Category Archives: travel

Prague Spring, 1968 Part II

Prague Spring, 1968

Note: Aug. 20 & 21 mark the 52nd anniversary of the invasion of former Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Army. The historic event prompted entire generations to defect the country in search of freedom. The “Greenwich Meridian Memoir” is our family immigration saga from former Czechoslovakia to the USA spanning two generations. Following is a chapter- Mom’s Diary from the memoir.

Excerpt from the “Greenwich Meridian Memoir”- Mom’s Diary: in her own words

By Ella Konecny

I’ve never dreamt of travelling for the simple reason. I didn’t have money. My life was tailored around everyday mundane problems, that I will write about later.

I was a pharmacist, and it wasn’t that the profession was narrow and had nothing to offer, but I didn’t want to nurture vain ideas of travelling. So, Sunday afternoon trips to the dam in Luhacovice or Bystricka were the only means of breaking up the gray of ordinary days. The first bigger trip was our honeymoon to the Krkonose mountains with the old Tatra and mother’s comments:

“I hope the poor car will make it.”

The Greenwich Meridian Memoir to publish on Oct. 16, 2020. The cover was designed by graphic artist Jeanne Boss of Rockford.

When we arrived in Harachov, we sent a message to my parents: “We’ve arrived under Mount Blanc.” At that moment, it never occurred to me that one day I would indeed be looking at the majestic highest mountain in the Alps.

I did an inventory of my life. After five years of marriage, we had two children: Emma and Vasek. I was working part-time in a pharmacy in my hometown Vizovice and my husband Vaclav was teaching physics in Brno. He would come for the weekend to Vizovice, because I couldn’t find a job in Brno and we had no place to stay there. We were on the waiting list for an apartment, that we got in 1965. We didn’t have a car or money to furnish the apartment. My husband found out that the president of the university in Khartoum, Sudan was hiring English-speaking professors to teach different subjects. Vaclav’s English was excellent and he got the job. However, I did not know about this.

At the beginning of November, Vaclav announced his decision that he will be leaving for Sudan on Nov. 20, 1964. I gave him my blessings and never thought for a moment that I would go with him. I continued to work in the pharmacy and my boss who loved to travel kept asking me when was I going to fly to Africa.

In the spring of 1965, when I finally applied for a passport and got my vaccinations, Vaclav wrote me a letter that he was coming home, because it was the end of the school year. The university paid once a year for round trip air tickets for the entire family, regardless that he had just started teaching in November. The school year in Sudan ran from the beginning of July to the end of March; it was followed by a summer break lasting three months.

Those three months were also the worse months in Africa weather-wise, filled with sandstorms “Habub,” rain and heat. Khartoum lies on the 15th parallel close to the equator; it is the second warmest place in the world. It’s a dry tropical country with very little rain. One road stretched 50 miles north of Khartoum and 50 miles south and dead ended in the Nubian Desert.

Three rivers ran through the city: Nile, Blue Nile and White Nile. We arrived in this city in July of 1965. When we got out of the plane at the airport in Khartoum, a hot wave like coming from an oven, hit me and I couldn’t catch my breath.

We rented an apartment from the university close to Blue Nile. The apartment was spacious with two built-in balconies that were not screened, so the kids played there together with lizards and salamanders. The apartment had running water, a refrigerator and basic furniture: beds, table, chairs and two armchairs in light green color. There was no TV or air conditioning. The stores were open in the morning and evening and closed in the afternoon due to heat. Khartoum was a dead town in the afternoon.

The main boulevard was lined with stores full of merchandise unlike in Czechoslovakia where we always had to stand in line for meat, vegetables and also for toilet paper. However, compared to the USA 40 years later, it doesn’t seem as much.

The round bread baked by Greek Papa Costa was excellent. In five years, we never went to a restaurant or swimming in a community pool. The Czech community was divided into three parts: the Czech embassy and its employees, professors from the university and the commerce department, whose employees oversaw the set up in factories.

We got together once a month at the embassy, where we watched Czech films, mainly socialist propaganda such as “Anna Proletarian” or “The Red Glow over Kladno” and Janosik. Kladno was home to the iron and smelting works–a major industry in Western Bohemia. Janosik is a folk legend about an outlaw who stole money and goods from the rich to help the poor.

We also celebrated at the embassy events like the International Women’s Day, New Year’s Eve and Saint Nicholas for kids. I think these gatherings were to control the Czech people working in Khartoum. We had our own friends and got together with them at our apartment such as the Fickers from Slovakia, Jarmila & Mirek Hladci and my friend from the university, Marie Hecklova. These were simple gatherings with refreshments such as peanuts, fruits and coca cola. During the afternoon siesta, I read Czech books from the embassy. After the siesta, we went to our neighbors who had a garden. It was 116.6 F in the shade, where we knitted sweaters with Mrs. Ficker.

We had an artificial Christmas tree that caught on fire on the fifth year of our stay in Khartoum. Only the catholic church was decorated for Christmas in this mainly Muslim country, due to a large Italian population.

The kids did not go to school; I homeschooled them Czech subjects, since I never thought about emigration, I thought they would not need to speak English.

My vision was simple; we were going to save enough money in Sudan to furnish the apartment in Brno. Then, to save enough money to buy a car so we could visit my parents in Vizovice to avoid the overcrowded buses. I never got a pharmacist job in Brno, so I don’t know what was I thinking I was going to do or where was I going to work upon arrival.

