Recently, I was reflecting on my travels to Europe during the summer of 1996. I had just passed the New York Bar and wanted to explore for the summer before entering the real world in the fall. I had parted ways with the group I was traveling with and continued my journey alone. In retrospect, this was a dangerous move without a cell phone or any way for people to contact me.
That said, I cannot tell you how profound and educational that experience of traveling proved for me. Not speaking any of the local languages, but very much someone who can connect with people on a deep level, I relied on my instincts in terms of whom I interacted with and trusted. No doubt, divine intervention played a role here, too; G-d looked out for me on this trip!
My adventures included meeting a lovely woman on the train from Budapest to Venice. She too, a traveler who had ventured to India, suggested that I come and stay by her in Trieste, Italy since I had already visited Venice before. She sweetened the deal by mentioning that her boyfriend was a local tour guide and that she had a guest room with a view of the port. I took her up on her kind offer. Her adorable father greeted us at the train station with homemade eggplant parmesan in tow.
The next few days involved touring Trieste, which included visiting a Nazi concentration camp from World War II (that I didn’t know existed); exploring castles; attending a concert and meeting her ex-husband and his family. In a word, the entire time I felt joyful. Sadly, as this experience pre-dated our current level of connectedness, I have thought of her often, but haven’t been in touch. I hope someday soon I can find her name and address and see if I can find her. I’d like to express my gratitude to her for this uplifting and wondrous experience.
My trip also involved bumping into someone I knew from the University of Illinois (where I had attended law school) on the train en route to Budapest. Apparently, on a trip to Israel, he met his then girlfriend who lived in Budapest, so he decided to have a go at their relationship and moved there. They kindly hosted me during my stay. As I enjoy visiting upon the local Jewish community on my travels, I went to Shabbat services at the beautiful Dohány Street Synagogue. I sat near an older woman, Eunice, with whom I had an instant rapport. She insisted on my joining her for Shabbat Dinner with her travel group. Long story short, Eunice became my chosen grandmother; my paternal grandma Jennie (my namesake) passed away before I was born. And my maternal Nana passed away when I was eleven years old. So, for years, Eunice and I kept in close touch and she even attended my wedding in 2001!
Not a coincidence, but certainly a meaningful time, I met up with another person whom I had met at the University of Illinois, renowned pianist, David Gross. As I recall, David’s wife worked for the University of Illinois, so he lived part time in Champagne. A Berlin native, David and his family welcomed me into their home and showed me around Berlin and surrounding areas, including Sanssouci.
One of my passions during travel is to capture moments in time. I consider myself a hobbyist photographer, as I’ve had no formal training. But I certainly leveraged my fine arts education for composition. As this was an analog era, I had a film camera–a Nikon that my dad gave me when he realized that despite trying to learn, a photographer, he was not.
To present day, the photograph I captured at Sanssouci hangs on my wall. It represents a time in my life when we were more connected in our relationships because we were less proverbially connected.
Indeed, I would love to reconnect with, and once again thank, all those amazing individuals who hosted me and gifted me with amazing experiences and memories.