Category Archives: I Wonder

Writing letters all of their days – Travel Tale

Up until then they were just two older men meeting for dinner. Then they ordered desert!

I was tempted, as one of the deserts looked particularly elaborate. I had to ask them what it was. That was the start of our conversation.

Beneath the canapé of the restaurant with candle lights dancing in table top lanterns, the waiter presented me with the delicious Hungarian delight. The gentlemen saluted me as I dipped my spoon into the chocolate dreamy folds of cake.

 

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Budapest

 

Now we were in unison, enjoying treats and absorbing the magic of lapsing twilight into deeper night time sky. I settled back in my seat for a moment, observing the city passersby and raised my eyes to the roof tops of stately buildings. I had found rest after my hours of walking and deciphering of maps and streets, this moment felt like my reward.

‘Is it your first time to Budapest?’ He addressed me in English but German was his first language. His friend smiled at me. ‘Yes,’ I replied. ‘And you travel alone?’ he enquired. ‘I’m going to a wedding in a Slovakia in a few days,’ I added. They both seemed very pleased with this response and as we had now moved to coffees they saluted me again.

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The Danube

Our tables were close enough for comfortable communication although, I had to pay close attention because the other gentleman spoke with a French accent and his English was not as coherent as that of his German friend.

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Budapest

They enquired about my homeland of Ireland, saying that they had visited some years ago and had enjoyed the beautiful landscape. Ireland had been in the news a lot that week, as the American President had paid a stately visit. The German man being, more chatty, made a reference to our famous USA visitor. I told him my tale of how I had seen Barak Obama twice in one day, as his car drove past and he had waved at me both times!

And I couldn’t stop myself from telling the story about his ‘stately tank of a car’ getting stuck in the hollow of the Embassy gates in Dublin and how they had to get a crane to lift it out. As we erupted into laughter, so too did the diners at the next tables. They were American!

Car Budapest

Budapest – Wild Star Landing

I decided it was time to find out more about my new friends. Their story touched my heart. Here we had two men in their seventies who had maintained a friendship since they were schoolboys. One grew up in Germany and the other in France. And how their friendship grew? They were pen-pals!

It was explained to me that this was an initiative instigated between schools after World War 2 with the intention of establishing good relations between future generations of the two countries. What a genius idea! As young boys they had shared their stories with each other, letter by letter, each building a sense of what life was like for the other. I imagined how it must have been so exciting receiving those letters and how their imaginations must have been set alight.

 

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Budapest – Wild Star Landing

 

There was thoughtfulness between them as they recounted their story in turns. They both had families of their own now, all grown up and there were grandchildren too. Throughout all the other events of life they had maintained this special bond.

In later years, they decided that every year they would meet in a European city and spend a few days together, which is how I found myself sitting next to them on this very night. Such a story warranted an additional salute. We continued our conversations while enjoying a nightcap of red wine.

Car Budapest

Budapest – Wild Star Landing

They wanted to know about my friends who were to be married and my plans for getting to Slovakia. I thanked them for sharing their story which was so inspiring.

People seldom write letters anymore. My mother writes them to her friends in sympathy when they have lost someone close. I recalled how, as back-packers in Australia in the 90’s, fellow travellers sometimes sent each other letters to say ‘I made it home’ or ‘it was lovely to meet you’, even if the meeting was just for one day. This was before things like email and mobile phones were all the rage. I still have a stash of those letters saved, promising myself I’ll read them when I’m 80 or if I ever get incapacitated.

It was time to say goodnight. We paid our bills and walked together to the train station. We embraced, kissing each other from side to side, then waved goodbye.

And that was my first night in Budapest.

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Budapest – Wild Star Landing

This article is dedicated to a group of twitter pals of mine who instigated a chat around the topic of letter writing. I remembered this story and a few of our group made me promise to share it once I added the story to my blog. I hope you enjoyed the tale.

Do leave a comment to let me know if you still write letters or have some stashed away too. Or maybe you had a special trip to Budapest too?

© Caroline Cunningham

You Never Know – Journey In Peru

You never know what’s outside your door until you open it and venture out into the light of day. This is especially so when you are traveling in a distant land, with everything so new and exciting.

A child-like state automatically takes me over when I am in the surrounds of the beauty of a culture so rich as that of Peru. The only country in the world that would find strong competition in my eyes would be India, which I dearly love.

As a solo female traveler, I preferred to travel to the sanctity of the Sacred Valley of Cuzco’s Ollantaytambo. Perhaps I will one day graduate to solo travel in India, the first country that made me fall in love with every part of it.

Afuera La Porta

Afuera La Porta

On one particular morning in my new lodgings in Ollantaytambo Peru, I opened the door to find two labourers resting with planks of wood. They made such a striking pose as they stood there smiling. I ran to get my camera and asked them if I could photograph them. They nodded their approval, smiling all the while.

