September 15, 2014

  • An Eastward Homage, Day 34: Europe in the Rear View Mirror

    June 29, 2014-  The writer, Froma Harrop, in discussing the need for balance between travel and homing, mentions the Shakespearean character, Jaque, from As You Like It, as having bemoaned his own constant travel.  She muses about seniors, who give up everything binding, and make perpetual travel their endgame.

    I have been tempted, now and then, to engage in just such an endeavour.  There are, in fact, a few years in the offing when my travel will be of a long-term nature.  The first such will be 2017, in fact.  Nevertheless, my meanderings are always going to be rooted in purpose.  This past June’s journey had three themes:  Seeing the ancestral home town of my father’s paternal lineage (Rouen); paying respects to my late father-in-law and other veterans of the two World Wars (Normandy, Brest, Amiens, Bastogne, Metz and Berga); and connecting with my fellow Baha’is (Paris, Rouen, Brussels, Luxembourg, Strasbourg and Frankfurt).  Of course, there were cultural stops, fun restaurants and parks, great architecture and wonderful, captivating people in the mix.  These, I find everywhere, though, and they may be found in abundance, right here in Prescott.  My Baha’i friends are my tap root, and will remain so, regardless of how often I am in and out of town.  A dozen or so others are my branch roots, also keeping me focused.

    Let me get back to the journey.  The flight back from Frankfurt was smooth as silk.  I was in the delightful company of a young baker, from Frankfurt to Montreal.  She had many stories of her own travel, across France and Germany, from Paris to Berlin, with Frankfurt as base camp, and as a vegan.  Taking a night bus from Berlin to Frankfurt sounded a bit rough; but there she was, happy and fully in the moment.  I have kept in contact with her, in the months since, and wish her a long and happy series of life experiences, as I do with all I met, east of the Atlantic.

    There are those I will see again, and those whose lives will probably not intersect again with mine. There are the people with whom I experienced mutual joy and there are folks who saw me stumbling about, now and then, and threw up their hands in exasperation.  There were times of great exhilaration, quiet reverence, stern admonition- both given and received, physical and emotional near-exhaustion, and momentary confusion.  It was all worthwhile.

    So, here’s to you:  The gate keepers and window clerks at each train and bus station; the desk clerks and maids at each of my hotels; the seat mates on trains and buses; the taxi drivers in the areas of Mont Saint-Michel and Carnac; my friends in the standage on the train from Rennes to Paris, all the restaurateurs who served me so graciously, from the brasseries and kebab shops to the high-end New Colours, of Luxembourg and Leo’s, of Bastogne; the people manning the natural and historical sites; the performance artists and street musicians; the scammers and the schemers, who got precious little, if anything, from me; the people who earnestly tried to help me, even when I was in a momentary state of suspicion; the lovers whose space I may have momentarily crowded; the police who kept us safe, without resorting to brute force; the grand musicians at Luxembourg’s National Day; the young folks whose energy and antics were invariably heart-warming; and, most of all, my brothers and sisters in faith, who were anchors throughout.  All of you made this, my fledgling solo voyage abroad, a memorable and reaffirming occasion.

    So, I’ve been back in the home ground that is North America, since the date above.  There was a revelation, though:  Europe is also my home. The rest of the world will be, as time goes on. I can go from home, to home, to home, as the circumstances of this wonderful life lead me. Prescott is like my room, Arizona, my domicile and North America, my neighbourhood.  Home, though, is where the heart lives, and my heart is with all of you.

September 14, 2014

  • An Eastward Homage, Day 33: The Frankfurt Boomerang

    June 28, 2014-  I awoke at 6 AM, on this bright Saturday morning.  PentaHotel has amazingly comfortable beds, and an exquisite breakfast buffet.  (There were all food groups, not just the breads and pastries you see here.) See, it’s not just Americans who like grand portions. :)  We could all learn to distribute food more equitably- and if there were these types of meals in small villages, around the globe, we’d feel better- though we’d also have to work harder to burn unwanted fat and excess calories. That work could be service-related, and we’d have a better world in that way, as well. (Photo courtesy of


    I left Gera, promptly at 9 AM.  The train to Frankfurt involved only one stop this time, at Erfurt.  It was, I’m told, a special Saturday train- not to be missed, without a penalty.  Ja,voll, Herr Kommandant!  So I made it back to Q Green Hotel, the first place I stayed in Europe, and was given a 6th Floor Suite, as a token of Melia Group’s appreciation.  For those who have forgotten, QGreen looks like this. (All remaining photos courtesy of ME!)


