Author Archives: margaretlynnie

Germany-Austria-Belgium Rendezvous

Munich

Sunday-Tuesday, September 30-October 2, 2018

We had arranged to meet up with some friends we met last winter in Spitsbergen, Hani and Ali. They currently live in Munich and had mentioned our coming to Oktoberfest. We arrived Sunday night and they immediately invited us to dinner where we met two of their friends, Firouzeh and her husband Ali.

You can see from the photo the meal and conversation provided a wonderful intro to our stay in Munich…

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with the piece de resistance of Ali lending Max his lederhosen :)

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The next day day we met Hani with her friend and colleague from work, Matt. He didn’t wear his lederhosen, which was a relief as I wasn’t in a dirndl, but the two who wore them did so splendidly :)

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Prior to making plans for Oktoberfest we had looked online at typical attendance per day and, as predicted, Monday daytime was one of the sparser days.

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Matt said the day before it had been a sea of people. Having been once or twice in a throng where your body became a vertical wedgie I admit I was thankful for room to maneuver.

A few hours amidst the beer-drinking crowd with a bit of music and German food sated our appetites.

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We left the huge beer tents and amusement park rides for a more sedate treat of coffee and cake in a nearby cafe.

Although it was a short visit with Hani and Ali, being with them and meeting Firouzeh, Ali, and Matt was another amazing way to feel part of a world of friends.

Salzburg

Tuesday-Wednesday, October 2-3, 2018

The next morning we took the highway for the 1.5 hour drive to Salzburg to another rendez-vous. And, it was here in Mozart’s birthplace we saw our friend from home, Colleen.

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She was finishing her ten-day cycling trip with VBT that had been in Slovenia, Italy, and Austria. And, the last stop was Salzburg, a city she knew from her year abroad.

We joined her for a fun afternoon visiting some of her old haunts and retracing the route to school from her apartment.

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And, with her fluent German, she could ask locals the way to other favorite locales :)

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Of course, with this being Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s birthplace we spent some time in his home, now a museum.

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Apart from being a musical prodigy, Mozart (1756-1791) certainly experienced a different childhood from Beethoven: he grew up in a supportive and loving environment as witnessed by the letters exchanged between all four in the family. Additionally, His sister, Maria Anna or ‘Nanneri’ (1751-1829) was noted as a being an amazing musician.

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Two years before his death in 1789 an artist sketched a portrait of Mozart identified as the most authentic rendering.

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Due to an extravagent lifestyle he died with large debts in spite of earning a good income. I found interesting one of the reasons for the debt was her wife’s spa excursions…

But, his work lives on with his friend and colleague Franz Josef Haydn (1732-1809) stating  “In over 100 years  posterity will never see such a talent.”

We crossed the bridge on a final walk

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back to our respective hotels and a farewell dinner.

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Bolderberg

Thursday-Friday, October 4-5, 2016

After a night on the road with a quick stroll in Regensburg  Germany, a former Roman city and and medieval trading route, we arrived for an overnight at our Belgian Family’s home.  We caught up on 1-1/2 year of activity, which is a lot with three teens or ‘pubers’ as they’re called over here

 

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and met the newest member, Cuba, a Spanish water dog (which our friend Sue would love as well).

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After another lovely dinner we left the next morning for Hoorn with fond memories of sites we’d seen and the friends we met.  Life is grand :) !

 

 

 

 

 

And, more Heidi-like Land, only in Italian :)

September 27-30, 2018

Heading to the Italian side the next morning we passed a church steeple rising from the man-made Lake Resia. Man-made due to being flooded in 1950 to create a dam for electricity.

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And, in case you’re like me and aren’t exactly clear on the governance of this region here’s a quick explanation:  this State of Tyrol is one of three areas designated by the EU as a Euroregion†. Italy’s South Tyrol (Süd Tirol) and Trentino form the southern and eastern parts of this cross-border triumverate.

† “A Euroregion is a cross-border territorial entity that brings together partners from two or more cross-border regions in different European countries. Their purpose is to create a coherent space that is developed collectively to ensure that the border is no longer an obstacle but becomes a resource and an opportunity for development. To do this, it creates a framework for cooperation that makes it possible to bring together the different players and to put in place common policies and projects in areas such as regional development, transport, the local economy, cultural activities, the environment and so on, always in accordance with the specific features of each border area.” (Espaces-transfrontaliers.org)

The cooperation must work well since this Euroregion is one of the wealthiest in Europe, with low unemployment and a high standard of living. No surprise tourism plays a large role in this area’s economic health, with the Austrian Alps and South Tyrol’s Dolomites providing a playground for all-season activities. We were extremely fortunate to meet up with Christine and Jürgen for picture-book strolls in their backyard of Austrian Alps.

While these bordering areas do work together, the newly elected Austrian prime minister Sebastian Kurtz seems to be keen on stirring up nationalistic fever. In 2017 the coalition government, which includes the far-right Freedom Party, suggested the German-speakers in South Tyrol (roughly 66% of the population) should qualify for dual nationality by adding an Austrian passport to their Italian one.

Many in South Tyrol are amenable to obtaining Austrian citizenship. Not only are they in sync with the Austrian culture but also prefer to be linked to Vienna’s economy over Rome’s. This suggestion by Austria had inflamed the Italian nationalists with the leader of Brothers of Italy (so much for sisters…) shouting the slogan, “Hands off Italy!”.

This push-pull amongst the South Tyroleans between Austria and Italy isn’t new. For 550 years the Austrian-Hapsburg Empire ruled this land until 1918. In 1915 the Allies ceded South Tyrol to Italy based on the Secret Treaty of London when Italy agreed to support the Allies. With the rise of fascism Mussolini forced the region to become totally Italian. Hitler, of course, wanted this area to be part of the German Reich.

So, the “Option” was devised where the South Tyroleans could either emigrate to Austria as part of Hitler’s Nazi Party or remain in Italy and lose their culture under Mussolini’s fascism. A lose-lose scenario lasting from 1939-1943.

Trentino, being further south in Italy, has escaped this tension especially since the majority of their inhabitants speak Italian.

However, with nationalism turning many countries into pockets of isolation, let’s hope this Euroregion can work through this issue without disrupting the existing cooperation among its citizens.

In driving to our destination in Kastelbel we noticed row after row of vineyards.

