Week 181 September 16, 2017

After resting up and looking around a bit in Santiago this week, Loren and I were on the move again in Spain. Somehow, we booked a flight to Bilbao, through Barcelona… In retrospect we flew clear across the country, and, nearly all the way back in the process. What a lesson in planning we have learned. However, the kicker was that my backpack did not show up in Bilbao. It was my turn, given that Loren had had the same experience on arriving in Marrakech, Morocco last July. So, we filed the necessary paperwork and received their apologies in a letter in English. As we left I kept my fingers crossed…
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As is often the case but usually left unsaid we need to express our thanks to family and friends who contribute ideas of where to go and what to see. This week especially, family and friends come to mind in that we briefly visited Bilbao – only long enough to see the Guggenheim Bilbao Museum that was recommended. It is unique, extremely different from my 30+ memories of the New York City site. Guggenheim architecture brought a bizarre, quaint redesign to a former unattractive part of this town. For some reason, I could not stop thinking of Bilbo in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit while we were there…
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From Bilbao we went to the amazing Picos de Europa mountains, again recommended to us. As I drove the meandering then winding landscape, it elicited such remarks from Loren as “charming,” “picturesque,” “scenic,” and “spectacular,” for the beaches, valleys and mountains we passed. As dusk turned dark, he added several “Wow!” exclamations for the discernible outlines of pyramidal peaks and narrow canyons. We are so glad that we chose to visit this area for a few days to see more of it during daylight.
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I had written recently on this blog of how, when we were in Portugal’s Duoro region, I could not shift out of second gear for the curves in the roads. This week I must report that I could barely shift out of first gear for some of the mountainous turns in the Picos! One day we drove high up in the area, and, after a picnic lunch we took a leisurely hike in the vast mountains.
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We found ourselves among cows, mules and donkeys, not far from herds of sheep and some goats. We visited a refugio – pronounced re-few–hee-oh, for a refreshing drink, where we learned the name of one young donkey is Pepa, and that she is a señorita. After checking out the interior of the refugio, she decidedly checked us out! Loren and I had first encountered a refugio in Italy with our friends near Verona, where it is pronounced re-few-gee-oh. As Pepa trotted off again, it was entertaining to see her kick up her hind heels. By that evening we had heard nothing from the airline about my backpack. They said it could take 48 hours…
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The next day we started out early in the morning by foot for a strenuous hike. We had a time limit – to meet up with a tour company at the far end of the canyon for a 4 wheel drive excursion through farm roads in the area. Loren and I pushed ourselves about halfway through to the end to make our commitment, only to find that the tour had been rescheduled for a 45 minute later departure.
We appreciated the frequently heard Spanish advice, tranquillo – relax, and indulged in a beer with our hiking boots off while we waited. That evening there was still no word from the airline at our hostal, and we were all set to get help with calling them after dinner since it was now more than 48 hours, but, to my delight, during dinner we had the good news that my bag would arrive by 10pm. Bueno! Good! Thankfully just as in Morocco we had stayed in the same area long enough for it to be found and delivered.
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Our last full day in the Picos was spent driving around the area, which included seeing a cave chapel and taking a short hike.
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Today on leaving, we took take the return long beautiful drive towards Bilbao, mainly in rain or heavy clouds, to spend the night closer to the airport for an early morning flight to southern Spain. We took photos at the lovely beach of Orinon, then, after stopping in Castro Urdiales to see if we could have a massage but found the place closed for a holiday, we drove on to San Sebastian. We still had too little time there to walk the promenade or take a boat ride to Santa Clara island to hike, which is right in the harbor, so this is yet another place that I hope we might return to someday…
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Week 180 September 9, 2017

Dear Family and Friends, thank you for reaching out to us here and via email or other ways to contact us, Loren and I always appreciate hearing from you! 

An extra overnight in Tui was just what we had needed, given the time change from Portugal to Spain which cost us a lost hour. We spent a most enjoyable evening with Arturo, our AirBnB host, who took us to a friend’s finca (farm) to see veinte vaca y un toro – 20 cows and a bull, as well as a prized stallion and 3 young mares.

