Sep 162017

Caroline Wise holding a basket made of Yucca fiber at Tuzigoot National Monument in Arizona

A rare Saturday mini-roadtrip took us north to Tuzigoot National Monument in Clarkdale, Arizona. We’ve visited Tuzigoot previously but never before for a talk. The subject that interested Caroline enough to ask me to accompany her was a presentation by archaeologist Zack Curcija about the use of Yucca fibers among indigenous people of the southwest. As happens so often when I’m reluctant about something I’m not sure I’ll have an interest in, it turns out that listening to just about anyone who is passionate about something is enough to draw me in and start wishing I knew more or wonder when their next talk is scheduled.

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.


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 192013

The Städel Art Museum in Frankfurt, Germany

While here in Germany doing what we can to keep my mother in-law Jutta motivated as she recovers from her broken hip, Caroline has been getting some time in for her job back home in Phoenix, Arizona. This means that early mornings and late evenings are spent on her laptop trying to put in some hours so this time here doesn’t count against vacation. With most “tourism” sites opening at 10:00 we have the morning for Caroline to put in a couple of hours. By 9:30 today we hopped on the train and headed for the museum district along the Main River. Our first destination is the Städel Art Museum.

The Death of Marat (a copy) at Städel Art Museum in Frankfurt, Germany

Astonishment greeted me as we walked up a stairway to see this painting staring at us, unfortunately it is not the “original.” That version hangs in the Musée Royaux des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, Belgium. While Jacques-Louis David is the original artist of “The Death of Marat,” it was in his workshop that copies were made, this is one of them.

The Rabbi by Marc Chagall in Städel Art Museum Frankfurt, Germany

There are many known artists on display at the Städel, but only a handful that are personal favorites, such as Marc Chagall here. This is his work titled: The Rabbi.

The Lamb from Paul Klee in the Städel Art Museum Frankfurt, Germany

From Paul Klee – The Lamb. It’s a sheep thing due to the wife’s obsession with all things fiber!

Pietá by Franz Von Stuck in the Städel Art Museum Frankfurt, Germany

Caroline too has some favorites featured here, this is “Pietá” painted by Franz Von Stuck back in 1891.

The Weaver by Max Liebermann at the Städel Art Museum in Frankfurt, Germany

Another for the wife; Max Liebermann’s “The Weaver.”

The Artist's Family by Otto Dix at the Städel Art Museum in Frankfurt, Germany

Since learning of Otto Dix he has remained a constant favorite of mine for 35 years. While I was living in Germany from 1985 through 1995 I would visit any museum I could find after learning that they may have a Dix on display. This is his work “The Artist’s Family” painted in 1927. If I’m not mistaken the largest collection of his work is housed at the Kunstmuseum in Stuttgart, Germany.

The new foot bridge across the Main River in Frankfurt, Germany

Across the street from the Städel is a new foot bridge over the Main that brought us to the path that took us to the Frankfurt Historical Museum.

High water marks at Eiserne Steg in Frankfurt, Germany with Caroline Wise

On the way up that side of the river we pass an older bridge; Eiserne Steg. Here’s Caroline standing just a few steps above street level with the high-water marks noting the flood levels of the Main River.

A model at the Frankfurt Historical Museum depicting Frankfurt following its destruction during World War II

Once in the Historical Museum we came upon an old favorite of mine, the model of Frankfurt after it was destroyed during World War II. In a sense, Frankfurt was lucky to have this occur, it allowed for the modernization of the city. Without the destruction, rebuilding this city would have proven nearly impossible, as widening streets and tearing out narrow historical wooden buildings would have taken decades to resolve with owners and lawsuits that would have worked to protect the history of the city. What came out of the ashes is the banking capital of Europe.

Caroline Wise at the Frankfurt Historical Museum

Caroline trying on 22 pounds of gear simulating the suit of armor worn by knights. Fearsome isn’t she?

A row of knights armor on display at the Frankfurt Historical Museum

After our morning into afternoon museum walk it was once again time to visit Jutta, followed by taking ourselves to dinner. But this wasn’t any old dinner, as we had been invited to join To and Caroline at their apartment on Friedberger Landstrasse. Caroline is To’s wife, they married two years ago, she’s an art history major when not working at a job that pays. To made us grünne sosse (green sauce) which is that Frankfurt specialty dish I wrote of back on our first full day in Germany. After eating we talked and talked nearly to midnight. Meeting with old friends and new (it was great to meet you Caroline Ka Punkt) is like putting on an old suit of armor; it just fits right. With an unceremonious 23 second goodbye and rush down the stairs we were hoofing it to catch the next train. Tomorrow morning at 8:00 we have a breakfast date with another old friend.

