As I was reading Susan Mallery’s blog post the other day on A World of Romance, it made me think of some of my various trips and reflect on memories from them. I do love to travel and do so whenever I have the opportunity – the memories for me are such a source of pleasure that even little hiccups along the journey are viewed not as “how awful!” but rather more stories to add a richness to the experience.
My first trip out of the country – ever – was in 2005. A friend of mine had a job in Frankfurt, Germany and invited me to come visit. Giddy like a schoolgirl, I got my passport and booked a trip through London to Frankfurt where we would head out to other interesting places. I boarded the plane, which was then delayed, making me miss my connecting flight, so my first overnight in another country was spent in a hotel airport with no luggage (this is where I learned to always pack an extra pair of undies and my toothbrush in the carry-on). The next day, I made it to Frankfurt, where I had asked the airline to call my friend to let him know of the delay. He met me at the airport and we postponed our adventuring until my luggage showed up (2 days later) then we were off. We rented a car and headed east toward Prague where I learned to sort of read European traffic signs and remember my speed was in kilometers, not miles. I also learned that Czech drivers are lunatics and that no matter where you are in the world, you will find an Irish pub somewhere relatively close.
From Prague, we headed to Salzburg, Austria where I found my miniscule German could be somewhat understood by those in Austria and that Austria is known as Österreich, which I had never heard before that trip. I also had the exquisite experience of heading up to Salzburg Castle and pausing to hear the wave of clock towers chiming throughout the city.
From here, we headed to Venice (being the fourth language encountered so far on this trip.. and we weren’t done yet!) and this is where I learned another very important lesson when traveling. My friend bought a beautiful harmonica in a tiny little music shop that looked to have been there for centuries. He had always wanted one and what better souvenir than to buy one from a sop nestled in such a famous and historical city? We keep wandering, admiring the shops and buildings, we paraded through the water flooding St Mark’s square and sighed in bliss at some of the most decadent hot chocolate and pastry I had ever eaten. Our explorations around the city led us to the gondola docks where we decided that riding the gondola was something you just have to do when in Venice (even if it is stupidly expensive.) We boarded our little ship with the gondolier pointing out buildings along the way “Marco Polo’s house!” and got stuck in a gondola traffic jam as one poor gondolier accidentally spun his boat across the canal. We enjoyed the trip, took some photos and then went on our merry way afterward.
Down the way, I was admiring some of the famed Italian leather goods when my friend realized he had forgotten his precious harmonica in the gondola! We rushed back to the dock to see if it had been turned in. What we discovered is the man who booked the trip only spoke enough English to tell people the price and some of the sites – not much else other than that and my Italian is non-existent once you get me out of a menu. So we are on the dock trying to communicate with my looking in my Italian phrase book where I found bits and pieces to (badly) piece together “I left my bag in the gondola” (Dimenticato mi borsa en gondola… horrible!) to which he understood the gist then asked who the gondolier was.
“Antonio?” I said
Then the light bulb went on. I pulled out my digital camera and showed him a photo of our gondolier I had snapped on the trip. He smiled and gestured in that oh-so-Italian way. “Silvio! He return soon!”
Sure enough, Silvio soon guided his boat back to the dock, his face lighting up as soon as he saw us and he handed my friend his wayward harmonica.
Lesson learned: phrase books and digital cameras are invaluable travel tools.
From there I learned other lessons regarding frightening mountain goats in the Alps and how to flag down a waitress in the madness that is Oktoberfest in Munich, but those are stories to save for another day.
(Another lesson learned: don’t go on too long about trips and adventures unless you are sure you have interest and time. )
So, what are some fun experiences that you have had and did you take away any lessons from it? Do you view little hiccups in a trip as calamity or all part of the journey?