Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
– Robert Frost
If there’s one thing that has united Europe — more than kings, emperors, religion, political ideology, or a common currency — it’s probably its train system.
Antwerp Central Station
The narrow tracks that seamlessly connect cities and countries and people.
Salzburg Station with the Alps in the background
You can be in Amsterdam from Brussels in two hours, or to Paris for that matter; Salzburg from Vienna or to Munich under three.
It takes a lot of infrastructure and investment, but it’s more efficient in the long run and has created tremendous economic value.
It also requires a vision and determination, and a mindset that connects instead of isolates.
Railways, narrow as they are, link and expand the world.
Castles, lovely as they are, went obsolete 500 years ago.
Ghent Castle of the Counts (Gravensteen)
There’s a belief that the standard distance between railroad tracks of 4 feet 8-1/2 inches dates back to the days of Roman chariots. Not so, according to this article.
When visiting Prague Castle, don’t miss the
Golden Lane. It’s the little side street between the castle and the wall, built in the 16th century for the marksmen guarding the castle and their families.
The little houses contrast with the royal dwellings and state rooms, but have their own charm.
It got its name reputedly from alchemists who lived in the street. Franz Kapka was not known to be an alchemist but the writer apparently lived in house no. 22 for a couple of years.
Today, the houses are little souvenir shops, basking in the sun in their colorful facades and tiny pot gardens.
It is also a museum that shows how the interiors may have looked like 500 years ago.
After all that walking, a treat of
trdelniks is in order; it’s a traditional Czech dessert that looks like a doughnut wrapped around a stick and roasted.
Looking out towards Charles Bridge and the city of Prague from the Castle grounds while munching on the trdelniks would be a perfect way to cap this Golden experience.
Cherry On Top
One can look at scars as imperfection — or a season’s badge of triumph.
Up close, Claude Monet’s painting of Water Lilies at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York shows his perfectionism, a study of his impressionistic technique to capture color and light.
When stepping back, one sees “the illusion of an endless whole, of water without horizon or bank” that
he was aiming for. His genius was creating the big picture while working on the fine details.
In contrast, Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night, also at the MoMA, shows the bold brush strokes that seem to be aimed at driving away the demons haunting his mind. That he was able to paint the beauty of the galaxies, the endless movement of the universe — the biggest picture of them all– is a testament to his bravery and the greatness of his genius.
Remember when we were children? We were constantly filled with wonder and amazement, the world was full of surprises and joy.
We believed that everything was possible, that clouds became rabbits, and tigers can jump over the sun.
We could do anything, be anything. Magic was natural. Imagination and reality were one. The universe was not enough to fill our curiosity.
“All grown-ups were once children… but only few of them remember it.”
– Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince.
Looking Up once in a while might help us remember.
The giant chess-board at the Kapitelplatz square in Salzburg is a scene of
opposites on many levels.