Category Archives: Travel

My Village

Today’s post is from Renee in North Dakota

I have an old photograph of a German village street from the early 1900’s.  I was given the photograph by my maternal grandmother, who wrote on the back “The only street in Grandpa’s birthplace which is on Dead End under trees”.  The Grandpa she refers to is her husband, my Grandfather Ernst Bartels.  I wonder where she got her information, as she never stepped foot in the place.  I can hear her saying the words about the village with some derision in her voice. She was a city girl from Hamburg who met my grandfather after she immigrated to the US. She found him impossibly rustic and dull. She always felt somewhat superior to him and his family. She spoke formal German; the Bartels all spoke Plattdeutsch.

The photo always puzzled me because it seemed to be a photo of nothing. It shows a wide, muddy street with trees in the background, and behind the trees, barely discernible,  a large, half-timbered house. The photo is of poor quality and is a little blurry. I never really noticed the house behind the trees before our trip to Germany. Now that I have stood on the street in the photo and was lucky enough to go inside the house, the photo is completely understandable.

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My grandfather and all his siblings were born in that house. I never heard anyone in the family speak the name of the village.  I had always heard that my grandfather was born in Bremen. My mother said she thought he was born in Bremerhaven. I know now that the name of the village is Neddenaverbergen. It is about 50 miles south of Bremen, and with the help of my mother’s cousin Elmer, I contacted family who still live there, and they invited us to visit them.

20160513_182343Neddenaverbergen is a small farming community of around 700 people. It is quiet and very tidy. There are lots of flower and vegetable gardens. Oma was wrong. There are several streets in the village. All the farmers live in the village. The farmland surrounds the village on all sides.  Almost all the farm buildings are in the village as well, except for the modern buildings that house large machinery or livestock. The houses are old, and are built in the style in which the barn was attached to the house. All the houses and outbuildings are very close together, so that one neighbor’s house/barn is right next to another neighbor’s house/barn. The houses are half-timbered and made of brick. There are far fewer farmers now, and many of the residents commute to jobs in Bremen or Verden.

20160513_184143My grandfather was one of eight children. He was the second oldest. My great-grandfather died when Grandpa was about 17.  In the old German tradition, Grandpa’s oldest brother, Johan, inherited the farm. The rest of the family, including my great-grandmother, got nothing. Several of my grandpa’s siblings were still quite young, so, in 1910, he and his brother, Otto, immigrated to southwest Minnesota where their mother had family. The boys got farms and earned enough money to bring their mother and siblings to the US before the First World War.

Johan and his family survived both World Wars. His grandson, Peter, still owns the family home. He had no interest in farming and rents the land. The house was built in 1673 by an ancestor, also named Johan . Peter converted the part that was the barn into a family room. We got a tour of the house. I loved seeing the place that my grandfather was born and where he undoubtedly milked cows. The beams that were visible in the barn/family room were thick and very solid. The inscription over the door in the blog photo says something to the effect “I Johan, have built this house for my family and I have done my best and I hope that it serves them well”.

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I  look at the old photograph now and it all comes into focus. I see the house. I know how the street goes right past the house, and I recognize one of the trees, now much larger. In my mind I can imagine it in color. I think of Neddenaverbergen as my village.  I want to go back.

How has visiting a place changed the way you see it?

 

Elite Hotel

Today’s post comes from Renee in North Dakota

I think one of the most fun things about traveling is finding interesting hotels and lodging to stay in. We had really good luck with our lodging for our recent Europe trip. All the places were unique and had interesting and unexpected features. I mentioned the Merrion Hotel in Dublin in a previous post about Bruce Springsteen. Here is some information about some other hotels we stayed at.

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In Bremen we stayed at the Design Hotel Uberfluss. I love the name. (It was hard to find a place in Bremen the week we were there due to an international conference on the medical management of open wounds. Just what I would want to learn about!) The Uberfluss is situated along the Weser River in central Bremen near the old city. It is ultramodern and decorated in white and black with funky looking light fixtures. The rooms have enormous windows that open like French Doors if you turn the handle one way, and tilt open from the top if you turn the handle the other way. During construction they discovered a section of the original town wall of Bremen, circa 1300, and preserved it in the basement. Artifacts like medieval shoes and jewelry, also excavated by the wall, are on display in the lobby. I found that fascinating.

We were in another, similar hotel called the Varsity, in Cambridge, England. It was located on the River Cam, and we could see people in punts with poles on the river. It was very peaceful.

Glasgow brought us to a lovely restored Georgian town house called the Glasgow 15 Bed and Breakfast.  It was beautiful and more like a hotel than a B and B. The breakfasts were huge. Two doors down was a plaque on a house where Sir Joseph Lister, the father of antiseptic surgery and the namesake of Listerine, lived and did research. Glasgow was full of memorials to scientists. Kelvin, he of the Kelvin Scale of temperature, has many statues and things named for him.

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In Scotland’s western highlands we stayed in a very old hotel 6 miles out in the country near Oban. It was called the Knipoch Argyle. In 1592 a Campbell, then the Thane of Cawdor, was brutally murdered in the dining room. We had a great meal there.

