A wedding in Hamburg

I’ve just returned from a lovely family weekend in the outskirts of Hamburg, and since it was both charming AND a bit of a departure from any other wedding I’ve ever been to, I decided to share it with you.

The bride is T’s wonderful niece J, one of the three people who was actually in attendance at our wedding, the photographer of some of the pictures in my blog of that day. She was marrying her prince T and it was an honor to be a part of it all. The event also served as one of my “pop German quizzes,” in which I attempt valiantly to appear much more fluent in German than I actually am with a group of complete strangers to which I am currently legally related, an activity which normally results in my falling into a near-coma-type sleep at the end of the day.

But let me share parts of the fun and festivities which need no translation. The actual ceremony itself, a non-religious one, took place yesterday morning in a registry office. But not just any registry office. We all headed out far west of Hamburg into the countryside to the tiny village of Jork. Now a charming and bucolic retreat known for its cherry and apple orchards (but long a political victim of its strategic location), Jork lay under the crowns of the Holy Roman Empire, the Swedes, the French, and finally the Germans, respectively for the last thousand years or so. Here’s a shot of the registry office (as well as the happy couple), and you’ll get a small sense of the place and why it was chosen. The architecture is courtesy of the Dutch, I’m told.

Fridays are a busy days in the registry office; there were three different groups milling anxiously around that morning and we almost joined the wrong bunch. Fortunately we found our tribe and quickly filed upstairs where we were privileged to witness a very short, totally secular, but completely heartfelt ceremony of bonding, somewhat similar to ours in Denmark two years ago. (The two elegantly coifed heads in the foreground are the groom‘s parents.)

After the ceremony, we tumbled back down the twisty stairs and out the doors for a bit of refreshment:

But the day was a bit brisk for outside socializing, so we soon all trooped to the hotel where the rest of the day’s activities would be. The Privathotel Lindtner is owned by the same folks that bring you the Lindtner chocolates and candies, as one is emphatically reminded at check-in:

Since no wedding is complete with photographs, we started our afternoon by assembling on the front steps of the hotel for the obligatory group shot. But this one came with a twist. In order to make sure everyone’s smile was included in the shot, the photographer employed a special assistant….which means I was photographed by a drone for the first time (that I’m aware of). Cool idea, but also a little creepy:

Thankfully the formalities were concluded quickly and we could get to the main event, which consisted of substantial quantities of  excellent food and bev. Here are the lovebirds before the first meal was served:

…and another shot of them admiring the most amazing present of all, from J’s parents, a hand-carved representation of the island of Sylt, one of J’s happy places, together with all manner of adorable and thoughtful related giftlets attached to it:

Besides astonishingly creative presents from friends and family members, a scrapbook that was created by the guests in real time with photos taken outside, and a tile-painting table (!!), the wedding entertainment included an original song written and sung with great earnestness and amusement to the happy couple:

To my enormous relief, there was no garter-tossing or bouquet-scrambling – I guess those are American innovations. The traditions at this wedding seemed much more genuine and less….reductive. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t a lot of giggling and sniggering going around in response to some of the lyrics of the song…that my evolving German didn’t quite catch.

Thankfully, we finally made it to dinner. And what a meal it was.

In other words, cheese tart with salad, wedding soup (a beef broth with squares of egg white), braised oxen with truffled potato mousse, shallots in a port wine reduction and veggies, and then one of the most kickass dessert plates I’ve ever had in my life:

As I was chowing through this most delectable array, it crossed my mind that this meal would probably never be served at an American wedding, where the choice would probably be chicken or fish and would include no dairy or gluten. That would have eliminated most of this astonishingly delicious meal…and in that moment I was more than happy to ignore dietary correctness in favor of sheer gluttony at the highest level.

Best wishes, J&T! It was a grand treat to share your special day. Enjoy Majorca and see you at Christmas…

Posted in Germany, Uncategorized | Tagged | 2 Comments

Naked with strangers

Spoiler alert…this is not a post that will be rife with nude pictures. If that’s your interest, move along now, no reason to tarry.

To say I grew up in a prim and proper family with few PDAs (public displays of emotion) would be an understatement. The most erotic memory I have is that on the rare occasion that brother N and I shared a bed as youngsters (usually visiting relatives), we used to write large letters on each other’s back, spelling out a word the other would have to guess. PDAs were in such short supply, as I recall, that N and I made a conscious effort to give hugs to our younger step-siblings, since we saw that oversight on the part of our parents as a concerning thing. Not surprisingly, I was a bit late to the carnal delights that seemed to have defined my generation. One paramour in my later decades suggested that since I missed out on rampant widespread experimentation during my 20s, that area of my life was most probably a Lost Cause. Youth is wasted on the young, and all that.

So it might come as some small surprise to you, gentle reader, that in these later decades I have been indulging in one of the most un-American of physical pastimes, that of bathing naked with strangers. My first foray into this Brave New World was when I visited Budapest for the first time in 1992, barely three years into the non-Communist regime. At that point, I with several other women from my Untours group visited the Gellert Baths, an astonishing Art Noveau complex of pools and thermal waters that adjoins the Hotel Gellert on the Buda side of the Danube:

Men and women had separate entrances and facilities, carefully monitored by stern 4′ x 4′ Hungarian matrons who accepted forints, handed out threadbare towels, and shouted unintelligible instructions to us frightened tourist patrons. Once reaching the pools, however, I remember floating about in warm slightly sulfurous waters, gazing at the gorgeous architecture and tiling, feeling like a veritable goddess (I was 38) in comparison to most of the elderly patrons who clearly had had a very tough time under the former regime. (Body image +10 for that day, at least, and grateful for all the calcium and protein in my diet.)

