Wednesday, March 11, 2009

April '09 Bridge European visits

After junior year in high school I went to a conference in a camp called Sky Lake. We had discussions, cookouts, lots of fun, but I had a worry that I didn't think concerned others: the upcoming vote on the European Common Market with uncertain passage. It felt very important to me. One evening I went in the camp store and a radio newscast: the European Common Market had passed. It was years later that I first visited Europe, but since then my family and I have been to many countries of what became the EU.

In early years at the Zamek a TV crew came to film us. It was summer, so my mother-in-law, Rina, was here. As we sat on the Platz, she told how she had packed small suitcases with pajamas and a sausage for their 1948 escape. I was interviewed in the kitchen; I said how I feel at home as climate and terrain are similar to my hometown area in central New York State. My husband talked about what we grow while interviewed on a field. Our son was filmed in one of the woodshops. He said that he had been very fortunate to have visited many countries throughout his childhood and now was pleased to be in the free Czech Republic.

When you visit another country you find, even within Europe, similarities and differences. My husband had business in the Netherlands . I went on a canal boat ride and a bus trip with two little daughters."We'll go visit a castle on the weekend" my husband said. I said, "Don't be silly. Holland doesn't have castles!" But they do - dozens. We went to Muiderslot, and also visited WWII bunkers, and the Comenius' Museum, which my husband's grandmother's friend had founded. On another early trip to Amsterdam a couple daughters bought tiny delft-ware type pieces in the hotel gift shop. They complained to the sales girl that they were using too much of their vacation money for small gifts. "Yes", she said, "Holland is a small and expensive country".

We never spent much time in France, but one two-day visit to Paris seems quintessential to me. We arrived from an overnight flight. The concierge at the King George Hotel looked askance at our bedraggled crew, fumbling around with reservations, until my husband asked him to store our PC very, very carefully. [PC's were a new item in the world back then.] The concierge found the reservations. The computer went to the storeroom; we were taken to a beautiful and extensive suite. There was some chipped paint, pre-renovations, but for us and our four children unending space after a night flying was wonderful. There were three bedrooms, a large sitting room, corridors, and a number of bathrooms. One child did math homework on a Louis the something table.

After all rested, we ordered room service for the three girls -exquisite food, with linens, silver, and flowers. My husband, I, and our young teen-age son went out for dinner and then the show at the Folies de Berges. Of course it was interesting. I remarked that I liked the variety of costumes; our son remarked that he thought it very repetitious, my husband agreed. However, we had at least viewed it once.

The next day we walked to the Champs Elysees, Napoleon's tomb, the Eiffel tower, and lovely gardens. Our fashion-conscious daughter remarked on the clothes of French children playing in the gardens. "They are all wearing Outfits!", she said. [Toiletries she collected from the hotel bathrooms lasted her several years.] The following morning we flew off, having experienced Paris.

Greece was our destination four or five times. On the island of Kos the children played in marketplace ruins. There had been money to excavate mosaic floors, but not to build a structure, so you scraped the four or so inches of sand off and then recovered them.. One child got a painful bee sting. I went to a pharmacy across the road. This was my first experience of European pharmacists as medical advisors. I said she was not allergic, and he gave me something which took the sting out.

The last time we saw the Parthenon it had scaffolding. I think the repairs were really needed, so it wouldn't collapse. However our youngest did not like this! "Don't they know that people want to see it like it ended up? I'm not coming back until they take the scaffolding away!" She left. My husband said, "I didn't know Ann is a classical purist".

One of our daughters has returned to Greece twice, from Prague, including on her honeymoon. It's not sneaky infecting the children with interest in other places, it's vital to our world and theirs.