Category Archives: WINTER TOURS

Exploring via planes, trains and automobiles

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…

Más de Nuestra Semana en México

From the previous post you now know we flew to San Miguel to meet up with friends from my hometown Virginia Beach. The five of us stayed in a little B&B owned by Antonio and Lee, the latter a former classmate of Carter. For three of the group–Carter, Ellen and Bobbi–this was a return visit as many who stay at this inn return to soak up the ambiance of its setting. And, it’s easy to see why when you find yourself enjoying the views of historical San Miguel with one’s morning coffee and evening cocktails.

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Nestled into the hillside Casa Cinco Patios (aptly named as you can see from at least one of our R&R spots)

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is conveniently located within an easy (downhill) walk to El Jardin, San Miguel’s main square.  A walk we advidly took when leaving

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while sometimes opting for a $2.50 cab ride when contemplating the alternative on the return home.

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However, the exercise tended to offset the breakfasts and other fabulous meals (and libations)

 

we managed to ingest. Lee booked us into some of his favorite restaurants, all spectacular.  One in particular had Max trying to identify the delectable flavors created by the chef.

Lee also introduced us to audio delights. At least that’s what I’m calling what hit my ears when listening to Gil Guitérrez, a classically trained guitarist.

He created sounds reminiscent of the new age compositions produced by Windham Hill musicians in the 80s and 90s along with jazz and blues. From soothing melodies to knee-tapping tunes, Gil with two violinists and a bass player entertained us at Rancho Zandunga, a venue he and his wife created a short way out of town.

Sipping mescal margaritas

 

and feasting on homemade tacos

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we swayed to the live music until none of us could resist the dance floor when a singer joined the band, so up we got to join in the swirling and whirling.

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Fortunately this wasn’t our only occasion to appreciate Gil’s music. A second time occurred at Gil’s restaurant in town with Max and Carter hearing him a third time at a Hospice Fund Raiser organized by Lee.

All of us left San Miguel holding musical memories in the forms of CDs; and, some of us left with not only Gil’s music but also one of the violinists, David Mendoza. As Lee said one of Gil’s gifts is bringing together talented musicians, a gift that benefits all who have the opportunity to hear this music.

And, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention we had a musician among us, one who is fearless in requesting to share a song or two when spotting a fellow entertainer.

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San Miguel offers other delights such as strolling down (while playing chicken on the one-body-width sidewalks with oncoming walkers) and peeking into the shops straddling the narrow lanes in the historical district. Fortunately, after several days we all seemed to adjust to the 6,000+ foot altitude making the uphill walking a bit easier from the heart-thumping climbs earlier in the week.

And, stroll and peek we did

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while taking numerous photos, which also occurs when keeping company with three artists consciously and unconsciously on the lookout for future painting scenes.

I, too, couldn’t help but snap one photo after another. No sooner did I finish framing and clicking one scene than my eye spotted another, repeating the exercise all over again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Towards the day’s end, we always circled back to the Le Jardin

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with some unable to resist the food carts selling roasted corn on the cob.

 

As a fairly upscale ex-pat community it’s not as if we woke up with roosters crowing or saw a lot of livestock on the streets, with the exception of a donkey here and there and the pups napping

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or looking for a bite of my pastry

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purchased at one of our favorite bakeries (whose sign I loved along with their goods).

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But, thanks to Bobbi, we did have chickens :)  And, since friends with similar senses of humor flock together, Bobbi’s chickens provided week-long entertainment,

 

especially with Sharon’s, Ellen’s and Bobbi’s posing of them…

 

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Our last full day Lee carted us off to a fantastical art spectacle, one hosted at the home and studio of partners Anado McLaughlin and his husband Richard Schultz. Before we landed, though, we stopped at one of Lee’s favorite road stands for a gordita.

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The cooks kindly demonstrated how to make corn pockets filled with a choice of chicken, beef, or pork and veggies. FYI, they add a pinch of meat to the dough before pressing it into a pocket tortilla in case anyone thinks they’re getting just a veggie gordita.

