Italy - Venice

by Kimp 9. April 2017 01:00

Photo Blog (Click to View)

Welcome !!!

History

The main island in the Veneta Lagoon is called Venice. It was formed by an ancient river, that formed a river delta (dumped its sediment) in the lagoon. At one time, Venice would have been connected to the main land, but parts of the delta washed out, leaving it an island. Venice's Grand Canal, isn't a canal at all, it is the remains of the ancient river that flowed through it.

In 400 A.D., when the Western Roman Empire was starting to fall, the people of Northern Italy sought refuge from the barbarian's, on the Islands in the Veneta lagoon.

Over the next 50 years, they tried to go back to the mainland, but when "Attila the Hun" was on his way to take Rome, he was destroying everything in Northern Italy. Atilla failed to take Rome and left, but by that time, Venetian's had built up enough infrastructure to make Venice a nice place to live, so they stayed and other's joined them.

The Veneta Lagoon is full of a large variety of fish and lots of salt, so that became their first Industry (still thriving today).

Being avid sailors, they built a very large merchant sailing fleet, at a time when most Army's were land based, and could not easily get to them. To protect their merchant fleet from pirates and small navies, they trained all of their merchant sailors in combat.

Each time they built a large merchant vessel, they would also build a combat ship. The combat ship would sit in port during peaceful times, and during times of attack or war, half of their merchant fleet would be keep in port, and the combat ships would be manned with those merchant sailors. A formula that worked for over 800 years.

That lucrative trade business brought immense wealth to Venice that can now be enjoyed by all.

Today

In my opinion, Venice falls in the category of to much tourism for its size. The romantic feel left many years ago, and it sure isn't headed back there any time soon. If I were the Mayor of Venice, the first thing I would do is limit the number of Gondola's. The once quaint canal's, are busting at the seams. The next thing I would do is limit the number of cruise ship's that dock there. Just keep raising the fee, until the number dwindles to something that is reasonable. Venice is great in the morning and evening, when the big ship's aren't there.

Many of the building's along the Grand Canal appear to be abandoned and very run down. It's an ugly image that just keeps staying ugly. It's can't be modernized, or Venice would lose its ancient charm, but left untouched, it just keeps getting uglier.

The best part is just walking around and getting lost. That's really easy to do. There are lots of beautiful and quiet outdoor restaurant's tucked away in a corner, that only local's know about.

Walking around can get a bit tiring, because all of the foot bridges crossing the canals are arch shaped, with several steps on each side to allow the boat's to go under and the people to go over them. Riding in a boat, be it a Gondola or a private taxi is nice, but bring lots of money, they are both very, very expensive. The public transportation boats are inexpensive, but not that great of an experience. Their just isn't any middle ground experience that I could find.

Some of the canals have been filled in, to make nice pedestrian super highways. I'm indifferent about that. Convenient, but like closest space, they always fill to capacity no matter how big nor small. Nothing is really gained.

The Best Time I Had

One night, I ate in an upscale restaurant. About two waiters per table, plus a manager of a group of waiter's, and the mafia looking enforcer dude, who walks around and asks you if everything is alright. The patron's all looked like they were dressed for the Opera.

Italy has the worlds best service. Italian's take great pride in giving excellent service. So what they want is for a person to tell them exactly what they want, then they will go and do exactly that.

The first thing they do when you sit down, is to bring out an aperitif drink. An alcohol beverage that cleanse the taste buds and helps bring out the aroma in the meal. I think it was a generous portion of Brut Champagne. Usually that is not by choice, it is complimentary and customary, and sets the tone for a great dining experience.

Usually an upscale restaurant does not stock 1/2 bottles of wine, I was a little tired and did not feel like a whole bottle of wine, but at the same time I felt like I kind of needed a whole bottle of wine. It turns out that they did stock one wine, in 1/2 bottles, but when he described it to me, it didn't sound that great. So I asked the waiter what his favorite wine was. This freaked him out. He didn't know what to do. I'm supposed to tell him what I want, so he can just do that, not ask his opinion. "Sir, this 1/2 bottle is a very good wine, I assure you.". "I didn't ask if it was very good, I asked what is your favorite?".

After several minutes of me asking, and him not telling me what his favorite was, if finally said, "Dude, just bring me whichever wine is your favorite.". The table next to mine was two Russian women, dressed to the nines, thoroughly enjoying the show I was putting on. They were laughing so hard, tears were starting to show.

The waiter comes back with 5 glasses of wine. Not 5 tastings of wine, but 5 full glasses. He say's, "Here, you choose!!!" I take a sip of each and pick one (of course it was a wine that only came in a full bottle). ut I can't just leave these full glasses on the table. I stayed long enough to finish those 5 glass and the whole bottle.

I am about to leave, and the waiter brings me a complimentary after dinner liquor, designed to get rid of any after tastes. I sure didn't need that, but I drank that just to be polite. He did get an awesome tip, both for putting up with me, and for solving a very difficult service problem.

On my way out, I don't ever remember being that drunk. I had to be extra careful, not to run into someone's table.

It was really hard walking back to the hotel. It was raining and slippery. Many of these canals, don't have any guard rails, so one miss-step or slip and I would be swimming. All of those foot bridges, with the stairs up and down were a recurring struggle. Then I got hopelessly lost, and people were too scared to talk to a big drunk man. Luckily, a very brave, very petite, local women took pity on me, and helped me out. If it wasn't for her, I might have ended up sleeping outside in the cold rain.

Keeping Score

Overall I give Venice a B-, but that waiter definitely gets an A+.

Photo Blog (Click to View)

Thank you for reading,

I'll see you next time.

Craig

Tags:

Travel

Sicily - Monreale

by Kimp 16. March 2017 03:54

Welcome !!!

Photo Blog (Click to View)

History

After the Western Roman Empire, headquartered in Rome, fell in 500 A.D. Sicily became under the control of the Eastern Roman Empire, headquartered in Byzantium (Modern day Constantinople), which continued to flourish for about another 1000 years. Around 825 A.D. a new Byzantine governor of Sicily was appointed to Sicily. The new governor wanted to strengthen the Sicilian Navy and he trusted it's command to a Sicilian Admiral named Euphemius. Euphemius was a very wealthy Sicilian land owner, and he was well liked by the Sicilian Population.

Apparently Euphemius had an obsession with a young nun, and word got around that he had abducted her and forced her to marry him. Michael II, the emperor of Byzantine, ordered him to be arrested and put on trail, and if found guilty, his nose was to be cut off. Euphemius, then requested assistance from the Muslim leader Ziyadat Allah I of Ifriqiya (Modern day Tunisia). At that time, Ziyadat Allah I was upset at a local Judge, named Asad ibn al-Furat, whom often critized Ziyadat, for his luxurious and ungodly lifestyle. So Ziyadat appointed Asad, to lead the expidition over Sicily (an Army of 10,000 foot soldiers). Asad on his way to siege Syracuse, was stopped by the government of Syracus, who wanted to offer a payment to not siege Syracuse. While negotiations were taking place, the Army's advance was put on hold. In the meantime Euphemius, who would have lost out in that deal, convinced the Syracuse government not to pay them anything. A plague broke out in the Muslim camp and Asad died of plague. A new Muslim leader was appointed and the siege was started, but by that time a massive Byzantine fleet had showed up. The Army tried to retreat back to Tunisia, but the Byzantine fleet had them cut off, so they burned their ship's and marched in-land towards a city in the center if Sicily, named Castrugiuvanni (now Enna). The council of Castrugiuvanni asked to open negotiations with the Muslim's. Euphemius and this escort'showed up to negotiate on behalf of the Muslim Army. During those talks, Euphemius and his escorts were all killed. The Muslim Army sieges Castrugiuvanni and waits. In the meantime, a great Byzantine Gerneal named Theodotus and his Army was sent to Sicily. They attacked the force besieging Castrugiuvanni and were initially defeated, before mounting a counter-attack that was successful in driving the Muslim Army away.

Eventually the Muslim Army moved to the North West and was able to take the Sicilian Coastal City of Palermo where they home based, and over the course of the next 40 years, expanded their effort to take all of Sicily.

When the Muslim Army gained control of Palermo and overtook the government there, they moved the Arch Bishop of Palermo to a small nondescript chapel in Monreale.

250 years later, the Norman Knights conquered Southern Sicily, then set their sights on Sicily, and over the course of another 40 years,  managed to overtake all of Sicily. The Norman government decided not to change the Byzantine nor Muslim influences that were already in place. They incorporated positions in their government that were represented by both cultures and tried to create an integrated society that included and incorporated all three mindsets.

100 years later, King William II took the throne at the age of 11. The crown was under the guardianship of his mother until he came of age.
The adult King William II liked to party and didn't care much for the military. Instead of fighting, he stayed at home and mastered in diplomacy. The Kings palace was in Palermo, but the valley near Monreale was their favorite hunting grounds.

Cathedral Santa Maria la Nuova

As soon as his mother's guardianship was over (1172), King William II built the Cathedral at Monreale, as a testament of the splendor of his Kingdom of Italy..

