Home Again

My husband and I just returned from a trip of over three weeks, first to the East Coast to cheer on our incredible grandson as he graduated from college, and then to Central Europe for a trip with nine other graduates of UC Berkeley (Go, Bears!). We were in Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, the Czech Republic, and Germany, concentrating on the major cities of Warsaw, Krakow, Budapest, Bratislava, Vienna, Prague, and Berlin.

Being a language nut, I was particularly interested in trying to figure out words that were cognates or somehow resembled English words. In Poland, I did see some I could figure out (and plenty I couldn’t). But Hungarian, apparently, is unlike any other language in the world. Some say it has a distant relationship to Finnish, but Hungarians reject that idea. I was at a total loss and understood nothing except “pizza” and “espresso.” Czech and Slovakian were almost as incomprehensible to me, but German was at least partially understandable, except for the fact that one word may consist of three other words all strung together—and German makes you wait for the verb at the end of the sentence. Mark Twain wrote a very funny essay on the German language, and if I weren’t brain dead from jet lag I’d make an effort to find it.

We visited Auschwitz and Birkenau, a shattering experience. We saw Holocaust memorials in every country, but the most rewarding experience for me was spending four hours in the Museum of German History in Berlin. An entire enormous floor is dedicated to Germany from WWI to the present, and nothing was sugarcoated or omitted from the years of Hitler’s rise through the end of WWII. Many atrocities were shown and acknowledged. Schoolchildren visit and learn about their country’s past. I left hopeful that hideous past will not be repeated in Germany and Austria. I am not naive enough to think the world will be cleansed of atrocities, but some seem to have died and been buried. I can only hope that will be true for the many current horrors in Africa and elsewhere.



Filed under All things having to do with the English language

3 responses to “Home Again

  1. Janet Papkin

    Hi Judi,

    What a wonderful post. Welcome home! I know what you mean about the Slavic languages. Impossible!

    Good that Germany is putting so much effort into educating the next generation about the WW11 past. Vienna should take a lesson from them.

    I’m planning to take a similar trip next year, so I’d love to hear more about your itinerary when you’re recovered. And when I’m recovered too. I returned from my Alaska trip last week with the worst bronchitis. I feel like a cat, moving from one napping spot to another. I’m getting better though. And Alaska was beautiful, still some ice.





  2. Harriet Sorkin

    How can you be old enough to have a child graduating college? So interesting to hear about your trip. Josh’s done lots to traveling to central Europe and Asia but found the one language he couldn’t pick up was Czech–don’t know if he tried Hungarian. I also heard about the connection with Finland. He went to some festival called Love Parade with lots of music and foreign languages

    Note: We gave dad his 95th birthday party on Sunday–thought about you then.


  3. Harriet, I assume you meant “grandchild.” I wonder too, but there you are. I started young.

    We so wish we had been back to help celebrate with your father. I love him and will ALWAYS be grateful to him. Always.


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