France - Nice

by Kimp 8. November 2012 19:29
A few months ago I was at a Pub, watching a soccer game, with a friend whom I hadn't seen in about 3 months.  I was about 2 liters deep in German beer and having a great time, when John says to me, "Craig, I'm headed to St. Petersburg Russia in a about another month." My immediate response was, "Dude, I am sooo, going with you.".
The next day I started the process of figuring out how to fast track a Visa for that foray. The first thing I did was block off on my calendar. I'm staring at the calendar and thinking, "Dude, that's a month before the shortest day of the year in Northren Russia. Does the sun even fully crest the horizon there? What the hell were you thinking?". I was also wondering if they were going to deny my Visa, because they were suspicious of me going there for the first time, at a time when nobody goes there under those circumstances. I imagine if you get turned down once, then it is even harder to get one the second time.

Two days later, John told me that his plans were moved back, so he wasn't going there until some time next year. Those two days of thinking about not getting any Sun for a while, left me feeling Vitamin D deficient. The only cure for that is to get some serious Sun on my skin. So I kept the dates, but changed my destination to the French Riviera. 

The French Riviera is about 50 miles of Mediterranean coastline in Eastern France and all of Monaco's coast (about 1 mile). It starts at the village of St. Trope and goes all of the way to the village of Menton which is near the Italian Border. Composed of 5 small areas (some with more than one village) and one city.  Nice (pronounced like Niece ) is the city, and it's right in the center of the Riviera. Nice is short for "Nice La Belle" which translates to "Nice and Beautiful".  The first hominid's to settle in Europe, settled in Nice. That was 400,000 years ago, and they're probably still talking about it in heaven.

The climate is subtropical, the landscape is mostly hills made of rock, and the number of days with sun per year tops 300. Even in the rainy season, the rains are light, and if it rained once this week, you'll not need an umbrella for another week or so. The area inland of the Riviera is called Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur. Provence is in the French Alps and is known as one of the best French wine regions.  There's always a huge section of decent priced Provence wines, on the wine menu, at Riviera restaurants.

The Alps are what keeps any cold front's from reaching the coast. The warm air from the deserts in Africa come across the Mediteranian Sea picking up moisture, but the rain isn't dropped until after it crosses over the Riviera and hits the alps.

It kind of looks like someone took Arizona, put North Carolina's sky over it, and when he seen that was nearly perfect, he put a huge body of water on its border and made it perfect. As soon as transportation made the Riviera a feasible place to travel, Europeans started visiting in droves as a winter escape. Then it was discovered by the early Hollywood movie stars in the 1920's, before the depression. During the depression, rich American's came here to invest their money, cause the economy was so much better, then in the US.

There isn't any cookie cuter Riviera village experience, all of them are distinct and different. With Nice's sun, 4 miles of beach on a gently arched coast, clean fresh air, and soft light, it is known as both a place of good relaxation and a place for great inspiration. The water is always royal blue and the light in the middle of the day is as beautiful as the light at sunrise or sunset. The evenings are nice, clear, enjoyable, and are often spent on the extra wide promenade (walkway) that flanks the beach. Nice is home to several world class museums. Many world class artists have come to the Riviera, usually to relax after they'd made their mark in history, and painted pieces that they donated to local museums. Marc Chagall has a whole museum, dedicated to his works in Nice.

There is however a cookie cutter European Beach experience. Most Americans stuff their cars full of coolers and beach gear, then drive several hot hours to get to the beach, struggle with jam packed traffic and are worn out by the time they arrive. Most Europeans, pack a Speedo and a few changes of clothes in a backpack. On the way to the train station, they stop and get some bakery fresh bread, a block of cheese, and a bottle of wine. Then they board the train, feast and relax on the way to the beach. When they get there, they rent the equipment that they need, a locker and a towel. Since everyone does that, the prices are pretty cheap. When you are thirsty, you either motion to the beach-side cafe to bring you a tall cool one at your beach spot for a decent price, or you walk a short distance to one of the many cafes that are nearby. When you are hungry, you have your choice of eating cheap Euro-fast food or dinning moderately or splurging. Whatever your heart desires. 

My homeboy Jacques hooked me up with a 3'x6' piece of prime beech, a terrycloth covered lounge chair, a table, an umbrella, and a towel for a whole day, for about $20. And, since I bought the package, he threw in the first beer for free. Many European women save some money by just buying the bikini bottoms and if you forget your Speedo, no big deal, just swim in your boxer shorts. Nobody will even bat an eye.

I ate a late lunch at a place named Campo Fiori (Field of Flower's), where I had a huge bottle of water, some Fish and a half bottle of Provence wine. I then walked all of the way to the other end of the beach in front of the classic, big name, hotel Negresco. That's a place where the cheap rooms are like a $1000 (800 Euros) a night. By that time I had to pee really bad, and I couldn't find any place close, that looked like they had restrooms. I am wearing jeans, a T-shirt and a light jacket and I am trying to get up the nerve to go in and use their restrooms when I see an old guy not dressed much better then me, saunter right past the doorman. 

