Dark Days in Lübeck Germany

We are supposed to be in Copenhagen right now. Thanks to Lufthansa’s greed or mismanagement or Covid or who knows what, those plans were changed. Lufthansa has cancelled our flight home twice. Andreas has spent hours and days on the phone with his booking agent Orbitz. Each time he is directed to a new person in India who can’t do anything to help him. I think they’ve tried. One got as far as sending and receiving emails from Lufthansa only to conclude that he couldn’t help us. Trying to contact Lufthansa in any way has proven futile.

We knew our original flight home was cancelled before we left the US. We figured we would be able to re-schedule it. We were hopeful about being able to do this until about three weeks ago.

Originally we were supposed to spend our last three weeks in Copenhagen for Andreas’ work, but then Copenhagen’s Covid numbers sky rocketed. We thought okay, we don’t have a flight home let’s stay in Germany and travel near Frankfurt and fly out of there. We should be able to change our ticket since we were originally planning to change planes in Frankfurt. Nope, no can do.

So, we made our way back to Lübeck because it’s sort of between Copenhagen and Frankfurt, we’re comfortable here and we thought we would just be working anyway. We’ve camped out in the Airbnb we started our vacation with in mid-December. The only thing we can figure out to do about getting home is to show up in the Copenhagen airport when we were originally supposed to leave and see what they can do for us. That will happen in a couple of days.

Andreas and I have spent the last two weeks feeling stressed out, anxious and maybe a little depressed. I’m a nervous traveler during the best of times even when everything is running smoothly, so this situation is making me pretty upset. Neither one of us has been able to do much work and we’ve been getting on each other’s nerves a little bit.

One particularly cold day we left the island and walked to Andreas’ mother’s old neighborhood where she lived until she was a young teen. We took photos of the house at the address she gave us and the air raid bunker that she and her family hid in during the war. She has not seen these photos yet. I can’t say if things look as she remembered them. Still, it was interesting to experience the neighborhood even if it’s been 70 odd years since she lived there. Her family of six lived on one floor of this house. (edit: Christa says that the facade of the house has changed since she lived there and it looks very modern now.)

On a happier note, we were able to visit with Andreas’ parents again in Neustadt on a rare sunny day. We enjoyed a nice walk and lunch out. Christa and Andreas rode bikes to the local Birkenstock outlet so Andreas could replace his shoes. That was a good idea because the price was less than half of what he paid online for a pair two years ago.

Andreas’ mother came to Lübeck for a day by herself and we had a wonderful coffee with her childhood friend Sieglinde. Sieglinde’s apartment is at the bottom of the island on the edge of a park with street and lake views. Very cool to watch swans fly by the window at eye level while you drink coffee and eat fancy cookies on delicate china. It was so nice to relax there and enjoy her company.

Coffee at Sieglinde’s

I’ve been keeping busy exploring museums that Andreas is not interested in, and parts of the city that I haven’t seen yet while he tries to concentrate on his work or calls the airline.

This is the Museum of Nature and the environment. (Museum für Natur und Umwelt) It’s a cute little place with tired taxidermy. Some of the exhibits are very nice. There’s a great view of the Dom (Cathedral) through the windows and some live snakes and fish. I had the museum to myself.

Museum Holstentor This museum is part of the former city wall. The sides facing away from the city have more of a battlement purpose while the back is more ornate with more windows. It has an interesting collection of weapons, kitchen implements and torture devices. I really enjoyed the scale model of medieval Lübeck and the model ships. It’s a fun museum to discover as you are always going up and down spiral steps in the two towers. What’s not apparent from the photos is how much the towers are leaning . Building something that big and heavy on swampy ground in the 1400’s wasn’t a great idea.

When I was walking back from this museum I cut through the Rathaus square and heard Andreas call my name. (Yelling DRAGONFLY! definitely rattled the two homeless guys sitting next to him.) I just happened to chose that way to walk home and he just happened to be in that square reading on a bench in the sun, so of course we had to get some coffee and cake.

You can’t throw a stone in this town without hitting a cafe with little cakes. It’s all about the afternoon Kuchen und Kaffee around here.

I’ve picked up a few books that I’ve been meaning to read. Cheery ones like The Handmaid’s Tale and Where The Crawdads Sing.. ha ha. I feel like I’ve been wasting time or not enjoying being here to the fullest, I’ve let the stress get to me too much.

Today Andreas is hiking along the Baltic while I have some quiet time to paint. He returned home saying he walked 30,000 steps today and added a few photos below. He also went to Neustadt and surprised his parents with some cake. He and his mom went out for a beer while his dad watched his Sunday TV program.

I hope that in my next blog I will say I was worried about nothing and Lufthansa totally came through for us, that they flew us to Philadelphia and not Newark, NJ and I’m back home. I hope.

Have any of you experienced travel problems like this with Lufthansa lately?

