Bob and Eva's Adventures

Posts from the “Our Travels” Category

Thirteen Ways of Looking at Black Birds

Posted on September 22, 2017

Back in 1917 an American poet, Wallace Stevens, wrote a poem titled “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” that struck a modern cord and became influential. With considerable poetic license I would like to offer my take on seeing “blackbirds” while traveling recently in northern Europe.

Starlings all




The European crow


This wraps up a collection of thirteen images, but there are more! How about four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie plus six bonus birds for decoration? Let’s take a look.

On the ceiling and walls of this coffee house are a total of 13 blackbirds. Really.


Pigeon looks for cooties in beauty salon.

Sorry, buster. The cake’s all gone.

And this is the end of the show.

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We Take a Ferry to Klaipeda, Lithuania

Posted on September 13, 2017

After our visit to Lübeck in northern Germany we have choices for getting to Lithuania – fly (no fun), take a bus (many, many slow hours or days through Poland and around a curious chunk of Russia) or take a ferry. Now a ferry has much appeal. It “sails” from Kiel, a city we have always wanted to visit, only an hour north of Lübeck, an important north German port city. We leave in the evening and arrive in Klaipeda the next afternoon, a 19.5 hour experience. We decide on the ferry, our first overnight ferry or ship adventure.

The landmark Klaipeda D and K Towers seem to be floating apart.

Let’s start at the beginning. We have never been to Kiel to really see it so our one night stand gives us a chance to look around. Although it was badly bombed during the war, lots of fine buildings were left standing and the many parks and walkways were left intact. We have a great day of wandering around.

We rest a spell while looking toward downtown Kiel.

There’s nothing like a tall green church spire to tell us we are in an old Hansa city.

Our reason for being here is to catch the daily ferry to Lithuania. It leaves at 8:00 pm but we must board at 6:00. We wonder what we might do for dinner but soon find that we have many of the luxuries of a cruise ship. We are in good hands. We settled in with a beer and a snack of fried dark bread and fried cheese.

We have a choice of bars, dining room with table cloths and wine glasses, buffet and lounging areas.

Our outside cabin is tiny but adequate.

Although the ferry carries room for 400 passengers, there seems to be even more trucks than people. Quite a number of passengers are burly truck drivers, but many are well-dressed vacationers with families.

Three of the five public levels are for trucks and trailers.

We leave the Kiel harbor at sundown.

By breakfast time we know we are long gone from Germany as we can tell from the breakfast menu.

Breakfast buffet features beans, pickles and peas along with other veggies, but also eggs and bacon.

After skimming down the laguna from the Baltic to the heart of Klaipeda, Lithuania’s large and important ice-free port, we deboard and find daughter Suzi waiting there for us. She knows exactly where our apartment is located and suggests we walk the four kilometer distance.

Some of the route into town is not maintained so well for travelers with suitcases.

Our apartment is in a large residential block built during Soviet times, indistinguishable from many thousands of similar concrete structures strewn all over the former Soviet Union. Not pretty on the outside but our flat is renovated and quite airy and fresh on the inside. Here’s our first look.

Our place, straight ahead, right past the Dane River with the Klaipeda sign on top. The harbor, but not our landing spot, is to the left just a few hundred meters away.

Our entry from the inner courtyard

The stairwell is a bit dated. We are located five flights up. No lift.

Does the wiring meet code?

An interior view of our apartment

Suzi was in Klaipeda a few years before and seems to know every street and alleyway. It’s soon dinnertime; Suzi leads us to a favorite eatery where local fare is all they serve and English is unknown.

A favorite restaurant of Suzi

Delicious meats and sauces, beets, cabbage and cukes. And peas.

After dark we roam the streets and by the river.

A lovely evening stroll by the River Dane

Despite occasional showers we roam the Old Town, right across the river from us.

Love those cobblestones

Those rocks are hard on the feet!

A few half-timbered buildings remain.

