July 12, 2014 – Getaway Day 2

We absolutely lucked out and got a great campsite at Split Rock State Park.  We happened to walk in just after a cancellation came in for one of the sites that you use a cart to haul all your stuff in, far away from other sites.

The dining room was ok.

But the view from the living room was spectacular, overlooking the lake and the lighthouse.

We headed down the hill to explore the lakeshore.

I’ve got the whole lighthouse in my hand…

This is a rather unfortunate composition of me against the lighthouse – Minnesota’s most photographed place, perhaps has never quite had this vantage point.

It was a wonderful night with the moonrise.  Can’t decide if the close-up, middle, or wide angle views are my favorite, so all follow.

xxx

July 11, 2014 – Dad and Kid Getaway Day 1

Heading North for a rare weekend with all three kids.  Might be the last time in a long time they are all together, except for a day before Claire leaves for Iceland.

sandboy

 

Since we had some extra time, we stopped at one of those places we always drive by on the way up north, Moose Lake State Park Agate and and Geologic Center.  After ogling the agates in the display, it was time for some impromptu swimming. Martin decided it was time to try the experimental sand hair exfoliate.

Next it was off to Jay Cooke State Park, just south of Duluth – another one of those drive-by parks that often gets missed on the way up the North Shore.  It is one of Minnesota’s truly under-appreciated parks.

The St Louis River battles through strongly tilted slate beds as it runs into Lake Superior.

A broader view of the valley, downstream from the park.

A closer look at the tilted slate beds.

We lucked onto a primo camp site – not too close to other sites, with a nice rock backdrop.

The swinging bridge is replaced after the floods of 2012.

Martin gazes into what we called the “cauldron of doom” where the river drops into a maelstrom of water and foam.

Aaah!

The forest along the river near the highway bridge.

 

June 1, 2014 – A Superior Getaway: Day 3

Day three is only a few hours in the morning before the long drive back home.

beaver river

However, the Beaver River called as we drove over the bridge on highway 61, so we stepped out for a closer look.

north shore river

I love the minty green of the trees sneaking out of the fog.

Yet another perspective.

gooseberry falls

Finally one more look at Gooseberry middle falls after a night of rain.

gooseberry lower falls

Gooseberry lower falls.

Finally, Mark and Linda selfie.

I was struck with the stark contrast between a story on my phone with my location and experience this morning.  While enjoying the clear waters and parks of Minnesota, I read that the governor of Iowa had cut $9 million dollars from the state parks and outdoors budget and $11 million dollars from the clean water budget, despite being passed by both parties in the state house. Of course, there is enough money to give $110 million to a private company to build a fertilizer plant.

May 31, 2014 – A Superior Getaway: Day 2

With the threat of rain for the day, we made a quick trip to Gooseberry Falls early in the morning and found the wildly popular park, usually covered with people like ants, to be nearly empty.

The middle falls.

And one part of the lower falls, with an example of one of the most iconic and under-appreciated trees, the Cedar, its gnarly roots, holding of for dear life on the rock.

The drizzle and fog soon set in as we made the annual pilgrimage to Palisade Head.

Hiking to the north of the cliffs reveals a tundra-like landscape of rock, mosses and lichens, and small trees.

Did I say it was wet?

It was wet down at the beach as well, but as a bonus, made the rocks look their best.

We finally relented and went to Duluth in the evening and sampled some of the fare at Fitger’s Brewery – both dinner and beverage locally sourced.  I was surprised to learn they had their own herd of Scottish Highland cattle for meat for the restaurant – lots of spent grain to feed hearty northern cattle.

May 30, 2014 – A Superior Getaway: Day 1

Linda and I don’t have many chances to sneak away, but we did for a while this weekend.

split rock park beach

Of course, we headed to the big lake and explored some locations we hadn’t previously visited.  While we had visited the lighthouse portion of Split Rock State Park/Historical area, we had not explored the river portion and more remote part of the park.  The water is wonderful as it transitions from clear to turquoise to deep blue as it gets deeper.

split rock lighthouse

Here’s an obligatory view of the lighthouse.

split rock view

A vista from a hill close to shore, looking south towards Duluth.

marsh marigolds

A special shout out to my mother for remembrances of those who fetched these from the ash swamp many years ago.

eagle in tree

The trail soon turned into “animal kingdom” first with this Bald Eagle.

Then this rather skinny doe, no doubt much appreciative of the spring foliage.

ground squirrel

Look, Look, Squirrel!! I believe this is a Franklins Ground Squirrel.

split rock river

A hike up the river leads to a series of waterfalls.

split rock river

And more cascades further up the Split Rock River.

April 12, 2014 – Keepsakes from Transylvania

OK, so it took a while to finish up the Transylvania series.  I end with some of the keepsakes Linda brought back.

Red embroidered cloth is very common in the area.  These are only a couple examples.

A village hat is the keepsake, not the guy wearing it!  Do I look happy like Pharrel Williams?

Delicate bracelets for the girls (shh, they haven’t been home to see them yet).

Edict of Torda

This is an impressed copy of the Edict of Torda, issued in 1568.  It was an important statement of religious freedom when the mainstream church was clamping down on the reformation as nations were trying to consolidate power by merging the dominant religion with the state and creating a state religion resulting in providing a reason to torture or kill those who were opposed to the state-imposed religion. To refresh your memories, Martin Luther’s 95 theses were posted in 1517. The thoughts live on in the U.S. Constitution’s first amendment a couple hunder years later: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Transylvanian Blessing

This document is a copy of the traditional Transylvanian blessing, found in churches and homes across Transylvania.

Finally a couple of tapestries, one them a gift from the Bishop.

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.

IMG_0072

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.