September 27, 2010

From Bielefeld to Brugge

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of our days in Germany.

Günthers and Hilgenkamps
IMG_1054: Günther and Hilgenkamp Families
Brewer Michael Zerbst
IMG_1098: Brewmaster
Bjorn, Max, Heike and Marie
IMG_1117: The Günther Family
Max and Marie with Bill and Betty
IMG_1120: Max and Marie with Bill and Betty

On Sunday the 19th, we drove from Århus, Denmark, to Bielefeld, Germany. We came to Bielefeld to visit our good friends Heike and Björn Günther. That last time we saw them they were living in Wuppertal and had no children. Today they live in Dornberg, a suburb Bielefeld and they have two wonderful children: Max, age four, and Marie, age two. Minutes after we arrived, Heike's sister - Antja - drove up with her husband, Frank, and two of her three boys. Heike's mother lives in another part of the their old, yet completely updated, building. We all had some coffee, then Antja and Frank left for their farm.

We were so happy to finally meet Max and Marie. We often get update on them from Heike. We had brought Max and Marie some American clothing. Both Max and his mom like the American clothes, because it is really hard to find cute clothes at a reasonable price for boys in Germany.

On Monday, while the children were in school, we had a look at the center of Bielefeld. The town is much larger than I imagined. We walked the streets and visited a church. Then we headed back to Dornberg to visit the ancient St. Peter's Lutheran church of Dornberg that sits in the center of the village. Parts of it were built one-thousand years ago. We got the full tour of the small church with its pastor, Andreas Biermann, as our guide. He was extremely informative and a very good guide. He even brought us to the clock tower. Here we saw the four bells of the church. There were old bronze bells were from medieval times, one from 1510. We got to ring them all and we did, working together. It sounded great. Andreas also recommended that we stop in Aachen to see its town hall and cathedral, which we did later in the week.

The next day we visited Frank and Antja's farm. We got to see pregnant sows and baby piglets. They have a beautiful garden. We had coffee and a nice visit. That Tuesday evening we went to the Rotingdorfer Brauerei. It is a tiny brewery that makes some really excellent pilsner. The owner and head brewer, Michael Zerbst, provided us a tour and all the beer we could drink. He was a funny and charming host. If I lived in Bielefeld, I would become a regular at the brewery's pub nights.

On Wednesday, Heike and Betty did some shopping in the morning. Betty needed some long sleeve shirts. In the afternoon we went to the local FREE zoo with the children, a place they love. Heike took my car for a test spin. In the evening we took Heike out for a lovely meal in a restaurant just 500 meters up the hill.

We got up early on Thursday to say good-bye to Bjorn, Max and Marie. After they left for school and work, we finished packing and said our good-byes to Heike. Then we headed south for Aachen. I wanted to visit the final resting place of Charlemagne, because he is in my family tree and he is of great historical significance. The cathedral where he is buried is very beautiful. We took pictures of the town hall, the cathedral and of Aachen's streets. After this short stop, we proceeded to Brugge, Belgium, arriving about six o'clock. It was a long day of driving.

Brugge has a large section of very old buildings. Many were built in the 1600's and some are much older. We had learned about the beauty of the city in a movie, In Brugge. The movie was very good and after watching the movie our impressions of the city were quite high. What we did not know about the city was that it has been a destination for tourists for many, many years. What we found in the city was great beauty and thousands of tourists. Because of the tourists, it can be quite expensive for food and accommodations. We did find a wonderful little hotel called Hotel 't Keizershof. It cost only $58 per night and included breakfast. We shared a toilet and a shower with two other rooms and had a sink of our own. There was no TV, radio or internet. Standard hotels cost more than $100 per night.

We walked through parts of the city Thursday night. And we explored a large section of the old city on Friday. We took a hundred photos. We bought chocolates. We search all over on Thursday for a reasonably priced restaurant. On Friday we finally found such a restaurant where the food was very good and not overpriced. It was the Pas Partout Restaurant on Jeruzalemstraat. As I said it is a very beautiful place. Be sure to see the slide show of Brugge photos.

Click photo below to see all our photos of Brugge.
IMG_1178: Canal Scene

Posted by bill at 05:14 PM | Comments (3)

September 21, 2010

With Kurt and Ulla in Denmark

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of our days in Denmark.

Ulla and Kurt
IMG_1033: Ulla and Kurt
Kurt's View of Pastures and Sea
Ulla's Knitting
IMG_1030: Ulla's Knitting
The Museum Manor House
IMG_1006: Manor House
Bill by Jelling Ruin Stones
IMG_6225: Bill by Jelling Ruin Stones
At Kalø Castle Ruins
IMG_6235 - Kalo Castle

We left Stockholm early Wednesday morning. We were bound for a small village, just a dozen miles north of Århus. The journey was to take ten long hours. Paying $55, we took the ferry from Helsingborg to Helsingør and then drove across the largest Danish islands of Sjælland and Fyn. They are connected by a bridge that costs $40 to cross. It began raining heavily as we crossed the final bridge to Jyland (Jutland). We turned north toward Århus and were at the home of our friends, Kurt and Ulla, one hour later. It had taken more than ten hours to drive from Stockholm to Århus.

