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.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Day 7: The Black Forest

The Black Forest

Black Forest etegami

We took about an hour's bus ride up into the hills and then into the Black Forest. There is some debate over why it is called the Black Forest but it is a very dense forest and just seems quite dark. We were taken to an obviously touristy spot with a Best Western, small cafe selling Black Forest Cake, a shop selling lots of cuckoo clocks and a shop demonstrating and selling glass blown objects.  The building itself was a great big cuckoo clock.  We all gathered round to wait for 11:00 but I have to say, it wasn't very exciting.
See what you think.

Cuckoo clocks have a special place in my memory because my grandpa Walther, a Swiss immigrant to Iowa, had a cuckoo clock.  He wound it up every day by pulling on the pine-cone shaped weights. In fact, the very last thing he did in his life was wind up the cuckoo clock. As he pulled down, he just went down on the floor and died.
 What a great way to die!!! His time just ran out.......

Burned bridges quote
Add caption

Behind the inn was a walking trail that went under this bridge.  They told us that the Nazis bombed this bridge to smithereens 10 days before the war was over.
  The Allies then made the captured soldiers build it right back up.
 What a waste of time and energy war is.
 When I painted it, the black bled in one place (oops),
 but then it made sense: out of the ashes, the new bridge rises.
So, I made it bleed all over the bridge and it totally changed the painting
from an ordinary boring bridge picture to something more meaningful.

Most quotes about burned bridges say that you shouldn't look back.  But I have learned that I have burned a few bridges in my grief or my anger... 
and I need to rebuild those bridges in order to move on. 

There was a lovely walking trail that we went up beside a small stream.
The only time we really got out in nature on this trip.
Absolutely wonderful to breath in fresh mountain air.

Had a bit of a scare when my legs just crumbled beneath me and I ended up on my butt with legs splayed.  Didn't want to even move for fear I had done something to my artificial hip!  But it was fine.  I just need better hiking shoes..

This was the moss and rocks I slipped on.
I am smiling because I didn't damage anything..

On the bus they showed us a "bollenhut" which is a pom pom hat that 
married women used to wear. (Paulette modeling).
 On the right is a photo from the 1900s of a woman wearing it.

The glass-work was exquisite and beautiful but EXPENSIVE!!!  I wanted to buy these for Andrew (since he collects gecko type artwork) but took these photos
for him Instead since the one on the left is 1080 and on the right €173.  One euro was about one dollar give or take a few. Made our purchase decisions pretty easy.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Day 6: Kehl, Germany

Kehl, Germany

In order to visit Strasbourg, France, we had to dock in Kehl, Germany, just across the Rhine.  I truly felt a spirit of reconciliation and brotherhood in this place as both cities have endured takeover after takeover by each other's country.  
An evening walk in Kehl revealed some beautiful images of peace.

This statue utterly captivated me.  Two persons in a moment of coming together.

There was also a most beautiful pedestrian bridge of friendship and understanding.
The NATO summit held in April of 2009 began on the Passerelle pedestrian bridge and President Obama and other leaders walked across it.
My bridge got very wobbly but that is OK in etegami.
I may also have been unconsciously symbolizing the shaky nature of peace treaties.  Ha.
(Or maybe I shouldn't drink wine whilst painting- just kidding)

A pretty mighty pedestrian bridge!!
Lit up beautifully at night.

We took a nice long walk around Kehl and found this lookout tower quite by accident. I am acrophobic so did not climb it, but Dave went up and took some great panoramic photos.  The main support logs on this tower were each one complete very long tree poles.  Most amazing!

France on the right, Germany on the left

And in the evening, one more chance to celebrate our 36th anniversary.
I love the guy behind us covering his eyes!!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Day 6: Strasborg, France: Storks and Architecture

Strasbourg, France

Strasbourg, Germany

Strasbourg, France

Another World Heritage Site

bird etegami

This is  one of my favorites of the etegami I have painted for our Europe trip. I love the contrast of the very bold lines on the roof and the scratchy lines made from a sharpened chopstick for the nest. And I always forget to "leave empty spaces" which I did this time and I can see what dimension and artistry it adds. Plus, I just LOVE the storks in Strasbourg!! 

We drove down this street in Strasbourg (near a park) and being a bird-watcher, I was so delighted to see storks sitting on practically every rooftop! I borrowed someone else's photo below (because at this point we were stuck in a bus) to show how the city of Strasbourg has welcomed the storks by chopping off the treetops and putting platforms up for the storks to nest in.  Turns out storks are silent birds, only making noise by clicking their bills (thus the quote above).

All throughout the area, we saw these platforms on steeple tops, rooftops, all welcoming the stork because apparently it is good luck to have storks on your rooftop!
And yes, there is the legend that they bring the babies.

The title of this blog refers to the fact that Strasbourg has changed hands between France and Germany several times in the past.  As a result, it has a strong French flavor and a strong German influence

In Strasbourg, it's all about the buildings!

The most beautiful part of Strasbourg is Petite-France, which is not named for the country but the disease "Franzosenkrankheit" (syphilis).  The hospital for treatment was in this area of the city.. It is filled will old medieval houses, canals, bridges. Absolutely enchanting!

This is the most photographed building in Strasbourg (which I used for my etegami) Maisson Tanneurs.  This area of town had a lot of tanneries and the little dormer windows on many rooftops (such as below) were to get the smell out as well as dry the hides.  It must have been very stinky.

