19 April – 10 May 2016 Eastern Europe with David and Jane Kostik

About a year ago, we talked with David and Jane Kostik about a trip through Eastern Europe. We had traveled with them to Italy (and saw my relatives) and France. This was to be another opportunity to travel with them, and for Dave to touch base with relatives is Slovakia. We had several planning sessions, and decided on a final itinerary. Ann and I left MSP on the 19th of April, and met Dave and Jane in Berlin as our tour started. Not counting our transfer in Amsterdam, we did 6 countries and 8 cities in just under 3 weeks.

The trip was one of Sightseeing in the cities and Slovakian countryside, Culture and Art in several museums (we saw 5 Vermeers, several Rembrandts, our favorite painting “Sistine Madonna” by Raphael, one of three oils by daVinci “Lady with an Ermine”), Family and Relational as Dave found relatives in Slovakia, Geographic as we learned about Slovakia and it people and history, and Remembrance of the Holocaust as we visited Holocaust memorials in all the cities, and toured the camps at Terezin, Auschwitz, and Birkenau, Schindler’s factory and the ghetto in Krakow.

In addition to the above, we enjoyed a variety of wonderful local food – sausage, veal schnitzel, kraut, dumplings, cheese, bread – and drink – slivovitz both pear and plum, and a lot of local beer both pilsner and porter.

Most of our travel was by train between the cities, but we did drive from Bratislava to Bardejov to Krakow.

This was a trip to remember.

Lest anyone think we dogged it, our itinerary follows:

Berlin (4 nights)

  • Dinner at Brecht’s, Kaiserschmarren dessert
  • Rick Steves’ walking tour
    • Brandenburg Gate
    • Pariser Platz
    • DZ Bank Bldg
      • Gherey designed lobby
    • Memorial to Murdered Jews
      • German government has admitted it was murder
    • Fuhrer Bunker
    • Unter den Linden
    • Babel Platz and Hedwig Church
      • Burned books
    • Neue Wache memorial
    • Berliner Dom
    • Friedrichstrasse
    • National Museum and Nefertiti bust
      • Bucket list for Annie
    • DDR Museum
    • Marx & Engels statue
    • Alexanderplatz
  • Gemaldegalerie
    • Rembrandts, Raphael, and 2 Vermeers
  • Reichstag Dome
  • Bauhaus Museum
  • Brohan Museum

Dresden (day trip on the way to Prague)

  • Zwinger Museum and Gemaldegalerie
    • Rembrandts, Sistine Madonna, 2 Vermeers
  • Frauenkirche
  • Walk along promenade

Prague (4 nights)

  • Rick Steves’ Walking Tour
    • Wenceslas Square
    • Hotel Europa Velvet Revolution
    • Lucerna Arcade
    • Franciscan Garden
    • Mustek
    • NaPrikope Street
    • Municipal House
    • Powder Tower
    • Celetna Street
    • Old Town Square
      • Hus Statue
      • Astronomical Clock
      • Karlova Street
      • Charles IV Square
      • Charles Bridge
    • Mucha Museum
    • St Vitus Cathedral and the Castle
      • Mass at St. George Basilica
    • Terezin (Theresienstadt) Concentration Camp
      • Memorial to the assassins of Reinhard Heydrich
      • Concentration Camp
      • Fortress (Prison and crematory)
        • Sadist guards
      • Jewish Quarter
        • Old New Synagogue (oldest in Europe)
        • nb: Hitler preserved the Jewish Quarter in Prague as what was to be a museum to an extinguished race
      • Prague City Museum, Mucha’s “Slavic Epic”
      • Museum of Communism (hard to find because the Reds don’t understand marketing and advertising)

Vienna (3 nights)

  • Stephen’s Cathedral
  • Klimt search (FG went to Secession Museum and Belvidere Palace)
  • Kunst Historisches Museum
    • Rembrandts, Caravaggio’s, Raphael, Brueghel, Vermeer (our 5th)
  • Ringstrasse Tram Tour
  • Rick Steves’ Walk
    • Climbed the tower at St. Stephens (FG 347 tightly wound circular steps)
    • Peter’s Church
  • Hofburg Palace
    • Sisi Museum and Imperial Apartments
    • Albertina Museum
      • Monet, Kandinsky, Marc Chagall
    • The Prater (amusement park with the giant Ferris wheel (“The Third Man”)

