Friday, September 27, 2019

Floral Surprise

The biggest chore that I have to do before leaving for Mexico next month is to clear out my flower gardens.  A killing frost is nowhere in sight.  In fact we are still enjoying summer-like weather.  The temperature is even predicted to reach 90 one day next week.  Nevertheless the perennials have to be all chopped down.  I have made a good start in the flower beds behind the house.  Of course I am sparing for the time being the autumn flowers such as the asters and the toad lilies.

Yesterday I was looking out the window, and saw something blooming in the front flower bed.  I went outside and was amazed to find that my bearded iris, a spring bloomer, is flowering and has several more stalks of buds.  I looked at the bearded iris that I have out back, and I saw that it too is forming a stalk of buds.

I have never seen an iris bloom again in the autumn!

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Planning Session

It seems like I just got back from my trip to Europe, but I am busy getting ready to return to my home away from home, Mexico City.  I am leaving in less than three weeks, and I will be gone for more than a month.  I will be there again for the Day of the Dead festivities in late October and early November.  Then later in November, my cousin Gail and a friend of hers from college will come down for a week, and I will give them a tour of the city.  Both of them are very well traveled, but this will be their first time in Mexico City.  

On Tuesday, Gail and I got together, and over lunch and back at her house we did some discussion and preparation for the trip.  We were going to try out a Central American restaurant in the Cleveland suburbs, but when we got there we were surprised to find that it is closed on Tuesdays.  So we went down the road to the mall, and had lunch at a rather elegant Oriental restaurant.  (By no means was this a lunch at the food court!)  There we had a very good meal.

Over lunch I proposed some tweaks to the itinerary which I had written for them.  Then back at her place I sold her some pesos that I brought back from my previous trip to Mexico.  That way, they won't have to hit an ATM as soon as they arrive at the airport.  (I have become not only tour guide but banker too!)  I also brought a couple of tourist card forms for them.  Every once in a while the airlines will not have the forms to hand out during the flight to Mexico.  It's a nuisance to have to pick up the form at Mexico City airport and fill it out while standing in line at immigration.

I am eager to return to Mexico.  In fact if it were not the fact that I have things that must be done at home before I leave, I would jump on the next plane!

Sunday, September 22, 2019

An Exhibit to Look Forward To

I have written numerous times here about "Iturbide's Palace", one of many colonial mansions in the Historic Center of Mexico City.   The mansion was once the residence of Agustín Iturbide, the ill fated emperor of Mexico who ruled the country for less than a year after the nation won its independence from Spain.

In 1964 the building was purchased by Banamex (the National Bank of Mexico) and restored to its former beauty.  In 1972 it became the headquarters of the "Fomento Cultural Banamex", an organization established by the bank to promote, preserve and spread Mexican culture.  Several times a year, the "Fomento Cultural" holds art exhibits in the palace.  Admission to these exhibits is free of charge, and I have found them, more often than not, to be excellent.  Every time I return to Mexico City, I am eager to see if there is a new show at the palace.

On September 12 a new exhibit opened which promises to be one of the best ever.  It will be running until May of next year, so not only will I be able to visit it when I go back next month, but I will be able to take my cousin Gail there when she and a college friend come to visit me in November.

The exhibit is entitled "Grandes Maestros del Arte Popular Mexicano, 20 Años" (Great Masters of Popular Mexican Art, 20 Years).  Twenty years ago the "Fomento Cultural" published a book showcasing the work of 150 outstanding creators of Mexican popular art.  These masters go beyond being simply handicraft artisans.  Their work is truly art.  

Since then the "Grandes Maestros" program has promoted the work of these artists and many more beyond the original 150.  This exhibit contains over 5000 pieces of popular art by more than 800 artists representing every state of the Mexican Republic.

Here are a couple of photos from the "Fomento Cultural" website.  (You can be sure that there will be many more photos when I visit the exhibit in person.)

A copper vessel from Santa Clara del Cobre, Michoacán

A wooden "alebrije" carving by Jacobo Angeles from San Martín Tilcajete, Oaxaca.
I am proud to say that I have one of Jacobo's works in my home.

If you have read my blog for any length of time, you know that I love Mexican handicrafts.
I am looking forward to this exhibit more than any other that has appeared
Iturbide's Palace!

Thursday, September 19, 2019

The Cuyahoga Choo Choo

Yesterday I took an excursion right here in Ohio, one that I have long wanted to take... the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad.  This railway travels 51 miles from suburban Cleveland to Akron.  Most of the route passes through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.  My friend Frank bought tickets for us to take the round trip excursion yesterday. 

We arrived at the northern terminus of the railway, the Rockside Station, located in the Cleveland suburb of Independence.  As you can see, the weather was perfect.

