Bob and Eva's Adventures

We enjoy exploring the nooks and crannies of foreign countries.

Munich – A Time to Visit Museums and Friends

Posted on August 16, 2019

In the five full days we had in Munich on this visit, three were spent with family members who live in the area. With the remaining two days we decided to visit a couple of art galleries we had never before been to, and visit again with a friend and her husband from over 50 years ago.
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ART
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This year we both wanted to concentrate on late 19th and early 20th century German paintings, the Blue Rider artist group and expressionists artists in particular. The Lenbachhaus was the place to start. Built in about 1890 for the painter Franz von Lenbach, it became city property in the 1920s as an art gallery. In 2013 it was enlarged according to designs by the top ranked British architectural firm Norman Foster, who recently designed the new Apple circular headquarters in California.

Villa Lenbach – Original building and garden.

We found there a plethora of paintings that really appealed to us, by such notable artists as Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Max Beckmann and Franz Mark. We were allowed to take photos.

Oskar Graf by Georg Schrimpf 1918.

Bavarian Landscape by Heinrich Bürkel 1826.

Kandinsky and Wife by Gabriele Münter 1912.

Blue Horse by Franz Marc 1911.

Wife of the Artist by Oskar Zwintscher 1901.

After lunch at the classy Lenbachhaus cafe we walked over to the new Pinakothek der Moderne, where there’s another great collection of paintings from the beginning of the 20th century to the present.

Lobby of the Pinakothek der Moderne

Stairwell.

Woman in Red Dress by Edvard Munch (of The Scream) 1901.

Murnau – View from the Window by Wassily Kandinsky 1908.

Girls Bathing by August Macke 1913.

Maternité by Pablo Picasso 1921.

The Four Elements by Adolf Ziegler 1937.

Lamentation by Käthe Kollwitz 1941.

Màlaga by Pablo Picasso 1941.

Man in Front of a Mirror by Karl Hofer 1943.

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FRIENDS
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Scene 1.
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Setting – park bench, Vienna, 1962.
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Me: Hi. Speak English?
She: Yes, of course.
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Time passes….
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She: Want to see a movie?
Me: Guess so. Where?
She: Medical building. Warning – knives, blood, gore.
We: Remain friends for over 50 years.
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Scene 2.
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Eva and I, not having yet met, each has the same charter flight tickets to Europe for April 1965.
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We: Meet.
We: Marry.
We: Honeymoon for a month.
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Setting – Munich April, 1965.
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Dinner at a favorite Balkan restaurant Bei Milan – with Helga.
Marriage lasts.
Restaurant doesn’t.
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Scene 3.
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Setting: Munich July, 2019 in front of Pension Seibel.
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Dr. Helga and Dr. Dieter meet us.
Eva, weary and overloaded from travel, stays home.
We three friends spend the day doing art, eating and drinking.
Eva and I bid our friends goodbye ’till we meet again.
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The order for today was to visit an exhibition of African art. I was a bit dubious but willing to give it a try. It turned out to be quite fantastic.

U-Bahn station, Marienplatz, Helga in the lead, museum in our sights.

The exhibition was a one-man show – El Anatsui from Ghana and Nigeria. It was a large installation, requiring huge wall spaces. What place could be more fitting than the Haus der Kunst, The House of Art, designed and built by the Nazis in 1937 as a place to exhibit appropriate German art. Art that showed Arians doing uplifting things in uplifting surroundings. Huge rooms befitting the great German Fatherland.

Haus der Kunst

The art we saw today was indeed huge and filled vast walls and rooms. Great tapestries. Made from bottle caps. Really. All made from the metal caps and foil from discarded bottles. Millions of them. Sorted by color and design. Wired together with copper wire.

Here I am, in awe.

Helga and Dieter.

Bottle caps and foil.

Behind the museum is the beautiful English Garden, Munich’s equivalent to New York City’s Central Park and San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.

English Garden.

After quite a long walk along wide, well-groomed pathways we came upon a shady but crowded beer garden. And it was lunch time, so we did the usual dining and imbibing.

Beer garden in the English Garden.

Then it was time to walk through the former Bohemian part of town called Schwabing, have some coffee and cake and then take the subway back to the pension. We came upon quite a sculpture along the way.

Walking Man sculpture.

A giant among men – 50 feet tall.

Coffee and cake time. Iced coffee today because of the excessive heat.

Now we must find our way in the underground station for the appropriate train leading toward my pension. It’s been a real day to remember.

The underground station is a bit confusing.

The subway is very popular and always jammed.

Eva comes down after a quiet day alone to join me in saying our farewells to our friends of so many years.

Munich – A Time to Visit with Family

Posted on August 12, 2019

After spending a month of sightseeing in Ljubljana, Slovenia, Eva and I took a scenic five hour bus trip to Munich to visit with friends and family for a week. We didn’t plan to do much sightseeing, just relax and have fun.

Relaxing on the comfortable, modern bus.

Neat Slovenian countryside near the Julian Alps and the Austrian border.

We entered a mile-long tunnel and emerged in Austria.

Shortly after entering Austria and while at about 6000 feet in elevation, our bus exited the autobahn for a rest stop at a restaurant/refueling station so nice you might not ever have wanted to leave, surrounded by Alpine peaks and stocked full of all those delectable Austrian gourmet delights that lure people from all over the world.

