Colorado South, Mesa Verde

 

When we lived in Golden, by Denver in Colorado, we were lucky to be able to travel in the Rockies.

 

Since the 1940´s the city of Golden has celebrated Buffalo Bill Days at the last weekend of July. It started with pancake breakfast at the Firehall on the Saturday morning. Our young grandson and I had a great time year after year. Watching the firemen flipping the pancakes in the air was fun. Here he is getting candy from a “real” cowboy. The whole town was there. Our eldest granddaughter took part one year in the parade with her group from Take-won-do.

 

 

There is a sub-culture in the mountains of alpaca and people who knit.

We are proud of the fact that Buffalo Bill and his wife are buried in Golden on Look-Out-Mountain high above the little 

In 2010, Christin and I made a long trip in the mountains in southern Colorado. We went down to the Ute and Navajo country on the border between Colorado and New Mexico.

I want to mention a little bit about popular literature from this area. The Denver Post compared two writers I like very much. The newspaper stated that “James D. Doss does for the Ute what Tony Hillerman has done for the Navajo.” I have had the possibility to visit Navajo Nation Reservations in New Mexico and Arizona. I have not visited the Ute Mountain Reservation, but it is next to the Mesa Verde National Park in southern Colorado, which Christin and I visited.

The spring of 2010 was very traumatic and dramatic for our family. On April 14 one member of our family in Colorado had to be transported to ER, the Emergency Room, at our hospital in Wheat Ridge, a suburb of Denver, and I sent an email to Christin in Stockholm: “Pack a suitcase and come right away.” Obviously we had some very scary days.

Do you by any chance remember April 14, 2010? But I shall tell you what went on in the word. That was the day the volcano on Iceland, Eyjafjallajökull, had its big eruption and all air-traffic closed down for all of Europe. It became the biggest air-traffic shut-down since the World War II. Christin could not book a seat the day I told her to come at once. She had to wait three days before she could even book a flight and that was for a flight 14 days later. You can easily imagine our anxiety both in Colorado and in Stockholm. When Christin finally came, health was very much restored and the person who had been so ill was now safe in a Rehabilitation Home for the next days, paid by the health insurance company. 30 days is very much a standard stay for our kind of health insurance, Medicare.

We had heard about the Mesa Verde, the Cliff dwellings in southern Colorado and Christin and I discovered how much we really wanted to visit this world-famous monument. It turned out to be a very long trip. We drove 1476 miles, or 2375 kilometers, mainly in an awesome, but sparsely populated, landscape.

To get a sense of distances, we can compare the country of Sweden with for instance the US State of California. The two parts of the world have somewhat the same geographic form. As a very rough estimate: Sweden is about 2000 miles long while California is about 800 miles long. With other words, we drove almost as long a stretch as California back and forth.

We traveled eight days and paid for hotel rooms seven nights.

We started in Golden and drove south on Interstate 25, the ”I-25”. At Walsenburg we went west on state road 160.  Our goal was primarily Mesa Verde. From Walsenburg it is 256 miles to the border of the Mesa Verde National Park. (That is 411 kilometers). 

But we did not drive directly to Mesa Verde. There is something unique off of SR, State Road, 160. On the right after 60 miles we went north to the Great Sand Dunes and National Park and Reserve. 20 miles straight north are the Dunes. It is worth visiting. By the parking place is a lunch restaurant and gift store. People walk for many hours on the sand.

At the end of the first day we stopped overnight in Alamosa. We had then traveled about 300 miles and the next morning we continued on State Road 160 through Durango. Durango is an important crossroads in the Rockies with more than 16 000 inhabitants, located 6,500 feet above sea level (2000 meters). I know people who have gone to college there at the Fort Lewis College, which gives a tuition-free education to Native Americans.

When you drive through the USA you find out how large the country is. For instance, the ten miles up from SR160 to the Tourist Center at Mesa Verde National Park was a winding and irritatingly long road, climbing up over a rugged mountain ridge to a sloping plateau, which is 7,000 to 8,500 feet above sea level. It did not help that there was roadwork and had that road crews had blocked off one of the lanes for several miles. We and other irritated (I assume they were irritated) tourists sat for forty-five minutes waiting while they emptied the opposite traffic, cars leaving Mesa Verde, till the pilot-car turned around and escorted us up to the tourist center. It did not help to think about the convenience for future tourists. We did not feel like sympathizing with authorities, located far away from modern life authorities that must transport heavy road equipment from the nearest city at high costs when we were eager to get to the next interesting place. From videos I can see on Internet today I know that the roads up there are now quite fine.

But we were well compensated for our travel. When we had checked in at the Far View Lodge and got our room with a wide view of the mountainous area, and stepped out on the balcony, and saw a herd of deer grazing below us all the residue of irritation disappeared. We could even see the impressive rock in Shiprock, in the Navajo Nation in New Mexico, some 40 miles away. I was glad to have seen it even if I could only see it from a distance as it plays a big role in Tony Hillerman´s novels.

The Far View Lodge is open April through October. It is the only lodging within the park. I cannot remember how we booked our room in 2010. Probably via telephone. Today, I always book via Booking.com. I do all my bookings with that company. They have been very good to me over the last ten years and it is good to have a strong organisation behind you if something goes wrong.

