The best honey I’ve ever had.
I made some granola Saturday and used almost the very last drops of a jar of honey that I bought last spring while I was in Germany. I say “almost” because I intentionally saved a teeny bit for a soothing cup or two of tea (with bourbon and lemon) that I will savor during my inevitable and eventual winter cold. I think I’ll need it then.
Honey has kind of become a thing in our house, like refrigerator magnets and miniature models of landmarks. I buy it when I travel and it’s like bringing home a literal sweet reminder of where I was.
The jar that I nearly kicked today was purchased on a drizzly day in April, at the Saturday market in the Munsterplatz in Freiburg. I’ve visited this market a number of times over the years, but, this was the first time my youngest son experienced it. Unimagined by us, it was also the last time I would go there with my uncle.
The beautiful Munster, perpetually wrapped in scaffolding, has stood in that square for centuries providing shelter and comfort to generations. We ate sausages made by the same family who had been selling their delicious wursts in that same spot for decades. The honey, in its squat jar, tasted like pine or cedar and was the best honey I’ve ever eaten. I’m a little embarrassed about how sad I am that it’s nearly gone.
A year ago, my uncle was here, in my home. We visited Olana and attended Oktoberfest. He, as a consummate German, made himself useful and cleaned my toaster oven. It was a special time, made even more so retrospectively, after his sudden death. Like that jar of honey it was sweet and I wish it hadn’t come to an end so damned quickly.
- Five hours and two quick flights later, it is possible to be parking your rental car on King Street.
- My curls look best when my hair is dirty and salt water and sand are my chosen hair products.
- Charleston has far more liberals than I expected. There were even Bernie stickers!
- Where to eat and where they worship are two things shared frequently by residents.
- Speaking of where to eat, grits, biscuits, cinnamon rolls and mac and cheese would be my downfall eventually. I’m a carb girl.
- I can change my clothes in a car like a boss.
- The humidity in Charleston in August is a whole ‘nother level. I hope I remember this when we get hit here in Albany by elevated levels of heat and humidity.
- Downtown Charleston is beautifully compact and so very walkable.
- It’s a swamp – not a criticism, just an observation. There is water everywhere.
- Dining out, going to listen to music and having a drink solo is far preferable to not getting to do those things because you’re traveling without company.
- Life is satisfying when what you feel on the inside is radiating out for people to take note of. Case in point, this message from my AirBandB host:
I was so thrilled to see all the ways in which you discovered Charleston! You totally amazed us with your level of independence. Loved it!
One of the roads taken on this trip.
Do you ever have a day or two or three when it feels like you must be doing something right in your life? I mean, how else can you accept the good fortune that you’re experiencing? It almost makes a person believe that old adage about how if you’re happy inside, you’re happy everywhere you are. There’s no other way to explain the feeling of loving everywhere you go.
This trip has been remarkable. As I sat facing the charm of Rainbow Row, I had a hard time processing how lucky I’ve been in Charleston. The rain cooperated and only came at times that had no bearing at all on my activities. That’s saying something considering it rained 3 of my 5 days there. The people I’ve talked to have been friendly, the drinks cold and the food terrific. I scored parking each time I needed to and only hit legitimate traffic once – and that was on a draw bridge. It couldn’t have been a better solo trip.
You know, I didn’t grow up expecting to ever be in a position where I could indulge my itch to travel. I’ve come a long way since my first trip to Florida with one of my dearest friend’s family when I had $50 in my pocket, and that only because my brother gave it to me as I left our house. Along the way I learned to travel inexpensively, meals from grocery stores and delis, low budget accommodations, lots of self guided walking tours…you get it. It was good practice and I learned a lot.
Memories were made and I’m heading home with what feels like a new piece in place in my life’s mosaic. What’s your next destination?
“So shut up, live, travel, adventure, bless and don’t be sorry”
– Jack Kerouac
I had a conversation recently with a woman a bit older than I. She was retiring from a job she had held for 15 or 20 years, a job she had done very well for all of those years. It hadn’t paid her much, but her true calling had been motherhood and she had only taken the job after her children were well on their way to being grown.
