Nov 202015

Caroline and John Wise departing for vacation on 11 November 2015

Per my wife Caroline Wise’s request, besides taking her on vacation, she has asked me to blog. So here I am fulfilling that special wish of hers. During the previous 20 years we often went on road trips between a minimum of 5 times up to 24 times a year (that was back in 2004 – our record year!). In the dark ages before that we were novices and only took road trips between 1 and 5 times per year, though that included journeys around Germany, Holland, France, Belgium and places like that; remember that we lived in Frankfurt.

This afternoon we left Phoenix for Kanab, Utah where we won’t be going to Moqui Cave, 1. it won’t be open when we get there or leave, 2. we’ve been there and highly recommend you go too.

Not much preparation was done for this excursion until the last minute as we weren’t certain I’d find the time, but obviously I did make the time. Originally we were going to head to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho but the weather looked foreboding. Instead we will turn left in Crane, Oregon and head out to the coast. We tried to avoid the Oregon coast, seriously we did because we know we’ve been there way too many times, but we love it and so that’s that.


Nov 182013

Ruins at Two Guns, Arizona

This strange beast called nostalgia, it’s a difficult enemy to avoid. Out in the middle of the country I’m bombarded with its presence. It starts with the memories of having traveled these places before. If anything has changed, it might be the asphalt I drove over, everything else looks the same. After hours of hauling over the arid landscape and finally finding my mind empty, I turn on the radio. Big mistake, but for whatever reason, not easily rectified. I leave it on. Hit after hit from my youth drills into old memories giving life to sleeping giants that should remain dormant.

Highway 77 heading north through the Navajo Reservation in Arizona

While I was aware of these 70’s classics as a boy and  a teen, I was running away from them as a kid. Now a man of 50 I listen in to hear what I never wanted to. They conjure images of men and women in their 60’s and 70’s portrayed by their roadside  billboard portraits where I see the announcements of their imminent return on the casino circuit scattered across America. In those places are the nostalgic, those who are whittling away their time, spending their few remaining days in memories of an age perceived to have been perfect – and these songs are their faithful soundtrack. For me they are bitter reminders that some peoples lives get stuck in a time.

Alpaca's wandering the Navajo Reservation like sheep

For the foreigner and out of state traveler this is a journey into novelty. They are building new memories from new experiences. They are not sheep. I only hope the soundtrack is new too, else this adventure might blur into a continuation of the familiar, albeit with shades of the hitherto unseen.

Sunset on the Navajo Reservation in northern Arizona

The place across from me is empty. It is made emptier by the fact that I’m the only person here who is alone. A couple of conversations are happening in my tongue, German, Chinese, and Navajo are all within earshot. Caroline is missing, this road trip is solo, at least the first half anyway. Without ceremony my dinner is wolfed and only a gratuity and signature stand between me and my departure from the Twin Rocks Cafe here in Bluff, Utah; a place of great nostalgia, not because of the music though, this time it is the memory of my missing wife.

Apr 292013

A hybrid bus in Frankfurt, Germany

Grasping for details, wishing for another week, uncertainty if we used our time the most effectively, I’m not ready to leave Germany. Faced with tomorrow’s reality of boarding a British Air flight to London before our non-stop to Phoenix, Arizona, I am looking for those things I somehow overlooked. I know this is an act of futility, but I cannot help but fall into nostalgia for the past month and so I wish to live it all over again. Instead of taking the train we would normally travel on our way to Jutta’s apartment, we opt for a bus that will take us on different route, maybe I’ll see something I missed. In fact it works, the bus we have boarded is a hybrid with a display showing us what is powering the bus and what is being charged or powered during braking. Damn, this now has me wanting more time to explore the roads yet untraveled.

Caroline Wise and the french fry guy on Bergerstrasse in Frankfurt, Germany

Would you like fries with your hotdog? Just after arriving in Germany and one of my first blog entries recounting those days, I shot a photo of two Frankfurters, I think the designer of that wiener had a hand in producing the French fry guy.

