Germany - Fredrickshafen

by Kimp 1. July 2015 23:00

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Fredrickshafen (Fred's Harbor) is located on one of Germany's only Lakes. Lake Constance is where the wealthy Germans head to hang out, on or near the water. Fredrickshafen is also home of the Zepplin Museum and Germany's largest classic auto show.

I went there mainly to see the car show, but was very happy with all of the other activities as well. Looked like there was a small festival in town, or maybe that is the normal summer activity there. Lots of ethnic fast food from all over the world and lots of people.

I have a friend named Terry who flips cars. Buys old cars that are well under market value, cleans them up, then sells them for what he get out of them. He is an expert detailer. He can clean an old car so good, that it looks like it just came from the factory.

He has bought a few Mercede's in California, where the European cars are way under the price that they fetch in Germany and has sold them at this car show. This year he bought a '66 Pagoda 280 SL. Pagoda is just a nickname that stuck, the hardtop for the convertible roof is concave in shape and resembles an Asian Pagoda, so people started calling it that. Since it was shipped from the US, he had to get it certified by the German authorities as authentic. They go through all of the maintenance records, make sure it was maintained by a qualified mechanic and has OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer parts on it. That took a few weeks, but it passed.

He was kind of afraid that he was going to take a loss, because the Euro dropped quite a bit from the time that he bought it, but he ended up making a few dollars on the resale. He sold it so quick, that I told him he must have under priced it. The show goes on for three days and he sold it quickly on the first day.

Terry is one of those people, that everything he owns, is always for sale. Sometimes he has four cars one week and zero the next. He will sell his last car, the shirt off of his back, the brand new shoes he just bought, without even flinching. Everything has a price and everything must go.

One time I loaned Terry my car for week while he was car-less and looking for another car. When he brought it back, he says, "Dude, I got a great offer on your car. You should sell it !!!".

No way, I'm the type who hangs onto cars for a long time, cause I know exactly what is wrong with the car that I own and I like it that way. I don't like buying a bunch of new unknown's and figuring them out.

Zeppelin

As soon as the first hot air balloon was launched in France in the 1790's people were trying to figure out how to produce manned air flights. It wasn't until powerful gas engines and aluminum were invented, before that was possible. Around 1870, Ferdinand von Zeppelin was thinking about reshaping the balloon and attaching an engine to it. Around 1890 he thought it was possible so he started designing, and in 1895 he knew it was possible. He decided, that to build an aircraft big enough to carry lots of people, he needed to add a frame and put the balloon's inside of the frame, then he had a rigid structure for all of the additional infrastructure needed to maneuver it.

On July 2, 1900, the first one was launched in Fredrickshaven and it went over Lake Constance.  Shortly after that the design was enlarged and put into mass production. Soon there were regular flights all over Germany. Enter World War I. Zeppelins were used for gathering intelligence, recon, and droppkng bombs. The only think that stopped them was high winds blowing them off course. After WW I Zeppelin built several for the US Navy. Eventually anti-aircraft guns were invented and that put them out of the military business, but they were still used heavily for civilian air transport.

One was eventually built that was large enough for transatlantic flight. It had to be extra large to carry all of the fuel and supplies needed for that long trip. However the first Trans-Atlantic flight ended in disaster when it burnt up in a huge ball of flames on national radio, while it was docking in New Jersey.

That disaster put a big dent in their business, but they were still used in Germany until commercial airplane finally put them out of business for good.

The Zeppelin museum was awesome, because it covered the entire history of early attempted flights in addition to the Zeppelins. There was a short film that was only in German, but it was easy to follow without knowing the words.

Loved everything that was in the museum. Well worth the small price of admission.

Car Show

The classic car show was really sweet. Best to look at the pictures to see what was there. Just about everything from the first real car ever made by Karl Benz through to 1970's, including a lot of American Muscle, plus some old planes, boats, motorcycles, race cars, and rally cars. Loved ever minute of it.

Enjoy ,

Craig


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Cars | Travel

French Open - Paris France

by Kimp 6. June 2015 03:03

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I went to the French open in 2014, but I was so late writing it up, I thought it was better to release this story in 2015.

I hadn't followed Tennis since Pete Sampras played. Pete was a real powerhouse in the 1990's on grass and hard surfaces, but could never quite dial it in on clay. As a result I never really paid that much attention to the French Open, until a friend of mine wanted to go to the French Open. I think this first experience pretty much ruined me from ever going again, because I don't think any other visit's could possibly top this one.

History of Modern Tennis

The ancient history of tennis isn't really known. There was a complicated indoor game (now called real tennis), that was once played mostly by royalty that went into steep decline in the 1600's.  The old game used hard balls that were similar to small baseballs.  

In 1840 Charles Goodyear discoveed rubber vulcanization and rubber balls became popular. Rubber was awesome, because balls could be made, that bounced decent in the grass. In the 1860's a couple of dudes from England took the old rackets and net used in the indoor game and combined that with some outdoor handball game rules and played it on their Croquet field. 

In the 1870's a British Army Officer who was an entrepreneur decided to standardize the equipment, package it all in one package and sell it along with a standard set of rules. He shipped it all over Europe and the United States. It was a huge hit, and in 1877, the first Wilmbledon Championship was held. The first French Open was held in 1891.

Red Clay

The French didn't have croquet courts in their lawns like the English did. They wanted something more durable then lawn, so for their open, they used the same material that all Paris projects were made out of at that time. In 1850 Napoleon commissioned George Eugene Haussmann as the manager in charge of, the rebuilding of Paris. He always used limestone from the quarries in Saint-Maximin, just outside of Paris, as a building material. Say what, "How does limestone get to be called Clay?". The limestone is an ugly color, and this is Paris where aesthetics trump sanity. So a very thin layer, 2mm (0.1 inch) of ground red brick dust is spread on top of the limestone. Clay sounds a lot better then brick dust.

Because of the very hard surface under the clay, the ball bounces more, which makes the bounce delayed. The bounce is also shorter. Therefore, the players need to slow down their reaction on the return and hit it at a different angle. That is difficult for most players, giving excited players with very quick reactions, a hard time playing on clay. Plus they slide a lot more on the loose clay dust on the surface and it clogs the bottom of their shoes. The best player's usually try to knock the clay off of their shoe bottoms between plays. They do that by using the line's that mark the playing field boundaries. 

Crazy scoring system

In reality, a tennis game is the 1st to score 4 times, but win by two. However, tennis is scored 0, 15, 30, 40, game over, unless there is a tie at 40. At the French Open a tie at 40 is called equal. The next person to score has the advantage. If the person with the advantage scores next, they win, if not, then they are back at equal. Other open's call 40-40 a deuce. Most people will say that deuce is derived from the French deux (two), meaning that at that point you need to win by two. I call BS, cause if that were the case, the French would also call it a Deuce or deux. 

Where did 0-15-30-40 come from. The origins of that are unknown, but it is thought that came from an earlier game that tennis was derived from. Here is my theory, which has no basis other then my gut. It's known that the first advanced mathematics system discovered in 4000 BC used 60 as a base. And they knew how to divide (evidence of division and multiplication were found in tables on old clay tablets), so 15, 30, 45 where common 1/4 fractions of 60. It would make sense that lots of games would use divisions of the whole as incremental notches. The game would be won when you reached the whole. Then, why 40 instead of 45? I think that was a later evolution. Zero, 15, 30 and 40 all have two syllables. 45 has three. The musician in me says that any combination of two , two syllable numbers would have a great rhythm. Most songs are 4 beats. That is also in line with the theme of 4's. 4 points for a game and four syllables for a score announcement.

Where did Love come from. Again, many people say that was derived from French word for egg (eouf). I say BS, cause the French call zero, "Zero", not eouf nor Love. I think Love was a evolution, again because it has a nice sound to it. Or when you got zero, you'd sure love to have at least one point on the board. Or when your opponent has 0, you sure are loving it. Or when you love something, you do it for free, not caring that you are getting 0 for it. 

Dress

Tennis used to be played by only the wealth. They were the only people who had nice croquet courts at their home. Therefore, most people adopt the dress of the wealthy. Therefore, I dressed up a little for this event, which was a nice change of pace.

Perfect Day

I had great seats on the main court, where the top contender's play each other. Right behind the player's a few rows up, facing away from the sun. It was a beautiful 72 F (20 C) degree day without any chance of rain. These sets are fairly long, especially when they tie and have to play a tie breaker. I feel for the players, who have no one but them selves to count on. They have to be on their game the whole time.

The seats are good for the entire day, which is 4 matches. I had access to an indoor lounge with free drinks and food, so I hung out in their periodically to relax and see the ends of some of the other matches on TV. There are about 18 court's at the complex, and all but 4 do not require anything other then the fairly inexpensive entry ticket. It is nice to go and just walk around the complex. A very beautiful place, as can be seen in the pictures.

Enjoy,

Craig.

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Culture | Sports

Bosnia and Hertezgovia - Medugorje

by Kimp 18. April 2015 06:00

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Bosnia tourism has enjoyed one of the highest growth rates in the last 20 years and it's expected to continue well into the future. Medugorje is one of the reason's. And the other is its very diverse cultural, and musical experience.

