Recreating a Memory - My Grandma's European Adventure

Grandma and me.  Coincidentally I'm wearing a shirt from a place she went to.
My grandma was one of the family members in my life who was always there.  We lived in the same town, visited quite frequently, and she was always the first one to question my crazy travel choices (A particular favorite is "Vietnam? But that's where the war was!").

Even with that, she would always sit patiently through my thousands of photos every time I got home from an adventure and would take a special notice in the nature and flower photos I took on the road; my favorite ones to shoot.

My grandma got to meet Angie, and for the year and a half that we were engaged she was so excited to attend our wedding. Up to just a few days before she was even telling our family how excited she wanted to go. 

But it was impossible.  She was too sick and couldn't make it to our wedding.

My grandma died a few days later while we were on our honeymoon in Spain.

Finding Her Traveling Spirit

While we were cleaning out her apartment later on, I stumbled upon a box of very old photo slides from the 1960s.  I quickly realized that the photos were from her only trip abroad, a whirlwind tour of Europe with one of her best friends when she was in her early 40s.

Of course, being a travel addict myself I started to look through them all one-by-one.

Most of the photos were of the friends she was traveling with and other people I hardly recognized. She was clearly a person who loved taking photos of people, something anyone in my family can attest to from our holiday gatherings.

Considering I am more fond of landscapes and nature scenes it is easy to say that this passion didn't come from her. 

But as I looked through the box, three slides caught my eye. 

Three slides out of a whole collection

Three beautiful photos from some of the most famous monuments in Europe.  Three that just so happened to be on our itinerary for the year and a half long trip we're currently on.

My mind was churning, and I knew what I had to do.

The photos were coming with us.

Recreating a Memory

The slides were kept safely in my wallet for a year before we left to travel

In some ways, I wanted to channel the spirit of my grandma's trip in the European segment of our adventure.  See what she saw, experience what she experienced. 

Since it has been more than 40 years since her trip, most everything has changed except for the largest monuments that have been around for hundreds of years.  These famous sights that every visitor comes to see are the only things I can truly share with my grandma's trip that was so long ago, and just so happens to be featured in the three slides we had taken from her collection.

The following are those slides.  Hover over them for more information as you go!

She never told us she went to the leaning tower of Pisa

The Leaning Tower of Pisa

Grandma said she snuck into secret rooms in the Vatican and didn't get caught by the nuns.

Saint Peters Square

Whoever said it is an easy day trip is a liar.   But this is still a fun two generation shot with my mother (her daughter).

Neuschwanstein Castle... kind of


All That I Have Left

The photos are one of the only things I have in my possession that belonged to my grandma.  Apart from an "antique" Asian tea pot and a "German" beer stein (both likely from flea markets, but hey, they're cool looking and inspired by places I've been), these three photos are the only tangible items I have to remember my grandma by.

But looking back on it, I don't know anything else about her adventure.  Other than a story about sneaking into forbidden parts of Vatican City or drinking warm beer in Germany, she didn't really say much. 

After having been to these places and making some of the same memories she had (although, our beer at Oktoberfest was quite cold), I realize that sometimes the best stories are left unspoken.

The best adventures are to be the surprise for you to enjoy.

Perhaps my grandma knew that.



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  1. This is very touching, thanks for sharing. I love that you took the slides with you on your adventure. Just think, your kids/grand kids will happen upon the "old fashioned" thing called a blog. :-)

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