A brie, lingonberry, cucumber sandwich on a full grain heavy dark roll from Kamp Bakery in Frankfurt, Germany

More than a few times Caroline and I have stopped at Kamp Bakery on Bergerstrasse for one of these brie, lingonberry, cucumber sandwiches on a full-grain, oat, and raisin roll that has us wanting to bring a couple dozen of back to America. This is the perfect breakfast sandwich, well a close second to pork belly sandwiches anyway.

An Erdbeer Plunder (strawberry danish) from Kamp Bakery in Frankfurt, Germany

Here in ‘our world’ breakfast required dessert and Kamp delivers again. This seemingly average pastry is not as simple as it looks. This yummy treat is an erdbeer plunder (pronounced Airt-bear ploonder – strawberry danish for us English speakers) and is one of Caroline’s favorites. Although the strawberry cream puff we shared in Fulda was in a league of its own.

Caroline Wise and Biggy the Chameleon - a local Frankfurt resident

From breakfast and a last visit to Jutta’s apartment it was time for a final visit to Jutta in rehab. Only two hours we’ll get to spend with my mother in-law, we have a date at 1:00 with an old friend of Caroline, anyway two-hours should be enough to say bye. Of course there’s never enough time between family and friends when goodbyes are so long between hello’s, but we have a busy day and we know that we cannot relive the thousands of moments we have already shared during the previous four weeks. We had brought my computer with us to share some of the photos I’d taken and then it was hug time. Followed by more hugs and the deepest gratitude from Jutta that we’d come over here to cheer her up during her recovery. With more hugs and waves goodbye, Caroline and I were again underway, this time to go visit Biggy The Chameleon and her caretaker.

Angela Pyka and Caroline Wise reminiscing about bananas in Frankfurt, Germany

Meet Angela (pronounced Angeela – not Anjeela) Pyka, she’s the caretaker extraordinaire of the amazing Biggy; and good friend of Caroline’s. With more than 18 years between the two meeting, the chemistry still runs strong between these two. If you should want to know why they are posing with bananas, I suggest you think long and hard about what two young women over 25 years ago might have been talking about that required bananas. With only two and a half hours to catch up on the conversation, the women talk fast. Angela has finally met the love of her life (besides Biggy) his name is Ruben. He is a hot and zesty Spanish man who not only cooks using utensils from heaven, he has fully melted his heart into Angela’s. We look forward to meeting him on a future visit to the States, that’s if Angela can pull herself away from visiting him every chance she gets. No time is ever enough when old friends find themselves to still be friends. As quickly as the three of us hit it off, we were needing to move down the road. With big hugs and wishes to see one another again, we tried and tried to leave, and then out the door we were called back one last time. Angela presented Caroline with a mini-Biggy; in toy form. Downstairs our goodbyes were still not over. Out of her window Angela waved goodbye for the next two minutes until we turned the corner on our way to the train. For all I know she may still be waving out the window, tears rolling down her cheeks, and…..nah, I’m sure she went back in her flat and started showering more love on Biggy The Chameleon.

Stolpersteine (stumbling stones) that are supposed to make you stop, read, and think about what is marked on them. In Frankfurt, Germany

Looking for details, found some more. These are stolpesteine (stumbling stones) they are supposed to stop you as you “stumble” over them. After grabbing your attention you are supposed to read the stones and give thought to what has been shared. In this case the stolpesteine are at the Judengasse area (old Jewish quarter) and make note of people who came to an untimely end during World War II. It appears that the entire Zuntz family were murdered, four of them at Auschwitz.

A Bembel (apple wine jug) shop in Frankfurt, Germany

Our walk from Konstablerwache through the former Jewish quarter was intended to take us to a nearby bembel shop. Bembel’s are the traditional Frankfurt apple wine jugs. My mother at the last minute, meaning last night at midnight our time, asked if we could bring her a small flower pot. We had just finished packing so I told her “Of course not, we can’t bring you a bembel pot at the last minute, our bags are full.” But she is my mom, so we go anyway and decide we’ll just bring another bag with us and fill it with other stuff we were going to leave behind.

