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Georgia & Zig

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!

Stockholm, Sweden – August, 2018​

August 8th Flight to Stockholm

Jenny gave us a ride to the airport at 4 P.M. for a 6:50 flight. Georgia likes to be early! We paid $37.53 for chips, dips and drinks called “Margarita & Tequilla Sunrise.”

A serious rainstorm began at 5:45! Sheets of rain blowing across the runways! The weather delayed our flight till 8:45 which means we’d miss the flight to Stockholm. So we were moved to a 7:30 flight to Dallas, then London to Stockholm.

It was a miserable 24 hour flight (in all) from Lexington through Dallas to Heathrow to Stockholm. From Dallas to London we were crammed in a thankfully dry sardine can back by the crew’s seats. Then the six or seven hours in Heathrow was like being bivouacked in a tin drum. As we finally walked to our finally announced gate we passed an area called “the quiet area,” where people were relaxing in lounge chairs and sleeping on sofas. Why didn’t we know about this?

We arrived in Stockholm about 11:45 P.M local time and collapsed unconscious at the Clarion Arlanda Hotel right at the airport. “Silence of the Lambs” was on with Swedish subtitles. We fell asleep to the hissing of Hannibal Lector and dreamed about Swedish Modern everything.

Thursday, August 9th, Stockholm

Georgia bounced awake about 8:30 anxious to take part in the free breakfast. She had to drag me up from my dreams of Ikea.

Desperate for coffee she led me down to the second floor buffet. Expecting mushy self-made waffles and coffee I was blown away by the artisan breads, all the juices and fruits you could imagine (including kiwi), five or six kinds of sausage and pate, bacon, omelets and some sort of jellied scrambled egg. Then there was smoked salmon, dilled herring, 5 or 6 kinds of cereal, yogurt, toppings (seeds, nuts) and a coffee maker to die for producing individual cups of heaven.

There was a nice crowd of breakfasters in the ballroom disappointed when the curtain closed at 9:30. What a grand start to our European adventure.

The train to Stockholm took about 40 minutes and the metro to our neighborhood and Airbnb took about another 30. Each way I looked I felt like I was looking in a mirror. A clear, waterly reflection of myself in my genepool, as I felt in Switzerland.

The Airbnb was not as nice as some we’ve stayed at. Helena is pleasant enough in her worn frumpy housedress but I can’t help but long for the elegant room we stayed at in Durham, England. This is more like a step up from the 2-star room we had at the hostel in Barcelona.

We walked down toward the harbor where we can catch the boat tour. We passed a huge indoor food market we definitely want to visit later. I nearly fell asleep on the boat ride. We saw 10 – 12 lake beaches with citizens enjoying the water. The lake is about a meter higher than the Baltic sea so we had to pass through a lock going and coming.

We met a couple near the Jewish Synagogue from New York City. He seemed pleasant. She sniffed at everything, especially at the idea that you could see Stockholm from a boat.

Then we sat in the park nearby eating ice cream (after I found a bankomat and got 600 swedish kroner, about $75.00!) We then walked down to see the King’s Garden and the opera house. Then we back tracked to the market down the street from our room. It was like an indoor farmers’ market and little shops. We ate salads on toast and lemon meringue pie to die for and I had a double scotch on the rocks at Texas Longhorn. Our server had a handle-bar mustache!

On the way back to the room we stopped at an ICA grocery store for crackers. Back at the room we collapsed asleep almost immediately.

Friday, August 10th

We walked toward the dock again and stopped for coffee across from an Art Deco building under renovation. I thought it was an old convent but it was actually a residence of A Anderson from 1912.

Then we went to the train station to get confirmed seats for our trip to Copenhagen Monday. Another American tourist in front of us was very needy and took almost forever. Probably first time traveling?

The Milles Garden on Lidingö Island is the big thing today. (Millesgården.se) We used our 3-day bus, train, tram, etc pass. At the terminus I thought we were looking for a bus #21. There was only 3 digit numbers. An old man was trying to tell me we only needed to get over the bridge. No problem. The ticket agent was telling me I’d have to take one bus then transfer to another. Then Georgia saw a sign to Lidingö just past the last subway stop, Ropsten. It was a tram we wanted and the first stop was just over the bridge. Then there was a hike up a steep hill to the garden. As we reached the top I noticed a lot of little white “M s” or “W s” stuck everywhere, on people’s shirts, on walls, light poles and posters. Some surfaces were completely covered with them to the depth of 4 inches. It finally dawned on me that they must be stickers for the Milles Garden. They were! We went to the café first as a reward for making it up the hill. More salad on bread followed by dessert. This time licorice-flavored ice cream on a stick. I thought it was dark chocolate. Wish Dad could have been with me. How he did love licorice.

Buying our tickets we saw that there was a special exhibit of Milles and his friends, Picasso, Miro, Rauchberg, Henry Moore, etc. I especially loved the Giacometti man! The Carl Milles house and studio was well worth the trip to Stockholm. Amazingly blue skies with his statues perched on stilos.

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There was whimsey and profound understanding and ancient works of art providing inspiration and a movie of one of his muses/helpers telling marvelous stories about his interactions with other luminaries. Especially the “poisonous” Frank Lloyd Wright.

The outdoor statues and fountains were marvelous though the fountains were only turned on for a few minutes once an hour or so – I guess to help preserve them.

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Carl Milles’ wife, Olga was from Munich and the Catholic influence was everywhere. Their tomb was in a little alcove garden in a little glass fronted structure with a pieta on top of it.

We walked back to the tram DOWN hill. Hope I don’t lose toenails. Back at the room we picnicked with the bees in the little garden space shared with surrounding apartments and fell asleep soon afterwards.

Saturday, August 11th

Today we went to try to find Clason Glass studio. It was a nice walk and subway ride into the “trendy/arty” part of Stockholm. There were many young families with lots of fathers pushing prams, children playing in neighborhood playgrounds and lovers smooching. We passed through another street market and bought some sausage sticks made of “reindeer and moose.” Then stopped at a bagel shop and had a lovely soft bagel with cream cheese.

Being Saturday, Clason Glass was closed. It was a very tiny shop. Hope she gets lots of commissions. There’s no way she’d get enough foot traffic to keep her in business.

We bussed and metroed our way to the Royal Palace. It was a madhouse with crowds trying to watch a brass band on horseback at the changing of the guard. We ate nearby, visited the oldest church in Stockholm (“liberated” from the Catholics) and visited the Nobel Museum. That was moving, seeing all the instances of human achievement. We are a remarkable race – almost godlike with the emphasis on “almost.”

Then we found the Catholic Cathedral. They’ve added on to the back and there is some lovely etched flashed glass but I couldn’t get up into the balcony to see it.

We had time to kill before Mass, so we visited the “Beefeaters bar/pub” to sit and study the situation, as Dad used to say.

We sat at a table out front and noticed two women sitting next to us. Georgia looked at the menu board and said she wanted the ______, which was some sort of champagne-like wine. I went in to get our drinks. The bartender said it was either by the glass or by the bottle. I got a bottle. It looked huge! I asked how many glasses that would be. He said 4 to 6, so I asked for 2 more glasses saying I’d invite our table mates to have some. He smiled, took my card and invited me to put in the amount. I looked quizzical. I guess because he said “in case you want to give me some as well.” I smiled and said, “Then add on 100 ___ for you.” He did a double take and looked very surprised, (that was about 11 dollars) and called over a waitress to carry the tray out and pour for me.

