September 29, 2014

  • Trailheads and Trails, Volume 1, Issue 21: Wupatki of the Valley

    August 31, 2014-  Wupatki National Monument, centered on the “Tall House”, for which the Hopi gave this series of ruins its name, sprawls across a wide high desert valley, just north  of the San Francisco Peaks.  It is administered jointly with Sunset Crater National Monument, which lies 18 miles to the southeast, but is a worthy destination all its own, for those seeking to understand the predecessors of today’s Hopi, and other Pueblo dwellers.  The volcano known as Sunset Crater erupted in 1240 AD, and was thus responsible for the emptying out of settlements both here and in Walnut Canyon, the subject of my previous post.

    I will start this account at Lomaki Pueblo, the northwesternmost of the ruins, and proceed southeastward.

    Lomaki and Box Canyon- This is a small, rough area, and was probably a way station for traders heading towards, or way from, the Little Colorado valley and salt gathering locations in the Grand Canyon.  Box Canyon was the gardening area for the fifty or so residents who maintained Lomaki.

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    Nalakihu and The Citadel- This hillock, just south of Lomaki, provided the Wupatki settlers with a vantage point to both signal distant villages and to observe those approaching from the north and west.  Nalakihu, halfway up the hill, served as a farming enclave and a sort of suburb to the small, crowded Citadel.

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    The Citadel lived up to its name.  I can envision the guards keeping watch on those headed along the trail which preceded the present-day road that leads to the ruins of the main settlement.

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    Wupatki Pueblo-  This is the grand settlement, closest to the main water source, and the relative safety of Woodhouse Mesa.  Runoff from the Doney Cliffs, two miles west, gave the settlers plenty of water.  There were large farm fields around the dwellings and common rooms.  Then, as now, corn (maize) was a staple, in various colours.  The modern Puebloans, including the Hopi, have preserved these varieties, and blue corn is the most famous and popular of the breeds.  I was delighted with the company of a family from India, who had settled in Phoenix, recently.  I started at one of the outlying houses, going clockwise around the settlement, as is my preference.

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    The people would patch holes in the square, chimney-like structures, with solid applications of thick, gooey mud, which was almost impermeable, once dry.

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    The native stone of the area is porous sandstone, but was useful for shoring up the mud brick, and for walkways to the fields and to the trading route.

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    All major buildings had strategic portals, to the east, for praying and to the west, for observation of anyone who might be approaching.SAM_2721

    Physical exercise was often communal, and the men would engage in a ball game, not unlike soccer, or lacrosse, though it seemed to have been played with a small, handball-type implement.  Ball courts were common in settlements around the Southwest.SAM_2725

    A blowhole, which produces cool air in times of dry heat above, and sucks air down, when the outside air is wet and moist.  It was blowing nice and cold, when I went up to take this photo.  The father of the Indian family had never experienced such a thing, and wondered if a cave was underneath.  The Hopi call this site Naapontsa, or “Wind Spirit”.

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    Below, is the Community Room of Wupatki Pueblo, where spiritual meetings and important community forums were held.

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    The father of the family who were with me, graciously took some photos of me, in front of Great House.

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    No, I was not turned into Jabba the Hutt!

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    Here is a more extensive view of Great House.

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    Sunset is always magnificent.  Here, it had a particularly auspicious ambiance.

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    Wukoki- This settlement was the easternmost of the outposts in Wupatki Pueblo.  It also looked down on the valley, but was not quite as prominent as The Citadel.  It most likely received visitors from the Walnut Canyon and Homolovi settlements, to the south and east, as well as traders from further afield.  As the sun continue dto set, Wukoki also offered some eerie views.

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    The rocks have character, as they do throughout the Southwest.  They also gave Wukoki an added layer of protection.

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    The watch tower was especially sophisticated for its day.  Bear in mind that this square building style pre-dated European contact.  Squares and rectangles provided the means to protect against wind and water erosion.

