for me to negotiate. The rare blacktopped surface is a godsend, like an ice cream cone on a hot summer day. And if there are also shade trees along the block, it’s a double scoop. 

We noticed young couples in all three cities engaging in public displays of affection in subway stations. Truth be told, even we, a 47-year couple, indulged in affectionate touching as we rode the escalators deep down to the subway platforms. But better than these little stolen moments was the luxury of unfettered time in each other’s presence, realizing again how much we love one another and appreciating the deep grace and enduring comfort of our relationship.