Category Archives: Architecture

The art of buildings and bridges

Wedding Day in Cairo Egypt

Wedding Invitation

TRAVEL THERE: A VERY DIFFERENT KIND OF CEREMONY

So far, Bassem and Miriam’s wedding day has been pretty mundane, if you don’t count the machine guns on our bus.  Once the church doors opened, everything changed.  We were at a Coptic Wedding.

Saint Mark Coptic Church

When the huge doors opened, the scent of incense wafted out into the waiting crowd and I was awestruck.  The church was gorgeous, obviously very, very old, but beautiful.  You got the impression God had been hanging out here for a very long time.

It was not a particularly large church, but it was grandly decorated with beautiful paintings and an amazing amount of gold.  There was no formal seating going on.  Everyone just wandered in and took a seat.  There was no his side and her side, just folks wandering into a pew as they entered.  The family was sort of huddled over to one side.  We had some front row seats, but they certainly were not particularly advantageous.

Forget What You Know About Weddings

Throw out preconceptions, because this had nothing in common with your basic American wedding.  The bride and groom were seated in thrones at the front of the church.  The photographers and videographers considered themselves very much part of the ceremony and spread themselves out across the front of the church.  Joining them on the stage were a group of priests in decidedly Coptic garb.

Coptic Officiants at the Wedding

Now I’ve been to weddings where there were more than one officiant.  Sometimes it’s because each family wants to be represented or there are several members of the clergy in the family.  This wedding had an entire crowd of priests.  They’re the guys wearing the black turbans, but these four in the picture are only a sample.

I was made to understand the number of priests reflected the status of the people getting married and no one could remember a wedding where they’d seen more priests.  Most gratifying was the priest who had come all the way from Sharm El Sheik because of my niece, who holds such a special place in their congregation.  Each of the priests participated in one way or another.  Some doing ceremonial duty and others delivering pithy little sermonettes to the bride and groom. (None of which I could understand, of course, because they were in either Coptic or Arabic.)

All the while, the church was a beehive of activity.  Along with all the priests were acolytes and altar boys wandering around doing a variety of tasks, from swinging incense burners to lighting candles.  At one point my nephew Shady went up to read the Bible.  Also any time a priest wasn’t involved in the ceremony, they were kept busy blessing whoever came up to the stage, bowed before them and kissed their hands.

Folks seeking blessings weren’t the only ones who came up to the stage.  As if the photography and videography crew of about six people weren’t enough, no one hesitated to pop right up out of their seat and head up to the front to get a picture – and if the best angle was between the priest and the wedding couple, then so be it.   

Behind their back, their very expensive decorations are already coming down

I was gob-smacked.  I couldn’t believe it.  The bride and groom were almost an after-thought in all the frenetic activity.  Suddenly it was all over. The bride and groom stood.  A few pictures were taken and we all filed out of the church.

Let the Turnover Begin

I was still trying to  process what I had seen, when I realized that as soon as the bride and groom had their back towards the stage, folks started tearing down the decorations so they could get set for the next wedding.

An American church might have 2 or three weddings on a given day, but Coptic churches schedule about an hour per wedding and stack them all day long, from early in the morning until late in the evening – especially on holidays like the day after Easter.  If they get behind, which apparently they always do, then they just hurry you up a little more.

Once we were outside, you could see they had already redecorated the entry to the church and on a corner near the church were the floral remains of several different ceremonies.  Egyptians do have a receiving line, but it’s held on the porch of the church, rather than at the reception. As the wedding party assembled into the obligatory formation, a limo pulled up in front of the church.  I will never forget seeing the bride get out of the limo, go through the security routine we had and then climb up the stairs to the sanctuary.  It was one of those odd scenes that you can’t erase.

Then it was back in the bus and back to the Fairmont.

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An Interlude for Observation

TRAVEL THERE: A LITTLE NIGHT WANDERING

Our lunch at Baalbak was great and we could have easily sat around the congenial table and chatted for hours, but at seven they had to open for regular patronage.  They finally shoved the last of us out of the room at about 6:40.  To a certain extent, hysteria was setting in.  We had a wedding in less that 24 hours.

