For nearly 2 months I’ve been away from Winter Park. Scotland, Germany, and Napa (CA) were all on the travel schedule. As I’m finally back, I thought I’d share a few highlights from our trip and how each of these places have much in common with Winter Park especially in terms of the people and their life styles.
Let’s start in Scotland, where our guide (Jodie) took us to the Scottish Highlands. She was born and raised in Scotland and is passionate about telling its story, from its richness to its sadness (think battle of Culloden and the destruction of the Clans by the British). Like the mountains of Colorado, the Highlands are a challenging environment to survive. I wish Winter Park had a bit of their rain and many lakes, but they can keep their peat-infused whiskey. Like many in Grand County, the folks of the Highlands are a proud, passionate people who move toward the future with one eye on their history.
Our second stop was in Edinburgh, Scotland, which just happened to be hosting their annual, month-long Edinburgh Festival. Tens of thousands of tourists were there, which seemed only fitting for a city second only to London and one of Europe’s 4th strongest economic cities. I found the Edinburgh locals to be as warm and welcoming as those in Grand County. Even the tourists seemed relaxed and enjoying the sights, sounds, food and entertainment. International artists preformed throughout the day and night.
And if you ever go, buy tickets to the Royal Tattoo performance at the Edinburgh Royal Castle. Bands from around the world play, including the US Air Force drill team. The Scottish bagpipe bands matched proudly too and were the evening’s highlight. Upon leaving the show we walked the Royal Mile and enjoyed the many outdoor performers. And for the record, Haggis is not as bad as it sounds. It goes especially well with a pint of beer.
After Scotland, we met up with family and friends in Munich, Germany. I hadn’t seen my German relatives in many years, so we all met on a wonderful summer night in my Aunt and Uncle’s garden. Food and drink made the evening delightful, but the conversation was what made the night so memorable.
My uncle is recovering from a stroke and showed amazing energy when talking about his newest passion (at 85, he’s had a few). Using the lessons offered by the “Gesundheit Institute” (made famous by the film Patch Adams starring the late Robin Williams), he’s bringing humor to stroke and other patients dealing with depression and anxiety. It’s clearly worked for him, and I enjoyed both his humor and jokes (although much was lost in translation) and especially admired his passion and desire to help others.
As you may know from my earlier articles, I especially enjoy talking to people about their passions. For the Winter Park Times, I’ve written about some of the wonderful groups and people that support kids in Grand County (i.e., CASA, Shining Stars, the Scott Hughes Foundation) and some very different hobbies such as “Shedding”. No matter where you go, people seem the same but just with different passions. For example, orchestra music in Europe is alive and well. My niece’s husband makes his living by repairing and tuning violins for professional musicians. It’s quite an art form and requires a significant apprenticeship and very fine motor skills. In a 30-minute conversation I learned more about violins, musicians, orchestras and those that repair the instruments than I ever thought possible. And since a newly repaired violin can sell for $10,000 or more, it’s quite profitable.
My last stop in Napa was unplanned and was due to a death in the family. My visit to Napa, where I grew up and my dad still lives, was to help him recover from the loss of his wife. While I dealt with those personal issues, I couldn’t help but notice that Winter Park and Napa are both having the same discussion, and struggle, with how to manage growth. The local Napa newspaper and old friends I visited all talked about the ridiculous housing prices, the rebuilding of Napa’s downtown area (damaged in the earthquake) and the continuous battle between new development and protecting Napa’s unique character and vineyards.
For those of us in Winter Park and Grand County, it sure sounded familiar.
I’m now ever so glad to be back. My time away was enjoyable, entertaining and made me appreciative of the world away from the Rockies. Now that I’m back I hope to start writing more about the great history of the Winter Park area and Grand County. If you have any ideas along those lines, let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.