Austrian gas station and “cafe”.

So nicely appointed.

Excellent lunch selections.

A few Austrian desserts.

As it turned out, while our two bus drivers had lunch, we only stretched our legs and admired the situation. We were holding out for Bavarian fare in Munich, three hours further along.

Of course to be in the Alps we had to pass a castle.

Then, once in Germany, we saw bumper to bumper vacationers heading south for sunny Adriatic beaches and the like.

At last we arrived at the ZOB, the main Munich bus station located down at the far end of the train station. We hefted our packs and walked in sweltering summer heat to the nearest Bavarian restaurant. It wasn’t far. Germans love to eat!

Sausages, mustard, potato salad and a large beer – we’re in Bavaria at last.

Now as we got close to our hotel, we caught a view of those iconic landmarks that identify the heart of Munich – Marienplatz, Rathaus (city hall) and the Frauenkirche church towers in the background.

A view from the Viktualienmarkt to Marienplatz, the heart of the city.

Our family-run pension was conveniently located near the Viktualienmarkt. We could easily walk to the city center, the main train station, and even to the swiftly flowing Isar River.

Pension Seibel above and Seibel shoe store on the ground floor. We’re up on the third floor, 50 steps up by Eva’s count.

Our room was modest but so are we, traveling as we are for three months by bus and train with all our gear on our backs. Eighty years of age has not yet slowed us down too much, so we keep doing what we can, doing what excites us.

All our gear is stowed in our packs, leaving us hands free to take photos and eat ice cream.

Our modest room which the website described as “Bavarian style”.

There are a few things we insist on having in our accommodations – wifi (however weak it might be in Germany), a private bathroom, and a good breakfast whenever we don’t have our own apartment. Well, we certainly made out well in the breakfast department. Not only did we enjoy a full buffet every day, but we also met some really nice fellow travelers at our shared tables.

Breakfast buffet, part one.

Buffet – part two.

The day after our arrival, the Munich clan of Eva’s family threw a family reunion party for 19 of us at Munich’s largest beer garden, the Hirschgarten, where 8000 people can be seated outdoors.

Two Evas help spread the table with goodies.

I try to do the right thing.

Isabella show’s me how to down a Maßkrug.

Eva manages easily to consume the whole thing – eventually.

One day we wandered a few streets over from our pension in search of the Linde Corporation headquarters. (If you have ever been hospitalized and hooked up to oxygen then you may have connected with Linde, the world’s largest supplier of industrial gases and medical oxygen.) There were no signs pointing the way or suggesting that we were actually there, even when we were. We were looking for the courtyard in order to see a sizable sculpture of a gas molecule. No kidding.

Gas molecule sculpture by Christopher Klein in the inner courtyard, quite out of street view.

Later in the evening we met architect nephew Gregor at the sculpture before he led us off to dinner across the Isar to yet another beautiful Bavarian restaurant.

Nephew Gregor and us.

Wirtshaus in der Au, across from the famed Deutsches Museum.

Full up outside, we had to do the best we could inside. Isn’t that some setting!

You guessed it. Dinner starts with a brew, a big brew.

Next day we took the S-Bahn train to the suburb, Allach, to spend some time with Eva’s sister Sibylle and brother-in-law Alexander. Unfortunately, Sibylle has been struck with Parkinson’s disease and probably no longer recognizes us. Alexander picked us up and drove directly, not home, but to the bakery for afternoon treats (Kuchen). German traditions are immutable.

So many choices!

The selection for four.

Setting for four.

Sibylle is present, in her way.

All caring Professor Alexander.

As the visit drew on, Alexander suggested we repair to the neighborhood beer garden for some supper before leaving by train.

What a place to have almost around the corner.

We entered the tree-studded beer garden, located by the small, swiftly flowing Alpine Würm River.

Our waitress was clad in traditional Bavarian dress.

As we emerged from the Munich train station the sun was already down. Young folks were occupying a fine sunset vantage point.

Twilight at the train station.

We have two days left in Munich before a train whisks us off to Bayreuth, home of Richard Wagner and opera, opera, opera. But first we visit with friends and art, art, art.

Berlin – Seeking Ancestral Roots

Posted on July 31, 2019

Eva had a goal. If we were going to be in Germany for a month while on a European vacation then she wanted to spend a few days in Berlin at the Art’otel. Located just a few blocks from the Museum Island, it was near many sights we wanted to visit, but there was another, more pressing reason. The Art’otel is not just any old place but is built back to back and connected to the well known Ermeler House, a patrician villa dating from the 1500s.

An interior view of the Ermeler House.

As it turns out, Eva’s family name is Ermeler and her family had a direct connection to this house via Eva’s great, great grandfather. Today the villa is a venue for social functions such as weddings and concerts. It is privately owned by the hotel owners.

The villa is not located where it was originally built on Museum Island itelf, or at least on Fisher Island, as the area on the southern end of Museum Island is called. This is where Berlin got its start, as a fishing village on the banks of the Spree River.