Time for the Gifts

After lunch, Bill’s family went into a variety of directions.  Some back to hotels, others to Mirette’s apartment and Bill wanted to know what I wanted to do.  Well, my number one priority was still delivering gifts.  Good husband that he is, he got us back to the hotel, gave me enough time to get the gifts wrapped and then arranged for someone to come pick us up, all so I could get the gifts off my list.  Perfect.  The bonus was that he got to take a nap – albeit one where he had his head covered with a pillow, because I was rustling tissue paper and gift bags.

In good American time, Mirette came to the hotel to pick us up.  This is the point at which I get to tell you what a doll she is.  She adores her Uncle Bill and is so sweet to me that I could just eat her up.  This girl has a heart as big as they come and it is open to everyone.  Love her!!

My beautiful nieces. Maggie on the left and Mirette on the right.

Sister Mona’s Old Apartment

Mirette’s apartment is in Heliopolis, not far from the Fairmont.  It’s in the same neighborhood her mom used to live in.  Bill was interested in driving around and seeing how things looked, because this is where Mona lived since the time he was a boy.  He has fond memories of daily trips to the area for Mona to tutor him.  Believe me, he was a lot more interested in the daily trips than he was in the tutoring.

I’d stayed with Mona for a day or two on our last trip and been amazed by a few of the constant inconveniences of life in Egypt.  For one thing, they don’t have little things like building codes which demand that you must build a parking lot to accommodate the people living in a building.  Parking cars two and three deep around a building was the norm.  The density is hard to imagine.  One huge multi-story apartment building after another built chock-a-block.  You can literally reach across and steal your neighbor’s underwear hanging on the patio of an adjacent building.

You don’t need alarm clocks, because early morning prayers and the vegetable crier with the donkey cart will wake you up.  The dust is appalling.  You cannot keep a house clean.  The water may or may not work.  The same with electricity.  Life is chaos.  And this isn’t in the ghetto.  This is in one of the best residential areas in Cairo.  I found it mind-boggling.

Rent Control vs. Life Control

My liberal friends like to tout ideas like rent control.  Before you think rent control is a good idea, take a gander at Egypt.  It has rent control.  The place is built and you pay through the nose for the most basic of apartments.  The buyer is responsible for finishing out the apartment, so while you may have a very elegant tasteful finish, the guy on the next floor can negate it with his purple porch or maybe he’ll never finish it out, leaving a hole where there should be an apartment.  Maybe he’ll put up curtains or build something on his patio.  That’s tough, because once your in, you’re stuck.  While things may seem expensive in the beginning, hang around, you’ll have a bargain in a few dacades.

My sister-in-law now lives in the apartment she renovated that belonged to her parent’s.  The rent is equivalent to $10 a month.  She’s got an absentee landlord who allows one of the tenants to be his super and the perk is this agent is allowed to run all kinds of scams – overcharging for electricity, doing faulty repairs, whatever. But Mona’s got it good.  Her neighborhood is still one of the nicer ones available.

The worst part for Egypt is that Mona is the exception that proves the rule.  She could afford to do a renovation and she works hard to keep her apartment clean and attractive.  In most cases, by the time a family has lived a lifetime in an apartment, it desperately needs to be renovated, but there isn’t any money.  The owner of the building certainly isn’t going to renovate it, because the building no longer has any value to him.  He will continue to collect the minuscule rents until the last person there dies or maybe he won’t and if he doesn’t, maybe his super will take them for himself.  Many, many buildings are in horrid disrepair.  Perhaps there’s no one living there any longer and the owner has abandoned it.  Perhaps there’s still a family or two in the building, praying they can somehow continue to get water and electricity until they are dead.

You can spend the next day or two trouble-shooting this, but you have two possible ends – the current situation remains or the government gets involved.  We Americans assume that the government is just going to come in and fix everything, but what happens if the government we are depending on is broke.  Welcome to Egypt.  Let’s just hope it’s nothing like this ever happens to us, but just to be on the safe side, let’s not have rent control.