It was over 20 years, however, before I repeated anything like that experience, my prim reticence taking hold as soon as I returned to the U.S. In 2015, however, I began teaching at the International University of Japan, a wonderful experience I have written about elsewhere. At the end of each term, the female faculty gathers for what is called a “Bare Naked Ladies Party,” an evening where folks sneak away from campus and enjoy a few guilty hours together in the warm sulfurous waters of a local onsen, bobbing and steaming and gossiping about fellow faculty and our irascible students:

Onsens have a long and storied history in Japan. Wiki tells us that “an onsen  (温泉) is a Japanese hot spring; the term also extends to cover the bathing facilities and traditional inns frequently situated around a hot spring. As a volcanically active country, Japan has thousands of onsens scattered throughout all of its major islands.” IUJ is situated in a valley between ranges of the “Japanese Alps,” so it is chock-a-block full of great little inns and establishments that will, for a modest price, give you access to washing facilities, a selection of indoor and outdoor pools, and usually a nice little lounge to recover in, to say nothing of the ubiquitous vending machines with juices of all varieties. My particular favorite is “SWEAT.”) Of particular note for this region is that apparently the local snow monkeys (Japanese macques) are known to head down from the mountains in the dead of winter to frequent the onsens, much to the consternation of the usual patrons…common wisdom being that if you encounter one of those creatures, it is generally best to back slowly away, making no eye contact whatsoever. (This I have yet to see and almost sells me on the idea of a winter trip):

So so far, if you’re keeping track, we have one day in Budapest in 1992 and a couple of female faculty frolics in the 20-teens. What’s the big deal, you ask. Well, I have arrived in Germany and discovered, apparently, the Mother Lode of therapeutic nudity.

Berlin (and perhaps other cities in Germany, definitely true in Iceland and perhaps other Northern European countries) have loads of public and private swimming and bathing establishments, dating, no doubt, from the days with much of the housing stock didn’t have such accommodations. Since apartments have modernized, now a number of these places have updated and are definitely more luxurious, featuring a variety of pools, humid and dry saunas, hot tubs, relaxation rooms, restaurants, on-site massages and other sybarite pleasures. My first experience was a couple years ago when Kurt’s friend G invited me along to her favorite sauna spot in Spandau, and I spent four hours enjoying the heat *but trying like hell to get over the shock of walking around in my all-under with men and women together.* Yes, you read that right. These facilities are mixed gender and “textile free.” Yee haw.

In fact, I just spent this afternoon at one of Berlin’s newer additions to this genre, the Vabali Spa, one of a chain of such Bali-styled venues in Germany. Basically a 20,000 square meter “sauna village” about 15 minutes by foot from the Berlin Hauptbahnhof, Vabali is a garden of earthly delights for the uninhibited, among which I guess I must now count myself. One can go for two hours, four hours, or all day to enjoy the variety of pools and saunas, OR one can add a massage to the package, which is what I did today. I justified today’s significant outlay to my “mental health and sanity” budget since I barely slept last night in light of the latest mental abuses of the U.S. political scene, but I can’t make a habit of this or I’ll be living out of a grocery cart under a u-Bahn station:

The point I want to make about all of this, though, is that…..being naked with strangers (even boys and girls together) is strangely liberating and not as incredible awkward and weird as I initially thought it would be. I’m helped by the fact that most of the time in these venues *my glasses are off,* which means everyone is basically is a pinkish or brownish blob, and I pretend they see me the very same way (which, judging by the numbers of glasses around the place, they probably do). One cultivates one’s best “mid-distance” unfocused stare and just makes sure one doesn’t slip on the tiles or misplace one’s locker bracelet. But as I sat in one of the dry saunas this afternoon, feeling some my of muscles unclench again after a pummeling by a very adroit Thai masseur (yes, masseur, I even did that today), it occurred to me that this is yet another one of the things a lot of us are really inhibited by and quite frankly it’s a shame. Sometimes the less you have, the freer you are, and I’m beginning to understand that quite literally.


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Green places and spaces

As you know, I am truly a cement-hugging, subway-loving urban gal. However, when my dear friend B strongly recommended that I visit the Liebermann-Villa am Wannsee to see the current exhibit and *even went so far as to give me the expensive slick and glossy brochure,* I felt a strong compulsion to overcome my aversion to nature and venture into that green and leafy southwestern suburb to explore a new (to me) region of Berlin.

Wannsee, near Potsdam, is one of the western-most suburbs of Berlin and the lake there is actually two connected bodies of water, forming one of the largest natural swimming areas in all of Europe. It became very popular at the beginning of the 20th century and now sports an astonishing range of summer time attractions. You may recall the name also in connection to one of the more difficult days of Berlin history, that of the location of the 1942 conference which saw discussion of the Final Solution. As with so many things in this part of the world, the gentle summer playground complete with sail boats, wide sandy beaches filled with laughing children, and specially designated nude bathing zones, rubs shoulders with the darker echos of the past. Here’s a shot of the lake on this cherubic July afternoon:

Today, thanks to B as you know, I was on a mission to explore a particular spot on that lake, the summer house of Max Liebermann, one of Berlin’s foremost Impressionist painters. This edifice, a lovely building in and of itself with an extensive gardens and open to the public year-round, has changing exhibits of the artist’s work, and at the moment is featuring a joint presentation with another Impressionist artist worthy of note, Lesser Ury. This exhibit focuses on their works which showcase the energy of Berlin in the early decades of the 20th century, and I’ll give you an example in a moment. But first, I wanted to share the gentle loveliness of this particular venue. Here’s a shot of the house itself, designed by Liebermann himself and built around 1910 for his summer escapes:

It’s a very pleasant place indeed and I could see lots of people sitting quietly about, soaking up the atmosphere, enjoying a little nosh and even having a little snooze. But being the Type A character that I am, these activities didn’t pass much muster with me, and I found myself quickly focusing on some of the odder aspects of the Villa, which included the calves (yes, calves) of this particular visitor:

Living art

Ahem. Max Liebermann (1847-1935) grew up in a well-to-do Jewish banking family in Berlin whose digs were located just next to the Brandenburg Gate in Pariser Platz overlooking the Tiergarten. For those of you unfamiliar with Berlin, this is basically Beacon Hill, Bel Air, and Potomac, Maryland all rolled up into one. While he was an Impressionist painter about which you can read elsewhere, he also reminded me of Ludwig Pollack, the subject of one of my posts in February, the Jewish archeologist in Rome. Both of these men grew up as wealthy and privileged secular Europeans, had enormously successful careers, but saw at the end of their lives the near total destruction of all they held dear. It gives one pause. But before one reaches for the bottle, let me continue the story. Here’s a shot of Pariser Platz and the Brandenburg Gate late in Liebermann’s era, some time before the Second World War, a vestige of another lost world:

…and a verrrry interesting shot of Liebermann and his wife Martha in that lovely apartment (and here I challenge the marriage counselors among us to unpack this photo):

Liebermann painted a great deal in and around Berlin, but not simply the statues and monuments which were being built literally as he lived there. Rather, he and Ury, among others of a less traditional artistic bent, were fascinated by and tried to record the dynamism of the evolving city during the decades of the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. They focused on moments and movements, in some cases in the evening hours, rather than on people or places, examples of which you see here. I am charmed by their focus on night and light:

The exhibit I came to see in the Villa was rather small, but very powerful, and I will now follow Liebermann’s work much more carefully.

