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Richard Frisbie: Unnamed Hotel
At An Unnamed Hotel on An Unnamed Border Crossing
Story & Photos by Richard Frisbie

My wakeup call came too early.

There was no way to tell the time in my hotel room on that first morning in the country. Even the sun’s position only said early. The TV was no help, the “modern” set had no visible controls and the remote was missing. The room was clean and spacious, a gussied-up, decades old anachronism in a once -bustling border crossing now robbed of meaning by the European Union.

It took awhile to figure out the shower. Modern plumbing, circa 1960s, was designed to confuse as much as look sleek and amorphously new. Then there was only a packet of bath salts, no shampoo or conditioner, or even a bar of soap not already in the sink. I washed guy-style, hair and all with the hand soap, glad, at least, to be clean of the filth traveling at 35,000 feet can leave.

It was still too early.

abandoned concrete shell at an old European border crossing
“Modern” abandoned concrete shell on the roundabout.

Art Deco bas-relief with peeling gridwork on the entrance to hotel
Art Deco bas-relief with peeling gridwork

The day was clear, with a magical horizontal light that gives even no-longer-necessary villages a reason for hope. I walked out into the morning along a roundabout of abandoned commercial buildings, dead plants still visible in the remaining windows. There were border stations nearby; both countries had impressive structures flanking the once-busy crossing. They were protected by sleepy-looking policemen in patrol cars parked to take full advantage of the rising sun’s warmth. Later, as the day heated up, they would move to the shade.

The Art Deco bas-relief entrance still looked new with promise, but the peeling paint on the building’s façade told a different story. An overgrown lawn wreathed the hardiest of roses still blooming in a circular weed bed in the neglected yard. The open-border policies left no reason to care for them.

garden reflected in the glass wall of a building housing a train engine
Perfect garden reflected in glass walls of train engine house.

In the public park next door the water sprinklers, necessary in this arid region, wetted a green manicured lawn and crumbling marble walkways indiscriminately. Here the roses also bloomed, but vigorously, from the care an unseen gardener lavished on this perfect gem in the shadow of an abandoned border crossing.

This flanked a dirty glass building built to display the mighty train engine it now entombed. The body of a bird, broken against the glass, lay amongst the litter on the floor of the graffiti sprayed mausoleum.

dead plants in window of closed hotel
Dead plants in window of closed hotel

It was a moth-balled border crossing, with closed restaurants and hotels, their windows a parched desert of abandoned houseplants, with the few open shops selling liquor, religious knickknacks and lottery tickets; all the essentials for a dying community. It was a village of lost purpose, its economic engine so defunct it should be in the glass display in the park. It reminded me of the string of castles and hilltop fortresses, now lying in ruins, that once defended this ancient border. They are also the unnecessary remains of a more prosperous time.

ruins of an ancient hilltop fortress near border crossing
Ruins of ancient hilltop fortress

In such hardship lie the seeds of opportunity. The whole place looked as if a clean-up crew could have it sparkling as new should the border become necessary again. If either country collapses under their weight of debt, or – God forbid – if the entire European Union collapses, a return to the old pre-Euro days would have this village open and prospering in no time. Until then, I rolled out the sidewalks as I walked the empty, dusty streets, and rolled them back up as I returned.

Until, finally, it was late enough to begin the new day.

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Let Richard know what you think about his traveling adventure.

* * * * *

Hey Richard - another winning series of words, all put together in your usual brilliant, and very creative format. And hey, love those glorious photos - Wow, what scenery - looks like some sort of paradise. What a super life you lead!!!

--- John Clayton, Palos Verdes CA

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I want to go there!!!!!!! Mmmmm! Yes! Love the photos and your article, Richard! Have read the book, seen the play several times and now dream of seeing these historic places. I've been wanting to go to Spain for some time. Now at 12:30 a.m. I'm heading off to bed with songs from Man of La Mancha ringing in my mind. Thanks!

--- Betsy Tuel, Rosendale, NY

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You are fortunate to have Richard on your staff. Richard is a fantastic writer and a wonderful person. Congratulations to Richard and to you.

--- Denise Dubé, New England

John Clayton's travel blog/review
Two "MUST SEE" Truly Spectacular Places in Europe. Here's Why.

Culzean Castle, Scotland
The Han Grotto and Culzean Castle. As the name of my Traveling Boy feature is "Travel With a Difference," it's important to me to always bring you offbeat and unusual tourist places around the world you may not know about. These two fit that category to a T, and they're absolutely worth a visit. One's in Scotland and one's in Belgium. Culzean (pronounced CULLANE) Castle is located near Maybole, Carrick, on the Ayrshire coast of Scotland.

go there

Ringo Boitano's travel blog/review
Highway 49 Revisited: Exploring California's Gold Country

aurora borealis lights up the night sky near Fairbanks
In the 1840s, the population of California was only 14,000, but by 1850 more than 100,000 settlers and adventurers had arrived from all over the world – and they came for one reason: gold. James Marshall had discovered the first gold nugget at Sutter’s Mill in El Dorado County, creating the largest gold rush in history.

go there

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