My beloved dad...
In the process of designing this blog post it caused me to give a great deal of consideration about where my passion for travel first originated.
For a while I wondered if it stems from my family genetics. I had a great grandfather who went on his travels in order to sell cattle – however his passion for travel ended with a long walk home after only a week. He had managed to lose everything that he owned in a game of cards. Apparently he used to tell my great grandmother that he had been cheated by thieves and charlatans, but she told everybody that he was simply very bad at keeping a poker face. I also had an uncle that visited us once or twice each year, travelling to our home in what was Czechoslovakia from his own home in Russia. As children we awaited his visits with glee because it meant a free supply of cigarettes, stolen from his suitcase. It most certainly does not arise from my beloved mother. My mother manages to see a terrorist in every neighbour seen smoking a cigarette on their own balcony, no matter how long they have been her neighbour.
The answer became obvious as I worked on the project.
There was a man in my village that worked as a blacksmith. He was a humble man and apart from one or two notable trips to Bouzov Castle and our post-revolutionary trip to Šumava, he was not a noted traveller. Every day he would be working in his forge, quietly and methodically, wiping his dirty hands on his apron and then wiping his forehead with the dirty apron.
I used to love watching him work and would sit there for hours as he toiled in the heat of the forge. It did not matter how busy he was he never failed to answer any question that I asked of him. It did not matter what subject the question was about; history, geography, culture, the weather, the skies, or a myriad other subjects. I would ask my question and without interrupting his labours he would give due consideration to the question and give me a clear and concise explanation and answer. Eventually I asked him one question that caused him to stop work. I simply asked, “How is it that no matter what I ask you, you can answer my questions? You are always working and you have never travelled much outside of our village, I continued. The blacksmith carefully placed his tools on the bench. He removed his apron, wiped his hands and forehead with the apron before placing it over his tools.
The blacksmith walked to the door of his house and beckoned me to follow him. We walked through the kitchen into the living room and he pointed to the bookcase against the far wall of the room. “You see those books on the bookcase?” he asked. “That is my library. Within those books you will find the answers to most of the questions you ask about the world. You are welcome to use them. Read them, treat them with respect and the world will be yours whether you leave this village or not”
And that is what I did. I read almost all of those books and the blacksmith was indeed correct. He may have only been a humble blacksmith but he was my hero and inspiration. Most importantly, he gave me the keys to knowledge, a passion for reading, and a subsequent desire to travel to the places I read about in those books. That humble blacksmith is my father and even now, years after his passing, I can only thank him for introducing me to books.