Since too much time in the sun and fresh air makes me itchy, it wasn’t long before I headed back into the belly of the beast. But it was such a lovely day that I decided to take a little longer to get home by walking down the Landwehrkanal from Tiergarten to my flat.

The site of city fortifications as early as the end of the 15th century, the Landwehrkanal was realized as part of a watery transportation network in Berlin between 1845 and 1850. One of the darker parts of its history includes the dumping of many people into its murky depths, including the Polish activist Rosa Luxemburg in 1919, allegedly not dredged out for six months or so. But today, its bucolic vistas invite loads of hikers and bikers as well as a steady stream of river boaters. I haven’t done this yet, but it’s on the calendar for the next time T is in town:

Happily, one of our favorite restaurants, Schnitzelei, is situated just exactly on the way home, and today I dipped in for a little refreshment. Here’s a shot of the view from my table out toward the canal as I waited for my lunch to arrive. Please note the gender equality meme…okay, it’s subtle, but hint hint…the father (on the right) is feeding the baby:

…and here’s a house specialty, the “German Tapas” plate, delivered just before I started gnawing on the table. I’m having (from left) stuffed cabbage, plums wrapped in bacon, and a groats and parsley salad. Oh, and a lovely unfiltered craft beer. Life could be worse.

Cheers, dears, and until next time, thanks for riding around on my shoulder.

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A weekend in the countryside…

As you may know, I occasionally spend time in the Abruzzo region of Italy where T has a rural retreat and his workshop. Being a compulsively urban animal, I keep these visits to an absolute minimum since I invariably fall victim to some lurking natural peril, including  insect bites, poison ivy, nippy dogs, or my singular challenge of sun allergy. But sometimes the attractions are so strong that I have to overcome my aversion to a lack of subways and sidewalks, and this past weekend was one of those times. Two delightful sets of visiting friends plus the annual village festival were enough to lure me away from Berlin for a few days, and I’m so glad I made the effort.

Caprafico barely meets the definitive of a village, but that hasn’t stopped the locals from wanting to build their own church on site. If they come up with a certain amount of money, the local diocese (or some administrative body) will help them with the remainder, a powerful incentive in this economically depressed region of the country. As one of the money-makers, a festival is held every July. It’s a great time for the community to come together, eat local delicacies, and enjoy some live performers as well as hot Cuban line dancing. The latter was just getting started when we arrived:

Visiting friend P stopped eating the delectable arrosticini long enough to take some video to share of the festivities beneath an almost full moon:

But the belle of the ball was the adorable two-year-old daughter of a couple seen in the top photo. Hard to catch a Dancing Queen in action, but I think I managed:

The next day we heard about an art exhibit in a castle in a nearby hill town…and honestly. how can you say “No” to that? So after a grand luncheon of more wonderfully roasted meats, off we went.

But I must admit, we had failed to accurately understand the amount of effort needed to to actually reach the exhibit on foot. Needless to say, there were no elevators, just steep ancient staircases….

Roccascalegna, our destination, is a small village dating from the 15th and 16th centuries, at a time of great tension between two local armies, the Angevin (remnants of the French powers) and the Argonese (remnantss of the Spanish powers), both fighting for control of the region. Known for a long stretch of time as “Death Valley, the region has recently been trying to reinvent itself as a tourist destination. The Castello, seen at the top of the hill, is the main attraction of the town, not surprisingly, and the pedestrian path leading up to it has some delightful tourist attractions sprinkled along it, including small shops and bars, as seen in the yellow-ish portion on the left:

I was interested to learn that you can actually rent the castle for about $100 a day, and the mayor’s hope is that it will become a popular wedding and event destination….see this helpful article for details:


While I was definitely not prepared with the appropriate footwear, with some time and patience I eventually made it to the top. The views en route were well worth the effort:

The exhibit itself took place in what had been the baron’s chapel, built in 1577 (and now beautifully restored). Local residents at the time could attend, but they had to pay a special tax to do so. Seems it’s no wonder people in this region still yearn to have their own church. This room exhibited a special Italian-Iranian collaboration to use local Abruzzan wool in the creation of traditional Persian carpets. The other room showed abstract landscapes:

I snuck a look out one of the chapel windows that looked more like a defense position than a window for illumination, but then one could never be at rest in those days, it seems, even at prayer:

Here’s a shot of our intrepid group of art lovers and hikers, still standing as we exited the medieval portion of the village:

Back at home, we relaxed on the deck with some local cheese and vino, the perfect end to a beautiful day. But when I think about Abruzzo, some of my most heartfelt emotions are always reserved for the neighborhood dog who always seems to show up when I’m around, knowing I might need an escort through the brush and always hopeful of a bone or two…

Vale, Fido….I miss you…and until next time….

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The Power of Pleasures and the Growth of Gratitude

Just this past week, June 25, 2019 to be precise, The Atlantic magazine ran an article entitled “The Yale Happiness Class, Distilled,” by Joe Pinsker. In it he reports that this year’s Aspen Institute hosted Laurie Santos, the Yale psychology professor who developed and teaches the class “Psychology and the Good Life,” to present an hour-long “crash course” to summarize her course’s main points –  the biases against human happiness – and to offer ways to counteract them.

The first ‘glitch” (her word) in experiencing pleasure deals with “how the brain acclimates to things it’s repeatedly exposed to.” This is true of really good stuff, it seems, as well as to annoying things like subway noise or the crying baby upstairs. One category of this acclimation is called “hedonistic adaptation,” or getting used to something that is awesome but that seems less awesome over time. This explains, at least to me, why so many people spend so much time strolling the mall or shopping online – the thrill of today’s purchase fades pretty quickly and needs to be replaced with…the thrill of the next purchase. (Americans seem to be terrifyingly good at this at the moment.)

Santos’s prescription for this problem is to “buy experiences, not things.” One anticipates the trip, for example, enjoys it while it lasts, and then revels in the memories for longer than… the joy of owning a new car might last, to use her example. A second prescription is to be consciously grateful for what one already has, through an actual journal – my friend H in HH was telling me about this recently – or just through a brief reflection, either upon rising or going to sleep.