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Arturo then drove us to his parents’ home. Here we toured their finca including goats and fruit trees, had a light meal with his father Tomas’ delicious homemade wine, and, finished the evening with a treat of an ancient Galician custom of after dinner liqueurs. The atmosphere changed from one of light chatter to a serious urgency of closing shutters and lowering of lights. Loren read the instructed incantation in Spanish, while Arthur put flame to a pot of alcohol, at the same time his mother Dori and sister Noami feverishly chopped and added fresh fruits to it. It was very tasty! Spain is known as the California of Europe and the region Galicia is nicknamed Galifornia. We felt so at home!
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Then we embarked on a milestone adventure. Back in 2014 when Loren and I were in Missoula, Montana we saw the movie, Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago, at a theater. I wrote then on this blog, “Here is another possible goal for down our journey road!” Who knew that my wistful comment would become reality? Recent yoga classes, hikes in New York and in Portugal were good physical prep. We hired a travel company to transport our backpacks and arrange accommodation each night. We are among the nearly 300,000 who arrived in Santiago, and of 14% who traveled the Portuguese Way.
The best way to describe our experience is to share my poem with a few photos:
Divine Distractions
A plethora of scallop shell markers, yellow wooden arrows nailed to trees, pointers of yellow and blue paint on pavement and poles, leading to Saint James’ remains.
Chapels, churches, church bells, cathedrals, cathedral bells, a convent, a monastery. A Sunday mass amplified over the countryside. The lure to finish for noon’s Pilgrim Mass.
Statues, tributes, memorials, monuments. Via Romana XIX ancient route indicators. Any number of signposts, street signs, roadside progress maps. A glass or more of wine.
Scooters, cars, motorcycles, trucks, tractors, trailers, trains. Houses, farms, businesses, buildings. Stone structures of the ages. A 1906 Reserva Especial cerveza.
Forest paths, country lanes, city streets – dirt, gravel, cobblestone, tarmac. Stray dogs, cats. Barking dogs inside gated fences. Hungry cats meowing. A taste of Albariño wine.
Multitudes of grape or kiwi vines propped on historic granite pillars, providing arbors for shade. Blue grapes, red grapes, green grapes, white grapes, hang in bunches on the vines.
Laden fruit trees – apple, peach, pear prevalent; fig, and quince, too. Low rock walls covered with moss. Beautiful flowers. Delightful songbirds. A bottle of wine.
Abundant vegetable gardens of squash, kale, beans, melons, peppers, tomatoes, protected by creative, entertaining scarecrows. Vegetation of all sorts. Another bottle of wine.
Varied landscapes. Scents of mint, eucalyptus. Flowing waters in brooks, creeks, rivers, ponds, the Atlantic ocean. Silent counting, recounting, to 100 on steep uphill climbs.
Coops full of clucking chickens. Crowing of roosters, even the sighting of some. Elevated concrete or wooden corn cribs, both new and ancient. An Estrella Galicia Cerveza Especial.
The occasional horse in a grassy field. Herds of sheep. Bleating of goats. A single donkey. A gaggle of geese. Unexpected hunters’ gunfire. Fireworks. A 1906 Red Vintage cerveza.
Solo bicyclists, in pairs, even groups. Once 16: first 8, then 1, then 5 including one boy, then 2 including one lone woman – almost all clad in the same outfit. Yet another bottle of wine.
Locals, some with dogs on or off leash. Sounds of others’ singing, chanting, cheering, even raucous revelry. A gift of ear plugs. Comfort in the cantor’s sweet voice and song leading.
Numerous other walkers, pilgrims. Words spoken in accents from dialects of Spanish, Portuguese, German, Irish, Italian, American English, Dutch, Slovene, likely some others.
Camaraderie at rest stops on benches, at picnic tables, in cafes, bars, hotel restaurants. More connection while obtaining required stamps, or soaking of feet in caldas termas.
Making new friends, sharing advice, exchanging ideas, meaningful conversations, and, so many Buen Camino’s of encouragement given and received from friendly well-wishers.
All divinely distracting our minds from aches, pains and tender feet, from hiking Tui to Porrino, Arcade to Pontevedra, Caldas de Reis to Padron, Rua de Francos to Santiago.
Culminating in the Certificates commemorating the over 100 memorable kilometers walked on the Portuguese Way of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, with my best friend.
Claire Adalyn Wright
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P.S. Our Pilgrim Mass at Catedral de Santiago included the swinging of the Botafumeiro. As it is not always used, we were privileged to witness the several priests offering it!
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P.P.S. Loren and I celebrated 26 years of marriage on September 1, and, we celebrated Loren’s birthday on the 5th with fun help from special friends on the Camino.
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Week 179 September 2, 2017

When Loren and I left Rio Caldo, Portugal, we drove on a gorgeous, long, windy road up a mountain to Parque Nacional da Peneda-Geres, which is a border park to Spain’s Baixa Limia Serra do Xures Parque Natural. We are uncertain if our four hour hike across seven bridges – and one natural bridge that I found – took us over the border, but for certain we drove through the park in Espana afterwards, for a shorter route to reach our AirBnB, Casa do Preto – House of Black, in Portugal. There was no need to show our passaportas anyway, as both countries are within the European Union.

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Contrary to what our friends Marisa and Vieira advised about Pitões das Junias: “There is nothing there!” – we enjoyed visiting a growing community. We understand from new hiking friends there that in the past few years it has been named among the top 10 villages of Portugal. On our first day in Pitões (said p-tosh) we took a long day hike – down one mountain and up another, to see an igreja – church and back. On the way there, we stopped at a swimming hole where Loren dove in for a refreshing respite.

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The next day, a group of more than thirty members of the nearby Vila Real city hiking club showed up en masse at the restaurant at our overnight accommodation.

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Loren befriended them and we had the fortune to join in their day hike to an abandoned mosteiro – monastery, a cascata – waterfall, and then a little bit more walking with them around Pitões. I counted 217 stairs on the way back up from one of the viewpoints of the cascata.

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Afterwards, they bestowed us gifts from their club and a pair of hand made hiking poles, saying this represents a connection between America and Portugal. Very special!

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Loren and I took another, shorter walk before leaving Pitões, then drove on to the Douro region. It was like driving to Napa in California, except that the vineyards are planted on extremely steep, terraced mountainsides, offering dramatic views into canyons with each turn of the winding road. We drove through Alijo, stopped in Favaios for a tour and tasting at Cooperativa Adega winery, then, drove on to our AirBnB in Pinhão (peen-yow).