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But, those vines suspiciously are holding mighty big grapes. Which, in peering more closely we realized were apples…

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We later found out every 10th apple in Europe comes from this area. And, I have to say, they grew some good apples :)

We arrived at a lovely hotel Jürgen found for us when the Agri-Tourismo one he recommended had no vacancies. We highly recommend Hotel Panorama not only for its warm and helpful family, beginning with Christian, but also for its meals included in the room price (breakfast and dinner).

When we checked in they said fish was the main entree that night. Expecting a typical buffet of soggy food sitting under warming lights, the actual meal of delicate and delicious fillet accompanied by a starter and salad then finished with a dessert stunned us. We now knew not to be late for the 6:30-7:00pm serving time. And, the breakfasts were just as marvelous in their freshness and tastiness. And, the coffee was glorious.

Furthermore our room was Scandinavian airy and comfortable with a shower to die for. If you want to make a boating woman supremely happy, give her a shower that doesn’t cut off after three to five minutes, water hotter than tepid temps, and pressure that won’t leave half the shampoo on the head. Yes, I was happy!

But, beyond that the Dolomites we experienced both in drives and walks offered a completely different mountainscape.

After having driven on one of the famous sightseeing roads filled with hairpin turns and narrow lanes the day before

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–where we did stop to gaze in awe at Lake Carezza where you would swear it had been photoshopped

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And captured views of the Dolomites–

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With lots of para-sailaing (which we wanted to do but ran out of time)–

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We set off for the capital of South Tyrol, Bolzano (where the iceman, Ötzi, lives††) and the Renon plateau, an area offering lots of hikes and scenic options. Having located the cable car for a ride up to Collabo (in German, Klobenstein as every place is in both Italian and German) we began our task of sussing out a hiking trail. As we peered at one of those glossy-page folding maps trying to understand where we wanted to go this kind couple approached us. If you ever see someone looking a bit lost while staring intently at a map, one of the nicest things you can do is ask if they need help! That’s how we met Anna and Alois Frisch, a couple from Germany who were visiting one of their favorite areas.

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They took us under their wings, ensuring we got on the Renon Train, South Tyrol’s only narrow gauge railway with powered cars from 1907. Disembarking, we followed them to a bus stop in the small village of Longomoso. We then decided, due to time constraints, to skip the next step of taking a bus to a higher hiking ground.

†† On the Austrian-Italian border at 10,530 ft. Two hikers discovered his mummified body September 1991 in the Ötzi Mountains. The Italians claimed it after a survey established it laid just over 100 yards on their side. Unfortunately, we didn’t see him as this fits perfectly with in the category of an MDT (Max Disaster Tour).

We then headed off to do an hour loop, one marked with letter excerpts written to or from Sigmund Freud (1856-1939). Which seemed odd until we read he had spent the summer of 1911 in this area.

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This was my type of an afternoon hike:  few inclines, well-marked paths, and plenty of open spaces with warm sunshine.

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Oh, and a few resting stops…

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And a friendly local.

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After several hours we found our way back to Bolzano and headed for another treasure in the area:  one of the five museums established by Reinhold Messner.

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A native of South Tyrol, this mountaineer was the first in the world to climb all the earth’s peaks over 26,000 ft. If you want an extreme quick bio of this guy, Check this post out  But, please excuse the language!

Each museum presents a A facet of Messner’s passion (mountaineering) interlaced with art,  and each museum locale is reason enough to visit even if you’re not interested in mountains or art. The one outside Bolzano is a repurposed castle,

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which we wandered around (often having to refer to the brochure to determine where we were)

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Unfortunately, we had hit this museum at the end of the day so we scampered up and down stairs (that tested my fear of heights)

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And enjoyed the various sculptures scattered throughout the grounds.

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After exploring this Messner Mountain Museum we added the other four onto our ‘to do’ list for future road trips.

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Back in our room that night we discovered one reason why Anna and Alois knew the routes so well:  he writes Guidebooks . Another wonderful connection. And, another example why it’s the people we meet in the places we go that make our voyage so heart-warming memorable.

We left South Tyrol via the Timmelsjoch High Alpine Road. It seemed fitting that our exit provided more stunning views.

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And, for me, the scariest. The road is open from 7:00am to 8:00pm beginning end of May to end of October (depending when winter decides to end and begin). Some informational stops along the way provided historical tidbits in artistic buildings,

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such as the use of the road as a smuggling route. The photo below shows a wooden ‘backpack’ used to transport goods in a ten-hour or more crossing.

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Not only cars but motorcycles zoomed by us, sometimes a seemingly non-ending streak of them. Which made sense when we discovered Timmelsjoch proudly hosts the ‘highest-located motorcycle museum in Europe’.

With non-existent guard rails in some of the highest places (unless you count some wooden stakes spaced fifteen feet apart…), 

we (royal ‘we’ as Max was the only driver on the rental) managed to exit Italy and enter Austria without any mishap. Except for Max performing his wall pose.

 

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Next, three more spectacular meet-ups!

 

Heidi-like Land

Tyrol, Austria

Sunday-Friday, September 23-28, 2018

With Beethoven’s dramatic music echoing in our heads we left the Beethoven-Haus Bonn and pointed south for the Austrian Alps.

After a long rainy drive the sky cleared to a full moon as we wove through a narrow cut in the mountains on the Fern Pass, the second-most travelled pass in the Alps (the first is Brenner Pass, which is the lowest one). A bright-colored string of lights between two mountain tops greeted us

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as we continued our way to the rental apartment in Lermoos, just 14 miles south of Reutte which sits on the border between Germany and Austria.

Actually, we were traveling on a Roman Road called Via Claudia Augusta. Completed 46-47 CE this road connected a Roman compound in southern Germany to the Po River in northern Italy. As the main travel region between the Adriatic Sea and the Danube river it later became known as the “Salt Road” with salt being an important commodity (and excellent tax resource for those fortunate enough to control the route).*

*Some days later we did some sleuthing and found tire ruts on a small segment of the Via Claudia Augusta after an hour of roaming up and down the road between Lermoos and Biberwier.

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which provided Max the opportunity to see if the width matched the space between modern train rails based on oxcart travel several thousand years ago.

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And, the only reason we decided to search out this piece of history began with a photo spotted at another site earlier in the week:

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But, the road we took to Lermoos seemed tame compared to others we traversed during our week in this part of the world.

Our arrival in Lermoos started with a wonderful couple of days partly due to blue skies-warm sun throughout our stay and mainly due to meeting up with Christine and Jürgen.

