Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Why Do I Feel So At Home in Munich?

I love Germany and want to return even though I have barely arrived. Why is that? I think it was in a book written by Stephen Ambrose that I read about American soldiers feeling so at home in Germany after WWII. I had never been to the country until yesterday. Now I can tell you why I think Ambrose was right...I think Germany is a true reflection of what we aspire to be. Here in Munich I see such a beautiful seems to me at first glance that the Germans have vetted life and gotten rid of all the unnecessary neon leaving only what is wanted.

Even the hair dresser that is a short distance away does not have a sign out fact there is not a sign to be seen as you walk down the streets. The hair dressers just go about their business in a beautiful room with a window to the world. I don't know but I guess that if I walked in they would tell me how to get my hair cut. Tomorrow I will ask.

Last night we walked out into the neighborhood for supper. The beautiful warm weather brought parents out in droves to walk babies in strollers and let them play in the parks. It was good to see bicycles every where and the parks along the river full of runners. 

We walked from the Derag LivingHotel where we are staying to the Marienplatz. We turned right as we left the hotel, turned left at the Isar River and went east two bridges, turned left and took the first street to the right. As we wended our way through the 5 story high buildings, the fresh market came into sight. The walk took us about 20 minutes. We drank coffee and wandered through all the fresh produce. We went a bit more east and my husband came rushing back to find me. He led me by the hand around the corner and there it was...the most beautiful building I have ever seen. Part cathedral, part city hall, all German. 
In the Middle Ages markets and tournaments were held in this city square. Marienplatz was named after the Mariensäule, aMarian column erected in its centre in 1638 to celebrate the end of Swedish occupation. Today the Marienplatz is dominated by the New City Hall (Neues Rathaus) on the north side. The Glockenspiel in the tower of the new city hall was inspired by these tournaments, and draws millions of tourists a year. At the east side Munich's Old City Hall (Altes Rathaus) is located. It's a gothic council hall and ballroom and tower, which have been reconstructed.

The gazillionth photo of this beautiful structure...I did
not know that a city hall could look like this! WOW!
As spring arrives in Germany, the people emerge from every nook and cranny. Restaurants are set up in the street and beer gardens are everywhere. We drank coffee in the fresh market, ate in the the interior courtyard of the city hall and wandered through the shopping area to have a beer in an Irish pub. 
Fresh Market...home to a wonderful farmers market
and to a big beer garden during October fest I think.
Mount Angel, Oregon has a pole just like the one you see there.
Inner courtyard of the town hall...we had lunch here.
Glockenspiel on the new City Hall
I know that you can buy a Lonely Planet guide for all of this. It will be a great help. But no one can help you like a local waiter. Today the waiter at the Irish pub could not tell us the street we needed but simply pointed. We did not go wrong. When I told him that if I got lost I knew where he worked and would be back, he just laughed. We use Google Maps to get around but generally just follow our nose.

My husband asked me today what the plan was. I could only answer that if I was in front the plan was for him to follow me. If he were in front I would do the same. The best part of the whole day was rounding that corner and seeing the Neues Rathaus situated on the Marienplatz with outdoor restaurants filling the square. It was the thrill of a lifetime.

And yes, Stephen Ambrose was right...I do feel very much at home. I love that feeling!


Saturday, April 18, 2015

How to See Dubai Like a Local

I always feel at home. In fact the first blog I owned carried that name. Alway At Home in the world carries a special meaning for me. We try very hard to avoid tourist spots unless they are part of the bucket list we all carry with us. The places in Florence we saw were important to us before we left home and seeing them required standing in a line of tourist. It was worth every minute of our time. Dubai is the same. However we are trying to do what we do acting like it is part of everyday life. That my friend is a different experience than being a "tourist".