    The rest of the day involved: No laundry (Launderettes in Germany close at 8 PM, Friday and reopen at 8 AM, Monday.);  a light meal at a kebab place, and a walk around the periphery of Frankfurt Messe.  This undertaking took me past a parade of Working Girls, up over a short Autobahn, through several deserted, but perfectly safe parking lots and along der Messe’s west side,where a couple of billboards in German, and in Portuguese, pierced the horizon.  I ended up in a familiar neighbourhood, with such streets as Funckstrasse to remind me of my locus.  Note: What looks like a B with a tail is really pronounced ss.



    Once back at QGreen, I took in the rest of a World Cup match, and was actually happy when Germany took it all, a few days later.  The next day, Sunday, I would head for the airport and back to North America.

September 12, 2014

  • An Eastward Homage, Day 32, Part II: The Two Faces of Berga

    June 27, 2014-  The wait for the train to Berga, while standing on the platform at Gera Hauptbanhof, was almost as long as the time I actually spent in the former prison camp town.  It was due at 1:15, and came at 2:15.  In the meantime, I was amused by a man chasing his 9-year-old son around the platform, as the child giggled and hid behind the concrete posts.  This became the child’s fault, when the train actually did pull in, and Pater-Meister was embarrassed that the boy was almost hit.  The boy took his tongue-lashing quietly, but I could tell he had no idea what he had done wrong.

    The Jews who were taken prisoner, and given unwanted special attention by the Nazis, had no idea what they had done wrong, other than to be distantly related by blood to the Rothschilds and a handful of money lenders and grifters, who had contributed somewhat to the collapse of the European economy- a collapse which would have happened regardless of the level of mercantilism in any one country.

    I digress, however. Berga, a small town southeast of Gera, was a satellite station of Buchenwald, the much larger Concentration Camp in northern Thuringia.(Photo courtesy of


    Here were brought Jewish soldiers from the US, Canada and Britain, especially after the Battle of the Bulge, in late 1944, when Buchenwald itself was at saturation point. One of these was my future father-in-law, Norman Fellman, 6’3″ tall, weighing into the camp at 175 pounds.  He was part of a group assigned to work a gypsum mine.  He and his fellows walked up a trail like this, (Photo courtesy of


    through a door like this, (Photo courtesy of


    to a place like this (Photo courtesy of, every day, for a hundred days. When General Patton’s men found him, in April, 1945, he weighed 87 pounds.

    Old gypsum mine, near Berga

    They spent time, after coming back from the mine, in this “work station”. (Photo courtesy of

    Old dormitory  for prisoners, Berga

    The camp where they were held, from their capture in the Vosges of southern Lorraine, to the date of Gentle George’s arrival, looked something like this. (Photo courtesy of


    Now, the area looks like this. (Photo courtesy of camp for Jews, Berga

    I walked around this decrepit, southern edge of Berga, even walking the periphery of the abandoned V-1 Rocket Factory, now closed off by a fence, with only a small security team allowed inside. (Photos courtesy of

    V1 Rocket factory, Berga

    Old rocket factory, Berga

    Understandably, Pop never went back to Germany, and the less said about that country in his presence, the better.  I told him, two months before he passed on in May, that I intended to go to Berga, to try and put the ghosts to rest.  Ghosts, demons, visionaries of Hell- they seem to hang over this part of the town, in a way that the giggling school children who were waiting at Berga Train Station can only dimly imagine.  The kids, of course, were waiting for their families, from the north end of town.  Few people live in the old camp zone- a farmer or two, perhaps even an aging former guard, released from prison to live out his ignominy.

    Berga today remembers its victims and its enslaved “guests”, with this memorial. (


    North of the train station, Berga could be Everytown, Deutschland.  There is a bright, red Rathaus. (Photo courtesy of


    A small town square sits in front of the Town Hall. (Photo courtesy of

    Village Square, Berga

    Not far from here, I guided a mother and small child to an ice cream parlour, where I had just stopped, perhaps to comfort myself and return to the more benign reality of this “new” Berga.  There are churches nearby as well.  I can only imagine what the churches, and the schools, impart to their patrons. Below, is the legacy of Marxism for Berga.  These apartments are still highly occupied. (Photo courtesy of


September 11, 2014

  • An Eastward Homage, Day 32, Part I: The East Also Rises

    June 27, 2014- Thuringia has always been a crossroads, and was a vacation spot for the Prussians, in the days of Imperial Germany.  Lying as it does, just north of what is now the Czech Republic, Thuringia was also a transmission point for the ideas of Jan Hus, in the 14th Century, as he challenged papal authority from his home parish in Bohemia.  “Bohemian” became a synonym for rebel, while the Thuringians remained known for their hill country hospitality.

