Friday, December 27, 2013

Coal mining and ballet in the industrial heart of Germany

From the top of the Ruhr Museum, you can still see some smokestack industry nearby.
Cindy and I went to the Ruhr Museum in Essen yesterday, which is housed in a huge former coal-processing and mining complex.

The Ruhr region (Ruhrgebiet) includes a vast area in the Rhine and Ruhr river valleys that has been the industrial heart of Germany.

The Allies bombed the heck out of the Ruhr in World War II, and three-fourths of Gelsenkirchen, where Bridget's dance company has its home, was destroyed. The town of Essen next door housed the huge Krupp armaments and steel factories and was also heavily bombed.

Still, after the war, this area was rebuilt and continued to be a major industrial center focused on production of coal, coke and steel. The MusikTheater (photos here) where our daughter Bridget's ballet company performs, was completed in 1959 and was viewed as a symbol of the area's reconstruction.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas market in Essen, Germany, 2013

Bridget and Cindy, Essen
Since our daughter Bridget moved to Germany more than 20 years ago, we have tried to have someone from the family visit each year.

A highlight is visiting the Christmas markets.

The Germans transform their town centers into winter wonderlands of lights with open-air feasting, shopping and live music.

German Christmas markets are commercial, no doubt. But they are commercial in a more picturesque way than we do it in the U.S. The Brits have tried to imitate them. I sampled Manchester's version a few years ago. But they don't get it right.

This year we took a 10-minute train ride into Essen, not a big place by any means, and we saw hundreds of little gabled shops set up in the pedestrian malls that make up the heart of the town center.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Back in the USA: Flamingos, Spanish, drugstores

At a wildlife refuge for water birds and injured animals, Coral Springs, Fla. Even with all the development, Florida still manages to preserve some pockets of natural paradise.
Coming back to the USA after time abroad is always something of a shock. I am struck by the abundance and the size of everything. We have so much natural parkland and so many parking lots. So much freedom to roam and so many freeways.

I welcome the rule of law, but I cringe at the materialistic excess.

The motor vehicles are super sized. I used to yearn to drive a tiny Mini Cooper or Mazda Miata. Now I would fear that my sporty model would be crushed by a tailgating Cadillac Escalade or a text-distracted driver of a Ford Expedition. At the very least, monster SUVs block the signs ahead and make you miss your exit.