Thursday Doors: Open House Chicago

Last Saturday, we participated in the annual Open House Chicago event, in which over 300 buildings are open to the public. People can tour these buildings and most have volunteers that can answer questions about the building or organization housed there.

For Norm’s Thursday Doors this week, I feature some of the doors we saw on our tour of Lincoln Park and other nearby neighborhoods.

St. Edward Catholic Church, Irving Park neighborhood: We were interested in seeing this church for its painted replica of the Bayeux Tapestry in Bayeux, France. We saw the original stitched tapestry last June when we were in Normandy.
St. Edward has a particular interest in the tapestry because part of it tells the story of Edward the Confessor, King of England. In Bayeux, it is celebrated as the story of William the Conquerer’s invasion of England in 1066, and his son’s coronation as king of England and Normandy.20191019_120434
Dank Haus, German American Cultural Center, Lincoln Square/Ravenswood:
It was Oktoberfest at Dank Haus, so the public was invited to hear a German oompah band in the 5th floor ballroom, and while there, buy a German snack and beer. We had a pretzel, but we don’t drink beer! There is also an impressive full wall sized (including the elaborate frame) portrait of Kaiser Wilhelm I and a beer stein museum.

The building was originally the home of the Three Link Association, also known as the Oddfellows. Door knobs contained the symbol of that fraternal order.
The Belmont by Reside (formerly the Belmont Hotel) in Lakeview is an enormous u-shaped building that has always amazed me, so I made sure we took time to see it. Designed in elegant Georgian style, its elegant ballroom is now a parking garage, while retaining the original ceiling and ornamentation.
The New Elephant Resale Shop on N. Clark in Lincoln Park used to be Sphinx Storage, so its exterior décor has an ancient Egyptian theme. We did not go inside but I took these photos showing the ancient Egyptian symbols displayed outside.

The Elks War Memorial in Lincoln Park honors the more than 1,000 Elks members who fought in the wars since WWI. Its magnificent rotunda is the grandest domed rotunda in Chicago.

Moody Church in Old Town: This massive Romanesque Revival church has Byzantine elements. Its sanctuary seats 3,700 people, making it the largest column-free auditorium in Chicago. It is named after famous evangelist, Dwight L. Moody.
Under each seat is a rack that men used to use to store their hats.
These were not the only sites we visited, just the ones with interesting doors! 😉
More doors from OHC next week!




WPPC: Touring an Austrian Winery

The Weekly Prompts Photo Challenge this week has the topic of bottles.

On July 5, our Viking Grand European Tour river cruise ship arrived in Austria. We spent the day exploring Melk and cruising; then in the evening, a few of us took an optional tour to visit the Mörwald Winery, and were shown around by the owner, Grüner Rosenberg, with the help of our guide to translate (and mimic)! 20190705_164925.jpg
The vintner, wearing lederhosen, greeted us outside and showed us his wine-making operation.

Our guide was actually an American (I asked her, since her English was absolutely American-perfect!) who has spent several years living in Austria. She always leads the tours to this winery and she and Grüner have a tremendous rapport! When he would make gestures to illustrate some aspect of wine making, he expected her to make the same gestures as she translated! Actually, Grüner does speak some English, but is more comfortable explaining in German with a translator.

Viking buys a lot of wine from Mörwald Winery, and may be at least partly responsible for keeping them in business! 350,000 bottles of wine are produced for Viking each year by Mörwald alone!

Mörwald is located in the Wachau Valley in northern Austria, which is well known for its wines. As we were cruising the Danube, we saw many hillsides covered with wine-growing grapes.
At least three people are involved in the actual production of wine. Three people working in one room can produce 3,000 bottles of wine per hour! Grüner took us through the factory and explained how different types of wine are made.
One type of wine, for example, is called “Malachit” – this is one of the finer wines: it is less acid and takes more time fermenting.  Another type, “Grappa” is schnapps made from red wine mash. Grappa is made from some of the leftovers of the production of the more common wines.

Wine production today, of course, is no longer a matter of actually squishing grapes with one’s feet, but instead takes place inside these huge vats, using heat and pressure.
Here Grüner explains what happens inside the vats using pressing down motions, which the guide obediently repeated while translating!

Finally came the best part – wine tasting! We were seated in a room at high tables, which were supplied with wine glasses, a tub for emptying whatever we didn’t drink before taking the next sample, and water to cleanse our palates. We tasted six different types of wine that Morwald produces (and probably had tasted a few of them on board our ship already!).  Grüner sat on a bench with his wine glass and made sure we all learned how to raise a toast in German!
If you ever take a Viking cruise in that region, I strongly recommend taking this optional, fun tour!



Journey to Egypt, Part 22: Temples of Abu Simbel

January 2, 2019

We disembarked our vessel, Aida, this morning and boarded a bus for a 2-hour + ride to the town of Abu Simbel, for which the temple was named.  The landscape along this route is mostly desert.
20190102_093930The town of Abu Simbel is a good place to be introduced to Nubian culture. The Nubians who originally lived in this area were displaced in the 1960s by the building of the Aswan High Dam. Now this small town is growing again as people return to the area. I took these photos from the bus as we drove through the town.


Nubian architecture is characterized by domes and arches.

