Wednesday, May 24, 2017


Last month our travels serendipitously took us to Croatia. I say serendipitously because we had not been longing to go there, or even knew what we might be missing. We chose it because we wanted to visit our son Jack in Berlin and knew we wanted to travel for a week or two afterwards, preferably somewhere that Jack could join us for at least part of the time.

We considered heading north to Hamburg and then on to Denmark. But spring is slow to come to that part of the world and we were feeling in need of some Mediterranean sunshine. So with a spin of the globe, we landed on Croatia.

Here's all I knew about Croatia before our trip: It lies to the east of Italy, separated only by the Adriatic Sea. People of a certain age know it as part of Yugoslavia (until it gained its independence in 1991).

Here's what I know now: I'm so glad we went.

We spent the first weekend of our trip in Berlin – catching up with Jack, meeting his friends for dinner, checking out his apartment in East Berlin and wandering the city – taking in its deep history, beautiful parks and memorials, remaining portions of the Berlin Wall, multiple flea markets, museums and restaurants.

On Monday morning, Jack pedaled off to classes and we flew to Split, Croatia to begin 10 days of exploring the country's breathtaking natural beauty, interesting history, cream cakes and coffee, pungent truffles, incredible wine and fresh seafood.

Jack joined us two days later and travelled with us for the next five days. We rented a car (with GPS) and drove our way from Split, northward to Zadar, Plitvice, Rovinj, ending in Zagreb. (Because our time was limited, we did not make it to Dobrovnik.)

It is hard for me to pick out my favorite places because every where we went I would declare: "This is my favorite." Instead, let me give you a glimpse of three spots that I hope will entice you to put Croatia on your bucket list.

Plitvice National Park

We spent the better part of one day exploring Croatia's oldest and largest national park, comprised of a series of 16 crystalline lakes that cascade into each other via mineral-rich waterfalls. I don't even have the words to describe how magical it felt to hike the 6 miles or so (downhill) on wooden footbridges and paths, taking in the flora and fauna. Surely one of the best days of my life.

Chard Festival in Padna, Slovenia

We pride ourselves in finding local festivals and parades on our travels and hit the jackpot when we veered off course and made our way uphill to the tiny village of Padna, Slovenia – on our way to Piran. The entire town was set up to welcome neighbors and visitors to its annual Chard Festival -- yes, you heard me right -- a day of celebrating all things chard (and olive oil, and wine, and figs). We wandered through the streets sampling all that they had to offer, loading our backpack with bottles of fresh green olive oil and local wine.

Museum of Broken Relationships

The Museum of Broken Relationship in Zagreb grew from a traveling exhibition revolving around the concept of failed relationships and their vestiges. The Museum offers the chance to overcome an emotional collapse through creation: by contributing to the Museum's unusual collection. One of the strangest museum I've ever visited, it engaged me from the first exhibit to the last: stories of love, loss, regret, revenge and retribution. The above "doodlebug" lost a leg every time its young lovers would see each. Supposedly, when they ran out of legs to tear off, that would be the time to start a life together. The relationship broke and so the doodlebug did not become a complete invalid after all.


Of course, the best part of our trip was traveling with Jack, who lives so far from Farm Dover, but is always a happy, knowledgeable and appreciative traveler. Here's to many more serendipitous travels with our beloveds.


Details that I don't want to forget


Capital and largest city of Germany. 

Hotel Oderberger
Former East German public swimming baths restored as a boutique hotel. Located on main avenue in Prenzlauer Berg. 

Weinschenke Weinstein
Lovely bar in Prenzlauer Berg -- serving great regional wines and lucky-for-us: Spargel (white asparagus)!

Berlin's oldest and most beautiful beer garden, but too cold to sit outside this time. We met up with a table full of Jack's friends, including former Collegiate exchange student Max Freitag and his finance, Christina. 

Second-largest city of Croatia; lies on the Dalmatian coast. 

Hotel Marmont
Located in the heart of the Old Town of Split.

Diocletian Palace
One of the most imposing Roman ruins in existence. Labyrinthine streets packed with people, bars, shops and restaurants. 

Konoba Varos
Small tavern, recommended by our taxi driver. We sat outside and enjoyed their excellent fresh seafood: Black Bream for Ed and Black Cuttlefish Risotto (made with squid ink) for me.

The oldest continuously inhabited city in Croatia; situated on the Adriatic Sea. 

Art Hotel Kalelarga
Boutique hotel located in the city centre.

Sea Organ
A series of broad steps leading down into the sea. The lower steps allow water and air to flow into pipes, causing an undulating, chime-like notes to be produced.

We stopped in a nunnery to purchase a bottle of cherry liquor, which has been produced in Zadar since the late 15th century. Taste a bit like "yum-yum," the cough syrup from my childhood -- but better.

Plitvice Lakes National Park (see above)
A chain of 16 terraced lakes, joined by waterfalls that extend into a limestone canyon. 

Ethno Houses Plitvica Selo
Resort designed as an old traditional village, complete with farm animals.