Please remember that The Far View Lodge is a “lodge”. It does not present itself as a “hotel”. If you read the comments on Tripadvisor you will see that people complain about the comfort. The Far View Lodge is comfortable enough, but it is a “Lodge”. It is not in the wilderness, though. It is in the middle of fabulous nature on a mountain plateau. In 2010 there was Wi-Fi only in the lobby of the Lodge, but according to write-ups about the place today, all rooms have Wi-Fi.

Mesa Verde could be compared to a pie-dish or at least half such a dish. A half circle of ragged mountaintops on the north side looks like scalloped edges. Across half of the “pie-dish” goes a deep ravine with the Mancos River. The Ancestral Puebloans who lived here for 700 years between 600 to 1300 A.D. must have felt very secure in their Kivas and Pit houses on top of the Mesa and in their Cliff Dwellings below inside the wall of the mountain, sheltered by the ragged mountaintops on the north side and the deep canyon of the Mancos river on the south. It struck me that the terrain actually functions like a European Medieval fortress with a moat.

Wikipedia writes that the Navajo—they are not descendants from the Pueblo—called these people Anasazi, which should be somewhat demeaning. The Pueblo do not want to be called by that term.

The reason the Pueblo left this area seems to have been a lack of water, a major drought.

We cannot remember which of the two parallel roads we took the day we arrived, eager to see as much of this UNESCO World Heritage Site (as of 1978), but it was probably the one that goes straight south from Far View Lodge to the Cliff Palace which is the best known of the many Cliff Dwellings at Mesa Verde. “Cliff Palace road” leads to the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum with bookstore and coffee shop and information center. There is a very practical “loop” where you have a great view of the Cliff Palace in the cliff side across a ravine. The other road goes parallel to the west beyond a couple of canyons, but you must first travel on another winding road on the mountain slope for a few miles before turning south. The road to the Cliff Palace is about eight miles long and the other is about twelve miles long. The other road leads to the Metherill Mesa with the Long House and the Step House, ruins we saw on our guided tour. But you cannot drive to these specific monuments you have to walk from the end of that roads.  

For us Swedes it is of national pride to come to Metherill Mesa because our landsman Gustaf Nordenskiöld visited the family Metherill in 1891. He introduced scientific methods to collecting artifacts and he photographed the ruins and Cliff Dwellings. He published in 1893 The Cliff Dwellers of the Mesa Verde.

The next morning, we joined the guided tour and that was wise and fabulous. It is obviously the thing to do and we were a sizeable group looking at different old settlements on the top of the cliffs.  With a guided tour you can even down into the Cliff Dwellings, an unusual and unforgettable experience. I did not do so, but Christin followed the group down the steep metal staircases and then up back to the top of the cliff using a series of large ladders. “I will not do that again, but I am glad to have done it,” says Christin.

During the two whole days we spent in the Mesa Verde National Park we traveled both roads every day, on the first day with a guided tourist group. We spent the time very wisely. Mesa Verde must be a grand dream for any archeologist and for us it became a major mental building-block.

The US government has published an excellent map of Mesa Verde National Park on Internet: https://www.nps.gov/meve/planyourvisit/upload/mevemap2018_8x11.jpg

There is another interesting link:

https://www.visitmesaverde.com/discover/archaeological-sites

FLASH CRASH

At lunch on our second whole day, May 6, 2010, something truly scary happened. It was an unthinkable half hour for all those people on our planet who were connected to the Internet.

The stock market had for a while been a bit of a problem, but that was nothing new. The stock market is fickle, goes up and down, due to feelings and sometimes even hysteria.

But this day the behavior of the stock market was bizarre. It all started at 2:42, May 6th,  Eastern Standard Time—that is in New York and at Wall Street. For us at Mesa Verde it was 12.42, Mountain Time.

Christin and I were having lunch at the Far View Lodge when we heard what sounded like an uproar outside the restaurant. People were using the Wi-Fi in the lobby for stock trading. In front of their eyes industrial shares lost trillion dollars in value. That money just disappeared due to an artificially and criminally induced “dip.”  

Nobody in any financial world could understand what was happening. The first we heard was that an error had occurred somewhere, that somebody who was bidding had clicked the wrong button “or something”. People were stunned, guessing what could have happened. Today, when reading about it nine years later I begin to get a picture of this odd event from many articles and videos on the Internet. For instance, I can see a video from those moments where Jim Cramer, completely baffled, is looking at the charts saying, “this is very much 1987.” That is how serious it was. This “Flash Crash” lasted 36 minutes.

After twenty minutes or so, the market started swinging upwards and after 36 minutes it was back to where the dip had started.

Today “we” know roughly what happened: A young man in London Navinder Singh Sarao, a trader—and possibly some of his colleagues at the trading company where he was employed—had manipulated the market by “spoofing algorithms, layering, and front running”. It took five years for the authorities to make a legal case. On April 21, 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice could extradite Sarao from England and indict him. Some posts say that he made 40 million dollars that day due to his Flash Crash.

Sarao lived in his parents´ “modest” home in the London Borough of Hounslow and has been given the nickname the “Hound of Hounslow.” The Court decided that Sarao was left in the ward of his father and brother due to having a form of autism. The 40 million dollars he had gained that day “had been stolen” from him and was never found.

Today, spoofing algorithms, layering, and front running is forbidden and properly controlled and that makes the world a bit safer.