After Christmas, all the couples started planning their summer vacation because there were only three months left until the end of the school year. We usually flew to Rome, where we rented a car and continued through Europe. But sometimes we flew into Athens, Vienna or Zurich in Switzerland. I have attached an exact timetable of our travels. We visited Western Europe several times; some countries like Italy, Switzerland and Austria three times or more. Austria was the only country where I would have emigrated, but my husband Vaclav didn’t speak German. We travelled for quite some time, and we thought it would last longer than it did.

We lived a carefree life and we didn’t care about the politics in our homeland. When we crossed the border at Rozvadov with an Italian license plate, the custom officials asked us if we spoke Czech. When I answered that we were Czechs they responded happily that it was Prague Spring, 1968, that freed the press and that we won’t have to leave for Sudan anymore, because everything was going to be better. We were yet to find out the real situation in the country.

We saved some money over the three years in Sudan, so we decided to save more to buy a house in Brno. Currently, we were living in the apartment in Brno and in Vizovice with my parents. We explored the beauty of Moravian Walachia: Karolinka, Radhost, Bystricka and Luhacovice. It was the last peaceful summer in my life–the proverbial calm before the storm.

In July, Vaclav left for Sudan and I left for a spa treatment in Carlsbad for three weeks on August 8, 1968 due to my constant digestive health problems as a consequence to my childhood hepatitis A and a duodenum ulcer. I paid for my stay, because I’ve been unemployed since July of 1965 for the first time due to my travels to Sudan. I was staying at a home whose owner’s mother was German. It was a nice apartment with a view on the Main Boulevard. I had a colleague in Carlsbad–Mila Duskova, who was from Slusovice. Together, we went to the fancy bakeries, coffee shops and cinemas in Carlsbad. The daily regimen consisted of drinking water from the thermal springs in the morning, spa procedures and entertainment in the evening. Time flew by and I was looking forward to being back with the kids. I visited my childhood friend Zdena who married and lived in Nejdek.

I was supposed to fly back to Brno on August 21, 1968. I woke up at 6 a.m. and I could hear the landlord’s voice gasping:

“What? The Russians are here? That’s impossible!”

I ran out of the room and met her in the hallway, where she confirmed what I had overheard in my room, that the Russians came in tanks and occupied the western border with Germany and Austria. I remembered that last night as I was standing by the window that the road to Carlsbad above was all lit up and very busy. The city of Carlsbad nestles below the road in the valley of River Tepla. It never occurred to me that the noise came from the tanks. I went to the colonnade to the thermal spring to get my morning water. However, no one was drinking water; people were listening to small radios and everyone was crying. It was a complete chaos, all the public transportation stopped. I was still thinking that I would be able to fly back to Brno. I went to the airline office, where the clerk told me that no airplanes were flying out and she gave me back my money. I went back to the apartment and sat down next to my packed suitcase and started crying, not knowing what to do. I also ran out of money, so I called my friend Zdena, if she could lend me money, since I didn’t expect to stay in Carlsbad for more than three weeks.

In the afternoon I stood by the window watching the sun lit main boulevard. All of a sudden, I saw a huge stream of people yelling. Hundreds of people demonstrated against the Russian invasion. Anger and wrath with all the other emotions overflowed against the hated occupant. As the number of people increased, so did their courage. People started to topple statues that were connected to communism and the Soviet Union. It wasn’t just the communist leaders but also the works and the art of communism that were being toppled. Most often it was the Soviet Union national symbol of the sickle and the hammer. I stood by the window crying, but because I am a chicken by nature, I did not join the demonstrations. Somehow, I knew these were going to negatively influence my life.

My husband Vaclav already had a difficult position at the university because we were Catholics and we went to church on a regular basis. According to the official communist party philosophy of Marxism, going to church was not allowed; let alone if someone was a teacher like Vaclav. It did not matter that he taught math, that had nothing to do with Marxism.

The next morning, I went to the colonnade again, the situation was the same; people were crying while listening to the small radios and there was no public transportation. We felt isolated from the rest of the country, and from the rest of the world. The Soviet tanks were moving across the entire country, the public transportation was either difficult or completely halted. The third day on the colonnade, someone told me the bus transportation may resume on that day. I immediately returned to the apartment to say goodbye to the landlord, I took my suitcase and went back to the colonnade, where the buses arrived. Even though there was no bus line going to Brno, I took one to Ceske Budejovice. From Ceske Budejovice to Moravian Budejovice and to Brno. From the bus, I could see the convoy of tanks and trucks along the road.

I arrived at our apartment in Brno approximately at 2 p.m. I finally felt safe and opened the windows to let the fresh air in. I heard the tolling of the bells from all the churches like at a funeral, that was to symbolize the burying of the little freedom we’ve had since spring, not quite half a year.

The next day, I took a bus to Vizovice to see my parents and the kids in Moravian Wallachia. My mother told me that two Czech women with husbands in Sudan, called me that they were leaving the country to Austria and flying to Khartoum and that I should join them. For the first time in 20 years, the border was open for three brief days. They were afraid if we don’t grab this opportunity, the borders will close soon and we will never get out of the occupied country.

My mother was afraid too and wanted me to call these Czech women. At that moment I felt very patriotic for the first time in my life. I said that if 15 million people can live in Czechoslovakia, so could I, regardless the politics. Our men were afraid that the Soviet Union would annex our country as their 17th republic. Many young people fled the country even from Vizovice, whom I later met in Austria and the U.S.

