April 10, 2014 – People to Remember

It is most appropriate to lead off the wonderful people Linda met with Lajos, the minister at our partner church.

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In his trip to Iowa we were able to host him for a meal at our farm.

Linda tagged along on a regional minister’s meeting.

Some spouses waited patiently for the meeting to end.

Here Linda is with Nora, the English teacher at the seminary.

Food

and drink on a girl’s night out with Nora.

Linda also was honored to meet a Bishop of the Hungarian Unitarian Church.  He’s my kind of guy as he insisted Linda bring a gift of hospitality home with her for me – some pálinka from his own stock – a distilled spirit of fruit juices – the saying in Hungary is “what can be used to prepare jam can also be used to produce pálinka.”

This is Izalda, she and Linda spent some time working together on her English before a big exam.  She passed!  Izalda was very kind taking Linda to the Market, walking around town, and generally begin very cheerful to be around.

This woma,Maria, is one of hte first women to graduate from the Unitarian seminary in Transylvania.

Finally, Linda whooping it up with the students after hours.

lastdinner

I’ll end the time in Transylvania with this photograph of the good-by supper she had in the seminary.

April 9, 2014 – Teaching at the Seminary

One of the primary reasons for Linda’s trip was to teach English to ministers, seminary students, and a high school class.

This is a group of ministers she was able to meet with.  As many churches in Transylvania have partner churches inthe U.S., an effort is made for the ministers to improve their English skills to be able to communicate with their partner church in the U.S.

Here’s Linda in the classroom with some high schoolers.

In the central courtyard there was a human chess game going on with students acting as the chess pieces.

She spent the most time with the students in seminary.

For one assignment, they were split up into groups.

For the final assignment, Linda had them pretend they were coming to the U.S. and present a U.S.-style  service and present it in English.

Oneof Linda’s favorite shots from the trip – with all the students.

April 7, 2014 – Transylvanian Churches

Linda had a chance to visit churches in a few villages.

Unitarian Church in Tortodfalva

The church in Tordatfalva.

Unitarian Church in Transylvania

Linda’s there!

Unitarian Church in Tortodfalva Interior

Here’s an inside view of a “typical” church.  The minister preaches from the raised pulpit, the minister’s wife sits in the box below the pulpit, then men on one side of the church and the women on the other side.

Unitarian Pulpit

The raised pulpit for the minister.

The banner the Ames partner church gave to the Tordatfalva church.

After services in the school, parishoners gather for treats and wine hour (we have coffee hour).

Lajos in another nearby village church.

Transylvanian Church

The interior of yet another church.

The parsonage.

Linda with Tunde, the minister’s wife and the church president and his wife.

chimney cakes

Chimney cakes are a traditional treat in this part of the world.

old ladies eating pastries

Coffee hour is chimney cakes and wine!

snake and dove symbol

Nearly every Tranyslvanian Unitarian church has this imagry of a Dove of Peace standing on top of the world, encircled by the Serpent of Wisdom that is swallowing its own tail, symbolizing the  everlasting cycle of life, and topped with the Crown of King John Sigismund of Transylvania, who issued  issued the Edict of Torda, the first broad decree of religious freedom in the modern history of Europe.

April 6, 2014 – Images from Tordatfalva

Another of the economic enhancements of the villages  is tourism.

This is a small cabin being remodeled for a children’s camp.  You can see some of the timber and frame pieces getting replaced.  The minister insisted they keep the original structure rather than build  new with “modern” 2×4 framing.

This man is the church president in front of another structure with a big bad wolf in the background.

Grape arbors are very common and part of nearly every fence and porch.

bucket and well

Thirsty?

natural spring water

Linda swears by the naturally carbonated spring water.

Finally, her home for her days in the villages.

April 2, 2014 – Transylvanian Agriculture

Linda got a chance to spend a few days near in the Carpathian Mountains and experienced a chance to see some agricultural enterprises while visiting the site of the Ames Unitarian Fellowship’s partner church in Tordotfalva.

