Filed under: aeroplanes, amazing, anxiety, awesome!, awkward, beautiful, beer, bragging, bridges, business is business, commuting, curious, Czech Republic, Czechia, dia de los muertos, edjumacation, fun, game face, gratitude, iPhone, iPhoneography, jet lag, learning, life, mah feets, make it work, memories, New Mexico, Opinions, overwhelmed, photowalk, play through, Prague, rain, scared, selfie, show and tell, sleep deprived, sunsets, thank you, the globe, The Good Man, travel, Turistas, woo hoo!, work, yes boss
It was just a week ago yesterday that I found myself in the world class city of Prague with a personal day on my hands.
The work part of the trip had been both busy and exhausting. My coworkers all left for home that morning but I had a tourist Friday ahead of me. The challenge: To see as many of the must-see Prague sights as possible in one day.
Now just eight days later, it seems almost like a dream.
A week ago it was very real. So real I had a fair bit of anxiety and no idea what lay ahead. The Good Man managed to talk me down from nine timezones away and with a deep breath, I screwed up my courage and headed out of the hotel room.
As luck would have it, there happened to be a Metro station right under the hotel.
So this is where my journey began:
A simple suburban Metro station that would take me *everywhere*
The hotel where I stayed is in the suburbs of Prague, but the Metro is so damn good it was a less than fifteen minute ride and I emerged at the bottom of Wenceslaus Square.
I had done some reading before arriving in Prague and I knew a bit about Wenceslaus Square.
Well, I knew three things:
Thing 1) The square is dominated by a statue of King Wenceslaus. As in “Good King Weceslaus blah blah, on the feast Stephen, nuh nuh nuh nuh nuh nuh nuh, deep and crisp and even…”
What the hell is that song even about, anyway? Wait, let’s hold that question for another time.
On that day, I knew that Saint Wenceslaus is considered the patron saint of the Czech Republic.
So I walked uphill and gawked at the shops and restaurants and soon found myself in the shadow of the Good King and his steed.
That there is a gooood king
Thing 2) Wenceslaus Square is incredibly historic, considered the very heart of the city of Prague, and it is a World Heritage Site because it was on that very square in 1989 that the Velvet Revolution happened.
What is the Velvet Revolution, you say? I’m so glad you asked.
The Velvet Revolution is when the then Czechoslovakia decided it had had just about enough (MORE than enough) and threw off Communist rule. They then became their own self-managed country with a parliament.
This is a very, very big deal. It utterly changed the course of the Czech people. For the better.
I have a coworker who grew up in Prague. She left as a teenager in 1984. She said, “We had to leave. We had so much despair. We believed it would never change.”
It would eventually change, but it would take a few more years.
So I stood on this square, a lost little girl from New Mexico, and thought about how much happened right where my feet stood. How these people took back their own destiny.
See where all those tourists are? History happened there.
Thing 3) At the top of Wenceslaus Square, behind the statue and in front of the museum something particularly sad and historic happened.
In 1968, a student named Jan Palach protested the invasion and eventual fall of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Union during what was called the Prague Spring. He did so by committing suicide by self-immolation.
“…Palach did not set himself on fire to protest against the Soviet occupation, but did so to protest against the ‘demoralization’ of Czechoslovak citizens caused by the occupation.” – from a doctor who treated Palach (wiki)
I think that sense of demoralization and despair runs strong through the history of the Czech people. In my experience, they are a very laid back and easy going people, but there is that sadness underneath. Well, maybe not sadness, just…world weary.
I wanted to find the small marker of Palach’s history that is embedded in the brickwork in front of the museum. I have to say I was greatly moved. There were flowers at the site, meaning people still remember and still care about what he did.
This is a simple but powerful marker
Well, that was a bit of a dark start to my day of exploration, but it also really touched me.
From there, I hopped back on the Metro and made my way to Old Town Square. The mood and attitude in the Old Town area could not have been more different.
The Old Town Square is beautiful, but incredibly overrun by tourists. Okay, sure, I was also a tourist, but you get what I mean.