September 1968 came and there was still no air transportation. I called the Czechoslovak Airlines to let me know when the flights will resume. That happened in three weeks and I flew to Sudan on Sept. 28 to join Vaclav. I was one of the last spouses to leave the country; the last one after me was Mrs. Janousek. We did not want to leave our homeland.

After a happy reunion with my husband and the exhaustion from the trip, the hard reality hit home. Wherever we ran into other Czechs, the same question always arose:

“Where are you going to emigrate?”

“Nowhere,” I answered.

But, discussions at home had already started; my husband did not want to return back to Czechoslovakia and I did not want to go anywhere else, but home. Tears and heated discussions followed about what’s better for the family; no one asked what’s better for me.

In this situation, we planned another trip across Europe. This time we flew into Southern Italy and onto France, Britain, Belgium and the Netherlands. It was a long trip that lasted six weeks. My sister Anna with her husband brought us our car, and they stayed with us for a week in Austria. From there, we continued to French Riviera, Lourdes, Grenoble, Paris and to LaHavre. From LaHavre we crossed the English (LaManche) Channel to England.

We visited London, Cambridge, Oxford, Manchester and crossed the channel from Dover to Zeebrugge in Belgium and continued onto the Netherlands, Germany and Czechoslovakia.

As much as I was looking forward to coming home, it wasn’t an easy homecoming. Even though we haven’t seen any Russian tanks or troops, because they were hiding in the woods and they were closer to big cities, we could feel the tension in the air and among the people. No one knew what was going to happen next. General Ludvik Svoboda replaced Prague Spring reform leader Alexander Dubcek, and it looked like the reform movement never existed with the freedom of press gone too. Our entire family and friends were surprised that we returned from Sudan back to Czechoslovakia under the given the circumstances.

Why not? We had important business to conduct in Brno. The year before we decided we were going to buy a house in Brno. Now, that wasn’t easy business in Czechoslovakia to buy or sell a house; no one was selling because people built their houses in great hardship. Unlike in the U.S., people did not move around the country because they did not need to; everyone had a job with the same salary no matter where you went. However, people exchanged apartments for houses or apartments between different cities for example between Prague and Brno and paid the difference in price. We found a family, originally from Vizovice, who had a house in Cerna Pole in Brno, and they wanted a four-bedroom apartment with a garage. We had a three-bedroom apartment without a garage, so we wanted to pay for the additional bedroom and the garage. The owner of the house, who was a doctor at the regional department of health in Brno, kept looking for the right apartment, but couldn’t find what he wanted.

My husband and I decided that I would not go to Sudan that year, and stay home with the kids to save money for the house. I was still hoping that Vaclav would change his mind about immigration. Vaclav left for Sudan at the beginning of July, and I stayed with the kids at my parents’ house in Vizovice.

The first anniversary of the Soviet invasion in August of 1969 was approaching fast. The people panicked and were scared what was in store for us for the infamous anniversary. The most common fear was that the Russians would annex Czechoslovakia to the Soviet Union as the 17th republic. I lost my patriotism, and I got scared. I caved into the mass psychosis of fear; I packed my suitcases and kids and I left for the Austrian border in Mikulov, two days before the Aug. 21, 1969 invasion anniversary. I cried on the way there, saying goodbye to the country, because I knew I was not coming back. I did not have any problems at the border; I had a valid passport with visa to Sudan and air tickets. I let my husband know from Austria that I was coming to Sudan and that I would stay for one year.

My friends from Vizovice, who had left the country in 1968, were waiting for me at the Austrian border. I spent three days with them, left them the car and took off for Sudan. In Khartoum, I met with all our friends from the previous year; everyone was saving up more money needed for emigration. By that time, everyone knew where they were going to emigrate. It was my turn to say where I wanted to live. I wanted to live in Austria because it is the neighboring country to Czech Republic. However, that was not possible because we didn’t speak German which was necessary for my husband to continue to teach math. And the chances of getting a teaching job at an Austrian university were small, because it’s a small country with population of seven million people, smaller than Czech Republic.

What next? I was afraid that I would be considered an outlander- a foreigner wherever I went. So, the only country under consideration was America, where with the exception of the Indians, everyone is an immigrant. We decided for the USA. To this day, I still don’t know why my husband first applied for a teaching job in Australia. I would have never lived there because it is too far from Czech Republic. He also applied to Zambia in Africa to get out of Khartoum that was becoming increasingly dangerous with coups to gain power.

In the meantime, my husband got a letter from Mr. Rosenberg, who emigrated to Canada in 1968; Vaclav could go to Canada for a post doctorate fellowship in Saskatoon in the province of Saskatchewan, for six months. He immediately accepted. I knew the return to homeland was impossible. We received a letter from the Czech Embassy stating that we have to return to Czechoslovakia by March 31, 1970; the visa was extended to Dec. 31, 1970. Whoever did not return by that date, was considered staying outside the country illegally.

We had arranged for a cruise on the Mediterranean Sea but cancelled it and instead flew for a few days to Lebanon, Syria and Egypt.