This brewery is named for the former German name for Klaipeda. It was a German controlled city for centuries.

English creeps in in often humorous ways. German is nowhere to be found.

Public art is often exceptional.

It’s hard to imagine that the Soviet Union crumbled only 25 years ago. All the Baltic states were pretty much run into the ground. Now there is a major rejuvenation and so much is already put back in order. Still, there’s a long way to go but the pace of recovery is astounding.

All will be well in good time.

This is probably what the whole city looked like 25 years ago.

Watch your step!

Praise to the chimney sweep

This fellow is polishing the windows.

The author of a very famous German love song is commemorated with a statue to Ännchen von Tharau.

One of the symbols of the city

Tis lunchtime again so we look for an interesting place to eat. They are rarely hard to find.

Here’s a nice part of Old Town.

How about along here?

Service is swift.

Cold borscht for starters

Then yummy pork and cabbage and beets

It turns out that today is Suzi’s big 50th birthday. We celebrate at a nice looking coffee house.

So many temptations

OK. This doesn’t happen often anymore.

We stroll the new town.

This fellow is credited with bringing the printed book to Lithuania.

During Nazi as well as Soviet times, many ethnic Lithuanians were forced to leave the country. This heart wrenching memorial is in front of the train station.

Sculpture from the 1970’s in a large park devoted to sculpture. It was formerly a German cemetery but the Soviets repurposed the land.

We pass a former Soviet central heating plant.

Heat is transferred to apartment complexes this way, or was in Soviet times.

We came across the German center for business development.

Doing what everybody does – surf the net.

Suzi loves dogs. And cats, too.

Decorative weathervane

Sculptures near the water’s edge

A cruise ship is in port this morning. Asians roam the streets.

Here comes the ferry that will carry us over to the Curonian Spit.

Now today we will cross the laguna by ferry and take an hourlong bus ride down the Curonian Spit to our new home in the seaside resort of Nida, about two miles from the Russian border. See you there.

Lübeck Looks Pretty in Green

Posted on September 2, 2017

Lübeck, way up on the northern fringe of Germany, is known as the city of seven steeples, all copper and green with age. So let’s take a look at these steeples, so beautiful on the skyline, and a few other green things that we came across while exploring the ins and outs of this lovely medieval small city.

St. Mary’s church dominates the skyline of Lübeck.

Lübeck came to dominate trade in northern Europe as early as the 12th century and continued to do so for 500 years. It established the Hanseatic League with trading partners all across northern Europe. Rules of law, commerce, currency and a common language of German were agreed upon. Many cities prospered as part of the league, from Belgium to the Baltics. These cities took on many of the architectural features of Lübeck such as fired brick buildings in Gothic style. Even today these cities have great charm stemming from that great economic time.

Old courthouse and a city gate

The Holstentor, symbol of Lübeck, was once the main gate into the city.

Credit for founding the city was Henry the Lion of Saxony, in 1157, following a fire that had leveled the town.

A pair of lions guard the northern gate to the city.

Because Lübeck was relatively close to England it was an early target for firebombing in WWII. Despite major wartime destruction, many classic buildings survived or were rebuilt in their original design. However, the need for immediate infrastructure following the war resulted in a lot of rather unadorned buildings being thrown up and they persist to this day. Many more recently designed buildings are quite beautiful. Of course, this is the case in every German town and city.

Lots of spires among more modern buildings.

Heiligen-Geist Hospital

Since our theme is green, and we have about run out of towers, our camera can now focus on other green things, such as green associated with people.

Stylish hair

Colorful mop.

Here’s Wilheim I, green from head to toe. He was the first head of state of a united Germany from 1871.

This little green man says pedestrians can cross the street.

This fellow surely stands out.

This sculpture by the famous artist Ernst Barlach is almost green.

What color are those shoes?

The child is ready to catch something from a canal.

To my eye this balloon was certainly green.