The station stands next to the Cuyahoga, the "crooked river" that meanders to Cleveland where it empties into Lake Erie.

Running next to the river is a remnant of the old Ohio & Erie Canal.  The canal was built in the early 1800s, and crossed the entire state of Ohio, connecting Lake Erie in the north with the Ohio River in the south.  It was a major impetus in the development of the state.

The path that you see to the right of the canal is a portion of the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail. a hiking trail follows the old canal and extends 85 miles southward to New Philadelphia.

At 1:00 P.M. our train arrived.

The passenger cars are all restored, vintage train cars which the Cuyahoga Valley Railroad has purchased for preservation.

Our car was the most luxurious of them all, a car which is called the "St. Lucie".  It was built in the late 1940's in Port St. Lucie, Florida, and was a private railcar that was used on runs along the East Coast to Florida. 

The bar in the car features a mosaic made from linoleum that depicts the Seminole tribe of Florida.

Unfortunately, a previous owner of the car had glued carpeting onto the historic mural.  It was a labor of love undertaken by volunteers to remove the carpeting, and scrape off the glue.

Our excursion was even more fun because my friend Fred volunteers as a trainman and was on our car.

If your are a regular reader of this blog, you know that Fred and his wife Nancy have accompanied me on a couple of trips to Mexico... most recently last autumn to Mexico City for the Day of the Dead.  

Fred provides commentary during the train trip, pointing out places of interest along the way.  He is an excellent tour guide!

We passed a railway siding where train cars and engines that have been purchased by the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad are restored.  

The trip through the Cuyahoga Valley was lovely and relaxing.

There are a number of stops along the way, most notably the quaint station in the picturesque village of Peninsula.

Visitors to the Cuyahoga National Park who are bicycling or hiking along its trails can use the train to return to where they have parked their car.

The entire round trip takes around three and a half hours.  For anyone who is visiting the Cleveland area, I highly recommend it.  And if you live in the Cleveland or Akron area, don't wait as many years as I did to experience this local gem.

And thank you, Fred, for being a great guide!

Sunday, September 15, 2019

The Center of Attention

Alejandro sent me this photo he found on the internet.  (The photographer was uncredited.)  It is an aerial view of Mexico City's main plaza, the Zócalo, illuminated with the lights for the upcoming Independence Day celebrations.  This is the focal point of the festivities. 

The lack of traffic on the streets or of people on the square would indicate that the photo was taken very late at night.  I am sure that as I write this, the enormous plaza is filling up with people.  By tonight, the eve of Independence Day, the Zócalo will be jam-packed with thousands.  

The large building with several courtyards in the lower left hand corner is the National Palace.  At 11:00 tonight the President will appear on a balcony facing the Zócalo and ring the bell which was rung on September 16, 1810 to begin Mexico's fight for independence from Spain.  The President will then give the traditional "Grito de Independencia"... the Cry of Independence.  

¡Vivan los héroes que nos dieron patria y libertad!
¡Víva Hidalgo!
¡Viva Morelos!
¡Viva Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez!
¡Viva Allende!
¡Vivan Aldama y Matamoros!
¡Viva la independencia nacional!
¡Viva México! ¡Viva México! ¡Viva México!

Long live the heroes that gave us our fatherland and liberty!
(He then lists the heroes of the War of Independence.)
Long live Hidalgo!
Long live Morelos!
Long live Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez!
Long live Allende!
Long live Aldama and Matamoros!
Long live national independence!
Long live Mexico! Long live Mexico! Long live Mexico!

¡Viva México!

Friday, September 13, 2019

A Holiday Weekend

Mexico's Independence Day, September 16th, is one holiday which is never changed to make a long weekend.  However, since the 16th falls on a Monday this year, as I write this Mexicans are heading home from work and looking forward to a "puente", their term for a three day weekend.

Last Sunday evening, my friend Alejandro and his family went to the Zócalo, Mexico City´s main plaza, to see the Independence Day decorations.  The square was crowded with people, but not nearly as many people as will be there this Sunday.  On the eve of Independence Day the President of Mexico appears on the balcony of the National Palace, and rings the bell which was rung 209 years ago initiating Mexico´s fight for freedom from Spain. 

Here are some pictures that Alejandro sent me of the holiday lights.

The bell represented in lights is the bell which Father Miguel Hidalgo rang in the wee hours of the morning on September 16, 1810.

The eagle and the serpent, the emblem of Mexico

The two men pictured in lights are Ignacio Allende and José María Morelos, two other heroes of the War of Independence.

And finally a video which Alejandro took...

To my Mexican readers, happy Independence Day, and enjoy your weekend!

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Munich Music

I thought that I was done writing about my visit to Munich, but then I realized that I had some videos that I wanted to share with you.  In most big cities around the world you will find street performers, but it seemed as if there were more musicians playing on the streets in Munich than anywhere I had been before.  Many of the them were probably immigrants.  There were a number of them who were playing unusual Eastern European instruments.  And there was even one performer all the way from South America.

