Friday, May 29, 2009

Switzerland, Part 3: More Lucerne

In the afternoon, we took a boat trip. A round-trip ticket to a little village called Wegis (pron. Veh-gis) got us about an hour and a half out on the lake and some more views of Swiss German architecture.

Here's Lucerne from the water and other views along the way.

We don't see boathouses like this at the Lake of the Ozarks.

This is the type of boat we were on. As you'll see in the video, it has paddlewheels on both sides.

A Swiss-style chalet on Wegis.

There wasn't much to do in the village except wander around and play a giant game of chess.

More views around Lucerne.

A name you can trust (and I'm not referring to 'Schmuck')

Here's a good story:
That night, we wanted to get an authentic Swiss-style dinner and John had his heart set on fondue. So we found a good-looking restaurant and treated ourselves to a nice meal. The food was great and as we were eating, we fell into conversation with the couple at the table next to us. They were from Oklahoma; he was a federal judge and she was a retired counselor. We had a good time chatting with them about what we did and what they did. They even proudly showed us a picture of their grandkids--three adopted children from China! At the end of the meal, the waitress came and said she was pleased to inform us that our meal had been 'offered' (but she didn't say by whom). We were stunned. After a few more minutes of awkward conversation with our friends, we asked them if they were the ones who had done the offering. He graciously replied that he appreciated our studies and that they remembered what it was like to be young. Needless to say, we went away rejoicing at God's provision and both gratified and amazed at the generosity of others!

Me trying John's fondue.

And John trying John's fondue.

The bridge at night.

Some views from the train ride back.

So that's the end of our Switzerland trip. We had a wonderful time and were generously treated, both by the American couple and the Swiss themselves. We would highly recommend it to anyone!

Switzerland, Part 2: Lucerne

Welcome to Switzerland! As many of you know, we went to Lucerne, which is in the Germanic part of the country. Fortunately, everybody spoke English there.

This bridge was originally built in the 1300s. In the early 1990s, however, there was a terrible fire that destroyed the middle section (not including the tower). It's been beautifully restored, although if you look at the woodwork, you can tell which part is old and which part is new.

Our first encounter with Swiss inhabitants. John enjoyed feeding the swans, who are potentially the worst beggars in the animal kingdom. The other locals were very generous to us. One guy even bought us our bus tickets!

18th century paintings inside the covered bridge.

Here's John with the various towers of Lucerne behind him.

Our Bed and Breakfast was about a thirty minute bus drive from Lucerne. This was a good arrangement, since it allowed us to get out in the country a little bit. Here's a dairy barn.

Here's a little video of our walk on the way to dinner that first night.

Lindsey of the Alps!

House painting is big here: when was the last time you considered going with a baroque masterpiece theme for your exterior?

Or perhaps you would prefer some freaky Carnivale action?

John with Lucerne behind him. The old medieval walls are still accessible and you can follow them up to the towers that overlook the town.

This monument commemorates the 800 Swiss mercenaries who died defending Louis XVI in the French Revolution. If you look closely, you can see both the French shield with the fleur-di-lis and the Swiss shield with the cross.

That's it for Part One. Stay tune for Part 2, which includes an exciting boat ride!

Switzerland, Part 1 : Milan

Hi everyone! We're finally posting our pictures from the short trip we took to Lucerne, Switzerland for my birthday. We had a fantastic trip. Except for the spectacularly expensive tickets for the train ride back, it was perfect. For me, Switzerland was like the country equivalent of Disneyland.

To start things off, here are a few shots of the Milan train station; we had to wait about two hours in Milan before we could get the train that would take us out of Italy. The train station was built in 1931 and is a good example of fascist architecture.

The station from the outside.

Detail of the inside. Soldiers were depicted everywhere; Fascism was very taken with militant masculinity. Notice the SPQR under the soldier's head. Fascism also considered itself old-school Roman: SPQR ('Senatus Populusque Romae', i.e. 'the Senate and People of Rome') is the insignia for both ancient and modern Rome. "Biglietteria Ovest" just means the west door for buying your tickets.

Lots of murals inside the train station. For those of you who know northern Italian cities, you'll be able to see that this is a mosaic of Torino.

I just threw this in for Dad and other transportation buffs.

Does this remind anyone of Union Station in Kansas City?

Here's the more modern part; there were three big 'tubes' for the trains.

Okay, enough of Milan. On to Switzerland!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Lindsey’s 30th Birthday!!

Hello blog readers. We know that you've been chomping at the bit for the latest update, and we are behind. Briefly stated a random dog ate our blogposts and kept us from updating as we should have. But we're back now; everything is okay. Please note: This time, I, John, am doing the pictures so please don’t blame Lindsey for any lapse in the normal quality of this blog.

As most of you know, Lindsey has turned 30 since our last update. In point of fact, she turned 30 on May 10.

Caroline and Dyfan graciously hosted a party for Lindsey, and we suggested that tacos would be a good meal. Here you can see Lindsey demonstrating the proper method for making tacos.

Here is Lindsey hanging out with Dyfan and Caroline on their patio.

Lindsey received an absolutely amazing card which gave audio quotes from Mr. Rogers, telling her how special and unique she is. Dyfan, Caroline, and family had never heard of Mr. Rogers so later on we showed them a snippet online. I’m not sure they got it.