 

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And She’s Back

In the Fairmont Heliopolis

TRAVEL THERE: AN EXTRAORDINARY EGYPTIAN ADVENTURE

I just got back from Egypt and I want you to visit this amazing country.  You’re not going to believe some of the exciting adventures I had while I was there.  I hope that as you read my blog in the coming months, you’ll start planning your own trip in your head.  As much as I want you to go, I have always been totally honest with you – sharing the good and the bad.  So it is only fair that I start this series by warning you that Egypt is not an easy country to visit.  You have to overlook a lot to see what is valuable, but there is great value.  In the coming weeks I will rave about spectacular hotels and jaw-dropping sites, but I have to start here, with the not-so-pleasant reality of Egypt today.

Apartment Buildings

Then and Now

This was my second trip to Egypt.  The first was in 1996 when terrorism was an occasional, rather than a daily, thing and the only terror incident associated with Egypt was an attack on a busload of tourists in 1990.  The world has changed a lot since then.  Days before I was scheduled to leave for this trip, bombs went off in two different Coptic Churches.  It didn’t stop us from going, but it did give us pause.  It shouldn’t stop you from going either, but you need to know what you’re getting into.

The imminent threat of violence was the most obvious difference between this trip and the one we enjoyed twenty years ago.  Security was a pervasive presence, everywhere we went – whether we were visiting a museum, an airport or a church.  Every time we entered our hotel we had to put all our belongings through a scanner and ourselves through a metal detector.  I was glad for the security, but saddened by the need for it.

It was the same thing pretty much everywhere we went and you just got tired of it.  Take a romantic walk on the beach and come back to the hotel for a thorough search.  By the time you prove you have a right to be there and you don’t have any WMD’s, the romance has dissipated.  This adds to the stress of travel and distracts from your ability to really relax.

One evening we accompanied a niece and her husband to a hotel where they stayed on their honeymoon.  They wanted to take a walk down memory lane.  Our taxi went through one inspection at the gate to the property and we were put through a thorough search at the front door.  Then as we headed out to the pool to look around, we were stopped because we were not actually guests at the hotel.  We had to go to the front desk, explain ourselves, show them our room keys to a sister property in town and give them a passport to hold before we were allowed into the pool area.  By the time we actually made it down there, we had more thoughts about the intrusion of security than we did Maggie and Shady’s honeymoon.

Forget Lowe’s or Home Depot, Shop for Home Improvements Streetside

Related Changes

The threat of terrorism has devastated the country.  Tourism has been at the center of Egypt’s economy for a very long time, but  they have nothing to take its place and little with which to woo the tourists who actually show up.  Yes, they have some of the most splendid sights in the world, like The Pyramids, Luxor Temple, The Valley of the Kings and such, but the hassle associated with visiting them is challenging.

I thought Egypt was the dirtiest place I had ever visited the last time I went.  Well, now it is beyond dirty.  It’s down right filthy and much of it has been abandoned.  Whole blocks of Cairo and Alexandria’s city centers are just empty graffiti-covered buildings, surrounded by piles of trash.  Everywhere we went, unfinished new construction showed signs of being abandoned years ago, when their hope of an Arab Spring turned into a nightmare.  Don’t plan on wearing the same clothes over and over.  A day of touring will render you and everything you are wearing disgusting.  You either need to pack more or plan on a budget for laundry.

An Egyptian Family on a Motorcycle

And Then There’s the People

Egyptians, as a whole, are wonderful.  They are happy people who want to get to know you and they love pleasing you.  They want you to love their country the way they do, but right now they are a little embarrassed – as if you caught them between working in the yard and getting a shower.  They’ll point you towards the freshly planted flowers, hoping you won’t notice how dirty and sweaty they are.

However, they are also frustrated and tired.  At almost every hotel we observed someone having a meltdown in the lobby and it was usually an Egyptian guest.  Life is hard.  The economy is impossible.  Traffic is horrendous.  Everything is harder to do than it should be and after a ten minute walk your white shirt just isn’t white anymore.  Still, given the chance, most of them will bend over backwards to accommodate you and try to create a smile.

