London would be the last stop on my 2018 wanderings, and it was wonderful for it to be a visit with a friend. Sarah and I were roommates in DC before we both headed to Europe. Over the past year Sarah has gotten her Masters and I'm excited to say has just accepted a job in London.
I stayed with her in her West Kensington flat for 10 days, and thrilled in getting a little window into being a local. It included a lot of time on the London Underground, which I love and totally enjoyed. My sister, Kristine, had given me a hit list of things to do, and that combined with the feeling of not being in a rush made for a very laid-back visit. I didn't have to think much, just look at my list of possibilities and choose what would work that day.
With that system in place I visited Camden Market, Chinatown, walked by the Royal Albert Hall and the Albert Memorial, spent an afternoon in Victoria Park, visited the Wallace Collection, the Banqueting House, the V&A Museum and the Natural History Museum, went out for Indian food on Brick Lane, saw the haunting torches of the WWI Armistice 100th Anniversary Memorial outside of the Tower of London, had several pints at different pubs throughout the city with Sarah. It was a wonderful time, in a beautiful city, with a good friend, and the perfect end to nearly a year of travel.
It was both very normal feeling, and simultaneously strange to be heading back to the states. The great thing was that it felt like time. I had a bit of travel fatigue, and was looking forward to being in the same place for a while. Months of travel really make you appreciate what you have back home, and one of the best things about travel is that feeling of going home. It is one of the best sensations, and gives you a nice warm glow in the center of your stomach. I know I'll never loose my travel bug, but for the time being I was happy to be going home.
I arrived in London to visit my good friend and former roommate, Sarah. She just completed a Masters in Policy Research from the London School of Economics, and for her part time job had been working on a website called The State of The States. (http://thestateofthestates.org/) It is an impeccably researched and well designed site that collects all the data and statistics about every state and its legislature. From who holds each office, and the percentage of women or people of color in office, to policy updates, to the number of homeless, and the percent of uninsured, to a synopsis of the state economy, and all the way to the state motto and flower. It's comprehensive and awesome.
The website was running a live blog the night of the US midterm elections, which occurred a few days after I got in. We both knew how monumental this election was, and I needed to be around other people who cared about the outcome of a US election and it's greater implications. So I joined Sarah in the office for the night. London is 5 hours ahead of East Coast Time, and 8 ahead of the West Coast, which meant that we stayed until 5 in the morning. There was a lot of pizza, a little bit of wine on my part, and a fair bit of rollercoastering as the night went on. Florida gave us all a good scare and made us nervous for the outcome as a whole. But we focused on all the exciting firsts that were happening, from the youngest women elected to Congress, to the first Muslim and Native American women elected to Congress, to the first openly gay man elected governor of any state. They were things to keep us optimistic as we anxiously watched the TV in the corner show how the distribution of power in the House and Senate was looking. Then the networks started calling it: that the House would go to the Democrats. Everyone in the office was relieved and elated. Finally there could be checks on the current White House. The future looked a small bit brighter, and we could go back to sleep at Sarah's a little less stressed.
While on the last solo leg of my trip I slowly ticked off things I had wanted to do in Prague. I treated myself to desert at the restaurant in the Cubist building, The House of the Black Madonna. The interiors were simply stunning. I visited the John Lennon Wall, where tourists and street artists pay their respects to the former Beatle. I visited museums and many, many photography exhibits. I ate a lot of tasty Czech food, and many delicious Czech beers. But best of all I spent hours and hours wandering the streets, soaking it all in and taking pictures. It was a lovely way to spend the end of my solo travels. Next I would be off to London to visit a friend before finally heading back to the states.
Mom and Dad headed back home and I stayed on in Prague. The city is enchanting and I got to call it home for 3 weeks. It meant that I got to catch up on photography work, give myself some downtime, and explore the city at my own pace. One of my favorite things that I did while there was wake up at 5AM, a good 2 hours before the sunrise, and walk to the Charles Bridge. There, I sat down right in the middle and watched the sun rise over the ancient city. It was breathtaking.
My family genealogy project continued on my Mom's side to the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Seeing the birth certificate of Steven Koces, my 2nd great grandfather, at my Aunt's house 2 years ago had set me off on this research. Finally I would be visiting his birthplace and so many other villages connected to other ancestors. It was quite the experience, and I got to share it with my Mom and Dad.
May 23, 1883 - Steven Koces - žehra, Slovakia
Joannes Kocsis Jr. and Maria Misicko, my 3rd great grandparents had their son Steven Koces, my 2nd great grandfather, baptized in Žehra when he was born in 1883. Joannes Jr. was also born here on June 5, 1850. When we drove into the tiny town we immediately saw that the only business there was a lumber company run by the Kočiš family that still lives there. The cemetery was also full of Kočiš's. It was amazing and so exciting. Both Mom and I loved the stunning church that overlooked the village. The nave had been built in 1433, and the onion-shaped dome was completed in 1769, over a century before Joannes, Maria and Steven. There was even a castle ruin in the distance.
