CHARLOTTE, NC, November 19, 2017 – Among the fondest memories I have over the course of my travels has been the delicious serendipitous life-altering moments that have justified my wanderlust. Not long ago, a member of our church stopped by to visit and I mentioned that to her during our conversation.
“I call those ‘Godwinks’,” she replied.
It was the perfect description. Such events don’t happen often, but when they do there is no way any amount of planning can repeat the moment. It has to occur naturally and the moment must be savored for it will never come again.
Godwinks and Wanderlust
“Godwinks” can happen anytime, anywhere and with anyone. In my wanderlust, I have been fortunate enough to experience many such wonderful vignettes in Romania, Switzerland, France, Russia and East Germany to mention a few.
In Romania, one such experience took place while traveling with a group of college students at the time when Nicolae Ceausescu was in power. The students, mostly from small rural towns in North Carolina, had, except for a few instances, never been out of the state, much less the country.
If traveling behind the “Iron Curtain” was eye-opening for me, it was total culture shock for them.
Romania Godwinks and Wanderlust
Hosted by the US Ambassador to Romania, Dr. David Funderburk, the purpose of the visit was to get a better understanding of how Christians were able to worship in a country where the official religion was atheism.
We visited a small Baptist church in the dead of winter in the heart of Bucharest.Many of the members of the congregation came considerable distances to worship. Therefore, services are held three times each Sunday, lasting two to three hours.
The small church’s mostly senior membership was because young people dare not go. Attendees were required to register their attendance. Only the choir had any sign of youth because music was given a pass as being a cultural activity.
Yet the seniors still came in large numbers, braving the cold, the dark and the weather for a few hours of solace amid the dreary world in which they lived. A Godwink.
Switzerland Godwinks and Wanderlust
There were three incidents in Switzerland, each of which was similar in a way, but each which reinforced my awareness of the human spirit.
In Montreux, I encountered a chef named Hans Odermatt. Though Switzerland was neutral during World War II, Odermatt left his beloved country and went to Australia where he learned English.
Following the war, Hans returned to Zurich and enrolled in a culinary school where he became a chef.
Odermatt later returned to Montreux and used his life’s savings to buy an old cow barn in the hills overlooking Lake Geneva. Being a carpenter before going to Australia, he renovated the barn into a restaurant by day and cooked raclette and fondue for the locals at night.
Soon his reputation grew and before long he was serving the likes of Charles Lindbergh, Richard Nixon, Charlie Chaplin, Richard Burton and David Niven to name a few.
But Hans Odermatt was a humble man, and when I asked him what it was like to prepare food for such noted clients, he turned to me and with a single tear rolling down his cheek into his snowy-white Santa Claus beard he replied,
“The peasants, they come every night, and the rich do not spend any more than the peasants do.”
And so each night Hans Odermatt would retire to a corner booth in his restaurant with a glass of red wine in his hand and watch his guests enjoy the meals he would lovingly prepare.
And this is a Godwink.
Switzerland’s Hans Erni
Another Swiss named Hans, was the most prominent living artist in the country when I met him at his museum in Lucerne. Hans Erni, who recently died at the age of 106, was 87 when he gave me a personal tour of his gallery.
Erni’s work is full of vibrant colors and futuristic themes as well as historical references that blend together. Erni had met Albert Einstein on several occasions when the great physicist was living in Bern. Erni set Einstein’s image to paint and page a couple of times.
Following my visit with Hans Erni, he drew a pencil sketch in one of his brochures, signed and dated it with my name and his autograph and presented it to me. It is a one of a kind treasure I will cherish for the rest of my life. Godwink!
Wanderlust to Lucerne
Angela Rosengart of Lucerne owns a museum in the city featuring the work of Pablo Picasso. At the age of 19 Rosengart was a model for Picasso. Describing the experience through “his eyes” saying they “Were like arrows piercing my heart.”
In September 2001, I was shooting a video in Normandy when the World Trade Center crumbled to the earth.
Three days later, while taping at the Normandy American Cemetery at Omaha Beach, every official along the Normandy coast came and stood to observe three minutes of silence in tribute to those who lost their lives in the attacks.
Shortly thereafter the carillon played the haunting sounds of “Taps” and a single wreath was placed at the base of the “Statue of American Youth Rising from the Waves.”
There were only four words on the sash, “We have not forgotten.” Global Godwink.
Wanderlust can lead you to your own Godwink
“Godwinks” can happen anytime. The important thing is to recognize them, savor them, and, most of all, never stop looking for them, but never try to repeat them either.
May your Thanksgiving have “Godwinks” of your own.
About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award-winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
Editors Note: Support Bob’s GoFundMe to give him a hand up