my new friends Pat, Cheryl, Michilene and Cleo. Cheryl and Cleo were responsible for organizing my trip to elementary schools in Germany.
I came back from Europe completely inspired to write. Just not about my trip. It sucks because it was such a profound experience and I’ve really wanted to show that. It’s been stressing me out because I wanted to get it all down before it fades out. But that’s just not what is showing up on the paper.
So for now, this is what I have to say: I made some great friends in my first week in Europe, working with the teachers and staff of the elementary schools I spoke at. They were amazing hosts and a blast to be around. Good friends, instantly. It was more difficult to leave than I would have expected. It took me 2 weeks to write thank you notes, simply because I couldn’t find a way to express my gratitude for such an amazing opportunity and experience. I’m not sure there is a way to adequately return the generosity. It was an adventure of a lifetime.
Without question, I came back revitalized and ready to dive back in to writing. I’ve pulled old stories off the shelf and remembered why I loved them in the first place. It’s been years since I’ve been here. I have no idea what I’ll be writing next. But that’s what makes it so fun. Inspiration has a mind all its own.
Little did I know that my European adventure would be so high on the hot dog. I landed in Frankfurt, home of the Frankfurter. I traveled to Wien (Vienna), home of the Wiener. I did not travel to Hamburg. But I could have. I’m telling you- this place is Meaty.
Why hasn’t the German department of tourism done this up? Like an ad campaign with the slogan GERMANY IS MEAT or something to that effect. They could have signs on the autobahn that say “WELCOME TO GERMANY, LAND OF MANY MEATS. And back in America, on the big screen at the baseball game, you’d see video ads with roasting sausages and beer and babes, and maybe even Frankenstein, and an ending where they zoom out over the Black Forest with the words Visit Germany- It’s One Giant Ballpark fading in…
In Germany, it is seriously not out of the question that I might meander upon some place called Ketzup Pfalz. And I will take a picture of the throne upon which sat the Earl of Ketzup. And I will learn, as everyone there knows except for me, that this was THE PLACE where the Earl of Ketzup issued the proclamation that all steaks be served “‘b’neath a blanket of crushed tomahto.” I can think of no other place on Earth where this scenario could be more plausible.
Were it not for the graceful balance of infinite German bakeries (8 on every corner), this place would be called Meatyland.
Train rides are a perfect time for writing in a journal. The route is smooth, and the sound of the train is both hypnotic and astonishingly quiet. It was easy to get into a good writing groove, which was perfect because I had lots to say before I got to Vienna.
Salzburg Austria is completely magic. Centuries of brilliance and beauty make everything here glow: the landscape and the buildings and definitely the local people. Mozart must have felt this energy. I bet Julie Andrews tapped into it too. Actually, I bet everybody who comes here does. It would be very difficult to leave this place uninspired. I loved the way the golden shop lights reflected off the rainy streets, and the way the smells from bakeries and restaurants would float down the narrow cobblestone streets. You could point your camera anywhere and you’d end up with art. The place felt deeply alive.
As a rookie traveler, I quickly discovered that sightseeing and history are not my top priorities. I struggle through guided tours and I rarely make it out to the main attractions. What I really like is to immerse myself in the local culture, meet the people, catch the vibe of the place and eventually try it on myself. For a while I felt bad about my priorities, like I was dissing my ancestors or something. But Salzburg validated my travel philosophy. It showed me how the history of a place is carried not just in the works of its past masters or the events of a distant past, but in the current descendants of the city itself.
More on those people next time- I’ll attempt t0 recreate my evening at the Stadtkrug Hotel (a difficult task made more difficult by the cultural tradition of very large beer mugs.)
Auf Wiedersehen! Suz heads off to Germany, 1987
The first photo taken of Suzanne and I was in January 1987, at the Sea-Tac international airport. She was on her way to Germany for a semester of study, and I had a letterman’s jacket and big shiny braces. (That’s hot. She was crazy not to date me.)
A group of some of my best friends went on the same German exchange program. And at the end of the school year, they all took a few weeks and wandered around Europe. When I was 17, that was my dream trip. It sounded like the coolest adventure ever. Now that I’m 40, I think it’s even cooler.
So long story ridiculously short:
- Awesome Teachers Cheryl Patterson and Cleo Strazdas contacted Michele Kophs (my legendary event manager) and organized a series of author visits for me with elementary and middle school students in Germany
- Suzanne graciously suggested I spend a second week wandering Europe
- Michele orchestrated and coordinated with Cheryl and Cleo and Suzanne and me and Heike the travel agent
- On March 27th, me and my backpack arrived in Germany. Official dream come true!
OK- Later I’ll write about the best experiences and all. But right now I’m too sleepy.
Good night bears, sitting in chairs.