Regensburg, Germany

(Click on photos for larger version.)

Regensburg, on the Danube River, marks the northernmost point of Roman expansion. As a classics major, I was interested in the remnants of the Roman settlement, which dates to the year 79 CE.

Roman arch, Regensburger
Roman arch, Regensburg

I love how the arch is tastefully incorporated into the modern building.

Roman tower, Regensburg
Roman tower, Regensburg

The local people considered themselves a David challenging the Goliath of Roman takeover, a motif that survives today in this mural:

David & Goliath mural, Regensburg
David & Goliath mural, Regensburg

St. Peter’s Cathedral, also known as Dom St. Peter or Regensburg Cathedral, has existed since about 700 CE. However, after several fires the church was rebuilt, and the present high-Gothic style building was completed in 1320. The cathedral is 279 feet long and 115 feet wide, and the two towers are almost 350 feet high. Most of the stained glass windows were installed in the 14th century and depict apostles, saints, the life of the Virgin Mary, and the legend of Saint Catherine.

St. Peter's Cathedral, Regensburg
St. Peter’s Cathedral, Regensburg
Tourists in Bavarian lederhosen, Regensburg
Tourists in Bavarian lederhosen, Regensburg

Bratislava, Vienna, Melk

(Click on photos for larger version.)

June 3, Bratislava

In the 16th century Slovakia became part of the Hapsburg Monarchy and benefited from the enlightened reforms of Maria Theresa (1740–1780) and her son, Joseph II (1780–1790). In 1919 Slovakia joined with Czechia to form Czecho-Slovakia, a nation whose independence was limited by its strong economic, military, and political dependence on Germany.

Castle, Bratislava
Castle, Bratislava

It was later conquered by the Soviets, who turned Czechoslovakia into a pro-Soviet Communist country, which lasted until the fall of Communist in the Velvet Revolution of 1989. In 1993 the Slovaks and Czechs into separate countries, a peaceful agreement known as the Velvet Divorce. Bratislava is the capital of Slovakia.

Statue of Napoleon, Bratislava
Statue of Napoleon, Bratislava

June 4, Vienna

Austria continues to honor Maria Theresa, the last Austrian Hapsburg, who died in 1780. Although the family no longer rules, several family members are active in both politics and business in Europe.

Statue of Maria Theresa, Vienna
Statue of Maria Theresa, Vienna
Early Gate, Vienna
Early Gate, Vienna

Vienna prides itself as a city of music. On the evening of June 4th we attended a chamber music performance featuring music of Mozart and Strauss. For me, the highlight was the Queen of the Night’s aria from Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute.

Chopin plaque, Vienna
Chopin plaque, Vienna
Ticket sellers in Mozart dress, Vienna
Ticket sellers in Mozart dress, Vienna

June 5, Melk, Austria

The Benedictine Abbey at Melk, built between 1702 and 1736, sits on a hill high above the Danube River. It originally contained a royal wing, kept ready for the possibility of a royal visit. Monks lived in other parts of the abbey. The monastic community of Melk is more than 900 years old. Today about 30 monks live there and run a monastery school with more than 700 students.

Royal Wing, Benedictine Abbey, Melk, Austria
Royal Wing, Benedictine Abbey, Melk, Austria

The monastery’s library contains more than 80,000 medieval manuscripts on a variety of subjects. The interior of Abbey Church is an amazing display of Baroque art.

Interior, Abbey Church, Melk, Austria
Interior, Abbey Church, Melk, Austria

Three Things Thursday

Another week, another entry for Three Things Thursday, the purpose of which is to “share three things from the previous week that made you smile or laugh or appreciate the awesome of your life.”

Three Approaches to Travel

My husband and I have just begun a two-week Viking River Cruise through Europe. Since coming on board we have encountered people who exhibit three different approaches to travel.

1. Travel as Conspicuous Consumption

We met one woman, B., who said this is their fourth cruise this year. And when we disembark in Amsterdam, she and her husband will be staying there for four days before flying to some other city to pick up their next cruise. (I wonder how, where, and when she does laundry.)

When I asked if she had any advice for us less experienced travelers, she answered without any hesitation, “Get a suite.”

2. Travel as Opportunity for Self-Aggrandizement

There’s at least one couple like this in every crowd. The second night at dinner a woman came over to me at the dinner table, leaned down and put her face right next to mine, stuck out her hand, and said, “Hi, I’m S.” She then pointed out her husband, B. They both immediately began talking quite loudly about what they do and where they’re from. They overwhelmed everyone else at the table. These are the people who always have to have the last word: the best story, the funniest joke.