I am looking at the doorman standing about 5 feet on the other side of the double glass doors talking to two bellhop's and the valet, with his back to me. So I sneak up on the doors out of sight of all of them, then quickly appear about 3 feet from the doors. One of the guys the doorman was talking to him, alerted him of my presence, and he turns and lunges to try to get to the door before me. He trips and nearly goes headfirst right through the glass. Luckily he catches the door knob and uses that as a prop to right himself again and then he opens the door. I gave him one of those looks, like, dude, pay attention and then sauntered right by him like I owned the place.

The lobby, the sitting rooms, the chandlers, and the furniture looked like those of a period specific mansion. The bathrooms were just as nice. But all of that paled in comparison to the best part of that whole hotel. Which was the French Maid exhibit that was scattered around the main lobby. Bonus!!!


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Wedding - Budda - Lao Baci Ceremony

by Kimp 28. October 2012 03:22
Two very good friends of mine, Rob and Linda, were married recently. Linda's family immigrated to Iowa from Asia and they are Buddhist.
I don't know much about Buddhism, but my oversimplified understanding is that:
They believe there are 6 levels of life.
They believe in continuous reincarnation until one attains the level of Nirvana.
They believe that you progress through the stages one life at a time. If you practice the teachings and do well then you will be in the next higher level in the next life and if you don't, you'll be in the next lower level. Therefore, you should strive to practice the teachings and do well in your current life, but all is not lost if you don't. As you'll get another chance in the next life.
I believe that their view of marriage, is that the couple will devote their life to the servitude and well being of others.
When Linda told me that she was renewing her vows at a Lao Baci Ceremony and invited me, I felt very honored and I immediately accepted. I knew that I was going to experience something really nice and spending time with their families would be an added pleasure as well.
I didn't know Rob until he had volunteered to be my big brother while I was getting acclimated to Europe. And a great one he was. Rob was always there to give me great advice and to assist me. Rob and I have skills that compliment each other and we went on to collaborate (share blood), on several projects over the course of about a year. I knew, that when Rob and I were working together, when times got extremely difficult, and I was working through a tough problem at 8:30 P.M. on a Friday. If I called Rob's office, he would still be there and offer to help me, even though he told me earlier in the day, that he wanted to go home around 7. For the last six months Rob and I have been working completely different projects, but we have still maintained a good friendship.
I didn't know Linda until Rob introduced me to her one day. Linda and Rob are both hard working, consummate professionals. Linda is in charge of a support team that functions 24/7. I have been with Rob and Linda on a few Sunday afternoons, when Linda received and call, and had to drop everything she was doing to handle the situation. I can remember thinking, "I'm glad that isn't me!".
So on Oct 27, 2012, 400 Asians and 10 Caucasians descended on  Iowa City Iowa for the event of a lifetime. Rob and Linda's Baci ceremony, complete with authentic cuisine created and brought in via Linda's family and extended family.
I did my best to research the event in the limited amount of time that I had. I also talked to a few people who appeared to be knowledgeable. I am certain that not everything in the captions is 100 percent correct, but I hope that it at least meets the intent of this event.

If I look a little frazzled. I was running on about 25 hours of travel and about 5 hours of sleep.




Iowa - Sioux City

by Kimp 27. October 2012 04:51

Photo Blog

In the summer of 1978, one of my best childhood friends, by the name of Jim, and I went to Grant County Nebraska to work for a multimillionaire by the name of Grath Ogur. Today Grant county has a population of 610. In 1978 it had a population of about 900, and had more multimillionaires per capita than any other county in the U.S. At least on paper anyway. Most of the people there were ranchers and were able to secure huge bank loans. Garth owned 80,000 acres (about 5 square miles) and had 8,000 head of Black Angus cattle. The people from Grant, called Grant, "God's Cattle Country". In fact, I seem to remember seeing big sign proclaiming that, as we were crossing the Grant County line on highway 61.
The County seat of Grant is the town of Hyannis with a population of about 200. At that time, Hyannis had all of one restaurant, and oh boy, Jim and I  were in luck. It had a Foosball table. Foosball was a popular table soccer game at that time. The name comes from the German word Fussball, which means "Association Football", or by its more common name of soccer. I have yet to see a Fussball table in Germany, but they aren't that popular now, in the US either.
Jim and I didn't get to go to that restaurant very often, because it was 30  miles from Garth's place, and Garth pretty much worked us from near or before Sun-up to near or after Sun-down, 6 days a week, rain or shine. Multimillionaires don't compensate much, we made all of $15 per day plus room and board. The boarding house was about the size of a garage, with cheap bunk beds that sort of had a mattress, a toilet, and something that resembled a shower. It was meager, however, it was clean, it had lots of good reading material (the Mechanics Illustrated magazine collection was my personal favorite), and I remember that the shower had really hot water. After a full day of working in the sun, that shower was like a piece of heaven. Graths wife was a very good cook, they had lots of beef and fresh dairy products, and we partook of that perk, with great enthusiasm.