Nestled in the Southern, predominately Catholic region of Bosnia and surrounded by beautiful countryside, nearly one million christians make the pilgrimage here every year. I visited during Palm Sunday in 2014.

Modern History

In 1981, six school kids, mostly teenagers, were hanging out in the woods near town, when a white feminine figure holding a child in her arms (the ghost of the Blessed Virgin Mary), appeared to them. They visit that place daily, and for years, have said that they saw it each day. Some of them still say they see it, but some no longer see it.

The local bishop did not call it a conformed aspiration, but the Vatican recently sent a committee there to investigate. I believed they convened in January of 2014, but have not made a public declaration either way, as of yet.

There are four criteria needed for the Vatican to confirm an aspiration.

1. Person must be Moral

2. Person must has good personal qualities: honest, sincere, faithful, practices a normal faith.

3. The revelations revealed cannot contradict the bible and must support the bible.

4. The results of the revelations must be fruitful in other peoples lives (must help convert people Christianity and strengthen Christian beliefs).

Eastern European Car Rental

I've rented several car's in Eastern Europe and have had about the same experience in most of them.

I've noticed a very distinct pattern that goes as follows.

I picked one of the cheaper priced, brand name car rental agencies before the trip and made a reservation. My plane gets in either around 9 A.M. in the morning or around 10 P.M. at night. I look around for the rental agency booths in the terminal and don't find them. I look for sign's a don't find them. I exit the terminal building and scan around the area just outside. Way on the other side of the parking lot are some very small hap-hazardly constructed structures, that kind of resemble a row of out houses.

Gee, I sure hope those are the rental car offices. I approach them and still can't tell until I get right up on them and see the sign's that are on the other side of the structures,  The side facing away from the terminal building. I guess they could not afford another sign facing the terminal, or a two sided sign on the top.

No matter which company I choose, that dude can't be found. Even though I called ahead and let them know when I was arriving. "Sure no problem. Well have your car ready for you." But the "Enterprise Renal Agent", is always there. They are usually a little higher priced, so I seldom rent from them. 

So its about 10 P.M. and my dude isn't there, but there is a number on the building to call. I call and it rings and rings, but no answer and no answering machine. By now the Enterprise Agent, a few buildings down, see's me looking confused and comes over to help me.

He tells me that place is closed. I fill him in, about how I called ahead, and then tried the number on the door. He say's, "Well, I know that guy, I've give him a call.". He calls and the dude answers right away (like he knows the person, so he is going to answer when his friend calls). They converse,  he hangs up, turns to me and says, "Yea that dude isn't going to make it out here tonight. He won't be in until tomorrow".  "Ok, I guess I can take a cab to my hotel and pick it up tomorrow around 9 A.M.". He say's, "You probably ought to make that around 10 A.M. That dude told me 9, which probably means 10".

I thought about calling the rental home office and telling them to pack sand, then asking Enterprise dude if he had a car to rent me. But once I commit to something, I seldom back out of it. So, I got a cab, went to the hotel, and arranged to have a cab bring me back around 10 A.M the next day.

I get there and the dude still isn't there. It's a nice day, so I sit down in the sun and wait. Surely he must be on his way, cause he knows I'm waiting on a car. About 10:30 A.M., I walk over the Enterprise office and smile at Enterprise dude. I ask him kindly, if he could call again. A few minutes later, "He said, he's running a little late, he'll be in around 11 A.M."

This type of time system, is what I call Island Time. 9 A.M. Island Time, means I'll get there not earlier then 10 A.M. and sometime after 10 A.M. depending on if I feel like going in right then or not.

While waiting, I strike up a conversation with Enterprise dude, about the pattern I've noticed. He said that's normal. I asked him, why does he keep normal hours? He says, someone from the home office calls him every morning at starting time, and they don't call his cell phone, they call the office phone. He said if he want's to keep his job, he needs to be there to answer it.

I seldom endorse a chain, but if I ever rent a car in Eastern Europe again, I think I'm going try Enterprise.

I was interested in what he could tell me about the Yugoslavian Civil war in the mid 1990's.  

Yugoslavia was a union of 6 countries (Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Hertezgovia, Serbia, Montenegro, and Macedonia). A dude who went by the nickname of "Tito", was the dictator who held it all together. He was a master at picking weak regional political leaders who backed him up, strengthening the military on his side, and giving the people just enough freedom to keep them happy while still controlling them.

Yugoslavia always had a much more open Communism then Russia or China. They allowed their citizens to travel and also have some other freedom's that are enjoyed in democratic countries. While still maintaining a communist government that controlled the people and some of the industries. The Yugoslavia national Army was based in Serbia and most of the soldiers where Serbian. However, weak local leaders and a strong military, presented a problem when Tito died. Most of the countries wanted their freedom, but Serbia wanted to control all of them, and they had the military. A civil war broke out, as countries tried to fight for their freedom. Both Bosnia and Montenegro share long borders with Serbia, so they allied with Serbia for a while. It wasn't until after the war was over, that they too broke away.

Enterprise dude said his dad was a ship captain, who had some friends in Italy. So during the war, when he was 5 years old,  he was sent away, while his dad stayed and fought. Another problem was that there were lots of inner marriages between the countries all fighting for freedom. So families either had to fight against each other, or choose a side to fight on and move to the side they choose. He was away from this family for about 5 years, then when he got back ,they had to rebuild.

Bosnian had above average intelligence and they rebounded fairly quickly, but there are still quite a few areas with land mines, that have not been thoroughly cleared. If you don't have a guide with you, it's best not to go off of the road too far. 

After he graduated, he spent a tour in their Navy. That's probably why we got along so well, and probably why he had some discipline for his age. Navy people are usually pretty laid back until there is a job to do, then they get it done.

My rental agent finally showed up a little before 11. He looks around the lot and ends up giving me a car that was a little nicer then the one that I had rented. He said, because it was already cleaned. It may have been clean, but it was pretty beat up. Eastern European roads aren't the best built nor are their cars. Usually they are very low horsepower and this was no exception. Ding's and marks all over it, from stone's hitting it. There was a piece of trim missing as well. We didn't even bother with the prior damage walk around making notes of all of the prior damage.

It rattled a little and the steering wasn't the tightest, but it seemed to run OK and I was glad just to be on the road, so away I went.

My Run in with the Law

Getting into a situation where we feel a lack control is never a comfortable situation. The best thing to do, is to try to ease our way into a better situation. These usually come in two areas; a run in with the law, and a run in with the opposite side of the law. Of those two situations, a run in with the law is the worse of the two.

Years ago, eastern bloc countries were tightly controlled by law enforcement. It wasn't uncommon to be pulled aside to have your paperwork looked over. Even though they are in a democracy, they still have a similar mentality. In twenty years that will probably go away, but I see signs of it lingering around.

While driving through small town after small town in Bosnia, I kept seeing a recurring pattern. A main road with a very slow speed limit, say 30 km/hr (18 mph). Just before or after the main intersection a police car would be off to the side, but the police were not in the car. They are both out enjoying the sun shine. One would be randomly motioning cars to pull over, then approaching them to talk to them. From my viewpoint, it looked like mostly small talk. Small town constable probably knows everybody in town and is just pulling them over to chat (they are all on island time). Sherriff Andy Griffith was doing the talking, while Deputy Fife was standing at the ready, in case he needed to pull out his pistol.

Time after time, I was relieved, as they pulled the car in front of me over. Because then I knew I was going to be cleared to go through while they were distracted.  I could tell they knew these people, cause the were smiling as they pulled them over.

I hit one small town, and the Sheriff motions me to the side, but he isn't smiling at me. He was looking at me like, "dude long haired, hippy type, pinko fags, have a lot of nerve coming though my town." As I came to a stop, I returned his concerned and unhappy scowl with a half smile and a deep look of respect. I am dying to say something like, "So Andy, how's Aunt B doing?", but as I roll down the window, I speak in my best servant voice, "Sir, did I do something wrong?", and by the pissed off look in this face, that's when I discover he doesn't speak a word of English.

I can see the shrapnel scares in his arms. This dude fought in the war, and in this area, he was mostly likely on the side that was opposite of the American's who were backing the NATO troops. This is not looking good for the away team.  

He steps back and motions for me to get out of the car. I oblige, in a manner that was cautious, confident, and respectful. Barney was closely watching my every move from the other side of the car. The sheriff motion's me around front and shows me that one of my head lights is out. It's still a few hours until dark, but this car has day time running lights that are always on.

I had a lot of things going through my mind:

Did the dude at the rental car place set me up?

Is this one of those countries where you ask if you can pay the fine to the policeman, and he say's,  "Sure, that will be twenty bucks and two of those cold beers in your ice cooler.", then he sends you on your way. 

Is this one of those countries where you ask if you can pay the fine to the policeman, and he halls you off to jail for bribery? 

I sure wish that I would have went with the Enterprise dude.

