- Travel and Places
WHAT A PERFECT PLACE
Why is this home?
to rekindle what was lost
might seem long
to spend with my father
who left our family
before I could walk or talk,
flying away from the Eastern Europe
to the Western democratic part of the world.
Cruising beautiful European waterways
there is nowhere else
I want to be,
being with my father,
to see where he lived as an young man
while I was growing up
dreaming to meet him one day,
looking across the border
lined with barbed fence
over the heads of armed soldiers
with their nasty guns pointed at me...
Upon arriving in Paris
we hit the ground running
no time for jet lag
there are three exhilarating days
to be spent absorbing
the City of Love and Lights
the breezy boulevards
of ornate buildings
erected centuries ago
as legacies to kings and emperors
I love the quiant artistic streets
My father the famous landmarks
the Arc de Triomphe
where he begged for food
so many years back
and of course the Eiffel Tower
where the night-time views
are just magical,
"See that tiny appartment,
one old French lady lived there,
who took me in
to help her with repairs."
As we travel north
by coach to Amsterdam
observing the contrast
of enormous wind propellers
dwarfing rustic church spires
and the bullet train
flying through fields
where cows have grazed
for hundred of years:
"Your Great grand father was fighting here,
more than 94 years ago
and I tried my luck,
over 30 years back."
We reached the tolerant city
of drugs and gay marriages,
the red light district's maze of narrow
on a Friday night
mingling with hundreds of raucously
grey figures of migrants
and unnoticable refugees,
hanging around bars
and coffee shops
that don't sell coffee,
my father smiles,
remembering the time here
he worked for cash
repairing roofs on some of them.
As we cruise out of Amsterdam
on our 'Amadeus Briliant'
passengers from every part of the world
look out of the full-length windows
the majority of them
have not been in Europe
it is strange to see your native continent
from their point of view.
What are we doing here,
you may ask,
it was my father's idea
to meet somewhere between,
each of us living
on the other side of the world,
cruising the European waterways,
the everyday sights
of a family picknicking next to
their family bicycle
may bring us closer
to our own family roots.
A fisherman's net stretching
into the still water
and the signs
indicating distance from the Rhine's source
remind my father
the time he lived in Cologne and Koblenz,
he explains me the long history
of settlement along the river,
dating back to Roman and Celtic times.
I view the towering castles
of medieval villages
on both sides
constructed during the 11th century
to protect the monasteries
many were plundered
by the conquering
they have been lovingly restored
by the German people
over the past 200 years,
and refugees just like my father
were recruited to paint,
to maintain it nowadays.
My Father and me
visit the charming walled city of Rothenburg,
perched high on the hill above the Tauber Valley.
He tells me about his favourite pub
where he used to enjoy Bavarian beer
and buys me 'schneeballen'.
Walking within the medieval walls
we taste the deep-fried pastry,
his lips covered with sugar
and chocolate glaze
and yet his eyes do not smile,
"Even born nomads,
eventually weary of the road,
should I have stayed at home,
wherever that may be?"
on the former nazi
the immense proportions of the buildings
make us feel so unsignificant.
Having lived through World War II
as a child
my father has no interest
in entering an eerie museum
and his spirit is uplifted
only after meandering down
the beautiful Danube Gorge
the river of our hometown.
Arriving at the impressive
Benedictine monastery of Weltenberg Abbey,
my father touches the ornately guilded wall
"I remember tasting the dark beer here,
which the monks have brewed since 1050,
it was the only food I had that day,
Nostalgia warms our hearts
when we visit the beautiful
Austrian city of Salzburg,
remembering the wintry day
we met here for the first time
after the communism fell appart.
The Danube Wachau Valley
is littered with medieval castles
surrounded by grapevines
and picturesque willages,
most of them in ruins,
having never been rebuilt
after the Ottoman Turks destroyed them.
"Austrians have never been keen on refugees,
maybe their castles would look better if they did,"
My father winks at me
and waves at me to climb
the treacherous path
to the rubble of Durnestein.
My reward is the most magnificent view
of the magical Danube river,
my father points at the distance:
"There is Vienna, the city of Dreams,
we used to drive there for a coffee
with your mum,
before the Russians came with tanks."
I catch my breath and take his hand:
"You bought her there the print
by painter Gustav Klimt,
I remember seeing it on the wall
in our living room."
My father nods and his voice shakes
with hidden emotion:
"Can you see your former eastern bloc city
of Bratislava behind it?"
I strains my eyes on a blue blob
if those murky
and grey block of flats
of the dark
of my childhood
have been finally replaced
by the brightly coloured houses,
I always dream to live in.
"How was it to live there,
I often wondered,
thinking constantly of your mum,
the length love has to go to,
the tautness of a family
stretched like a tendon
across a wide ocean,
the homesickness never leaves you,
now you know..."
"Sad, drab lives built on lies and excuses,"
I said bitterly:
"My teenager's years and those of my friends
spent in hunger for escape..."
"And you did," my father whispers,
"escaped the stupefying comforts of home
and found a measure of contentment in doing so,
but have you found a place to settle and properly enjoy it
on the other side of the world?"
Three days in Bratislava
are three days of wondrous self-discovery
from the 1000-year-old castle
offering expansive views
of our own childhood memories,
father looks over the east
where his parents' old fashioned farm house
used to stand,
now rubbish tip lost in fumes
from nearby factory.
"You know, love happens, like age
it's not hard to do,
I look over the west,
the army of grey block of flats
having been formed
by history red
in tooth and claw:
it was the absence of event,
fear and even ugliness
that made me hungry
for life elsewhere
and it is still there."
We strolled down to the Safarikovo Square,
where my father showed me the old apartment
he used to own
and apparently I was born there
and spent my first few months of my life.
Now there is a fashionable cafe underneath.
My father slowly sips his short black
looking around and realizing suddenly
that his hometown is becoming
just like any other city of the west,
he goes on to complain on living
in an age
where everything has got to be now,
because consumerims is based on change.
"You are getting old," I jokingly chip in.
"And tired of living," there is a melancholy in his voice:
"and wondering whether travel allows us to find ourselves
or confirm our alienation,
our essential loneliness in the world."