Friday, October 8, 2010

a tentative itinerary for my European trip Oct. 22-Nov. 17

I don't know for sure, but this is my general plan as of now for my upcoming trip to Europe:

Oct 22 -- fly to NY and stay with my cousin's son Jason, his wife Jessica, and their new baby Marcelo. They live in Long Island City, Queens, which isn't too far from JFK airport and I will be getting in late.

Oct. 23 -- I will visit with Jason and Jessica and baby Marcelo for a few hours, then travel down to Plainfield, NJ to visit with my friend Hubert and his Dominican wife Antonia. I'm the one who introduced them in Cabarete, Dominican Republic in August 2006, on the same trip that I met Andre in Santo Domingo.

Oct 24, Sunday -- I will take the train to Brooklyn to visit Andre's aunt Rosette, cousin Louloun and her daughter Yasmeen. It's also the birthday of Andre's half-sister Carleen who he's never met. She lives in Irvington, NJ about three hours away from NYC. She's hoping she can meet me in Brooklyn and celebrate her birthday altogether.

That night I fly to London, arriving in the morning. I have a couple of hours layover.

Oct 25 -- I fly from London to Hamburg, Germany. I will arrive in the late afternoon and hopefully will stay with my friend Petra, her husband and son Henri. I met Petra in Santa Cruz in the 1990s. She rented a room at my house. Maya and I visited them in Hamburg in 2004.

Oct. 26 is my German "mother" Mutti's 82nd birthday. I will travel early by train from Hamburg to Stemshorn, the village I lived in during the summer of 1974 as part of a student exchange program. My friend Tanja, a Spanish student of mine when she was living in Santa Cruz around 1999, will meet me in Stemshorn for Mutti's birthday. That's the only day that Tanja has free to visit. She lives about an hour away. She already called Mutti and verified that it's okay to join us on her birthday.

Oct. 27-28 I will stay in Stemshorn with my German "family," visiting old friends and riding a bike around the countryside, maybe to Dummer See again which Maya enjoyed.

Oct. 29 I travel back to Hamburg, which is about an hour or two from Stemshorn. I will stay at Rebekka's house and visit with Rita and Alina, friends from Munich area who are coming up for Rebekka's 50th birthday. I first met Rita in 1989, recommended by Rebekka, before we were moms. Then Maya and I stayed with her and daughter Alina in 2005 on our way to the Sound of Music Tour in Salzburg, Austria.

Oct. 30 is Rebekka's huge 50th birthday party, which is the reason I decided to travel to Europe when it will be cold, gray and miserable. I'm not optimistic about the weather. Rebekka has invited 300 people. It should be crazy, with jugglers and musicians and all kinds of entertainment and activities.

Oct. 31 I will probably stay with Rebekka one more day. We might be cleaning up or she'll be hung over, or sleeping. I'm not sure, but I'm going a long way to see her so I will help her anyway I can to come down from such a high the day before. I will try not to think about Halloween and how much fun everyone is having in Santa Cruz on this day.

Nov. 1 and 2 (Days of the Dead in Mexico and many parts of California) I will be in Berlin, staying at Susanne's house, a friend I met in Santa Cruz in the early 1980s. Susanne and Beate came to Santa Cruz as part of their nursing studies and I befriended them at a feminism class at UCSC. Now they both are flight attendants for Lufthansa. Beate will meet us in Berlin to spend these days together, the three of us. Last time I was in Berlin it was 1989, just one month before the wall came down. I've seen photos of what's left of. It's been painted by artists as a monument to that crazy period of history when the city and the country were divided.

Nov. 3-Nov 17 I will travel to four new countries: Poland, Ukraine, Moldova (which I never heard of) and fly back from Romania. Some tips from my friend Steve who has made four trips to eastern Europe: Krakow, Poland and nearby Auschwitz nazi concentration camp...L'viv, Ukraine with its beautiful architecture and interesting cemetery. He spent 5 days there and could have stayed longer. He also recommends Odessa and Kiev, Ukraine but they're not directly on the route, so I may have to skip them this time. But I will see Brasov and Sighi Soara, where Dracula lived. Beautiful architecture again.

Steve also recommended a great restaurant that sounds like Pusatahata (but looks completely different when written with the Cyrillic alphabet) which is like a buffet where you pick out your food. It's all good and cheap and they have them in several cities in eastern Europe. Not knowing the language, it's hard to order off a menu and can take a few hours to order, get your food, eat and pay, says Steve. He likes the Tatrus Mountains in Slovakia, but it will be too cold in November. Steve also suggests I print up a copy of the Cyrillic alphabet (used for Russian and Ukrainian) so I can read the signs, menus, train schedules, etc. It's like reading code. The words may be the same as in English, but the alphabet is very different. He learned it and can read Russian slowly.

I asked Steve about Dracula's castle. He answered: "There's one called Bran, a day-trip from Brasov, although he might not have really lived there. However, it is an authentic old castle and worth seeing none the less." It's on the list.

November 17 I fly home from Romania. With the time differences in my favor, I will arrive on November 17 in San Francisco, three flights and many many hours later, exhausted, but happy, I hope.

So that's the plan as of today. I'm sure it will change.

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