Sunday, May 01, 2005

May 2005 - Travel

Here at the Zamek, most prospective travelers send an e-mail. Friends,relatives, strangers write that they would like to visit. I write back detailing ways to get to us and asking when, actually, they're coming.

Before I travel, I like to read up on the place I will visit. When I leave a hotel or my hosts' home I feel very tuned to any possible nuances in the air. Mostly I try to go along with hosts' plans, discussing with them their ideas. Sometimes I ask to be taken to a store, or to make a phone call and I do demand a drinking glass, preferably plastic, for the bathroom. What else might I see or do on this visit? I talk to the people aroundme. If I simply can't do all I wanted to do, I keep the leftovers in mind for a future visit. And/or buy a book on the subject.

When you travel, you notice some things that natives are not very aware of, and conversely, don't notice things under your nose. One family of four threw themselves into experiencing local possibilities - they went for walks, picked cherries and bilberries, visited a saw mill and a small
castle. They even washed dishes, which at that point required heating water on a wood stove. But about the third day with us, they said, "You know, someone has a carpenter shop and lumber yard at the end of your farm yard". "Yes, we know!", we said, "It's ours, and it's how we
make money, or, at least, hope to make money, to support this place."

Gracious hospitality is always appreciated. Some guests expect us todrop everything to attend to their wishes. While a pair of American priests had lunch we discussed a Norbertine monastery. "We'll go visit it this afternoon", they announced. I just looked at them. How did they think they were going to get there? Czech summer hikers do take this 12 kilometer hike, but the two priests did not have in mind that mode of travel. Of course I took them and they actually were welcomed to the rooms of our then, very dear, old abbot, Tejovsky.

Sometimes you hesitate to impose on your hosts. Irish friends saw other guests when they arrived, so, after lunch, in order "not to bother"us, the man demanded a rental car for exploring. Easier said than done. The rental place is over 20 km away; arrangements must be made. Sorting this out, our newly arrived guests agreed to take over the rental car of people leaving in the morning. The couple contented themselves with being shown around the estate, garden, fields, workshop, zamek by family members.

You might imagine yourselves able to do much more than is possible during your stay at your travel destination. In a box of old clothes,available for guests who want to help on the farm, I still have work pants left by a friend who'd planned to do whatever he could to help our
renovation. However, he had an academic conference to attend in Budapest and train connections were not good. It seemed they needed to spend the night in Vienna, and that train left the following morning.So he left his work clothes for the next volunteer. In case you want to
borrow them, I'll let you.