A gay parade was in progress.

When we got to our apartment, only a few blocks from the train station from which we had arrived, we found it to be a light pastel green.

Our windows are the ones behind the flowers.

Neighborhood orthopedic footwear manufacturer

Green shades across the street

Neighborhood apartment building

A green corner house near our apartment

A mural around the corner

Let’s venture down near the train station.

A building being renovated

Here’s a nice office building on a triangular lot.

One way to keep the seat dry.

Plumbing takes on some color.

Abandoned

Items dealt with properly

Let’s now take a stroll into the older inner city, which is situated on an island, surrounded by the Trave River and an ancient canal.

If one knows where all the steeples are then one can never get lost.

It began to shower so people took cover.

While it rained we ducked in to the Viennese Cafe for coffee and cakes. A busy young lady served us. What’s that on her wrist?

A tattoo of friendship, of course.

Outside we admire the fine brick buildings from hundreds of years ago.

The old salt warehouses on the Trave River that leads to the source of salt many miles away.

Colorful bricks

How best to get around? By bike and bus, or on foot.

Bikes

Bus stop

A place to rest weary feet

We pass a toy store.

A clothing store for him and her

We especially enjoy walking the narrow side streets with colorful and decorative houses.

What bold color.

Understated

With dignity

Greens


So neat

Cobblestone encircled


Gold and green

So many shutters

We pay our last respects to the Marienkirche.

Evening settles over Lübeck.

Now it’s time to leave our beloved city of Lübeck and travel by bus northward to the port city of Kiel and thence to Lithuania by overnight ferry.

Bus to Kiel – quiet, comfortable, free wifi and cheap

Auf Wiedersehen.

Hamburg / St. Pauli – German Capital of Graffiti, Part 2

Posted on August 30, 2017

You want graffiti; let’s go for it.

Full coverage, not uncommon at all.

Suicycle – Bicycle rental shop

Trashed trash bins

Plastered trash box

Mail boxes – Nationalists Not Welcome

Front of an alternative theater – Love Everyone

Skate park

Kapt’n Ahab’s restaurant and bar

Deathpresso coffee house – You can sleep when you are dead.

Hardcore Boston and Straw Dogs

Runny

A stretch

It’s not all bad stuff.

So let’s take a look at some fun wall art, signs, etc. There’s plenty of English to be had.

You are loved

Loved by us

How sweet

Slippery slope

Theater front

Guys

Chinese?

Beauty parlor

Loved for sure by the boss

Beer bottle cap

Crazy fun – Ocram befuddled

Yet another four letter word

What’s he looking at?

Invitation to the Reeperbahn.

OK, we’ve had enough fun. Let’s get down to some serious wall art.

POW

Hipster free zone

Time for some hot chilis

Truly some wall art

Namaste

Corner art

Your way

Strangers in the night

Looks like lunch to me.

What’s on this guy’s mind?

Hmm.

That’s it for today. You folks who know Hamburg well are aware that I included some scenes from the neighboring Sternschanze quarter, which to my eye shared graffiti values.

Bis bald.

Hamburg / St. Pauli – German Capital of Graffiti, Part 1

Posted on August 30, 2017

How rich is the graffiti here in the special Sankt Pauli district of Hamburg, Germany. Our pristine little hotel is located just a few streets away from the infamous Reeperbahn, the notorious red light district near the waterfront where all facades are fair game for graffiti artists. Let’s take a look around and enjoy the scene, the variety of graffiti, posters, stickers and real wall art. I’ll loosely organize by political, fun, trash, art and all other stuff.

St. Pauli for sure

Our fine little hotel was right next door; you can’t judge a book by its cover, as they say. Inside, the rooms were comfortable, spick and span clean, and the breakfast was almost the very best we have ever had in Germany, and that’s saying a lot. Except in upscale places such as five star hotels, breakfast is traditionally included with the room, is always adequate and often amazingly generous. It is never even remotely related to what in America is called a “Continental breakfast”.