During the 1960s the Communist planners of East Berlin wanted to repurpose Fisher Island in order to build more housing and office towers. The remnants of the fishing village, dating back hundreds of years, was completely destroyed against popular sentiment. The fine Ermeler villa on Breite Straße down the street from the great Berlin Palace was also in line to be razed. Fortunately it wasn’t. Because of its great cultural value the entire building was dismantled and reassembled on today’s site a few blocks away on the Spree canal. The high-rise Art’otel was built after reunification in 1989.

The Ermeler House

East German housing blocks on Fisher Island.

At the Fischerinsel bridge over the Spree canal is a sign to the Ermeler House, half a block away.

We walked over the bridge which became Breite Straße to see where the villa had originally stood. To our surprise the site is under renovation. The sorry Soviet buildings are being town down. New plans are in the works. Here’s what we saw.

Urban renewal and a history of the Ermeler House.

History – with a misleading statement. The house was dismantled and reassembled, not replicated.

A very controversial project is happening at the end of Breite Straße, a block away – the complete rebuilding of the 18th century Berlin Palace. In its day and up to the end of WWI it was the center of Prussian power. During WWII it was seriously damaged. The DDR authorities, who disliked its symbolism, tore it down to its foundations in 1950 and built their own seat of administration on the site. Now, after much soul searching, and despite being seriously strapped for funds, Berlin decided to rebuild the palace at great expense. Here’s how it looks today, ready to open to the public within a few months.

Berliner Schloß.

Three of the exterior walls are exact replicas of the original. The interior is of modern design but constructed so as to be able to convert rooms to their former configuration at a later time.

Eva and I spent almost the entire five days in the eastern side of Berlin, largely in our own neighborhood, as it held so much of interest. We walked to Alexanderplatz, the former heart of Berlin. It’s still pretty seedy and dirty. The television tower is nearby, the one used by the DDR to transmit propaganda to West Berlin, and to spy as much as possible on Western radio transmissions. Still, the tower is quite a treat to the eye, far more so than the urban development.

Fernsehturm – TV Tower.

There remain enormous concrete housing projects in the eastern zone. Fortunately most have been totally refurbished and actually nowadays look quite appealing.

DDR housing, redone.

I wonder if there were elevators.

This seems to be a new project, done in an impish Berlin way.

In DDR days people walked from here to there or took trams. Almost no one could afford or qualify for a car. Here’s what the standard much desired Trabant looked like in 1989. This one really poured out the exhaust as it drove by.

Trabant – the peoples’ car no one could afford.

Today the up and coming means of city transportation is the rental bike and rental scooter. Some American firms such as Lime have plastered the city with what seems to be way more units than necessary.

Rental e-bike.

Rental e-scooter. They whiz by silently. Pedestrians beware.

They get charged by night and are ready to rent by the crack of dawn.

Our hotel is in a neighborhood filled with an array of interesting restaurants. A tiny Italian place around the corner beckoned us. We spied an empty table on the sidewalk and claimed it. Soon we were in conversation with the couple next to us who praised the place and made menu suggestions for us. They were the epitome of nice folks we meet when we open up to others and find common ground.

Retired Ambassador and his effervescent wife.

Oh, and as it turned out, they were quite familiar with the Ermeler House, even before it was moved in 1969, as a fine restaurant and a venue for elegant parties.

On the way back to our hotel, now after dark, we saw lights on in the corner bakery where we were wont to take our breakfasts. As we were watching the cleaning crew busily at work one woman came outside with two quite large plastic bags and hung them on traffic bolsters in the center of the street. Curious. But I got the idea. They were the leftover goods placed for the needy to take away.

Bakery good for the needy.

One afternoon while walking over toward the former boundary between East and West, we came to the former crossing point known as Checkpoint Charlie. Back in 1962 I remember driving my VW Beetle through this barrier. That was at a time when the wall was still a work in progress.

Replica of Checkpoint Charlie, manned and financed privately today.

A block away is one of the longest remaining sections of the Berlin Wall. It’s now treated like a museum piece, which it is.

A portion of the imfamous Wall and associated pit barrier. Former DDR offices are in the background.

Now in the West at last, we could walk more easily on better paved sidewalks, not on those irregular stone slabs still in place in the east. Our chosen route led to the huge Tiergarten, the Central Park of Berlin. Almost exactly in the center of the park is a large marble statue. Our objective was to pay it a visit. It is the Albert Lortzing Monument, the much esteemed early 19ty century composer of light opera. When last in Leipzig some years ago, we saw that one of his operas was soon to be performed. You might say, he is not dead yet.

It turns out that while Eva’s father was an Ermeler, her mother was a Lortzing. A descendent of this man on the pedestal. We came to pay homage.

Albert Lortzing – composer.

Lortzing was born in the house next door to the Ermeler House on Breite Straße. We doubt that there was any connection with that fact and Eva’s parents meeting and marrying. They were, however, both Berlin natives and music students. Eventually they became life-long concert musicians, usually performing together.

Eva has yet another family connection to Berlin. Alexander Flinsch was a superb 19th century landscape painter. Born in Leipzig, he died in Berlin after taking little interest in leading the important paper business that his grandfather had built up. While most of his watercolor works have been dispersed, Eva’s family members retain a fine core of work. I have seen some of them and could imagine their finding an appropriate resting place in a Berlin museum some day.

Once we made proper contacts at the Art’otel we had some good conversations with management and were allowed to tour the rooms of the Ermeler House at our leisure.