A marker used for decoration in the Dom subway station in Frankfurt, Germany

And the little details keep coming on. This one is embedded in the U-Bahn (subway) floor; a medallion between squares to give the floor a unique look. Each of the markers are different and all of them interesting.

The U5 subway train in Frankfurt, Germany

One more ride on the U5 richtung Preungesheim (direction Preungesheim). This was our old train that we’d take two stops from Konstablerwache to Glauburgstrasse nearly everyday when we lived here. We are on it this afternoon for a last visit to another favorite place that has already showed up a couple of other times here on my blog this month.

Eis Christina in Frankfurt, Germany

Eis Christina. I just had to have another Spaghetti Eis (spaghetti ice cream); you’ll have to read a previous entry for details on what spaghetti ice cream is. We split a Maxi portion, what else? The day turned sunny after a cold damp start and so half of Frankfurt showed up at this popular ice cream shop. Back in the 90’s this place was a tiny shop a couple of doors up the street. After winning a couple of “Best of Frankfurt” awards, they needed to move to a much larger shop. Even with all of the extra seating (there used to be about none) they still have every chair filled with dozen more people milling about eating their ice creams.

Katharina Engelhardt, Caroline Wise, Klaus and Stephanie Engelhardt enjoying dinner at home in Frankfurt, Germany

Klaus spent a good part of the day making dinner for us, a great departing treat for Caroline and I. Actually the preparation started last night when he made the Bolognese sauce for the lasagna he would serve us tonight. When we got home from our day in the city, the house smelled delicious, it did last night too. After nearly an hour wait dinner was ready. The five of us collected around the table, Klaus served up his masterpiece and then there was nothing left to do but enjoy his super-lecke (yummy) dinner. None of us can believe that it’s already been nearly a month since we flew in to the Frankfurt Airport just five days after Jutta’s fall. While the girls continue their conversation, I headed upstairs to start working on this blog entry before trying to get us to sleep at a reasonable time for our early departure back to the airport.

A rare sunset in Frankfurt, Germany

It’s already 9:00 pm when this sunset unfolds. In Frankfurt, sunsets are a rarity as in the inner-city one is surrounded by building in all directions. Up on Stephanie and Klaus’s third floor, I have a perfect view into the distance (over roofs of course) to be witness to this nearly perfect sunset and the end of our time in Germany; for now.

Apr 282013

Ausfahrt Frei Halten! Do Not Block The Driveway - Frankfurt, Germany

This is how I feel today, Ausfahrt frie halten! Do not block the driveway! We are about to pull out of having parked ourselves in Frankfurt and don’t need to have anyone blocking our way, yes we do.

A sign pointing out a few details regarding the old city wall in Frankfurt, Germany

This small sign is attached to a large wall, actually a small segment of what remains of the Staufermauer – old city wall. Built around 1180, the sign notes that this section was rebuilt in 1711 after the adjoining Jewish ghetto burned down.

Sketch of the old Jewish ghetto in Frankfurt, Germany

We were on our way to the former location of the Jewish ghetto and a museum that has been dedicated to this part of Frankfurt’s history. This sketch by Peter Becker from 1872 titled “Hinterhäuser in der Judengasse” is part of the depiction and uncovered ruins that had been the small corner of Frankfurt where Jews were segregated over the centuries.

Basement and foundation walls uncovered in the old Jewish quarter in Frankfurt, Germany

During excavation for a new building the foundation walls and basements of the old Jewish ghetto were uncovered. It was originally the plan to simply build over them, but protests helped create the situation that the city and builder agreed to build a museum as a memorial to the dark history of Jewish isolationism that occurred not only in this city, but cities across Germany. Many of those people who walked the narrow streets and alleys in this compact unsanitary ghetto were murdered during World War II.

