Yesterday was a gorgeous day in the 303 with mild temps and even a shower later in the day-something we haven’t seen in a couple of months. Mother Nature has been quite schizoid this summer so it was wonderful being able to take advantage of this pause in blistering temperatures. It was the perfect day to visit the Denver Botanical Gardens with a dear friend. My dear friend, Cheryl and I were awed by nature’s kaleidoscope of color and texture. Here are a few highlights from our meanderings. It was a great day shared with a great friend that reminded me how truly blessed I am by this friendship and the gorgeous venue in the heart of the city.
Wishing you a fabulous day of wandering. Happy mid-week.
After two days of pleasant temps in the 80’s, we’re back to the scorching mid-90’s temperatures along with single digit humidity for the rest of the week. The dogs and I don’t do so well in the heat so we’re gonna huddle comfortably in the air-conditioned house for the better part of each day and recall cooler days on a trip to Southern Germany. On the plus side, it’s mid-week, only a couple of days until “Favorite Friday.” Enjoy a nice cool spot in Bad Rippolsau where I wish I was today.
Maybe because winter has been fairly fleeting here snow wise, I decided to take a nostalgic stroll through some photos of a trip to Alaska’s Inside Passage.
If you’ve never experienced a visit to this scenic destination, you’ve missed out on an amazing adventure. Incredible vistas, unique Native cultures and remarkable wildlife, Alaska has it all. While I would have loved to have spent some time at Glacier National Park, my visit was limited but still provided some incredible glimpses of this unforgettable state. So grab your beverage of choice and let’s see a few of the more notable scenes, shall we?
Departing from the port of Seattle with its infamous Space Needle on the horizon, the cruise ship headed northward toward Juneau. Named after the gold prospector Joe Juneau, the city became the state capitol in 1906. Due to its rugged terrain, Juneau is unique among state capitols insomuch as there are no roads connecting the city with the rest of the state although there is ferry service available for autos. It’s basically an island city…on land. You either have to fly or boat into the city. With around 31,000 full-time residents, the populations swells from May through September when cruise ships visit, by about 6,000 people per day.
Located approximately 12 miles from downtown Juneau is the famous Mendenhall Glacier and surrounding landscape which is protected as part of the 5,815 acres Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area, a federally designated portion of the Tongass National Forest. Despite the ongoing glacial ebb, this spectacular site will nevertheless take your breath away with its sheer size and presence. Given that temperatures continue to rise throughout Alaska and fact that the end of the glacier has a negative mass balance, it will continue to retreat.
I was mesmerized by the floating pieces of the glacier in Mendenhall Lake and with the ice color which appears blue due to the absorption of all colors of the visible light spectrum except for blue, which it transmits. Named after noted scientist, Thomas C. Mendenhall who served as Superintendent of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey from 1889 to 1894, he also served on the Alaska Boundary Commission and was responsible for surveying the international boundary between Canada and Alaska. In 1892, this glacier was renamed to honor Mendenhall. The naturalist, John Muir, had first named the glacier “Auke Glacier” in 1879 after the Aak’w Kwaan of the Tlingit Indians. Bear sightings are not unusual in the area and one must be vigilant when hiking.
Tracy Arm Fjord, south of Juneau is a deep and narrow fjord with considerable floating ice ranging from hand-sized to pieces as large as a three-story building.
No trip to the Inner Passage is complete without a stop in Skagway. Noted for being the setting in Jack London’s “Call of the Wild,” Will Hobbs’s book Jason’s Gold, and for Joe Haldeman’s novel Guardian, as well as John Wayne’s film “North to Alaska” filmed nearby. Skagway became populated after thousands of miners hoped to strike it rich in the region during the Klondike Gold Rush.
The prospectors’ journey began for most as soon as they climbed over the White Pass above Skagway. In 1898 the White Pass Yukon Route began laying narrow gauge railroad tracks along the route as a result of the gold rush. One notable hooligan interred in Skagway’s Boot Hill is Jefferson Randolph “Soapy” Smith, one of the most unscrupulous con men of the time.
Alaska’s native people (Eskimos) have had a significant impact on the state’s culture and the many museums along the way should not be missed.
After taking in some incredible handcrafted items, it’s always good to experience the bounty of the sea. Crab anyone?
Many other stops along the way provided equally stunning scenery. I could go on and on about beautiful and fascinating Alaska with its wide and breathtaking vistas. It’s not uncommon to see a spouting blow-hole from a whale along the way but you need to be quicker than I was at trying to photograph it. Though failing at any photographic remembrance, that image will remain forever burnished in my memory. And so will the sunsets.