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Our studio apartment here was in a home high on a steep incline from the main street where we had parked our car. I counted 69 stairs back down. We were greeted with the news that “This week will be tropical,” and learned how lucky we are in that their recent heat wave of 50 degrees celsius, which is 122 degrees Fahrenheit, had just passed with the day’s thunderstorm. We were grateful for the abundance of ripe, flavorful figs and several green bell peppers offered to us from the rear yard. The tomatoes sadly were scorched in the heat, and the pears and peaches not quite ready to enjoy. One day we hiked way up a mountain behind our house to Quinta do Jalloto, (Jalloto Winery), after enjoying a cup of Galone (coffee light) at our hosts’ cafe.

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On our hike, Loren picked ripe grapes that were growing alongside the road, then he found sweet peaches for us to taste! We also collected some ripe almonds that were popping out of their skins to take back to crack open later. Olives, apricots, and citrus trees were plentiful too, though the olives and fruits were not yet ready other than some of the oranges. All these varieties are familiar to us from the San Francisco Bay Area. At Jalloto, we tasted more wine varieties. My question is: How does one taste wines, find a flavor one likes, and not buy oneself a bottle? Even with the hiking here, and the Bikram yoga and hiking that we did in New England and New York, I am still carrying too many excess pounds… no wonder.

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On our last full day in Portugal, we were slow to leave the apartment, which turned out to be a good thing… There came a knock at our door from one of our hosts who asked if we were ready to leave. Leave? She then told us that we had agreed to move to a different apartment for the last night, and she needed us to move within the hour as new guests were arriving! Loren vaguely remembered that he had agreed to this some time ago, but I was totally surprised. I had completely settled in… Fortunately with traveling light we were moved in an hour, and, to our pleasure the second accommodation seemed a bit nicer. We had only 49 stairs to the main street front this one.

Even with our delayed departure for the day, we still had time to drive a lovely windy road from Pinhão to the town of Regua, then on to the city of Lamego where we had a delightful afternoon observing and participating in some activities for Festa Nossa Senhora dos Remédios. We parked our car, hiked down to the city center, then up the few hundred steps at the far end of town to the Santuario Nossa Senhora dos Remédios cathedral.

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We had been told that there are nearly 700 steps up to the cathedral, but, they seemed way too easy – I was sure it was maybe 200 or so. However, later I confirmed it online to be almost 700. Inside the church was beautiful. We took a peaceful dirt path back down to the city center, bought some delectable cheese, olives, beans and pastries, then hiked back up to our car for the delightful return drive.

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On our way to return the rental car, we took another exquisite scenic drive on roads so full of curves that I could barely take my eyes off the road or even shift out of 2nd gear – I would no sooner put the car in 3rd then have to immediately downshift for the next curve. I am leaving Portugal with – as is true of almost every place that we have traveled – a hope and desire to return. For now, what I take with me is the memory of how friendly, kind, honest and helpful the people are. I also have the new knowledge that Portugal is the largest exporter of cork in the world from the bark of their cork trees. And, that Portuguese is among the top 10 spoken world languages, per lists topped by Mandarin, Spanish and English.

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A quick afternoon bus ride has brought us to Spain – I say quick because it arrived in Tui or Tuy – it appears that you can choose either of these as your preferred spelling, same as with Porto or Oporto in Portugal – more than an hour earlier than scheduled, and no, the driver was not exceeding the speed limit. We hiked a quarter of a mile uphill from the gas station where we were dropped off, with all our belongings strapped on us or carried in our hands.

We have two nights at Arturo’s AirBnB; from here we will begin our weeklong sojourn on a part of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela – the Walk to Santiago of the Field of Stars, also known as Saint James Way. We spotted our first scallop shell image in Lamego, Portugal, being one of the yellow directional pointers which we will be seeking many more of during this coming week. It is said that the lines represent the different routes that people travel from all over the world, to arrive at the end point: the believed tomb of Saint James in Santiago, Spain.

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Week 178 August 26, 2017

I discovered this meaningful quote and translation on the back of the tickets from our visit to the Tower of Belem last week, and thought it worthy to share this week:

   Gil Eanes, Navegador
      Valeu a pena? Tudo vale a pena
      Se a alma não e pequena.
      Quem quer passar alem do Bojador
      Tem que passar alem da dor.
      Deus ao mar o perigo e o abismo deu,
      Mas nele e que espelhou o ceu.
         Was it worth doing? Everything is worth doing
         If the soul of the doer is not small.
         Whoever would go beyond the Cape
         Must go beyond sorrow.
         God placed danger and the abyss in the sea,
         But he also made it heaven’s mirror.

On our last day in Lisbon, Loren and I went on a long, full day tour. Of all the tours we have taken, this one appealed to us the least. So, we acknowledged our disappointment to ourselves and made the best of it. We visited Obidos, where we walked the wall around a medieval town and had a view of an ancient Roman aqueduct, then Nazaré – where we ate lunch in a touristy fishing town, on to Batalha – to see a cathedral, and, the famed Fatima – where three children had experienced an apparition of the Virgin Mary. An impressive new cathedral with elaborate grounds celebrate it. Earlier this year Pope Francis came to mark the 100th anniversary. Loren and I appreciated returning to Lisbon even more because we learned how really hot it can be inland – I am still suffering from an itchy prickly heat rash on my calves. 

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That evening we were still able to be on time for a classical guitar concert in the Cloister of Se Cathedral, the one we had had tickets for on the previous evening but was canceled. It was well worth making it an even longer day to attend it.

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Loren and I then took a train to Aveiro for three nights. We needed help with finding our AirBnB, and Marisa, owner of a cafe with her husband, Vieira, came to our rescued. We developed a friendship with them both, and enjoyed an evening out to dinner together. Loren and I tasted our first Leitao Assado – suckling pig, at their suggestion. It was good!

