January 27, 2018


The other day on the way home from work I went to do my usual opposition research (looking for Hannity on the radio dial) and he was nowhere to be found. In his place was one of those financial shows that are really just long paid advertisements. But within the show it also had advertisements. 

For salt. Ever heard an ad for salt? Me neither.

Turns out that salt has a lobby. And it wants old people to know that if you don't eat enough salt you could have health problems.

And it has a mascot, Old Salty, who you can follow on Facebook.

You're welcome.

January 21, 2018


Yesterday was an amazing day -- the mama's 90th birthday. Middlesis arranged for a party, which was lovely. Because her birthday falls on Inauguration Day, and the Women's March was happening across the street from the restaurant, all manner of things occurred. Nonetheless, it was super.
I picked up the cake from the bakery, which was across the street from where the mama and I get our hair cut. I popped into the salon to say hi to our stylist friend, gathered a hug for the mama.

Mom was surprisingly together, and middlesis had put out the mama's outfit for the day. We started getting calls at the apartment that the flowers couldn't be delivered to the restaurant because of the protests. And from my sister saying that an hour later she hadn't been able to get close but that we should drive right up to the cops and tell them our predicament when we were on our way.

The flowers were in the lobby as we (the mama, the bro-in-law and I) left, and we picked them up and took them outside with us. I soon got the opportunity to meet the building maintenance manager after I pulled away from the curb with the flowers on the roof of my car. Oh well. He took care of the glass, and we brought the flowers with us. Plus I got to see the maintenance room, which is completely awesome looking. I should break things more often!

The frenchman is much better with directions than most other non-drivers. He got us where we needed to go, and we drove up to a cop at a roadblock with smiles on our faces. We told him that we were headed to the restaurant with our 90-year-old mom for her birthday. "I heard about you!! Happy birthday!!" he said, and sent us on our way. At another roadblock closer to the action / the restaurant, ladies in pink waving banners and motioning helpfully for us to turn around, and we met our next policeman. Let me just say that if you have a 90-year-old and a big-ass bouquet of flowers in the car with you (and a frenchman) people will let you do practically anything. The policeman told us to move along with caution. Mom kept cracking jokes about how all of this (the protests) was being done in honor of her birthday.

At the restaurant we had a room to ourselves, a dedicated waiter, a monitor for the photo slide show I'd spent all evening making on Friday, and almost all of the people the mama would want to see. Bro is currently in bed, recovering from a hip replacement. This time last year we weren't sure if he was going to live, so the fact that his insurance company would invest in a new hip is pretty darned amazing.

After the party the mama was so pooped that she could barely move. I got her back home and started to get her into her jammies. His broliness called at that moment and I didn't want her to miss that call but also knew that she might fall asleep soon, so I didn't stop undressing her. She was on the phone laughing while I took off her clothes and describing the whole situation in minute detail to the bro.

On the way out of the mama's building, I saw one of the Wellness staff all dressed up in fancy garb reflecting her heritage. It was what I imagine is a North African dress -- she was wrapped in creamy loose-woven material with pretty red and gold trim, and carrying a fancy gold handbag. Since I saw her in purple scrubs in the morning, I barely recognized her. She was heading to the wedding of another Wellness nurse, being chauffered by yet a third wellness nurse (the sweet guy with the fancy car he likes to show off). That little scene in the lobby was the capper to the day -- a community of really nice people who care for each other *and* for my mother. I headed home, did all of my exercises, mindfulness, water drinking for my Whole Life Challenge, ate some quinoa and went to bed. 18 hours later I'm still in my jammies.

Germany 2017 Post 18

Time to head back home. We drove to Leipzig. Took the train to an airport hotel in Frankfurt and stayed overnight. I protested this sign by having a weird and tasty veggie burger:
And then, as mrguy says, hijinks ensued. The next day's plan was to fly from Frankfurt to Charles de Gaulle and from there back home. Then the time of our connecting flight was moved up. The connection had already been tight, but it was going to be a miracle if we made it. Once we got to CDG we were literally running on their long walking sidewalks. And our knees and feet were really failing us at this point. Folks at the airport were completely blase and unhelpful. We were at a TSA checkpoint with our boarding passes in our hands and the flight crew paging us overhead and nobody lifted a finger. We got to the gate, huffing and puffing, pointing at our boarding passes. Our plane was on the ground in front of us, but they'd already closed the door. Boo!

This was sad, but we rolled with it. Thus begins the side trip I call "Inadvertent France". The people at United were super nice, and set us up on the same flight the next day. We stayed at an airport hotel 3 Metro stops away from the airport. 
The people at the hotel were also unbelievably nice. They gave us Easter chocolates and comfort. And the food in Inadvertent France made me feel like I might be in Regular France, but I don't know any better.
Inadvertent France also afforded me a new stamp in my passport and that alone went a long way toward making it worthwhile. The next day, same time as before, we were on our way.
So ends Germany 2017. Man that was an awesome trip.

Germany 2017 Post 17

It turns out that Easter Monday is a thing. So much so that they just shut stuff down and we couldn't really drive to Poland, which is 20 minutes away from where we were staying. But who needs passable roads when it's Easter Monday? You people should be home with your family. 

I was really looking forward to Poland. Instead, we visited the Schminke Haus in Lobau.
Although the descriptions on the property refer to it as "one of the four most important residences of the modernist movement worldwide", we'd not heard of it.

And it is super cool. I loved the built-ins in the kitchen.

You can rent this place for a night, which would be pretty interesting, I think:

Since the time when we visited, they began filming a music series on site. If you want to see Conchita sing the catalog of Cher, please follow this link.

Having been blocked from seeing Poland, we agreed that going back to the shack and hanging out was the perfect thing to do.