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We tried the spicy sauce poured into a large bowl on each table; but, seriously, one-quarter of a teaspoon was more than enough to fry the mouth, even for Max.

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Fortified with another tasty meal, two minutes later we arrived at the art scene, and what a kaleidoscope of color. Talk about an eye blast!

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Called The Chapel of Jimmy Ray (Anado’s given name is James Rayburn McLauchlin, III), the gallery showed the work of three artists–Ann Chamberlain, Diane Varney, and Anado.

We could only peer in the windows of the house…

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but did see the composting toilet…

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wandered around the landscaped surroundings…

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and toured the gallery next door.

 

 

In one of the galleries the two owners graciously accepted visitors’ requests for a portrait,

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which just happened to mimic a painted one.

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Now, couldn’t you see Steve Martin’s ‘Wild and Crazy Guy’ persona here?

The three artists, Ellen, Bobbi and Sharon, had actually sketched a few days before with the Urban Sketchers in San Miguel, and a busload of them were here as well adding their own interpretation to the day’s event.

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Since this was Ellen’s kind of place, I asked her to strike a pose. She didn’t say she could live here but would definitely love to have them as neighbors.

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An hour later we found ourselves back at Casa Cinco Patios where Max, Sharon and I had committed to seeing something that is part of the Spanish culture–a bullfight.

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We lasted one fight and that was more than enough to say none of us would ever want to experience that again. The only consolation was seeing the bull fight back, and almost win.

 

The three of us then shared a meal in town where we listened to an energetic duo while sharing huge platefuls of excellent Mexican fare.

 

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The next morning we all took the airport taxi back to Leon where we had landed eight days earlier. Sharon had a later flight but the rest of us flew to Atlanta where we had one last hurrah at a piano bar.

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A plane ride to Portland carried Max and me back to Maine where we woke up to snow and to really missing our amigos resulting in dos pollos fríos muy tristes.

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El Fin

“NOW I get it…”

February 24-March 4, 2018

Which is what I muttered to myself as I walked past Pedro OHara’s in Brunswick. Max and I had just returned from a week with friends in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico. When there we shared several historical tours with some of our friends, one being a trip to the Cañada de la Virgen archaelogical site 16 miles west of the city.

Albert Coffee, an archeologist, served as our excellent guide offering a fascinating glimpse into the Otomí who built these stone structures. He prefaced his lecture with a caveat stating much of what he’d share with us was based on assumptions. With the Spaniards having burnt the Indians’ codices no written record remains explaining the who, what and why of these sites. Fortunately, scholars interested in the indigenous people of Mesoamerica (from central- northern Mexico to Nicaragrua, roughly between latitudes 14º and 22º N) offer hypotheses that make a lot of sense. Or, so it seemed to me, although I’m no archaeology wizard.

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We approached the site in several steps beginning with the pick up from the center of town followed by a quick shuttle through guarded gates and up part of a long road. During our transit Dr. Coffee explained that the site sat on private land and was only opened to the public seven years ago. He said it could have been closed due to a shortage in staff thanks to the upcoming presidential election in July. Most of the workers we saw were locals who rode in on horseback from the surrounding villages, and during the last election they weren’t paid for a month. But, we were lucky. No one had locked the gate and ridden away with the key (which Dr. Coffee said has occurred in the past).

We debarked from the van and began a half-mile walk up a winding road, following the same path that had served as the ceremonial approach to this religious center way back when.

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Reaching the top we realized we’d hit the gold mind with Dr. Coffee. His expertise extended beyond the architecture and possible uses of these buildings into the local flora. He pointed out the symbiotic relationship between the cacti and trees (the cactus shades the tree which, once grown, supports the cactus from high winds)

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then launched into the medicinal properties of the surrounding plants. Several of us raised our hands inquiring if we could buy any, especially those related to flushing out the liver.

As we walked around the site, we learned about the Otomí who settled in the area around 530 C.E. At 7,000 feet altitude and a cooler and wetter climate than much of Mexico, this central plateau with its rich volcanic soil and hardwood forest provided the perfect ingredients for farming and a settlement. And, it’s during this time the Otomí constructed these three pyramids, two with patios:  the House of the Wind; the House of the Longest Night;

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and, the most imposing, the House of the Thirteen Heavens. FYI:  Dr. Coffee mentioned number 13 being a special one for the Otomí along with numbers 20 and 52, all relating to their keeping time via the sky.

