Week 136 November 5, 2016

I am posting a day early, as I foresee having little time to log into this site in the next few days…
We were still in Berlin at the beginning of this week. For several weeks the Sammlung-Boros “Art in a Bunker” tour had been sold out, and the only cancellations were for groups being led in German. However fortune favored us as two spots in an English led tour opened up just in time for us to visit. Here we learned a bit more about the bunkers built during WWII, saw several memorable art displays – no photos were allowed, and first heard of Saint Théophane Vénard’s final letter through the piece ‘Desire of the Other‘ by artist Dahn Võ.
The same evening we met up again with our Dutch and Russian friends, who we had met in Macedonia – at her art exhibition titled ‘Morphologien Des Wandels’ – Morphologies of Change.
We also had the pleasure to meet his parents who were visiting Berlin from the Netherlands. Then we bade So long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodbye to Berlin. I think you can choose whichever one you like if you trust Google translate – we had to Abfahrt – depart, Abgang – leave, and take our Ausgang – exit… only for now I hope! After days of gray skies and misty rain the sun shone brightly over Berlin – just in time for our flight to Reykjavik, Iceland. C’est la vie!
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We arrived mid-afternoon in Iceland to totally gray skies too, not unlike our experience two years ago at exactly this time of year, except at that time we were in Churchill on the Hudson Bay in Canada. But here I noticed white roofs! I had to do a double-, even triple-, take. The only time I have ever seen white roofs is when snow has covered the houses, trees, lawns, everything. Here, only some of the roofs were white, and I had to get used to it meaning just that, and that no snow was to be found anywhere right now! In Reykjavik we had a day on a Hop On, Hop Off bus as we had done in Heraklion on Crete. It is one way to have an introduction to, and travel a bit around, a city that is new to us. We stopped to see the large church here – Hallgrimskirkja – and rode the elevator to the top of its impressive tower for the view.
We walked a bit around the harbor to see the Viking ship – an appealing piece of modern art, then had our first Sushi in a long while. We also took an evening Northern Lights tour on a quest to see the elusive Aurora Borealis. We “failed” this time as the tour guide summed it up. I hope this hunt will not be as long a wait as Loren’s goal was to see a moose in the wild earlier on our journey! Not only were art sculptures plentiful, there was also an abundance of street art found on the sides of buildings all around town. 
Another day, during a self-led exploration of the city, we stopped for a hot dog at the famed Baejarins Beztu, but came away with the conclusion that a hot dog is a hot dog is a hot dog – maybe our opinion was affected too from having had curry bratwurst in Hamburg and other wursts Berlin recently. Speaking of food, Loren was also keen to try a traditional Kleina – donut, made the Icelandic way – cut in the shape of a diamond and not glazed, as compared to the more familiar Kleinhuringa which are round and glazed.
We visited the free Museum of Photography, then hiked past the lake…
to Perlan where we enjoyed a bowl of soup in the slowly rotating rooftop cafe, though to us it seemed not to be rotating at all, for another birds’ eye view of the city. We topped off our evening with a visit to a different Sushi barinn – restaurant. Yum!
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We also took a day tour called “Glaciers, Waterfalls and Beaches of Southern Iceland.” I have only had one other experience of seeing a glacier in person – when we were in the Canadian Rocky Mountains on this journey. This time we were able to hike much closer to the edge and actually saw the turquoise in the ice.
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The beaches, like one we visited once in Hawaii, are made of black pebbles, from the volcanic nature of the terrain. Our informative guide Iris but pronounced like Ear-is, described the massive flooding that occurs in the farmlands after a volcano that is buried beneath a glacier erupts. They have to have a specially trained rescue corps and evacuation drills for that reason. Here too we found the familiar basalt columnar formations that we have seen at Devil’s Postpone in California, Devil’s Tower in Wyoming, and the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland.
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One more day here found us visiting Aurora Reykjavik – a museum devoted to the Northern Lights showing photos, videos and information gleaned from NASA. So there to the elusive phenomenon! Well, except that we still hope to see “The Lights” in real life. We also stopped in at the Phallological Museum. Yes, there is actually a museum devoted to displaying specimens from an assortment of animals. We decided to skip on browsing it other than to have a look in the gift shop, which was full of phallic items for sale. I passed on taking any photos but will forever remember the floppy aprons.
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We had one more fulfilling dinner of Sushi before attending Sinfoniuhljomsveit Islands – Iceland’s Symphony Orchestra at Harpa concert hall. This particular program, being performed during the popular music festival named Iceland Airwaves, featured “new music” pieces by talented artists, explaining why I was surprised to find ushers offering packages of ear plugs for sale at the door… A memorable performance was presented by several musicians on a two-tier stage. It was in honor of 10 years of affiliation to the “Bedroom Community” record label, with Crash Ensemble of Ireland. I just realized – there is only one letter difference between Ireland and Iceland! The event was all in collaboration with the orchestra and a choir. It was touching to see some of the performers share happy anniversary hugs between pieces.
Before we leave Iceland, which is mostly not covered by ice, or volcanoes – The Land of Fire and Ice is it’s nickname, we have two more full days planned here. Then we fly to New York for a very special someone’s Sweet Sixteenth birthday celebration!