Along with tourists there were an awful lot of flim-flam men (and women), grifters and pickpockets. At one point I stopped to look at maps on my phone to see if I was heading the right direction, and saw no less than three people make a move toward me.
San Francisco is a tourist town and I’m fairly used to this sort of untoward behavior, so each person got my patented City Stink Eye. The one that lets people know I am not to be trifled with.
They soon backed up, but that kind of predatory behavior was pretty rampant in the Old Town area. I was waving off sellers, beggars and all around questionable sorts left and right. I also kept a firm grip on my bag as I heard from several places that the pickpocketing is quite bad.
The main reason to be in Old Town, apart from admiring the amazing architecture, was to see the Astronomical Clock located at the Old Town Hall building.
Of course my favorite part was the skeleton
This clock was installed in 1410. Um, what? 14 freaking 10? Wow.
As luck would have it, I was there at about twenty minutes to the top of the hour, so I waited with all of the many tourists, in the rain I might add, to watch the clock’s mechanics at the top of the hour. A skeleton rings a bell, the animated figures come to life, and above the clock statues of the twelve apostles zip by and look out the windows.
It was very quaint and lovely, and I’m glad I saw it. Not much more to say than that. More than a Clark Griswald shrug, less than rapturous delight.
After taking some photos of the beautiful buildings on the square, I then made my way onward to the Charles Bridge.
The most famous of the bridges across the Vltava River, the Charles Bridge began construction in 1357.
You know how sometimes Europeans give Americans a wry smile when we talk about our deep history? Yeah, this is why. In 1357 they were building bridges that would safely transport my tired little toes across the same river some 659 years later. America wasn’t even a twinkle in the eye of Columbus in 1357.
The stroll across the bridge was certainly lively. Lots of people, lots of selfie sticks (ugh), quite a few pickpockets and an awful lot of Catholic statues. Like, a LOT of Catholic statues.
Felt like I needed to go to confession when I got to the other side, ba-dum, tish!
It was hard to pick just one photo from my walk across the river, but let’s go with this one:
The walk across the bridge was quite pleasing especially since the rain had moved on and a bright blue Czech sky emerged. Quite lovely.
The part of Prague on the other side of the bridge is known as Lesser Quarter, which I find quite a rude name. There was nothing lesser about this side of the bridge in my opinion. It is much quieter, calmer and less busy. It suited me just fine.
At this point, my legs, feet and bladder asked nicely if we could stop, so I landed at a coffee shop.
Over a lovely icy coffee, I tweeted exactly how I felt in that moment on that day.
As my legs relaxed, I listened to a group of four Czech students argue and debate and I watched life happen outside the glass door. I felt enormously contented. It’s those moments I will remember long after I’ve come back to my regular life. It’s those moments I wait for on each international trip I take. It’s what makes all of those long and ugly plane miles worth it.
Yeah. Seriously, may I never forget how good I felt in that moment.
Now fortified, I moved on to my last stop of the day, St Nicholas Church.
The guidebook I pondered over coffee told me that it was a beautiful example of a baroque church. I do like to see some of the old and over the top churches in Europe, so I was game.
The guidebook also mentioned the bell tower at the church. How it had been used by the communists to keep an eye on the American Embassy nearby, and that it offered some of the best views in all of Prague.
Impulse overtook me and I smacked down 90 koruna for a ticket and began climbing the stairs.
What in the utter hell was I thinking? One, my legs were already tired, two I’m in okay shape but stair climbing is tough, and three my asthma was like “hey, what’s up?”
But I kept climbing the spiral stairs and narrow ladders until it got more and more exhausting and claustrophobia inducing (and I don’t often struggle with claustrophobia).
At more than one point I had to remind myself that I managed to get myself into this situation and had to figure out how to get myself out.
My bullish determination kicked in and I made a promise I would make it all the way to the top.
Along the way I found the watchmen’s quarters, a sparse room with a small bed, rough wood table and open brickwork fireplace.
