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Archive for the ‘travel’ Category

Glacier National Park, Montana

The first Tuolumne Writer’s Retreat is September 28- 30 in historic Columbia State Park, California. I’m giving a presentation on my experience completing my first manuscript.

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Mucha window in Prague

More precious than any stained glass windows were the few people I saw in Poland who entered a church to pray. Early in the morning a father leads his young son across the threshold of one of many cathedrals. As tourist swarm the altar like bees drawn to gold inlay a local woman kneels, contemplating her prayer book. In the evening a working woman pops into a church on her way home from work.

The Poles have kept their faith. Many visit their church on their way to work to ask for strength for the coming day; on their way home they stop in to thank God for His provision and blessings.

Sadly though, most cathedrals in Central Europe are preserved as history. No mention is made of God’s activity in the world; instead they testify to man’s striving for significance in the world. Christianity is presented as a relic.

A church devoid of worshippers is a museum; I can appreciate the beauty of the construction but I wonder—where is God if He is not in the hearts of people? If the faithful no longer gather in the church, where are they?

At St. Stephen’s Basilica in Budapest, the patron saint replaces the figure of Christ except at Christmas and Easter. It’s interesting to note that although religion is often blamed for devastating wars it is nationalism that is most often the culprit. Christ, the mediator between people and God is shoved aside for a host of saints who advocate for special interest groups.

Plitvice Park in Croatia

On a meditative walk through magnificent Plitvice Park in Croatia, I had a thought.  It is man’s perspective that is relative, not God’s truth. Our challenge is to examine our perspectives (“know thyself”), challenge our thinking (active listening) and seek God’s truth (“be still and know”).  How many of us are willing to do that soul work?

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King Matthias

Crossing the border from Slovakia into Hungary our guide began our orientation by listing Hungary’s enemies and recounting the wars they mostly lost. The late 19th and early 20th century years were bright – a burst of economic and artistic growth; then two devastating wars, after which they were shoved behind the iron curtain. Recently there has been some growth mixed with much uncertainty.

It is impossible for me to imagine what my mindset would be if I hadn’t been born in a country that has always been free. What if I looked back on a history that dated to the ninth century and could only point to 50 good years? (more…)

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Brides roam the square in Praque with an entourage that includes a mother, a groom and a photographer. They pose in front of all the major attractions for the tourist paparazzi.

I began to suspect they might actually be audience builders for a designer label and in fact, some are models for wedding catalogs. Prague is a popular nuptial destination that draws young couples from all over the world.

(more…)

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The official seal of the Kingdom of Wallachia

The Czech town of Stramberk near the border of Poland is the seat of the Kingdom of Wallachia, the figment of a marketer’s overactive imagination. Tomas Harabis issued passports to the tongue-in-cheek mini-nation and established it in the hearts of the people with a flag, currency, stamps, a patron saint and a beer god.

Despite a coup that resulted in a court case and a deposed monarch, the economy of the fictional kingdom flourishes, so much so that the townspeople are building beautiful new homes off the money they get from tourists to their idyllic town.

If you go: Try a tasty ear! Legend has it that the Mongols used to slice the ears off people who annoyed them. In the spirit of making a profit out of a painful situation you can buy a gingerbread “ear” filled with fruit nestled in rich cream. The entire town of Stramberk smells like gingerbread.

Our Hungarian tour guide Peter

Our tour guide Peter encourages us to change our thinking. How you think about the heart of Europe (calling these countries Eastern Europe offends the residents; if I tried to explain I’d have a Master’s thesis) changes depending on what framework you use: history—who held the power; ethnicity—what backgrounds and religious faiths make up the population; geography—where borders get drawn and redrawn; and generations—what people have experienced. For example, after the communist regime fell, opportunities opened up for the young people with language and computer skills, but their parents lost their jobs and the security they depended on under communism.

Loss is a theme in this part of the world. With every regime change whole populations lose their homes and this has been going on for centuries. There have been bright spots: when a king was generous with his people (good King Charles IV of Prague); when peace settled long enough for the people to get ahead (early twentieth century) and today, with the establishment of the European Union and open borders, although some would disagree.

local guide Katka, praguewalker.com

The young people have hope. They value education, enjoy travel and embrace change. That’s as lovely to see as the stunning architecture in the city squares.

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