Week 135 October 29, 2016

From Prague to Berlin via Hamburg is where we traveled this week. We started out our week at the Prague Unitarian Sunday service. While we could not understand their words, we thoroughly enjoyed familiar music from a visiting choir and the melodies of hymns – like Find a Stillness.
We also recognized names attributed to quotes in the Order of Service by, for example, Bertram Russell. Many of the hymns in their songbook were translated from English by the current minister, Rev. Petr, as well as by Norbert Capek – famed historic Czech Unitarian leader. We met two women who also were visiting from a US UU congregation, from Pennsylvania in fact. Loren and I stayed afterwards for a slideshow presentation  on “Transylvanska,” sharing about a trip that some members of this congregation took to Transylvania in September. I reminisced along with them by looking at my own similar photos of Transylvania on my cell phone.
That afternoon we went to see the movie, Anthropoid, suggested to us by our European UU friends, at a theater that showed it in English with Czech subtitles. While it was a difficult show to watch, it was well worth it for the history it portrays, that took place right in Prague. On a lighter note, this movie house has some entertaining seat covers, and, the building houses unique art by a current Czech – that hanging statue is of Good King Wenceslas on his horse, hanging upside down. Later we walked around town and saw the “Dancing Building” as well. Fun!
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Back on a more somber note, we walked to the Prague church with the Catacombs where much of the events in the Anthropoid movie took place, as suggested by our newest UU friend. The kind attendant made sure that we saw the interior with the actual tombs not just the many exhibition description boards, even though it was nearing closing time.
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When we arrived in Prague, we were wearing sweaters, but by the time we left we needed our jackets and wool hats too. We brought our visit to a close in Prague with a memorable Italian dinner. We had an overnight bus ride to Hamburg which entailed 5 hours by bus to Berlin, then 3 more on to Hamburg, partly through some scenic vistas.
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We were picked up at the Hamburg station by the grandson of dear UU friends of ours from California. Loren had visited with their daughter, his mom, and her family in Oregon in the fall of 2014 while I was teaching yoga in California, meeting this young man then. When he saw on our blog that we were in Europe he reached out for us to meet up. We three had a fun evening on the Hamburg harbor, including walking the long tunnel below the river for a distant view of the city, before a lovely visit and overnight stay with our friends’ exchange student, her husband and cat. These families are long time friends, and we were happy to visit together with these family members too.
We spent the next morning with our friend for a daytime tour of the city before our bus to Berlin. Hamburg is Germany’s second largest city. We saw the BlumenundPlanten – Flowers and Plants park, the Botanical Garden, and tried traditional foods here, including Apfelschorle – apple juice with sparkling water. It was wonderful to spend this brief but memorable time here with this friend!
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We are now in Berlin and have had several days to tour parts of this amazing city, the largest in Germany. We began with the East side Gallery to see the longest piece of the Berlin wall – a mile purposely left standing for historic purposes, and, a memorial museum about life during the Cold War. In all, the original wall was nearly 100 miles long. The rest of it came tumbling down on the night of November 10, 1989, when the citizens of East and West Berlin knew the time was right and began to hack it apart. We also visited an open air museum of the wall with moving accounts of people’s experiences.
We have used the U-Bahn and metro systems in Berlin which has made it convenient to travel around the city. We found a Bikram Yoga studio where Loren and I took a few classes together this week. It has felt so good to be back in the hot room in Prague and now Berlin! We have also seen Berlin’s Brandenburg Tor – Gate, and Oberbaum Bridge of red bricks… both have witnessed so much history.
Then we visited remembrances of the suffering and struggles during the Nazi regime and World War II – specifically, Memorial to the Murdered Jews, Checkpoint Charlie, and The Jewish Museum.
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We were told that we would see Stolpersteine – stepping stones, “everywhere” in Berlin as small memorials with some small mention of victims, but I have only seen one here so far, and it is so different from the similar gold bricks we had seen in Freiburg last fall.
At our AirBnB I flipped through the German language version of a book about John Lennon, understanding none of the writing including even the title, but enjoying seeing his drawings in it. Tomorrow, Loren and I are off to Reykjavik, Iceland…
PLEASE NOTE: This week we have access to good internet, but we may not in the next few weeks. Please visit here again to find our next post when we can.


