Aboard the Hamburg-America cruise line, Einstein wrote about the serene nature of the cruise. Aboard the Hamburg-America cruise line, Einstein wrote about the serene nature of the cruise. Aboard the Hamburg-America cruise line, Einstein wrote about the serene nature of the cruise. (Photo: Wikimedia)

Where Einstein found peace and serenity

The Nobel Prize winner called a sea cruise experience 'an excellent opportunity for maximum calm and reflection.'

Being Albert Einstein was stressful. People of all ages were constantly sending you questions to answer. Meanwhile, the paparazzi was trying to film your every public appearance. So it's not surprising that Einstein – as part of a multi-country trip – took a certain solace in a South American cruise in the winter of 1932.

Einstein's love of the water is well-known. The Nobel Prize winner was famously fascinated with sailing, even though he wasn't that good at it – nor did he know how to swim.

"A cruise in the sea, is an excellent opportunity for maximum calm and reflection on ideas from a different perspective," the physicist wrote aboard the Oakland cruise ship near the shores of Panama. Added Einstein's wife, Elsa: "There is no other place where my husband is so relaxed, sweet, serene and detached from routine distractions, the ship carries him far away."

That letter is part of a cache of Einstein memorabilia that will be auctioned later this month by the Winner's Auction House in Jerusalem. Other letters include a note from Einstein thanking a woman for sharing the vegetables from her garden, while another shows Einstein's agreement to have a school named after him in the Ben Shemen Youth Village in central Israel. "It is a great pleasure for me to see various and unique Einstein letters and items that teaches us more about this great man,” the auctioneer, Gal Wiener, told From The Grapevine.

The note was written aboard the Hamburg-America cruise line. One side was written by Albert Einstein, and the other side by his wife. The note was written aboard the Hamburg-America cruise line. One side was written by Albert Einstein, and the other side by his wife. (Photo: Winner's Auction House)

The Winner's Auction House is slowly becoming the go-to place to purchase Einstein correspondence. In October, they sold a note that Einstein wrote to a Japanese bellhop for $1.5 million. The sale, which was the largest Einstein auction in recent history, made international headlines.

It's a propitious month for Einstein auctions. Next Wednesday, Boston-based RR Auction will be selling what it's calling "the most spectacular Einstein manuscript we have ever offered." Two documents will be up for auction – including Einstein's very first published work as a Nobel laureate, addressing "the question of the large-scale geometrical structure of the universe" with a modified form of his General Theory of Relativity. It's estimated to fetch nearly $200,000.

Einstein bequeathed his papers to Hebrew University in Jerusalem, a school he helped establish. It is home to the official Albert Einstein archives, which recently announced it will be opening the archives to the public. But items that belonged to others, like the notes being auctioned off next month, are often sold to collectors.

"The interest in Einstein does not fade into history," said Hebrew University's Hanoch Gutfreund, who helps run the Einstein archives. "If anything, the interest in Einstein increases with time. It's greater now."

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