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Some believe the patios may have been filled with water to reflect the night sky. Myself, I’d have used it as a swimming pool.

Our guide stressed the extreme intelligence and skill of the Otomí based on the precision with which they built these pyramids. Using mathematics, astronomy and artistry the Otomí perfectly aligned the buildings with key celestial bodies (sun, moon, and planets) and their annual calendar. The buildings also mimicked the topography. For example, when facing the largest of the pyramids you’d see how its outline followed the mountain’s shape behind it.

Interestingly the site may be one dedicated to female gods based on the work of an archaeologist who thought outside the box. In spite of being told to focus on the relationship between the sun and the pyramids, she studied the moon and found a strong correlation between the interaction of that celestial body and the pyramids. Additionally, at the House of the Longest Night they discovered a burial of a young girl (7 – 11 years of age) interred as if she was a warrior. An early Wonder Woman.

At the top of the main pyramid (featured above) we peeked into a small room where Dr. Coffee showed us the the only on-site sample of one of the original colors, albeit faded.

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Here they found the burial of a man age 52 who is believed to be a divine ruler. What is one of the more interesting facets of these graves relates to the skeletons’ ages:  both had been mummified 1,000 years prior to being buried at Cańada de Virgen in mid-500 B.C.E.

I won’t go into the myriad amount of details Dr. Coffee shared with us (that’s assuming I remembered them all) but I do recall three key dates:  March 4, the blessing of the seed; April 17, the planting of the seed; and, August 25, the harvesting of the crops. Our timing of the tour felt perfect considering we were there around that time, which happened to coincide with a celebration we saw in San Miguel.

A drought in 1050 C.E. made living off of farmed land difficult, if not impossible, for the Otomí. Eventually they were pushed out by the fierce Chichimecs, a nomadic people hunting and gathering for their livelihood.  The Chichimecs later fought the Spanish (and won!) during the Chichimec War (1550-90). But, that’s another story, one I’m not versed in except to say it’s pretty cool the Indians beat the ‘cowboys’, aka conquistadores.

Remembered when I spoke of the blessing of the seed? Well, we’d been told that Friday, the day of this tour, was the Festival of the Day of our Lord of the Conquest. Starting early in the morning with the boom of firecrackers, Indian conchero (a type of lute made from an armadillo shell) dancers with heads and bodies festooned with brilliant feathery costumes ‘celebrate’ the Spaniards conquest of Mexico and the locals’ conversion to Catholicism.

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Both men and women danced to the beat of the same tune, some more energetically than others,

mesmerizing viewers. It was difficult tearing ourselves away from the hypnotic sway of swirling, pheasant headdresses

and the repetitive drumming accompanied by the rattles attached to the shins.

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As we headed to our pick-up site for the tour we found ourselves following them as they promenaded out of the main square.

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Pretty impressive morning wake-up call.

Later, during our tour Dr. Coffee wryly noted, although the celebration is presented as honoring the conversion to Catholicism, it’s aptly timed to coincide with the annual Otomí ‘blessing of the seed’ ceremony, beginning with waking up the sun by loud, pre-dawn booms. The Spanish co-opted and adapted an historic, indigenous holiday for their own use, to try to gain the support of the local people. A common occurrence throughout religions’ history.

Speaking of the Spanish, this northernmost Spanish settlement in central Mexico began with a mission started by Juan de San Miguel in 1542. Finding a spring a few miles from his initial location, San Miguel moved to the present site a few years later, and that’s where we took another historical tour only this time led by a retired nuclear physicist named George.

George, who moved here with his wife from Los Alamos, provided another morning of historical facts. Being ever watchful for that sneaky cobblestone causing a potential stumble into a face plant, we joined a group of 15 or so wandering through the old part of San Miguel. Like most Spanish cities churches featured prominently.