 

El Horno - Ollantaytambo Peru

El Horno – Ollantaytambo Peru

Another day I came upon a man at the adjoining bar, busily stomping bare-footed in a pile of wet mud. He did not mind me stopping to watch. ‘What are you making?’ I asked him in Spanish. ‘El horno!’ was his reply. Pizza’s are popular in Peru, more especially with tourists, and where there is business to be made our Peruvian friends are not slow to act. Clay oven’s were particularly popular. And this man was making an addition to the services offered by his funky ‘Quechua Bar’ (the one that plays the Bob Marley Music and the Spanish version of ‘The Streets Have No Name’).

 

 

 
My neighbour grabbed a bucket and began to sprinkle clumps of black strands into the mix of mud. ‘What is it?’ I asked. ‘Hair!’, his reply. ‘Human hair?’ said I. ‘Si,’ he affirmed, ‘it helps the mud to stick together.’ I enquired if there was any other spiritual belief attached to the practice of using the hair, but no , it was purely a practical solution.

Making an Oven with Human Hair - Peru

Making an Oven with Human Hair – Peru

Making an Oven - Peru

Making an Oven – Peru

Making an Oven - Ollantaytambo Peru

Making an Oven – Ollantaytambo Peru

I delighted in such happenings for my collection of childlike wonders. The fact that I was making these discoveries through learning a new language added to the experience. To learn like a child is such a lesson in life. It is a humbling experience and can be vulnerable too. Fortunately, I was surrounded by kindly souls for the most of my visit. My adventures into the lessons of adulthood however, were to be treacherous in comparison.

Making a Pizza Oven - Quechua Bar Ollantaytambo

Making a Pizza Oven – Quechua Bar Ollantaytambo

Quechua Bar Ollantaytambo Peru

Quechua Bar Ollantaytambo Peru

© Caroline Cunningham Author of Wild Star Landing (Blog).

A Special Energy in Ollantaytambo – Journey In Peru

‘There is a special energy here,’ this I heard said many times during my stay in Ollantaytambo in Cuzco’s Sacred Valley. Local Peruvians and visitors from far away were in agreement on this.

I remembered my first visit the previous year. For sure it had struck me that of all the places in Peru I had visited, there was something in this place that had intrigued me to know it better.

Night Fall in Ollantaytambo Peru

Night Fall in Ollantaytambo Peru

So I returned to find out what that something was. A month had passed. My own energies had fluctuated many times with adjustment to higher altitude, attempting to speak a new language and alignment with a new culture.

Along with this, the flux of tourists and highway traffic trundling through the plaza contrasted with the quiet hollow hours of evening when all deserted it and locals sought the shelter of their concrete homes.

Photo by Caroline Cunningham

Photo by Caroline Cunningham

In my evening walk about the town it was more apparent, a special energy.

Was it the cobbled stones that brought more awareness to my feet and the weight of my stepping? Was it the greater mass of rock that had been forced to surface and form on this southern earth-sphere, enticing elements of our galaxy more strongly to itself? Or was it the escaping ions from the water that lashed against the rocks as it plummeted from those high phalanges of the Andes? Was it contained within the granite stones that the Incas carried to this town to construct the Sun Temple now called the Fortaleza.

Or was it something that was carried deep within a folk descended from Inca’s, such as a deep regard for mountains and rivers and condors?

Highway traffic through World UNESCO Town of Ollantaytabmo Peru

Highway traffic through World UNESCO Town of Ollantaytabmo Peru

Temple Of The Sun - Fortaleza, Ollantaytambo, Peru

Temple Of The Sun – Fortaleza, Ollantaytambo, Peru

I could not ascertain an answer to any of these questions except that I was glad I had returned to find out.

Yes there was a special energy. It was already finding a resting place in my heart and it was set to travel with me on my return to Ireland. And when that time came I had a better inkling as to the answer.

Inca Window in Fortaleza, Ollantaytambo, Peru

Inca Window in Fortaleza, Ollantaytambo, Peru

Have you been to Ollantaytambo (Cuzco, Peru)? Were you one of those who remarked about its special energy? I would love to know your thoughts on this, please leave a comment below.

© Caroline Cunningham Author Of Wild Star Landing

Coffee on Chatham Row

A warm sunny day in Ireland is by now a rare and excitable event. On one of these rare days I took to the streets and headed straight to town to mingle with the masses of giddy Irish rooted folk. All my business attended to by noon I settled in a sunny spot outside the Metro on Chatham Row which is becoming a favourite haunt of mine for coffee and their famous Tuscan Bean Soup!!

I squeezed into a vacant chair and faced outwards at the busy street with passers-by, vans and cars grooving along and the sun beaming down on me with the right amount of shading from the overhead canopy.