Our destination was Abu Simbel Temple.20190102_105458d.jpg
Ramses II (who reigned c. 1279-1213 BCE) had two massive temples built at Abu Simbel. The pharaoh was a bit of a narcissist and wanted to advertise to the Nubians that he was the god-king and ruler of this land. Nubia had been conquered by the Egyptians, which extended the Egyptian empire southward. Ramses II had his artisans carve the temples out of a rock cliff to display his might, which was an effective deterrent to Nubian rebellion.

Originally the two temples were at the bottom of the cliff into which they were carved. However, due to the building of the Aswan High Dam in the 1960s, which created Lake Nasser and flooded the surrounding area, they were moved 200 feet above the water level and 1/3 of a mile back from the lake shore. It is quite a walk, often uphill, from the parking lot to the site of the temples.

These two photos were taken from the pathway to the temples, the first a view of Lake Nasser, the second, two large rocks on which people had piled up small rocks. (I had seen these small stone piles before, on the trail from Machu Picchu, but here they were much more numerous and somewhat chaotic.)

In order to move the monuments higher up (because they would otherwise be completely submerged in the lake), a painstaking project funded by UNESCO was undertaken in which the temples were dismantled by cutting them into about 5,000 pieces, raised up using pulleys and reassembled 60 meters (about 200 feet) higher up. To do this, the upper cliff also had to be carved out in order for the temples to retain their original appearance and great effort was made to reconstruct the temples with the same orientation as the originals. All this was accomplished in the years 1964-1968, before the building of the High Dam was completed. (Other monuments that stood on islands in the Nile River were also disassembled and reassembled elsewhere, but Abu Simbel was by far the most enormous and ambitious undertaking.) Below are two photos of this massive project, taken from Google Images.

The first of the two temples, the Great Temple was dedicated to Ramses II as a god-king and to Ra-Harakhte, Amun-Ra and Ptah, major gods in the Egyptian pantheon. The second temple was dedicated to the goddess Hathor and Nefertari, Ramses II’s wife and queen.

In front of the Great Temple are four seated colossi of Ramses II, wearing the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt, which is most preserved in the far left statue. Around the legs of the statues are smaller figures of the pharaoh’s wives and children. Between the two pairs of statues, above the doorway, is a carved figure of Ra-Harakhte. Ra was portrayed as a falcon and shared characteristics with the sky god Horus. Sometimes these two gods were merged to form Ra-Harakhte: “Ra, who is the Horus of the Two Horizons.” Also, in the New Kingdom, the god Amun rose to prominence, so Ra and Amun were merged to form Amun-Ra.


At the top of the temple façade is a row of rampant baboons, praising the sun as it rises.

The Great Temple is 98 feet (30 meters) high and 115 feet (35 meters) wide.


Ra-Harakhte above the door


Nubian captives


Another captive – possibly Hittite, since the temple may also have been a commemoration of Ramses II’s victory over the Hittites at the Battle of Kadesh in 1274 BCE.

The doorway between the colossi leads to the first hall, which contains columns decorated with figures of Ramses II.

Inside this hall are carvings of events, particularly battle scenes, that happened during Ramses II’s reign. These photos are taken from the photo archive of Mohammed Fahey. (We were not allowed to take photos inside.)


The second hall contains four square columns  and is decorated with more benign scenes – Ramses II and Queen Nefertari making offerings to the gods, including the deified Ramses himself.

Abo Simble (54)

Abo Simble (59)

This is over the the entrance to the sanctuary.

The sanctuary contains four statues of the gods to whom the temple is dedicated: Ptah, Amun-Ra, Ramses II, Ra-Horakhte, in that order from left to right.
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An amazing story about these sanctuary statues is that the sun would enter this inner chamber at certain times of day and certain days of the year. On the left, Ptah, is always in darkness, because he is the god of the underworld. The sunlight would penetrate 180 feet (55 meters) into the inner sanctuary to illuminate the statues of Amun-Ra and Ramses II (the two middle figures) for 45 minutes on two important days of the year: February 22, the king’s birthday and October 22, the date of his coronation. This was further emphasis on his elevated status as a god-king.

When the monument was moved up the cliff in the 1960s, the light illuminating the statues changed – but not by much. It now shines on Ramses II for 25 minutes on February 21 and October 21, only one day off from the original dates!

Ramses II apparently loved his wife, Nefertari, so much that he had the Temple of Queen Nefertari built to honor her and the goddess Hathor.  This marks only the second time in ancient Egypt that a pharaoh built a temple for his wife (the first was Akhenaten for Queen Nefertiti). Furthermore, it is the only time where her statue is the same size as that of the pharaoh, each standing 32 feet (10 meters) tall.
Like the Great Temple, Nefertari’s temple faces east. It is about 92 feet (28 meters) long and 40 feet (12 meters) high.20190102_120511d
Four of the six statues are of Ramses II and two are of Nefertari. Smaller statues at their feet represent their children.

The temple doorway leads to a hall which contains six pillars with heads of the goddess Hathor.
Abo Simble (40)

The hall is decorated with scenes of the royal couple making offerings to or worshipping the gods. Behind that is the main sanctuary, where there is a niche with a statue of Hathor as a cow, protecting Ramses II and Nefertari.


View of the lake on the walk back to the parking lot.