The architecture includes characteristic signs of Norman, Byzantine, Muslim architecture. William hired the best Sicilian Byzantine artists to create 120 Mosaic panels inside of the cathedral, each depicting a story from the bible. Four years after the cathedral construction started, 100 Benedictine monks were relocated here and a Benedictine Monastery was added.  The cloister of the monastery is very large and consists of 106 column capitals each sculpted with a picture narrative, depicting a notable story from the bible.

Roman Cathedrals often have a cross shape in the floor plan, with the high alter positioned near the intersection of the cross and a dome high above it. Byzantine Cathedrals are kind of a hybrid between a Roman Cathedral and a mosque, without the cross floor plan and with the high alter positioned inside a nitch at one end, which is topped by a semicircular dome.

The cathedral and monastery were nearly completed in only 17 years, when construction came to a halt.

In the mid 1500's the elaborate mosaic marble floors were installed, along with marble on the lower walls. .

In 1596, the Chapel of saint Castrense, dedicated to the patron saint of Sicily, was added. By that time architectural tastes had changed and it was built in a Renaissance style that was popular at that time. A funny story, it was commissioned by Arch Bishop Ludvico, who wanted to be buried there. But he died on a visit to Rome, and was buried in Rome (Whoop's).  Below the Marble alter there, are the relics of St. Castrense, which were given to King William II.

In 1686, the Chapel of the Crucifix was added. As with the previous chapel, it was created in the popular style of that time (Baroque). It's conceptual design was articulated by Monk Giovanni di Monreale, but it built by famous Jesuit Angelo Italia, who was a very famous Sicilian Architect. This is the finest master masonry work, that I have ever seen. Words can't describe and pictures can't really capture it. This inlaid Sicilian marble work is masterpiece quality. It's simply awe inspiring. centerpiece is a crucifix, that was a gift from William II to the church, in the late 1100's when the cathedral was built.

I did not go inside of the chapel of Saint Benedict, but from the pictures I have seen of it, it looks Baroque as well and was probably built around the same time as the Chapel of the Crucifix. It has a theater like appearance and is very vibrant and colorful.

I also did not go inside of the chapel of Saint Placido (Saint Placidus was a disciple of Saint Benedict), which now houses museum quality religious art. Since he was one of Saint Benedict's students, I believe this was built much later, but from pictures it resembles the later Baroque period. The pictures I have seen of the Art there, look great, I wish I had gone to see it.  

In 1811, a fire destroyed the original carved ceiling, the organs and the high alter and severely damage several of the mosaics. They were all restored/reconstructed trying to reproduce the original. The new alter was built in Rome.

Monreale

The town of Monreale, is very warm and relaxing in appearance. The valley that the church overlook's is full of Orange, Olive, and Almond trees. A beautiful sight all by itself.

Photo Blog (Click to View)

See you next time !!!

Craig

Tags:

Travel

Germany - Esslingen - Christmas Market

by Kimp 21. December 2016 22:21

Welcome !!!

Photo Blog (Click to View)

Christmas Market History

Christmas decorations and markets started in Germany during the times of the Holy Roman Empire. The first mention of a Christmas market was in 1310 in Munich, Germany. 

They commonly go by two names; Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market) or Christkindlmarkt (Christ Child Market). 

They consist of open air stalls for vendors selling local items in the town square, and feature festival food, Gluehwine (hot spiced wine), local traditional song and dance, elaborate Christmas decorations, and sometimes a live nativity. 

They are usually kicked off by an opening ceremony that centers around an angel like woman figure(which  probably represents the angel Gabriel, who told the virgin Mary that she would bring Jesus into the world), and lasts for the entire advent season (4 weeks, starting at the end of November) and go up until at least the day before Christmas Eve. Some are also open on Christmas. A few carry the festival for a week after Christmas, but usually that isn't considered part of the Christmas Market, it's just some additional activities that people who were busy for all of advent, can kick back and partake in.

Esslingen Christmas Market

With lots of competition, some Christmas Markets have created a unique brand to set their experience apart from the others. Esslingen is one of those. It is a Renaissance/Medieval market, with several artisan's, hand crafted items, and a more artistic experience.  It's my personal favorite.

Off Market 

Strasbourg France is experimenting with a new concept called the Off-Noel Market or Off-Market for short. They still have their traditional Christmas Market, but in Place Grimmeissen. It is kind of an alternative adult minded market, where you can enjoy live music, adult story telling, DIY Workshops, tasting session, afterwork drinks, conferences and topical discussions. Kind of a place to unwind that is a little more intellectual and a little less Christmasy.

Photo Blog (Click to View)

Thank you for Reading,

Craig

Tags:

Travel

Germany - Tubingen - Chocolate Festival

by Kimp 15. December 2016 13:25

Welcome !!!

Photo Blog (Click to View)

Sorry for the lack of and low quality of the photos. There were just too many people and not enough light to make any of them work very well. Too difficult to get any head-on photos and even the distant photos seem crowded. I found it best just to holster the camera and savor the experience without it.

Every year Tubingen is host to the world's most prestigious Chocolate Festival. ChocolArt, which will see master chocolatiers from five continents, competing for the title of the best cocoa-based products. More than 200 thousand visitors of ChocolArt judge the artworks prepared during the festival. About a hundred chocolatiers from Africa, South and North America, Europe, Asia meet here to put on live performances and showcase of their talents.

One of the products I tried was chocolate beer. A novelty item that will probably not be sampled by me again. Other than that, everything got an A+ on my rating system.

Tubingen History

In 1261, Pope Alexander IV, created an Augustinian Monastery here. A Latin school was founded in 1370. In those days all papal and medical books were written in Latin. The Canon of Medicine was written in 1000 in Persia and remained a medical authority for eight centuries. It set the standards for medicine in Medieval Europe and the Islamic world, and was used as a standard medical textbook through the 18th century in Europe.

This lead to the founding of St George's Collegiate Church in 1470. A collegiate church is a church were the pastoral body is made up of a group of people, as opposed to just one person, usually overseen by a Provost (person in charge of education). In 1477 a University was founded here, which quickly became the most prestigious Theological University in the Holy Roman Empire.

Martin Luther started the most prominent push towards Protestantism in 1517. St. George's Collegiate Church was one of the first churches to convert to Protestantism and in 1535 the Augustinian Monastery was converted into a seminary which served to prepare the first protestant pastor's for duty. These early reformation leaders were very highly educated people.

in 1620 the Protestant Union signed a treaty with the Catholic Counter-Reformation leaders to no longer militarily support protestants in Bohemia, in exchange for peace in the rest of the Protestant Union. However, this also lead to the dissolution of the Protestant union in 1621 since the Protestant Union's leader was the King of Bohemia and he had to seek asylum in the Netherlands. In 1622 the Catholic League occupied Tubingen which was on the Southern Boarder of the old Protestant Union. That lasted until 1638 when Swedish troops conquered Tubingen and returned it to protestantism. 

Tubingen Today

Boasts both the youngest population average and the highest standard of living in Germany. University is the dominant industry here.  With a student population of 22,000, one in three residents is a university student. The high standard of living comes from the building of a people friendly infrastructure, which includes well designed and integrated bike paths, incorporation with nature, good public transportation, and cafes and pubs filled with intellectual and stimulating conversation.

On the side of relaxation and romance, are the punt (Stocherkahn) boats in the Neckar river that circle the forested island that divides the Neckar, near the old town. A punt boat, is a small flat bottom raft, with a square front, what is powered and steered by a punter (a person with a long pole, who jambs it in the mud and pushes it in the desired direction).

The university is one of the leading medical and chemical research universities in Europe (with several Nobel prize winning Laureates), as well as one of the leading theology universities. They are the creators and maintainers of the German Language, like it or hate it, and are almost always recognized as the leader in German Studies (German History, Language, and Culture).

Thank you for reading.

PhotoBlog (Click to View)

I'll see you next time.

Craig

Tags:

Travel

France - Capbreton

by Kimp 10. December 2016 11:31

Welcome !!!

Photo Blog (Click to view)

Short old dude walking slowly down the boardwalk, wearing a beret, stopping occasionally to take a bite out of a fresh baguette that he just bought at the bakery. Check! Overweight old dude wading in ankle deep water wearing nothing but a speedo. Check! Women who are saving money by only buying bikini bottoms, occasionally ask me to take a picture of them and their friends, using their camera. Check! Yep, I must in France. One of these days, I am going to swap their camera for mine (Gee I know that dude took several pictures of us. He was even posing us! I wonder where those pictures are?).

The reason we see so many men in speedo's in France, is because French public pools do not allow any other attire to be worn in their pools. So that is all they buy, and all are comfortable wearing the same thing in the Ocean. It has to do with personal hygiene. The French do not allow anything to be worn in a pool that could have been worn as general attire before or outside of the pool area. Nobody would wear a speedo outside of the pool area, so it fits the bill. They do not want any dirt or contaminates to be washed off in the water, so if they let someone in the pool who was wearing fashionable swim shorts, they run that risk.