About 1825 - Joannes Kocsis Sr - Tulčik, Slovakia
My 4th great grandfather, Joannes Kocsis Sr. was born in Tulčik around 1825 and eventually moved to Žehra where his son Joannes Jr was born. The grave markers here were stunning, but almost all were entirely un-readable.
About 1885 - Katherine Ridela - Šambron, Slovakia
Katherine Ridela, my 2nd great grandmother and future wife of Steven Koces was born in Šambron to parents Joannes Ridilla and Maria Hriczko around 1885. We found several recent Ridillas in the cemetery in town.
December 8, 1856 - Joannes Ridilla - Roškoviany, Slovakia
Katherine's father, Joannes Ridilla, and my 3rd great grandfather, was born in the neighboring village of Roskoviany.
February 27, 1859 - Maria Hriczko - Krivany, Slovakia
My 3rd great grandmother, Maria Hriczko, was baptized in Krivany, possibly in this church, which had a service going on while we were there.
1862 - Elizabeth Divoky - Suchdol nad lužnicí, Czech Republic
My 2nd great grandmother, Elizabeth Divoky, was born in Suchdol on November 19, 1862. This small town and the next tiny village, Hrdlorezy, are the seat of generations of Elizabeth's ancestors. Her mother, Katerina Binova, my 3rd great grandmother was born in Suchdol, on April 7, 1819. Katerina's grandfather, my 5th great grandfather, Jacob Bina, was also born in Suchdol on July 25, 1767. We found some family names in the cemetery between Suchdol and Hrdlorezy.
July 10, 1817 - Jakub Divoky Jr - Hrdlorezy, Czech Republic
My 3rd great grandfather, Jakub Divoky Jr. was the last in a very long line of ancestors born in the village of Hrdlorezy. Including him, we can count 6 generations back to Leopold Krejci Koranda, my 8th great grandfather, who died here in 1715. Here is a list of ancestors who lived here.
Jakub Divoky Sr. - 1785-1872, 4th great grandfather
Anna Vochozka - 1792-1854, 4th great grandmother
Matej Korandova Vulgo Vochozka - born 1765, 5th great grandfather
Mikolas Koranda - born 1732, 6th great grandfather
Barbora Lejsek - born 1727, 6th great grandmother
Matej Krejci Koranda - 1695-1762, 7th great grandfather
Maria Anna Kamba - died 1738, 7th great grandmother
Lucas Lejsek - died 1769, 7th great grandfather
Barbora Sladek Kolar Lejsek - died 1752, 7th great grandmother
I met my parents in Berlin on October first. Mom and I were, of course, instantly crying happy tears. The hugs were big and long, as were the smiles. It was so comforting and relaxing to be in the easy and familiar company of loved ones.
We spent the first couple days sightseeing in Berlin, and then traveling to Hannover to visit our old exchange student Julian. I had visited both Berlin and Julian in January, and loved getting to see my parents experience the same thing. In Berlin we took a Segway tour, which was fun, informative, and a great way to see an overview of the city center. It also just made my Mom want a Segway to zip around on regularly, much to my Dad’s amused exasperation. The whole Germany leg of the trip was essentially a great break for me, mentally, emotionally, and photographically. I didn’t take any pictures on my camera.
Next we headed via train to the real heart of our trip: Prague. When I first visited this city ten years ago I was just enchanted by it, and couldn’t wait to experience it again with Mom and Dad. It did not disappoint. We got there on a clear sunny day at golden hour. It took us a little longer than it could have to walk to our hotel because Mom kept stopping to take pictures as we stared starry-eyed at the beautiful city. Our hotel was converted from an old convent and was situated down a little alley of a street. It had so much character and constantly made Mom and me remark at how cool it was that we got to stay there.
The following days were spent walking the city, taking tours, seeing the sights and eating so much good food. The floodgates opened again, and I took copious amounts of photos. Luckily Mom was right alongside me doing the exact same thing and Dad was a good sport for putting up with us. One morning Mom and I got up at dawn to go take pictures along the Charles Bridge and in Old Town, returning to join Dad for breakfast. All around, it was a wonderful time in Prague.
At the end of our stay in Prague we rented a car and drove to Slovakia. This leg of the trip was visiting locations that Mom’s family has immigrated from. We stayed in the town of Spišská Nová Ves, where our delightful and welcoming Airbnb host couldn’t speak any English, nor could anyone else we encountered. Google translate helped us immensely during this time. After failing to be seated at one restaurant the night we arrived, we thankfully found a pizza place that allowed us to order via pointing and miming after we translated the menu on our phones. We spent the whole next day in the car, Dad bravely driving us around to several towns in the area where our family came from. During this day the shutter broke on my camera, imposing a break from shooting. (Don’t worry, the camera is now fixed, but I did keep Mom’s camera to use for the rest of my trip.)
