Dubrovnik to Split and Train to Zagreb

We would be catching a passenger ferry from Dubrovnik to Split on Monday August 28. The views were beautiful. A miniature walled city dominated one island, looking like the place to go. Got into Split around 9:30 that night. My maps showed our location to be in an open space on the map just north of the railroad tracks. We left the ferry and walked around and over the railroad tracks. I was using my gps and it was leading me down this alley into an area of apartments. I came to a dead end with our location seemingly right in front of us. We went out to the main road to make it around but quickly found ourselves moving away from our destination. I called our host who said we were close just come down by the railroad tracks. As we came down one set of stairs there was a spray-painted name and arrow to our destination. I walked the same path we had walked before and turned around to find another pathway in between the buildings. I had to call him. He had already told me I was close and seemed exasperated that I hadn’t found it. We agreed to meet at a neon lit hotel sign. There he was. He said follow me. And off we went. We navigated past some cars to an opening in the wall with a concrete block placed to help us through the opening separating us from the railroad tracks. We then walked along the tracks around a set of apartments. We then turned to one apartment on the far side of the apartments. I retraced this on video the next morning.

Safe and sound we stored our things and headed for the town. Split is the home of the Roman emperor Diocletian’s palace built in the 300’s. The palace is filled with shops and restaurants but still retains its Roman magnificence. The fourth season of “Game of Thrones” was filmed there. Apparently, Dubrovnik and this entire area serves as the location for the show. We walked about, listened to a couple of good sounding American musicians play for a crowd outside of a restaurant and made it home for a sleep.

Woke up and made it to the train station for our 6 and half hour trip to Zagreb. Enjoying the train rides. We had bought a Euro pass that would give us 7 days of free travel. Day one in Italy, two Split to Zagreb, three Zagreb to Zurich, four Zurich to Karlsruhe, five up and down the Rhine Valley, six Karlsruhe to Groningen and seven Groningen to Amsterdam with a trip to the windmills and a downtown trip from the airport on our final day in Europe. 

Croatia, my roots. I would see my mom’s face over and over. I might have already mentioned the stories that go with Dubrovnik women; but here goes again. My mother was one of seven children with five girls. The Ivancovich girls were known beauties in the Watsonville area. In the recesses of my mind I remember, especially my Aunt Marie, commenting about their shared good looks and embarrassingly referring to what is said about Dubrovnik girls. The story goes something like this. Dubrovnik, this independent city was run by a group of specific families. When they lost their independence; supposedly a vow was made that they would discontinue the habit of intermarrying among the ruling families. This unleashed the young men of the nobility to go throughout the countryside spreading their seed and thus the beauty of the peasant stock of Dubrovnik. Read it in two different books.

The train ride through the Croatian countryside was beautiful. We could compare the ride down the coast of Italy to this ride. The country could be harsh and I can remember my grandfather talking about the stones and rocks that made farming difficult in Croatia. Fields of olives, grapes and corn. The stones had been gathered to build small walls separating the fields all along the journey from Split to Zagreb. Each farm had a garden plot that mirrored mine back home. The groups of trees surrounding the farm houses would include apples, peach, apricot and figs; all memories I associate with my Grandfather’s farm in Watsonville. We went through some mountains and treated to the rich valley views. All pleasant, enjoying our grapes, figs and nuts and each other’s company.

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Mark Kiszely, Harold and Germain

Our time in Europe has been punctuated with one-minute bible study encounters. Joan reminds me it is wonderful that we have something to offer that transcends all cultures. Twice on this trip we shared the word with groups of university students; once in Bari, Italy and the other time in Karlsruhe, Germany on a basketball court. The language barrier didn’t allow me to clearly communicate that it was a bible study that I was asking them to do. Both times when the first student began to read, he paused and failed to continue once he realized that it was scripture that he was reading. Pastor Spies was showing us some Jesus people clips that included an altar call in which the song being sung had lyrics to the effect of “listen to your heart before your mind rejects”. The indoctrination of society here is complete in its immediate rejection of the gospel; only God can open the heart; the word helps in that process.