Meeting outside the largest one–Parroquia (parish church)–on the town square,

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we strolled through the city’s history. We passed by the Casa de Allende, now a museum dedicated to one of Mexico’s leaders in the war of Independence from Spain in the early 1800s.

The day before, we had visited this museum, the Casa de Allendes, the Allendes being a wealthy Creole family whose son Ignacio de Allende y Unzaga (1779-1811) is the reason San Miguel de Grande was changed to San Miguel de Allende. As George put it, Allende is the George Washington of Mexico.

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Our guide pointed out another building, this one along the main square where Ignacio met with co-conspirators planning their stand against Spain.

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Ignacio along with Father Hidalgo started the revolution. In spite of disagreements (Igancio as a professional soldier favored an orderly, military approach while Hidalgo radicalized peasants to form a mob-army), they led Mexicans in their fight for independence from Spain beginning with Hidalgo’s famous “Grito de Dolores” (“Cry of Dolores”)–Dolores being a nearby town– from the church tower on September 16, 1810.

Both of them along with two other leaders were later captured and executed during the summer of 1811. Their four heads were hung on posts on the granary [sounds like a perfect MDT (Max Disaster Tour)] and eventually removed in 1823 to be reunited with the rest of their bodies. George pointed out a plaque on Santuario de Atotonilco (another church) commemorating where the guy slept when carrying the skulls (similar to “GW slept here”...).

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The Mexicans won their independence with the signing of the Treaty of Córdoba in 1821, making Mexico an independent constitutional monarchy, ensuring the Catholic Church retained its privileged position, and Mexicans of Spanish descent would be treated as equals to Spanish people while others of mixed blood would hold lesser rights (some things never change).

We walked by another impressive home, Casa de Canals,

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whose coat of arms over the main entrance had helmets with plumes denoting this family’s ancestors fought the Moors in Spain.

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On another block we entered the former Convent of the Immaculate Conception aka Las Monjas (“The Nuns”) founded by the Canal’s eldest daughter Josefa Lina de la Canal in 1751.

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An interesting note about her death at age 33 written by an 18th-century biographer Díaz de Gamarra stated: “hundreds of legged, hairy worms came out of her nose in her final days, later metamorphosing into butterflies.” Nice.

What’s more important than insects flying out of one’s nostrils is this convent became the first art institute in San Miguel de Allende. In 1937 the Peruvian artist Felipe Cossío del Pomar opened the Escuela Universitaria de Bellas Artes. Pomar later returned to Peru selling his ranch and the school to the Mexican lawyer Alfredo Campanella. Campanella along with a wealthy American, Stirling Dickinson, attracted WWII veterans who were funded by the G.I. Bill to live and study in this city. Which, to me, explains why so many ex-pats populate this city’s cobble-stone streets.

With so much wealth and tourism flooding the town I wondered why there didn’t seem to be any worries about violence or crime. The answer was violence is between gangs and, since San Miguel is where wealthy Mexicans come to R&R (including those of the cartels),  there’s an incentive amongst all parties to keep it safe.

Interestingly, Mexico’s population is a true mix of Indians, Spanish, Africans, and even Irish. Which is how I began this post mentioning a local Brunswick restaurant, Pedro O’Hara’s. The Mexican-American War broke out in 1846 due to the United States’ annexation of what is now Texas under President James Polk.

A long story short, some Irish-born and Irish-Americans who served as part of the US forces against Mexico switched sides and formed San Patricios (St. Patrick’s Battalion). The romantic version of ‘why’ was the Irish felt an affinity for countrymen who were fighting for independence against a power dominated by Protestants. A more cynical explanation is the Mexicans offered better pay and land to go with it.

Whatever the reason, the Irish are considered heroic martyrs (many were captured, tried as traitors, and hung) honored by the Mexicans as shown in this photograph from the Internet of Mexico City’s memorial to the San Patricios.

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They also added red hair into the mix here.

So, now when I see the name Pedro O’Haras an Irish ale with a Mexican fajita sounds perfect together (although I’d still order the margarita).

