Exploring Orvieto and its Cathedral. 12/14/18

Orvieto is an excellent example of an Italian hill town being built on the flat top of a volcanic plug with almost vertical sides which are topped by defensive walls. People have lived here since Etruscan times and the name Orivieto comes from the Latin meaning “ancient city.” At the highest point is Orvieto Cathedral whose first stone was laid in 1290.

When you are in the town the cathedral is almost hidden to you as you walk along narrow, cobbled streets which makes its reveal even more spectacular. It is a gem set in a large piazza. Having taken a look from the outside last night, today we explore the interior.

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Looking towards the altar

Although most of the walls are stripped of their original frescoes there are some still at least partially saved. Here is a beautiful Madonna by Gentile da Fabriano who was active in the early 1400’s.

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Madonna and Child

You have to use your imagination to see this huge space covered with all these brightly colored frescoes. On the other side of the church another fresco erupts from the wall almost completely intact.

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St. Anthony the Abbot (with his little devil-pig at his feet) and St. James, the traveler

In fact at one time there were so many frescoes that the artists started laying one on top of the other!

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Mixed up media

Up at the altar the frescoes are basically intact and have a cohesive theme, the Life of the Virgin by Ugolino.

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Altar area
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Side frescoes depicting the life of Mary

The last chapel we visit is the New Chapel. It was frescoed by Fra Angelico and later by Luca Signorelli. There is a stark contrast between the two styles. Signorelli’s figures are full of movement and vigor plus they are mostly naked which is kind of strange in a church.

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Signorelli’s Hell on left and Redempton of the Bodies on the right
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The Prediction of the Anti-Christ (l.) and The Glorification of the Chosen (r.)
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The Deposition by L. Signorelli – This painting is made to fit in under the existing three brackets of the sarcophagus of Saint Pietro Parenzo

There is another chapel, the Corporal, dedicated to the Miracle of Bolsena and the reason this cathedral was built. It seems that a priest was carrying a consecrated host wrapped in a white cloth. As he was doing this he was having an inner struggle about the existence of God within the host. This doubting caused the host to weep blood and stain the cloth. The cloth is now displayed in a beautiful chapel in the cathedral. Last time we were here you could go in but now it is restricted to praying people and no pictures are allowed. Luckily I have saved a few from our first visit in 2016.

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Fresco of Pope St. Gregory holding venerated host
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The actual cloth with stains

Our combination ticket allows us access to the Museum of the Cathedral where older or less loved pieces of art are displayed for the few who want to see them. Today we are apparently the only people so inclined since they have forgotten to man the desk or turn on the lights. Sarah runs back to the main entrance to get someone to help us. The admissions lady comes up the long staircase and claps her hands sharply to make the lights come on. It is a surreal scene of infomercial meets ancient art!

We are left entirely alone in this museum. I am very good and manage to squelch my impulse to touch something really old. John manages to set off an alarm by leaning in too close but no one comes running. It is raining and cold and there is a giant outdoor staircase to climb to come and admonish us so they give us a pass. Here are some art pieces we enjoy.

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A primitive 14th century Madonna and a Chikd with Saints fresco done in the style of Orvieto
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15th century Annunciation
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Madonna and Child from the 1200’s
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A whimsical monkey in glasses drawn into a window alcove, 15th century

We have covered a lot of ground this morning. Time for lunch! We have lunch at La Pergola, a restaurant that was recommended to us the last time we were here. No other diners are here when we come in at 12:45. By 1:15 every table is full. This happened at lunch in Viterbo as well. I guess only tourist rubes do not realize that the proper time for lunch is at 1 PM. Duly noted.

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Clockwise from left ombrichelli in Amatriciana sauce, gnocchi with bacon, spinach and truffle sauce, and papardelle with wild boar sauce

By the end of lunch we can barely keep our eyes open.  Hello, jet lag! We decide to take a siesta and venture out again later in the afternoon. We all sleep deeply not even moving until alarms jangle us awake.

We visit the Church of St. Dominic which is a weird church older than the 13th century cathedral. In the mid 20th century the government wanted to build a girls’ school so they cut off the whole nave and left only the transept. Then they reoriented the direction of the church. The whole thing seems out of whack. We go outside and do a little exploring. You can see where the whole back of the church has been cut off and bricked over. The girls’ school has morphed into a museum of finance. It seems like a desecration.