We visited the Palm here in Dubai yesterday traveling on the Metro from the airport through the city down the coast of the Persian Gulf. The Emirate has added land to the country in two spots creating a palm shaped land mass protected by a sea wall. The first of the two is a private area open only to people living in the area or those staying in the Burj El Arab. That particular hotel is so exclusive it has a 6* rating. (I did not know that was even possible). The second Palm is public and Atlantis Hotel sits at the top of the palm tree shaped area. Not far away the canal district which connects to the gulf is home to some of the most beautiful yachts I have ever seen. Some are several stories high.

Yacht Basin
This is the most modern and beautiful of all the Dubai that we have seen. Verdant green surrounds a lot of the area. The interesting thing is that this is the area where we saw the belief structure for the middle east come into play. On the monorail that supplements the Metro in this area there was a separate seating for women. On the other hand the women covered totally in the black robes are very uncommon.

I know that there are those of you that picture women totally covered from head to toe everywhere You will see groups out shopping in every mall you enter. But you need to realize that it is not required like it is in Saudi Arabia. The fact that the women in this country get to make a choice as to their modesty and reverence for their god is amazing and wonderful. The beauty I see is unparalleled. I have not seen henna except at a resort show. If the women are using it to decorate their bodies it is
not visible.

On our Metro ride we passed landmark structures like the one pictured below. The Burj Khalifa loomed over the downtown area.
One beautiful sky scraper after another passed the window as we traveled.
Metro lines clean, safe and are policed regularly. We loved the ride.
Taxis are cheap and regulated by a Rapid Transit Administration.
The country is beautiful.. We drove to a resort north along the coastline and had lunch at Trader Vics in a resort. We drove through the desert and saw herds of camels grazing alongside "Camel Crossing" signs and crossed a "camel guard" very like the ones we use in Eastern Oregon to keep cattle from wandering. The sand glistens and ripples in hues of gold and white.

Oddly enough we left Dubai and entered the Sharjah Emirate traveling north. As we left that part of the country we entered an Emirate that allows alcohol sales. We stopped to take a look at the ratty, isolated spot to find the parking lot for the store jammed and locals loading up. They were giving bottles of beer from Estonia away as a parting gift. It seemed very strange indeed.

Trader Vic's 
Even painted camels are fun!
No this is not "blue screened" in...we are really in the UAE desert!
I keep asking if a person ever gets used to seeing camels wandering about...the answer so far has been "NO".
We still marvel at the things that have morphed in order to fit into this world. There is a TGIT (Thank God It's Thursday) Restaurant in Beira. The biggest shopping souk in the area (The Blue Souk) is closed in Fridays, the Islamic day of rest but it simply feels like it is Sunday in the US. Magazines read from back to front but carry the same photos as the English speaking ones. Like the USA gas stations are everywhere but each one has it's very own mosque. Exhibits in museum have the information last, in the back corner of the room but carry English as well as Arabic. Time is measured in two dimensions, BC/AD or Islamic Hijri, but they are both noted. We are seeing that the world is very flat.

Have a wonderful day.


Thursday, April 16, 2015

Travel in Dubai: The Rest of the Story

In a world that is judged by bill boards and ad campaigns, Dubai stand as an example of what people think they know and what is real.  See, the Dubai I am seeing is not about extremely wealthy people or prices that are absolutely over the moon. I am seeing what Paul Harvey would have called "The Rest of the Story".  Only 1 in 5 people are Emirates citizens and rest are worker bees going about their lives much as they do everywhere else in the world.
My bicycle image for the day!
Today we traveled from Academic City to the Spice Souk on the other side of the city. Here is where spices from around the world are sold. But it is also home to a teaming mass of people buying kitchen utensils and shopping for the necessities of life. The smell of the market is wonderful and the salesmen are much the same as they are in Thailand or Mexico. This is not quite third world but almost.

Clothes hung to dry on apartment clothes lines.
We traveled by taxi day before yesterday down to the Dubai Mall and the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. It was there that we saw what Dubai really looks like. While the poster child of the Middle East is beautiful beyond compare, it has only begun to be what it might become.

