A long, strange trip

Roselle and I have a wonderful niece who, at a very young age, has already distinguished herself. She has a fabulous career with a non-governmental organization that sends her all over the world. Two years ago, we visited her in Zagreb, Croatia, and had a great time in that beautiful city.

At that time, Andrea was helping the Croatians develop their tourism industry. This year she invited us to her wedding to Damir, a fine, young Croatian man. This wedding was held on the shore of beautiful Lake Bled in Slovenia. To understand just how magnificent this setting is, you have to think of Great Barrington’s picturesque Lake Mansfield and then multiply it about five times and surround it with images of the snow-capped Julian Alps in the distance.

They were married in the magnificent castle overlooking the lake with the officials of the town sitting around a table conducting the marriage. I suspect, but only suspect, that this is a vestige of the old socialist way of doing weddings.

It is important to remember that, for years, the old Yugoslavia was a communist (but unaligned communist) country under the relatively iron hand of Marshal Tito. Tito, of course, was a dictator but a lot more benevolent than, let’s say, Josef Stalin who Tito says tried to murder him on five separate occasions. In fact, I read one quote in a letter from Tito to Stalin saying that his people had caught assassins — one

with a rifle and one with a bomb — trying to kill him. In the letter, he purportedly tells Stalin to cut it out lest he (Tito) send someone to Moscow who would be a better aim.Tito had lots of homes, and the wedding reception was held in one of them, the Villa Bled, which is right on the lake. He also seems to have had a lot of wives. I bought a few T-shirts with Tito’s picture on them and some words underneath. When I asked the young saleswoman to translate the words, she said, “He’s watching.” Then she added, “They’re all watching.”

In the meantime, as predicted, all hell broke lose after the death of Tito and as a result we now see a lot of mini-states including Slovenia with its capital, Ljubljana. Some of the worst “ethnic cleansing” in the world happened in Bosnia, but Slovenia, where we were, was not part of the war.

After our four days at Lake Bled, we spent four days in Ljubljana. There are cafés everywhere. A river flows right through the city and both banks are filled with restaurants and places to have coffee. There is a lot of music. One musician saw me wearing my James Taylor T-shirt. He immediately sang, and sang it well, Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend.” When he came over to talk for a few seconds, I told him that I knew James and he almost fainted.

One day on the trip, Roselle took a misstep and her foot blew up and turned black and blue and yellow and green. From then on it was a matter of alternating too much walking with keeping the foot up, and icing it when we could find ice. About the same time as Roselle was dealing with her foot, I went to a health club and found a lousy exercise bike. I overdid it and threw my back out. Then the airline lost my heavy bag and had to deliver it to us at home. This was not a bad thing, considering the state of my back. Naturally, traveling in Europe is expensive because of the dollar-Euro relationship. Maybe that’s why I saw very few Americans there.

We were traveling with an Alan bobble head and took several pictures of him eating with Japanese tourists who abounded and having famous Bled Cream Cake. It was a fun trip but I will not be traveling any more. Sept. 11 happened when we were in Italy. One other vacation, it was a hurricane. This time it was the death of Senator Kennedy and a protruding disc. Nope, no more travel for me. Too risky.

Originally published in the Berkshire Eagle, 9/12/09

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