Budapester Hof hotel, our Booking.com find in the middle of St. Pauli

Here are some of our neighbors doing their evening thing.

Young folks passing the evening hours

St. Pauli is home to the eccentric, politically active, fringe element of Hamburg. All walls and surfaces are appropriated for expression, as you will see. Recently the annual G20 conference was held in Hamburg. It’s usually squirreled away in some inaccessible location because it always attracts protesters and agitators. Angela Merkel seems to have sited it openly in Hamburg to show the world, and Trump, that peaceful protest is part of democracy and is quite alive in Germany. St. Pauli ate it up and G20 resist messages were plastered all over the district. The huge demonstrations were held only a few blocks from our hotel, a month before we arrived.

The skull and crossbones symbol seems to best represent the spirit of St. Pauli. Let’s go find a few.

Death squad?

Don’t mess with me!

Time to demonstrate

Identity on display

Coffee house

Even the tourist office advertises

Identity matters even to elders

The agitators of St. Pauli have expended their resources on stickers and paint to denounce G20, Trump, war, imperialism, Nazism, and most everything but sex, booze and cigs. Let’s take a look.

Just say anti…

Speaks for itself

Trump

No!

Welcome refugees

Refugees are ok

The repressed can’t respond.

No weapons near the Reeperbahn, please.

This can go on and on. See you again soon.

Vienna – City of My Dreams

Posted on July 12, 2017

Over 50 years ago Eva and I spent part of our honeymoon in Vienna, during the frigid March of 1965. As many times as we have returned to Europe on vacation, this is the first time we have revisited Vienna, this time in the chilly month of February.

No picture captures the city’s throbbing heart better than one of its cathedral, St. Stephen, whose portal dates from about 1200 AD. After WWII, it, along with the famed opera house, were about the first public buildings to be restored. Schoolchildren donated their spare Groschen to buy the roof tiles you see here.

Stephansdom (Thanks, Wikipedia, for the aerial shot)

We have fond memories from our first visit to that sentimental city of dreams (of its glorious past) as you can imagine from hearing this rather sappy rendition of “City of My Dreams”.

Well, Vienna has changed a lot in the meanwhile, still living on its dreams of course, but now all the more vibrant, modern and commercial. This time I’m not too thrilled by it all as we spend seven days skimming the surface, but somehow not finding that old slightly down-in-the-mouth appealing texture of the past. There are all too many tourists here now to be satisfied in more modern ways. And the home folks, too.

Panorama view of the cathedral and main shopping street, Kärntner Straße

Along Kärntner Straße you can find all the traditional stores, such as Lanz for Austrian festival clothing.

Lanz for traditional garb

Pedestrians take over the main streets.

An Apple store is coming soon on Kärntner Straße.

Mozart gets his own souvenir shop.

Gustav Klimt also gets a shop for his artwork.

The stylish way to get around, by horse-drawn carriage.

It isn’t long before hunger strikes so we wander around the back side of the cathedral a bit off the beaten path.

We pass an Italian restaurant but that’s not quite what we want.

The Twelve Apostle Cellar looks like just the right place. We don’t let the ultra long German words and Gothic typeface repel us.

The Twelve Apostle Cellar looks inviting.

We enter through the old carriage portal and find ourselves descending a spiral staircase to an underground cellar, now restaurant. What a find!

This place must be good, on appearance alone.

We find a cozy corner and start off with three beers.

Our server is a polished professional.

We order traditional fare, just the right thing.

After lunch we wander deeper into the labyrinth of streets behind the cathedral.

Regensburger Hof Hotel at the Lugeck

In front of the Regensburger Hof is a bronze statue of Johannes Gutenberg, put there in honor of the 500th anniversary of book printing in Vienna.

Johannes Gutenberg – inventor of movable type for printing.

