May 22, 2018 Frankfurt, Germany

Bad Homberg

Frankfurt – Magnes, Kent, Johannes

Salburg Fort

This morning our student, Magnus, from Hamburg arrived to visit with us. He decided that we should rent a car-to-go for a few hours and he would drive us to a town called Saalburg, about thirty-minutes outside of Frankfurt. In Saalburg we visited the Saalburg Roman Fort built during the reign of Emperor Trajan at the beginning of the 2nd-century AD. The fort served as a base for frontier troops for about 150 years until Roman troops withdrew from the area and the fort fell into ruins. Between 1897 and 1907 Emperor Wilhelm II ordered the fort to be meticulously reconstructed and the surrounding area to be laid out as an archaeological park, research institute and open-air museum. Today the Saalburg Roman Fort is part of UNESCO’s Upper German Raetian Limes World Heritage Site.

The buildings have been beautifully restored and there are many artifacts that were found in the area now housed in a museum. They have several workshop areas where demonstrations are given on the making of shoes, creating tools out of bones and a kitchen from the time period. During the year they have many festivals where people dress in the period costumes and re-enact battles, household activities, etc.

After a nice visit to the fort we stopped in a small town called Bad Homburg where we had a bite to eat at a café on the main square. After lunch we returned to Frankfurt and said farewell to Jochen and Magnus who each needed to catch a train home. The train ride for each of them was about four-hours but we were very pleased that they would make the effort to come to Frankfurt and spend time with us.

For dinner we met up with Johannes who took us on the train to the neighborhood where he lives not far from Frankfurt to see his apartment. He lives in a charming village community with many shops and restaurants. He has a one-bedroom apartment on the fourth floor of a building with no elevator.

For dinner we walked a block from his apartment to a Spanish tapas restaurant where his mother met us for dinner. We had a very nice dinner with the two of them and she expressed how much she was looking forward to the day that Johannes would marry and start a family. She is a teacher who teaches German as a second language to immigrants as well as a pre-school class. We said goodbye to Johannes and his mother kindly drove us back to our hotel.

May 7, 2018 Rome to Sorrento, Italy

Popes Palace Formal Gardens

Popes Palace Chapel

Popes Palace Hall

Located about 16 miles southeast of Rome we visited the small town of Castel Gandolfo with about 9,000 inhabitants. This scenic community has served as a summer residence and vacation retreat for the pope at the Papal Palace of Castle Gandolfo. The Lateran Treaty of 1929, in which Vatican City was recognized as an independent country, gave the Villa Barberini Castle–along with the adjacent Villa del Morro and Villa Cybo–to the Vatican. The adjoining Lake Albano is surrounded by summer residences, villas, and cottages, many of which were built during the 17th century. The lake was also home to the rowing events during the Rome Olympics.

The grounds were expanded later by Pope Pius XI by acquiring some additional land as a small farm. Today the farm has many chickens, cows, sheep and other animals. The grounds of the villas are exquisitely maintained by twenty full and part time gardeners. There are fountains, statuary, boxwood gardens, and a huge variety of walking paths and terraces, plants and flowers. The grounds are approximately 135 acres in size.

The Pope’s residence is a three-story palace where the first floor is occupied by office space when the Pope is in residence. On the second floor are photos, vestments and memorabilia from all of the Popes. The third floor is the main living quarters of the Pope with many rooms where the Pope can have private meetings with parishioners, an office space, sitting rooms, a small chapel and a large bedroom. The current Pope (Francis) does not visit the residence and prefers instead to make visits to a neighboring monastery in the woods near the lake. The residence has been open to the public as a museum for the last few years.

During World War II it is said that Pope Pius XII opened up the grounds of the Castel to refugees escaping the fighting in Rome. On January 22, 1944, the first of what became 12,000 people began arriving, bringing with them cows, horses, mules and sheep. Included were many Roman Jews, and other non-Catholics. During the time they lived there, 36 children were born, many of whom were named after the Pope. It is believed that the Pope’s private apartment was converted into a nursery to house all of the new born children.

