Dan and I attended the annual Cherry Grove Memorial Service at noon. Our friend Tom Holden, who died last fall, was mentioned, as were a number of people we knew from the community including Robert Bejesse and Wynn Tucker.
We used to go to war out of necessity. We were attacked in 1941. The Nazis had to be stopped. But that all changed with the Cold War. After that we went to war out of choice. Our leaders decided that Americans had to go and die abroad for an anti-communist ideology or for a barrel of oil. In the Vietnam War era many Americans questioned this policy and since that time some patriotic Americans are not willing to blithely follow what politicians want them to do. The shift from the draft to an all volunteer army was a sinister ploy designed to allow US military adventurism to continue. The goal was to end political dissent and shift the burden of dying to the lower classes and poor. It worked all too well. The rich do not fight and die in our wars of choice. We did not need to invade Iraq. Afghanistan has been a quagmire for whatever foreign power entered it. We are hated in some places around the world for our policies that are viewed as not fair and not even-handed. Our unquenchable thirst for cheap energy drives a corrupt foreign policy. Our once great nation now founders on the shores of greed and irresponsibility. It's not a pretty picture for our veterans this Memorial Day.
We're about ready to leave our hotel in Frankfurt for the airport. We have a lot of fond memories of thiis trip. In particular, we enjoyed the dining. The dish in the photo is a fish "Baeckeoffe," an Alsacian specialty that we enjoyed in Strasbourg. It's like a stew with potatoes and carrots and meats or fish baked in a cream sauce. It was really tasty!
Tomorrow we return to Philadelphia after a fun-packed trip through Europe from Paris to the east of France and finally Frankfurt and Cologne. Today we're just relaxing mostly at the hotel trying to shake off colds and prepare for the long nine hour flight home tomorrow. The boarding passes are printed so tomorrow morining we'll leave for the airport after breakfast. Here are a few photos from the trip that I haven't posted yet. Special thanks to my hisband Dan for all of the beautiful essays about our destinations.
We left on a morning train to Cologne, at Jim’s suggestion. He wanted to see the great Gothic cathedral, and Dan had not seen that church and the city in over 52 years! The ride from Frankfurt to Cologne, on the high speed and excellent trains, takes only an hour and twenty minutes. The older city of Cologne struck both of us as more visited by tourists, and it’s startling to be practically at the front door of the cathedral as one leaves the station. Cologne’s cathedral is one of the tallest in the world, and is also in the late Gothic or flamboyant style. Inside a mass was being conducted, with singing by a big choir. After we left the church we headed to the Wallraf-Richartz Museum, which houses another fine collection of German and foreign art. Great works by Rubens, Rembrandt and others are followed by 19th century French treasures by Courbet, Manet (his “Bunch of Asparagus,” appropriate for a German city that dotes on that Spring vegetable), Renoir, Monet, Van Gogh and many others. After touring the museum we enjoyed eating white asparagus, the big Spring-time specialty at a pleasant restaurant right on the square before the cathedral. Jim had a creamed asparagus soup, and Dan enjoyed his boiled asparagus with hollandaise sauce, potatoes and salmon. We bought some glasses at the museum, and Jim enjoyed shopping after lunch while Dan hunted down a Romanesque church. Though they were destroyed during the Second World War, most of the many Romanesque churches of the city were subsequently rebuilt. The weather cooperated for our trip to the great Rhineland city, which is perhaps more enticing than Frankfurt.--Dan
This morning we took an early train to Offenburg, Germany and waited there for the express train to Frankfurt. (See Jim’s pics for the Romer Square in Frankfurt, along with the Cathedral and the Vermeer masterpiece from the Stadel Kunst Institut, the important local art museum.) At first, one admits, Frankfurt seemed too large and impassively modernistic, in a mid-Twentieth century style, with tall buildings that had little character. But as we explored the city we discovered the Cathedral, which has a tall Gothic tower, and the charming, re-constructed square before the Town Hall. This Romer Square was completely rebuilt after World War II, since Frankfurt was one of the heaviest bombed towns in Germany. Another problem arriving in Frankfurt by train was that the nearby taxis refused to take us to our hotel, claiming the distance was too short. So we had to lug our bags down to the underground, which can be arduous. On top of all these problems, we also ran into the protest against capitalism by Frankfurt’s own version of Occupy. We learned much later, via online news, that over 400 people were arrested here, out of 20,000 protesters. Polizei were everywhere, and they shut down several subway lines. After we reached our hotel, we immediately set out for the museum area of the city and toured the magnificent Stadel Art Museum, mentioned above in an abbreviated German title. The museum includes an old masterpiece and Impressionist and early Modernist collection rich in important paintings, including works by Grunewald, Van Eyck, Vermeer, Rembrandt, Poussin, Manet, Renoir, Courbet and many others. In the early 1930s, after the Nazis gained total control of the country, the collection lost 680 of its modern masterpieces, but now the museum has replaced those works with great examples of Symbolism and German Expressionism, particularly works by Beckmann and Kirchner. Besides the wonderful art, the museum also had a superb restaurant, called Holbein’s, since the museum has some fine works by that German Renaissance master. After a short rest at the hotel, we headed out to the Cathedral and the Romer Square, enjoying the old Germanic-type, reconstructed half-timbered houses and the smaller Gothic churches. We ate dinner at a fine restaurant, Margarete, in the neighborhood, enjoying such dishes as a superior curry-flavoured soup, and a linguine that was garnished with huge slabs of shaved Parmesan cheese, olives, greens and pignolas. We washed this down with a good French red wine. While we ate, a downpour started, and the waitress kindly called a taxi to take us back to the Dream Hotel. Yes, dear reader, this is actually the name of the hotel where we are staring in Frankfurt –am-Main. --Dan
