city at night

city at night

Friday, June 28, 2019

Coming Events

One thing that I have found annoying about Mexico is that the dates of upcoming events are usually not announced far ahead of time.  This is not a good practice if Mexico wants to promote international tourism for those events.  A potential visitor wants to make travel plans more than a few weeks ahead of time. 

On the Mexico City travel forum on Trip Advisor people frequently ask when the Day of the Dead Parade will be held.  And we have to reply that a date has not been announced and probably will not be announced until a scant month ahead of time.

Well it seems that someone in the city government wised up.  A few days ago the Secretary of Culture, promoting Mexico City as the "Cultural Capital of the Americas" announced a calendar of upcoming festivals for 2019.  The events include a Latin American Film Festival, an International Book Fair, and... the much anticipated celebrations for the Day of the Dead!

So, if you are interested in visiting Mexico City for the Day of the Dead, mark your calendars, because here are the dates for the big three events during that season.

The Parade of Monumental Alebrijes
Saturday, October 19th 

The Alebrije Parade of 2018

Since 2007 the Museum of Popular Arts has sponsored a parade of "alebrijes".  "Alebrijes" are colorful sculptures of fantastical creatures made of wood, cardboard or papier mache.  The parade consists of BIG "alebrijes", some of them as tall as 12 feet high, and there are usually around 200 entries.  It is generally held on the Saturday two weeks before the Day of the Dead, and that will hold true again this year.  I have been to the last two parades, and I plan to go again when I am there in October.  It is great fun, and, surprisingly, there is not an enormous crush of spectators along the parade route.   

The Mega-Procession of "Catrinas"
Saturday, October 26th

The Procession of "Catrinas", 2018
Last year was the first time that I attended this event.  Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people march down the Paseo de la Reforma dressed and painted as "catrinas" (or the male counterpart, "catrines"), the elegantly dressed skeletons that are an iconic part of the Day of the Dead festivities.   The crowds are bigger for this event, but I was still able to get close-up photos of the participants without waiting for hours along the procession route ahead of time.  Last year the procession was held on Sunday, the day after the Alebrije Parade.  This year, however, it will be on the Saturday before the Day of the Dead.  I definitely want to attend again this year.

The Grand Parade of the Day of the Dead
Saturday, November 2nd

Day of the Dead Parade in 2017

This year will mark the 4th annual Day of the Dead Parade.  I have attended the last two parades.  It had an unlikely origin.  The 2015 James Bond film "Specter" opened with a Day of the Dead parade in Mexico City... something that, in truth, had never been a part of the city's observance of the holiday.  But after that, tourists began asking when the Day of the Dead Parade would be, so in 2016 the city organized the first parade.  Some Mexicans still refer to it derisively as the "James Bond Parade" and say that it is a "fake" event. But it is hugely popular with Mexicans and tourists alike.  When I first attended there was a big crowd of spectators.  Last year, the crowd was at least twice as big.  I would not be surprised if there were a million people along the parade route.

Both years the parade was held the Saturday before Day of the Dead, but this year the holiday falls on a Saturday, and that is when the parade will be held.  I am not sure if I want to put up with the enormous crowds again this year, but the parade is definitely a great event... despite its detractors.  

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Japan Comes to Cleveland

Today my friend Gayle (not to be confused with my cousin Gail) and I went to the Cleveland Museum of Art.

We went to see a special exhibition of Japanese art called "Shinto - Discovery of the Divine in Japanese Art".  

The exhibit contains painted scrolls and screens, clothing, sculptures, offerings and religious objects related to the Shinto religion of Japan.  The collection included works from numerous museums in the United States as well as many from Japanese museums and shrines.  Some of the objects have never left Japan before and are designated as "Important Cultural Properties" by the Japanese government.  Cleveland is the only city where this exhibit is being shown because, I suspect, our museum has one of the largest collections of Oriental art outside of Asia.  

Since many of the pieces are actively worshipped in Japanese shrines today, out of respect, photography was strictly prohibited.  However, here are a few pictures taken from the Cleveland Museum of Art's website...

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

A Taste of Things to Come

Regular readers of my blog may remember my friend Irma.  She is originally from Mexico, and she was the wife of one of my college Spanish professors.  She lives just a few minutes away from me, and we have kept in touch over the years... er, I should say, decades.

Yesterday I took her to downtown Cleveland for a taste of what I will be experiencing later this summer.  We went to the Hofbrauhaus Cleveland, modeled after the famous beer hall in Munich, Germany.  

The restaurant is a cavernous place, although not nearly as large as the German original, I am sure.  As in a beer hall, the patrons sit at long tables.  On the stage a couple of musicians were playing German music.

I am not a beer drinker, but Irma ordered a mug of dark beer.  We both started with "goulashsuppe"... goulash soup.  I have been looking online at the menus of restaurants in Vienna and Munich, and that is something that is found on many of the menus there.

Tuesdays are the Hofbrauhaus Cleveland are "Schniztel Tuesdays", so there was a special menu of schnitzel specialties.  Irma ordered something called a "Reuben schnitzel".  It was a pork cutlet covered with sauerkraut, corned beef and Swiss cheese.  German potato salad was served to the side.  I am not sure how authentic the dish is, but it was tasty, and, as you can see, the serving is enormous.