But the real fruits of our labor, wasn't the income that went into our pockets, it was the knowledge that Garth put in our brains. Before Grath meet his sole mate, he had been a very successful farmer. After which, he sold his farm and helped build his wife's inheritance into a very successful ranch.
Garth also had two very attractive daughters a few years younger than Jim and I. I guess Garth didn't want us to be distracted, because as soon as Jim and I showed up, his daughters were sent away, to work at someone else's ranch. 
Garth had a brother-in-law Harley who lived nearby (about 10 miles away). Harley was his wife's brother. At one time, the ranch was a lot bigger, but it was split and Harley and his sister inherited equal sized shares. Both Garth and his wife said, that Harley had gotten all of the good land and good buildings.  Jim and I learned very fast while working for Garth. We learned teamwork, attention to detail, routine, discipline and the right way of doing everything. Garth's wife was very hard working. She would help in the morning after breakfast, until lunch time. Then get lunch ready, clean everything up and start cooking dinner.  Garth was always telling Jim and I that we were behind schedule, but after 6 weeks, we suddenly discovered that we were really way ahead of schedule. That was when Garth decided he needed a weeks vacation and he sent Jim and I to help Harley.
We had high expectations before got to Harley's. We figured, since we learned so much from Garth, we were going to hit the jackpot at Harleys. After all Harley started with the better inheritance.  But what we found was abysmal. The boarding house pretty large, but it was also a pretty dirty mess. I think that last time it was cleaned and dusted was before the dust bowl in 1934. I used to leave my wallet in the top drawer, because I didn't want to risk losing it in the field, and one day I came back and a rat had eaten about an 1/8 of the wallet,  leather, paper money, plastic license and all. The equipment was old and hadn't been maintained. There wasn't any semblance of order or schedule. We worked less as a team and more as individuals. Harley's wife couldn't cook anything of value. Every dinner was the exact same leathery roast beef, overcooked mashed potatoes and stale bread. It was so bad, that even after doctoring it up with catchup, it barely made it down my throat.

After a week, Jim and I were dying to get back to Garth's. That was when we found out that Garth decided he liked having a vacation and he wanted another week. We touched it out that week and when the news came that Garth wanted yet another week after that, Jim and I had given up all hope of ever leaving. After three weeks, Garth finally decided, that we had learned all we could from Harley and invited us back. After returning, Garth's boarding house looked like a Palace and his wife's country table looked like the feast at the knight's round table.  That was two priceless educations in a very short period of time. We had quickly witnessed the benefits of doing things the right way, and the pitfalls of doing things the wrong way.
I could easily write a book about those experiences, but that is for another day.
By now you are wondering, what does this long story about Nebraska have to do with Iowa?
Before Garth meet his wife, he had been a very successful Iowa farmer. Intrigued as to why someone would sell a very successful and thriving business, to go in the direction of a completely new and different profession, I asked him a question along those same lines. His reply was simple, "Damn, I wished I'd never had sold that farm in 'I Owe Way'!".  I laughed, not because of what he said, but because of the way he mispronounced Eyeoh-Wah. I soon figured out that I had hit a pretty sore spot and my laughter wasn't amusing Garth at all. That one question, started a whole procession of irrelevant Garth story's that went on for weeks.

An irrelevant story is one that starts with the word "Back", like "Back when ...", "Back in ...", "Back at my last profession...", "Back at the last place I worked...", etc. They are always about oneself, have absolutely no relevance to the current situation, yet they effect the current situation, by making it seem worse in comparison. If you don't start with the word "Back", then they are reminiscent stories that are probably good for ones mental health.

For weeks I would hear "Back in I-Owe-Way ...". As soon as I heard those words, I would just start cracking up. By then, it was just as much about the mispronounced of Io-Wa, as it was that I had already understood that Farming came a lot easier to Garth then ranching did, and that decision has been effecting his life for a long time. That was when Garth went from being a great teacher up on a pedestal, to just another human.

I had passed through Iowa 5 or 6 times, but never stopped there. So I was excited to get the chance to see a small piece of that state. As soon as I got to Iowa, I started learning about it, and the first thing I learned was that the last laugh was on me. It turns out that Iowa is named after a tribe of Indians who inhabited it, named the Ioway tribe.

There were dinosaurs in Iowa long before before humans, and one of their museums has some really nice dinosaur skulls in it.

In 1803 Thomas Jefferson said he was only interested in purchasing the town of New Orleans and the area around it, while he was really considering fighting France over the Louisiana Territory. Napoleon was at war with England, he needed the money, and he asked Tom, if Tom wanted to buy the whole territory. Tom bought it and the public was infuriated. In order to quickly build up the territory, a year later, Tom asked Meriweather Lewis to find a water passage all of the way from the Mississippi to the Pacific Ocean. Meriweather was a great outdoors man and wildlife lover, but he needed a good leader, so he asked is old Army Captain William Clark, who was also an excellent map maker to co-lead the expedition.