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Aveiro’s nickname is “the Venice of Portugal,” for its many bridges over the water that runs through town, and, the many gondola-like motorized boats for tourists to enjoy.

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Loren and I preferred to spend our time walking and bicycling in Aveiro’s quaint streets over riding in a boat. We found that the townspeople grace their overhead walkways, and even some of their bicycles, with colorful crocheted images of fish among other designs, as well as painting some of the benches around town with delightful artwork.

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Another style of art that we have seen in several places in Portugal are the beautiful intricate tile sidewalk designs,

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and, we have seen impressive blue tile artwork that grace the outside of homes, churches, and buildings. The tile is both decorative and practical in that it needs less maintenance than other forms of building materials.

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We so appreciate how many people speak English. Loren recognizes how many more people do these days compared to during his travels here of 40 years ago – he remembers, “No one spoke English!” We are also especially grateful for Loren’s fluency in Italian and Spanish, because even with some English speakers, it makes such a difference in learning more about the people we meet and the local cultures. In addition to a few Portuguese words, we learned a saying from our new friends: mano da vaca – hand of the cow, which means one does not like to spend money, and, the belief that, “Seeing a spider is a sign of money.”

On one of the other two evenings we saw a memorable sunset over the salt fields. The other evening we rode a bus to Costa Nova to see the colorful Pahleiro – former barns for hay for horses, or for housing boats, that are now converted into decorative homes.

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Then we rode the train to Porto and took the metro to the airport where we rented a Peugeot. We first drove north to see Guimaraes. At the suggestion of Marisa y Vieira, we visited the Castle from the time of the birth of Portugal where Afonso the 1st king of Portugal’s life is detailed, and, the Paco dos Duques – a palace residence of former Kings of Portugal. We also stumbled upon an outstanding jardim – garden.

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I have been working on a poem about Portugal which is still in the works and perhaps I will post here when it is done. I was also inspired to write this Haiku:

My Prominent Portuguese Memories
   Blue tile, Castles, and
   Coastline; Cod and Cork, Custard
   Pastry, Pork, and Port
Claire Adalyn Wright

Today we will be leaving Rio Caldo after an overnight stay, where a chorus of church bells and a cage of chatty birds at our accommodation have added to our enjoyment. We are on our way to visit the mountains for a few days. While what I write next in ending this week is not a proper farewell, it is a phrase that I learned from a friend in the Bay Area with Portuguese heritage: Beige meh cou! or, Kiss my a.. Why do we often learn the bad words of another language first? Really, what I am trying to say but do not have the Portuguese words for and will send via another painted bench image, are our affectionate kisses to Portugal!

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Week 177 August 19, 2017

I have had one foot in family genealogy this week, the other foot in packing and preparing to again leave the United States. It has been a very full week. Loren and I took a break from packing to see part of a Bruce Springsteen tribute band concert in a local park while we were still in New York. We arrived to find little parking, but a policeman I asked who was standing near several cars parked near “No Parking” signs said they were “Overlooking the signs for a couple of hours, so long as cars are not blocking traffic.” “Great,” I thought. We spent less than an hour enjoying our picnic dinner, only to find a ticket on our car when we left! We decided to stop in at Police HQ to complain, and, later that evening the officer called to say that he had ripped up his copy of the ticket. Nice!
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Our final errands included having Flu shots… thanks to my cousin who insisted we should have them. Have you had yours this year? We read this in an email from an MD: “Patients who don’t get the flu vaccine have more heart attacks, strokes, and other serious illnesses.” That said, the wildlife we saw in New York included: bat, muskrat, and wild turkey. I must mention how Loren was keenly aware of the multitude of cicada singing and cricket chirping – pointing out sounds I rarely notice for their continual background presence throughout my childhood. Farewell, New York, for now.
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After a last evening with my brother and his family, we rode in an Uber taxi to JFK airport. Here we found our packing work had paid off: Loren’s checked backpack was an allowable 21kg, while mine was just 18kg – less than 50 and 40 lbs respectively. I was grateful for the onboard movies as I could not sleep on the overnight flight. I enjoyed United Kingdom and Wild. I highly recommend them both! A gorgeous Mediterranean day greeted us at the edge of Lisbon, Portugal. From the airport we took a bus to walking distance to our AirBnB – which is coincidentally off Rua de Sao Jose – San Jose Street.
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We checked in, then quickly walked the several blocks to arrive just in time for our scheduled e-bike tour. Lisbon is similar to San Francisco in that it is near the ocean and hilly in parts. It was my first electric bike ride. It was dangerous -only- in that I would like to have my own e-bike when we return home. The appeal is for the boost it has for climbing hills. On our outing, guides Yann and Philippe took us and four fun young adult Persians who now live in London, to our first miradouro – terrace with a view: Senhora-do-Monte. We also rode up and down through the very, very narrow streets of Alfama – the oldest section – meaning neighborhood, because it survived the 1755 earthquake, and resultant fires and tsunami. We also saw other less noteworthy sites of their Lisboa.
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Loren pre-booked several outings for us to start off being in Europe again. The next day we took a Walk, Food and Wine Tastings tour. I learned so much more, and spent the good part of a day with another great group of people. I especially learned from our guide Pedro (said P-eh-dro, not the usual Pay-dro, or P-a-dro), about the Carnation Revolution, Portugal’s recent nearly completely nonviolent coup to end the longest dictatorship of the twentieth century. The event is memorialized by the 25th of April bridge, designed like San Francisco’s Golden Gate because of its ability to withstand ‘quakes. I was also introduced to The Lusiads, an epic poem of Luiz de Camoes to celebrate Vasco de Gama’s discovery of a sailing route to India. And, we learned that Nossa – meaning, to us, or, Saúde – health, are the ways to toast our Portuguese drinks.
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Over the course of a few hours we had the equivalent of a progressive meal – beginning with tasting Portuguese coffee. Fortunately a dear cousin’s friend had warned us of the strong espresso and pointed us to a lighter alternative called Galone. This we had with the bakery’s best pastry. We also tasted Ginjinha – Cherry Port, served with “Romeo and Juliet” which a square of white cheddar-like cheese topped with a square of cheerful marmalade made of quince fruit, which provided a delectable sweet and savory complement to the wine. Later we enjoyed a glass of Bohemia – an historical beer. We finished with a glass of champagne to go with dishes of shrimp and tasty beans.
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That evening, Loren and I saw a Fado performance. The advert describes it this way: “Fado is Portuguese and was born in Lisbon. A symbol of the nation, it tells stories of the sea, the people and nostalgia.” Another quote, more melancholy, that was displayed during the performance by Domingos Goncalves Castro also touched us:

   You ask me the meaning of
   Nostalgia, to you I say
   Nostalgia is what is left
   When all has passed away.
The next day we had a tour to Sintra, which we already knew had mixed reviews: Lord Byron in the 18th century wrote that the town was, “Perhaps in every respect the most delightful in Europe.” Maybe that was the case then. A friend of ours who visited more recently suggested it is, “Crowded with tourist buses, warnings about pick pockets, and very noisy.” I think our experience was in between those two reports, and, again we had a lovely group of co-travelers with our competent and very knowledgeable guide, Filipa escorting and educating us. We first visited Parque Pena to see the elaborate castle there. Then, we walked through Quinta do Regaleira – I wish my grandfather had been there, as it is full of Freemasonry symbols, and included an “Initiation Well.”
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We also stopped at Capo da Roca, where the R in the Portuguese language is pronounced much more like an H, to see the westernmost point on continental Europe. Last, we were at Cascais, (said Cash-case) to soak up a walk along the beach with gelato. Loren and I later finished our day with pork ribs that simply melted in our mouths and Bacalau – a type of cod found only in these Portuguese waters. To conclude our week, Loren and I rode a tram to nearby Belém to see the magnificent Jerónimos Mosteiro – Monastery.
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Afterwards, we had a snack of famous custard pastry that a friend had suggested we try, at Pasteis de Belem. And, after that, we saw the Tower of Belém, for another miradouro.
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Sadly our guitar concerto at a church that evening was canceled due to a car accident, so we hope to go tomorrow instead. Our trip to the cathedral was not all in vain as we saw two different memorable views of the setting sun over the 25th of April bridge.
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I have enjoyed hearing the calls of what must be a neighbor’s exotic bird – our AirBnB apartment butts up against buildings on either side, and our windows and outside patio are very close to the neighboring buildings on the opposite side of a quite narrow street. So, the echoes of muffled conversation and other sounds are quite delightful and entertaining – except when dogs fight or a neighbor has a party, like was the case this past Friday night. Wishing you Boa Noite – Good Night, for now!

 

Week 137 November 12, 2016

We finished our visit to Iceland this week with three big activities. The first was a day tour of the “Golden Circle” including a visit to the Laugarvatn Fontana Geothermal baths. Loren commented while on our tour how beautiful the middle of Iceland would be if only it were a sunny day. The forecast at the beginning of the week was for full sun, but, like they say here the weather can change in 5 minutes’ time. And it did so midweek. The report changed to calling for clouds with possible rain as every other day. Lucky for us though, the clouds dissipated partway into the afternoon! We saw the rift in the earth at the point where the enormous tectonic plates of North America meet those of Eurasia. Our guide Sven joked that since we were in the Schengen area we would not need our passports to cross the continents as we moved from one side to the other.
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We soaked in a geothermal bath similar to hot springs we have visited in the US, saw geisers – geysers, erupt and, saw an incredible waterfall.
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We did not witness volcanic activity, but we drove near enough to take a photo of Eyjafjallajökull – do you see how it was nearly impossible to learn any Islenska, well, except for “Skol.” It was hard enough trying to remember how to pronounce Reykjavik, the capitol city of Iceland, much less spell it with any resemblance of the actual name. Eyjafjallajökull is the volcano which erupted in 2010, and disrupted all of Europe for a period of time in the aftermath. Oh, and by the way, Reykjavik is said, rake-ya-vick.
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A second big activity was the evening tour – our final chance while here – to see Northern Lights. First we watched an engaging movie at the horse stables bar where our Northern Lights Tour had brought us the first time. This ranch is far enough from the interference of city lights, while also offering amenities. The movie showed fabulous scenes of Aurora Borealis. While we watched what at times looked like pale-green-breeze-blown-ribbons, I reflected on what I had learned: Aurora is Latin for Dawn and Borealis is Greek for Northern Wind. Our guide called us out to see a faint hint of the phenomenon, then we boarded the bus to leave. But someone immediately demanded, “Stop the bus!” We all got off again to see a true lights display for an hour! Loren’s camera captured it. Mine – just a slightly older model – caught only inky sky and other backlit devices trying to capture it.