    It is still thus, as far as the Thuringians go.  I found Gera, a resort town where I spent my next-to-last night in Europe, this go-round, a relaxing and accommodating city.  The Pentahotel Gera offered full buffets for breakfast and dinner, and the suite I booked was as well-appointed as any room I found elsewhere on the itinerary.

    The day began in a low-key manner, with a simple breakfast at Pension Alpha, checkout and quick hop across the street to Frankfurt Hauptbanhof.  There were two trains, and four stops, between Frankfurt and Gera.

    Fulda was the transfer point for my train eastward, as the first train was headed for Hamburg- a destination for a later journey. (Photo courtesy of

    blick-uber-fulda - Copy

    Eisenach is a largely-restored medieval town, with an inviting arch at the entry to its Zentrum. (Photo courtesy of

    eisenach_sightseeing - Copy

    Erfurt is the capital of the State of Thuringen, and a vibrant city, reaching out to the international community.  On this very night, the incomparable Wynton Marsalis was to offer “Classical Meets Jazz”.  Lots of artists have done such delicious musical blends, over the past seventy years or so, but I would venture none have done it better.  He’s a master of both genres. (Photo courtesy of

    erfurt4 - Copy

    Jena was the most war-devastated town along my route (I stopped well west of Dresden), and yet it has bounced back dramatically and well, with a fine university as its bulwark. (Photo courtesy of

    Jena, DE

    Each of these cities would be worth several hours of a “stash-the-bag and hoof it” day or so.

    I arrived at Gera Hauptbanhof, around 2 PM.  The train station has expanded a bit since unification, which brought a well-deserved spate of attention to Thuringia. (Photo courtesy ofhttp://www.bbahn.en)

    BF_Gera_13.10.10_1b - Copy

    It was a short, but appealing, walk from there to Pentahotel.  The route took me through the Kuchengarten, a lovely gift from the days of Prussian rule.  The pre-Kaiser nobles who ruled Potsdam and Berlin liked to vacation in Gera, and built the Theater, Kunstsummlung (Orangerie) and the salubrious garden that links them.

    As I passed the theater, it was drawing a group of youth, who were to perform a play, and their families. (Photo courtesy of




    The Kitchen Garden intervenes magnificently. (Photo courtesy of


    Kitchen Garden, Gera


    As I approached the Orangerie, there were a few small children and a couple of teens being photographed at the fountain.  I waited until they had their fill of selfies and splashing, then took my photo of the fountain, which was similar to the one you see here.  As an example of the apprehension many eastern Germans still seem to feel towards visitors, the father of one of the small girls cast a stern eye on me, until I was well away from the group.  Assimilation will take time, yet. (Photo courtesy of


    From Orangerie, it was two minutes further to Pentahotel Gera.  I found the hotel about evenly divided between a busload of German seniors and a couple of van-loads of university women, who occupied opposite ends of the dining room, at both of the meals I took there.  A young German man and I had tables to ourselves, in between the two groups.  These were sumptuous, satisfying buffets, albeit in such a surreal atmosphere.  The servers, though, were patient and polite with everyone, and the hotel staff was uniformly gracious. (Photo courtesy of




    Naturally,my inclination was to see as much of Gera as possible, on that delightful Friday evening.  So, I started out, stopping first at Otto Dix Haus.  The great Twentieth Century German painter was born in this house, in 1891.  It’s now Gera’s Art Museum. (Photo courtesy of


    Otto Dix Haus.59273


    A short bus ride later, I found myself at Hofwiesen Park, more towards the center of town.  I will be known for a time as “the American lunkhead who pushed the wrong exit button”.  This delayed the bus for about a minute,  and seemed to throw the driver out of sorts.  Life went on, though, and I was delighted by the park. (Photo courtesy of

    Hofwiesen Park, Gera

    Gera’s Arcaden is more akin to the malls found in our great land, than it is to the Soviet GUM stores of the Cold War era, despite the Stalinesque exterior. (Photo courtesy of

    Gera Arkaden


    German teens abounded inside the mall, just as their contemporaries do across our continent, and across Europe.  (Photo courtesy of



    Gera-Arcaden Interior 2


    Gera has its share of churches, two of the most prominent being Catholic.  First, we see Johanniskerke. (Photo courtesy of


    Across town,and up the hill a bit, is St. Mary’s Church (Marienkerke).  (Photo courtesy of



    My last view of the night was of City Hall (Rathaus). (Photo courtesy of

    Gera  Rathaus

    With this confirmation that all is well in this border state, and that the eastern Germans are getting a relatively fair shake, I retired to my cozy suite at Pentahotel.

