And plans change

2018 saw me visiting former Soviet bloc nations.  I made a return trip to Budapest, which I had seen 30 years earlier, before the fall of the Berlin Wall.  Many changes were evident, but the people were just as warm and welcoming as before.

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The lively streets of Budapest
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Standing on the banks of the Danube on the Buda side of the river, looking at the amazing Parliament house on the Pest side of the river.

I enjoyed three days to explore the city before embarking on a river cruise down the Danube toward the Black Sea, arriving in Bucharest, Romania after visiting Serbia and Bulgaria, and sailing through the Danube Gorge.

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The Danube Gorge from the bow of my Riverboat, Avalon’s Passion, a wonderful vessel.

While in Bulgaria, we visited an amazing old rock-hewn fortress – the Belogradchik Fortress – it is stunning and has a wide and scenic view of the surrounding countryside.  It provided a great vantage point to see marauders approaching in days of old.

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Belogradchik Fortress – dates to at least the 14th century.

The people of Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania were charming and interesting, and the countryside was gorgeous, especially in Bulgaria and Serbia, where I also visited a fascinating archealogical dig showcasing some of the oldest human artifacts ever discovered in Europe – known as Lepenski Vir.

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Lepenski Vir – housed under glass to protect it from the elements.

After several days of beautiful churches, quaint streets, and interesting sites, we arrived in Romania, former domain of infamous dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, who wanted everything to be bigger in Romania, including his palace.  I found it to be massive, but cold and lifeless.

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Ceausescu’s formidable palace.

My hotel, however, was quite wonderful, with lovely views of Bucharest and its busy streets, shops and cafes.  I had a lovely lunch in a side lane in a cafe that reminded me very much of Paris.

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Eating outdoors in Europe is always a treat to me.

Finally, it was time to leave the Balkan nations and head to Russia.  My flight was at an obscenely early hour, so my taxi arrived at 3:30 AM to whisk me off to the airport for a flight to Frankfurt, connecting with the flight to Moscow.  En route to the airport, and confirming my sense that Bucharest was somewhat like Paris, we passed by what appeared to be a copy of the Arc de Triomphe

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Called the Arcul de Triumf, it was originally made out of wood in about 1878 but later was renovated and remade from stone.

And so the first part of my 2018 journey ended, in the dark of night in the airport corridors of Bucharest, Romania.  Next up – Russia!

In the beginning…

So, there I was, minding my own business, when a dear friend told me she and her husband were going to walk part of the Camino de Santiago.  Somehow, in all my studies and readings, I had not heard of it.  After reading about it, I became fascinated and drawn to it, but certain I could never walk it.

Fast forward to 2017.  Another friend walked part of the Camino.  So, I watched “The Way” and really became drawn to it, to the point I began investigating whether it might be possible for me to do even a little bit of it.

Then in November, I saw the special showing of “I’ll Push You” at a theater in Augusta, Georgia.  I can only explain what happened by saying it grabbed me…no, IT pushed ME.  And so, now, I’m in the throes of planning to perhaps, maybe, walk the last 116 km of the French Way (more later on the various ways), called the Camino Frances or CF for short, from Sarria, Spain to Santiago de Compostela, Spain.  Wow.  Me?  Me!  Out of shape, over weight, asthmatic, couch potato me.

Stay tuned to see whether (a) I’ve lost my mind; or (b) I actually train for it.  In all seriousness, this is such a strong calling to do this, that it feels like it is of divine origin, and so I feel compelled to at least try to train for it and see how it goes.

In the words of pilgrims of the Camino – Buen Camino to me and to all who have walked or are planning to do so.

(Note the photo above is from a friend’s walk.)