The good news with both of those encounters is that the word went forth. Another Italian student picked up where the first left off and we departed with good feelings all around. On the basketball court it was three Chinese and one black immigrant playing against four white Germans. Marvin, the disciple in Karlsruhe has taken a liking to basketball. As part of the evening service I told him we would try to make the court before dark after church. We did, he showed me his trick moves and we shot around a bit and I waited for a break in the action to present the bible study. I have done this now in different cities and have always been able to interject the one-minute study into the action without giving offense. They allowed me the minute and it was only because I was depending upon the student to read that I could not complete the task. Really, it was Marvin that I was doing it for. Marvin has a German father and an Ethiopian mother. He is taking cooking classes and has linked up with the pastor in Karlsruhe. Go into all the world…

When Joan and I were on Mt. Srd above Dubrovnik when we struck up a conversation with a young couple. His name was Mark Kiszley and I spoke to him while Joan spoke to his girlfriend. He was an Englishman living with his Dutch girlfriend in Amsterdam. He was carrying a professional camera so I asked him if the camera was connected to what he did for a living. It was. He is a fashion photographer and has done his share of art pieces also. He has a web page. He then asked me about myself. My response was that I was a preacher, even though it was politically incorrect; he agreed that it was “incorrect”. I then showed him what I do as an evangelist: a one-minute bible study. He picked one, I read it and the conversation went on from there. His parents are divorced and he didn’t handle authority well and bombed out of school. His mom encouraged him to pursue his desire to do photography. He signed up for a school; but couldn’t deal with the a,b,c’s of structured courses. He struck out on his own associating with other photographers and sharpened his skills to the point of being what I would consider a photographic success. That he would talk to me after acknowledging that what I am and do is not acceptable in today’s world encouraged me. I described a world that had no truth, he quickly agreed that all truth is relative. I mentioned stealing but I really wasn’t ready to go down the path of existential truths about what is real and not. I left him some information about our churches in Holland and let him know that he would be hearing this again. Joan was finishing talking with the girlfriend and we parted in a friendly way.

Later in our journey we would run into Harold. We were approaching Zurich from Zagreb via Graz and Salzburg. The man sitting in front of us turned and asked us if we were Americans. We began to talk, he is a retired doctor, having even worked in Los Angeles. I mentioned being a preacher and took it a step further and showed him a one-minute bible study. He immediately whipped out his phone and showed us his English/Hebrew app. The natural question is: are you doing this to increase knowledge and understanding or are you doing this to get closer to God? He seemed taken aback. I mentioned the Hebrew word “nephesh” and how I use it in my preaching (the real you, soul); but I was miles away from being able to look at a Hebrew text and understand it. We talked, he was Catholic. Jesus, draw closer to Him and He will draw closer to you. A little sadness showed. He retreated to helping us catch the correct tram from the railway station to the place we were staying. As we departed, our Greek word translated “beseech” or “implore” talking with someone while putting your arm around them to comfort them gripped me. I gave him a kind exhortation that he can expect Jesus to meet with him, despite the things he has been through. He thanked me and life went on.

Germain, born in Detroit, black American father and German mother, he is 21 and has been living here the last 8 years. We met him on a train going East. He was going to visit his aunt before heading for university at Berkeley. He has a cross tattooed on his forehead. We were taking a series of trains touring through the countryside along the Rhine on a free day. Despite my age I still can communicate some enthusiasm (filled with God). His friend had to run to make the train, we talked about his run. We talked about living life. His black German friend said, “God is life” in German. I confirmed that he said that, he did. Germain had been offering him a beer; but he took that moment to get off the train. I did a one-minute bible study, Party at the End of the World, with him. Some talk. Wants to play basketball. He said our positive energy was needed in this world. Jesus is that positive energy, Joan reminded him as we got off the train.

