Profuse thanks, Part II: New Friends

9 Jun

One of the greatest things about our travels–indeed, of anyone’s travels!–is that you meet such interesting people along the way.  In our case, these encounters were sometimes of people we may have met in other times and other places and with whom we were able to re-establish contact; or they were friends of friends; or they were simply nice people we met and with whom we shared some special adventures. To all of these new friends or re-established contacts, we say THANK YOU!


Ken Hunt in London. We met Ken a long time ago in Canberra, when he was just a lad–a friend of our dear friend Di Carey, he worked at the National Gallery at the time and recounted hilarious tales of his adventures living in Japan. Now he works for the Ministry of Culture, and is one of the dearest monarchists we have ever met! It was so great to see him in the city he loves. He took us out for Indian food, as one does in London, and suggested several interesting spots to visit. Such a pleasure!


Linda Skinner in London,  an old friend of my old friend Marbie, who lives in Maui. Linda and her husband spend many months a year at the condo on Maui where Marbie works; the rest of the time she lives in London.  It was a very pleasant meeting–we share lots of interests! I hope that the next time we meet it will be in Hawaii.


Michael Huey is one friend I had actually met before, but we only really got to know him on this visit. He is married to our friend Christian Witt-Doerring, who we have known since the early 80s. Together they make up one of the most elegant couples in Vienna. Michael is an artist on the subject of memory, and does wonderful exhibitions based on family photos and other things. Christian just retired this year as curator at MAK (Museum für angewandte Kunst), where he worked for more than 30 years. We so enjoyed all our time with these two lovely people, and had some of the best conversations with them of our entire trip.


Heidi Meyer-Welfing in Vienna is Nora Petritsch’s half-sister. She lives two blocks from the Sigmundsgasse apartment (where we stayed) in a beautiful Biedermeier building. She used to work as the sales representative for Christian Dior out of Paris, and spent many years in Asia as the chief Dior consultant. As a devoted cat person, she also once had a shop in Vienna selling cat-related objects of all sorts!! She now lives with one cat, Schatzi (who we called Chubby). Her apartment is filled with artworks, many of them by her grandfather Hanns Diehl, about whom I wrote several blog entries as well as the Wikipedia page. She was very kind and generous to us during our three-month stay in the city. We very much hope that we will have a long and continuous friendship, with frequent visits.


Paula Rodrigues in Lisbon.  We met Paula at Vienna’s Christmas markets, where she had a stall to sell her nicely designed notebooks and cards (her ”brand” is called Frown & Folks). Naturally, George gravitated to a stall that had notebooks, and Paula was so exuberant despite being miserable in the Vienna cold after coming from sunny Portugal. When we got to Lisbon, we got in touch, and she took us to her favorite restaurants in town, and introduced us to other craftspeople in the city. We also were fascinated to learn her story:  her parents came from Angola in the 1980s, as did so many Angolans once Portugal gave the country its independence. Her parents were physicians, who had to work other jobs for many years before they were allowed to practice medicine again. Paula also told us stories of racial discrimination growing up, but that life had gotten better in the last few years.  Thank you, Paula, for showing us your city!

Annie Graul and Eduardo Valencia in Barcelona.  Annie was one of my students at Lawrence University who now lives in Barcelona with her wonderful husband Eduardo and her children Inès and Oscar (well, Inès is now a freshman at Lawrence–LU alumni are loyal to their school!). What a treat to meet former students as equals! Annie was immensely helpful to us, showing us the city she loves so much, inviting us to their home in gorgeous Premià de Dalt for a fantastic feast of Calçots, and giving us such moral support after the Great Robbery of Barcelona. And Eduardo gave us that fantastic Repsols jacket you see me wearing in lots of photos. George & I really enjoyed our time with these two special people.


