Platform 9 3/4 . . . or, Ways My Family Travels Diagon-Alley

HPIM1167
At Kings Cross Station, London, Platform 9 3/4, driving a baggage cart through the brick wall like true Harry Potter fans. 2007 maybe?

We try to be normal.  We really do.  But every straight line we draw canters just a little to the side–and so, in travel (as in everything else), our lives run a little diagonally.

This truth was on full display a few years ago in Mirabell Gardens, Salzburg:

The thing for Americans to do here, besides wander and take in the beauty, is to stage photos that resemble scenes from The Sound of Music.  (The song, Do Re Mi was partly filmed here.)  Ideally, these photos look a little like this:

do re mi

This is the top gate at Mirabell.    (Notice the fortress, Hohensalzburg, on the hill in the background–it’s really a fantastic shot of the gardens and the city behind.)  We spent some time here.  We took some photos here.  But none looked like this.

What did they look like?  Well, look to your right.  DSC_0125   This is my son, sleeping (while being serenaded by an accordion player) on those same steps at the Mirabell Gardens.  Why is he sleeping, you ask?  He’s tired from sightseeing, but especially from running through the gardens.  Singing Do-Re-Mi?  Oh no.  No.  This child was reinacting some “American Ninja in Salzburg” screenplay known only to him.  My favorite scene from that movie, below.  (Clearly the people around him are a little surprised and amused by the sight.)

DSC_0098 - Copy

 

I’ve been thinking about our quirky travels this past weekend while in Chicago with my daughter.  In another year, she’ll be heading off to college.  And my son, the masked ninja, begins high school in August.  They’ve grown up fast, and our travel adventures with them are changing.  I already miss the visits to “knight schools” and castles, the nativity plays we attended with dishtowels  on their heads, and their absolute inability to stand still for photos.

 

Still, I imagine our “diagonal” travels will continue into the future.  After all, they started before our children were born.  In Turkey, we were just two people with little dog garnering stares as we drove by in an old Volvo wagon.  On it’s own, that doesn’t sound so strange, but we stuck out like a sore thumb.  In Turkey, it wasn’t unusual to count 7 people on a motorcycle and sidecar.  So when we made our way through the streets– streets that might find two lanes stuffed with five “lanes,” including cars, giant trucks, mopeds, buses, and donkeys– our long wagon, carrying only two people and a tiny dog, was the thing outside of the norm.  Why waste such a long vehicle on so few travelers?  Why bother with a dog too small to herd sheep?  And why crawl slowly through the melee of a Turkish traffic jam instead of throwing yourself into the mix full throttle while laying on the horn?  Clearly, we were the nuts who didn’t understand the rules of the game.

When you travel, people always tell you to try to fit in– obey the customs, don’t be too awkward or too obvious.  It’s safer and more respectful to conform to the norm as best you can.

They tell us to try to fit in, but who does that, honestly?

Sometimes you just have to embrace the diagonal.  What else can you do?

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In Germany, 2008.

 

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14 thoughts on “Platform 9 3/4 . . . or, Ways My Family Travels Diagon-Alley

  1. Very sweet post. Do you think travel has changed in terms of safety in the past few years or is the concern overblown? (Asking for a friend who would like to be heading to London or Paris or Brussels or Istanbul…)

    1. Thanks. Wow–tough question. I want to say, “No, nothing’s changed,” because we’ve always had to be careful as travelers . . . but I think things have changed a little. I find myself looking over my shoulder more. The dangers aren’t specific to travelers, though, so I wouldn’t stop traveling. We were in Paris and Germany at Christmas and spent lots of time in crowded Christmas markets and cafes, and we had a great time. I’ll admit, my “Spidey senses” certainly were on alert the whole time– and when the police were chasing someone through our train in Paris, we got a little skittish (turns out, it was just a purse snatcher).

      Still, I don’t think your odds of being a victim of assault of any sort are worse than if you stay home in America. (My daughter is studying in Chicago this summer, and we talk a lot about street smarts and safety!) Wherever you are, you just have to be alert to your surroundings.

      Besides that, if we stop traveling, the terrorists win, don’t you think? All of that wonderful business of seeing other countries, meeting people from other cultures, learning to appreciate differences in cuisine, in dress, in perspective– that shrinks if we all just stay home. (That’s not a pragmatic perspective, maybe, but it feels true to me.)

      1. Thank you for this thoughtful reply. We live part-time in NYC and I am a lot more vigilant in the subway than I would have been in the past, yet I feel very safe for the most part in the city. Maybe I would feel the same way in Paris and London if I knew my way around…

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