Monday, October 12, 2009

Potsdam, Denmark, and Turkey (food not country)

Statuary in gardens at Sansoussi.

After our gallivanting with Ursel, Bryan was tired. We did a lot of walking, and his beat-up ol' body don't do walking on cobblestones so well. We had a quiet day with Claudi and Chris, a wonderful evening of conversation made possible by Chris' comfort level with us and increased ability to converse in English. (Claudi said they found themselves speaking English at home even while we were away!)

It was Bryan's birthday on Saturday, and so the kids took us to Potsdam and Sansoussi, Fredrick the Great's summer palace. We couldn't all fit in Chris' car with the child seats, so they rented a SmartCar for the weekend. What a hoot! We are thinking seriously about getting one after the fun we had with it, and playing red-light tag through Berlin (girls in the SmartCar, guys and kids in the Audi).

Anyway, Sansoussi was fabulous. Can't take photos inside, so y'all will have to go see it yourselves or perhaps click online. And of course, as with all the places we went to, a person could spend days just exploring that site and area.

The gardens around the palace are extensive and elaborate. Many people go to Sansoussi to spend the day on the grounds, picnicking and relaxing. The only cost is for tours of the palace itself. Claudi and Valentin enjoy a moment by one of the many fountains. The little guy loves fountains.

There are terrace upon terrace of grapevines and fruits - the glass doors you can kind of see in this photo enclose niches for figs.

Sunday we left by train for Denmark. Claudia and Chris both said, "Don't worry. Everyone one on trains speak English."

Well, as we pulled out of Berlin, a long involved announcement came over the speaker system explaining (I think) destinations, times and connections, all in German. There was a brief pause, then "Welcome to I.C.E, destination Hamburg." in English. And that was that.

"I think we lost something in translation," I said to Bryan.

The Inter-City Express is a very fast train, over 200khm most times (heck, just like the Autobahn). The countryside continued flat, flat, flat all the way north, and hundreds of power-generating windmills throughout the area.

We changed to the Regional Express train north in Hamburg.

Hamburg train station is not as big as Berlin's but still has 12 (14? lots of) tracks and enough going on that you have to have your wits about you.

The concourse above the tracks is extensive, full of shops and food venues, much like an airport. Trains are a primary transportation mode in Europe, something we Canadians are not used to, unfortunately.

A sight very common in my life: Bryan headed off (not always with suitcase in tow, I hasten to add) without seeing if I'm with him, confident that where he's going is the right direction and I'll have the good sense to keep up. This strategy is somewhat less effective in crowded shopping malls, one reason we don't go to them together very often.

Arrived in Flensburg, on the border, whereupon Christian and Tove Marcussen met us. They were almost on time, too! I don't know about Christian, but after 25 years, I still recognized him perfectly well! We've exchanged a few photos of family, etc over the years.

I didn't realize we'd crossed the border until we were well into Denmark. Dealing with the US border service all my life has conditioned me to onorous procedures. I don't think Chris (Claudi's Chris) understood my vague anxiety about crossing borders because all (? most, I guess) of Europe has open borders.

Christian and I worked in New Zealand at the same time as trainees with International Agricultural Exchange Association. I've thought lately about that term 'trainee' - we were born and raised farm kids, so the 'training' had been done long before. No matter.

We were milking cows in on farms in Taranaki, his near Ti Riki (I think) and mine at Stratford. Our small group was the first to arrive in August (the main group didn't arrive until November), which made us a tight bunch. Christian and I became good friends and kept in touch after returning to our respective homes.

Christian worked in the Middle East for several years (working for a Danish company establishing a dairy operation in Saudi Arabia, for example) and wrote very fascinating letters about his experiences there. In 1984 he and a friend travelled to Canada and the US, and fit in a visit to our place. Bryan and I had just bought the farm the previous fall - we didn't even have running water yet, but the guys were game.

Christian and Tove are close to Skaerbaek; they have a large pig operation, having got out of dairy many years ago. Their children are grown, or almost (the youngest is attending high school in Ribe).

Spending a few days in the country on a farm was a soothing experience for our rural souls after many days in cities. Tove had days off work (she's a nurse) and so the four of us had two very lovely days exploring Jutland.