The second happiness glitch, according to Santos, is how our minds focus on comparisons rather than absolutes. She uses the example of Olympic medalists and how the bronze winners invariably are happier than the silver winners, because the silvers are #2 when they would like to be #1, and the bronzers are #3 when then could otherwise…not even be anywhere near the podium. We apparently always take a bead on where we are, and …quickly look to where it could be better.

And there’s an app for that- which is to imagine living without something that we are currently holding up for inspection – “What if I didn’t have air conditioning?,” one might ask, on a scorchingly hot Sunday afternoon. One could try to be without it for a night or two and then appreciate it all more when it’s back. Alternatively, one could do a thought experiment and think of what it would be like…if this particular friend were not in our life, if we hadn’t adopted this particular cat, if we hadn’t chosen this apartment. More personally at the moment, if we didn’t have the freedom to turn down a teaching contract in Japan this summer…to enjoy the balcony in Berlin.

So where am I going with all this, you might ask…and rightly so. What I immediately thought when reading this article is just how amazingly….Berlin continues to be a source of pleasure for me, and how I am trying to constantly be mindful of those joys large and small and to develop my own sense of gratitude. I owe a great deal in this specific regard to my dear friend J, who rarely speaks about anything without quickly adding how happy she is about this or that. She currently spending the summer on her enchanted isle in Maine, and so happy I am that she is there, enjoying the coastal vistas and keeping a warm lap for our shared (and now mostly her) cat.

I thought I would, therefore, share some snippets of my life over the past few months to give you a sense of the small pleasures that populate my days and keep me mindful, grateful, and with a fairly high step count on my iPhone.

Here’s a view of Museum Island (on the right), the Berliner Fernsehturm sticking up into the clouds and the River Spree on a clear spring day:

On the other side of town, walking along the Ku’damm the other day, I saw a very talented sand artist. I’m always a sucker for a lifelike but very immobile crocodile sculpture:

But besides art and culture (very broadly defined, that culture sometimes), one of the things I love about Berlin is that politics and current events are never far from anyone’s view. Here’s a recent election placard that carries a profoundly simple message….and FWIW, a reason that it’s no wonder the Greens did so well:

“Europe. The best idea that Europe had. Come, we’re building the new Europe!”

…and this delightful concert poster that carries its own deep hope that people can triumph over politics. I’m planning to be there:

Day to day, the best for me is that humor is everywhere….the Germans may often be considered gruff, direct, and unfriendly, but in my experience, Berliners are always ready with a wink and a chuckle:

But mostly I delight in the vibrant life of the city, the constant cavalcade of activities and events, a truly moveable feast that always takes me by surprise. Here’s a group of dancers from Sri Lanka in the lead-up to the Carnival of Cultures parade a few weeks back….However, I do believe that guy on the far right might be an outlier…

…and this great ad from the subway…which is, actually, a reminder from the municipal sanitation authorities to pick up after yourself and stow your trash appropriately…even when the blessed event is a wedding…

…so I leave you with this final message….that I find pleasure here every day in ways large and small and that I am constantly reminded that this chapter of my life is a totally unexpected miracle for which I will always, always try to be very grateful. (Except, of course, for those days when I really do have to run to the mall for a new pair of shoes and some really overpriced cosmetics…)

Bye bye for now…

Posted in Berlin, Germany, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Utterly Utrecht

As you may know, a good bit of my European travel over the last several years has been occasioned by pen shows.  Writing instruments in general and fountain pens in particular have been a significant part of my life for a couple decades now and responsible for some of my most enjoyable moments and best friendships, to say nothing of a new husband more recently. While I was in the US, I not only went to (probably) dozens of pens shows, but I also ran one for five years and served on the national board of the hobby association. Since crossing the pond and particularly since finding T, we have been regulars on the European circuit, where we attend annual shows in London, Hamburg, Madrid, Barcelona and Bologna, among other cities. But just this past April, we were notified of a brand new show to be held in Utrecht, the Netherlands, by THE most energetic and enthusiastic person either of us had ever met. We agreed to be among the marquee attendees and quickly made our plans to head west in early June. And we’re so glad we did.

We were not disappointed in the least. The pen show was well organized, well run, well attended, and oodles of fun to boot, with new pen friends and brisk sales. Kudos to Chaïm Bruijning together with his amazing wife Christa. But in addition to Everything Pen for several days, we had the chance to see and explore a new city, and that’s the part I’ll be writing about today.

Utrecht is situated smack dab in the middle of the Netherlands and is hence a major rail and transit point for the region. Its new train station sees more passengers annually than Amsterdam’s and that’s saying a lot. It has several universities and is a commercial and high-tech hub, with a population around 350,000 souls, many many of whom are young and fill the clubs and pubs that dot the city. But of course I start by being interested in the older history, and there’s plenty of that as well.

While Utrecht truly developed in the Middle Ages, as seen in the map above, there is evidence of Bronze Age habitation prior to the development of a Roman fort, Traiectum, which apparently denoted its location as a possible Rhine River crossing point. That name evolved into Trecht with the added leading “U” meaning “downriver.” The location of the fortress became the location of the Dom (cathedral), which is the green square in the middle of the map above, just over the small canal. The Franks turned Utrecht into a center of power for the Church and it has been known as the religious center of the country since the 8th century.

But secular me just loves to wander city streets, and here’s a shot of the entrance to the old city, taken from the point of entrance at the far right of the map above:

Oh, these little Dutch cities are just heaven. I fell in love with Leiden last June, and now I can see this will be a life-long addiction. One just strolls slowly down the medieval byways that meander along and away from the canals and enjoys the bits of life that present themselves one after another…here’s a coffee shop window that got my full and complete attention for a moment or two:

…a few steps further, a lovely family waits for a shopper to finish her errands:

The canals themselves are charming and form an integral part of the urban landscape…and along this one in particular I spotted what I believe to have been a…Hijab Hen Fest, a group of Muslim women celebrating the engagement or wedding of one of their party, with significant help from their mobile devices, of course:

Here’s a Swatch store in what apparently had been a butcher shop in former times…if you can make out the writing over the door:

…and of course we dipped into the Dom to see if we could sense the leylines that we had been told ran through the site. Here T is boning up on his ecclesiastical knowledge and seeing firsthand the impact of the Reformation on the high arts in situ:

But for good or ill, Utrecht is not just a medieval village. Time marches on, and so does good and bad architecture. In the period of the 1960s or so, there was a movement to modernize the city, paving over some canals and building some new neighborhoods which, to my eye, are an acquired taste. Here’s an example along with some canal-side animal art that appears to have an environmental and recycling theme:

The railroad station, mentioned above, has a most delightful feature that helps travelers recharge their phones and connect with their Inner Child all at the same time:

Speaking of kids, I was charmed and enchanted that our hotel had separate bathrooms….just for them. I tried to put my child molestation fears to rest for just a brief moment and to enjoy the sheer whimsy and thoughtfulness of the idea. The doors are to scale, but I can’t figure out a way to show that, so you’ll just have to take my word for it:

And of course it wouldn’t be the Netherlands if it weren’t for bikes, so many bikes that I spent a good bit of my time shrieking and trying to stay out of their way as they zipped around the city in and among the pedestrians as well as in their own lanes. Here’s a art gallery that obviously attracts a few peddlers…

…so finally I’ll leave you with my attempt to create a modern Vermeer shot of the long lovely summer evening that we enjoyed before returning to Berlin:

Farewell, Utrecht for now…I can’t wait to return…and to explore more of your welcoming land.