As I am contemplating what to do, he walk's from the front of my car to back. I decide to get back in, to retrieve the rental car paper. I am looking for him, to give him the paperwork, when he abruptly motion's for me to get the hell out of town.

Yes sir, you bet I will, just as fast as this piece of crap will go.

After that, I drove with the lights and high beams on during the day and made sure I wasn't driving after dark. 

Now I always check my lights, when I rent a car, before I leave the lot.

Culture

There is just nothing in the world, quite like the many variations of Bosnian Pot. Enjoyed by the rich and poor for hundreds of years, it's still a favorite everywhere. No it's not Marijuana, it's like a pot roast, only with several meats, cabbage, lots of vegetables, garlic and whole peppercorns. Delicious, no matter whose company we partake of it in and different, in different regions and households

Enjoy,

Craig

 

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Culture | Travel

Germany - BadenBaden

by Kimp 14. March 2015 17:38

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Baden-Baden History

Bad in German, means bath. Towns with Bad in their name, means that there was a roman Bath there, when the Roman's ruled parts of what is now Germany. Baden-Baden is modern and it means the city of Baden in the German State of Baden.

The German state of Baden is at a location of natural geothermal activity. Emperor Augustus of Rome discovered that in the 1st century AD and built a small bath house here for his soldiers. That ruins are still here and can be toured for a small fee.

The Germans continued the bathing tradition at this location and after a doctor declared that natural mineral water was good for your health, people from all over Europe came to visit and they still come and visit.

On top of that, the German Health care system allows a doctor to prescribe health treatments at an accredited location. Not quite the same as the tourist experience, but that helps full the local economy.

Casino

Baden-Baden is the site of the second oldest legal casino in the world. Baden Switzerland was the first in 1765. In the late 1700's gambling was legalized in this part of Germany, but the rules stated that it had to be attached to a spa, 30% of the visiting people had to be tourists, and local citizens were not allowed to gamble there.

This place fit the bill, plus it was close to the border with France and France outlawed gambling, so the French were eager to visit. The casino was built to resemble a French palace. It's classy and elegant in every detail. Forty minute tours of the Casino are available before the gaming opens. The dress code for casino gaming includes a tie. European Casino's generally are on the dressy side.

Friederichesbad

This is the reason I came to Baden-Baden. Fred's bath was built in the 19th century, about 125 years ago.

Mark Twain, who visited the bath, said ir best: “Here at the Friedrichsbad you lose track of time within 10 minutes and track of the world within 20 ...”.

It's entirely geo-thermally heated and combines both the Roman and the Irish bathing techniques. A roman bath uses only dry heat, similar to a sauna. A Roman-Irish bath was invented by Dr Richard Barter who was experimenting with wet mineral heat in Cork Ireland. The wet mineral heat, leaves the skin silky smooth. An Irish bath adds a mineral steam room.

Friederichesbad is almost entirely made of marble and it consists of 17 stages. The general idea is to slowly heat the body up, then slowly cool it down. The heating up open's the pours and blood vessels, the cooling down starts the blood pumping harder and cleanses the inner muscles and body parts, plus it opens the lymph system.

This bathing is combined with a solemn personal experience. The whole idea is to cleanse the spirit as well as the body.

It is entirely nude, and the complex is split into nearly identical half's. On selected days, men use one side and women the other. On the other days, mixed bathing is allowed in either area. But there are two bathing stages in the center, that are always mixed. 

Children under 14 are never allowed, however on-site baby sitting is available, if desired. It's hard to keep it quiet, with youngster's running around.

It's a bit on the expensive side, but well worth the price in my opinion. Part of the price is that it keeps out the riff-raff. I got the work's (which I highly recommend). That included a soap and brush treatment from an attendant, a complete body cream rubdown and some excellent healthy food at the end for about 60 Euro's ($75).

Everything is supplied (soap, brush, towels, shower shoes, cream, thick pads for sitting on the marble slabs in the steam rooms). All you need to bring, is your dirty skin, your worn out body, and your stressed mind.

On the dude side, the attendants were all same sex. I am guessing the same on the female side. Not exactly what I was hoping for, but at least Bruno's hands were smooth.

The 17 stages are something like the following (There are signs in English telling what to do and attendants to ask if you don't understand something).

1. Shower yourself, soap and huge shower heads are supplied. The water can be adjusted to your own comfort level.

2. Warm sauna for 15 minutes on wooden loungers.

3. Hot Sauna for 5 minutes on wooden loungers.

4. Shower yourself.

5. Soap and brush bath from an attendant. Choice of soft or stiff bristles (I choose stiff and while it was a little rough, it was easily tolerated). This is performed by an attendant on a marble slab. Once all of your dead skin is removed, you start to really feel great. Shower yourself, to rinse off.

6. Warm steam room for 15 minutes. This is the world's only geo-thermal steam room (powered completely from geo-thermal heat), and the air is full of minerals. 

7. Hot steam room for 5 minutes.

8. Warm wading pool for 15 minutes.

9. Warm pool for 15 minutes, with water jets that gently massage your entire body.

10. Tepid pool for 5 minutes.

11. Shower yourself.

12. Cold water pool. The sign said rapid. That water was freaking cold and I am rehabbing a knee, so I move fairly slow. I was able to get in and put my head under, but that took a lot of determination. I moved a lot quicker getting out. By that time I forgot all about the knee. 

13. Dry off and a 5 minute rest period. At this point, your blood is pumping pretty hard so you warm up fast. An attendant gives you a towel that covers your whole body.

14. Cream massage from an attendant, that lasts about 10 minutes.

15. Then you go to the yellow room. A dimly lite room, with beds. An attendance wraps your whole body in a sheet and towel. 15 minutes of complete and shear relaxation while you body warms itself up.

16. You are given a very healthy sandwich, some fruit and a drink of your choice.

17. Wrapped in your whole body towel, You take the food, into the reading room and stay for as long as you want. There is also hot herbal tea in the reading room.

Two weeks later my skin still feels silky smooth and I still relax just thinking about that experience.

Russian Population

In 1793, Czar apparent Alexander I (the dude who would later defeat Napoleon), married the Duchess Louise of Baden-Baden. She would become homesick and often visit Baden-Baden bringing several Russian Aristocrats back with her. They fell in love with it have been visiting ever since. This is the number one place outside of Russia, visited by wealthy Russian's.

There are quite a few people here who only speak German and Russian. No English at all, which is uncharacteristic for Western Germany.  Many of the towns signs are in Russian and German as well.

Wealthy Russian's purchases so much property here, that the mayor of the city no longer allows Russian's to purchase property inside of the city.

Faberge Museum

This is home to a Museum dedicated to the display of Faberge jewelry.

Faberge is the famed jewelry design family (the house of Faberge) from Russia, noted for their expert craftsmanship. Faberge believed that craftsmanship trumped gold quality. Wealthy people from all over the world agreed, and would visit them in St. Petersburg to commission works of jeweled art. One of the biggest customers were the Russian Czar's. One Russian Czar commissioned them to create an egg as an Easter present for his wife.  Most of the egg's they produced afterword's, were also made for Russian Aristocracy. There are very few on the public market, which makes them very expensive.

For the most part, the eggs is just a porcelain egg on the outside. When it opens, it's contents reveal the real work of art.

After the Russian revolution, the Faberge family fled Russia and lost the right to use their own name. Their name was subsequently sold multiple times to market a plethora of items totally unrelated to the family. The name was only reunited with the family recently.

In 2009 a Russian art collector named Alexander Ivanov opened a Museum here to display his huge Faberge collection. It is home to the $18.5 million Rothschild Egg. A pink egg with a built-in time piece. The entrance fee to the museum was expensive in my opinion.

How Alexander Ivanov became a Billionaire is a bit of a mystery. His story is that he was one of the first Russian businessmen to trade in computers, but now he only seems to own art. Most billionaires got there money through something else, then bought art, but they still do the something else. A German woman told me that she thinks he was in a position what allowed him to acquire much of the art at bargain basement prices after the iron curtain fell.

The name of the museum is a bit of a mystery as well. A company in the Cayman Islands claimed it owned the rights to the Faberge name. But in 2010 a German court decided that their museum had the right to use that name. Gee, since the German government receives tax revenue from that museum and the tourism in that town, that sure sounds like a conflict of interest to me.

Upon entry, I was immediately meet by a large bald headed, bouncer looking, Russian dude who showed me respect in his eyes, something that sort of resembled kindness in his gestures, but not in his words. He looked like his name was probably Борис (Boris which means Wolf) and he left me a little intimidated, uncomfortable, and conflicted. But then, maybe I look like a guy who would be casing the place for a heist. How many single dudes are going to go to a jewelry museum? I was half expecting a strip search upon leaving.

Once inside, All of the display cards were in Russian and German only and all of the other visitor's appeared to be speaking in Russian. The woman keeping an eye on the expensive merchandise was talking to me in Russian and smiling and excited, I guess assuming that I was Russian. I just politely said, "Ma'am I only speak English.", after which her big smile disappeared.