I was lost much of the time in Denmark - the language had me completely baffled, and I didn't have a map. I can place most of our travels and a few of the placenames.

On Monday, we drove to the island of Romo. There's a causeway now, but it's not long ago that it was an isolated place. It was the home of whaling families: the men were gone for long periods of times on the whale boats while the women and children kept the homefires burning (sounds like life in the oil patch, eh?). It's part of the maritime legacy: centuries before, the Viking women and children ran the settlements while the guys were out pillaging (cue Hagar the Horrible).

This little building is a school. It's typical of the building on the island - brick walls, thatch roof. One of my mom's dreams on her long-ago trip to England was to see a thatched cottage. Denmark is the place to see thatch. We saw dozens and dozens of thatched roofs, even one in the process of replacement.

Close-up of the thatch roof: they use marsh reeds.

Yet more thatched buildings, and of a common design: the family residence and livestock barn all one unit.

The beach on Romo is large and wide; we never did get to the water's edge here. The flat expanse is popular for many sports, primarily parasailing (both with parachutes and the large sails).

We continued down the coast and stopped at an honest-to-God windmill. Ya, I'm a nerd but this was cool! I've been fascinated by windmills and dikes since Grade 3 when we did a geography project about the Netherlands.

This is Hojer Molle, not spelled correctly here because I don't have the O with a slash through it that's part of the Danish alphabet. Anyway, that means the Hojer Mill in Sonderjylland (Southern Jutland). Thankyou, Babelfish translator.

This was a milling mill, not a water-pumping windmill (they had them as well). There's a store to the right, a warehouse to the left, and the photo (one of my favorites, I must confess) is from the mill garden. A specimen garden with little tiny plant ID signs, and when I trod on the grass to read one, Tove pointed out the much larger sign that warned me not to walk on the grass. We liberated several delicious ripe pears from the tree in the foreground as revenge.

Bryan checking possible weight gain (ha) from excessive consumption of German chocolates (Mr. Never Gains Weight).

On the platform atop the windmill, looking at the mechanism the miller would have used to turn the sails: Christian, Tove and Bryan.

This entire part of Europe is called the Lowlands for a reason - they're barely above sea level and so very prone to flooding. Farming and habitation is possible only due to extensive drainage and flood management. Long dikes keep the Wadden Sea from inundating the area when fierce winter storms whip up the water.

This photo is looking east from one of the locks. The river flows to the west, behind me and out to the sea. I told you it was flat!

And looking out onto the Wadden Sea, Christian leaning on the railing. There are huge gates below him that close when the tide rises and threatens to flood back on the land. The incline on the seaward side of the new dikes is very long and gradual, so it's had to see just how high they are.

Note that many of Bryan's new 'friends' are of the stone variety (not stoned). Found hisself a seal to cuddle up to.

I don't remember the name of this town, and I'm going to get my fingers slapped when Christian reads this, but it's a very, very old town. The houses were intriguing. If you could find a passageway or gap between them, you would see the gardens behind, where the inhabitants really live their lives, and oftimes the barns from years past. As in the photo below.

I think this was also the town where a Danish prince has a residence. We peeked through the gates and Tove fed a resident dog some dog cookies that happened to be in her pocket, but no one was home (how do we know? The flag was not flying, the universal sign for 'come on over, the coffee's on').

Day two was a real time travel day. We went to Ribe, originally a Viking settlement goingback to the 700s, and a stop at the Ribe Viking Centre just outside town where Viking-Ribe is being recreated as sites in the real town are discovered. This is the point in the journey where I was sans camera due to crossed communications, so I stole a few pics. You can Google Riber Viking Centre, or better yet, go there yourself.

Interesting that as close as they live to it, Christian and Tove had never gone themselves. Takes visitors to kick in the 'home tourist' mode.

Then to Ribe itself and one of the funnier moments of the trip. This is Ribe Cathedral, Lutheran I hasten to add. We went to see the Cathedral, and once there Christian bought tickets to go up the tower. I didn't realize at the time that he meant right to the TOP of the tower.

There are people in my life who know how much I hate climbing things, especially long flights of stairs. I have hyper-extended knees, which makes stepping up and down things (particularly down) difficult. Two flights of stone steps to the clockworks - how hard was that? Piece o' cake. But then Christian said, "Come on, we're not there yet." Not where yet?