Long go, before cars and trollies and even electricity, this was a swanky part of town. The upper class people rode in carriages. Famous people lived here.

Former carriage entry

Another finely crafted carriage entry

The Romantic era composer Robert Schumann spent a winter here.

Leibniz and Zwingli lived here.

Famous people indeed

Leibniz was a German polymath. Although the Englishman Isaac Newton is largely credited with inventing the calculus, Leibniz did the same thing at the same time independently of Newton. Despite no-doubt groans from math students, the time for calculus had come.

Ulrich Zwingli was doing in Switzerland what Martin Luther was simultaneously doing in Germany – trying to reform various aspects of the Catholic church. He laid the groundwork for Protestantism in Switzerland, and Luther did the same in Germany. Today, both countries are strongly divided along lines laid down in the early 16th century.

There are many narrow ways in this part of town. This one leads to an ironmonger. On our honeymoon we bought several wrought iron pieces here. We still use them regularly. The place has been modernized. Back then when we passed on the sidewalk, sparks were flying every which way. We walked into the workplace below ground and watched the guys banging glowing metal into works of art. No eye protection offered.

The old iron monger workplace

Here’s a pub with a famous connection – the spirited song “Oh du liber Augustin”, in memory of the bagpipe player, Augustin, who often played here.

Song posted outside the pub, the oldest restaurant in the city.

Evening descends over the city as we head for home, on foot.

As befitting a city of such historic grand stature, Vienna is full of wide plazas, huge buildings and loads of bronze statues of warriors and statesmen. In the 19th century, the old protective walls surrounding the city were torn down and the space was used for fine new government buildings and broad boulevards. But within decades, the Austro-Hungarian Empire was a thing of the past, yet these sturdy structures survived and are still in use.

Opera house

View from the Albertina

A way of life from the past, but the memory doesn’t fade.

The opera house by night

It is rumored that coffee was brought to Europe when Islam laid a long term seige at the gates of Vienna. Had the gates not held, Europe today might well be Islamic rather than Christian. A slightly lesser result of the seige was the introduction of the coffee house and its pastry decadence. We finally at the end of our visit discover almost in our back yard one of those holdouts that has not given way to yet another Starbucks. We go inside and settle in for an afternoon splurge.

Ritter Cafe, an old fashioned coffee house

First lunch with beer and wine

And finally, as a parting shot, coffee and cakes.

Bratislava, Slovakia – Old City, New Capital

Posted on July 6, 2017

Long ago, Bratislava was on the edge of the Roman Empire, having been settled thousands of years before, beautifully situated on the shores of the Danube River. A good thousand years ago the city was known as Pressburg (German) or something close to that in all the many surrounding countries. Although really settled and developed by Germans, for a while it was the capital of Hungary. After the end of WWI the name was changed to Bratislava once the Austro-Hungarian Empire dissolved in defeat. The Germans and Austrians were pushed out and the city was populated with Czechs and Slovaks. In 1993 it became the capital of the newly formed Slovak Republic and is today almost completely ethnically cleansed of all who are not Slovak. It’s located a mere hour’s drive from Vienna and just 15 minutes from the Hungarian border. We took a comfortable bus there from Vienna for about one Dollar.

A view over the old town of Bratislava from the castle above the Danube

Were we ever surprised to find such a lovely city, one that we had hardly heard of. The old town is easily walked and explored in a couple of days but I would have stayed longer just to enjoy the place. For a different kind of experience, Eva and I took a room on board a tightly moored river boat, while Suzi stayed in a hostel some distance away.

Our river boat there below the castle

Our tight but adequate stateroom

The dining room

They served a pretty fancy lunch.

Suzi’s hostel had a well stocked bar. Because she was a new guest, we each had a beer on the house.

Bratislava holds 25% of the country’s population and a large amount of the country’s wealth, but by more Western standards has quite a way to go to repair the damage of being subjugated by the Soviet Union for two generations. At this time, unlike Vienna and Prague, it isn’t overrun by tourists. We seemed to be about the only foreigners around. Prices were low and quality was good. What could be better than that?

