High school experiences can reverberate through the rest of one’s life. For Karen Hiatt of Garfield, a month-long trip staying with a family in Germany in 1990 has continued to have an impact on her and opened doors for further travel.
This summer, Hiatt, her sister-in-law Errica Asper and her niece Eva Asper of Rock Springs, Wyo. journeyed for nearly three weeks in Europe. The three did not travel alone, however. With them were Hiatt’s friend, Marina Mutapćič, and Mutapćič’s 14-year-old daughter Maja.
“It was kind of a girls’ trip,” Hiatt said.
The trip is not the first time in recent years Hiatt and Marina Mutapćič have connected since staying with one another’s families, though Hiatt said they did fall out of touch for some time after college. About five years ago, however, Mutapćič reached out and asked about sending her daughter to the United States.
“I think she just found me on Facebook, sent a message, then we had a couple phone calls,” Hiatt said.
Hiatt said she did not have older children, and said she felt Maja would have more fun staying with a family with someone around her age. So, Hiatt reached out to her sister-in-law, who agreed to take Maja. After Maja came a second time this spring, Hiatt said she and her sister-in-law decided to take the trip to Germany, and the two left with Hiatt’s niece Eva around the end of July.
When asked about where they went, Hiatt said they had visited the Czech Republic, Austria, Croatia and Germany.
“Oh, and Rome,” she added, after a pause, laughing slightly.
Hiatt said choosing a favorite part of the trip proved to be difficult because there was “so much.” However, she said she enjoyed going on “The Sound of Music” bike tour through Salzburg, Austria. She said she recently watched the movie with her young children and could point out where she had been.
Another experience she said jumps out is staying in a hotel near the Alps, surrounded by cows with bells.
“You’d go outside and you’d just hear this faint little jingle of cowbells,” Hiatt said.
In Prague, Hiatt said she found enjoyment in learning about the centuries-old Charles Bridge and, in Rome, learning about the formation of the Coliseum, Roman roads and aqueducts. As an engineer by profession, she said she found it interesting the fundamentals had stayed the same so long, though the techniques have evolved.
“That was fascinating,” she said.
Traveling with German friends also resulted in a few funny moments, Hiatt said. In German, “mais” (pronounced “mice”) means corn. So, around dinner time, when Marina Mutapćič asked if the ladies wanted to cook “mais” for dinner, the response from the American travelers was not one in favor of the idea.
“We were like, ‘No, we’re not going to eat mice,’” Hiatt said.
Another mix-up occurred when Hiatt and her friend were ahead, and Hiatt said the others would be able to “catch up.” She said her friend looked at her in confusion, and asked what “ketchup” had to do with anything — that went on a burger.
With the trip now over, Hiatt said there are no concrete plans between the two families to visit one another. She said they had joked about returning to Germany in 10 years, taking Hiatt’s now 6-year-old daughter with them, though she said they will likely do something earlier than that.
Hiatt said it is possible her friend, along with her husband and children, will visit the area relatively soon and visit Yellowstone National Park.
“We’d like to stay connected,” Hiatt said.