Now that I am back from a soul-recharging and inspiring trip back to Europe (Amsterdam, and specifically Budapest and Prague), I am going to pick up the pieces of my blogs and start posting again.
It's been said many times, things in Europe are different. Things look old from natural age, not out of artifice. No need for Disney-esque fairy tale-style quaintness, or for grand-looking ephemeral buildings on movie sets to be soon torn down... It's a difference in attitude. The saddest photo exhibit I've ever seen was, if I remember correctly, an exhibit of Minor White's early photos of Portland: it was a great city with great architecture, and it is no more, because it's all been torn down.
It was refreshing to see elegant old buildings in the cities, some gloriously restored, some still showing the heavy scars of wars and time. Give me that any time over the cheap strip malls and box-style stuff passed off as buildings here. We saw more buses and trams running throughout the day in the cities than we would in a month in Portland, and they were heavily used by commuters, no less, appreciated as a necessary element of the infrastructure of a city.
It was refreshing to visit Skanzen, the open-air ethnography museum near Szentendre in Hungary, and to see old farmhouses relocated on-site, decorated and furnished with authentic folk-style furnishing, things that fit the setting they were intended for. Most interesting, it was amazing to see how people lived in these ancestral houses, how some had airy courtyard proving summer shade, or a central room with a wall oven, or how the variations in styles based on the regional setting.
Cesky Krumlov, we had the amazing opportunity to stay in a hotel built in 1459, and this reset my perspective. The lovely and picturesque buildings in Cesky Krumlov were all of the same vintage; none were straight and plumb according to today's standards, and yet, they were still standing, and still occupied and clearly well-cared for and valued.
An old house like mine, despite the local reaction to its so-called ancient age, construction methods and materials, is in fact a window into the history of its setting (although, a very young history, since the oldest buildings in the area are probably in Canemah and Oregon City and date back to ca. 1861). What is wrong is the approach to this history. My experience has been that on the West Coast, there is a tendency to consider anything over 20 years old to be decrepit, in need of updates or replacement, and, ultimately, worthless. So sad.
This trip was particularly valuable to me in the sense that it allowed me to rethink my reaction to getting bad news about the house (and have I gotten bad news in the six months we've lived here!). Consequently, so what, if the house has settled over the years? So what, if the roof over our house is not straight? So what, if the oak trees drop leaves inside the gutters?