Lewis and Clark stopped in Souix City for a while, because that was the assembly point for the expedition. It had been a small town that French trappers had established as a trading area in the 1600's with the local American Indians. Since they were there for a while, there are several Lewis and Clark exhibits in Souix City. The only person to have died on that expedition happened to die there. His name was Sergeant Floyd and historians now believe that he died of a burst appendix. Floyd was buried in Souix City, on a bluff overlooking the Missouri, where a monument now stands in his honor. This monument was the first National Historic Landmark in the U.S.

Souix City's location on the Missouri river made it the place to be in Iowa in the 1800's. There was lots of traffic on the river. A river boat carrying corn overturned and someone bought the ruined corn for next to nothing. They then bought 400 hogs and feed the corn to them. With the profit from that they started a very successful hog slaughter company. Pork was big in the 1800's because it would keep for a long time without refrigeration. The hog and corn industry made a lot of people in Souix City wealthy, and as a result, they built beautiful Victorian Era homes. Many of those homes are still here and are still in great shape. I highly recommend going to 2000 Jackson Street and then strolling up to 2800 and back.

While I was in that area, I was talking to a women who was telling me about a Gothic church in Souix City. I didn't say anything to her, but I was confused, because the Gothic period ended in the 1500's. Gee, did the American Indians build a Gothic Church? I tracked it down and it was an unfinished Gothic revival church, the corner stone said 1921. I guessed that the construction was killed by the depression and then interest was lost. Now the windows are boarded up, but there is a sign out front that identified it as a Pentecostal Church with a Spanish name. Pentecostal is one of those churches where people speak in tongues and claim that the Holy Spirit is speaking through them, or something to that effect.  The sign on the door said "Come on in - Everyone's welcome." I cracked the door open, but then changed my mind.

In the 1887 Souix City created something called the Corn Palace Festival. They hired an architect and built a a large wooden structure (1800 square feet) with large towers in a middle eastern theme. Covered it completely with mosaics made out of corn. A huge hit, and by 1891 they had the biggest one ever, with towers going as high as 200 feet (The history museum had pictures of it). However the weather was terrible that year and they didn't make enough money to pay for it. That left them with a huge problem. They couldn't afford to pay anyone to tear it down. It was auctioned off and someone tore it down and tried to salvage what they could. They found out that hogs would eat the corn in the areas where there weren't any nails. In 1892 there was a bad flood in Souix city which killed the festival for good. However, in 1892,  they did manage to build an awesome looking High School, that looks like a castle.

Between the flood and the depression, Souix City's downtown went through a Romanesque Revival architecture period. Three blocks of that were preserved and still exist today. Now home to many restaurants, bars and lots of entertainment. A really fine piece of American architecture is found in the Woodbury Court House. Build in 1914, it's considered one of the finest Prarie School buildings in the United States. Prarie school architecture has very strong horizontal lines, a flat roof, wide eves, windows in horizontal bands and they blend in with the landscape. Looking very solid and ornamental, they were hand crafted by master craftsmen.

On September 5, 1985, at a farm just outside Souix City Iowa, Ted Waitt and Mike Hammond started the Gateway computer company in their barn. That was the one with the really low tech advertisements that usually featured cows. Their shipping boxes had the familiar Black and White Holstein Cow spots on it. I saw their original business model. It was hand written on two 8x11 sheets of paper They sold a piece of it of in 2000 for $800 million, and sold the remainder a few year ago for another $700 million. Ted Waitt came from a family of entrepreneurs (6 generations), and his family donated heavily to Souix City.
I found the weather pleasant while I was there, but Souix City is a place of extremes. It gets up over 90F (30C) in the summer and below 0F (-15C) in the winter.

The modern side of Souix City is really nice. I saw a photography exhibit at the Betty Strong Encounter Center that absolutely blew me away. It sent chills up and down my spine.  Starting with a photo exhibit from Don Doll. Don's talent is second to none. He's a professor of Photo Journalism at Creighton University in Omaha, with a long list of very prestigious awards to his credit. He is most noted for his work with Native American Indians. The exhibit here was of the "Children of St Augestine Indian Mission." All native American Indian children, dressed up in their finest hand made Indian attire, and the captions were what they wanted to be when they were older. That was so awesome, that I can't even put it in words. Don also consults on all of the photography that was displayed there. The other photos were of wild life in the area and of the people and places in Iowa. I spent 2 hours in awe devouring all of it. After that, I just wanted to throw my camera away.

A very artistic town, with a great Art Center, and lots of appealing art all over town.