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Loren likes to say “The third time is the charm,” and so it was with this magnificent experience. What we saw brought to mind these images among others as the lights moved and morphed: large traces of greenish white chalk left after an eraser has smudged out handwriting on a huge blackboard, a giant eerie Frankenstein-green bird soaring towards us, and, streaking neon green locomotives making their way across the sky in the chill, clear starry night. At one point Loren picked out a faint pink color, reminding me of wildflowers swaying in a summer breeze over a green meadow. As well I spotted two shooting stars during the natural performance!

Just as dramatic as the rest of our day had been, when we were dropped off at 1:30am to our AirBnB, Loren stepped off the van transport in exactly the same place and at nearly exactly the same time as earlier in the week, only to slip and fall as there was now a thin sheet of ice on the pavement. In just 3 days, the weather had turned cold enough to create ice on the very pavement where we had stepped off the bus to dry pavement previously. Fortunately Loren was uninjured. Iceland really is “The Land of Fire and Ice!”

Our last day was spent in part at the Blue Lagoon, an expansive geothermal pool where we relaxed for a couple of hours. Our third and final big Icelandic activity was to splurge on a 30 minute massage for each of us sandwiched between soaks here. I have never had a massage while floating on water before. Both Loren’s and my masseuses were expert at their craft. From here we picked up our bus to the Reykjavik airport.

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As much as we enjoyed our time in Iceland, I rather doubt that we will return, only because it is quite expensive. Food, transportation, attractions, excursions, for the most part raised our eyebrows at the price, but, we indulged in what we felt was most important for these once in a lifetime experiences. I agree with Loren – if everywhere we went were this costly, we would not have traveled as far nor as wide.
Here is my latest poem inspired from this unique place:
Aurora Borealis in Reykjavik
by Claire Adalyn Wright
Northern Lights
Plentiful greens yellows and white
Sometimes pinks purples or reds
But seldom blues, that can
Look like:
Angels’ wings
Dancing strobe lights
Lightning flashes obscured by clouds
Rainbows
Sunsets
Swirling snow
The Milky Way
Theater drapes closing
Theatrical lighting
Tinted wispy smoke
Water color paintings
Whirlpools
Windblown sheer curtains
And, are
Perhaps best viewed
Beside bodies of water
For additional reflective brilliance.
In all, they are displays
Of the always imperfectly
Perfect nature.
Can this teach me to let go
Of perfectionistic tendencies?
We had an uneventful flight to JFK, going to bed in New York at midnight – which was for us 4am Iceland-time. On our first full day back, it was an incredible sunny fall day where the season is reported to be two weeks late, allowing us to see spectacular fall colors. With the sun shining through, the vibrancy of the leaves of crimson, rose or fuchsia reds, pumpkin and peach oranges, golds, browns, and yellows, were simply breathtaking.
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That first evening in New York was the big special event that brought us here earlier than for Thanksgiving: our younger niece’s 16th Birthday family party!
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We have had a few very precious visits with family and friends here, taken Bikram yoga everyday, sorted our many belongings that were faithfully awaiting us in the van, compared to what we carried in our packs, and, made plans for this coming week to visit with family and friends who live further north.
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But wait! Our big news this week is that we have been saving our accumulated airline miles for years, but on this journey so far have rarely been able to use them for various reasons – until now! We will have an excursion to Antarctica in December, and were able to cash in miles for airline tickets. We fly from New York to the southernmost city in the world: Ushuaia, Argentina, where we will board our ship to travel for over a week to Antarctica. Loren has wanted to see the 7th continent – not that this is our 7th – yet! And we took advantage of a discounted offer that we could not pass up. 
This week we also received an email about the video taken when we had a cooking lesson in Kefalonia, Greece.
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You can see Chef Lorenzo and Sous Chef Chiara in action by visiting Anna’s website: 
     www.kefaloniabyanna.com
          or 
     http://www.kefaloniabyanna.com/web/glorias-kefalonian-meat-pie-with-tzatziki-and-greek-salad-executed-by-lorenzo/  

 

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.
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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.
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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.
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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. 
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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.
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We visited the free Museum of Photography, then hiked past the lake…
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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 134 October 22, 2016