I was very tired and forget my reading glasses. The large eggs didn't look like much to me, but the small animal, people and vase type jewelry had a lot of intricate detail in them. Even without my glasses and with the high admission price, I enjoyed it. There was also a special gold jewelry exhibit while I was there, that was off the charts. Very beautiful.

Enjoy,
Craig

Tags:

Health | Travel

France - Menton Riviera

by Kimp 21. February 2015 16:23

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Menton is on the eastern edge of the French Riviera. It borders the Italian Riviera and feels more like Italy then France to me. That's because it's a little run down, but still very sweet in it's own way.

Menton has a warm microclimate and is Europe's largest Citrus producer.

Mediterranean Cuisine

If you have ever heard of the Mediterranean diet. It probably has its roots in or near Menton. It consists mostly of lots of vegetables. The protein is mostly from legumes and fish. And of course fruit. 

People who eat this way last an average of 7 years longer then people who don't.

Menton's Vegetable market opens at 5:00 A.M. every day and closes at 1:00 P.M. They are early risers and know how to enjoy the nice afternoons. 

Lemon Festival

Menton say's goodbye to winter and welcomes Spring  with a huge Lemon festival every year. It always starts in the middle of February (that right spring in the middle of February) and lasts 14 days. Bringing in about 250,000 people. 

With large structures and features based around a common theme, made of lemon's and other citrus fruits. Bands in the streets and on trailers. A golden parade with lots of fruit floats and also a night time parade. 

They have been doing this for over 100 years and have it down to a science. 

Beaches

It seems like there are more beaches in Menton then there is city. At least 6 that bask in seemingly constant sun light. Bring the extra dark sun glasses.

History

Menton was once part of Monaco, but it seceded in 1848 after a revolt over the high taxes that Monaco place on it's Lemon exports. They were independent for a few years, then were annexed by Napoleon and became part of France.


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Travel

Monaco - Monte Carlo

by Kimp 23. January 2015 04:07

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My History

I first visited Monaco in my early twenties with a good friend named Paul. Paul and I were both into culture from an early age. We came to watch the Monaco Grand Prix and left as soon as it was over, so we didn't spend much time here. Paul was born in France of American parents, he left when he was about 7, but spoken fluent French, and he wanted to visit several places in France while we were here.

While in Monac0, we caught a glimpse of Princes Grace (American Actress Grace Kelly). Shortly after that, she had a stroke while driving and was killed when here automobile drove itself off of a steep mountain road near Monaco.  

Those were the carefree simple days, that as we age, we often look back upon, as being some the best times of our lives.  I don't often visit a place where I have already been, but I made an exception in this case. It had been so long, it was like visiting it for the first time.

My Arrival

I drove to Monaco and had drank a lot of water before the drive. I was about 15 minutes away from the border and had to urinate in the worst way. But rather then looking for a place to relieve myself, I thought I could hold it for another 15 minutes.

Monaco is a micro country and is so densely populated that the main roads entering and exiting are all underground. No way anyone is going to use expensive real estate for an expressway, besides that would break up the calm atmosphere.

Great idea, if I knew where I was going, but being new, it just looked like a maze of tunnels to me. The tunnel network is so vast it has intersections and roundabout's in it. To make matter's even more confusing for the first timer, most of the people driving in them are regulars, who navigate this maze with blinding speed and precision. Get stuck in the wrong lane and that is where you are staying. At one point, I just keep going around and around the same two lane roundabout at high speed, because I couldn't decide which exit to take and nobody was going to let me slow down to think.

On top, Monaco has a sweet calm Mediterranean atmosphere, but underneath its this mass hysteria of the greatest proportions. A GPS is useless in this area, cause we are either in a tunnel, or there's a huge rock mountain and dense buildings obstructing the satellites. I would exit the tunnel maze, then decide I wasn't in the right place, then be stuck in stop and go traffic to make the one way street U-Turn, only to go back into the maze. My GPS was so far off, it keep saying that I was entering France, followed by entering Monaco, followed my entering France, etc. On top of that, I had to pee so bad, my back teeth were floating.

I eventually learned the maze, by going the wrong way so many times, I knew pretty quickly once I was on it in, that I was traveling in the wrong direction. Then had the agony of having to wait for an exit, so I could wait to get turned back around.

I spent 90 minutes trying to get to where I was going. At one point I could see it, but still could not figure out how to get there. In the process of trying to get there, I ended up back in the tunnel maze. The next time I got there, I found a place to park and got out on foot to scope a better strategy.

By this time, I had to urinate worse then ever before. I looked around for a place to pee and nothing was in sight. I was contemplating, watering my pants, thinking I couldn't be more then 15 minutes from the hotel, were I would be able to take a shower and put on some clean clothes.

That is when I stumbled upon a trash can that was at the perfect height for a urinal. I could easily flat foot this one. I wouldn't even have to get up on my tip toes.

The only problem was that there was lots of traffic coming towards me,  and there was a corner ahead of where I was standing. When cars rounded the corner, their lights, lite me up like a spot light on an outdoor attraction. That's when I decided to just pretend that I was blind. I put on my best Stevie Wonder impression, whipped it out while smiling ear to ear. Then slowly rocked back and forth as I watered the trash. I keep my eyes wide open, staring straight into nothing, and not blinking. I could clearly see the cars that were about to pass by me. Pretty much all the same, a high end luxury car, some dude in a Tux behind the wheel, accompanied by a women in an evening dress. Don't have a clue what they were thinking, but to me, it felt great to finally relieve myself.

After that I walked all of the way to the place I was staying. It was actually in France, just across the border from Monaco, yet it's only access is from inside of Monaco. In the 1970's Monaco reclaimed some land from the sea, and I was on a small sliver of that, which overflowed into France. I picked this place, because it was about 1/3 the price of a hotel in Monaco, it was right on a marina, it advertised on-sight parking and I could walk anywhere in Monaco from there.

When I arrived on foot, I still couldn't figure out how to get my car down there, nor did I see the parking area. The entrance to the hotel was on a pier and I didn't see any road leading to it, nor any parking area's nearby. I asked the women at the front desk about the parking. She looked at the reservation in the computer and said to me, "Sir, we had you down as reserving  a 20m (60 ft) dock.", as she pointed to an empty dock space directly in front. Thinking quickly I said, "Oh yea, I did reserve that, but a week ago I decided to have the crew move the yacht down to South Africa, so it would be there, when I arrived next week, That's when I called and changed it to an auto parking space. I guess the clerk must not have made the change". We both shared a hearty laugh, cause we knew that we were kidding each other.

She gave me directions for getting my car there. Pretty complicated, I remember her saying, "Take a left, then a quick right. At that point it doesn't look like you can take a right there, but you can and if you miss that turn, it's a long time before you can work you way back around to that spot again." I replied, "Yea, I know exactly where you are talking about, I've missed that turn off twice already."

I was given the secret key code to open the hidden underground parking door and was told to just drive my car down the pier. I looked outside at how narrow that pier was. No guard rail, I mean one wrong move and I'd be sharing a parking space with an expensive yacht.

I asked her if the pier was wide enough and she replies, "I think so !?!". I went back and retrieved my car. Drove slowly and made sure I made the hidden turn off. The dude in the Ferrari behind me wasn't very patient. I got to the pier and had to stop at the end before I drove onto it, to see if it was wide enough. I got out of the car, walked a little way down the pier and looked back. It still didn't look wide enough for the car. There was no room for error. I had to inch down and make sure I didn't turn the wheel at all. I made it, but that was the tightest place I have ever driven. By this time, I was ready for good strong drink.

Best Meal Ever

As soon as I got settled in the hotel, I showered and donned my jacket (I bought a jacket just for this trip), then set out to visit a Monégasque (what people from Monaco are called) restaurant.

I quickly found a nice location with several fine looking restaurants adorning the shore. All of these restaurants have French chefs with quite a repertoire. I could not have picked a bad one. However, I walked into the most appealing one, walked up to the maitre d' and said with a smile and twinkle in my eye, "Sir, I don't have a reservation. But I heard this was the finest restaurant in all of Monaco. That would be a once in a lifetime experience for me, and I sure would love that experience.". That line got me a great smile, a "Yes sir, I have just the place for you". He lead me to a great seat. I could not have picked a better seat myself.

A short while later I was handed the wine menu. It contained many pages. I cracked the cover and looked at the first wine on the first page. Not sure what the wine was, but the price sure caught my attention in a hurry, 5,000 Euros ($6,000). I was hoping they listed the expensive wines up front. Nope, not even close. It keep getting more expensive the further down I got. On about the third page were the really expensive wines, 60,000 Euros ($75,000). Damn, does that come with a BMW M5? I am picturing there their wine cellar door in my head. It looked like a bank vault. Finally on the very last page in the very fine print, were the lesser expensive wines. I picked a white wine from a local French vineyard that was 60 Euros ($75).

When the Sommelier returned, I put in my request, and he said, "Sir that's a fine choice.".  I don't know if it was the atmosphere or the way I was feeling, but that wine had a great taste to it, and it was served at the perfect temperature. When the waiter arrived, I told him I just wanted to savor the wine for quite a while, and would let him know when I was ready for the food menu. I just sipped and smiled and took it all in, for another hour, before ordering.

