Monday, May 24, 2010

The beauty of what we don't know

We all know about Vienna. The capital of Austria, the museums, concerts, palaces, and pastries. A lovely place, magnificent actually. The fact that it’s expected doesn’t make it less lovely. Everyone knows about Vienna.

The same can’t be said about Bratislava. I must admit that before today I had but the vaguest notion of the place, it was a region or a city, somewhere near Austria or Hungary, but not much beyond that. So when I arrived this afternoon after cycling from Vienna I had zero expectations. My first surprise was how big it was, and the prominence of Hada Castle. After checking in at our hotel (another Ibis, the perfect type of clean, functional, inexpensive hotel that’s perfect for a bike trip) I walked down to the “historical district” and what a surprise! I was welcomed by the strings of a violin (the theme from Dr Zhivago, which seemed very apt) and I then wandered through the warren of narrow old streets, a left here, then a right, then maybe another right (or was it a left?) beautiful buildings, churches, lively early evening life, and before I knew it I realized I was lost, I had no idea which way was out. Except that at that very moment I heard the familiar strings of a violin , Dr Zhivago again, and I followed the music to my exit from the maze. Totally unexpected pleasures.

The fact that we expect something to be lovely (like Vienna) doesn’t make it less lovely, but somehow the fact that something is unexpected can make it even more lovely. That’s one of the joys of life, and one of the joys of places like Bratislava. It’s also why we need to make our lives count, get out and do things, see things, live the unexpected.

Today was my first day cycling with Maryse, Vince, Wes and Anne, we covered 85 kms from Vienna through the Austrian countryside to Slovakia and its capital, Bratislava – may all the days be so nice.

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