My twin sister and I worshiped the ground our father walked on. He loved us from the split second we were born, and we were at his side in the hospital when he died at age 76. One of his more distinct qualities was that he would go anywhere in the world–as long as it was between Austin and Dallas. He could tell a fine story about many a rock, tree, or road within that framework, but outside of that area, he had absolutely no interest. Come nightfall, Daddy thought everybody should be at home. To put it another way, he had no interest whatsoever in travel. So when I announced in the summer of 2004 that I was going to Germany in the summer of 2005, he declared that he would not contribute one dime to the trip. He died in November of 2004 and paid for the entire experience.
I have long since lost track of the number of times I have been to Germany since 2005. I have been elsewhere in Europe, Austria, Italy, Ireland, Lichtenstein, France, the Czech Republic, Switzerland and Slovakia, but keep returning to the land of Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms. The city I have visited most often is Leipzig.
The wonderful quality of Leipzig is that its area of interest for me is a rectangle of land that one can walk across in ten minutes, if one is in a hurry. On the west side of that rectangle, facing west, is the Thomaskirche, where Johann Sebastian Bach was in charge of the music, along with three other churches, for 27 years. As of 1949, he is buried in the chancel of the Thomaskirche. On the east side of the rectangle of land is the concert hall that is home to the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, and the opera house. On the south side of this rectangle is a music store, and on its north side is a Marriott hotel. The Leipzig train station is across the street from the north side of this rectangle. There is a wonderful pedway across the entirety of the area, complete with fountains and gelato stands and other enticements. There is no reason to be in a hurry.
My goal in studying German is to be able to attend the annual BACHFEST in Leipzig and understand the language around the music being played. Toward that end I work on duolingo.com every day, have three private lessons weekly, and watch German television and movies on my computer for free. Recently an American acquaintance, who I am most envious to say lives in Wiesbaden, gave me a little book of “Weihnachts Geschichten fur Kinder,” or “Christmas Stories for Children.” Just today I finished translating the first story in the book, which was good for me to do, even if the story ended very, very sadly.
Daddy was stationed in Wiesbaden after World War II, and hated it–for the simple fact that it was not Texas. He embodied all that it meant to be a Texan, and is buried almost exactly between Austin and Dallas. He is right at home.
Home for me seems to be wherever fine music is found. The last time I went to Europe with a group of people, for example, I found a concert in literally every place we went on every single day. I heard three concerts in Krakow and on one of them a string ensemble played a marvelous arrangement of “Over the Rainbow.” My American ears were enchanted.
Travel seems to enchant me. On my bucket list are Belgium, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Oslo, Helsinki, Spain, England, and a return trip to Prague. When I meet Daddy in the next life, I hope he has forgiven me for going north of Dallas.