Humans accumulate big memories as they travel through life. Many experiences have punch, but recalling them is unreliable. I know not to trust much of what I think I remember because I often refer to diaries to discover that what I recall is different from what I actually experienced. Whether completely accurate or not, certain past experiences are meaningful for a variety of reasons and remain forever in one’s consciousness and sometimes even in one’s dreams. Below are 3 such memorable times.
Seeing certain buildings and landmarks can result in meaningful memories. I’ll never forget my first real look at the Empire State Building, Mount Rushmore, The Acropolis, etc. But the sight that consistently triggers ecstasy even today was my first glimpse of the Sydney Opera House. This structure has its design difficulties, but it’s truly an architectural masterpiece. Ruth and I climbed its stairs to the top and stared back at Sydney harbor for a long time, bought tickets for a show to get our first inside view, and joined a tour of this landmark building that its designer Jorn Utzon never got to see finished. We have gone back inside it every time we have been to Sydney.
When I was very young, my father had to distract me while my older sister had a birthday party with her friends. I was too young for it, but Dad took me to see my first movie in a theater. It scared me nearly to death. I still recall my terror in the dark and the relief I felt when the experience was finally over. The movie was for children but had some vividly frightening scenes that really caused me major anxiety. My Dad thought it was best for me to face my fear and squirm through the scary scenes.
Pinocchio was the 2nd Disney cartoon extravaganza. The first was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which was so profitable that 3 years later the Disney team released its 2nd cartoon feature. Pinocchio was not successful in its first release probably because it terrified some children, like me. It has made 164 million dollars over time and was rereleased in 1945, 1954, 1962 and so on. I loved Geppetto, whom Tom Hanks will play in the live-action update, and Jiminy Cricket; but I was truly frightened when Monstro the whale devoured the puppet. I didn’t calm down until I was on my way home. I don’t recall my Dad ever bringing it up again, but this is the only movie in my entire lifetime that he took me to see. He died before I became a travel writer and would be shocked to learn that I did since he hated travel.
On my first trip alone to Europe with Ruth’s total support, I went to Budapest. I spent my first day there in complete wonder because I stayed on Castle Hill the entire time. Buda is really 2 very different cities. Pest is across the Danube from Buda. One can see a lot of Pest and the Danube from Buda’s Gellert Hill. Viewpoints sit atop Castle Hill surrounded by what is left of medieval Budapest. The Habsburgs built a fortress here, and it looks like it will remain forever. I visited the Fisherman’s Bastion, several museums, a library, and wandered medieval streets in total joy. I have been back several times and could not wait for Ruth to see what I so loved. We went back the next year.