We returned to Abu Simbel in the late afternoon, as the sun was setting, to see the Sound20190102_171344d and Light Show. It is worthwhile seeing at least one of these during a visit to the major Egyptian monuments – there are  also Sound & Light Shows at Karnak, Luxor Temple, Kom Ombo and others.

20190102_173300We were each given an audio translator to watch the show. However, among the English translators that were handed out was one in Spanish, which one of the men in the group,  discovered when he turned his on. By the time he found this out, the show had started so there was no way to exchange it. Instead, I traded with him, since I knew I could understand the narration in Spanish.
20190102_173215dIf you wondered what those little boxes were in front of the temples, they are used to project the sound and light show, which starts after sunset.20190102_173300dThe narration tells the story of how the monument was moved higher up the cliff when the dam was being built and also speculates about the life of the ancient Egyptians who built these temples.

Lights illuminate the statues in front of both temples.

With accompanying music, colorful images are projected onto the front of the temples.

The grand finale…

Sources used in this post:
“Abu Simbel: How the Temples Were Saved” in We, Digital Magazine
“Abu Simbel” by Joshua J. Mark in Ancient History Encyclopedia
“Abu Simbel” in Ancient Egypt Online
Fodor’s Egypt, 

Journey to Egypt, Part 18: The Crate Maker of Fares Island

December 31, 2018

Our dahabeya Aida docked this morning at the island of Fares. We were going to see a local craftsman, the last crate maker in Upper (southern) Egypt. Transportation to the crate maker’s home was via “tuk-tuk,” two passengers per vehicle!
We bumped and jostled along the dusty roads of Fares village, observing our surroundings through fringed open sides.
We could peek at our driver through a heart-shaped cut in the material in front of us.

Our little caravan of tuk-tuks finally arrived at the crate maker’s home and were taken around to the back of the house.DSC_0416
We saw piles of date palm reeds, the raw material of the hand-made crates, which were stacked up behind the craftsman’s work space.


The crate maker’s work space

Mohammed (the crate maker – not to be confused with our guide of the same name!) has his reeds shipped to him from elsewhere, from mature date palms (at least a year old). The reeds have to be dried but no longer than 20 days. The dried reeds are strong, yet pliable for splitting and cutting holes in them.


One of the crate maker’s assistants

Mohammed could not stop his work as he talked to us – he was working on an order for 20,000 crates to hold mangoes, which are grown in this area. These will be shipped to Cairo, and some of them exported. The crates can be different sizes and last 7-10 years.

Mohammed himself is 58 and has been doing this work for over 40 years.  We asked if his children are learning this craft. He told us his children are in school – he doesn’t want them to learn the craft, which taxes the body and presumably doesn’t pay very well.


First, he cuts the reeds into the lengths needed.


Mohammed uses pieces that have already been cut at the correct length to measure other pieces.


He then cuts the section of reed lengthwise with a scythe, which requires great precision.

Mohammed uses both his hands and his feet to make the crates. Machines cannot do this job with the same precision. People who practice this craft don’t stay in it long, due to the position of their body, sitting on the ground for long periods, which is why it is a dying craft.


Mohammed steadies the section of reed while he uses a large nail and makeshift hammer to cut holes along its length.


As  he works, he answers our questions which are translated by our guide Mohamed.

However, he does have assistants, so between them they can produce 5 million crates a year. He himself makes 150 crates a week.


An assistant awaits instructions against a backdrop of date palms.

Mohammed could not stop his work as he talked to us – he was working on an order for 20,000 crates to hold mangoes, which are grown in this area. These will be shipped to Cairo, and some of them exported. The crates can be different sizes and last 7-10 years.


Sample of one of Mohammed’s more elaborate creations, which was passed around among us.

Mohammed uses both his hands and his feet to make the crates. Machines cannot do this job with the same precision. People who practice this craft don’t stay in it long, due to the position of their body, sitting on the ground for long periods, which is why it is a dying craft.


As  he works, he answers our questions which are translated by our guide Mohamed.

Mohammed himself is 58 and has been doing this work for over 40 years. We asked if his children are learning this craft. He told us his children are in school – he doesn’t want them to learn the craft, which taxes the body and presumably doesn’t pay very well.


These piles of reed sections are ready for assembling the crate – the pieces with holes drilled in them will anchor the side pieces (the narrower pieces in the other pile) that fit through the holes.


An assistant awaits instructions against a backdrop of date palms.

SONY DSCHowever, he does have assistants, so between them they can produce 5 million crates a year. He himself makes 150 crates a week. Because he was kind enough to invite us to see him at work, three women from our group became his temporary assistants!


Mohammed hands Lizz some materials…


…and shows her what to do.

Through demonstration and imitation,…


Assembling the base of the crate

…Lizz, Kathy and Michelle were able to be efficient crate producers, and with their help, Mohammed was able to finish twice as many crates in the time we were there!


The vertical pieces are fit through the holes on the horizontal pieces.

12 horizontal pieces and 4 vertical pieces form the frame.
They’re almost finished as Mohammed fits in the bottom cross pieces.
Michelle takes over to help make the next crate.


Michelle slides a horizontal piece through two verticals to construct the frame.


Photo op! Mohammed will not actually have Michelle make the lengthwise cut!


Michelle helps finish a frame.

A small crate with a handle was given to Lizz as a gift for being a great assistant! Everyone was given an ankh made of date palm reeds.
Kathy was the last volunteer.