Budapest (1 night)

  • Parliament tour
  • Holocaust memorial – shoes by the river
  • Mathias Church and plaza
  • Istvan Cathedral
  • Evening river cruise

Bratislava (1 night)

  • Walked the old town
  • Met Dave’s cousin Maruska and family
  • Castle

Bardejov, Slovakia (3 nights) (travel from Bratislava to Krakow was by car – 503 miles total)

  • A well preserved UNESCO sight for the old town and its walls and basilica
  • World War I cemetery
  • Egidius Cathedral
  • Scenic drive across Slovakia
  • Point of the visit to Slovakia in general and Bardejov in particular was for Dave to find his relatives. His father’s family and his mother’s family came from the region around Bardejov, and we visited several villages and in particular, Becherov. We met and were treated to wonderful hospitality by several of Dave’s relatives. They were as happy to see and have a visit from David and Jane, as David and Jane were to visit them. Ann and I were blessed to be able to tag along. Many thanks to Peter who translated for us.

Krakow (4 nights)

  • Main square
    • Several meals and music
    • Cloth Hall
    • City Tower
  • Mary’s Basilica
  • Fabryka Emalia Oskara Schindlera (Oskar Schindler’s Enamel Factory) at 4 Lipowa Street
  • The Ghetto and original wall
  • Jewish Quarter
  • Pharmacy under the Eagle (Apteka Pod Orlem – Tadeusz Pankiewicz)
  • Auschwitz Concentration Camp
  • Birkenau Death Camp
  • Walwel (the fortress and castle)
    • Feast of St. Stanislaus procession
    • Leonardo da Vinci’s “Lady with an Ermine”
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I just read the most fascinating article in the November 16, 2015 “America” magazine. It is by William O’Malley, S.J. and is entitled “On Being and Becoming.”

I commend it to your consideration.

Perhaps I liked it so much because it supports what I generally believe about God and God’s presumed or supposed immutability. In his penultimate paragraph, O’Malley writes,

One consistent divine quality this reverie jeopardizes is God’s immutability. He seems not only the God of being but of becoming. When we dare speak of “the greater glory” of God, we imply God can be “improved”: infinity plus one. However those with flexible minds that accept the Confucian Tao and the quantum principle of complementarity yield to a God clearly prone to paradox and into improving. If such a God sets his mind to it, he ought to be able to accommodate both being and becoming.

I hope you find it as interesting and though provoking as did I.


FG 11/16/15



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The Law

If your job troubles your conscience, your only rational and ethical choice in the matter is to quit.
When I was first starting out in my career, I joined the local chapter of the Jaycees. One of the tenents of the organization was (is) that the US is a “Nation of Laws, not of Men.”
This means to me that our activities are governed by a set of rules democratically chosen, and which represent the sense of the broad public. They are changeable only by a process that takes into account many viewpoints. In contrast, the best example of a nation of Men is Nazi Germany where the rules were formulated by a single clique, and were subject to the whim of a particular individual.
Here, we don’t have the luxury – if it is a luxury – to choose which laws to follow. Our duty as citizens is to respect the laws in place, and if we disagree, work to change.
The only rational and ethical choice presented to the Clerk in Kentucky is to issue the licenses in accord with the law as the oath she took mandates her to do, or quit her job.
She is not being persecuted for her religious beliefs. She’s in trouble because she doesn’t want to do her job, or in the alternative, quit.

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Homage to an expert in the field

Some of my friends do not share my fandom for Pro Football. That’s okay with me, and I respect their choice. That said I happen to like the New England Patriots a lot (I like the Seahawks too) and was happy that the Pats won the game. I especially like the Patriots because I have a huge respect and admiration for Bill Belichick. He is a masterful professional, an expert in his craft.

Whether or not a person likes football, one ought to admire a person who is one of the best at what he does. This holds true for football coaching, lawyering, painting, raising kids or whatever the field of endeavor is.

You all know what happened during the last few seconds of the game on Sunday. A rookie safety, Malcolm Butler made an amazing interception against the Seahawks and prevented a sure win by Seattle.