Up narrow wooden stairs, and then another flight, and then the bells, but are we 'there' yet? NO!

"Just a few more steps." Great lies of our times. But once out on the top, the stunning view was worth the climb and laboured breathing. All of Ribe and the Jutland penisula was laid out before us.

Christian was pointing out various places of interest. When I couldn't figure out where one of the places was that he was pointing to, he said, "There, by that red house."

I stopped and turned to look at him and said, "Christian, they are all red houses." Long pause, and then we both laughed, and it became a running joke for the rest of the day.

And look, I was right, wasn't I?

The inside of the cathedral is dramatically different from the roccoco and renaissance specimens we'd already seen. This is a very modern altar, redone not that many years ago, inside a clean and austere sanctuary. I would be comfortable here, rather than over-awed as I was in the German Doms.

While Tove attended a meeting during the afternoon, the three of us spent the afternoon with another old IAEA friend, Grethe Jensen. She worked for Fred & Jessie Cook, close to where I lived. We wrote to each other for a few years and then lost contact, as those things happen. When we arrived at Marcussen's, Christian asked, "Would you like to see Grethe?"

Turns out she's a nurse at the same hospital as Tove! Of course I'd like to see her. We had a lovely visit at her place just a short distance out of town. It was a little awkward at first, not surprising considering we hadn't seen each other in 30 years! and lost written contact perhaps 25 years ago. And yet, in a short while it was comfortable. And as the photo albums came out and the coffee pot replaced with beer, the stories flowed. Whereupon Bryan learned that not only were the stories I'd told him over the years all true, but that there were a lot more he'd never heard!

"Do you remember the time we were coming back from a party and I drove the wrong way round the round-about in Stratford?" asked Grethe. Which made Bryan laugh, because I'm sure he didn't believe that one.

And my answer that the modus operandi for the Canadians and Brits who were at large in NZ was to always travel with a Dane, then pretend not to understand English and let the Dane-of-the-moment talk to whatever officer of the law whom we might catch the attention of.

"Ya, I remember that!"

Grethe's husband and son arrived home just as we were leaving, so we weren't able to visit much with them. Enough, however, for the respective husbands to decide that the stories grow in the telling - but I think they're just jealous.

That's it for photos of Europe. We were back in Berlin for a few days, but we both acquired head colds from the little boys (all the adults got it) and Bryan had a very bad, achy Thursday in bed. Friday was a quiet recovery day for him. Chris took us for a drive in the city and out around Brandenberg.

Leaving was difficult, as partings always are. We'll be back, though. We've got our feet wet and now are ready for the plunge.

Bryan, back where he's most comfortable: as the driver, not the passenger, driving through the Cochrane area, towards the mountains and home.



The day after the turkey before.... but I'll say none of us overindulged. Getting older sometimes does mean getting wiser. And I'll truly enjoy my turkey sandwiches today.

PK wanted to kick up a cribbage game but mom's crib board is MIA. We tried just keeping score, but it lacks the thrill of pegging (you crib fans know what I mean) so Gary took pity on us and we embarked on a riotous session of Crazy Eights. Yes, the children's card game we all grew up with. Now, be honest, when's the last time you played Crazy Eights? I challenge you to get a game going around your table tonight and if you don't laugh as hard as we did for a few hours, I send you my apologies. We howled with laughter - strategy forsooth!

It was a cold and windy day, despite blue skies. Not a day to invite leisurely fall strolls. On the list of things I'm thankful for is that I spent all Saturday afternoon outside.

It was only marginally warmer yesterday (yes, I realize it's much warmer than the land east of the Rockies, and no snow, Ive seen everyone's photos, so stop yelling) but I still had a great time planting lavender and gaura (I said, stop yelling), burning potato and tomato stalks in a lovely bonfire. With the tops froze off, it was time to dig potatoes, and my little plot yielded a very respectable crop with some fairly large tubers. They're definitely going to be included in next year's garden crop.

This posting has taken me most of the morning. Think I'll brave the cool wind outside this holiday Monday and take a walk down to Bolean Creek. The laundry is done but there are still chores to be done inside today.

Hope you've had a great holiday weekend. And that you've enjoyed our photos.

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