Posted in Netherlands, Uncategorized | Tagged | 12 Comments

A slice of Schwerin

I was fortunate that my good friend K recently invited M and me to go visit our friend U in Schwerin, giving us a chance to see the famous castle there and take a turn around the historic small town. It was May Day, a public holiday in Germany and most of Europe, celebrating the return of spring (tick-tock, still waiting!) and workers’ rights. It struck us as not a bit ironic to be walking through the former home of royalty on the day that celebrated the common man and woman, but what the heck, history is nothing if not ironic. In addition, Schwerin had the benefit of being a town we didn’t know well as well as the capital of the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern which runs runs along the Baltic Sea in the northeastern corner of the country – Angela Merkel territory.

That being said, Schwerin is most known for its castle, sometimes called the “Neuschwanstein of the North.” Located on a lake and looking from the outside like something you might find in a Tim Burton film, the castle dates back in its earliest incarnation to roughly the 10th century, although it assumed the beginnings of its current Dutch Renaissance form in the 17th century. Here we are preparing to enter and start our exploration:

Searching for history, as well as a bit of central heating.

For most of German history, of course, Germany wasn’t even a country. Rather, it was a confederation of nearly 40 sovereign states, the leaders of which were at each other’s throats a good deal of the time. As a result, the country is chock-a-block full of castles that, unlike my childhood fantasies of princesses and happily ever after, served as strongholds to defend and protect a range of very competing interests. The Dukes of Mecklenburg were particularly unsuccessful during a good deal of their history (you haven’t heard much of them, have you now?), and as a result this castle seems to express its inferiority complex in the way some people sport expensive watches and fast cars. Here, for example, is the throne room:

Behind me as I took this shot turned out to be one of the first examples of indoor heating in a building of this type (located in the throne room, naturally, to keep a chill off the Royal Bum). Behold the first imperial radiator:

I won’t bore you with too many of the features of the building itself (except to say that it is definitely worth a look if you are there – some amazing craftsmanship, beautiful porcelain, and a great gun collection), but I will share the most interesting living art I saw that day. Speaking of Tim Burton, this fellow visitor looks ready for Halloween and wouldn’t go amiss in Seattle or Berlin. Nothing wrong this his parenting skills, though – he had two smalls under excellent and loving control.

Here’s a external shot of the building, complete with a view into a lower-level garden and restaurant. IMHO, the decorative effects are a bit overwhelming:

In addition to its function as a nearly-restored historic castle, this edifice has a modern life as the seat of the state assembly (Landstag). That end of the building has been massively restored to contemporary standards and houses a state-of-the art assembly forum and assorted support offices. Here’s an arty shot of the staircase:

And located near the formal meeting rooms, I was charmed by the inside smoking accommodation, complete with air filtration, thoughtfully provided for those hard-working public servants who have not been able to overcome their addiction to the Evil Weed:

Hanging not far away one spots a huge mural with a cautionary theme as to the results of not playing so nicely on the world stage. No wonder the parliamentarians are still smoking.

Once we had completed our walk through the castle, we wandered into the center for a stroll and little nosh. En route we passed this remnant of the old town, a building which really does challenge one to pick it up and put it in your pocket. (The man in the lower left must either be geocaching or maybe just really likes manhole covers.)

U, who comes from Schwerin, took us to a charming bistro on the edge of the lake for lunch. After a great meal and once outside the restaurant, I spotted this lovely little statue evidencing sibling concern. You have to look closely to get the idea, but ‘it’s actually raining under the umbrella.’ The darker damper circle surrounding the children’s feet gives you a clue:

Finally, since it was May Day, we couldn’t leave town without passing by the small demonstration taking place in the Platz by the cathedral (I’ll spare you, but it’s the biggest and oldest building in town, dating from 1160). The red signs represent the trade unionists who, like most of the parties at the moment (as far as I can tell) support a strong Europe with democratic principles. How you do this, exactly, is currently subject to a lot of discussion and disagreement, no surprise.

On our way back to Berlin, K, M, and I decided to follow the “road not taken,” forgoing the Autobahn and speeds which make me dizzy in favor of wending our way through some of the dozens of little hamlets dotting the northern German landscape. (I learned K hasn’t met a church steeple he doesn’t want to know better.) It was a beautiful early spring day and we feasted our eyes on the golden fields of canola and bright green ones of budding crops. Yet again I want to express my gratitude for this chapter of my life and for the wonderful people I get to share it with. Stay tuned for the next adventure.

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Plucky Bydgoszcz

So now I’m clueing you into my new travel dilemma. (And aren’t I the lucky one to have this at the top of my list?) I’m looking to find and explore cities in Europe that 1.) are not tourist Disneylands filled with cheap international chain stores and hordes of tourists carrying selfie sticks and eating in restaurants with English menus or 2.) zombie towns that have been painstaking restored but which haven’t found their new life yet and sit in ornate and reconstituted splendor with only the cats for company. No, I want to find cities, real places, small and large, who are still “themselves,” still places where real people live and work and hang out in the town center and the language is still theirs and they are holding on to their souls and THEN they invite the tourists to come and share the place with them. Vilnius falls into this category, or at least it did when I visited in 2015, and now I’ve decided to Go East and see how Poland is managing this conundrum.

I bumped into the idea of going to Bydgoszcz (pronounced, as far as I can hear and tell as “BID-de-goshcht) by reading a teachers’ forum on eslcafe.com, a great place to hear folks talk about places small and large, known and remote around the world. Bydgoszcz came up as a place where someone could accept a nine-month contract and not go quietly insane in a matter of weeks from teaching in an isolated little burg. I did a quick Wiki check and learned that it had a university and a Philharmonic, that it had recently overhauled its small museum complex, and that it had a rich and diverse architectural heritage. That, and the train and hotel being cheap, was basically all it took, and away I went.