I wrote a letter to the homeowner in Brno, that we were no longer interested in the apartment-house exchange transaction. My parents transferred the ownership of the apartment in Brno to them, otherwise the apartment would have been confiscated by the state since we left the country illegally. My sister Anna transferred the ownership of the car Skoda to herself, but she had to pay some fees to the state. Later, we found out from my parents, that we had a trial without our presence in Brno, where we were indicted with illegal stay outside Czechoslovakia. My husband was convicted and sentenced to two years in jail and I was sentenced to 1.5 years. We could not return to Czechoslovakia or we would go to jail.

Vacation in the Middle East was nice–the Muslim world of minarets and mosques. We flew from Khartoum to Cairo in Egypt with our friends. In Cairo, we visited the vast Egyptian Museum with royal mummies and King Tutankhamun artifacts and other pharaohs. After that we continued onto the nearby Giza, the site of the iconic pyramids and Great Sphinx, dating back to the 26th century BC. It was fabulous. From Cairo we flew to Beirut in Lebanon. We saw large camps with Palestinians, who were expulsed from their own country, where a new Israel state was created in 1948.

It was 1970, three years after the Arab-Israel War. We wanted to visit Israel, but it wasn’t possible, because we were crossing Arabic countries and considered as enemies of Israel. We were only 10 kilometers from the Israeli border with the beautiful biblical country laying at our feet. So, we took a taxi and traveled to the mountains with cedars and snow. Beautiful villas built in Arabic style laid at the foothills of the mountains. There was snow in the mountains, while people were swimming in the sea. The next day, we took a taxi to Damascus, the capital of Syria known as the “City of Jasmine.” We visited the famous Umayyad Mosque built in the eight century A.D. with the tomb of John the Baptist; his head is said to be buried in a shrine there. As women, we had to be covered from head to toe in black garb. We also visited the famous bazaar, Al-Hamidiyah Souq, in the old walled city of Damascus next to the Citadel. The souq is 2,000 feet long and 49 feet wide and is covered by a 33 feet tall metal arch. The souq starts at Al-Thawra Street and ends at the Umayyad Mosque plaza, and the ancient Roman Temple of Jupiter stands 40 feet tall in its entrance. The souq offered everything from gold, food, clothing to souvenirs.

Byblos

On our way back we stopped in Byblos, one of the longest inhabited cities in the world since 5000 BC in Lebanon. During an evening walk through Beirut, we met Czechs who told us that there was a revolution in Khartoum with tanks in the streets. Sudan gained independence from Britain in 1956 and ever since there have been coups to overthrow the government; the altercations were led by small groups or sects. In essence it wasn’t a revolution, but a crisis in the government to gain or regain control and power. It had no effect on the university. The Soviet Union provided aid in the form of 200 technical advisors and the Libyan government sent their troops. Colonel Gaafar Muhamed Nimeiry seized power until 1986.

From Beirut we flew to Vienna. My husband was worried that in case of bad weather we would have to land in Bratislava and be back home, which he was avoiding.  We invited both of our parents to Vienna to bid farewell to them. We were waiting for them at the border and I was happy to see them, even though I feared this because I did not know if I would ever see them again. Our farewell looked like a funeral, since we were all crying. The housemaid at the hotel asked us who died in the family. We sent off our parents with our car Skoda that was at our friends’ house in Vienna. Our friends were already in the U.S.A. It was a hard farewell, saying goodbye to Europe and to our families.

Copyright (c) 2020. Emma Palova. All rights reserved.

nanowrimo Day 7

Mom’s timeline in Greenwich Meridian: Where East meets West saga

By Emma Palova

Looking outside the window in my writing studio, I see that the day has melted the morning surreal scenery of white cover with green grass stems sticking through it. The morning frost took down more leaves from my wisteria hanging tight onto the octagon pergola. One frozen morning glory flower managed to freeze in its red beauty in my window boxes. The sun peaked out and chased away some clouds and the darkness of an early morning.

This is the seventh day of the National Novel Writing Month #NaNoWriMo 50K challenge. I unlocked a 7-day in a row writing badge and updated my word count at 15,308 words a few minutes ago closing the writing session with mom’s comprehensive timeline from 1959 to present. Overall the timeline helps me navigate through my parents’ and my own travels between three continents: Europe, Africa and North America.

The other movement in this epic story of love and passion is between historical events that changed the map of Europe; from the reformist Prague Spring in 1968, when the Soviet tanks invaded former Czechoslovakia to Velvet Revolution in 1989 and far beyond into North America.

Some of the highlights of mom’s timeline include: fascinating visits to Egypt and the Middle East, life in Khartoum, Sudan and back to Czechoslovakia.

Mom's diary
Mom’s diary

Excerpt: In her own words

By mom Ella

At the beginning of November, my husband announced his decision that he will be leaving for Sudan on Nov. 20, 1964. I gave him my blessings and never thought for a moment that I would go with him. I continued to work in the pharmacy in Vizovice and my boss who loved to travel kept asking me when was I going to fly to Africa.

In the spring of 1965, when I finally applied for a passport and got my vaccinations, Vaclav wrote me a letter that he was coming home, because it was the end of the school year. The university paid once a year for round trip air tickets for the entire family, regardless that he had just started teaching in November. The school year in Sudan ran from the beginning of July to the end of March; it was followed by a summer break lasting three months.

Those three months were also the worse months in Africa weather-wise filled with sand storms “Habub,” rain and heat. Khartoum lies on the 15th parallel close to the equator; it is the second warmest place in the world. It’s a dry tropical country with very little rain. A road stretched 50 miles north of Khartoum and 50 miles south and dead ended in the Nuba desert.