I almost always eat fish, but there was a Filet Mignon on this menu that was calling my name. The rest was Mediterranean cuisine, which consists mostly of vegetables and legumes. I ate very slowly, savoring every bite of everything.

After finishing, I told the waiter that I wasn't done yet, but I would like some time for dinner to settle and I would let him know when I wanted something else. Another hour later after finishing the entire bottle of wine, I summoned him over and picked out a desert. Eating that very slowly as well and capping the evening off with an espresso after which I summoned the check. The grand total came to 200 Euro's ($250) and for a once in a lifetime experience, it was worth every penny.

I don't go to fancy restaurants very often. I used to take dates to nice places like that once in a while, until I took the women who would ended up as my one and only wife, to a fancy restaurant, and she didn't like the experience at all. I didn't ask her, but I got the feeling that she saw a surgeon or two there, who were in the accompany of a coworker whom wasn't their wife. That  experience changed my whole outlook on fancy restaurants. 

Monaco Today

Home to 50 Billionaires and the remainder of the residents are millionaires. A 400 sq ft (50 sq m) efficiency with a bathroom and parking space runs about $1,200,000 (1,000,000 Euros). Many of the apartments are quite small, but the reason this is appealing to a wealthy person, are the taxes. A British tycoon can live in London and pay 50% income taxes, or they can become a resident of Monaco, without any income tax, and still spend 6 months in Europe. The Monaco government makes their income from Business, Property taxes and the Casino.

Monaco Grand Prix

Often called the most important and prestigious event in automotive racing. Formula 1 cars are used, the road is narrow, the turns are very tight, there are several elevation changes and it includes a tunnel. Considered the most difficult of all race circuits. Held in a plush and prestigious area full of the wealthiest people.

In the 1920's, several of the wealthy male residents were auto enthusiasts and members of the "Automobile Club de Monaco". They would unofficially race their cars around town and decided to ask the King if they could sanction a Grand Prix. In 1929 the first Grand Prix de Monaco was held. The course is about 3 km (1.75 mi's) for one lap and it consists of 78 laps. The "Automobile Club de Monaco" suggestion of using a checkered flag at the end of the race, is why all modern races are ended with the checkered flag.

This grand Prix is still run by the "Automobile Club de Monaco". I visited their tiny office's. I thought it was a museum, but when I got inside I noticed I was severely under-dressed. Everyone hanging out there looked like they were on their way to a red carpet awards banquet. I decided just to look around at the trophy cases like I was looking for a particular trophy, and then made a discrete exit as soon as that opportunity presented itself.  I couldn't leave immediately, because people were still entering the doorway behind me.

Casino de Monte Carlo

Nothing quite says luxury like the Monte Carlo Casino. It has an interesting history.

At one time, Monaco included two nearby cities that seceded and later joined France. With a sever loss of tax revenue, Monaco was facing bankrupt. The biggest problem, was that there wasn't any easy way to get to Monaco. No roads lead there, nothing to attract people to visit, and no place for them to stay once they arrived.

In order to attract French investors, they proposed to build a casino and health resort, granting initial investors 30 years of concessions. After a few failed attempts of their own devise, a smart French developer advised building a lavious Casino, Health Resort and Hotel, but wanted 50 years of concessions in order to attract several investors. His request was granted, he quickly found enough funding, they were built and soon after a rail line was built from France to Monaco, to bring in the masses.

The current casino opened for business in 1863. It was smaller at first, but expended as soon as it proved very profitable. Today it houses the lavish casino, a beautiful theatre and several high end restaurants.

Many of the people working at the casino have been employed there for more then 20 years. They exude class, professionalism, respect, and are meticulous is every detail.

Citizens of Monaco (called Monégasque) are barred from gambling at the Casino. I believe that is a way for the government to take care of its citizens. They do not want to be responsible to bankrupting one of their citizens. In the old days, when people carried guns, sometimes someone would lose all of their money at a table, then pull out a gun and commit suicide right at the table. In fact there is a small room near the main entrance that is still called the morgue, where those bodies would be kept, until claimed.

A jacket and shiny shoes are required for men. Women usually wear evening dresses. There is a general admission fee to enter the main Casino and an additional fee for each of the private rooms. With a few private rooms, reserved exclusively for known hi-rollers.

Photography is forbidden and you will be asked to check any camera's at the coat room before entering.

The inside looks like a Royal Palace in every detail.  Plush rugs, ornate woodwork, sculptures, paintings, lots of gold accents, and bars attended by dapper looking dudes. 

All of their tables are hand made, and the full time staff includes a master woodworker and an expert in tapestry.

In addition to chips they use very colorful and shiny rectangular ceramic plates. The plates are used for the really high amounts. The top plate has an amount of 200,000 Euro's ($250,000).

Oceanographic Museum and Aquarium

This was one of the highlights for me.

Prince Albert I of Monaco was fascinated with sea life. He spent much of this time studying it and promoting oceanographic education. In 1910 he built a huge palace like oceanographic institute into the cliff of the Rock of Monaco. In 1957 he appointed Jacques-Yves Costeau (Jacques Costeau)  as its director. Today it is a museum and aquarium.

Skeletons of large fish hang from the ceiling. It reminds me of the science room at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the Harry Potter novels. It also contains antique and very primitive underwater exploration gear and part of the early lab that they set up.

The aquarium is unlike any I have ever seen. It contains an actual piece of a coral reef and they have learned how to replicate that environment to sustain life. It's like SCUBA diving on dry land. Very beautiful. 

Monaco Marathon

Monaco isn't big enough for a full marathon, so the Monaco marathon is the only Marathon that crosses two borders. It starts in Monaco, crosses over into France and runs along the French Riviera, then into Italy along the Italian Riviera, making a U- Turn in Italy and returning to Monaco via France.

I just happened to be attempting to leave Monaco in the direction of Italy on the morning the marathon was taking place. On account of the marathon, several streets were blocked off. What a nightmare. It felt that movie GroundHogs day where Bill Murray was stuck in Punxsutawney Pennsylvania in a time loop. I just kept driving around in circles trying to find a way out of Monaco. Making it even worse, was that I kept seeing the same police officers. After a while, they were watching me closely, like maybe I was casing the race, looking for the perfect time to run over a bunch of marathoners.

I eventually went the other direction, way out of the way, and entered the tunnel network again. This time the traffic was lite and I knew which directions I hadn't gone very often before. I finally made it out, vowing never to go back to Monaco again.

Monaco 10K

There is a 10K race that is entirely inside of Monaco. As best I can tell, they start at one point and run the entire perimeter of the country. 

Early History

Monaco has managed to exist for so long, because of the Rock of Monaco. A huge rock on the coast of the Mediterranean that makes a perfect place for a fortress. Impenetrable from both sea and land.

In 1215 the king of the Holly Roman empire granted this area as a colony of Genoa Italy. A fortress was built there. The most powerful family in Genoa at that time, were the Grimaldi's, but while they controlled Genoa, they did not control Monaco, until 1297 when Francesco Grimaldi dressed up like a Franciscan monk and got them to open the fortress gates to let him in. After which, his men rushed the gates and overthrew the rulers.

In 1419 the Grimaldi's purchased the Rock of Monaco from the Aragon rulers and it has remained in that family ever since.

Craig

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Travel

France - St Jean Cap Ferrat - Riveria

by Kimp 10. January 2015 05:09

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Today

When the world's wealthiest people want to go on a tranquil holiday, they often beat feet for a very small peninsula in the French Rivera named St Jean Cap Ferrat. On the end of St Jean lies a small cape, named Ferrat. This attraction makes the real estate in this area the second most expensive in the world. 

It has a wonderful unspoiled charm to it, with an abundance of large healthy trees and a craggy coast that enhances its tranquility. Luxurious grand villa's. Cobalt colored water. Picturesque Mediterranean sea views and gardens. All bathed in the world's finest sunlight. 

But its finest gem, is that it still has the same casual fishing village feel to it, that it once was. To me, it feels like the Otis Redding song, "Sitting on the Dock of the Bay", watching the time roll away. Just sitting on the dock of the bay, waste'n time..

Where there is wealth, there is art, and here it's displayed in tasteful manner and setting. Someone commissioned a few very nice pieces for public consumption. The kind of philanthropy that can be shared by all.

A picturesque walking promenade, outlines it's perimeter, interconnecting its three beaches and the small marina where you can find many restaurants serving up the freshest fish, adorned in Mediterranean style and taste. Wash that down with some local French wines from France's finest vineyards which are not far away. 

Tina Turner built a villa named Anna Feur (Tina's real name is Anna May Bullock and Fleur is French for flower) on a hill in "Villa Franche Sur Mer" overlooking this peninsula. She sold it a few years ago, but as I ate my meal very slowly, wanting to savor and prolong the experience as long as possible, I couldn't help thinking how sweet it would be to be sitting here, listening to Tina serenading her husband out by her pool, with a little "Let's Stay Together" or "Simply the Best". I simply love the queen of rock and roll. Tina is such a great symbol of the power and strength of women.