The last place that I stopped was a religious experience. The development of Trinity Heights began around 1985, when Father Harold Cooper, then pastor of St. Joseph Church in Sioux City, conceived the idea, of bringing a statue of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Queen of Peace to Sioux City. He started a non-profit company and purchased land that used to be part of Trinity college. It has  more then two dozen shrines, memorial garden spots and quiet corners for prayer and reflection amidst 14 acres of spacious walkways and soft green spaces. All of that was capped off with two 30 foot stainless steel sculptures and a chapel on site that has a full size wood carving of the last supper.

The best thing of all about Souix City was that all of the museums were absolutely free. They survive off of donations, and revenue from the Riverboat gambling industry, that was started in 1989. It was real nice that the gamblers paid all of my admission's fee's.




Greece - Santorini

by Kimp 7. October 2012 04:24

Photo Blog

Santorini was the scene of the second most explosive and longest volcanic eruption since humans have inhabited Earth. It happened around 1600 B.C. and completely covered the city of Akrotiri. Akrotiri wasn't discovered until the 1960's. Its excavation started in 1967 and continues on today. When excavation started, it generated a lot of excitement because they quickly discovered how sophisticated and large and wealthy the ancient city was. Two sets of pipes were found, indicating that they had both hot and cold running water. Found functional water closets (toilets) were also amoungst the artifacts. As more of it was uncovered, archeologists began to think that this could be one of the cities that Plato wrote about, in the lost continent of Atlantis.
The island features, the city layout, and the level of sophistication match the descriptions that Plato had written about. According to the translation of Plato's writing, this all occurred around 9000 B.C. Some think that was a translation error, and it should have been 900 B.C. Plato said that Atlantis sunk to the bottom of the ocean, but since this volcano would have wiped out all of the inhabitants of the Greek Islands, it could have been a volcano that whipped it out and buried it. Some think that Plato made the story up and some think that Plato might have had access to historical documents in his day, that aren't around anymore. I really don't care, because I know there was a very sophisticated and large city with lots of wealth here in 1600 B.C. before the Volcano buried it and that's pretty amazing all by itself.
However, the Akrotiri excavation site was closed to the public for the last seven years when a canopy over it collapsed, killing 1 tourist, and injuring seven other tourists. The roof was rebuilt and it was supposed to open in April of 2012, but didn't.
Santorini is the only place in Europe that has a hot desert climate. Water is very scarce and next to nothing grows here, yet it's a very beautiful and pleasing place to be. All of the volcanic eruptions over the years have left lots of different colored layers that light up at sunrise and sunset. One side of the island has a deep natural harbor and 1000 foot high cliff face, topped of by the capital city and the city of La. The other side, where most of the beaches are, is nearly at sea level and slopes gently into a shallow sea. The different eruptions over the years have left the beaches multi-colored. The water at the darker beaches is warmer, because the rocks hold in the heat. It was 80 degrees, sunny and awesome while I was there, and the water at the red beach was the warmest. The most beautiful in my opinion, was the red beach, which was a little difficult to get too.
After the bug eruption, the volcano sunk, leaving much of it underwater, but not far from the top are some hot springs, that are kept warm from it.
The city of La is very beautiful. It was labeled as La on my map, but all of the road signs call it Oia and one of the locals I was talking to, pronounced it as Ooooh la la, in the same manner that a man sometimes mimics, when he sees a strikingly beautiful woman. After he said it, I was looking around to see where the beautiful woman was, until I figured out that he was talking about the city.
There was a bad earthquake on the island in the 1950's that destroyed La leaving it abandoned. Years later, people started moving back there, and when they rebuilt the city, they decided to make the main road a beautiful and wide marble walkway that follows the ridge line along the top of the cliff. Great decision, because it is awesome looking.
The other big draw to Santorini are its beautiful sun rises and sunsets. Sun rise and sunset really bring out the islands multicolored earth tones. The consensus from the locals is that La is the best place to watch the sun rise and the castle is the best place to watch the sun set. The other consensus was that the sun rise experience far exceeds the sunset experience. One attractive local woman was describing the sunset experience at her house, near the castle, as the best on the whole island, and she said all of her friends would back her up on that. I was about to ask her if I could go see it, but then she kind of started flirting with me. After that, she lost creditability, so I decided not to ask.

I did find a cafe on the top of the castle, named Franco's Cafe, where I think it would have been the best, but it was hazy that evening and it ended up being, just plain nice. However, Franco's Cafe was pretty awesome all by itself. They played classical music, the coffee was excellent and I had some fish and a Greek pastry that was off the charts.