When there were windows, I looked out then kept climbing. Finally, I could smell the fresh air of outside and found myself at a narrow deck that encircled the tower. There was a guide there and she told me to go outside (I didn’t understand what the signs meant and had hesitated).
Wow. Truly. Wow. I was stunned at seeing all of Prague laid out before me.
The sky stippled with clouds and the sun began its slow descent toward the end of the day and there I stood taking it all in.
And hey, I wasn’t even at the top of the tower yet. After taking quite a few photos with both of my cameras, I kept climbing. The very, very top of the tower, at the end of 215 steps, was less interesting. It was low ceilinged, cramped, stuffy and the windows were small.
So I went back down to the narrow deck and took another spin.
With that, I declared myself done for the day. Ready to head back to the hotel.
I came down all 215 steps a lot faster than I went up and made myself dizzy. Wobbly on my pins, I chose instead to stop for some dinner and I’m glad I did. I found a funny little restaurant where they treated me nice and I ate something they called Slovak gnocchi, which a short Google search later assured me is actually a thing.
A very delicious thing.
I wanted to have a nice Czech beer alongside, but worried a beer would drop me right to the ground so I opted for something milder.
After eating my fill, I set out back across the Charles Bridge. The mood on the bridge had changed. I crossed east to west at about 2:45pm and came back west to east at close to 6:00pm. There were more people out and the Friday revelry had begun. It was funny how quickly the mood had shifted.
On the way back, I made sure I touched the two lucky spots on the bridge, once with my left hand for my husband, the southpaw, once with my right hand for me.
One of the two lucky spots, though a bit grim. So this priest was thrown in the water…
A nice twilight stroll and I soon found myself back at a Metro station waiting to head back to the hotel and the end of my stay in Prague.
There are quite a few more things I wish I could have found time to see while in Prague. The Apple Museum, the castle, and the art gallery, to name but a few, but I was grateful to have one full free day to see the best of what Prague had to offer.
Prague is a gorgeous, easy and fun city. I loved every minute of my time there and wonder if someday I will ever find my way back.
I suppose I can dream.
Meanwhile, at a week later I think my legs have finally recovered. Seriously, 215 stairs? C’mon!
And to the good people of Prague, I say děkuji for treating me so very well.
All photos ©Copyright 2016, Karen Fayeth, and subject to the Creative Commons license in the right column of this page. Taken with either a Canon G10 or an iPhone6.
Filed under: adorable, aeroplanes, amazing, anxiety, awesome!, awkward, beautiful, birfday, Celebration, cha-cha-changes, choices, family, fun, gratitude, happy, I ain't as good as I once was, Las Cruces, latent childhood, learning, life, make it work, New Mexico, Opinions, overwhelmed, parenting, play through, show and tell, where I come from, woo hoo!, zia
Hoo boy, back in the saddle again after a weekend trip to my Fair New Mexico. Let me tell you, it’s hard to get into the ol’ groove after being back in my homestate.
I found myself in southern New Mexico over the past four days for the occasion of my goddaughter’s sixteenth birthday. She is amazing, beautiful, smart as a whip, sassy as hell and genuinely caring.
She has been easy to love since the day I first met her tiny little self. She was barely a month old when her mom brought her along and met me as I came off the plane at the El Paso airport. My world has not been the same since.
The occasion of her birthday celebration meant that I also got to see quite a few people I hadn’t seen in years.
The thing that really sticks out to me from this past weekend was not just seeing a lot of dear friends who go back quite a few years, but getting to know their kids.
Time has marched along and many of these kids are now teenagers or older. So much more than a fun lump of baby or a capricious toddler. They are getting to the age where you really start to see who these kids are going to be.
What a lot of fun to see what so many of my now grown up and responsible friends have created. Look, back then I would have voted some of my tribe to the sidelines in the game of propagating mankind, and yet, their kids have turned out pretty damn awesome.
As I hear about these kids moving into their adult lives, getting married, graduating college, being responsible members of society, I also had to sit down for a moment and contemplate just how fast time marches on. And on. And on.