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We met them over breakfast a year ago January when both of us happened to be staying at the same hotel in Kayserberg, Alsace-Lorraine region of France.  A short conversation followed with their recommending an art exhibit of Otto Dix (1891-1969) in Colmer. Soon after, Max and Jürgen were friends on FaceBook with Jürgen kindly advising us where to base ourselves for daily explorations.

With Christine being an artist and nature guide and Jürgen a journalist and author** we were treated to a lovely walk along the Tyrolean Lech River, Austria’s last wild river landscape in the northern Alps flowing through a beautiful alpine valley (for the best images, click Here).

Christine works at this nature park during the summer season, so we had an excellent guide explaining the beauty surrounding us, from the grandeur of the expansive river bed to the earthen mounds of soon-to-be-hibernating ants.

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On the walk back Max and I noticed Jürgen stooping to pick up something. When we went over to see exactly what was so intriguing, we saw it was mushrooms! Which turned the last bit of our walk on a hunt for edible fungi :)

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** If you speak and read German, then you’re fortunate for you can get one of his fascinating guides combining amazing hikes with historical sites. For a preview of his new book click Here  ).

A tour of the Nature Park Center Klimmbrücke where Christine’s office is located ended our day but not before Jurgen and I became human dragonflies :)

 

And, not before a quick stop at a lovely village church whose spartan exterior belies the elaborate interiors:

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A separate building featured a chilling bones room. Due to a shortage of burial plots human remains were disinterred and deposited in the cellar.

 

 

It’s also where I saw some eidelweiss, albeit long past its original glory.

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When I exclaimed how I’d love to see some live ones Christine gently told me that eidelweiss only grows above the tree line, a height not conducive to fair weather hikers such as us.

The next day Christine had to work but Jürgen suggested another alpine walk, this time a gondola ride in the Tannheimer Valley outside of Reutte.

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From there we spent an easy hour or so following one of the well-groomed trails (the top left in photo below)

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We made our way to a restaurant perched on the mountainside with expansive views down to a lakeside village and a typical Austrian meal, and friendly waitress.

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Yes, Max is sampling the local schnapps after seeing the folk next to us prosting the day :)

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With such a warm sun it surprised me to see icicles from the night before

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as we made our way back to the gondola sated from a beautiful dream of a day,

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Including spotting a decorative straw hat perched atop another happy hiker:

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Prior to our walks with Christine and Jurgen we had done a bit of exploring ourselves beginning with a vital strategic stronghold built during the Middle Ages in Ehrenberg. The complex is comprised of four different fortified areas: Klause (a strong house), Ehrenberg Castle, Schlosskopf Fortress and Fort Claudia.

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The complex served as both a defensive barrier to the north and it’s Bavarian dukes, and a protection of the only north-south trade route (i.e., Via Claudia Augusta) at that time.

Of course, today the buildings are either castle ruins or rebuilt as a museum (where the Klause sat).

Of the four we walked past the Klause and followed the path on a 20-minute walk up the mountainside. But, before we entered the castle ruins we opted to walk across the one of the world’s longest suspension foot bridges (!).

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The Holzgau Suspension Bridge connects Ehrenberg Castle with the Fortress Claudia. It’s 200m (656ft) long crossing the Höhenbach Canyon. Although a new (2017) Swiss pedestrian footbridge is the longest at 494m (1621ft!), this one is still the highest at 114m (374ft) vs. the Swiss one at 86m (282ft).

Even with my deathly fear of heights I couldn’t NOT do this:  (1) there’s no reason to think you could fall because you’re contained by a fairly high net on each side of the walkway: (2) it wouldn’t be easy to jump because of the fairly high net on each side of the walkway; and, (3) if the fairly high net didn’t feel quite high enough, I could always drop to my butt and scoot across.

So, with some trepidation and a desire to go first to ‘get it over with’, I began the walk only feeling a bit more jittery when someone at the other end hopped on and caused a gentle sway to the walkway. With a straight-ahead gaze and hands gripping each handrail I made it across only daring myself to look down once or twice through the metal grating to the road below.

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On the way back I managed to sing “Do Re Mi” over… and over… and over again adlibbing lyrics such as ‘am almost there’, ‘what a fool am I’, and such morale-boosting phrases.

Max also felt the height as he, too, held onto the rail at certain points.

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And, just for the record I, too, removed hands from the railing (every now and then, well, mostly ‘then’).

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I finished our ‘stroll’ with a certain self-centered pride quickly dashed when I realized how undaunting it truly was compared to the thinking of doing it.

After a quick perusal through stone ruins we retraced our steps, down the path–not across that bridge, and headed to a quick cable car ride up a ski slope located right in Lermoos. Another tremendous view accompanied by white stuff on the ground

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and home we went feeling very glad Jürgen had recommended this particular section of Tyrol.

Because we wanted to watch the hearings beginning at 4:00pm our time we stayed an extra night at our Lermoos lodgings due to the certainty of a CNN channel. With an extra day we decided to go to the top of the tallest mountain in Germany, Zugspitze 2962 m (9718 ft) tall. We reached it by taking the cable car up on the Austrian side, which provided several stomach lurches when we bounced over the cable poles.

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The mountain top presented stunning views, something of which one never gets bored.

We mulled around going from the Austrian side

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to view the German side.

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There we witnessed, to me, a palm-sweating fear of seeing tourists of all ages and sizes and abilities clamoring up the precipice to snap a photo of “THE” top id’ed by the golden cross.

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No. Thank. You.

Max said he would have done it, which I believe, if so many people weren’t clogging the ladders and brittle path of the summit. For that, I am ever so thankful to the Alpine gods and goddesses for those crowds. To see him doing it would have either made me catatonic from terror or from glugging the local schnapps at one of the cafe picnic tables.

An easy ride down landed us on terra firma in time for the devastating hearings. No need to say more of that.

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And, before we leave Tyrol and its majestic peaks, here’s the view from our rental in Lermoos for morning coffee…

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And evening cocktail gazing.

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Not too shabby :)  No, not shabby at all! And, a huge ‘danke’ to Christine and Jürgen.

Stay tuned for more mountains….

Da-Da-Da DUHHHHH

ChriBONN

Saturday-Sunday, September 22-23, 2018

Images of majestic alps with serrated tops decorated with an icing of snow inspired a road trip once we landed back in our winter port of Hoorn. So, we rented a car and headed south Saturday night after our friend Deborah’s book launch in Amsterdam.

