Europe 2023

This was our first trip abroad since we went on a Gate 1 Tour to Spain in 2018. That year, we also traveled to India, Hawaii, New York/Vermont as well as to our homes away from home in Lund B.C. and Sun Valley Idaho—satisfying our prosperous retiree appetites for extending knowledge, connecting with old and new friends, and enjoying fresh pleasures.

At the beginning of 2019 I felt guilty about the continuing indulgence, but by late Fall of a year with no travel, the yen was back. We signed up for a February 2020 tour of China which included a boat trip up the Yangtze River ending at the city of Wuhan.  In January reports arrived about a coronavirus epidemic that started in a Wuhan market and was spreading through the country.  We cancelled our reservations and decided to use the refund to visit Portugal on our own, studying guidebooks and websites, making hotel reservations, arranging meetings in Lisbon with old friends from Cornwall and with my young co-worker and her boyfriend. But by March the epidemic had spread world wide and we were happy to hunker down at home.

By early 2023, two years later, Covid subsided enough for us to shop for another tour, this time a cruise on the Danube River from Budapest to Vienna that would include a visit with a Hungarian Shakespeare scholar we befriended in Stratford in 2000 and attendance at classical concerts in the home of Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms.  Ten days before departure, we both came down with Covid and again were able to secure a refund. Once recovered, we determined to give it another try on short notice during what was becoming a record tourist season. Despite the calamitous heat afflicting southern Europe, we reserved hotel rooms, and train, theatre, museum and concert tickets in London, Paris and Amsterdam, hungry for some of the high culture delights we knew those cities could offer. Given our age and the state of the world, it might be the last chance.

In the course of her ongoing genealogical research Jan was exploring leads about my paternal ancestry in the Alsatian area of France and Germany. Googling “Bodersweier,” the tiny village outside the town of Kehl, Germany, and across the Rhine from the hallowed city of Strasbourg, she came across Karl and Hannah Britz, a couple our age living there and engaged in a lifelong quest for information about members of its historic Jewish community, all of whom had fled or been murdered by the Nazis. I knew that as a child before WWI my father had lived in Strasbourg and remembered my grandmother, Elise, talking about growing up in Bodersweier and Kehl. Having in recent years relinquished my aversion to thinking about ancestors since I experienced myself becoming one, I agreed that we should spend a few days between London and Amsterdam exploring that area. A phone conversation with Karl in my broken German produced a warm invitation, followed up by email correspondence revealing that their son Wolfram was mayor of Kehl eager to meet Jan, the present vice-mayor and past mayor of San Luis Obispo.

Both of us having spent time in that part of the world during our earlier years–both before and after getting connected–we expected the trip abroad to involve a good deal of time travel as well.





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