Pursuing Life's Daring Adventure

Friday, October 2, 2009

The View Heading East

A surreal experience: driving Sunday evening from the West to the East.

Since we hiked the Austrian Alps this past weekend, we drove back to Prague through Germany on Sunday. We passed through the flatlands around Munich to the rolling hills of hops fields in Eastern Germany, past the German rest stops with the automatic cleaning toilets and toward the step back in time at the Czech border. As we drove, the sun set in brilliant tangerine-orange across the Western sky behind us.

We headed toward the darkness, toward the inky hills and rural countryside. Toward the East.
I think for all of us, passing the sprawling, rusting former communist checkpoint at the German-Czech border was chilling. It was just dark enough out to send shivers under the skin. To think of the years from the sixties to the late eighties when countless lives were lost trying to escape to the West at that very border crossing …

Unsettling. We all have thoughts—where are we living? Where is our home? We’re going back?

But, as we stopped to refuel a few kilometers inside the Czech Republic, we remembered. While paying, I inadvertently spoke in German to the cashier. The amazing look of surprise in his eyes! And then, one of our sons said so innocently, “Finally—we can speak Czech. We’re almost home.”
It was at that moment that we realized that yes, we were almost home. To Prague. The former East. A beautiful country with a priceless soul.

Let Freedom Ring …


  1. My family was in Austria in 1970--I was a young teenager--and my father wanted us to see the border between east and west, so we drove east from Vienna to the Czech border.

    He stopped the VW van on the side of a farming road and we looked at the fence--which in my historic mind was tall and looming--and we looked at the machine-gun toting young men manning a gate. A couple cars went through, the men stared at us and my dad turned the car around. "That's what it means not to be free."

    I returned to Prague six years later, a college student, for three days with Swiss relatives. Could it really have been overcast and grey the whole time I was there? The photos belie that memory, but I remember feeling muted and careful the entire time. I knew I was in a different place.

    How wonderful the Czech Republic and Slovakia is such a healthier place now. And thanks for all you're sharing!

  2. Wow, Michelle-- an amazing story! Thank you for sharing!

    I think we're all learning so much here about the hardships faced by the people by the communist regime. And it's incredible they were told the border guards were to "protect their socialist utopia" in the East from the West. So much to learn from it all ...

    It's wonderful to be able to share via the internet. Thanks again, Michelle!



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