I ordered the "Paprika schnitzel"... schnitzel served with a paprika sauce... with a side of spaetzle.

I was certainly full by the time I finished the schnitzel, but I had my heart set on "Apfelstrudel"... apple strudel.  However, after looking at the dessert menu, the "Scharzwaelder Kirschtorte"... Black Forest cake, caught my eye.

It was a BIG piece of cake.

"Das Essen ist sehr lecker!"  The food is very tasty!  And the atmosphere is very festive. The only downside to the place is that, between the acoustics of the cavernous hall and the music playing, you can't expect to have a conversation with your dining partner here.

If the food here is indicative of what I will find in Austria and Germany, I am in trouble.  I am going to have to do a LOT of walking to burn off the calories!

Monday, June 17, 2019

When Will I Finish My Garden?

Here in Ohio the rains continue, and I am way behind on my gardening.  Last Friday we had a beautiful, sunny day, and I worked outside for eight hours,  But because of the rains earlier in the week, much of the time I was working in mud.

Saturday was a gray, chilly, drizzly day, and by evening the drizzle gave way to heavier rain.  Sunday saw more downpours and flood warnings along the Cuyahoga River.  Today the forecast calls for clouds but no rain.  However, the yard is a swamp.

My complaints are trivial, however, compared to those of the farmers in Ohio and much of the Midwest.  The heaviest spring rains in memory have been a disaster for them, and has  made it impossible for them to plant their fields.

The weather everywhere is crazy, but the Orange Pendejo says that there is no climate change.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Hopefully, the Plan is Finalized

If you have been reading this blog over the course of the last year, you know that my planned trip to Europe this August has been going through many twists and turns.  For those who haven't been following along, here is a brief summary.  My cousin Gail and her husband Wes had booked a guided tour of Switzerland.  I was going to meet them there at the end their tour, and they were going to spend several days visiting our ancestral town of Othmarsingen and meeting our Swiss cousins.  Then their tour was cancelled, and everything was up in the air.  But they found a tour with another company that fit into our time frame.  Meanwhile, I was thinking of visiting Iceland on the way to Switzerland since Icelandair had non-stop flights from Cleveland.  Then Icelandair canceled service from Cleveland, so I scratched Iceland off the itinerary.

I was going to stay with my cousin Brigitta who lives in Uster, a town not far from Zurich, and Gail and her husband had booked a hotel room in Uster.  During the weekend that we were going to be there, Brigitta was planning a big family get together at her home.  But, as I wrote previously, that plan was cancelled because her husband Peter was having an out of town reunion of his family that weekend.  Fortunately, Brigitta's brother Werner (who lives in Spain) was going to be in Switzerland and was going to take us under his wing during Brigitta and Peter's absence.  

So now for the latest twist...
Werner wrote to me a couple days ago that it would be very inconvenient for us to stay in Uster.  If you look at this map you see that Uster (U) is located to the east of Zurich (Z).

However, Othmarsingen (O), our ancestral town and where Werner will be staying, is to the west of Zurich.  It's a 50 minute drive from Othmarsingen to Uster… sometimes double that when the traffic is heavy.  It's too much time spent on the road going back and forth between the two towns.  So Werner  suggested that we stay in Lenzburg (L) which is a quick eight minute drive down the road from Othmarsingen.  He recommended a hotel there which located near Schloss Lenzburg, one of the best preserved castles in Switzerland. 

Here is our revised itinerary.   I fly into Zurich on a Wednesday. Brigitta and Peter will meet me at the airport and drive me to their home, where I will spend two nights.

On Thursday morning Gail and Wes finish their tour.  They will be dropped off at Zurich Airport where the other members of the tour group will catch their flights home.  Werner will drive to the airport, pick up Gail and Wes, and take them to their hotel in Lenzburg.  They will have the afternoon on their own, and perhaps they will visit Lenzburg Castle.

On Friday morning Werner will drive to Brigitta's house, pick me up, and take me to the hotel.  (I made my reservations last night.)  We will then have the rest of Friday and Saturday to explore Othmarsingen.  We will visit the town's church which was built in 1675.  

Our great grandparents were baptized there, as well as countless generations of ancestors before them. 

We will also take a short hike to the remains of the stone quarry which once belonged to our great great grandfather.  We will visit Werner's other sister, Ruth, who lives in the town.  And Werner will see if he can arrange for us to visit the house in which our great grandparents were born.  On Saturday we will have lunch at a traditional restaurant located in the nearby forest.  Joining us will be Niklaus, a former town councilman, who was the person who helped me find my Swiss family.

On Sunday, another cousin, Walter, and his wife Helen have invited us to their home in Aarau (A on the map above).  They are going to have a family barbeque, so Gail and Wes will have a chance to meet even more of the Swiss cousins. 

After that shindig, Werner will drive them to a hotel near the airport so that they can catch their flight home on Monday morning.  I will stay on until Tuesday morning, when Werner will take me to the Zurich station for my train to Vienna.