Apr 122013

Caroline Wise and Jutta Engelhardt in Frankfurt, Germany

We are all rendered helpless at least twice in our life; birth and death. Yet at birth we are tenderly cared for with love, attention, and laws that attempt to ensure our successful transition into a functionally competent young adult that will be ready to contribute to our society. Approaching death we are often alone without love or the attention of our families nor our friends, as they may already be gone or they too are suffering the isolation that plagues our later years.

From the wealthy enclave of Santa Barbara, California to Europe’s banking capital in Frankfurt, Germany, we all too often find the elderly are a burden and frustration while we have all benefited from these parents and workers who probably did the best they could while they were young and able. But in our impatience we are quick to satisfy our own needs with an indulgence verging on the obscenely vulgar, while at the same time seeing the needs of the elderly as unreasonable.

How do we justify ignoring these vigor impaired people who were once so important to our very existence? How do others live with themselves as they reveal their anger or disdain in the way they treat these people nearing the ends of their lives, as though they are but nuisance obligations that no longer deserve respect?

The negligence we offer the elderly while lavishing doting care and affection on dogs and cats is an abomination of our broken social contract that allows us to merrily put on display our shallowness by only embracing the young and beautiful, in addition to the cute and furry. If it weren’t for the fact that most of us will suffer the pains of time, maybe then I could understand that a fringe was being sacrificed for the betterment of the whole, but these people who paved the way for us, are our future, they are who we will be someday.

Alone and often depressed in their private lives they bloom in smiles and laughter when once again they find themselves in a setting with their friends and family; even when enduring the pain and hardship of illness or loss that has brought them into the situation of being hospitalized or placed in hospice. Where were we when they needed us to help ensure they wouldn’t hurt themselves? What of the societal responsibility to protect them from inadvertent self-abuse through their own neglect?

For a moment one can find hope in the despairing moments our elderly loved ones spend in hospitals and rehabilitation centers, as we once again see their spirit and ability to fit in with those around them. But all too soon they will find themselves returned to the lonely isolation that distanced them from our ideas of normal. They are not to blame, just as an infant cannot take responsibility for their own helplessness. Babies have not yet made friends nor can they communicate very effectively in a complex world they are yet to comprehend. On the other hand the elderly are trying to comprehend a world that has become faster and more advanced in the complexities that often exceed their abilities, do we help these people or push them to the side?

Too often our own sense of responsibility to ourselves leaves us with the easy and selfish choice of tossing these once productive and caring people to the curb of obscurity to die alone after suffering a growing sense of failure; why else are they now alone in a world that works best when we are laughing and sharing in our success?

My mother in-law is a survivor of World War II and as a young girl had to deal with the hunger and destruction of the country she was born in, along with the death of her brother in battle and the subsequent abuse from a mother who suffered too with the incomprehensible loss. Now, as after the war, she is at the mercy of those around her who try to find the time to share with her while she’s losing her sense of place and likely her home, so others may care for her and her encroaching weakness.

During her early life she studied medicine, gave life to two girls; my wife and her sister. She helped countless others who were in desperate need of life saving services in her capacity while working for the local blood donor service. Not only are those who give blood of importance to the ill and critically hurt, but those who make it their life’s work to accept these donations enable the conduit between those who are in need and those who work tirelessly to save lives. And yet most of her days are now spent with a newspaper or television. Some of her friends have already passed. Guilt tells her that her needs are not important, one mustn’t burden those who are entangled with lives that surely have no time for someone becoming frail of mind and or body.

This sweet woman needs little more than a buttered bread and her family’s love. Other sweet old ladies have trouble getting either. Even on these occasions when my mother-in-law is for a moment the center of attention, I know this will be short lived, not only because we will return to our “busy” lives, but because she can no longer be in this life much longer.

I do not know with any precision how much longer she will be with us, but I do have to face that within weeks she’ll again be alone. When she’s gone we too will be a little more alone, as the cycle of our own aging process moves us closer to the lonely door of death.