The ladies outside were very surprised as well. We toasted each other. Turns out they were a lesbian married couple from San Diego, California who’ve moved to Sweden for jobs. (Celia and Claire) Because one has a job offer the other was able to get a work permit too. There are many Swedish peculiarities they are having trouble getting used to. Their studio apartment costs 1200___($1000 a month). They can’t buy any electronics (including TV) until they have their residence cards. They were so surprised at the restrictions. “It’s un-American!” We laughed. We wished them well and said it sounds like they’re on a grand adventure (one a blond Nordic-looking woman and the other a short dark Filipino who grew up in Biloxi, Mississippi).

The Cathedral of St Eric was 19th Century and added on to in the 1960s I think. The glass in the old building was competent but uninspired. The new area had some etched flashed glass that looked interesting but we couldn’t get up in the balcony to see it up close.

We were only able to follow along in the Mass because of the Kyria, Lamb of God in Latin and knowing the identity of the structure.

We went back to the room to finish up the food we bought on Friday, but this time inside – away from the bees. Somehow the bottle of champagne made us tired so off to bed early.

Sunday, August 12th

We took the Ferry, free with our bus pass, as Celia and Claire suggested for a cheap trip around the water. Loved it! Just as we got out in the middle of the harbor a Japanese warship came in. All the sailors were standing at attention along the rail saluting. Then “boom!” the cannons starting firing a salute to the royal family. We couldn’t count how many but it was a lot! Then from the opposite direction came the answering shots from the Stockholm fort! In the middle it felt like we were under attack. Children came spilling out of the cabin to the stern where I had the place to myself. (There was a light rain.) It was very exciting as the gunsmoke rose over the water.

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We passed the Tivoli, an amusement park very popular with the Swedes. It had an amazing “drop” ride and “spinning round the tower while dropping ride” and spinning upside down, rollercoaster rides. All kinds of ways to lose your lunch.

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We rode the bus back to the Vasa Museum. We might have been able to get off the ferry and walked but couldn’t be sure where to get off.

Looking for the Vasa Museum we stumbled onto the Nordic Museum which had exhibits on the Nordic peoples since 1400. The 1950’s exhibits looked like my home in Asheville, North Carolina and Savannah, Georgia.

For lunch we ate a “French” hotdog and fish and chips. The hotdog looked sort of like a corndog but the “dog” is cooked separate from and then inserted into the “bun.” The fish & chips were delicious.

I asked Celia how to cook "pomme frits". She said set the oil at 230 degrees, cook fries for 5 minutes, then remove and drain. Then deep fry at 375 to brown. Can’t wait to try it.

We found the Vasa Museum and walked through the drizzle to get there. The long line moved quickly. The Vasa is beautiful, but too narrow and top heavy with two courses of cannon. Poor sailors. I wonder how many knew it was a death trap. It sank 20 minutes after launching. A breeze caught it and it tipped. The crowd on the dock gasped, but it righted itself. They then started to unfurl the sails and a little breeze caught it and it rolled over and capsized. It sank in minutes.

It was raised again in 1960-61 and saved. It’s a terrific tourist attraction now.

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We stopped at a fancy restaurant without a reservation for supper. They put us at a tiny table beside the short flight of stairs leading up to the kitchen. I ordered the stuffed quail, stuffed with truffles. Georgia ordered mussels in cream sauce and wine. I got a local vodka. It was an excellent meal!

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Georgia & Zig

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!

Copenhagen, Denmark – August, 2018​

Monday, August 13th Train to Copenhagen

We were supposed to travel to Lund then catch another train to Copenhagen, but we couldn’t find anywhere at the station to “validate” our tickets. The attendant at the station explained to the conductor and it was decided we should travel to Malmo, right on the border, get them validated, then travel on to Copenhagen. It was a little nerve wracking trying to explain to the customer service rep at the Malmo Station, but she understood and all’s well that ends well.

On our way to Malmo we sat opposite Feodora, like Theodora but with an “F”, and Evelynn from Belgium and also traveling to Copenhagen. They seemed to speak just about every language in Europe except Danish and Swedish. Luckily there was a teenager sitting nearby fluent in those two and English. He translated the announcements into English for us. (And he was smitten by the girls, though it seemed to me that they only had eyes for each other. Oh, the pains of love for the young.)

They told us all about their hopes and dreams and Evelynn explained this intricate tattoo on her right arm. On the bicep was her painful past – with a cemetery, then a mountain-like rock on her deltoid(?) which was her strength now, and a sunrise and idyllic scene on her triceps for the bright future ahead of her – slightly out of sight.

They gave us lots of places to see in Brussels, Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp, and all the best places to get chocolate.

We arrived at the Copenhagen train central station and found the bus stop without too much trouble and bought 72 hours worth of tickets. Bus 4A was supposed to carry us the whole way to where we were staying on Sirgraesvej. It was pretty crowded and hard to find a place for our suitcases. There were 35-37 stops! And half way through the driver had us all get off. There was another 4A right behind us to take us the rest of the way.

It was only a 5 minute walk from the corner where we were dropped off, but I misread Google Maps and we walked 100 yards down the wrong way. The apartment is right next to an Aldi’s store. They pronounce it “Eldi.”

The apartment was a very “Danish” studio. They come from nautical stock and the perfect design strips away everything that is unnecessary. There were an L-shaped gray sofa with red, white and black throw pillows, a gray tucked away in an alcove king-size bed with twin coverlets, a flat-screen TV on the wall with Danish reality hunting shows, news programs and old episodes of Friends, Big Bang and CSI with Danish subtitles, an electric stove, small table with 2 chairs, a large mostly empty refrigerator, and a built-in closet and drawers with plates and utensils.

The bathroom deserves special mention. It was probably 40” x 24” with a toilet and tiny sink and shower. The shower, however, WAS the bathroom. You had to be careful standing up from the toilet that you didn’t bump the lever and give yourself a quick shower – as I did twice and Georgia did once. The shower curtain protected the door, the toilet paper and the towel rack beside it. Very nautical.

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Gitte, the apartment owner, left us a note with her WiFi password and several tourist brochures, ½ dozen eggs, bread and cheese and thinly sliced ham for breakfast. There was also a text message asking if we could meet them at Restaurant Vita at 6 PM Tuesday. That would be great!

I checked online for directions to several different landmarks (though we never did make it to the Catholic Cathedral). I discovered a Danish by name in Ecclesiastical design, Peter Brandes, but never made it to see his work in person either.

We ate pretty dreadful pepperoni pizza from the pizza shop next to Gitte’s apartment.

Tuesday, August 14th

We headed first toward the State Art Museum but stopped at the Botanical Garden. The greenhouse and butterfly houses were hot as you might expect but pretty never the less.

Outside the museum was a large round fountain populated by lawn chairs that had been put there by students. Just the right depth to sit without getting your seat wet. In the Museum café we had a delicious Gazpacho and the “SET” which was roast chicken and cabbage.

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There were lovely paintings and wood carvings and statues. A Modigliani I’d never seen called Alice was especially captivating. She was wearing a light blue dress. It looks like her confirmation day.

