and yet familiar
It has been almost six months since Jeff’s surgery in late March, and we reached another milestone… the European tour. For the musicians, it is three weeks of being on the road, jumping from city to city, while still performing at the world class level that the audience around the world expects of The Cleveland Orchestra. It’s taxing, and the obvious jet lag is the least of the challenges! The late summer tour was the first time the orchestra toured Europe since before the pandemic (!), and it was the first tour for Jeff after the surgery.
The group started in Hamburg, Germany, hopped around other German cities, and then performed in Amsterdam. The thing about me and Jeff is that we talk every day, no matter where we are on the planet. Even if just to say hello, “I love you,” and good night. We started the tradition in February of 2008 when we began dating, and have only skipped one day – I was in the U.S., and Jeff was in Serbia, giving a concert. The hotel where he was staying was an older building, and every time the front desk transferred me to his room, the line got disconnected. After trying about 7 times, I gave up (this was the days before “TravelPass” on Verizon). Anyway, our phone conversations while Jeff was in Germany and the Netherlands gave me confidence that he was adjusting to the tour life without any problems. You know, because international travel is stressful on the body, and I was just worried…
On September 7th, the group flew to Lucerne, Switzerland, and that is when I joined the tour to be with Jeff. The way that day unfolded was a little like a romance movie. Jeff was flying in to Zurich from Amsterdam, and I was flying in from Philadelphia. I arrived first, took the train to Lucerne, left my bags at the hotel, and then wandered through the city. When Jeff called me to let me know that he had arrived, we were in the same city, but in different locations, trying to find each other. He was getting his usual iced latte at Starbucks, so I walked over to the coffee shop. And even though he repeatedly complained that it was the worst iced latte he had ever gotten at a Starbuck, everything he did was endearing because he was a sight for sore eyes! To me, we were like two lovers in a movie, finding their way to each other in some European city. And he looked good. Healthy. Thriving. Just a little tired.
The next ten days felt like any tour. Day rehearsals, acoustic rehearsals, concerts, travel. Rinse and repeat. There were only two free days, and we made the best of it. In Switzerland, we took a train out to Interlaken to be among the Swiss Alps and the beautiful Swiss lakes. On the map, we found a town called “Entlebuch,” the name sake of the breed of our late dog-love, Maris. In fact, I wore my necklace with the image of Maris (Jeff had gotten it for me one Christmas) because I knew she would be happy in Switzerland (you know, the whole Swiss Mountain Dog thing). We did not go to Entlebuch because our time was limited, but I felt like I could picture Maris herding sheep in one of those foothills of the Swiss Alps.
In Prague, I was really wistful. It was the last European city I visited before the Pandemic in 2019, and being back there felt like some sort of a triumph over COVID-19. Jeff and I have musician friends in Prague, and we were able to see them. With Jiri, it was a short visit, but so great to see his face. Vladya gave us his lunch hour between two rehearsals, and honestly, it was too short… he is such a sweet soul. And we ended our Prague experience with our friend Vilem, who gifted us the experience of authentic Czech cuisine. We felt like honorary Czechs that night, feasting on beef tartare, port tongue, rabbit leg, washing them down with our Pilsner Urquell, and finishing the meal with a homemade drink!
The rest of the tour was spent in Austria. The orchestra jumped back and forth between Vienna and Linz, but I stayed put in Vienna (can you blame me?). The first night, I was alone and found a Korean restaurant. Ha!! Being Asian, I needed to cut the enormous amount of grease I had been consuming with something super spicy. You can take the girl out of Korea, but you can’t… you get the drift! While alone, I spent my time soaking up the special Viennese lyrical lilt in the air, going to museums and shopping. Yes, I did go to the Belvedere, and yes, I saw The Kiss (Klimt), but not surprisingly, my favorite was called “Caesar at the Rubicon” by Wilhelm Truebner. You’ll see why when you scroll down to the photo section. Let’s just say that I am very predictable!
We also have friends in Vienna, Carolyn and Roland. They have been friends of the family for a very long time, and two of the most wonderful and generous people. We ate together, walked together, and they also came to the concert (the one I went to) at the Musikverein. When Jeff went to Linz for a concert, they came out and kept me company with tea at the Dorotheum and ice cream on a bench under a random Viennese tree. We talked about everything from family, arts, music, love, to um… commodities (like oil, natural gas, and copper). Don’t make me explain that last one. Shop talk.
I realized something during this trip. Normally, I am a very independent person who loves to explore what seems interesting to me at any given moment. So I am good at being alone. During past tours, I didn’t mind when Jeff was at rehearsal/concert because I could do what I wanted to do. But this time was different. I realized that I really wanted to be with Jeff. Europe is more fun with Jeff than without him. When he was at rehearsals or running out to Linz, I felt lonely. And when we were reunited, I felt my heart flutter from excitement of being together again. Behold, what is this? I realized that after all that we went through in the last few months, I had fallen in love all over again with my husband of 12 years.