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The Wiechmann Hotel in Amsterdam was probably the quirkiest place we stayed. It is in a narrow, three-story,  19th century building on the Prinsengracht Canal a couple of blocks from the Anne Frank house. Our room was on the top floor. There were 46 narrow and winding steps to our room, and no elevator. Those stairs were killers, and once I got downstairs I didn’t want to go back upstairs. There was a large German Shepherd who slept near the front desk. On the wall behind the front desk was a gold record, a gift to the owner from Emmylou Harris. It is the gold record she received for her second album, Elite Hotel. I guess she stayed at the Wiechmann and really liked it. Johnny Rotten and the Sex Pistols also stayed there too,  but I can’t think what they would have brought the owner except mayhem.

What is the most memorable hotel you’ve stayed in?  

 

 

Seeing Museums

Today’s post comes from Renee in North Dakota

Husband and I have vastly different ways of processing information. I scan my environment accurately but hastily, taking in only what is pertinent and ignoring the rest. In Rorschach Inkblot terms, it means I have tendencies toward underincorporation, and I may fail to notice something important.

Husband, on the other hand, readily admits he is a super overincorporator. That means he tries to take in all the details he sees without regard to importance. It is as fraught with error as underincorporation, as a person can only process so much information before becoming overwhelmed.

We went to several museums on our recent vacation, including the Rijksmuseum, the British Museum, London’s National Portrait Gallery, Westminster Abbey, the Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow, and Trinity College Library to see the Book of Kells. Westminster Abbey is a place of worship, but I think of it as a museum as well.

The practical implication of our differing information processing styles meant that by the time we finished with our first museum, I felt great sympathy and kinship with the woman I wrote about earlier who killed her husband with a blow to the head with an ornamental stone frog.

I flit through museum rooms, not concerned about seeing everything but zeroing in on what catches my eye, or what I had planned to see, then moving on. I always plan to come back another time, on another trip, to see what I may have missed, to take in more details of what I saw before, and maybe see something new. I want to relish what I see without cluttering my mind or my emotions. I find museums profoundly moving. Husband tries to see every exhibit, to read every placard, to not miss a thing.  He hates being rushed. This was really a problem in Westminster Abbey, as we had to stop and read every blessed memorial and grave stone in wall and floor. He even tried moving some of the folding chairs that had been placed in Poets’ Corner to make sure  he didn’t miss anybody. He certainly is thorough.

I am happy to say we made it through trip and museum without any bloodshed. In Husband’s defense, he had never been to any of the museums we visited, and maybe that overincorporation tendency thrives with the unknown. We started to plan our next trip that may take place in the next few years, and I will try to work on my impatience and maybe suggest to him a more selective approach to museum viewing.

We shall see.

 

When it comes to incorporation, do you over or under do it? 

Bowling With The Boss

Daughter and Husband planned the last half of our recent trip to Europe. Our trip ended in Dublin, where they  booked us into a really swanky hotel called The Merrion.  It is the sort of place where the Bell Captains wear top hats and the housekeepers lay out soft mats and bedroom slippers on either side of the bed when they do up the room. It was really grand.

We arrived in Dublin by ferry from Holyhead, Wales.  The streets were really crowded and it was hard to find a taxi. We strolled around Trinity College and down Grafton Street and it was wall to wall people.  We were told by the travel agent that we were lucky to find hotel rooms in Dublin the weekend we were there, as she was told by someone that there were lots of things going on in town. Those “things” turned out to be:

  1. The Irish Open
  2. Josh Groban in concert
  3. A very important soccer match
  4. Bruce Springsteen in concert Friday and Sunday evenings.

Everyone seemed to be talking about Bruce Springsteen. Nils Lofgren and Stevie Van Zandt were playing with him, and the newspapers had the whole play list for the concerts, which took place in a large outdoor arena that held 65,000 people.  One taxi driver told us that there were 100,000 extra people in Dublin just for those concerts.

As we were checking into our hotel, I heard a man asking after a female guest who was “a member of the Springsteen party”, and I realized that Bruce was staying at The Merrion, too. That explained all the people with cameras milling around outside the hotel.

We never saw Bruce, but we heard about him from some delightfully gossipy taxi drivers. They confirmed that he was indeed at The Merrion, and gave us a running itinerary for him, letting us know that on Saturday morning he worked out in the gym around the corner from the hotel, and that on Sunday morning he went bowling.

Bowling? Now, in all our time in Europe, I never saw a bowling alley. Did he go lawn bowling? Can you imagine Bruce Springsteen lawn bowling, upsetting the octogenarian bowlers in their white lawn bowling get ups? Why would he go bowling? Why not a short trip to the coast or to some castle, or a private view of the Book of Kells. Maybe he could have gone to church. If I were Bruce Springsteen, would I want to go bowling? I just don’t know.

W.W.Y.A.S.D?  (What Would You (as Springsteen) Do?

 

Road Trip!

Today’s post comes from Verily Sherrilee

I’ve been thinking this about California becoming the first state to legalize self-driving cars.

