A trip to Eastern Europe in December is no joke. Weather is a serious matter. Marv and I prepared with silk thermals, layers, coats, jackets, headgear, scarves, gloves. The temperature dropped below zero, stayed there, and it snowed. And someone aboard the ship, it was murmured, had the flu!
The ship was all decked out for Christmas. There were presents from Father Christmas, and one night we were instructed to leave our shoes outside our room to find something inside them in the morning: chocolate treats.
One of the chief attractions to a river cruise is that the passengers are VERY SOCIAL.
One night, Marv and I were introduced to everyone at a private party of ten people. The names came flurrying at me and I said, “Wait. Please tell me one identifying fact about yourself.” Everyone obliged. Sissy Spruance said the following: “I was the subject of a painting by Andrew Wyeth titled ‘My Young Friend,’ 1970.”
My research showed the following:
The painstaking realism of the painter Andrew Wyeth made him one of the most popular American artists. The present portrait executed in 1970, entitled “My Young Friend,” shows a girl positioned slightly to the left of the composition against the flat background, dressed in a thick cable knit sweater and a raccoon hat. The sitter is Sissy Spruance, a twenty-year stable girl who worked on a ranch near the painter’s home in Brandywine, Pennsylvania. According to Wyeth, the girl had caught his attention when riding. “One day I spotted her riding bareback over the meadow, her braided hair flying and those two long strands falling over her face. She was wearing that raccoon skin hat which I’ve never seen any other girl wear, as if she were an animal, not a human being.”
Another day I found myself seated at a table with two young men, Todd and Ricky, who work in the movie industry. One was a visual editor. I had a question for them, not letting this opportunity go by without asking it. “Do you know of anyone in the industry to whom I could send a copy of one of my novels for films?”
“Yes,” they both answered eagerly. I mentioned that my literary oeuvre treats aspects of love stories, but not romances. When I mentioned CONCERNING GEORGIA STEKKER, both young men jumped for it as the one to send. We’ll see if they can help me.
Film is such a charged topic that I dipped into my goody bag re visual editing and immediately came up with the following (which will be of interest to you). “The Grand Elusion” by the great Renoir - La Grande Illusion is regarded by critics and film historians as one of the masterpieces of French cinema and among the greatest films ever made. Orson Welles named La Grande Illusion as one of the two movies he would take with him "on the ark." Empire magazine ranked it #35 in "The 100 Best Films Of World Cinema" in 2010.
Notice in this photo: Eric von Stroheim is a German officer so repaired with metal plates that he can’t bend.
I also talked about ‘The Piano” by the anthropologist/filmmaker Jane Campion and starring Holly Hunter as a deaf mute that took place in New Zealand. Campion was the first woman to win the prestigious Palme d'Or at the Cannes. It’s kinky and erotic, but no matter. It’s a masterpiece from the opening scene as the crew of aboriginals unloads a piano on the beach.
And now, since my last blog, a final word about the Christmas Markets of Europe:
They are more like swap meets for selling stocking stuffers. On Saturday nights, the markets become social hangouts for locals over a glass of mulled wine in the cold air.
There is much to see on such a trip, but the Christmas Markets swallow up people. Tourists sacrifice magnificent scenery for them.
But I wasn’t seduced. I bought most of the little gifts for our family and friends in the cruise ship gift shop. Tip: in a fine hotel or cruise ship, rely on their gift shops to save footwork.
In Salzburg, Austria, we ate lunch at the OLDEST restaurant in Europe: St. Peter. (Are you read for this?) Charlemagne ate lunch in St. Peter in 803.
Charlemagne was the First Holy Roman Emperor. Charles the Great (2 April 742 – 28 January 814), numbered Charles I, was King of the Franks from 768, King of the Lombards from 774 and Emperor of the Romans from 800. He united much of Europe during the early Middle Ages.
Now just try to top that for name dropping.
We took our tour guide to lunch, and she suggested St. Peter if she could get a reservation. I said, “I have complete faith in you.” She ordered veal cheeks: We had had had it on the ship: fat, soft, and delicious:). We ordered weinershnitzel (a classic). Order it.
St. Peter was cavernous, cozy, and remarkable
We arrived home to the Sunday Times article about Sam Shepard: Pulitzer Prize Winner for the play “Buried Child.”
The article said about him during his last days suffering Lou Gerhig’s disease and still dictating when he could no longer hold a pencil. “He’s a writer, so he needed to write every day to be himself.”
Did I tell you that aboard ship there was a rumor about the flu? Marv and I learned It wasn’t just a rumor.
Thanks to All of You Who Purchased My Books as Gifts During the Holidays!
If you have not yet read any of my books,
then 2018 is your year to do so!
Happy New Year!