I’ll never forget the joy and surprise I experienced on my first trip to Europe, while traveling with my daughter, during the summer between her undergrad and veterinary school studies. In addition to the many wonderful museums, sights, historical places, and amazing architecture we saw and the variety of interesting people we met, what surprised me the most was the unexpected music we heard, beginning on the RER ride from the Charles de Gaulle airport to downtown Paris. While riding on the light rail, a man walked into our car, set his hat on the floor, and began playing a wind instrument of some sort. It was painted in muted reds and greens and was, perhaps, a recorder. I was mesmerized by his hauntingly beautiful music. Then, as suddenly as he had appeared, he stopped playing, held out his hat to collect tips and moved on to another car. What a fun and unusual way to begin my experience in Paris.
Later on our trip, as we strolled through Vienna, looking for interesting sights, I was stopped in my tracks by the sound of beautiful music. It appeared to be coming from the entrance area to a great castle or mansion. We crossed the street and approached the large structure to find two, young men playing their violins. They played together as one, playing harmoniously off the sounds of each other, weaving and intertwining their individual sounds of music into one beautiful piece. They were truly practiced musicians who enjoy playing together, whether for their own enjoyment or for the audience of a king. I totally enjoyed standing there, hearing them play together, as their beautiful music reverberated within the walls of the concrete or brick structure around them, as if in an amphitheater. It was difficult to leave this beautiful concert of music, but I was happy to contribute to their open violin cases, waiting for tips from passersby.
On a different, rainy, cloudy day, my daughter and I walked along cobblestone streets and sidewalks of Salzburg on a quest to see some sort of castle or large mansion. After walking for quite a while, I was discouraged that our damp, nondescript map wasn't helping us navigate through brick walls, private property, and other obstacles and felt quite tired. We continued on, as best as we could. At one point, we heard the music of someone practicing their violin. We looked for the source and found it coming from an open window in a nearby alley. The music itself wasn't difficult or well-played but the joy of hearing sounds of music coming from that open window on a rainy day was such an amazing surprise and delight to me that it brightened my soul and put a spring in my step! With a lighter heart and more walking, we eventually made it to our destination. Interestingly, I was blessed with a lasting, beautiful memory that came more from our rather, dismal, “less than perfect” journey than in reaching our destination. That joyous memory of music will be with me forever! I am also grateful to the person who was practicing their violin on that rainy, Saturday morning, with their window open, of course!
The last, special memory that still brings me tears of joy, surprise, and delight, occurred when my daughter and I visited a musical instrument museum in Paris. It was fun to see the various forms of older and archaic instruments, but what stands out most to me is what happened as we began to leave one room to walk into another. A group of about five or six, young, Japanese women had begun gathering around a display of several sheets of music, placed under glass, around the edges of a round table. Suddenly, they burst into harmonious song, as they read and interpreted those notes to the ears of those who were privileged to hear their beautiful voices singing in a spontaneous concert. I stepped back into the room, watching and listening in awe and wonder, as these professional-sounding women, who appeared to have sung together, many times before, produced such beautiful, vocal music, in a foreign country to others who were foreigners, as well! It’s a memory I will always cherish!
I went to Europe expecting to see new sights, learn some history, enjoy some amazing architecture and breathtaking scenery, meet new people, and to share a unique experience with my daughter, all of which happened, but I was blown away with the myriad of sounds of music that touched my heart and soul during our trip abroad. It was an amazing experience to remember and behold!
Precious Linda, 2013
After a time of writing with some friends, I wrote this piece about a special memory of a trip to Europe, in 14 minutes. Interestingly, however, it took hours to slightly edit it to this final form.