“Waltzing” doesn’t work for this particular blog because since I last wrote we left Dubrovnik-Croatia, arrived, scurried thru and left Vienna, visited with our newest Poland “other in-laws” (the other set of the Oliver Wolf grandparent team) and now I’m sitting in my apartment in Riga, Latvia. John says check Wikipedia it’s a real country. We’re in the Baltic States. We’re at 57 degrees latitude, pretty far north. We’re not waltzing…my fit bit tells me I did 38 miles last week.  We’re scurrying.

So what have we been doing? I keep an erasable calendar that I note our daily activities in marker then take a picture at the end of the month. It’s the only way my pea brain can keep up. Between John and I we make up one serviceable brain.

So Vienna…sigh… What a fabulous city! Our apartment there was the best we’ve had along this journey. Renovated, pristine, close to the downtown tram. Vienna was dreamy and musical. We do have a list of things we wish to accomplish in each city… and Vienna filled all the musical and architecture boxes. We were there for 5 days and saw 4 world-class musical performances. Ballet…tick. Opera…tick. Symphony…tick. Boys choir…tick. I’ve decided that Vienna was a city that could feed my heart and soul for a very long time. And speaking of feeding we were able to contribute to Vienna’s care and feeding of the refugees transiting Vienna.   Since all the news programming has been about the refugees we decided to get up close and personal. We were informed about Train of Hope where volunteers show up at the Vienna haupbanhof and help feed these transients. We were able to talk to two of the original organizers of the feeding program: a 42 year old man who looked pretty tired after working at the train station since August. Train of Hope started out with a few sandwiches and apples that volunteers would distribute as the refugees arrived. That’s now grown to a feeding 500-4000 people per day depending upon border crossings and closings. We met another female organizer who spoke of the moment when one of the Syrian refugees gave her a Mary medal from his mother.  We cut veggies with a young Iranian whose favorite car is a 1991 GMC Suburban, an Austrian woman who comes into Vienna on the weekends to help, a Syrian sweet thing whose mother is still in Syria living amidst ruin, a Sikh from India who has lived in Vienna for many years and felt that his mission was to feed the poor. I travel with 2 suitcases and knowing my head will have a pillow for the night. These people are traveling with some of their family, a desire for a peaceful existence and the hope that all will be well. Takes a lot of courage to walk out the door of your home with only a medal from your mom and maybe a change of clothes. I sat in the volunteer tent and watched a mother tend to her sick baby.   She tied a knot in one corner of a blanket and handed it to one of her older children (maybe 10/11) and then she laid the baby in the blanket, grabbed the opposite corner and the two of them rocked the baby back and forth until the baby was soothed. I was touched by the cleverness of the mother and her desperation for her child. I’ve had sick children, I’ve been scared for what tomorrow might bring, I’ve carried suitcases and been in foreign countries but I’ve never been as brave as these people. And never been so possession-poor. Americans are the luckiest of peoples. All we have to do is chop veggies. It was a task with profound implications for me..

From there we departed from the same train station to Opola, Poland with Jolante and Marian Placek, the other half of the grandparent team.  We swam, we sauna-ed, we ate way too many Polish potatoes and sausages for our waistlines but it was delicious. And Jolante and I tripped to Czestochova, Poland to the site of the Black Madonna Icon. It was a fascinating tour, stunning Basilica and the site where other mothers bring their children for a miracle cure. There’s always some history(tradition) and lots of mystery surrounding these Madonna shrines. And I bought my own Mary medal.

So now in Riga. It is a city of many colors, styles and cultures. We’ve wandered down cobblestoned streets with stunning architecture on both sides; buildings with sculpted flowers dripping down their facades, past brick arches, and soaring statuary. I can hardly wait to show you a few of the pictures. I first heard of Riga from a friend who visited from the USSR in 1980 and described it then as being artistic. Riga was still under the Soviet thumb and from my Moscow vantage I couldn’t imagine putting Soviet and artistic in the same sentence but she was right. I read that thousands of storks come to Riga to birth their babes so they must spread their creative juices because I’ve seen more creativity here than most places. We’re staying an extra day because Latvia’s annual Independence celebration is coming up and it’s supposed to be extraordinary. Don’t want to miss that.

Blessings to all

Link to Vienna and refugees

Link to Riga photos





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