Thinking back on that day and comparing the modern life on the Internet with life at the Cliff Dwellings at Mesa Verde a thousand years ago it seems that the Pueblo were much safer than we are. It can today be easier to steal people’s means to live and that is a depressing thought.

We left Mesa Verde early on May 7th. We had to cross the big plateau in the southern Rockies to get back to Golden and we were in a hurry as we expected a snowstorm on the mountain plains. I remember how we stopped in Cortez at a hotel and offered to pay to use their Wi-Fi. We needed to see how “the Dow” was doing, but they did not charge us. They knew how worried we were as they had also been worried about the stock market. It had recovered though from the deep dip the day before.

We stopped in Telluride for lunch.    The author Clive Cussler, born in 1931, has a passage in his novel “Chase” is set in Telluride.  Cussler’s (first) wife of many years was born in Telluride, so he knows it well. Clive Cussler writes mainly exciting under-seas novels with historical background. He is a very interesting person himself.

From Telluride we had 230 miles to our hotel in Gunnison, which was in our reach before the storm and we had time for one more stop, the important tourist place, the Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park. That is such an amazing but haunting place with walkways just above the steep black canyon walls. We hope many people get to visit.

In Gunnison we stayed at the Water Wheel Inn on Route 50 just before you come to the town, a university town. I learned to like that “modest” hotel (they call it that themselves) during the snowstorm. They had free Wi-Fi already in 2010. And there is a pleasant restaurant next to it. Gunnison is the seat for Western Colorado University, also known as Western. Between snow showers we managed to visit a popular ski resort Crested Butte.

On the last day of our trip we had 200 miles to travel from Gunnison to get home to Golden.

We drove from Gunnison to Salida to reach SR 285. The 285 is an important road over the mountain planes. It connects Denver with Santa Fé in New Mexico. The first couple of times you travel on 285 you will find it exciting. The plane is like an immense round pie-dish with the high mountains “like scalloped edges,” surrounding you in a distance. Otherwise it is a very long road. But the air is so clean on 10 000 feet over sea level and I like fresh air.

 

You might like the small place of Fairplay off the 285. I do. Internet states that Fairplay has 679 inhabitants. You can easily reach Fairplay from Breckenridge over the Hoosier Pass—22 miles on route 9—if you should have extra time for new vistas, visiting that ski resort. On Front Street in Fairplay there are four sophisticated art and craft stores and my favorite bead store. The Brown Burro Café on Main Street is one of those cozy places that let artists in the area put up their work for sale.

SOME OF THE LITERATURE ABOUT THE ROCKIES THAT I LIKE

About 25 years ago, I met Tony Hillerman at his reading at the Carnegie Hall in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Hillerman was already a cult figure and I had read most—or maybe all— of his novels about the Navajo. And some years later I discovered James D. Doss.

Hillerman´s novels about the Navajo are extremely interesting and so are Doss´s novels about the Ute on the Southern Ute Reservation in Colorado. Doss is quite spiritual and at this time in my life, when life has slowed down, I have the time for the spiritual, and I like it.

Doss talks about Socrates and likes him. I really like Socrates. The way I see him is that he was the first to tell people to think for themselves. I feel comfortable with anybody who at least knows something about the Greek philosopher who made our modern world possible.

James D. Doss had a big following. What I like about Doss is that he writes the way my friends in Pennsylvania would speak when I lived there in the 1980s and 1990s. It feels very homey to read his texts. I had a bit of a problem getting used to his slower pace after having just read some racy novel by Lee Child, but I slowed down and became quite comfortable with his writing. In his, a bit old-fashioned and ornate style filled with curlicues, he uses many adjectives, which is unusual today.

Doss´ books are reader-friendly. He chats with the reader and brings us into the story that way. He also had the habit of telling the reader what a character is thinking by using italics and some people do not like that, but I find it economical. That way he does not have to write “he/she was thinking”. Come to think about that: that gives Doss space to use all those adjectives.

Doss shows in his novels how “white” people and “black” people and “American native” in southern Colorado can get along beautifully and be best friends. After a hundred pages or so the reader (me) has no feeling of “race.” On the other hand, Doss lets (I believe he tries to be humorous) his American Indian characters talk about American Indians of other tribes with somewhat negative description—just like people in Europe say not-so-flattering-things about nationals of neighboring countries.

Doss was an electrical engineer and started writing as a hobby his books about Charlie Moon, a rancher and sometime tribal police investigator on the Southern Colorado Ute reservation in Colorado. James D. Doss passed away, sadly, in 2012 in the year when he would have been 73 years old. He lived then in New Mexico.

Tony Hillerman’s daughter Anne has continued her father’s work. She was scheduled at Mesa Verde for at reading of her latest novel a couple of days after our visit and “everybody” was excited and was looking forward to meeting her.

Have a great day

 

Sea Organ, Zadar

ZADAR, Sea Organ

If you should be in Croatia please make an extra effort to go north to the old city of Zadar, home to the unique sounds of the Sea Organ.

Alfred Hitchcock visited Croatia in the spring of 1964. Croatia was then part of Yugoslavia. Hitchcock said that Zadar has the world´smostbeautiful sunset, even more beautiful than Key West in Florida.  Hitchcock visited Yugoslavia as the Balkans were working to recover from the horrors of WWII. The seashore was for many years after the war an area covered with simple cement, but that did not stop Hitchcock from experiencing his most beautiful sunset.