So here is a sampling of the music of the streets of Munich...

Monday, September 9, 2019

My Last Day in Munich

A week ago today my trip was coming to an end.  It was my last day in Munich.  It was a gray, chilly day.  Originally I had thought about visiting the Olympic Park, but this was the type of day that was best spent in a museum.  However, most museums are closed on Mondays.  Looking through my guidebook I saw that the Deutsches Museum was open daily.  It is supposedly the world's largest museum of science and technology, not exactly my cup of tea, but I figured that I might as well check it out.

I put on my rain jacket, grabbed my umbrella, and walked across town to the Isar River.

The museum is located on an island in the middle of the river.  I had to stand in line for about 20 minutes for a ticket.  This was the first time on the trip that I had a long line to enter an attraction.  

There was much that was of little interest to me.  I passed by rooms filled with power tools and machinery.

The aviation exhibit included an early airplane of the Wright Brothers.

They also had an example of the kind of plane flown by Baron von Richthofen ("the Red Baron") during World War I.

I thought the exhibit on mining in the basement might be interesting, but the endless stretch  of tunnels proved to be wearisome.

Recreation of a salt mine

Heading to the upper floors, I found some exhibits that were more interesting for me.

There was a glassblower at work, which is something that I have always found fascinating.

His beautiful work was for sale.  I did buy one very small item that I figured would make the journey home without breaking.  (Obviously not the glassware pictured below.)

The kid in me enjoyed the displays of technical toys.

An early German version of our "Erector Set".

Early Leggo sets

Cool antique building blocks

I was a geography teacher for a while, as well as a Spanish teacher, so the cartography section was interesting to me.

A reproduction of a world map from 1239 places Jerusalem at the center of the world.

This is a reproduction of the oldest known globe of the earth.
The original was made in 1492 in Nuremburg, Germany.

There were several screens with live weather satellite images.

Yes, Munich was definitely cloud-covered.

And Hurricane Dorian was battering the Bahamas.

After several hours at the Deutsches Museum, it was time to return to my hotel and pack my bags.

Farewell to Munich

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Lest We Forget

Germany is not all schnitzel and "oom-pah" music.  There is the dark side, the horrific era of Nazism and the Holocaust.  Now, more than ever, with the turn toward the right wing in many countries, and hate groups crawling out from under their rocks, it is important not to forget the lessons from the not-so-distant past.  So, a week ago today, a took a short train ride from Munich to Dachau, the site of the first Nazi concentration camp.

It is located ten miles from Munich, and was established shortly after Hitler took power in Germany.  It operated from 1933 until it was liberated by the Allies in 1945.  It was first used as a camp for German political prisoners... Communists and Socialists who opposed the Nazi regime.  After 1938 Jews were brought to the camp.  After World War II began, and German troops occupied other nations, Poles, Czechs, Russians and other nationalities were interned.  Homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses, Romani (gypsies) and other "anti-social" groups were also imprisoned.  It is estimated that during the twelve years of its existence more than 200,000 prisoners passed through Dachau.  It was primarily a forced labor camp rather than an extermination camp.  Nevertheless at least 30,000 prisoners died here from malnutrition, disease, suicide, gruesome medical experiments, and summary executions of prisoners for even the most trivial violations of camp rules.  As the Allies pushed in across the areas of Nazi conquest, prisoners from other camps were brought to Dachau until the overcrowding and hygiene conditions were unimaginable.  Typhus and malnutrition were rampant.  When the Allies liberated the camp there were around 200 deaths per day.

Today the former camp is a memorial to the victims of Nazism.

The gate house through which prisoners entered the camp

The iron gate bears the infamous slogan, "Work makes you free".
That slogan later appeared at other camps, including Auschwitz.

Most of the guard towers around the camp are still standing.

The entire camp was surround by a moat, an electrified barbed-wire fence, and a concrete wall.  Any prisoner venturing into the "no-man's" land in front of the moat was immediately shot.

There were thirty two barracks.  They were torn down, but are marked by their foundations.

Replicas of two barracks have been built.

The recreation of the interior cannot begin to portray the horror of the place when it was crammed far beyond capacity with prisoners.

The maintenance building, one of the few original structures remaining, now houses a moving museum that details the rise of Nazism and the history of the camp.
The large open area between the building and the barracks was were the prisoners were forced to stand each day, sometimes for hours on end, while role call was held.

 The crematorium was where the ashes of the dead were incinerated.

Late in the war, a gas chamber was built.  It was tested out once, but never used again.  No one knows why.

The ashes of the dead were thrown into a mass grave.

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."-
philosopher George Santayana