Transylvania Beekeepers

The region has an abundance of fruit trees and pastures, so beekeeping is an important enterprise. This couple cares for the bees. The smaller boxes on the top rails are to raise queens to sell.

This is some of the foundation inside the special queen boxes.

bee waterer

This is a homemade bee waterer. Bees need lots of edges to safely land and drink water without having to land on water. This piece of wood has an upside down jar of water and it is positioned over a newly planted apple tree so the water that escapes waters the tree.

plowing with horse

Getting ready to plant potatoes. The villagers still use horses, one of the arguments being, once you buy a tractor, that tractor isn’t able to reproduce itself!

The potato planter follows behind.

The ministers in many of the villages take responsiblity for the economic well-being of the area and often manage many acres of land. Here Lajos shows off one of the orchards.

They have a machine which takes raw apples and converts them into “Naked” brand like apple juice. The apples go in here.

value-added apple product

Here’s another part of the crushing/squeezing.

The screen takes out the big chunks.

The vat pasturizes the juice.

At the end, the juice is squirted into bags that are put into…

boxes, like Americans use to buy wine.

Other fruits like plum can be bottled as well. It’s a great way for the people of the region to take raw fruit and make a value-added, non-perishible product.

March 30, 2014 – Transylvania, Dracula, and Segesvár

For Linda’s two weeks in Transylvania, I might as well start with the most famous (for Americans, at least) of all Transylvanian icons – Dracula. Of course, the “inspiration” for Bram Stoker’s Dracula was, in part “Vlad the Impaler” who lived in this place in the 1400s. Here’s just a line telling what kind of a guy he was from a publication in the 1500s: “He roasted children, whom he fed to their mothers. And (he) cut off the breasts of women, and forced their husbands to eat them. After that, he had them all impaled.”  The city is named Sighisoara or Segesvár (the first is the Romanian name, the second is the Hungarian name; Transylvania was part of Hungary until the borders were redrawn  after WW1 when it became part of Romania).

The fortified city was built in the late 1100s or early 1200s when the King of Hungary invited German craftsmen to settle and defend his kingdom.

Segesvarc or Sighisoara

This place is one of the best examples of a preserved  small medieval fortified city.  It is considered a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Segesvarc or Sighisoara

The approach to part of the city.

Segesvarc or Sighisoara

These buildings are all inside the citadel.

Segesvarc or Sighisoara bastion

Linda in front of one of the bastions – each bastion was occupied by a separate guild where they would practice their craft and be on guard. A guild in medieval times according to Wikipedia is ” an association based on  trades, confraternities of textile workers, masons, carpenters, carvers, glass workers, each of whom controlled secrets of traditionally imparted technology, the “arts” or “mysteries” of their crafts. Usually the founders were free independent master craftsmen who hired apprentices.  

March 16, 2014 – Brief Moments On the Lake

While in Waukegan, I took an early morning stroll down to the beach.

squaw creek

This must be one of the most deceptive photos I’ve ever taken.  I’m surprised the photo is so clear, as my hands could only be out of my pockets for a few moments at a time because of the cold.  The temperature was 17 degrees, and the wind was blowing off the lake so hard, you could almost lean forward and not fall fall down.

squaw creek

The odd-shaped rectangular objects are sand-covered ice hunks.

squaw creek

It was a treat to see and hear the lake.  Walking towards the lake, from behind the dunes, my first sense is that of a deep white noise.  Walking closer, the mid-range sounds of individual waves crashing on the beach becomes detectable, finally, crossing over the top of the dunes, the high trebles of the tinkling of the water retreating back into the lake and bouncing ice crystals completes the soundscape.

Oh yeah, and the buffeting wind, howling unobstructed all the way across the lake from somewhere off the upper peninsula of Michigan, meeting my face as the first obstruction it faced in a few hundres miles.

December 28, 2013 – Historic Park Inn/Frank Lloyd Wright

Merry Christmas to us!  Linda and I decided in lieu of Christmas presents, we’d do something together.