Both Bono and Elton John have Mediterranean villa's nearby this peninsula as well.

After lunch, I took a slow stroll all of the way around the perimeter taking in all of it's beauty and serenity.

About two hours later I was on my way to the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild. A rose colored villa filled with antique furniture and art. Surrounded by nine gardens classified by the French Ministry of Culture as one of the Remarkable Gardens of France. The villa is located on the isthmus of the peninsula (a prime location), and both the villa and the garden's are open to the public.

However, I was a little tired and decided to attempt a shortcut. The Peninsula is a hill with winding roads. The roads are lined on both sides by tall fences obscuring the estates. Even when I could see over the fence, the tall trees obstructed everything. Trying to find my bearings was impossible. I thought I was going in the correct direction, while in fact, I was hopelessly lost.

I thought I was going into the public villa's entrance because the gate from the road was open. In a short while, I came upon a sign with a picture of a pit bull on it, reading, "I am on Guard". Just below that were the words "Enter at your own risk" quoted with two skull and cross bone symbols. I figured that probably meant after hours, so I ignored it and walked on past. On my way up to the villa I could see the most beautifully manicured giant trees and hedges I had ever seen, outlining a walkway that lead into a beautiful arbor. To me that looked like confirmation that I was at the right place.

I'm turning my head all around taking in the scenery, not looking where I was walking, when my peripheral vision caught a glimpse of a couple of dudes, that I had walked up to. I turn around to face them and as my eyes directly meet theirs, I stopped dead in my tracks. 

Very nicely pressed jet black suits, shiny black shoes, dark glasses, ear pieces, and one of them was talking into his walkie-talkie. They looked just like American Secret Service dudes. All I could think of was that maybe the French President has a retreat here, like the American Presidents at Martha's vineyard. I'll bet that dudes calling for the reinforcements, for the snipers to take a bead on me, and for the police backup. I thought for sure, I was going to end up riding in the back of a police car to the station for questioning.

As I am looking around to see if there were more of them, I caught a glimpse of the villa. That's when I noticed it was mega billionaire, Paul Allens. I said to the sharply dressed men. "Sir I am so sorry, I didn't realize I was on private property. If you don't mind, I'll just head out the same way I came in.". They seemed OK with that, so I quickly turned around and made my way back to the road. I sure hope nobody got fired for leaving the gate open.

Paul, a lifetime bachelor, is often called the accidental Billionaire. A cofounder of Microsoft and the smarter of the two founders in my opinion. Paul was the technical lead and Bill Gates was the business brain. Just as Microsoft was starting to gain momentum , Paul was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphnoma. He took several months off, to fight it. He beat it, but never returned to work. He did however retain his seat on the Board of Director's.

Paul bought the Portland Trailblazers (pro basketball team) and devoted much of his new found spare time to their development. While Paul was hanging out around the basketball court, Bill Gate's worked very long hours leading Microsoft through some very difficult times. As a result Paul rose to as high as the third Richest Person in the world worth more then $40 billion . However, Paul has an affinity for spending money and now (2014) he is in position 55 with about $17 billion. To be fair, Paul  has donated about $2 billion to charity and has pledged to will at least 50% to charity upon his death. That is, if there is anything left when he dies. Just kidding. Paul is often about 10th on the yearly list of the 50 most generous people in the world, donating heavily to his many charities, so he isn't spending it all on himself. Paul is extremely intelligent, but I think he probably got or created some bad investment advice along the way, which is where a lot of his wealth went.

Paul now owns a piece of prime real estate on the peninsula. He also owns the Seattle Seahawks and is part owner of the Seattle Sounders Football Club (soccer). May he live a long, fruitful and pleasant life. He certainly deserves it.

History

In the earliest of times, the Greeks and Romans used Cap Ferrat as a stopping point when en-route, to and from, their settlements in the Western Mediterranean. 

Then for about 400 years, pirates used it as a base camp. They could hide there, see anyone coming from any direction and plan either an attack route or an escape route.

Around 1400, it and its surrounding areas, were given to the Duke of Savoy as part of a peace treaty.

In 1860 it was given to France as part of another peace treaty. The French quickly built a small fishing village, named St Jean on the cape. Shortly after that, the kings and wealthy people started arriving.

King Leopold II

One of the first to build a villa on Cap Ferrat was King Leopold II of Belgium. While he was the king of Belgium he talked the Belgian parliament into lending him enough money to start a private colony in the Congo in Africa. He claimed that he was going to the Congo for scientific and philanthropic reasons. Later he convinced the European governments during a conference, that he had done enough good work in the Congo, to lay claim to it, as his private colony. They agreed.

Turns out, it was all a ruse. At first he was killing the elephants and exploiting the Ivory. In the late 1800's when rubber prices dramatically increased, he enslaved the natives to work on the rubber plantations. Meanwhile he used some of the profits from that endeavor to build several very expensive villa's in the area of Cap Ferrat. These were to be occupied by his many mistresses.

World War II

The Nazi's occupied this part of France during WW II. In 1944 they suspected that the allies would mount an offensive here, so they gave the inhabitants 2 hours to evacuate,  riddled the entire peninsula with land mines, and fled.

I am guess all of the mines have been located and removed, but one can never know for sure. Can they?

Craig

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Travel

Germany - Hauptstuhl - New Years Eve

by Kimp 30. December 2014 02:00

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Hauptstuhl

Hauptstuhl is a small quaint German village, with a population of about 1,000 people, in the Rhineland near the border of France, and also where I lived during the fall and winter of 2013. It borders a forest reserve. It is almost exclusively residential with the exception of a picturesque onion dome church. No restaurants, no bars, no shopping. Just beautiful peace and quite, except for the periodic outdoor festive activities and the yearly festival.

I happened to run across a women whose mother had died recently. She owned and lived in a multi-tenant building. Most German housing is multi-tenant and clustered together in villages or cities. It makes for both a very beautiful and very communal atmosphere.

Her building bordered was high on a hill overlooking the town and the front door practically opened right into a path leading into the forest reserve that shared a bordered with it. She showed be her mothers spacious and beautiful apartment on the ground floor and we agreed on a price which I thought was very reasonable. Often times, people take advantage of foreigners, but she had both honest and accommodating personality traits

It was empty when I had looked at it and I had mentioned that I didn't have any furniture. I asked if she knew anyone or place that had second hand furniture. She knew quite a few people and said that wouldn't be a problem. I told her that I would be back in two weeks to move in. 

By the time I moved in, she had painted the entire interior, remodeled the kitchen, put up all new modern light fixtures, bought brand new bedroom furniture including a wardrobe, had bought brand new living room furniture and had lended me the use of her mothers beautiful antique dinning room furniture including a bureau. I said to her that I would be happy to pay more to make up for the difference, but she refused to take any more then the previous agreed upon rate.

So I bought some nice floor rugs for the entire apartment and left them when I departed in the Spring of 2014. All of the floors where a beautiful white tile and hardwood. She also put up some new outside lighting. It was automated as most German outdoor and hallway lighting is, but was not working they way she wanted. She had the Electrician come back three times to work on it. I felt sorry for the poor guy, so after he left the third time, I fixed it they way she wanted, so she wouldn't call him back. I also fixed some wiring mistakes in the kitchen and properly adjusted some things that weren't adjusted properly in the remodeling. Lastly, I changed the hinges in the refrigerator door, so it opened the other way, which was more natural to me, and I installed a few door stops. It's really nice when someone else does all of the heavy work and all I have to do is tweak a few things.

I always try to be a good tenant by taking great care of the place I am renting and leaving it in better condition then when I rented it.

The high school aged son (looked like he was around 11th grade) of my landlady was a great kid. I had never meet his father and I never asked, but he and I shared some quality time out at the barbeque. He smiled a lot, had some funny stories, and he loved to show me his barbeque skills. I shared a few beers and laughs of my own. The drinking age is 16 in Germany,14 if you are with a parent. German's believe in teaching their children how to drink responsibly. Public intoxication makes someone a social outcast here. He was honest, respectful and caring. The kind of kid, any parent would be very proud of.

New Year's Eve

New years eve in Germany is one of the yearly festive outdoor activities. This is a festival that's put on by all of the towns people. They all share in supplying the food, the beer, and the entertainment.

The month of December, everyone starts stocking up on fireworks, and at around 9:00 P.M. on New Years Eve everyone takes to the streets. It's like a town party.

The new years eve of 2013 was uncharacteristically warm and the sky was uncharacteristically clear. The landlords son had a friend over and they came and invited me to go with them. I was quite comfortable in just a light jacket the whole night.

From the hill overlooking the town I could see fireworks going off sporadically all over town. That lasted from around 9 till midnight. Then from midnight till 1:00 A.M. the whole sky, over the entire town, was ablaze with fireworks activity. People were out in all of the streets, parks, and public areas. Firing off rockets into the sky, putting on ground displays, and just hanging out. It was the most amazing display of friendship and comradery that I have ever seen, on this scale. It was like an extended tail gate party before an outdoor sporting or concert event.