Town located on the western coast of the Istrian peninsula. 

Hotel Angelo d'Oro
Charming small hotel set in the heart of Rovinj's historic center.

Lovely restaurant with outdoor seating just above the sea.

Rio Snack Bar
Don't be fooled by the name; the food was spectacular.

We took a number of day trips from Rovinj. Our destinations included Pula (with its incredible Roman Amphitheater), Piran (Slovenia), and Montovun. We were enchanted with Groznjan, a 14th-century Venetian fortress perched on a hill high above the Mirna river valley. Known for its truffles.

The capital and largest city of Croatia, located in the northwest of the country, along the Sava River. 

Rooms Zagreb 17
Apartment located on the always-lively main cafe street: Tkalcica.

Small restaurant near the Stone Gate.

Museum of Broken Relationships (see above)
An emotional journey around the world through hundreds of break-ups.


We used JayWay Boutique Travel to book our hotels and rental car. Their selections were spot on and made planning the trip much easier.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Unexpected. Unforgettable.

Ed and I are just back from visiting Jack in Berlin and touring around Croatia. I want to tell you about the trip – and write about it so I won't forget the details – but before I do, I wanted to put in a plug for a quick field trip that we made the week before we left.

In mid-April, we headed to Columbus, IN for an overnight stay at the Inn at Irwin Gardens, a tour of the town's world-class architecture, public art and green spaces, and a separate tour of the 1950-era Miller House, commissioned by industrialist and philanthropist J. Irwin Miller and his wife Xenia Simons Miller.

You may wonder why Columbus is home to an amazing array of well-designed buildings, bridges and parks. The story goes something like this: Beginning in 1954 Cummins Engine Foundation, headquartered in Columbus, offered to pay the architect's fee for any new school -- and later expanded the program to include a variety of public buildings -- provided it was designed by an architect selected from a list supplied by the Foundation. Soon other companies and church congregations got on board and sought architects who would add to the community's quality of design.

Columbus, less than two hours from our front door, is a town of just 46,000 residents but is now recognized as one of the the nation's most architecturally important cities, boasting more than 50 projects by renowned modernists. It is very impressive.

Joining us for the tour was a college friend of Ed's: Jim Collier, and our daughter Maggie. We specifically scheduled the tour because Henry Kuehn, a mentor to Maggie and fellow Rotarian to both Maggie and Ed was leading it. Henry is a knowledgeable and enthusiastic guide and made the day all the more special for us.

It was an all-around delightful trip and I hope my readers will consider making a pilgrimage. You can book a tour here. Additionally, the drive, via Madison, IN, is interesting in its own right.

The Inn at Irwin Gardens, a 1910 Edwardian mansion, was our home for the night.
And we made ourselves at home with wine in the library.
And a walk around the gardens, which actually were under renovation,
but should be completed by now. 
We started our tour from the Visitors' Center,
which features a yellow neon chandelier by Dale Chihuly
We toured churches, schools, hospitals, public parks and privately owned buildings.

Henry Moore sculpture: Large Arch, 1971

The Miller House, photo from the Visitors Center 

The Miller House, photo from the Visitors Center 

We ended our visit with ice-cream from Zaharakos Old-fashioned Ice Cream Parlor, which I can also highly recommend!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

What's in a name?

When traveling to non-English-speaking countries, I stick close to Ed -- or, if Jack is with us, I stay glued to him. Both my boys have amazing ears to distinctly hear foreign languages and brains that are wired to retain linguistic skills. I have neither.

But as of late, I do have an interest in learning a new language: the language of plants. More specifically, I want to learn taxonomy, the science of classification. You know, those foreign, multisyllabic, italicized, difficult-to-spell or -pronounce names in ancient languages. Developed by Swedish naturalist, Carl Linnaeus in the mid 1700s, his binomial system of nomenclature describes the "genus" and "species" of plants. 

I've learned that the scientific name, sometimes referred to as the botanical name, can be drawn from many sources, including Latin and Greek, names of people and places, and sometimes even anagrams. (The flowering plant species Muilla is an anagram of the onion genus Allium!) I never studied Latin but evidently all educated people in the 1700s learned Latin, no matter what country they were from. All scientific papers were written in Latin so that everyone could understand them, no matter what language they spoke. Good old Carl, was simply following this practice. 

So the Latin names of plants are universal, translating across international borders, and reducing confusion. They offer precision and accuracy governed by a code of nomenclature that is rigorous and standardized. An international congress takes place every year to update the code. This is serious stuff. 

When used properly, scientific names eliminate the common problem with common names: There can be hundreds of common names for the same plant, or conversely, the same common name can be used for hundreds of different species. If I can learn the Latin name, I'll always know its correct name. Also, because Latin isn't spoken much by anyone, it doesn't change over time. You can pretty much be sure that a Latin name will mean the same thing that it did 300 years ago -- and probably the same thing 300 years from now. 