Greece - Patmos

by Kimp 6. October 2012 03:56
Patmos Island is a Christian Pilgrimage site and that's about all that's there.
St John was hiding in a cave on Patmos Island to escape the Romans who were looking for him, when he wrote the book of Revelations, which is in the new testament. In the book of Revelations, St John said that he received this vision from Jesus while he was on Patmos. There is a cave there, called the "Cave of the Apocalypse", where his scribe took that vision down as St John spoke it. Now it's the Book of Revelations.   
I got the whole story for free, by eaves dropping while a tour guide explained it to the people who had paid her. The cave is kind of small and now has two orthodox chapels in it.  In the corner of the cave that is farthest from the door, there are two holes in the wall. A large one near the floor that St John would put his head in while he prayed and another small one that is a few feet off the floor, that he would put his right hand in. One day while he was praying there was a very loud noise in the cave, and the ceiling cracked above his head. St John started reciting the vision that he was seeing, and his scribe wrote that down.
There are also a number of monasteries on Patmos all named after St John. We went to the one of the highest ground, which also had a really nice treasury, full of eastern orthodox icons and ancient manuscripts.



Turkey - Ephesus

by Kimp 6. October 2012 03:32

Photo Blog

When Jesus knew his days were numbered, he had three last requests:

  One was directed at all of his disciples; paraphrased as - Disperse from here and spread the word.
  Another was directed at the disciple whom he loved; paraphrased as - Take care of my mother like she was your own mother.
  The last was directed towards his mother; paraphrased as - Take care of the disciple whom I love, like he is your son.


There is controversy, but some scholars believe that the disciple whom Jesus loved, was "John the Apostle".



It is known that "John the Evangelist" left Jerusalem after Jesus was crucified and he moved to Ephesus Turkey to spread the word. At that time, Ephesus was the largest city in Turkey.



There is more controversy, but some scholars believe that "John the Apostle" and "John the Evangelist" were one in the same.



If all three of the above were true, then the Virgin Mary would have moved with "John the Evangelist", to Ephesus Turkey.


In the 1800's, the Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich, a visionary nun from Germany who had never visited Ephesus, had a vision that involved the Virgin Mary. That vision started at the crucifixion of Jesus, after which Mary and John traveled to Ephesus. John feared that Mary's life might be in danger, if Mary lived in the City, so he built her a stone house up the top of a hill, outside of Ephesus. Her vision described not only where the house was in relation to Ephesus, but he also described what the house looked like, inside and outside. Where the doors and windows were, and the vision of the surrounding hillside.

In about 1890, after Anne had died. Two priests, whom had the transcripts from that vision, traveled to Ephesus to look for Virgin Mary's house. They found the ruins of an ancient house that very closely fit the description of that vision. While they were there, several Turkish people, who were decedents of the Christians from Ephesus, showed up. They said that they came there on August 15th of each year. They were making a pilgrimage to what they called the doorway of the Virgin, in celebration of Mary's assumption into heaven. There was also a church in Ephesus dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It was the first church dedicated to her, and in those days, they only dedicated church's to people whom had lived in the area.

Mary's house is also a Muslim shrine. While the Muslims do not believe that Jesus was the son of God, they do regard him as a great prophet. And therefor honor Mary as the mother of a great prophet. Muslims call her Mother Mary, instead of the Virgin Mary.

Entering the house was a very nice, but overwhelming religious experience for me. I was reduced to tears. I said a few prayers for some deserving people whom are in need, and moved on, so that others could experience it as well.

I also visited the Ephesus ruins. I have been to so many ruins now, that I am starting to see the patterns, and nothing seems new to me anymore. These were nice, but the Roman forum in Rome, is probably the best preserved ruins that I've seen to date.

Lastly I visited a small town on the coast named Kusadasi, where I got a college education in Turkish rugs.




Greece - Mykonos

by Kimp 5. October 2012 03:07

Photo Blog

Mykonos is one of the smallest Islands (10 mi x 7 mi) in the Aegean Sea, near Greece. It's one of the most popular Greek Islands because of its night life, its restaurants, its beautiful harbor, beautiful beach, and Cycladic art shops. However being popular has a drawback, it's very expensive. It belongs to an archipelago known as the Cycladic Islands. The cycladic people who inhabited these islands were around before recorded history, then they suddenly disappeared, so not much is known about them. Other then the marble artifacts that they left behind. Most of the artifacts are of human forms and look much like modern art. In fact, it looks like something that Picasso would have created in his later years, very simple and clean.
It has an area near the main harbor, called "Little Venice". Because it's built onto of a large flat rock that butts up with the sea and kind of looks a little like Venice. In one of the only areas on this island that isn't white washed. I had a map of Mykonos, but it didn't have a scale marked on it. I was in the main harbor and happened to see a taxi, so we got in it and I asked him to take us to "Little Venice" (I was estimating about 2 miles away). The cab driver looks at me kind of funny and points and say's, its right over there. I should have tipped the poor guy, but I was too embarrassed and quickly got out. I told my friends, "If that was NYC, the cabby would have put the car in gear, drove forward two feet, then stopped and said 'OK, here we are at little Venice!!! That will be $50.' ".