The weather was so nice that I ended up staying out until 3 A.M. One of the best times I'd had in a long time.

The next day I was talking to someone and they said that it was a good New Years Eve. Hardly any fires had broken out in Germany. Most of the roofs in Germany are ceramic tiles that are put on top of wooden slats. Sometimes a miss aimed rocket will wedge itself under the ceramic tile and explode, setting the roof on fire. I guess it all isn't fun, especially for the fire department people who are on call that night. I am guessing if you own a building, you probably want to stay near it as well.

Craig

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Germany - Rothenburg ob der Tauber

by Kimp 22. December 2014 13:26


Christmas Activities
The way most Christians celebrate Christmas today, was invented by the German's. German's had been decorating the inside of their homes with winter scenes, long before Christ was born of the Virgin Mary. Once Christianity came to what is present day Germany, it was only natural to extend that practice intermixed with Christian themes.

Christmas Market (ChristKindlMarket - Christ Child Market)
German's have always enjoyed the outdoors's, and as such, they take their celebrations out of doors as well. Most German town's have a Christmas market, which is an outdoor festival with a nativity scene, festival food including Christmas Cookes and Gluhwein (hot spicey wine), seasonal items for sale, music and dancing as entertainment. 

These start around the last weekend in November and go through the entire month of December. Some of these markets have individualized themes as well, such as the Chocolate Market or Medieval Market.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber History
In Germany, any town that ends with burg means that there was fortress there at one time. Rothen means red, so Rothenburg means "Red Fortress". There were many red fortresses in Germany, "Rothenburg ob der Tauber" means the "Red Fortress above the Tauber river". That is important to note when putting it into your GPS. Otherwise, one might end up hundred's of kilometers away from there expected destination.

Today this town is significant, because it is Germany's best preserved Medieval town. The reason it was so well presevered has to do with the "30 years war". 

Before the 30 years war, Rothenburg ob der Tauber was a Free Imperialist City, within the Holy Roman Empire. It was a fairly strong town with lots of wealthy people and rather then trying to bring it into the Holy Roman Empire, knowing it would be difficult to control, the empire allowed it to remain free, so long as it paid a tax to the empire and honored the emperor. .The town outgrew is first fortress walls and had to expanded with a wall outside of the existing wall.

The thirty years war was the war between Catholics and Protestants. By this time, Rothenberg had adopted protestent luthern beliefs. In the winter of 1631, the head of the 40,000 troop Catholic Army wanted to house his troops in Rothenburg over the winter. The ciry of only 5,500 citizen's decided to defend itself rather then just let them take over. Rothenburg was quickly captured and taken over.

By the time the Spring came and the Army moved on, most of the citizen's had already moved away. This left the city nearly empty. In 1634 the Black Plague futher weakened the town's population to the point that it was virtualy abandoned. 

Rothenburg Today
Most of the visitor's are day tripper's, so finding cheap accommodations inside of the old walls is fairly easy. Plus staying the night is pretty nice, since most of the people leave by around 8 P.M.

The town is in about the same condition it was in,in1634 when it was abandoned, but the castle no longer exists. The castle was probably used as a source of cut stones for newer buildings. It is easier to use an existing stone, then it is to quarry and cut a new stone.

The medieval walls have been restored and it is possible to walk the same catwalks that the defending solder's would have walked. Several miles worth.

For a Medieval town, it's roads are very wide and have large fountains. That is a testament to the wealth that was once here. The widest streets are lined with mansions on both sides and the fountains provided both a good source of water for the town and to fight the fires that would have broken out while defending the town from outside forces.

It is the headquarters for Kathie Wohlfahrt - market leader in the area of traditional German Christmas items. They have two large stores within the town and also host the Weihnachtsmuseum (German Christmas Museum). I really liked the museum, because it captured the entire history of the celebration of Christmas. The only down side was touring it during the Christmas season. Both the entrance and exit for the museum are in the store.

I was feeling nauseous while waiting in line to enter the museum. By the time I got to the exit, I was hoping for some fresh air, but instead I was dumped into the middle of people shopping. The shopping area is in an old house that has lots of small rooms in it. It was like going through a maze to find the exit. To top that off, it was very crowded with shoppers, it was hot and the walking area was tight. The women in front of me was walking very slow and looking at everything and  there wasn't any room to get around here. The store supplies nice homemade looking basket's for the shoppers. There are lined with cloth and look well made. I was doing everything I could to keep from losing my stomach contents into that woman's basket and she was doing everything to promote it. Stopping abruptly and hogging the whole walk way. Like she was the only person in the whole place. If I had thrown up, it probably would have started a chain reaction, since it was tight and there wasn't much ventilation in there.

I finally, saw almost enough room for me to get by and nudged her out of the way as I passed. It was still several turns before I found the exit. I was really glad to get outside.

Rothenburg has both an old town tour and a night watchman's tour. Both are completely different and cover different topics. The night watchman was very comedic and  entertaining. I really enjoyed the night tour.

There is also a Medieval torture museum in Rothenburg. I didn't visit that, but when my sister and great niece came to visit last summer, we visited Rothenburg and they went to see it. They didn't stay very long, because it was freaking out my 15 year old great niece.

Lastly there is a sweet church with lots of excellent wood carvings in it. Rothenburg has lots of trees nearby and in Medieval times, the wealthy people commissioned wood carvings from people who were the masters of that craft in that day. These were very impressive to me.

Enjoy the pictures,
Craig     

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The emigration of George Sham

by Kimp 6. December 2014 12:49

This is the story of the emigration of George Sham, my Great-Great Grandfather on my mother’s side, who emigrated from Bavaria (present day Germany) to the United States in 1850.

Background behind German emigration in the 1850’s

In 1806, the Holy Roman Empire consisted of what is known today as Germany, Belgium, Luxumbourg, Austria, a small part of the Netherlands and a very small part of France. In that same year, Napoleon defeated the Holly Roman Empire and it was dissolved

In 1812 Russia defeated Napoleon, restoring Austria and Prussia (which was not part of the Holy Roman Empire) as the most powerful countries in Europe.  In 1815 the Congress of Vienna (Austria) reunited all of the Holy Roman Empire as the Confederation of Germany.  A loose confederation of 39 separate German speaking states. In reality this was an effort by Austria to create a buffer zone between the two world powers of Austria and Prussia

Over time this confederation failed due to two factors:

It was weak and lobbying between confederation states lacked the ability to effectively compromise. Therefor no common ground was ever found.

The German speaking population longed for one country, consolidating all 39 states of the Confederation with Austria and Prussia.

The 1830’s and 40’s saw a transition period in Europe. From agriculture to an industrialized mindset  tha moved towards a market based Economy. A change that brought error prone and debit expensive problems which were difficult to solve. Government tried to help, but had to levy heavy taxes to do so.

The years of 1845 and 1846 were very poor harvest years, stemming from all of the changes, combined with a potato blight in 1845 and a hot and dry summer in 1846.

Areas of Europe were under famine conditions, causing food prices to rise drastically. German’s had lost all of their cheap staple foods and were struggling to feed their families. These problems set of a recession. Tensions rose and food riots broke out, as people demanded that food items be sold under market value.

By 1848 the food problems were starting to work themselves out, however by this time, financial institutions were in serious trouble. In February of 1848, people in Paris started to revolt demanding a government that could straighten out the financial problems. This alerted the rest of Europe that the financing industry was in serious trouble, which started a run on the bank in Germany.

In March of 1848, universities throughout Germany and Austria followed suit with Paris and started demonstrating, demanding drastic changes in government as well.

Contrast that with America during the 1840’s.  Harvests were great. American’s were eating three hearty meals each day, with surpluses in grain and other food staples that were exported to Europe at a big profit. California and Texas were added as states while America expanded westward.  Land was plentiful and cheap.  Humanitarian efforts had started to take hold as Americans were debating abolition of slavery and equal rights for women. Gold was discovered in California. Many Europeans, started looking towards America as a way out of their troubles.

During the mid-1800’s, the dream of many German’s, was to own good farmland, which could be used to provide for themselves, eliminating dependency on anyone else. They thought that, by caring for and maintaining their land, they were in effect, protecting their family. The apex of that dream, was to pass it down, thereby protecting all future families who resided there as well. 

They would never find that in Germany. It was heavily populated, farm land in many areas was scarce, and land was very expensive.

America provided a means for chasing the German dream.

George Sham’s emigration story (restructured, rephrased and slightly enhanced, but based on a letter George sent back to his German brother-in-law in 1850, after he emigrated)

A few years ago, I had sent my son George and daughter Elizabeth to Dover Ohio in America to live with relatives, in the hope that they would have a better quality of life then we were seeing in current day Bavaria.

Dover is in Tuscarawas County, which is mostly home to ethnic German’s. The first non natives in Tuscarawas County were German Moravian missionaries whose mission was to Christianize the local native population.  Tuscarawas County has good fertile farmland, prompting German American’s in the early 1800’s, to start migrating there, in large numbers, from Pennsylvania. These factors would eventually attract future German immigrants as well.

