Monday, April 28, 2014

Ten Days, Six Cities, Four Countries and People, One Car

Buckle your seat belts, cause you're in for a bumpy ride!  Seriously - if you're looking for art -- scroll to the end.  What's coming first is a travelogue!

Last time I posted, I was preparing for my European adventure while creating cityscapes for One Little Word's word-up - ADVENTURE! (And there's still time for you to link up!)

I'm back from our whirlwind trip, and it was quite a time.

The impetus for the trip was a visit to my oldest daughter, Mariel, who has been living in the Czech Republic as a Fulbright Scholar/English Teaching Assistant this year.  She had a few cities to check off her bucket list, and we were happy to help her!

We met her in Vienna on Wednesday, 4/16, after an overnight flight from Newark, NJ.  Our first day included some selfies in the car on the way to the airport, Freddie's first wiener schnitzel, the first of many potato dumplings for Samy, a quick look at Vienna's town hall, and a happy reunion with Mariel, who took the train to Vienna from Brno, Czech Republic, to meet us at our hotel.

The next morning, we got into our rental car (a brand new Mercedes!) with an English speaking GPS, and headed for Salzburg.  On the way we ooh'd and aah'd at the beautiful Austrian countryside, which was truly picture perfect.  And of course we had to break into "Climb Every Mountain" at our first sight of the alps.  Once we checked into our hotel, we strolled into the old city, went to Mozart's birth place, and checked out lots of churches.

The next morning, we were excited for the "official" Sound of Music tour, and weren't ashamed to re-enact scenes on location, sing our lungs out on the big bus, and take a zillion photos while dancing in around singing "Do a Deer!"  We also learned from our tour guide that in 1731, Roman Catholic Archbishop Count Leopold von Firmian demanded that all non Catholics recant their non-Catholic beliefs or be banished, leading to many Protestants forcibly exiled from Salzburg, where they were forced to leave their children behind.  Have we learned?

Later that afternoon, we headed West to Slovenia, a country I only recently learned about.  It's capital, Ljubljana (pronounced Lee-you-bli-yana), is rumored to be the "next Prague."  It did not disappoint.  And on the way, we stopped and had dinner at Lake Bled - truly one of the most beautiful spots I've ever seen.  

We were lucky to be in Ljubljana on a Saturday, the day of their big market.  It was also Earth Day, and divers were fishing junk out of the river that bisects the old city.  They even fished out a large "men at work" sign, which seemed rather ironic!  Among the many things we learned about Slovenia when visiting a wonderful "Ethnographic" exhibit in the castle was that the oldest wheel discovered by archaeologists was found in Slovenia.

We saw lots of cool signage, had a mid day beer at a Mexican restaurant (!), and climbed a windy staircase worthy of a Hitchcock movie to the top of the castle.  

After two days in Ljubljana, we headed to Znojmo, the Czech town where Mariel is living this year.  We wanted to be there for Easter Monday, when the Czechs have a unique tradition, which Mariel explains on her blog.  It's worth the hop and will definitely make you smile!  In addition to experiencing this tradition, Samy got to hold a baby fox, which we encountered in Znojmo's excellent vegetarian restaurant.

After barely 24 hours in Znojmo, we headed to Bratislava, which is just over the Czech border and is the capital of Slovakia.  There, we toured the beautiful old city in our day of worst weather.  We walked to the only remaining synagogue, and toured the Jewish Museum which contains what is left of the once vibrant Jewish culture.  We also got free shots of Tequila after I sang with a lovely violinist in a local restaurant.  He was playing American jazz standards - go figure!

Then it was back to Znojmo, where we accompanied Mariel as she taught some of her classes, and was interviewed by the Znojmo newspaper for passing her level one Czech exam!
After spending a wonderful evening with the family that has looked after Mariel this year, we headed back to Vienna for our last two days of this amazing adventure.  We went to the Jewish museum, which beautifully explained, in heartbreaking honesty and detail, the history of Jews in Vienna - how they contributed to Viennese society and culture, fought alongside Christian Austrians in World War I, and then were systematically stripped of their rights, deported and exterminated in World War II.  