    Left unsaid, up to now, is reference to my main reason for going to Thuringia:  Berga, site of my late father-in-law’s incarceration as an American, and Jewish, prisoner-of-war, for a hundred days, in 1944-45.  The borrowed photos I will show in my next post will convey some, but not all, of the emotions I felt, in the afternoon of that warm, but chilling, Friday.


September 8, 2014

  • An Eastward Homage, Day 31: Excursion to A Silent Teacher

    June 26, 2014-  Thursday morning was especially joyful, bringing with it a train and bus ride to the Baha’i House of Worship, in Langenhain, about an hour west of central Frankfurt.  The train to Hofheim, from whence the bus went to Langenhain village, took about forty minutes.  Hofheim lies at the foot of a forested hill region, and is quite picturesque, in and of itself. (Photo courtesy of


    The bus to Langenhain was driven by a man who seemed ready for a long vacation- not happy with my broken German, or with the fair number of high school kids who got on at the central bus terminal, about 200 meters from the Hofheim Hauptbanhof (Try saying that, ten times fast!).  We got to Langenhain quickly enough, though, and I encountered a couple of farmers, who were discussing goats.  One of the men kindly guided me to the road that led to the House of Worship.  I walked about 100 meters northward, and sure enough- there was the great edifice, the first of its kind on the European continent, a Silent Teacher of spirituality.  This view, taken from the air, shows the true beauty of the surroundings. (Photo courtesy of


    Panoramic view of Baha'i House of Worship-Langenhain


    As the staff were still at lunch when I arrived, I went clockwise around the exterior, then spent an hour or so in prayer within the quiet and comforting sanctuary.

    Here are a couple of views of the outside. (Photo courtesy of





    (Photo courtesy of



    I was alone, but for two groundskeepers, who remained outside.  My prayers for the world, for the US, and for so many family and friends, and the resulting meditation, were taking me into another dimension, in this hot, but blessed afternoon.  Of course, the inside of the temple was airy and comfortable. The photo below was taken with many people present.  On that day, however, I had the auditorium to myself. (Photo courtesy of


    Baha'i House of Worship, Langenhain-Interior


    What really inspired me was gazing upward, at the dome light, which has the Arabic inscription, “God is the Most Glorious”. (Photo courtesy of


    Baha'iHouse of Worship, Frankfurt-Interior dome


    The House of Worship was completed and opened in July, 1954, a scant nine years after the end of World War II, and became a symbol of Germany’s continued recovery and of its re-entry into the family of nations.  People all over the country and all over the continent, are proud of this unifying symbol.  None are prouder, though, than the villagers of Langenhain, who told me on their own, of the Golden Anniversary of the House’s opening.  It was held July 6, six days after I actually left Europe.  Hundreds of people came from all over Europe, for the celebratory picnic.

    There to greet everyone was the House of Worship’s caretaker, Erick, who gladly shared coffee and pastry with me, after my prayers were finished.  His wife then took this photo, the only one that survived the file corruption of two weeks ago, and which now is the Home Photo on my Twitter page.


    Baha'i House of Worship Visitors' Center, Langenhain, DE


    Recharged, and renewed spiritually, I went back to Frankfurt, to Pension Alpha and another round of World Cup matches.  Dinner at a Fujien-style Chinese restaurant seemed only fitting, after spending the day contemplating the Oneness of Mankind.

September 7, 2014

  • An Eastward Homage, Day 30, Part II: The Main Is For Revelry

    June 25, 2014- Returning to Frankfurt, after nearly a month, I decided to walk north along the left bank of the Main (“Mine”) River and back south, along the right bank, noting some sights along the way.  So, after settling in at Pension Alpha, chosen for its proximity to the Train Station, and enjoying a fabulous meal of braised lamb at a Bosnian restaurant named Imbiss Sarajevo, I headed out to the river bank.

    Frankfurters love their river.  I could see people celebrating their Wednesday evening, up and down both banks of the watercourse. Of course, this night featured Germany vs. USA, in a World Cup match, so the fact that all Frankfurt was out and about had even more cachet.

    The first place I passed was Judisches Museum. (Photo courtesy of  Although it was evening, and the Museum was closed, I was glad to see such a prominent place for Judaism and its heritage in German life.