Diez, Eisenbach and a little Limburg on the side

Last week Andreas and I rode the trains to Diez, Germany to visit his brother Burkhard and our sister-in law Carina. Diez is a little town in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate about an hour north of Frankfurt. The town is in a beautiful valley along the Lahn river. A lot of the homes are on the hills surrounding the valley and the views are wonderful. Andreas’ brother lives in a house above the town and we stayed in a little hotel at the base of his hill. I think we were the only guests in the hotel, at least it felt that way. The hotel is one of the only affordable places to stay in town. Our room was small and the bathroom was at the foot of the bed with a see-through sliding door. We were happy to leave the room.

Each morning and night we walked up the stone stairs to the castle and then further up the hill to Burkhard and Carina’s. I wrote about the sad history of these stairs here. We spent most of our days in their apartment eating, talking and playing with their 8-month-old kittens. Their place was beautifully decorated for Christmas. I’m glad we were able to see them close to the holiday.

Burkhard restores old wooden windows for homes, castles and monasteries. One afternoon he showed us a few of his current projects. We drove across the valley to a new studio that he and his partner built in an old barn owned by a carpenter friend. The studio has an amazing view across the valley to the Lahn.

After that we went downtown to a house built over 300 years ago where he is restoring the windows. The current owners striped everything down to the original beams and walls. The original 17th century construction methods are fascinating to me. We were lucky enough to find the owner there working. She gave us a full tour explaining all her work and plans in German and, thankfully, English as well. On one adobe wall she had tubes of water placed to provide radiant heating. She invited us all for drinks next year to see the finished project. I am really looking forward to that.

Another day we drove into Limburg for Indian food: I was introduced to Pani Puri which is the weirdest, most amazing food thing I have tasted in a long time.

Pani Puri

This snack is one of the most common street foods on the Indian subcontinent. Ingredients include potato, onion, flour, chickpeas, mint, onion, coriander leaves, green chili, ginger, lemon, sugar, chaat masala powder, black salt, salt and cumin. Looking up the history, I found many different stories, recipes, and names such as Pani puri or fuchka fhuchka or gupchup or golgappa or pani ke patake. On days when I feel like there is nothing good in the world I want to remember that there are still experiences like eating Pani puri to be discovered.

Friday, we drove to visit Carina’s parents Marga and Bernd in Eisenbach. Marga always bakes amazing cakes and we sat together in the kitchen enjoying them with coffee. In Diez Burkhard had shared some baby photos of himself and Andreas so, I asked Carina if she had any to show. Her father brought her baby album to the table and we had fun looking through it. (She was a very cute baby.) He also showed us albums from the early sixties when he and Marga were traveling and partying with their friends. I love old photos. When we were leaving Bernd shared an apple that he harvested from his garden. We enjoyed the sour apple with slices of marzipan and chocolate in Diez. Marga passed us home-made red currant and elderberry blossom jam that we are now cherishing for breakfast and lunch here in Lübeck.

I have to say that a big part of our visit was the kittens. They are so cute and so bad. The black one is Herr Rossi and the silver, striped one is Cleo. Cleo is part Siamese and Maine Coon. It will be very interesting to see what she looks like in a few years. Someone is always yelling, “Herr Rossi, NEIN!” Ha ha, they are SO curious.

A few additions: We were happy to catch a painting show by Liv. Please follow her on Instagram. Her paintings are wonderful.

And this painting below was a surprise for Andreas to find in Burkhard and Carina’s living room. The painting always hung behind their grandparent’s sofa. No matter where they moved it was there. It was the only original artwork that Andreas remembers seeing during his childhood in a home.

The artist signature is Muller-Schlunz. Both “u” should have umlauts.

We are back in Lübeck now. The place with lots of fish food for my fishhead husband who is also a pain in the butt when it comes to editing these posts. (He wrote that, not me.)

Photos by Dragonfly Leathrum, Andreas Muenchow and Carina Schmidt-Munchow

Lübeck and Neustadt Part 2

Happy New Year from Lübeck! Andreas and I returned to the city after our short stay in Magdeburg. We were able to book one of our favorite Airbnbs in the Stüwes Gang. The house is a historical landmark. I have written about this Airbnb and Lubeck before here, here and here. The house is very old has been renovated in creative ways showcasing much of the original architecture. It’s tiny, but very cool. We were able to get our favorite upstairs room and were happy to meet a friendly couple renting one of the rooms below us. Ciaran and Michele were traveling from Cologne where Ciaran, originally from Ireland, owns an Irish bar called Buskers. I enjoyed the opportunity to speak English with someone, especially someone with an Irish accent. He was also nice enough to leave me the book he was reading when he left.

We took it easy this week in the city. Andreas found the local library and we spent a few hours there following our interests and discovering new ideas.

We also revisited the Behnhaus Museum to see some local art, and for fun we made a point of trying new streets and different routes to and from the house.

While changing our route we also discovered some new artwork.

We have found a little bar that we are fond of called Kandinsky. If we happened to be in that part of the city in the afternoon, we would stop in for a glühwein. The bar is small, dark, mostly empty and a little smoky from the patrons and the candles. I like the atmosphere while Andreas likes the alcohol and local news papers and magazines. I think they are mostly known for their whiskey selection.