To be continued………..

I am working on a 4,000 word description to log the upcoming book on Amazon’s kdp publishing platform.

Here is a link:

https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/

Copyright (c) 2019. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

Moments in time 2018

Looking back at 2018

Lowell, MI- Year 2018 was definitely one to be remembered in the mosaic of my life.

Two major events immediately stand out in my mind; and coincidentally they both happened in October.

Ludek and I celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary on Oct. 7th by going to my beloved Mackinac Island in the Straits of Mackinac.

On Oct. 18th, Ludek became an American citizen in a naturalization ceremony at the Gerald R. Ford Museum in Grand Rapids. See post: https://emmapalova.com/2018/10/18/magistrate-judge-you-are-america/

In January, Ludek and I started our Spanish classes under the tutelage of Jim Alberts. I’ve never enjoyed learning more; and we’re doing it again in 2019 if Mr. Alberts offers them again.

On Jan. 29, my lifelong friend Eva and her husband Honza made their dream come true, as they opened restaurant Lorenz in Kromeriz, Czech Republic. https://emmapalova.com/2018/01/29/lorenz-czech-restaurant-with-austrian-flair/

Since the big pond separates us, we missed the grand opening. We hope to visit Lorenz one day.

In January and February, I continued my book signings of Shifting Sands Short Stories at LowellArts during their arts exhibit in the new gallery on Main Street.

February marked my annual writer’s retreat in Florida. It was in Ft. Lauderdale. See post https://emmapalova.com/2018/02/16/notes-from-ocean-2018/

As winter changed into spring, we celebrated St. Pat’s in historic Hubbardston tavern with the oldest liquor license in Michigan. It used to be a speakeasy during the prohibition. I have yet to write about this.

April marked the three-day biannual Conference on Writing at Calvin College. See post https://emmapalova.com/2018/04/16/ffw-2018/

In April, we also enjoyed Neil Simon’s “Rumors” by the LowellArts players.

The first weekend in May is always dedicated to my love for history. The theme of Spring into the Past tour was “Fashions through the Ages.” https://emmapalova.com/2018/05/04/fashions-through-the-ages/

In June, it was the “Guardians of History” script and video for the Fallaburg Historical Society, that made this month stand out. https://emmapalova.com/2018/06/17/guardians-of-history/

I was also featured in the 2018-2019 Grand Rapids City Guide in the life&style section “The long road to resilience.”

I love summer and surprises. They truly all came in one day: Interview with WGVU host Shelly Irwin, a new author event and the Epilogue Bookstore. While looking for a hotel in Ludington, where we celelebrated my dad’s birthday on July 23rd, I came across a true gem. I found out about the annual Ludington Writers’ Rendezvous organized by author Joan H. Young. Thank you Joan for so much inspiration and for new author friends. You rock. https://emmapalova.com/2018/07/16/writers-surprises-all-in-one-day/

On the first Sunday in August, we always attend the annual Czech Harvest Festival in Bannister, MI. Aug. 20th marked the 50th anniversary of Soviet occupation of former Czechoslovakia in 1968. See post: https://emmapalova.com/2018/08/20/50th-anniversary-of-soviet-occupation-of-czechoslovakia-1968/

I wrapped up the summer by saying goodbye to our French granddaughter Ella; together we completed a big goal. Passing on the family tradition, I taught Ella how to swim.

In September, we were in the Belding Labor Day Parade for the first time with my book float entry decorated with huge lollipops and an ice cream cone. We loved the parade with the Willy Wonka theme.

Who doesn’t love a parade passing by?

October: like I’ve mentioned in the highlights we celebrated our anniversary https://emmapalova.com/2018/10/17/discoveries-at-mackinac-island-straits/ My husband Ludek was naturalized.

November delivered a huge surprise for me: the NaNoWriMo 50K word novel writing marathon and with it comes a new book for 2019. That is Shifting Sands: Secrets. I completed the 50,000 word challenge on Nov. 27 with 56,432 words. https://emmapalova.com/2018/11/27/national-novel-writing-month-winner-2018/

December brought record attendance to the https://emmapalova.com/2018/12/06/christmas-in-fallasburg-2/Christmas in Fallasburg party thanks to the concerted effort of all the volunteers.

Our first ever team trip Up North brought new discoveries of the “Chain of Lakes,” a 75-mile waterway from Elk Rapids to Ellsworth.

I would like to wish all my followers a Happy New Year 2019.

Thank you for following me.

Copyright (c) 2018. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

Up North

Shanty Creek Resorts

The day after Christmas we headed Up North 150 miles into Antrim County, an outdoors lover’s paradise. We made our base in Mancelona with its proximity to the Shanty Creek mountain system: Summit and Schuss mountains.

We stayed at a chalet in the Lakes of the North community; a sprawling development in the woods complete with an indoor pool inside a clubhouse.

A network of trails weaved through the entire area making it ideal for snowmobiling, Nordic skiing or snowshoeing.

Shanty Creek Resorts near Bellaire were approximately 20 minutes away. Schuss Mountain with 450 feet of vertical drop offered downhill skiing for both kids and adults. The “Bunny Hill” was serviced by a Magic Carpet; moving escalator on the ground. The Cedar Creek Lodge at the foot of the hill offered respite from the brisk wind. A shuttle communted between Schuss and the lodge.