At the same time, we noticed there is also a trend that distances the female population from visitors.  There was a greater number of women completely covered from head to toe.  During our last visit, most women dressed very conservatively and the majority covered their heads, often with a bright colorful scarf.  Many would be sharply dressed, while sporting a more conservative hijab.  There were some who wore the more old-fashioned gallabeya  and hijab, but only a rare woman was covered and veiled in black.

This time gallabeyas and hijabs were the norm.  Young women wore leggings or jeans with a tunic, but the hijabs were everywhere and they were not brightly colored scarves, but solid blocks of neutral colors.  However, women covered from head to toe in black were no longer rare and I noticed most of them also wore black gloves.  They were moving shadows with just a sliver of their eyes showing – distant, aloof, unapproachable.

In the Cairo Museum we saw a young couple taking a selfie.  The woman was completely covered in black.  We wondered at the incongruity of hiding yourself and then taking a selfie.  The young man’s outfit was standard casual fare, but she was covered in plain black without even a bit of embroidery.  A lot of mixed messages there.

So I will tell you the story of our trip.  I’ll remind you of the difficulties from time to time, but I’ll leave it to you to remember that everything was dirty, inconvenient and noisy, whether I mention it or not.  Come back next week and we’ll hit the road.

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Egypt Here We Come

TRAVEL THERE: CAIRO, SHARM & ALEX

In less than a month we’ll be winging our way to Egypt for a family wedding.  While it’s primarily a family trip, you can rest assured that Museum Girl will be taking in the sights.  The itinerary is firming up and I thought I’d share a few highlights.

Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing

As excited as I am about the rest of the trip, the reason we’re going is to participate in Bassem and Mariam’s wedding.  We’re all agog with excitement.  Bill and I will arrive in Cairo late in the evening on a Saturday night and be whisked away to the Fairmont in Heliopolis.  On Sunday afternoon we’ll attend a luncheon for all the families at an “oriental” restaurant.  When I wondered why we were having Chinese food, I learned Egyptians call Middle Eastern food “oriental.”  I learn something new every day.

Monday is the day of the wedding, and it is also a national holiday, so I’m told I will see the residents of Cairo enjoying themselves in parks and other areas of leisure.  I’ll spend the day getting all gussied up for the wedding.  Egyptians know how to party and they expect guests, especially the couple’s families, to get all decked out.  I’ll be wearing a long formal gown bedazzled with crystal beads.  For the church ceremony I’ll wear a sheer over-blouse cinched by a jeweled belt, which will cover the spaghetti-strapped straight bodice of the full-skirted gown. Pictures to follow.

Let the Sightseeing Begin

On the day after the wedding we’ll be transported to the elegant Mena House Hotel, in the shadows of the pyramids.  Some folks tried to convince me to hire a guide for sightseeing for the day, but 8:30 AM was entirely too early to start a day of touring, especially after partying late into the night in the ballroom of the gorgeous Fairmont.

So instead, we’ve arranged to be transported mid-day and ease into the sightseeing.  We’ll enjoy the gardens of the Mena House, walk around with our mouths agape at the splendid architecture of the place, dine around the pool and then watch the Sound & Lightshow at the Pyramids from our room’s balcony. Who knows, there might even be time for a dip in the pool.  Personally, I plan to have at least one picture of me taken in the pool with the Pyramids behind me.

Then we’ll do the Pyramids.  Since we’ve already done the Giza Plateau, I plan to go further afield and check out the Step Pyramid at Saqqara and the Red Pyramid at Dahshour.  I’m also interested in the Meidum Pyramid, but I’ve been told it is too far out – drat.  Instead we’ll go back to Giza and see the Solar Boat Museum, something that’s been added since our last visit.

A Family Reunion Extraordinaire

After our second night at Mena House, we’ll head to the airport and make the short hop to Sharm el Sheikh.  Some of the family lives in the beautiful city by the Red Sea and others will have gone there when we headed to Giza.  We’ll have a family reunion of sorts for about five days along one of the most spectacular beaches in the world.