You simply can’t go wrong taking a trip to the 50th 49th (with thanks to Evil Squirrel) state for seeing beautiful locations and learning about the Old West Frontier. Have you ever been there? What was your favorite part?
So while we’ll be at West Pines today, I couldn’t help but wish I was back in Praha, or Prague as most people know it, and my most favorite city in Europe. Some buildings in this beautiful city date from the 800’s and during the Middle Ages, Prague was larger than Paris or London. Central Prague is easy to meander about on foot, cab, tram or bus. Sites from Old Town Square, fabulous gothic churches, the towering Prague Castle and the famous Charles Bridge are guaranteed to make you want to spend many days wandering around inhaling as much culture as possible. With many US expats and a large English online newspaper (The Prague Post), it’s easy to see why so many Americans love this city. English is spoken in many shops and restaurants so communicating is very easy. I found only one small apothecary shop where English wasn’t spoken but thankfully between my pathetic German together with goofy impersonation, I was still able to procure some cold/allergy medication. Isn’t it funny how people will go out of their way to help tourists who manage to convey their inability to breathe easily?
One of the most iconic sites is the Old Town Hall with its Astronomical Clock. First built at the beginning of the 15th century, it was rebuilt by a master clockmaker (Hanús) in 1490. Not wishing for him to duplicate his masterpiece elsewhere, the city councillors blinded the poor clockmaker. The mechanism currently in place was perfected by Jan Táborskýbetween 1552 and 1572.
From Frankfurt, I took an overnight train and arrived bright and early in the morning. An older wooden train with sleeping compartments, the rocking motion and click-clacking on the tracks were the perfect way to get a restful night of sleep. Arriving at the main station one feels they’ve stepped back in time.
Our comfortable hotel (K+K Hotel Fenix) was not far from the train station near Wenceslas Square and they arranged a lovely bus tour of the city for me and my travel companions.
Dominating the Little Quarter Square, the fabulous High Baroque Church of St. Nicholas dates from the 1700’s. Located near the bridge, the beautiful church with its lush interior and frescoed vault, makes it one of Prague’s most important baroque buildings. It took 60 years to complete.
No trip to Prague would be complete without visiting the Prague Castle founded in the 9th century with towering St. Vitus Cathedral overlooking the city. The picturesque ‘Golden Lane’ with its colorful little cottages built into the castle walls was constructed in the 16th century.
Folk art can be found everywhere with hand painted eggs, wooden toys and Prague is well-known for its exquisite Bohemian crystal and beautiful garnet jewelry.
The most iconic monument in Prague by far is the Charles Bridge. At 1706 feet long, the pedestrian bridge is now a haven for craft and trinket stalls and connects the Old Town with the Little Quarter. Until 1741, it was the only crossing over the Vltava River. Built by Charles IV of sandstone blocks, it was commissioned to replace the Judith Bridge. Approximately halfway, the only decoration for 200 years was a wooden crucifix but subsequent statutes were erected along the bridge and named after many saints.
Located in the Old Town Square, the historic Church of Our Lady before Týn with its twin towers dominates the Jan Hus Monument. Begun in 1364, the church became associated with the reform movement in Bohemia and commemorates the religious reformer and Czech hero, Jan Hus, who was burned at the stake by the Council of Constance in 1415.
The Jewish Cemetery is crammed with some 12,000 headstones with occupants stacked up to 12 deep in some places with an estimated 100,000 people buried in the small space. The last burial was in 1787.
Prague is one of the most fascinating cities I’ve ever visited with a rich and sometimes tortured history but one place I strongly recommend. Have you ever been there? What did you love about this cultural treasure?
Since I wasn’t able to take any trips this summer [much to my chagrin], I’ve been looking through old vacation photos and decided the next best thing would be a digital visit via “Wish I was There Wednesday.”
Today I thought we’d go back to Germany and visit another jewel of the Fairytale King’s palaces. Hohenschwangau Castle is located near the town of Füssen and was initially used as a hunting lodge and retreat for agnates. Reconstructed on a hill above the Alpsee (Alp Lake) by Ludwig’s father, Maximilian in the 1830s, the castle became a museum with guided tours in 1913 following the death of the Ludwig’s uncle, Prince Regent of Bavaria, who electrified the castle and installed an elevator. Over 300,000 visitors each year tour the castle and its grounds.
Lying in the shadow of Neuschwanstein, the Mad King enjoyed his childhood years at Hohenschwangau. While his parents lived in the main castle, he and his brother Otto, lived in the annex. Like the other castles Ludwig owned, this one also had all the modern conveniences available at the time. The beautiful gardens where lions and swans are prominent, boasted alpine plants collected by the Ludwig’s mother, Queen Marie, who loved to hike in the nearby mountains.