Kathy hammers a length of vertical piece into a hole.

Two of the finished crates!

We thanked the craftsman and his assistants and family and said good-bye, then we headed back to our tuk-tuks for the ride back to where Aida was moored.  As we approached the pier on the river, I saw a snake handler with several cobras! (Fortunately, we were some distance away; I took this photo with my telephoto lens!)

Getting Our Kicks: Grand Canyon Caverns & Seligman, AZ (Route 66 Day 3, Pt. 2)

June 8, 2018                  Peach Springs – Seligman

Not long after we left the Hualapai Lodge and Tourism Center we arrived at Grand Canyon Caverns, at 115 Mile Marker AZ-66, Peach Springs, AZ 86434.20180608_124517This dry, limestone cavern was discovered in 1927 and extends about 200-300 feet below the surface. An elevator takes visitors down 21 stories to tour the caves, but in its early days, people paid 25 cents to be LOWERED, one by one, down into the cave by a hand-operated winch!
20180608_124959dThe temperature is a constant 56°F with zero humidity.20180608_130615
We were offered two tours – the “short” tour and the “regular” tour. We didn’t want to stay too long and besides, the longer tour requires climbing 70 stairs as well as some tricky maneuvering, so we opted for the short tour. The regular tour is more spectacular, including the massive Chapel of Ages, large enough to hold two football fields, so I would recommend that tour for anyone physically able and willing to do it. For the more adventurous, there are three additional tours, the Wild Tour, The Explorer Tour and the Ghost Walk Tour. You can find out more about the tours and the caverns in general here.

For $15.95 (no senior discount) each, we got a 25 minute tour. We saw a few interesting formations, such as the teacup handle

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Helectite – a rare form of selenite crystal; popularly known as a “teacup handle.”

and geodes, like this one jutting out from the limestone surface.DSC05687.JPGThere are few stalactites or stalagmites, as you would expect in a cave;




One of the few stalagmites in the cave


these kinds of formations need water to grow in size and Grand Canyon Caverns are dry. There are no bats living in the caverns either.

In fact, although some fossils were found when the caves were first explored (from a ground sloth), no animals are known to reside in the cavern.

This T-Rex jaw was NOT found in Grand Canyon Caverns!


The most unique feature of Grand Canyon Caverns is that events have taken place and continue to take place down there. There was a newspaper article on display about a couple who got married in the Chapel of Ages. (I would be afraid of tripping or snagging my wedding dress!)
The Grotto Restaurant is an actual café set up inside the cavern. To have lunch there costs $50 per person!DSC_0521
Besides this restaurant, there are accommodations for up to 6 people to stay overnight, as in a hotel room. Except that at night it gets COMPLETELY dark, so flashlights are furnished! There is a TV, but no reception – however, you can watch DVDs.20180608_131736.jpg

The web site states that there is a library of old books and magazines such as a National Geographic collection dating back to 1917. There is also a bathroom! (The plumbing must have been tricky to install…).

Concerts and plays used to be performed in the cavern, and occasionally an event is still held there. There is a stage and auditorium seats.
The Grand Canyon Caverns website tells the history of the caverns – quite interesting – and if you take the tour, you will also hear about Walter Peck, the discoverer of the caverns with dreams of finding gold.

The town of Seligman (Exit 123 off I-40) was our next destination. There are several Route 66 attractions in Seligman. First was the Roadkill Café (22830 West Route 66), which serves burgers, steaks and ribs (not roadkill!) with a décor of animal dioramas and mounted hunting trophies.


We explored the rest of the main drag of Seligman. Along this street are a series of touristy “Old West” type buildings…20180608_140632

and rusty, broken down farm equipment,
a broken down truck with a cactus growing inside…


and of course, old cars.

20180608_143230More touristy shops and such…

including the Rusty Bolt Gift Shop 22345 West Route 66), with female mannequins in front and on the roof, vintage signs, and an Elvis statue.20180608_143911d
The temperature was about 95°F and after all this sightseeing and snapping photos, we decided to go to Delgadillo’s Snow Cap Drive-in (301 E. Route 66) for a cold milk shake.



Instead of ordering drive-in style, you now enter and order at this counter.

After we left Seligman, we headed for Flagstaff, which has a number of national monuments nearby with ancient pueblo ruins at Wupatki National Monument and Walnut Canyon National Monument, and natural features, such as Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. We did not stop at any of these, since we had seen most of them on an earlier trip to Arizona years before, and instead got off Route 66 for a couple of days to attend a 70th anniversary reunion at my high school, Verde Valley School, in Sedona.


I’ll continue our Route 66 journey two days later, when we got back on the Mother Road.


Feeding the Multitudes: A Galley Tour

March 24, 2017

The second full day of our Panama Canal Cruise was the first of two “sea days.” Generally more activities than usual are planned for these days when all the passengers are on board. Today they offered a galley tour. In groups of 20, we were ushered through the kitchen and food preparation areas of the Veendam, which otherwise we never get to see. Hidden from the view of passengers, the galley is where a lot of work goes on, since on a cruise ship, food is available somewhere almost all the time!  I think almost everyone who went on the tour came away with an added respect and appreciation for our dining room stewards and the chefs we never see.


The tour was really short – we just walked through and a steward told us which areas we were passing through. We also got a map and information about the personnel that work in food service.