Switzerland - Martigny and Haute Nendaz

by Kimp 29. September 2012 03:15

Photo Blog

Martigny is a quaint little town in Switzerland. The south western part of Switzerland is full of people who love art. Martigny hosts two world class art exhibits each year. This fall's was dedicated to Van Gogh, Picasso and Kardinski. There's an ancient Roman ruins in Martigny, that Julius Caesar liked to visit. In 2007 they opened a very nice museum dedicated to the History of St Bernards. All that was really nice, but that isn't why I went there. Those were just nice bonuses. I was there to watch "cow wrestling". Yea that's right, "cow wrestling".

The Swiss canton of Valis, breed's Eringer cattle. Eringer females are the most aggressive cows in the world. There are many cow wrestling events in Valis, but the cow wrestling championship is always in the ancient roman amphitheater at Martigny. The winning cow is usually sold for a pretty good dollar. The Valis region has always been kind of a renegade place. There was a time when the Swiss government wanted to reduce the quality of its cheese so that they could produce more, thereby yielding a bigger tax gain. It was the farmers in Valis, that flat out refused to lower the cheese quality, even though it was much harder to make, and brought in less money. 

Martigny sits at the cross roads between France and Italy. A road named the "Col de la Forclaz", goes through a mile high pass in the Alps, and into France. Another named "Grand St Bernard Pass" that goes through a 1 1/2 mile high pass, via the Alps, into Italy.

The "Grand St Bernard pass" is the lowest point between the two highest peaks in the Alp's. There has been a road going through it since the bronze age (2000 B.C.) . Today that road is only open for about 4 months in the summer, because the rest of the time, the weather is too bad (However, now there is a tunnel for cars at a lower elevation that is open all year around). Up until 1049, this pass was heavily patrolled by bandits who would force people to pay a large fee to use the pass. In 1049 a noble man with the last name of Bernard, built a monastery and hospice at the top of the pass. The purpose was to secure this road from the bandits, and to help travelers who traveled it.  They were successful, and 100 years after nobleman Bernard died, he was canonization as "St Bernard", the patron saint of the Alps.

The monks breed and used dogs to patrol the pass road, until the snow was to thick for that. One dog would be lead down each edge of the road to search for the scent of a human. When they found one, they would follow the scent and then start digging in the snow for the person. These dogs were very powerful diggers, and became known as St Bernard's. In the summer when the monks were bringing supplies up to the hospice, they made special back packs, for the dogs, that were used to haul supplies. They also put a keg on their collar for hauling Brandy up to the monastery. In the 1800's travelers to this area, started spreading word about the dogs with Brandy kegs under their chin, and they became world famous.

The hospice is well above the tree line. and monks only had 4 months to gather enough wood for the 8 months of snow.  All the wood had to be hauled in from quite a distance, yet somehow they were able manage. In 1800, Napoleon used this pass to move his army into Italy. To sneak up on Italy, he carved out wood logs,put his cannon's inside, and he himself, crested the pass on a donkey.

Martigny is more of a local's town, then a tourist town, so I ended up staying in a mountain resort town named Haute-Nendaz, that was about 1 mile above sea level. It was pretty deserted when I arrived, but in about 2 months, Haute-Nendaz will be jam packed with skiers.




Switzerland - Schwartzee

by Kimp 22. September 2012 03:02

Photo Blog

There are 4 regions of Switzerland that have popular Das Alps festivals. They usually occur on different weekends, so that the smaller ones can still draw a crowd.

Das Alps is in the fall, when the cows come down from the high pastures, where they had been grazing all summer. Going back to their home pastures until next spring. Herds are mixed together when they go up the mountain, so they need to all assemble somewhere, in order to be separated into their proper herds, and returned to their rightful owners.

The primary product made when the cows are in the high pastures, is cheese. This fresh cheese is sold at the festival, as well lots of other items, like rachlete, brats, and beer. It good eating along with plenty of good wholesome authentic Swiss entertainment as well.

Last year I went to Charmey's (Charmey is one of my albums).  Charmey has the biggest and most popular Das Alps festival, plus it's the most advertised. The others usually only draw local crowds, and figuring out exactly where and when they are, is quite a challenge when you're not local.

I heard about one in a town named Schwarzsee, so I thought that I'd try that one out this year. I drove to Schwartzee and passed a few herds on the road, which got really close to my car. I managed to get through them, without a scare this year, but next year I'm pretty sure that I am going to rent a car and get the full insurance package on it, to drive to another Das Alps festival. I'm thinking about getting my car painted this winter and would like to keep it gouge free for a while.

I got to Schwarzsee expecting to see a crowd, but it looked like a ghost town. I was guessing that my information was a little off. However Schwarzsee was a really nice town on a beautiful small lake, so I hiked around the lake and loved every minute of that.  It looked like a nice laid back town to do some easy skiing in the winter. While I was there, I ran into some more herds descending the alps. Some of those herds had what I call, Ohio cows (Holsteins) , which I'd never seen in Switzerland. That was a nice treat.

After exhausting what Schwarzsee had to offer (nearly everything is closed in the fall), I got back in my car and decided to follow one of the herds to the festival. About a very slow hour later, I ended up in Plaffeien Switzerland, which was where the festival was. It was a very nice, quaint, local crowd, that I enjoyed very much, if not more then Charmey's last year.




