In Japan, when you enter a store or a restaurant or a home, the hosts will call out "いらつしゃいませ!"(Ira'shaimase), which means something like "Welcome!" "Come on in!" Which is what I say to you, new and old friends, as I share random thoughts and creations to whomever is interested.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Day 4: Marksburg Castle

Day 4 Morning: Marksburg Castle, Germany

(another UNESCO World Heritage Site)

Castle etegami

This description from Wikipedia says it all:

The romantic Middle Rhine is a river valley straight out of a picture book, with precipitous cliffs, steep vineyards, a castle perched on virtually every hilltop and pretty villages lining the river banks on either side.  The scenery is the stuff of dreams and villages and towns like Bacharach, Boppard, St. Goar and Linz epitomize the charm of this remarkable area with its rich cultural heritage. UNESCO has recognized the importance of the region by designating the Upper Middle Rhine Valley a World Heritage area. 

Another rainy, dreary day couldn't diminish the wonder of the view from the Marksburg castle on the Rhine.  A short bus ride up to the castle took us back to around the 12th century into the lives of the upper crust nobility.


We climbed up slippery stairs carved into the rock.  The stairs are low to allow horses to scramble up as well. Many levels of fortification to keep out the enemy.

Slits between the wall were meant to keep an eye on the enemy. 
 A pigeon decides to enjoy the view.
Notice how thick the walls are!!
peace etegami

   Larger openings are, of course, for cannons.
Apparently, they were very rarely used since it was obvious who would win the battle.


The tour guide thought we might skip the garden tour due to rain but a lone voice cried out "No, please let us see the garden!" (me) and I am so glad we did.  Most of the vegetation is planted to be used as food or flavoring. 

This flower was absolutely stunning. 
With help from Facebook friends, I now believe we have identified it as a artichoke.
  So wonderful when something so beautiful can also be edible!


The photos themselves look like paintings.

What a pleasure to learn the name of this flower: "Love lies bleeding."(also known as  pendant amaranth, tassel flower, velvet flower, foxtail amaranth, and quilete.). Turns out, it is edible as well and highly nutritious.


Inside the castle are the most important wine and beer kegs and wine press.  They even have a vat for ..ehem... throwing up into when you've had too much to drink but still want to drink more. Unbelievable how much they used to drink! Of course, wine often replaced water because the water was unsafe to drink.


Interesting antiquities.  On the right is the one and only toilet, only for the lords and ladies of the house. A little bit daunting, I'd say.

My 87 year old mother was worried about us being gone for two weeks so I emailed a photo every day. Tried to make them a little interesting like this one with one of the soldiers in the castle. She really enjoyed the pics and it laid her fears to rest.
Quite magnificent.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Day 3: Cologne, Germany

Cologne, Germany

Lisa Jastram etegami
I have no proof that Ben actually said this.
To get the thin transparency effect of liquid in a glass, I used a sharpened chopstick dipped in the sumi to draw this.   It certainly lightens up the painting and suggests liquid and glass. I used the same technique for the jelly doughnut (below)
 to keep a light, fluffy feel to the bread.

 It was a hot day so, of course, we had to try out the local beer.  Interesting how the glasses or mugs they serve the beer in is different everywhere you go. 
 Here, tall and rather thin glasses.  Kölsh beer.

Our tour guides were wonderful everywhere.  We learned that JFK had given a speech in Cologne as well as Berlin.  His famous speech in Berlin became the butt of many jokes as "Ich bin ein Berliner" can also mean "I am a jelly doughnut". Pictured below (with the sign enlarged) are Berliners.  The Goth convention was in town so lots of folk dressed in black with safety pins, chains and other assorted metal wandering around town.

It was impossible to consider really painting the ridiculously complicated Cologne Cathedral, the main attraction of Cologne and again, a UNESCO World Heritage site.  But this lovely saying from the Little Prince inspired to me to think about the cathedral as rising up from the rocks.  Then, when I saw photos of the cathedral standing tall among the rubble of the World War II bombings, I knew I had gotten it right.

