Miscellaneous

Amsterdam-August 4

Monday, November 13th, 2023

Amsterdam is known as a city of museums, containing 75 of varying scope and size.  We were interested enough to purchase IAmsterdam cards in advance providing free entry and reservations, remembering the summer’s tourist invasion.  Our conservative preference for Rembrandt and other early modern Dutch and Flemish masters led us to the Rijksmuseum during the first morning.  It wasn’t surprising to see the rainbow flag displayed over the entrance as it was everywhere else celebrating the upcoming climax of this year’s Pride Week (or month).

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The building itself, another late nineteenth century combination of Gothic and Renaissance Revival style, opened onto a grand plaza and park, unlike the other compressed spaces of the city, where only the waterways offered open vistas.

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On the way to the Rembrandt galleries, I relished the raunchy canvases celebrating peasant delights in drinking and sex (more…)

Amsterdam–August 3

Sunday, November 12th, 2023

August 2 turned out to be a welcome transition day after the intensity of the two previous ones.  We had planned to spend it in nearby Metz with a person whom we’d last seen 37 years ago, the best friend of our son in grade 4 while we lived in Claremont CA.  After reading a recent autobiography by his mom, we’d connected by email and learned that he’d moved to France and lived on an off-grid organic farm with his wife and two children.  We were eager to see each other, but shortly before the planned visit an unfortunate circumstance required its cancellation.

After a slow morning we arrived  by train in Metz stayed in the least expensive hotel near the railroad station we could find, and next day continued on  getting a taste of local transport by switching trains in Luxemborg and Brussels.

We arrived late in the afternoon at our destination, another vast nineteenth century monument to the railroad, Amsterdam Central Station.

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Crossing the bridge over the wide canal crowded with boat traffic that fronted it, we found the hotel that Jan had selected online, a small-scale tribute to the rail transportation system that continued to thrill me. (more…)

El Dia de Muertos 2023

Monday, November 6th, 2023

Jan and I received invitations to two parties celebrating this holiday, both asking us to bring an ancestor’s picture and favorite dish to share.  That morning I felt an irresistible impulse to try to cook spaetzele, a favorite of my grandmother’s. I found several Youtube instructions for doing that, one featuring an Oma who spoke the same low Swabian dialect I remembered.

We attended the party at the home of our neighbors across the street, a beautiful young family the father of prominently Mexican descent.  The house was packed with people of several generations and ethnicities and the ofrenda–traditional memorial altar–overflowed with pictures and mementos, to which I happily contributed my own.

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This is a South German dumpling noodle that I loved to eat as a child and even more to watch my grandmother, Elise Wertheimer Marx (1878-1970), prepare over her stove.

I was reminded of it this past July when Jan and I visited Bodersweier, the village where she was born and where her family lived back to the 1700’s.  They were either driven out or murdered by the Nazis.

We were invited there by a German couple our age who’ve worked tirelessly on German Jewish reconciliation, in particular on recording the history of the local Jewish community.  Their son, the mayor of the nearby small city, Kehl, invited us to lunch where Spaetzle was served.

This was yet another layer of awakening  in a chain extending from last year’s post linking memories of the dead to the account of my father’s passing during his nursing home’s Halloween party in 1995.

What made the festivity on our street staggeringly poignant was learning that the couple had recently miscarried their second baby, conceived when their first severely autistic love-lavished child turned three years old.

And also that their next door neighbors were pregnant again after having lost their first at six months:

Strasbourg–August 1

Saturday, October 28th, 2023

Facing the next day meant a shift of role back to tourist from that of honored guest and time traveler. Nevertheless Jan and I both had earlier associations with this City that added dimension to the brief visit we’d planned.  My father’s birth in 1907 was registered there–perhaps because Kehl had no hospital at the time. After the Franco Prussian war in 1870, it was annexed to Germany, along with the rest of Alsace-Lorraine, before being returned to France at the end of the World War I, then reconquered by the Germans in 1939, then again becoming French in 1945.

Jan remembered hitchhiking with a friend from Stuttgart to visit the Cathedral and medieval art masterpieces in the surrounding area during her 1965 year abroad.  I recalled roaming its docks until I found work on a boat that would take me down the Rhine to Brussels without being able to pay passage near the end of my three months’ summer adventure in 1962. (more…)

Kehl and Bodersweier July 31

Wednesday, October 25th, 2023

The Hotel Regent Contades seemed like an appropriate staging area for the most anticipated event of our trip, a visit to the ancestral home of my paternal ancestors to which we had been ceremoniously invited by Karl and Hannah Britz, as reported in the background introduction to this chronology.