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We walked across the street to the King’s Garden where a crowd of students were playing some sort of drinking game. Two teams of 6 or 8 people each faced each other 40 or 50 feet apart with a can of beer open on the ground between them. Each team alternates tossing a tennis shoe at the beer trying to knock it over. When they do, they all immediately squat down and start drinking their beer. They drink until someone from the other team runs up and sets the beer back upright and runs back to their line. I asked several people the name. It evidently had no name. To add a level of poignancy to the proceedings, each game had a homeless person collecting empty beer cans from contestants.

We enjoyed a lovely, long supper at Restaurant Vita with Gitte and her son-in-law, Peter. Traditional Danish meal. Georgia’s looked like very thick slices of bacon with potatoes and pickled beets. I had sliced pork with red cabbage and new potatoes.

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The conversation about children and Danish vs American life was so pleasant we adjourned to the main quay, Nyhaven Harbor, for more beer and conversation. We got back to the apartment about 10:30 – our latest night yet.

Wednesday, August 15th

We took a canal tour out of Nyhavn Canal. There were crisp blue skies and white puffy clouds. We saw the back of the little mermaid surrounded by a crush of tourists. No wonder she looks forlorn.

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When we got off, we tried to find the church with the 3 dragons whose tails twist around each other to form the steeple only to get sidetracked by a sign showing the way to Freetown Christiania. A hippie commune where marijuana is tolerated on the understanding that it is still illegal, so watch out! No photography is permitted, so Georgia only managed to get a great picture of the “No photograph” sign!

There was wonderfully gorgeous graffiti and murals on the walls and happy (dirty) children playing unsupervised in ways that would be considered much too dangerous for American kids.

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We couldn’t buy anything – they only accept cash.

Then we walked to the church with the _______ up the outside of the steeple, then caught buses to the Cisterns – old cisterns with wet floors and limestone stalactites, where they normally exhibit modern art glass, only they don’t. The guy who did that quit a few years ago and now they just present “installations.” This one was different 4 foot disks suspended from the ceiling – one with a gas jet of flame that erupted whenever you approached it and disappeared when you turned back. Hope they call it the great and powerful OZ.

Another room of the cistern had a gravity fed series of white solid balls that hung from wires sliding along a track attached to the ceiling. As it slid, the balls would hit brass bowls strategically placed in the darkness. Bong! The track wound around and back and forth. The bowls were illuminated with little spot lights and the room was quite large. “Bongs” could be heard at random from all over the room and echoing in the darkness. Contemporary art is certainly eclectic.

We stopped at stores on the way home to buy wine and tuna salad. Both were excellent for supper. The salad had lots of corn and red pepper in it. The wine did not.

Thursday, August 16th

Today was special. We spent most of the day going to and from the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art about 35 km north of Copenhagen. It got it’s name from the first owner of the property, Alexander Brun, who named the Villa after his three wives, all of whom were named Louise. There is also a Louisiana Music webpage and Louisiana Channel. Web TV. The grounds are beautifully landscaped and the art work is first rate, dating from WWII to the present. No wonder it’s listed as one of the 1000 places you need to see before you die.

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Any museum would be pleased to have one sculpture by Giacometi; they have 10-12 of various sizes. Or 3 Alexander Calders, and Jean Arp, Max Ernst, Henri Laurens, Joan Miro and Louise Bourgeois. Even Richard Serra. And that’s just sculpture.

In paintings there’s Roy Lichtenstein, Warhol, Giacometti, Picasso, Yves Klein, Rauschenberg, Jackson Pollock, David Hocking and Asger Jorn. While we were there, there were special exhibits by Ed Ruscha and Kandinsky’s girlfriend, Gabriele Münter.

The interview with Ruscha was interesting but Münter’s paintings left me cold.

Lunch was spectacular. We had a roast beef sandwich and a smoked salmon sandwich on buns containing more seeds than wheat! And wine, of course, next to a manicured lawn surrounding an Alexander Calder. Oh my. If only there was an ocean nearby. Oh, wait! There it is!

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And the trees! Some of them had to be there when God himself wore knee pants. I made a 360 degree video under a sky so blue it looked painted on.

I could live in Denmark if only I could visit this museum every day, and if only they could make Danish speakable.

The only other eventful happening was me catching my foot on the next to last step in the subway and going down hard on my left hand and knee. So many people stopped to be sure I was O.K. I stayed down awhile to be sure. My bifocals are really giving me trouble with steps. My feet are in a blur that makes it very hard to see uneven ground and steps.

But we made it home to pack for leaving tomorrow for Berlin.
 

Georgia & Zig

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!

Berlin, Germany – August, 2018​

Friday, August 17th Train to Germany

Travel Day. We were up early and at the train station in plenty of time. We never did get any cash in Denmark. We used our credit card for everything – even admission to the pay toilet!

On the way to the station a blind woman with a white German Shepherd guide dog moved easily through the crowds (except for gently bopping one man with her cane as she took her seat in the handicap section of the bus.) Her gentle dog could barely squeeze under the seat. The man she bopped smiled and gently stroked the dog’s head with the back of his hand. I’m not sure the woman ever even knew he was sitting opposite her. And yet she was probably just as aware of all of us as we were of her. Her cane fell on the floor of the bus and I retrieved it for her. “Danke,” she said softly.

At the station they moved swiftly but carefully across the pavement and then through crowds with the dog pausing at each curb and junction where she might stumble. Amazing dedication. And amazing teamwork.

Traveling south our train was loaded on a huge ferry for a 45 minute trip to Germany. We all got off the train and went up 3 or 4 flights of stairs to get to the deck. Hundreds of people and lots of cars were on board too!

We changed trains in Hamburg. We had to run to find our carriage. The train was late and they weren’t planning on waiting for stragglers.

We arrived in Berlin about supper time and ate at Neumans, a German restaurant (run by Turks) that was nearby. I had rump steak with chanterelles and Georgia got some kind of cheese potato casserole. Together the meal was very tasty. An elderly lady (ie our age) was sitting at the table next to us with her grown son and his college friend. The two men got up to leave after drinks leaving her there along. We struck up a conversation bewailing the fact that the grown children will miss us when we’re gone (just as we miss our parents.) She told us some about life in East Germany and suggested places we should be sure to see. Some of them, like Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church were also recommended by Rick Steves.

And so to bed at our Airbnb on Paulstrasse.

Saturday, August 18th

We decided to make our daytrip to Wittenberg today. We got there early and it looked like a ghost town.

2017 was the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation and Wittenberg was where it all began. They had spruced up the town and new hotels were opened and renovation and landscaping plans were planned for the crowds. I don’t know how it went since this is 2018, but no matter how big the party was, Wittenberg is like a deflated balloon now. There are empty storefronts and unfinished landscaping.

The Luther Museum was arranged well and jam-packed with Luther memorabilia but it just felt weird to me as if Lutheranism were a worship of Luther.

But it was full of Lutherana – his many children; orphans he adopted, acolytes and followers. His food bill alone must have been huge. And his poor wife, Katherine; she must have been run ragged. He believed in a strict division of labor with women completely in charge of the household.