About 40 years after Alfred Hitchcock´svisit, the city of Zadar gave free hands to an architect, a genius, who transformed the whole seafront into the most serene place. His ingenious creation of a Sea Organ is one of the most peaceful and emotionally invigorating monuments I have had the fortune to visit.  And still, from the pictures here you can see that it was not even on a sunny day and even so a fabulous experience.

I had the loveliest afternoon in Zadar walking along the seafront, listening to the soothing accords coming out of the“organ”-pipes, humming along. The “organ”is70meterslong,76.5 yards or 230 feet.  There are 35 pipes in seven groups. The pipes are tuned in the same key as traditional singing by men from this geographic and ethnic region.   Chances though, that the same two accord should appear as the same “melody”isabsolutelyminimal.The tones are made by the combination of waves and the amount of air under the marble stones. The amount of air depends on the height of the waves at different times during the day.

If I had several lives I would spend one of them in Zadar, and every afternoon I would go down to the park with the Sea Organ and sit for part of an hour and listen. Not necessarily at sunset. The soothing always-original-melodies would cleanse my soul.

I do wish that Hitchcock could have lived to experience the tunes from the Sea Organ at one more sunset.

Zadar tourist bureau has an excellent website where you can hear the Sea Organ. By the way, Zadar is also the birthplace of Captain Georg von Trapp, famous from The Sound of Music.

Have a great day

S

17 Waterfalls in Croatia

Krka National Park, Croatia

 

 


In the National Park on the Krka River, halfway between Zadar and Split in central Dalmatia, you walk in a wide area around waterfalls for two, three milesin a long circle overbridges and over small streamspassing many beautiful small waterfalls.

 

 

You arrive at the national park by bus or car to a large parking area above the falls. If you go straight ahead, that isyou go the circle clockwise then you reach an area of ​​terraces and restaurants on the levelwith the upper part of the fall. From there you go on wide stairs down to the plateau at the base of the fall. These stairs are comfortable and have steady rails.

The area below the fall is wonderful. People swim in the pond formed by the waterfall and there is a large outdoor restaurant. People come andstay all day long and have a great time.

As a tourist you want to go the whole circle around the falls. So,when leaving the area below the fall, you must walk a very long staircase. It’s OK because there’s a railing on the right handside (there is no railing on the other side). I recommend going in a clockwise direction if you want to go up and not down the long staircase. It may seem a very small detail, and for young peopleit does not matter but for older people it may feel in theknees to go downwards. At the parking lot, it is easy to go to the right over the charmingsmall bridges which takes you counter-clockwise and up the long staircase. So it is important toknow which direction will be easiest for you when you come toKrka National Park.

 

 

 

I wish everyone a happy Fourth of July, 2018

S

Wesseling- Russian Icons

Wesseling- Russian Icons

I like to go on a regular road or regular train. Then at least I get tosee people,living in the area.

Along the river Rhine you gobyboat instead of a bus. It is very practical. The old reputable company KD Köln-Düsseldorf… KD Deutsche Rheinschiffahrt AG is extremely practical and in my opinion a very convenient way to travel along the Rhine. I have had reasonsto travel between Cologne and Frankfurt a few times, but of course, boats go north and south from those places along almost the entire Rhine.

In Cologne you have totake a taxi to the dock, which is hard to find otherwise. Make sure you get the right boat. The boats serve as regular country buses: you buy the ticket before boarding, either in a kiosk at the dock or in a shop across the street in thesmall towns. I believe you can also buy the ticket onboard. Everything is low-key and very practical and pleasant.

When you boardthe boat, you take a place in the restaurant—hopefully at a window—and you will keep itduring your entire trip. If you want to get up on deckyou can markyour placewith a book or a jacket. During the day, you order breakfast, lunch, and dinner and your waiter will take care of you. They will serve you coffee or wineor whatever you want at any time.

 

Once I was first on board and grabbed the small table for two peopleat the front, almost above the bow. I had the most amazing view you could imagine. When the boat left, I discovered that I was blocking part of the view for the rest of the passengers, so I moved back to anotherwindow table and everyone was grateful. Nobody took my first table.

Once I started in Cologne quite late in the afternoon and could not get to my favorite city on the Rhine, the small town of Boppard. I stayed overnight in Wesseling, halfway between Cologne and Bonn. It’s probably seven years since I was there. As I walked in the park along the river, I discovered that there was a Russian Icon museum in a villa in a park. It is a private museum and the man who created the collection lived upstairs on the second floor of the big villa. Perhaps the man was Russian Orthodox, maybe he was Roman Catholic. I never thought about asking because the situation suddenly became so dramatic.

The man asked me where I come from. My friends who subscribe to this blog know that I grew up in Sweden and have Swedish / European Union passport but that I’m also a US citizen after spending half of my life in the United States.

In Europe, I say I’m from Sweden. It simplifies life. Everything in human history deals with LOYALTY and Europeans like European “loyalty”.

I said to the man thatI come from Sweden. Heexploded in anger. “Sie sind ja Protestant!” he said, refusing me access to his museum.

”Religouswars”arealive and well in Europe! Are not ”religious wars”a strange expression?