Like so many sights in the area, the blue and white flag of Bavaria is prominently displayed, this appearing over the entry gate.
The interior is decorated in Gothic Revival style with many frescoes depicting heroic German sagas.
Well there you have it. Hope you enjoyed another installment of “Wish I was There Wednesday.” Isn’t nice to bypass TSA and go on these trips (even if they are never as good as in-person ones)? Have you ever visited this region?
Today is the official first day of Summer, the longest day of the year. And it’s been pizza oven hot. So…it made me think I’d like to revisit a place that had a ‘cool vibe’ to it and one that I happened to have visited before.
Let’s hop on our magic carpet ride to the fabulous 111-acre botanical park known as Insel Mainau on the Bodensee, the largest lake in the German-speaking world, (aka Lake Constance), located on the border where Germany, Switzerland and Austria meet. Insel Mainau is known as the “Island of Flowers.” It was a lovely day with perfect conditions for taking in all the incredible sights on the island still owned by the Lennart Bernadotte family. The more than 150 year old Arboretum with its giant Sequoias welcomes you to relax and enjoy an amazing place. Mainau contains around a million tulips, Rhododendrons, roses, perennials and dahlias that bloom in clever beds throughout the gardens. Palms and citrus plants also lend a Mediterranean flair to the island in summer.
We hung out for a short time prior to boarding our ferry in Meersburg checking out some of the sights, one of which looms high over this Baroque town. Poetess Annette von Droste-Hülshoff used the Old Castle in Meersburg from 1841 until her death in 1848. More than 30 rooms are available to tour year round but we came for the spectacular gardens and did not go through the castle.
Accessing Mainau is done either by bridge from the town of Lindau on the southern side or by ferry from Meersburg on the northern side. My previous trip I drove through Lindau but this time we took the ferry from Meersburg. But before we begin our tour, here’s a bit of historical background. Born a Swedish prince, Lennart Bernadotte designed the former summer residence of his great-grandfather, Grand Duke Friedrich I of Baden, as a flower and plant paradise and made it accessible to the public. Siblings Bettina Gräfin Bernadotte and Björn Graf Bernadotte now run the foundation which manages the island and promotes conservation and protection of the environment. Rare plants, more than a million tulips, hyacinths and narcissi, a stunning collection of dahlias and 250 species of roses, highlight the gardens. The diverse collection contains over 800 varieties making this landscape interesting in all seasons. One of my favorite parts of the gardens are the massive topiaries which offer a whimsical look around the grounds.
With beautiful and astounding specimens of roses together with restful spots and secret places to linger, you’re sure to find something that impresses and appeals to your senses.
These cascading walkways take my breath away with their beautiful design. Every. time. I. visit.
I could have stayed here for days and even though I’ve been there twice now, I know I haven’t seen it all. Guess I just need to take another trip! Darn…twist my arm…please?
Come back again for another “Wish You Were Here Wednesday.” Have you ever been to Insel Mainau?
It’s Wednesday and the weather here has been completely craptastic. It will take most of the summer for the area to recover from the hail storm from Monday (see here for details-with advance apologies for being unable to extract the commercial before the video). All this tumultuous weather had me wishing I was back in Germany walking through incredibly appointed castles and drinking in all the culture. When I last visited there was a soft, gentle misty rain during part of my visit to this castle…so unlike Monday’s hell-breathing hailstorm, the current weather has made me wistfully wishing I was back there even more. So please join me on a magic carpet ride back in time to the spectacular Linderhof Palace, located about 15 minutes from Oberammergau in southern Bavaria.
Of the three major castles that Ludwig II built, Linderhof was the smallest but the most spectacular and opulently appointed. It was also the only one Ludwig was able to finish before his untimely death in 1884. The original building began as an alpine hunting lodge and added wings to it which later evolved into the current castle. Ludwig ascended the throne in 1864 at the young age of 18 following the unexpected death of his father, Maximilian. Socially awkward, painfully shy, Ludwig was a dreamy-eyed but detail oriented Virgo and lived a tortured life whose real interests were in the arts, music and architecture, not governing. One way to detach himself from the harsh royalty reality was to create the ultimate fantasy world which served as a refuge from having to deal with royal duties.
In 1874, the original structure was moved some 200 meters away and work began on this spectacular palace at its present-day site. There were numerous building phases before its 1886 completion. Ludwig’s biography indicates a strong familial French connection with the royal House of Bourbon (his godfather was Louis XVI) so it seemed natural that design plans were strongly inspired by his infatuation with the Versailles Palace with a healthy dose of Wagnerian influences thrown in for good measure. Though smaller than its inspiration, it was nonetheless, equally as ornate and opulent. Linderhof cost the crown over 8 million marks, a gargantuan sum especially back in those days. It was the only castle Ludwig lived long enough to see completed. While photographs are not permitted inside the palace, there are a few snatched from the Linderhof Palace website. The exterior and garden photos are my own.