The ski school was in full swing with people falling all over tied to their skiis. We wanted to do dog sledding on Saturday, but due to low snow cover, it was postponed.

Any winter sport including mountain biking on a fatty bike could be spotted here. We ate our lunch at the River Bistro inside the lodge beautifully decorated for Christmas.

Jake with family explored Summit Mountain which brough back memories. Back in the 1990s, it was only known as Shanty Creek. That’s where Jake learned how to ski. Coming full circle, he was now teaching his own kids, Josephine and Dominik, the old skiing tricks.

As the saying around Shanty Creek Resorts goes: “Teaching new pups old tricks.”

Little town of Bellaire

Bellaire is probably best known for Short’s Brewery, Bee Well Meadery, Hello Vino and stores like Little Treasures and the Flying Pig. When the snow conditions are not good for skiing, Bellaire provides a back-up plan.

“We call it Halloween here, when the slopes are deserted,” said the clerk at the meadery.

Some of the sweet mead creations here were: Apple Pie and Cherry Vanilla.

Central Lake

The town of Central Lake is home to Bachmann’s General Stores and Mammoth Distilling; both are great sites to explore.

“If we don’t have it, you don’t need it,” read the storefront.

Truly, you could find here anything from hardware to books, and everything in between.

The “Cherry Bounce” bourbon was one of the many hand-hewn products at Mammoth with the actual still in the back.

Discoveries “Chain of Lakes”

Our team’s biggest discovery was the “Chain of Lakes,” a natural waterway traversing 80 miles across 14 lakes and rivers. The chain starts in Elk Rapids and ends in Ellsworth.

Recently, it was designated as the first water trail in northern Michigan to encourage water preservation and engagement with nature. According to the DNR, it will positively impact local economies of towns along the water trail and encourage healthy lifestyle.

The water trail was designed for non-motorized watercraft and fishing. The water trail has 81 access sites managed by 16 governmental jurisdictions and non-profit organizations that stretch through four counties: Antrim, Charlevoix, Kalkaska and Grand Traverse.

“We’re coming back in the summer,” was the consensus of our team.

For more info on Paddle Antrim go to http://www.paddleantrim.com

Copyright (c) 2018. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

Notes from Ocean 2018

Seaside Inspirations

By Emma Palova

Ft. Lauderdale, FL- Sipping coffee at a Turkish café on the corner of Sunrise and N. Ocean boulevards in Ft. Lauderdale with my daughter Emma, I found life easy.
This writer’s break from the northern vortex in West Michigan was different from the previous ones.
First of all, I changed bodies of water;that is the Gulf of Mexico for the Atlantic Ocean. Then I changed company. We all went with our adult children and the grand kids.
We stayed at an Art Deco villa five minutes from the beach. It gave us the opportunity to explore the Atlantic Ocean up close and personal.
And for the writer in me it was also good to compare the two shores; that is the Atlantic and the Gulf coast.
The weather was marvelously warm in the 80s with equally warm waves of the Atlantic splashing the beaches. Surfers were abundant unlike on the Gulf, where the waves are not big enough for surfing.

On the downside of the Atlantic, there were less shells and no shark teeth hunters. However, the lifeguards were on full duty and warned of rip currents. Our fellow traveler Maranda almost got caught in one. The lifeguard warned us with his whistle.“Always swim with the current to get out of it, never against it.”
The sounds of the waves rocked the youngest ones to the best nap in the world: on the beach.
Just listening to the ocean and watching the white combs as the waves crested was the best meditation in the world. Enhancing the motion and the sounds of the ocean were the freighters anchoring off shore. These lit up at night.

South Beach, Art Deco & Miami Yacht Show

A pretty nerve-wrecking drive south on Collins Ave and onto Ocean Blvd. took us to South Beach and the Art Deco district.
On the cusp of the 30th annual Miami Yacht Show running from Feb. 15 through Feb. 19, we drove past hundreds of yachts-in-water for sale on the Indian Creek Waterway. Yacht brokers were just building entrances to the yacht in-water displays on 1.2 million square feet.

Art Deco district

As a civil engineer by trade and a history buff, I was fascinated by the chic historic Art Deco district. Sitting in the South Beach neighborhood within a short walking distance from the beach, the colorful historic buildings span three basic architectural styles: 1920s Art Deco, Mediterranean Revival and MiMo or Miami Modernist architecture.
In search of Cuban fare & Daiquiri cocktails, we ate at Mango’s Tropical Café.
The beach scene beyond the Lummus Park featured colorful Art Deco lifeguard stands and the hottest fashion trends such as the thong swimwear.

Seaside Inspirations

Las Olas, Venice of America, Ft. Lauderdale

We took a pirate boat ride on the Intracoastal Waterway lined by million dollar homes and mega yachts of the rich and the famous. Captain Kris took us past Steven Spielberg’s mega yacht equipped with three-quarter of a full length movie screen.
Knowledgeable about the lives of the famous, Chris told us the story of the founder of Phillips 66 petroleum company after whom the famous Grille 66 & Bar on the waterway has been named.
Then came the story of entrepreneur Wayne Huizenga known for Blockbuster Video, Waste Management & AutoNation.

Lauderdale-By-The-Sea

We visited this small town of 6,000 north of Ft. Lauderdale twice for its walkable shopping district, the pier and snorkeling opportunities. It is full of small beach motels, unlike its high-rise neighbors.
I marveled at the sign for the local Farmer’s Market open from December through May.
In Michigan, we get first produce in June.