So many times I found myself saying “Really? Working a full time job? Getting married? Graduating college? Wow. I remember the day you had that adorable baby. Damn.”
One old friend summed it up when she told me she’d just moved her youngest into her own place. “My husband and I looked at each other and said, ‘Now what?'”
Now what indeed. Friends who are around my age, kids raised, possibility of retirement on the horizon and a new life awaits.
Wait a minute, aren’t we going to a Corbett Dance tonight?
Oh no, Karen, that was twenty-five years ago.
Nina Karen needs to sit down. Bring your Nina a piece of cake, would you dear?
Those old hands on the clock keep pressing forward, ever onward, whether I’m ready or not.
Image found on freeimages.com
Filed under: aeroplanes, amazing, anxiety, awesome!, awkward, bragging, business is business, cloudy, curious, drama, first world problems, Frankfurt, gratitude, gravity, iPad, iPhoneography, jet lag, kerfuffle, make it work, Obrigada, Opinions, overwhelmed, play through, Portugal, San Francisco, show and tell, thank you, the globe, The Good Man, travel, w00t, woo hoo!, worried, yes boss
Or: Tales From The Upper Deck
When word came down at work that I had approval to travel to Porto, Portugal to participate in meetings with key folks from around the world, things began to follow a usual path.
Since the place I work for gets a lot of Federal funding, we’re bound to abide by the Fly American Act, i.e. when on Federal business, fly US carriers.
No problem. I’m used to shoving my cookies onto a United Airlines jet and riding around the world, so per the norm I picked out my United flight pairs and the admin booked them. I was all set.
Because I am a little weenie and need more leg room, I like to pay out of pocket to upgrade my government bought United economy seats to United Plus economy seats.
My employer doesn’t pay for business or first class and I don’t fly enough to rack up the miles to get me there, so I ride in the back half of the plane. Economy plus at least gives my long legs a little room. A little less sardine-like.
However, when I logged into my United account and tried to upgrade my seats, I was told I could not. That I would have to wait until the day before the flight to pick out seats. What?
It took a little work but I figured out the deal. Three of my four flights on this trek would not be on United planes but a codeshare on Lufthansa.
Well hell, I’d never flown Lufthansa before so this was an adventure.
Doing some research on the Lufthansa site, I also figured out that my plane for the San Francisco to Frankfurt leg of the trip would be on an Airbus A380-800 airplane. A gigantic double decker of a holy-crap-that’s-huge airplane.
In fact, it’s the largest passenger plane flying today.
Looking up the specs of this plane online, I found people affectionately call it “the whale,” and it’s no wonder. The configuration I rode seats about 500 people.
When I was finally able to select my seats, I found that the second floor of the airplane (this airplane has two floors!!) was mostly first and business class, but the back of the upper deck had a small grouping of seven rows of economy seats. So yeah, I scooped up an aisle seat upstairs right away.
On the day I arrived at SFO, I let out an audible “wuh-huh-hoooooo” when I saw the airplane sitting at the gate. Then I became filled with anxiety. “How will that ever fly?” said my worried mind.
I wondered if my brain had anything I could compare this to. Many years ago I worked for a Lockheed Martin site that was right next to a military airstrip. Every once in a while the military would practice “touch and goes” with various planes and pilots. We’d drag our desk chairs outside and watch the show.
What I’m trying to say is, I’ve seen a fully loaded C-130 execute a touch and go, so yeah, I realized that the A380 could certainly fly. And I was going to get on it.
As I walked down the jetway to the plane, my heart began trip hammering. I always have a moment of pause before boarding any plane but this was different.
I stepped through the nice wide doorway and saw a beautiful gleaming white staircase front and center. “Ah, that must be how I get up there,” I thought.
The oversmiling male flight attendant looked at my ticket and informed me that I needed to go all the way to the back of the plane and find a staircase there.
In other words, your economy-seat riding ass don’t climb these stairs, honey.
Fair enough. I set off on my journey to the back of the plane. I stopped rest once or twice. I had snacks to keep my energy up. I may have camped out overnight. Jesus, that’s a big airplane.