99 people are on the dining room staff, mostly restaurant stewards or servers. In the kitchen, glasses are washed in a separate area from the plates, bowls and silverware. 80 people work in the kitchen. All of the staff works long hours.



There are posters on the wall showing every dish they serve and how it should look on the plate. One small poster informs servers to center the food in the middle of the plate. There’s even a tool for this!




This chart shows how various dishes on the menu are to look when they are served.




When the orders are ready, stewards carry them upstairs on large trays by way of an escalator.



We left the tour by way of the escalator that the dining room stewards use.


On the flier that was handed out, there is a list of how much is consumed weekly. For instance, the average number of eggs used in one week is 13,500! 5,500 lbs. of meat, 2,000 lbs. of poultry, and 2,700 lbs. of fish and seafood are consumed weekly on average.



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After exiting the galley via the escalator, we were also taken through The Pinnacle Grill, one of the premium restaurants on board the ship.




Sigtuna, Sweden: Runic stones, a church, and Lake Malaren

August 14, 2015 (continued): Sigtuna, Sweden

Sigtuna, the oldest town in Sweden (founded 980 AD), is not far from the airport. It has a renowned boarding school and is often a destination for church retreats. The name of Sigtuna comes from an old English word for town (tuna), which was originally a Viking word. Its history before the 11th century is recounted in old Norse sagas. Its population is currently about 8,500 inhabitants.

First things first: Lunch
First stop: an inn or house where tables were already set with glasses, tableware, napkins, bread, and plates of salad in a large dining room. Soon after we got there, two more tour groups from the Eurodam arrived to have lunch with us.
After the salad and bread, we were served an entrée: chicken breast over julienned vegetables. For dessert we each got a wedge of chocolate cake that was like eating fudge! We could help ourselves to coffee or tea. On shore, I always had coffee when given the chance, because the free coffee on the ship was American style (to get good coffee I had to pay for it!).

KODAK Digital Still CameraRunic stones and mythology
At a park, Britt showed us stones with runic writing, which came from the Vikings. The runic writing encircles an illustration in the middle. For example, on one stone there was a cross, indicating that the subject was a Christian, and also a weapon. Plaques near the stones gave a translation of the writing. By reading them, I realized that these stones were like gravestones, extolling the virtues of important people who had died. However, it was fairly common for an important man to create stones about himself during his lifetime. One chieftain erected at least five stones dedicated to himself!
KODAK Digital Still Camera KODAK Digital Still CameraBritt told us about an ancient creation myth in which a god threw a giant into the air. The giant’s cranium became the sun; to keep it up there, the gods created the directions: north, south, east and west. The giant’s bones became mountains, his blood became rivers and seas. Eventually the gods fashioned the first two people out of tree trunks, and they were endowed with life, soul, and intelligence. Their names were Ask and Embla. Hell was a cold place of snow and ice – nothing else.
Thor was a hammer-swinging god, associated with storms, thunder and lightning. The word “thunder” derives from the Norse word “Thor.” Odin was the god of wisdom, who learned from suffering. He was associated with healing, death, knowledge, and the runic alphabet, among other things.

The ruin of a church
We saw a couple of these stones, then crossed the street to see the ruin of an old church. High up on one of the remaining walls was another runic stone. In those days, people would sometimes use stones with writing on them as building materials, not realizing their future archaeological value!
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Next to the ruined church was this cemetery.

Next to the ruined church was this cemetery.

KODAK Digital Still Camera KODAK Digital Still Camera KODAK Digital Still Camera KODAK Digital Still Camera KODAK Digital Still CameraSt. Mary’s (Mariakyrkan) Lutheran church
Next, we visited a now Lutheran church dated from the 13th century, which is in remarkably good condition, an example of brick Gothic architecture. It was renovated in the early 20th century and then again in the 1960s. Surrounding the church is a burial ground.

St. Mary's, built in the 13th century. Remains of another church have been excavated beneath it.

St. Mary’s, built in the 13th century. Remains of another church have been excavated beneath it.

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grave for the unknown

grave for the unknown

KODAK Digital Still CameraInside was dark and peaceful. The walls were painted with designs as well as Biblical figures and scenes. Light slanted in through the stained glass panes of arched windows.
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Prominent family buried here had one son and five daughters.

Prominent family buried here had one son and five daughters.

In front, to the left of the altar was the tombstone of a family, most likely a prominent one, with the couple carved on top. Next to the carving of the man was one child (a son). Next to the carving of the woman were five children (five daughters).KODAK Digital Still CameraKODAK Digital Still CameraKODAK Digital Still CameraKODAK Digital Still CameraWe then were free to walk around town – little shops along a couple of streets, the Town Hall, and off to the left, Malaren Lake, on which Sigtuna is situated. We went into the Town Hall, to see the contraption put on people who were taken to jail because they were drunk. There were two rooms inside – one room was lined with chairs, where people could wait for an audience with the officials. This room also had furnishings of a dining room and a green marble fireplace.The
other room would have been used as a jail for temporarily holding delinquents.

Sigtuna Town Hall

Sigtuna Town Hall

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The iron collar at left was put on the necks of drunks who were brought in to the jail.

The iron collar at left was put on the necks of drunks who were brought in to the jail.

After that, we strolled down the street with lots of souvenir shops.