When we returned, the weather turned gorgeous, the apple trees were blossoming, the skylights filled our apartment with sun.

Germany 2017 Post 16

Easter was the day we'd been looking for.

We drove back into town. It was cold and ominous. I was hoping for snow but mrguy, who was doing all the driving, was not.

People assemble early for the festivities, and in the hours we waited in the cold across the street from the church the weather changed frequently. I kept trying to cheer up mrguy during the freezing rain, with moderate success.
While the service was happening inside, a man in a floppy hat appeared on the steps of the church and made an announcement. Then church let out, and the priests in beautiful garb holding banners spoke.

Then, the horsemen.
A procession of roughly 50 men wearing tails and top hats slowly rode the block around the church and then up to the church steps. The priests handed off the banners to the lead horsemen, who placed them in holsters somewhere on the bridles of the horses, and then they began singing hymns in Sorbian while circling the church again. This is what we came for. Singing dudes on horses.

The horsemen ride like this to all of the nearby Wendish communities, stopping at each to sing. The horses are watered and rested, the men get a bite to eat, and then they ride on. By around 3pm they return to the original church in Bautzen.

As for us? We were officially done with Easter. We headed home, where our hosts had opened their dining area across the street to locals who wanted an Easter breakfast. It seemed to be mostly them and their friends, with some big sweet dogs joining in to be petted.

Then back to our cozy apartment, where we drank coffee and read the New York Times all day.

We ate the last of the white asparagus for dinner.

Germany 2017 Post 15

Wei├čenberg is 5km away from Bautzen. Mrguy had found us an apartment on a farm, which was really cozy.

The drive into town took us through other small towns. I think this is Lobau.

Finding a grocery store was a bit of a challenge, and on one evening we even took refuge in the offerings at a gas station grocery where we stepped over one liter of vodka catastrophe and witnessed a second, within a matter of minutes. This proves that a gas station mini mart is the same the world over.

This was one of our successful visits to a store:

One interesting thing we kept seeing in our travels in the East was stores that sell entire kitchens. This makes sense, again, in the former East Germany, where money is finally reaching the farthest parts of the country after almost 30 years of reunification. I can't recall where we heard this, but it was the case in small towns that after reunification the young people left for the promise of the West and some towns were simply abandoned, with home owners locking the doors and walking away. Now I think that people are moving back into these farther regions and rehabbing them.

Back to Bautzen. Many Germans and people of Sorbian ancestry descend on Bautzen for the holiday, and the place is really duded up for the occasion.

On the day before Easter people dressed in Bunny drag and traditional Wendish costume.

We found a bite to eat. This pickled herring sandwich was prettier than it was tasty.

And we drank some local beer, but not this particular one below. There were some Easter-only beers and we concentrated on them:

I forgot to mention our trip to the Bautzen Senfmuseum the day before. Because every town has its own mustard, right? Well Bautz'ner senf is a big deal here. We brought some of the mustard of my people home with us.

On Saturday, we wandered around town and saw this great oompah band.

If you zoom in, you can see that the band's tip jar is an empty tub of Bautz'ner senf. Loved that touch. I shot this image while standing in front of a stencil on the wall that said FCK NZS. 

I had a hot tip from some folks on Facebook that there would be a special musical presentation at the Sorbian museum later that day, so we wandered around to some of the local sights beforehand. The Bautzen Museum had some great crafts, excellent disaster paintings and an amputation painting. What's not to like?

Then we walked over to the Sorbisches Museum. Pretty walk.

Over there, we bought some Easter eggs, hand-painted with wax by men and women wearing traditional clothing. The eggs were incredibly beautiful, and the process really interesting. I came home with a goose quill (the traditional daubing implement) and some colored wax.

The musical presentation was like a lot of folk music. The Wendish bagpipe has a horn like a saxophone and the bellows is the skin of an entire sheep, which looks like the skin of an entire sheep, minus the ankles and feet.

Then off to the Monchshof, lured as we were by their goofy website and menu. As before, we got there and it wasn't so goofy. I tried aronia berry juice. Quite. Tart.

The ride home to the farm was beyond gorgeous. For a few days I'd been trying to get a good photo of the balls of mistletoe in the otherwise bare trees, but didn't quite have it until the sunset provided a good backdrop.

I'll take it.

Germany 2017 Post 14

We were staying in Wei├čenberg, but our intended destination was Bautzen. Our travel to Bautzen was timed so that we could see the many cultural traditions practiced by the Sorbian people at Easter. They are the smallest Slavic minority and have two UNESCO-listed languages that have about 4,000 speakers apiece. One branch of my own German family is Sorbian. That first immigrant ancestor with the unusual name? Turns out he was Sorbian. If you see a last name with 5 consonants in a row, it might be Sorbian. Fun! You can read more about the Sorbs / Wends on Wikipedia.

We were going to Bautzen anyway, but it doesn't hurt that it's so beautiful. It is a jewel of a town that sits on a river in the middle of farmland.

It also sports some timely graffiti, "Nazis Raus!!" which I much appreciated in the era of Trump.

Town square:
The postcard view from the bridge:
Town square, different view, different lighting:

Not sure what happened here, but it cracked me up:
And this. Bautzen was a place where my expectations were often surpassed. I booked us dinner at Wjelbik, because all of the travel sites said that this was the place to go for Wendish food. Where I expected something slightly kitchy (based on their 2016 website), instead we found the intersection of Wendish flavors, local ingredients and great service. These folks are not playing. Here is the mustard soup, served with a lacy toast wafer and hidden poached egg. So yummy. I took very few pictures because this was a fine dining establishment, we were the only foreigners, and I didn't want to offend anyone. But come on. Mustard soup. Never heard of it. Had to have a photo.

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