Winning A Law Day Essay Contest In 1972; The First of Many Times I State My Views

9 Oct

On May 1, 1972, I read an essay at the Crystal Room at Schuetzen Park, North Bergen, which I wrote for my English class taught by Mrs. Whitehouse at North Bergen High School.  In fact, three of us read our essays that evening.  We had swept the Soroptimist Club of North Hudson’s 1972 Law Day USA Law Day Essay Contest.  I presented my first-place essay; then came two boys in my class: Phil Templeton’s essay was second, Donald Kienz came in third.

I have to be honest, Mrs. Whitehouse gave me an A- for my paper, while the boys each got an A, I believe.  All I know is that after I won, I brought my paper back to Mrs. Whitehouse and she gave me an A+, which I believed was deserved.

I recently rediscovered my essay, the newspaper articles and the letters from the mayor and the superintendent of the board of education in with papers I took after my parents died and we cleaned out the house.  My parents were quite proud of my award, and they saved everything.  The program, the letters, the speech and the newspaper articles were all together in a bundle.

The event itself was a big deal in our family!  My mother took me to Corduroy Village to get a new dress.  Usually my sister and I went to Little Marcy’s for our clothes.  Corduroy Village was for only special occasions.  My Mom and Mrs. Shore had me try on multiple dresses.  We ended up with a light pink suit.  My Mom loved pink and with my black hair, it looked good. But to be honest I hated the color pink. But I could not fight both Mom and Mrs. Shore.   I wore the pink suit!

Although I could not stand up to the combined efforts of my Mom and Mrs. Shore, I did learn something important from that event.  I learned to stick up for what I believe in and say what I mean.

What amazes me is that I feel the same way now about politics, as I felt then, when Richard Nixon was president.  I also have to say I lived in North Bergen, New Jersey, and there was quite a bit of avarice and issues with local politicians.  Hence my strong comments about stealing public money!  I also have to say, that if my memory serves me right, my essay was extremely different than all the others.  I was on a roll against bad government, while the other essays had more mellow topics. My parents were actually in fear for me to read this out loud. But it started me on my lifelong commitment to speaking out when I believe it is important.

Below I present a portion of my high school junior point of view which won the Soroptimist Club of North Hudson’s May 1, 1972, Law Day USA Essay Contest.

“In this age of discontent, pollution and governmental corruption, something must be done to recapture the American spirit.  If it is not, soon our country will decay.  Holders of public office should be screened before they are allowed even to be a candidate. Their background should be carefully checked…  One who holds a responsible office should be well-educated, intelligent and of good character. Once elected, if a person begins to cheat the public during his term in office, he should be impeached immediately and be forbidden to run for office again. There is too much crime in government; too many office holders have been known to steal public funds.  Too much of the funds intended for hospitals, old age homes, education and institutions for the mentally ill finds its way into the pockets of unscrupulous politicians.

In order that our government once again rise in the esteem of the population, a give-and-take relationship must be developed.  Actually, a country that is well-run can be compared to a well-adjusted marriage, with the population and the government representing the partners. To maintain a lasting relationship, they must demand mutual respect and understanding that comes from an appreciation of the others’ principles and ideals.”

 

https://zicharonot.com/2014/01/19/my-days-in-the-english-department-office-at-nbhs/

 

https://zicharonot.com/2014/03/10/shopping-on-the-avenue-i-dont-mean-fifth-i-mean-bergenline/

Watching Tango, Flamenco and Arabic Dance Performances is Like Watching Ballet

6 Oct

After years of ballroom dance lessons, by husband and I still dance whenever we have the opportunity.  But besides dancing ourselves, we enjoy watching other, who are much better, dance as well.

My favorite dance is the tango.   We never danced a true Argentine tango, we danced more of American ballroom tango.  We did learn a few basic and important tango steps like the ochos (figure eight swivels), corte (a sort of forward lunge for the woman), and the gancho (hook a leg around your partner’s leg).

Although we never became proficient in our tango, we have enjoyed watching others dance it professionally.    I loved the tango scenes in the movies Zorro and True Lies.  But to be honest Antonio Bandaras dancing a tango is quite nice whether it is in Evita, Take the Lead or Zorro.