The oldest building is the Kammerzell house built in 1471 (on the left) but there were old beautiful buildings everywhere, along with flowers and bridges.

Strasbourg is the site for several important EU buildings in deference to the fact that the city  understands the importance of European unity
It is the seat of the European court of human rights(above)
 which was designed to look like a ship on the ocean.

Also boasts the European parliament which was an unfinished looking building on purpose as there will hopefully be more countries joining in the future.

We were told that tarte flambee was a local specialty so ordered that for lunch.  It was like a thin crust pizza with a creamy cheese and onions. Quite yummy

At the wine bar, we had a toast for our anniversary.
 How fun to do this in France!!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Day 5: Heidelberg and Speyer

Day 5: Heidelberg and Speyer 

gate etegami

Heidelberg was a most beautiful city with a lot of history (like almost all European cities.) The gate at the end of the bridge to enter Heidelberg was very artistic but seemed to be more about keeping people out..than welcoming them in. (Note the foreboding iron spikes)

The Heidelberg Castle on the hill is the focal point of tourism.  A quick history from Wiki: 
The earliest castle structure was built before 1214 and later expanded into two castles circa 1294; however, in 1537, a lightning-bolt destroyed the upper castle. The present structures had been expanded by 1650, before damage by later wars and fires. In 1764, another lightning-bolt caused a fire which destroyed some rebuilt sections.

      This place has a million visitors a year and I think half of them were there while we were there!  One of the most amazing things was how the buses negotiated up the narrow one way streets and managed to turn around in the parking lot without running anyone over. Seriously. Our guide was a Christian Slater look-alike who was passionate about the history and a drama student as well. He surely made the history come alive!!                 

A most humorous moment was when we walked in to the basement and he was talking about the largest wine cask in the world.  This is what we saw (on the left), so many of us posed for photos.  Then he said "But that's not it."  Ha ha. Fooled us all. 

The largest was in such a small room, I couldn't get a good photo of it so here is someone else's (to the right). It was built in 1751 and stands seven meters high, is eight and a half meters wide, holds 220,000 liters (58,124 gallons) of wine, and has a dance floor built on top of it.
The story goes that the doctor was worried about the official wine-taster. He told him to stop drinking so much wine and drink water instead.  The man started drinking water and died the next week.  Water was apparently not all that safe back then.

The most awesome thing about Heidelberg (besides our cute, animated tour guide)
was the view from the castle.  A lot of these buildings are part of the Heidelberg university system.

Not sure what Doug and Paulette are thinking about our tour guide..??

flower etegami

 And everywhere you looked, the beautiful window box flowers.  
Turns any drab building absolutely beautiful..
Although in Heidelberg, these were no drab buildings.

Two of the many, many photos I took of the flowers.

Of course, we had to try the local beer.
  Another style of beer mugs here.



The boat was docked in Speyer for the evening and we were treated to German music and German costumes onboard


Our accordion player was actually an American with a German boyfriend :)   What we noticed was the name of the accordion: Walther. My mother's family name. Our sweet program director wore this costume which looked more like something from Comi-Con.She was quite a delightful young lady from Romania.
Her favorite phrase was: "the program will begin in 25 minutes and 15 seconds."

The evening ended with the kitchen crew singing (sort of) for us.  Loads of fun.

Gute nacht!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Day 4 Afternoon and Evening: Romantic Rhine

Day 4 Afternoon: Smooth Sailing on the Romantic Rhine

The highlight of cruising on the Rhine in a longboat was definitely this day: the Middle or Romantic Rhine.  To the left and to the right, small picturesque villages, castles on the hills, vineyards on steep hills..  As a UNESCO Heritage World site, everything must conform to keeping the history and charm of the area.  No billboards, no Coca-Cola signs, no hideous concrete buildings...absolutely gorgeous!!

Romantic Rhine etegami

I am not very good at landscapes but wanted to try this charming scene.  Not totally happy with how it turned out but gives you a feel anyway.

Here's the actual photo. It doesn't even look real. It's like storybook land from Disneyland 

A castle here, a castle there. A church here, a church there. So beautiful.  There was a train running all along the river and also, turns out you could bike the entire length as well. Maybe next time.

A castle on a hill. Most of these are now used as youth hostels or hotels or wedding destinations and so on.

  Vineyards stand on steep terrain and 58% that existed in 1900 are now "wasteland". It is just too steep to use machinery so it's all done by hand which most farmers can't afford to do anymore. Couldn't believe that out of 455 vineyards operating in 1999, only 109 are left

I did not take this photo (Wikipedia) but it shows the narrowest, most dangerous passage on the Rhine.  There is a legend that a beautiful woman, Lorelei, stood atop the peak and she was so beautiful that the captains of the boats couldn't take their eyes off of her.  This is why there were so many shipwrecks here.
  The truth is, it's just a dangerous, narrow "S" curve in the river.

Another view shows the danger. And the beauty.

This is the famous Pfalzgrafenstein Toll Castle that sits in the middle of the Rhine.  
Anyone passing on either side of it had to pay a toll. 
Pretty fancy for a toll booth, if you ask me!

Rudeshim etegami

On board, we got to experience the famous Rüdesheimer  Kaffe 
which I have described pretty well in my etegami. 
The cups they use are unique to this coffee. 
Beats a Starbucks coffee any day!

These two guys sat at the front of the boat to make sure we didn't crash into anything on the way. (my husband Dave and my brother-in-law Doug). Can you imagine a better view anywhere???