My History

I have never been a surfer myself, but my best friend from the Navy, Paul, moved to Oceanside California after he got out of the Navy and took up surfing as a hobby. Oceanside is a perfect location, about mid-way between San Diego and Los Angles. Every day has a high of about 80 degrees and a low of about 60 degrees. Some cheap type of heating is needed for some of the cooler nights, but no air conditioning is needed, because there is always a cool breeze blowing in from the ocean.

The Pacific Coast is much cooler than the Atlantic coast. The water on North America's West coast flows down from the Arctic, and the water on North America's East coast flows up from the tropics. Surfing in Southern California, often requires some type of wet suit to stay warm.

Paul always seemed to maintain a fairly simple and high quality of life on a tight budget. His surf mainstay was the popular San Onofre beach location, that draws 400,000 surfers per year, but he often traveled to the bluff's in Baja and the big waves in Oahu and Kauai. He was big in pre-computerized social media, maintaining a free surf paper that he published, about what was going on and where, what he had done, and where he was headed next. Surf comics and all. My favorite part of my post Navy time with Paul, was the hammock on his covered side patio in Oceanside, that was perfect for napping in the middle of the day. Then there were the Eddie Money concerts on the beach there, and a bachelor party on the bluffs in Baja that Paul and I were invited to, that were special in their own way too. 

Surf Slang

Boardshorts - a special type of shorts that surfers wear. They usually only have one pocket (a single back pocket with a flap), are straight legged, are worn mildly tight and have some type of built in belt or pull tie.

Hodad - A person who doesn't really surf, but pretends to, and hangs around great surfing places.

Kook - Person who wants to be a surfer, but has been trying for a long time and still has limited skill.

Grom - a surfer under the age of 16.

Front side - Surfing with your front facing the wave.

Back side - Surfing with your back facing the wave.

Natural foot - When the right foot is farthest back on the board.

Cross step - Crossing one foot over the other to move up on the board.

Gas chamber - being inside of the tunnel on a breaking wave.

Switch back - Surfing a figure 8 on the front of the wave.

Reentry - Hitting the top lip of the wave with the board vertical, then reentering the wave on the drop.

Aerial - What makes the crowd go Ohhh - Ahhh. Riding up the wave until airborne, then turning and landing right on the break.

Stall - Riding very far back on the board and putting a hand in the wave to slow down and stay in the pocket.

Floater - Riding on the very top of the wave, then eventually turning down.

Wave Breaks

There are several different conditions that cause a wave to break. Most common are underwater obstructions, such as coral or the peak of a large underwater rock. Consistent Beach Breaks are fairly rare, that is when the water over the shallow water in a beach. It takes a lot of water power to cause a beach break.

Hossegor

Every October, Hurricane's stir up the Atlantic Ocean in about the same location, about 100 miles off the coast of France. The water transfer's that energy all of the way to Hossegor.

Hossegor beach is considered the worlds best Beach Break, with waves of up to 20 feet. These vary from day to day. 10 feet is considered good at Hossegor. Not sure, but I think they still compete if the waves are 6-8 feet high. Every morning an official observes the wave action to determine if they are going to compete that day and exactly where the surf lane will be. The surf lane is marked by large black and white floating cubes anchored to the bottom so they don't move. Hossegor is a beautiful location, and some professional surfer's choose this as their permanent home.

This WSL event held here every year and is prefixed with the sponsors names. Quicksilver Pro 2015 was the one that I was at.

World Surf League Rules

To get the most out of watching it is handy to know a little bit about the competition. WSL is one of the surf leagues, they have their own rules and for the most part are fairly simple.

There several tours each with a qualifying series to get into the tour:

1. Championship Tour (CT) - A tour consisting of all wave types. 

2. Big Wave Tour (BWT) - A tour where the waves are a minimum of 30 feet high (typically greater than 50 feet).

3. Longboard Tour (LT) - Longboards are more stable and easier to maneuver, but are also slower to maneuver and slower to pick up speed. Therefore, they are on a separate tour schedule. More grace, but less excitement in my opinion.

Contestants - consist of the top 36 male surfers and top 18 female surfers of the current year.

Tour - A tour is made up of several events (usually 10 or 11) that are spread out throughout the surf year (March - December). Mens events are in different location's then the Womens events are (They have separate schedules). Not every location on a given tour is surfed every year, some locations are changed from year to year, but are always announced before the surf year starts.

Event - Each event is split up in to many rounds and can last several weeks in length.

Ranking - Each event awards a number of points based on the surfers position in that event (10,000 for 1st, 8,000 for second, etc). Those event points are added together to create an overall tour ranking for each surfer.

Round/Heat - Each round consist of grouping of surfers (2-4), called heats, that all surf at the same time. The winner of a heat advances one or two rounds ahead, and the losers battle it out in each round until eliminated. In the later rounds, it is single elimination, with only the winner advancing, until one surfer is left.

Scoring - The max score for a single wave is 10. There are 5 judges, the highest and lowest scorers are thrown out and the middle three are averaged together. The score from the top two waves of a heat are the only ones kept, and they are added together for a maximum heat score of 20.

Interference - On any given wave, only one surfer in the water has priority. If they stand up on a wave, the others must abort and get out of their way. The priority position changes when the priority person stands up on a wave. The penalty for interference of priority, is that surfer only gets to count one wave in that heat, which most certainly will result in a lose for that heat.

Photo Blog (Click to view)

Thank you for reading,

I'll see you next time.

Tags:

Travel

Germany - Bad Durkheim

by Kimp 20. November 2016 01:57

Welcome.

Photo Blog (Click to view)

Bad Durkheim Germany

The Durkheimer Wurstmarkt (Sausage Market) is Europe’s largest wine festival, accommodating about about 600,000 people each year.

This is where wine meets relaxation and great times. The standard size glass at most wine festivals is 250 ml (1/3 of a bottle), here it is 500 ml (2/3 of a bottle). This isn’t cheap low grade box wine, it is of the highest quality, and is poured straight from the bottle that was vinted in.

It is held in the spa town of Bad Durkheim, which is in the Rhineland-Palatinate region in Western Germany, near the Rhine River which is known for producing some of the world’s greatest wines. All of the area around the town, is vineyard. It looks like a town sprouted in the middle of a massive vineyard.     

The first one was held in 1417, and it has continued every year since, this being the 600th festival. I think the reason, is that there this is a very popular spa which has a very large paved parking lot.  A perfect place that can accommodate lots of rides and booths.  Not to mention the park like atmosphere in all areas near the spa, and the quaint town that it spills into. The festival booths continue to spill into several of the town’s streets, making it seem very comfy. Topping all of that off, with many great local restaurant’s, in support of the year around spa atmosphere.

The German health care system has identified a human syndrome that they call, “Burn out Syndrome”. It is recognized as by their health care professionals, and a person exhibiting its symptoms, is given a doctor’s prescription, to live at a spa until it has been treated. The normal amount of recovery time is a few months, but I have heard of people who have taken two years to recover from “Burn out Syndrome”.

The Roman’s may have invented spa’s, but the Germans have perfected them. They can be found all over Germany, some being the main feature of a town and some blending in with a larger city.

Vintner’s villa

I stayed at vintners villa about 2 miles across the vineyard’s from the festival. It was a long, but beautiful walk through the vineyards, and well worth the effort. Beautiful and peaceful. Like going back to a time before automobiles and heavy machinery. They gave me a cold-cut meat, cheese, and fresh bread platter, that perfectly complimented their wine. I felt at home with a large family there, just hanging out and lounging, most of the time.

All of Germany has an open land culture. So long as a person respect the owner’s property that they are on, nobody cares that we are on it, nor what you are doing on it.  I have never seen a “no trespassing” sign’s nor a locked fence around any property in Germany. Several people bring their small trailers and mobile homes, and park them overnight for free, on the small roads that are in the vineyards. Same with automobiles.

Broomstick Restaurants

Besenwirtschaft  (Broom pub) is the German Name for one of the finest traditional German experiences, that I have taken part in. They can only be found in the wine growing region of Germany.

 Around 1400, German laws allowed winemaker’s to sell their own wine, tax free, during early Spring and Harvest, for only a short period of time, in limited quantities, to individuals. Like two weeks, twice a year. This was to allow the small winemakers a chance to earn a meager living and stay in business. That tradition is still alive today.

They are usually only open for a few weeks out of the year, but some are open for a bit longer, usually at the very beginning and very end of wine season. You know you are at a Besenwirtschaft, when you see an old witches broom hung above the sign or next to the front door. Often times, it is in the proprietors own house. But could also be an event room on a farm or even a small restaurant.

They remove the furniture from their living room and put up makeshift tables, to accommodate as many people as they can. They serve homemade food that that goes great with wine, and their finest wine vinted the year before (It takes an entire year to make wine, starting with the picking of the grapes).

Usually the food options are minimal, but I can assure you, that if you like homemade sausage, cheese, homemade noodles, and fresh German salad, that is probably one of the standard options. Whatever is on the menu, will taste great with their wine. These are very proud small winemakers, carrying on their family business.

