My trip to Israel was timed to coincide with two of my four cousins’ return to the country for Passover. The eldest cousin, Nir, has lived in L.A. for seventeen or eighteen years (we overlapped during his first / my last year in the city, the only time I ever lived remotely close to any of the four). The youngest, Rachel, moved to Norway with her partner and two young children about a year ago.
Irit, the cousin who is closest in age to me, picked me up at the airport when I arrived in Tel Aviv a couple of weeks before Passover. We took the train to Zichron Ya’akov, the beautiful town near Haifa where she lives with her husband and two kids. I had never met her kids — my first cousins once removed — in person, even though they are already a teenager and a tween, respectively. It was really nice to finally spend time with them. I got ice cream in the old town with Ella and I watched Almog play video games and learn to drive.
It feels a little anticlimactic to follow Italy with Indiana, but that’s exactly what I’m going to do. In July, I spent a week in central Pennsylvania sharing a cabin with high school friends and assorted kids. At the end of the week, they headed home, and I got in my dad’s car and drove in the opposite direction. I made my way back to NYC the (very) long way around, by way of Cleveland, Indianapolis, Bloomington, Louisville, Lexington, Charleston, Morgantown, Hagerstown, Gettysburg, and Philadelphia. In doing so, I satisfied an itch to move that had not been scratched in a year and a half, I resolved a few “gray” states into black and white, and I also got back on track with my relatively newfound pursuit to visit both as many states and as many countries / territories as my numerical age. The pandemic had screwed up my state count (I turned 41 having visited only 40 states), but after driving through three new ones in as many days — Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky — I am now safely back in the black: 43 states on the cusp of age 42.
We have at long last reached the final installment of my Austrian-Slovenian-Italian adventure. These are the tiny towns I stopped in for an hour or two each on my way to and from Santa Maddalena. All three of them were quite stunning:
It’s ridiculous that it has taken me a year and a half to post these pictures, but then again, consider the year and a half it’s been. Or better yet, time travel back with me to simpler days, and consider the pre-pandemic bliss of a snowy stay in the Dolomites…
It’s been so long since I was in Venice — almost a year and a half — that I had to jog my memory by reading the notes I jotted down on my phone at the time. They start with, “Venice = mission-driven with not enough time for the mission.” On second thought, that could describe my whole life. Here are some pictures.
From Lake Bled I took a short train trip to the capital city of Ljubljana, where I had less than 24 hours to spend before my departure for Venice. The historic part of the city is small and the only thing I wanted to do apart from wander around was to visit the castle. So, although I would have liked a little more time, I was able to fit in everything that I really wanted to see. Here are some pix.
My Central European tour continues! (And by that I mean that I now resume the year-late summation of my Central European tour last January.)
From Salzburg, I took a train southeast to Lake Bled. The second I crossed the border, I could tell I was in a new country because the architecture changed abruptly. The food did, too, but I wouldn’t know that until I sat down at a homestyle restaurant by the train station, where I heard my first of many Phil Collins hits.
I realized today that it’s been more than a year since I visited Salzburg last January, so I better get my act together and post pictures now if I’m ever going to. I think I put off Innsbruck and Salzburg for so long because they were just so fraught. How do I properly explain what I experienced while there? I was constantly in almost painful awe of the city’s beauty, and I was overjoyed just to roam the wintry streets, sit in the cozy cafes, and gawk at the baroque opulence. But I also kept getting caught up in angry rumination about how Austria could stand to face a little more of its ugly past. And then I’d get whiplashed by doubts and start obsessively googling for evidence both to justify and to counter my resentment. The whole thing was mentally exhausting.
But that’s just me. As I said in my Innsbruck post, if you don’t have relatives who died in the Holocaust, you should definitely visit Austria. It’s gorgeous! Let me show you…
Last December, right around the time I started itching for my next getaway, I found out that I would be heading back to Nairobi for a conference in January. I had already appended a week-long vacation to my previous Kenya trip, and it was glorious. There is so much more that I would like to explore in the country and surrounding region, but at that particular moment, I was more in the mood for the cozy creature comforts of winter.
So, I found a flight to Nairobi through Zurich that was nearly the same price as the direct one, and I asked the travel agent to book me a one-week stopover. I then poured over Eurail maps and timetables, feasting my eyes upon all the tantalizing itineraries that were possible. I considered heading southwest towards Monaco and Nice by way of Turin, east towards Budapest by way of Vienna, or south towards Rome by way of Milan. But none of those seemed juicy enough to satisfy my ambitions. In the end, only a whistle-stop tour in every direction would do.