I followed a middle aged guy walking around with two acolytes. All three were wearing “1517” t-shirts and the man was explaining to the (I guess) seminarians yesterday’s battles over papal indulgences. Evidently he never heard about the counter reformation within the Catholic Church. Luther won. But that means there’s no particular reason for the Lutheran Church to exist anymore. Their raison d’etre is gone. If they don’t know that in the seminaries the people in the pews have certainly learned it. Even in Wittenberg on this beautiful day we saw families lined up to have one wedding after another – at the town hall – not at the church.

We did have a nice meal at the museum café though; soup and salad with ice cream for dessert. Mine came in Eis caffe. Yum.

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We walked past lots of empty storefronts on the way to the churches to photograph what we could. There were a few handsome windows but for the most part they were nothing special.

We stopped by the little Catholic Church and was rewarded with some interesting new laminated glass. Two sheets of clear glass were joined in a sealed unit. The outside pane had Lambert’s colored glass laminated on the inside and the inside pane was etched in such a way that the colored glass was not obstructed. They were three dimensional. And some of the clerestory windows incorporated traditional leaded glass somehow. Interesting effect.

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We had supper at Lo Spaghetti Trattoria run by Claudio Zerbinati – a very expansive Italian with no English at all but we didn’t starve. We shared the house specialty lasagna and salad. The salad had a lot of rocket, or some bitter greens, but with vinegar and oil with enough sweetness to make it a good compliment to the lasagna. I’m not sure what kind of cheese he used in the lasagna – it was very soft but not stringy at all. It was delicious and I mopped up the serving dish with the bread he sent out. One half liter of chianti washed it all down. And, oh yeah, we needed dessert. I tried to order from the menu and he wagged his finger at me and pointed at the dessert stand leaning drunkenly up against the wall. Tiramisu it was.

And so we weaved off to bed on the 5th(!) floor of our apartment building. There was a lovely view of sunset and with the recent forest fires here it was lovely.

Sunday, August 19th

Our little elevator barely held two of us plus our luggage and moved basically at walking speed, plus I really do need more exercise, so I decided to walk up and down to our apartment as often as possible. So this morning down five flights past lovely carved wooden doors and worn maroon carpet till I got to the 1st floor marble stairs which made my rubber soled shoes squeak, much to Georgia’s dismay. Our landlord had warned us many times with numerous signs that if we made noise on the stairs or in the entrance hall the neighbors would sic hordes of crazed demons on us and then only call the police to come and haul off our lifeless, but silent, carcasses away.

And so we tiptoed out to look for the Catholic Cathedral, St Hedwig’s, a monumental building with a dome worthy of the pantheon but with the most mediocre glass I’ve ever seen in a cathedral anywhere, beige squares inside beige squares in square muttons and mullions. Yawn.

From the center of the church in front of the altar, wide stairs led down to the crypt with Hedwig’s tomb positioned immediately below the altar. The congregation sits in a circular fashion around this open crypt. There was seating there as well and that’s where the stations of the cross were located as well.

The service was as low energy as the windows and people kept drifting in even after the epiclesus. In the end there were several hundred worshippers but somehow I wasn’t encouraged. It’s probably not only the Lutherans in decline.

After the service we toured the crypt where there were some nice oval windows in the various chapels dedicated to various people – such as a priest killed by the Nazis.

We took off walking to find the Dali exhibit. Google is quite amazing and has completely revolutionized how we get around in foreign cities. Peter, Gitte’s son-in-law, mentioned the same thing. His job means lots of traveling.

Our walk led us through the center of a downtown mall with a three story corkscrew slide for (very) brave children. With our hungry lawyer class I can’t imagine anyone putting such a thing in a public place in the USA.

Then out the other side we approached the Reichstag and a remnant of the Berlin Wall near checkpoint Charlie. There was also a very sobering outdoor museum dedicated to the rise of Nazism in 1933 that had way too many parallels with our modern situation here in the USA. The indoor museum expanded greatly on the rise if only because Germans keep such meticulous notes.

We had a hard time finding the Dali Museum but did eventually. They charged extra to take photos so I skipped taking any. There wasn’t anything we haven’t seen before besides some films he made. There was the creepy one with Disney called “Destino” and a Brunell collaboration that left me scratching my head.

Some illustrations for St John’s Apocalypse were classic Dali.

We ate supper at the Cambodian restaurant near our room. We had delicious soup and an order of “Amok Mouan” which was a delicious curry of pineapple, chicken and coconut milk on rice. We both ate it and still had take-away for tomorrow.

Up the stairs I went…..

Monday, August 20th

The big museums are closed on Mondays so we headed for smaller ones. The “New Synagogue” was where we started. The outside façade was very oriental looking – orient as in semitic – Arabian/Jewish/Moorish revival. It’s a lovely building and very striking when it was built in 1859 – 1866. Anti-Semites, of course used the example of architecture to argue that the Jews were not “real” Germans. Much like current racists argue about Spanish being “un-American,” though it was spoken in the continental USA a hundred years before the English arrived. Haters will always find a reason to hate.

We had to pass through metal detectors (“Just like at the airport,” the guard said). During Kristallnacht November, 1938, it was broken into, desecrated and all the flammables were piled up and set on fire. A local policeman drew his pistol, dispersed the mob and called the fire brigade who managed to put out the fire before it spread to the building itself. The congregation began the cleanup as they were permitted. The last service was held for Passover in April 1940. At that time they discovered a “modern miracle’. The “eternal flame” was still burning. After this service the Nazi’ seized the building and used it to store uniforms.

It was bombed by the Allies in November, 1943. After the war they couldn’t afford to rebuild and the East Germans and Soviets were anti-Semitic as well. It wasn’t till the fall of the Berlin Wall that rebuilding was begun. We were able to see the front entrance hall and the cleared ground where the main sanctuary had been

There were some fragments of stained glass salvaged from the wreckage. Touching but just simple quarry windows. I don’t know what might have been in the main sanctuary.

For lunch we split a “Supreme Burger mit fries.” Very tasty!

Down the street and around the corner there was a Contemporary Gallery with an exhibit entitled “We don’t need another hero.” Tenth Berlin Biennale.

The theme was taken from a Tina Turner song that argues against the simplistic worldviews that heroes always propose. (?) The artwork itself must support that assertion but I wasn’t able to see how. Maybe it makes more sense in German.

Tuesday, August 21st

We got to the State Museum about 10:15 and stood in line for awhile, then in among the treasures we went!

It’s so hard to describe beautiful works of art in words. The first thing I photographed was a self portrait of an artist I wasn’t familiar with, Sabine Lepsius. By her clothes she looks to be in right about the turn of the 20th century. Her face is haughty. Her clothes fawn-colored and the background warm browns. But words can’t describe the look in her eyes as she contemplates herself in the mirror, seeing herself self-consciously as others see her. She’s beautiful!

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The next photo I took was of a statue of the devil by Heinrich Heine. It was profoundly ugly with an enormous floppy neck, no chin, a slouch with a fat stubby tail, long arms, short legs and a sagging torso. (like a water-filled bag.) Profoundly ugly, but yet beautiful that an artist can take something so visceral and unexplainable and make it real and palpable with carved stone. “I called the devil and he came.” That’s the power of art. That’s what excites me and makes me want to do better with each drawing and stained glass window. And here we were in 30,000 square feet of works just like this. I could live in museums and never get enough…I must have taken 500 photographs. Even bad works of art inspire me. When they don’t reach what they set out to achieve you still have to admire the effort.