    The Left Bank in this area is called Untermainkai, or “lower quay of the Main”. (Photo courtesy of




    By the way, a frequent commentator on this site is constantly wondering why I don’t use canned article formats from Google.  The reason is simple, my posts need to reflect MY thoughts and MY style.  Instant doesn’t cut it; so, thanks but no thanks.

    Back to lovely Frankfurt.  Karmeliter Kloster is basically what the name implies, a cloister for Carmelite monks, or it was,from 1246-1803.  Now, it is an institute for Urban History and an Archaeological Museum. (Both photos courtesy of



    Interior, Karmeiterkloster, Frankfurt


    St. Leonhardskirche, a Catholic facility, offered services in English, for foreign residents and visitors.  It is closed for renovation, until 2016. (Photo courtesy of



    Alte Nikolaikirche is a Lutheran church, just east of Frankfurt City Hall, in Romerberg (City Hall Square). (Photo courtesy of




    Romerberg itself is one area I would like to explore further, on another visit. (Photo courtesy of




    The Square was every bit as busy as the river banks, very similar to the scene in this file photo.

    The Dom St. Bartholomaus, or Frankfurt Cathedral, lies “behind”, or north of, Romerberg.  The cathedral was closed also, but here is what I saw of the exterior. (Photo courtesy of





    About a block from the Dom, I crossed to the Right Bank, using Floesserbruecke. (Photo courtesy of  The foot traffic was heavy, in both directions.


    The Right Bank is largely a Museum District.  There is one Catholic church near the river:  Deutschordenskirche, or German Medal Church.






    It is not far from there that there were sizable crowds gathered along the river bank, until twilight- which was still ten o’clock.  This is the area called Schaumainkai. (Photo courtesy of


    The Flohmarkt (Flea Market)  is also here during the day on Friday and Saturday. (Photo courtesy of

    Flohmarkt, Frankfurt


    There are about five large museums in this district.  Here are views of two of those:  Museum der Weltkulturen (World Cultures). (Photo courtesy of


    Museum der Weltkulturen, Frankfurt


    and Museum Giersch, which houses art and other cultural treasures of the Main River Valley. (Photo courtesy of







    It was time for me to go back across to the Hauptbanhof area, and take in the rest of the World Cup match, being televised at a Brasserie patio.  So, Friedensbruecke provided the means. (Photo courtesy of




    Although it appears to lie in a wealthy financial district, Friedensbruecke has a lively and prolific underground arts scene. (Photo courtesy of



    The patio was full for a while, when  I arrived, so I stood at the railing for about a half hour.  A seat opened up and it was my turn for coffee and ice cream, while watching Team Germany prevail, 1-0.  I did not call attention to my secret longing for an American victory, needless to say.  The gentleman sitting at my table left, as soon as the match ended, but his credit card fold did not.  So, after getting that bit of hardware to the Brasserie manager, I savoured the rest of a very delectable mocha ice cream “Decadence”, before calling it a night.

    NEXT:  The Baha’i House of Worship at Langenhain

September 4, 2014

  • An Eastward Homage, Day 30: Of Barons and Bunsen

    June 25, 2014- It says quite a bit about a city, when one of its most celebrated citizens is a scientist and educator.  I decided to stop in Heidelberg, on the way from Strasbourg to Frankfurt, and spend time in the Universitat district.  Robert Bunsen, chemist and inventor, is the first prominent person identified with Heidelberg to be honoured with a statue. Although Ruprecht-Karls-Universitat was the first university in Germany, established in 1386, Dr. Bunsen,in his work at the University of Heidelberg, upgraded the institution to one of the top centers of scientific research in Europe.  Besides the Bunsen Burner, he achieved a wealth of success in electrolyte research, and in advancing the metallurgy of magnesium.  With Gustav Kirchhoff, he discovered cesium and rubidium. (Photo courtesy of


    Today, the above statue faces the remaining hall of Ruprecht-Karls Universitat, also called Haus-zum-Riesen, still a center for Physical Sciences. (Photo courtesy of data: image/jpeg; base 64)


    I debarked the train at Heidelberg Hauptbanhof, had lunch and gave myself three hours to meander around the university and walk a bit along the right bank of the Neckar River.  The train station is a fair distance from Altstadt, the Old City, with its narrow streets and energetic demeanor- which always comes with being near a university setting. So, I took the reliable and crowded, but pleasant, tram.