And of course they know everything about everything. After we had toured a Benedictine Abbey in Melk, Austria, that was built in the 16th century, B. sat across the aisle from me on the return bus ride. Here’s what he said to the person sitting next to him:

That was really something. Five-hundred years ago, when they were building this abbey, American Indians were still digging arrowheads out of the dirt. And in Africa they didn’t even have language yet. But look at what these Europeans were doing.

I swear I am not making this up.

3. Travel as Learning Opportunity

Fortunately we met many more of this variety of traveler than of the previous two. There was D., whose mother was an immigrant to the United States. He talked about how traveling in Europe was giving him insight into how his mother thought and why she was such a staunch supporter of the U.S. There was B. and another B., who both talked of how the 60 pairs of iron shoes along the riverwalk in Budapest, a tribute to the 60 Jews who were shot into the Danube River near the end of World War II, had moved them to tears.

The boat’s dining room was open seating, and these were the people we sought out during meals. I learned a lot on this trip, not only by seeing things for myself but also by talking with other people who were eager to discuss what they were learning as well.

Viking River Cruise: Grand European Tour

If you’ve watched Downton Abbey or any other Masterpiece! presentation, you’ve seen the commercials showing Viking’s longships cruising the world’s rivers.

My husband F. and I are setting out on the Viking River Cruises Grand European Tour. We had a 10-hour direct Delta flight from Sea-Tac (Seattle-Tacoma) International Airport to Amsterdam. After a layover of just under two hours in Amsterdam, we caught a one hour and 40 minute flight to Budapest, where we were met by representatives from Viking and taken to our ship, Vidar. We left Sea-Tac in the early afternoon of May 31 and arrived in Europe in the early afternoon of June 1.

Map of Viking River Cruises: Grand European Tour
Viking River Cruises: Grand European Tour

Neither F. nor I was able to sleep at all on the plane, so we were pretty exhausted by the time we arrived on board. Fortunately, our stateroom was ready as soon as we arrived. The ship’s personnel urged us to use our free time until dinner to walk around Budapest on our own, but we opted to take a nap instead. At dinner we discovered that just about everyone we talked to had done the same. We had no trouble falling right back to sleep after dinner.

This morning we had a tour of Budapest. We had a local Hungarian guide, who told us that the Hungarian pronunciation is Budapesht. The city comprises two formerly separate cities, Buda and Pest, separated by the Danube River. Buda is the older city, high on a hill, while the newer Pest is on lower ground across the river.

Fisherman's Bastion, Budapest
Fisherman’s Bastion, Budapest
Ceramic tile roof on Matthias Church, Budapest
Ceramic tile roof on Matthias Church, Budapest
Portion of Heroes' Square, Budapest
Portion of Heroes’ Square, Budapest

Hungary is famous for its paprika. The capsicum pepper plant used to make this popular seasoning was introduced to Hungary by the Turks in the 16th century. The spice’s pungency ranges from sweet to very hot. The brighter red the paprika, the hotter the spice. We made sure that the tins we bought to bring home were labeled “mild.”

Peppers used to make paprika
Peppers used to make paprika

Three Things Thursday

I’m particularly excited about this week’s Three Things Thursday, the purpose of which is to “share three things from the previous week that made you smile or laugh or appreciate the awesome of your life.”


A Walk on the Beach

This week I had the opportunity to spend a few days at Ocean Shores, a city on Washington State’s northern Pacific Coast. I love going to a place where I can watch the waves roll in. It comforts me to know that, no matter what happens anywhere else, the waves will continue to roll in, always.

1. Water on My Toes

We don’t swim in the ocean up here. The water is much too cold. But it’s not a true trip to the beach unless I get to feel the surf wash over my toes:

wave rolling in
wave rolling in

The brochure in the hotel warns that, if we do wade into the ocean, we should not let the water get above our knees. The word riptide appears in the same paragraph. But enough cold water to just wash over my toes is sublime.

2. Razor Clams

Ocean Shores calls itself the razor clam capital of the Northwest:

razor clar
razor clam

In fact, the city hosts an annual Razor Clam Festival. Razor clams are much different than the more oval clams you’re probably used to. They are longer, and fry up well. They are much chewier than the smaller clams. But, like smaller varieties of clams, they cook up into a delicious chowder. Be sure to look for New England, or Boston, clam chowder, which is white and made with cream. Don’t be fooled by Manhattan clam chowder, which is made with a tomato base and is therefore red. It’s nowhere near as good as the white kind.