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    This sort of building style is actually the more common, among even later Pueblo groups.  The round structures, also associated with the indigenous peoples of the Southwest, arrived with Athapascan groups, such as the Dineh (Navajo) and Indeh (Apache), later in the pre-Columbian era. I will continue to visit the sites of those who have gone before, over the course of the next several months.  Next, though, is a look at the cause of their diaspora:  Sunset Crater

  • Trailheads and Trails, Volume 1, Issue 20: Walnut Canyon, Flagstaff

    August 31, 2014- I spent Sunday of Labor Day weekend, nearly a month ago, walking and re-acquainting myself with two Flagstaff-area National Monuments that pertain to the Sinagua people, who were ancestors of the Hopi, Zuni and Tewa people of today.  I have been to both Walnut Canyon and Wupatki National Monuments, several times, but not since Penny passed on.  It was time to make another visit.

    I went to Walnut Canyon first, as it is the more archaeologically-sensitive and needs to be shuttered and locked up, each night.  The centerpiece is the Island Trail, which takes visitors to a “sky island”, separate from the Colorado Plateau.  It is there that most of the Sinagua ruins are to be found.  The rest, in cliffs, to the east and

    west of the sky island, can be easily seen from there, but are not accessible to the public.  First, is the view of the canyon, from the Visitors’ Center.

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    The next several shots are of the Sky Island and its ruins.  It is my practice to walk around an area clockwise.  Most people prefer to go counterclockwise, so I find myself coming across more folks coming from the other direction.

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    The overhangs made natural places of refuge, and many were used as open-air kitchens, hence the soot marks that are visible in some scenes.

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    This informational sign describes the snowberry, a medicinal plant, used by the Sinagua for treating gastrointestinal ailments.

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    Now for some views across the canyon, to the dwellings outside Sky Island.

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    Lastly, Mother Nature throws in some rock formations that just seem to have personality.

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    Walnut Canyon may be said to have been one of the safer spots for the Sinagua, given its relative inaccessibility in pre-Columbian days.

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    NEXT:  Wupatki

September 25, 2014

  • An Eastward Homage, Appendix: Two Washington-Area Gardens

    August 2-3, 2014- So as not to belabour the point, this post will be concerned with my visit to two beautiful gardens, while in Washington, last month, for the interment of my father-in-law.  The first is solemn, and relatively new:  The Pentagon 9/11 Memorial, which is a five-minute walk from my hotel in Arlington.  The second is a golden oldie:  The United States Botanic Garden, an arm of the Smithsonian Institution, with plants from around the globe.

    First, the Pentagon Memorial.  It is, somehow, the most controversial of the three memorials to the fallen of that horrific day. I think that those who disbelieve it ever happened are just not capable of processing a real-time tragedy, on such a grand scale.  The same is certainly true of the Holocaust.  Yet, these events did take place, and innocent lives were lost.  The plane disintegrated into tiny fragments, the wall was decimated on the west side of the Pentagon, and the area is now a suitable memorial for those who took off, and never landed, on September 11, 2001.

    Here are some of the scenes, starkly beautiful.

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    The scene below shows a small memorial in the far background, a three-pronged steel sculpture set up by the Marriott Corporation, near its Pentagon-area hotel.

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    No matter who one thinks is responsible for these heinous acts, the important things to me are the loss of innocent life, and the need to say, and mean, “Never again!”.

    On Sunday, August 3, I spent a more joyful hour at the United States Botanic Garden, along the Smithsonian Row, south of the US Capitol.  Here are several scenes of that exquisite place.  As you can see, there are plants from rain forests, English and Japanese gardens and deserts alike.  I was drawn to the Mistletoe Cactus, though I can’t envision two lovers embracing in its midst.

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    This was the perfect counterpart to my secular pilgrimage along the National Mall. I think the saner members of Congress must find there way here, on a regular basis.  My Eastward Homage would end the next day, as I said farewell and see you again, to one of the most powerful men I’ve ever known.

