an odyssey. It began when Heiki Kongi and Tonu Maarand invited me
to Estonia for PUU 97, a wood sculpture symposium. I had first met
them in 1991, in Harbin, China, at an ice sculpture competition,
and invited them to Ice Art in Fairbanks. Estonia was the first
breakaway from the Soviet Union the following year, and it took
them 3 years to make it to Ice Art. Working with Lithuanian-American
Craig Cheledinas, they took first place in the Multi-block Abstract
before I left, friend Liliana, on learning that I would
be in Europe, invited me to visit her and her family in her home
town, Chishinau (Kishinev), Moldova. Formerly the Soviet Socialist
Republic of Moldavia, this small Black Sea country is between Romania
and the Ukraine. Since Estonia is right across the border from St.
Petersberg, Russia, this meant a train ride through St. Pete, down
through Belarus, Poland and Czech Republic. Sounded like a lark.
I agreed. I had wanted to visit the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersberg
for years, and never though I'd get the chance. And since I would
then be in southern Europe anyway, I might as well go visit some
marble sculpture studios in Greece and Italy. It would be cheap
to do if I had a EurailPass.
before I left, I received an e-mail from an old friend
whom I had not seen for 30 years. He was in Moscow, and just
thought he'd look me up. He was surprised to hear I was planning
a visit to St Petersberg, and advised me to take a train to Moscow
and fly to Moldova from there after lunch with him. He arranged for his
friend Ludmila to serve as my guide in St. Pete. He asked what I
look like now, (it'd been 30 years, remember), so I told him to
look on my web site. He printed my picture and sent it to Liuda so
she could meet my train from Estonia.
1997 found me flying to Amsterdam with a EurailPass in my pocket
and two days to use up before I got on a northbound train for Estonia.
I had heard of a super-accelerated language school in Innsbruck,
nestled in the Austrian Alps. Might as well go check it out, I decided,
so after a night's sleep on the train, I was dazzled by the mountain
beauty as we approached Innsbruck. The city was interesting for
its contrasts: ultramodern buildings and art in the shadow of medaieval
was closed for the summer, but would reopen just about when I planned
to leave Italy. Couldn't be better. After a bite to eat, I called
my sculpture buddy Francis Cuny in the Alsace region of France.
He was amazed to hear I was in Europe, and told me to jump on a
train to Basel, Switzerland, just across the border. He met me in
Basel, and over a beer we discovered that we had a new passion in
drove me to his century-old house in Basse-sur-le-Rupt, and next
day after showing me the local abandoned granite quarry where a
week before had been a cultural festival, he drove me to Nancy for
the train to Estonia. He invited me to return next year and carve
some granite, which I said I would certainly plan on doing.
deposited me for an overnight stay in Copenhagen, where I rented
a bicycle and went to visit my girlfriend the Little Mermaid. She
was sitting on her rock staring pensively out to sea just as when
I said goodby to her 30 years before.
train went on a ferry boat to cross over to Sweden, (wonderful smorrebrods
on the ferry) and in Stockholm, I used my EurailPass to get on an
overnight ferry to Helsinki. The Finnish capital is just an hour
and a half by hydrofoil from the Estonian capital, Tallinn. I made
my way from the dock in Tallinn to the cafe on Vabeduse Platz where
the sculptors were to gather for the symposium. while having a beer
there, met other sculptors, Mike from England, and Tiiu from Estonia.
Mike was to work at a different location, but Tiiu planned to be
at Pootsi, where I was assigned.
and Heiki turned up and it was a great reunion; then we got into
the van and drove south to the Maria Motel in Pootsi, where a dozen
big pine logs were laid out in the grass for us. The picture is
Kosmos, my first wood sculpture, which I carved from the stoutest
The Hermitage; Moldova; Deported from Russia(!)