The streets are pretty lively with shoppers and workmen putting up Christmas decorations. Don’t they know that Christmas officially starts the day after a Halloween!! It’s December 14th! All that hyped up retail activity missed! Sights along the streets –

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Fresh truffles for sale (no touching!)
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All things pork!
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A main shopping street in Orvieto, the bucket truck at the end is putting up Christmas decorations

We decide to try out a nearby wine bar for dinner and we end up having a wonderful meal.

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Bruschetti of newly pressed olive oil, tomatoes, and truffles
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Sarah and I have strezzopreti made from chestnut flour in a porcini and sausage sauce, John has beans and wine soaked sausages, and we add a chickpea side

This dinner of humble ingredients is so good that it is hard to not let out little “yums” as we eat. Amazing! Away from the big tourist centers there is so much fabulous food!

Well, here it is 4:30 AM and I have been up since 3AM. John has been up even longer. The third night is usually the worst from our experience and now sleep should start to improve. Damn you, jet lag!!!

 

How to beat jet lag… 12/13/18

The best remedy for jet lag is simply time.  I have tried taking melatonin, eating meals at the right time of day, taking walks in the sunshine, and all the other old wives’ tales’ remedies to cure the hazy brain and the wakefulness in the middle of the night. Time works the best. An hour adjustment a day is about all your body can handle. Living on the West Coast means we have to adjust nine hours worth. If you can do it in a week my hat is off to you. We took a nap today around 5 PM because it was impossible to stay vertical any longer. I am not ashamed to admit it.

Leaving Ostia this morning for Viterbo around 9AM put us in a lot of heavy traffic going towards Rome. On top of that our Google maps’ GPS took us over a mountain instead of some straight-forward way. Conversation in the car, Sarah,“Did you see that white stuff? Do you think it’s snow? Me, “Can’t be. Must be some powder that spilled.” John, “Could be. The temperature is only 3 Celsius.” All Californians in the car gasp. It was snow.

When we get to Viterbo we find the cathedral by driving through a pedestrian zone, a tried and true Pilat method for avoiding traffic and collecting tickets in Italy. John is very gallant and offers to drop Sarah and me off and go find a parking space. We wonder if we will ever see him again.

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(Picture taken of Viterbo Cathedral on a sunny day on a previous trip)

We have unfinished business at the cathedral. The last time we were here we could not go in due to an armed forces celebration. While we wait for John to join us Sarah and I peruse the art in the cathedral. The two most notable pieces of art are a painting by Gerolamo of Cremona and a 12th century Madonna and Child. Any existing work of art from before the 14th century is pretty exciting since many are devoid of the stylized Byzantine look that is prevalent in 14th and early 15th century paintings.

Christ blessing Saints John the Evangelist, Leonard, Peter Martyr, John the Baptist by Gerolamo da Cremona (15th century)
12th century Madonna and Child (reproduction, original in museum next to the church) flanked by frescoes of Saints Paul (l.) and Peter (r.)

John final returns from parking the car. He looks pretty frozen since it is really cold out especially with a stiff wind. After he looks around a bit we hurry to the Church of Santa Maria Nuova that John has found on his walk from the car.  Usually churches are closed between noon and three for the holy lunchtime and we just make it in before the doors lock. Due to the time crunch, I just hurry around snapping pictures willy-nilly so that now I have to work to figure out what is what.

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The Church of Santa Maria Nuova constructed prior to the mid-11th century has an unusual outside pulpit from which Thomas Aquinas preached in the mid-1200s. Picture from Wikipedia

The interior has many early frescoes.

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Crucifixion by Matteo Giovannetti, 1340’s. Saints John, James, the Madonna and Mary Magdelan
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Fresco by Il Pastura of St. Jerome flanked by John the Baptist and St. Lawrence

This last one is an amateur art sleuth’s delight. Everyone in the fresco is holding or near to their attributes which makes them easily identifiable. On the left John the Baptist is wearing his hair shirt and pointing to a scroll, St. Jerome in the center appears as a hermit with rocks to beat himself with, a lion, and a red cardinal’s hat, and St. Lawrence on the right holds a martyr’s palm frond with the grill that he was burnt on at his feet.