Before we left Agia Effimia – the coastal town where we were staying on Kefalonia in Greece – we walked the whole way to Myrtos Beach, over an uneven, sometimes flooded trail and some paved road, winding up on a swath full of switchbacks, to walk way, way down to the beach for a gorgeous vista. Overall, it was well worth the effort.
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Loren decided that we would hitch a ride back, and the first car that came along stopped for us. A couple from Germany, though he is originally from Greece, were our friendly Samaritans, and we were back to our guesthouse in no time. For our last full day in Greece Loren and I took a private cooking class. We made a traditional meat pie, Greek salad and tzatziki, and together enjoyed our delicious meal, complete with wine and desert. That evening as Loren and I went out for our last walk, we spied our German friends at an outdoor table of a cafe. We joined them for coffee then beer and the evening quick passed in memorable conversation.
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As we took our leave of Greece, I wrote my latest poem:
The Walk to Myrtos
Claire Adalyn Wright
1.
An unusually muddy, rocky trail
intense sun bakes my face
prickly Live Oak leaves
tear at my hair. Ouch!
Thorns grab, pierce my
clothes, prick my skin, draw
droplets of blood. Oww!
Finally, a long, steep road down
finds the beach is not sand but stone.
2.
A glorious, sunny, fall day calls us forth.
Trees line either side, on the path
through a fertile valley. Beautiful!
Side street proclaims, “The Olive Story,”
a sandwich, soft drinks, make good breaks.
The wide, winding road opens down to
aqua-turquoise water. Frothy white surf
caresses a bleached pebbled white beach.
Easier to walk here in sandals than sand!
We had a 4:30am taxi pickup for our flights – through Athens to Prague, Czech Republic, where our AirBnB host picked us up for the hour long drive to his place where we are staying. Prague is a city that represents what most large European cities would look like if not for the destruction during World War II. It is believed that Adolf Hitler was enamored of Prague so insisted on sparing it. The city is full of spires, statues and cobblestone streets from the Medieval to Baroque eras, and of course there are some more modern buildings too. One day we walked through one of the city gates of Staré Mesto – Old Town, which is one of the four quarters – or the four former separate towns – that make up Prague.
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Prague is a lovely city where it is fine and easy to walk, so we have walked a lot this week. We were surprised to find an Apple museum here, mainly a tribute to Steve Jobs, from what we saw of the free first floor level. 
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We also walked part of the Royal Way, crossing over Karluv Most – Charles Bridge to arrive in Malá Strana – Lesser Town or Little Side, of the River where the King once lived. I recognized the familiar Slavic words “Old” and “Most” from Mostar’s Stari Most – Old Bridge, in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The bridge here is named for King Charles. Both spans are reserved for pedestrians, who flock to them.
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We sought out the John Lennon Wall down one of the side streets. I find it interesting how Steve Jobs somewhat resembles John Lennon, but perhaps it is just because they were contemporaries, wearing similar hair styles.
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Then we walked the gentle uphill path toward Strahov Monastery. Along the way we found many of the crafted signs that at one time were used to identify houses – before numbering was introduced. We stopped to enjoy the view of Prague’s skyline over a bowl of soup and a beer at a cafe next to the Monastery on the hill.
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In the evening we took in a Black Light Theater show. Traditional to Prague, this is fantasy and comedy, combined in silence. It was most entertaining! It also reminded me of an outstanding memorial service performance that we had attended some time ago in San Francisco. It honored a friend’s daughter, who was a professional clown. Another coincidence is that the theater building is named Palac Unitaria – Unitarian Palace…
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Another day our plans were thwarted to take a bus to Cesky Krumlov as we were misinformed of the transport provider and where to pick the bus up. So, we make lemonade when life gives us lemons. I walked back down to Old Town to take a Bikram Yoga class – my first in nearly a year, since last November, and the first since I broke my pelvis, which was last December. Our delicious lemonade lasted well into the evening, as we were then free to attend a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake that we had thought we would have to pass on. I bought the tickets on my way back from the yoga class. It was delightful, and especially because this troop changed the plot that we had read beforehand to have a happy ending instead – the Evil Sorcerer was the one to die in this version, allowing the Prince and his lovely Swan to live happily ever after.
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Last fall at the European Unitarian Universalist Retreat in Cologne, we had met an American who lives in Prague. This week we saw her and another local EUU member, over brunch at an ex-Pat cafe. We have so enjoy visiting with Unitarians on our journey, as it feels like a connection to home, and is wonderful to spend time with people who have similar values. We learned that the Black Light Theater is also where the Unitarian offices are located.
Unlike the former Yugoslavian states that we visited on the Balkan Peninsula who had kept up relations with both western and eastern regimes, what was Czechoslovakia – now the Czech Republic and Slovakia, was dominated by Soviet rule. Thanks to our friends’ suggestion, in the afternoon we visited the Museum of Communism. The caption on their flyer is “Dream, Reality, Nightmare.” Just outside the museum is the large square with a statue of the historic Good King Wenceslas and it is the site where the 1989 nonviolent Velvet Revolution took place. Wenceslas hails from the Czech Republic, as does composer Antonin Dvorak.
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We finished our week in Prague by attending two classical music performances at St. Nicholas church, with a tasty traditional Czech pub dinner in between. The highlight of the music was Vivaldi’s Four Seasons in the second concert, which was played by an Historic Instruments orchestra that included a Baroque violinist. It is becoming noticeably wetter and colder during our short stay in Prague, with temperatures down to the 40’s and 50’s Fahrenheit. We are set to travel further north to Hamburg then Berlin this coming week… Brrr!
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PLEASE NOTE: This week we have decent internet coverage, but may not have viable service over the next few weeks. Please check back here, I will share my weekly post when and as often as I can.

