Musings on my pre-trip trip
Trip Start Sep 20, 2009
14Trip End Ongoing
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To start things off on the right foot, and to take a step towards adopting the European way of life, I decided to use via rail for the trip. The train does seem like it’s the civilized way to travel. I’ve got leg room to spare and through the window I’m watching Lake Ontario warm up from the beating rays of the sunrise. I took the 5:45 AM train so I’d arrive in Toronto with enough time to have a whole day there, but watching the sunrise has been an added bonus.
I had my breakfast on the train, and then read a few pages of my new book. As we’re flying to Vienna on Sunday, I picked up a little espionage thriller by Daniel Silva – "Death in Vienna" it’s called. Silva’s a pretty descriptive writer so it’s been fun to imagine the trams, streets, alleys, bars and cafes that he’s writing about. In a few days I can visit the church where his protagonist was restoring a painting of St. Leonard. I can order a Pharisäer (coffee with whipped cream served with a shot of rum) at Cafe Central just like one of Silva’s characters. I think reading this book after having walked the streets that it describes will be a totally different experience than relying only on my imagination. And then I think how many things will be different after this trip. Going somewhere forever changes your relationship with that place. What used to be a conceptualization is now a series of memories – vivid and real. I’m reminded of that scene in Good Will Hunting, the one that earned Robin Williams his best supporting actor Oscar. He’s sitting on a park bench with Matt Damon, who’s answering Williams’ questions with his usual genius-ness. Then Williams’ character explains to him the difference between knowing something and living something. “If I asked you about art, you'd probably give me the skinny on every art book ever written,” he says. “Michelangelo? You know a lot about him. Life's work, political aspirations. Him and the pope. Sexual orientation. The whole works, right? I bet you can't tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. You never actually stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling.” The point is, even if you’re Good Will Hunting, or even if you spend your life studying a region and its history, you don’t truly understand it until you’ve lived it. And that’s part of what this trip is about.
That’s all for today. I’m excited to write again when I’ve seen actually seen or experienced something and somewhere new.