Week 126 August 27, 2016

“How could it possibly be the end of August?” I ask. Loren has remarked several times, “We only have so much time in life and we don’t know how much time we are going to have.” That is true both of life and on our journey. In the meantime we are having the times of our lives and are so very grateful to be realizing our dreams of travel now. We will just continue to take it one-day-to-three-months at a time.
This week began with us attending Sunday service at the Kolozsvar 1 congregation in Transylvania, also in Cluj, Romania. This needs a little explanation, and this is what we were told: Kolozsvar, is the name of the city in Hungarian, which is the language of Transylvania. After World War I the region of Transylvania was taken from Hungary and given to Romania. For a brief time during World War II Transylvania was returned to Hungary, then at the close of World War II it was again turned over to Romania. To the Romanians, Kolozsvar is named Cluj, and the Romanians do not understand why the Transylvanians do not speak the Romanian language. The Transylvanians prefer to retain their Hungarian language and heritage, though are content to be in Romania.
Kolozsvar 1 is one of three Unitarian congregations in the city of Kolozsvar. This one is near our AirBnB, in the same block on the same street as the Unitarian Headquarters building, and, the Unitarian schools – both the seminary and the primary-through-high-school, school. We felt fortunate that the current intern at Kolozsvar 1 was able to sit with us during the service and to translate the concepts of the sermon, as had been done for us in Arkos and in Medias by each minister’s wife. As you might notice from the sign on the door which is as historic as the whole area I might add, how different the Hungarian language is. I can make out words, what I believe might say “Worship 11am” and possibly “Preaching Today:” and the minister’s name, but with little to no certainty.  
Sunday was also the finale of the Hungarian Cultural Days in Kolozsvar. We attended part of a marathon org – organ, concert, then with our AirBnB host we saw an operatte – a performance of popular songs which included in Hungarian what we could recognize as If I Were A Rich Man. She also helped us purchase a local favorite langos – said longoosh, which is a pastry filled with cheese and sauce. Loren and I then saw a brass performance – the musicians sat high over us on the balcony of the large church tower.
We met up with our host again for the evening concert which ended the festivities. In all, Hungarian Days are a delightful, family friendly community gathering. Our friend, the Unitarian minister had warned us that the concert would be “many people – like 30.000, celebrating together.” We were happy to be two among them!

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The next day we met our friend for a tour of the Unitarian school where she had attended herself and where she now teaches Religion and Social Studies. The building was built in 1900. Fortunately the two early museums inside have been preserved through all the turmoil during that century. We enjoyed a meaningful visit over lunch with her afterwards. It is sad that Transylvania is so far from California as we would be happy to spend more time with her and the other fabulous Hungarian Unitarians who we met and visited with too briefly while we were here.
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It was fortunate thst the weather waited a day for the Hungarian Days events to finish before it let loose with a storm. Our afternoon hike planned turned into a visit to one of the malls in Kolozsvar. I needed to replace the camera I have become so fond of but with the sands from Namibia still causing it to act up more – or rather neglect to act properly at all, it was time to bid it farewell. I want to mention how often we have been asked on visiting in parts of Europe and Africa, “Where you come from?” Loren likes to respond with playing a guessing game. He encourages the person to enumerate with him where the English speaking areas of the world are: Australia, Canada, England, Holland also sometimes comes up in the list, New Zealand, Scotland, South Africa, The United States of America, and, then have them pick. The United States is usually not their first guess…
It took us all day to travel from Kolozsvar/Cluj, Romania to Split, Croatia, due to limited airline scheduling. In the waiting room for the first of our two flights, I heard chatter, then smiled at being part of the world community when I heard “email” and “internet” interspersed in otherwise unrecognizable words. It reminds me of years ago when on a business trip to Canada and, sitting in a restaurant by myself I overheard “income tax” within a French conversation… Coincidentally we actually spent most of our travel day to Croatia in France – at the borders of Germany and Switzerland, but, in the technically non-Schengen Basel/Freiburg International airport in Mulhouse, France. We were glad to successfully pass through immigration with our knowledge of the Schengen visa.
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Our day ended with a night flight into Split, Croatia. So Loren jokes, “We split for Split!”
In Split, our AirBnb is situated next to the train and bus stations, which are next to the harbor. There are a vast number of sailing vessels, cruise ships, and tour boats lining the docks. It continues to be August – when most of the people of Europe are still on holiday, and Split is definitely a popular destination. I totally understand why! We have spent time exploring the city centre which spills out and around the preserved and restored ruins of the Diocletian Palace, built during the Roman Empire.
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We have also hiked around the end of the peninsula and over Mount Marjan to put our feet in the beautiful Mediterranean Sea. Well ok, so I did that, while Loren swam in it. All along we had the pungent smell of pine, the relentless sound of cicada, the sun shining in the blue sky over breathtaking scenery… in other words, all pleasant experiences. 
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My cousin, who’s daughter-in-law hails from Croatia, had warned us about the food and needing to work off the additional extra weight we will gain… Cherry grappa, yum! Fresh fruits, soup and veggies with garlic and oil that our AirBnB host has provided for us, yum! Yum! So, we also did a bit of hiking around the spectacular vistas of Krka – said Kirka, National Park. It is so impressive that we plan to return before we leave Croatia.
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Tomorrow we will take another hike around the peninsula at least – our extra calories need to be worked off!
PLEASE NOTE: While this week we have sufficient internet access, we may not have service in the countries we are visiting in the coming weeks. Please visit again, I will add my weekly post when it is possible.