    Here is the Hauptbanhof.  Although spare outside, I found it a relaxing enough place to enjoy a Wurttemburg-style bratwurst. (Photo courtesy of


    20130302001 Heidelberg Hauptbahnhof


    The tram deposits its passengers for Altstadt at Bismarckplatz. (Photo courtesy of stadtblatt-online,

    Haltestelle Bismarckplatz wird barrierefrei


    The old campus of the University of Heidelberg is just off the Universitatplatz, where a group of British school girls were fawning over a bearded twentysomething German student, by the fountain seen below.  Some things are just universal. (Photo courtesy of




    Here is another view of the main building of Alte Universitat. (Photo courtesy of data/image; base 64)

    Alte Universitstat, Heidelberg


    After World War II, American philanthropists helped establish Neue Universitat, with its emphasis on the Humanities and the School of Medicine. (Photo courtesy of sccs



    Other sites of interest in the immediate university campus are its Library, or Bibliothek, a beehive of activity on the day I was there.  That’s not surprising,as it was a Wednesday, and summer session finals week. (Photo courtesy of




    Studentenkarzer was the place where unruly students were sent, if convicted of an offense, by the Student Court.  Eventually, it became a farcical place, given to partying.  The practice of incarceration was transferred elsewhere, but the building is preserved, as a reminder of how things were done in the 14th-18th Centuries. (Photo courtesy of


    Studentenkarzer, Heidelberg


    You can see just how punitive things turned out to be, in the long run. (Photo courtesy ofhttp://www.travelswith




    Hexenturm, or the Witch’s Tower, is so-named to commemorate the cruelty of the Heidelberg Witch Trials of the Fifteenth Century.  It was originally used, however, to incarcerate thieves.  Part of the old wall of Heidelberg, it now stands on the grounds of Neue Universitat. (Photo courtesy of


    Hexensturm, Heidelberg


    Heidelberg honours its lesser lights, as well.  One of these was Friedrich Ebert, the first President of Germany, under the Weimar Republic, from 1919-1925.  He ruled largely in an autocratic manner, with a fair amount of help from the military.  This may well have made it easier for Hitler to rise to power, but to Heidelberg, Ebert is still a native son.  His life’s work is still examined at the Ebert Memorial Institute, just west of the University. (Photo courtesy of


    Friedrich Ebert Memorial


    Now, let’s have a look at three churches of Heidelberg.  The first is a Catholic church, St. Anna, also west of campus.  It was originally a hospital. (Photo courtesy of




    Somewhat larger, and to the south a bit, is Peterskirche, which is ecumenical.  This is the University Church, first built in 1192, even before the campus.  It was modernized in 1986. (Photo courtesy of


    Peterskirche, Heidelberg


    Below Photo courtesy of


    Peterskirche, Heidelberg.jpg-1


    Thirdly, here is Jesuitenkirche, or Church of the Holy Spirit and St. Ignatius, in the heart of the university campus.  This is the largest Catholic parish church in Heidelberg. (Photo courtesy of data:image/jpeg base 64)

    Jesuitenkirche, Heidelberg

    Time was getting short, as my train to Frankfurt would arrive soon.  I ended this all-too-brief excursion to this regal little city, with a nod to the barons of Heidelberg, and a view of Kongreshaus, overlooking the Neckar. (Photo courtesy of


    Kongreshaus Stadthalle, Heidelberg


    The barons who lived in Heidelbergschloss, the great castle, which I am determined to visit three years hence, built Alte Brucke, the oldest standing bridge over the Neckar, in this area, in 1788.  It is actually the ninth such bridge built on this spot- the first having been built in the 13th Century.  To the right, one may gaze at the tower of the Rathaus, or Town Hall. (Photo courtesy of image




    Frankfurt, the majestic Lord of the Main, has its share of iconic sites, but no place has anything on Heidelberg. I have the sense that I have only scratched the surface on the land of my maternal ancestors, anyway.

    Next up:  Playgrounds Along the Main.

September 3, 2014

  • Miasma

    September 2, 2014-  I will do my level best, in an hour or two, to write about Heidelberg.  It’s a storybook town, which has also given the world a great deal.

    Right now, though, my heart is heavy.  I have read a lot of thoughts expressed by someone about whom I have come to care deeply.  I have thought a lot about that person, and about others, for whom I also have come to care deeply, over the past few days.  Our lives follow different paths, and are unlikely to naturally converge anywhere other than through our online exchanges of ideas.  It’s similar with my real time friends.  Each of us has either a full schedule, or is top heavy with self-initiated projects and activities.  Being semi-retired, in terms of employment, I am in the latter category.

