February 2019 480.632.7373 jensenlawaz.com
3 Weeks in Europe Reliving the Past and Experiencing New Cultures
M ore than 20 years ago, I did missionary work in Bulgaria shortly after the fall of communism. At the time, the country was struggling to transition from its communist government to a free-enterprise country. It was a period of great change, both for Bulgaria and for me. I was blessed to make some lasting friendships as I grew along with this little-known gem of a European country. At the end of my time in Bulgaria, my parents came to visit me, and we made a quick trip over to our ancestral land, Switzerland. In the 1890s, my great-great-grandfather brought his family to the U.S. including his son, my great-grandfather. My great-grandfather died when I was just eight years old, but I was lucky enough to know him, and I have read his memoirs telling of the beautiful mountains of Switzerland. I had always felt a draw to visit Switzerland, and, while my parents visited me in Europe, we took advantage of the proximity of Bulgaria to Switzerland and went to see if we could find my great-great-grandfather’s old farm. Unfortunately, the map we used wasn’t detailed enough to direct us to the exact spot. So for years, something felt unfinished.
If we had to do it all over again, we would’ve taken this trip slower and really immersed ourselves in
the various cultures. Instead, we took Europe by storm — maybe more like a whirlwind — and visited France, Italy, Bulgaria, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, and the Czech Republic. We enjoyed amazing food in Italy, took delight in watching Roman children play late into the night, toured Paris in the midst of France’s successful run at the World Cup, visited my parents during their mission trip in Frankfurt, and took a slew of cheap, short flights between various European countries. As a bonus, I visited Bulgaria 20 years after its transition into a free country. It has flourished in its art, culture, and economy, and Plovdiv, one of the cities where I served my mission was actually named the cultural capital of Europe for 2019. It’s amazing to see how the place has progressed. I loved being able to see my old friends from more than 20 years ago and to visit with them as if no time had passed. I’m so happy I was finally able to show it to my wife and more fully share this wonderful experience with her. And, finally, we closed a 20-year chapter. While we visited Switzerland, with the help of Google Maps, my dad and I were able to track down the farmhouse where my great-great-grandfather lived
and where my great-grandfather remembered from his childhood. It was an amazingly beautiful experience, and it gave us one more connection to our family. In all, Switzerland has always been one of my favorite places to visit. I especially loved watching the cattle herders stroll down the mountains with their herds and dogs in tow just like they have been doing for centuries. Somehow seeing this made me feel more connected to the past and to my ancestors of centuries ago. All in all, we could’ve spent two weeks in each place we visited, enjoying the culture and history of every city and small village. But, while it all went by too fast, nothing can compare to seeing the art and historical masterpieces of Paris and Rome, eating fresh pasta in a small Italian village, visiting with friends from Bulgaria, and standing on the same land my great-great-grandfather left for a new life.
But in 2018, we completed our task.
This past summer, I was finally able to take my wife, an avid traveler, somewhere she had never been. We traveled to Europe for three weeks. I wanted to show her the country I called home for two years, see the land my family came from, and of course, tour the historical continent itself.
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