Sunday, December 7, 2008

Essen Germany Christmas Market

Essen – there is an interesting history of the city from Wikipedia:

"The oldest archaeological finds date back to 280,000 B.C. Other finds date to between 120,000 and 10,000 years old.

Essen was part of the settlement areas of several Germanic peoples (Chatti, Bructeri, Marsi), although a clear distinction among these groupings is difficult.

The Alteburg castle in the south of Essen dates back to the first or second century B.C., the Herrenburg to the 8th century A.D."

It still amazes me, where my country has such a relatively short history (as America) that such history exists just about a three hour drive or so from my home in the Netherlands.

I must admit, I did have an idea in my head of what I imagined a Christmas market to be, and perhaps in the past it was more like the traditional German event that I pictured.

Yes, there were the German gingerbread hearts, the Nativity scene, and Gl├╝hwein. But outnumbering the traditional stalls of hand-made (German) Christmas ornaments, decorations and foods, were many foods and items that I was less interested in seeing.

Belgium chocolates, polish sausage, turkish foods and purses, French crepes, Dutch tulips, various oriental inscense, kung fu memoribilia, and Chi Gong, and an American stall selling Route 66 signs, old licence plates from various states, and Jack Daniels signs.

The logos of Marlboro and Coca Cola (both red and white Christmas colors) were prominent, and two Starbucks were within two minutes walk of each other. McDonalds and Burger King seemed to be doing brisk business too.

Later back in our hotel, I got to watch German television. Unlike the Dutch who only subtitle American films, Germans dub – so “For Your Eyes Only” became an even more amusing film to watch as Roger Moore’s mouth would move, but instead of his voice, German would come out without a lot of the inflections that James Bond is known for in English.

On the way back (via the autobahn), it snowed a lot. Sometimes it seemed as if we were just driving through a pure white fluffy world. Beautiful, but brr – cold!


Look, I found a Christmas bunny!

Really good food, and as usual, I ate a lot.

Festive, party-like atmosphere everywhere!


Music, and free things to enjoy all over the market



Lights everywhere




Essen is so pretty!


Hey - Merry Christmas everyone!



Friday, May 30, 2008

An American in Europe - May 08

There are so many things I've been meaning to blog about, but it's not going to happen today. I'm too tired. I always end up okay, sooner or later - but my recent illness has gotten my spirits down as of late.

Tomorrow is the last day of May, and after a few brief days of not bleeding, (both pre and post operation in February) I'm back at it. Some unusual chest pains on top of that, and all the usual disability stuff I always deal with has made me cranky.

Cleaning the house, doing the usual chores, taking a shower I've now cut down to Only What's Absolutely Necessary. I can go for about ten minutes or so, and then I need a break. Doesn't do much for my spirits, but I just can't push myself much harder.

I did a photoshoot - not for long, maybe an hour or so altogether along with lots of rest in between for snacks, water and chit chat. The next day I was running a fever, completely wiped out, and just stayed in bed most of the day. So I know I can do one big thing in a day, but will need to plan to recover the day following.

And I want to do things! I feel very much like some sort of invalid. I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired. But there I go, writing all this stuff, and I only really wanted to share the photos...



I given up on trying to translate the pronounciation of his name to my English-speaking friends. From now on, just call him JJ.



After nine months here, I finally got a real motorcycle jacket instead of the decorative one I came here with. I can hardly move in it - but, safety first! Well, at least safer from here on out.



I love going to Belgium! We stay at the same place every time. Bikes and bikers of all types are welcome here.




Much busier now that it's warmer weather.



We come for the food...



And it's good!



Probably not good for my waistline...



It's good to spend time with buddies



Good buddies



And friends come in all shapes and sizes here too



A moon out tonight?



We toured through Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany



We come for the scenery



Even with it almost raining, it's so beautiful



Most of these photos were taken while we were riding, but you get an idea of what it looks like as we pass by



I already have blurry vision, so it's more like a Kitty's-eye view



I thought I'd share some of the buildings we pass...



And the downtown areas...



Can you call it downtown if it's just a village?



A nice downtown



I'm not real clear on the difference between a town and a village, but this is the heart of it.



A zillion villages look like this one



And if you're rich, you have a house like this in the middle of it



Or really rich, a house like this above it



Churches everywhere



I just put this one here because he looks so happy!



Being in pictures makes me happy



So much fun!



I'm not the thinnest I've ever been, but dammit, these are a size zero!



I hope to be in photos again soon!

:)

Saturday, May 10, 2008

It's Spring!

It's beautiful weather now in Holland. There are lambs, calves, (goat) kids, baby birds of all types, and even tiny snails and miniature grasshoppers. The sky has filled with sunshine and turned from winter grey to a rich blue with cotton-puff clouds. Trees have leaves in all shades of green, and the tulips are in full rainbow bloom.