Finally I reached the end of the plane and scurried up the stairs, then slid into my seat.
It was still an economy class seat so it fit tight around the hips. I got snug like a bug in there as the plane began to push back from the gate.
The Lufthansa A380 features three live cameras, one on the nose pointing forward, one on the tail also pointing forward, and one on the belly looking straight down.
Here is a terrible quality image. It’s a photo taken with an iPad of my screen on the plane as we are somewhere over the Labrador Sea. It’s enough that you can see what the view from the tail camera looks like:
I wanted to stick my hand out the window and wave to the camera, but that’s mostly frowned upon
It was mildly surreal to watch this behemoth take off from a bird’s eye view but I was fascinated.
Once aloft, I began to realize why non-US carriers rock the casbah. It’s one word: alcohol. The wine flows freely on non-US airplanes. I had flown a Singapore Airlines plane a few years ago and was gently surprised at the wine served with meals. The Germans have the Singaporeans beat. Wine with snacks, wine with dinner, brandy and irish crème after dinner.
All of this is a plot, however. They ply you with food and booze then turn down the cabin lights. Pretty much everyone falls asleep right away. Except me, I have a flaw in my DNA. I can’t sleep on a plane. Not even a long haul. Nope.
The Good Man shares this flaw and it’s good when we travel together because we entertain each other like little kids while everyone else sleeps. Sadly on this trip I was alone.
The flight attendant overseeing our little cozy area of economy class seats was a rockstar. He noticed I was the only one awake and didn’t let up on the top-notch service. He checked in on me constantly and brought water, juice, snacks and some cookies that seemed way too delicious for economy class.
Even though I was packed into an economy seat I felt spoiled like a little princess up there, inside the white whale.
When she touched down in Frankfurt I was reluctant to leave my cozy little seat and my white glove service. It was a gentle landing as the plane beast docked next to its siblings.
That was one of the most comfortable and happy international flights I have ever known and I am sure I will reflect back on it for years. It has become the high water mark by which all other flights will be measured.
Sadly, when going home from this journey, the Frankfurt to San Francisco leg will be on a plain old United jet, a Boeing 747-400. That plane also has a second deck, but only the pish-posh get to sit up there.
I’ll be seated among the cattle, in an economy plus seat but still among the unwashed. No first class cookies for Karen on the way home.
I think I’ll write a nice letter to Lufthansa to tell them how much I appreciated the flight attendant. As I have learned in my short time in Portugal, I will extend a hearty obrigada (i.e. thank you or much obliged) for his attention and job well done.
And I will wistfully dream of my time inside the whale, a modern day Jonah high above the bustling world.
Thar she blows!
Filed under: aeroplanes, Amsterdam, art, artist, awesome!, awkward, bragging, curious, dinero, fun, gratitude, jet lag, lazy, learning, life, make it work, memories, mi corazon, miscellany, monkey mind, nostalgia, objectophilia, Opinions, our happy home, play through, show and tell, silly, the globe, The Good Man, travel, woo hoo!, zen
Ya know, the ol’ brain, she ain’t what she used to be. Let’s be honest, my memory always was more of an old gray mare than a fast running thoroughbred.
Over the weekend The Good Man was going through our bag of bags (I’m pretty sure everyone has a bag of bags, right? The place you store plastic and paper grocery bags for reuse) looking for just the right fit for the job he had in mind.
He pulled out a plastic bag that had travelled its way from Amsterdam to California that was just the perfect size. He said, “Oh? Are you okay with me using this bag or do you want to keep it?”
I said, “Nah, no need to keep it, go ahead.”
He opened it up and in the bottom found a paper receipt that he handed to me. “You probably want this,” he said.
The receipt looked a lot like this:
Hmm. One Euro. What the hell did I pay one Euro for in Amsterdam? I found that country to be pretty darn expensive and don’t recall anything costing just one single Euro.
It’s from the Van Gogh museum, so that’s a clue.
