Monday, January 31, 2011

New Year - 55th Birthday

My Dad said that next year I would be speeding... but for now, I'm legal.  No one in the world has been happier than I am on their 55th birthday - of this I am certain.

The Yas sent a card and flowers... unbelievably beautiful flowers from the Rosencavalier Florist in Traunstein.
This arrangement is about 3 feet tall!
 Then, we spent the day in Munich.  What a wonderful day - trains, snow, coffee at Dallmayr (decandant marble pound cake), new slacks and shades for Peter and perfume for me!  To top it off, we had dinner with Sabina, Bernhardt, Nicolas and Patrick - our favorite pizza, champagne and wine.  They had lovely flowers for me as well.  We left their apartment on Kaiserstrasse at 8:20 pm and, with 2 minutes to spare, caught our 8:54 pm train to Traunstein from the Ostbahnhof... at 10:30 pm, we were in our apartment in Erlstätt!
The colors and arrangement are stunning!
We returned home to find a card from Matt Dull - what a sweetie - along with a cake and more flowers from our landlords (Sabrina and Walter and their 3 children)!
It has yet to be cut.
The promise of spring!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

New Year - Familiar Paths

Our afternoon walks through the countryside are wonderful.  There are two in particular that we like in Erlstätt - one takes us over a hill and into a neighboring village and the other through a field and a forest.  The snow is deep and falls regularly and yet we are always amazed at the number of people who walk every day on these paths.  Neither of us can remember what could be seen prior to the winter white.  In the spring, it will probably feel like we are in another place.

The field and forest
Sometimes we feel like we are walking in Siberia
The school buses do not go to every house.  If you lived on this farm, you would walk about a mile to catch the bus. German community development is very strict about where houses can be built and which services are connected.  Farms like this are extremely important to the economy.  Bavarian dairy production relies on such farms and they surround us.  At the same time, mass transit works where the majority of the people live (in the village).  Children of farmers are either met by their parents at the bus stop or they walk to the bus stop.  School has not been canceled a single time this winter.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

New Year - New Plans

Several options opened up this week for the year. 

First, we have a couple of trips lined up.  Munich for my birthday on Monday; Vienna for Valentine's weekend (Feb. 10-13); and Sicily with dear friends the first week of March.  Peter has a hankering to visit Olomouc, Czech Republic where we taught for several summers so that might enter the line-up as well.
Coffee House on the Odeonsplatz, Munich
And then, there were positive conversations with McGraw-Hill about a future with Robert Feldman's P.O.W.E.R. Learning textbook(s) for first year students;  Cindy Wallace and I have been involved with this project since 1999.  Both of us love working with first year college students and Bob Feldman is a very talented writer, faculty member, and university administrator (UMass-Amherst).  Our part of project has been to write the instructor's resource manuals and to provide workshops for faculty and administrators.  Being part of McGraw Hill's efforts has allowed us to meet incredibly interesting people. 
Life continues to be good.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

New Year - Normal Days

Sometimes it is a magical to live a normal day.  You know - the kind of day that consists of sleep, conversation, readings, a walk, and three simple meals.  The kind of day that is lived over and over because it is familiar and enjoyable.  Nothing spectacular happened and nothing disastrous did either.  Here is to the normal day.

A January walk in the fields of Erlstätt

Sunday, January 23, 2011

South Tyrol - walks and talks

Only 2 days after we returned from Marrakesh, we found ourselves back in South Tyrol. Nadja and Merko returned from Vietnam and we picked them up from the airport in Munich and drove them to Sterzing. Following a good night's sleep (we arrived at 1 am), we drove to Afers. Emma - as always - welcomed us and we stayed from Monday through Wednesday. It would have been longer but the weather report suggested that Thursday would be 0 degrees and precipitation --- not a good day to travel. During our brief stay, we managed a walk to our favorite Alm. The return trip required a little sledding time on our butts since it was simply too icy to try and walk down. A beautiful day in the Alps.

Pietler Kofl in the Dolomites
Peter bei Schätzer Hütte- he worked there as a teenager and as a child herded cows on the Alm
Joni at the Schätzer Hütte with Ortler Alps (Italy) in the background.
Skiers on the Plose.
The end of the run.