After our tour of the Pope’s summer residence we traveled by bus about four hours including a break for a quick lunch at a roadside stop. We checked into the Towers Hotel before heading out to see the town of Sorrento. The drive into town was along a twisting turning road along soaring steep cliffs jutting up from the sea. The town is very hilly and covered with homes, vineyards, citrus gardens, vegetable gardens and Kiwi vines. The town is very charming with many shops along a pedestrian street, cobblestone streets and window boxes with colorful flowers. Views from many restaurants overlook the Tyrrhenian Sea.

For dinner we headed to a very large restaurant overlooking the sea (although it had begun to rain and so we were unable to enjoy the outdoors and the skies were gray and filled with clouds). For dinner we started with an appetizer plate of cheese, prosciutto, salami and deep-fried pasta dumplings. Next came a slice of pizza before an entrée course of pasta and ravioli. This was followed by a shot of the local liquor Limoncello and a pastry similar to pound cake covered in a lemon cream.

October 17, 2016 — Arnhem, The Netherlands

Arnhem Stately Home

Arnhem Stately Home

Arnhem Shop

Arnhem Shop

Arnhem - Bridge Too Far

Arnhem – Bridge Too Far

This morning some onboard visited the National Liberation Museum in nearby Groesbeek. The Liberation Museum is set in the beautiful landscape near Nijmegen, Arnhem and the German border, a unique location: Operation Market Garden, the largest airborne operation in history took place here in September 1944 and Operation Veritable, the Rhineland Offensive, the final road to freedom in Europe, started from here in February 1945.

The museum brings the historical events of the liberation by the American, British, Canadian and Polish troops back to life. In the museum they saw the period preceding the war, experienced the occupation, celebrated the liberation and witnessed the rebuilding of the Netherlands and Europe after the war. Aromas, interactive presentations, diorama’s, models, original films and sound fragments captivatingly depict the liberation. The museum shows both young and old the current value and importance of democracy, freedom and human rights.

Not wanted to be depressed by memories of war, we chose to take an alternative panoramic bus tour of the Arnhem area followed by a walking tour in the heart of the city. Our tour took us through some stunning scenery from simple country cottages to large stately homes. Everywhere we went, there were lush green trees planted in rows surrounding each plot of land and many just beginning to turn colors in the fall air. We did drive by the fields where some 25,000 allied soldiers parachuted into the area in a failed attempt to take control of the bridges (one was the famous Bridge Too Far) crossing the local rivers.

In town we heard about the history of many of the old buildings and shops lining the pedestrian only streets in the heart of town. The shops used to have three dimensional figurines mounted on the front of the shops to tell passers by what they sold inside. For example, a pig’s head might indicate that it was a butcher shop where they sold pork, while a cow might indicate that it was a Jewish butcher where beef was sold but no pork.

We returned to the ship about 12:30pm in time for lunch and to begin sailing towards our next port of call Koblenz, Germany. Due to the low water levels and heavy traffic on the river it would take us about 28 hours to reach our destination. In addition to the many tourist river boats there are many commercial goods transported on the river.

For dinner, the ship had prepared a special captain’s welcome cocktail party and dinner for us. They served a four course dinner including lobster soup, veal tenderloins and crème Brule. After dinner they showed a film about the Andre Rieu Concert. Andre is a violinist and conductor who is trying to bring classical music to the masses by making it entertaining. In this case the concert including vocalists, ballroom dancing, ice skaters dancing, elaborate costumes all in a fairy tale setting of a stately manor home. We were not familiar with him but others said that he is often shown on public television programs.

February 2, 2016 Sea Day

We attended a coffee chat with the cruise director and the nautical department. Four of the ships officers were on stage to answer guest’s questions about everything related to the navigation of the ship.

Brian Stoddart lectured on India’s Global Business and Labor Empire. He discussed how India’s population has migrated over the last 150 years, providing labor around the world. Indian’s have created great wealth by inventing many drugs, products and services around the world.

We had lunch with Gail in the dining room prior to doing our daily walking on deck in an attempt to ward off some of the extra pounds.

The afternoon brought a lecture by Werner Salinger about Africa and its fastest growing economies in the world.

We were invited to dinner at the Canaletto Restaurant with John and Steve from San Francisco. Following dinner we enjoyed an internationally acclaimed trumpet player and vocalist by the name of Chuck Curry. He was a public school music teacher in Scottsdale, AZ before the district discontinued the music program. He had a nice voice but not much stage presence.