Brexit Or Not, London Gets European Christmas Markets

Christmas Markets came late to the UK.  It’s not that the UK didn’t celebrate Christmas.  Since Victoria’s Albert brought the Christmas tree to England the Brits have done it up in grand style.  Before Christmas markets, in the European fashion, came to the UK there was always Covent Garden with its stalls and decorations and Regent Street moving out from Piccadilly Circus. (Below are some … Continue reading Brexit Or Not, London Gets European Christmas Markets

The Kariye Museum (Chora Church)

On Monday we met our friend Andrea Lemieux, a former IREX, colleague for lunch and a visit to one of her favorite places in Istanbul. The Kariye Museum (Chora Church).  Constantine built it outside the walls of Constantinople, although this version of the church was erected by Justinian.  The Turks made it a mosque, plastering over the artwork, but in 1945 it became a museum.  … Continue reading The Kariye Museum (Chora Church)

Kitties of Constantinople

Istanbul (not Constantinople) loves cats. According to Andrea some neighborhoods have free cat clinics where vets care for strays. Some folks take their pet cats to the clinic for free care.  People leave bowls of water and people keep kitty kibble in their pockets to leave little piles. At the cemetery by the Suleymaniye Mosque water bowls sit discreetly behind headstones.  We watched a kitten enjoy … Continue reading Kitties of Constantinople

A Train Trip through Bavaria.

This trip I decided to spend two jet lag nights in Munich, or rather Freisling, a small town near the airport.  This time I decided to take the train from Freisling to Fussen and the onward bus to Hohenschwangu and Mad King Ludwig’s Neuschwanstein (New Swan Rock) Castle.  I priced out second class rail and bus connections at €58 but the lady at the ticket … Continue reading A Train Trip through Bavaria.

Lille, France Christmas Market

The Lille Christmas Market is the first one I have attended in France.  Lille bills itself as the most Flemish town in France.  It’s thoroughly French in language but the architecture is more Flemish-Dutch.  It is the heart of French Flanders and the market is in the heart of Lille.  The Lille Christmas Market had crafts and that interested me more than the others I visited … Continue reading Lille, France Christmas Market

Hasselt Winterland, 2014

Hasselt “Winterland” Market is, perhaps the most commercial Christmas market we have encountered in Europe.  It reminds me of the tables under the grandstand at the Minnesota State Fair.  There was a collection of kitchen wares, knives, trinkets, I half expected to see a Vegimatic and a Pocket Fisherman.   Some of this “State Fair” feeling is accentuated by the tent like pavilions with tables on … Continue reading Hasselt Winterland, 2014

Brugge (Bruges) Christmas Market, 2014

The last time I was at the Brugge (Bruges) Christmas fair, in 2007, it was a short visit.  It was raining and cold.  The skating rink in the middle of the main town square was more slush than ice and, while the city is one of the prettiest in Belgium, I didn’t really enjoy the visit. This year was completely different.  It was a clear … Continue reading Brugge (Bruges) Christmas Market, 2014

Covent Garden, London, 2014

Christmas Markets started in Central Europe, Austria and Southern Germany, and have moved up and down the Danube and spread out from that waterway across the continent.  London has always had great Christmas decorations and shopping, but the European style Christmas Market crossed the Channel only in the 1980s.  Today there are Christmas Markets, Fairs and Faires, throughout England, with the big one in Hyde … Continue reading Covent Garden, London, 2014

Valkenburg Christmas Market, 2014

Valkenburg is perhaps the most unique, and possibly the most interesting, Christmas Market in Europe.  I have been back to this market in The Netherlands three times now.  The first two times with our friends Dave and Carol Lam.  (The last visit was 2007, to see my post from then click here.) We were here this year because we were in Brussels for Carol’s funeral.  … Continue reading Valkenburg Christmas Market, 2014

Thanksgiving in Serbia, 2010 and 2011

These are two letters from Serbia I wrote about Thanksgiving from 2010 and 2011. 2010 (Suzi is in Egypt, I am in Belgrade, Serbia) Thanksgiving morning was the first cold, clear day of the season.  Some of the lights in the flat worked, some didn’t work.  So I called the landlord.  By 9:15 I had an electrician.  It appears a trolley bus jumped the lines … Continue reading Thanksgiving in Serbia, 2010 and 2011

Thanksgiving in Albania,1995. With Bob Dylan

1995, Tirana, Albania The Rogner Hotel in Tirana had a big Thanksgiving feed this year.  We took our neighbors Vera, Syri and Eda with us.  They often express curiosity about this hotel, so we saw our chance. No one understands why Syri, Vera, Suzi and I have become such good friends.  They don’t speak much English, we don’t speak much Albanian.  We communicate in a … Continue reading Thanksgiving in Albania,1995. With Bob Dylan

Lille “The Most Flemish Town in France”

We have been through Lille before, many times on the train from London to Brussels, but have never seen more than the railway station.  This time we went with our friend Dave Lam and his daughter Rachel to visit the Lille Christmas Market, which is the subject of a different post.  I found it a charming city even though I didn’t get much outside the … Continue reading Lille “The Most Flemish Town in France”

Hasselt, Belgium and the Begijn Movement.

Hasselt is the chief town of the Belgian commune of Limburg.  It is near the Dutch border and there is a similarly named province in the Netherlands.  Suzi and I visited Hasselt after Carol Lam’s Funeral with Dave, and their adult kids.  We went because of the Hasselt Winterland, a Christmas Market, but found the town interesting in its own right. The begijnhofsite is now … Continue reading Hasselt, Belgium and the Begijn Movement.

St. Pancras International Railway Station

When the St. Pancras railway station opened in 1868 its wrought iron and glass train shed, designed by Henry Barlow, was the largest single structure roof in the world.  It was 689 feet long, 240 feet wide and 100 feet high.  The station was the pride of the Midland Railway and was fronted by a Victorian gothic revival hotel, The Midland Grand, designed by George … Continue reading St. Pancras International Railway Station

A 1993 Albanian Bus Adventure, Tirana to Vlora and back

It’s Throwback Thursday. This is a letter from November, 1993.  I edited out the middle of the letter, where I talk about our time in Vlora, for reasons of length.  But I remember we went swimming in the Adriatic Sea on the last day in October.  The return bus trip was on Halloween night and there was a full orange moon.  At least that’s what … Continue reading A 1993 Albanian Bus Adventure, Tirana to Vlora and back