KODAK Digital Still CameraKODAK Digital Still CameraThen we headed down to the lake on a sloping street past picturesque houses (some quite large) with pretty gardens.

KODAK Digital Still CameraKODAK Digital Still CameraKODAK Digital Still CameraAlong the lake was a park, including a spiral path with a faux runic stone in the middle, a miniature golf course that used tiny versions of local buildings for the holes, and many ducks who hoped for tidbits from an old couple sitting on a bench. There were lots of ducks in the lake as well, and I took a nice picture of a little girl on the lake shore trying to attract them.

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This illustration shows Sigtuna seen from the sea. Every inch of the shore is used for houses.

This illustration shows historical Sigtuna seen from the sea. Every inch of the shore is used for houses.

KODAK Digital Still CameraMiniature golf with a building that looks like the Sigtuna town hall!

KODAK Digital Still CameraKODAK Digital Still CameraKODAK Digital Still Camera KODAK Digital Still CameraNext:  Vasa Museum

Gamla Stan: Stockholm’s “most amazing” statue, old-fashioned “Big Brother” and leaning houses

August 14, 2015 – Stockholm, Sweden (Day 1)

We met our guide, Britt, at our bus and proceeded to Gamla Stan, which means “Old Town” in Swedish, stopping briefly at a lookout point first, with a view of the harbor. Stockholm doesn’t get a lot of cargo ships (perhaps because there is a larger cargo facility in Malmö), but it does get lots of cruise ships, and there are a lot of ferries between Stockholm and Helsinki, Tallinn, and St. Petersburg.

Military ship in harbor

Military ship in harbor, cruise ship coming in

½ of the city of Stockholm is surrounded by salt water, ½ is fresh water from Lake Mälaren, whose easternmost bay is Riddarfjärden which is surrounded by central Stockholm. (More on this lake, and pictures, in Day 2). Lake Mälaren is the third largest lake in Sweden, and provides drinking water for seven towns. The city occupies 14 islands. (Holm means island.) In the metropolitan area, about 1/3 is green, 1/3 is water, and 1/3 is concrete or buildings. One island that used to be a royal hunting ground now has a zoo with Nordic animals. Our first stop on the tour - look out point

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100_1010In Gamla Stan we stopped in a main square flanked by the Stockholm Cathedral (we didn’t go in) and the Royal Palace (Sweden has a constitutional monarchy). The square fills up with tour buses and there was a lot of construction, including scaffolding on part of the palace.

Gama Stan - Old Town Stockholm

Gama Stan – Old Town Stockholm

Stockholm Cathedral and monument to  Gustav IV Adolph (King of Sweden 1782-1809)

Stockholm Cathedral and monument to Gustav IV Adolph (King of Sweden 1782-1809)

Close up of the facade of the Royal Palace

Close up of the facade of the Royal Palace

In spite of the monument to Gustav IV (who was also the last Swedish king of Finland), the most popular monarch was Gustav III Adolph, Gustav IV’s father. He enacted many cultural reforms, and established freedom of religion and of the press. He had a dramatic death in 1792, when he was mortally wounded by gunshot at a masquerade ball. He died 13 days later. Verdi’s opera Un ballo en maschera is based on this story.
We walked from there to a church, behind which, our guide Britt said, was the “largest statue in Sweden – you’ll be amazed!” There was another tour group already there when we arrived, crowded around something that couldn’t be seen above their heads. As they moved on, we saw a small statue about 6 inches high on a small platform, called “The Iron Boy”.

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The sculptor meant it only to be a self-portrait: a boy who can’t sleep so he sits on his bed and looks up at the moon. However, it’s taken on an almost mythic reputation. Rubbing his head (which is now shiny from so much rubbing) is supposed to bring good luck. Britt said either you come back to Stockholm, you’ll find love, or something else I can’t remember – I rubbed his head because I want and intend to come back to Stockholm! Also in the winter, people knit hats and scarves for him and dress him warmly. All this for a tiny sculpture without a face!

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Britt then led us down the oldest street in Stockholm. She stopped at a doorway marked “No. 7” and told us to look upward. High up on the windows protruded little concave boxlike things which Britt told us were actually mirrors, allowing a person to spy on their next door neighbors to see if anything improper was happening! Big Brother of the 17th century!

The narrow streets of Old Town were crowded with tourists.

The narrow streets of Old Town were crowded with tourists. The only way to keep track of our guide was to follow the sign marked with a red 12.

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The 17th century had its share of Peeping Toms!

The 17th century had its share of Peeping Toms!

Some of the little streets in Old Town were extremely narrow – imagine navigating them in the winter when there are only a few hours of daylight! Down some of these alleyways were pretty gardens bordering small hidden courtyards.

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KODAK Digital Still CameraWe also saw the leaning houses on Stortorget, another plaza in Gamla Stan. The 2nd one, particularly (yellow) – it leans 90 cm!

The leaning houses in Stortorget square - the yellow one leans 90 cm!The Nobel museum is also on Stortorget, along with benches and sidewalk cafes filled with people enjoying this beautiful August day, their last week of summer vacation!