The Church is closing and we are hungry so it is time for us to head to Buongiorno Napoli, a pizzeria in Viterbo. It is our third visit. The lunch special, pizza and a small beer is up to 7 euros this year but it is still a great deal.

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My marinara pizza and John and Sarah’s pizzas with tomato, cheese, and spicy salami

After this we head to Orte where once again we navigate through twisty and narrow streets, find that the museum we want to see is closed, and get blocked in to our parking space by a truck while taking a quick look at the cathedral, all of whose artwork has been replaced by some neo-classical garbage. Alas, you can’t win them all.

We are soooooo tired and decide to give up on the sightseeing for today and check into our uninspired hotel, The Hotel Duomo, in Orvieto. We are met by a very brusque hotel manager and whisked into our rooms.

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Our pretty sparse room at Hotel Duomo
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Best thing about Hotel Duomo? It is right next door to the cathedral

We grant ourselves an hour or so worth of napping and meet again at 6PM in hopes of seeing the Duomo lit up at night.

It is a dark and stormy night and really cold and raining. We walk over to the church and take some pictures of it and ourselves, visit a grocery store to buy tissues and water, and then head back to the hotel where  Mr. Brusque serves us some cheese and chips with wine. We really do not need anything else for dinner.

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The beautiful Orvieto Cathedral lighted up at night
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Sarah and Mary cold and wet
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Grocery shopping in Orvieto
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Sarah checking out our dinner

Remember way back in the beginning of this post I mentioned that you can only manage but not beat jet lag? I went to sleep at 9:30PM, woke up at 12:30 AM, and have now spent 2 1/2 hours writing this post. I hope to take a nap around 3AM and sleep until 7 AM but I am not holding out any great hopes. Oh, and John just woke up too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Buongiorno from Rome! 12/12 and13/18

On 12/11 we started our long anticipated trip to Italy for my 70th birthday. Sarah is with us and Jonathan and Ryan will join us on 12/22. I say long anticipated because if you want good seats using frequent flyer miles you have to start 330 days in advance. So I booked these tickets January 18, 2018.

Travel always involves hitches of one sort or another. While we congratulated each other for having a flight that left in the late afternoon and avoided the dreaded fog, we forgot that the plane taking us to Rome was supposed to arrive in the morning. So that plane gets diverted to Las Vegas and we are delayed enough to miss our connecting flight from London to Rome. British Airways handled the situation well and, Pilats, we handled it the best we could.

John managing the stress of waiting
Sarah productively wasting time

After securing our rental car we drive the 12 miles to a local airport hotel in Ostia and crash. Funny thing about booking a hotel in Europe is that you are never actually sure of what it will be like. For instance, I booked a single room for Sarah and a double room for us. This is what we got, two rooms!

We used the second room as an extension to our tiny closet!

Breakfast is always an adventure too. Since none of us slept past around 4 AM we were the early birds at breakfast. Maybe in Germany when they say breakfast at 7AM, it is there and ready to go. In Italy it is more of a process that starts at 7AM. But we find more than enough to eat. They even have scrambled eggs! Mostly though it is heavy on sweets and meat.

Protein breakfast

Today we are off to Viterbo and Orte before landing in Orvieto for the next three nights. We have an unfortunate rainy day. Here’s a picture from the wet balcony of the hotel in Ostia looking out over the Tyrrhenian Sea.  More later.

View from our hotel

 

Sonoma Wine Country

Since my birthday is a week from tomorrow, we figure that it is a good time to start celebrating early. December will be a month of celebrating and travel so there will not be a whole lot of cooking. But I am happy to include in my posts some great experiences, interesting restaurant dishes and the occasional home cooked meal.

Our day started with a stop at Jacuzzi Winery, home of The Olive Press, where we always stop to sample the olive oils and get our bottles refilled. Today we get a new pressing of Arbequina olive oil. We use these better oils as finishing oils while we use a more generic EVOO for everyday cooking.

Here’s a picture of John next to Santa at the Jacuzzi Winery and The Olive Press.