I was thrilled to hear this when it was first in the news, although careful attention revealed that it’s just the testing of the cars that became legal.  We still have a way to go before self-driving cars will be chauffeuring our kids to their ballet lessons and baseball games without us.

Where roadways are concerned, I am the most directionally-challenged person I know.  A friend of mine loves to tell the tale of the time I got lost in a church parking lot.  In my defense it was dark when we came out from the concert and the parking lot had quite a bit of one-way directional signage.  It’s always been this way for me, but the advent of MapBlast and GoogleMaps seems to have made it worse the last few years, as if having the printed paper in my hand somehow eggs on the traffic/street sign gods.

I keep a 3-ring binder in my breakfast room with printed directions to most of the places in my life. I grab the sheets out of the binder when I need them and put them back at the end of the trip.  Some of these directions are not used anymore; I have finally memorized how to get to the Teenager’s pediatrician and it got too dangerous for my pocketbook (& my waistline) to go to St. Agnes Bakery once a month.  Some of them were used once and have never been used again, like the gym in Big Lake where there was a gymnastics meet 3 years ago.   I’ve added quite a few pages in the last couple of years:  BiR, BiB, tim, Jacque & Lew, Steve, Caroline.   Many of the sheets have been spindled and mutilated from repeated trips in the car; some of them have coffee stains.   I even added alphabet tabs to the binder last year to make it easier to find the directions I want.

I expect that I’ll have this disability the rest of my life. I just hope that self-driving cars will come with GPS!

Where do you want your self-driving car to take you?

 

The Day of the Wild Dogs

Today’s post comes from Verily Sherrilee

The safari experience in South Africa is amazing. At most camps there are two “runs” a day, one right at dawn and one as night falls. They pile you into large stadium seating jeeps and head off into the bush, complete with blankets and sometimes hot bricks for your feet. The drivers and guides know a tremendous amount about the animals in each of their reserves, including where the “cut line” is – the seemingly invisible boundary of each park.  They constantly radio back and forth with other jeep drivers about what animals they’ve seen and where they are.  It’s quite a ride.

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On the last day of my trip back in 2007, the client wasn’t feeling well and decided she didn’t want to get up for the last run before we had to pack up and head back to Johannesburg. That left just me and the program Account Executive on the jeep. As we were heading out, our driver Million said that he had heard some chatter the day before from another reserve just to the north of our reserve that they had seen wild dogs. Solee Wild dogs hadn’t been seen for a couple of months on “our side” of the cut line but did we want to take a chance?  Million was very clear that #1, we’d have to hightail it up to the cut line in order to make it back in time for breakfast and #2, we absolutely could not cross the cut line so if the wild dogs were in the next park then we’d be out of luck. Account Exec and I both agreed we should go for it.

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Luck was with us. We actually saw some animals on the way and then the whole pack of wild dogs was on our side of the cut line. As this wasn’t enough luck, the pack had quite a few pups. Million parked the jeep about 20 feet away and we sat still and quiet for over an hour, watching the dogs come and go from the clearing.  Some of the pups were very curious and advanced pretty closely on the jeep. All of my pictures were taken without a view finder as I’d dropped the camera the night before and damaged it; I just kept holding it out and clicking away.  My luck continued to hold as I managed to get several fairly decent shots that morning.

We practically flew back to the lodge and tried SO hard not to gloat to the client about our morning’s experience. I don’t know how successful we were.

When has luck been on your side?

Show Me the Money

Today’s post comes from Verily Sherrilee

(Part 2 in a Baboon Fantasy Series)

I’ve heard many people say “I know money doesn’t buy happiness but I’d like to be part of the test group.” Everyone can point to lots of examples of money being the root of all evil but still think they could handle extreme wealth better than others.

In my fantasy dog-free world, I do not want to win a billion-dollar lottery and have to hire an entourage the first week. Give me just enough cash so that I can #1: not have to work, #2: travel to an exotic place at last once a year and #3: write some nice-sized checks to a variety of my favorite causes.

I love my job but if I didn’t have to sit in a cube and arrange things for others, I don’t think I would miss it. Having no job would give me more time for gardening, reading, volunteering and maybe my house might get clean.  I already volunteer at a few places, but I’d love to volunteer at the library and maybe an animal shelter.

Although I’ve traveled quite a bit and been to some fun and exotic places, it’s always been on the client’s agenda; I’d love to do my own thing and take Young Adult along with me sometimes. Australian Outback, Great Wall of China, Machu Picchu, Alaska, Rio de Janiero, Prague…. this could go on for a bit.

One of the reasons that I volunteer a lot is that I don’t have much cash to spread around to some of my favorite causes. But I know that in addition to volunteers, organizations need money to keep them going. I’d like to be able to write a nice check each year to both of our zoos, Planned Parenthood, Feed My Starving Children, UNICEF, Haiti Mission, malaria prevention, Cantus, my daughter’s education.

I could probably add on to all these lists easily but I don’t want so much money that I have to spend a boatload of time managing it and I certainly don’t want to have to hire someone to manage it. So add a bit more for some meals out and a bit for my stamps/glitter/ribbon and I should be good to go!

What would you use a little extra cash for?