My trip across Europe -- what would it be like this time? That had been the question on my mind before I left in late August. Husband and I took this same tour many years before, traveling through major cities from London, England to Hungary my place of birth. Then, we had seen the graffiti remains of the Wall in East Berlin, Germany; we had witnessed the rise of Václav Havel the playwright-poet turned president in the new Czech Republic; we heralded the return of the ancient coat of arms to the Hungarian flag; and we waltzed in Vienna. So many memories packaged in individual secret boxes! What memories would I hold onto this time?
Some things have stayed the same: quaint little villages still appear on the landscape tucked between rolling hillsides and green valleys. Other landmarks have disappeared: the East Berlin Wall is simply a melancholic memory to some of the older people selling post cards at the Brandenburg Gate. The highlight attractions of most cities continue to enchant new onlookers. Charles Bridge in Prague is grand. The illuminated evening cruise on the Danube in Budapest is a spectacular site. In daylight, however, the streets teem with tourists as shop keepers promote their wares. "Don't buy here, buy from the local crafters!" the guides keep instructing. Czech and Hungarian guides still report cynically about the remnants of Cold War politics. By contrast, they seem to spend endless effort discussing minutiae about ancient historic sites and personages. Have they not yet sorted out how to relate to their current world? Are they in an unresolved time-warp?
Perhaps that is where I am -- in a time-warp which I too need to work out. I had expected a refreshed awakening. Instead what I experienced was something akin to walking through a dream. I was merely an observer searching for some sense of belonging.
I won't deny that there were many special moments. I reveled in the reality that my name 'Katalin' was recognized as Hungarian. And, the language of my origins rolled off my tongue quickly enough. I chatted effortlessly with waiters, money changers, and the ladies in Balaton selling their souvenirs. I even taunted the musician who serenaded me with old time Hungarian songs at a dinner outing.
But, what I had longed to feel was a sense of 'being at home'. I did not find it there. What I did find I think was a sense of closure. After all, had I not chosen Canada to be my home?