Northern Europe - October 2021
John was scheduled to speak in Paris ten days after BAM ended so we had time to travel in between. We hadn't seen Per since Covid and he was free and suggested Prague, Vienna and Budapest. And so the fun began.
Prague, Vienna and Budapest were once the center of power of Europe and have abundant architecture from their illustrious past. I love walking tours to bring history to life via buildings and monuments, and on this trip we had great guides in each city.
We had been to Prague when Zoë was in middle school and what I remembered most was the astrological clock.
Prague was not bombed during WWII so is intact and beautiful.
The old town square is the historical center.
The vistas were grand, but this trip I was far more focused on small details. The first things I noticed in Prague were the stone relief carvings.
Left over from a tradition in the middle ages there are the signs above the doorways.
There were interesting details infused with history everywhere.
The Lenin wall exists, not because John Lenin had been to Prague but because it is a space where people could express themselves freely post communism.
Prague is the home of Kafka and this sculpture near his house captured my attention.
John and Per continued smiling regardless of the number of miles we walked, and there were many.
NEXT STOP: VIENNA
Vienna is such a historic city, starting in Roman times, and more recently home of the Hapsburg dynasty and the capital of the Austrian and Austrian-Hungary empires. The architecture reflects the many years of grandeur.
We couldn't visit Vienna without listening to some music and went to an organ recital at St. Stephen's Cathedral. The "ladder to heaven" as I called it really captured my attention, starting inside the cathedral and continuing outside to the sky above.
The Hundertwasserhaus (Hundertwasser house) is an apartment house from the expressionist era that was designed to elucidate that man and nature can be in harmony. The complex features undulating floors, a roof covered with earth and grass, and large trees growing from inside the rooms, with limbs extending from windows. It has been controversial from the onset and is something to behold.
We have a running joke in the family about my love of bunnies (I was born in the year of the rabbit) and Vienna did not disappoint.
There is a holocaust monument to acknowledge Austria's participation in that era. That the kneeling Jew is wrapped in barbed wire so people do not step on him made it even grimmer to me.
Vienna had Roman ruins, monumental architecture from the 19th and 20th centuries and many beautiful Art Nouveau and Art Deco buildings. But it is also a modern city.
NEXT STOP: BUDAPEST
This was our first time in Budapest and it is a stunning city.
I encountered my first history lesson randomly walking; a memorial plaque next to a bullet ridden wall from the 1956 revolution.
The city is very aesthetic and is filled with street sculpture.
Our guide pointed out a former insurance company building with stone reliefs circling the block size structure with reliefs representing different calamities that one might insure against.
Before the Holocaust, Hungary had a sizable Jewish community accounting for six percent of total population. On our walking tour we saw the Memorial for Victims of the German Occupation which has sparked controversy alleging that the monument absolves the Hungarian state and Hungarians of their collaboration with Nazi Germany and complicity in the Holocaust. The memorial is surrounded by personal memorials placed in protest.
More powerful and respected is the Shoes on the Danube memorial, to remember the Budapest Jews who were killed there by members of the Hungarian Arrow Cross Party. They ordered victims to remove their shoes before executing them and throwing them into the river.
We love the local markets and took the opportunity to buy the paprika that Hungary is famous for.
John and Per both posed with the Ronald Regan sculpture facing the Russian consulate. Maybe it was situated there as a reminder of his famous quote regarding the Berlin wall; "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"
I loved the iron works in Budapest, adding to the city's beauty.
We had a great time with Per and look forward to more travels together.
LAST STOP: PARIS
Paris is one of our favorite cities, one that I have photographed often.
The street markets are a joy for their wares and people watching.
With the Covid vaccine Paris is coming back to life. There were crowds at the Louvre and we saw the marathon taking place.
Our friends Mauro and Paola flew in from Italy to meet us, it was so special to see them.
Zoë flew in to join us for a few days. Funnily our AirBnB was next to Sciences Po, where she spent a semester abroad during university.
Paris is such a beautiful city and it was delightful to be able to photograph the sights.
Traveling internationally again was wonderful. Hopefully 2022 brings more opportunities.