I shall tell you a little aboutmy family, who mainly were farmers in the cold and dark of Scandinavia for probably 1500 years. Butonebranch in our family tree was well off in the 17th century and earlier they were large landowners (with many children who sometimes shared theinheritance). Earlier,from 1300 AD backwards,they belonged to those who createdtheEuropean states.Takealook atyour background! We may be related!

I told the angry man in the Russian Icon museum in Wesseling on Rhine thatI have lots of saints in my background, including Russian Orthodox Saints and even a Pope. You should have seen his 180 degree turn! He treated me royallyafter that.

If you are a Catholic, Orthodox or if you like icons or if you just love beautiful things, you would like the Wesseling Museum of Russian Icons from the 16th century. I bought two CDs of Gregorian chantsfrom the man. He felt so good because he met a descendant of medieval saints.

Have a great day

S

Italy – Vatican

The Sistine Chapel

If you travel to Rome try to be there on a Friday night. The Vatican City State often opens the Sistine Chapel for visitors on Friday nights. First of course check the Internet if it’s open on the night you’re there.

It is so much more convenient to visit the Sistine Chapel on such an evening because there is not such a big crowd as during daytime.  You get more time to be in the chapel, which you will want after the long walk up the wide spiral staircase and the long corridors. The corridors might not feel so long due to the   immensely fine art on all walls.  I have always thought that the Holy See want to educate the visitors and also give them exercise.  It takes a long time to get to the Sistine Chapel, but don’t let me discourage you. You won’t regret making the effort!

Last time we were in Rome with  we went with a guided tour on a Friday evening and we were able to sit down for half an hour and enjoy Michelangelo´s paintings in the ceiling. When you see those paintings in the ceiling remember that Michelangelo was not a painter but a sculptor. This enabled him to make three-dimensional figures. They give the impression of being sculptures,

Michelangelo lived between 6 March 1475 till 18 February 1564. He painted the ceiling of Sistine Chapel 1508 to 1512. He had already made one of the finest sculptures in existence, La Pietà, and it is now on the right when you enter the Basilica from the Piazza San Pietro.It is now placed behind a bulletproof acrylic glass after being damaged due to an unfortunate attack by a sick person in 1972. Michelangelo was appointed the architect of St. Peter’s Basilica, in 1546, and he created the dome above it. Do go up in the dome or at least go up  to on the terrace that looks out over Piazza San Pietro.

Have a great day

S

 

USA Midwest, Lee Child—Jack Reacher

USA Midwest, Lee Child—Jack Reacher

The Heartland

I cannot say anything about Lee Child´s writing. He is one of the (many great) modern writers. But I can tell you about my own feelings when I read his novels, his thrillers.

The thing is that I relate easily to Jack Reacher, Child´s main character. For me he is the perfect “tourist.” He travels and takes in impressions as they come along. That is the way I love to travel, eager to see something new.

Lee Child is the perfect “tourist.” A tourist is a person of immense curiosity. Child was born in England, but most of his stories take place in the USA. As a perfect “tourist” he looks in awe at new vistas with the eyes of a child. Although he places sinister happenings in the towns and cities he visits, Child must have been happy getting to know those places or he could not spend so much time describing them in detail. He works like a painter in front of a canvas.

Reacher hitchhikes or takes Greyhound buses. It is not a very sophisticated way to travel, some might think, but it is relaxed.  I have traveled from Colorado to New Mexico and from Pittsburgh to New York with Greyhound, but I have never hitchhiked.  It is not so dangerous for a man, especially if he is more than six feet and weighs over 200 pounds like Jack Reacher.

Somewhere Child calls Jack Reacher a “drifter”.  I do not think I am a drifter. For several years I drove along the Atlantic Coast just to be able to breathe. I drove along the Atlantic Coast from Key West to the Canadian border. But I had a goal. I drove in the direction away from where the “early trees” were not blooming. I was avoiding pollen that I feared would finally make it impossible for me to breathe.  My health was poor with allergies and asthma haunting my frightened soul. But I was lucky. I could get away from the allergens. I took my car and drove away from them.  Maybe I was a drifter then for a while.  Just like Reacher.

There are no colors really in Child´s novels. They are grey.  There are shadows and mist and gloom, night, but also sun.  When I read about Child´s sun I add yellow and orange, but that is not his intent I believe. There is brightness and there is dawn.  A modern grey novel. I mean that for me it seems that the New World is black or grey.

In Die Trying he has the following color: peach color. The lady who we hope would stay with Reacher forever has a peach-colored expensive Italian suit. She has a high post in Washington and spends lots of money on clothing. There are glimpses of a blue sky occasionally, but not many times through the book.  And there is the green truck with a ton of dynamite on a desolate road in the sparely populated mountains out west.

How can I, a colorist and artist find myself so at home in Lee Child´s novels that are grey, more or less?  Lee Child gives the answer himself when he describes as genius being in the details. I like genius.  And Child´s novels are built up with details that draw the reader into the action. The reader is part of the story.