An interior.

Gilded doors.

Stairwell.

It was with great pleasure that we met managers Jennifer and Nigina. They were excited to meet a real Ermeler in the flesh. And as it turns out, they are planning a festive weekend party for the Ermeler Haus, opening its doors to the public and gathering what material they can find to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the move of the Ermeler Haus from Breite Straße to its present location. Eva and our daughter Suzi expect to fly over and participate.

Eva and Jennifer get acquainted.

Nigina and Jennifer, Eva and I have a jolly time together.

But now we must leave Berlin and venture forth to Lübeck where Eva spent her youth and will be reliving old memories.

Sun sets over former East Berlin.

Bayreuth, Halle, Wittenberg – German Towns Worth a Visit

Posted on July 29, 2019

BAYREUTH
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If you are a Richard Wagner fan as my wife Eva is, you might really want to pay a visit to Wagner’s hometown of Bayreuth. Wagner made this place happen. He had enormous talent, not just in composing music and opera in particular, but in befriending the powers at the top, and eventually in getting his way to build an opera hall suitable in all respects for performing his enormous compositions.

Festspielhaus

We arrived by train from Munich and took a modest but fine hotel situated half way between Wagner’s Festspielhaus and his home on the other side of town. We could walk everywhere easily.

Richard Wagner’s home.

Along the route from the residence to the opera house the city has erected information posts with a stylized statue of Wagner with arms outstretched (maybe receiving an ovation), and an informative plaque about his life and those around him, some scandalous.

Richard Wagner path marker.

It’s hard to miss this one.

The Wagner home’s quite generous back yard.

As we passed through downtown Bayreuth we passed many worthy buildings from the past, as the city was bypassed during the war. A canal flows through town, sometimes under buildings but occasionally surfacing.

Folks enjoying a warm summer evening by the canal.

We were not able to tour the Festspielhaus itself but did walk through the surrounding gardens. One area is devoted to Wagner’s antisemitic past, which ran quite deep. A garden of plaques situated just below the Festspielhaus describes the many talented Jews who performed his works, but lost their lives under Nazism.

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Wagner.

Wagner’s wife, Cosima, and my wife, Eva.

We enjoyed our visit but soon had a bus to catch to whisk us off to Halle, where seemingly few tourists venture to go.

Main bus station is a spot on the side of the street, with a right curious Protestant church nearby.

Did I mention that Franz Liszt was living next door to Wagner in his last days and died in Bayreuth, and that his daughter, Cosima, became Wagner’s wife?

Franz Liszt

Oh, and a little story about our hotel experience. The hotel was next door to the train station, usually no longer a reputable part of town in most cities, while this place gleamed with purity and propriety. But to the side of the lobby we could see a room totally discombobulated by some construction project. We were told it was the breakfast room. Breakfast came at an extra pretty hefty price anyway so by the end of the day we had found a cafe next door to break our fast next morning.

Next morning came and as we left the hotel, the breakfast room was completely back in order, with all the tables set and guests enjoying a full buffet. How had this jumble of boards and pipes been dealt with so quickly overnight? We’ll never know – German efficiency? Our little cafe breakfast itself was a big success. Complete with Prosecco it was only €13.50 for the two of us and we carried enough away to make a full lunch.

Because the hotel was such a pleasant place we decided to take breakfast there on our second and last day anyway. No Prosecco but all we could manage from a very diverse buffet, and there was no charge! It was part of the room rate, but in our booking details breakfast had been specifically excluded. By us, free was fine.
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HALLE
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We had two reasons to visit Halle. One was to see a former East German city that is not as far along in being restored since the time of the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991 as most other cities in Germany are. The other reason to visit was to see the Nebra Sky Disk. Huh?

Wonderful old city of Halle.

Our Airbnb was located in a suburb built up around 1900 when Art Nouveau design was in vogue. We much enjoyed walking the mile or so into town through lovely neighborhoods.

Front door to our Airbnb apartment, upstairs, two flights, with terrace.

Restoration coming in good time.

Narrow cobblestone streets were the norm.

Opera house and symphony hall.

Parking for ubiquitous bicycles.

Eventually we would arrive downtown, with its huge market square surrounded by antique buildings such as Rote Turm and Marktkirche. The best view was from the cafe terrace of a large department store on the square.

Department store vantage point.

Native son George Friedrich Händel occupies the square.

The dominating church has quite a history. It’s odd looking because its front and back parts once belonged to two separate churches, which were torn down after the ends were joined. The Protestant Reformation was in full swing at the time. Martin Luther had preached there, Händel was baptized there and Bach’s son Wilhelm Friedemann Bach was one of the church organists.

The Market Church of Our Dear Lady dominates the square.

An imposing rear view of the Liebfrauenkirche.

Eventually we gave in to our appetites and stopped for a quick bite to eat. We each chose raw hamburger sandwiches.

Tasty raw hamburger sandwiches.

As we roamed around we came by many works of art that beautified public spaces. All the while many old buildings are being restored to their former glory.

Bronze sculpture in a plaza.

Now, not to forget the second and primary reason we came to Halle. It was to see the Nebra Sky Disk. It was housed in our neighborhood in the beautiful State Museum of Prehistory, a great stone edifice that would make any city proud.