But before we reached our mountain destination, a sleep-over outside of Bonn offered something we couldn’t resist:  touring one of the country’s most famous musician’s birth place. Located in the former capital of West Germany during communist rule, this city houses Beethoven-Haus Bonn, a memorial and museum dedicated to Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827).

A self-guided walking brochure accompanied by an excellent audio-guide (well-worth the 2 euros each) led us through the 12-room museum.

775A6AE6-E14D-43B4-B748-CFF187A240A7Formerly a front building and a separate annex, the two parts are now connected. The largest collection of this musician’s artifacts in the world, the Beethoven-Haus Bonn also includes a research center and cultural programs in a building on the other side of the enclosed garden.

When Johan Beethoven and Maria Magdalena had their second child (Ludwig) they lived in the annex (now the back of the house). Many occupants of this middle-class neighborhood worked for the royal court including Johan and his father, who lived diagonally across the street from his son. Historians believe the birth room (top window on the right) was the at the back of the annex.

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Coming from a line of musicians (both his father and grandfather were court musicians), it seemed inevitable his father would become his first instructor, reputedly a harsh one at that. 

The role of ‘stage dad’ played by Johan wasn’t new. Some years earlier another father (Leopold Mozart) shepherded his son, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791), to success. Yet, Leopold’s loving relationship with his son sharply contrasts to Johan’s tyrannical approach to Beethoven. Stories abound of an abusive father (drunkenly dragging the young boy out of bed in the middle of the night to practice, hitting him when he didn’t play well; in short, not a pleasant childhood).

So eager was he to present his son as a musical genius, Beethoven’s father supposedly knocked two years off his son’s age on an advertisement in 1778.

Fortunately, at age ten the young prodigy came under the guidance of Christian Gottlob Neefe (1748-1798), both an instructor and mentor to Beethoven.

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Some say this composer and musician influenced Beethoven the most, including his pupil who wrote, “I thank you for the counsel which you gave me so often…If I ever become a great man yours shall be a share of the credit.” 

In 1792 he moved to Vienna, his home until his death, and studied under Franz Josef Hayden (1732-1809) and George Albrechtsberger (1736-1809). Beethoven also had informal lessons with Johann Schenck (1753-1836) and Antonio Salieri (1750-1825). 

Beethoven was reputed to be a difficult and stubborn student. As one scholar stated, the father’s unjust treatment of his son caused Beethoven to revolt against authority. To me, Beethoven’s proclivity to rebel would seem natural based on his early home life and the times in which he lived (French Revolution and Napoleon).

This rebellious streak may have inspired the stunning music Beethoven created. Whatever the cause and however he achieved it, all I can say is this man’s music gives me goosebumps, in the good sense!

We spent over an hour wandering through rooms filled with memorabilia–letters, portraits, his musical instruments and music sheets, ear trumpets,

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even his death mask (which a friend said seemed pretty freaky, and I have to agree).

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One of the more intriguing aspects of our time here was the audio-guide’s attempt to demonstrate the various stages of Beethoven’s hearing loss. Buzzing (tinninitis?) began in his late 20s and continued to deteriorate. It’s unclear whether he became totally deaf but by the last decade of his life he used ‘conversation books’ with friends and visitors, communicating thoughts in writing and Beethoven replying either in writing or by speaking. 

A portrait of Eleanor von Breuning*, one of Beethoven’s first pupils, highlighted the close friendship he had developed with that family, largely due to Eleanor’s mother providing a sympathetic shoulder after Beethoven’s mother died in 18787. Eleanor married physician Franz Gerhard Wegeler (1765-1848) who penned a biography of Beethoven in 1838. He sourced much of his material from the exchange of letters, a biography the museum states is the first authentic one. 

* I was curious why her surname prefix was “von’ and Beethoven’s “van”. Both mean ‘of’ or ‘from’ but the difference is in the origin. “Von” comes is of German origin and originally indicated a noble until after the Middle Ages when commoners also used it. “Van’ is of Dutch origin and used by pretty much anyone from the get-go.

I’ve pulled images from the Internet since photographs weren’t allowed, and here’s one I wish I’d been able to take:  an 1812 bust by sculptor Franz Klein, reputedly the most authentic representation of Beethoven. Gazing at the pugnacious expression I could easily envision this guy not wasting time on politeness.

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We left the museum too soon but we needed to reach our room for the night, another 6 or so hours on the road. And, as I end this I’m bobbing my head to one of his most famous composition’s… 

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Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and Friedrich Schiller’s “Ode to Joy”, and I dare you not to sway to the music… :)

Next, where we couldnt stop humming another tune…

All About Zzzzzzeees

Sunday, September 23, 2018

“Do you know the rest of the alphabet too?”

That caption comes from a book just hitting stores now. Yes, it’s in Dutch and yes, there’s no English translation… yet. But, what we find so wonderful about this book is knowing one of the faces on the cover:  Deborah Freriks!

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Deborah penned VAN DIT BOEK GA JE BETER SLAPEN (literal translation:  FROM THIS BOOK YOU WILL SLEEP BETTER) with her friend and colleague, Catelijne Elzes. Not only did Deborah co-author the book but, being an artist, she also created all of the illustrations.

We’ve witnessed her creative powers over the past two years as she’s researched and crafted this book. And, then last fall they had secured a publisher, one who also represents the Dali Lama (!).

So, to see this appear in a hard cover complete with a book tour launch and multiple promotions on TV, radio, and magazines gives us goose bumps :)

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The formal book launching occurred yesterday, September 22, in Amsterdam at Scheltema, the biggest Dutch bookstore chain.

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We attended the event with Tika and Thijs (whose blue suede shoes called for a photo).

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This past week we had a mini-celebration aboard JUANONA with Deborah, Thijs and Tika as we toasted her accomplishment.

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Knowing many friends who join me in sleepless nights, I crave an English translation of this book.

Other friends of ours we’ve met cruising are published authors as well, such as Daria and Alex Blackwell, to name two. Pretty wonderful to think of people achieving such a feat! So, here’s to the written word and those who make me want to read them.