This is the image we carry in our mind.
This is the rest of the story.
In the books and the images seen on travel sights, Dubai is one place. But when we stood looking at the world around the center of the city at the 124 story level, we saw a totally different image. While urban centers are springing up everywhere you look, the desert still dominates the landscape.

My son lives in Academic City out near the airport. When you look at maps you can still see his subdivision and the small shopping mall that is nearby. Giant apartment building are being built and I am sure will fill but the heart of this area has yet to be developed. Other cities are much the same, set far part on connected by beautiful highways. Each of the developments has it's own shopping and is designed it appears to attract like minded people. I am not sure how that works but the names of the cities tells a story all it's own.

As for the excesses of the Emirates, I will have to say that shopping here is much the same as it is in America. It just depends on where you shop...there is no Walmart...but people have to eat and if the nation wants for people to work they have to provide for their basic needs. It all seems to work out.

View from out restaurant by the lakes at the base of Burj Khalifa.

Burj Khalifa
So, I am still learning about the Dubai personality. Tomorrow we will visit the Palm, Atlantis Resort and yacht basin. I have a feeling that another story will be told there. Then we will head out into the desert, visit the Blue Souk and see even more.

The feeling that I am in Las Vegas has not gone away yet. But I am getting closer.


Friday, April 10, 2015

Are You a Tourist or a Traveler?

Burj Khalif...not the Emerald City. Tallest building in the world!
I keep reminding myself that I am not in  Kansas anymore!  Actually I have never been in Kansas but if I was there once I am not now...or something like that.

Travel books and goals are all wonderful but sometimes life just happens and what you think you want may not be what you get. If you are a tourist you will come home with horror stories. If you are traveler you will come home with bragging rights and much better stories. It is your choice. And the lessons you learn on the road will apply to your life from beginning to end.

We are in Dubai. We left Tucson, traveled to Houston for deep fried salt, flew to Frankfurt Germany where I learned about the German attitude towards limping, spent a week in Florence Italy where I learned to eat, flew back to Frankfurt to eat Irish Food and spend the night in a gorgeous hotel and flew to Dubai the next afternoon.

As I walked the streets seeing the real Italian lifestyle and beautiful sidewalk cafes, remarked on how Frankfurt reminded me of Portland and took pictures of the Dubai skyline, I remind myself over and over that this is not Las Vegas. This is the REAL THING! Those blue skies in Pisa with clouds wafting overhead are not painted on a ceiling in the Venetian Casino. That park along the Rhine in Frankfurt is not Tom McCall Park. The Mirdif City Center mall near Academic City here in Dubai is not in the USA. But most of all, the skyline here in Dubai is not Kansas's version of Oz.
Park on the Rhine no Portland's Tom McCall Park on the Willamette. 
Tower of Pisa with beautiful blue skies!
Dubai shopping mall...
women totally covered in Burqas walking by Victoria's Secret
Along the way there were flight mix-ups, difficulty with airports larger than your hometown and rain. Boy did we have a good time. Our oldest grandson is traveling with us. This is the first time he has traveled overseas...the first of a lifetime of travel I hope. It is fun to see it all through his though we are doing it for the first time all over again. I hope he is learning a lot because I know we are.

We will go to a resort to watch the tourist version of Arabian Nights, eat beautifully prepared foods at the Polo Club and take a taxi to the city center to see the tallest building in the world...and the rest we'll just make up as we go along. We are not tourist at all...we do not set out so see something. We set out to see what we see. We have never been disappointed. We are truly travelers.

Have a wonderful day!


From Florence to Dubai...without a cane!

Am I celebrating? Well maybe just a little...walking around Florence WITH a cane is no fun at all so I decided to ditch the baby and cowgirl up. The thing you should be impressed with is that I did not beg for a taxi.