State Museum of Prehistory.

The inside was bright, modern and filled with locally found skeletons as well as stone and bronze weapons and tools from prehistoric times.

Old bones and arrowheads.

Finally, at the end of the natural progression of rooms full of things we hadn’t come to see, we happened upon a room so dark it was not possible to see one’s hand before one’s face. Then, as we felt our way around a corner we came face to face with the Disk. A magnificent green bronze plate about a foot in diameter, trimmed in gold with various features inscribed. It is said to be an astronomical instrument akin to the huge British Stonehenge that in part was used for determining the solstices, and thus planting seasons. However, this disk was portable, seemingly a first of its kind. And dating from about 1500 BCE. This disk was thrilling to see. Do go see it for yourself!

Nebra Sky Disk

The disk was discovered a few miles from Halle in 1999 by some guys who were illegally hunting for treasure using metal detectors. Here’s some history posted in the museum about the disk.

Discovery of the disk.

Now it’s time to take ourselves to the train station and move from the land of prehistory to that of history that shook Europe to the core – The Reformation. That led to probably the greatest blood baths the world had ever known as a consequence of the wars between Catholics and Protestants (Lutherans).
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LUTHERSTADT WITTENBERG
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Surprisingly, the truly charming medieval town of Wittenberg was not overrun with religious tourists, nor too many tourists of all persuasions for that matter. How refreshing.

Wittenberg center.

Martin Luther, trained as a priest, put his stamp on this place when he boldly nailed his 95 theses on a door of the court church here in 1517, or so the story goes. He found fault with a few aspects of Catholicism and wanted his thoughts to be taken notice of, although he had no intention of breaking with Rome. Of course back in that time one could easily lose one’s head for being so bold. Fortunately Luther had friends in high places who sequestered him safely in a castle when the heat was turned up. But over the years Luther’s ideas took hold over wider regions of northern Europe which led to a Protestant Christian schism with Rome and the loss of good bootie from the sale of indulgences. Rome wasn’t happy, and still isn’t, but is sufficiently emasculated to not be able to do anything about it.

Luther in a place of honor.

The Door – with the 95 theses in bronze, in Latin.

The Church, with The Door.


The Church – inside.

We understand that Luther lived a simple monk’s life in a monastery. However, he later married a nun named Katherina von Bora, who bore him six children. This was a huge break from Roman Catholic requirements for priests and monks.

Luther’s quarters for many years were in this former monastery.


Excellent museum devoted to Martin Luther, located in the castle.

As big as Luther is historically, he cannot have the town to himself because he was preceded by two resident artists who earned a big name for themselves as well – Lucas Cranach the Elder and his son, Cranach the Younger. They were great portraitists for the nobility in the 16th century.

Cranach the Elder makes sure we get to our room ok.

We stayed in the very building that Cranach owned and used as his workshop and printing business. Large rooms, thick walls, quiet as a tomb, interesting angles, crannies and spiral staircases.

From the small cafe in the courtyard where we took dinner, we could see our room just above the arched doorway.

Down the street a few doors away is the Cranach Museum, also in a building Cranach once owned. We took a guided tour and much enjoyed it. The next photo is taken from the exhibit. It no doubt depicts the state of the town everywhere, just like all the towns and cities in the East that were used up, sucked dry, and abandoned by the Soviets in 1999 after there was no more to be gained from holding on to them, and the public was demonstrating.

After the authorities folded their hand in East Germany in 1999 this is the wreck they left behind.

This is the view today of the restored historic buildings.

It is amazing to see how much work and care the citizens have devoted to the restoration of their fair city. Let’s hope they never have to do it again.

Beautiful Wittenberg today.

Europe in Stripes of All Colors

Posted on July 22, 2019

As we were leaving Munich and its great bus and train station, I saw a pattern that struck my fancy. Stripes. Yes, a theme worth pursuing for a few days. So here we are in this post with a collection of stripes of various persuasions collected over the past few weeks.

The tail end of the Munich bus station, ZOB, started the ball rolling. It seemed so Germanic in its glass, metal and precision.

Hay racks in Slovenia.

Door handle, classic in its design.

Windowsill from street side.

Radiator cover.

Floor lamp.

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Cafe chair.

Wittenberg hotel stairwell.

Our room.

Halle Airbnb stairwell.

Back-Factory stack.

Floorlamp.

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View from the bus.

What’s behind a pretty face.

What’s behind this face?

Barbering on the street.

Pair of stripes.

Tatoo, too.

Short stripes and ice cream.

Tiff time.

Going up.

Bayreuth city hall.

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Lunch.

Art Nouveau style.

Bike rack.

Not so many stripes.

You violate my stripes!

Tram line.

Hot day. Asphalt melted under car tires.

End of speed zone.

Bench with folding backs.

Bench with matching pot.

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Bye for now.

Ljubljana – City of Bridges

Posted on July 17, 2019

Eva and I had hardly arrived in Ljubljana, capital of the small country of Slovenia, than we began to notice the number and importance of bridges that connect the various parts of town. The Ljubljanica River, not so very deep and powerful, but clear and swiftly flowing nonetheless makes a big swing through the heart of town as it bends around a steep hill that is topped with a sizable castle.