A favorite for me is the tango between Richard Gere and Jennifer Lopez in Shall We Dance.  MY husband and I both loved that movie.  It was so fun to watch an awkward man, uncomfortable with dance, become better throughout the movie. This tango is the start of his ability to actually dance.  The movie reflects my husband’s improvement.  He started out not knowing anything about dance. But now he loves to dance.

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Tango in Buenos Aires. You can see the band above the dancers.

We have been to Montevideo, Uruguay, and Buenos Aires, Argentina, the two cities where researchers believe tango was created in the 19th century.  Of course, we had to go see a true tango, which we did while we were in Buenos Aires.  It was excellent.  The dance is so quick in Argentina, unlike the slow dance we do in American ballroom tango.

The group dances were invigorating, but I loved the performances best when it was just one couple on the stage dancing together. This is the moment that I thought I saw true tango.  This is the tango I wish I could dance!

I also love the music in tango!  At the tangos I have seen, musicians play the guitar and the bandoneon, which is a small accordion-like instrument.  But I have also seen when even more instruments are played, including violins, flutes and piano in addition to the guitar and bandoneon.

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The group we saw in Malaga, Spain.

Instruments also play a part in Flamenco.  The guitar and a drum to sound the beat are usually played. Flamenco, which is a much older dance from at least the 18th century, is another dance we enjoy watching.  No one knows exactly how it started, except that it was different groups of people who came together in Andalusia, southern Spain, and the Flamenco was born.  For me in was interesting that there might even be a Sephardi Jewish influence in the dance.

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The woman in the red scarf sang with such emotion.

But Flamenco, unlike tango, has other important part besides the dancing.  There is the singer, who sings a story with unleashed pathos. Also, unlike Tango, one person can dance Flamenco, without a partner.

We have seen Flamenco danced in Barcelona, Spain; Malaga, Spain; and at a performance in Kansas!  That surprised me as well. But the group who came to a local college was wonderful and the performance was packed.

I admit that some of the Flamenco shows I have seen were touristy.  But even in these some of the performances were extraordinary. Flamenco is not a dance you can just learn for social dancing. This takes intense emotion, training and experience. However, you can still watch and appreciate the performance.

I will admit that to me the Flamenco reminds me of a belly dance or Arabic dance performance.  This is something I do know, as in my younger days I took years of Arabic dance lessons.  Like Flamenco, the older Arabic dance is a form of folk dancing, this one originating in Egypt.  I see in this dance and the Flamenco the movements of the torso and the hips and the intense emotion of the dancing and the artist.  It is also another dance, unlike ballroom dancing, where one person dances alone intent in his or her own emotions.

As I was doing research for my blog, I saw that there is a theory that this type of Arabic dance is one of the elements that combined together to create the Flamenco.

I love dancing.  But just like when I go to a ballet, and realize I cannot do what the wonderful dancers can do.  I realize I can enjoy the performance, which is exactly what I do when I see tango, Flamenco and Arabic dance programs.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argentine_tango

https://www.tejastango.com/terminology.html

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b24a_2NPleg

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flamenco

https://www.britannica.com/art/flamenco

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ibaPTk0D5Xg

 

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belly_dance

 

Lovely Gardens and Amazing Fountains: Peterhof Palace

29 Sep

 

 

An afternoon at the Peterhof Palace is not quite enough.  When we visited this summer palace of the tzars, which is another UNESCO World Heritage Site, we only walked the gardens. But that is fine, we had already been at the Hermitage and the Summer Palace in Puskin.  I cannot imagine that the inside of the Peterhof Palace was any less grand than those. However, I do know that it seems a bit smaller.   What makes Peterhof unique are the unbelievable fountains and gardens.  Spending an afternoon walking the grounds was amazing.

I am quite used to seeing lovely fountains.  Living in the Kansas City area, we are used to seeing fountains along the boulevards, in historic areas and near and in the Country Club Plaza. In fact, Kansas City is referred to as the City of Fountains.  We so do love our fountains here.

