Saturday, February 6, 2021

Sepia Saturday: Xenagogues We Have Known and Loved

Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt signals we have arrived at the letter X. Oh, how I wish I had a photo of an X-ray but I don’t. Instead I have plenty of photos of my grandaunt Velma Davis Woodring’s trips to Korea, Japan, and India that will dispel any notion that she was xenophobic.

India 1959
Velma in the middle

I often think I’m like Velma. My desire to see the world must be genetic.

I used to hate group tours, but Quietvox technology makes walking with a xenagogue a satisfying way to see a historic district, appreciate architecture, and understand the significance of a particular artifact. 

We have toured twice with Amawaterways, and I must say that the local xenagogues they hire are not merely extremely knowledgeable but also personable and patient. Here are some we have had the pleasure of learning from:

Bratislava, Slovakia
– This guide is quite young and fairly new, but she did a wonderful job helping us see the country as a former communist country and how different today. One surprising tidbit she revealed was that her grandparents still prefer communism over the current government. It had never occurred to me that people actually liked that system.


Vienna, Austria
– This guide was sooo funny but EXHAUSTING. So much to say but it was Vienna after all!


Melk Abbey, Austria
– Here’s a 2-for-1. The young gal in red was our guide through Melk Abbey. The other woman was our guide on a number of visits to small villages along the Danube. Oh my! If you were looking for an actress to portray a strong Bavarian-esque woman who could milk cows, butcher them, herd sheep, and keep the menfolk in line, she’d be the first choice.


Our guide is at the far right

Linz, Austria – This tour guide likes to ask people what they know of Linz. No one said “Hitler’s hometown.” No, the one answer was “Linzer torte.” Surprisingly, she doesn’t even like Linzer torte, but she loves her city. Patient woman! We asked to stop in a bank to change a $50-bill because we had nothing smaller in Euros for a tip. We took way too long and finally gave up. I hate giving a tip in US dollars but we had no choice that day.

Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic
– The bus ride to Cesky Krumlov from where our ship was docked in Austria was rather long. Our guide used the time to give us both a history lesson and cultural enrichment. She played a recording of Bedrich Smetana’s “The Moldau” which I recalled learning about in a required music appreciation course in college. One thing I will never forget is our guide giving everyone a small coin for the public bathroom. The bathroom – YUCK. In no time, there was no toilet paper, no paper towels, no soap, and electric air dryers did not exist. Women dug through their purses for tissue and scrap paper. “Can you spare a square?” And we had to pay for THIS? Bathroom aside, Cesky Krumlov is a fantastic place to visit.

There is another group behind ours. 
Our guide is the lady in the bottom right corner
in the rust-colored coat. 

Passau, Germany
– This little lady was the sergeant in charge. However, one funny thing was her love for her Catholic Church. If she said it once, she said it a thousand times, “Our new priest is SOOOO handsome. We are so lucky to have such a handsome priest.”


Amsterdam, the Netherlands – The Dutch are BIG people. Tall. All of them tall. Some are thin and lanky. Others are just large, not fat, just large. Our guide was a charming TALL Dutch woman who owns at least 3 bicycles because each has a different purpose. One is good for grocery shopping. Another is good for trails. Another is good for a commute.


Cologne, Germany
– One of the most serious of xenagogues is this one who took us around Cologne delighting us with stories about the great sense of humor displayed in the city – ironic, don’t you think?


Heidelberg, Germany – He looks Italian to me, but this xenagogue is German.


It took some coaxing to get my husband on an airplane that would go over water, not because of xenophobia, just aviophobia, I guess. After two river cruises, we can’t wait to go again.

Please visit Sepia Saturday for more X-traordinary photos and stories. 


© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.


  1. Loved your virtual tour of tour guides! A fun way to "see the sights" on your blog.

  2. You have enriched my vocabulary today! What a great take on the prompt. And funny the things that are remembered about a xenagogue. I'm going to have to work on my spelling - and the red underline means that the computer does too!

  3. A wonderful take on the prompt 'X'. We've taken 3 group tours over the past few years and met several xenagogues - some wonderful and informative without being overly wordy. Others, exhausting both with their explanations of things and places, and physically by herding us all along at such a fast clip we were out of breath and missing a lot of interesting things along the way. A good guide is worth gold!

  4. Such a great collection of guides, and now I've got a new word, xenagogues! My spell check doesn't like it however. And I guess I've always done my tours on my own, never tried a guide.

  5. Great use of the letter X! We've only been out of the country across water once (Hong Kong) and I don't remember using any sort of tour guide while visiting. But it's been 30+ years and we all know what happens to our memory after that time.

  6. What an unusual take on the prompt and the unexpected story that emerged from your mention of your great aunt. You introduced me to a new word Xenogogue
    I enjoyed reading your travelogue as that part of Europe is our favourite holiday destination.
    We were due to visit Cesky Krumlov but it fell through - perhaps just as well given your toilet
    experience! I love the music of Smetana’s Moldau - It creates so well the picture of a river flowing from the mountains down to the sea. There was so much I liked about post including the introductory link with your traveler aunt.

  7. Before I retired, I used to pass a xenagogue every morning leading tourists around the former World Trade Center site in Manhattan. Thanks for this wonderful tribute to these invaluable workers who so enhance everyone's travels!

  8. Creative use of "X"! I love it! And am inspired by all your travels! Our son married a beautiful German girl and now lives in Germany, so we've been to visit them -- and seen a few sights in Germany and Italy, but never with a xenagogue! I have to think you get all the fun little tidbits that a "regular old citizen" wouldn't know! Which I would love. Next time over, we need to get in on some tours.

  9. Excellent! Your guide friends seem like natural storytellers, not unlike bloggers. Their occupation is familiar, but the word for it is new to me too. It must require the same patience as an elementary school teacher and the trivia knowledge of a Jeopardy contestant.