It was great to see Kurt and Ulla. The last time we saw them is when they visited us in Argentina back in 2005 and the time before that was in the early 1990’s in Århus. In 1994 they purchased an old farmhouse that had been built in 1776 along with three other buildings that had been used to house pigs. The four buildings are arranged in a traditional square. To get a full picture of the buildings click on the this link to a short YouTube video of the buildings. They did restoration work on the house and they began to transform the other buildings into a second and third house for living. Eventually Kurt and Ulla moved into the building that overlooks the sea. One of the best features they preserved is the thatched roof. These are disappearing in Denmark. Their friends, Peder and Henrik live in the other buildings. The land seems like a garden of eden with apple and plum trees, current and blueberry bushes, raspberries and a green house for tomatoes and peppers. Ulla’s son, Christian - age 21, lives with them. Ulla’s older daughter lives near Århus. Kurt’s daughter Stine Bramsen has become a pop-star as the lead singer in Alphabeat. Kurt is a journalist and works for the Danish tabloid, Ekstra Bladet. Ulla runs a childcare center. The five of them will head to New York City at the end of October to celebrate Kurt’s sixtieth birthday.

We had a lovely meal together that first night with Kurt and Ulla along with Christian, Peder and Henrik. We talked and drank wine until we could not keep our eyes open another minute.

On Thursday we visited the manor house of an earl whose family broke up the estate after the death of the last earl in 1928. Now what is left of the estate is a museum. We first visited a working blacksmith shop to see the smithies shaping hot metal. Then it was off to a display of Danish farm life over the past 400 years with the heaviest concentration on the past 100 years. Finally we went through the manor house, which felt a lot like a castle. Parts of the house were more than 600 years old, but it more reflected life in the 1800’s. We took too many pictures all of which can be seen on my Flickr pages.
In the evening we went into Århus to have dinner with Simon Breyen-Simonson. He is the Kurt’s nephew and the son of our good friends Nils and Bet, who live in the north of Denmark. Simon and his best friend Jakob visited us in the states three years ago. We had a nice evening of catching up. We also got a chance to meet is partner, Edit, although she was unable to join us for dinner.

On Friday we visited an old friend, Gregers Mørch-Lassen, who live south of Århus. Then we drove another half an hour south to the village of Jelling, which is pronounced “yelling.” I have visited this place before and I knew about the Jelling rune stones that lay next to the church. The were placed there by Bluetooth Harold, the King of Denmark, before he died in 985 AD. The reason I wanted my photo taken there is that Bluetooth Harold is in my family tree.

On Saturday we said our good-byes to Kurt and Ulla. They were going away for two days. We spent the afternoon exploring the cute little village of Ebeltoftby. Then we went for a hike to the Kalø Castle ruins that are only a few kilometers from where Kurt and Ulla live. The wind was blowing at more that 30 mph as we took the 30 minute hike to the ruins. The castle was first built in 1313 and it was occupied until 1662. There has only been a small bit of restoration, so they are truly ruins. The island where it stands is very pastoral and we could see that cattle feed on the island, although none were present on this gusty afternoon.
That evening Betty prepared a wonderful pot of beef and vegetable soup. We invited Henrik and Peder to join us and we had a lovely evening talking and drinking wine.

We left Sunday morning driving south more than six hours to Bielefeld, Germany. More about that in my next entry.

The Farmhouse of Ulla and Kurt Simonsen
IMG_0989: Kurt and Ullas Farmhouse

Posted by bill at 04:11 PM | Comments (1)

September 14, 2010

A Week in Sweden

Press HERE to see a slideshow
of our days in Sweden.

Lindströms with Chin and Betty
Lindström Family
Our New Volvo
IMG_6188: Our New Volvo
IMG_0900: Pelle
Bill, Birgitte and Per-Erik
IMG_0929: Bill, Birgitte and Per-Erik
Betty at the Vasa Museum
IMG_0942: Betty at the Vasa Museum
Making Flat Bread at Skansen
IMG_0966: Rolling Out the Bread

We left the USA one week ago and arrived in Sweden the next day - last Wednesday. We had purchase a small, new Volvo in the USA and had gone to Sweden to accept delivery there. Part of the arrangement with Volvo is that the price of the auto includes two roundtrip airplane tickets and one night in a hotel. We were surprise by the quality of the flight from Chicago to Stockholm on SAS. For some reason we thought that it would be of the highest quality, but it was just like Delta and all the other US carriers. Volvo had us picked us up at the airport and driven to our hotel. We tried to stay up as long as we could. But we only made it until 4:00 pm, when the tiredness overwhelmed us. Other than a couple of hours later in the evening, we slept the night away with the help of sleep aides. Jet-lag dogged us the next three days.

