I’m Back!

Dina,

We are back from our amazing European Adventure!  When I told people we would be traveling out of the country with 3 13year olds and an 11 year old, I always got the same response.  Your nuts.  They won’t appreciate it, they’ll want to eat at McDonald’s and they’ll whine all the way across the world.  My reason for making the trek with our older 3 kids plus one extra 13 year old friend for good measure was that I wanted to let them experience this type of travel while they’ll still be seen with me.  I keep hearing horror stories  from friends how there perfectly nice 11 year olds turn into demons that won’t speak to them when they hit their teens.  So I thought the timing was perfect. 

We started off in Venice, Italy and stayed in a Seminary built in the 1400’s.  It was amazing. My husband had met the Rector of the Seminary in the states at a “silent retreat” where they talked every chance they could.  Fr Lucio in his broken English said what all visitors to our country say, “you must stay with me if you ever make it to Venice”.  So we showed up with our 4 teenagers and they rolled out the red carpet.  Our rooms all had windows with these creaky, large planks of wood shutters that opened onto the Grand Canal.  We were so close you could drop things into the canal (not that we tried it or anything) but the view was breathtaking.  We had one of the Seminarians give us the grand tour of St Marks Cathedral and even the kids were impressed with his stories of the early martyrs and the great battles and history of the church there.  The kids even ate Spaghetti with Mussels at the Seminary but thought they were mushrooms.  They were very gracious about all the weird food and especially liked the fact that they were offered Limoncello (An Italian lemon flavored after dinner liquore).  So I was unleashed in Venice with some slightly typsy teenagers and they felt very grown up and worldly as we used Euros and sipped Cappucinos and watched a local glass blower making amazing jewelry in his little shop.  We even found the poor man’s Gondola which you could cross the canal in for 50 Eurocents each and our Gondola driver even sang for us. 

Then we trained up from Venice to Ancona for our exciting crossing of the Adriatic sea to get to Croatia.  This part of the trip was the only piece we wished we could have skipped.  A nasty storm followed us the entire 9 hour journey and the boat was full of sea sick and fairly frightened passengers. 

Once we recovered from this overnight trip that started feeling a bit like the Titanic, things starting looking up again.  After a breathtaking drive up the winding mountain road with views you have only seen in some exotic travel magazine, we arrived in a remote village in Croatia.  Here we were welcomed at a real life castle that was built 10 years ago.  They had waited breakfast on our arrival and we sat down with about 40 of the most interesting people from all over the world to an amazing meal cooked by the Italian chef that everyone called “Mama”.  It was some special feast day so the kids were all encouraged to start breakfast with a 3 scoop ice cream sundae.  They thought they’d all died and went to heaven.  Staying in a castle and eating ice cream for breakfast. 

They not only survived being entirely electronic free, no internet and no computer games, they absolutely thrived.  I remember walking into the dining hall to a pea shelling contest between our 4 kids.  And seeing them wander around the rolling hills with the sheep or trying to avoid the bulls that weren’t tethered when you made the 25 minute hike amongst the vineyards to get to the village was pretty memorable.  It was a simple existence, with lots of little pleasures and I wouldn’t trade a minute of it (except for the ferry ride from you know where) for all the Euros, Kunas, CMarks or Pounds in the world.  These are the currencies we got to use first hand during our travels.  It was funny to watch my husband hold out his hand to someone in a shop and say how much do I have?

I’ll try to process a bit so I can pass along some of the amazing insights we gained from Mother’s Village, the orphanage that holds over 5000 children orphaned in the war or the drug rehabilitation community that has a 95% success rate with lives full of meaningful work, prayer and community life.  For now, suffice it to say, we had the family trip of a life time and hope that it will have an impact on who my teenagers grow up to be.  Perhaps it may stave off them turning on me or becoming demons in their later teen years!

Talk with you again soon,

Sandy

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