 

 

PASSAGE PLUS

KIEL CANAL

Friday-Sunday, August 31-September 2, 2018

With a favorable Nothwest wind we left the luxury of Denmark’s Vejrø Island for Germany’s Kiel Canal. The canal is 60 miles long and night-time travel is not allowed for pleasure craft, which usually necessitates a stop at one of the few designated mooring spots along the canal. We chose to moor at the 85.4 km mark near the east end of the canal, a place we’d tied up twice before; last year heading back from Sweden, and this year heading into the Baltic.

Eight hours of steady motoring gives you a lot of time to dwell on important aspects of life such as what’s for dinner… how close can we get to shore without running aground… are we far enough away from the passing ships… are the folks cycling along the canal ‘wave-worthy’… did the folks considered wave-worthy wave back… and, when all of those thoughts run through one’s head, what do our belly buttons look like. 

In short, the first time through the Kiel Canal (end of last year’s cruising) offered a new experience. The second time traversing the Kiel Canal (beginning of this year’s cruising), we knew what to expect. The third time, well, we know what to expect… and it’s a long canal.

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So, reaching the town of Brunsbüttel near the lock on the west end of the canal meant an end to the sameness and the thrill of turning off the engine. 

During our day-long motor several boats going over six knots passed us. We decided to up our speed for now we were afraid the docks at the end may get a bit wee too crowded.

Sure enough, entering the small docking area we slowly edged in trying to find a friendly boat, i.e., one with fenders hanging over the side, welcoming rafters such as us. Spotting one free space alongside the pontoon we aimed for that only to decide at the last minute it looked too small to squeeze into and then easily get out of the next morning, which is probably why it was free. 

Fortunately, the beautiful new 57-foot sailboat in front of that space skeptically said we could tie alongside them. By this point we were pretty much alongside them already so they didn’t really have much choice in the matter. So, we decorated JUANONA with our travel-weary fenders, which used to be bright white but have morphed into not-so-bright-and-definitely-not-as-white hue. We then tied to the shiny boat who now had quickly put out perfectly coiffed fenders complete with pristine covers nice enough that I’d be happy to use for pillows in our main cabin.

This also meant we had to traipse over their lovely you-could-eat-off-of-it deck to reach the pontoon. It was at this point we learned this was Hull #1 of a brand-new Hallberg-Ratsey line, on its way to be introduced at the Amsterdam Boat Show. We quickly told them we would never walk on their boat using our shoes and could even put on clean socks to do so. They laughed and kindly said no need to do so.

With that we headed for the German Tourist Information Office to pay the dockage fee. While providing the necessary info on JUANONA and length of our stay (one night) a young Italian man inquired about the shower code (most marinas use a digital keypad for their shower and toilet rooms). 

What transpired could have been a ‘Saturday Night Live’ skit. With a certain disdain and lack-of-customer-service the woman behind the desk reported that he needed to see if his captain had paid the mooring fee in order to obtain the code. The young man said he wasn’t sure if he had paid but the captain was on the boat and would soon be in to pay if he hadn’t already. 

Even though the woman could have asked the name of the boat and then easily checked her records (she had all that information since it’s required when paying the fee), she didn’t. She just kept repeating to the young man’s code request, ‘the captain needs to pay the fee.’

At this point both Max and I were waiting for the sailor to leave so we could follow him out and give him the code. Yet, then the guy asked, “is the code 7492?” (He evidently had the code but something wasn’t right).  In response the woman replied, “yes, but it doesn’t work. I need to unlock the shower with my key.” ! I felt like we had just walked through the looking glass into the realm of the Red Queen… Poor fellow. If he had realized the woman was suspicious and not adept in helping others, he probably would have asked, “Is something wrong with the code 7492?”

Since shops closed early on Saturdays we only found a few fresh ingredients in the one Turkish store still open, then headed back to the boat where we discovered the shower guy was crew on our raftee boat. We began conversations with him and the other crew and the captain, all extremely friendly. Mike, the captain, worked for a delivery service and had been hired by the new owners of the boat to take this to the boat show in Lelystad, Holland.

Both of us planned to catch the early lock-opening out the next morning, which meant an early night; yet, we wished we had had more time with them. At least we exchanged information and travel ideas with Mike who was heading back to Wales after the boat delivery. He did leave us a boat card for the delivery service company saying they’d be thrilled to have someone of Max’s experience as part of the crew. Hmmm, I’ve heard of golf widows… :)

PASSAGE

Sunday-Monday, September 2-3, 2018

The next morning Mike and crew left and managed to catch the lock (the big, beautiful sailboat posing for a shot is the one we rafted to).

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Not everyone was as fortunate. A large powerboat zipped up and nosed a waiting sailboat out of the way resulting in a loud shouting match as the the lock gates closed with the powerboat in, the sailboat out.

Exiting the lock we left for our overnight passage. Originally we had planned to stop in at Cuxhaven, located 14 miles from the canal, then leave the next day for the Netherlands. But the wind forecast looked increasingly favorable to just keep going, and we had entered the river right at high tide, allowing us to ride the current all the way out the Elbe River before it turned against us.

The reason for coordinating sailing with favorable tides lies in the amount of current they generate: up to 4 knots in the Elbe. A favorable current added to our typical cruising speed of between five and six knots, frequently gave us over eight knots over the bottom.

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Having done this passage twice before, this waterway, like the canal, now seemed familiar. The first time (last year) we had to leave Cuxhaven at 3:30 A.M. with a passel of boats jockeying for position in the narrow channel between the beach and the shipping lanes. Not fun (except on that passage we later had a visit from s/v ADIOS with Dick and his son Leo aboard also heading back to the Netherlands). 

This time the overnight passage felt comfortable and straight-forward. With a decent Northeast wind, until the last five hours, and no customs boat hailing or boarding us, we cruised through the day

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and night. Even the main cabin stayed clutter-free.

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We kept the mandatory one-mile buffer between us and the shipping lanes (so called TSS or “Traffic Separation Scheme.”)

 

And kept clear of the fishing boat dragging their nets as we made our way to the Frisian island of Vlieland.

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VLIELAND

Monday-Wednesday, September 3-5, 2018

Within 28 hours we had changed our courtesy flag from German to Dutch

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and landed back at one of the barrier islands between Wadden Sea and the North Sea. Vlieland’s marina has served as our starting and/or ending point for the past two years of summer cruising. And, like Brunsbüttel it, too, appeared much busier than we had expected for early September.

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We discovered that the good weather had kept people sailing combined with a weekend festival, “Into The Great Wide Open”, which we had just missed.

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“Thankfully” according to one guy’s description of the music.