Our hosts had sent instructions for travel by tram to Kehl, the small city opposite Strassbourg on the German side of the Rhine.

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On the bridge, I recalled my grandmother’s tale of her husband Rudolph’s swim across the river to Strassbourg with my father on his back, much to her dismay. (more…)

London to Strasbourg July 30

Tuesday, October 24th, 2023

Similar to the mix of feelings yesterday at Trafalgar Square, upon descending to the underground at Gloucester Road heading for France, I felt the sweet sorrow of parting from the City which had caught my heart and the excitement of wonder about what lay ahead.

The departure point was an appropriate transition.  Saint Pancras was the only railroad station for “Eurostar” trains going through the Chunnel to the Continent.  At the metro station called “Kings Cross, St Pancras,” I was impressed with another yellow brick shrine to the industrial revolution, assuming it was also the terminal.

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But turning left, my mistake was evident.  There was an edifice that dwarfed even the monuments of Albertopolis in scale and decoration. (more…)

London July 29

Wednesday, October 18th, 2023

An unenterprising morning following yesterday’s varied activities  preceded the familiar busride back to the West End where we’d planned again to be royally entertained in the theatre, this time at a performance of The Book of Mormon, the acclaimed musical I’d been eager to see since its first appearance in New York in 2011, where it’s still running.  Knowing that its satire, written by the  merciless creators of South Park, targeted the Church of Latter Day Saints, added to the anticipation resulting from my ever-increasing aversion for all religious dogma and enthusiasm.  Having learned of  the Mormon’s Church’s strange beliefs and violent history from John Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven, I was ready for some naughty fun.

I wasnt disappointed. From the  golden statue of the Angel Monroni at the top of the proscenium to the lighting, sets, live orchestra, brilliant singing and dancing, the show  offered irresistible spectacle.  But the audience was most gratified by laughing at the foibles of  its  American characters blithely unaware of their own personal issues–runaway narcissism, suppressed homosexuality, clinging dependency–offering conversion to Mormonism as a solution for the more serious problems faced by their African hosts: AIDS, female circumcision, child sexual abuse, and oppression by a murderous local warlord.

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During intermission, delighted audience members chatted with neighbors.  Based on their haircuts and necklaces, Jan correctly surmised that three women in the row in front of us were Catholic nuns. We bonded with them in mockery of that other version of Christianity, (more…)

London July 28

Wednesday, October 18th, 2023

I was up early to beat the traffic and try out one of those green ebikes available for use all over town.  Just download the app, and it tells you the location of any available ones nearby and how much time on it the battery still provides.  Scanning the qr code on the bike unlocks it and locks you in to the elaborate network controlling it

Two Limes–the most numerous of several brands– were left at a corner just around the block.  Their design is well suited for non hotshot bikers, the only accessories a fat basket hanging from the handlebars and a little rack to hold your cellphone showing the zoomable map of where you are and if you’re somewhere the bike is not allowed to be ridden or parked.  The app’s location disclosure connected to the phone enables the invisible network, for better or worse, to track your every move. I later learned that Google and Uber own major portions of the company.

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London July 27

Wednesday, October 18th, 2023

Jetlag and overstimulation caught up today.  Sleeping in, washing clothes at the Laundromat, processing photos and email took up the morning, and after nap, a walk back to the Vand A, a brief stay there and then dinner at an outdoor Tapas restaurant by the South Kensington Tube Station were enough.

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London July 26

Wednesday, October 18th, 2023

Ready for more unplanned adventures before attending tonight’s play, we cautiously crossed the wrong-way street outside the hotel

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and boarded a bus headed for Putney, the terminus of a Thames River boat line. Billed as a commuter ride rather than a tourist cruise, one couldnt determine from the website or the app whether “Uber Boat by Thames Clippers” was part of the public transportation system or a private operation.

The stop nearest the dock was called Battersea Power Station, located a block away from the river in a pedestrian-unfriendly maze of criss-crossing tunnels, overpasses, temporary barriers, and littered sidewalks.  After bewildered efforts to follow the google map we were guided back toward the river by some reliable looking signage behind which rose the Power Station’s landmark brickwork,  flanked by modish landscaping and a diverse panorama of  shiny new buildings.

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