Continuing on, we took a fun pitstop in Vienna. The city totally captivated us. It is grand and beautiful and begged us to come back. I particularly loved the crosswalks that had same-sex and opposite-sex couples on them. I also realized that Vienna was home to one of my favorite artist and has his work in many collections, so I will be making a pilgrimage back there to see as many Klimpt painting as I can.
We crossed back into the Czech Republic to visit more villages were Mom’s ancestors used to live. We actually had supposed addresses to try to locate. However, there doesn’t seem to be any method to the street numbers. They jump around in no apparent order, and seem to be able to be changed depending on the occupant. It did make for some interesting Google translate interactions with mildly confused locals, though.
Finally we made our way back to Prague, where I would be spending the next 3 weeks, and where Mom and Dad would catch their train back to Berlin to fly home. It was a weird thing to wave goodbye to them as their train pulled away. But I would see them again in a months time, and I got to spend more time in this city that I love.
I was sad to leave Ireland behind me, but next on my list was Poznan, Poland. It would be my first time in Poland and the first time in months that I would be in a non-English speaking country. Honestly, I was rather nervous about having a language barrier again. But I ended up having no real problems interacting at restaurants and museums with just the basic pleasantries in Polish.
I flew in and then took a bus to the main train station in town. Not knowing what to really expect, I was surprised to find that most of the greater city is relatively modern. My hostel was towards the heart of Poznan though, in the older part of the city which I loved.
The old town square is absolutely stunning and seemed to be pulled right from the pages of a fairytale. Simply walking around it was my favorite part. On the free walking tour I took, I learned about the local lore of a feast celebrating the construction of the town hall around 1560. After the original meal burned, two goats were chosen and brought to the kitchens. Somehow the goats escaped and began fighting in front of all of the guests. Apparently this was very amusing, and warranted the mayor to commission a commemorative clock with two goats that fight every day at noon. The clock and its goats are still there, and I got to see them head-butting at high noon.
One morning I tried the classic local St. Martin’s Croissant; a pastry filled with an almond and poppy seed paste, and topped with icing and nuts. It is filling and delicious. I visited the town hall museum, which had beautiful interiors and exhibits on the history of the city, like medieval guilds, and Nazi occupation. I wandered into beautiful church interiors, and through lovely little streets. One afternoon I treated myself to a meal outside in the old town square. The mulled wine was cozy and the traditional duck blood soup was actually really tasty. My last night there I went out with a group of travelers from my hostel. We ended up at a karaoke bar, where we were very obviously the only non-locals. It was a very fun time, and a unique entertaining end to my stay in Poznan.
Next I would be heading back to Berlin!
My time in Ireland was planned to make sure I visited the locations I could directly connect with my family tree. It's quite a challenge to trace ancestors in Ireland as records were not always consistently kept, and those that were have suffered from losses due to fires and poor conditions. When I did find information it was so exciting, and then getting to visit those places my ancestors were from was an amazing experience. Here are images from these places.
1821 - The McShane's - Shore Road, Dundalk, County Louth
My 4th great grandparents John McShane and Mary Quin were living on Shore Road when their daughter Jane McShane, my 3rd great grandmother, was baptized on May 10th, 1821. The road still exists and I walked it all the way until in dead-ends into the coastline.
1821 - Bridget Burnes - County Louth
On October 10th, 1821, my 3rd great grandmother Bridget Burnes was born somewhere in County Louth.
1855 - The Markey's - 77 Dublin St, Dundalk, County Louth
My 3rd great grandparents, Hugh Markey and Jane McShane, were renting a house and yard on this property in 1855 when Griffith's Valuation of Irish properties was taken. There is now an interior design shop on the location, next to a curry house and across the street from a Ford dealership.
Current castelwellan walshes
My family has been in contact with this family for years. I think these Walshes are related to us through the father of Patrick Walsh, my 3rd great grandfather, and the last Walsh of my line to be born in Ireland. Thomas Walsh Sr, and his son and grandchildren all live in and around Castelwellan where Patrick was born.
1816 - Patrick Walsh - Castelwellan, County Down
Patrick Walsh, my 3rd great grandfather was born in Castelwellan in 1816. Thomas Walsh Sr. drove me around the countryside and pointed out homes that had Walsh roots back generations. Thomas lives next to St. Patrick's Church, which has the graves of many Walshes, but was built after the time of my 3rd great grandfather.
1830 - The Murphy's - Belfast, County Antrim
My 4th great grandparents Owen Murphy and Catherine Renehan were living in Belfast when they had Bridget Murphy, my 3rd great grandmother, in 1830. She and her family were Catholic, and she did not feel safe living under English rule. I couldn't find any address for them, but I spent time taking pictures in the historically Catholic neighborhood in Belfast.
1821 - Thomas Quigley - County Mayo
Thomas Quigley, my 3rd great grandfather, was born somewhere in County Mayo in 1821. Not knowing more specifics I spent a night in Westport, and took pictures there as well as in the countryside.
kaitlin k walsh
Adventurer armed with a camera.