Fond memories

I will treasure timeless moments spent in the coarse sand, on the waves of the Atlantic, on the veranda of Ocean 2000 of the Pelican Resort and Valentine’s dinner on the deck of the Sandbar Grille.

And yes, we did also meet some Rubes, like the clerk at the Beach Shop.

However, we bargained with her for the best price for our Budweiser and Corona swimwear.

“You girls will never have to buy a drink for yourself on the beach,” she noted with a deep hollow laugh. Emma noticed her turquoise colored earrings in the shape of balls from the smallest to the big one.

Or maybe the real rube was the obnoxious bad pirate Barnacle Bill who stole our key to the treasure aboard the Bluefoot Pirate Adventures.

At the Aruba bar, women sported heart-shaped Valentine shades, and Publix was overflowing with heart-shaped balloons and cakes.

During this brief break from the freezing cold, we marked Mardi Gras, Valentine’s and Ash Wednesday, as well as the Greek Festival weekend in southern warmth and hospitality.

Alligator Alley, Everglades

However, I would be remiss, if I didn’t mention our 123 mile long drive from Ft. Lauderdale to Ft. Myers through the Everglades area of South Florida.

The freeway I-75 from the east coast of Florida to the west coast is appropriately called Alligator Alley, as it cuts through the Everglades for 80 miles.

I noticed hundreds of white egrets congregating on the palm trees by the river fenced off from the freeway to protect the endangered Florida panther.

According to popular lore and crime movies, dead bodies are being disposed off here at the Alligator Alley. You will find no traces of anything. What the alligators didn’t get, the birds and the panthers will. It’s called balance in nature.

Well, our time on the Atlantic Ocean came and went like the afternoon tide. But, it washed ashore thousands of precious memories.

And I close this “Notes from Ocean 2018” account with the words of the Frontier airline captain.

“Join us. We’re flying like crazy from the tip of North America to the tip of South America.”

Copyright © 2018. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

Silencing the inner critic in me

Ousting the inner critic in me

I too love this word Critical writing  prompt because it describes me so well that I could cry over everything.

But, maybe I am just nostalgic over the bygone summer that went by hard and fast. Blitzkrieg, they call it in military terms.

I could list 50 million things that I did not manage to do this week, but instead I will list things that I have accomplished.

I delivered 5 copies of my new book Shifting Sands Short Stories to Schuller’s Books at the Meridian Mall in Lansing with my daughter Doc Emma and my buddy Ella on Monday.

Schuler Books is an independent local store in Midwest Michigan that accepts books from independent authors on consignment. They also give advise on how to publish a book.

The book will be available after Labor Day in both the local author and the fiction sections of the bookstore. It is now available at Schuler’s Books in Grand Rapids and at the KDL libraries.

We enjoyed the atmosphere of a real bookstore at the Chapbook Cafe that was alive with chatter. Doc Emma bought the “Trolls” book hot seller for Ella’s trip back to France.

It was our last road trip for a long time, as it rained happiness on us all the way to Lansing and back. Before heading out, we had breakfast at our favorite joint, the Backwater Cafe by the Lowell dam.

We got that done just in the nick of time before their next day flight to Paris.

Now, it’s all back to normal at our New Era ranch. The fall is upon us with its abundance and glory. The crop of fall birthdays is amazing. It seems like everyone whom I am related to was born in September.

Yay. What a way to start the majestic autumn.

Stay tuned for Summer Flashbacks: Pirates of the Great Lakes aka Circling Lake Michigan.

My next book signing of Shifting Sands Short Stories is set for Sept. 16 & 17 from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Fallasburg one-room schoolhouse museum during the annual Fallasburg village bazaar and Fall Fest for Arts.

Be sure to stop by and visit with us in the autumn glory of Fallasburg.

For more info on Fallasburg pioneer village go to Fallasburg Today at http://fallasburgtoday.org or http://www.fallasburg.org

For more info on Schuler Books & Music go to: http://www.schulerbooks.com

Copyright (c) 2017. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

Lake Michigan circle tour, part 1

Crossing Lake Michigan aboard the S.S. Badger carferry as stories like waters Unfurl

By Emma Palova

Ludington, MI – We crossed Lake Michigan aboard the S.S. Badger on Aug. 14 from Ludington to Manitowoc, WI. It was a four-hour long voyage across the 60 miles of calm waters, as we enjoyed the breeze and the sun in the lounge chairs on the bow of the ship.

By taking the car ferry, which is part of the U.S. 10 highway system across the Midwest, we sailed a piece of history. The Badger was officially designated a National Historic Landmark (NHL) in February 2016 by the Secretary of the Interior in recognition of the American transportation technology in the mid-twentieth century.

The designation is rare, making U.S. 10 one of only two U.S. highways with a ferry service connection.

We sailed aboard the 410-foot ship complete with a museum, gift shop, game & movie rooms and cafes. However, unlike the luxury cruise ships in the Caribbean, this vessel was built for transporting heavy railroad cars  across the lake in 1953.

Badger has two decks below for cars, tour buses and RVs and both were full to the aft of the ship. The upper and lower passenger decks were filled with tourists and families. However, it’s not usual for passengers to Inhabit one of only 24 staterooms.

Aboard the ship, I learned the sailing lingo like the “starboard” side is the right side of the ship, while the port side is the left side.

