Fever dream

I plug in the address of our airbnb rental 4,000 miles away and fall into a fever dream. Google street view shifts seamlessly between a summer scene of a man in dark slacks and dress shoes appearing to peer in the window of our rental flat and then in the next frame, just as in a dream, it is suddenly snowing and also six years later. Everything looks the same except the funky art gallery next door is now a trendy hair salon and the graffiti is different and all the house numbers have changed, so it wasn’t our rental flat after all.

In a way street view spoils everything. Will I still be dazzled by narrow cobblestone walkways that on closer inspection turn out to be two-way streets and 500-year-old bell towers framed between sun baked red tile rooftops? In another way, street view is a much needed reality check. Stick to main routes and beware alleys. (Though the most startling image I saw in one was a swarm of uniformed school children marching towards the google camera with blurred out faces.) Yes, there is a coffee shop three doors down and it is close to all the touristy spots, but people peer in windows in the middle of the day. Keep the blinds closed and be wary of even well dressed men.

88% of our accommodations are booked for this trip. The only thing I love more than meaningless math is obsessive travel planning. Sometimes I think planning a trip is better than the actual trip. It is like a dollhouse. You can arrange things however you like and it is tiny and perfect even if the pieces don’t match and you have, for example, an antique dollhouse grandmother with a tidy white bun and a 70s plastic girl with lemon wedge hair and one scratched off eye.

As a Planner, it was hard to sit on my hands for months and see what gaps were left to fill. There weren’t many. There have been increasingly vague but still enticing offers of places to stay with distant relatives that I can not verify because of a language barrier. I pictured that scene in National Lampoon’s European vacation where the Griswolds show up on a foreign relative’s doorstep and are welcomed and fed, but then when they leave the couple turns to each other and asks “who the hell were they?”

I am going to learn a few Lithuanian words so I can say things like Hello and Please and Nice to finally meet you and also practical phrases like Where are the toilets and Stop looking in my window. Thank You is pronounced AH-choo, like the sneeze, so I already have that memorized. My fluent grandmother is still sore my parents didn’t agree to language school on weekends when I was a kid, but the only thing I retained from four years of high school Spanish is Where is the shoe store? so I think they made the right call. There is always google translate and, of course, my grandmother.

She is 91 years old. Sometimes she forgets and speaks to me in Lithuanian on a good day. Some people think my dad and I are crazy for taking her overseas even though 1) it was her idea and 2) I don’t want to hear it if you agree with them. While shopping for travel insurance policies, an agent told me he just sold one to a 101-year-old woman and her 80-year-old daughter. I wanted to hug him through the phone. People do impossible things every day.

Do you know how hard it is to find a stairless apartment in old town East Europe with a five star average review and moderate cancellation policy (and also free parking space plus washer and dryer)? It is very hard but not impossible. Sadly, I’ll have to save the rambling medieval cottage for when I return one day with my husband and children. They are not going on this trip and I can’t tell if they’re mildly jealous or just morbidly curious how it will all play out.

Extra medical insurance has been purchased. Google maps are downloaded and ready to provide turn by turn directions even if my international data plan doesn’t work, just like it didn’t in Canada. I’m resigned to the fact that I probably shouldn’t drink the tap water just to be safe but probably will anyhow. I’ve mentally packed the smallest suitcase we have because the compact rental car could not possibly fit as much luggage as they claim.

I am mostly free to be the voice of semi-calm reassurance to my grandmother, who glides between tearful gratitude that we are really going and blind fear that this trip will kill her, and I think she means before we even get on the first plane. She got mad at me when I told her I couldn’t come down last weekend to wash her curtains. When I suggested this was misplaced anxiety at our upcoming trip and that perhaps she should stop looking for more things to worry about, she told me try being 91. There are still a few weeks before the trip. The curtains might get washed next weekend if she doesn’t have a bigger project for me. She has good walking shoes but thinks she might want a new suitcase. Anything can still happen or not happen.

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16 thoughts on “Fever dream

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  1. Don’t worry about that guy at the window, by a strange coincidence, I know him, a former roommate. Pretty sure he’s actually just looking at his reflection, while he combs borscht out of his mustache.
    I enjoyed reading this very much. I actually feel a sense of anticipation, no, not morbid curiosity! looking forward to hearing about the trip. Love the planning/dollhouse analogy – – that explains my sister’s helter-skelter schedules, she always did mix out-of-scale furniture, parked the cars inside, and ditched the Madeline dolls, in favor of dinosaurs. Come to think of it, there was always one strange velociraptor that would stand outside and stare in the window. As they say in Lithuania, “Kur yra batų parduotuvė?”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your comments are always frame worthy. Good one at the end. I looked it up but will probably forget the words. And the velociraptor staring at the window (they’re so vain) – ha! And I wouldn’t be surprised much if you or someone else did know him. I wonder if we are on street view somewhere, looking surprised, as people usually do. There’s a treadmill at my Y with a screen where you can pretend you’re running along a trail or through a bustling downtown. I wondered which country they filmed it in, but the reaction of the people as the camera passes is universal: amazement. Is it on a drone? On a person with some weird contraption strapped to their head? Via UFO? Whatever they’re seeing makes them stop and stare, mouths probably hanging open if we could see their faces clearly.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I read that most of the treadmill movies are shot with llamas, they’re fast and don’t jiggle the GoPro camera as much. We used to get fifteen minutes of fame, now we’re down to reaction shots on a treadmill tape, 3-second GIFs, and a blur on Google Earth. I’ve gotta pay somebody to render me as an emoticon before they’re all taken.
        Seriously, I don’t know anyone who’s been to the Baltics, looking forward to the report.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh my!

    what a wonderful trip, and amazing adventure.
    How lovely for your beloved gramma!

    Whenare you going?
    and I cannot wait t hear about it.

    traveling mercies to all of you dear ones
    xo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You know, this trip is the best of both because while I got to do some of the planning, my dad and grandmother arranged the rest. The landscapes in Poland and Lithuania are probably similar. I’m a little nervous but mostly curious about the food.

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  3. I tried to read this post, the entire thing. I really did. But I couldn’t because I was distracted by this … “Will I still be dazzled by …”

    We’re headed to our first trip to Europe in December .. Berlin, Prague and Vienna. And I’d like to be excited about it and the opportunity to explore and experience and see new things, but … well, yes, I can just go to Google Maps and other sites and see everything that I might see on our trip. And … well why bother going.

    Just another reason to have a strong dislike for technology and the internet and all it provides us. 😉

    Enjoy your trip. I’m going to try to enjoy mine.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I have been following your stories for quite some time now BB and I know how much this trip with your grandmother will mean to you.
    Yes! anything could happen and it will probably get tough at times, being older can cause plans to change daily. But your connection with her and your desire to make every moment count will make it beautiful.
    I hope it is enjoyable and the memories live on for years to come.
    Cheers B

    Liked by 1 person

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