The lobby of the Historic Park Inn, the only remaining hotel designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Now part of the complex is the Wright-designed City National Bank, attached to the hotel.

Some detail of the second story windows.

Typical hallway carpeting.

Our room, complete with square pillow, for what, I’m not sure!

Also connected to the hotel is the 1910 Grille, where I was bold enough to walk from my room to the restaurant in my slippers!

Linda peering out the windows in the Ladies Parlor.  The hotel was rehabilitated only a couple of years ago.  It would be a nice place to go for small conferences or get-aways when you wanted to focus on the people you were with in a tasteful atmosphere.  Did I mention is was away from it all?  No, it’s not in Oak Park, Illinois, but in Mason City Iowa.  I hope all the hard work the local citizens did to renovate and re-open the hotel gets rewarded and that the hotel has a long future.

July 14, 2013 – Checking up on the Girls

By chance, we stayed within a few miles of our daughters’ summer workplace.  In fact, we could see the wind turbine at their camp from the balcony of our room!

The girls at Wolf Ridge looking inland (the opposite view looks over Lake Superior).

Self-portrait family shot.

Le Voyageur room at Wolf Ridge.

The small indoor climbing tower. I still think it’s great the girls wanted to work together this summer.

Here’s a view of our B&B cabin from the river. I’m standing on a rock island in the river and wasn’t quite high enough to see all the water over the rocks.

Linda and the “morning pages.”

One of the magical pools below the Inn.

Although we didn’t get a chance to use it, there was a fanciful wood-fired sauna! As if Dr. Suess wasn’t Finnish!

July 13, 2013 – Superior Hiking Trail

We spent the good part of the afternoon hiking on a segment of the Superior Hiking Trail from the Temperance River to the Cross River and back again. Of course the part we covered was less than 1%  of the entire trail (unless you count going there and back – then more than 1.7%!) of the total trail length of 296 miles – Duluth to the Canadian border.

I promised you more self-photos – this along the stretch where the trail goes along the Temperance River.

OK, one more.

Although hard to see in this photo, this is one of my favorite vantage of any north shore stream.  Right here, the river take a sharp 90 degree turn and you can stand on a rock seemingly in the middle of the river and look upstream at eye level with the onrushing waters and look downstream to a waterfall.

Superior Hiking Trail Sign

Finally away from the river, we snapped a photo of a trail marker.

Superior Hiking Trail Boardwalk

Some parts of the trail are wet and have a boardwalk.

Superior Hiking Trail mud

Some portions are wet and have mud.

Other portions are wet and have rock guides.

Superior Hiking Trail maples

Part of the trail passes through a maple forest.

Superior Hiking Trail aspen

Other parts an aspen forest.

Yet other parts, a pine forest.

Superior Hiking Trail ferns

Then there are open areas covered with ferns.

Superior Hiking Trail fireweed

Even some openings adorned with fireweed.

Every once and a while, you get a vista of Lake Superior.

Superior Hiking Trail cross river campground

There is a beautiful campsite at the Cross River.

Cross River

Another rolling and tumbling stream – the Cross River.

Cross River

Cascades, pools, and waterfalls upstream – a great playground.

A parting shot.

July 12, 2013 – Mark and Linda Get-Away

The longest time off Linda will have all summer is this three-day weekend in the middle of July. So we escaped north to Lake Superior. First stop is the always spectacular Palisade Head.

We thought we’d join the self-indulgent trend of self-photos – this is one of many on the trip!

We took a hike along the cliff to the north until we reached the signs alerting us to go no further as not to bother the nesting peregrine falcons – but this is a great view back to the south towards Palisade Head.

Some nifty flowers along the trail.

Fortunately, I was able to hold on and pull myself up from the brink.  But I was a bit perturbed that Linda was snapping photos instead of offering a hand ;)

 

July 6, 2013 – 80/35 2013

Once again it’s time for the mostly totally volunteer-run music festival that takes place at the intersection of I-35 and I-80.