Once off the train, I made my way to my crib for the weekend, a lovely Belle Epoque structure near the center of town originally built in 1887. The new owners have tenderly restored the property in just a slightly over-the-top style, but my room was cozy, the restaurant delicious and under-priced, and the staff welcoming and more than helpful:

Because of its location in the Kuyavian-Pomeranian Voivodeship, Bydgoszcz has a complicated history. Kuyavia is a historic area in Poland with a history dating back millenia and including a famous history of cheese. Pomerania is the area to the north of Kuyavia and includes Gdansk and Szczecin, about which I wrote in December. I only knew it as a place that named a dog, but I have subsequently learned that both areas have gone back and forth, back and forth, between Poland (when it was functioning) and Prussia/Germany (when it wasn’t), resulting in a marvelous Slavic/Germanic mix that permeates a number of places in the region. The “hero” of Bydgoszcz is Kasimir the Great who granted Bydgoszcz civic rights in 1346 and set it on the road to whatever fame and fortune it has been able to achieve:

The next significant events in Bydgoszcz were “the Swedish deluges” in the 1620s and 1650s when the city was basically blown to bits by the retreating Swedes during the Polish-Swedish Wars (marble columns were recently found in the river during a drought-ish summer) and then the devastating effects of the plague. (Enough to keep everyone home with Netflix and MREs, IMHO.) But Bydgoszcz picked itself up and moved on.  A century or so later it was acquired by Prussia and renamed “Bromberg.” The pragmatic Prussians, understanding Bydgoszcz’s strategic location in terms of transportation of goods through the region, initiated a series of canals connecting the rivers surrounding the city and making it an immediate hub for commerce. Here’s a shot of the medieval city in bronze:

The main section of the “new” city extends north from the island seen above – the castle to the right was destroyed by the Swedes and has basically stayed destroyed ever since.

So under Prussian “inspiration,” Bydgoszcz became a forward way-station for the development and transport of goods and services through the region, known particularly for its granaries, one of which is in the process of becoming a whole exhibit itself on the history of water and waterworks in the region. Trying to get into the aquatic spirit of it all, I was completely charmed by a local fisherman and his avian assistant. (The quality of the photo is a bit grainy because I took it at a distance and had to enlarge:)

But what completely won my heart was the set of amazing small museums that Bydgoszcz has developed recently – a stunning set of historical “gems” that help visitors understand this city’s history and contributions to the region. In the small but incredibly well developed archeological museum on Mill Island, one can learn about centuries of history here, including the fascinating (for me) fact that during the early middle ages, people hung bones just inside the door to ensure the inhabitants’ well-being. Here’s a typical home of the time and place:

Nearby is a coin museum (I didn’t have time to visit) and a beautiful house filled with art in commemoration of the artist Leon Wyczolkowski. Now, I didn’t know this guy from Adam, but *wow,* is he great. Google him. Just do it. Here’s an arty portrayal from one of the rooms of the exhibition:

And nearby here was one of the most wonderful modern art museums I have ever seen (oh, and did I mention these places all cost about 1.00 USD each, less if you are old like me?) I would say the downside of this particular place was that….in an incredibly uncomfortably remnant of the old Commie times, a bored old man accompanies you through the museum, unlocking doors, turning lights on and off, and basically making you feel like a nuisance and sending the message that you better be quick about it. Amid a number of masterpieces I have never seen before (but thankfully I bought the book), I saw this tribute to our own Martin Luther King. Wasn’t expecting that:

I’m sorry that since I wasn’t supposed to take pictures I didn’t manage to capture the artist. But it was lovely to see MLK here, and fascinating to learn that he had inspired someone in the neighborhood.

And finally, in the spirit of museum trolling, I discovered….the Museum of Dirt and Soap! Now this venue truly captured my heart because my great-grandfather, a German immigrant to Milwaukee from Ulm, Germany, was a soap manufacturer of some note. It’s a dirty job, soap, actually, lye and ash in the old days, and this little museum offered a rather amazing hour tour to educate visitors on the whole problem of dirt and its removal throughout much of recorded history. They start you off, cleverly enough, with a quick hands-on soap-making lesson, the product of which is proudly presented to you on your departure from the premises. Here are my two fellow tourees engaged in the process:

A little further on, the same brave lass volunteered to demonstrate washing techniques under the watchful eye of our enthusiastic guide:

As I headed to the train station for my ride back, I walked through the in-process re-furbishing of the town square and over the recently renovated pedestrian bridge, connecting the old town center with the rest of the city. Holding his own across the waterway was this intriguing acrobat:

…and across the bridge from the water walker, was an exhibit reminding one and all of where Bydgoszcz stood in the fight for Polish independence:

An inspiring shot of Lech Walesa speaking to what looks like the entire population of the city, and now a photo from 1981 that continues to inform the city and its visitors.

I dipped into the Basilica on my last stop – I was fascinated to learn it was built on the model of the Pantheon in Rome, that complicated and compelling homage to Roman pagan civilization and later the power of the Christian Church. But what I found most endearing of all is that the Basilica, in an effort to give everyone something to take away, offered a “fortune cookie” bowl of scripture lessons to visitors young and old:

Of course I took one! My scripture fortune was Ephesians 5:19, which reads, more or less, in the King James version:

“Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.”

And I’ll take that to the good. Time to join a choir, me thinks.

So ends my most recent trip to Poland; stay tuned for Katowice, coming up soon.

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Görlitz, the Sleeping Beauty of Silesia

Last week was an interesting confluence of the spring equinox and a full “Worm” moon, so named because of the thawing earth bringing the reappearance of earthworms and hence the robins. Well, it certainly thawed me out and put me in mind of a ramble. And since, apropos of my last blog posting, I wanted to find a place to explore that hadn’t become the Disneyland consumer mall version of its former civic self, I figured I would have more luck sniffing around in the municipalities of the old East Germany. A “Top Ten Prettiest Cities” list had drawn my attention to Görlitz, located just at the Polish border in the southeastern corner of Germany.  Since trains were frequent and cheap to that destination, off I set, expecting an easy day trip and home for supper.