For me, I have to make sure I’m not going to spill any wine, and ask them to kindly move any family heirloom items away from my general area, cause my body is big and is not always fully under my control. 

It is very easy to order the wine. Just ask for either red, rose, or white. They are only likely to have one or maybe two varieties of each of those types. It will come is a viertele , which is a 250 ml (1/3 bottle) clear glass cup, with a green handle. Usually with some type of grape decoration on it. Not sure, but maybe that is to disguise it, like during the prohibition. It is probably, cause it is harder to spill in that type of glass.

They don’t advertise much, because they don’t need too, but there are many, many Besenwirtshaft’s in the wine regions of Germany. You just need to train your eye to look for the broomsticks. That is one fine piece of German Culture,  that can only be found in Germany.

My History

I grew up near the wine making region of Ohio. There are some great Ohio wines vented near Lake Erie. I owned a home two miles from Lake Erie for several years, and my grandfather used to visit me every year at grape picking time.

A women who owned a vineyard a few miles from my house would call me when it was the perfect time to pick the grapes. She sold all of her product to a large company, so she did not make any wine herself. The company would send a person to the vineyard to test the sugar content in her grapes, then schedule the picking time around their test results and their knowledge, showed that their sugar content was at a peak. She would call me, and my grandfather and I would get there a few days ahead of them, to pick enough to make about 10 gallons of wine (5 gallons each).

The process is very simple and inexpensive, but a bit time consuming and takes a lot of attention to detail. Basically, the only difference between Red, Rose, and White is the type of grape. Red wine has an initial two week fermentation with the skins, Rose is red but fermented without the skins, and white is always fermented without the skins.

The chemical process is all natural. Yeast consumes the sugar in the grapes and produces alcohol and carbon dioxide as a by-product. When a wine is very dry (no sugar taste), it started with about 25% sugar or less. 25% sugar produces 12.5% alcohol (which would be 25 proof. Proof is the starting sugar content). It is difficult to get wine with an alcohol content higher than that, because the alcohol eventually kills the yeast that is making it. It takes a special kind of yeast to get a higher alcohol content. Less sugar, means less alcohol, but will also be dry. More sugar, makes a sweet wine, or sometimes another fruit juice is added that has higher sugar in it.

Grapes have yeast on the outside of the skins naturally, but to ensure a good product, start with the best wine yeast.

The grapes are crushed and the seeds are always removed before fermentation. Deseeding the grapes is the most manual, boring, and time consuming process. A single seed will ruin the wine.

Not all grapes, make good wine. Another chemical that is natural in grapes is called tannin. Too much tannin, gives the wine a bitter and acidy taste. Some tannin is good, but not too much. There is a chemistry method to test tannin content, and it can be adjusted slightly if needed, but the best wine starts from the perfect grape. Concord grapes make the best table grapes, but the worst wine. Start with a good wine grape.

The only other piece of knowledge needed it the exact sugar content. That can easily be measure with a specific gravity meter. The more sugar in the juice the higher the bobber will rise in the glass, because the sugar increases buoyancy. That is just need to determine how dry the wine is going to be, and it’s final alcohol percentage.

The making is easy after the prep. The initial fermentation is in open air, and lasts about three to five days.  After that, the skins (if the skins were left in) will have floated to the top. The wine is siphoned from the open container, into a large container (I use glass, but wine producers probably use barrels). The juice must fill the container to the top, because after this, air spoils wine and turns it into vinegar. Air contains living micro-organisms that will spoil the wine (before this, there is enough carbon dioxide exiting to keep air from entering). A simple device called a bubbler is used to stop the top of the container. It allows the carbon dioxide to escape without letting any air inside. A few weeks to a month later (when the bubbling is nearly gone in the bubbler), it is bottled (sooner if a sparkling wine is desired), corked, and stored for the remainder of a year. This is also done via siphon, since the yeast will be at the bottom of the container. Sulfites are always added as a preservative for long periods of storage.

The ideal conditions for wine making and storage is about 55 F and slightly moist. That keeps bad aromas and flavors from effecting the wine. The moister, is so the cork does not dry out. Wine is usually also stored on a rack, at a position that keeps the cork moist with wine as a precautionary measure, but that is not really a requirement. The requirement is that the cork not be allowed to dry out, allowing air to enter it.  

Learning German

I have been slowly learning Deutsch (German). Many of the words are derived from English and are similar, but there are a several unique words as well.

The most difficult is that the article “The” has three different conjugations. There is a masculine version, a feminine version and a neutral version. What confuses most people is that they tend to think that masculine or feminine has to do with the word that it accompanies. Like, one would think that a Bikini is feminine, and not masculine at all. It is because the word Bikini has a very masculine sound to it, so the “the” that goes with “the Bikini”, is the masculine sounding,  “Der Bikini”, instead of the feminine sounding “Die Bikini”. If the word Bikini had a soft sound to it, then it would use the feminine “the”. Once I figured that out, it all started to make sense.

Their use of plurals is more difficult in my opinion, but that starts to make sense after a while, as well. It is the ending of the word that gives it a masculine or feminine sound, and often times the plural ending changes it from a masculine to feminine sound, so the article changes as well. Plurals almost always sound feminine. Like Der Student (very masculine sound), becomes Die Studenten (a much softer feminine sound). The plurals have one of the following endings e, en, n, er, r, s or the exact same word, but with the article changed to feminine (just to follow the pattern, I am sure).

Also, most people pronounce German in very staccato manner, but there are parts of Germany, where a more legato and softer approach is used. There are people who speak it in a very soft sensual manner, and make it sound beautiful. In fact there is one women who speaks it soft enough to make my heart go pitter patter even when I don't understand what she is saying, and I call her buttercup. Well, maybe that isn’t completely due to the language.  

In any event, I have a long way to go, but am feeling more comfortable every day. I know if I learn it too good, that will be the last day I spend in Germany, so I’m not working that hard at it. It might have something to do with the eye contact.

German language also has a formal version and an informal version. The formal is what is taught and the informal is what is usually spoken among friends.

German culture never small talks. They just speak frankly. Like, they would never talk about nothing for several minutes just to butter someone up and then ask to borrow their truck for a move next weekend. They would just ask to borrow the truck, right up front. In American culture, if you don’t small talk up front, you are perceived as insensitive. So that is a shift as well.

Cake and Coffee German Tradition

All German’s traditionally have cake and coffee at 1500 (3:00 P.M.). Not 5 minutes till 3, nor 5 minutes after 3, but at 3 exactly. That’s one break that is a constant throughout Germany. Everyone takes the same break and the Café’s fill up. Most German cakes are a little dry, not very sweet, and are meant to be consumed with coffee. I happen to like that, but some people don’t. Like any food product, a person has to know what it goes best with, to get the most out of it.

Fest

This wine fest has all of the tell tale sign’s of German Ocktober Fest. Tents and all, except the beer has been exchanged for wine. It has great time written all over it.

Some of the tables are probably reserved at night time, but it is mostly wide open during the day, so I stopped in the largest tent to sip on a 500 ml glass of white wine and take in the festivities. The day time has many of the same activities as night, except it is light out and the crowd is sparse.  However, the die-hards, come early, in order to stake out a great table, for the whole day, including the night.

I was not planning on staying too long. Just an hour or so.

Several tables in front was an entire table of German’s, obviously an entire family and friends, and one caught my eye right away. A women, probably in her 40’s or maybe 50’s. She is was what a Norwegian friend of mine calls, “butter face”. Meaning everything but her face looks like she is in her twenties. She was wearing “DameHosen”. 

DameHosen are the buck shin short’s with Bavarian suspenders. The female shaped version of LederHosen. Very few German woman can rock that look. Most German women are tall and have chicken legs, which do not look good in that attire. It takes a women with Tina Turner legs to rock DameHosen. The blouse is usually the traditional women’s dirndl blouse. The Authentic look is with off-white socks that end just below the knee, and low heeled shoes. The Americanized version is leather hot pant’s, with white thigh stockings and stiletto’s (we won’t see those in conservative Germany, and to be honest, I favor the more conservative look anyway).

With them, was a dude who strongly resembled Willie Nelson (American country music star, now in his 70’s). Tall, slender, old dude, with long white hair, a great smile and the appearance of being three sheets to the wind at around 12 noon. German’s do not like drunken people, so they were more or less just ignoring him, but hey, he’s part of the family, so it’s cool having him around anyway.

There came a time when Willie was looking around the room and he set his sights on me. He see’s someone sitting alone, smiling, appearing to have a great time, and sipping on a large glass of wine. He is probably thinking, gee that looks like someone in need of a friend, and I could use a friend too. So he comes over and I think he was trying to bum a cigarette. Maybe to strike of a conversation, or maybe he was out of money and desperate.

So I gave a sympathetic look, shrugged my shoulders, and said “Kein Rauchen”

(no smokes)

“Ich lernt Deutsch. Mein Deutsch ist nicht gut!

(I’m learning German. My German is not good.)