I write and share this because I am convinced that people need to hear the word of God. Everything that the word imparts is good. The problem is that for the one it is a “sweet smelling aroma” but for the one heading for hell it stinks. If there is life we are still talking about direction. The university student that smelled the stink will have another chance and maybe by the grace of God he will smell the sweetness of the gospel. I live on these promises. The word of God shall not return void, but shall accomplish…Sharper…dividing soul and spirit…discerning the intents of the heart…the sword, rhema, spoken word…the seed…all part of the mission of the church to be the ground and pillar of the truth. If these promises are true; all sharing of the word matters and every little bit gives God something to work with. What is Mark’s future? What is Harold’s future? What is Germain’s future? God knows and He is not willing that they should perish, that He would use our efforts to combine with others to effect salvations is a given for me. A given that gives purpose to life.

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We made our way through customs and started up the hill to our room. Night is falling. In retrospect, we might have walked right by my great, great grandfather’s house where my Grandmother’s sister lives with one of her daughters and family. My cousin Paula had put us in contact with our second cousin Andria Trojanovic. We had her email and phone number but not the street address. She, like many in Dubrovnik, works the guest industry and they work seven days a week, 8 months out of the year. Our ice cream seller let us know that he sleeps the first two months of that break. They would make time for us Sunday at 8:00 pm for dinner as another second cousin, Dijanne, would be coming into town Saturday. I say this because Joan booked our room a five-minute walk from their house without us knowing the address.

Our hostess helped us out with bus routes and store times. I picked up a few items just before the store closed at 9 or 21. They use Kunas so I would eventually have to change some money; but the store let me use my debit card. We decided to walk the half hour to the old city. We used a bank machine to exchange some money along the way. The first sight is overwhelming. This was a Friday night about 10 or 22 and it was wall to wall people along the different sized avenues running through the old city. We were a bit overwhelmed and had already eaten twice on the ferry so we did some walking around, found out the wall walks closed at 7 or 19 and headed home on the #8 bus. We knew to buy our ticket at the small stand at the bus stop instead of on the bus. We got a single pass ticket there, but after this we would purchase 24-hour passes.

We were moving a bit slow the next morning. We caught our bus and stayed on it as it passed by the old walled city. It stopped at the south end and would wait 30 minutes before heading back. We decided to keep walking south overlooking the Adriatic and explore. The city truly is breathtaking and it is majestic. Its history is fascinating as it maintained itself as an independent kingdom much like Venice until the Napoleonic wars. The treaties that would determine its fate rested in the hands of Alexander of Russia whose envoy to Dubrovnik hadn’t even been allowed an Orthodox chapel in the militant Catholic city. He turned Dubrovnik over to the Austrians.

The bus map had mentioned Villa Dubrovnik which I assumed was this huge building placed on a point of land jutting out into the sea south of the city. The road would end there; but the building was a wreck. We would later learn that it had been bombed during the 1991 war and had never been rebuilt. Adriana had worked here before the war. We went through an ajar gate that I thought might lead us to a beach full of people we had seen from above. Joan had added “swimming in the Adriatic” to our life that morning, so we had brought swimming suits.

Down and down we wound passing by buildings and openings that at one time would be perfect places to dine and view the old city in the distance. We came to a final checkerboard swimming pool and passed by a caretaker office. He was there with his girlfriend. I said “OK?” He said “enjoy”. We followed the steps to the furthest point of land leading to the sea. The steps took us right to the edge. We changed and had our own private swim in the Adriatic.

We made our way back eating the ripe figs from the trees, delicious dark purple and yellow figs. We passed by the beach and then found the real Villa Dubrovnik. The entry way was a single elevator. A chauffer was there and we asked him if we could get a coffee there. He said “I don’t see why not. Give it a try.” And we did. We were welcomed and treated as guests at a first-rate hotel. The table talk at the table next to us included “When I worked with a Vice-President”. We (I) decided to have our coffee as well as some lunch that would include “macarula” just as my Mom had made it. This trip would be full of faces that remind me of my mother as well as words and foods, especially the figs. We made it to the old city, walked a bit, had some ice cream and decided to come back that night to give it a better look. We took the bus home for a rest.