Perhaps it is this affinity to fountains that made Peterhof so mesmerizing. But then I think anyone would be impressed.

Peterhof is like fountains on steroids!  The overwhelming size and number and variety of fountains is fantastic.  I use words like fantastic, amazing, overwhelming and awesome with a whole heart.

No one can come away without being amazed by the engineering that makes these fountains possible to run for hours every day without electricity.  Just water and gravity!  There are no pumps, just water from natural springs and one aqueduct fueling the incredible number of fountains. The gardens were designed by Alexandre Le Blond. I am not sure if he also did the engineering for the fountains.

Our tour guide promised us that we would see close to 200 fountains on our amble through the lower gardens.  I think we did.  Although I will admit that she counted all the water sprouts in each fountain separately. So what! They were still amazing.

 

There is the Grand Cascade and Samson fountain right behind the palace.  There is a children’s fountain with dancing waters. There is a secret fountain through a path of trees that sets a spray of water over anyone walking by. Personally, I especially loved the giant slide of a fountain, called the Dragon Hill Cascade. The statues of this fountain were buried before the Nazis got there and so survived the occupation.  You can see a display of photos explaining what happened.

Much of the Peterhof gardens, fountains and buildings were destroy by the Nazis in the Second World War. But almost immediately after the war, like with the other palaces, the country started work on renovating and repairing the grounds and buildings.  There are large photos that show what Peterhof looked like right after the war.  It is amazing what was accomplished!

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Peter’s private home.

Included on the grounds are other lovely buildings, including  a much smaller ‘palace’ that Peter the Great actually designed and stayed in.  It is lovely and quaint from the outside. We could peek into the open windows to see inside.  But it is the view from the rear of the building that catches the attention and you understand why the tzar wanted to stay in this quiet home.  The view of the Gulf of Finland, which leads to the Baltic Sea, is lovely.  It is so peaceful there, I can imagine him sitting by himself and just relaxing! Can a Tzar relax?  If yes, this is just the place.

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A lovely greenhouse. One of my favorite buildings.

If you enjoy walking outside admiring gardens and fountains, then Peterhof should be on your list to see.   To be honest, I went serendipitously as it was part of my tour.  It was a day well spent.

 

https://www.britannica.com/place/Peterhof

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peterhof_Palace

 

Another Photo, Another Trip to the Yad V’Shem Database

26 Sep

Since I recently returned from a trip to the Baltics, and actually used my school-girl German,  I decided I needed to open my Grandma’s album and continue my search.  I chose a photo with German writing, since I could translate that.

The note was written to my grandma, from her cousin.  “For my cousin, Tauba.  I send my ‘Bilck” (I think that means image).    Dated August 22, 1931, from Wieruszow, a city I have written about before, you can read about it in the blog below.

I had a difficult time figuring out his name.  I knew the Anshel/Anssel.   But the last name stymied me.  So once again thank you to the Tracing The Tribe group, who gave me the last name Eisner.   It opened the door on the Yad VShem Database.

Anshel Eisner, who was born in 1906, was murdered in the Shoah.  The year 1906 hurt my heart, as that is the same year that my grandmother was born. 

His parents, Moses Aron Eisner and Rivka Manes, were married in 1898. His mother and my great grandmother were sisters. I image they were happy to be pregnant at the same time. (Thank you Elzbieta from Tracing the Tribe).

He is probably one of the many cousins that she told me about…that she played with at her grandmother’s house.

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He looks a bit like her own brothers.  So much so that I will now look at group photos to see if I can find him.  And I think I found him standing on the far right of this photo that includes my great uncle, who is seated on the left. (See blog below.)

Anshel was married to Liba/Libka.  I could not find her on the data base.   But it said that Anshel was a merchant and died when he was 32 years old.  1942. That was a big year for murdering my family.

His testimony was prepared by his uncle Yitzchak/Isaac Ajzner/Eisner.  I did an advanced search and found that Yizchak prepared testimonies for 54 people who were murdered in the Shoah, including his parents, his siblings, his nieces and nephews and cousins.  He also included friends who perished. These people came from Wieruszow, Lodz, other cities in Poland and Czechoslovakia.

