Monday, January 09, 2006

Back From My Trip To Europe – A Few Tidbits

I do not want to bore you with a typical travelogue, but I do what to offer some sense of my recent visit with family and friends in Hungary, Romania and London. So, I’ll use bullet form:

* The highlight of the trip was the chance to reconnect with two of my sons – Ti and Tim - and to spend a few days in Romania playing grandpa to Ti and Raluca’s delightful children. Laurelin is a very precocious 3 year-old, and Amet will turn 1 on February 1. We went for walks, had a special visit to an ice cream shop in Craiova, read stories, sang and danced, and created a very passable rhythm band. Even Amet was able to keep time with a rhythm stick.

* Before we assembled in Craiova, I had met up with Ti and Tim in Budapest where we spent a day and a half exploring some of that marvelous city, and enjoying being together for the first time in over a year. Tim has been living and working in Poland for that amount of time. We had a bit of an adventure one icy night in Budapest trying to drive up a sleet-covered hill leading to the Citadel that overlooks the Danube. We had to be rescued by four powerfully built young Hungarian men who helped us to push the van to the crest of the hill.

* While in Romania, Ti arranged for me to have a chance to visit with several friends I had not seen for several years – including many members of Raluca’s family, and my friends, Ovidiu, Adrian and Razvan.

* While I was with him in Craiova, Ti hosted a screening for some of his Romanian friends of the feature-length film he has just finished directing and editing: “Sharp Dressed Men.” Written by Ti’s friend, Greg Gaskell, the film is a hilarious look at a trio of brothers struggling to get it together to make a success of the wedding day of their parents – who have finally decided to tie the knot after being together for almost 30 years. I brought back with me several copies of the DVD that are being submitted to film festivals in the U.S. I love the film – both as a proud father, and as a cinephile! My son, Scott, is one of the actors in the film, and has created a memorable character that is a piece of understated comic genius!

* New Year’s Eve and New Year’s morning saw me traveling by train from Craiova to Budapest, by way of a stopover for six hours in Timisoara, a city in Transylvania near the Hungarian border. Words cannot describe the sound and smell and overall impression of spending six hours – from 11:00 PM to 5:00 AM – in a bar in the train station in Timisoara while dozens of well lubricated Romanians and gypsies entertained one another by throwing beer bottles and firecrackers across the room. I counted four different rounds of bottle smashing and five rounds of firecracker tossing – hundreds of bottles and M-80’s being sacrificed in the interest of aesthetics and simple peasant expressions of exuberance at the passing of 2005 and entrance of 2006! As far as I could tell, I was the only non-Romanian in the crowd, and I was treated respectfully and was offered drinks and refreshments by some of the celebrants.

The experience reminded me of another New Year’s eve – about 10 years ago – when I found myself at midnight on Kreshatik, the main street of Kiev, Ukraine. The tradition is to smash as many beer and vodka bottles as possible on the street before midnight, and for the crowd to walk up and down the street on the acres of broken glass. I was pleased to have good boots with thick soles, so I managed to traverse the sea of shards unscathed.

* At the airport in Budapest, while standing in line to receive my boarding pass for the flight to Paris, I heard a voice behind me say: “Al, is that you?” It was Mark Paquin, a musician from New Hampshire, who had been touring Europe playing trombone for a NYC-based jazz band. I had not seen Mark for several years, and we ended up on the same flight just a few rows apart. Need I say: “Small world”?

* The trip ended with a few days in London. I was able to see my friend, Edward Petherbridge of the Royal Shakespeare Company, star in Andrew Lloyd Weber’s “Woman in White.” Edward was terrific; the musical is not one of Weber’s best efforts.

* Dane O’Dell is an American friend of mine who is working for a hedge fund in London. We were able to visit with each other twice during my days in London. Dane was a gracious host, and treated me to one of the best meals I can ever remember having at a place called Asia de Cuba. (In a subsequent posting, I will add this as a new “Favorite Link”)

It was nice to be able to get away and spend some wonderful time with family and special friends. I am back in Boston, and looking forward to the adventures, opportunities and blessings that 2006 will present.

Happy New Year!



Lilly said...

Great blog! you should come and see mine. it is

Mark said...

Welcome back Al!

Is it possible for you to have a normal vacation that is restful?

You do lead an extraordinary life!