 Like many of the churches and cathedrals, the Cologne Cathedral is dark and unappealing in color, mostly from pollution, they say. But quite awe-inspiring in the spirit and will of the people who built such a magnificent structure. There is just no way to get a decent photo of it except from above. And, like almost every cathedral we saw, it is constantly under renovation.

Cologne was one of the most heavily bombed cities in Europe during World War II.  But the cathedral stood tall with minor damages.  The Allies used it as a landmark. Amazing photos! (I obviously did not take these photos!) . You can click these photos to see detail. The dark elongated building to the left of the cathedral was the train station.

We chanced upon some local group reenacting history.
Carnival is celebrated her in a big way!

 Everywhere, the cigarette buttes.
 Pretty darn disgusting.

 French Fries are a favorite fast food eaten with...mayonnaise!!
And served in a paper cone.

 German food doesn't get more authentic than this!!

The river view is rather modern on this portion of the Rhine

There was some kind of street festival going on along the river which 
made it very tiring to walk back to the boat, 
especially since the boat was docked so far away in this place.

Every meal was a delight  (I am showing off some delicate dessert).  Free unlimited wine and beer with every meal.  However, nobody on the boat got drunk. I would have to say it's a rather more educated and sophisticated clientele.  People seem to take these river cruises to relax, and learn about the places they are going.  Definitely not a party boat.

Who knew that Noah's ark was sitting pretty on the Rhine.  Kind of liked the effect of taking the photo through a rainy window. To learn more, click here

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Day 2: Kinderdijk

Kinderdijk: UNESCO World Heritage Site

Lisa Jastram etegami

For the Netherlands, the wind of change means that more and more land subsides to below sea level. They did build walls (dikes) but, in fact, needed windmills as well to pump the water out of the land. 

 26% of the Netherlands area is below sea level and only 50% of the land exceeds one meter above sea level.  I guess I already knew it but a map such as this shows how bad it is.  So, they built windmills starting in the 15th century. Kinderdijk, with 19 preserved windmills built in 1740, is the largest concentration of old windmills in the Netherlands and is indeed a UNESCO World Heritage Site. All of the blue is below sea level!

I should say that at this point we are not on the Rhine but a tributary.  For those who are interested, travelling on these boats is as smooth as glass.  There are no rutters, no swaying, no nothing.  You hardly know you are on the water.  The only "bumps" we ever felt were going through some of the locks.  Quite different from travelling on the sea.


Of course, we had the mandatory muster safety  drill.  We are laughing because, in an emergency, we could just dive off the side and swim to shore.  Or, just go to the top deck because even if the boat sank, the top level would still be above the water!

It was a cold, rainy day and very windy. Typical, they said.
Perfect for seeing the windmills in action.

These windmills are all original and any fixes made to them have to be consistent with original materials and technologies. Quite awesome to behold.

There are so many windmills in a row because each one could only raise the water a certain amount.  It took this many to keep the land from flooding

The top of this windmill (dome) can be rotated to catch the wind in any direction.  This can be very dangerous if you go out the door without knowing where the blades are.  There was a photo of a family with 12 children who lived in the windmill.( The children are bald, by the way, to keep from getting lice.) One day, one of the children ran out the door and the mom ran out to save her and they both were killed by the giant blades. 
 Very sad.

Nowadays, there is a lottery to see who can live in these windmills.  Apparently, it is a cool thing to do.  However, you have to take care of the windmill and keep it running.
 A certain number of rotations a year is required. 
 To learn more about these windmills,  you can go to this link

More recently,  Archimedes' screws are used to move the water 
(invented in the 3rd century B.C.)

And I add this sign because "Wiz-boom-Gmail" is just kind of fun to say!!

Back on the boat and dressed up for the Captain's Toast!!