Willie moved in a little, put an arm around me and smiled. We stood there for a few seconds as I was looking for something simple to say. I muttered “Sind ie mit Drei Kase hoch?” as I motioned in the direction of timeless beauty.

(“Are you with three cheese high?”, Three cheese high is a derogatory German phrase for a short person. Something that a person would only say in a kidding manner, while smiling sincerely.).

Willie smiles bigger, turns and heads back to his table, then with his back to me, he motions for me to follow him back to his table. Willie knows why I’m asking. This is part of the international subliminal dude language, that doesn’t need any translation.

I hesitated slightly, then found the courage to pick up my glass and join him, at the end of their table. Me and Willie are each living in our own world’s, where everyone likes us, and everyone one else at that table is pretty much ignoring us.  

Willie told me her name was Ulrike, which at the time I could not even come close to pronouncing. German r’s are rolled, which throws off my speech rhythm. Ulrike is the female version of Ulrich which means ‘Smart and Powerful’.  To me, she exuded both of those qualities, so she was named appropriately. Wille and I were talking a little, so I think they figured out that Willie had found a friend and invited him over.

Eventually, the mighty one turns to me and says, “Wer bist du?”

(The informal version on “Who are you?”)

I immediately came back with:

“Ich lernt Deutsch. Mein Deutsch ist nicht gut! Ich bin die Party-Maus. Ich koche Kirschkuchen in der Kirche Küche. Du bist schon Buttercup. Wir Machen spass!!! Morgen die Katzenjammer.”

(“I am learning German. My German is not good! I am the Party Mouse. I cook cherry cake in the church kitchen. You are beautiful buttercup. Together, we make fun!!!” Tomorrow morning the cats wailing.)

German sentences are ultra simple, frank, and to the point. She probably thought that the buttercup reference, was about the flower that makes peoples skin glow. The early spring flower that fills a spring meadow and looks great against the tall green grass and a women in a white spring dress nestled among them.

Really it was a reference to the cartoon character Buttercup in the Power Puff Girls. The Power Puff Girls was an American carton in the 90’s representing three sides of most women. Bubbles was the sensitive one, who always looked at the positive side of things, Buttercup was the tom-boy who always wanted to use power to solve all of the problems, and Blossom was the mastermind, who got between the two opposing forces and manipulated them into a happy medium.

I cook cherry cake in the church kitchen, is a German phrase to practice while learning German. It has all of the difficult and confusing K sounding German words in it. Kirsch is cherry, Kirche is church, Küche is kitchen, and  Kuchen is cake. These are really easy to mix up. The look of the bakery person when I order ‘kichen church‘ is really puzzling to them. What do you mean you don’t know what cherry cake is?

Cats wailing is the German phrase for hangover.

I got a slightly delayed smile, so I guess that meant approval. Maybe or maybe not, but that was the best I could come up with.

German’s never small talk and they always wait for the person carrying the conversation to ask them a question before talking, which signals the transfer of the conversation onto them. Unfortunately I could not think of any simple question to ask, with my limited vocabulary. So I just picked up my glass and said “Prost” (Cheers). Her body language sent me a sign of approval.

A while later buttercup was collecting two Euro’s from everyone. I didn’t have a clue what for, but if that is what Buttercup wants, sure I’m fine with that.

She gives the total, about 50 Euro’s to the table service dude, and he brings back a huge hand written reserviert (reserved) sign and puts it on our table. Then we all head out of the tent. The mystery destination was a restaurant that must have been a fairly popular place, cause there was a long line outside.

Buttercup then asked everyone for two more Euro’s. Sure.

German lines are unlike anywhere else in the world. They don’t line up in a straight line. It is a method that I call “Crowd the counter technique.”, meaning that they just kind of stand around and take up all available space. If you are Closter phobic, or you need personal space, Germany is not the place for you.

Buttercup sees my hesitation, then grabs me by the hand and starts pulling me behind her, attacking the mass of people blocking our way.  She is like a broken record saying “Entschuldigung! Entschuldigung! Entschuldigung!”, which means Sorry or Excuse me. Fine for her, cause she is like 5 foot tall, with tiny feet, maybe a 120 pounds wet, and good looking. I am just trying to go slow, to make sure I don’t crush someone’s feet, and leaving a little time for people to open a hole big enough to get my ugly body in. She is yanking my arm out of the socket the whole way. I finally figure out that she wanted me right behind her to open a big enough hole for everyone else to slither in behind.

These people are looking a little upset, but no one is saying anything. So we get inside, she hands the 50 Euro’s in coins to the waiter, and I think she said, “Here is your tip. Where are our tables?”, on account of he sat us right down and we had quick service after that.

After we sit down, she turns to me and says in decent English. “I am surprised none said a word to us on the way in. I know, if I was waiting in that line, and someone did that to me, I would have had lots of words to say.”.  Somehow I don’t have any problem believing that. Maybe that is why she wanted some big dumb looking dude with her the whole way.

We eat, pay the bill, and head back to our table at the tent. The sun sets, and the big party is on. It had all of the characters and sounds of an authentic German Oktoberfest.

Six more hours of great time and it is still going strong, but Craig was up late the night before, he has a two mile walk up hill to get back to the villa and is beat.

I tell buttercup and Willie:

Tschüss! Die Party ist vorbei für Craig.“

(Bye, the party is over for Craig.)

And hit the road on foot.

Heino (Hi-No)

Heino, was Germany’s top pop star in the 70’s. He had a beautiful baritone voice, and he took old German folk songs and made pop versions of them. A massive hit in Germany. He had very full white hair and an eye condition that required him to always wear sun glasses. People thought he was albino which added to his mystical look. He was quite the ladie’s man, and I have often wondered if Mike Myer’s Austin borrowed part of the Heino mystic for his Austin Power’s character.

Heino performing a medley of his hits from the 70’s.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fqvtLoKzP2c

Usually there is a paid actor character, at the Oktoberfest who jumps up  on a table, sings a song, and kind of flirts with the Lady’s, that I call Heino. Not sure if that is who they are modeling their character on, but it is definitely a 70’s look that they have, and they are definitely singing and attempting to flirt.

His stage name comes from his sister Hannelore's difficulty pronouncing his given name "Heinz Georg".

 

In February 2013, Heino released a new album, called "Mit freundlichen Grüssen" (A standard letter closing meaning, Sincerely Yours, or with best regards), which topped the German album charts. It is cover versions of pop, hip-hop and rock songes, and at 80 something, Heino is on the cover wearing some getto bling.

 

Songs

Besides the traditional German songs, there are some American songs that are very popular at Oktober fest. Any song that is easy listening, would not be offensive to anyone, and has that feel good vibe to it, is very popular.  Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” is at the top of that list. Everyone, from every country in the world, knows every single word, and they all sing it as loudly as they can. There are times when it is so loud, you can’t even hear the band anymore. In fact, I think if the band stopped playing, the people would just keep on singing and not even notice that they band wasn’t playing anymore.

In 1976, a British band named ‘Smokie’, came out with a song called, “Living next door to Alice.”. It is about a dude who grew up next to a girl named Alice. He had a huge crush on her for the last 24 years, but never told her (the line in the song is something like, “for 24 years, gee, I wish I had the chance”). One day Sally calls him and ask’s if he heard about Alice. He looks out his window, a Limousine pulls into her drive, she gets in, and he never see’s her again. The rest of the song is about him being bummed out, cause he never told Alice that he loved her, but then Sally tells him that she loves him and was just waiting until Alice was out of the picture before telling him. However, he is still bummed out about Alice leaving.  The song and the melody have that easy listening, Partridge Family type vibe to it, but more of a somber feel to the melody. In 1995, the Dutch band  “Gompie” remade that song and added a large group of people yelling, “Allice? Who the fuck is Alice.”, in a convenient break in the song. It was a massive hit in Germany, and today whenever that song is played, the entire German population from 2 to 92 all yell, “Alice? Who the fuck is Alice?”.  It’s a huge hit at any family gathering in Germany.

Original version:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z6qnRS36EgE

Another crowd favorite came out in 1957.

Ein Prosit, ein Prosit                (A Toast, A Toast)
Der Gemütlichkeit                    (To feeling comfortable and at peace)
Ein Prosit, ein Prosit                (A Toast, A Toast) 
Der Gemütlichkeit                    (To feeling comfortable and at peace)

Eins, Zwei, Drei, G’Suffa!        (One, Two, Three, Drink Up!)

 

This is often follow by one of the following call and responses:

Call->  Prost ihr Säcke!"          (Cheers you prick’s)

Response -> Prost du Sack!    (Cheers you prick!)

 

Or an old military call and response:

Call-> Zicke zacke, zicke zacke (Military meaning ‘He who eats the cow, shits the cow!’)

Response -> hoi hoi hoi!         (Hey, Hey, Hey!, or I agree wholeheartedly)

 

Cheers !!!

PhotoBlog (Click to view) 

Thank you for reading and I’ll see you next time.

Craig

 

Tags:

Travel

Scotland - Edinburgh Military Tatto

by Kimp 14. October 2016 04:30

Welcome !!!