Ariana had given us a time to meet and I now had the street name without the address. Joan and I took a walk up and down the street (a set of stairs going up and down the hillside). I felt no chills running down my back but it was fun just the same wondering which place was the house. We kept walking parallel to our street when we passed a sign for a Baptist church. Using translator and the camera we saw that services were Wed. and Sunday at 18 hours. We decided to make church the next night. We bought some coffee and fluids returned to the room and headed back down to the city.

We entered in, got some ice cream, walked a bit and then were captivated by the alleyway towering above us. The city sits upon an old canal that divides it. From that low it climbs in both directions. We started the climb up the stairs to finish our ice cream at the top. We were close to one corner. We walked along that top just below the walls and made our way back down to flat ground. We passed by a palace of sorts where a symphony was being performed inside. We could pay and hear the second part but decided to explore the areas under the walls around the entire city.

What do we want? We are not looking to buy anything. We are not hungry. We just want to be there with each other. I think that about sums up my married life. The walk around the base of the walls takes you through neighborhoods as well as guesthouses and out of the way places. The most famous one we came upon was the “hole in the wall”. There are two, one is a fine dining experience the other is a place for drinks and snacks, no coffee and no bathrooms, because it has no running water. This is the place you can dive from the rocks into the Adriatic outside the city walls. Earlier when we were in the main avenue of the city we were swept along with a wedding party. It was a led by a man waving a Croatian flag to make room for the wedding party following. Musicians are walking and playing and all the guests are making it an army moving through the city. They would stop, sing a familiar song that everyone knew, have a drink, take a kiss and move on singing again. We let them go as they parted out the north gates. At the northwest corner of our exploration we heard what sounded like a “how to be happy talk”. It turned out to be the best man’s speech in English and Croatian for the wedding party. They had moved from the old city to a castle across the way with a narrow water entrance in between. This is Saturday night, it would be Monday morning that we would walk the walls and see all the nooks and crannies we had explored. Home late again.

Sunday, washing day, as I type this I am reminded of our visit to a black church in Seattle with a visiting evangelist from Louisiana. The theme of his sermon was “It’s washing day”. He preached and he preached well. About two thirds through the sermon the base player came up and joined him and his melodic preaching became almost singing. Then the keyboard player joined them as well as the guitar and drums and he sang the final fifteen minutes of his sermon. That is something I would like to do someday. We washed clothes, made Turkish coffee with the strudel we bought from the bakery. We decided to take the tram above the city, make church and meet my family at 20 hours.

The tram takes you above the city to a fort that Napoleon’s generals built. I read Rebecca West’s travelogue of her trip through Yugoslavia just before WW2. I read till she left Dubrovnik. Her friends in Zagreb were pictures of the problems that resulted in the 1991 war where the Serbs tried to keep Yugoslavia together and the Croats and others wanted separate nations. The problem was that the Serbs, being the most powerful (they had defeated the Turks as well as the Austrians) held the ruling positions in Croatia as well as the other parts of Yugoslavia. Rebecca West didn’t like Dubrovnik’s pet alliance with the Vatican and it showed in her writing. Dubrovnik, the home found by the wandering Jews that would help make it great, was about to be (she traveled in 1938) part of Croatia’s choosing to side with the Nazi’s with the church’s blessing. Tito became the leader of the resistance, a successful resistance, the enemy of Croatia’s declared independent nation and a hero to the Jews who he helped; with 2000 Jews fighting with him against the Nazi’s. I believe that the nation, person or institution that blesses the Jews will receive blessing from God and a curse to those who curse them. The Croat/Catholic government of WW2 cursed the Jews and Tito’s resistance blessed them.

As we are seeing in Iraq as well as the former Soviet Union it is difficult to require different people groups to be one. Croats do not like Serbs and Serbs do not like Croats. (That’s why the democrats strategy of dividing all Americans into tribes is demonic.) The Croats declared independence in 1991. The war that ensued was not pretty. Part of that war entailed Serbia attacking Dubrovnik. When their final offensive against the fort on top of the hill failed (35 men resisted inside the fort) they began to bomb the old city. This got international attention. The final assault against the fort was Dec. 6 and they started bombing the city Dec. 7th. A cease fire would be issued and partially followed in January or February. The next cease fire would be worded is such a way that the Croatians were allowed to drive out the Serbs from the mountains surrounding Dubrovnik. The tram takes you to the ruins of the fort and the presentations within the fort do a good job of detailing the war.