Yet, this scenic island serves as a popular vacation spot for many, as seen by the tent city we cycled by the next day.

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We managed to meet up with another cruiser, Peter, whom we had briefly met two years ago in Enkhuisen when discussing how to over-winter in his country. A lovely and fun night aboard with him and his partner, Lisbeth, enhanced our Vlieland stay. 

They left the next day for Terschelling, the Frisian Island just to the east, while we rented bikes for some land cruising along dune-laden beaches on the north side and marshy fields on the south.

 

AFLUISTDIJK

Wednesday-Thursday, September 5-6, 2018

Calculating another timed departure with favorable tides, we wove our way through the well-marked channel from Vlieland to Harlingen on the mainland and on to the gatekeeper of Holland: the Afluistdijk at Kornwerderzand.   (if anyone has read the book “Riddle of the Sands” or seen the movie, this screen grab of our chart plotter would appear familiar with green representing very shallow waters that can become land depending upon the tide.)

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We’ve maneuvered through this bridge-and-lock combo several times: at both the high and low season. Unfortunately, we found ourselves at one of the high points equating to jam-packed waiting areas both before the bridge opening and then after, waiting for the lock.

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We initially opted to motor around for over an hour, until the first batch of boats went through. The screen grab below shows our course…

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The only highlight was meeting up with Peter and Lisbeth at the lock, allowing us to exchange ‘motoring-boats-navigating-the-Boontjes-fairway’ photos and for me to snap a close-up shot of our friends.

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After an hour+ and waiting for the first crowd of boats to go through, we caught the next bridge opening. They then were able to make the next lock opening while we just missed it.

Another half-hour wait and then it was our turn with only two other boats. Yet, one of them happened to be a large schooner whose wake made it difficult to get lines around the bollards alongside the lock. While we were wrestling with lines, the other boat, a large beamy sailboat, inched in just managing to snuggle alongside JUANONA as they tied to the other side of the lock wall. 

Both boats got lines secured, and it was then that Max noticed no cooling stream of water jetting out of JUANONA’s stern. We often listen and look for the sound of spitting water. Strong gushes of spitting water means A-OK. No spitting gushes means ‘oh s _ _ _ T’ and a big Uh-Oh because no cooling water equals overheating engine. Great. 

He quickly shut the engine down as we waited for the lock’s water to adjust to the level outside the lock, and then for the doors to open. Max turned the engine back on and we darted to the first outside mooring area where we quickly docked before the overheating buzzer shrieked its alarm.

Luckily he was able to fix the problem (either something had covered the intake pipe–a plastic bag or jellyfish–or the impeller, a small rubber gasket, had stopped working). Huge sighs of relief accompanied by big grins meant JUANONA was a happy boat.

 

HINDELOOPEN

Thursday-Monday, September 5-10, 2018

The next morning we motored-sailed the 14 miles to one of our favorite Frisian towns, Hindeloopen, on the IJseelmeer, Netherlands’ large lake formed by two dikes. We had arranged to rendezvous with our friends, Helen and Gus Wilson aboard their boat s/v WINGS. They live aboard WINGS in London’s St. Catherine’s Docks, a harbor we had checked out in 2014 and definitely would have stayed if not for heading to Norway the next summer (easier to stay in Ipswich on the east coast).

Gus and Helen write detailed cruising notes we have religiously perused, along with others’. They also manage to scout out interesting activities wherever they land. Trust me, accompany them to any locale and you’ll be happily discovering information not many find.

Unfortunately, we missed out when visiting another Frisian harbor, Stavoren, 6.5 miles south of Hindeloopen. The four of us trained it to the town Sunday afternoon and neglected to stop in at the Tourist Information Office. But, Helen and Gus returned the next day with WINGS and explored this small town thoroughly for four hours (!) with a self-guided tour. (The lead photo of the lady looking out stands on a pedestal in Stavoren’s harbor reminding folk of a local tale.)

We were able to spend the previous day in Leeuwarden and Sneek on Monument Days, a weekend holiday they had told us about. On Saturday and Sundays the Municipalities provide access to buildings normally not open to the public. Thinking the capital of Friesland offered the most options, we headed there by train. Well, Leeuwarden’s Monument theme centered on school buildings, and after checking out two of the monuments the four of us looked at one another and made an unanimous decision to skip the “monuments” and head for lunch. Which is how we ended up at Max’s favorite Turkish donor vendor. :)

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In lieu of entertainment via the monuments, we happened upon some fellow Cruising Association members, Americans Mike and Robin aboard their powerboat m/v MERMAID (during the summer, while wintering aboard s/v MERMAID in the Caribbean, a frequent cocktail gathering place fondly called The Mermaid Lounge).

We also caught some large Dutch schooners navigating a narrow lock.

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Note the fender off the bow: they literally use these to bump the canal’s side in order to turn the boat. Quite a surprise to see this maneuver!

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The smaller city of Sneek did provide more interesting monuments, such as the tower view in the city gate….

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and, City Hall with its beautiful Asian murals in the upstairs conference room.

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A bonus was meeting a Swiss trumpeter waiting for his girlfriend who had been working in front of another monument that had just closed. He treated us to a private recital, the Frisian Anthem, accompanied (sort of)…

(I apologize as I can’t load the video correct-side up, but you’ll at least be able to hear the trumpeter and his enthusiastic accompanier…)

He even yodeled when I asked if he did that as well. Although he said his voice had changed so couldn’t really make the proper sounds.

Traveling around these Frisian cities and towns also enabled us to check out several of the recently erected fountains. Because Leeuwarden has been named the European Capital of Culture for 2018 (similar to the Danish city of Aarhus last year), special events and artwork appeared throughout the city as well as in some other Frisian towns.

One provincial art exhibit connected the 11 towns famous for the Netherlands’ skating race, the Elfstedentocht. An old tradition became a formal race in 1909 with skaters covering around 200 km (160 miles) without stopping. Think Hans Brinker and the silver skates.

The ice has to be at least 15 centimeters (6 inches) thick before the race can be run, which due to climate change has in recent times only occurred in 1985, 1986 and 1997. When it does, though, it seems the whole country participates. In 1997 over 300 speed skating contestants and 15,000 leisure skaters joined the fun.

If we ever had the chance to watch, we would definitely join the over million viewers as it would be hard to avoid catching the Elfstedenkoorts (the race fever).