Model showing the relative compactness the Jewish ghetto was forced to occupy in Frankfurt, Germany

This model in the Judengasse Museum depicts the cramped quarters Jews were forced to live in. Not only were they living with overcrowding due to the tiny area, they had little access to clean water and were often victims of crime and exploitation. In the 1860’s there was a lifting of the ban that prohibited their travel, many Jews tried leaving to what was thought were better lives in other cities, but that would all be crushed 70 years later with the onset of war.

Artifacts from the old Jewish ghetto on display at the Judengasse Museum in Frankfurt, Germany

There are a number of artifacts on display that were excavated during the archeological dig that ensued following the decision to protect the ruins of Judengasse. Another display features a few remaining parts of the old synagogue that was destroyed. It starts to become depressing here seeing items that had been handled by people who may have been marched out of their homes and deported only to be murdered at the hands of people filled with rage and politically motivated hatred.

A Mikwe (ritual bath) among the ruins of Judengasse in Frankfurt, Germany

There a couple of Mikwe (ritual baths) that were uncovered and are now viewable as part of the museum. Sadness accumulates while looking in and walking upon the stone passages that had once been used by people who unceremoniously were taken away and their memories buried along with their tortured souls. I need to get out of here.

Marker showing one of the people who had been buried in the Jewish cemetery prior to its destruction during World War II

Next to Judengasse is what remains of the Jewish Cemetery. During World War II it was destroyed but following the war it was partially restored and set as a memorial to honor those who died here. While walking along the wall I came upon this marker noting that Dora Kirchhoff once a resident of Judengasse died during the war. Kirchhoff is a variation of the spelling of my maternal family name. One other interesting factoid I learned while here, the houses in which Jews lived had symbols on the outside of their homes, this often led to what they would take as their last names. The house with a red shield on it (Rote Schild) became Rothschild – yes that Rothschild.

Caroline Wise at McDonalds at an automated ordering station in Frankfurt, Germany

The good old Hamburger Royal with Käse – quarter pounder with cheese can be ordered in Frankfurt on these automated kiosks to save you time of standing in line. Of course we ate at McDonald’s in Germany, it’s the Hamburger Royal after-all.

Katharina Engelhardt, Caroline Wise, Jutta Engelhardt, Stephanie and Klaus Engelhardt, and John Wise in Frankfurt, Germany

With less than 24 hours to go we finally get a group picture, even if it’s a little cramped. From left to right; Katharina Engelhardt, Caroline Wise, Jutta Engelhardt, Stephanie and Klaus Engelhardt, and John Wise. Had we had another set of hands in the garden that could have snapped our photo I would hopefully not loom so large over on the right side, but these self/group photos are a difficult task.

Schwanheim train station just outside of Frankfurt in Germany

From visiting Jutta we continued on the 12 train line out to Schwanheim for a visit to one of Christian Engelhardt’s favorite restaurants. He was Caroline’s paternal grandfather and I needed to know what an old German guy thought was great food, as I have come to know that this man loved food, something he and I have in common.

Grüne Sosse from Frankfurter Hod Seppche in Schwanheim, Germany

The place of our pilgrimage is called Frankfurter Hof Seppche. Staying with the theme of trying Frankfurt specialties, we start the meal with händkase and Caroline opts for another apple wine. I ordered the giant plate of meat with roasted potatoes and mushrooms; and loved it. The grüne sosse just seems like the perfect meal for Caroline and she orders a last time during this visit to her home country.

The sign outside of Frankfurter Hof Seppche with a Bembel as part of it. In Schwanheim, Germany

Leaving Seppche we take notice of their great sign, a Bembel surrounded by a wreath. Back when I lived in Germany I thought Germany food was boring. Nothing but boiled flavorless foods, oh how I was wrong. I suppose I should reevaluate a lot of my perceptions and prejudices I entertained back in my 20’s and early 30’s, but today right here right now is not the time as I race the clock to finish yet one more blog entry.

On streetcar number 12 back to Frankfurt

Back on streetcar number 12 for our return to Frankfurt. How long before our next visit? I hope it’s not another 18 years.