This entry was from my visit in 2014.

Photo Blog (Click to View)

Tattoo was the name of the military bugle call, used to signal the bartender's, to stop serving to Military members and to send them back to the base. Kind of a Military curfew. Today it's an elaborate show, involving theatrics and musical performances. 

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo was started in 1950 and has been an annual event ever since, featuring about 10 military bands from different parts of the world, dancers, light shows, narration, military in action, fireworks, and lots of smiles.

The performance takes place on the castle esplanade, rain or shine, every weekday evening, and twice on Saturdays throughout the month of August.  

Besides the great music and professional bands, one if the nicest treats is that they show usually incorporates cultural dances from different countries that are in the tattoo.

Each year commemorates a particular organisation, anniversary, theme or event. The theme for 2014 was "Our Home, Friends and Family.". It portrays a going away party for military members, several different countries the military members visited while away, then the homecoming. 

Over 1,000 performers, 35 Zulu warrior's, 40 fiddlers, 45 steel drummers, and a multitude of UK Commandos. 

The level of professionalism in each act and dance was top shelf. Very impressive. There was a display of the UK's commando's with some pyrotechnics in the middle, and ample fireworks towards the end, capped off with a parade down the Royal Mile.

This show is televised to about 100 million viewers, but I was glad to be in attendance. Even if it was very cold. A Scotland Evening in August gets a bit brisk, and while it threatened rain, the rain held off. I was told, that usually isn't the case. Dress warm and bring a decent rain poncho (Rapmac in UK lingo), as umbrella's are not allowed.

Photo Blog (Click to View)

Thank you for reading.

I'll see you next time.

Craig

Tags:

Travel

Sweden - Stockholm

by Kimp 29. September 2016 18:41

Welcome !!!

Photo Blog (click to view)

Stockholm Fashion Week
Stockholm has two fashion weeks, one in the Spring and one in the Fall.

Their shows are considered the leading shows for Northern European fashion, showcasing clothes and trends that look great in cooler climates. Most of the events are in the heart of the city, located around Berns Salonger (1800’s restaurant and entertainment venue inside Berzelli Park) and Kulthuhuet Stadsteatern (Arts and Culture Center).

My favorite designer this year was the “House of Dagmar”. A fairly recent design firm founded by three Stockholm sisters, Karin Söderlind, Kristina Tjäder and Sofia Wallenstam. Dagmar was the name of their late Grandmother, who inspired them. They have solid roots in the Swedish Fashion Industry. Their designs are unconventional and focus on feminine sensuality and confidence. I can kind of see a modern interpretation of Grandma’s roaring 20’s, in some of their designs, which is attractive, sophisticated, and playful looking to me. Plus the sisters are all easy on the eyes.

They host one of the events at their house, it’s by invitation only and I didn’t rate (I’m probably about a thousand pages below the bottom of that short list), but if I had, I would have been the first one there, and would have been looking dapper. Black and white shined wing-tip shoes, wide collared white shirt, vest, 3/4 length coat, bowler, cane and all. Looking like a modern day Great Gatsby, arriving in a chauffeur driven 1920’s Mercedes’s Benz Limo. That’s actually a look I can pull off.

I stayed at the Grand Hotel Stockholm, within easy walking distance of either venue.  That’s the big name dropper 5 star Hotel, right on the water. Just across the water from the Grand Hotel, is the Kings Palace, which is on Gamla Stan Island (the old town city center). That wasn’t by design, what happened, was that I forgot to make a hotel reservation.

Many of the events that I go to, are planned and reserved 6 months to a year in advance. I almost always book everything at the same time. As I was assembling the travel documents a week ahead of my visit, I noticed I had forgotten to book a hotel.  When I looked, every hotel in Stockholm was booked solid except for that the Grand Hotel and one of their 5 star competitors. Wow, I really did not want to pay the price of admission for either of those.

So I did what any prudent person in that situation would have done. I social engineered the big name establishment. High end hotels are often overpriced and have lots of barter room. It’s very close to a big planned event, that most people book way in advance, and if they don’t move a room right now, they are unlikely to fill it. Better to lose a little money on a room then to lose all of it.

I called the front desk and told them that their competitor was offering me a room at a price I made up, which was way below what they were asking for their room.  Then told them that I really, really wanted to stay at their hotel, but since the price was so much lower at their competitors, I would probably have to take the other offer. I figured they would counter at some higher price, but the dude says, “Yes sir, Mr. Kimpel, let me see what I can do.”.  Clickety clack, clack, clack, Clickety clack, clack, clack, Clickety clack, clack, clack. “Yes Sir Mr. Kimpel, if you book now, we can give you a room here at that price.”. “Sweet, lets book it.”. The only thing better than a counter offer is an acceptance of my low bid.

It was pouring down rain when I arrived in Stockholm and I was going to have to wait a long time on Public Transportation, so I decided to walk to the hotel, but I under estimated the distance it is was a much longer walk than I had expected. By the time I got the Grand Hotel my pants where drenched from the knees down, and my jacket was quite wet as well, even though I had an umbrella.
 
I go through the Hotel door and see that the entire entry way, all of the lobby and all standing room in between are jam packed with dudes in tuxedo’s and models wearing long evening gowns and lots of jewelry. I looked like I had been out fishing all day, and had just rowed up the hotel in my row boat, after being out in the rain all day.

I was contemplating going somewhere else for a few hours and coming back when it had cleared out, but everyone was too into themselves and impressing the people around them to notice me, so I strolled on it, trying to be careful not to get anyone wet as I made my way to the reception counter. As I am slowly making my way to the counter I can catching parts of several conversations and am starting to notice that there sure are a large number of gay sounding dudes in this crowd.

While I am waiting for a few people, who were in front of me at the reception desk, I am listening to a few dudes who are talking behind me. Something about great food and a great time at some old ship named Patricia, that is permanently moored, not too far, from the hotel. They are talking about meeting up there on Sunday.  Man I’m starving, so that great food has me hooked and if comes with a great time as well, then I’m all in.

So I find my room, take a shower, decompress a little, get dressed for the evening, and head out to find something to eat very close by. I figured that I would try that ship experience another day.

So Sunday come’s around and I am remembering that food/party ship, those dudes had been talking about. I head out in the evening and I can hear the music blaring from short ways off. I get there and there are not many people in the restaurant area. I am about to head into the restaurant, when I see some sparkles from a disco ball located below decks. Yea, I think I’ll check that out first, before I sit down in the restaurant. Maybe I’ll have a beer first and just hang out for a while. I head down to where the disco lights appear to be emanating from, and go through the open hatchway. Its wall to wall dudes, several without shirt’s on, some in tank tops, some older dudes in kind of normal casual attire. That’s when I realized that this is a Gay club. All of a sudden, that great food didn’t sound so great after all.

On my way back to the hotel, I did manage to find a really sweet, quiet restaurant that served Swedish dishes that I was very happy with. Swedish meatballs with light gravy and lingonberry jam, crispbread, lots of pastries, and great coffee. Swedish pastries seem to usually be heavy in either cream or custard. On average, Scandinavian’s drink two to three times more coffee per person, than any other ethnicity.

Someone told me later, that, the Patricia ship is only a gay club on Sunday. I guess I just happened to get lucky.

Stockholm Sweden

Stockholm is the natural capital of Scandinavia, since it’s the largest city, in the largest country, and it lies in the heart of Scandinavia. Stockholm has zero heavy industry and is consistently ranked at or near the top of the cleanest cities in the world list.
 
Around 1950, the Swedish visionaries predicted that the Service Industry was going to be the most prosperous industry in the next century. They guessed right, but unfortunately, one of the downsides of a very aggressive modernism approach, is that Stockholm has nearly wiped out its history prior to 1950. Large blocks of architectural history were knocked down to make room for Modern structures.  In that respect, it is more like America than Europe.

One of the benefits of pushing modernization, is that they now have the best Internet Infrastructure in the world. Ultra-high speed fiber optic networks all of the way from the provider directly to their homes and offices.

Stockholm has the largest ICT cluster (concentration of Information and Communications Companies) in the world. 25% of businesses there, are in the business consulting service sector. It also hosts one the of the largest Life Sciences (study of all living things) clusters in Europe.

Nearly everyone is dual lingual, Swedish and English. They speak English with an American professional accent. Mostly because that is representative of World Businesses and World Politics.  Nearly all of their Media programs are in American English as well. They embrace all of the Art’s with enthusiasm and, respect people’s opinions without any bias.

Sweden has a very interesting interpretation of “Freedom of Expression”.  Basically under Swedish law, people are allowed to publish or say whatever they want, so long as it is not defaming or publicly insulting to another person, and it does not threaten the current government. It protects against all forms of bigotry. During the 2010 political campaign, a TV station refused to display one of the campaigns ad’s on the basis that it bigoted non-ethnic nationalities. Then to be fair, they also didn’t display any other campaign’s ads as well, until a court ruled that they would not be prosecuted for displaying the potentially bigoted ad. When the Bigot won, the other party objected saying that foul play had been involved.