Of the seven fountains currently erected we managed to see four:

Leeuwarden’s…

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Sneek’s…

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Stavoren’s…

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And, Hindeloopen’s (difficult to photograph but there are exotic birds spewing water on the tree limbs surrounded by horns representing the town’s name which loosely translates to running female deer).

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While in Hindeloopen we also managed to catch a concert performed by a young ensemble, Friese Odyssey, who cruise to various locales on one of those traditional Dutch schooners giving free concerts. The four of us enjoyed an hour of classical strings basking in the melodies and the enthusiastic playing.

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On Monday, we sailed the 28 miles back to our winter port, knowing we were home when we spotted Hoorn’s ancient tower.

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Good to be back, especially with a special event coming up…!

Some island hops before we sadly say ‘farvel’ to Denmark

RØDVIG 

Thursday-Sunday, August 23-26, 2018

After an amazing week of friends and festivities we sailed out of Copenhagen. Like many visitors, we, too, felt as if we could have stayed for a much longer time. Yet, we vowed to return, which eased the pain of seeing our home for the past week disappear in the distance. 

By now the steady stream of sunlight and favorable forecasts from summer had transitioned to a mix of weather systems. We seemed to be alternating between easy cruising and dodging stormy weather, causing us to seek out shelter in ports offering not only secure tie-ups but also an element of interest, which is how we picked our next destination, Rødvig.

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Good winds made for an easy traverse of 33 miles, and within 6 hours we docked alongside amidst a blend of fishing boats, wind farm tenders, and other cruisers like us (JUANONA is on the opposite dock from the big red boat below)A quick perusal of the one-street town reminded us of an earlier Rockland, Maine with its underpinning of a working waterfront overlaid with a few cafes and shops serving seasonal tourists. 

One of the main attractions offered a step back in time. Actually a GARGANTUUM leap:  the coastline is noted as one of the few places in the world to actually touch a world-changing event. To get there you simply had to walk a couple miles along a bluff. 76EF8FC4-08E7-4C95-9884-B521CEF84DC2In doing so we passed by underground bunkers one mile long and 59 feet deep from the Cold War. Active from 1956 to 2000, they served as another reminder of how these countries, unlike the USA, physically feel the tension between the USSR and the West. Another time we may have taken the hour-long tour of the Stevnsfort but opted instead to stay above ground and keep moving back in time.

In addition to fishing, the earlier inhabitants of this area mined chalk and limestone; and we spotted several structural remnants –a cement factory

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and two quicklime kilns–

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of this once-thriving occupation. 

We finally reached the point, where three friendly cyclists told us exactly how to locate the desired spot, which, in hind sight, we realized we never would have found on our own.

Descending to the shoreline

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we scurried up some rocks to the right and stood in awe looking at the cause of the demise of the earth’s dinosaurs over 65 million years ago! 

The view? A horizontal line varying from two to four inches wide of so-called fish clay.

The composite? Dead dinos and other creatures along with debris The cause? Dust (from a 10-km meteorite crashing into the earth along Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula) and ashes (from the colliding of India and Asia causing volcanic eruptions) blotting out the sun’s warmth, soon rendering two-thirds of all species extinct.

CFC5B023-8EF0-41F6-9E7D-1E5748B6D834The cliffs of Stevns Klint (‘klint’, Danish for cliff) run just over nine miles long and over 130 feet high, presenting a water view of soft clay (composed of limestone shells from algae) topped by hard limestone (thanks to remains of moss animal skeletons that lived on the seabed) interspersed with black lines of flint and topped by 20,000 years of glacier debris. 

Separating the white clay from the white limestone is the thin, gooey, gray-black strip discovered by a scientific, father-son team, the Alvarez’s, in 1978. With a composition of no signs of life and a high level of iridium, an element rare on earth but common in space, Walter (a geologist) and his father Louis, a Noble Prize winner in science, connected this thin line to the meteor and the dinosaurs’ extinction. 

After oohing and ahhing while touching the damp clay we climbed back to the top, only to step into a more recent time, an 14th-century church.

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Part of it fell into the sea in 1928 due to erosion but is now safe to use. We only peeked in as a small wedding ceremony was going on.

Not wanting to make the long walk home, we considered returning to the harbor via a local bus. We soon decided using our thumbs gave us more options; and, within ten minutes a car – the first to pass us- stopped to pick us up. The driver was not only friendly but also the ex-mayor. He had just officiated at one of the 300 weddings held in Rødvig annually. Which explained why we kept seeing matrimonial groups during our weekend there.

One other interesting site sat outside a Thai restaurant.

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Having seen a lot of these painted by artists in 2010 I asked the proprietor where he got it. Not quite understanding his answer I believe the elephant originated from a similar group, basically an event raising awareness of the plight of the Asian elephant. The elephants were then auctioned off with proceeds donated to their conservation. At least, that’s my translations of his answer…

MØN

Sunday-Wednesday, August 26-29, 2018

By Sunday, the storm passed and we left Rødvig for another geological wonder:  the cliffs on the island of Møns.

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A brisk sail ended with 5 miles of pounding into the wind and short steep seas, making us grateful to reach the tranquility of Klintholm. Over the course of the afternoon and evening other boaters joined us to wait out a forecasted storm. Which arrived as predicted the next day.

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But, it didn’t stop us from hopping a bus to explore several sites around the island. Two being churches from the 13th-century, and both sporting murals and frescoes by the Elmelunde Master, and later carefully restored.

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Thankfully the Fanefjord Church provided a helpful chart so we actually understood what we were looking at.

One of the frames caught my eye: ‘Careless words during service’.

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It made me chuckle as I could so believe my doing the same. I also knew some good friends, one recently deaconized (if that’s the correct term), who most likely would have added my name under one of the women…

Located in what is called a fjord (a pretty flat one at that) this church was quite large and impressive for the relatively small population it had served;

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but, the harbor served as a safe trading spot for the Hanseatic League who obviously believed in giving thanks for getting rich.

Having walked to the site in pouring rain we knew a wet slog back to the bus stop awaited us. Yet, exiting the church we noticed a sign pointing to a Stone Age site less than a quarter-mile away.

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We headed up the road, stopping where a sign indicated straight ahead was the Crøn Jaegers Høj (Green Hunter’s Mound) or Fanesalen (Fane Hall), a long barrow named after a legend of King Green and his wife Fane. However, peering through the gray skies across a farm all we saw was a field ending with the beginning of an arbor. As we kept staring all of a sudden we saw what we had thought was a row of trees morph into large boulders punched into the sides of a long earthern mound.