Week 134 October 22, 2016

Before we left Agia Effimia – the coastal town where we were staying on Kefalonia in Greece – we walked the whole way to Myrtos Beach, over an uneven, sometimes flooded trail and some paved road, winding up on a swath full of switchbacks, to walk way, way down to the beach for a gorgeous vista. Overall, it was well worth the effort.
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Loren decided that we would hitch a ride back, and the first car that came along stopped for us. A couple from Germany, though he is originally from Greece, were our friendly Samaritans, and we were back to our guesthouse in no time. For our last full day in Greece Loren and I took a private cooking class. We made a traditional meat pie, Greek salad and tzatziki, and together enjoyed our delicious meal, complete with wine and desert. That evening as Loren and I went out for our last walk, we spied our German friends at an outdoor table of a cafe. We joined them for coffee then beer and the evening quick passed in memorable conversation.
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As we took our leave of Greece, I wrote my latest poem:
The Walk to Myrtos
Claire Adalyn Wright
An unusually muddy, rocky trail
intense sun bakes my face
prickly Live Oak leaves
tear at my hair. Ouch!
Thorns grab, pierce my
clothes, prick my skin, draw
droplets of blood. Oww!
Finally, a long, steep road down
finds the beach is not sand but stone.
A glorious, sunny, fall day calls us forth.
Trees line either side, on the path
through a fertile valley. Beautiful!
Side street proclaims, “The Olive Story,”
a sandwich, soft drinks, make good breaks.
The wide, winding road opens down to
aqua-turquoise water. Frothy white surf
caresses a bleached pebbled white beach.
Easier to walk here in sandals than sand!
We had a 4:30am taxi pickup for our flights – through Athens to Prague, Czech Republic, where our AirBnB host picked us up for the hour long drive to his place where we are staying. Prague is a city that represents what most large European cities would look like if not for the destruction during World War II. It is believed that Adolf Hitler was enamored of Prague so insisted on sparing it. The city is full of spires, statues and cobblestone streets from the Medieval to Baroque eras, and of course there are some more modern buildings too. One day we walked through one of the city gates of Staré Mesto – Old Town, which is one of the four quarters – or the four former separate towns – that make up Prague.
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Prague is a lovely city where it is fine and easy to walk, so we have walked a lot this week. We were surprised to find an Apple museum here, mainly a tribute to Steve Jobs, from what we saw of the free first floor level. 
We also walked part of the Royal Way, crossing over Karluv Most – Charles Bridge to arrive in Malá Strana – Lesser Town or Little Side, of the River where the King once lived. I recognized the familiar Slavic words “Old” and “Most” from Mostar’s Stari Most – Old Bridge, in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The bridge here is named for King Charles. Both spans are reserved for pedestrians, who flock to them.
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We sought out the John Lennon Wall down one of the side streets. I find it interesting how Steve Jobs somewhat resembles John Lennon, but perhaps it is just because they were contemporaries, wearing similar hair styles.
Then we walked the gentle uphill path toward Strahov Monastery. Along the way we found many of the crafted signs that at one time were used to identify houses – before numbering was introduced. We stopped to enjoy the view of Prague’s skyline over a bowl of soup and a beer at a cafe next to the Monastery on the hill.
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In the evening we took in a Black Light Theater show. Traditional to Prague, this is fantasy and comedy, combined in silence. It was most entertaining! It also reminded me of an outstanding memorial service performance that we had attended some time ago in San Francisco. It honored a friend’s daughter, who was a professional clown. Another coincidence is that the theater building is named Palac Unitaria – Unitarian Palace…
Another day our plans were thwarted to take a bus to Cesky Krumlov as we were misinformed of the transport provider and where to pick the bus up. So, we make lemonade when life gives us lemons. I walked back down to Old Town to take a Bikram Yoga class – my first in nearly a year, since last November, and the first since I broke my pelvis, which was last December. Our delicious lemonade lasted well into the evening, as we were then free to attend a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake that we had thought we would have to pass on. I bought the tickets on my way back from the yoga class. It was delightful, and especially because this troop changed the plot that we had read beforehand to have a happy ending instead – the Evil Sorcerer was the one to die in this version, allowing the Prince and his lovely Swan to live happily ever after.
Last fall at the European Unitarian Universalist Retreat in Cologne, we had met an American who lives in Prague. This week we saw her and another local EUU member, over brunch at an ex-Pat cafe. We have so enjoy visiting with Unitarians on our journey, as it feels like a connection to home, and is wonderful to spend time with people who have similar values. We learned that the Black Light Theater is also where the Unitarian offices are located.
Unlike the former Yugoslavian states that we visited on the Balkan Peninsula who had kept up relations with both western and eastern regimes, what was Czechoslovakia – now the Czech Republic and Slovakia, was dominated by Soviet rule. Thanks to our friends’ suggestion, in the afternoon we visited the Museum of Communism. The caption on their flyer is “Dream, Reality, Nightmare.” Just outside the museum is the large square with a statue of the historic Good King Wenceslas and it is the site where the 1989 nonviolent Velvet Revolution took place. Wenceslas hails from the Czech Republic, as does composer Antonin Dvorak.
We finished our week in Prague by attending two classical music performances at St. Nicholas church, with a tasty traditional Czech pub dinner in between. The highlight of the music was Vivaldi’s Four Seasons in the second concert, which was played by an Historic Instruments orchestra that included a Baroque violinist. It is becoming noticeably wetter and colder during our short stay in Prague, with temperatures down to the 40’s and 50’s Fahrenheit. We are set to travel further north to Hamburg then Berlin this coming week… Brrr!
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PLEASE NOTE: This week we have decent internet coverage, but may not have viable service over the next few weeks. Please check back here, I will share my weekly post when and as often as I can.

REPOSTING in Progress: Weeks 2 to 109

This place holder is for the entries from our original blog to be added, eventually. Please check back – this re-creation is a labor of Love and will take a bit of  t-i-m-e- which, while still traveling, we do not always have a lot available to devote to this.