September 23, 2014

  • An Eastward Homage, Epilogue: Arlington and DC

    August 3-4, 2014- No sooner had I landed in Phoenix on July 7, than I received an e-mail that my Father-in-Law’s interment at Arlington National Cemetery would be August 4. It didn’t take long for my airline and hotel reservations to be made, and a budget drawn up for the four days I’d be gone.

    I used to live at Fort Myer, VA, in the days when I was an Army postal cerk. I was always challenged by the Third Infantry sentry at North Gate, to tidy up this wrinkle or straighten that fatigue cap.  They never liked my hair, which was understandable, since none of them ever got to have any.

    Pop was laid to rest in Arlington, on schedule-actually, three months posthumously, but it was a scheduling issue, and the ceremony was dignified and befitting of his service.  I don’t take photographs at funerals.  I did, however, have the waiter at Sky Lounge, Doubletree Crystal City, take a couple of family photos at our Sunday night dinner.  BIL (in ball cap) pronounced the photo useless, but hey, can see his smiling face, just fine.

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    Earlier in the day, I meandered around Washington, DC, visiting a few old haunts from the Capitol grounds to mid-Pennsylvania Avenue to the southern edge of the National Mall.  Here are a few of the scenes, which I found preserved on a different SIM card than the one I thought I’d used.

    The Capitol is closed on Sunday, but the grounds are worth a visit, in and of themselves. The Empty Edifice does look grand from the outside, and across a Reflecting Pool.

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    Here a few other views from the south lawn.

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    Then, I went around to the north side.

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    In light of recent events at the White House, this barrier from 2001 seems more prudent than ever.  Of course, the Capitol is not exactly frenetic with activity right now.

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    I spent some time at the United States Botanic Garden, the National Museum of the American Indian, Smithson Castle, and along the National Mall.  The Garden will be the topic of an ‘appendix”,next post.  At the American Indian facility, I focused on the Indians of Central America. I had read about Minor Keith and United Fruit Company, and the sacrifices forced on the indigenous people of Guatemala.  Ironically, Keith’s smiling face is featured in an exhibit on “Benefactors of the Smithsonian”.  So, at least some of his money went into preserving the very culture he saw fit to plow under.  Below, is the entrance to the building.

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    Here is an homage to those instances when Europeans and Native Americans got along. Since I have ancestors on both sides of that fence, I only wish the Europeans had been a bit less hasty in seeking “assimilation” of the indigenous folks.

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    A second spot I visited briefly was Smithson Castle, the original facility of the Smithsonian Institution, now a Visitor Center for the entire complex.

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    Washington is second to none, with its gardens.  The verdure outside the Castle is a prime example.

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    I paid my respects at the World War II Memorial, especially important, given the circumstances of my visit.

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    Constitution Garden, a misnomer at present, seemed to be calling to Congress to address its condition.

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    I paid my respects, privately, at the Vietnam Memorial Wall, then went by the Korean War Memorial (below).

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    A good long-term remedy to constant warfare is a proper education.  Washington has had some good schools, and some mediocre.  This was the first public school in the nation’s capital.

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    On July 4, 2007, Penny and I had the bright idea of taking our son to the National Mall, and hopefully viewing the fireworks.  The weather was horrible, the Mall was evacuated, and in trying to get my wheelchair-bound wife out of the rain, I met a fair amount of resistance from “security” along Massachusetts Avenue.  We finally found refuge, at the White House Visitor Center.

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    The last place I stopped in Washington, on August 3, was the DC Africa Festival.  This year marked the third year of this lively event.

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    As is my wont, I will post two more pieces to this series:  United States Botanic Garden and the Pentagon Memorial.

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 http://www.hotels.com)

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    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!)

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    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.

