One of my favorite things about travel is discovering street musicians…

My husband Bill and I just got home from Italy and Greece. We’ve been fortunate enough to have traveled quite extensively in Europe. I’ve probably seen more of Europe than I have of the United States. One thing I’ve noticed both in Europe and abroad is that there’s no shortage of talented street musicians to keep the masses entertained. I often enjoy listening to the folks who play music on the streets of whatever city I happen to be visiting. If they’re especially good, I might even whip out my iPhone or a digital camera and film them. If they’re selling a CD, I’m now more than ever inclined to purchase a copy. Bill and I once heard a hilarious band playing near the port in Barcelona and didn’t think to buy a CD. I’ve regretted that decision ever since.

Most recently, I made a great discovery in Florence, Italy. It was our second and last night in Florence and we’d spent the day walking around that fascinating city, looking at art, eating great food, and people watching. As we made our way to the taxi stand to get a cab back to our hotel, we ran across a man playing Latin guitar. He was playing so beautifully that it stopped me dead in my tracks. Within a couple of minutes, I had tears streaming down my cheeks. Bill bought both of the guitar player’s CDs and we learned that his name is Piotr Tomaszewski. He’s from Poland and, according to the bios I’ve found on him, is quite a decorated musician. More telling are the YouTube videos I’ve found posted by people who, like me, ran into him in Florence and were moved by his playing.

Piotr Tomaszewski is caught on video by a German speaking tourist…

I made videos of Florence and Venice set to music on Tomaszewski’s CDs

In Greece, we ran across a few more street musicians who were also quite skilled, though their music didn’t move me in quite the same way. Nevertheless, I took a couple of videos and made a short film to help preserve the memories of our trip.

Last year, we visited Salzburg, Austria, where there was a small group of Russian men standing around singing so beautifully that I started crying. Their music was classical and very skillfully performed. They had a CD, which we bought. I don’t listen to it often because I have to be in a certain mood to listen to classical choral music. I’m glad to have the disc, though, because running into members of the Don Kosaken Choir is now a precious memory.

It’s not just street musicians we like to support. We also like to buy stuff from street artists if they have a style that speaks to us. A few years ago, Bill and I were in Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic. It was a bitterly cold February day and there was a man selling original paintings in the main square. I was struck by a painting he had done of dragons. It was a bit childlike, but very colorful and whimsical. We went over to talk to him and he said he was originally from Russia and was now living in Prague. He had spent a couple of years in Los Angeles, working for Virgin Records designing album covers. His name was Nikolaj Korelov. We bought one of his paintings; he had talked me out of buying the dragon one, because he said it was expensive. When we got back to our home, which was then in Germany, I decided I had to have it anyway. We wrote to him and he agreed to sell it to us. Click through his gallery and you’ll find it pictured on the last page.

I can honestly say that street musicians have also helped me make travel decisions. For instance, in June 2011, Bill and I were in Portland, Maine, celebrating my birthday. I had it in my mind that I wanted to celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary in Scotland. Our tenth anniversary was in November 2012, so in June 2011, we still had plenty of time to plan and save. Bill was kind of on the fence about it. We went out to dinner in Portland and when we came out, a lone street musician was standing on a corner blowing bagpipes. He was playing “Highland Cathedral”, which was the piece I used to walk down the aisle on our wedding day. I turned to Bill and said, “I think that’s a sign.” He agreed and sure enough, we went to Scotland in November 2012 to celebrate our anniversary.

The one thing we’ve learned from all our travels is that it’s worth it to support street musicians. If you run into a street musician whose music you love and they offer a CD, buy it. You’re supporting the arts and may just end up coming home with a favorite souvenir. And, as I’ve found out by looking up Piotr Tomaszewski on, you will find that buying from the source can be a lot less expensive than trying to find a copy of the CD online.

We found a wonderful street musician in Florence, Italy.

We found a wonderful street musician in Florence, Italy.