Here’s the whole group. Don’t mind the squinting; we were looking into the sun. In the front, starting from the left: Courtney, Nolan, Lindsey, Meredith, John, and Sian. Above: Matt (Courtney’s husband), Debbie and Larry, Dyfan and Caroline. Lloyd was taking the picture.
Lindsey was obviously feeling pretty good about herself as she directed the Birthday song. Don’t worry about the size of the cake, some of us supplemented the cake with gelatos or granita (Sicilian icies) later on.
Here are all the ladies with a view of Chieri behind them. By coincidence, Dyfan and Caroline live in the town that I am researching.
Aloha y'all,
John and Lindsey

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Way Back from Venice

We're a little late posting on the other half of our Venice trip. On the way back, Saturday, we stopped at Verona and this nifty place called Sirmione, which is on the tip of a peninsula that juts out into a big lake (Lago Garda).

Although some might know Verona as the famous setting for Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, we went because it had a monster Roman ampitheatre--second in Italy only to the Colosseum. We were also pleased to find that it had a cool castle with a drawbridge.

Here's Caroline, Sian, and me at the castle in Verona. You might notice that there are three timbers sticking out for the drawbridge, whereas usually there would be only two. The one on the far right is actually for a small, pedestrian drawbridge.

The ampitheatre at Verona. It still operates as a theatre--see the Egyptian set in the background?

Flower power!

On the way from Verona to Sirmione. Did we mention there was no radio in the car?

A candid lunch shot.

John and Dyfan preparing to storm Sirmione's castle.

Another view of Lago Garda.

Massive gelatos. Sirmione had a disproportionately large number of gelaterias, which we were happy to patronize.

A pretty boat.

I took this picture not because we know these boys, but because they reminded me of Neal, Tyler, and Ryan a long time ago.

Me, Sian, and the ducks.

And finally, our apartment! We're excited that the weather's nice enough that we can eat outside on our balcony.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


Last Thursday we went to Venice with our friends Dyfan and Caroline and their daughter, Sian. It was about a four hour drive from Torino and since their van's radio had been stolen a few weeks before, we were without tunes. After we had exhausted every road game we knew of, Sian pulled out her recorder and graciously entertained us with the music she'd been learning. Somewhere in the midst of it all, we even had a rousing sing-a-long to 'Molly Malone.'


The Grand Canal

Careful on those steps!

Gondolas: so beautiful and oh so expensive.

Gondolier action shot.

Our transportation. I'd like to say we jetted around in the sleek-looking water taxi in the foreground. But no, we took the water bus in the background. It wasn't bad, though; anything to get out on the water!

Speaking of wishful thinking. . .

Bridge of Sighs: sadly, the bridge is scarcely visible. According to romantic legend, it was called the Bridge of Sighs because prisoners being led from the Doge's (or Duke's) Palace to the prison would look out the window and sigh at their last glimpse of. . .advertising.

Can't forget the masks! They were everywhere!

The city of Venice is truly beautiful, but it has had its darker moments. Here's St. Mark's, a church with a checkered past. Although many honest-hearted faithful surely go there now, it seems more a testament to Venice's historical merchandising than to Christ. The church was founded in the ninth century when some Venetian entrepreneurs stole St. Mark's relics from Alexandria; it reached its climax with the loot stolen from Constantinople (now Istanbul) in the Fourth Crusade of 1204.

Big Piece of Loot #1: Bronze horses dating from the fourth century B.C. These horses are replicas--the real ones are in a museum inside the church. The horses have had quite the history: made during the time of Alexander the Great, they found their way to Constantinople, were then brought to Venice, only to be taken by Napoleon to France, and then eventually returned to Venice.

Big Piece of Loot #2: These four figures are made out of porphyry, which is a very rare marble. They date from the late 3rd century A.D. and sympolize the Tetrarchy, a period in which the Roman Empire was divided under four rulers.

Like most European cities, Venice unfortunately had a Jewish ghetto. In fact, it was the first ghetto in Europe, founded in the 16th century. Antisemitism was very strong and the rulers of Venice were debating about whether the Jews should be allowed to stay on the island. As a compromise, they forced all the Jews to move to a smaller island within the island of Venice, on which there was an old foundry. The word 'ghetto' comes from the Venetian word for foundry, 'geto.'

On a lighter note, the pigeons in the piazza were very entertaining!


We spent the morning in Venice, but after lunch we took a boat to the island of Murano, which is famous for its glass. Because John inadvertently convinced one of the shop/factory clerks that we were rich Texans, we got a rich person's tour, which included a demonstration and a look around a ritzy showroom (where we weren't allowed to take pictures).

The demonstration: the guy doing it is a master glass-maker. An apprenticeship lasts for ten years.

Rolling a vase. Notice the glass horse; he had made that only moments before.

Here's a video of him making the aforementioned horse. I would have narrated, but I didn't want to interrupt the guy giving us the tour.

The island of Murano itself was very nice. There were very few tourists, an abundance of glass shops, a really big church and, of course, the requisite Cokes available for purchase.

Like Venice, Murano is divided by a big canal.

Back at Venice. Here's Caroline and Sian showing off their shades.

Of course!

Here's our travelin' crew. I'm there in spirit, although physically I was behind the camera.

Me on a side canal.

One tired couple. We only spent a day in Venice, but it was a full day!