Promenade along the Danube, the view from our boat landing toward a Soviet built bridge

Gateway to the old town from near the end of the bridge

Many old cobblestone streets and alleyways are well preserved in the old parts of town, making wandering around adventurous and a lot of fun.

Cobblestones

Byways

One drizzly morning we set out on foot to explore the town, starting by crossing the Navy Most, or New Bridge, to the newer part of town on the right side of the Danube. Built under Communism in 1972 it was originally (and presently) named Most SNP, or Bridge of the Slovak National Uprising. It leads from the Old Town to newer suburbs, mostly sterile, soulless concrete high rise apartments, seen all over the world that Russia has touched. Interestingly, vehicular traffic flows across the top of the bridge and pedestrian and bicycle traffic goes outside underneath, where it’s safe, quiet and views are unobstructed. When we got to the far side we switched to the other side and came right back. A good portion of the Old Town and essentially all the Jewish quarter were demolished to create the roadway beyond the bridge.

View from the Navy Most, or New Bridge onto Bratislava Castle

Like in most European cities we visit, we enjoy wandering around rather aimlessly, excited by the architecture and surprising elements of design and art that’s so lacking in our everyday world.

Tree lined promenade

Along Hviezdoslav Square we found lots to be charmed by, including a bronze sculpture of Hans Christian Anderson, who visited here in 1841.

Hans Christian Anderson surrounded by his story characters

Nearby is a favorite bronze work from 1997 that we stumbled across, so to say.

Čumil the sewer worker

On Main Square we came across Napoleon, resting against a park bench, satisfied I suppose to having laid waste to the city in 1809.

Napoleon at ease after conquering Pressburg in 1809.

Friend to wildlife

Bratislava is still recovering from decades of neglect under Communism, so not everything is as pristine as one finds in the West, but life seems vibrant and cheerful, as best we could tell.

Philharmonic Hall

Fancy facade

Life is good, and up to date

Not always tidy

Look who gets stuck with the umbrellas while Suzi and I are busy with our cameras.

Postal workers are a bit laid-back

After a while we work up an appetite and decide to have lunch at the city’s oldest brewery, which is on one of the old squares. Other places look a bit touristy.

Could be good, but…

Old brewery in town, a good place for lunch

Nothing like a stein of beer to mate with hearty fare

Goulash, of course

Eva discovers a huge red pepper in her dish.

Just outside the old town we find Soviet-style faceless reconstruction.

After lunch we wander into the formerly fashionable neighborhoods at the base of the castle and find there some really fine homes, if a bit in need of care.

Mansion

Another stately home

After a lot of climbing, we reach the castle, which until a few years ago was a roofless wreck, now splendidly reconstructed.

The castle

Castle with rainbow

Broad view overlooking the Danube and the new town

Collision avoided

Another shower and rainbow on the way back to town

Yet another bronze

A long descent

Ever more descent

Finally late afternoon comes and we are ready for tea. Afterwards we step outside to charming evening light so we stroll around another hour or so enjoying the atmosphere.

Another cozy plaza

A laser beam emerges from the town gate, sparkly in the mist and light drizzle.

We explore narrow alleyways.

Finally it’s dinnertime and we find ourselves at the Zylinder Restaurant. In German, cylinder means a formal top hat.

Restaurant Zylinder

Top Hat, indeed

Inside, the decor is a bit spartan, not unlike Soviet interiors, but the service and food were splendid. Eva had the huge Hapsburg era Tafelspitz, a multi course dinner featuring boiled beef. We rolled ourselves home afterwards.

Rather Spartan interior

Super service with Eva’s meal prepared at a side table.

For me, spareribs and peppers

Great setting as we wandered home to our boat on the Danube

The castle above us bids us goodnight.

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