We chose to walk down in the heat. Made our way to a simple fish meal in the city. Three Croatian meals included some combination of potatoes, string beans, squash or chard. This is a childhood memory that I endeavor to keep alive in my own gardening. I love my potatoes, squash and string beans boiled up, possibly a sausage added, and then a little oil with salt and pepper. I think they call it elegant peasant food, the best there is. We made it through the city again, caught our bus and got ready for church.

We were greeted at the door. The church had an American pastor who had been in Croatia for 30 years. They were getting ready for a teaching series on the reformation to honor the 500th year of Martin Luther’s revelation. There evangelism plan is to place a bible in every home in Dubrovnik. They had two guitar players and a bongo drummer, beautiful music and beautiful singing. We had arrived at the same time as an German missionary to Vienna. He came with his wife and five children. He gave a testimony of his experiences in Austria that included a prayer request for his children because of school prejudices and for Austrian men in his 100 plus church to begin to rise up and be men of God.

More songs, testimonies and prayers and then I was asked to speak. I had already showed the associate pastor, a Croat with the last name of McCandish (father was Scottish), the one-minute bible study on my phone and the pastor had said I could present it to the church. I gave a short presentation and had one of the members of the church choose a study and read it to the church. I describe Dorothy using the one-minute bible study. I have done this several times now. The doctors said she wouldn’t live, she lives; the doctors said she would never walk, she walks; the doctors said she would never be able to live alone in her house, she does! I describe our outreach using the word as seed, not returning void, the spoken word of God that is able to see into the heart all as the mission of the church to uphold the truth. There is something powerful about each of these verses spoken with a translator translating. Church ended, giving us 10 minutes to get over to my Great Grandfathers house. I quickly put the bible study page on the pastor from Vienna’s and the Associate pastor’s phones, one in German the other in Croat. We said some quick goodbye’s and then headed for my relative’s house.

Ariana greeted us along with her two dogs. Her sons were out and about; but her sister Dijane from Canada was there along with their mother, Mara. I thought it would be a get together where the English speakers were the minority; instead it was all English with Mara struggling with the language gap. Paula had given them a heads up about our religious bent so it became natural for that to become the topic of conversation. It was nice to talk about my mother, my aunts and especially Uncle George who they greatly admired. We had mentioned the Baptist church that we had visited and as the evening unfolded Ariana let us know that she knew of the church as well that she had visited a Baptist church with a friend.

Both Ariana and Dijane had worked at the Belvedere Hotel (the abandoned hotel where Joan and I went swimming) before the war. Dijane’s husband had been a soldier during the war. They all left Dubrovnik as refugees during the war with Mara staying behind with her aging mother in the house. Dijane asked her husband to take the family to Canada where Mara’s husband had moved to after divorcing Mara. They still own an apartment that they rent out and stay in an attic room when they visit. I got a little history about my Great Grandfather, Jacob. (We have just met with our third Jacob, a German-Croatian 12-year-old who hacked into my computer here on the train to Zurich calling me by my name Kevin). Grandfather Jacob had impregnated his future wife. He was not allowed to marry because his older brother had not married yet. I am not sure about all of the details as to why, but he was given the money to go to America on a ship. He boarded the ship, got his money back, left the ship and bought this piece of property that we were now having dinner at. He would build the house, that would be added onto as the years unfolded with always three generations living there. He would happily be married and live a good life.