Switzerland - Matterhorn

by Kimp 16. September 2012 00:48
It took an act of God to create the Matterhorn.
The Matterhorn isn't the highest mountain in Europe nor even the highest in Switzerland. However it has one of the most unique shapes, so it is easy recognizable. It kind of looks like a Pyramid with each face, facing a due direction. One due North, one due East, one due South and one due West. This characteristic, makes for nice photograph. One side will be bright and the other in a shadow. It's solid rock without any grass at all and most people will know it by name, when viewing a photo of it.
There's a similar mountain in China, but there's another unique characteristic about the Matterhorn that makes it unique. Several angles of the Matterhorn, make it appear to be the only mountain in mountain range. All of the other mountains are hidden either by the Matterhorn or the surrounding hills. This characteristic gives the Matterhorn a very romantic appearance.
Because of the shape and since it's solid rock, the Matterhorn was one of the last mountains to be conquered. Even today only about 1/2 of the people who attempt to climb it, actually crest the summit. It don't think it's the climb that stops them, it's the fear of not being about to find a safe path back down. Lots of cliff climbers will only climb a cliff, because they know that they don't have to come back down it. At the Matterhorn, that which goes up, must come back down, one way or the other.
I meet a man a while back who was from Zermatt. I pumped him for information, not only on what to do there, but also weather patterns. He said that the Matterhorn was almost always overcast all year around. He also told me that I needed to be there early in the morning, cause around 2 P.M., the sun sets on the other side of the Matterhorn, and it isn't very appealing after that. That knowledge of the sun pattern, turned out to be critical, cause without that, I probably would have been in some other town the night before, and just drove in around noon. My eye's are old and driving at night in unfamiliar deserted mountain roads, doesn't appeal to me anymore.
I had read that, if the weather were bad, there wasn't much to do in Zermatt, that doesn't involve the mountains, and it isn't close to anything else. 
I had wrote of going there in a hurry, so I put that thought on the back burner. I figured that I would end up going there 3 or four times, and not get the full enjoyment, that I was looking for.
Zermatt hosts a very popular marathon every year, called the Zermatt Marathon. Which most people term as the Matterhorn run. A mostly up hill, cross country marathon. It's so popular, that they run that same marathon event, two days in a row, so twice as many people can run it. This year a thousand kids ran it. This marathon corresponds with the Zermatt festival, which is two weeks long. Several musicians from the Berlin Orchestra come to Zermatt for this festival, with classical music events held all over town.
I got an email out of the blue a month ago, from a hotel owner offering me a room for the Marathon weekend, at half price, if I booked it soon. I really wanted to go during the marathon weekend, but when I looked at the calendar, I made a mistake and thought today's date (which was like Aug 15th) was a week later (like Aug 22nd). So I asked him if the musicians were going to be there a week later. He confirmed and I booked the weekend after. This is where I made another mistake. He asked me when I wanted to check in and check out. I told him I wanted to check in on Friday and out on Saturday. But what I meant was that I wanted stay both Friday night and Saturday night.
I didn't realize, I had made that mistake, until two weeks later. When I figure that out, I called to ask him if I could stay Saturday too. He say's, "Oh dude, I'm sorry, I just sold out. But I'll tell you what. I've got a few friends and I'll make some calls around, to see that I can do.". The next day, he sends me an email which say's that he can get me Saturday night at the expensive resort and spa place just down the road for only $20 more then what he was charging me.  He wanted to know if that was OK? Freaking A that's OK.
So it took another act of God to get me the information I needed to have a great time and get me there on probably the most perfect weather day in Zermatt history. I ended up nailing it on my first try.
I also ended up not far (about 2 hours) from Zermatt the weekend before. I went to Interlaken. Interlaken is a small town between two lakes, and when the marathon weekend is going on, that place is hopping. Here's what's cool about Interlaken. I didn't take my camera, so you will just have to do with the words:
 They have several (I counted 5).  marching bands, made of of people probably from their mid 40's to 60's. It took me a while to figure it out, but what I think it was, are people who's kids have left the nest, and now they are going back and re-living their childhood. They dress up in amazing costumes. They aren't really uniforms, cause they aren't the same. They have a common theme, but are all individual.  Like one band wore elaborate jester looking costumes, complete with the hats.
What they do is, stand out in front of a bar and play a few marching band tunes. Then they leave their instruments on the side and go in and have a drink or two, or a snack. Then they pick up their instruments, march to the next bar that looks like it will hold all of them, then repeat. Most of them don't really sound that great, but the entertainment value is definitely high.
However, there was one band that was awesome. This band dressed up in Ancient Roman Armor (except for a cloth chest plate). They really had a good sound and they were playing all of the marching band tunes from my era. That's who I ended up following around town. A few of their drinks were on me as well.