Situated on the south side and commanding spectacular views of the surrounding area was the King’s bedchamber. One of the largest rooms of the castle, it boasted a special view of the grounds and woods Ludwig so loved with from an early age. Clad in signature blue color of Bavaria, the bed was flanked by two large candelabras and, as was typical throughout the palace, had an overabundance of intricately embroidered tapestries. Being quite a tall monarch, his bed was specially constructed to fit his well-over 6 foot frame. Set in an alcove on a low stair riser, it resembled an altar. The glass chandelier below held 108 candles.
The dining room held a special feature in that the table could be lowered through the floor directly to the kitchen and then cranked up with meals allowing the king to not have to see any servants. Always dining alone, Ludwig was self-conscious of the poor condition of his teeth according to the tour guide who said the king suffered from a “sweet tooth.” It has been reported that Ludwig led a very lonely life as the king. While the decor is far too overdone for my tastes, this room was breathtaking. The photo simply does not do it justice.
The outside exterior and gardens were equally as fabulous. Ludwig was well-traveled and fascinated by the mystical world of the Orient and insisted on incorporating many of those influences into the sprawling gardens, combining formal elements of Baroque style, Italian Renaissance gardens and formal landscaping of an English garden.
Ludwig was so taken with the 300+ year old Royal Lime Tree on the right, he refused to remove it despite its asymmetry in the formal gardens. The gilt fountain operated solely through the pressure of the natural gradient, rising over 20 feet in the air at times.
The Hall of Mirrors, inspired by the same room from Versailles was far too dizzying to include a photo but you can check it out here. I didn’t stay in this room for too long fearing I’d become nauseous looking into mirrors reflecting mirrors to infinity. Ludwig reportedly slept during the day when sunlight could practically ensure a headache in the infinity mirrors but spent time in this room during the night when it was lit by candlelight, where it must have been dazzling with flickering lights. The room has massively large and continuous mirrors, centrally heated fireplaces with chimney pieces of lapis lazuli, ornamented rosewood veneer furniture, bronze figures, the ostrich down carpet in front of the alcove, and fine Carrara marble sculptures.
And last, but certainly not least, Ludwig built an artificial pristine cave with lake and waterfall at the castle modeled after a Wagnerian opera complete with electrical lighting provided by the first electric company in Bavaria. Remember this was the late 1800’s! As with all of his castles, Ludwig employed all manner of technology including electricity, finely appointed kitchens, central heat and dumb waiters.
Well, that’s it for this edition of “Wish I was there Wednesday.” Hope you enjoyed the tour! Till the next time…
Today on Wish I was There Wednesday, I thought it might be fun to visit Venice, Italy, one of my favorite destination spots. The serenity of this beautiful city with its exquisite landmarks and warm friendly residents unexpectedly touched my heart and soul. I had not expected such a deep connection but totally embraced it wholeheartedly. So hop on my magic carpet ride and see if you love Venice as much as I do. Giuseppe Verdi was absolutely right.
Begun in 1631, the ‘Salute’ church was built as a kind of offering to the Virgin Mary for deliverance from the Black Plague epidemic ravaging Venice in 1630. Most of the objects of art housed inside the church refer to the Black Death.
The caption of the gondolier shown above was added as a tongue-in-cheek comment. Venetian gondoliers would never sing that song as that is associated with Neapolitans. Venice tourist officials have banned the singing of it since the 1980’s. Sadly, it’s what most Americans think of when in Venice.
Have you ever been to Venice? Did you fall in love with this beautiful city and its friendly people? Well, it’s guess it’s probably time for you to get back to work. Thanks for ‘traveling’ with me on a ‘Wish I was there” kind of day.
We depart from our regularly scheduled Word(y)/Wordless or Wish you Were There Wednesday posts on this occasion to acknowledge the Ides of March. Upon doing a little background research, I discovered this date was initially observed as a religious holiday (the Feast of Anna Perenna) with picnics, drinking and revelry celebrated by common people. But then in 44 B.C. it became known more as the assassination date of Julius Caesar. Ah yes, those were the glory days in politics where Twitter hadn’t yet invaded the political discourse. Caesar’s death triggered a civil war which allowed his adopted heir Octavius (later known as Augustus) to rise to power. The Big O waited until the fourth anniversary of Caesar’s death to avenge the death by executing 300 members of those senators and knights who had opposed him. Brutal times those where. Aren’t you glad we’ve evolved? Maybe Twitter isn’t so bad after all?