Sunday, October 22, 2017

A Story of Two Best Friends

I'm back from my "Grand European Tour," a fourteen-day Viking River Cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest, with a two-day extension in Amsterdam first. I traveled with my best friend Rachel, who has been the dearest of friends since we worked together at the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy at the University of Maryland in the early 1980s. We then went our separate ways: Rachel moved to Roanoke, Virginia, with her husband, to become an award-winning high school theater teacher; I finished my Ph.D. in philosophy and moved to Boulder to become a professor in the philosophy department at the University of  Colorado. But through it all, we stayed best friends, first writing long handwritten or typed letters to each other, then emails, and phone calls for those times we needed each other most. When I got married to my husband, our wedding was very small, with just parents, siblings, and one friend each. Rachel was my "one friend."

She had planned to go on this Viking River Cruise with her husband to celebrate her retirement after 30 years in the classroom, but he died, unexpectedly, two years ago. I offered to go with her instead. Hey, it's not too painful a duty of friendship to embark on a tour along the world's most scenic rivers past the world's most picturesque towns.

Here we are, on board the Viking Lif together.
We turned out to be ridiculously compatible, both of us loving to go to bed early (so forgoing the ship's late-night festivities) and to get up early, chatting and reading companionably in our two little beds.
I took too many pictures to share, but for a few glimpses. . .

One of the dozens of castles we passed while cruising on the Middle Rhine:
One of the dozens of churches we passed while cruising on the Danube:
And one of the dozens of charming byways we wandered together on shore:
Our final day was spent in Budapest, where we arrived at sunrise:
We had a walking tour in the morning, Rachel and I choosing (for both Vienna and Budapest) the option of the "Up Close" walking tour where we walked in a smaller group, led by a local guide, taking public transportation instead of being herded on a tour bus. We chose to spend our free afternoon in one of Budapest's famed thermal baths. 

At the very start of our friendship, we knew we would be friends forever and that we would grow old together. And sadly, we knew that our husbands might not be in the picture, because of age (mine was ten years older) or disability (hers had health challenges, and now mine does, too). But we had a prophetic vision of us being side by side in a pool, standing in the shallow end, two older ladies cheerfully splashing water up onto our veiny thighs.

We just didn't know it would be at the Gellert baths in Budapest. . . 
But it was!


  1. Thank you for allowing us to join you on such a beautiful journey of friendship! I'm glad you had such a wonderful time, and sorry to hear the bittersweet notes.