More to come…

 

 

 

Netherlands in Winter

I just wanted to mention a few wonderful events in our Dutch life. This post will be brief (don’t worry, not an overload of  history or art lessons) but some touchstones that make our life pretty wonderful..

A Warm Hoorn Welcome

November 12, 2017

….the first being a surprise welcome package we found nestled in our cockpit upon our return from the States. Left by our Dutch family that morning  it certainly brightened our arrival to a cold boat:

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And, the next day we received an extra treat:  Tika’s homemade cupcakes!

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A lovely way to be back on JUANONA!

 

Touch of Maine in Amsterdam

November 13, 2017

Now and then we hear of friends being on this side of the pond; and, that’s how we met up with Paul and Kym to wander the canal-ribboned streets of Amsterdam.

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Seeing familiar places through the eyes of new visitors spices up life, and Paul and Kym’s exuberance and interest in exploring new sites reinforced how lucky we are to be living here. And, how great it was to be with them :)

Sinterklaas is coming to town…

December 9, 2017

Our friends, Deborah, Thijs, and Tika ensure we experience typical Dutch events; and, a few days after the official date of Sinterklaas (St. Nicholas) eve (December 5th) we shared a fun-filled evening. The Dutch celebrate this day with a wonderful tradition of what we’d call Secret Santas. Only they manage to add a fun twist to it by the giver having to make the gift, create an elaborately wrapped package relating to that gift, and leave it as a present from Sinter Klaas along with a poem that kindly teases the recipient while hinting at what’s in the package.

Fortunately they simplified it for us (we could buy a gift of 10 euros or less and not worry about the wrapping); yet, to give you an idea of how the real Dutch do this, check out these Secret Santa creations exchanged on the actual Dutch SinterKlaas day:  Tika’s (who drew Thij’s name)

 

and Thijs’ (who drew Deborah’s name).

 

They greeted us with our velvet tams (Pete, Sinterklaas’ assistant from Spain, wears one) and exchanged gifts with Sinter Klaas’ help,

 

sang some carols, and spent the night being Dutch celebrants. We loved it, especially since Max was able to take home the specially made present from his secret Sinterklaas (Tika)

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Training it to Utrecht

December 14-15, 2017

Our to-see list of historic Dutch sites included one of the country’s oldest cities, located about an hour southeast of Amsterdam. So, we planned a two-day excursion and trained down and over to Utrecht. Unfortunately, our last minute planning meant we couldn’t see our friends Pascal and Sylvia of s/v Wateraap whom we met cruising the Danish islands this past summer. Hopefully, another time will work out.

As promised I won’t go into a lot of descriptions of the sites we saw but will mention the highlights:

The city’s medieval cobble-stone streets offer a step back in time as we strolled down the Oudegracht  (11th-century ‘old’ canal) one way and up the Nieuwegracht (14th-century ‘new’ canal) during our stay. The impressive Domkirk (cathedral) and Domtoren (its 14th-century tower) drew us to what was once the Netherlands biggest church.

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Here, the cathedral used to cover most of this area until a catastrophic windstorm in the late 1600s collapsed the nave.

Reading about a fascinating tour under the church to see the former Roman settlement, we signed up and killed time by enjoying a bite for lunch. Can you tell how happy Max is? The Art University cafeteria offered one of the least expensive meals here :)  (Max always appreciates a good value)

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We explored the Roman ruins with an audio guide automated by pointing a light beam at a sensor.

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Although the area was small, we got a sense of history such as peering at this Roman ammunition.

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At the Museum Catherijneconvent an amazing exhibit on Martin Luther showcased his writings, including scribbles in his personal copy of the Bible. 

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What I didn’t realize was just how much of a PR guy he was. Using the power of the printed word (in German vs. Latin), he and his pal, the artist Lucas Granach, created a brand to spread his thoughts. Ever the promoter, Luther pushed his printer to improve the quality of Luther’s pamphlets. Five hundred years later we’re still talking about this man. No wonder he has churches named after him. And, you know you’ve made it when LEGOS recreates your image in plastic bricks.

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Down the street a bit we entered the Centraal Museum, Here we viewed another special exhibit, this time on one of Utrecht’s famous sons, the artist Pyke Koch (1901-1991). His early work didn’t attract me…

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But, as I followed a chronological path through his paintings, I did like his later ones.

