Saturday, April 16, 2016

Italy at last

Florence, Italy

We've been skirting Italy for the last year and saw Roman's ruins and its influence everywhere, Turkey, Portugal, Spain, Croatia, England, the Netherlands, Germany, the Czech Republic, I mean Czechia. Just yesterday the Czech Republic officially announced their country's new name, Czechia. And when people say Roman, they are referring to Italy in the overall, aren't they? Italian art, sculpture, architecture. At least as influence. So finally we are in Italy. In spite of the fact that I had great expectations about this place, in spite of the fact that we've been working up it it for the last year, it has not disappointed me.

Door from, or it is to, the past?
Yes, around the Mediterranean giant palaces and cathedrals remain that were built when Rome was the center of the Western world, isolated grandeurs, World Heritage sites, but here in Italy that style was a way of life. But I've said enough. I'm not a historian and I don't have the time to research every word I write so ... enough. Florence is amazing ... but the internet here, or at least in our neighborhood, sucks.

Even Project Fi, Google's international phone network, is weak in our neighborhood. Project Fi worked even in Czechia's tiny Český Krumlov, but not here. In spite of its great past, seems Florence Italy is a technological backwater. It's maddening.

Also, it's been hard to find oatmeal at a decent price. That, of course, drove M. Lee (the oatmeal fanatic) to look up the history of oatmeal in Italy. Seems you could easily get it 30,000 years ago. The first evidence of humans eating oatmeal was discovered in a cave in Italy. I hope I'm wrong but, at least so far, Italy seems like an oatmeal backwater as well.

Italy also sucks when it comes to getting a big giant American cup of coffee. Europe in general doesn't do coffee like we do coffee so no suprize that even in this lovely airbnb place the "big" cups hold about two sips. I say big but only compared to the other regular size cups, the thimble size espresso cups.

I don't complain. I just report. All in all, Florence is fabulous.

My morning cup of coffee


Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Time past, time present, time future

Germany

The not blue Danube

If you saw 2001: A Space Odyssey, Strauss's Blue Danube Waltz is almost sure to conjure up scenes from the film but, ever since I was a kid, mention of the Blue Danube Waltz always brought to my mind the image of a gloriously blue river, blue as the bluest ever summer blue sky. So, when we got to Regensburg yesterday, a town situated on the banks of the River Danube, the first thing I wanted to do was visit the blue Danube. Sadly, I must report that, at least on that cloudy day, the river was not blue. It was gray.

Gone
Also, the town's famous medieval stone bridge was covered for repairs and even the one medieval carving on the bridge that M. Lee wanted to see had been removed for cleaning. But I'm not saying Regensburg is a bust. It's an intriguing town that's been around since the Stone Age.



In 179, Regensburg marked the northern most reach of the Roman empire though when they abandoned the city they removed it from their maps. No matter. Regensburg continued to thrive and remains a vital center to this day. For example, what is perhaps the oldest restaurant in the world is located in Regensburg. The place has been continuously open to the public for the last 500 years. And it stands on the site of a building from the 12th century that was also a restaurant, the "Garkueche auf dem Kranchen", or 'cookshop near the crane'.

Regensburg today


In 2006, Regensburg was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and, trust me, the town has an excellent historical museum that makes it clear why it qualifies. This morning we spent five hours there seeing some of the archeological treasures from Regensburg’s last 7000 years before again exploring the city of today.


Monday, April 4, 2016

Aunt Jane

At some point, ready or not, one may be called on to send off the dead. Aunt Jane was the last of her generation so this time the task fell to us.

Ashes to ashes

She died in December. My cousins hosted a nice, low-key party celebrating her life on the Spring Equinox. My daughter and I went to Sonoma for the weekend, stayed with them at her house and helped out.

Dust to dust

The following morning, Monday, it rained lightly as cousins Cathleen and Margaret, my daughter and I took her to the cemetery. Chairs, an awning and the niche beside Uncle Phil were waiting, as was the fellow who would close their door after we left. We didn't sit. Cathleen and Margret put her ashes next to their Dad, Cathleen read a piece she wrote for the occasion and that was it. Aunt Jane would have liked that.

"We all go somewhere...into the sea, into the sky,
into another story, or into a heaven of our understanding." ~ Cathleen V.