Tag Archives: Female Traveller

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

Carefree By Degrees – Journey In Peru

Oh to live this life completely carefree. That would be a joy. In this world however, caution is required and my experience as a woman has taught me to be especially cautious. But I am always curious as to what I am missing out on and so there are times when it is necessary to dare to discover the extra spaces that are available for my adventurous soul.

Oh To Be Completely Carefree As A Woman

Oh To Be Completely Carefree As A Woman

That first evening in Ollantaytambo, as the son of my host accommodation accompanied me to a local shop to buy batteries for my torch, I heard a whistle as I passed. My young friend explained to me, ‘that’s what the men here do when they see a beautiful woman’. I uttered not a word at that time. I was concentrating on the wide cobbles of stones beneath my feet as we crossed the square of Plaza De Armas in that Sacred Valley town of Peru.

Night Fall in Ollantaytambo Peru

Night Fall in Ollantaytambo Peru

I don’t think it was the normal behaviour however, I’d say the whistle was more intended to alert my new friend that he had been spotted with ‘stranger’.

It only happened one other time. I had spent almost six weeks in the town at this point. I was once again crossing the square. It was early afternoon with the sun blazing. That ‘wolfish’ whistle was loud and obvious. I was not being presumptuous it was clearly aimed at me.

Journey In Peru - Ollantaytambo

Journey In Peru – Ollantaytambo

I had passed three men at the corner of the square and whilst I didn’t look their way it seemed to me that I was being spied upon. The hair upon my neck stood erect and my footing was halted mid-air. I was momentarily displaced but quickly alerted my senses. I was not going to let this pass!

I stopped in my tracks. I felt like Clint Eastwood in one of those old westerns as I slowly and deliberately turned to face the culprits. There they stood, two dodging my eyes and their companion peering out between them. I recognised this one. He saluted me slowly in military style with a sheepish smile. I responded with a slight tilt of my brow, eyeing him all the while.

Ollantaytambo's Inca Heritage - Peru

Ollantaytambo’s Inca Heritage – Peru

We had met within my first few days in this story book place. I was grappling with the newness of everything at the time and he almost cajoled me into meeting him in the moonlight at the Fortalezza. He didn’t understand much English and I hadn’t learned yet how to politely decline in Spanish so I had alluded him into thinking I would go. But I had stood him up and later tried to figure out a way to explain. For a while thereafter I avoided his quarter out of embarrassment.

Whist I operated mostly with caution amongst strangers there was only one other time when I almost got sucked in by a fascinating man. There are people out there who are capable of captivating you in an eye blink. When you are travelling in an adventure you attract the most intriguing characters. Thus, there was one other stranger who spoke of The Universe, Love, and a Quest to save everyone. I cringe now when I think how I gave him my contact details so easily but I do believe his intentions to share his ideas were not malevolent.

Cuzco At Night - Journey In Peru

Cuzco At Night – Journey In Peru

And now I was sitting in the travel office of an agent in Cuzco’s Avenido Del Sol. It had taken half an hour already to secure booking for my trip to Machu Picchu. I had been led to believe that availability at this time of year can be slim due to it being high season. The tricky part can be the alignment of the train tickets with the entry date.

I sat patiently in the luxury of being in no hurry. I was recovering from the shell-shock of rejection and contemplating redemption in the sight of the Inca sanctuary. Eventually the agent conversed with me in Spanish. There was a problem. The tickets which he had procured from his computer booking, required an additional authorisation from a regional office. I had already paid for everything so now I had a choice, to accompany him to the regional office or wait here in Avenido Del Sol until his return.

Temple Of The Sun - Cuzco Peru

Temple Of The Sun – Cuzco Peru

It was safe. I had observed his company for quite a while, his interactions with his colleague, he was a good sort. We took a taxi, a five minute drive. It took no length to set things straight and we returned on foot to the centre of the city of Cuzco. It cheered me up to think that I was learning something brilliant. To be carefree, requires an element of risk but with risk comes information and knowledge that widens the capacity for reassurance and more freedom.

I had my tickets. Soon I would leave this proud Inca country to return to my home in Ireland but first I would journey to Machu Picchu.

Entrance To Machu Picchu - Journey In Peru

Entrance To Machu Picchu – Journey In Peru

©Caroline Cunningham Author Of Wild Star Landing (Blog)