Some centuries ago a canal, dug to divert flood waters away from the town, pierces through city suburbs. So, all in all, including three notable bridges that cross a tributary, we found thirty bridges that stitch the city together within the city boundaries. We made it a goal and succeeded in walking to and crossing each one. This challenge led us to many interesting parts of town that we might not otherwise have seen.

The Triple Bridge is essentially the heart of town where there’s music and activity all day long and way into the night. It’s closed to vehicular traffic, as is all the downtown area so visitors can take their time gawking at all the surrounding historic buildings while enjoying a double scoop of intensely flavored ice cream.

An evening cruise glides us under the Triple Bridge.

The next bridge upstream is the Cobblers bridge, named at a time cobbler shops lined the bridge. Now the new bridge is festooned with columns.

Cobblers Bridge.

The Triple Bridge has a bit of history. Originally a single wooden bridge, it was replaced in 1842 by the central stone bridge that still stands. The two side bridges were added in 1929 for pedestrians only. In 2007 the whole shebang was pedestrianized and is now a very popular tourist attraction.

Plaza at one end of the Triple Bridge, now closed to most vehicular traffic.

View of the castle from the far end of the Triple Bridge. This whole part of town is a pedestrian zone.

The river is too swift and dangerous to approach too closely so walkways, parks and outdoor cafes are safely elevated above its shores. The Alpine water is so clear we could easily see the river bottom, as well as see fish from the bridges. We never saw debris along the shores, even from the vantage point of a river cruise. Also, as we ranged throughout the city and into the suburban outreaches, we never saw slums, homelessness or dereliction. Nor hardly any abandoned relics from the decades of Communist rule.

The second most notable bridge is the Dragon Bridge, named for the four bronze dragons decorating each end.

Dragon Bridge in Art Nouveau style.

This dragon has become the city symbol.

Butchers’ Bridge, half way between Triple and Dragon bridges connects a lively cafe scene and the town market square and butcher shops. It seems to be held together with love locks.

Early one hot sunny morning Eva and I packed a couple of sandwiches and struck off to one of the most distant bridges on the very edge of town. We found an inviting restaurant there with lawn sloping down to the river’s edge. Unfortunately we arrived at 9:00, an hour before the restaurant opened, so we enjoyed our meal near the water’s edge without coffee, or a beer.

Bridge at the city limit. A student passes us on an electric scooter.

Another early morning we set out to visit the astronomical observatory, situated on a wooded ridge about a mile away from our apartment. First we walked a few blocks straight down the street in front of us to the canal, where our street tees into a main road that follows the canal. We crossed the canal on a footbridge that got us across the water but then came to an abrupt end. Hmmm. There’s a railroad track in front of us. That too must be passed. So, the engineering solution was to place an elevator at the end of the bridge to hoist up to another level where the bridge continues across the tracks and carries us to a road on the other side. How smart!

Now started a steep trail up, up, up eventually to the observatory.

Crossing the canal on an unusual footbridge with an elevator.

Having gone east to the observatory, we came down to the north in order to collect a couple more bridges. It was a steep descent and we were quite in some wilderness. At the bottom we were ready for refreshment, already suffering days of unprecedented heat. The old cafe abutting the mountainside we were aiming for was not only closed; it was now just a hole in the ground, having been completely scrubbed away. However, only a few blocks away were shiny new apartments. We knew there would be cafes on the ground level and we were right. We did not perish after all.

Hradeckega cesta Bridge at the base of the mountain.

A couple of blocks from us to the north was the Grainery Bridge, new and considered to be quite beautiful in its gleaming glass and stainless steel construction. The old time grain market was once located down the street, so its memory is preserved. Sitting areas have been built at each end of the bridge, fine places to hang out.

The Grainery Bridge.

A short distance downstream was another new bridge, built for traffic but with serious technical issues. The bridge was designed to squeeze between two multistory historic buildings with only about a foot of clearance on each side. There was no room for sidewalks. After much public outcry a second bridge was built below for pedestrians and bikes. Fairly ugly but functional.

Fabiani Bridges squeezes through a tight space.

Really tight squeeze.

One day we walked way out in another direction to the edge of town to collect three more bridges. We’re glad we did because we came across the idyllic historic Portal Restaurant right by the river with a table for two by the water’s edge. And it was time for a hearty meal.

Zaloška footbridge.

Portal Restaurant by the river.

Portal lunch spread.

Back in the old days the city hospital was on the castle side of the river but the cemetery was on the other. To solve certain logistical issues, a bridge, judiciously named the Mortuary Bridge, was built to connect the two.

Mortuary Bridge

We traversed this bridge numerous times because it connected our apartment with the lovely, leafy Trnovo neighborhood via the tunnel that runs beneath the castle. The cool tunnel cut a mile off our route whenever we explored the western neighborhoods.

Immediately upstream we could see where the Gradaščica creek joins the river and could be crossed by the Jek Bridge.

Jek Bridge

Upstream on the creek is the Rooster Bridge, named for a nearby tavern. We did see a rooster weather vain on a nearby rooftop. This bridge was designed, along with several others, by the noted native son architect, Jože Plečnik, who was responsible for numerous notable buildings around town. His studio, now a museum, is nearby.