The truth of the matter is we have never been a family that tried to do it all in one day, see every museum or learn everything that is written under every exhibit. Travel is all about discovery for us. The most wonderful things happen when you are not expecting it.

My son and daughter-in-law led the parade of Torris's on a path with the goal always just a five minute walk away...I know because I asked a lot! We walked across the Arno bridge with the beautiful jewelry shops to a restaurant set in a small plaza. We walked back stopping for gelato next to the bridge. The walk back to our apartment led us through the Piazza Duomo (cathedral named in honor of Santa Maria del Fiorestreets we did not know,lost just a little and eventually to the Mercato Centrale. Our apartment looked out onto the outdoor market and building. Over 12,000 steps I am told...NO TAXIS INVOLVED. Never let it be said I am not durable. That is a long way to limp.

Florence's cathedral stands tall over the city with its magnificent Renaissance dome designed by Filippo Brunelleschi. The cathedral named in honor of Santa Maria del Fiore is a vast Gothic structure built on the site of the 7th century church of Santa Reparata, the remains of which can be seen in the crypt.
Ponte Vecchio, Florence 

The Rhine, Frankfurt

We flew to Frankfurt, Germany on Sunday and spent the night in a hotel room a few blocks from the Rhine. The beautiful city and river park made us homesick for Portland. We all remarked on the almost spooky response.
Son's home in Dubai

We are in Dubai today getting ready to travel to a beach. More pictures tomorrow. 


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Eating Through A Day in Florence, Italy

It's All About the Food...
Feast for the Eyes
Proud chef in Pisa!
Breakfast hour in diners just beauty.
Sometimes only a Starbucks will do...
Frankfurt shuts down for Easter
...everyone but SB's!
Gelato and Grandchildren
Outdoor tables at Di Sasso di Dante
French Onion Soup 
Chandelier Distraction...who cares about the food!
Pasta Carbonara with Gluten Free Pasta
Beer of the world including Ommission Beer from Oregon.
Centrale Mercado upstairs eating court...a must!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Travel: Firenze, Italy (Florence to You)

Even after traveling all these years it still surprises me when I arrive in a city and find out that we Americans (and maybe the rest of the world) have given the city a name that locals do not use. We are in Florence Italy for a week. So it puzzled me when we first arrived here last Sunday that every business had the name Firenze over the door. What did that mean? Then it dawned on me that all this time I had been calling this beautiful city by the wrong name.

We are staying in an apartment just across the street from the central market here so we can wander over and buy vegetables or cheese on a whim. The apartment is very old but sparkling clean. Shutters can be closed to keep out the light and windows swing open wide to let the afternoon breeze blow through. No TV, just we 7 family members laughing and talking together. It is wonderful.

We walk everywhere in the city and today we went two blocks to the train station and rode through the countryside to Pisa to spend a few hours. The tickets cost less than $100 Euros for 7 people. I am learning that traveling around Europe could be easy if a person wanted to venture out. Safety is an issue with the airlines but passports are not. It seems very strange to us.

Read the tour books if you are interested in the museums or tours. I am not going to try to describe the experience of standing before Michelangelo's tomb or seeing the place where Galileo was laid to rest. Nor am I going to try to empress you with the beautiful image of Michelangelo's David statue or even pictures of the beautiful 4th largest cathedral in the world. So many words have been written about all of that, it is not necessary. Sometimes it is the quirky that catches my eye. Here are a few of my favorites so far:

Red tile roofs are normal, getting this close to one is not! Walkway to Dante's
Some graffiti is just too good not to photograph...train to Pisa.
Love under the Tuscan son and his wife!
Plaza in front of the leaning tower.
Letting a trains linger for too long is just an open invitation to the graffiti artist...very beautiful. 
It is required that anyone that visits Pisa must have their
picture taken hold the tower up. My oldest grandson and his little sister.
I want to tell you about traveling with a cane finding gluten free food but that will have to wait for another day. Stay tuned!


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