On Thursday, Volvo had us driven to their factory. Here we inspected our new car. We had lunch there. And we went on a tour of the factory. The tour was excellent. We saw every part of the final assembly. The only thing that we could not do on the tour was take pictures; a rather unfortunate state of affairs.

Anders Amnèus
IMG_0896: Anders Amneus
Joar Amnèus
IMG_0924: Joar at Norrköping Museum
Northern Magic Mushroom
IMG_0907: Amanita Muscaria

In the late afternoon, we drove a bit more than two hours to Huskvarna. It is next to Jönköping at the south tip of Lake Vättern. Here we met the family Lindström. Papa Mathais is a budding entrepreneur. He is smart, ambitious and destined to be very successful. His wife Nia is a pediatrics nurse. They have four wonderful children ranging in age from three to nine: Gabriel, Denise, Nathaniel and Beatrice. Not only were they hosting us, but they also had taken in a student, Chin, who was born in Japan and is studying in Germany. We had long and wonderful talks with them late into the evening and the next morning. We left Huskvarna in the midday.

On Friday we drove to my cousin’s home in Kolmården, which is a dozen miles east of Nörrköping. She and her husband are Birgitte and Per-Erik Amnèus. When we arrived we found their son Anders had also arrived from Stockholm. His son, Joar, came by train later in the evening. Birgitte cooked a great evening meal. In the morning we all went an event that Per-Erik needed to attend, a special day to celebrate geology. He represented the Marble Museum, which we visited Sunday morning. He and other museum members have restored a number of buildings from an old marble mine and works. In any case, later on Saturday in the afternoon their son Pelle arrived. In the afternoon Anders, Joar, Pelle and I went for a drive and then a hike. We saw an old feldspar mine. I finally saw the amanita muscaria in real life. When ingested, this northern European mushroom is extremely hallucinogenic. We had another wonderful meal in the evening. We talked and ate and talked and drank. It was a wonderful time to renew our friendship with my wonderful Swedish cousins.

On Sunday, we went to the Marble Museum and then on a hike along the sound where Kolmården lay. In the afternoon we were joined by Birgitte and Per-Erik’s daughter Marie and her husband Anders. We all went to Nörrköping and had lunch. It was my first chance to get to know Anders and Marie. I was pleasantly surprise by all of our common interests - like travel and dancing the Tango. Before returning to Kolmården, we visited the Nörrköping Work Museum. Nörrköping has a river that runs through it. This river provided power for a large number of mills. It was the center for the manufacture of textiles until the 1970’s.

Before dinner, Pelle returned to his home. Anders and Joar left by train right after dinner. The home of Per-Erik and Birgitte was becoming very quiet. We left the next day, Monday. You may have noticed that my daughter and cousin have nearly identical names. When Betty and I decided to give our children Scandinavian names, Birgitta was the first name that popped into my mind. The second was Hanna and - I guess - my granddaughter Johanna captured that one. Birgitte and Per-Erik are great to be with. I wish that we did not live so far apart. I was not able to connect with any other cousins. Gunilla and Ulla live in the far north and Brage was busy in the south of Sweden. I hope to connect with Brage and his wife in December.

When we left Kolmården on Monday, we drove to Stockholm to spend two nights with my cousin Anders. We went to the Vasa Museum Monday afternoon. This museum houses the ship Vasa, which was a massive warship that sunk in 1628 on its maiden voyage due to lack of enough ballast to keep it upright when the wind blows. The ship was extremely well preserved in the cold Baltic waters. It was raised in 1961. The Swedes took on the monumental task of preserving everything on the ship. Having been in the museum, I would have to say that they succeeded. When we returned to Anders’ flat we ate supper and spent the evening talking, mostly about politics. It was a most enjoyable evening.

Today we went to another museum. The main focus of the museum is Swedish life and artifacts. Some people call these folk museums. Skansen was established in 1891. From all over Sweden, whole farm houses and all the out buildings were moved to Skansen in Stockholm. These farms also represent various periods of Swedish history. There are also many urban buildings, which include not only residences, but also various workshops and stores. Anders accompanied us on this excursion, which made it all the better, because he acted as our guide.

I should add that Anders lives in the neighborhood that the Millennium series of books is set. So before we traveled to Skansen Anders gave us a tour of places where the main characters of Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander lived, ate, drank and worked. We really enjoyed that little tour.

Tomorrow we will drive to Denmark. You can expect another entry next week.

Posted by bill at 11:51 AM | Comments (2)