The most intriguing new act that I saw was the Homemade Jamz Blues Band from Tupelo, MS.  When the band took the stage, I turned to Linda and said, “What, is the drummer 13-yrs old?”  I was wrong – she’s 14!  Her brother the bass player is 19 and her other brother playing lead is 21.  But even at 14, it’s already been five years since signing her first record deal.

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Photo Credit Patrick Wingard

I missed the headliner Friday night, David Byrne – and how could you go wrong with a tuba, French horn, trombone,  and David Byrne?  Friends said the show was ethereal. But I have a good excuse for missing it as our good friend and neighbor, on the occasion of her 50th birthday, jumped out of an airplane 10,000 feet above her farm and landed at her party.

Looking down at 80/35. Photo by Stefan Hansen.

Photo Credit Stefan Hansen

Saturday’s headliner was Wu-Tang Clan, and I chose to pass on them, although many others seemed to have a good time!

 

June 7, 2013 – Superior Good Bye

The last night before heading home.

We had a nice site on a small hill overlooking an arm of Bearskin Lake.

east bearskin lake

‘Twas a beautiful night, so beautiful in fact, it was one of the rare nights it was so beautiful that the fish were enjoying it with me and refused to bite.  But as a consolation we first heard, then saw a moose getting into the lake and sloshing around for a bit.

campfire

Aah, the campfire at the end of the day.  And look – bare legs so that means skeeters weren’t so bad.

Lake Superior Shore

One last stop on the big lake on the way home for lunch.

Lake Superior Pebbles

Superior pebbles.

Flat rocks, water, and a kid.  What else do you need?

June 6, 2013 – A Short Superior History Tour

Since Martin seemed captivated by the history of the quarry at Banning State Park, we decided to to some more history.  First stop today was the St. Louis County Historical Society’s exhibits in the old train depot in Duluth.  Among other exhibits was one room chronicling the immigrant experience.  It was interesting to me since both sides of my family immigrated in the turn-of-the-century timeframe. Perhaps in biggest contrast to today’s immigrants, there were huge dormitories built for incoming immigrants to have a safe place to stay for a few months until they earned enough to get a place of their own.

But the main attraction here is the collection of vintage local trains.  One of the most fascinating to me was this rail mail car. The attendant would reach out with a hook and grab a mail bag hung up at many locations along the route where the train did not stop.  The mail was sorted en route, and the cool part was if the mail was for a stop further down the track, the attendent would throw out the mail bag, which could have included mail picked up just hours ago!  Beat that Fed Ex!  Of course, if the mail was on a stop behind the train’s route, it wouldn’t get delivered that day.

How awesome is this snowplow train!

Here’s a fancy dining car from back in the day.

And here is the mother of all locomotives.  This coal-fired steam locomotive was 128 feet long!  Over half the length was the compartment to carry coal.  This monster burned one ton of coal every six minutes!  It could carry 28 tons of coal in its own coal bin.  It ran iron ore from the Iron Range down to Lake Superior and in its day was the most powerful locomotive in existence.  There were many other trains, including cranes, a rotary snowplow, and the first locomotive to arrive in Minnesota, via boat, of course, not rail.

Then it was off to Split Rock Lighthouse.

When the lighthouse was built in 1910, there were no roads, so all the building supplies were lifted up the cliff via a steam-powered hoist and derrick, including all the bricks necessary to built the lighthouse, foghouse, three keeper houses and barns, along with of course all the supplies and people for a number of years (if the lake was calm).  Five years after construction a tramway was built to make things a bit easier, but it was not until 1924 that a highway was built, allowing more reliable transport of goods.

Martin loved the new slogan of the Split Rock “Before GPS, there was a really big light.”  The lighthouse ceased operation in 1969.

Part of the lamp, with the reflecting glass engineered to produce a beam visible from the furthest distance from the kerosene lamp.

split rock lamp

Some of the mechanics of the apparatus used to spin the light.  On the very top of this photo you can see a green disk that contained 300 pounds of mercury to help keep the light level.

If you find yourself in the neighborhood – drop in.