3. Nature’s Cycle of Life

There’s nowhere like a beach to get in touch with the natural cycle of life. Shells—crabs, clams, sand dollars—that wash up on shore remind us that organisms live out their lives in their native habitat and then disintegrate to nourish the land. This week, for the first time, I saw a dead sea otter on the beach:

dead sea otter on beach
dead sea otter on beach

He had apparently washed up at high tide, because he was way above the water line when I saw him.

I saw him again the next day, and he was covered with a thin coating of mud, as if high tide had washed over him and then retreated. There were only a few flies on him, probably because he was so well coated, but eventually he, too, will dissolve back into nature.

Synchronicity: Road Trip and a List

Definition of SYNCHRONICITY:

2: the coincidental occurrence of events and especially psychic events (as similar thoughts in widely separated persons or a mental image of an unexpected event before it happens) that seem related but are not explained by conventional mechanisms of causality —used especially in the psychology of C. G. Jung

Source: Merriam-Webster Dictionary

If this definition is too “woo-woo” for you, just think of synchronicity as a meaningful coincidence that allows us to think of two seemingly unrelated objects, concepts, or events in conjunction with each other. Any writer will tell you that putting two things together in this way is a valuable source of creative insight.

Which leads me to today’s post. Recently this article, According To Science, This Is The Perfect And Best Road Trip You Can Possibly Take, came up on Facebook. I didn’t think much of it until, shortly thereafter, this WordPress Daily Prompt, The Satisfaction of a List, landed in my inbox.

Here’s the map from the road trip article:

road trip map

Discovery News worked with Randy Olson, a doctoral student at Michigan State University, to plan a trip that visits landmarks on all of the 48 contiguous states in the U.S. A computer algorithm plotted a route that allows participants to jump on anywhere and continue to follow the loop until they arrive back at their starting point.

This road trip map appealed to me because traveling is one of the things my husband and I hope to do a lot of now, in the early years of our retirement.

My first reaction to this map is that it omits the entire western side of Washington State, which happens to be where I live. And while the Hanford nuclear dump site in eastern Washington might be interesting, it is hardly the best landmark in the state. It looks as if the computer algorithm chose Hanford simply because it needed something from Washington to include that wouldn’t go too far off the path it wanted to beat.

If you undertake this trip, I suggest you go a bit further west in Washington to see these sites, which I think greatly outrank Hanford in terms of sight-seeing status:

Those are my additions to the list. As for the map’s list, I use underlining to indicate sites I’ve already visited and red text to indicate places that are on my bucket list of sites in the U.S. that I hope to visit before my traveling days are over.

Here is the list of the landmarks you’d stop at in each state on this road trip:

  1. Grand Canyon, AZ
  2. Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
  3. Craters of the Moon National Monument, ID
  4. Yellowstone National Park, WY
  5. Pikes Peak, CO
  6. Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM
  7. The Alamo, TX
  8. The Platt Historic District, OK
  9. Toltec Mounds, AR
  10. Elvis Presley’s Graceland, TN
  11. Vicksburg National Military Park, MS
  12. French Quarter, New Orleans, LA
  13. USS Alabama, AL
  14. Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL
  15. Okefenokee Swamp Park, GA
  16. Fort Sumter National Monument, SC
  17. Lost World Caverns, WV
  18. Wright Brothers National Memorial Visitor Center, NC
  19. Mount Vernon, VA
  20. White House, Washington, DC
  21. Colonial Annapolis Historic District, MD
  22. New Castle Historic District, Delaware
  23. Cape May Historic District, NJ
  24. Liberty Bell, PA
  25. Statue of Liberty, NY
  26. The Mark Twain House & Museum, CT
  27. The Breakers, RI
  28. USS Constitution, MA
  29. Acadia National Park, ME
  30. Mount Washington Hotel, NH
  31. Shelburne Farms, VT
  32. Fox Theater, Detroit, MI
  33. Spring Grove Cemetery, OH
  34. Mammoth Cave National Park, KY
  35. West Baden Springs Hotel, IN
  36. Abraham Lincoln’s Home, IL
  37. Gateway Arch, MO
  38. C. W. Parker Carousel Museum, KS
  39. Terrace Hill Governor’s Mansion, IA
  40. Taliesin, WI
  41. Fort Snelling, MN
  42. Ashfall Fossil Bed, NE
  43. Mount Rushmore, SD
  44. Fort Union Trading Post, ND
  45. Glacier National Park, MT
  46. Hanford Site, WA
  47. Columbia River Highway, OR
  48. San Francisco Cable Cars, CA
  49. San Andreas Fault, CA
  50. Hoover Dam, NV

How about you? How many of these places have you already been to? What suggestions do you have for additional stops in specific states? Give us the benefit of your home-state experience in the comments.

