The Bare Soul - June 10, 2007
Barefoot Travel Log - Prague Czech Republic

Traveling seems to help me, at times, put things in perspective. Meaning, one's life becomes rather insularly when doing the same things daily, often by rote. Life is generally pretty predictable with limited perspective regarding what goes on outside of our own spheres of influence, respectively.

The past 8 days in Prague Czech Republic was one of those trips that made me feel small in a very large and complex world. First of all, Prague is a wonderful place to run as a barefoot runner! The medieval streets and the centuries old cobblestones make for very interesting running. I compare it a little to trail running, as your senses need to be sharp and an in tune with your foot strike continuously. It is amazing however, the ease of running on these surfaces. The foot seems to cradle the stones as one glides through the ancient streets and sidewalks.

   

So much can be said for the wonderful running, the sightseeing, the one on one time with my wife! Prague was truly a wonderful experience. The castle, the old town square with its astronomical clock, Wenceslas Square (the sight of the 1989 Velvet Revolution from Communism), and the Jewish Ghetto where exists one of the oldest Jewish graveyards in Europe. When walking through places such as this graveyard with its clutter of head stones nearly on top of one another, I am always sobered by the historical plight of the European Jew. Rebecca and I, on previous trips, have visited Dachau, Auschwitz/Berkinau, as well as numerous Jewish museums and memorials throughout the years. I am always taken a back at the travesty and horror that the families persevered through, resulting in the death of most. The terror the children must have went through as they were separated from their parents, and the heartache of the mothers to see their babies no more. Terezin was one of these horrific places north of Prague that was created for deportation of Czech Jews. How these families were crowded into boxcars in stifling heat or unbearable cold and made to stand in their own excrement for miles and miles to the death camps is unfathomable to many of us who would not even dare to take a Greyhound bus from one city to the next. Oh, how fortunate we are!

This trip was wonderful as I stated, yet the logistics to and from Prague turned out to be a source of frustration for Rebecca and I. We nearly missed our flight from Chicago to Vienna. We literally had to beg the Austrian Airlines personnel to open the plane's door once again as they were getting ready to push off from the gate. We then missed our flight in Vienna to Prague because of delays. Our luggage did not show up to our residence in Prague for nearly 36 hours after we arrived. Coming back, we dealt continually with airline and security personnel that were very short fused and not very helpful. We nearly missed our flight in Vienna to Chicago. Once in Chicago, we watched our flight being pushed back further and further from the original 4:50 p.m. departure time back to Kansas City. Finally, they cancelled the flight and we stood in line for over 3 hours to rebook for the following day. We spent the night in Chicago and then finally left the next day, arriving in Kansas City and home nearly a day after our expected time. Yes, it was one of those travel nightmares!

Or, was it ... really? Yes, I suppose all travelers have similar stories about airports and airlines (especially Chicago O'Hare Airport, I am sure). However, when one puts these things in perspective and compares the suffering of others and how they "traveled" through Europe and to their deaths more than 60 years ago, it makes the little inconveniences that we sometimes experience seem miniscule in comparison. When pondering these things, I think about Paul the Apostle nearly two thousand years ago who said that he had learned the "secret" of having much and/or having little, yet being content. Oh, that we could all live with that sort of patience and contentment regardless of our circumstances (I, being the one most in need)!

As I neared the end of my three hour wait in line at O'Hare to get our flight rebooked, I thought several times about those who waited for hours to board the death trains, and then spent days packed together until their journey's end. No matter the reason we are sometimes placed into difficult or inconvenient situations, the opportunity is there to learn the secret of contentment by realizing that others have experienced far worse. Even though there are letters of dissatisfaction that I need to write to those I feel who are somewhat responsible for some of my recent travel woes, that does not excuse me from the opportunity to grow in grace and gratitude that this set of circumstances has offered.

Humbly Yours,

Barefoot Rick

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