I assume that not all 54 are related to me.  But I take them to my heart.  I add them to the hundreds I already mourn for who perished.  I think of the many cousins I should have in my family who are gone and forgotten and who names have disappeared into the whispers of the past.

Each photo I find that leads to the database breaks my heart a bit. But then, in my heart, I thank my Grandma for saving all these photos.  For keeping their memories alive in a book hidden in the attic for me to find and rediscover and remember.

Baruck Dayan HaEmet.  May their memories be a blessing.  I hope I help them live though my blog.

 

https://zicharonot.com/2018/07/20/viroshov-wieruszow-a-jewish-community-destroyed/

 

https://zicharonot.com/2019/06/17/my-obsession-with-grandmas-album-leads-to-the-shoah/

 

https://zicharonot.com/2014/08/19/old-photographs-bring-memories-to-life/

 

Braille City Maps of Germany Delight Me

22 Sep

Our first stop in Germany was in an area that once was East Germany and part of the Soviet Union.  While many people from our cruise ship chose to take a train to Berlin, we decided to visit another Baltic City and UNESCO World Heritage Site, Wismar.

The first place we went to in Wismar was the center town square, or Market Place.  Our tour guide, a college student, first told us about the square and its important architectural structures, then walked us to a wonderful metal 3-dimensional, braille map of the city. When we arrived, a blind man and his care giver were at the map.  The man was examining the map with his fingers, as the woman explained what each place was, naming streets and buildings.

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Map of Wismar

Our guide waited a bit, then asked politely if he could talk to us about the map. (I was glad to know I still understand German, even though I have not used it in 20 years.)  Most important, I was impressed with the map.   I asked the guide if Wismar had a school for the blind, and so the map was there for this purpose.  He asked the care giver, who replied that was not the case. The map was just there for anyone to use.

That was that, or so I thought.

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St. Mary’s Church tower.

As we walked our guide told us about Wismar and the bombing damage during World War 2.  Two churches close to the town center, St. Mary’s Church and St. George’s Church, were heavily damaged.  Although St. George’s Church was rebuilt, St. Mary’s has only its main tower remaining and the start of a park that will be in the shape of the outline of the original church.

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When we got to St. Mary’s Church. I was surprised to see another braille map this one detailing the destroyed church and its environs.  It was being examined by the blind gentleman we had seen earlier.  We waited until he was finished, then we walked over to examine the map ourselves.  It was interesting to see the details of the church from before the war.

After viewing this map, we visited both churches.  The St. George’s Church has been rebuilt, but nothing remains inside. It is now used for concerts because the acoustics are excellent.  Inside the remaining tower of St. Mary’s Church are some displays about the churches in the city.

We signed up for this tour for another important visit, to the one brewery in Wismar.  Centuries ago, there were almost 200 breweries in the town.  During the Soviet occupation, all breweries were closed and the beer came from other cities.  In 1995 Herbert Wenzel purchased a building that had been a brewery in the 15th century.  It is now the only brewery in Wismar.  We visited the now named, Brauhaus am Lohberg zu Wismar, and tasted three of its beers.

Although the brewery, the port and the town center were all delightful and gave good reason for this to be a UNESCO heritage site, it was the braille maps that gave me the most joy.  What a great idea!  And to see someone actually using it made it so much more meaningful.  I loved these two maps.

I thought when leaving Wismar, I would not see them again.  But I was wrong.  The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Lubeck also had a braille map that was used by our tour guide to explain the old city to us.  I really enjoy seeing the city from an overview.

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Map of Lubeck

I was very curious about these maps.  Were they a German government idea? I thought maybe a UNESCO plan? I did not see these maps at any other UNESCO World Heritage Site.  When I looked back at my photos, I realized he map in Lubeck had a big clue.  On the map was a note in German that mentioned that the map was a gift from the Rotary Club Lubeck-Holstentor and said the maps were for the blind and sighted people.