The diving and snorkeling are supposed to be awesome, but I’m not much of a guppy.  You’ll find me at the  Marriott Naama Bay Resort pool with an exotic cocktail of my choice somewhere near the waterfall.  Yes, the beach is beautiful, but no way am I going to smear sunscreen all over and then sit in the sand all day.  Not this girl’s idea of a good time.  I’ve been promised activities like a star-gazing visit to the desert, some shopping opportunities and other attractions.

In the evening, look for me along the boardwalk.  It’s one of my favorite memories of our last journey to Egypt.  Every evening the tourists come out in all their sunburned glory to stroll along and enjoy the wide variety of entertainment available on every side. On our last visit the Macarena was all the rage.  I  wonder what earworm will bite me this time.

On to Alex!

We’ll fly back to Cairo and then have a driver take us to Alexandria where we’ll be in the center of the action at the Cecil Hotel.  This elegant old dame gives a nod to Alexandria’s heyday with plenty of modern updates.  What’s more, I’m supposed to be within walking distance of many of the sites I want to see – that is if I can ever cross the street.  I remember the traffic being deadly in Cairo and Alexandria is supposed to be more of the same.  Pedestrians don’t have the right of way and stoplights are merely suggestions.  I’ll be right across the street from the beach, but may never actually get to the sand!

My wish list for Alexandria is long and includes a visit to a Coptic monastery on the way back to Cairo.  Once back to Cairo, we’ll visit Old Cairo and seeing the famous churches there, something I never got to during our other visit.  I think we’ll spend our final nights at the Fairmont.  We have to be to the airport bright and early for our return.  Then it’s back to the grindstone!

That’s it so far for Egypt.  Keep dropping by.  I’m not sure what I’ll be up to in the weeks to come, but I promise not to disappear.

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Vulcan Park Tower, Birmingham AL

Birmingham from the Tower

Birmingham from the Tower

TRAVEL THERE: A STEEL CITY LANDMARK

So my boss had just arrived back in the States from someplace else that I can’t tell you about to join us at the thing I can’t tell you about.  At the end of the second day after a meal provided by the thing I can’t tell you about, there was supposed to be a worship and praise service, but the boss needed a change of scenery.  One more large meeting room filled with people and he was a goner, so we escaped.

Hannah Beth Helps Us Play Hooky

Since the meal we’d been provided was lukewarm hot dogs and stale potato chips (no offense intended, but that’s what it was), we wished we’d decided to play hooky about 30 minute previous to our boss’ confession of meeting room fatigue.  A nice dinner would have been a treat. Still, we weren’t going to waste an opportunity for some team building activities outside the meeting room.  So Hannah Beth took us on a tour.

Now I know young folks to things differently than I do, so this is not meant as criticism, but merely an observation.  While Hannah Beth has been to Birmingham several times and has the inside scoop on what to do, she depends on GPS for directions.  Her modus operandi is to take off in the direction which she thinks something is and then use voice commands to tell her phone to find the way.    This means she has one hand fully on the wheel, while she holds both the wheel and the phone in the other – all the while chatting up everyone in the car.

Yep, I’m a Nervous Nellie, so the entire time we were driving in Birmingham, I’m in the backseat praying we actually get to the place we’re headed.  Since I’m here to tell the tale, you know my prayers were answered in the affirmative, but while we were playing hooky from a praise and worship ceremony, I felt a little guilty about praying for protection.  Proves God listens all the time, I guess.

Vulcan Tower on Red Mountain

Vulcan Tower via http://birminghamal.org

Vulcan Tower via http://birminghamal.org

According to the Greater Birmingham Convention & Visitors Bureau:

“Vulcan is the largest cast iron statue in the world and Birmingham’s unofficial city symbol. Standing high atop Red Mountain, the 56-foot-high statue has an observation balcony on its pedestal for a panoramic view of the city. Vulcan is patterned after the mythical Roman god of the forge, a nod to the city’s powerful position in the iron and steel industry in the first part of the 20th century. The statue was created as Birmingham’s exhibit in the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis and won the exposition’s grand prize. The museum at Vulcan has interactive exhibits and displays that portray the region’s history and progress. Museum open Monday- Saturday, 10am- 6pm; Sunday, 1pm- 6pm. Observation balcony open Monday- Saturday, 10am- 10pm; Sunday, 1pm- 10pm. Admission.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself, but you can learn more on the actual Vulcan Park website.

