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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Adventures abroad

How strange to find, on the kitchen counter, pains au chocolat. Max now works for Panera, a bakery and sandwich chain. When he closes, which seems to be often, he brings home large quantities of whatever is left over. So, we now have a freezer full of bread, and a counter full of sandwiches and pastries. Pas mal!

I have adjusted back to real life pretty smoothly. (Liss=smooth!) Except that my left little finger now seem to be going for the q as often as the a! I just re-read my whole blog, well, at least this summer's entries, partly to remind myself what I have already written and what I still want to capture on paper. And I am glad to have documented so much, for myself as well as for anyone else who cares to read about my experiences.

I have just posted two albums of photos to Facebook. One is about the mosaic project itself, one more quirky pictures of various things, artistic in one way or another, that have caught my fancy along the way. I hope to post more of my 800 plus photos (I've been good and deleted about 150 so far) soon, if you are interested in the visual version of my adventures.

I would like, now or shortly, to describe at least a few more of my adventures abroad. Adventures Abroad, I suddenly realize, was the name of the company with whom I travelled to Europe the first time, when I was 17. The trip that led me to the avant-guard Living Theatre troupe, to Avignon, in an indirect way to going to live in Paris the year afterwards. I learned from my mother only recently that she and my father had sent me to Europe that summer because they thought I was so shy and withdrawn. Hmmm, guess it worked.

I want to return to Germany, in my thoughts anyway, for a bit. First, to relay a bit more about Koln/Cologne and my visit with Christian and Dorthe there. I went to some wonderful museums, which I will try to describe shortly. But first, to once again thank C and D for their wonderful hospitality. It's funny how some people immediately feel like friends when you meet them. Or, is it the fact of being outside your normal reality that contributes to fostering the relationship? I didn't really know Christian very well when he invited me to come visit. We'd met in Ukraine last year, and I was taken by his committment to Czernowitz and the cemetery project although he had no personal connection to either. We knew one another over perhaps five days there. I didn't know Dorthe, or even that there was a Dorthe, until shortly before I arrived in Koln. She bounded into their apt, full of cheer, although her mother was ailing and D. had just come from visiting her in the hospital. I spent the next three days enjoying myself on my own in their apt and the city, and the evenings with them in conversation discussing topics serious and light. Somewhere in the conversation the topic of fig flavored mustard arose. Dorthe's eyes lit up as she asked what time my train was departing the next day. I knew what she had in mind. Sure enough, at the train station, she met me with a package of three kinds of local mustard, fig, coconut curry, and chili. Of course, I will remember her and Christian as I savor them. But it is their friendship I will truly remember.

There are several wonderful museums in Koln, in addition to the remarkable and unmissable Dom Cathedral.Unmissabble for several reasons: one, because you shouldn't, two because you can't, it dominates the city, and three, because, if you come into the city by train it is right there, across from the train station. It is huge, gothic, filled with stupendous stained glass windows. One was, I believe, destroyed in the war. (as was much of the city.) A new, quite modern and brightly colored window was designed by a famous artist (I'll have to look up his name) to replace it. From what I gather, it has caused some controversy like most things new and different. Too be honest, I wasn't as impressed with the new window as I wanted to be. I also need to read more about how the cathedral was preserved from wartime damage.

There are two wonderful museums adjacent to the cathedral. One is the Ludvig, an art museum. The other is the Romanische-German. Both buildings are spectacular and highlight their collections well. The Romanishe contained, among other things, some incredibly preserved Roman mosaic floors, of which I of course took many pictures. As much as anything else, I enjoyed watching the skateboarders on the plaza in front of the museum through thelarge glass windows, sandwiched between Roman heads displayed on tall modern pillars.

The Ludvig was the private collection of a couple named, of course, Ludvig, and is features modern art, including pieces by Warhol, Lichtenstein, George Segal, many more, and a great design collection. I was taken by their cafe, and a view from under the stairs that included some stashed away cafe tables plus a work on the stairwell wall that featured some chairs. There was also a sectioned off area of many chairs, of all kinds. I couldn't decide whether it was an exhibit in the process of being put together or taken down, or one actually on display! You can see the photo in my Facebook album "But is it art?"

The last museum I visited in Koln was in the former Gestapo headquarters, now called the Documenation Center. It consisted of cells where prisoners had been housed, and tortured, and much more in the way of exhibits, mostly, though, just captioned in German. Most impressive, though, were the cell walls on which hundreds of prisoners had written thoughts, in poetry and prose, with pleas and wishes to loved ones, in pencil, lipstick, scratched into the walls, etc. It made me wonder if this was a phenomenon particular to this one prison. Or if others had existed but been demolished. Apparently when this one had been discovered the original plan had been to demolish it but someone had the idea to preserve it.

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