Field after field of flowers perfume the roads and villages - and riding the motorcycle around the country is pure pleasure. The biking season has begun, and every weekend there is an event planned.

I've made some observations about the Netherlands, although my experience of the culture and people has been somewhat limited to the area where I live. Amsterdam reminds me a lot of New York City - not just in the architecture, but in the friendliness there. Strangers talk to you, and in Amsterdam at least, English is common.

But there's so much more here outside of the city too - tolerance, generosity, openess, and charity that is more than what I've experienced back in Los Angeles.

I now have health coverage - good health coverage. I'm not even eligable to apply for health insurance in the US unless there's an open enrollment for those with pre-exisiting conditions - and the few times there were, I could not have afforded it anyhow, or at least wouldn't have paid the hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of dollars each month for crap care back there.

Pot is legal here. Not a big deal, just that it is. I haven't observed anyone abusing it, dependant upon it, nor is it a big thing with the kids. The drinking age is 16 for beer, 18 for hard liquor, and yet compared to the US, drunk driving is rare.

I've been here eight months, and not heard about one fatality involving alcohol. I'm sure it must happen, but it's not a daily occurance like it was in LA. Nor have I heard of anyone being an alcoholic, binge drinking, or even seen public drunkeness outside of an adult party - never on the street or driving.

Guns are illegal, so a gun being used in connection with anything is also rare, again not a daily event as it was back in LA. Yes, crime does happen, but far less than what I'm used to experiencing.

The air is clean, and one can breathe deeply here.

They have a good educational system, and children graduate. While they are still in school many kids have jobs as well. Most families eat dinner together, and kids more often than not grow up with two parents. There's far less in the way of junk food and processed food, so people are generally healthier, and certainly thinner than most Americans. Just thinking about soda - yeah they have that, but when you go to someone's home you are offered coffee. I still haven't been to a fast food restaurant as yet, and I don't miss it.

I haven't seen any homeless people, or panhandlers, as that is also not common here. There seems to be programs for everything so that one is never left without support of some kind, education, training, work, benefits, therapy, what ever they can think of to make things better, they try and do it.

You can tell the minute you leave the Netherlands and cross into Belgium, as suddenly the quality of the roads and houses deteriorates. I've been looking for the "ghetto" or poor people section of the various places we drive through here, and so far, I haven't found one. I have been warned not to walk alone at night in certain areas, (not that I would, of course) but usually it comes with a lecture about pickpocketers - which when you explain that as a danger to someone who has lived in LA, Miami, Philadelphia and NYC, it seems like this is a much safer place.

But on to the photos! I've been ill, as always, so I have a bit of catching up to do, but I'll try to put a description with each image.


On our way to the last bike bash before spring started. 40% chance of rain, and it did.


The rain didn't stop us, and we managed to get set up before it was really bad.


Our friend Manuela, who is a good person, a good wife, and a good cook.


Our friend Bob. Also a great guy, whose expression usually doesn't let on how sweet he really is.


Who knew I liked winter camping in the rain?


Queen's Day is a holiday everyone celebrates. It's the birthday of the mother of the current queen.


Amsterdam was probably much more crowded during the day - we didn't get there until the late afternoon.


At least one of us was wearing orange, the color of the Netherlands.


So neat to feel right at home here in the city.


It was raining slightly towards the end, but we took a bike tour around the neighborhood to see the tulips.


Trust me, the colors are brighter and more breathtaking in person.


And the scent! Delicious, sweet and heaven to the nose.


There's a tulip route you can follow, that guides you through acres of colors.


A picture really doesn't capture the experience.


A picture of me taking a picture of flowers.


These are my favorite, the multi-colored tulips.


Lots of bikers enjoying the sights and smells along with us.


It's not a postcard, but it sure looks typically Dutch!


Three days of bike bash and good friends.


New friends too. Hi Dirk!


The first time it's been warm out with the bike.


Another new friend's cool bike.


The next day we went to Germany, since it was close by the bike bash.


And it took a long time AGAIN to try and find a single place that served sauerkraut!
And I always thought that was German food...


I love German food.


But then again, what food don't I love?


And back across the border!


Senior Fuego

Jeroen

The gang of good people


Our tents


Senior Fuego on the ride home


I'm not sure why this is here, but the Dutch were pirates...


Now that's a typical Dutch roof


Most places here look like this little village. This is downtown.


In the back garden - I helped plant these!


Gorgeous!


There's a Dutch kabouter watching over everything


When they get this big, you have to respect them


Other things I found in the garden


Pretty


Cool


Creepy



Just the coolest! Hopefully, I'll have more to add soon.
Tot ziens!