It looks like a great time, and hopefully, there will be no more changes to our plans.  

Thursday, June 13, 2019

A Family Heirloom

In 1873 my great grandmother, Susan Marti, who was nine years old at the time, immigrated to Ohio from Switzerland along with her parents and siblings.  In 1885 she married my great grandfather, Charles Plau, the son of a German farmer.  Charles died at the age of 33, but in the nine years that the two of them were married, they had five children.  My maternal grandfather was the middle child.

Susan later remarried and had two daughters from that marriage.  One of those daughters many years ago gave my mother a number of items which had belonged to Susan.  Among those items was Susan's wedding ring from her first marriage.  It is a beautiful ring with a garnet and six small pearls.

The ring has been locked away in my safe, but a couple weeks ago I got it out and took it to a jeweler.  They cleaned it and checked that the prongs were tight.  The jeweler said that it was in excellent condition.

I want this family heirloom to stay in the family.  So, it is going to make the journey with me to Switzerland when I go to visit my Swiss cousins in August.  I am going to give it to my cousin Brigitta, and she can pass it down to her daughter.  

Great grandma Susan never returned to Switzerland, but her ring will soon cross the ocean to her homeland.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

In the Box

As I mentioned in my last post, this has been an extremely rainy spring here in Ohio.  Last weekend we had heavy rains late Saturday night.  Although the sun came out on Sunday, it was too wet to work in the garden.  I had to content myself with planting the large flower box outside of my bedroom.  

My flower beds are filled with perennials so that I do not have to plant flowers each summer.  However, I fill the flower box with showy annuals.

I planted miniature dahlias.  Did you know that the dahlia is native to Mexico and is their national flower?

I also planted calibrachoa, a plant which is related to the petunia.  It is sometimes called "million bells" because of its profusion of blossoms.  Like the petunia, it is native to South America.  However, it is named after a Mexican botanist, so I guess I have something of a Mexican theme going on in the flower box.

When I was at the nursery I could not resist this Canna lily with its striking, mottled yellow flowers.  I planted it in a large pot and set it next to the flower box.

Something I didn't know about the Canna lily...  It is one of the oldest domesticated plants in the Americas.  For thousands of years it has been cultivated by natives in Latin America for its starchy, edible root.

By July, the flower box should be a solid mass of flowers... a pretty sight to wake up to in the morning.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

It's Raining, It's Pouring

It has been an exceptionally wet spring here in Ohio.  Yesterday morning around 9:00 A.M. it was raining heavily, and I thought, "Well, I won't get any gardening done today."  The forecast said that the sun would come out later in the day.  The rain did stop, but, as the English say, we only had a peek of sun.  It was much too wet to do any work outside.  Then, in the late afternoon the heavens opened again, and there was a lengthy downpour.

The back yard was a swamp.

In front, the street was flooded, and the area where the gas company had been digging was a muddy mess.

Around 11:00 P.M. once again there was a brief shower.  This morning it is cloudy, but it is not supposed to rain.  The flooding is gone, but it is still much too wet to do any gardening.  With fingers crossed, I hope that I can get some work done tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Another Bed

It's that time of year when my readers must wonder if this is a travel blog or a gardening blog.  When I return from my spring trip to Mexico, it is always a race to complete my gardening before I take off again.  It usually takes until the end of June before everything is the way I want it.  The extremely rainy weather this spring is not helping.  Last week I finished another flower bed, this one to the side of the garage.  This entire bed was redone a few years ago when I removed several overgrown shrubs.  Much of it has filled in very nicely.

To the right you can see the yellow flowers of the first clump of day lilies that blooms each spring.  Behind that you can see a few blossoms from another clump of Siberian iris.  In the center, the lilac bush has already bloomed.  (The fragrance was wonderful while it lasted.)  Behind it is a spirea that is about ready to bloom.  

I mentioned in an earlier post that I had bought some bearded iris.  Here is one that I just planted in that bed.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

What a Mess!

It started before I had returned from Mexico.  The gas company began putting in new lines along our street.  Yesterday they reached my house and last night used my tree lawn as a parking lot for their heavy equipment.

I am keeping my fingers crossed that their work will be confined to along the street.  I have not seen them digging up the lines leading up to the houses.  If they do it could mean that some of my landscaping gets dug up too.  

Monday, June 3, 2019

My Jaguars

It was maybe about ten years ago that I noticed that the handicraft stores in Mexico began selling jaguar figurines.  Most of them were made out of clay, and those came from a small town in the state of Chiapas called Amatenango del Valle.  

I now have three small figurines. The blue and white one was purchased on my most recent trip.

I also have a small collection of jaguar heads which are hanging on a wall in my bedroom.

Most of them are of clay from Chiapas.  One, however is made of wood and was created by an "alebrije" artist from the town of San Martín Tilcajete in the state of Oaxaca.

This one is my latest addition to the collection.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Excellent Article

Here is an excellent article on Mexico City which just appeared on "The Cheapest Destinations Blog"...

Are You Avoiding Mexico City?