I believe I can relate to Lee Child´s Reacher the most when he travels across the Midwest of the USA, living very simply, taking a room at a small town´s only hotel. And that hotel room is in no way fancy—just the way I did when fighting for my own health.  But I think that what echoes in me when I follow Jack Reacher is the farmland in the US Midwest and the emptiness in the large landscapes. Those wide scenes place me back to my childhood and summers that I spent in the Swedish countryside at different homes and farms, belonging to family. To get to them the Ford we travelled in passed wide fields and through large forests. Only now and then I saw a farmhouse, just the way Jack Reacher sees farmhouses on the Plaines. Although I was only a child, and although there lingers in me memories of a sunlit orange countryside, I today pick up a feeling of loneliness and melancholy that is a residue of impressions from my childhood summers. Odd enough it feels good for me, although Child describes landscapes in murky weather. It touches a nerve in me.

Jack Reacher crisscrosses the US, describes the sites he visits in detail, and lets us follow him, which I happily do. Over the last 60 years, I have visited 43 US states and lived in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Colorado, and Florida. I have spent so much time in Manhattan, so I canalmostsay I have lived there and the same with California. I love to follow Jack Reacher to US states I feel I know so well.

Reading one of Child´s thriller novels, I sort of took a helicopter trip—together with Jack Reacher— to Chicago and Washington D.C. and spent some time in both cities, cheerfully going back in my memory to wonderful days in both cities over fifty years. Reading Child´s novel was a tourist trip to the Midwest (and D.C.).

I do not read the fighting scenes. Sometimes I skip to the last page of such a scene to see who survives and then I go back and hastily read a few words in paragraph after paragraph to see what happened. The martial arts scenes must be great in the movies, but I read Child for his description of places.

I like the modern world. We are so lucky. We can try on innumerable Personae through our lifetime. As children we copy the grown-ups like children always have done, but as adults there is no limit to people or situations we can copy and learn from. It is as if we are trying on shirts, pants, jackets in the dressing room of a clothing store. When we stand in the irritatingly long checkout line in the grocery store we enter famous peoples’ lives for split seconds and take on and live their lives  subconsciously, approving or disliking their behavior. Those moments are travels into different worlds. So are of course all the movies and books that open places where we can experience other lives in our minds for a short spell.

This is what the modern world has done for “everyman” during the last hundred years or so and I am one who is enormously grateful.

And I can take on different personae when traveling. I can be a tourist, with eyes open in awe over new unexpected aspects of life or I can be a traveler, intent on a goal, a study of something or a business appointment.

Now I am starting to read one more Lee Child book, Tripwire.  Jack Reacher is in wonderful Key West. That will be another vacation trip for me as a tourist.

Have a great day

S

 

Croatia Underwater Wine

Croatia is an extremely beautiful country.  It has a very long, rocky, coastline with islands along the Adriatic Sea and we all know how coastlines with islands sooth our aesthetic souls.

The only thing Croatia and the other Balkan states need are tourists. These countries are restored to comfort again after the horrible Yugoslav Wars, 1991 to 2001. There are beautiful items, locally produced, to bring home as souvenirs. What did I buy on my bus-charter trip in 2017? I picked up a couple of fun things at the Antique market in Split, but what I really was happy about was a very special wine, a business concept. The wine is stored for two years in underwater grottos in the Adriatic Sea.

Look on the Internet under Croatia, wine, stored underwater in grottos and you will be inspired to take boat tours out to these grottos for a swim.

This wine was hard to find in any store, but I had read about it in a travel magazine and I kept trying. There is a very good liquor store outside the northeast corner of the Palace in Split and they ought to have that wine.  Well, they did not.  Finally, I found the wine in a gift store in a cheese factory on the island of Pag in the northern part of CroatiaIt is the most expensive wine I have bought; a little above 100 dollars for this bottle.  It was delivered, carefully packed in a wooden box, like a small crate.

It was a fabulous wine. We had a family (We are a small family) reunion and celebrated with this wine.  That dinner was an event.

Have a great day

S

Tokyo, Japan

 

 

TOKYO AND JAPAN

Our Kimono-story

In the spring of 1988, my daughter C got off school to follow me and my husband to Japan for one week on one of his business trips. We lived at the time in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Thirty years ago, airplanes could not fly as far on one full tank compared to today, so we had a half day stop-over in San Francisco before continuing to Japan.

In San Francisco we did the normal tourist program. In Tokyo we stayed at the Tokyo Prince Hotel. My daughter C and I did tourist things while my husband met with his business contacts.

For instance, we saw people celebrating the falling of the Cherry blossoms in a park. They had brought blankets and had pick nick under the trees. We took part in a lovely tea ceremony in the top floor of an international hotel, and we made a weird trip to a university out in the country where they taught Swedish.  I was at the time the only Swedish teacher at a university between Washington D.C and Chicago and maybe I felt I should meet a colleague. Maybe I got bored of the sameness of the huge city of Tokyo.

One of the great memories is my two mornings at the Tokyo fish market, which is fabulous. I only took a taxi when I heard the gong at the monastery next door.  They beat the big gong at sun-up.  My daughter C went with me one time, but we had to leave as she thought it smelled too strongly —of fish.

I hope to describe the Tokyo fish market to you some time.  You ought to visit the Tokyo fish market if you have the chance.

My husband and C and I were invited by the Japanese businessmen to their club in Ginza. They had a shelf reserved for their personal liquor, whiskey. I do not drink whiskey and asked about brandy and somebody was sent out to buy a bottle. That bottle of brandy is still there, I am sure. That evening in that club in Ginza I made an unforgettable—for my family unforgettable –Karaoke rendition of “I Left my Heart in San Francisco.”

