What was I thinking? Leaving my nice warm home with a lovely fireplace and a happily decorated Christmas tree to spend 2 weeks on a cold river going from Budapest to Cologne? It sounded so great in theory, but the flights were rough and upon arrival, Budapest was what you would imagine a former “eastern block” city to look like – cold and grey. The river boat we were traveling on was lovely, it was just like a floating hotel and well appointed, but I just wanted to crawl into bed and let myself feel better about leaving home at Christmas. After a long dinner, the time finally came and we were able to go back our cabin. In short order I was in my pj’s and about to crawl beneath the covers and fall blissfully asleep.
Then I felt the boat move. Awwww crap! I totally forgot! They said we were moving to be docked closer to the town center. Now comes the greatest dilemma I face as a tired, grouchy, regretful traveler: picture or no picture. After having and argument in my head over to go or not to go I realized that this will be my only chance to get a picture of Budapest at night. So I grudgingly get out of bed. I bundle up in my warm pants, my heaviest sweater, my down coat, my mittens and my righteous indignation to go outside to get the picture. I got to the top deck and trudged warily into the freezing cold wind until I got to the front of the boat. We go around a curve in the river and the Parliament building appears before me. It is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.
This stunning example of neo-gothic architecture lit up spectacularly against a jet black sky. It was so stunningly beautiful that it brought tears to my eyes. In that moment, that one moment, I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be, doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing. I realized what an extraordinary gift I have been given, the city of Budapest laid majestically before me. And suddenly all of it was worth it, the bad travel day and the not being home for Christmas just to be awake for this experience. It was as if someone had turned on the lights inside of me to remind me what a privilege it is to be able to travel. Suddenly my heart was full of joy at what lie ahead of me, what a gift to be able to see Christmas through the eyes of a different culture. I was giddy at the thought of feeling and seeing the excitement of the Christmas markets. My mouth started salivating at the thought of tasting real German sauerkraut and beer.
With each picture I took the more I felt the gratitude well up inside me. Gratitude that there are magical and wondrous places in the world to visit, that there are different people and cultures to learn and experience and most of all that I was standing on the deck of a river boat watching this city open up before me and knowing there was more to come. Sleep that night came quickly and held the promise of a new adventure tomorrow and I couldn’t wait to find what inspiration waited around the next curve in the river. Thank you Budapest for a wonderful early Christmas present, the gift of inspiration.
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