Now, let’s put the pieces together and see why I have such admiration for Belichick’s ability: During the Patriot’s practice during the week before the game, they practiced that play. Anticipating that the Seahawks might use that formation sometime during the game, the Pats practiced how to defend it. One of the Patriots in practice scored against Butler with that formation. Belicheck, as reported by Jim Souhan in Monday’s STrib, “pulled Butler aside.” “Bill said, ‘Now you know what to do,’ Butler said.” The coach made sure that his player knew the possibilities and how to react to them. It’s an example of a master of the craft practicing the art.

That’s a reason to respect and admire Bill Belicheck.

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Intentional Family

A friend of mine, Laura Davis, recently posted on Facebook an article about intentionality in the selection of friends, and the importance of friends in one’s life. That got me to thinking about the nature of friend and family.

Back in the dark ages of the late 70’s we moved here from a far-away land called Ohio. There were three of us, and one on the way. We left family and came to Minnesota with a group of fellow employees, and a very few connections with the state. Accordingly, we began the process of finding new friends and building what Ann calls ‘intentional’ family. For example, Agnes Mae and Leonard Linn, became surrogate grandparents for our sons. Over the years we have added and cultivated and enjoyed some lasting friendships.

We do have family; son and granddaughter here, son and family in Chicago, a brother, uncle and aunt, and cousins in Stark County, Ohio, a cousin in Cincinnati, sister and nephews in Charlotte, cousins in Raleigh and Tucson. Except for the MNs, we rarely see them. So, the intentional family is so very important to us.

Some are like sisters and brothers. Some are like beloved nieces and nephews. Some are like cousins, more or less distant. And, of course, some are like good and close friends. Last night we spent time with some (but not all) of the closest, a sister and brother, beloved nieces and nephews, and some great cousins. Sunday and New Year’s Eve we will spend some time with other intentional relatives.

So, my thinking leads me to believe that it is vitally important to know and have good friends, because we can’t always be with family family. And, I am also led to reflect how very blessed and fortunate I am to have such a wonderful group of friends and intentional family. You all know who you are, and I thank you and love you.

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Torture Apologists

I think the thing that may bother me most about the torture apologists is that they seem proud of the fact that the US used torture. They seem defiant in their defense of the actions. They’re like the old Confederate aristocracy defending slavery.
If only they would say, “Oh my gosh, we used torture on people suspected of being terrorists. We were scared and didn’t know what to do, and this seemed like the right thing at the time, and we didn’t think it through and follow up. We feel awful about this because torture is dehumanizing to the victim and to us, and has no place in a civilized society. We pray that God, our victims, and the American public can forgive us.”
If only they would acknowledge the horror of what they did, then perhaps they could be forgiven and reconciled.
The architects and apologists for apartheid in South Africa did it, why cannot these people?

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Et tu, Vladimir?

When I left TSI, Tom Kennedy presented me with a parting gift, a set of Winston Churchill’s History of the Second World War.  I am a third of the way into the first volume, “The Gathering Storm.”  In it, Churchill recounts what happened in England and Europe following the end of the First World War.  He traces the failures of the Weimar Republic, and the rise of Nazi Germany.  Of particular note are his narratives about the reactions of the public and politicians in the UK, France, Italy, and other countries in the League of Nations to Hitler’s rise.  Tellingly, he describes the theme of his first volume: “How the English-speaking peoples through their unwisdom, carelessness, and good nature allowed the wicked to rearm.”

We are now hearing the reactions of the public and politicians in the US, France, the UK and other countries in the EU to the naked aggression of Putin towards Ukraine, and to a lesser extent to the rise and advance if ISIL.  Some, like the current occupant tell us not to worry, things are messy.  Many make an earnest desire for Peace and unity.  Others call for discussion and a political solution, with concurrence among the parties, and a few statements that Putin isn’t that bad, etc. ad infinitum ad nauseam.

I am struck by the descriptions given by Churchill to the actions of the European nations in reaction to Hitler.  What is even more striking is that he could be writing TODAY about the world’s reactions to Putin.

Was it Santana who said that those who ignore history are condemned to repeat it?

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