And I truly enjoy watching the people looking at the art and try to imagine what they are “seeing” and what they are saying to themselves. I remember the apocryphal story of a museum guard at the Louvre listening to two people tear down the painting they were looking at. He said to them, “It’s not the paintings that are being judged. It’s you.”

We left the Alte Nationalgalerie about 1 PM (3 hours in the museum).

After leaving the museum we ate a picnic lunch on the lawn and fed the sparrows the crumbs. Then we did some more walking around in the sunshine.

About 3 PM we headed into the Kulturforum, another museum built in what was then “West Berlin” since most of Berlin artwork was located in “East Berlin.” More spendor: Wonderful gilded medieval paintings, a treasure trove of Holbein, Fouquet, Van Eyck, Cranach, Durer, Bosch, Bruegel, Lippi, Caravaggio, Correggio, Botticelli, Rembrandt and Vermeeer. All of them were 1st rate too – Rembrant’s Minerva, Man in the Golden Helmet and Vermeer’s String of Pearls and Wineglass. In the Wineglass he painted a partially spherical stained glass window in exquisite detail. But after another 3 hours we were bushed and it was 5:30 – almost closing time. But we had one more section of “arts and crafts” we’d paid for. Oh my goodness it was glorious too, but now it was almost 6 PM and we were being pushed out when Georgia spotted stained glass! There was no time! We were not even able to see who the artist was. It was 5:59 and we only had time enough for some shots as we were escorted by. (We found these later online and they were designed for two doors by Cesar Klein in 1919.)

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Outside on the way to the bus stop we saw a Richard Serra wall. Berlin is an amazing city. Wish they could fix the leaks in the sewers though. As you walk around you constantly get a whiff of sewage.

We ate supper at Lo Spaghettino again. This time we sat outside with the bees. The locals put a coaster on top of their drinks. As we began our pizza, Claudio brought a man and a woman out from inside to join us. No explanation, just asked if it was O.K. “Sure,” we said. She was a retired radiologist from Finland who’d been living in Berlin for 30 years or more. He was a retired artistic director for one of the theatres. She spoke English well. He had Alzheimers and used to be able to speak English. He would inject a word or phrase from time to time. We gave them pieces of pizza and they bought a carafe of wine. Poor Lotz (that was his name) couldn’t remember how to clink glasses for a toast but he was pleasant and smiling and seemed to understand the conversation. I think she must have asked Claudio to seat us – she was hoping the English would stimulate Lotz. And it seemed to do that. We never learned her name but she was wonderful. She suggested we have coffee and a pastry at Buchwald Konditorei and supper at Zollpackhof Bier Garten. Both were in our neighborhood, but we didn’t know about them. Tomorrow!

Wednesday, August 22nd

We were up early and off to Buchwald Konditorei. It was a nice walk along the elevated train and over the River Spree, or a tributary of it, on a pedestrian bridge. We found the bakery but were there before it opened so we walked along the banks looking for the place to catch the boat tours.

We heard about the concern over bee populations and saw at the bakery that the cake display had a lot of bees sampling the wares.

Georgia got strawberry tart and I got something called Baumkuchen which was only 1 ¾” tall but had 15 layers coated with chocolate. I’m not kidding! And delicious coffee. The cake was dry, the strawberry was delicious and the coffee got our motors running.

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Next we were off to find the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church – heavily bombed during the second world war and left as a reminder of the destructiveness of war. Part of the old church is left standing like a snaggle tooth with a 1960s new sanctuary and bell tower built on either side of it. Both were filled with Gabriel Loire’s dalle d’verre made a few years before the windows at our Lexington, KY, Cathedral of Christ the King. They too were built with concrete and I saw that the bell tower was completely surrounded with scaffolding. I suspect the concrete has spalled and as Sam, my employee, says “They can probably take a shower in there when it rains.”

But oh, the light! A golden gigantic crucifix surrounded, floor to ceiling, with shades of cobalt blue glass and patches of yellow and red here and there. Amazing color!

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Afterward we went shopping for Legos for our grandchildren.

After shopping we needed a little smackeral and thought we’d eat at the Contemporary Art Museum. The café was very nicely located on a patio beside the river. Our waitress was beautiful with a lovely figure and dark hair. She was wearing a beautiful blue and gold crucifix around her neck. I complimented her on it and asked if she was Catholic. She was startled but smiled and said “Yes.” That was a nice start to a nice, but expensive meal. Georgia had potato soup with a hot dog cut up in it. I had currywurst – which is just what its name implies, sausage covered with tomato curry. We had white wine and coffee after which we were ready for anything Andy Warhol could throw at us. And he threw Marilyn Monroe, Chairman Mao and Elvis Presley! Frida Kahlo threw a self portrait, Albers threw squares and Mondrian tossed bold, blocks of colors at us. There was also an exhibit of Polynesian art.

It was spectacular but we were flat worn out.

We went back to the room for a nap before going to the Bier Garten.

The food was good and we sat with a couple, Peter and Birgit who couldn’t stay long. They had a previous engagement with the president. He works for the NPR of Germany and knows the press secretary. (She’s not anything like Sarah Sanders) and she always gets them invitations to the President’s parties. (and he’s not anything like Trump!) He also knows someone named Jansen Winkler who is working to catalogue all the stained glass in Germany (?) for Unesco (?) He is going to give me her e-mail so maybe we can get together. And then they had to run. We finished our chicken and huge beer and had to stagger back to our room. I couldn’t have run if I’d tried.

Thursday, August 23rd

Walking around we had seen a poster for a concert at an evangelical church, Berlin Bauplatz Kirche. The poster featured some interesting stained glass so we went looking for it. When we finally got there the church was locked up tighter than a drum. Georgia tried the handicap entrance and it was unlocked but didn’t lead to the sanctuary. We heard some kids upstairs and went up a flight. Dead end. Back downstairs we opened an unmarked door and scared the Bejesus out of a guy working at his computer. I told him who we were and hoped we could see the sanctuary windows. He had lots of reasons why that wasn’t possible, chief of which seemed to be that the janitor may have just mopped the floor. We promised to be careful. He then admitted that he was flustered because neither door was supposed to be unlocked and he had locked them. I assured him we found them unlocked. He believed me of course and agreed to show us the sanctuary. There was a gate that needed to be unlocked and two interior doors before we were in. Security must be a real problem. There was a lot of litter outside but not so much as you’d see in any large city.

The glass was very nice, darker at the bottom then reds and yellows, then pastels toward the top. Probably the same size as the Anglican Church. The side windows were added later and were just painted colors but they did add a nice color to the sanctuary. And the walls were painted a lovely blue to show off the glass reflections.

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It turns out he’s a deacon too, Deacon Berud Oppermann, and struggling with English he told us that it was providential that we met – his door and church were supposed to be locked. That seems to happen a lot in my life. It probably happens a lot in his as well. He sent us away with an autographed copy of the church’s history. Unfortunately it’s in German.

After our visit we headed to an ice cream store, then meandered toward the river where we saw the boats docking.