At Home: My Two-Year Anniversary in Tacoma

Today I celebrate two years of living in Tacoma. I actually arrived in Tacoma on April 9, 2013, then stayed in a motel overnight before moving into my new home on April 10.

We had been visiting Tacoma for a week each year for several years before deciding to move here. I therefore knew a little about getting around, but not very much. I knew only one route to my new home from the motel where I stayed. (We’d been staying there regularly for many years.) I have since discovered a few alternate routes to my house, including one that cuts about 15 minutes off that route I drove on my first day as a resident here.

After two years, I finally feel that I’m beginning to know my general way around. I still use Google Maps a lot, but now when people say, “That store is on Hosmer Street” or “We’re on Steele Street,” I have a general idea of where to head. I also no longer fear getting lost and can approach finding somewhere I’ve never gone before as an opportunity to explore new places.

I arrived at my house at 10:00 AM on April 10, 2013, in a torrential downpour. Of course I knew about the frequent rain here—our daughter had been reminding us that we’d have to get used to it—so I wasn’t surprised. After getting my keys, I pulled my car into the attached garage and unloaded the boxes of necessities that I had brought with me from St. Louis. My car could not have held even one more dish or pan.

By the time I had unloaded the boxes—not unpacked them yet, but at least removed them from my car and put them in the appropriate rooms—it was 11:00 AM. I was ready to head out to Target, Costco, and Safeway to purchase necessities I hadn’t been able to bring with me (coffee maker, vacuum cleaner, cleaning supplies, and yes, food). Was I surprised to find that the sky was clear and the sun was shining brightly.

That was the first time I realized that the old adage “If you don’t like the weather, just wait a minute and it will change” applies here more than anywhere else I’ve ever lived. In the two years I’ve been here I’ve learned a lot about dealing with the weather:

  • Even if it’s raining now, it might not still be raining an hour from now.
  • Even if it’s not raining now, that doesn’t mean it won’t be raining an hour from now (so bring along that umbrella or raincoat).
  • A morning of fog and drizzle (quite common) doesn’t mean that the afternoon won’t be beautifully sunny.
  • The hottest part of the day here isn’t around high noon, as it was in St. Louis, but usually at 3:00 or 4:00 PM.
  • If you expect to live around here, you can’t be skittish about occasionally getting a bit wet. Also, my mother was right when she told me, “You’re not sugar. You won’t melt.”

I do not miss the unbearable heat and humidity of St. Louis summers at all.

But after 40+ years in St. Louis, I do kind of miss the St. Louis Cardinals and still follow them in the standings. Nonetheless, I have adopted the Seattle Mariners as my home MLB team and faithfully follow their ups and downs (so far, unfortunately, mostly downs) and tune in to the games. I’m grateful that the Mariners AAA minor league team, the Rainiers, is headquartered right here in Tacoma. Attending their games is much easier—and much cheaper—than making the trip up to Seattle’s Safeco Field. And I’ve become an enthusiastic football fan here in Seattle Seahawks territory, where everybody is expected to be The Twelfth Man. Like a lot of other people around here, I still wish the Supersonics, the local NBA team, had not moved away and remade itself as the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Our recent five-day trip to Tampa, FL, for the Women’s Final Four college basketball championship tournament made me realize how much I’ve come to think of Tacoma as my home. Two features here that I love the most are the water, with its high and low tides, and Mount Rainier. There’s water aplenty in Tampa, too, but the sun just doesn’t glint off Tampa water the same way it does off the water of our Commencement Bay. And Tampa is just so FLAT. After about four days, I was craving a glimpse of my mountain.

Because our flight back from Tampa didn’t get in until after dark, we couldn’t see the mountains from the plane as we usually can. But I could feel their presence. For air travelers, the local airport represents home, and when we stepped off the plane at Sea-Tac Airport, I felt that’s where I was. I’ve flown into Sea-Tac lots of times over the years, and I was always excited to see my daughter and to be on vacation. But this time, walking through Sea-Tac made me feel grounded, made me feel that I was back where I truly belonged.

It’s great to be back in the Pacific Northwest, where there’s still a chill in the air that requires a light jacket. Goodbye to the 88 degrees F. of Tampa. It was a great place to visit, but I’m glad to be home. In Tacoma, WA.