The trip saves approximately 300 miles of driving around the lake, while providing magnificent vistas of the dunes, the lighthouses and the glistening lake.

For me, the most relaxing was just listening to the waters splash against the ship, as the sun kissed my face. The other pastime was listening to people talk about their adventures from other boats and times, as we smoothly sailed forward to the shores of Wisconsin.

Nothing inspires me more than water, whether still or in motion, being in it, on it or around it. The next best thing to water for inspiration is history. The stories like the waters or sails Unfurlin front of me.

The Badger leaves a legacy as the last coal-fired, steam-powered passenger vessel operating in the United States. The ship continues a unique and vital maritime tradition. The crew of 50 makes every effort to celebrate the heritage on board to educate and entertain the passengers.

We smoothly sailed onward to our next adventure along Lake Michigan and Lake Superior.

For more info about the S.S. Badger go to http://www.ssbadger.com

Watch for next post….Pirates of Lake Superior

Copyright (c) 2017. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

Exhausted

I am exhausted and ready for a vacation. Follow me on my author’s journey deeper into the Midwest as the sands shift some more into a new book.

I need some reprieve after all the commotion with the recent book Shifting Sands Short Stories that came out in July, both in kindle and paperback on Amazon.

I still have quite a way to go before the vacation next week, so at least I can write about it. It feels good to finally be able to think about some time off.

Watch for exclusive excerpts from the book, and more author events coming to the area.

What keeps me going are my morning therapeutic walks on the gravel road into the peaceful untrodden meadows, and meditations with Deepak & Oprah.

I especially love the Desire & Destiny meditation about fulfilling your purpose in life. It seems so relevant now with the new book.

Today, I did Day 12: “Inspired Me” with the centering thought, “I am inspired. I am unstoppable.”

I found out that I’ve been pushing too hard. I need to be effortless.

 

Copyright (c) 2017. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

Storyteller 2017 countdown to book release

In between story circles, a story of transformation with excerpts

For the last week since June 20, I’ve been posting about the stories in Shifting Sands Short Stories collection that span more than two decades as part of the Storyteller 2017 book campaign.

Thematically and chronologically, I have divided the stories into three circles: early years of immigration with stories Danillo, Honey Azrael, & The Temptation of Martin Duggan.

20170611_101314
Storyteller 2017 Emma

The second circle of stories from retail experience includes: Tonight on Main, Therese’s Mind, Boxcutter Amy, Orange Nights and the Death Song.

The third circle of stories is from the media business; both print and digital.

These stories include: In the Shadows, Iron Horse, Foxy, Riddleyville Clowns and Chatamal.

 

 Transformation during the crisis of mid-2000s

My husband Ludek left the state of Michigan to work in Wisconsin in 2008-2009. We were separated by Lake Michigan, and 500 miles deep into the Midwest America. Locals say that Wild West begins in Prairie-du-Chien on the Mississippi River, where Pere Marquette and Joliett arrived. On a few occasions, I took the Amtrak train “Empire Builder” to LaCrosse to visit with him.

At the time, I was writing for the local newspaper and for regional magazines in the Grand Rapids area. But, that wasn’t enough to make me forget the absurdity of the situation. This was the second time in life that we were separated.

I turned to more writing like a  Magnet. I got the idea to write the “Riddleyville Clowns,” a short story from a hometown parade featuring clowns to celebrate the town’s founding anniversary.

I wrote some of the copy aboard the “Empire Builder” train.

Here is an excerpt from the “Riddleyville Clowns”

The harvest moon has just started to light up the entire loft apartment on Main Street. The brick walls softened with blue shades, the pressed tin ceiling was illuminated, while the river was like a silver thread lined with black banks.

Still resisting to get up and go check out the old steamboat, Kip tossed in bed watching the ceiling. He looked up at one of the walls.

Flabby blue pants, a yellow camisole, wide red band and a big red plastic nose topped off with a wig were hanging in the corner. Down below were big red shoes with a tongue sticking out and large-fingered gloves.

Kip walked to the window. Below, a large flock of geese and ducks, had buried their heads deep to sleep. He could hear them fighting over bread thrown down from of the other lofts. Kip walked to the boat.

The old white steamboat known by the locals as the Showboat, all decked out for tomorrow, was swaying in the wind and the water. Swinging over the white railing, he checked out the shaft by the stairway leading all the way to the upper deck. It was dusty, but he could see the lid that opened up on the deck.

Kip quickly attached a rope to a rusty hook. He also had to cut out a plank at each deck level to make the shaft passable. He noticed on the walls of the shaft old posters of vaudeville acts that took place on the boat in the depression era.

Kip climbed up and opened the lid right behind the ship’s black chimney. In the moonlight, he could also spot a dilapidated amphitheater with grass growing over the sea walls and the island of cattails up the stream. Wind howled again through the river corridor. Kip wrapped his wind jacket tight around him and gazed toward Main Street. A tribune was set up right by the Riverwalk promenade for tomorrow’s parade.

For the book detail page on Amazon go to:

https://www.amazon.com/Emma-Palova/e/B0711XJ6GY

 

To be continued tomorrow with Grand Finale

Copyright (c) 2017. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

Cultural Tourism Passport D.C.

Of Brassy happenings in Washington D.C.

Among these was the cultural tourism event in May Passport D.C. Freelance writer Sarah Harmon explored various cultures from around the world.
Read her story.

Source: Cultural Tourism Passport D.C.