Dressi and Andonis in Athens, in this photo with Evy (and Evy’s husband Nick Karetzas, who we also met for the first time!). Old friends of Evy, this lovely couple let us stay in their apartment in Athens for two weeks, while they moved downstairs to her parents’ apartment. Dressi taught German for many years, and Andonis was for some time an engineer in Germany. This photo was taken when we had them up for a thank-you coffee–a rather amusing thing to do, to invite people to visit their own apartment! Evaristo, Dressi and Andonis!

Michael Zimmer and Irene Loesch-Zimmer in Dubrovnik (well, actually in Mlini on the Dubrovnik Riviera). Michael and Irene are old friends of Nora Petritsch. (The picture of Irene is very uncharacteristic, but the only one I have of her–she is usually exceedingly vibrant!). They are Austrians who lived in South Carolina for 30 some years, and are now returning to Europe. Michael now plays guitar, and Irene, who is an artist, is now writing books. They loved staying at Wolfgang and Nora’s Mlini house, and had been there for months when we arrived. They knew everything about the place, where to go for markets and good restaurants, and were fun flatmates to meet! While we were there, this lovely parakeet flew in from who knows where and perched on Michael’s shoulder.  They are those kind of people, with whom magical things happen.


Gert Selle in Munich. Actually, Gert should be among the thanks to my oldest friends, but I missed giving him a slot there. He was my professor-boyfriend oh, so many, many years ago when I had my Fulbright in Darmstadt, Germany. He was my ”alter Mann” when I was a young thing, so now we are both rather aged. He was very kind to me at a watershed moment in my life, and it was so wonderful to see him doing fairly well for his age (about 83). He still writes books on design, although he refuses to use a computer, so he’s still writing them out in longhand!  Vielen Dank, Gert, ich muss irgendwann eine längere Geschichte um uns schreiben!


Albert Brancato and Michael von Selle in Bonn. One of my most rewarding contacts in the last few years:  Albert was a Ph.D. student at Bryn Mawr with Barbara Lane, the history professor with whom I also studied. But that’s only serendipitously how we met. Albert, who has lived in Bonn with his husband Michael for some 40 years (the photo is in the kitchen of their 19th-century house in Muffendorf). He has worked as a translator and public intellectual (!) and had been asked to do research on the Bonn artist Hans Thuar for the August-Macke Haus. He found my catalogue about LaVera Pohl, who had been a student of Thuar in the 1930s, and contacted me for more information. We have carried on a lively correspondence ever since. Albert is a font of wisdom about all things Rhenish, and graciously drove us to several wonderful churches and historic spots. It was a lovely end to our European stay.

And finally, as we stopped in Toronto en route to Denver, some more student encounters:


David Lightfoot and Barry Burciul. David was another of my Lawrence students (or, as he told me, an occasional auditor in my classes!). I can thank Facebook again for reintroducing us to each other. David writes the best FB entries, and shares the best stuff–he’s my go-to guy for all things Slavic–and aside from seeing him again, I was dying to meet his husband, the elusive Barry, and their equally elusive cats Kyoshi and Mehmo (only one of which was spotted). David is a medical librarian, along with his polymath interests in literature and Czech culture, and Barry works for humanistic causes that take him to Africa and elsewhere. Such interesting people! We had a lovely evening with fantastic food and the copacetic chance to introduce OTHER Toronto friends to them:


Rick and Beth Halpern met at Penn when Rick was a freshman on our floor in Hill House (we were the ”older” RAs when in grad school). They have been together ever since, and have lived an exciting life, first in London and now in Toronto. Rick teaches labor history and has been Dean at a University of Toronto campus; Beth was a dancer and is now a homeopathic practitioner. They have three grown daughters, and both are fantastic gourmet cooks. What a joy to share mutual interests (photography, too), and to meet again when we are, as with my other former students, on an equal footing now. Our age difference seemed so enormous when we were in our twenties, but is irrelevant now that they are turning 50 or more (which only makes me feel VERY old!).

For some banal reason, that old Girl Scout tune just came to mind:  ”Make new friends/but keep the old/one is silver, and the other’s gold.” Here’s to all that gold and silver!!!

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