Ho, ho, ho John at Jacuzzi winery
Wind-blown Mary in front of jacuzzi Winery

Next we stop at Imagery Winery to pick up our Wine Club allotment. For agreeing to a certain number of bottles per year you get a 20% discount. Also you get a free tasting of their recent offerings. So John and I try a few sips. It is fun as long as you do not enroll in too many wine clubs or have too many sips!

For a late lunch we try the recently opened Salt and Stone restaurant in Kenwood, CA. I think we make very reasonable choices.

John’s roasted octopus with chickpeas
My octopus salad

After lunch we head for home trying not to get caught in rush hour traffic. Sonoma County wine country is beautiful even in late November and a nice break from the urban/suburban bustle.

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Leaves turning in the vineyards of Sonoma County

 

 

 

Bonus post – Bergen, Norway. 9/3/18

I did not think I would have time to write another post until we got home but I forgot about the five hour layover in Copenhagen. Plus the WiFi in Copenhagen airport is much faster than it was on the boat.

In Bergen we spend much of our time packing and getting ourselves together. We have to put our luggage out in the hall at 10PM tonight and so you have to plan what you need and what you can do without.  But we do have time for a little walk around Bergen and have a local lunch.

The first thing we see on our walk is a statue of Snorri Sturluson. Snorri Sturluson’s writings provide information about persons and events in Northern Europe during the 10th and 11th centuries. He grew up in Iceland and in his writings is information about the discovery of Vinland.

Snorri Sturluson

Passing by Snorri we take a look at St. Mary’s Church. We were interested in looking inside the last time we were in Bergen but inconveniently someone was getting married.

St. Mary’s Church, Bergen, Norway

The construction of the church is believed to have started in the 1130s or 1140s and completed around 1180, making this church the oldest remaining building in the whole city of Bergen. It was at least party destroyed a few times by fire but was always rebuilt.

Drawing of Bergen from 1580 with St. Mary’s Church (Item C)

Unfortunately no photos of the interior are allowed. There are some pictures on the internet though. It has a very fancy altarpiece which must pre-date the Reformation. It is all full of saints and decoration which would not have played well with the strict Lutherans. The Church was under the auspices of the Hanseatic League so escaped becoming a ruin.

Altarpiece of St. Mary’s (photograph by Morten)

There is also an interesting painting from 1676 which has a very Protestant point of view.

Protestant and Catholic praying

If you look closely at the figure on the right you will see a humble man. From his mouth you see a red line going directly to heaven. He is the Protestant. Next to him is a richly garbed man. His red line goes to the Virgin Mary and the saints. There also lines to interests-money, trade, revelry and more. We asked the woman at the desk about it and she told us it was to show that Protestants could talk directly to God while Catholics had to go through intermediaries and their attention was diverted to worldly matters.

After seeing the Church we head over to a favorite restaurant of ours, Bryggeloftet og Stuene. They are famous for their fish soup.

Delicious fish soup
John enjoying a Hansa beer

After lunch we walk along the historic district and enjoy the sunny-ish day. In Bergen it rains 5 out of every 7 days so we are lucky in the good weather.

Old Hanseatic buildings in Bergen

With our packing done we go down to the Chef’s Table for one last meal with all the people there that we have gotten to know. Tonight’s dinner has a Scandinavian theme.

Reindeer consommé with reindeer ravioli
Salmon five ways (really delicious)
Beet granita
Lamb with potato and cabbage (cabbage too strong)
Cloudberry soup with panna cotta and sesame ice cream with a sesame tuille

Then it is goodbye to everyone and off to bed because we have to get up at 2:30 AM!

Pining for the fjords. 9/2/18

Today we are in Eidfjord, a picturesque little town in fjord country. It is so small that there are no traffic lights and are ship parked in front of the hotel here totally blocks the view of the fjord for anyone staying at the hotel.

We take a short bus ride to Hardangervidda Nature Center to learn about fjords and the flora and fauna of the area.

Hardangervidda Nature Center

First we are treated to a short movie showing the beauty of the region and then we go out to explore the exhibits.

John communes with a moose

Across the street from the nature center is a restaurant and the requisite gift shop. They have a novel way of keeping the grass growing on the roof under control.

Goat on the sod roof of the restaurant/gift shop

Fall is coming to this part of the world.

