Posts Tagged ‘travel’

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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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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Havekska Market

Lokal (The Dump) features updated Czech classics at low prices in a 1980s retro style designed to recall a charmless train station. A menu note says they subscribe to the Slow Food movement that combines honest work and fresh ingredients “caught up with spices, bad fats which keep longer, and other tricks to make the food faster and cheaper.” That’s either incredible honesty or a bad translation but it was packed with young people, the décor was clever and fun and the food was fresh and tasty (I ordered a roasted portion of duck with red cabbage and apples to avoid any possibility “bad fat.”) (more…)

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Going to Twitter is like moving to the big city and starting a new high school. Will the kids like me? Do I have enough friends? Did I choose the right group? If you are a small town girl with big town aspirations it can be overwhelming.  Everyone knows so much more than I do. How will I ever get noticed?

I recently had a conversation with a high school girlfriend  I’m traveling to Eastern Europe with this summer. She started our high school in her senior year. Sipping wine on her spacious deck overlooking Laguna Hills we reminisced about our connection. She said:


You all had known each other since kindergarten;I honestly don’t remember why we became friends.

I remember. (more…)

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Jack Schiffer|dreamstime.com

While foraging in the social media forest I ventured into the Writer’s subgroup of Creative Designers and Writers on LinkedIn. I posted a link to Home, a Magical Place and asked a simple question. What is your memory of your childhood home? This simple question touched hearts around the world.

From the UK Gail Jones feels the discomfort of the tin bath in front of the living room fireplace. “If you touched the side facing the fire you burnt your arm. If you touched the other side you froze.”

From Singapore  JSawlm Teh sees the colorful the throngs in Malaysia who passed through the row of terrace houses and shops on MacClister Road. Some balanced platters of sweets on their heads to sell to the nonyas and babas. (more…)

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Prickly Pear

Prickly Pear cactus in the Sonora Desert

New growth comes from what prickles us most. If you’re stuck for a story, consider the people in your past who haunt you still. Go far enough back and you may discover an ancestor whose character traits show up down through the generations…and they needle you!

Kim Edwards book The Lake of Dreams revolves around an ancestor lost from the family view even though her struggles still inform family behavior patterns.  Something to think about when you spot puzzling behavior in yourself and ask, where did that come from?

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