Mental Snapshots from Europe.
I suppose I’ve been to Europe a dozen times and I’ve enjoyed something special on every trip. I have no favorite city or country, although I do especially enjoy France, probably because I speak enough of the language to make myself understood.
I’ve met some people who take a trip abroad and it’s a “one and done”: . . . something on a list of “to-dos” that has to be checked off so they can get on with their lives. That’s impossible for me to understand.
In addition to general impressions of specific cities and countries, I find I have a collection of little incidents and events that keep popping into my head at odd times. Some I can call up at will; many others come back quite suddenly for no apparent reason. It’s hard to explain, but it’s great fun when it happens!
Here are a few examples:
HUNGARY: We were in Budapest the same week the very first McDonalds opened. When we drove past the restaurant, people were lined up waiting to get in. Our Hungarian friends said they had gotten a highly prized invitation and had attended the restaurant on its Grand Opening. Of course we asked what they thought. “Well,” said our friend, quite seriously, “of course the food is wonderful . . . but so expensive!
FRANCE: I remember pausing to stare at a simple, dignified monument in the center of the little village of Domme in central France. Nineteen names of local residents, casualties of World War Two, are listed on the monument in three columns: Deported (6), Killed in Combat (7) Executed (6). Domme is a small village . . . just over 800 people. For them, the war was very personal.
AUSTRIA: In Vienna, we stopped for lunch one day in nice little restaurant. There were three of us—our daughter was probably 10 or 11 at the time. The waiter was a man about 50 and I noticed at the time that he had no notepad on which to jot down our orders. He just nodded as we told him what each of us wanted to eat and drink, then hustled of to the kitchen. When the meal was over, the waiter quickly removed the dishes. Then, from his apron pocket, he produced a notepad and a pencil and—looking first at my daughter, then at my wife, then at me—recited without the slightest hesitation what each of us had ordered and the price as he jotted each item down. Then he briskly totaled everything, added 15 percent für den service.” I must say it was a very impressive demonstration of a professional server doing his job and doing it very well indeed.
GERMANY: On a walking tour of Berlin, my group of perhaps a dozen touristsfrom several countries paused fo a bite to eat at a small bakery and a rather shabby convenience store. At the entrance to the parking area was a small sign saying this was the site of the bunker where Adolf Hitler committed suicide at the end of World War Two. The German government has deliberately maintained the nondescript run-down appearance of the area to discourage anyone from attempting to glorify the evil dictator.
These isolated memories keep popping up. I am so pleased that they do.