Colorful leaves outside the nature center

On the way back the mountains are reflected in the fjord.

Mountains and fjord

We are back just in time for lunch! The World Cafe is quiet today because most of the excursions left later than ours. As usual we end our lunch with an oatmeal raisin cookie.

Oatmeal raisin cookies

There is not much to do in the town of Eidfjord and even less so today as it is Sunday. I take the time to catch up on my blogs, look out at the mountains and fjord, and concentrate my efforts to try to shake my cold before the long flight home.

We have a really big balcony and we put it to use watching the ship get ready to depart and photographing the beauty of the area as we depart.

Getting ready to cast off the lines
Goodbye little hotel! Sorry we blocked your view all day.
Leaving Eidfjord
Departing
Since our cabin is in the back we only see where we’ve been
We pass under this bridge. Both ends of the bridge connect to tunnels
Bridge behind us
John finally finds a waterfall. It has been so dry here that most of the water courses have no water in them

We think about going down to dinner but I really do not feel like getting dressed and eating fancy food. Plus I am trying not to infect my fellow passengers. So we order room service and I get a hot dog. It is weird.

Hot dog with super spicy mustard, ketchup (which I told them I did not want), and relish in a not-hot-dog bun

We go to bed early which is a good thing because around 12:30 AM the seas are so rough that things are clanging around and we are buffeted around for the next four hours.   We have to spend a portion of our time in the North Sea and it is way rougher than the Baltic Sea or the fjords.

P.S. The title of the blog today, Pining for Fjords, is a reference to the Monty Python sketch, The Dead Parrot.

Black gold. 9/1/18

As we pull into Stavanger, Norway a strange sign greets us.

Houston, Stavanger’s sister city

It seems that Houston is Stavanger’s sister city.  Truthfully the only place in Houston that I have been is the airport and that is not a fond memory. Well, maybe they are sister cities because they are both ports. However, the little port of Stavanger is nothing like the busy gulf port of Houston.

Maybe it is because they are both the fourth largest city of their countries. But there is hardly a comparison.
Houston, TX. Population: 2,296,224
Stavanger, Norway. Population: 121,610

No, they are sister cities because like Houston the oil industry is the backbone of Stavanger’s economy. In 1969, a new boom started as oil was first discovered in the North Sea. Stavanger was chosen to be the on-shore center for the oil industry on the Norwegian sector of the North Sea.

With our guide we take a walk around Stavanger.

Charming houses near the harbor from the time when fishing was the main industry
12th century cathedral
Canning museum
“Most colorful” street

Our last stop is the Oil Museum.

Oil Museum, Stavanger, Norway (stock photo)

Inside we learn all about the oil industry in Norway. There are displays about how oil is created, mock-ups of oil rigs, drill bits, and a rather bleak movie. In the movie the son of one of the original oil platform workers goes to visit his father after not speaking to him for twenty years. During the ride to his father’s cabin there are flashbacks to his childhood. He thinks about all the ways that oil has ruined their idyllic country life and made them want “things!” He also realizes that all the money that Norway has now also is a good thing bringing everyone in the country great security. The film ends with father and son sitting side by side looking out at nature and not speaking to each other.

For all the “we are the happiest nation” (which Norway says is them and not Denmark) they surely make some depressing films.

So Norway is busily raking in the 78% taxes on the oil profits while becoming more and more a green energy nation. They are not interested in using the oil but have no problem with selling it. Each Norwegian’s share of the profits works out to about 1.5 million NOK. (8 NOK to $1 USD). This sum is put into a trust for the good of the Norwegian people and a percentage is spent every year for their benefit.

Later we enjoy the sail away from our balcony.

Sailing away from Stavanger

Dinner tonight at the Chef’s Table. Our menu is called Xiang and is inspired by Cantonese and Huaiyang cuisine.

Amuse bouche – a gingery hot and sour soup paired with a Sauvignon blanc and semillon blend
First course – fried prawns with Gavi di Gavi from Piedmont Italy
main course – wok-fried beef with a Brazin zinfandel

On our own. 8/31/18

We decide today to go off on our own for the short time we will be in Aalborg. We are feeling the pressure of being herded around in groups where we only get to see a quick smorgasbord of what a town has to offer. It feels rather adventurous and slightly radical to duck the groupthink and act independently.