Week 133 October 15, 2016

I want start by acknowledging you, our family members and friends who check in with us via this blog, send us email or U.S. mail. It is always wonderful to hear from you and to learn a little of what is happening in your lives too. Thank you!
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Still in Chania on Crete at the beginning of this week, we were staying at an AirBnB guest house that took part of its name from Morfeas – God of Dreams. And yes, I had a memorable dream one night there! Last week I had bought a bottle of Retsina, which I had fallen in love with in Greece 25 years ago. I thoroughly enjoyed it again while we were here! This white wine has a distinct flavor, from the resin of the pine barrels that store it. The only other time I have tasted it are perhaps on rare visits to Greek restaurants over the years, and, for sure when I went out of my way to find it when Loren and I hosted a Greek themed fundraiser for our church. Loren instead preferred to enjoy a bottle of red wine…
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The afternoon that we left Chania, we first took a walking tour of several hours. Because it is near the end of the tourist season we had the guide all to ourselves. He took us to see some wonderful sights. As I am enjoying the last glass of Retsina, I want to share two different stories that our guides in Chania told us. They both first asked, “Why do people clink glasses before they drink?”
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Our previous guide, who escorted us in a 4 wheel drive vehicle around Chania’s outlying villages last week said that it is to stimulate the fifth of our senses – since we can easily smell the flavor, see the liquid, touch it, and taste it on our tongue, then, the clink, allows us to awaken the sense of hearing. That makes sense! However our second guide, who walked us to several important sites in the city, suggested it was a ruse to spill drops of the liquid into your companion’s glass to be sure it was not poisoned, even though a villain could slyly spill it on the ground afterwards. Hmmm. Which is true? Probably both!
Along the walking tour we stopped for Romeko wine, the one that tastes like cherry sherry, yum! And, more Raki. Raki is quite harsh, a drink I can forego since at least having tasted it. All the Cretan eateries serve it in tiny shot glasses after any food – even breakfast! One waiter, surprised when I declined it, protested, “But it is an herb to help with digestion.” I learned that the appropriate response instead is to accept it, say Yamas! – Cheers!, then just put the glass down without drinking it. However, our guide taught us to actually enjoy Raki by blending it with enough honey to make a big difference in the smoothness and taste. That said, it is still not so good for my continually growing waistline. My pants this week are complaining – the final indication that I absolutely must reverse my trend – now.
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A bus ride that took us to stay in the larger city of Heraklion – or, Iraklio, or Irakleio, or Iraklion, Herakleio, Herakleion, and, also spelled with Greek letters which derive from  the earlier Phoenician alphabet, and the ancestor of the Latin and Cyrillic alphabets, was uneventful, except for seeing more dramatic mountains along the coast. Our room at an AirBnB overlooked the coastline, offering views of some stunning sunrises and sunsets. We rode an Open City Tour Bus here, that transported us to the ancient Minoan Palace of Knossos, most famous of the ancient sites on Crete. My Western Civilization professor had inspired me to want to see this site too, many long years ago. At one time, there were over 1,200 rooms in this palace that is now mostly rubble.
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But there is great controversy here. Sir Arthur Evans who led the initial excavation of Knossos Palace had a few of the rooms recreated to give a more realistic impression. The work even included piecing together artwork from meager chips of the originals. It definitely brought the site more to life for me, and Loren would have liked to have had the whole palace reconstructed instead of just seeing so many piles of old stones.
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Later we stopped at the fort in the harbor, which has survived intact from the time of Venetian rule on Crete – 500 years ago.
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The Cyrillic alphabet that we first encountered in Macedonia, and based on the Greek alphabet, explains why the spelling MAPKET – MARKET is advertised by the same spelling here as in Macedonia. But then there is the name dispute over this country of Macedonia and the region of Macedonia that is part of Greece… I also must mention the street art, throughout this post. So often the messages are obscure, but here, written in English, I found thought provoking.
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Somewhere – I think in a magazine on a plane, I had read about a most appealing restaurant in Heraklion – Vourvouladiko Taverna, so I added it to my wish list. One evening Loren put it in our navigation app which helped us find the vicinity but took us in circles for some blocks. He was ready to abandon the effort, then indulged me. We arrived exactly at opening time for the evening meal! Fortunately we were there early, because after the next guest arrived without a reservation, all others were turned away. We dined in a beautiful garden setting, our table and chairs sat directly on the earthen floor. The food was excellent, living up to the glowing review that I had read, so it was well worth the time it took for us to find it.
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We then had another full day tour on a 4×4 tour, which followed an ancient Minoan path high up into the mountains, from the Mediterranean coast to a fertile plateau. We stopped at Dicteon cave, the birth place of Zeus (!) with time for a little hike. I was hoping that we would see one of the few remaining Kri Kri mountain goats who are distinct from other goats for their long horns and a long beard, but, we were not so fortunate. We spent the day with a couple from Denmark, and two other couples from England. All lovely people, so in that way, we were fortunate.
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Loren and I then flew from Crete, connecting through Athens, to Kefalonia, an island we had especially enjoyed on our honeymoon 25 years ago. We are occupying one of only two rooms in use at our guest house, grateful that the crowds have already returned home. Early this morning we took the ferry to the neighboring island of Ithaca, so famous thanks to Homer’s and Cavafy’s poetry. Another memorable college class had required me to read Homer’s Odyssey, for which I am also grateful. Loren and I were most enthralled 25 years ago here in Vathi – spelled Vathy too! on Ithaca, with its delightful horseshoe bay.
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The cave where Homer’s protagonist Odysseus buried his treasure, and a romantic night at Gregory’s Taverna in Vathi stand out as highlights from our honeymoon. Now on our 25th year Honeyversary, Gregory’s is no longer in operation. We learned that Gregory had sold the place and is not well, needing oxygen from years of smoking cigarettes. The restaurant is now called Ithaca Mare but was closed for the season. On our visit today we chose to walk the more than two miles of mountainous roads from the port to Vathy. On the way we hiked up one mountain to see ruinous remains of the ancient Ithaca, where Odysseus was revered and pictured on their coins. We also looked where I thought I recalled the path to Odysseus’ treasure was buried, but this time we could not find it.
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Today is probably the happiest day so far of our 25th Honeyversary in Greece, because prior to coming to Kefalonia we have mostly visited new places on Crete together. Today in Vathi we reminisced a good bit about our very special time here 25 years ago, and marveled at how the town has evolved and modernized in that time as well.
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Later this week we will travel to Prague…
PLEASE NOTE: While this week we have some internet coverage, we may not have service over the next few weeks. Please check back here, I will share my weekly post when and as often as I can!