It was a very pleasant evening. I enjoyed recounting my memories of Croatian life in America. I enjoyed Mara’s reaction to the mention of my Mom’s name. It was enjoyable describing her funeral with the 4 priests and me allowed to speak as a Protestant: “Can a Protestant Go To Heaven?”. The conversation flowed enough to hardly give time to enjoy the lavish dishes they had prepared. Chicken, pork, sausage, salad, potatoes, vegetables, grapes, peaches, figs and some nice ice cream for desert. We had arrived at 8 or 20. Ariana’s husband Lukshaw was still working and Ariana needed to get up work again tomorrow, 8 months without a break. At around 11 or 23 we began saying our good-byes. It was just an enjoyable experience made even more joyful by Ariana, Dijana and Mara’s good graces.

We got up early the next morning, walked the walls of Dubrovnik, visited a open air market and returned home to pack up and check out at 12. Our hostess allowed us to keep our packs there and put our fruit in the shade. She even offered us a ride to our ferry for Split leaving at 4 or 16. We rode a bus to the docks to see where our passenger only hydrofoil would be taking off from. We had bought our tickets online and found everything in order but they wanted us there earlier than we had told our hostess. We rode around the parts of the city we had not seen on a different bus route, returned home and picked up our packs. I left a note of thanks to our hostess, letting her know that we were walking. We caught the number 3 bus that dropped us right at our ferry. Joan bought some water and bread and we were off to Split stopping at the Adriatic islands along the way. We would get in around 9 or 21, spend the night and take the train at 8 for Zagreb. Dubrovnik was great!

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Venice to Bari to Dubrovnik

Enjoyable train ride down the coast of Italy to Bari. We got in around 8 pm or so. The area around the train station where our room was had a “taxi” like feel to it. We walked about checking out busses to the ferry the next morning. We went to the park by the station and it still had that on the edge feel. We did a loop and started back towards our room when we ran into our barefooted Pier, our landlord. I had been thinking about doing a one-minute bible study with him when I realized it was he. We talked and he suggested walking to the old downtown around the harbor.

Life was happening. There was music, full restaurants and cafes and families walking around everywhere. Church could work here. These were not tourists like in Venice, these were people out and about on a Thursday night in Bari. We would do a one-minute bible study with six university students. The reaction was mixed; the lead English speaker halted when he realized it was bible scriptures that he was reading to be replaced by another who kept reading the scriptures aloud in Italian. Our six had turned to four as we thanked them and headed home.

Our walk went along the sea wall and the inside fortifications. This is a city that has its own Italian dialect. The Romans, the conquering tribes, the Byzantines, the Saracens and even the Vikings (Normans) all took turns being in charge. It was a major slave trading port servicing the world with Slavic slaves. The main buyer would be the Muslim nations who would turn them into the warriors that would eventually take Constantinople. The city we were walking around at one time had survived a three-year siege.

We had taken one detour to go down to the big wharf where we thought our ferry awaited us. It was a big ferry, mainly for cars. It was our ferry but then we were told we needed to go down the way to get tickets organized. They are in the process of building a bigger docking area. The company offices have moved even though the docks aren’t in use yet. We moved in that direction until we realized that we were trapped behind a fence. We finally turned around but it made the evening a little longer and us a little wearier. We made it home about midnight.

Our paper work was translated in such a way that said you needed to check in by 9:00 or you could lose your place. Actually, their offices opened at 9:00 for business for the ferry that left at 12:00. We got up early an opted for a cab who took us right to the spot we needed to be for the fair price Pier had said we should pay. We were early and enjoyed some coffee, checked in and took a bus back to the waiting area for our ferry. We talked with a stock broker between jobs, Vignesh. He lives in San Francisco and he gave us a recap of his trip and his thoughts.

On board, we sat outside with Jacobo as we departed the port. He had traveled Italy studying Italian folk music and was now on his way to Sarajevo to do the same. We availed ourselves of two nice meals and a nice nap in our cabin. We were finishing our meal as we entered the harbors on the north side of Dubrovnik around 8:00 or 20:00.

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Venice Reflections

The beauty of marriage, the two becoming one flourishing and surviving in the ugly setting of a world being torn apart by sin.

Joan and I have been married now for 33 and a half years. Our daughters have moved away with husbands of their own. The scriptures read at our wedding are more real today than the day of our wedding. Two are better than one and a threefold cord is hard to break.