We also made a memorable trip to Nikko but here I will let C tell the story because that is C’s story:

Our first evening, a Friday, in Tokyo, I inaugurated a new pair of white leather sandals. However, the leather was very hard, especially at the heel, and cut into the skin. When we returned to the hotel I had bloody sores on both heels. That being the last time I bought shoes from a catalogue. Or wore those shoes. So, wearing other shoes I went around Tokyo with my eyes and mind wide open. And taking photos of everything, stopping only to enjoy the corn-on-the-cob-fried-in-soya-sauce in large Woks sold by street vendors. Yum!!! Then on Thursday we made our way to Nikko, a sanctuary up in the forested hills to the north of Tokyo. A visit was recommended to me by my history teacher who had lived in Japan. After several trains and busses, we reached the lovely site with large ornate pagodas, and a small water trough from which a thirsty visitor could get a drink.

The air was slightly moist with rain, and many of the school children and their teachers were holding up umbrellas. We walked around and took photos. Of course. We watched as school classes took turns to line up in rows on the steps and have their pictures taken. [The three “smaller”photos have been scanned in as they were not digital.]

Then it became time to return to Tokyo proper. So, we started to wander down the hillside to a bus stop where we would begin our journey. Behind us was a class of children around 11 years old. About halfway down the hillside Mom noticed that they wanted us to stop. Wondering what they could possibly want from us, we stopped and their male teacher approached us. He was stretching out his arm towards me. And in his hand, he held two Band Aids and pointed at my feet. I smiled, bowed and placed my hand on my heart before graciously accepting the gift. C

 

But it was OUR KIMONO STORY I wanted to tell you; how my daughter C and I found and each bought a pre-owned kimono and an obi “somewhere” in Tokyo. It was a wonder how we got there and back to the hotel.

I checked the English-language newspaper for things to do and I had found the smallest ad: “Used kimonos. 1 dollar per pound.” Why I reacted I do not know, but I love beautiful “stuff.” And I assume that we all agree that kimonos are very beautiful.  The receptionist at the hotel wrote out the address in Japanese and my daughter and I took off. I remember going by two different buses and one subway. We tried to get a taxi, but the taxi driver refused to drive us. That made me think that it might not be a good or safe address, but we endured. Between buses and subway we stopped people and showed them the paper with the address and asked what to do next. I remember well that when we were close we walked about 500 yards through an area with very nice modern buildings.  But what we thought the last person meant when we asked for directions had us ending up at a shack below a railroad track. We stepped in. Bowed respectfully of course and looked around. Only black “working-class”  (sorry for the choice of word) kimonos, many of them mended. We looked around and tried to make some sense of it all and maybe find a nice black kimono. The man in charge of the store was sweet and apologetic. When we showed him the advertisement he took us outside and made us understand that his was not the place for us. We together understood that we should go to the modern building across the street and he pointed at the door where we should enter and showed three fingers. So we went across the street and up to the third floor and there we came into a Paradise.  If you love beautiful things, hundreds and hundreds of colorful kimonos are Paradise.

The store had wedding kimonos on the fourth floor. Only if you are extremely lucky do you get to see such fabulous things. Maybe some museum in major cities have Japanese wedding kimonos on display.  We were very lucky. We spent two hours and bought each one kimono and each one obi.  Then we started on our long and complicated way back to the hotel. We were elated, to say the least.

This morning, sitting in my home in Orlando, Florida, I looked up pre-owned antiques on eBay. Auction houses and eBay are like fine museums and you can sit comfortably in front of your computer and enjoy the beauty without having to travel! Lucky me.  There on eBay were pre-owned kimonos, being auctioned. That was when I remembered my and my daughter´s difficult travel with buses and subway to that store that sold fabulous pre-owned kimonos in Tokyo.

 

Mobile, Alabama

ALABAMA

December 13, 2017, Lucia Day in Sweden, a very important day culturally.

MOBILE, Alabama, ”the best city in the USA.”

”the best city in the USA.”  is what Sweden´s (second most important) author, Carl Jonas Love Almqvist, said in the 1860s. Almqvist was born in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1793 and died in Bremen, Germany, in 1866. Almqvist spent the years between 1851 and 1865 in America, mainly in Philadelphia, but traveled extensively in the USA.

Almqvist was a genius, unfortunately too modern for his own times. Almqvist managed to construct the Swedish school system before he left his country. Almqvist was a romantic writer and still would have fitted in today as he was a very early Feminist.

Yesterday, was the dramatic election in Alabama of a Senator for the US Senate where feminism played an odd role. That triggered my memory of Carl Jonas Love Almqvist and especially his love for Mobile, Alabama.

I had been curious about what Almqvist had seen in Mobile, and had the chance to see the town on a drive between Denver, Colorado and Orlando, Florida.

Mobile was well worth my visit. The old part of town today is restored and lovely and looks like it must have looked in the mid-1800s.

The Old Spanish Trail, or route 98, out of Mobile going east is a beautiful experience. And there is also the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park just outside the town. That would be interesting for a family with young boys. Interesting for Dads also. (For Mom?)

I had a great meal in a HUGE building, bigger than a barn, on the reef 3 miles east of downtown Mobile: Felix´s Fish Camp Restaurant.