A leisurely boat ride was made even more leisurely with a traffic jam at the lock on the Spree. Certainly not as interesting as the boat rides we took in Stockholm and Copenhagen, but the ride past the park at the Berlin wall was interesting – we could see where a hippie encampment has sprung up. Like Copenhagen I guess. But off to bed early - We leave tomorrow for Cologne.
 

Georgia & Zig

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Cologne, Germany – August, 2018​

Friday, August 24th Train to Cologne

Travel Day. We got to the train station in plenty of time for our 11:30 train. We had reserved seats too, so that eliminated another headache. We brought our own sandwiches from the neighborhood bakery where we got coffee and pastry every morning. She always knew our order when we walked in. Neighborhood businesses are like that.

I worked on this trip report and just relaxed on the 7-hour trip. We were sitting facing backwards to the direction of travel. Next time we’ll try to face the other way.

We arrived in Cologne and bought a week pass on trams and buses and had a hard time navigating to our Airbnb. Our host, Burak, met us at the underground stop. It probably would have been faster and easier to walk. We were only 10 minutes away from the station.

I think our host is a wheeler dealer. The apartment isn’t the one listed in Airbnb because his landlord “won’t let him take boarders.”

We had supper at a local brew pub. It was delicious and obviously the local pub, but not cheap. It was worth every penny though as tired as we were. As a general rule Friday is not a great day to travel.

So off to bed.

Saturday, August 25th

We started our day at Kamps, a chain store bakery and coffee shop a hundred yards from our apartment. Probably not as special as some of the Mom & Pop places we’ve eaten – like the one in Amsterdam, but fast and still really tasty.

As we sat there munching pastry and cheese toast and sipping coffee, a young mother wheeled her 4 month old in. He was sitting like a young prince in his baby carriage contentedly gumming a large slice of bologna. Not something you’d see in the states, though I do remember giving our kids pigs lips (Vienna sausages) when they were mere babes. The bologna is probably better, less likely to break off into a choking-sized chunk. Anyway, he certainly looked happy.

St Gereon was on the way to the Cathedral but locked up tight. But St Andrea was open and the stained glass there designed by Marcus Lüpertz painted bold colors on the walls. The symbolism baffled me but the boldness was liberating. We saw that there was going to be a vigil Mass starting at 5. We’ll be back.

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And so off to the Cathedral for a look around. We bought a ticket for the climb up to the top of the tower. More than 500 steps up an increasingly narrow stone stairway. And it was a two-way stairway with people coming down as we clung to the center post going up!

And then at the top we found a platform with stairs going up another bazillion feet or so. And boy-howdy, was it windy! We must have been in the lower reaches of the jet stream. Half way up the stairs Georgia gave up and said she’d had enough and turned around. I swear it was just one more flight and the wind stopped because the wind was blocked by the surrounding intricately carved stonework converging toward the top of the spire. And then, poof. I was at the top!

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I texted Georgia and told her about the wind dying so she decided to press on. And in a few minutes the two of us began our circuit around the top. There were wires and railings everywhere to prevent falls or dropping things, but I’m pretty sure I could just glimpse downtown Lexington, KY, if I stood on my tiptoes.

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The exit was different from the platform we came up on. It was really narrow going down inside the walls. That’s why they didn’t make it 2-way, just too dangerous.

As we were going down we met a steady stream of people going up. But down was definitely easier – we were on the outside of the spiral and the stair treads were wider and we could move much more quickly.

In no time we were at the bottom and saw a long line snaking out into the Cathedral, waiting their turn to get wobbly legs and altitude sickness.

We, of course, just checked Cologne Cathedral off our bucket list and went looking for the Kolumba Museum. But first a little smackeral.

Guy Kemper, a stained glass artist from Lexington KY, had recommended Café Reichard across from the Cathedral. Very elegant, much like the fine cafes in Venice or Vienna. Georgia had a piece of plum and vanilla cream cake and I had to get their eis-coffee, coffee sweetened with ice cream and whipped cream with chocolate shavings – served in an elegant milk-shake glass.

Even the WCs were works of art with elegant statuary and sparkling white porcelain.

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I don’t know if it’s all a bygone era – because I can’t get into the new palaces for the rich, but in Europe the spectacular cathedrals, museums and eateries are not just open to the rich. The “Gated-community” syndrome gaining strength in the U.S. doesn’t seem to have bitten Europe quite so hard.

After fortification we walked to a nearby church, Minoriten Kirche Santa Maria Emphangnis, where we saw some modern glass and an enormous glass crucifix. The artists were Helmut Kaldenhoff, Thomas Kessler and ??.

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One of the things that moved me most, however, was the sarcophagus of John Duns Scotus. He’d come to Cologne to study with Albert Magnus – whose sarcophagus we saw at the Cathedral.

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Then we went on to St. Kolumba, built over a Roman street – now just an archaeological site and lovely chapel. There was a gorgeous, modern window designed by Mittermann and built by Derix.

The Kolumba Museum was just around the corner and well worth the trip. It was an eclectic collection of ancient, medieval, primitive, glass, photographs and statuary. Impossible to characterize.

After all the climbing and walking, the Vigil Mass at St. Andreas was very appealing. And the evening light coming through the Clerestory windows was everything I hoped it would be. I don’t know any German so the homily escaped me but the antiquity of the Mass was as moving as always.

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After Mass we got take-out from the Middle-Eastern diner, Shwarma, and groceries from the store and wobbled off to bed.

Sunday, August 28th

We had our morning coffee at Kamps then went to the Cathedral for Mass. The music was amazing! Georgia recorded the Bishop leaving in clouds of incense with the Cathedral combined choirs of men, boys and girls to the wonderful “May the Lord Bless You and Keep You” by John Rutter. Oh the goosebumps!

We had a lunch of hamburgers and pomme frites in the Alter Market watching a busker blow enormous soap bubbles for the children. It looked grey and cloudy first thing this morning, but it’s now turned into a perfect blue sky and puffy clouds kind of day. We walked the Rhine River bank and visited more churches. It’s kind of amazing how many churches there are in Cologne. Evidently there are more here than anywhere else in the world besides Rome.

The Jan Thorn-Prikker windows in St. George were colorful and modern. As were the Marga Wagner windows in St. Maria in Lyskirchen. The former were very angular and squarish – in reds, blues and grays – somewhat reminiscent of ____________’s prairie style windows. The Wagner windows were blues and earth tones in rounded evocative shapes. You have the feeling they represent something but not sure what.

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In the same church there were windows by Hans Lunerborg, representational but still abstract, like unfinished paintings.

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The Wallraf-Richartz Museum was our next stop, but it was now afternoon and we were starting to fade. The paintings though, were inspiring. Jongkind, Manet, Corot, Courbet, Sisley and Monet. They make it look so easy I keep thinking, “I could do that.” Then I see Van Gogh and what he does with light and I realize I could never do that. The Rembrandts and Bruegels were exquisite. Even more I know I can’t do that. There needs to be a heaven to give us the opportunity to be all that we can be.

Afterwards we headed home to eat what we’d gotten from the store.

Monday, August 27th

Today was a day for visiting churches. We saw the old St. Albans yesterday, or what was left of it in the form of that chapel over the archaeology site. Today we went to the park in Cologne where the New St. Albans is located. The park, unfortunately, is now home to a population of the homeless and the church is only open at worship times. There are some lovely stone carvings around the doors and a bronze portal portraying the Tree of Life (with the snake tempting Adam and Eve) and the Tree of Death, with Jesus on the Cross. The tree of Life, of course, ushered in Death and the tree of Death restored us to eternal life.