Our boss covered the entrance fee which was just a dollar or two and we climbed the stairs to the top of the hill.  Someone who will remain nameless desperately needed to visit the rest room.  Even though the sign said the museum was open, it wasn’t and that’s where the restroom was.  In desperation, the drain in an unlocked utility room sufficed as a toilet.  That’s all I’m going to say about it, but as tired as we were, that was just the crowning glory of the day and we got a serious fit of the giggles.

Above It All

Though the tower is lovely and the park is very nice, the real draw to visiting the Vulcan Tower is that you can climb up in it.  So we did, still giggling like fools.  Now yours truly is has a slight case of acrophobia.  OK, so maybe a large case, but as we took the elevator up I was distracted by the giggling.  We walked across a steel grate which was a bridge to the steel grate which was the balcony around the tower.  There was also a fence, but all the ground around us was visible from our vantage point.

At first I just looked out toward the horizon and enjoyed the scenery (see picture from previous post).  Then I looked down.  MISTAKE.  I tried to be cool.  I tried standing away from the rail and looking toward the tower.  Didn’t work.  I started getting lightheaded and broke out in a cold sweat.  It was time to go.

On the way back to the hotel we stopped at a grocery store, to get some necessities.  That list might have included individual bottles of screw top wine, but if it did, I’m not telling.  As much fun as this adventure was, the best is yet to come, so make you way back here next week.

 

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Cruise Afterglow

dsc_0496

Cruising the Wachau Valley

TRAVEL THERE: VIKING’S DANUBE WALTZ – WHAT A TRIP!

As I sit in my office on an October Saturday afternoon in Heath TX, listening to the fountain that dances in my pond and writing a post you will read in December, I have nothing but kudos for my  April cruise on Viking Cruise Lines.  My travel agent, Sandra Rubio at CTC set up everything perfectly for us and Viking Cruise Lines is amazing – simply amazing!

What I Liked Best

  • 20160421_210026Wonderful new friends!  Deb & Mike Radcliffe and Gwenne & John Penkert were the best cruise buddies you can imagine – and they live in Oregon, which gives me an excuse to return to one of my favorite places.
  • The inadequately named “Silver Collection,” a part of the Imperial Apartment Museum in the Hofburg in Vienna.  Decorative Arts overload! I will never forget it.
  • Pretty much everything I ate and drank on the Viking Tor, but especially the bottomless wine glass at dinner.
  • Budapest – yep, the whole thing.  Can’t wait to go back someday.  And Rick Steve’s is right about the Baths.
  • Lunch in Cesky Krumlov
  • A sunny afternoon stroll in Passau

What I Liked Least

  • 2b-castle-tor-7

    The Faux Castle

    The non-stop Lufthansa flight from DFW to Frankfurt.  Worst flight EVER!!

  • Not having more time in Budapest.
  • Bratislava, Slovakia – didn’t feel good, didn’t get the shore excursion I wanted, the guide was iffy.  Other than that it was a great stop (tee hee.)
  • Being in Vienna in the rain on a Monday, which is when the Lipizzaners don’t perform and some of the museums are closed.  Loved Vienna, but after three visits there, I have yet to see the Lippizzaners and I could have done without the rain.
  • Anything to do with Empress Elizabeth, otherwise known as Sissie.
  • The guide in Passau.

On Our Way Home

Viking got us home as smoothly as they did everything else.  While we were at breakfast, our bags were whisked away.  We boarded a bus and after a pleasant drive were at the Munich airport.

While not awful enough to include in my “least liked” list, German airports didn’t rate very highly with me.  They get high marks for cleanliness, but they were confusing.  We roamed in befuddled circles in Frankfurt and repeated the exercise in Munich.

Security was on high alert, because we got there just as some international dignitaries were strutting through the airport.  I think there had been some sort conference, but the airport was full of people who looked as if they were used to getting preferential treatment and security was tight.