    My heart is heavy, not because of any of the people for whom I care.  The weight comes from knowing that the world, right now, is divided, in terms of leadership, between those who hate and would ravage their fellow people and those who are indifferent, dithering and self-absorbed.  It seems that only the Pope in Rome, and a smattering of Heads of State, have not subscribed to one or the other of the above categories.

    My heart is heavy because of the lack of concern for the common man.  It has always been so, however.  The Bystander Effect is well-documented, throughout history.  Now, however, we see the Bystander Effect emanating from the highest levels of power.  Abraham Lincoln, tired as he was and conventional as his thinking often was, nevertheless recognized his power to do what was best for the common man, and for posterity- and he pulled himself together, left what passed for his comfort zone, and did it.

    Franklin D. Roosevelt overcame his antipathy towards Jews, his relative apathy towards Blacks and poor Whites and the self-loathing that stemmed from his crippling disease- and did what was best for humanity, both at home and abroad.

    Winston Churchill snapped out of his fear-driven depression, scrapped his written letter of surrender to Hitler, and sent the British Lion roaring, alongside the American Eagle, into the maw of German power, rendering it useless.

    We are in the year of the miasma- a river of blood in the Levant and Mesopotamia, a swelling of viruses in West Africa, a puffed-up would-be Czar for our times testing the resolve of his neighbours, whilst projecting his self-image of invincibility upon the world.  The response of our leaders is to dither, to equivocate, and to project an image of indifference.

    Perhaps my heart is heaviest, though, when I read, see or hear hateful comments by adults directed towards children. There seem to be a spate of these lately.  I’m not talking about overwhelmed, put-upon mothers, who need, and richly deserve, relief.  I am not talking about people trying to impart character to impressionable souls, occasionally slipping and using coarse language.  I am talking about those who have forgotten what it was like to be a child, who are so wrapped up in their own experiences, casual relationships, accumulation of wealth, that any intrusion upon these is grounds for retribution.  Those who would ban public breastfeeding, no matter how discrete; who would physically beat a child- or better yet, kill the “little beast”; those who yell at parents for bringing their children onto a public conveyance; those who gaze at images of little people being coerced into sexual activities- and worst of all, those who buy and sell children, for whatever nefarious purpose they have in mind.  I could sloganeer, and shout that there is a “War on Children”.  Hyperbole, though, does next to nothing to improve a situation, in the Age of the News Cycle.

    No, we just need to recognize the overall miasma- The tide of indifference that runs through the arteries and veins of too many.  We need to shout but one word:  ENOUGH!; then we each begin to turn back the tide.


September 2, 2014

  • An Eastward Homage, Day 29: Once Past the Maginot

    June 24, 2014- Of all the cities in France I visited this summer, Strasbourg presents itself in the most modern of lights, and, by a small margin, it is the cleanest.  There is not an appreciable difference in ethnic make-up, nor are there that many fewer apartment dwellers here.  Perhaps the presence of the European Parliament, on a day-to-day basis, leads to more social consciousness.  There is also a more Germanic sense of order here, than elsewhere in La Belle France. Strasbourg was ruled by German royalty, throughout the Middle Ages and again from 1871-1918.

    The first signal that this city was going to be different came at Gare Centrale, the train station. It’s covered by a plexiglass dome, resembling a  crystal dirigible. (Photo courtesy of



    (Photo courtesy of de Strasbourg-1


    I got directions to my hotel-LePetit Trianon.  It is not, outwardly, a palace.  It is on a narrow side street, though close to the commercial centre.  The manager is only 25, but has a very shrewd business acumen, and will no doubt rise quickly, in a keenly competitive market.  She looks like Keira Knightley, but talks like a kinder, gentler Leona Helmsley-nobody’s fool.  I like Le Petit Trianon. (Photo courtesy of Petit Trianon


    I had limited time to explore Strasbourg, before attending a Baha’i spiritual gathering, similar to that which I attended in Rouen, earlier in my sojourn.  This was not hard, though, as the city centre is compact, and there is a reliable trolley.

    First was the largest of Strasbourg’s many Calvinist churches:  St. Pierre Le Vieux. (Photo courtesy of



    Once again, I did not venture inside any  of the churches, save Cathedrale Notre Dame de Strasbourg.

