Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Black Friday by the Sea

"I feel most at home out along the Ocean's edge, where land meets sea. It is here along these rocky, life filled pools, giant kelp forests, and flat rock fishing holes that life reaches into me with a soothing calm." - Jesse Lee Longacre

Many years ago, back in the early 2000s, the Geek enjoyed a good Black Friday shopping. He would get up before the crack of dawn and stand in line to get some pretty good deals (at that times you would actually still get good deals). After a few hours he would return home to have a long and lazy breakfast with Kaefer and me - and entertain us with the funniest stories about the things he had experienced while standing in line. But after a few years the appeal had vanished and Black Friday shopping stopped in the Bartz household. Instead, we stayed at home and spent a wonderfully lazy day, playing games, putting up the Christmas lights on the house and eating too many cookies. A couple years later, REI introduced the #optoutside Black Friday with their own stores closed so that their employees could enjoy the great outdoors. We enthusiastically embraced it and since then, we have spent Black Friday far away from any shopping and any laziness.

This year was no exception. The weather was gorgeous and we decided to go to the ocean and spend the day in Salt Point State Park. This state park has been on our list for quite a while and I honestly don't know why we didn't go there sooner. It is a gem.

Salt Point has a very rough and wild shoreline. It is named for the cliffs and crevices where salt from ocean water crystallizes in sandstone depressions. The Native Kashia Pomo gathered salt here for centuries. One of the most unusual and beautiful features of the sandstone along these sea cliffs is the honeycomb-like network called tafoni.

The waves and salt spray leave salt crystals which interact with the sandstone, causing some portions to be hardened, while others are loosened. This creates the lacy, box-like pattern. There were many to find here.

How can you not love this texture on the sandstone? It is simply amazing.

We were constantly putting up our cameras, taking pictures. If it wasn't the tafoni, it was the "lovely rough" sea that captured us with its tall waves - some of them were a good ten feet tall and arrived in the typical "sleeper wave" pattern (a series of very powerful waves followed by a smooth sea followed by very powerful waves etc.). The constant noise from the crashing onto the shore sometimes was so loud that we had to shout to each other.

Beside the tafoni, I was fascinated by the entire geology of this place. Rock surfaces were different, some smooth, some rough. Some reminded me of the slick rock in places like Canyonlands or Arches National Parks. Water pooling in depressions washed out the sandstone even further. There were different colored layers of rock and I repeatedly wished that I knew more about geology. A geologist would have a hayday at this shoreline.

A sea urchin had become lunch for a passing sea gull.

A tide pool served as a mirror for the clouds in the sky.

Sometime during the day I came upon this sign that inspired the quote at the top of this post.

Unfortunately, I couldn't find anything about Jesse Lee Longacre except that he was only 41 years old when he died. Maybe he was a tribe member of the Kashia Pomo. His words truly spoke to me.

I was happy to see a few birds - right when we started out I saw a hawk disappearing in the forest beyond the shore and a kite hovering over the cove. I thought I had taken a photo of the kite, but I can't find it anymore. It's a mystery.

But there was this sweet little sparrow that came to rest on this beautiful rock cairn.

A Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) flew by and landed a bit further down the way. What a graceful guy he is.

Before I saw the Black Oystercatchers (Haematopus bachmani) I had heard them and was looking for them. They were darting up and down among the rocks, probably looking for mollusks.

Nature is just the greatest and most accomplished artist. That's why this shoreline is my contribution to Rain's Thursday Art and Dinner Date this week. What did we have for dinner on this wonderful day? Well, we drove a bit further up North to Gualala and had lunner at the Seafood Shack - clam chowder, local rock fish and chips accompanied by a bottle of local beer.

On our way back home we witnessed a beautiful sunset over the ocean. We made it just in time to a parking spot next to Highway 1 - weren't we lucky that there was some pampas grass growing (non-native and invasive, but beautiful) along the road that made a splendid foreground?


Monday, November 28, 2022

Family Reunion in Würzburg


Here we are at our last weekend in Germany. During the weeks before our trip, we had planned a family reunion with the Geek's parents and siblings and their families. It was quite an endeavor since this was a long weekend and the start of school holidays in some of the German states (especially Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg). But we had finally succeeded in booking rooms as well as train tickets, and on Friday afternoon we met in Würzburg, two train hours to the North from München, but still in Bavaria in a region called Franken. This part of Bavaria is well known for its excellent wine that is bottled in uniquely shaped bottles called Bocksbeutel. The wine, by the way, is excellent.

We had booked rooms in a youth hostel that used to be a women's prison. It was right on the river Main and about 20 minutes to walk to the city center. The bells of the church right next to the hostel woke us every morning with its very loud ringing - no need to set an alarm.

Würzburg is a very old city (first mentioned in 704) that was heavily bombed in World War II and consequently reconstructed afterwards. One of the most famous churches in Würzburg is St.-Kilians-Dom (cathedral) right in the center of the city.

The Residenz (residence), with its very famous interior staircase is in walking distance to the city center. The principal architect was Balthasar Neuman, who developed a refined brand of Baroque architecture. The Residenz was built in the 18th century and since 1981 it has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In addition, it has a beautiful formal garden and - you guessed it - a beer garden (after all, we're still in Bavaria).

In order to get to the city center we had to cross the beautiful Alte Mainbrücke (Old Main Bridge) which is a landmark of Würzburg. It is for pedestrians and bicycles only, no cars or motorcycles are allowed.