Pyke’s work sharply details images with perfection, but with a polish alerting you that it’s not real.  His self-portrait from 1937 exemplifies this ability. This painting also represents his membership in a Dutch fascist party.

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However, when the party merged with Nazism, Koch dropped his membership. Briefly banned from exhibting after WWII, he continued his art.  His later portaits, such as the 1948 portrait of Baroness van Boetzelaer,

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reflects his admiration of the 15th-century Italian painter Piero della Francesa.

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Some of Koch’s work mesmerized me such as his Seasons paintings (1948-51)…

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and his 1959 “Football Players V”.

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After walking though the special exhibit we spot-checked some other items, one in particularly being this 17th-century dollhouse.

I’ve seen some of these creations collected by adults but never one with a garden. Pretty amazing.

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Whoops! I’m renegning on my promise! Okay, on to our next site.

We’d read that Museum Speelklok offered a fascinating education on ‘self-playing instruments’. At first we’d pooh-poohed it but, having extra time on our hands before another museum opened, we decided to stop in. Were we glad we did! An enthusiastic young guide led us to the museum’s star attractions.

There was a player piano, one of fewer than 100 in the world still operating, that uses three violins (!) along with the usual instruments to make music:

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Among the street and dance hall organs we saw the largest in the museum, and, yes, it was huge.

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We also saw her favorite one, which became ours as well. I’m including two videos of this Parisian clock from 1870 created by Blaise Bonems (1814-1881) who loved birds.

 

Be sure to check out the second one to see just how involved his creation is.

 

After two days we were ready to head home hoping to revisit this city again.

 

Ushering in 2018

December 31, 2017

Another wonderful afternoon and evening with Deborah, Thijs and Tika beginning with ice skating, something neither Max nor I had done for a long time.

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As Thijs and Tika could skate rings around us, Deborah kindly kept me company while Max ‘sped’ off on his own

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but not before I snapped a photo of him with Tika :)

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Eventually, I felt comfortable enough to join Tika for a lap (when she slowed down :).

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We ended the day playing games, one being Catan, an strategy game created in Germany about 20 years ago (and one Tika typically wins!)

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and another, a  centuries-old Dutch shuffleboard game called sjoelbak .

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Thijs, who’s played this since a child, shared his techniques, although we all would need quite a bit more practice to beat him.

Back aboard we witnessed the glorious display of fireworks popping over the harbor across the way.

A great way to ring in the New Year – with friends and fireworks!

 

 

Revisiting Leiden and The Hague in 2018 

January 2-3, 2018

With Max wanting to collect more research on his ancestors in Leiden, I decided to visit the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden with its special exhibit on Assyria. I found myself amidst a cacophony of families on holiday. Although crowded, the exhibit itself gave an excellent insight into this Mesopotamian kingdom

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focusing on the reign of Sennacherib (705-681 B.C.E.) and his capital, Nineveh.

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Some believe Nineveh could have been the location of the ‘Hanging Gardens’ attributed to the earlier Bablonian Empire. Now this ancient plot of land is surrounded by the city of Mosul in Iraq. Unfortunately what few ruins remained were targeted by ISIS who proceeded to bulldoze one of the gates and some of the reconstructed walls in 2016.

After an hour or so of playing peek-a-boo with other visitors peering into the glass display cases, I opted to meet Max and head for our hotel in The Hague. We were both pleasantly surprised to find our $64/night room to be clean, quiet, and well-equipped with CNN and a Nespresso machine!

THESTUDENTHOTEL

The Student Hotel is a combination dorm and hotel with facilities serving both students and tourists (I wish I had brought my laundry after seeing the line-up of machines). Begun in 2004 by an enterprising young man, he has opened similar hotels in other European cities. Definitely worth checking out his other locations for future stays.

The next morning we first visited The Humanity House, providing the visitor a feel for a refugee’s life. There are stateless people in the world, such as Palestinian refugees, who can’t get a passport (or much else in the way of affirmative ID) because their place of birth isn’t recognized by the world community. With a permanent exhibit of seven displaced persons telling their stories, including a Palestinian, we left this building realizing just how fortunate we are simply to have a passport.