Andreas with his gluhwein and magazine.
My first view of Kandinsky through my rain covered, mask fogged glasses.

To celebrate on New Year’s Eve Andreas picked a fancy restaurant near us. The Schabbelhaus was originally a bakery, a museum and then hosted restaurants. It was destroyed in the war and rebuilt. His parents had celebrated the christening of his cousin Petra there in 1962. His mother remembers all of the details including the wine they bought and how much it cost. For dinner Andreas chose the full New Year’s Eve menu with four courses and dessert. I picked something smaller. The food, and ambience was perfect for the occasion. I wish we were able to dress a little nicer, but when you travel with only a backpack, extra fancy clothes are not an option.

At midnight we stood at the kitchen window in the Airbnb and watched the fireworks and drones in the sky while listening to the church bells ring.

Behold the worst photo I’ve ever taken of New Year’s Eve fireworks.

We began our new year with another visit to Andreas’ parents in Neustadt in Holstein. Christa prepared a lovely brunch for us. She also fixed the fraying straps of Andreas’ backpack while he and his father worked on Lothar’s old laptop. In the afternoon we met her younger brother Klaus and Andreas’ cousin Kirsten for coffee and cake. Andreas hadn’t seen them in 36 years. They are lovely people and I hope we are able to meet them again soon.

As I write this, we are in Diez (more about that soon) and we have learned that our flight home has been cancelled. We are working with Orbitz to figure something out and have been unable to reach our airline. We were scheduled to travel to Copenhagen next for Andreas’ work, but we have cancelled due to their crazy high Covid numbers. We will be traveling back to Lübeck to the apartment we stayed in at the beginning of our trip. We feel that it has the best work space for us and we do need to get back to work. Also, as far as Andreas can figure out with the numbers available to him, Covid cases are lower there than in the USA, Denmark and other areas in Germany.

All photos by Dragonfly Leathrum

Hundertwasser in Magdeburg Germany

Two days after Christmas Andreas and I traveled to Magdeburg from Bad Wildungen. This involved a taxi, an hour long bus ride and three different trains. The temperature was 23F ( around -5C ) so, late trains at small stations without shelter were not appreciated. My little toes were very cold. Our first train was 25 minutes late which made us miss our second train. We, along with 20 passengers ran as fast as we could with heavy backpacks and bags to catch the second train only to see it pull out in front of us. It was a clumsy, comical sight that I wish I had videoed. Waiting for a new second train over a cup of train station coffee, we sat with a friendly cardiologist in a crowded, unheated café.

Magdeburg is located in the former East Germany or as our friend Siegfried corrected us, middle Germany. The city was destroyed twice. Once in 1631 and again in 1945. In 2005 it celebrated it’s 1200th anniversary and in 2013 it was flooded. So, why the hell would we want to visit there? Well, because my Christmas present from Andreas was ten minutes walking distance from the train station:

My favorite artist built a hotel here. “Friedensreich Regentag Dunkelbunt Hundertwasser, (December 1928 – 19 February 2000) was an Austrian visual artist and architect who also worked in the field of environmental protection. Hundertwasser stood out as an opponent of “a straight line” and any standardization, expressing this concept in the field of building design.” He’s a fascinating character and artist. If you are interested in knowing more about him read here.

Back in 2018 Andreas and I visited Hundertwasser’s museum in Vienna. Being inside one of his structures is an experience so different from seeing them on a computer or in a book. This hotel the Grüne Zitadelle has shops on the bottom floor with public courtyards, passageways and bathrooms. There were hotel rooms, apartments and offices above that. The building also hosts a kindergarten. There are meadow ramps up the building sides and green roofs and terraces.

Our room was small with a very high ceiling. All of the corners of the room and walls were curved. No plastic or tropical wood was used in creating the room. The bathroom was tiled in his style with primary colors. We had a very nice stay there. Every time we left the room, we discovered something new.

We stayed for two nights and had one day to explore the city. Unfortunately, we were there on a Monday and all of the museums were closed. It was very cold so we explored the area close to the hotel, returned to warm up and then ventured outside again. By chance we met the man in charge of the tourism bureau while he was throwing a ball for his dog. The dog was very pretty with a plaid bow tie. He had no interest in us. The nice man mentioned that he was an exchange student in Nevada while he was in high school so, his English was easy to understand.

The Archway to the right of the nice man and his dog in the photos above is significant because Martin Luther walked through it many days of his life.

The local Christmas market was still open and we were near a shopping district so we explored some book stores and a few churches. Magdeburg had many churches along the Elbe River. Most were bombed during World War 2 and several were razed by the communist regime took over the city. There are still a few left in various stages of ongoing restoration.

Luckily, we had some food with us in our room because on the evening of the second night when we were thinking about going out, we heard a lot of noise from the street. When we opened our window, we saw what turned out to be an illegal protest march of 5,000 people. They were protesting Covid related restrictions. There were also a lot of police men and women walking around and driving in vans. We ate our leftovers a few floors above them and watched the spectacle. None of the protesters were masked. Again, seeing something in real life as apposed to a screen is so different.

