LAPC: Surprise!

We have so many surprises in life. Unfortunately, it is rare for me to get a picture of it – such as the swans on one of our lakes mating! Another resident here, a wily older man from Germany, took a series of pictures of the swans’ mating ritual – before, during, and after – close-up! I’m not that clever, I guess.  So at first I was hard pressed to think of photos I had taken that represent surprise, which is the topic of Lens-Artists’ photo challenge this week. I noticed several participants had freaky nature photos, which I don’t.

Still, nature often does provide more subtle surprises. I call this photo “Hostas with a hostage” – because they’ve completely surrounded a flower pot!

Every day that I go to our community garden, I take a look at others’ gardens and sometimes take photos. I took the “before” picture as an example for my daughter how to plant marigolds around your garden to protect it from squirrels, etc.  I took the photo ion early June.

Then a few days ago, I noticed how fast it grew – it doesn’t look like the same garden!

Is this normal? I don’t know, but we have had a good balance of sunny and rainy weather this month. Nature always surprises me. When I went to the nursery to buy plants in mid-May, I saw this unusual flower – it looks like it is wearing a bonnet!

A safari always brings surprises – you never know what you are going to see and every safari is different. On our Tanzanian safari, I had almost given up seeing a leopard closer up than this:

Then, on our last day in Serengeti National Park, we were bumping along a dusty road when suddenly our driver turned around and sped back to the spot where we’d seen the leopard in a tree. He’d been notified that there were “spots below” (code for leopard on the ground). The leopard had gotten up from her nap and came down the tree, where she looked around at all the tourists gawking at her.

Seeing no danger, (all the humans were “contained”), she then leisurely ambled past all the safari trucks, including ours.

Another big surprise we had in Tanzania was seeing groups of boys alongside the road, who were undergoing a monthlong puberty ritual. Our guide told us this was very unusual to see, since the Maasai only undergo this ritual every three years – the boys are aged about 12-15.

These boys paint their faces white and wear black during the monthlong ritual in which they go from being boys to men. They have to spend a month living communally, away from their families, and are not allowed to associate with anyone in their village except each other.

Surprises come in many forms. Sometimes you can be driving along a country road, as we were, in north central Iowa, when we came across “Pinkie.”

And I love coming across unusual sights walking around the city of Chicago.

Speaking of Iowa, our biggest surprise on our 4-day trip there happened when we checked into our hotel in Mason City for the night. The concierge asked us if we wanted to see the band American English in concert that night. The tickets were free and American English is the best Beatles tribute band in the country. They were to play at the Surf Ballroom, a famous concert venue in Clear Lake, Iowa (about 20 miles from Mason City), known for the event “the day the music died” when Ritchie Valens, Buddy Holly and “The Big Bopper” Richardson played their last concert before being killed in a plane crash.

So we said, “Why not?” and spent a completely unexpected evening in a crowded theatre where people were dancing in the aisles and singing along. It was great!

Selfie of me and Dale having a great time with people of our generation!

CFFC: Upward

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week is about pointing your camera upward!


Moose antlers chandelier at Claim Jumper Restaurant in Hoffman Estates, IL


Looking up at the Great Pyramid of Giza, Egypt


Flying gull, Sea of Galilee, Israel


Looking up toward the glass ceiling of a greenhouse at the Chicago Botanic Gardens’ orchid show

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Solar eclipse, August 2017 at Chicago Botanic Gardens. I took this photo by pointing my cellphone upwards, covering the screen with the filter from my eclipse glasses.


Dome at Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines


Looking up from under the center of the Eiffel Tower, Paris


Domed window panels, O’Hare Airport, Chicago


Looking up over a doorway in Wurzburg, Germany


Regensburg Cathedral spire, Germany


Statue of King Ludwig I, Regensburg, Germany


Ornamentation on top of a building in Passau, Germany

Thursday Doors: A Walk Through Schärding, Austria

On the 4th of July, the day we spent the morning in Passau, Germany, we opted for an afternoon tour to the small town of Schärding, Austria (population approx. 5,000). Passau and Schärding are essentially border towns.  We even crossed a bridge on the Inn River that had a small metal plaque in the middle with D (Deutschland – Germany) on one side and Ö (Österreich – Austria) on the other!
The town of Schärding is a major port on the Inn River which is the dividing line between Bavaria in Germany and the Austrian state of Upper Austria.

The Bavarian family Wittelsbach owned the town until 1779. In the Middle Ages, due to its location, Schärding became a center of trade, particularly for salt, timber, ores, wine, silk, glass, grain, textiles and livestock. Originally the town was fortified; sections of the wall remain, but the castle that was originally there is no longer.

Schärding’s most beautiful feature is its central square with its rows of colorful, gabled buildings. The buildings are color coded so that illiterate people in past centuries would know what the building was used for. For example, the town hall (Rathaus) was yellow, and pharmacies were green. Nowadays, next to the Rathaus, the green building is a charming hotel, Hotel Stiegenwirt.


The town’s skyline is dominated by St. George Church. It is Roman Catholic; more than 80% of the town’s residents identify themselves as Roman Catholic.