The coffee tasted delicious. I don’t take sugar anymore but I do absorb the flavours of the sights and sounds that accompany my sipping. Large men sipping tiny cups of coffee conjured amusing images of Gulliver and his travels, while beardy Irish blokes tried their best to nonchalantly discuss the latest art venture that they’d been seconded to.  A quiet sort just randomly checking his crossword eventually decided he had cracked it and moved along. The talk from table to table invariably drifted to ‘Spain’, sure I am going there myself next week! ‘Chico!’ ‘Omar Shariff & Lanzarote!’ Yes these vibes go well with coffee in the rare Dublin Irish sunshine.

Cars and vans rolled slowly by awaiting their turn to take the nearby corner. A friendly beep signalled my neighbour to turn and exchange cheeky grins of familiarity with the driver who is probably also thinking of Spain.

‘When we are on the beach, remind me that I have something to tell you,’ one of my favourite Aunts had said on the phone when booking our flights a few nights ago. ‘Can you repeat that line once more?’ I asked her as the reality began to sink in. ‘When we are on the beach………..aahh! Good coffee!

What Do I Really Know?

Really! What do I know?

I have read that blood vessels dilate when the body and mind are relaxed and this has a beneficial effect for the individual in general. Some books even say that in this relaxed state the body heals itself and energy flows freely. But really? I have only read these things in books or they have been repeated to me by others who believed. Some other person did all the work and search in coming to this understanding. Or maybe the information arrived in their intuition so strongly that they just knew it to be true. I am only repeating the logic and information I have read and heard.

So, do I really know what is true? I only know that yes, when I relax and release my mind of unnecessary thoughts, then yes, I am more inclined to feel good. I feel freer. I get more ideas. I become spontaneous. I am more inclined to act on my ideas once I decide that they are good. But it has taken time to understand this. I have read lots and lots of books. I have listened to heaps of ideas and theories. I have not watched blood vessels dilate. I have not seen energy fields expand. But somehow I know things to be true. I have an understanding of how life works or does not work. And the more I hear and read and observe, the more I understand.

So, what do I really know? Perhaps I do know something, even if I cannot see it with my own two eyes.
I remain open to understanding and always asking, ‘what do I really know?’

© Caroline Cunningham 2013

Gentle Men

GENTLE MEN

It wasn’t a particularly long queue, but judging by the meanderings of the ladies ahead of me it could take a while before I would be smelling coffee with my friends, who already had been served. 

I resumed a patient manner and gazed beyond the ladies as they distracted over lemon slices and rocky roads. 

It was then I caught his eye. A kindly gentleman stood calmly waiting for his order to be prepared.  I smiled and he winked in acknowledgement.  

At last the ladies made their choices and payments and it was my turn. ‘Cappuccino please,’ said I. The kindly gentleman received his order just then. Two fine glasses of lattes complete with saucers and spoons. It looked tricky. ‘Would you like a tray?’ I asked him, seeing he had none. ‘That would be lovely,’ he replied. I fetched the tray and as he prepared to leave the counter he turned to me. ‘You are an angel, a real one,’ he said to me. ‘I don’t know about that,’ I replied a little surprised by the extent of his gratitude. ‘Oh, yes, you are!’ he confirmed, ‘you just don’t know it.’ 

There was something very comforting about the way he said it. As I reached the table where my friends were sitting, I looked across and saw the gentleman with his pals. ‘This is how angels recognise each other,’ I thought, as I considered the warm exchange.

Coffee was good and needed as it was a particularly wet day. Standing in the bus queue later, laden with bags, did not seem so unfortunate having been infused with coffee and the company of angels. 

The bus was packed on arrival but there was standing room for many more. I piled on with my bags of study books and art utensils finding a not so comfortable standing spot squeezed between other bodies. 

One stop later a seat became available towards the rear of the bus. I counted to five and since the other standing passengers made no move I set my sights on claiming it. 

An elderly gentleman was sitting there at the window. He was dressed quite elegantly with a hat and overcoat. Just as I approached he leaned sideways a little. ‘Do you want to get out?’ I asked him. ‘No, I was waiting for you,’ he replied a little twinkle-eyed and with kindly smile. ‘Well, it worked out well for both of us so,’ I replied with amusement.  

The fact that he did not proceed with further conversation added to the affection of his remark. I was aware of his silent company and I noticed how his left hand had a little shake, a reminder of the conditions that people sometimes have to live with. He appeared to be at peace with his condition and this too was in some way comforting to me.

My stop approached and as I gathered my belongings he turned to say goodbye, I returned the gesture and bid him a good day. 

I made my way towards the front of the bus and as I stood amongst the passengers waiting to disembark, I noticed something very different this time round. 

The bus glided slowly and gently to the stop. There was no need to brace or hang on tightly to the rails. As the doors opened, I made my way towards the steps saying ‘thank you’ to the driver as many passengers in Ireland do. I halted and turning to the bus driver I remarked, ‘you’re a very good driver!’ He looked surprised but uttered, ‘Thanks!’ and added, ‘ I appreciate that.’

I considered the gentility of men as I reached my home, thinking of how powerful and special the effects can be. Here’s to the gentility of men and thank you for extending your gentility to me.

©Caroline Cunningham 15th March 2013