The Vasa Museum

From a history and navy perspective, this is off the charts awesome. I will never forget it. In my opinion, this can only be experienced in Stockholm Sweden.

Vasa was the family name of the first ruling family of Sweden. Before them, Sweden had been ruled by the King of Denmark. Lead by the noble Vasa Family, the people revolted, and the Vasa family became the first ruling family of Sweden in 1523.
They were war mongers, and were at war to the better part of 100 years after that. In 1628, they launched the Swedish Navy’s newest flag ship. Besides being very large and packing an abundance of cannon ordinance, it was one of the most ornamental ships ever made.  They commissioned Europe’s best wood sculptor’s and spent more money in the sculptures and lavish exterior painting, then they did on the entire rest of the ship. It was designed to showcase the immense wealth, power, and firepower of Sweden, and to intimidate all opposing vessels.

They hired the most experienced and reputable ship architect, of that time, to design it. This was about 100 years before the mathematics’ for ship buoyancy had been discovered. In those days, new designs would be created by an experienced architect, then they would sail it, figure out what wasn’t working and make whatever correction was needed. Sometimes, that might have involved taking of an entire upper deck. A very costly process, but all they had at that time.

This ship needed to be taller than normal, to be able to hold the crew and space needed for all of the armaments that they wanted. But they also wanted a shallow hull for maximum speed. In ship engineering those are contradictory designs. The taller the ship, the deeper the hull needs to be to stabilize it. Especially a ship driven by sail power, where the wind is attempting to tip the ship over.

The architect had died before the vessel was complete, so another had to step in, and ty to figure out, what was in the original designers head, while completing it. The captain that had been chosen as the first caption was changed at the last minute. The original captain had been around during the building and had lots of knowledge about both the vessel and the design. The new captain was not very familiar with the ship before setting sail.

Swedish people filled the area to get a look at it, as it was launched. Bands were playing, festive celebrations were planned around the launch. The government wanted to showcase all of the armaments on the initial launch, so they had all of the cannon doors open, even on the lowest decks. It was customary to allow family members of the inaugural sailors aboard, during the initial launch. In Navy terms, if you are on the ship when it first launches, you are forever called a plank owner of that ship.
There wasn’t enough wind to move the ship from the dock, so they towed it out into the middle of the bay where the currents would be strong enough to move it without wind, and released all of the towing lines, but had left the sails up during this process. The last tow rope was dropped, a huge gust of wind filled the sail’s and pushed the ship over on its side. Far enough, that water came gushing in through the open cannon doors. Water started filling the lower decks. The sails where dropped, but it was too late, as it had already taken on enough water to start the sinking process.

The captain had stayed with the ship until it was underwater. Almost a little too long, since strong currents from the sinking, nearly killed him. He and the architect and several other key people were immediately arrested and jailed. The trial went on for months, but in the end, nobody was found guilty of negligence and they were all freed. The Swedish Navy was still a powerhouse, even without that ship, they were soon considered a world power.

That Vasa ship sat on the bottom of the bay for over 300 years, before it was raised to the surface. Raising it, moving it and preserving it, is now called Sweden’s Apollo program. In the 1950’s they made a huge investment, into technology for all parts of this process.

Now it is inside of its own museum and is an awe inspiring sight.

It hit me as soon as I got in through and saw the first glimpse. Took me right back to that time. Impressive and mind boggling, how such a huge portable wooden structure could be designed and built.

Stockholm History

The Vikings were the first civilization to settle in what is now, Stockholm. That section of Sweden has a cluster of thousands of Island’s. In the Northern Baltic Sea, ships and boats were always needed to transport people, supplies, and good’s throughout the area. Out of necessity, Viking’s became expert ship builders, building many types of ship’s. They were also very hearty people. A necessity to coupe with the day to day elements that they faced.

Stockholm is where the Baltic Sea meet’s Lake Malaren. A very large lake that gives access to Sweden’s interior. Stockholm’s old town is a small Island named Galma Stan, in the center of the main passageway, with four nearby Islands making up the Modern City Center. Fourteen islands total, make up greater urban area. Lots of water and not many hills, which simplifies land transportation.

The Viking’s probably would have been a peaceful entity had it not been for the existence of their unrelated neighbor. The Saxon’s who occupied what is now Northern Germany. The Saxon’s were also a hearty civilization. The conflict came when they both wanted to control the trade routes throughout the Baltic region. Tensions where always high and one side or the other was going to do something that escalated it. The expansion of the Viking Empire mostly had to do with them looking for a place where they could live without conflict.

Vikings were a three class society. Thrall’s were the enslaved peasants, Karls were the free peasants, who were allowed to own land and scratch out a living. The Jarl’s were the wealthy upper class. My Swedish grandfather was named Carl and I was nearly named Carl after him. Carl probably would have been a fitting name for me.

When Charlemagne conquered the Saxon’s, he also Christianized them. He had a simple rule for the Saxon’s, accept Baptism or Die. When that worked, he set his sights on the Vikings, not because he wanted the trade routes or Scandinavia. He just wanted to get rid of paganism. It took 400 more years for that, but eventually they succumbed.

Sweden was one of the first countries to embrace the protestant reformation. While the concept was born in Germany, the Swed's where the first to implement it on both a small and large scale. Today, Sweden has more registered Luthern's than any other country, but that is misleading. Swed's prefer to worship nature and the outdoors, so they don't attend church that often. The reason the number is so high, is because up until 2000, a person born to at least one Luthern parent was registered as Luthern. Africa actually has the highest Luthern population that regularly attends services.

Sweden was under Danish rule for a long time, until they rebelled and broke away in the 1600's. From 1648–1718 they had a strong ally in France, and were considered a world power. Years of fighting against, Russia, Lithuania, Poland, and German left them with both a strong Navy, and a strong Army. After the Napoleonic wars, they turned to peace and have preferred to stay neutral in most conflicts.

Old School Jazz Club

Stampen was one of the best times I’ve had in a long, long time. It’s kind of a small, old school tavern with several rooms, and three different bands playing.  It’s mostly older people, like my age, which looks like the crowd that it caters too.
In the basement was an Old School Rock Gut Blues band, that complimented the beer I was drinking. They looked like they all had about 40 years of experience in the business and were still enjoying it.

A floor up was a Rock a Billy band what had the people hopping to their high energy beat. They looked like they have been doing that since the 50’s. All old equipment, upright bass, 50’s microphone. Great at Jamming. They fit right in with the Stampen moniker.

As soon as one band stopped the other would start. I stood through two sets of each and was smiling ear to ear the whole time. I don’t even remember the band up front, cause I was having such a great time with the other two bands.
I was enthralled watching a dude about 70, who was trying really hard to impress a women who was probably in her late 50’s. I could read the body language and tell what was going on. She was kind of paying him attention from time to time, but then brushed him off and left.  I saw him in the rest room washing the sweat off of his face, primping himself up, putting some cologne on, and looking fairly depressed. I guessed he had struck out again. I said to him, “Dude, that women ain’t good enough for you. Just move on. There’s another somewhere, who will see you for what you are, and appreciate all that you have to offer.”. That's the voice of experience talking.

Story of my ancestors emigration from Sweden to the USA

This story is told in my grandfather's (on my mom's side) own word's. His father emigrated to the USA first, then earned enough money to send for the rest of the family.

Karl Gotfried Ostling

He was born September 23, 1875 and worked on the baronial estate in Smedby, a suburb of Kalmar Sweden. During the summer months he worked 20 hours a day and it was customary to have 4 meals a day. He was a very strong man, loading 20 haycocks a day. He also worked in the white clay. This was used to make white bricks. Smedby was known as the white brick center.

On these baronial estates a Swedish flag always was flown. He like this ide, the USA flag was always flown on the 116 acres (he purchased) in Tuscarawas Country, Ohio. He also worked as a molder of steel castings in Lynn and Cleveland.

Anna Sofia Ostling

She was born February 7, 1880 in Kalmar Sweden. Worked as a milk maid over at Oland, an island near Kalmar. One time she milked 16 coes at one sitting. We lived in Temperance Hall and she was housekeeper and chaplain. Also laundered stiff white starched collars for students at the nearby University. She was industrious. In Lynn (Massachusetts), she worked as a winder of electric works, in the same steel foundry as Karl. She was ambitious throughout her like. It was through her efforts that the married name was changed from Pererson to Ostling.

Karl Arvard Ostling

I was born September 24, 1897 in Kalmar Sweden. I was the oldest of 3 brothers born in Sweden, Ranger and Berger were the others. When I was about 6 years old we moved to Smedby. We lived in the center of village and got acquainted with strawberries where we lived. We we not permitted to pick out own. Now I like to pick my own. A frozen strawberry in ice cream is my favorite.

We moved to Temperance Hall and I got acquainted with red raspberries and price is no object when I can get them. They grew in Sweden near and on stone fences built from stones picked from the barley meadows. There was a train station at Smedby and cherries were sold to passengers at 5 ore per cone. We children looked for money dropped between the boards of the station walk.
Where was a picnic grounds near where we lived and a music band came out from Kalmar with a dance group and we always listened to the band. My father was a good dancer and always thanked the ladies for dancing with him. A very polite man.