Week 116 June 18, 2016

This week I am reflecting on how wonderful, even luxurious it has been to have a full week in the same place. Usually we are on the move after 1, 2, 3, or, maybe, 4 nights. Lugano is quiet, with not too much to attract our wanderlust. We did consider the train for a day trip to Bellinzona, then reconsidered when we realized that we probably could not recreate the enchantment that we had felt there 20 years ago. So, this week we stayed close to “home.” I had time to dig out my sewing kit to stitch up a few items that have needed repair. More importantly though we firmed up our plans for when we will leave the Schengen Area on July 6, as our 90 days visa limit will come to an end. How fortunate to be traveling in the era of Internet service – even though our connection at times was excruciatingly slow, we were able to accomplish enough to then be able to rest a bit.
We left the Swiss Ticino region to return to Italy by train, and are now settled in for another week here as well. This is a view from our Balcone sul Lago di Como – Balcony on Lake Como, AirBnB accommodation.
We actually had a dinner this week that was less than wonderful – quite surprising for Italy. The markets in our little village of Moltrasio are closed on Mondays, so we had a choice between only two small Bars that were open. Found all over Italy, these are more similar to a cafe, bistro or New York diner than what we Americans would consider a place mainly to drink alcohol. The Bar we chose had a limited menu… and, the pizza we ordered was edible, but nothing to rave about. Later the ominous clouds broke out with numerous flashes of the brightest lightning – accompanied by the longest and loudest rumbling of thunder – that rank among the worst I have ever experienced. I was very grateful to be safe and dry in our bedroom.
On our first full day here, the forecast was for a sunny morning with rain in the afternoon, and, for rain every other day while we are here. We chose to risk taking the regional boat, which made about ten little village stops, before reaching our destination of the village of Bellagio.
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We had decided that we just had to get off at Bellagio, as the resort of the same name was our favorite place to watch the free choreographed water and light show years ago when we were visiting in Las Vegas. We were fortunate in that the rain only drizzled as we explored around here.
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That night we had another spectacular series of thunder and lightning storms, which dropped a forceful and continuous amount of rain from start to finish. I am wondering if the thunder sounds so loud because it is exaggerated by this long lake lined with mountains on either side. Would the openness from our staying on the mountainside beside the lake explain why the lightning seems particularly bright? And, perhaps the sound of the rain seems forceful because it is raining onto a large body of water. Anyway, the showers help the flowers, which are delightful. 
I am also sad to say that I had another mishap, which impeded my ability to walk some. I smashed a baby toe on a metal bedpost at our previous AirBnB. It was quite painful to put my foot in my boot – we wear our hiking boots when we wear our backpacks and daypacks to travel. I was fortunate though in being able to carry my packs just fine to and from our buses and train on our way to our AirBnB in Lake Como. Once here I elevated my foot, iced it, and did so again over the first couple days while we were . inside. But, I was unable to join Loren on his ambitious five hour hike up in the mountains one day this week.
Loren was fortunate in that the weather forecast was wrong – he had an overcast but mainly dry day. He took the steep route up Monte di Lenno on the Sentiero Bisbigno to Refugio Bugone, where he was the one guest spontaneously invited to a family gathering to celebrate a 25th wedding anniversary. Being the only guest also meant that he was also the sole photographer, to the family’s delight! Then he continued on the Sentiero di Piano – the slow path, toward Monte di Liscione – meaning delicious mountain, and back to Moltrasio. That night we had no thunder and lightning, though the rain that came during the night was still forceful and loud.
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The next morning our AirBnB host who is the skipper of a water taxi, had the day off. When he asked how my toe was I admitted that I was quite worried that I had broken it and maybe more than just the toe as I have had shooting pain up the side of my foot on and off when I walk. He generously offered to drive us to the neighboring village to a clinic. There we discovered that the clinic was officially closed to just ambulance care until the evening, so our host kindly offered to accompany us to Ospedale Sant’Anna in the city of Como.
First though, we stopped at our host’s favorite bar for coffee and a pastry. This is where the Municipal – municipality, offers alternative schooling to at-risk youth, and is a place for them to learn English and how to serve customers, as well as attend classes. The outdoor tables are made by encasing crushed automobile parts, making them too heavy to carry away, and the companion seats are made of old tire rims. How clever and resourceful! An art-nouveau castle shares the grounds of the village offices and bar. Loren and I have finally learned the right way to order a tasty, to us, coffee: we remember to ask for Latte Macchiato. It has a bit of espresso with lots of milk.
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Our host had planned to read a good book on his day off, so was most content to wait with us with his book for the long emergency room visit. The outcome is that there is nothing broken in my foot. Yay! Now I am just taping two toes together. The rain came early and poured and poured while we were driving back to Moltrasio. While at the bar that morning, we had learned of a concert that evening featuring a One Man Blues/Jazz Band, so we three returned to the Bar for a fun evening of finger food and music. Upon arriving home we were greeted with – what else? A strong rain storm!
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Over the past few weeks, in addition to the exciting American Basketball finals – Go Warriors!, Europe has been having finals in Football – Soccer to Americans. Our AirBnB host watches at night and is rooting for the French to win the European Cup. He feels that since France experienced the recent terrorism that he would like them to have an uplifting finish to this competition.
Today the sun is out, the sky is bright blue with just a few clouds, as of yet. Loren and I are off for a bike ride around some of the nearby villages…