Week 135 October 29, 2016

From Prague to Berlin via Hamburg is where we traveled this week. We started out our week at the Prague Unitarian Sunday service. While we could not understand their words, we thoroughly enjoyed familiar music from a visiting choir and the melodies of hymns – like Find a Stillness.
We also recognized names attributed to quotes in the Order of Service by, for example, Bertram Russell. Many of the hymns in their songbook were translated from English by the current minister, Rev. Petr, as well as by Norbert Capek – famed historic Czech Unitarian leader. We met two women who also were visiting from a US UU congregation, from Pennsylvania in fact. Loren and I stayed afterwards for a slideshow presentation  on “Transylvanska,” sharing about a trip that some members of this congregation took to Transylvania in September. I reminisced along with them by looking at my own similar photos of Transylvania on my cell phone.
That afternoon we went to see the movie, Anthropoid, suggested to us by our European UU friends, at a theater that showed it in English with Czech subtitles. While it was a difficult show to watch, it was well worth it for the history it portrays, that took place right in Prague. On a lighter note, this movie house has some entertaining seat covers, and, the building houses unique art by a current Czech – that hanging statue is of Good King Wenceslas on his horse, hanging upside down. Later we walked around town and saw the “Dancing Building” as well. Fun!
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Back on a more somber note, we walked to the Prague church with the Catacombs where much of the events in the Anthropoid movie took place, as suggested by our newest UU friend. The kind attendant made sure that we saw the interior with the actual tombs not just the many exhibition description boards, even though it was nearing closing time.
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When we arrived in Prague, we were wearing sweaters, but by the time we left we needed our jackets and wool hats too. We brought our visit to a close in Prague with a memorable Italian dinner. We had an overnight bus ride to Hamburg which entailed 5 hours by bus to Berlin, then 3 more on to Hamburg, partly through some scenic vistas.
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We were picked up at the Hamburg station by the grandson of dear UU friends of ours from California. Loren had visited with their daughter, his mom, and her family in Oregon in the fall of 2014 while I was teaching yoga in California, meeting this young man then. When he saw on our blog that we were in Europe he reached out for us to meet up. We three had a fun evening on the Hamburg harbor, including walking the long tunnel below the river for a distant view of the city, before a lovely visit and overnight stay with our friends’ exchange student, her husband and cat. These families are long time friends, and we were happy to visit together with these family members too.
We spent the next morning with our friend for a daytime tour of the city before our bus to Berlin. Hamburg is Germany’s second largest city. We saw the BlumenundPlanten – Flowers and Plants park, the Botanical Garden, and tried traditional foods here, including Apfelschorle – apple juice with sparkling water. It was wonderful to spend this brief but memorable time here with this friend!
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We are now in Berlin and have had several days to tour parts of this amazing city, the largest in Germany. We began with the East side Gallery to see the longest piece of the Berlin wall – a mile purposely left standing for historic purposes, and, a memorial museum about life during the Cold War. In all, the original wall was nearly 100 miles long. The rest of it came tumbling down on the night of November 10, 1989, when the citizens of East and West Berlin knew the time was right and began to hack it apart. We also visited an open air museum of the wall with moving accounts of people’s experiences.
We have used the U-Bahn and metro systems in Berlin which has made it convenient to travel around the city. We found a Bikram Yoga studio where Loren and I took a few classes together this week. It has felt so good to be back in the hot room in Prague and now Berlin! We have also seen Berlin’s Brandenburg Tor – Gate, and Oberbaum Bridge of red bricks… both have witnessed so much history.
Then we visited remembrances of the suffering and struggles during the Nazi regime and World War II – specifically, Memorial to the Murdered Jews, Checkpoint Charlie, and The Jewish Museum.
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We were told that we would see Stolpersteine – stepping stones, “everywhere” in Berlin as small memorials with some small mention of victims, but I have only seen one here so far, and it is so different from the similar gold bricks we had seen in Freiburg last fall.
At our AirBnB I flipped through the German language version of a book about John Lennon, understanding none of the writing including even the title, but enjoying seeing his drawings in it. Tomorrow, Loren and I are off to Reykjavik, Iceland…
PLEASE NOTE: This week we have access to good internet, but we may not in the next few weeks. Please visit here again to find our next post when we can.