Apr 272013

An old variation of the strawberry available in Germany

Seventy-two hours to go before we depart on our return to America. Time is short. What hasn’t been done by now; won’t. That isn’t to say there is nothing to do. We won’t sit still twiddling our fingers. Matter of fact we would have headed north tomorrow to Köln (Cologne) and then over to Venlo, Holland, but a cold rain has set in over central Europe so we’ll hang out and keep Jutta company. During the early day today though we have some chores. First up was buying a guitar case for a guitar owned by Caroline’s grandfather. Having the car today instead of taking the train creates huge delays, as finding parking is never easy if there isn’t a nearby parking garage. By the time we get to Bergerstrasse we’re both super hungry. On the way to pick up a sandwich through the Saturday open-air market, I spotted this strange looking berries that I wasn’t sure if they raspberries or strawberries. Turns out they are an old fashioned type of strawberry not cultivated for mass consumption anymore. Maybe they’ll make a comeback with their incredible flavor which is not 100% strawberry. But they are expensive at $6.00 for two small handfuls of the super sweet unique tasting berries.

Pork belly in Frankfurt, Germany

Weeks ago I wrote of my being enamored with pork-belly sandwiches, with only a couple more opportunities to delight in them, this was my choice for breakfast today. During this time I’ve nearly become friends with one of the ladies that works here at Erich Zeiss Metzgarai (butcher). While I fetch my meal, Caroline was back over Bäckerei Kamp (bakery) getting a full grain dark break sandwich with brie, cucumber, lettuce, and lingonberries; also a favorite of ours. She also picked up a couple of slices of a strawberry cake that we were taking to share with Jutta.

Map of the Frankfurt area train system

Having found a great parking spot, we were loath to leave it. Instead we dipped into the U-Bahn tunnel to catch a train. We were also testing the idea that instead of taking streetcar #12 all the way to south-west Frankfurt, maybe it was quicker to take the subway part of the way and then pick up the streetcar. The verdict is out as it felt about the same, nor do we have any empirical proof that could sway the jury.

Caroline Wise and Jutta Engelhardt in Frankfurt, Germany

Jutta’s certainly feeling much better, her first question for us upon our arrival was asking if we’d like to take a walk outside. She hadn’t realized that the temperature had dropped into cold and that it was currently raining. Instead we walked over to the dining room of the rehab center, grabbed a pot of coffee and some forks as we sat down to chat over some yummy strawberry cake.

Jutta Engelhardt and John Wise in Frankfurt, Germany

For the next hours we bounced around the conversation and shared details of yesterday’s trip to Strasbourg, France while Jutta recalled her visits. While she’s been so very happy to see, she’s also encouraged us to get out and see a few things, we obliged her with those trips to Wattenmear, Denmark, Lübeck, Magdeburg, Lünaburg, Dresden, Eisenach, Bautzen, Görlitz, Poland, and Prague. Before we know it time has flown out the window and we have to get moving to finish the remaining chores. We bid Jutta adieu and walk back to the train stop; without the duffel-bag we intended to pick up, though we didn’t realize that until just before arriving back at Jutta’s apartment. Part of our intentions today were to test pack, without that bag we’ll have to postpone. So it goes.

Grüne Sosse from Lahme Esel restaurant in Frankfurt, Germany

After packing up what we could at Jutta’s into plastic bags and putting the guitar in its new case, it was after 6:00 and we were getting hungry. Thought about stopping on the way back to Stephanie and Klaus’s but decided on one last return to the Lahme Esel restaurant. Good thing we didn’t go directly there because after asking the Engelhardt’s if they’d like to join us, a call was made for table availability where we found out that there was nothing until 9:00. Okay then, a late dinner it is. Caroline opted for the Grüne Sosse and I took the meat fantasy plate. My dinner was the Bäcker-Schaufel or Bakers Shovel, and a shovel of food it was. Two pieces of pork steak, rump steak, hamburger steak, sausages, bacon, fried potatoes, mushrooms, and a salad. I have to say it again, twenty years ago I thought traditional German food was kind of boring, but when this trip ends I’ll be doing my fair share of missing this style of cooking as my opinion has changed greatly. Oh how I love German food.