Week 115 June 11, 2016

Thank you to all our family and friends who follow us along on our journey, it is always heartwarming when we learn from you that you do, and to know a little of what is going on in your lives too!
This week began with our riding three trains to travel from Italy to Switzerland – from Asti to Alesandria, Alesandria to Milano, and Milano to Lugano. Then we essentially holed up in our AirBnB for a couple of days to catch up on things that we have had to put off and to do some future planning, other than going food shopping. That suited the weather as it rained hard on each of those days. When we finally ventured out for the 30 minute walk to the park on the edge of Lago di Lugano or Der Luganersee – Italian or Swiss for Lake Lugano, the sun joined us for part of our 6 hour adventure around town. It felt good to be outside!
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We have visited many churches and cathedrals in Europe, but, in Lugano I found my first one with out of the box – or actually out of the cupola art, and it is so representative of the weather that we have been experiencing!
Our second outing on another day took us further along the lake edge, toward what is named Paradise, with a couple of business signs proclaiming Eden. We walked past white bows and red heart balloons decorating a lakeside establishment which we believe was hosting a casual wedding.
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We were then surprised at touched at being greeted by a bust of our dear George Washington, housed in a round columned and dome-covered open pavilion along our La Passeggiata, which translates to traditional Italian evening walk.
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That evening we also walked up the many steep steps, designed and built along an abandoned railroad lift, which has also been claimed by a local art project to spruce up the area.
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At the top we had beautiful views of the lake and surrounding communities.

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I am not certain that we made a full Italian mile – 1000 paces, out of our jaunt but again it was great to be outdoors, even though it was – of course, overcast. Loren and I are both missing our regular respective exercise routines of bicycling and yoga, which would have helped offset all the scrumptuous food we have been eating… We will take better care of ourselves going forward.
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With Loren’s ability to speak Italian improving, my comprehension of Italian expanding a little bit, and spending extended time in Italy – being again with precious family members and cherished friends, I am learning that how we humans view life is in such similar ways, despite differences in language. Sure, I probably understood that, intellectually, before. Now I really understand through my experiences. Such familiar repeated words or phrases as simple as anke me – me too, fortunato – fortunate, certo -certainly, aspeta, ‘speta – wait, wait, coro – choir, and many other everyday words, as well as various signs of the Italian Pace or Latin Pax – Peace which we have seen along the way, all brought this to mind.
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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.