We relaxed most of the last day that we spent in Strasbourg. We had originally intended to take the train to Nancy, but the times going back and forth did not work out. Dan visited the Palais Rohan, a neo-classical building built in 1730 for the Archbishop of Strasbourg. Inside the palace are a few museums; Dan visited the state rooms in the Decorative Arts Museum, and then he trotted upstairs to the Museum of Fine Arts. Highlights of the collection included a few Italian Renaissance works, some Italian Baroque paintings and some early Romantic works, mostly from France, with a good representation by local artists. Dan also again roamed the interior of the great Gothic Cathedral, amazed by all its exterior sculpture and the large collection of stained glass windows inside the church. Jim decided to relax and shop; his purchases included a flag of the city for the flagpole at Liberty Bell on Fire Island. He also bought a scarf to throw around his neck. In France Both men and women wear light scarves over their shoulders, in a dapper, French manner. Photos are of the great cathedral in Strasbourg--Dan
We met Jim’s new toy-train friend Holger from Ulm, who drove us in his Daimler to Mulhouse. There, we spent time at la Cite du Train, the largest train museum in Europe. Hundreds of trains from the start of French rail travel, in the 1850s, until the present, occupy the huge halls of the museum. Not only does the museum feature the history of the train’s development, but also there are thematic arrangements of trains (luxury travel, trains during the Resistance in WW II, etc). Technical buffs like Jim and Holger knew much about the individual trains and consider real trains to be the prototypes for their models. We had lunch at the museum, though the restaurant was swamped with visitors which the staff could not handle very well. After we saw more trains, we asked Holger if we could go to the Castle at Haut-Konigsbourg, the most visited tourist attraction in Alsace. It was not a long drive back to the chateau, but the site was also overwhelmed with tourists, since it was a holiday (Ascension, a legal holiday in France.) The huge Medieval castle included a steep walk up a mountainside, since the castle is almost 800 meters above ground level. Views from the top levels are amazing, particularly the far distant Vosges Mountains. After we left the castle, our new, lively friend Holger drove with us back to Strasbourg and we enjoyed dinner with him at the Restaurant Le Stras.’--Dan
Pictures by Jim, of Strasbourg: the swing bridge on the River Ile, near our hotel; old houses (16th century and earlier)in Strasbourg; our hotel, Regent Petite France; the St.Thomas Church, in the Romanesque style
There’s a convenient train from Strasbourg to Colmar. We had last been to that other fascinating city of Alsace many years ago. This time we took a taxi from the Train Station in Colmar to the d’Unterderlinden Museum. This museum, located in a former monastery, features many Medieval paintings from the Rhine River School, and numerous examples of interiors and decorative/practical arts from later periods. Everything from Renaissance locks to great bells, a Gothic paneled wooden room, and more fills the rooms of the musee. But the greatest treasure –and the reason for our return—is the famed Issenheim Altarpiece, painted by the great German painter Mathias Grunewald 500 years ago, in 1512. This Gothic masterpiece, in many panels, shows such scenes as the Crucifixion, the Resurrection of Christ and the Temptation of St. Anthony. All are painted in glowing colors, in a pre-Expressionistic style. Saintly figures glow and demons glower in the world of the amazing Grunewald. After studying the altarpiece, we saw a few other attractions in Colmar, including the Dominican church with its Schongauer painting of the Virgin in a rose garden, and outside the church a stork. Storks are now returning to the region, and have perched on roofs and trees for centuries in northern Europe. We also bought bread at a market near the church. The main catheedral, St. Martin's, also was built in the Gothic style. We returned to Strasbourg for a rich lunch of Alsatian food, such as a salad covered with melted Munster cheese and pike quenelles, which are almost like dumplings, and are served with spatzel. The local food is delicious and very hearty. Jim's pictures include the outside of the art museum, the Crucifixion by Grunewald, a stork and the interior of the Cathedral. –Dan
This morning we took an early train from Paris to Strasbourg, the main city of Alsace. The ride was only two hours and twenty minutes, and much of verdant French countryside passed before our eyes on the train. Strasbourg was a revelation, since the old district (called “Petite France”) turned out to be full of old Medieval and early Renaissance, half-timbered houses, with tall slopping roofs and dormer windows. (See Jim’s pics.) We walked from our comfortable hotel to the Cathedral, a glorious confection of the flamboyant, or High Gothic period. After lunch at the well-known ‘winstub’ Chez Yvonne, we visited the Cathedral and saw its amazing astronomical clock, and its brilliant stained glass rose windows. The district is full of the old, slopping houses, as well as the Ile River and the canals, where ducks and swans frolic. It’s an enjoyable and easy-to-walk city. A bit of rain headed our way, so we rested in the late afternoon at the hotel before heading out to a local restaurant, La Petite Alsace. There we dinned on Flamcuchen (a pastry shell topped with cheese or vegis), a delicious vegetable soup and a sancre, a meaty white fish served on choucout or sauerkraut. The mousse au chocolat and a hearty Medoc complemented this delicious Alsatian meal. –Dan