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Map of Lubeck with information about donors

That helped.  I knew that Rotary Clubs do community service and specifically have activities for the blind.  In 2017 Rotary International joined with the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) to combat blindness.  I am assumed the map in Wismar was also donated by a Rotary Club, but I was wrong. When I looked back at my Wismar photos more closely, I saw that this map was donated by a large number of organizations, starting with the Lions Club of Wismar.  I am aware of what Lions Clubs do as well.  I often donate my old eyeglasses to the Lions Club!

I personally would like to thank the Rotary Club of Lubeck-Holstentor and the Lions Club of Wismar along with all the other organizations for these great maps!! I have an affinity for anything that helps the blind and vision impaired.  My mother was blind in one eye due to childhood accident.  Throughout my life, she constantly dealt with issues concerning her eye and was vigilant in making sure we had good eye health.  These maps delighted me and touched my heart.

 

 

https://www.rotary.org/en/rotary-partners-international-agency-prevention-blindness

 

 

A Fairy Tale Country, Estonia

21 Sep

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Spending a day in Tallinn, Estonia, was like being inside a fairy tale country.  I loved the old city with its quaint streets, towers and churches.  Tallinn is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and it deserves that status.  But more than then the look of the country was the feel of the country.

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The tower is called Tall Hermann

I love that they name their towers and weather vanes.  I love the magical feel of the old city and its cobblestone walkways.

Behind the beauty, Estonia has had its hardships.  Torn between two powers who wanted their ports on the Baltic Sea and its resources, both Germany and Russia/Soviet Union invaded Estonia many times over the years.  But in 1939 the worst happened when Hitler and Stalin signed a treaty dividing Estonia between the two and the two powers invaded Estonia from different sides of the country.

Our tour guide in Tallinn, a lovely young woman, told us that this was the worst.  People were torn between choosing between two evils.  And the Soviet Union proved to be a great evil, taking over the country and killing or deporting all the political and business leaders.

The only positive I see from this however, is this occupation saved the majority of Estonia’s Jewish population, which was about 4000 before the start of World War Two. By then end of the war, about 1000 of Estonia’s Jewish residents were murdered in the Shoah. The others had escaped into the Soviet Union and so survived. After the war, 1500 Jewish residents returned.

After World War 2, Estonia entered a 50-year occupation by the Soviet Union. Estonia was terrorized.  Our guide explained how all access to the Baltic Sea were closed by the Soviets, who put military bases there. People could not get out.  Help could not get in. She explained life as lived by her parents and grandparents.  It was not a happy time.

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A statue of Ernesaks overlooks the Song Festival Grounds.

 

But in Estonia, they came up with their own way of revolution that did not included guns or violence. The Singing Revolution started with the singing of the national song, “Land of My Fathers, Land That I Love.”  For years they sang this song in rebellion against Soviet rule.  Gustav Ernesaks, the “Father of Song” for the country who helped start the song festival movement, helped in this non-violent rebellion. The singing events were held on the Tallinn Song Festival Grounds.

The Singing Revolution lasted four years. Multiple songs and citizens singing saved Estonia!  Tallinn is also known for the large chain of people, over two million, that spanned from Tallinn to Vilinius in August 1989.  Singing songs and then slowly moving forward with small steps of rebellion and independence worked. By 1991, Estonia gained its independence.

Along with the freedom for all Estonians, came renewed freedom for its Jewish residents after 1991.  In 2007 a synagogue opened.  Today about 2000 Jewish residents live in Estonia. It is a small but secure population.  According to our tour guide and to what I have read, the Jewish population lives in comfort and without any issues thanks to a law that protects all minorities in Estonia.  There is a synagogue, a Jewish Day School, a Jewish Museum and a Jewish Community Center. I wish I could say that I visited all these Jewish sites, but I did not.  I wish I had researched Tallinn before I went. So I put links below to the Jewish sites of Tallinn.

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I loved my day in Tallinn.  Visiting this UNESCO World Heritage Site was a lovely experience.  Somehow, it seemed appropriate and joyful, to see a bride.

