When in Europe, Keep Your Eyes on Your Pizza by Dana Klosner

In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic I, like everyone else, was looking for something to do. I always love writing workshops. So, I borrowed my daughter’s computer and did my first Zoom meeting. An online writer’s workshop. The leader showed a picture of a leaning farmhouse in the middle of nowhere as a prompt. It reminded me of a trip I took a life-time ago….

The leaning house reminds me of the time I took a tour of Europe on a college tour from Michigan. I’m from New York. I didn’t know a soul but everyone just graduated college like me, except for one man who was in his 70s. The tour was a whirlwind. About eight cities in six weeks. It was all youth hostels, trains and buses. At one point there wasn’t a youth hostel available and we had to stay in a nunnery. Being a Jew from Long Island I was scared. I thought if God didn’t smite me, one of the nuns would discover my heritage and hit me across the knuckles with a ruler. That’s all I knew about nuns, what I heard from the Catholic school kids growing up. But I made it through the night without any lightning bolts hitting me and no bruises.

Several times we had to climb steep hills with our packs on our backs to get to that night’s shelter. I tell you that 70-year-old man could run circles around us. We couldn’t get over how a man that old could be in such great shape. Now that I’m pushing 60 – 70 is much younger than I thought.

Our trip was the cheap tour. At the same time the rich kids were always one step ahead of us. They had air-conditioned chartered buses and stayed at four-star hotels every night. Every museum we went to we would run into them looking well-rested, happy or hungover. But always having a better time than us. They knew it and they flaunted it. Just a little intro to how life would be in the adult world.

We were exhausted, hot and miserable.

Every time we sat down; I fell asleep. I fell asleep on the most elite benches in the most elite museums in Europe. I fell asleep in my seat at the London Symphony Orchestra. I fell asleep on a bench in front of the Eifel tower.

So, why does a crooked house bring back this memory?

One of our stops was The Leaning Tower of Pisa. I had a little Kodak instamatic. Remember those with the flash bulb stick you would attach to the top? I’m such a bad photographer that the tower looks like it’s stick straight! I couldn’t have done it if I tried.

But my most vivid memory of that entire six weeks was the day we went to the Vatican. You might think that it was poignant and I was in awe but that’s not it at all. I don’t remember Michelangelo’s painting on the ceiling of the Sistine chapel. I don’t remember what the Vatican looked like or if the smoke was blowing, wait is that a Vatican thing?

What I do remember is I was starving. I ran out of money the week before. I scraped enough change together to buy a piece of pizza. As I was eating it – a beggar boy and his friend – bumped me from behind to catch my attention so I would look away – and they stole the pizza right out of my hand!

So, that’s my takeaway from six weeks in Europe. Never take your eyes of your pizza – leaning or otherwise!


If it weren’t for the pandemic, I would never have written this – so, I guess every cloud has a silver lining.


Dana loves writing personal essays about her life, her kids and her family. Her essays have appeared in “Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Crazy Family,” “Next Avenue,” and “Eat, Darling, Eat.” She loves being a contributor on Motherhoodlater.com.

Dana wrote features for years. She’s been published in “The Washington Post,” “Newsday,” and “NY Metroparents.” She was a contributing freelancer to “The Baltimore Sun” for five years. Her features have been reprinted internationally. Visit www.Danaklosner.com.

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