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Although we couldn’t enter, a plaque described the interior as holding three burial chambers. Rectangular stone coffins possibly held one individual each, placed in their passage graves with, what is thought, representations of the sun and light via white flint found in each coffin.

If we looked like drowned rats before entering the church, our route back to the main road only enhanced our sogginess. Yet, it was worth trying for a ride. And, the first car that passed us actually stopped! Two older women on their way to the grocery store assured us it wouldn’t be a problem depositing our wet bodies on their car’s seat. A short ride later we found ourselves sussing out potential lunch items at the store and joining a young German couple backpacking via their unique bike-for-two. I didn’t envy their ride or accommodations in this weather.

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Within an hour we caught the bus to another church where we saw a repeat of the first church’s paintings while also getting a chance to dry out some.

The next day we headed in the opposite direction to experience the geological wonder of this island:  the Møns Klint, soaring white cliffs similar to those at Dover on England’s southeast coast.

Hearing from several cruisers that the museum associated with these cliffs was expensive, we decided to pay the entrance fee anyway based on recommendations from other cruisers, one being a geologist. And, we were glad we did. The explanations increased our understanding of what we experienced in Rødvig and our exploration of these cliffs.

Needing to kill time before the museum opened we headed for the cliffs. Once we descended 497 steps (but who’s counting) of the wooden staircase,

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we now stood at the bottom of these impressive white cliffs seen from sea two days prior.

After a few photos…

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a stroll along part of the four miles of rocky shoreline…

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where we tested the clay

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and spotted lines of flint…

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We returned to the stairs and back up we went, albeit slightly slower.

At first the museum appears to be fairly limited in scope, however the slide shows on computer screens and accompanying displays easily led us through the complex evolution of Møns Klint. That, alone, was worth the price of admission.

Millions and millions and millions, okay, gadZILLIONS of minuscule creatures named coccoliths formed this white chalk. The chalk is separated by horizontal lines of flint, which sat 1.5 feet below the seabed. Surprisingly there still isn’t an explanation of exactly what caused these black lumps to morph into flint, which occurred irregularly.

The museum showcased one of the most prevalent dinosaurs of the area, the mosasaurus.

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We had passed a fossilized head when entering the museum’s lobby,

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and saw a mosasaurus’ tooth considered a ‘treasure trove belonging to the Danish state’ according to the Copenhagen Geology Museum. 

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Like many fossils in Denmark this tooth was found by an amateur fossil hunter on July 25, 2007.

A small room off the main exhibit area highlighted the importance of chalk in our lives. White chalk is very pure limestone, the latter being calcium carbonate or CaCO3. From cement (which requires 82% limestone) to gum, we depend on this sedimentary carbonate rock. And, one startling realization for me was not only how often we used this resource but also that it is a finite resource. Yet, another reminder of how much we are gobbling up our round ball we inhabit.

Another room found on the next floor showcased some of the bizarre critters that lived during the Triassic Period*. Interactive screens explained some of each dinosaur’s unique features.

*I’ll attempt to explain the three different Dinosaur periods comprising the Mesozoic Era: The Triassic, 237-201 million years ago (mya); the Jurassic, 201-145 mya; and, the Cretaceous, 145-66 mya. The Møns Klint’s chalk was formed 150 mya.

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One of the first in this period was the Coelophysis (seen above), a carnivorous dinosaur with hollow bones suggesting they were warm-blooded. The hollow areas were either filled with air (like birds) or marrow (like mammals). I don’t care what these creatures had or the fact they probably ate small reptiles and amphibians. I just know I wouldn’t want to have run into one of these nine-foot tall animals.

 

Interspersed around the museum were fun activities, some appealing to even big kids.

 

In the gift shop another opportunity presented itself for a portrait shot. And, with that, we walked back into the 21st century. Well almost.

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A short bus ride took us from the frightening world of things that could munch on our bones to one where a fairytale setting offered a place to soak up the serenity after the imagined horror of becoming a dinosaur’s meal.

We mistakenly entered the private courtyard of Liselund Gammel Slot, a Danish ‘castle’ (really a manor and its grounds). Named after the French owner’s wife Elizabeth, this beautiful estate was built in the late 18th century.

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We soon found ourselves in the public area complete with the large manor, now opened to visitors,

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guest cottages, such as the one complete with an aristocrat posing, 

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and sublime landscapes of tranquil ponds and velvet lawns. 

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Catching the same bus driver home, we spent another evening with a cruiser friend, Nicholas, whom we first met at the beginning of the summer in Kalmar, Sweden. Since then we had enjoyed spontaneous meet-ups in Visby, on the Sweden’s Gotland Island, and in the Stockholm Archipelago at an anchorage in Utø. This time he introduced us to some of his fellow Brits sailing these waters:  Richard and Linda on s/v SEAHORSE OF THE SOLENT and Malcom and Joanne on s/v LADY HAMILTON. 

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Needless to write, it’s always been wonderful to share time with Nicholas and any other cruisers he’s met.

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Wednesday-Friday, August 29-August 31, 2018

Paul and Gwyneth on s/v BLUE ORCHID whom we also had met early in our summer cruising told us of the lovely, yet ritzy island of Verjø. This property had been bought and developed by a wealthy Dane and the buildings and amenities certainly lived up to its reputation.

Typical Danish architecture lent itself to the restaurant (we only got breakfast rolls and coffee, the cost of the latter making me almost spit out the brew) and lodge…

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And was echoed in a bunny warren Peter the rabbit would have deigned to inhabit.

 

We rode mountain bikes provided free of charge (or, more to the point, included in the docking fee…) which took us past farmlands of sheep and hogs to decorative, yet functional, greenhouses.

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Noticing blackberries along the way we picked some but didn’t manage to save any…

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But I returned the next day in the rain to collect some for our fruit larder.

Poor WiFi aboard but free laundry (always a welcome amenity) and a luxurious shower and bathroom facility made up for lack of easy Internet connections :)

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Plus, we could sit in the lodge just a short walk away where the signal was stronger.

We were glad we stopped, happy it wasn’t crowded (allowing for four loads of wash),

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and now we are ready to leave Denmark on a fresh breeze to reach Germany and exit from the Baltic to the North Sea.

Next, back to the Netherlands (well, eventually)…