As I said to my daughters, I believe that seeing how a country deals with it's own history is as important as the history itself.  I was very impressed with the museum, it's frank look at the past, and the work it is doing in the present.  I was touched by the gold markers that are ubiquitous - memorializing Jews whose footsteps are just ghost-steps.  We can only hope that history does not repeat itself.

Among the many things in the museum that struck me, the walking sticks with caricatures of Jewish faces with oversize noses stopped me in my tracks.  That something as ordinary as a walking stick should be imbued with a grotesque, racist image was telling of how deeply imbedded anti-semitic prejudice was, even in everyday objects.

I had minimal journaling supplies with me, but was able to do a bit with a pen, a glue stick, Neocolor II crayons, and two paint brushes!  Told you there was some art in this post!

Anyway - I hope you have enjoyed this travelogue and a glimpse of the type of journaling I did while I was on the road.  I look forward to being back in my studio and getting my hands full of paint!

Your comments make me so happy and let me know you were here. I read and treasure every comment and will happily answer any questions as soon as I can.

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  1. Jessica, what a wonderful trip. Your photos, writing and journal make me want to travel..welcome back. Looking forward to more videos.

  2. What a life changing trip. You saw so much. I was remembering Salzburg from over 25 years ago and it seems that not much has changed. What a beautiful region there. But everywhere you went was spectacular. So glad the girls had this fantastic trip with you as a family. xox

  3. What delightful adventures and BEAUTIFUL photo collages!!

  4. Loved this post from top to bottom, Jessica! Thank you for taking us along during your trip and helping us settle into your return home with you. Now ... off to catch up on Mariel's! (((hugs)))

  5. This is just so breathtaking. What a trip. To have the family with you and to be with Mariel again. I need to get out more.

  6. Oh wow! Loved your posting!! I hung onto every word....we are leaving in 2 wks for Vienna and have plans of going to Salzburg also. We hope to do several train trips before we take a river cruise to Munich. We were in Prague 2 yrs ago and loved wonderful for your daughter to have this experience! I know you are so proud of her. I loved hearing how Ljubljana is the next Prague...would love to visit Slovenia, might have to wait for the next trip....thanks for sharing your beautiful pics as well as your adventures! Wonderful!!

  7. Jessica, I am so happy you have shared your family time and cross-countries trip with us! Seeing that I will probably never venture there myself, it is wonderful to see and learn through your eyes and words! What super memories you have made- and I love that you are all about singing and re-enacting "The Sound Of Music"- do you have video! teehee Again thank you for sharing your families fabulous adventures- and Welcome home! xo

  8. Awesome thank you so much for sharing such an amazing adventure with us.

  9. This looks like a fantastic trip. I really wish we could have met. :) Great photos!

  10. what a very special trip indeed Jessica! I loved every bit of it!! Your Salzburg photos took me back to many years ago when I passed through Vienna and stayed in beautiful, scenic Salzburg a few days-did the same thing-how could you NOT re enact and sing to the Sound of Music!! I have never been to any of the more eastern countries but they look equally enchanting. Thank you for sharing such a joyful reunion and trip.

  11. I enjoyed my "travels" in your blog and relived our trip to Austria long years ago. Also enjoyed the beautiful art works.

  12. This is such an informative and beautiful blog post. Thanks for sharing another part of the world with us. You have an amazing family.

  13. Jessica, thanks for taking us along on this wonderful adventure! It sounds like an incredible tour of Central Europe. Your stunning photo collages made it come to life.

  14. An amazing trip! Amazing photos! Amazing art! Amazing family! You heart must still be brimming with joy! I am so happy for you all that you had this time together as a family!

  15. Just loved this blog post. Made me want to travel to that area. Thank you so much for sharing your adventure.

  16. What gorgeous photos...all of them! You are an amazing person and artist! LOVE the canvas too...those buildings are fabulous!

  17. Thank you for your lovely words and excellent photos. Great post!

  18. Wow, that sounds like quite a trip! And a great way of showing it to us, it felt as if I was travelling there with you. And you made beautiful art with minimalist supplies. Great work and lovely post!

  19. What a great trip, Jessica!

  20. You packed so much into your trip! What a wonderful experience for you, Freddie and the girls. Thanks for sharing all this history with us. Hope you are settling in back at home.

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