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After cleaning up part of the park (5 or 6 bottles) we caught the metro toward St. Agnes. We found it and went in by the back door. There was lots of lovely modern glass and art. I met the church secretary who said that it wasn’t destroyed in the war but was badly damaged in a 1989 fire. Perhaps that’s why there is so much lovely contemporary glass.

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And the organist was practicing with a flute player! The acoustics were gorgeous! What a treat! (Wilhelm Buschulte)

At the main entrance there is a free standing dichroic glass rectangle that produces a welcoming image as you walk toward it.

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Outside in the yard next to the church we found a post set up with holes all in it to invite the endangered bees to start a hive.

A pleasant walk away we came to St. Severin – with a 12 or 15 foot maze out front. The interior was much more austere than St. Agnes with nice glass adding color in spots – like accents.

Then we went looking for St. Theresa Benedict of the Cross’s Convent (Edith Stein).

It was destroyed during the war but St. Maria Vom Frieden relics are here and it’s a Trappist Convent too. It’s very 19th century with some stained glass but very low key. I have no idea how many nuns remain but it didn’t have the feel of life you could hope for.

The next church, St. Pantaleons, was full of modern glass. (Georg Meistermann) (financed by Dr. Ziesenisso-Krambo) The docent, Dieter Hockmann, let us go up in the galley to take some close up photos of this very modern glass – almost Frank Lloyd Wrightish with its thin strips of glass closely leaded. The docent doesn’t like the windows because the faces, which are very “sketchy” are too anonymous for his taste. He told us we needed to see St. Gereon. That’s the one near our AirBnb that is always closed as we go by in the morning. There were also several large windows of lovely falling leaves. The church was full of modern art. Not “modern” art, but art produced in the last 20 years or so.

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I’ve admired the churches which make room for contemporary religious sensibilities.

I think it a mistake to try to live out your grandfather’s faith or even your mother’s faith. You need to live out your own. People can always spot “phony” and another generations “religion” will always feel phony. (?)

Just around the corner of the transept there was a very provocative painting of a life-sized young woman kneeling before little paintings from the life of Christ – arranged like stations of the cross. She’s looking back over her shoulder at us to look too. It’s the scene after the resurrection when Mary mistakes Jesus for the gardener. How often does Jesus confront us in the guise of someone else and we fail to recognize him?

We left with ideas on how we could encourage contemporary artists to reimagine religious scenes.

We wandered around for another hour and ended up taking one last picture of another ancient church, but have no idea what its name was. (I wish I knew who designed it.) That’s one of the things about Cologne – more churches than priests or parishioners.

Tuesday, August 28th

We started the day at another ancient church, St. Maria Himmelfahrt, where the glass was in the “stacks of Books” style – irregular blocks of clear textured glass arranged somewhat like books on a shelf. Not a particularly inspired design and certainly not using stained glass for any of its advantages.

It may have been designed to complement the more “brutalist” designs of the 1960s. In any event I think its day is past. It doesn’t seem to speak of God to anyone.

But the high altar – that’s another matter. All baroque exuberance proclaiming the glory of God in gold leaf and sparkling flourishes and 17th century takes on scenes from the life of Christ. Maybe the Brutalist windows are just supposed to give your eyes a rest. “Enough is enough, and too much is plenty,” Dad used to say.

Thirty minutes late we were in St. Andreas glorying in Markus Lüpertz’s wonderful 21st Century take on Christian art and Christianity. Graffiti in stained glass. Amazing juxtaposition of colors and textures and symbols and icons. The color-sense of a teenager with the experience and vision of an old soul.

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The crypt windows were so colorful as well but not the riot found in Lüpertz.

Another 30 minutes and we finally managed to make it into St. Gereon’s, the church closest to us, but the one that was always locked as we went by. But now it was open and it was stupendous! There were at least 4 marvelous modern syles. In the crypt - Mannassier, in the Cleristry - Meistermon, who did the marvelous windows in St. Panteleon, then the “crystal” like windows were done by Buschule. I took a bazillion photos.

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The young man who showed me around was named Raymond. His father was on the Parish council, I think.

I stopped in another church near Conrad Adenhauer.

I was to meet Georgia at St. Andreas for a concert at 1 PM. I was late, but not as late as she was. (She said she just got lost.) The music was lovely and the acoustics made it very lively.

After the concert we took the obligatory cruise on the Rhine, then after stopping at one final church, St. Cunibert with some laminated windows, not very interesting, we had supper and limped home.

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Wednesday, August 29th

Arriving by train in Mönchengladbach we visited the studio of Dr. Annette Jansen-Winkeln who has a doctorate in art history. Her husband Ernst is an architect and the son of the renowned glass painter Jansen-Winkeln. They are currently completing part of their extensive documentation of glass painting in the area of the Old Rhineland. (www.glasmalerei-ev.net) In 2017 they received the German prize for Monument Protection.

My first impression of her is of someone who is driven. She helped catalogue all the artwork of her father-in-law Jansen-Winkeln. In writing his biography and cataloguing his art she found her life’s work. From him she moved on to cataloguing all the stained glass windows of all the churches in the Cologne area. She photographs the outside of the church, the inside, and catalogues who made the stained glass.

And because so many churches and parishes are being closed down she and her husband started rescuing the stained glass panels from the wrecking ball and storing them in a building she owned. She has more than 5000 panels and thousands of cartoons.

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She doesn’t, however, have any plans to find them new homes. “It is enough to save them.” It’s hard to judge her age but if she’s not 70 she must be close. Her assistant, Francesca Schmidt, is a student in fabric design and seems bewildered by what she may have gotten herself into. She just wanted a summer job and seems to have stumbled into what could become a life’s work.

Dr. Jansen-Winkeln (I can’t imagine ever calling her “Annette”) is very austere and commanding in the way that truly single-minded people often are. When you are single-minded one life is never enough to get done what needs doing. That is, I guess, both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because there is always a reason to get up in the morning and a curse because there is never enough time to relax and just enjoy yourself. There is always work that needs to be done.

And though her life seems dedicated to conserving ecclesiastical stained glass I don’t sense any religious motivation.

As I said there doesn’t seem to be any attempt made to display the glass or find it a new home. It’s more like hoarding. And even scrooge McDuck would go and look at and finger his gold pieces. These treasures, needing the light to live, are locked away in a basement.

But maybe it’s just as she said ”It’s enough to just save them.”

What else can you do in a world that doesn’t care about the treasures you rescue?

I think I would try to organize exhibitions.
 

Georgia & Zig

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Brussels, Belgium – August, 2018​

Thursday, August 30th Train to Brussels

Travel Day. The train trip to Brussels was a very long one. And the Cologne train station was the loudest I believe I’ve ever heard! An arriving train let out a squeal that could wake the dead. The poor little girl standing next to us had to plug her ears for about 5 minutes as the train came to a stop. Beautiful modern metal station but the squealing and echoing were hard to take. The rest of the trip was the usual opulence we’ve come to expect in European train travel.