Because there are months in which there is little daylight – in Stockholm, sunrise is about 9 a.m. in December, and sunset is about 3:30 p.m. (farther north, there are only two hours of daylight in December and January!) – the Swedes are sun worshippers: they take advantage of daylight hours and warm weather in the summer to spend time outside. The June Solstice is a national holiday; many people leave the city. Many people own summer homes they go to during summer vacations – those that don’t have one, go to the cottages of relatives or friends.

Unlike the northern part of the United States, Stockholm doesn’t get much snow in the winter; although temperature-wise, its winters are much like ours.

Nobel Museum, history of the Nobel prize

Nobel Museum, history of the Nobel prize

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Stockholm Cathedral bell tower

Storkyrkan bell tower

Stortorget, incidentally, is the oldest square in Stockholm, its historical center from which the city expanded. There was originally a wall surrounding the town and as the city grew, parts of the wall were knocked down and rebuilt farther out.

We walked toward the Lutheran cathedral, Storkyrkan (also known as Stockholm Cathedral), with a clock on the face of its tower, where bells tolled the hour. Nearby, I saw a funny, old fashioned telephone booth that no longer contains a phone, merely a silver plate with graffiti covering the spot where the telephone had been.

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We then returned to our tour bus – a bit disappointing as I wanted to see more of Old Town Stockholm, but we were on our way to another city about half an hour drive from Stockholm. I hoped to be able to spend more time in Stockholm on Day 2.

Another view of the Nobel Museum

Another view of the Nobel Museum

Tour buses alongside the Royal Palace

Tour buses alongside the Royal Palace

Next: Sigtuna, Sweden

Finland: Savijarvi Farm

August 13, 2015

Savijarvi Farm
We turned off the highway onto a windy, hilly road reminiscent of those in northern Wisconsin that lead from main highways to peaceful places among trees and lakes. This led us to Savijarvi Farm.
DSC_0899On the farm, we were greeted by Agnetha (pronounced “Ahn-yeh-ta”), a white-haired, very slim elderly woman who couldn’t be over 70, but many years of farm work made her look older. The first time we saw her, she was standing on the porch of the main house waving her arms trying to direct the bus driver’s maneuvering into a parking spot in front of the house.

Savijarvi Farm: manor house

Savijarvi Farm: manor house

When we got out, a young woman dressed in a long skirt and a brown pinafore appeared with a tray of flute glasses filled with a light colored, cool liquid, which she told us was elderflower juice. It was cold with a mild sweet taste – very refreshing!
This girl brought us elderflower juice - light and refreshing!We gathered in a yard behind a barrier of flowers and tall grasses, as we viewed a mare with her 1-month old foal scampering after her. The foal was missing hair – patches of its downy baby coat was falling out to be replaced by adult horse hair.
Anieta, whose father lives in the yellow house.DSC_0910They are both of the official Finnish breed, the “Finnhorse” or “Finnish Universal” – a horse bred to serve all of Finland’s needs for both riding and agriculture. The goals were to develop a heavier working horse, a lighter trotter type, and a versatile riding horse. The Finnhorse was declared Finland’s official national breed in 2007. The breed is defined as a strong, versatile horse with a pleasant disposition. The most typical color is chestnut, as were the mare and foal we were seeing, often with white markings. The mane and tail are often flaxen, lighter than the coat, an example of which I took a picture of later. (Source)
100_0870100_0922The origins of the Finnhorse go back centuries, but in the 16th century, other horse breeds were introduced into Finland, and cross-breeding took place. The result was a somewhat larger, sturdier horse. In the 1980s, the breed’s numbers had drastically diminished, so that there was a fear of extinction. Savijarvi is a working horse farm dedicated to breeding and training this beautiful breed.

The handler walked the horses around the yard and had the mare stand still for admiration and photos.
100_0864KODAK Digital Still CameraNext the handler brought out two Shetland ponies, which we were told are a bit smaller than the Shetland ponies we are familiar with. Agnetha told the story that when she and her siblings were children, they all wanted a pony and pleaded with their father to get one. But he said, “There will be no ponies on this farm!” Later, however, when he became a grandfather, his young grandchildren also asked if they could get a pony and, like any indulgent grandpa, he gave in to their wishes! So the farm now has three Shetland ponies.
DSC_0912In fact, 27 family members of four generations now live on the farm, in separate houses for each nuclear family. The youngest resident is 66 days old, and the oldest resident – Agnetha’s father – is 86. He lives in the yellow “manor” house. Agnetha said that having her father live by himself in the yellow house keeps him nearby, but also separate enough to maintain family harmony!

Another family unit's house

Another family unit’s house

KODAK Digital Still CameraOne of the family members, a young woman with a small son, 4-5 years old and wearing a protective helmet, had been leading him around on one pony and while we were watching, the boy gently brushed the pony’s hair.
Inside the house, a dining room had been set up for us upstairs “so we could see more of the house”. Many people lined up first, though, to use the WC’s downstairs. When it was my turn, I observed that the soft toilet paper (like American t.p.!) had something written on each square, each one different, but completely unintelligible to me. Upon inquiry, I found out it was a poem!