I'm getting a bit of a late start on this new skill. In fact, I hardly know the common name for most plants, but, like any new language, the best way to learn is to start using it in daily life. 

This past weekend, Ed and I went hiking in the Blanton Forest State Nature Preserve in far Eastern Kentucky, located on the south face of Pine Mountain. The preserve protects the largest old growth forest known in Kentucky. Many of the trees were not yet leafed out, but a multitude of wildflowers were popping up all along the creek trail. Here are a few of what we saw -- noted first by their scientific name, and then by their common name. It took me a while to figure these out -- and I'm not entirely sure I've got them right -- but I cross-checked them with three wildflower guides, plus a bit of googling.

Convallaria majalis (Lily-of-the-Valley)

Diphasiastrum digitatum (Ground Cedar)
 Cardamine concatenata (Cutleaf Toothwart)

Stellaria pubera (Star Chickweed)
Osmundastrum cinnamomeum (Cinnamon Fern)

Podophyllum peltatum (Mayapple)

Viola pubescens (Yellow Woodland Violet)

Geranium maculatum (Wild Geranium)

To get me started on my journey of learning the Latin names, here's a list of terms often used. I've been counseled not to worry about how to pronounce them as botanical names tongue-tie nearly everyone. One expert advised: "There's no proper way to pronounce these names except for clearly, loudly and with conviction!"

Colors of flowers or foliage
albus - white
argenteus - silvery
aureus - golden
azureus azure - sky blue
caeruleus - dark blue
candidus - pure white, shiny
citrinus - yellow
concolor  - one color
discolor - two colors, separate colors
glaucus - covered with gray bloom
pallidus - pale
purpureus - purple
rubens, ruber - red, ruddy

Form of leaf or plant
arboreus - treelike
contortus - twisted
depressus - pressed down
elegans - elegant, slender, willowy
grandi - large, showy
humilis - low, small, humble
imperialis - showy
impressus - sunken
laurifolius - laurel-like
prostratus - prostrate
reptans - creeping
scabrus - rough-feeling

africanus - of Africa
alpinus - of the Alps
australis - southern
borealis - northern
campestris - of the field or plains
canadensis - of Canada
canariensis - of the Canary Islands
capensis - of the Cape of Good Hope area
chilensis - of Chile
chinensis - of China
hispanicus - of Spain
hortensis - of the garden
indicus - of India
insularis - of the island
japonicus - of Japan
littoralis - of the seashore


Note: Until now, the extent of my Latin language skills has been limited to what Ed always told our kids was our family motto: Semper ubi sub ubi. If you want to know how it translates, you will have to google it.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Field Trip: Wandering Kentucky's Back Roads

Because today was International Women's Day/Women's Strike and because it was a spectacular day outside, I chose not to work – and Ed's backed me 100% and suggested that we take a field trip. Nothing we like better than driving around the back roads of Kentucky, taking in the beautiful countryside, and laughing at the all-too-true stereotypes of our fair state.

We left mid-morning with the vague idea of driving to Owenton for lunch, stopping on the way to explore the Wildlife Management Area along the Kentucky River. We headed north to Eminence and then on to Port Royal, home to our favorite writer: Wendall Berry. We whizzed past the Port Royal Baptist Church catching sight of an old cemetery behind the church. We looked at each other and said at the same time: "Let's go back."

So back, we did go.

On our way out of the cemetery I glanced next door at an old abandoned house. A tattered curtain blowing in the breeze caught my eye – and broke my heart.

We followed the old road along the Kentucky River stopping at the Boone Wildlife Management Area, where we hiked a muddy trail up to the dam that created a 15-acre lake. Looked like some good fishing -- and so we promised to come back another day with our gear.

From there, we headed to downtown, Gratz, a mostly forgotten town that in the mid-1800s was one of the most prosperous ones in the area due to the business of portaging goods around an unnavigable part of the river. Today, it is a sad place, even Charlie's Old Time Shoe Repair was closed.

We were getting hungry, so we pressed on toward Owenton, but not without stopping every few minutes for me to jump out of the car and take photos of whatever caught my fancy, mostly structures that had gone to rack and ruin or were on their way there. Ed was an exceedingly good sport.

Downtown Owenton, population 1327, sits atop a ridge about a half hour north of Frankfort. Owenton was founded in 1822 but its growth in the late 19th century was limited because a railroad was never built to it. Today, it supports one downtown coffee/sandwich shop: Bird Dogs Coffee. So that is where we stopped for lunch. Soup and sandwich were fine; the brownie was excellent!

After lunch, we continued our travels, with more stops for photos along the way.

We ended up in Carrollton, an old town on the Ohio and Kentucky Rivers. We crossed the Kentucky River bridge and headed home, with one more stop at Starview Nursery in Henry County to pick up some extra strawberry plants to fill in some bare spots in my raised bed. 

Seven hours after we left home, we pulled back into the drive. We had basically made a 125-mile circle through Shelby, Henry, Owen and Carroll counties. Glad we spend our day wandering roads we knew and ones we had never travelled before. It was a good day.