Rooster Bridge.

A bit further up the creek we came to Trnovo Bridge, designed by Plečnik, with various sculptures and spires.

Trnovo Bridge.

As you can see, there’s a story to be told about all the 30 bridges we sought out and crossed. The effort took us to diverse neighborhoods, including industrial areas and past small farms that serve the daily downtown vegetable market. We were delighted with almost everything we saw. What a great vacation we had exploring this wonderful town.

Ljubljana Path of Remembrance

Posted on July 16, 2019

The month we spent in Ljubljana was so full of wonderful experiences and discoveries that we never thought there could be one more experience so apropos that it would be the perfect ending to an already perfect vacation.

Almost by chance we discovered the PST, commonly known as POT.

The Walk begins.

Many of you remember the role that hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) played in my life many years ago, so of course we were curious about the PST.

In 1942 the Italians occupied this part of the country, and in order to keep the citizens – especially the activists and resistance fighters – from mingling with like-minded people in the countryside, they erected a barbed-wire fence all around the city and kept the citizens captive for three years, until the end of the War. Over 1000 guards and soldiers kept watch from bunkers, spaced at regular intervals.

Bunker.

When the War ended, in 1945, the fence was torn down, but it took many years before a lasting and most appropriate memorial was conceived. Today, the entire length of the former fence is a 33-km long walking path, marvelously planned and laid out. It is mostly 4 meters wide, gravel paved, lined with thousands of trees, former bunker sites marked by concrete columns and inscriptions, and benches for quiet contemplation. Each km has its sign. No motorized vehicles are allowed.

Bunker site marker.

We saw those former bunker sites all along the way, but the actual bunkers had mostly been removed.

The Trail of Remembrance and Comradeship, as it is officially known, is popular with hikers young and old, joggers, bicyclers, and dog walkers.

A trail user we all know.

Sunday morning exercise

Father and daughter

Quiet place to sit and read

Fresh water for the thirsty.

Exercise for mothers

and parcourse for adults

Bob meets a friendly dog.

Wonderful place for dogs

It traverses lovely countryside,

A village outside Ljubljana

but also makes its way through new subdivisions and industrial parks. Most of it is flat and easy to walk, but there are also wooded and hilly areas for a bit of a challenge.

Traversing hills and forests.

Into the forest.

Sometimes the trail shared sidewalks in residential areas.

The path sometimes went right through industrial areas on the edge of town.

Alongside a lake, formerly a quarry.

When we became aware of this Trail, Bob and I had the same idea at the same time: let’s do it! Although it happened to be the time of Europe’s Great Heat Wave, our time in Ljubljana was running out, and some back and leg issues (as well as the heat) slowed us down somewhat. But we made it in 4 days and the 40,000 mature trees planted along the path kept the Trail nicely shaded.

Cool going

Exhausted but happy.

By having the luxury of spending four weeks in Ljubljana, we had the time to do things that normal, harried tourists could not consider doing. Years after hiking the challenging Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) for 1700 miles through California, I was able to find a hiking opportunity 25 years later more scaled to my present abilities.

Ljubljana – Architecture Old and New

Posted on July 13, 2019

In our four week visit to Ljubljana Eva and I never tired of looking at all the beautiful buildings in and around the city. Fortunately, Ljubljana has not been scarred by wars so there are examples of architecture spanning hundreds of years. Explosive growth in recent decades has brought quite fresh and exciting examples of modern design.

Town Square with city hall on the left and a replica of the Robba fountain in the center.

Robba fountain dates from Baroque time and was being degraded from acid rain and the like, so a few years ago it was disassembled and moved indoors to a modern structure designed to contain it as well as connect two 19th century buildings that contain the national collection of art. A replica replaced the original at the same location.

The original Robba Fountain inside the central glass gallery of the National Gallery of Slovenia.

Ljubljana is built up along a river that wraps itself around a sizable hill which quite naturally is the site of a fortified castle, now quite marvelously restored to even more than its former glory. Now its function largely is to accommodate steams of visitors, so it’s now outfitted with electricity, plumbing, a lift and plenty of places to eat and drink, better than nobility ever had it.

The castle with its imposing walls.

The barbarians are gone, the moat is drained, and the welcome sign is hanging out for all.

The castle is not really where the city’s story began; Romans settled here before 400 AD and established a sizable town in this location. But the Empire soon faltered and it was all downhill for quite some centuries. Then the Austrian Empire swept in about 1270 and held the region until after WWI. Thus the visual character of the city is quite Austrian. Today almost all traces of German and Austrian language, names and symbols have been scrubbed away.

The Austrians were keen on building imposing cultural edifices such as museums, the opera house and government offices.

The National Gallery of Slovenia.

Opera House. We were lucky with the timing and were able to attend three operas here before the season ended.

The Court Palace with tree.

One of the old landmark buildings is the cathedral, squeezed in on the castle side of the river.

Cathedral.

Typical of the old town at the base of the castle are winding, narrow streets.

Old Town.

Old Town.

After a devastation earthquake in 1895 many buildings were rebuilt in the fashionable Art Nouveau style, which we find to be very pleasing. Here are some examples.

The Union Hotel

Presently the Galeria Emporium department store.

View from the front door of the Emporium to the grand staircase.