But the mysteries started before I even reached Cottbus, the half-way and train transfer point of my journey. Around there I began seeing town names with odd translations, seemingly Slavic, but nowhere never the Polish border. Consider this example:

“Odd,” sez I. Hmmm. Turns out….the region between Berlin and Görlitz, roughly 220 kilometers or 132 miles is, in addition to being the biosphere known as the Spreewald, is also the ancient region of Lusatia (Lausitz in German, Łužica in one of the local dialects), the home territory of a western Slavic tribe known either as the Sorbs or the Wends that populated this part of Germany starting in the 6th century or so. Although their physical geography swapped rulers like baseball cards over the centuries, today the peoples of Lusatia have to content themselves with cultural rights and the protection of both dialects as minority languages in Germany. (There’s even a bilingual high school in Cottbus.)

If that weren’t good enough, coming to Görlitz, the first thing I noticed was the town is actually…divided into two by a river – and a national border – and obviously one side got the better deal:

The city was unified until 1945 when the borders for Germany and Poland were redrawn and the Neisse River was thriftily used as a metric right about here. The fact that it divided a formerly thriving metropolis was just collateral damage.

First and foremost, Görlitz is gorgeous, drop-dead gorgeous. It’s also….oddly empty, at least big parts of it, for seemingly much of the time. The current population is around 56,000 souls, but the physical footprint and height of most buildings appear to be able to hold considerably more. Although millions of Euros were spent in the 1990s for renovation of stunning architecture, it seems so far, at least, to be a case of “If we build it, they may or may not come.” Of course there’s a story, but let me share some of the pictures and history. Here’s a picture of a cafe on the Rathaus (City Hall) plaza, the center of the Altstadt (Old Town) and some of the lovely Baroque buildings:

Here’s a charming street scene showing some fully renovated buildings and some that just wanted to keep a bit of patina, as it were:

You can start to see why many movie companies have chosen to use this little burg as the site for their shooting. Görlitz was used for Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds (where it stood in for Sicily), The Book Thief, The Reader, and even The Grand Budapest Hotel, where an actual Jugendstil department store, standing empty, was redecorated to serve as the hotel itself. (Must have been, ahem, glourious.)  I really wanted to see inside this particular building, but it was locked, like the cathedral, and here’s all I can offer:

…so as compensation, a posting I found this invitation on one of the windows, along with a shadowy representation of a photo-bombing blogger:

But before I could get too depressed, I briskly took myself off to walk more of the city streets to try to recapture some of the magic. I spied this intriguing mural gracing a less-than-stellar piece of architecture:

and not far away…

…I found these fine fellows guarding the modern pedestrian bridge that links the two cities and the two countries. I walked across myself to see if any buzzers would go off, alarms would sound, anything at all would happen, and of course, just crickets. I did, however, see the first free-range cat that I’ve seen anywhere in months. It scurried away before I could record the fact.

It was starting to get a little cool and dark and I thought about running for the train, and then I said to myself, “What’s the rush?” The city was asking far more questions than it it was answering, and I wanted to learn more. I marched into the most expensive hotel in town (thanks, Expedia) and learned it would be 50 euros to stay in a nice room with a nice view and enjoy a nice breakfast the next morning. So I did.

After I was sufficiently caffeinated, off I went to the local museum, which was absolutely wonderful, if a bit of a linguistic Pilates session since the information was only presented in German and Polish. And then the nickel started to drop, big time.

BESIDES being….currently German, on the edge of the Lusatia region AND a border town with Poland just north of the Czech Republic, Görlitz historically has identified itself with…Silesia. Right. I wracked my brain, huge repository of useless facts that it is, and managed to come up with one word. “Coal.” That was it. “Silesian coal mines,” my brain repeated, trying to be helpful. Clearly I needed more help to understand the situation.

Like Galicia, Ruitania, and Bessarabia, Silesia lives at the edge of my knowledge and understanding as the name of a piece of long-gone political flotsam and jetsam of the 20th century.  Short answer – Silesia is a historic region in the middle of Europe. But unlike in other blog posts, even after a quick scan of Wiki I’m not even going to try to summarize the history – it’s just way too complicated and convoluted to be believed. (Look it up if you are interested.)

Here’s a map from 1770 that gives you a quick overview including the location of the major players in the region and that should help a bit. First, find the dark blue blob in the middle. That’s Silesia (Schlesien), wedged between Poland on the right, the Czech Republic (Austro-Hungarian Empire) on the south and west, German Saxony on the direct west, and German Prussia on the northwest. Görlitz is located at the tip of the “nose” of the blue blob sticking into Taupe Sachen, just where you see the river coming south from Prussia.

You are here.

Silesia is rich in natural and mineral resources, hence its unending source of attraction (and desire for control) for the major powers around it. Its historic political and cultural “capital” is Wroclaw (German: Breslau), a lovely city I visited four years ago, and its major population center now is Katowice, a city hosting a pen show in a few weeks that I plan to attend with my best fella. The museum was chock-a-block of the usual stuff of good little museums – paintings, swords, statues, ceramic, maps, photographs. Since I shared the river geese and the wall horse with you, now it’s time for the museum chicken, symbolic of the wealth and high degree of craft that the region exhibited:

The museum building itself (the Schönhof ) was marvelous  – a masterful renovation of the oldest Renaissance building in the city that dates from 1526. Here’s a shot of a time when perhaps architecture was less important to daily life and the chickens were served on plates, not hung in cases. Like much of the rest of the city, the buildings were in quite bad repair by the time of German reunification (war, depression, war, DDR) and it was a matter of great civic and personal significance to the inhabitants that these buildings were restored.

A good museum always drives a powerful thirst, but sadly there was no convenient artsy bistro next door this time. So I hoofed around town some more, shocked to find that very few places in town served beer before 6:00 pm (are you sure this place is in Germany?). Turns out Görlitz is more of a “Kaffee und Kuchen” kind of place, and since that’s not my thing, I kept looking until I found the Altstadt Cafe, where actual humans (haven’t been many of those) were enjoying the sun and suds:

…and speaking of suds, on my way to the train station, I wandered past this interesting piece of urban art, hopefully soon to be returned to his summertime aquatic glory:

So, a captivating town in a region with a long and complicated history, now restored and renovated to perfection…will he come to kiss the Princess, awaken her from her slumber, and allow her to to take her throne on the European stage again? Perhaps the only thing worse that a beautiful old town filled with tourists and chain stores is …a beautiful old town…with no one to enjoy it. I hope that changes soon.