Marrakesh - El Bahia Palace

The Royal Palace reflects 19th century wealth.  Built in two periods by a father and a son, the El Bahia Palace is an irregular rectangle.  The internal gardens are lush - we saw banana, lemon, and orange trees.  The fountains and flowers were intoxicating - jasmine, bougainvillea, cypress, and poinsettias.  The tile work is astonishing and the jeweled glass work delightful.
Banana Tree
Poinsettia trees!
Fountains in the inner courtyard
Jeweled glass in the windows
Reflections on the walls from the glass windows

Marrakesh - The Saadian Tombs

We are easy to spot.  We are tourists seeking the Saadian Tombs in Marrakesh.  We are all walking around with sunglasses, backpacks, and maps.  There is NO signage to this amazing discovery and guidebooks warned us... "you will be approached by seemingly friendly residents who will lead you to the tombs and expect payment once you are at the door."  How hard can it be to find this extraordinary archeological discovery by pilots flying over Marrakesh in 1917?  Apparently - very hard.

We eventually stumbled upon a business man who was willing only to point the way - and paid the 10 Dirham entrance fee (less than 1 euro) each.  We are talking about a cemetery.  I have problems with the notion that I should pay someone to show me where the cemetery is... and that might be MY problem, not theirs.

The Tombs are an astonishing site of solitude and peace ... beautiful, quiet, calm and restful in this tumultuous city.

We shared the secret pathway with the next tourists we saw -- backpack and map in hand - and we did not ask them for money.

Marrakesh - Jemaa El Fna

Okay - I have written about the Jemaa El Fna before, but there is more to say and show.  It is the heart of Marrakesh and the world crosses through it.  Innumerable languages; cacophony of drums, flutes, and bells; jumbled traffic of cars, pedestrians, motorcycles, bicycles, donkey carts, trucks, horses, and carriages.  Smoke and fire from food stalls selling temptingly roasted chicken and french fries.  Clearly, my favorite place.
Yep - that's us at the edge of Jemaa El Fna
People, people, people headed towards the Jemaa El Fna

Woman bargaining for her fresh vegetables
Leather goods

Clothing for all
The Mosque at sunset
Jemaa El Fna at night

Marrakesh - Joni and the camel

The only item on my Morocco "wish list" was to ride a camel.  Don't know why this was such a big deal except I didn't have any idea of when I would ever be able to do it again.  So here are the pictures of my personal favorite Moroccan moment.

Procuring a camel is easy - these are down from the Menara Gardens and Pavillion on the outskirts of the old city.  I had help getting on and once I was up, it was easy for me (don't know about the camel).  It was a bit like sitting on an old couch and swaying along.  My camel (we called him Figaro) was sweet tempered and kind.  It was rather thrilling and I would definitely do this again!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Reflections and images of Marrakesh

There is so much more to share about Marrakesh than you would like to read so I will share these pictures and an observation. 

The reason I like Marrakesh more than Casablanca or Agadir is because of Jemaa El Fna.  The central market place of Marrakesh is a jumble of everyone - poor and rich, visitor and resident.  Rather than the false separation of the coastal towns (rich on the beach, poor beyond the shores)... everyone meets in the middle of Marrakesh.  It is vibrant, noisy, open, and alive because everyone has space in the middle. 
The chickens on the back of his bike are alive.
Do you realize how difficult it is to keep Peter from buying carpets?
Dancers and Musicians
Fragrant flowers and herbs
Unbelievably good orange juice - fresh, pulpy and sweet!

Saturday, January 15, 2011


We think the words on the mountain side are "God, Country, King"
On the west coast of Morocco the longest beach front town is Agadir.  It is a well known vacation spot for Germans and so we decided to take a look.  It meant crossing the Atlas Mountains and Peter was really excited about this aspect of the trip.  Remember, I am married to an historian.  There are no trains to Agadir and we had witnessed enough crazy driving in Marrakesh to be timid about driving so we went to the bus station which is beside the train station.  With only 300 Dirham in our pockets we tried the ATM in the train station but it was out of order. We figured there would be another one in the bus terminal but we were wrong. 

Unlike our train station ticket experience, the third world mentality of transportation was revealed in the bus station.  Two women and a man were behind the counter and perhaps ten or so people were crowded up trying to buy tickets that were pre-printed but had to be scribbled on by the clerk for use.  It took us about 5 or 6 minutes to figure out how things were working and then we managed to call out "Agadir" during a nanosecond of quiet and hold up two fingers.  One of the women looked up and acknowledged our order and signed the tickets.  I handed her 200 Dirham for 2 one-way tickets to Agadir with the knowledge that we would need to get money and return tickets once we arrived on the coast.