Much of the Art Nouveau finery is in the corner towers.

How fancy.

Fun with details.

Playful.

Goodness, what levity.

As much as we loved the architectural styles of former periods, we find a lot of the post war and present day building appealing as well. You can’t imagine how decrepit everything looked after the dismemberment of Yugoslavia in 1991 and the beginning of rebuilding of various new Balkan states. It’s incredible just how far they, and especially Slovenia, have progressed in the past 30 years despite some devestating wars in the meanwhile. Outside EU money of course has been a major catalyst but these people are driven to build and prosper. Slovenia may be the very best example.

Office building.

New residential.

Under construction in single family neighborhood.

New home on the edge of town.

Residential building downtown.

New back-stage to the opera house.

New school of music.

Bridge leading to the the school of technology.

Apartment complex on the edge of town.

Apartment complex.

Heliport on top of the main hospital.

Glass facade attached to the Museum of Ethnology.

Waldorf School with wood exterior.

High-rise apartment complex.

Ice cream factory.

Industrial park.

Ljubljana especially fascinated us because of its liveliness, up-to-dateness, its remarkable modernization without losing its historic roots.

Color Spots in Ljubljana

Posted on June 27, 2019

Ljubljana is lively, modern and full of color in dress and place. Some colors are bright, some subtle, some in harmony with others. Let’s have a look around at what I’ve seen in the past few days as a tourist here myself.

Metalkova is a den of artistic extravagance to behold.

Another Metalkova wall near the train station and the Museum of Contemporary Art.

Colorful, but not typical.

Buses bring loads of kids here toward the end of school.

Summer in the open-air market.

Cherries are in season.

The cheese monger cuts huge slices with a wicked knife.

The bread merchant in muted color.

A cheese scooper at the Friday food fair.

A BBQ team wearing flames.

She easily catches the camera’s eye.

After proper sorting, throw your waste here.

Raindrops fell for a bit so prepared tourists shielded themselves colorfully.

Prepared for the elements.

Capturing another memory.

It’s time to sit a spell, maybe have a smoke.

Colorfully dressed byway.

Good green thumb.

Eva crossing the river near our apartment.

Biker crossing a bridge.

Car parked beyond the “Rooster Bridge”.

WC – Tourists’ most welcomed sign.

Fortunately clean public loos are to be found here and there.

Our breakfast spot overlooking the river.

Guy in red.

Guy in green.

Fella in orange and green.

Guy in red.

Gal in red.

Colors.

Something for ladies somewhere.

Tourist with red purse.

Colorful.

Red on a bridge.

Red for sure.

In harmony.

Togetherness.

Red ragtop.

Colors galore.

Don’t drive here!

Let’s end on a muted note.

Ljubljana- “People” Seen along the Way

Posted on June 25, 2019

Ljubljana has been such a rich city for people watching, I couldn’t resist sharing who and what we have seen while walking along the streets and byways for the past three weeks.

Let’s start with a minimalist view.

Men share the duties these days.

It’s tough being a mother. It’s tough being a child.

A moment of concentration .

Surfing while driving – a hazardous activity.

The start of interesting things.

Maybe the original start of interesting things.

She’s not standing in judgement, is she?

Sometimes our appetites get the better of us.

There’s no question that Ljubljana is a tourist town despite having no major draws or proximity to a cruise ship. Thank goodness. There’s still plenty to experience and then carry home fond memories in our mobile phones.

Just the right angle.

Smile for the camera.

A tourist, for sure.

Sometimes we’re not sure which way to go.

Sometimes we just aren’t sure of where we are or what we’re looking at.

Leave it to this guy to point the way.

Look. There’s something happening up there.

Do you mean there?

Soaking up some culture is good for you.

I say, sir, I paid for all that art that you are enjoying for free.

It’s all about money, you know.

Ah, you rich folks and your art. For many of us life has been a constant struggle.

Dear God, why have you taken my precious one away from me?

I’m only an observer here, watching the world go by.

Me, too. Just an observer.

Oh, is he a patient one?

Now here’s some eye candy.

And look over there…

A good profile there.

A tall, lean fellow with intensity.

And two fine gentlemen enjoying an evening at the Friday food fair.

The food fair is the place to people watch.

See and be seen.

Or be alone.

Welcome. In Ljubljana we offer you many pleasures.

Here we come, straight from the tour bus.

Some come by twos.

Some come alone.

This is a town for strolling.

Tourists, for sure.

The odd couple.

Is anybody listening?

Alone, it can be lonely.

Alone with my cigarette.

Alone in an empty spot.

Alone but with my phone.

Not alone, not when I’m with my dog.

Crossing a bridge, alone.

Alone on a scooter at the edge of town. Pretty nice place to be.

There’s a time to be alone.

There are times to be together.

Together to please our parents for this portrait, otherwise we hate one another. Maybe.

Only my hairdresser knows my secrets.

Time well spent with my buddy.

Life in the slow lane.

Three guys hanging out by a ladies dress shop.

Tell me more about this guy you met.

The pleasure of getting to know one another.

So nice to see you.

Bye.

Caught in the whirlwind of life but still myself.

Romance of the idyllic life.

What pleasure it has been for Eva and me to enjoy the abundance of life here in this jewel of Ljubljana.

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