    The next stop was three bridges down the Lill Canal.  Here was Place de la Republique. (Photo courtesy of

    Place de la Republique-2

    This is a monument to Those Dead in Winter- an homage to all who died in the harsh and combative winter of 1944-45. (Photo courtesy of

    On the west side is Palais du Rhin, a structure built by Wilhelm I, after Germany seized Strasbourg during the Franco-Prussian War.  It is now a cultural center of Alsace.  It is the structure seen in the photo above.  On the east side of the park are two structures.  First is La Bibliotheque Nationale d’Alsace. (Photo courtesy of

    Bibliotheque Nationale de Strasbourg


    Adjacent to the Library is La Theatre Nationale d’Alsace. (Photo courtesy of



    I crossed the street, and the bridge, to L’Opera Nationale. (Photo courtesy of http://www.commons. The statue of the golden horse attracted a few homeless people, but they didn’t hang around long. I saw fewer homeless here than elsewhere in Europe, in fact.




    This area, Place Broglie, is bounded on the east by Strasbourg’s City Hall (Hotel de Ville).(Photo courtesy of

    Hotel de Ville- Place Broglie, Strasbourg


    Strasbourg, like Metz, has a Temple Neuf.  This served as a hospital, in the early medieval period.  It lies at the south end of Place Broglie, directly west of Strasbourg Cathedral.(Photo courtesy of




    Notre Dame de Strasbourg casts a majestic air to what is otherwise a spare concrete desert.  This Gothic giant is the main remnant of Catholicism, in what is a largely Protestant enclave of Alsace. (Photos courtesy of




    From here, I briefly visited Palais Rohan.  This has nothing to do with The Lord of the Rings.  It housed the Bourbon kings and queens, on their visits to Alsace.  Today, it houses Strasbourg’s major art museums. (Photo courtesy of


    The entry way is framed by an arch, on the west flank.(Photo courtesy of



    The courtyard evokes Versailles, sans gold. (Photo courtesy of


    Along the Canal de Lill, I came to Corbeau, and the old Customs House (Hotel de la Douane). (Photo courtesy of  As you might guess, the canals take the place of parks, as the center of social life in Strasbourg.



    Nowhere is more crucial to this than La Petite France, the area of three covered bridges, built by the edict of Louis XV. (Photo courtesy of  Then, as now, this was France’s window on the Rhine.



    La Terrasse Panoramique was the Bourbons’ window on the great river, and was built by Sebastien de Vauban, the great military strategist. (Photo courtesy of JM Rauschenbach @



    It was time for me to leave the crowds at La Petite France behind, and join my Baha’i friends at their centre, on Rue des Veaux.  It is in a densely-populated, but well-lit neighbourhood.  Alsace has been a forward-looking area, and I felt a welcoming spirit here.  (Photo courtesy of

    Rue des Veaux- Strasbourg

    So, my time in France wound down on a very sweet note.  My thanks to all the Baha’i friends in Strasbourg for the uplifting Spiritual Feast, and to all, across the areas of Alsace and Lorraine who made these two days richer and more informative than I had anticipated. It would shortly be time to return to Germany, for four quick days.

September 1, 2014

  • Intolerance

    September 1, 2014-  I read a rather inane discussion, a night or so ago, as to how to deal with an unruly child.  The writer was venting his frustration with parents who don’t teach their children respect for others, from an early age.  One person. also a friend of mine, came on with a Jonathan Swift-style “modest proposal”.  Knowing this individual, it was completely satirical and sarcastic.  Another individual advocated extreme physical punishment- of the child, as he “detests children”.  Most likely, that individual had the childhood from Hell.  I didn’t.  In fact, despite my autism and tendency to wander, my family life was supportive, joyful and stable.

    As our expectations rise, and our fears do not subside, there is a tendency to show intolerance of anyone who’s different- by age group, ability level, economic status, sexual orientation, marital status, race, gender- one here gets off scot-free  Each of us bothers someone else and each of us is bothered, in like manner.  The speed with which we live our lives, leaves no room for discomfort or adjustment.  So, who has the issue?

    I have to own my issues.  I have made my family and friends cringe, when I have owned up to a serious mistake or foible.  My reasoning has been, this is the only way to atone, or to rectify the error.  Usually, that has left me vindicated in the long run, though it has made for short-term discomfort, especially financial.  People are very intolerant of anything that costs them money.

    I am no longer intolerant of others, by and large.  I will not brook abuse of those weaker than the person who is striking out, especially if it is physical or sexual abuse. There are basic standards of decency. Differences which rankle, though, are presented to us by the Universe because to each of us is given the task of becoming more clearly, part of an organic whole. In my case, the answer has, so far, been patience.  Most of those who have annoyed me,  or who have attacked my views, both passively and aggressively, have come back around, so long as I don’t indulge in a counterattack. Maybe, that’s the bottom  line.