The next morning I said goodbye to my Christmas present experience and we took three trains back to Lübeck for New Years.

I love this photo. The marbles were so pretty.

Photos by Dragonfly Leathrum

Lübeck and Neustadt in Holstein part one.

After much discussion and weighing Covid odds and restrictions, Andreas and I chose to travel. We wrapped up our Delaware commitments, packed our backpacks, masked up and flew out.

We arrived in Lübeck after a long, but fairly easy trip and went to our favorite pub for dinner. Andreas ordered “Sauerfleisch” (cold pork in sweet-sour jelly) that he can not find where we live. I ordered what I thought was a veggie burger that ended up being ewes’ cheese on bread. It was really nice to be back in Germany specifically in this town and at Christmas time.

We tried a new Airbnb on the other end of the island because our favorite was booked and this new one had a washer. It was a good choice.

In the kitchen at the first Airbnb.

The apartment had everything we needed including a fully stocked kitchen with teas, oil, sugar etc. left over from former tenants and or supplied by the owner. We found it really easy to cook a lot of our meals. Andreas was able to take advantage of the farmer’s market to stock up on his favorite fishes and cheese. Nice to feel like we were saving some money starting out.

Thankfully, we did not have any Christmas shopping to do and could spend our time walking around the city choosing less crowed coffee houses, shops and museums.

The Christmas markets were busy and you had to show an ID and vaccination status to be allowed in. The police were also monitoring the shoppers on the main streets to make sure everyone is masked. We feel that this is why the Covid cases are lower in this state than any other of the 15 states in Germany. Restaurants and shops are also checking vaccine status and identification before you can enter. It has not been an inconvenience but, the mask wearing outside is tedious for me, because my glasses fog up so much. Half the time I ca not see where I’m going and hold onto Andreas’ arm like a blind person while muttering, “Damnit, I can’t see shit.”

As soon as we settled into town, we took a day trip to visit Andreas’ parents in Neustadt. We had a nice coffee and dinner with them and invited them to Lübeck in the following days.

It is always fun to see Lübeck through Christa and Lothar’s eyes because they spent their formative years here. The stories are good and bad. Life was not easy here during and after WWII, but they still had some fun. We enjoyed one fancy dinner out at our favorite restaurant. Andreas ordered a mystery four course dinner that ended in a very cool dessert.

Andreas’ very cool dessert.

His parents were having so much fun in Lübeck that we found them an AirbBnB to stay the night and visit through the next day.

Two things have improved for me in regards to traveling over here. One, I have been walking a lot with my friends at home over the past two years and I am in much better shape to keep up with Andreas. Two, even though I am still terrible at it, I do understand more and can speak more German which makes life a little less frustrating.

Next stop: Bad Wildungen.

Summer Recipe: add Gardens, Friends and Art

It is a rare, gorgeous 73-degree July morning. I love having the windows open and the air conditioner off. Yesterday was my birthday. I spent most of the day finishing and uploading a grant proposal that is due in a couple of days and teaching. I also made time to swim and Andreas cooked a wonderful dinner to share with our friends.

We have enjoyed a good summer so far. The gardens have been prolific with fruits and vegetables. In some cases, producing much better than past years. Andreas is still perplexed that we were able to grow cabbage. The new variety of produce is stretching his recipe library and I think he enjoys the challenge. Of course, we are growing more than we can eat, which is no accident. We get a lot of joy sharing any extra.

We are more social now. We have attended art openings, parties, and dinners. On the 4th of July we hosted our first large party for our friend Mary, so she would not need to host her annual party at her house. She provided the guest list, we provided the house, drinks, and sockeye salmon to grill. Mary’s guests and mutual friends brought the rest of the food. It was a fun pot luck on a mild Sunday afternoon.

Our nephew Sam Parsons tried to qualify for the Olympics running for Germany. We were able to watch the race on two screens concurrently. The first was on the TV at my brother-in-law’s house in Diez, Germany that I connected to via Zoom while the second was Andreas’ laptop in Newark, U.S.A. Complicated, right? Technology is amazing. Andreas figured out how to access the German network on his computer so we had a better view.

As an early birthday present to myself, my friend Linda and I took a train to New York City for three days. We stayed in an Art Deco style hotel in Greenwich Village, dined at vegan restaurants she wanted to try, walked all over the hot and humid streets of Manhattan, and went to museums. We had two fun, relaxing evenings. The first evening we drank at the hotel bar and shared some appetizers. We were the only patrons in the bar and restaurant. On the second we went to a bar called Wilfie and Nell recommended by my niece Molly. Wilfie and Nell seemed to be favored by twenty/ thirty year olds as a date destination bar. We were surrounded by well dressed couples on their best behavior sharing sweet stories. Oh, and the fries were really good. We recommend.