I was really stumped. My mind slipped into the Swiss cheese hole full of nuthin’. I had zero recollection. For a moment I thought it wasn’t even my receipt, that maybe I had inadvertently picked up someone else’s.
And then…dull like the backside of a piece of foil, a light came on.
I saw the description “kids juggling Van Gogh” which brought many hilarious fictional images to mind, but then that confused me even more.
I had to work at it. Sweat it a little bit. Strain the brain tendons.
Ah! Yes! I remembered! A forgotten moment. The synapses reattached and the focus ring turned and I could see it clearly.
Me, in Amsterdam, on a rainy Monday. It was late afternoon and the Van Gogh museum was closing. I had prowled all four floors, hungry to see everything. I actually toured it twice. Bottom to top and then top to bottom. In the last thirty minutes of museum hours, I went to visit all of my favorite canvases one last time, like saying goodbye to cherished friends.
On the way out, visitors are forced through the gift shop and as doors were locking, I made a hasty and impulse purchase. A funny card made for kids picturing a stylized Vincent Van Gogh juggling paint blobs. It made me laugh, so I took it to the register.
Image copyright belongs to the Van Gogh Museum Shop
The cashier said “That will be one Euro.” Through bleary jet lagged eyes, and too lazy to put on my reading glasses, I held up a coin. “Is this one Euro?” I asked.
He smiled as he might to a precocious child. “Yes. That’s a Euro.”
I held up another coin, “That’s a two Euro, right?”
He smiled again, “Yes, ma’am. The larger coin is two Euros.”
“Okay, thanks. Here you go,” I said and dropped the one Euro coin into his hand.
Then I reluctantly left the museum, a place I could live, and walked out into the Amsterdam evening. I was overwhelmed with all I had just seen in the museum, hungry, tired, lost and pretty calm. I was filled to blissful capacity with art and creativity and color and joy.
I found a bench on the edges of the Museumplein, a gigantic green park in the heart of Amsterdam, and sat. And watched. And listened. And did what became my most favorite thing to do in Holland: people watch.
On this most recent sunny and muggy Sunday in California, I remembered the noisy but pleasant park, watching the funny multicolored crows hop around, feeling my own bones weary from jet lag, and the unmistakable sense of peace.
It was a nice memory. One that had slopped over the side of the brain bucket and almost got away. Now retrieved, embedded, made solid.
That’s the funny thing about memory, it runs like quicksilver, but catch it, hold it in your hand long enough to let the synapses meet up, and you have something tangible.
I had forgotten my one Euro moment. Thanks to a paper receipt at the bottom of a plastic bag, now I’ll remember it forever.
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Over past few years of my life I have been fortunate enough to engage in some international travel. I have truly visited some of the great cities of the world.
Traveling outside of the borders of the United States has made me a better person in many ways, not the least of which is that I have come to appreciate my own country more by not being in it for a few days at a time.
I recall spending Fourth of July in England, gazing over the Thames while pondering that the Fourth of July is about so much more than hot dogs and sparklers. It really made the summer holiday mean something to me.
The other thing that international travel has done is give me a front row seat on gaining perspective of just how large this big blue marble really is. Gigantic. And how people are different and yet people are the same.
One aspect that I have experienced on each of my overseas trips has been a small moment of humanity, a connection, finding a shared place with another person even as I feel the dislocation of being in another country.
It happened in Dublin, and is such a fond memory. It also happened in Amsterdam, and I guess it’s taken a little while for the beauty of the interaction to sink in.
Let me tell the tale:
I arrived in Amsterdam on Sunday at about 7:30am. Schiphol airport was quiet and calm in the early morning hours.
My fellow passengers and I came off our flight from Newark and walked into the airport, quickly cleared customs and stood by the baggage return waiting.
You see, in Europe, things don’t always move on the timescale that Americans are used to. It’s just how it is.
I hadn’t slept in something like eighteen hours and I was wobbly on my pins, but resolved. Finally after the eternity of a half hour, the bags started rolling through the baggage return. Hooray!