The bus was new and very nice - and one travels to Agadir from Marrakesh every two hours beginning at 9 am.  And, there is a fine new motorway that has been built through the mountains to encourage more traffic on this old trade route.  The trip takes 3.5 hours and includes a 20 minute stop at a fancy motorway rest stop and cafe.  It was extremely pleasant and the views of the countryside told a completely different story than the cityscape.  If you want to go to Agadir - this is a very pleasant way to do it.  Peter commented on how the mountains looked like those we had seen in the Caucasus and he had seen in Alaska.  The highest peak of the Atlas is Toubkal, with an elevation of 4167 metres (13671 ft) and is visible from the road.  This particular motorway was just opened last year (built from 2006-2010) and is extremely nice.  Once out of Marrakesh, we believe that driving to Agadir would be easy.  The bus terminal in Agadir is a long ways away from the beach and you need to take a cab to the shore.  Both of our Agadir cab drivers used a meter - a very novel idea - and so no bargaining was needed for the trip.

In the end, we don't recommend Agadir for its history or things to do.  It was destroyed in 1960 by an earthquake that killed at least 15,000 people and left the ancient Kabash in ruins.  It has been rebuilt as a resort town with huge hotels on the waterfront, a pleasant promenade, and nice outdoor restaurants.  There is a fortress at the end of the long cove that makes for an outstanding view point but in the end, it is just that.   Miami's South Beach, France's Cannes, and Spain's Mallorca are more interesting as urban beaches.  Emerald Isle (NC) and Sullivan's Island(SC) are simply prettier than any of them.
View from our table at lunch
The big news was that the King of Morocco (Muhammed VI) was in town.  The Moroccan flag was everywhere and police were stationed at every intersection.  And, as we departed Agadir that afternoon, we witnessed his motorcade whisking him to the airport.  Lots of black humvees and blinking lights with uniformed men looking out the vehicle windows.

I think next time we would chose to explore Essaouira.
Agadir Beach front

Tiny Dancer - she swirled and danced with her shadow for almost 30 minutes.

Snow-capped Atlas Mountains

Friday, January 14, 2011


Peter in our authentic Moroccan restaurant - vegetable tagines beyond compare!
Epic, legendary, romantic.  Who would have thought that a girl from Wilson, North Carolina would ever be in Casablanca?  Certainly not me.

When you think of Peter and me in Morocco think of the following scene in Indiana Jones:

Elsa: It's perfectly obvious where the pages are. He's given them to Marcus Brody.
Professor Henry Jones: Marcus? You didn't drag poor Marcus along did you? He's not up to the challenge.
Walter Donovan: He sticks out like a sore thumb. We'll find him.
Indiana Jones: The hell you will. He's got a two day head start on you, which is more than he needs. Brody's got friends in every town and village from here to the Sudan, he speaks a dozen languages, knows every local custom, he'll blend in, disappear, you'll never see him again. With any luck, he's got the grail already.
Cut to middle of fair in the Middle East, Marcus Brody wearing bright suit and white hat, sticking out like sore thumb]
Marcus Brody: Uhhh, does anyone here speak English?

We are white - albino white - amid a world of exotic dark beauty.  The cab driver knew we 1) had more money than he had, 2) wanted to see Casablanca, and 3) could be charmed by a smile and stories of his children (ages 6, 10, and 15).

For only 200 Dirham, he would show us Casablanca for two hours.  He wanted 250 but we agreed on 200.  Big mistake.  Note to self... next time - pay the full price.

He showed us Rick's Cafe, the stunning mosque, the ocean and the waterfront promenade, the villa of King Abdullah Bin Abdulazic (Saudi Arabia), neighborhoods of the rich and famous, and fantastic shopping streets.  Then - as per our request - he took us to a wonderful restaurant for an incredible meal.  It was only a short walk straight ahead to the train station.


The food was delicious.  The restaurant was authentic, intimate, and memorable.  The train station was 3 kilometres away through a district reminiscent of the old ASU/NY Loft on Vestry Street.  Perilously close to dangerous poverty.  A drunken man verbally abused a woman on the street in front of us and we saw but did not intervene.  Later, she stood in the middle of traffic - confused and belligerent.  My heart said "save her" and my brain said "walk on."  This continues to trouble us both.

The ocean front athletic club for swimming and relaxing.
The ocean pounded the shoreline.  It was a dramatic and breath-taking.  The old palace did not allow photos and the lack of maintenance was evident.

We left at 4:50 pm and arrived in Marrakesh at 8 that evening.  Glad to be "home."
Rick's Cafe

Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca - built from 1986-1993 - on the ocean.

Stunning naves

The extraordinary tile work and me... in a pashmina head covering.  Take one wherever you go!