 Linda and I saw the Alice Neel show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art before we walked through the Calder show at the MoMa. In between we somehow found time to lunch on vegan sushi. The Alice Neel show was my main incentive for traveling to the city. We entered the gallery by snaking through other galleries in a crowded line. Despite the wait, I was inspired to be in the same space with so many of Neel’s paintings. It’s an improved experience over flipping through reproductions in a book. The Calder works were wonderful in person and I enjoyed seeing his sketches. Linda commented that he must have very strong hands. Most likely he did working in metal.

Below are some works by Neel, Calder and many other artist that inspired me that day.

 I thought the vegan restaurants Linda researched were imaginative and the food was very well made. Some highlights for me were vegan mac and cheese, Thai food (noodles!), sushi and the peanut butter brownie honeycomb vegan ice cream she found. I will be dreaming about that ice cream. Linda is a well known vegan chef; she made some cute videos of our restaurant experiences. You can see them on Facebook at Ester’s Kitchen and on Instagram @esters_kitchen_ek. She also describes the restaurants and menus more eloquently than I will here.

A vegan breakfast shake with banana, basil, ginger and cacao.

Linda and I felt surprised and mildly annoyed that a lot of businesses don’t accept cash, and menus can only be read on QR codes. That feeling may be us showing our age. We were happy to encounter masks wearing and outdoor dining options across the city. The new to me bike lanes are wonderful, but like in Amsterdam, you have to watch out for the electric bikes.

As with every other season, work consumes most of our time. Andreas is editing and re-writing a paper with colleagues, writing a proposal and preparing to teach three courses in the fall. He is also on the hunt for lantern flies in the garden killing as many of the invasive buggers as he can. I am teaching, working on commissions and in my free time painting new works for upcoming Trashy Women shows. Recently I was given musical instruments to upcycle into art. So far, I have transformed a violin from it’s original brown state to a disgruntled portrait ha ha. Yesterday I picked up some lovely pieces of rusted metal from an artist’s home in Maryland to re-imagine into who knows what. Having a great summer. Hope you are too.

Written by Dragonfly Leathrum

photos by Dragonfly Leathrum

Walker Hotel photos by Linda

Del Pizzo

Gibby Annoucement photos by the Gibby Center.

Road Trip Across the US

I just did something I never thought I’d do and never wanted to do. I drove to Oregon and back. To some of you this might sound like a fun trip, but it was never on my bucket list.

My brother called us after New Year’s to say that after the tumor was evaluated from his brain surgery in December his doctor recommended radiation and chemotherapy. My sister-in-law and nephew were scheduled to have a vacation in March. My brother didn’t want them to miss their trip, but he was concerned that navigating the last weeks of radiation therapy might be challenging by himself. He asked if we would come to Oregon. Yes, of course we would, but there is a pandemic and his immune system is compromised. Flying didn’t seem like a good idea so, Andreas and I decided that the safest way across the country Covid wise was to drive.

Andreas thought a drive across the country would be really fun and dove right into planning. He had maps and books open the day we said yes. He chose the route, booked the hotels and planned the food we would take in our cooler. We ate what we brought with us only getting take-out twice.

We bought a new hybrid car before the pandemic and put so few miles on it that we were still getting used to driving it during our trip. It was really nice to have a vehicle we didn’t have to worry about that also got decent gas mileage. Andreas and I have very different driving styles and the first few days were challenging. I scared him, he terrified me, but we didn’t die or wreck the car. The new car also had some new to us safety features which were super helpful.

We chose rt. 80 because it seemed the most snow free in the middle of March. It wasn’t quite; we drove through a few snow storms, but none too serious. Just enough snow and rain to add to driving stress. I admit, the scenery was beautiful in the snow. On the first night we met my cousins in Mishawaka Indiana. A few of them I had only seen on Facebook. Even though we were all masked and keeping our distance we had a nice visit. I hope to have another opportunity to visit them after the pandemic.

Our cousins were so nice to meet us in our hotel lobby in Mishawaka Indiana.
We were so tired after the first night of driving. Ha ha, we had no idea how tired we would be.

On the second day we drove through Des Moines, Iowa. A stained glass artist I admire from Philadelphia had a showing at the Des Moines Art Center. It was a wonderful show and the Art Center turned out to be much more than we expected. Since we were able to visit in the middle of a weekday, we didn’t have to worry about bumping into other people.

Here are some photos from the east to west part of the drive. Click on the photos to see them full size.

My brother was in good spirits when we arrived in Oregon and we were able to spend some time with my sister-in law and nephew before they left on their trip. We worked or went to school on separate computers throughout the house during the weekdays. On the weekend Andreas and nephew hiked and geocached in the Oregon forests. My brother, Andreas, and nephew played cards at night and my sister-in-law and I knitted, fed the pet rats Cheerios and grapes and caught up on things. We also watched movies as brother has a TV. The photo below shows my brother’s latest paint by number masterpiece in front of his little gallery.

My brother and I drove to Seal Rock beach on the Pacific coast during a rainy, windy Wednesday for a change of scenery and some fresh air. The weather was so cold we didn’t stay long.