People scurried to get their luggage and wandered off into the Amsterdam day. I kept watching bags go by that were not mine.
Finally the flow of luggage slowed to a trickle and I knew, I just knew. My bag didn’t make it.
I had a very tight transfer time in Newark, less than an hour, and I had flat out ran to get between gates and onto the plane, so I was just certain my bag didn’t make it as fast as I had.
Shoot. That was the word foremost in my mind. Only not the word with the two o’s in the middle. The other word. I just kept saying that word over and over and over.
I looked around and saw I wasn’t alone. There were about eight of us standing there with no luggage.
We all looked at each other, shrugged and walked in unison over to the United Baggage customer service desk.
I was toward the back of the line so I struck up a conversation with a dude standing in line with a guitar slung over his shoulder.
He told me that he and his wife had come from Cleveland and that they were in Amsterdam to see their son, who is in a band, play a show. They were going to follow him on a couple tour stops.
Then he pointed to his guitar and said, “I’m going to try to do a little busking while I am here. The quality of the people I’ve seen busking in Amsterdam is pretty low, so I know I can do better than that.”
I spent too many years in the company of musicians to do anything other than laugh and agree. And I said, “That’s cool. When I get some Euros, if I see you playing, I will throw some your way.” He laughed and said thanks.
About that time the United customer service person said that the baggage handlers had failed to look in the “basement” of the plane, and our bags should be along directly. Lo and behold, my stuff showed up. I whipped it off the baggage return and stumbled my way out into the beautiful Amsterdam morning.
And then I settled into my little Amsterdam life, walking the canals, eating stroopwafels, visiting the Van Gogh museum, and work. Oh yeah, this was not a vacation but a work trip, and the work meetings were two full days (day and night) and massively intense.
On Tuesday evening, I stumbled out of the offices with my brain dead and my body exhausted. We had been through an intense day and were on a short one-hour break before meeting back at the offices to go to dinner.
I strolled along the Singel, which is the center of Amsterdam. I was so tired and concentrating on not turning my ankles on the cobblestones near the flower market. My hotel was only a few blocks from there.
As I walked, feeling out of my mind and brain dead, I heard someone playing guitar and singing. I remembered the guy I had met at the airport and wondered what had become of him.
As I rounded a curve, I saw a man in shorts and a porkpie hat busking at the end of an alleyway and in front of a closed store. He was putting a lot of gusto into the song, “Santeria” and had his backed turned to me.
I walked past and looked. Sure enough, it was my fellow passenger.
I pulled out my wallet and looked to see what I had to give. I found a five Euro bill, then walked up and said, “I promised I’d give you some Euros” and dropped the bill into his guitar case.
He looked puzzled and said, “Thanks. Are you an American?”
He didn’t recognize me, so I said, “We’ve met. Remember at baggage claim in Sunday?”
His eyes went wide, “Heeey! How cool is this?” He pointed out his wife who was shopping one of the stores a bit down the path. He told me he had seen his son play the night before and that he and his wife were off to Brussels in the morning for his son’s next show.
We chatted for a few moments, then I said, “I just had to stop and I’m so sorry for interrupting your song, that is rude of me.”
“No, no! Here, let me give you something! Here, take one of our CDs.”
So I did, and I thanked him and headed off with a smile on my face and a little more bounce in my step.
I get that Amsterdam is a small city and that the flower market is a popular place to be, but that one moment of humanity made this great big gigantic overwhelming world seem just a little bit smaller.
That felt pretty good to a little tired American girl wandering the canals of Amsterdam.
With a cheers from San Francisco to the fine city of Cleveland.
Here’s the band if you are inclined to check them out:
Copyright © 2014 Karen Fayeth
I took this photo later that same night with a couple of Dutch beers under my belt and a song in my heart. I call this one “Amsterdam Moon” for the The Mavericks song of the same name.
Photo Copyright © 2014, Karen Fayeth, and subject to the Creative Commons license in the right column of this page. Taken with an iPhone5 and the Camera+ app. Post processed with Snapseed.