Wednesday, September 21, 2022 - Off to Divišov
The professional part of the journey is over. All I need to do now is get back home safely. But I’ve built in one more stop—a different kind of climax. I’m to visit the workshop of historical piano builder Paul McNulty in Divišov, Czechia. Why? The first reason is that I’ve never been. Having known and appreciated the work of Paul for a long time, I really want to. But also, because it’s on the way: it’s barely a few hours of a detour. What’s more, however, it’s exactly halfway home. Ten hours of driving. Sleep and spend the day in Divišov. Sleep again, and another ten hours of driving. That’s the plan. It’s a unique chance. And it’s perfect.
“Try and arrive not too late,” fortepianist Viviana Sofronitsky, Paul’s wife and business partner, had asked. She is to leave for Cremona, Italy, tomorrow very early in the morning, traveling with no fewer than four pianos, for an international instrument fair. I’d like to be able to meet up with her too, of course, which is why I had insisted on packing up immediately after the concert. Ready to hit the road, I’m so glad I did.
I’m also glad to make it out of bizarrely traffic-congested Cluj (all parents drop off their kids at school in their cars, the hotel clerk explained). Soon I cross the Carpathian Mountains, where again I’m struck by poor urban planning. As the only gateway to Hungary, Route No. 1 is a busy road, mainly for trucks. It cuts through many villages, where nobody seems to pay attention to speed limits. I encounter six people (half of them older women) hitchhiking. Is this their only means to get to their next job or to the nearest grocery store? Not a single public bus is in sight.
Yesterday, over lunch (at another excellent restaurant), Silvia and Christophe gave me cause for concern. I’d be stopped at the border, they predicted. Nobody cares what or who enters Romania from Hungary; but for the reverse direction, back into Schengen, it’s different. Coming to my first actual border stop during the trip, I’m indeed asked to open the back of the van. Yesterday, I asked my colleague Kathleen Snyers for a letter that states I’m allowed to travel with the Orpheus Institute’s instrument. But luckily I don’t need it. No more questions are asked.
Another shred of tension having dissipated, I now enjoy the ride even more, pleased with myself that I pre-paid the highway tax for Czechia online. So when it’s late enough in Montreal (some time during my afternoon, including the regained hour I’d lost when driving to Cluj), I FaceTime my wife, Griet. (I do so handless, with voice command: my old iPhone 6 collaborates.) I tell her I’m leaving behind Bratislava and am on my way to Brno. Griet checks the map and reminds me I’m actually in Slovakia. How could I have missed it? I don’t have a car vignette for this country! Czechia, Slovakia: I must finally learn to keep them apart. I’ve just made my one mistake. Never mind, on to Divišov.