His west coast town has lower Covid numbers than ours on the east coast and everyone but the college students seem to be pretty careful. We felt that we could venture out and shop a little bit. I met a former art student who I haven’t seen in fifteen years for dinner. She recently moved to Oregon from Alaska. We were able to eat safely outside and had a nice evening catching up. I also visited my parents a few times masked up sitting in their garage or driveway. That was strange, but it was nice to see them after a few years.

The week my nephew and sister-in-law traveled to visit nephew’s older brother at college, Andreas was a guest in our German friend Stefanie’s eighth grade English classroom in Bonn via a Zoom like program. Andreas was featured as a German immigrant to America and the students could ask him any question they liked. Even though the class was voluntary and met in the evening German time, most of the class showed up and they spoke for over an hour. I know Andreas had fun and I think the kids did too.

The photos below show nephews in California during spring break, Andreas speaking with the German students over the computer, the hospital where my brother had his daily radiation treatments, the radiation mask gallery and my brother waiting for train bringing my sister-in-law and nephew home.

Our weeks together went quickly and soon it was time to pack up the car and drive home. We changed route on the first day to avoid snow in the Cascade Mountains and ended up driving through some snow anyway. We weren’t quite as worried about Covid since we didn’t need to protect my brother any longer. We did notice on the way home, however, that fewer people were wearing masks.

Andreas booked a hotel that was established in 1911 in Cheyenne, Wyoming on our second night. A sign near the mirrored elevator stated that in the old days, cowboys would try to sneak their horses into their rooms by using the elevators to save money. We believed it. What we didn’t know until I wrote this and looked up the hotel is that it’s haunted. Which floor is haunted? the one we stayed on, of course. The room was tiny and the heater too loud to use. Andreas made the night better by picking up take-out so we had a warm meal. Cheyenne is an interesting town with not many masks in sight. The hotel, charming in some respects with stained glass and some interesting artwork was too serious about cowboys and Indians memorabilia.

We noticed that a storm front was coming in near the east coast and changed routes for the more southern rt. 70. The change of course gave us new views and we were able to avoid Chicago and travel through some different cities like Indianapolis and Columbus.

Even though we enjoyed watching spring progress through the car windows, after five days driving, home was a welcome sight. We were so happy to be back we couldn’t stop smiling through the first evening.

Now I can say I have driven across the US and back. I don’t need to do it again. It looks pretty from an airplane too.

Never Have I Ever

As my year in Bremerhaven Germany comes to an end, I want to remember some unusual experiences.

Never have I ever lived three blocks from chimpanzees.

My neighbor from the Zoo Am Meer in Bremerhaven. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
My neighbor from the Zoo Am Meer in Bremerhaven. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Also, the rest of the zoo, but the chimpanzees have a lookout area above the zoo fence so I see them most days hanging out looking at the human zoo that is Bremerhaven.

Never have I ever lived somewhere that didn’t have air conditioning in the summer or screens on the windows. Oh my God, y’all, so happy there are not a lot of mosquitoes.

In Lubeck during one of 2018's heatwaves. Photo by Andreas Muenchow
In Lubeck during one of 2018’s heatwaves. Photo by Andreas Muenchow

Never have I ever had my haircut by people who didn’t speak my language.

A nice haircut, but not what I was expecting. Ha ha. Selfie by Dragonfly Leathrum
A nice haircut, but not what I was expecting. Ha ha. Selfie by Dragonfly Leathrum

Never have I ever seen artwork from my favorite artist Hundertwasser in person.

Being in the spaces Hundert Wasser created and touching the walls instead of looking at photos in a book was an incredible experience. Vienna Austria. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Being in the spaces Hundertwasser created and touching the walls instead of looking at photos in a book was an incredible experience. Vienna Austria. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Never have I ever eaten smoked eel. It looks horrible, but is actually very good. I’ve also never eaten so many potatoes in my life. Andreas likes to cook and his repertoire is slightly limited.

Christmas food shopping from the farmers and fish market for visiting family. The eel is the black object in the fish box. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Christmas food shopping from the farmer’s and fish markets for visiting family. The eel is the black object in the fish box. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Never have I ever eaten peanut butter flavored Cheetos. Yum, addicted to them. I was introduced in the bar on the research ship which brings me to..

Why do I like these? I really don't know.
Why do I like these? I really don’t know.

Never have I ever seen snow on Labor Day, an iceberg or a glacier. Also,

Never have I ever spent four weeks living on the ocean.

In the Arctic Sea aboard the FS Maria S. Merian. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
In the Arctic Sea aboard the FS Maria S. Merian. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Never have I ever consumed so much Pilsner and Riesling. Not in copious amounts, it’s the only type of beer and wine Andreas likes to buy here.

It doesn't get more local that looking at the vineyard through the wine glass. Lunch in front of St. Joseph's Church in Beilstein on the Moselle River. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
It doesn’t get more local that looking at the vineyard through the wine glass. Lunch in front of St. Joseph’s Church in Beilstein on the Moselle River. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Never have I ever had this much time to focus on my artwork. I’ve had a few months here and there in my life when I’ve attended workshops or been between jobs, but never a whole year to slow down and focus.