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    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 ofhttp://www.freerepublic.com)

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    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 http://www.thirdreichruins.com)

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    through a door like this, (Photo courtesy of http://www.kilroywashere.com)

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

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    They spent time, after coming back from the mine, in this “work station”. (Photo courtesy ofhttp://www.thirdreichruins.com)

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    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 ofhttp://www.channelnationalgeographic.com)

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    Now, the area looks like this. (Photo courtesy of en.immostreet.com)Prison 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 andrea-kublitz.de)

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    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. (www.en.wikipedia.org)

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    North of the train station, Berga could be Everytown, Deutschland.  There is a bright, red Rathaus. (Photo courtesy of http://www.commons.wikipedia.org)

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    A small town square sits in front of the Town Hall. (Photo courtesy of http://www.stock-clip.com)

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    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 http://www.amberrom.org)

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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 http://www.media-cdn.tripadvisor.com)

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    Eisenach is a largely-restored medieval town, with an inviting arch at the entry to its Zentrum. (Photo courtesy of http://www.orangesmile.com)

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    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 ofhttp://www.expats.cz)

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    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 ofhttp://www.skyscrapercity.com)

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    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)

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    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 http://www.schlarafia-geraha.de)

     

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    The Kitchen Garden intervenes magnificently. (Photo courtesy of http://www.virtualtourist.com)

     

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    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 http://www.staedte-photos.de)

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    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 http://www.venere.com)

     

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    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 http://www.gera.de)

     

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    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 http://www.gera.de)

    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 http://www.jotz.de)

    Gera Arkaden

     

    German teens abounded inside the mall, just as their contemporaries do across our continent, and across Europe.  (Photo courtesy of http://www.wp.myshakeria.de)

     

     

    Gera-Arcaden Interior 2

     

    Gera has its share of churches, two of the most prominent being Catholic.  First, we see Johanniskerke. (Photo courtesy of http://www.gettyimages.com)

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    Across town,and up the hill a bit, is St. Mary’s Church (Marienkerke).  (Photo courtesy ofhttp://www.shutterstock.com)

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

    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 de.wikipedia.org)

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    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 http://www.abahaipoint.com)

     

    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 en.wikipedia.org)

     

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    (Photo courtesy of http://www.bahai.us)

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    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 http://www.bahai.com)

     

    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 http://www.emporis.com)

     

    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 http://www.freizestars.de)  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.

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    The Left Bank in this area is called Untermainkai, or “lower quay of the Main”. (Photo courtesy ofhttp://www.tripadvisor.com)

     

    untermainkai-frankfurt

     

    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 http://www.frankfurt.de)

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    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 http://www.commons.wikipedia.org)

    Frankfurt_Am_Main-Leonhardskirche-Ansicht_vom_Mainkai-Gegenwart

     

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

     

    Frankfurt_Am_Main-Alte_Nikolaikirche-Ansicht_vom_Fahrtor-20081230

     

    Romerberg itself is one area I would like to explore further, on another visit. (Photo courtesy ofhttp://www.commons.wikipedia.org)

     

    Frankfurt_Römerberg_Ostzeile

     

    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 ofhttp://www.commons.wikipedia.org)

     

     

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    About a block from the Dom, I crossed to the Right Bank, using Floesserbruecke. (Photo courtesy ofhttp://www.holidaychecker.de).  The foot traffic was heavy, in both directions.

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

     

     

     

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    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 ofhttp://www.skyscrapercity.com)

    799px-Museumsuferfest_2005_-_Schaumainkai_Tiefufer

    The Flohmarkt (Flea Market)  is also here during the day on Friday and Saturday. (Photo courtesy ofhttp://www.panoramio.com)

    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 en.wikipedia.org)

     

    Museum der Weltkulturen, Frankfurt

     

    and Museum Giersch, which houses art and other cultural treasures of the Main River Valley. (Photo courtesy of http://www.lonelyplanetimages.com)

     

     

     

     

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    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 http://www.panoramio-frankfurt.de)

     

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

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    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