To enjoy Venice means to enjoy each other. To truly enjoy each other means to enjoy God.

We have come to this same conclusion many times over our married life.

Does God really want to give us the desires of our hearts?

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Here We Go

I noticed a group of young men at the Saint Louis airport running around with big vanilla envelopes. I finally asked one of them about the identifying mark. They were all young marines heading overseas. The man I talked with was also carrying a bible. I mentioned this and he responded that there were not many of them. I encouraged him to make a difference and that was that. On the plane I thought about Dan, our airman, and his statement about how he wished he had one-minute bible studies on his phone in Korea. Apparently, it is illegal to pass out religious literature among the troops but anyone can have a conversation. I happened to run into the young man as we transferred flights in Atlanta and gave him the web address. I showed it to him and he took note of the web address and thanked me.

Easy flight into Venice, bus from airport to Venice 16 Euro’s using a debit card, short walk with packs to hotel and store packs till room is ready in the afternoon. Get directed to a café near Rialto bridge to sit and relax and watch the people and the boats. No cars allowed in Venice. We walk there checking out the views using a bank machine to withdraw Euro’s. Easy lunch with delicious coffee. We opt for a two-day pass on the water busses and catch one back down the grand canal to the train station which in near our hotel. We get into our room and grab some fresh apricots and figs for the room. Do a bible study with a young Bangladeshi man. His father was an officer in their military like myself. His wife and children were still there as he sent money home from Venice. Joan would do one with another man from Bangladesh the next day. It looks like there is a large community of them here working the small shops. Would run into Chinese workers and many men from Senegal. Plus, you are hearing Italian and many other languages all day long.

I have added translations to oneminutebiblestudies.com for the trip: Italian, Croatian, German and Dutch.

There are lots of couples like Joan and me here from all over the world. It is nice to see so many couples strolling hand in hand or arm in arm along the narrow paths they call streets. One sad picture was of an older gentleman alone in the gondola being paddled along with just a memory. A cup of coffee on our balcony and then we caught a local water bus (vaporetto) to take us the opposite direction around the island. We would end up at Piazza San Marco at night. Our vaporetto attendant was an architect graduate named Matteo (no jobs available for college grads). We talked America (his sister is traveling there now), his prospects and his favorite NBA players (one being Dennis Rodman our ambassador to North Korea). I would sprinkle a little salt as we went by cemetery island. The last journey; unless there is a God. We rode around Murano Island and headed towards the famous Piazza San Marco.

Not many people here this late at night, the next day the plaza would be packed with long lines leading everywhere. Music, good music, coming from 4 locations around the plaza. There are the four stolen stallions atop the church, copies today with the actuals in the church. Since the city seems untouched since its heyday in the 1400’s and 1500’s and it is incredible; I can only imagine the impressions a visitor would have from those days. The mosaics tell us the story of stealing Saint Mark’s body from Alexandria; sneaking his body here past the Muslim customs in pork barrels. I have used the word stolen twice. There is something unseemly in the history of Venice. The island started with fisherman but the nobles fleeing the conquering Huns under Attila began to seek refuge on the islands as the different tribes came sweeping through the broken Roman Empire. For me it centers around the crusade assembled by the Christian nations and the Pope paying Venice to provide shipping and supplies. Can’t come up with the cash so they sack Constantinople instead. The beginning of the end, eventually proving disastrous for Venice having no buffer between them and the Turks. That is where the four sculptured stallions came from. They were sent back to Venice by the conquering Admiral. I guess if your sins can be washed away by attacking the Muslims they could also be taken away by attacking the heretic Eastern Orthodox believers. Napoleon would claim them eventually and place them atop the Arche de Triumph in Paris. After all the wars, they would be returned.

A last bus around the bend entering the Grand Canal going by the beauty to be seen along the water front. We dissect the island again and head home. We needed to refresh our memories by watching the beginning of “The Tourist” seeing scene after scene with the canals of Venice on prominent display; something every visitor to Venice should do, they say.