We head into town with the plan of catching a taxi out to the Kunsten Museum of Modern Art. Avoiding the tour groups we find a taxi with a pleasant driver who takes out to the museum.

Old town center in Aalborg, Denmark with Viking tour group on the left

The first thing that catches my attention is an outdoor installation of clothes apparently drying on clothes lines which give the impression of Tibetan prayer flags. The point of the prayer flags is not to send prayers to the gods but to send positive messages out to people everywhere. I am feeling pretty positive that this is the right place for us to visit today.

Outdoor installation at Kunsten Museum called Bird on a Wire by Katrina Kaikkonens

Inside we are met by the pleasant ticket seller who gives us the low down on the art and its arrangement in the museum. On our way to see the exhibit, The Power of Color, we stop to admire a painting by Max Ernst, a co-founder of the Surrealist movement in Paris in the early 20th century. These birds on a dark background have a madonna and child vibe to them.

Bonjour Satanas, Max Ernst, 1928

The main indoor exhibition is named The Power of Color. The premise being that without color there is no art and that art can be distilled down to formless works of pure color and still communicate with the viewer.

I wish I had taken a picture of the information plate next to this painting. It reminds me a lot of the work of a friend of ours work. The faces morphing into petals and the splashes of color are very reminiscent of Alison Kendall’s works.

From the exhibition The Power of Color
27 Problems, John Korner, 2005

I really enjoy this sculpture done by French American Artist Niki de Saint-Phalle who has made these colorful creations called the Nana sculptures. I could swear I have seen this Big Nana somewhere as a logo to an event or tourism.

Big Nana, Niki de Saint-Phalle

Another favorite is Two Watchers V by Lynn Chadwick, 1967. It reminds me of the Three Sisters (or Gossips) rock formation in Arches National Park.

Here are a couple more we enjoy –

Saint George and the Dragon, Olaf Rude, 1918
#20 Chinese Girl

Finally as we are walking out we see out the window a group of high school kids goofing around like kids anywhere (except maybe blonder.)

Danish school outing to the Kunsten Modern Art Museum

The nice lady at the desk calls a taxi for us and we are whisked back to the town center and after a stop at the local church we are back at the boat before it leaves without us. We have had a lovely morning on our own.

Later we have dinner at Manfredi’s, the very mediocre Italian restaurant. Everyone raves about it so there must be a lot of bad Italian food in their hometowns. I start with a Caprese salad thinking it will be a safe choice.

Caprese salad which tasted fine but way out of proportion
John likes his lemon and rosemary risotto especially with the addition of olive oil
My chicken Parmesan – big and dry
John’s mussels-sent the first lot back because they were way overcooked

But we have a nice chat with the restaurant manager and a couple glasses of grappa and finish a pretty good day.

 

Good day for mermaids. 8/30/18

We are in Copenhagen, Denmark where it is a good day for mermaids, and also for fish, ducks, and umbrellas. The weather has really been superb with no rain and temperatures in the upper 60’s and low 70’s during our trip. But today it is raining. We don our weather gear and go looking for the Little Mermaid.

Straight from the pages of Hans Christian Anderson it is the Little Mermaid forever gazing towards land looking for her prince.

We spend the next two and a half hours with Sherman, our guide, as he walks us around Copenhagen and lets us in on the secret of why Denmark is the world’s happiest nation. Could it be their glorious past? They have a lot of statues reminding them of it.

This is a statue about the mythological founding of Zealand, the island where Copenhagen is situated. Swedish King Gylfi promised Gefion all the territory she could plow in one night figuring she would only be able to manage one acre. Crafty Gefion turned her sons into oxen and plowed up a lot of land which they threw into the sea creating Zealand. The hole became Lake Varnen in Sweden which is about the same size and shape as Zealand.

Gefion driving her four oxen sons to plow the land for Zealand

And then there are the statues of former Fredericks.

King Frederick V who spent so much money that he had to keep having wars to grab land from Sweden that he could sell back to them
King Frederick IX who started the welfare state and encouraged women to have a place in the work force

Finally sometimes it is good to put up a statue to remind you that you (Denmark) did some terrible things in the past that you wish to atone for. This statue of the slave, Queen Mary, was erected this year.

