Rising to Sea Level, the North Sea Canal.

We are onboard and underway, on our cruise to Iceland and Greenland.  But we weren’t sure that this would happen.  I had complications from surgery the week before we left for Amsterdam and I didn’t get clearance from the docs until Friday afternoon.  We flew to Amsterdam on Sunday.   While waiting I could not bring myself to do things that I normally do in preparation.  … Continue reading Rising to Sea Level, the North Sea Canal.

Amsterdam Thoughts

  Our Cruise to Iceland and Greenland leaves from Amsterdam.  Given the vagaries of Alaska weather and our desire to avoid jet lag on the cruise we arrived in Amsterdam with four nights and three days to acclimatize.  Amsterdam is a good city to do that because we already know it well, we can relax and not feel compelled to see everything.   We can visit … Continue reading Amsterdam Thoughts

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

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

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.

Domberg, The Cathedral Church in Freising

Domberg is dedicated to the Virgin Mary.  The current structure is a Romanesque building from the 13th century.  When you go in, however, it is a shock, because the interior had been redone in Baroque style in the 17th century.  It almost seems like a disconnect.  I once had an architecture professor who called the Baroque “Eclectic clutter.”  My reaction was “majestically bizarre.”  Elaborate frescoes, … Continue reading Domberg, The Cathedral Church in Freising

Palm Sunday, Freising, Germany

My flight from Tbilisi touched down at 6.  As I stepped out the shuttle at our airport hotel in Freising at 7 AM, after clearing customs and getting my bag, I heard the joyous “surround sound” peeling of church bells for Palm Sunday.  I took a nap then, but the peel repeated itself at 8, 9 and 10.  Suzi had gotten to Munich the night … Continue reading Palm Sunday, Freising, Germany

Sometimes flying becomes the theatre of the absurd.

The taxi driver from Clontarf to the airport offered to take me a different route, around Dublin Bay, along the coast pass the fishing village of Howth and then into the airport.  “It’s more miles but with school getting out it now may be less time.  At Howth he said “You’ll be flying right over that when you take off.”  (We did.)  I think he … Continue reading Sometimes flying becomes the theatre of the absurd.

Weihenstephan Abbey, the oldest brewery in the world

After a good night’s sleep in Freising, Germany (on my way to Tbilisi) fueled with two double espressos, I took off to see the oldest brewery in the world, Weihenstephan.  This brewery has been in continuous operation since 1040.  People have been brewing beer a lot longer than a thousand years and there is evidence of brewing at this site since the mid-700s, however the … Continue reading Weihenstephan Abbey, the oldest brewery in the world

St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Metz

Modernist Marc Chagall, cubist Jacques Villon, and tachist Roger Bissière are all there, mixed with art from the Gothic, Renaissance and Romantic periods.  It’s the play of light on the works that I find so fascinating.  They are the stained glass windows in St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Metz.  Gothic does away with the need for structural walls, allowing artists to work in walls of glass.  The … Continue reading St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Metz

Soft Borders, Belgium and the Netherlands at Baarle.

Our friends Dave and Carol Lam took us to Baarle when we were working in the Balkans.   We wondered about the possibility of ever being able to draw borders that reflected ethnic realities.  Dave said he had something he wanted to show us, the municipality of Baarle in Belgium, or is it the Netherlands?  The map of Europe has many geographic anomalies. But one of the … Continue reading Soft Borders, Belgium and the Netherlands at Baarle.

“A Mighty Fortress” The fortified churches of Thierache, France.

In Eastern France there are several war related “roads” to follow, the “road of the fortified towns,” “The road of the battlefields” linking battlefields of the two world wars, and “The road of the military cemeteries.” Wars happened here with alarming regularity.   The road I found most fascinating was the “The Road of the Fortified Churches” celebrating about 65 churches (God’s castles someone called them) … Continue reading “A Mighty Fortress” The fortified churches of Thierache, France.

When the Sea Goes Away, Marken and Volendam, Netherlands.

“God made the earth, the Dutch made Holland.” But they didn’t need an environmental impact statement.  During my day long layover in Amsterdam my friend Dave Lam drove up from Brussels and we went to visit two old (you could say former) Dutch fishing villages, Marken and Volendam.  Eighty years ago both towns sat on salt water, the Zuiderzee, a 60 mile long inlet from … Continue reading When the Sea Goes Away, Marken and Volendam, Netherlands.

Freising, Bavaria, Germany

Freising, the town closest to the Munich Airport is a nice place to lay over between two overnight flights.  Pictures here are from this winter and this summer, different views at different times of the year.  It has, that it claims to be the oldest brewery in Germany, a friendly Marriott airport hotel and shops and cafes that allow for a restful stopover between flights. Continue reading Freising, Bavaria, Germany

Iron and Glass, Flowers and Trains

May 11, 2010 Dear Friends, On Friday afternoons I would go to my grandparents’ flat in Jersey City while my parents had their night out.  Grandpa Brew would tell me stories.  He was raised in Ireland, ran away to sea at 13 and developed a love of travel, ships, Ireland and America.    He introduced me to Democratic politics.  He also told a good story.  But … Continue reading Iron and Glass, Flowers and Trains