In 1825 when the Tuscarawas River was incorporated with the Ohio Canal system (connecting the Ohio River with Lake Erie and the Erie canal),  a tolling station was set up in Dover.  Thus all boats were required to stop in Dover, making it an important port.

I had decided it was time for the rest of my family to pull up roots and reunite with our children in America. Early in 1850, I started to sell all of my worldly possessions and commenced planning for the transition.  With everything sold, in April of 1850, I purchased enough food to sustain us for our expected 45 day journey, consisting of  bags of dried peas, dried meat, white flour, lentils (beans) and groats (whole grains with bran included). I paid the Germany Departure Tax in full, which was 15% of my current net worth, and we departed.

We boarded a train for Bingen Germany, where I purchased a ticket for a boat ride up the Rhein river to the coastal town of Rotterdam, Netherlands.  That boat trip was an easy, one and a half day journey, in which our food was included.  I was thankful that God was making this an easy experience for all of us.

In Rotterdam, I purchased a ticket to the port of Le Harve, France where trans-Atlantic ships enter and depart. We departed Rotterdam very early in the morning, reaching the North Sea by mid day. In the North Sea we meet a storm that tossed and threw the ship about.  So much so, that everyone onboard was overcome with seasickness.

Two hours later, we had reached the English Channel, the storm had subsided and I was thanking the Lord for the kindness he was bestowing upon us, by letting the seas return to pleasant conditions. It had taken about a day for this leg of our journey and food rations were looking good, as nobody had consumed any, up to this point.

In Le Harve, I purchased tickets for the first sailing vessel that was headed to New York.  We staying in Le Harve and enjoyed the Spring, as the ship was not departing for 4 days time. After a pleasant 4 days in Le Harve, we boarded a well built sailing vessel that stood 6 meters (18 feet) above the water.  The ships manifest was showing 308 personnel in all. I was in great company, as 200 were from Bavaria like me, another 20 from Southern Germany, and most of the rest were from Baden (now South Western Germany).

The first day was clear sailing and I continued thanking the lord for his generosity in starting this long journey in such a pleasant manner.  Coffee was included in the fee for the tickets and always made for the entire ship.

Starting on the second day and for the remainder of the transatlantic trip we were in heavy seas that were similar to the North Sea with intermittent storms. Where ever a storm or disagreeable situation arose, everyone was wishing himself back in his old German home, and we would have been completely satisfied with that.  For the first 8 days we didn’t eat much at all. Seventeen days in, we hit a storm that lasted for 20 hours, but God was kind enough, to at least, keep us moving forward the whole time.

The day we were to arrive in New York, which was the 25th day of our transatlantic journey we hit a fierce 18 hour storm. The whole time, water was pouring in overboard and the ship was tossing so hard that we had to tie the chests fast to the ship, to keep them from being piled together.

Thoroughly exhausted, we reached New York harbor and dropped anchor outside of New York Harbor, as no sailing vessels are allowed inside of the Harbor. After which we waited for an American doctor to board the vessel and inspect everybody’s health. 

The doctor arrived the next day and I praised the lord that nobody was sick.  I didn’t even need to inventory the food rations, as we didn’t eat much meat on the whole trip and there were about 11 whole days during the journey that we didn’t eat much at all.

Two days later we transferred to a steamboat which took us to land in New York City within 30 minutes.

After going through customs I contracted for the remainder of my trip to Port Washington (near Dover), Ohio for $8.63 ($260 in 2014) apiece. The first leg was by steamboat, leaving New York City that evening and arriving in Albany, New York the next morning where we boarded a train to Buffalo, New York, arriving in Buffalo after two days on the train.  In Buffalo, we boarded another steam ship which took us across Lake Erie to Cleveland, Ohio.  In Cleveland we boarded a canal boat to get us to our final destination of Port Washington, Ohio.

Canal boats are very slow. They’re pulled by a man walking a mule, and often have to go through canal lock’s, which is time consuming.  I quickly discovered that I could walk from one canal stop to another faster than the boat could go.  This gave me plenty of time to observe the parts of Ohio that I was traversing.

Ohio is not attractive and one doesn’t see more California Gold here, then one see’s in Germany. As much as I’ve seen of the state of Ohio it is not wooded as in Germany. The trees are as high but not trimmed at all.  However, there are good springs everywhere. Their cattle always runs out (is always in a fenced in area next to the barn). Horses are always stored in the field. When anyone hitches up, he goes to the field to get the horses and when he unhitches, he returns them back to the field.

When we were about 11 miles from Dover Ohio, where my son George and Daughter Elizabeth are staying, I went ahead of the canal boat on foot, and had enough time to look up George.

George was very happy to see me. He and I and one of his friends named Ritz went to the canal dock to wait on the boat to arrive.

George said he was very content in Dover. He is living and apprenticing with a shoemaker. In two years time he will receive about $50 ($1500 in 2014). Shoemakers receive 50 cents ($15 in 2014) for a pair of shoes and from 75 cents to $2  ($22 to $60 in 2014) for a pair of boots depending on the quality.

I offered George the opportunity to stay with me and work on our farm once I got settled. But George said that he doesn’t want to farm, and he thinks that he can get along better choosing his own path.

When the canal boar arrived, we all boarded together, for the remainder of the journey to Port Washington.

We reached Port Washington on day break of the 45th day of our journey from Germany.  

George and Ritz went ahead to arrange conveyances while we unloaded all of our baggage onto the dock. A while later, Hans of Baumholder, George Miller of Marnbegel,  P. Goette, and H. Tschug came to the dock welcoming us joyfully.

I stayed with Hans for the next ten days while I looked for land to purchase.

In America the people live thus: morning, noon and evening; cheese, butter, white bread, fried  meat, cucumber salad, red beets, dried peaches (these are better than the plums in Germany), and still more!!! These are all served on the table together. They all live alike.

I found a good stretch of farm land for sale, containing 52 acres, about 2 miles from Port Washington. Forty acres of cleared land and the rest is forest. There are large horse runs (fenced in land for horses).

Oaks, Chestnuts and Sugar Maples as high as Oaks are in the forest. In a field which was cleared in 1849 to 1850, 200 oak trees are still standing, and so many are lying about that it will be difficult to get rid of them. I will not need to cut anymore wood for a long, long time.

It comes with crops, stock and equipment.

There are 16 acres of wheat, 8 acres of field corn (one of which is the kind grown in Germany but taller).  Also pumpkins, potatoes, and lots of beans.  

There is no meadow land, but a large place for a meadow where I will be able to make 10 to 12 wagon loads of hay in two years.

 A small brook which runs through all the year (always has flowing water), crosses the farm, and the land is moist.

There is a young orchard with 70 grafted apple trees, peach, plum and sour cherry as well. There will be apples in 3 to 4 years, but some already bear and I already have peaches, plums and cherries.

Two houses well built of hewn (felled and roughly shaped) logs.  The one that I will live in is 20 by 18 ft (7 by 6 m), one and one half stories high, well boarded below and above and well roofed.  The former father-in-law lived there and the son-in-law occupied the other. Stoves are not in use among the Americans and I have none. The fireplace is built of stone into the gable as is done in Germany, in a smithy (by a handyman). My house is surrounded by a yard, enclosed by a picket fence.

Near each house is a garden surrounded by a picket fence and planted with every kind of vegetable there is in Germany and a lot besides not familiar to me. The man selling the property was not able to name them to us (he only knows the English names.)

Furniture includes two bedsteads, one table, six chairs, one clock, one kettle, and fifteen casks for storage of meat and flour.

Also on the land is a good smoke house and 5 more buildings besides, which are of no use whatsoever at present.

Animals included are; three horses, two cows, two yearling calves, one spring calf, nine hogs, one year-old brood sow (female hog), eight good shoats (young weaned pig) and twenty-two chickens.

Equipment included are two big plows, two shovel plows, one manure fork, one shovel, two hay forks, three garden hoes, one grindstone, two scythes (for cutting wheat), one sickle, two iron wedges (for splitting wood), one chain, two drags for bringing the crops to the house, one churn, three augers (fence hole drill), two mattocks (used for digging and chopping), one wagon, and one wind mill.

All for the sum of $645 ($19,350 in 2014).

Deciding that this was the find of a lifetime, I rode with Han’s eldest son Fredrick, 16 miles to New Philadelphia, to examine the mortgage records. That cost 12 cents.

Satisfied with the records, on the next day, we rode with the seller, three miles to have the deed made at the Justice. His office covers the notary, justice of the peace, and burgomaster (mayor). The seller had to pay $1 to meet the cost of the deed transfer.

I am now quite content and God’s angel has clothed us hitherto just as he did the young Tobias on the journey, and God the Lord, has given his blessing, and I hope it will not be withdrawn.

However, I have before me, a great deal of work, and not much help. I will write my brother-in-law back in Bavaria of my good fortune, and offer if he wants to send his son, Peter, let him come to us. It is alright for young fellows to come to America, as there is lots of opportunity here.

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