Thankfully, the Delta flight to Chicago was much more pleasant than the Lufthansa non-stop torture chamber.  However, because customs dumped us outside the secured area, we had to go back through the TSA screening and that was a nightmare.  They were so backed-up, we had pity on some people who were about to miss their flight and gave them our spot.  What else were we going to do with our time?  Go shopping?

Finally, Dallas!  As much as I love traveling, I do love getting home.  As if to welcome us home, a full moon hung low in the sky over our pond.  It was the first trip I’d returned from without having my beloved Shih Tzu, Precious, to greet me.  I miss that white ball of fur.

I’ll give you one more look at our overview video and then I hope you’ll come back next week to see what else I’ve been up to.

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A Lovely Afternoon in Passau

5p-oooTRAVEL THERE: GLADLY GUIDELESS IN GERMANY

After lunch Bill and I ventured into Passau on our own.  While we’d been frustrated by our guide’s demeanor during the morning, he had led us through a shopping area and shown us a nice riverside walkway.  Passau is no Vienna and we’d had lunch, so Bill was amenable to hoofing it around on our own.

 

A Marvelous Afternoon

While our morning tour had left a bad taste in our mouth, it had not besmirched the charming little town.  The first item on my agenda was to find some tokens for my friends.  A thorough search of the room did not turn up any of the darling gingerbread ornaments I bought in Cesky Krumlov, so I needed to get busy.  I wanted to get something for my Bible Study girls and then I had a couple of other friends for whom I wanted to buy something more substantial.

Ludwigstrasse

Ludwigstrasse

Passau has a significant pedestrian area with shops called Ludwigstrasse and nearby are a couple multistory of enclosed malls.  My patient husband wandered through all of these with me, hunting down the appropriate souvenirs – only I wasn’t finding much that I thought was appropriate.  Finally, we wandered into a knick-knack store and while most of the items were tacky bibelots   with the words “Passau, Germany” emblazoned on them, I found a shelf populated with charming ceramic cherubs molded into a variety of poses.  I’d found the trinkets I wanted for my Bible Study girls.

5p-ooo-3Strolling Along the River

I was still baffled about what to get for my best friend and my next door neighbor, who is truly the best next door neighbor in the world, but Mr. Bill was ready to roll.  We headed toward the river and were hugely rewarded.

The morning had been chilly in more ways than one.  Yes, our guide had been Mr. Rude, but the weather was overly crisp, also.  I’d layered up with a denim jacket and a wool cape, but had still been uncomfortable.  The afternoon weather was so glorious that we might have been in Dallas on one of its best days.

We discovered it was the first really warm day for Passau that spring and the whole town had turned out to enjoy the river.  Children tossed balls into the air.  Lovers ogled one another on shared blankets.  Giggly girls shared secrets strolling along the river.  Another girl sat on a stairway leading down to the river captivated by a book.  Beer drinking students toasted everyone that walked by.  It was like a movie set!

Once More to the Ludwigstrasse

Armed with a map the rude guide had provided, Bill and I maneuvered around the finger of land pointing to the confluence of the Inn, the Ilz and the Danube.  When we got back to the boat, Bill agreed to hit the Ludwigstrasse with me one more time.  I was in a tizzy.  I had to finish packing and dress for dinner soon, but I just didn’t want to head home without something for my friends.

As I bounced from storefront to storefront appalled at the pricing, Bill came to the rescue.  One of the clothing stores was having a bit of a sidewalk sale and Bill pointed it out.  I doubted anything would be affordable, even marked down, because all the prices I had seen were pretty steep.  Bill helped me figure out the exchange rate and the discount.  Suddenly, I was all smiles.  Not only had we found exactly what I’d love to get for Deb and Sherry, but I wasn’t going to break the bank!

It was a quiet night on board.  The evening happy hour was devoted to disembarking instructions.  Dinner was delicious, but sad.  We’d made wonderful friends and we didn’t know when we’d see them again.  Then there we had to be out early in the morning.  For all practical purposes, the cruise was over.

Come back next week and I’ll get you back to Dallas.  In the meantime, enjoy this video of our final stop.

 

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