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Hints of Heidelberg and Happy Trails

As some of you know, I spent a fair bit of my youth tucked away in rural southern California on the Mojave Desert. There’s a back story, of course, but what’s relevant here is that my little burg sported a museum completely dedicated to Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. For those of you too young to remember, Roy and  Dale were the stars of “The Roy Rogers Show,” a Western cowboy program that ran for nearly 20 years on radio and TV. The museum, housed in a former bowling alley, featured loads of memorabilia from the pair’s personal and professional histories. Most striking of all, for me at least, was the incarnation of Roy’s faithful horse, Trigger, professionally stuffed and rearing mightily over the foyer.

So what’s Trigger in a bowling alley got to do with Heidelberg, you might ask. And well you should. As I travel around Europe, especially as I visit cities that have been designated UNESCO World Heritage sites or have similar amazing historical centers, it seems to me that many of those places have sacrificed their civic vitality in return for….becoming a kind of cultural Disneyland. This is a longer topic, one I hope to explore in the future, but now after having seen, among others, Heidelberg, Lübeck, Bath, Avignon, Cesky Krumlov, Riga, and even Prague, literally turned into beautifully restored, maintained and illuminated…stages for selfies and curio shops for hordes of tourists, it does give me pause. The places have survived and apparently are thriving, but not as organic day-to-day centers for normal citizens but as highly curated “experiences” for paying guests (including me, I assume). More later on this.

Anyhoo, I headed to Heidelberg last week because the local chapter of Democrats Abroad was hosting the annual meeting of DA-Germany AND that gave me a chance to see a city I had hoped to visit for a long time. Upon my arrival, I headed to my hotel located in the heart of the Altstadt and chanced to see this very lovely night shot of the Heidelberger Schloss (Castle), initially constructed around the year 1300:

So, “stuffed city” or not, doesn’t that image just get you all fired up to explore the town and learn more about its history? Of course it does, and first thing the next morning, after a hearty breakfast, I set off to do just that.

Heidelberg has a ridiculously long and fascinating history. Some of the earliest evidence of human life in Europe, the jaw of “Heidelberg Man” from somewhere between 60,000-200,000 BCE, was found in the area, according to Wiki. Evidence of a Celtic fortress of refuge and worship dates from 500 BCE, the Romans had a fort in the area, the Byzantines wandered through, and the town as we currently know it dates pretty firmly from about 500 CE.  Although the area saw a lot of Catholic abbeys after its Christian conversion, Heidelberg actually became one of the most contested regions for the fierce fights between the Lutheran and Calvinists in the 15th and 16th centuries (Protestants in the ring, hard to picture.) The university is Germany’s oldest and the pedestrian walking street, now home to an excessive number of global brands, is Germany’s longest.

After a good deal of huffing and puffing (the funicular was not working due to routine maintenance), I found myself at the castle grounds with this lovely view of the Altstadt and the Neckar river:

…and here’s a painting with a similar view, the “Hortus Palatinus und Heidelberger Schloss”  painted by Jacques Forquiere, a Flemish landscape painter, sometime before 1620. This garden, the first in the renaissance style north of the Alps and later lauded as “the eighth wonder of the world,” never quite achieved the goal of the painting, even though the engineer Salomon de Caus worked great wonders.

Back down at sea level, the view of the castle, a renaissance structure demolished in the 17th and 18th centuries and never totally rebuilt, still inspires:

But then it was time to head off to Significant Local Venues. On my way to the historical museum, I literally stumbled (damn those cobblestone streets) into the Documentation and Cultural Centre for the German Sinti and Roma. As you may know, in addition to Jews and other discriminated groups, the Nazis also performed an extermination campaign against the Sinti and Roma peoples of Germany, known often and incorrectly as Gypsies. Opened in 1997, “the Centre sees itself as a museum for contemporary history and a site of historical remembrance.” Their task is “to document the 600-year-old history of the Sinti and Roma in Germany, focusing on the crimes of genocide perpetrated by the Nazis, crimes that have been repressed from public consciousness for decades now.”

As with all places of remembrance, this was not an easy place to visit. The front desk requested that no photographs be taken, so I have to content myself with showing you the sign at the entrance to the building. It was a moving experience, a reminder, yet again, of the price of intolerance.

…and speaking of Holocaust and assorted themes, here’s a shot of the old Heidelberg Synagogue (or what’s left of it – the white lines indicate the walls of the original building) following the events of November, 1938:

Okay, respect paid, keep going. The local historical museum offered this fascinating insight into the amusements of the rich and famous. Here is a portrait of Perkeo (an abbreviation of “Perche no? for the Salerno-born Clemens Pankert), the dwarf-jester in charge of the largest wine barrel in the world, the Great Heidelberg Tun (Grosses Fass), located in the basement of the castle. Weren’t you supposed to see a pink *elephant* with that much juice?

Assssk and ye shall receive…

According to legend, Perkeo lived happily into his eighties “drinking only wine when one day he got ill and the town doctor had him drink water. He died the next day.” Jus’ saying. Watch out, TW…

Heading back to my hotel, I ran into perhaps the most hopeful sign of any I saw on this trip – a march and protest for  “Fridays for the Future.” Every Friday, many European school children of all ages leave their classes and protest for action against climate change. Bless their hearts – and lord give them strength and patience for the fight:

I’m going to try to find out where they march and protest in Berlin – the least I can do is go and clap like hell. Maybe they’ll even let me march as well.

Okay, so I really was supposed to be in Heidelberg for the Dems Abroad Annual meeting. I made it, at least for a few hours. Here’s a shot of Sherry, a pistol if ever there were one, making a pitch for her ERA buttons. No kidding, it really is a disgrace that the ERA didn’t pass in Virginia – the damn thing was ratified nationally *100 years ago,* but we’re still fighting in the states. C’mon now, y’all; let’s get this done.

…and then on my way to the train station after the final gavel fell, what the dickens did I see – but a very interesting Tee-shirt store. I think this message  may actually have had merit – but only up and until the Brexit vote, when our British brethren drank the same damn Koolaid that infected our recent national election. Interesting to consider nonetheless – maybe this is Europe’s actual perspective…

So there you have a snippet of Heidelberg, and as I head to Bamberg and another fossilized Altstadt and World Heritage site, I leave you with a bit of Roy and Dale. Extra points if you remember the melody:

Happy trails to you, until we meet again
Happy trails to you, keep smilin’ until then
Who cares about the clouds when we’re together?
Just sing a song and bring the sunny weather
Happy trails to you, ’till we meet again…..

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