The window is always important, if not the most important thing. It’s the view that makes a poor room bearable and a good one, perfect. I like to see green trees or ones with boughs covered in snow; I adore the sight of an old town’s streets and alleys and the view across its roofs. But my favorite is the classic: a window onto the ocean or onto a lake or river. The Vltava River, for example. I’ll never forget what happened there although it was so long ago. I woke up on a hotel ship, not a cruise liner, but one that had dropped anchor for the last time and was securely lashed to the dock. My cabin had no window as such, but it did have a porthole, right next to the head end of the bed, or would “berth” be more apt? There was nothing particularly roomy about the place. It was also not very expensive: There are far grander hotel ships in Prague.
Maybe I wanted to save money, maybe it was coincidence, and maybe a cab driver just happened to drop me off there, but the hotel’s two stars multiplied into thousands when I woke up and opened my eyes. My porthole was barely above the surface of the water, and the sun was just rising, its rays glittering on the waves and dazzling me a little, so at first I couldn’t believe or grasp what
I was seeing outside. A large, white swan glided by, close enough to touch, then another and another, followed by some little ones. The whole family swam right past my nose in what looked like molten gold. Is this paradise, I asked myself? Then I remembered: I was in the heart of Prague, and that is sometimes the same thing. For that divine moment, my window was just perfect.
When he was only 17, Helge Timmerberg (now 63) decided to hitchhike to India and become a reporter. More than 200 countries later, he still writes travel books from places all over the world.