Now that retirement was imminent, we talked about what she would do with her time. The topic of travel came up and she expressed how uncomfortable she was about going somewhere she’d never been before without the company of someone who had traveled previously to wherever that destination might be. I nodded as the words bounced around in my head…thinking…wait! How in the world do you ever go somewhere new? Are you saying you’re afraid to ever leave home? How does a competent, intelligent woman allow fear to limit her horizons?
International terrorist attacks are happening with increasing frequency. We’ve all seen it – there’s truly no safe place. Church, work, markets, concert venues, airports, train stations, all have witnessed the deaths of innocent people around our world. I’m not even including the tremendous losses we’ve suffered in the U.S. to gun violence – in schools, night clubs and office buildings. The world is a dangerous place.
There are things that scare me, too. I hate to fly because the more often I do it, the greater I think the odds are for a bad outcome. I don’t like heights or crowds and there are places I’d be hesitant to go to without the company of someone native, like Turkey or Indonesia. But, the world is also a remarkably beautiful place filled with people from whom we can learn. Visiting new places, observing customs and absorbing history and culture are one of life’s greatest gifts. It enriches us beyond any other experience, in my opinion, and I dedicate a lot of my expendable income on collecting memories in new locales. It’s money well spent.
Diminishing our lives as we seek to preserve them seems counter productive to me. If something ever happens to me when I’m traveling, reread this post and know that I wouldn’t have wanted it to be any other way. I’m way more afraid of not seeing everything possible than I am of dying while trying.
In the early 90s I visited Washington for the first time. It was easy to see why it was such a magnet for creative, artistic people. There were mountains, rivers, desert, islands, and even a rain forest, to inspire and awe, and as a tourist, I fell in love. I’m no camper, but I’d go back to the San Juan Islands in a heartbeat and sleep in a tent happily.
We spent some time in Seattle, a city I found to be smartly set-up with highways that flexibly changed their direction according to traffic demand and rush hour. Clever. Of course, we went to Pike’s Market and did a little shopping. I don’t remember buying anything from the market other than edibles, but nearby at sidewalk booth, I found some pottery that I immediately loved. The pieces on display were gorgeous – rich colors, weighty and beautifully formed. At the time they seemed expensive, but as a recent college graduate living in NYC, many things were beyond my financial reach.
The replacement piece
It turned out that there was an outlet nearby where Bruning sold their pottery seconds. You know, stuff that might not have turned out as perfectly as planned, yet still was lovely and useful. I came back east with a couple of pieces and an undying love for their work. Over the years the collection has grown (we eventually had dinner service for 6 or 8), divided (divorce) and diminished (breakage), but there was one steadfast piece that I retained and used regularly for making quiche and pies and serving, a deep blue dish that I absolutely loved.
The bonus piece
I noticed a couple of months ago that a crack had formed in this dish and was paralyzed by the thought of no longer having it in my cabinet. I went online, searched Bruning Pottery and got a contact email address. After a series of emails, I selected 2 dishes to replace my old steady, one a very similar color, the other completely unlike any that I’ve owned before. They’re a little fancier with their fluted edges, but when they arrived in the mail I felt like I was welcoming an old friend home again. I just may bake a pie this weekend.
We’ve been back for about 10 days and there are some really positive impressions from our trip that I thought to share. How about one for each day we were there?
1. Roads. I don’t think I’d mind paying a 19% VAT if the money went into highways and other infrastructure. We traveled a few hundred miles on the autobahn and those roads are beautifully maintained.
2. Groceries. In Berlin we shopped at Lidl which is similar to Aldi. For less than $9 I bought the following: a fresh pineapple (fair trade), a quart of apple juice, 2 croissant, a package of sliced gouda, a large plain yogurt, a small fruit yogurt and a pint of chocolate milk.