Our main destination was Vredespaleis, the Peace Palace. The only United Nations building not in NYC, this beautiful structure was erected specifically for fostering peace. Surprisingly to me, the Russian Tsar Nicolas II (1868-1918) began this process.  He asked his cousin, the Dutch Queen Wilhelmina (1880-1962), to host an international peace conference in 1899. This led to 26 countries gathering to discuss disarmament and international jurisdiction, which resulted in the establishment of a Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA).

A decision was made to construct a building specifically to host this international body. Queen Wilhelmina donated royal property and Andrew Carnegie gave $1.5 million with the stipulation a library be part of the design. A second peace conference was held in 1907, this time with 44 countries attending. The building was (ironically) completed in 1913 on the eve of WWI. The League of Nations’ Permanent Court of International Justice soon moved into the building, later becoming the International Court of Justice (ICJ) of the United Nations. The Hague Academy of International Law also resides here.

They don’t allow any photographs, so I grabbed this off the Internet. But, you can get more of a glimpse by clicking here.

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To see the building you have to sign up for a tour, which only operates when the courts aren’t in session. Max had done so online and on Wednesday morning we joined about fifteen others as a young guide led us through the fabulous interior to the two court rooms. In each one he explained a relatively recent case:

In the PCA the guide related the case of Philip Morris vs. Australia over whether the tobacco company had to follow the plain packaging rules (use health warnings with no company logos allowed). Philip Morris tried to circumvent this rule by opening an office in Hong Kong where a bilateral trade agreement between Hong Kong and Australia would allow Philip Morris to continue using their own brand packaging. In 2015 the court ruled against the tobacco company, having seen its opening of a Hong Kong office as a way to avoid following Australia’s law.

In the ICJ we heard about Australia vs. Japan and the latter’s whaling. Japan said they had the right to whale for scientific research; yet, Australia disputed that claim by pointing out that the number of whales Japan was killing far exceeded what could reasonably be used for research purposes. In 2014 the ICJ ruled in favor of Australia; however, a year later Japan rejected the ruling (not something often done) and is still whaling.

We highly recommend going on one of these tours. The building itself is magnificent, with many countries having donated building materials and furnishings resulting in an eclectic but beautifully blended decor. And, just to be in the actual court rooms where momentous decisions are made resulted in my sitting up a bit straighter.

The very last tour was a stop a the Museum of Gevangenpoort or the Prison Gate for an MDT (Max Disaster Tour). This site we wouldn’t recommend, but we did see a horrific torture item: the breaking bench (essentially a place where every major bone was broken).

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This item became more real to me when I read about it’s use in the biography of Peter the Great. Lovely.

But, we did shake off some of the gruesomeness by visiting the Gallery of Prince William V (1748-1806) upstairs. There a collection of 17th-century paintings, primarily by Dutch artists, William had acquired. A small room led to a larger gallery and there we let peace and beauty overtake the horrors from the prison. A much better way to end our two-day tour!

 

HOORN

January, 6, 2018

Our last Saturday in the Netherlands we enjoyed a wonderful lunch aboard with our niece Katie and her partner Yorgos, who both live in Amsterdam.

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The discussion wandered to lifestyles and Yorgos’ working on a blog about saving money. He mentioned the website mrmoneymustache.com, and we told him of how we first heard about this site from our friends Melanie and Anthony. When Yorgos’ site is up, I’ll include it in another post.

All impressive young folk, and we’re lucky to know them.

 

AMSTERDAM

January, 7, 2018

And, I can’t end this post without my next day’s excursion:  Tassenmuseum (Bags and Purses Museum).

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Deborah and I had a wonderful girly afternoon peering at an historical array of these items dating from the 16th century. Men (such as my husband) should appreciate our obsession with handbags.  Upon the invention of pockets, men stopped carrying purses while women’s bags just got heavier… Go figure.

And, with that I’ll close. :)

 

May you all have a wonderful new year!