We found our Airbnb on Klingelputz in Brussels with no trouble. The Agent met us to give us the key and show us around. It’s the most spacious accommodation yet. We had the 3 room apartment all to ourselves. There was a bedroom with a very comfortable queen size bed, a living room with a huge TV and a wonderful coffee grinder/espresso maker combination with lots of fragrant coffee beans(!) and a kitchen with a full size stove and refrigerator. There is also a pastry shop right next door. We are not going to go hungry!

We heard on BBC that John McCain’s memorial service was going to be tomorrow but we couldn’t get the TV to work so the agent had us call the absentee landlord who walked us through turning on the TV and changing the channels. We finally got it set up so we could watch a movie or some old reruns from the USA this evening.

First we took a quick trip around the neighborhood and found a huge church and some wonderful brass Camino markers in the pavement! Maybe we should just start walking south!

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Friday, August 31st

Today we started at the Museum of Beaux Arts/ Old Masters, Modern and the Fin-de-Siècle Museum. (Seurat, Magritte, Gauguin, Rodin, Van Gogh, Vogels) We learned that the museum is dedicated to all the arts between 1884 when the Free Society of Fine Arts was founded and 1914, the year of the outbreak of WWI, that cataclysmic end of the “old Europe.” The collection of Art Nouveau and medieval art was especially fine. It was like 3 wonderful museums in one! The guidebook says “vast,” an understatement. It’s impossible to list all the magnificent artwork or artists.

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Back at the room we watched the end of Aretha Franklin’s funeral on TV. Her funeral song – “Is my living in vain?” was very moving. And we saw the television show “Magritte” starring “Mr. Bean,” of all people. Very different from his normal roles – “Liberty is the possibility of being, and not an obligation to be.”

Saturday, September 1st

We walked around the old part of Brussels and tasted the famous French fries at a very popular corner fast food spot. And we also sampled the delicious chocolate!

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There were gorgeous buildings all around! We took a bus out to the Victor Horta House and Studio (Art Nouveau) (www.hortamuseum.be) They didn’t permit photographs so I filled up several pages in my notebook with sketches of glorious art deco banners and foils.

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Back at the apartment we watched the Memorial Service for John McCain in the USA. President Bush and President Obama both gave eulogies on his behalf. President Trump was not invited.

Meghan McCain gave a powerful and emotional remembrance speech. “We gather here,” she said, “to mourn the passing of American greatness – the real thing, not cheap rhetoric from men who will never come near the sacrifice he gave so willingly, not the opportunistic appropriation of those who lived lives of comfort and privilege while he suffered and served.”

From the New York Times: Mocking Trump’s favorite slogan, she later declared: “The America of John McCain has no need to be made great again because America was always great.” The audience then burst out in applause, something that rarely happens during the traditionally solemn funerals held at the cathedral. Trump can’t stand even a dead John McCain.

Sunday, September 2nd

We went to Mass at Sainte-Catherine’s and then to an organ concert at the Cathedral of Saints Michel and Gudule (the patron saints of the city of Brussels.) The organist, Xavier Deprez, played several pieces by Joseph Jongen, a Belgian organist and composer, (1873-1953), said to be second only to César Franck.

At 15:00 we went to a concert at the Bozar Center for Fine Arts to hear Beethoven, Bruch and Ravel:
Coriolan Overture, Op. 62, Beethoven
Twin pianos: Max Bruch, Concerto for 2 pianos (Katia and Marielle Lebèque, sisters from south of France)
Encore: Four Movements (Phillip Glass)
Orchestra of La Monnaie Opera House (Director : Alain Altone)

Monday, September 3rd – Day trip to Bruges

We took the ICE train to Bruges and back. Four things stand out from this trip.

First, there were the amazing chocolate shops with lines out the door. We bought a lot to bring back gifts for everybody. Wish we had bought SO much more!

2. Burg Square, where the Basilica of the Holy Blood (www.holyblood.com) is located. We made a donation to see the vial of Jesus’ blood, collected by Joseph of Arimathea at the time of the crucifixion.

3. Canal cruise around the city past the ancient houses.

4. The Church of Our Lady where I was struck dumb kneeling in front of Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child. So amazingly beautiful, and the only Michelangelo statue outside Italy.

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Tuesday, September 4th – Day trip to Antwerp


The slow train to Antwerp gave us the opportunity of seeing the quotidian lives of the people. The small lives. The “Our daily bread.” In America we have the illusion of all living big lives because we are plugged into the 24 hour news cycle and we are as familiar with catastrophes in Puerto Rico and London as we are with the catastrophes in our own neighborhood – but it’s an illusion. The virtual world is not real. The real world is your local church, your PTA, your next door neighbor. That’s reality. That’s life. The public transportation in Europe lets us see the real world of the Europeans un-cocooned by their automobiles.

We toured the Rubens House where Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) lived until his death. The classical sculptures and work of his contemporaries he collected are here. (Petel, Tintoretto, Egmont, Brueghel)

We also toured the Cathedral of Our Lady which has splendid works of art. (4 masterpieces by Rubens: the Raising of the Cross, the Descent from the Cross, the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and the Resurrection of Christ.) Also Jan Fabre’s sculpture, the man who bears the Cross is here.

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We saw a wonderfully whimsical statue of a boy and his dog who’ve covered themselves with the paving bricks.

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We were able to see Munch’s paintings at the Museum de Reede. They were setting up to exhibit “The Scream” and the director let us see it before it was open to the public. So civilized!

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Wednesday, September 5th


We waited for 10 minutes at a bus stop waiting for the “underground.” Then did take the underground but went the wrong direction to Saint Joose-ten-Noode. We learned that by asking the couple in front of us. It’s so fortunate that Europeans look out for crazy American tourists.

We went to Mass in St. Catherine’s which was falling into disrepair. What depresses me the most, I think, are the empty choir stalls.

I met Sister Pia, a Beguine Sister, in her chapel of the Golden Rule located in the church of St John the Baptist. She doesn’t wear a crucifix because so many people she helps would be put off by that. It’s difficult, isn’t it, to “let your light shine” so that people will give thanks to the Father, when the Church has such a poor reputation that you need to hide your identity. I’m not sure what’s the best way forward.

Saw a nice Stained glass studio at 33 Rue de Dublin (Vitraux Flores, Vitrauxflores.be)

And we had a lovely visit at the MIM or Museum of instruments of music!

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Wonderful. All of the exhibits had ways to hear what the different ancient instruments sounded like. The place was full of children!

But best of all was lunch outside at the “Noordzee” seafood restaurant, just standing up at the tables. Mussels, calamari, shrimp and mackeral. So good, we both went back for seconds! Wine of course. And onion rings too, of course.

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Thursday, September 6th – Flight home


Met Jon Doorn from the Pharmacy Department at the University of Iowa, who recommended we see “Scotts cheap Flights” web site for special prices. And recommended “War in Winter” as an excellent Dutch movie.

The flight home was uneventful but long. And the taxicab ride home from the airport that evening was very expensive: $60 or $70 for a 15 minute ride. The driver apologized but said Uber and Lyft were eating their lunch. Ours was the only fare he had all afternoon. At those prices I’m not surprised. But it was so good to be home and have our own bed. Traveling would be even better if you could have your own bed and pillows waiting for you every evening. We’ll need to see if there’s some way to arrange that!
 

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