 

https://www.ejc.ee/templates/articlecco_cdo/aid/304672/jewish/History.htm

https://muuseum.jewish.ee/

Lessons I Learned While Traveling Through Countries Along Baltic Sea

16 Sep

During our two-week cruise of the Baltics, we visited Holland, Denmark, Germany, Russia, Finland and Sweden.   I never realized how close these countries are to each other, just hours away across the Baltic.  And I never realized how intertwined their histories made their peoples and languages and flags!  The architecture repeats itself in every city as influences of Sweden, Denmark, Holland, German and Finland structures can be found in all the cities, and a combination of these styles.

I met many tour guides.  Some were better than others.  But several gave sound advice that I want to remember forever.  In fact, I need to share them.

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Typical steps of unexpected heights!

We spent two days in St. Petersburg and had an excellent guide on our first day.  A retired engineer, she was now guiding tourists through the maze of royal palaces.  Her excellent advice: “Be aware of steps/stairs of unexpected height.”   I think it was her engineering background speaking. But it was so true.  With the cobblestone streets and the old buildings, many times we faced stairs and steps of unexpected height.

Often as we crossed the street or entered a building she would intone, “Be aware of steps of unexpected heights!” Her words resonated through my mind many times during the nine-hour day of touring.  I think, thanks to this lesson, we never fell, we were always aware, no matter what country we were in.

Another day in St. Petersburg, another tour guide with a different message. (She was a retired college professor.) “Don’t demonstrate your water bottle.”   I think what she was really saying is don’t make a big deal out of things.  It was very hot when we were there. Unexpectedly warm.  And many people had water bottles with them.  I kept mine on the bus. But others, especially older adults, needed their water.

However, at certain places, you are not supposed bring a water bottle in.  However, with the heat, they were making exceptions.  So, our guide said.  “Water bottles are not allowed, but don’t demonstrate your bottle. Put it in your back pocket and go through security.”  I guess if the guards wanted to take it away, they could. But not hiding, while at the same time, not making an issue of it, was the best policy. Thus several of our comrades on the tour kept their water bottles with them throughout.

In Denmark, I learned two important lessons.  The guide we had on a day when it was pouring rain, told us that in Denmark the saying is, “There is no bad weather, only bad clothes.”  I concur.  I had packed our Land’s End raincoats and good walking shoes.  We stood in the rain, without getting really wet, as the water skimmed over our coats, while others were drenched.  Meanwhile,  all around us, the Danes walked freely without umbrellas, ignoring the weather and  just strolling through town in the rain.

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He was wearing good clothes as he splashed in the puddles.

I especially enjoyed seeing a young boy dressed in his very good rain clothes and boots splashing through all the puddles in a park as his Mom pushed his stroller as she ambled along next to him.  Good clothes do make a difference!

I will admit, the first tour guides words resonated with me during the rain in Denmark. As we walked the cobblestones and the steps of unexpected heights, I looked down and carefully placed my feet on the wet and slippery walkways.

The Danish tour guide’s other lesson was that umbrellas are not needed because they don’t work. Also true.  I had an umbrella at the beginning of the day. While we walked the streets of the city, it seemed fine.  But by the time I returned to the ship, the only place for that twisted and ragged umbrella was the trash.  You do not need an umbrella in Copenhagen or Arhus.  You just need good clothes!

I loved our tour guide in Stockholm.  She had an attitude that I appreciated.  The problem with most tours is that some people are always late, taking up time from everyone else.   She kept a steady pace wherever we went, shouting back to the slower walkers, “You can’t get lost, there is only one way to go …straight.”

She told us outright, when we left for a short period of time on our own, after she showed us the main square, that if we did not make it back to our bus at the assigned time, she would assume that we were staying in town.   We were adults and we could find our own way back.

And I appreciated that she said that, but then her soft side showed.  We had one woman on our tour who walked slowly using a cane.   When she and her husband were not back at the bus on time, our guide said, “I am just going to check the corner to see if they are coming.”  We all agreed that was a great idea.  And it was, as the couple were slowly moving up the hill and being careful on the steps of unexpected heights.