Week 126 August 27, 2016

“How could it possibly be the end of August?” I ask. Loren has remarked several times, “We only have so much time in life and we don’t know how much time we are going to have.” That is true both of life and on our journey. In the meantime we are having the times of our lives and are so very grateful to be realizing our dreams of travel now. We will just continue to take it one-day-to-three-months at a time.
This week began with us attending Sunday service at the Kolozsvar 1 congregation in Transylvania, also in Cluj, Romania. This needs a little explanation, and this is what we were told: Kolozsvar, is the name of the city in Hungarian, which is the language of Transylvania. After World War I the region of Transylvania was taken from Hungary and given to Romania. For a brief time during World War II Transylvania was returned to Hungary, then at the close of World War II it was again turned over to Romania. To the Romanians, Kolozsvar is named Cluj, and the Romanians do not understand why the Transylvanians do not speak the Romanian language. The Transylvanians prefer to retain their Hungarian language and heritage, though are content to be in Romania.
Kolozsvar 1 is one of three Unitarian congregations in the city of Kolozsvar. This one is near our AirBnB, in the same block on the same street as the Unitarian Headquarters building, and, the Unitarian schools – both the seminary and the primary-through-high-school, school. We felt fortunate that the current intern at Kolozsvar 1 was able to sit with us during the service and to translate the concepts of the sermon, as had been done for us in Arkos and in Medias by each minister’s wife. As you might notice from the sign on the door which is as historic as the whole area I might add, how different the Hungarian language is. I can make out words, what I believe might say “Worship 11am” and possibly “Preaching Today:” and the minister’s name, but with little to no certainty.  
Sunday was also the finale of the Hungarian Cultural Days in Kolozsvar. We attended part of a marathon org – organ, concert, then with our AirBnB host we saw an operatte – a performance of popular songs which included in Hungarian what we could recognize as If I Were A Rich Man. She also helped us purchase a local favorite langos – said longoosh, which is a pastry filled with cheese and sauce. Loren and I then saw a brass performance – the musicians sat high over us on the balcony of the large church tower.
We met up with our host again for the evening concert which ended the festivities. In all, Hungarian Days are a delightful, family friendly community gathering. Our friend, the Unitarian minister had warned us that the concert would be “many people – like 30.000, celebrating together.” We were happy to be two among them!

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The next day we met our friend for a tour of the Unitarian school where she had attended herself and where she now teaches Religion and Social Studies. The building was built in 1900. Fortunately the two early museums inside have been preserved through all the turmoil during that century. We enjoyed a meaningful visit over lunch with her afterwards. It is sad that Transylvania is so far from California as we would be happy to spend more time with her and the other fabulous Hungarian Unitarians who we met and visited with too briefly while we were here.
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It was fortunate thst the weather waited a day for the Hungarian Days events to finish before it let loose with a storm. Our afternoon hike planned turned into a visit to one of the malls in Kolozsvar. I needed to replace the camera I have become so fond of but with the sands from Namibia still causing it to act up more – or rather neglect to act properly at all, it was time to bid it farewell. I want to mention how often we have been asked on visiting in parts of Europe and Africa, “Where you come from?” Loren likes to respond with playing a guessing game. He encourages the person to enumerate with him where the English speaking areas of the world are: Australia, Canada, England, Holland also sometimes comes up in the list, New Zealand, Scotland, South Africa, The United States of America, and, then have them pick. The United States is usually not their first guess…
It took us all day to travel from Kolozsvar/Cluj, Romania to Split, Croatia, due to limited airline scheduling. In the waiting room for the first of our two flights, I heard chatter, then smiled at being part of the world community when I heard “email” and “internet” interspersed in otherwise unrecognizable words. It reminds me of years ago when on a business trip to Canada and, sitting in a restaurant by myself I overheard “income tax” within a French conversation… Coincidentally we actually spent most of our travel day to Croatia in France – at the borders of Germany and Switzerland, but, in the technically non-Schengen Basel/Freiburg International airport in Mulhouse, France. We were glad to successfully pass through immigration with our knowledge of the Schengen visa.
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Our day ended with a night flight into Split, Croatia. So Loren jokes, “We split for Split!”
In Split, our AirBnb is situated next to the train and bus stations, which are next to the harbor. There are a vast number of sailing vessels, cruise ships, and tour boats lining the docks. It continues to be August – when most of the people of Europe are still on holiday, and Split is definitely a popular destination. I totally understand why! We have spent time exploring the city centre which spills out and around the preserved and restored ruins of the Diocletian Palace, built during the Roman Empire.
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We have also hiked around the end of the peninsula and over Mount Marjan to put our feet in the beautiful Mediterranean Sea. Well ok, so I did that, while Loren swam in it. All along we had the pungent smell of pine, the relentless sound of cicada, the sun shining in the blue sky over breathtaking scenery… in other words, all pleasant experiences. 
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My cousin, who’s daughter-in-law hails from Croatia, had warned us about the food and needing to work off the additional extra weight we will gain… Cherry grappa, yum! Fresh fruits, soup and veggies with garlic and oil that our AirBnB host has provided for us, yum! Yum! So, we also did a bit of hiking around the spectacular vistas of Krka – said Kirka, National Park. It is so impressive that we plan to return before we leave Croatia.
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Tomorrow we will take another hike around the peninsula at least – our extra calories need to be worked off!
PLEASE NOTE: While this week we have sufficient internet access, we may not have service in the countries we are visiting in the coming weeks. Please visit again, I will add my weekly post when it is possible.

REPOSTING in Progress: Weeks 2 to 109

This place holder is for the entries from our original blog to be added, eventually. Please check back – this re-creation is a labor of Love and will take a bit of  t-i-m-e- which, while still traveling, we do not always have a lot available to devote to this.