This is the oldest bridge in Würzburg and for a long time, it was the only way to cross the Main. Started in 1476, it continued a tradition in the 18th century by adding stone figures along the length of the bridge, like Charles Bridge in Prague and St. Angelo Bridge in Rome. The statues represent several saints.

They make a great silhouette against a dramatic sky.

From the Alte Mainbrücke you have a good view of the Festung Marienberg (Marienberg Fortress) high above the city. It is the other important landmark of Würzburg. 

I couldn't find exact dates when the fortress was started, but it seems that originally a church and monanstery was already at this location in the 8th century. Today, the oldest remaining parts are from the early 11th century. During the centuries, the fortress was reconstructed several times and most of the current structures were originally built in the Renaissance and Baroque styles. It was severely damaged in World War II and rebuilding it fully lasted until 1990.

On Saturday morning we decided to hike up to it. It was a steep climb with many stairs and steps.

Still more stairs... I was walking with my mother-in-law and she just repeated over and over "I hate stairs, I hate stairs". However, we had to laugh about that.

After all this climbing we were rewarded with a fantastic view over Würzburg.

The fortress is huge and I found lots to photograph.

I was specifically taken with all the beautiful old doors and gates.

Since all of us still were very cautious, we avoided eating inside and instead visited beer gardens of which Würzburg has many (remember - it's Bavaria). The local beer was delicious - of course I had my beloved Weißbier. This is my ticket for T Tuesday, so kindly hosted by Elizabeth and Bleubeard.

After one of those beer garden visits we decided to take a family picture, taken by the Geek's older brother's girlfriend. Here we are - parents, siblings, in-laws, cousins, pet.

Monday, November 21, 2022

Lunner in the Abbey


Last week I told you about our stop in Vipiteno/Sterzing on the last day of our short trip. After we had left this charming little town in Südtirol, we crossed Brennerpass into Austria and from there drove via Innsbruck back to Bavaria. It was a lovely drive in splendind weather with gorgeous views. We passed the beautiful lakes Walchensee and Kochelsee which were pretty crowded since it was a public holiday (Ascension Day). We finally reached Kloster Benediktbeuern (Benediktbeuern Abbey) where we decided to have "lunner" - a name that we gave to a warm meal that is between lunch and dinner when we have neither of the two. We often do this while traveling.

Benediktbeuern Abbey is a monastery of the Salesians of Don Bosco, but was originally a monastery of the Benedictine Order. It was founded around 739/740. During the secularisation of Bavaria in 1803 the abbey was dissolved and during the course of the disposal of the library and archives the manuscript of the Carmina Burana was found, a 13th century collection of songs by wandering scholars. This manuscript is now in the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in München together with many priceless manuscripts and charters from the abbey's library and archives. 24 of the poems of the Carmina Burana were set to music by Carl Orff in 1935/36. If you're not familiar with this music, listen in to "O Fortuna":

The site is huge and now among others also houses a university, a "Centre for Environment and Culture" and is home to an extended herb garden. The brewery - what is a monastery without its own brewery? - unfortunately was closed in 1925.

I am always very fond of the baroque church towers that you can find in Bavaria with their remarkable onion shape.

There were gates. as well - I always love gates.

But our main reason to stop here was the Klosterbraustüberl, named after the old brewery. It has a restaurant and a big beer garden. Since it was a holiday, the beer garden was crowded and we had to wait for our food quite a while, but spent the time with people watching. And we did see some "real Bavarians" in the traditional Bavarian costume.

The food we had I had already shown you in this post, but since this is for Elizabeth and Bleubeard's T Tuesday, please join me for the wonderful Weißbier we had here.

 After we had eaten our "lunner", we started out to the very last leg of our trip, returning to München through the beautiful Upper Bavarian region.

If you are in the US, I wish you a very happy Thanksgiving. Despite the current state of the world, there is much to be thankful for. We shouldn't limit that to just one day in the year.

Monday, November 14, 2022

A Visit to Vipiteno / Sterzing


Between the Jaufenpass which we had just passed and the Brennerpass which forms the border between Italy and Austria and is one of the principal passes of the Eastern Alpine range lies the small town of Sterzing (German) or Vipiteno (Italian). Since we're still in the autonomous province of Südtirol, you hear more German here than Italian.

The community of Vipiteno only has a population of about 7000 - 8000, but because of its location between the Jauffen- and Brennerpass it has been an important trading town for centuries. In 14 BC a Roman fort was built in this location, and in 1182 the name Sterzing was first established. It experienced its strongest boom in the 15th century with the start of silver mining in the region.

Many buildings along the main pedestrian zone date back to that time, including the Zwölferturm (Torre delle dodici) which was built in 1468 - 1472. It is 46 meters tall and therefore the tallest building in the town and also its landmark. It got its name - twelve tower - because its noon ringing of the bell was calling the people to lunch.

I especially liked the gate.

We stopped in this town for one main reason - gelato. We weren't disappointed.

We strolled along the pedestrian zone, Kaefer and I went into some of the stores and each of us bought one of the bells that the cows in the Alps wear around their necks. These, of course, were much smaller bells, but quite cute. Whenever I look at it I'm thinking of Südtirol.

Since this is a very old town, there were little side and back alleys to discover as well as old doors.

I loved this sculpture holding the basket with the plants.

It was in front of a wine shop. Behind it you can see a wooden box filled with wine bottles. But somehow I think this is not enough for Elizabeth and Bleubeard's T Tuesday. However, since we didn't have any drink here - at least none that we took a picture of - I have to fall back to one of my mugs that I use for drinking coffee or hot chocolate. This mug came from my favorite Swedish company