(My grandfather's father had come to America ahead of the rest of the family. To earn enough, to send for the rest of his family. The following is my Grandfather's, brothers, and mothers trip from Kalmar Sweden to Boston, Massachusets in 1906.)

Emigration Trip

We left Smedly on September 26, 1906 on the Kalmar Emmoboda Railway. This was a narrow gauge rail for passenger and freight. I could see this train from where we lived and wished I could oil the engine, which was done while still in motion. This track in Emmaboda changed to a larger track which crossed Sweden to a seaport named Gothenberg.

My mother, myself age 9, my two brothers Rangar 7, and Berger 4, left Gothenberg and sailed across the North Sea to Hull, England. It was very stormy and the boar rolled with very high winds. I was very curious about the boar and went up to the top in the middle of the boat to avoid high winds like others had. Mother was very anxious about me and wanted to see me. She told an officer to find me. He didn't believe mother. He said she already had her two boays, he thought she was seasick. But she prevaile, and the officer found me on the top of the boat. We were soaked from the high waves. I told mother that I wished she left me alone. Everybody was seasick!

As we came into the Harbor at Hull, England, a man fell overboard but his large coat saved him from drowning. We traveled by train across England to Liverpool. In Liverpool buses took us to a large boat, the Saxonia. I was amased at the size of the ship. At the bus stop, Ragnar and I held hands, and we jumped on the bus and waved (bye) to mother. She was holding Berger. Mother immediately took the next bus, and we were reunited in this strange town.

The Cunard liner, Saxonia (Steam Powered Cruise Liner), was full of passengers. There were dining rooms and state rooms. A storm ame up and the dining chairs were tied together by ropes to the wall of the room. A man died at sea and was buried by using large weights plunged in the open sea. I saw a shale spouting in the Atlantic Ocian. I walked from our stateroom and was stopped by a sailor from going on deck.

We landed October 2, 1906 in East Boston. Dad was very happy to see us. We were examined for trachoma, an eye disease prevalent in Europe.

We rode by street car from East Boston to Revere, Massachusets where Dad rented an apartment above a grocery story. Ragnar and I went to school and came home one day with mumps. The landlady was scared of mumps. I can still remember her saying MUMPS!!!

(Much more, but for another BLOG, when I write up Boston)

Thank you for reading. I'll see you next time.

Photo Blog (click to view)

Tags:

Travel

Montenegro - Kotor

by Kimp 13. September 2016 14:15
Welcome !!!

Photo Blog (Click to view)

Modern Kotor

Small by today's standards, but very nice and not so expensive, given all that it has to offer. Located in the fjord's of Montenegro, the crystal clear and nearly wave-less Bay of Kotor, connects it to the Adriatic Sea. Carved out by a prehistoric glacier, it now has 240 days of sunlight each year, with a mild Mediterranean climate, in addition to all of that Fjord beauty. 

History

Founded by the Roman's around the time of Christ, it was taken over by Bulgaria around 1000, then given to Serbia shortly after.

From 1400 to around 1800 it was ruled mostly by the Venetian's, except a few times when the Ottomans managed to seize it for a short time, before the Venetians mounted an offensive and regained control.

In 1797 the Austrian Habsburg's took control, then gave it to Napoleon who held it, until he was defeated by Russian Soldiers who occupied it. The British Navy then mounted an offensive and took it from the Russians.

During WWII, Italy Annexed it, until Tito, the future founder of Yugoslovia, liberated it from the Axis powers.

When Yugoslovia dissolved, it went back to Serbia.

It became independent in 2006, when Montenegro was granted independence from Serbia.

Venetians

In the beginning, the Venetians were primarily merchant ships carrying trade good in the Mediterranean, at a time when the Ottoman's Navy ruled the Mediterranean. To defend themselves against attacks, the Venetian Merchant fleet started arming their merchant ships and training the merchant sailors in Naval warfare. 

Eventually Venice started building Military ships, but would not fully man them during peaceful times. During conflicting times, they would anchor some of their merchant vessels and transfer the sailors to their Military vessels. This allowed them to maximize income during peaceful times and minimize losses during times of conflict. That strategy and flexibility, allowed them sustain one of the strongest Navies in the Mediterranean for several hundred years. 

The Venetians needed a good port in the Eastern Adriatic sea, to house their huge fleet of boats that serviced the Eastern Adriatic Sea. That became the town of Perast in the Bay of Kotor, with Kotor being the fortress where their port and shipbuilding workers could seek refuge, if attacked. The Venetian's built a very complex system of walls up the mountain behind Kotor, all of the way to another fortress at the top, allowing Kotor to be well protected from both land and sea attacks. The sea wall around the port is 30 meters (100 ft) thick in places, and is both slanted and rounded so that cannon balls would ricochet off of the walls instead of penetrating them. The main sea gate was built to allow only one ship to have access to the city at a time. That way they could minimize and control a surprise attack, from a ship disguised as a friendly vessel.

The 4.5 km (3 mi) of walls have been very well preserved, since they were seen as vital for a long period of time. Solid granite and very well constructed, they still look about like they always have. Most of today's visible damage came from an Earth Quake that occurred there in 1979. I would say that walking the walls is one of the best parts. A bit steep and strenuous, but well worth the effort.

Bay of Kotor

The Bay of Kotor has a very unique shape. It looks like two bays separated by a mountain range and only connected by a small straight of water between the two bays, with a backdrop of another mountain range. Any view of the Bay, is beautiful, making for a pleasant walk or drive around it. 

Fish

The Adriadic sea is Brackish water, which means that it is somewhere between fresh water and salt water. The quality of fish there is low, but the variety is high. To me, any fish that was swimming earlier in the day, tastes pretty good in the evening, and the lessor known varieties are usually a great price for the consumer. Also, local's always know how to prepare their fish for the best taste experience. Overall, Kotor is a great place for the price. Crystal clear water, great weather, great scenery, and not a lot of people.

Casino Royale

The original "Casino Royale" movie in 1967 was the one that made James Bond famous. The location was the casino in Monte Carlo, in the French Riviera, and it had all of the effects that created the formula for most James Bond movies that followed. Convert operations, difficult missions, fast cars, exotic locations, gadgetry, and beautiful women. The original movie was about an aging secret Agent, that was pulled out of retirement to determine why so many spies were being killed.

When that movie was reworked for a young Daniel Craig, the plot was completely changed, however it is still loosely based on the 1953 novel of the same name. This one featured a newly trained 007 on this first mission. Somewhere in there they decided to change the location of the casino to a Hotel Splendid (a fictional hotel) in Montenegro. The script writer had never even been to Montenego and the film crew never set foot in Montenegro. Most of this was filmed in the Czech Republic.

There just happened to be a Hotel Splendido on the Bay of Kotor in Montenegro, that many people mistook as the one in the movie. All of a sudden their business was booming. This was followed by a Hotel Splendido in Budva, Montenegro. Budva is on the Adriatic Sea, but is much farther South than Kotor. Budva has a nice beach area, that the Montenegro Government had been promoting development of, and had been marketing as a great vacation location, That Hotel Splendido also has an entire floor devoted to a casino, named Casino Royale.

Photo Blog (Click to View)

Thank you for reading.

I'll see you next time.

Craig

Tags:

Travel

Switzerland - Lugano

by Kimp 14. August 2016 02:43

Welcome !!!

Photo Blog (click to view)

History

Lake Lugano was formed by a glacier. Glacial lakes are the most beautiful because of the mountains that appear to rise out of them. Normally glacial lakes are only found in the places like the Fjord's of Norway and Alaska, but this one is in Southern Switzerland.

In the 1400's, the Duke of Como and the Duke of Milan often battled over Lugano. Eventually the people of Lugano claimed their independence and then merged with Switzerland.

Today

Lugano and its region are bordered on the East, West, and South by Italy, therefore the language spoken most here is Italian, though most native Swiss people are multi-lingual, speaking Swiss, Italian, German, French, and English.

Home to the largest net (300 km/190 mi) of Mountain Biking Trails in Switzerland.

Home of "Dalle Molle Institute for Artificial Intelligence Research", which is one of the top 10 Artificial Intelligence Labs in the world (top 4 in biological AI).

Logano also hosts the Swiss National Super-computing Centre, funded by the Swiss government and dedicated to research of all types.

This is one of the most relaxed places I have visited. There are isn't much here, other than good old wholesome relaxation and music. They favor both Classical and Jazz with yearly festivals that are open to the general public. There is a ferry that visits the small villages along the banks of Lake Lugano (just get off and wander around to see what you can find) and there are funicular's that go to the top Mount Bre and Mount San Salvatore.

I have read that there many museums in Lugano, but I didn't visit any, so I can't give any advice on what they entail.

I would like to go back and see it in winter, when snow covers everything but the lake.

Thank you for reading.

I'll see you next time.

Photo Blog (click to view)

Tags:

Tradition