We woke up late as the sun reaches above the buildings on the other side of the canal to flood our room with sunlight. We went down for breakfast at the Palazzo Cendon, a charming little hotel. We can’t help but remember our breakfasts with our daughters in Paris some 20 years ago. It seems in Europe this breakfast is meant to be special.

A special island was walled up and guarded for Jews to live in, the first Jewish ghetto. We cut through the back paths knowing we would find it. Along the way we run into three young guys getting a boat ready to run some errands. One of them read the verses associated with “Mente Chiara”. It was fantastic. Some broken English and Italian helped us along. The one picture that was worth it was the youngest, about 13 or so, realizing that his friend was reading scripture. His face betrayed his knowledge that this was forbidden fruit as his friend completed the task. We moved on to the ghetto.

It started when they rounded up the Jews of the city and relocated them to the island in 1519. Several distinct cultures would be placed together never quite blending into one. The maximum residents reached 5000 with at that time some of the tallest buildings in Venice for housing. Napoleon ended the ghetto’s existence as a place just for Jews. The Jewish identity is always under assault. The frontal assault seeks to kill them and the rear assault seeks to assimilate them. Napoleon gave Jews all through Europe their first chance to be French or German verses Jewish. Today the sexual revolution has done as much damage to their identity as the devil could have hoped for. Venice gave up two groups of Jews to the Nazis during the war. Most could see the writing on the wall with Mussolini so they made their way to safety. The two groups were around 250 and 350. “Life is Beautiful” helps but not really.

Joan picked up some little items and we walked a bit. Joan got a map and did a bible study. We cut through to the Grand Canal and caught a short ride to Rialto Bridge and walked the back ways to San Marco buying a 3 ft. piece of licorice on the way. It is impressive, the square not the licorice. When I did my preaching from “Message of Stewardship” one man frequently quoted was John Ruskin, a Christian philanthropist who was trying to find ways of making life beautiful for working people. Well, I was reminded that he wrote one of the better books on Venetian architecture titled “The Stones of Venice”. I want to read it now. I am sure there is a story behind every building and every piece of art. We just can enjoy.

We then caught the direct water bus to Murano Island, home of the glass making families. The guilds were very important in Venice’s development. These families of glass makers are still at it today. We watched a master, 71 years old, started when he was 11 do some work in front of us. We visited the show room, the small chandelier I liked was on sale 40% off of its 15,000 Euro price. We made our way back home via the back route with the water bus. Got some plums, water, cheese and a coffee and rested a bit.

We had walked most of the main areas but we wanted to take one last walk before leaving the next day. We got some gelato and walked through a park by our room to the train station. We crossed the bridge and made our way through the less traveled ways to Rialto bridge again. We even stopped for gelato again. Joan would get some postcards and we would enjoy the view from the bridge one last time before catching the water bus home.

Today we woke up early and watched the city awake; found a great coffee joint open at 7:00. Even tried coffee from India from our two well informed coffee men. We picked up some bread, got ready for breakfast. Enjoyed breakfast. Packed, including our foods for our 8-hour train ride to Bari. Joan would find a dress for Alec’s wedding in October at half price that is the brand of dress that our daughter Audra loves to wear. A double score for Joan. Wrote this on the train. Trains are a pleasure here. Next time.

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Political Insight

Looking my sermon over this morning, I read this: http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/the-storm-before-the-storm-weimar-america-liberalism/

Good insight about the church in America. Last quote: ROD DREHER: The Storm Before The Storm. “The rising Left is bound and determined to crush or at least permanently sideline people it deems heretics — in particular, whites, males, orthodox Christians, and skeptics of the LGBT project. It does not want a pluralistic modus vivendi; it wants total domination. The establishment Left lacks the will to stop them. Its members are terrified of appearing un-woke. . . . The establishment Right lacks the will to stop them either, for fear of being called bigots. And it lacks the will or the imagination to stand in any way against corporate interests. . . . Bottom line: Identity politics will dissolve the traditional bonds that have held Americans together, and re-bind forces of the Left and forces on the Right to each other.”


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