#16 Barbados and Wupperthal, Germany

November 24, 2017

Originally intended as a small book, “Glimpses: In which a Casual Traveler Ruminates on Passing Scenes—1989-2011″, I should like to share it with my readers in a more informal manner as a series of Blogs. 

Barbados: Woodstock sculptor Anthony Krauss suggested we introduce ourselves to the former Prime Minister of Barbados who had commissioned a piece from him some years before and, doing so, were invited to an afternoon “tea” at his home. The Prime Minister was away in Europe, but his wife had warmly welcomed us and, for the occasion, had invited several others to the “do”. It was a lovely day, and lawn chairs and tables were scattered about the pleasant garden with small groups gathered at each. At one point we were joined at our table by an English couple and it was only after a few moments that the gentleman said that he understood we were from New York. We acknowledged that fact, whereupon he turned to me and asked in his very British manner what I thought about the fact that New York State had been recently reconsidering bringing back the death penalty. Sipping at my teacup, I looked up at him and said, “Well, for myself, I’m all in favor of introducing the electric couch — that way we could get three at once.” For the rest of the afternoon, the gentleman and his wife kept as much of the exquisitely manicured lawn between us as was possible.

Germany: Wupperthal: Took a ride on their overhead tram, a train that was suspended over the Wupper River (“thal” means valley), sinuously following the meandering course of the flowing water beneath. A new experience! While in Wupperthal (Wupper Valley), I learned that nearby in “Neander thal” — the valley of the Neander River) — our pre-human ancestors, the Neanderthals. settled there.

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#15 Cologne Germany, Marseilles, France, Brighton, England, Tokyo, Japan

November 17, 2017

Originally intended as a small book, “Glimpses: In which a Casual Traveler Ruminates on Passing Scenes—1989-2011″, I should like to share it with my readers in a more informal manner as a series of Blogs. 

Konstanze Jarczyk

Germany: Cologne, Buttermarkt: Konstanze Jarczyk (Heinz’s daughter) invited us to her small apartment in the old section of Cologne known as the “butter market”, only steps away from the remains of the old Roman road still visible to today’s visitors. A light lunch and then a special performance: Konstanze, a professional harpist with worldwide performances to her credit, giving us an intimate concert meant only for our ears! Unforgettable. Touching.

France: Marseilles: Just one day, but bouillabaisse of course! And, a bottle of local white wine to wash it all down. Amazing to think that this town on the coast was founded by the Greeks around 600B.C.!

England: Brighton: Stopping in at a small “antique” shop, I spied a tiny metal bell, gaily painted with flowers. The owner told me it was a sheep bell (I had seen cowbells but this was the first of these I had seen) and its dainty size and hand-painted surface appealed to me. As the man wrapped it for me, he asked me why I wanted it. Noticing Cornelia nearby, I said with a smile, “Now when I want my coffee in the morning, all I have to do is tinkle this little bell.” The look I got from her warned me that I might try it once, but chances were that instead of getting coffee I’d have it tied around my own neck! Anyway, it sits on a shelf above our kitchen sink where it still appeals to me…and every so often (when no one’s around) I shake it to hear the little tinkle.

Raymond J. Steiner and Marti Kerton at Narita Airport, Tokyo

Japan: Tokyo, Narita Airport: Huge crowd of hundreds of travelers, many lines, in airport on way to Beijing. As we stand at the end of a long line, we strike up conversation with a young woman behind us. Her name: Marti Kerton, a Honolulu native. During our talk we discover that she is the daughter of Sudjana Kerton, one of the over 200 artists to send me anecdotes for my book, The Art Students League of New York: A History. Small world indeed!


#14 Ritten, Switzerland

November 1, 2017

Originally intended as a small book, “Glimpses: In which a Casual Traveler Ruminates on Passing Scenes—1989-2011″, I should like to share it with my readers in a more informal manner as a series of Blogs. 

Switzerland: Ritten, in the Tyrolean Alps: On our way to Munich from Verona, our hosts (Gabi and Norbert Witmer) ask us if we would like to take a brief side-trip tovisit one of the small villages nestled at the top of a mountain. We of course quickly agree and soon find ourselves winding through one horseshoe curve after another as we slowly ascend. At one lookout point, we look down far below at the Italian city of Bolzano that we had passed through earlier that morning. Grapevines covered the steep sides of the mountain, each vine meticulously pruned and cared for, prompting our wonder at how the workers could work on such a precipitous slope.

Finally we reach the top and park in a small lot in front of a restaurant. The village has a handful of houses, a church abutting a cemetery. The restaurant seems to be the only visible business establishment. As our waitress brought us a light lunch (excellent soup!), I remarked on the striking likeness of the young woman with my sister Rita — or at least as she looked when she was also young. After lunch, we strolled the little village, seeking better views of the Dolomites looming through a lowering sky. At one point we stepped into the small church — it might have held thirty people — and stood silently in the rear as a sole occupant, an elderly woman, knelt at the altar. It was as we waited for the woman to leave that I began to have the feeling that I had been in this church before and, as the sense of déjà vu deepened, it began occurring to me that a good bit of the town had also seemed familiar to me. Strangely, I was convinced that I had been there — yet, I knew that I had never before traveled to this part of the world, had no connection whatsoever with this German village called Ritten. Months later, in thinking about the odd experience, I began to wonder how it connected with my studies of ancient history shortly before we left for Europe. I had recently completed the 8 volumes of The Barbarian Invasions of the Roman Empire by Thomas Hodgkin, a good deal of my curiosity centered on my own “barbarian”, Teutonic roots. I had come to the conclusion that my forebears came from the Allamani tribe, the very tribe that eventually settled in the Alps after they left the northern part of Europe. When I related this ‘adventure’ to Christiane Jarczyk, she immediately said, “Of Course. That is where your grandfather’s people lived!” So, had I been in tune with some lingering vibe from an ancestor who lived atop this mountain? An ancestor whose progeny included that waitress who resembled my sister? Nonsense, undoubtedly — but still?