Another restaurant I found and to which I´d like to return is Tropics Bar and Grill on 5872 Battleship Parkway, in Spanish Fort, just at the foot of a bridge on Route 98, about 8 miles from Downtown Mobile. The view is very inspiring.

When I went to school, they taught Almqvist´s writing. Today, many people in Sweden have not heard about him unfortunately. He is among the people who have shaped the Swedish way of thinking in the 1800s. Almqvist happened to live in the Romantic Era. For instance, he and some friends “went back to nature” the way the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) preached.  Almqvist and his friends were farmers for a while in the wooded area in Värmland near the Norwegian border. The house is still there, well taken care of by people from the Almqvist Society.

We have several touch points. In 2012 we moved our Swedish home from the Stockholm area to Upplands Väsby, halfway between the capital and the city of Uppsala. From the time Almqvist was three years old till he was fifteen he lived in Upplands Väsby. He described his childhood on a country estate 200 years ago as an idyll.  The square in front of our train station in Upplands Väsby is called the “Love Almqvists Torg.”

And another touch point with Almqvist is our country home I Värmland about 10 miles from Almqviststugan, his little cottage in the dense forest where he played at being a farmer for a few years around 1820. There he married a country girl and they had a daughter. The daughter was his contact in Sweden during his years abroad and we know so much about him through his letters to the daughter.

Mobile, Alabama. It is lovely. When I feel like it I shall take my little dog with me and drive there again, follow the Gulf coast, possibly take a detour to the lovely and artsy Cedar Key on route 24 north of Tampa. I will plan the trip over some Saturday and Sunday. In the USA it is so pleasant to travel through small towns on Saturdays and Sundays as people in small towns put on special “Days” at their market squares over weekends. We people are after all flock-animals, and seek any reason for festivities.

(The foremost Swedish author is August Strindberg, born and died in Stockholm, 1849-1912)

Have a great day, S.

 

 

BALI

 

 

Dream Destination…

BALI

 There is no place like Bali. There is no place like Bali. There is no place like Bali.

Ok…Maybe New Zeeland but that’s another post ;).

I have dreamed of going to Bali for over 20 years so when the day finally arrived I was a bit scared of being disappointed. That I had blown this little island right out of proportion in my head. But, No!

Bali was all I ever fantasized about and more. The only thing that bugged me was that we didn’t have more time. I could have stayed forever…

Sanur

Our visit started in Sanur which is known to be family friendly because of the reef that stops the waves (and surfers) from crashing in. Sanur is this tranquil place where our hearts could calm down at the beach while every adventure, like speedboat, jet ski, diving, shops and people are just a few streets up, within reach.

We indulged in Young Coconut, fresh fruit, mocktails (non-alcoholic drinks), wonderful food and live music.

Ubud

For those of you who love culture – food, dance, theatre, wooden carvings, history, medicine men, jungle, volcanos, hiking, rice fields and let’s not forget those scenes from the movie Eat Pray Love, then Ubud is a must. When in Ubud all activities are close by and seemingly everyone wants to help you experience as much as is humanly possible.

The Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary based on the concept of Tri Hita Karana, a philosophy within Hinduism, which means “Three ways to reach spiritual and physical well-being”. Those three ways points to three harmonious relationships between humans and humans, humans and their environment, and humans with The Supreme God. The Monkey Forest in Ubud creates peace and harmony for its visitors as well as conserving its inhabitants, mostly The Long Tailed Monkey, and rare plants.

The Volcano, Mount Batur. You can have lunch overlooking the volcano and its amazing surroundings or you can get up at 2 am in the morning and climb it, with a guide, and reach its peak at sunrise where you can fry an egg on the smoking hot crater for breakfast.

Gunung Kawi Tampaksiring is a temple and funeral complex from the 11th-century. It comprises 10 rock-cut shrines that are carved into the cliff reaching 7 meters high. These funeral monuments are known to be dedicated to King Anak Wungsu of the Udayana dynasty and his favourite queens. To get there you have to walk over two hundred stairs down (and then up) but it is well worth the effort.

Tegallalang –The Magical Rice Terraces.

About half an hour north of Ubud you can stand in this ocean of green, lush, sprawling rice terraces and standing there you’d know you wouldn’t want to miss this for the world.

Are you a good at bargaining? Or maybe you need to practise your skills? The best place either way is the Art Market in Ubud.

Just walking up and down the streets is a cultural experience where all your senses will get a taste of Bali.

 

Canggu

We made just a quick two-day visit to Canggu which is an up-and-coming resort area by the coast situated between Seminyak and Tanah Lot. The sand here is black and the waves draw many happy surfers.

Dreamland Beach

You know those photos you see in magazines of a picture perfect Paradise. Well, that’s Dreamland Beach, Uluwatu, in real life. Our days spent here on the beautiful white beach listening and seeing the azure coloured waves rolling in and out was absolutely heavenly. I could not have asked for more.

Bali was a dream come true. I could go on for at least another 10 pages full of pictures, places, how wonderful the people are and the amazing experiences that we had on Bali. And also how sad it is that plastic is floating up on the beaches really shows how much of an environmental problem it has become.

I think you just have to go there yourself and create your own blissful holiday and make memories that will stay with you for a lifetime.

We know ours will.

Thank you,

CW & JH

–Bali October 2017