My little studio desk with the portable art supplies. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
My little studio desk with the portable art supplies. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Never have I ever exhibited my paintings abroad! Wow, that was cool.

Watercolor and colored pencil works ready to go to the gallery. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Watercolor and colored pencil works ready to go to the gallery. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Never have I ever eaten gooseberry (Stachelbeere) or rhubarb (Rhabarber) pancakes.

Andreas cooks pancakes every Sunday. This is his first rhubarb pancake. Yum! Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Andreas cooks pancakes every Sunday. This is his first rhubarb pancake. Yum! Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Never have I ever traveled by train so much or been without a car for so long.

Almost home after a long trip by train. Our adventures with German rail have been frustrating at times but I appreciate being able to travel almost anywhere without a car. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Almost home after a long trip by train. Our adventures with German rail have been frustrating at times, but I appreciate being able to travel almost anywhere without a car. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Never have I ever had a “destination wedding” back to my house.

Home in the states for a week to get married. Andreas calculated that we need to plant approximately 50 trees to offset our carbon footprint from that trip. Photo by Glenn Davies
Home in the states for a week to get married. Andreas calculated that we need to plant approximately 50 trees to offset our carbon footprint from that trip. Photo by Glenn Davies

Never have I ever spent hours in an immigration visa office. Thank God Andreas can speak German. I feel really bad for all of the others there who didn’t have a native speaker with them.

Not a bad neighborhood to live in. Bremerhaven, Germany. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Not a bad neighborhood to live in. Bremerhaven, Germany. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

All in all, a wonderful experience. I accomplished most of the goals I set for myself and I think Andreas did too. We’re looking forward to visiting again soon.

I think we checked off most of the steps in the book.
I think we checked off most of the steps in the book.

Arctic Sea in Color

A photo essay about the color variants I perceived on the Arctic Sea and from within the Scoresby Sound, Greenland.

August 30th 2018 4:23pm North of Iceland. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
August 30th 2018, 4:23pm, north of Iceland. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

My job for five weeks between August 10, 2018 and September 12, 2018 aboard the research vessel FS Maria S. Merian was to document the scientists at work and the landscape through photography, blogs and paintings. During the cruise I was drawn daily to the color of the sea in different locations and through various weather events. The color varied from gray to deep blue on the open sea to almost a turquoise farther in the Scoresby Sound.

My scientist husband, whom I sailed with, chose to collaborate on this post by creating a wonderful map representing the locations of the photos.

Location of photos (red dots) taken aboard FS Maria S. Merian in August and September of 2018. Colors represent bottom depth (white shallow, blue deep) and elevations (olive). The dotted line to the north of Greenland is the Arctic Circle. [Map by Andreas Muenchow.]
Location of photos (red dots) taken aboard FS Maria S. Merian in August and September of 2018. Colors represent bottom depth (white is shallow, blue is deep ocean) and elevations (olive). The dotted line to the north of Iceland is the Arctic Circle. [Map by Andreas Muenchow.]

August 21, 2018, 12:28pm, Scoresby Sound Greenland. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
August 21, 2018, 12:28pm, Scoresby Sound Greenland. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

August 22, 2018, 8:50pm Scoresby Sound Greenland. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
August 22, 2018, 8:50pm Scoresby Sound Greenland. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Aug 12, 2018 3:52pm, Denmark Strait with Mubashshir Ali in red. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Aug 12, 2018 3:52pm, Denmark Strait with Mubashshir Ali in red. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

August 21, 4:54pm, Scoresby Sound Greenland. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
August 21, 4:54pm, Scoresby Sound Greenland. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

August 21, 2018, 5:06pm Scoresby Sound Greenland. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
August 21, 2018, 5:06pm Scoresby Sound Greenland. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

August 21, 2018, 4:42pm, Scoresby Sound Greenland. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
August 21, 2018, 4:42pm, Scoresby Sound Greenland. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Aug 28, 2018, 2:19pm South of Iceland. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Aug 28, 2018, 2:19pm South of Iceland. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Aug 22, 2018, 2:39pm, Scoresby Sound Greenland. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Aug 22, 2018, 2:39pm, Scoresby Sound Greenland. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Aug 31, 2018, 5:08pm, between 70 and 74 degrees latitude on the coastal shelf of Greenland. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Aug 31, 2018, 5:08pm, between 70 and 74 degrees latitude on the coastal shelf of Greenland. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

August 25, 2018, 3:15pm, Denmark Strait. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
August 25, 2018, 3:15pm, Denmark Strait. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Aug 22, 2018, 2:57pm, Scoresby Sound Greenland aboard the FS Maria S. Merian. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Aug 22, 2018, 2:57pm, Scoresby Sound Greenland aboard the FS Maria S. Merian. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Aug 21, 2018, 4:45pm, Scoresby Sound Greenland. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Aug 21, 2018, 4:45pm, Scoresby Sound Greenland. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

September 7, 2:26pm, Fram Strait. Photo by Dragonfly Leathum
September 7, 2:26pm, Fram Strait. Photo by Dragonfly Leathum

August 21, 8:38pm, Scoresby Sound Greenland. Portait of the author aboard the FS Maria S. Merian by Dr. Andreas Muenchow
August 21, 8:38pm, Scoresby Sound Greenland. Portait of the author aboard the FS Maria S. Merian by Dr. Andreas Muenchow

For more about this research trip please read my earlier posts.