I am Queen Mary is a depiction of a female slave who started a rebellion on St. Croix (at that time under Danish rule) in 1878. Even though slavery was outlawed in 1792 it continued in the Caribbean well into the 19th century.

Sherman tells us that the Swedes are their sworn enemies. It seems like Sweden and Denmark have been feuding for years. Really? It is hard to tell all these blond people apart. Even though Sherman tells us that Denmark has become very good at surrendering, we can see traces of their militarism.

Changing of the guard at the Queen’s palace
Look! A cannon and a windmill at their Citadel
Finally here are some army personnel standing at attention after riding their bicycles to headquarters

Maybe churches make them happy? Denmark is mostly Lutheran although not so many people attend services.

Marble Church which isn’t really marble because King Frederick V did not have enough money to finish it
Alexander Nevsky Russian Orthodox Church built in the late 19th century because Princess Dagmar married the tsar-to-be Alexander

As we wind up the morning tour we must face the fact that although they pay 50% of their income in taxes in exchange for free health care, generous maternity/paternity leave, free higher education (actually the government pays you to go to college), job retraining if you quit a job you don’t like, old age pensions, liveable wages, etc. they are not miserable. In fact they are the happiest nation in the world.

During our afternoon tour we find some other reasons they are happy, great food! John and I take the Food Lovers tour which centers around the Copenhagen Market. The guide gives us so many treats that it is hard to swallow them fast enough.

At the end of today we are feeling pretty happy too!

Revelations. 8/29/18

Today instead of taking the train to Berlin we opt for a simpler and shorter outing to Rostock. It is not so much the place that is memorable but a person, our guide, Johannes. He is a graduate student in modern German language and history at Rostock University.

Johannes at the Rostock city wall
City gate with Prussian Pomeranian coat of arms

Johannes’s family has lived in the Mecklenburg/Pomerania area for centuries and they have experienced a lot of history. He is very forthcoming about his family’s role in Nazi Germany. Some of his great-grandparents were Nazis, even higher level Nazis. He told a story of one relative of these great-grandparents who was killed because she was handicapped in some way. When Johannes objected to it, they said that it was too bad that their professor was no longer living because he would have been able to explain it better. In other words, they had no problem with it.

His grandfather who is still living was recruited into the Nazi army when he was 17.  He has a diary that he wrote of his experiences while in the army that he will not let his family read until he is dead. Johannes is hoping to use this diary to write a book about how it was to be a 17 year old conscripted Nazi soldier.  He told us people only talk about their roles in Nazi Germany within their families although it is changing with the younger generation.

As we walk through the pretty reconstructed town of Rostock his commentary puts a dark edge on the scenes.

Pretty reconstructed Main Street of Rostock

Johannes remarks that Germans are masters of building new things to look old.

Only original facade to survive in Rostock

Rostock was part of East Germany. As we drive into the city the suburbs have many Soviet style apartment blocks still standing. Most Soviet statues have been pulled down although there is still a Soviet fountain in the middle of town.

Soviet Happy Family fountain

Since it is a lovely day we decide to stay in town and have lunch. We can make our own way back. We thank Johannes for his frank discussion about Nazi Germany and head into the city government square. Since we are both still having cold symptoms we need to find a pharmacy for cold medications. Rats Apotheke should do the trick.

Rats Pharmacy

Then it is off in search of some lunch. We are hoping for “wurst und kraut und bier” but settle for beer, French fries, and a curry dog. Curry dogs seem to be all the rage in Northern Germany.

Big beer!
Smaller beer

This curry dog must be 18” long! And it is swimming in this awful sweet sauce. There is a sprinkling of curry powder on the veal sausage. I try to eat the ends where there is less sauce. This is a bad experiment!

Worst Currywurst

We buy a ticket for the tram and then transfer onto the S-bahn which takes us back to ship. (It is always a little scary to take transportation that you are not sure whether it will take you where you need to go.) It is a good deal for 2 euros.

Later we have dinner at the Chef’s Table where the theme is Sweet and Salty.

First course Scallops with beets and passion fruit sauce
Entree, Veal medallions