Agnetha explained the cooking philosophy and a detailed description of how she made the soup they were going to serve us, as bread baskets were put on the table by the girls we saw earlier (not sure if they’re family members or employees). All of the farming and gardening is organic – no chemicals used. Also the milk used is lactose-free. The food is made from natural and mostly local ingredients. The soup was stinging nettles soup – the creaminess was from lactose-free milk, potatoes, carrots, etc. that were blended together. Agnetha talked quite a bit about the stinging nettle and its curative properties. I was wary, still remembering having been “stung” by such nettles when we were in England in 1999! The only part that actually stings, she said, is the edge, and some people become immune to it after awhile, like Agnetha herself. The flat part of the nettle leaf can be used as a balm by rubbing it on a cut or wound.

stinging nettles plant

stinging nettles plant

Stinging nettle soup

Stinging nettle soup


The soup was actually

delicious! Filling and nutritious – we felt neither stuffed nor hungry after having a bowl of it.

There were some nice green painted cabinets and dishes on the wall, but the dining room felt open with windows flanking one side. Dale and I took many pictures inside the house.KODAK Digital Still CameraKODAK Digital Still CameraKODAK Digital Still CameraDSC_0918DSC_0916DSC_0915The dessert was to be served on the terrace, adjacent to another dining room with a long table.
KODAK Digital Still CameraIt consisted of “birthday cake” (a Finnish recipe), with caramel sauce in a pitcher to pour over it, raw rhubarb with the red skin stripped off so that it isn’t sour – and berries – mostly currants, but also blueberries and raspberries, some fresh and some frozen. What they call “birthday cake” consists of three layers of white cake made of the farm’s own wheat flour, milk, sugar, and eggs

“Birthday cake” covered with caramel sauce, with fresh and frozen currants on the side.

(yes, dessert can have sugar!). In between each layer, to soften it was a filling made of strawberry smoothies! And of course, there was coffee to serve ourselves to accompany our dessert. Once again, the dessert was absolutely delicious without being heavy.

KODAK Digital Still CameraAfterward, we went out to see the area where the horses are kept and trained. Agnetha explained a lot of things about how they work with the horses. They start when the foal is 2 months old. They teach them jumping, trotting, and pulling a small carriage, among other things. The horses are not raced, except with carriages. If an animal gets sick, they use homeopathic medicine on the farm; if that doesn’t solve the problem or it cannot be solved by natural methods, they call a veterinarian.
KODAK Digital Still Camera DSC_0940There is only one old building on the farm that has been there since 1450 – a small stone shed, near the main house, where we were standing earlier to view the horses and ponies.

To the right of center is the old shed from 1450.

To the right of center is the old shed from 1450.

All the other buildings were destroyed at one time or another by fires. Because of the unusual summer – cold in June and July, and now warmth in August – the wheat has not yet come up. Agnetha said sometimes moose or even a bear get into the mature wheat!

Savannah: Old Town Trolley Tour: Andrew Low House, Cathedral of St. John the Baptist

Tuesday, March 25, 2014 (cont.)

Before I continue, here’s a little background on Savannah: The historical center of the city is notable for its 22 squares laid out in a grid. This was the idea of James Oglethorpe, the founder of Georgia. On two opposite sides of each square would be residences and on the other two opposite sides would be reserved for commercial use. Each square has a small park in the center and most have either a fountain or a statue. These squares serve the purpose of keeping traffic from flowing too fast, as it would on most major straight thoroughfares in urban areas.

HistSavmapThis map gives an idea of the layout of the historical district.

We continued on the trolley tour until Stop 8.

Monument to Savannah's Scottish forbears, dedicated on the city's 250th birthday, May 3, 1987

Monument to Savannah’s Scottish forbears, dedicated on the city’s 250th birthday, May 3, 1987

shops along Bay Street

shops along Bay Street

Madison Square

Madison Square

?????????????????????? DSCN8525 DSCN8527?????????????????????????????????????? ?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????IMAG1663_1 ??????????????????????????????????These beautiful old houses are the reminders of the opulence enjoyed by Savannah’s upper class in the 19th century. No doubt many of the owners of these homes were plantation owners who depended on slave labor.

Lafayette Square

Lafayette Square

At Stop 8 we got off to tour the Andrew Low House. Across the street was a large church, the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. I snapped a picture of it before we went into the house. We had to wait a little while for our tour, and meanwhile looked at the beautiful gardens and the patio in back.

Andrew Low House

Andrew Low House

Partial view of front gardens

Partial view of front gardens

Andrew Low house patio

Andrew Low house patio

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Gardens at Andrew Low House

Gardens at Andrew Low House

As in the Juliette Low birthplace, we were not allowed to take pictures inside the Andrew Low House.

I think we got on the last tour of the day because it was too late to try to get to the Davenport House and tour it, even though Tam had bought tickets for that house also. We had to wait for another trolley to pick us up, so meanwhile, we looked at the gardens around the Low House.

The large cathedral of St. John the Baptist also beckoned, so Tam hung around the Low House and trolley stop while Dale and I took a quick look in the cathedral.??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

?????????????????????????????????It was definitely worth it! The stained glass windows were beautiful and the sanctuary was magnificent but not overdone. Green marble columns flanked the pews on each side of the aisle. There were frescoes on either side of the altar depicting Jesus’ ministry. I liked the general color scheme inside the cathedral – the green marble contrasting with the pink and white marble on the floor. The arched ceiling was also lovely, and in the balcony at the back of the church was a spectacular organ!

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I couldn’t capture the colors of the stained glass windows, it being late afternoon with the sunlight filtering in through the windows. The holy water font was tiled with a Celtic design set against a dark blue  background. Stunning!