“You may find yourself in another part of the world.”

A lucky artist at sea

Rollin’ on the waves with my scientist homies

So much beauty in the world.

Mostly loving every minute of it.

Coldest Labor Day ever!

Guest Artist in Bremerhaven Germany

Greeting the students from Berufsbildende Schulen Sophie School at Art Impressions Gallery Bremerhaven, Germay. Photo by Christiane Matthai
Greeting the students from Geschwister Scholl Schule at Art Impressions Gallery Bremerhaven, Germany. Photo by Christiane Matthäi

My Germany bucket/wish list for this sabbatical year is checked off. I created a new body of work, had an art exhibit, and last week I was given the opportunity to speak to five high school art classes. I was also invited to visit their school and interact with the students as they worked on their projects.

An Art classroom at the Berufsbildende Schulen Sophie School. The students are working on sculpture projects. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
An Art classroom at the Geschwister Scholl Schule. Main class, 5 hours of art during the week. The students are working on sculpture projects. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

End of the year art instructor's desk. True anywhere. Ha ha. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
End of the year art instructor’s desk. True anywhere. Ha ha. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Since I’m an art instructor in America and students in Germany study English, I thought it would be fun to visit a class to show them my artwork and have conversations in English. Through my show at Art Impressions Gallery I became friendly with the gallery owner, Fernando Valero who invited me to his garden birthday party. There I met local high school art teacher, Christiane Matthai who teaches at the Geschwister Scholl Schule in Bremerhaven. I told her I was interested in speaking to students and she not only brought her students to my exhibit but invited me to her classroom.

Art instructor Christiane Matthai offering a funny suggestion for her students project. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Art instructor Christiane Matthäi offering a funny suggestion for her students project. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Art instructor Christiane Matthai giving one on one help to a student. The antlers on the table are made with a glue gun and painted. It's all glue. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Art instructor Christiane Matthai giving one on one help to a student. The antlers on the table are made with a glue gun and painted. They’re all glue. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Both experiences were wonderful. At the gallery I spoke about the theme for my show and then a little bit about each work individually. I shared my inspiration for the images and the watercolor and watercolor pencil techniques used in rendering them.

Speaking about my inspiration and technique. Photo by Christiane Matthai
Speaking about my inspiration and technique. Photo by Christiane Matthai

I showed a Power Point presentation that I prepared on the Ship last summer for the scientists about the other art mediums I work in, and about my past artistic and work experiences. I wanted the students to know that I haven’t made a career out of painting old women in diners, I also paint goats on skateboards, make stained glass windows from garbage and drive an Art Car.

Explaining my past and current work with a Power Point presentation. Art Impressions Gallery owner, Fernando Valero Delgado stands in the right of the photo. Photo by Christiane Matthai
Explaining my past and current work with a Power Point presentation. Art Impressions Gallery owner, Fernando Valero stands in the right of the photo. Photo by Christiane Matthäi

I really enjoyed each class. I was curious about the similarities and differences I would observe comparing German kids to American kids. No differences I could see or sense bar one and that was that the German students showed more independence. The teacher was recently sick and I asked her if she had to pay for her substitute like the teachers do in California. She said that that subs are not hired for high school classes. Her students acquired the key for the room, worked independently and cleaned up after themselves. That was shocking to me. I could see how it was possible though after spending time in her classroom. I observed the students set up their projects, work independently when their teacher wasn’t giving them one on one time, and clean up their area. They spoke to each other quietly and worked steadily throughout the long class period without need for redirection.

Student working on her Louise Bourgeois inspired sculpture. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Student working on her Louise Bourgeois inspired sculpture. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

The student's assignment was to begin with a plate and incorporate that into their sculpture. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
The student’s assignment was to begin with a plate and incorporate that into their sculpture. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

The German student’s clothing, shoes, hair styles and demeanor were so similar to my students. I told them if I saw them in America I would never guess that they were from Germany unless they spoke to me. It’s interesting how access to the internet is changing design cross culturally. Also, their English vocabulary and pronunciation was very good; better than they think it is.

Listening to what the students like about the work and answering questions. Photo by Christiane Matthai
Listening to what the students like about the work and answering questions. Photo by Christiane Matthäi

I feel very lucky to be given this experience and hope to work with Christiane again during our future visits.

A Wonderful gift for my time from teacher and students. All things from the fair trade store. Very sweet of them!
A Wonderful gift for my time from teacher and students. All things from the fair trade store. Very sweet of them!