3. Beer. I almost exclusively drank hefeweizen, although I had the occasional shandy and in Berlin I drank a specialty beer called Berliner Weiße mit Schuss. It’s wheat beer with a shot of woodruff. Kind of sweet but a nice way to end the night, I thought.
4. Public transit. It’s available, easy to understand and cheap. A day ticket cost approximately $7.50 and my son rode with me for free.
5. Cleanliness. The streets, the bathrooms, the trains, with only one exception (a bathroom at a big tourist spot) all were immaculate.
6. Markets. The Munsterplatz is the place to be if you’re looking for produce, flowers, cheese, meats and prepared foods. We also checked out some markets that were more like American flea markets, also. Good deals were all over the place.
7. Flowers. Germans like their gardens and even in early spring, most homes have tended plots of land. The lilacs bursting open everywhere were lovely, too.
8. Ice cream and cake. There’s an acceptance level of these sort of items perceived by Americans as “treats,” and both were included in our afternoons.
9. Coffee. Dark, strong and delicious.
10. Punctuality. The only clock I’ve ever seen not tell accurate time in Germany was the battery operated one in our rented apartment. I love counting on the church bells and public clocks to keep track of time for me.
A bonus thing: DOGS! They were everywhere – restaurants, cafes, trains, stores, yet, not once did I see any piles of poop.
The only that I didn’t appreciate was the prevalence of cigarette smoking that still goes on. It seems like smoking is much more pervasive in Germany than in the States. I suppose I could complain that the weather wasn’t great either, but, really…spring is a crap shoot in Albany, too. At least the hail that fell on me was German hail.
When I was a child I often heard about my Oma with whom my mother had a strained relationship. The complaint my mother frequently made was that Oma treated her sons and daughters very differently. Sons were useful and contributed to the family’s existence and thus were to be indulged, while daughters were primarily useful only for assistance in taking care of the boys. Even though this was one of my mother’s greatest criticisms of her own childhood, you’re probably not surprised to hear that she herself was guilty of repeating the same behavior. Habits are hard to break.
I met some family members on my trip with whom I had never before crossed paths. It’s an odd thing meeting someone you’re related to after living five decades on this planet without ever encountering them. What’s even odder is when you realize how many remarkably similar experiences you share despite not having ever known each other.
Did you know that the word “cousin” is the same in both English and German? That fact makes me smile.
My cousin and I sat across the table from one another and told the stories of our lives, our relationships, our health and our mothers. At times the thread of our conversation was so personal and intimate that it was impossible to believe we hadn’t before met. There’s never been a time when I felt so firmly that someone understood exactly what I was talking about when I shared some moments from my own mother-daughter highlight reel. Why? Because she had experienced the same sort of unhealthy situations.
Our mothers, sisters that they are, had not really grown up together since my mother is more than a decade older and had left home when she was in her early teens. Despite the lack of time the two of them shared, what they did share was their own mother and that left a mark on each of them which they in turn, left upon their own daughters.
Neither my cousin nor I ever knew our fathers. When we were sick or injured as children, often we had to seek care on our own because our mothers were unavailable to us. We each have witnessed the astonishing deception of our parent in the way they conduct themselves with other adults and children while neglecting the very children they delivered. It is uncanny.
My cousin and I responded to our mothers’ disregard for us by growing into strong and capable women. We became educated and learned to understand that our mothers are frustrated, narcissists who will never perceive our own success as anything but an affront to their own unsatisfying lives. We severed our ties to these women not to hurt them, but to protect ourselves, and we’ve struggled with allowing others into our hearts and souls after suffering the disappointment and pain of what should have been a primary relationship in our lives.
I learned that my cousin has a physical condition very much like my own – we both have extremely low heart rates and a genuine need for vigorous exercise. She runs, too. Maybe that’s how we have learned to keep our blood flowing and our hearts alive. I don’t know for sure, but I do know that meeting her has changed me. Something good has come from something less than positive. I think my ability to recognize that is what makes me fundamentally different from my mother – and like my cousin.