When I was not attending a workshop to make herbal salt (I ended up not keeping it – the salt content was way too high for me!), I joined Dale to explore the streets of the town.
Two interesting clocks!
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Schärding’s coat of arms is painted on the side of a building.
Historically, Schärding’s population suffered an epidemic of the plague. A plague pole was erected when the epidemic was over, to thank the Virgin Mary for saving people from the plague.
There is a statue to St. Christopher, the patron saint of travelers, in the center of a fountain. The fountain is hard to see in this photo because it was surrounded by construction zone fences.
Looking out toward the river from Durchgang Wasstertor.
I don’t know what these masks were for, but they look like instruments of torture!
There was also this display of possibly religious relics, near St. George Church.
And now…Schärding doors!

Posted for Norm’s Thursday Doors 1/16/20.

Some historical information obtained from Wikipedia’s article on Schärding.

CFFC: Mostly Monochrome

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge continues with the theme of colors. This week the topic is basically one  color or hue.

This photo was not shot nor edited black & white. The trees and clouds actually looked like this on a spring day in northern Wisconsin.
Turtles at The Grove visitors’ center, Mt. Prospect, IL
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Chinese Reconciliation Park, Tacoma, WA
Point Defiance Park, Tacoma
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Passau, Germany
Wine pressing tanks, Morwald Winery, Austria
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Modern clock, Cologne, Germany
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Kinderdijk, Netherlands
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Cologne Cathedral, Germany
Miniature show “Whimsical Wonderland,” Elk Grove Village, IL
Flowers, Des Plaines, IL
Some animals are the color they are to blend in with their environment, such as hyraxes who hide among the rocks where they live, mongoose who inhabit giant anthills, and even a hippo with just its eyes & ears above the water. (All photos taken in Tanzania.)


Thursday Doors: the Würzburger Residenz, Würzburg, Germany

June 30, 2019

On a walking tour of the city of Würzburg, Germany, we first visited the palace of the Prince-Bishop, known informally as the Residenz. The palace was built in Austrian/South German Baroque style, with some influence of the French Style, commissioned by Prince-Bishop of Würzburg, Johann Philipp Franz von Schönborn in 1720 and completed in 1744.


This is only one façade of this magnificent palace.

When he moved into the first palace constructed, the prince-bishop (these leaders were head of not only the government but also the Church) thought it was rather small – he had fancied something more like the Palace of Versailles outside Paris or Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna.  Having won a lot of money in a court case, he used the funds to build an edifice that would show off his power and importance.20190630_141042
He was supported in this endeavor by, among others, his uncle the Archbishop of Mainz and his brother who was Imperial Vice-Chancellor of Vienna from 1704 to 1734. These supporters had influence among architects and artists of the time, supplying the project with men of renown to design and decorate the building.
We were not allowed to take photos inside the building, only outside, but I got some splendid shots of doors, facades and gardens outside.
When Johann Philipp Franz died, his successor, Christoph Franz von Hutton, had no interest in such an opulent palace and ordered all work on it to cease. Work began once more under his successor, including the gardens, and was finally finished in 1744.
Inside we viewed the remarkable frescoes by Venetian painter Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, whose techniques make his paintings appear to be 3D.


This photo, downloaded from Google Images, shows a partial view of Tiepolo’s ceiling fresco.

The palace was heavily damaged by Allied bombing during WWII and restoration has been ongoing since the end of the war. In 1981 the Residenz became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.20190630_141119.jpg
We wandered through the magnificent extensive gardens in back of the Residenz.

From there, I could get better shots of the back of the palace.

I even found an “ex-door”!
It was very hot that day – we were in the middle of a heat wave in Europe – and there was no air conditioning inside the building! After our free time wandering the gardens, our tour group gathered on the front steps of the palace, where a group of teenage girls was practicing some sort of choreographed dance. They were in the shade, but even so, their energy on such a hot day was amazing!

I always enjoy witnessing an activity like this informally done by locals – something tours don’t really show you. Würzburg has several other tourist attractions, including the lovely Cathedral, which I will feature in next week’s Thursday Doors!

Historical information was taken from the Wikipedia article Würzburg Reidence.
Photo of Tiepolo’s fresco and the grand staircase from FAB Senior Travel.


Caen’s Church of Saint-Pierre

(June 17, 2019)

While in Caen, after touring the Chateau, we had lunch, then went to see the cathedral. Or at least, we THOUGHT it was the cathedral, but this is a mistake by tourists due to its size and soaring Gothic elements. It is actually called the Church of St. Peter (St. Pierre) and known as Saint-Pierre of Darnetal, Saint-Pierre-sous-Caen, Saint-Pierre-du-Châtel, and Saint-Pierre-en-Rive.

Even though it isn’t the official cathedral, St. Pierre is an imposing structure.
It was built between the 13th and 16th centuries. During the Middle Ages, most public ceremonies took place in this church. The spire of the church was destroyed by a British navy shell in 1944, meant for the German forces, and it was rebuilt in the same style.  Remarkably, although 75% of Caen was in ruins at the end of WWII, the Church of Saint-Pierre remained mostly intact.

Front entrance:


Architecturally, the church represents the transition from Gothic to Renaissance style. It ceased to be a church building in 1793, to become the Temple of Reason. From 1795 to 1933, the building was used for Catholic worship services.

More of the church’s doors
Stained glass windows


Posted for Norm’s Thursday Doors 8/8/19.

Although I took most of the photos, I have included some of my son’s photos using his Samsung Galaxy 9 (the first time he has experimented with photography), most notably ceiling details.

Information on the Church of St.-Pierre’s history was obtained from a Wikipedia article, Church of Saint-Pierre, Caen.