On a Yearly Transition

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As the waves come ashore to wash away 2018, the year officially moves into our memory bank. A year that marked 10 years in my little corner of the world here on WordPress. A good year of writing, memories, and interactions with many good people.

A year featuring of 158 posts (I think) included 24 more beach walks, a tour to notable US national parks, and an outstanding tour in Eastern Europe. A year when Pronouns awakened the sleeping giant known as blog musicals. Some of my favorite topics to post included religious liberty, common good, buying food in Venezuela, a teacher’s day, a 4-part series about the US as a Christian nation, 1968, containers, my career of 2 halves, lead & follow, ballroom connections, and several attempts at fiction. Remember any of those?

If all goes well, 2019 means more beach walks, more travel, another musical, and the introduction of the aFa Weekend Concert Series (which starting this coming weekend). For the inaugural event, it doesn’t get any bigger than The Beatles.

Sometime in 2019 will deliver the 400th weekly edition of Opinions in the Shorts. New posts in final preparation include Oreos, shopping carts, race music, samba, water, shadows, dark, a look at me during my college days, and a toast to 66. 2019 could deliver visit #400,000.

As we say farewell to 2018 while greeting 2019 with open arms, Happy New Year to you … and may goodness continue to shine! Enjoy The Tenors.

On Venice 2018

 

After our days in Trieste, we took a train to Venice, actually our departing airport. Because we’ve been to this beautiful city before (but I hadn’t posted about it), our one-night stay would be in Mestre – the mainland side of the city. Besides, the airport is on the mainland and Mestre hotels are much cheaper.

As the train was approaching the train station (Venezia Mestre), I noticed our hotel is directly across the street. Then I learn that a train goes to the islands (Venezia Santa Lucia Station) every 10 minutes for 2 euros. Plus, the airport shuttle is a very short walk from our hotel (Best Western Plus Hotel Bologna). Cheaper, close to rail and the airport bus are all good things!

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With the weather being wonderful, we had to go to Venice to just wander. Part of the fun of this glorious setting is trying to get lost – because you can’t! The historical city is wonderful – after all, Venice is Venice.

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Our trip has ended, and what a trip it was. All the stops in the Rick Steves’ Eastern Europe tour were worthwhile and memorable. Then add-on stops to my birthplace and a touch of Venice was like extra ice cream and toppings on an already magnificent sundae.

 

Picking our favorite stop is not an easy task because the locations were so different. The three major cities were different from each other, then toss in the extremes of a natural wonder of a Plitvice (a Croatian National Park) to the horrors of Auschwitz, and a relaxing seaside locate as Rovinj, it was quite the tour.

Three important references for readers.

  1. I will probably do more posts about this trip with some tidbits. Time will tell.
  2. I didn’t realize that I posted very little about our Italy-Croatia cruise of how knows how many years ago. Maybe I’ll go back in time. Thoughts?
  3. Click here for all the posts about this tour.
  4. Although it’s also in the previous collection, click here for my review of Rick Steves’ Europe tours.

To see more of the island wonderland known as Venice, watch the 2+-minute video below. Thanks for coming along for my journey.

On Trieste (Italy)

Trieste – TREE est in English, TREE ess te in Italian, Trst (Trist) in Croatian and Slovenian.

I was 11 years old for my last trip to Trieste (1964). Because of the relative closeness of Trieste, Italy to where our Rick Steves ended (Lake Bled, Slovenia), we decided to extend our vacation with a side trip to the city of my birth.

Given its location on the Adriatic Sea’s Gulf of Trieste, Trieste has a storied history. Looking at it on a map should be head-scratching to many because it seems Slovenia would be a more natural fit.

 

Trieste’s beginning is rooted to the Romans in the second century BC.

 

After being ruled by Charlemagne then the Venetians – who built local icon sites San Giusto Castle and Cathedral.

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Trieste became part of the Habsburg Monarchy and eventually the main port for Austria-Hungary (1382-1918). Many of the majestic buildings of today were built during this prosperous time.

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With Italy being on the winning side of WW1 and Austria-Hungary being dismantled, Trieste became part of Italy in 1915 – although numerous Slovenes lived there at the time. Italy also annexed part of Slovenia, then lost it in WW2.

TIto’s Yugoslavia wanted Trieste as WW2 was ending. On 5 March 1946, Winston Churchill referenced Trieste in his famous Iron Curtain speech: “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent.

Because Trieste was pivotal, the UN established it as an independent free territory (1947) that was protected by American and British forces. Enter my dad, a member of the US Army – where he met my mother who went to Trieste from northern Tuscany to work. They married and I was born there. We a few months after I was born, and then a year later (1954), Trieste became part of Italy.

 

With a population today of just over 200,000, Trieste proudly displays its past. Leading back to its Austria-Hungary days, Trieste is Italy’s City of Coffee. There are hundreds of ways to serve coffee in Trieste – and not a Starbuck’s to be found.

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Being on the sea, Triestines love sailing – and a weeklong, large regatta festival (Barcolana) just started. The flute orchestra was part of the festivities.

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I love the way the city is built on the hillside sloping the sea – and then in the city, Piazza Unità d’Italia opens to the sea. (Note: Europe’s largest square facing the sea)

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Even though I recalled some of the sites but not remember where I was born or baptized, it was fun to return to my birthplace. After all, it is part of me. Plus it was a chance to share it with my wife, who didn’t know what to expect.

Hope you’ve enjoyed my trip to Trieste – a special place for me. I invite you to watch the video (with a fitting song) below and visit a post by a reader here, visit Debra @ Bagni di Lucca and Beyond. Also, here’s a past-post of mine about Trieste.

Next Stop: Venice

Click here for past posts of this tour.

On Lake Bled (Slovenia)

About 34 miles (55 km) northwest of Ljubljana, Lake Bled is a lake at the edge of the Julian Alps. Surrounded by mountains and forests with a medieval castle on a rocky face high above the lake and a small island within the lake, this setting is very picturesque. The large lake, 6,980 feet by 4,530 ft (2,120 m by 1,380 m) is without motor boats.

Water from multiple natural springs feed the lake. The bluish-green water is clear, tranquil, and smooth as glass. Lake Bled is large: 6,980 feet by 4,530 ft (2,120 m by 1,380 m), and without motor boats.

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Our morning ride to Bled Island was on a plenta – a flat-bottomed wooden boat seating 20 passengers propelled and navigated by an oarsman. In 1740, Empress Maria Theresa granted 22 families exclusive rights to transport people to the island, and that tradition remains today.

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Bled Island is small, large enough for a church and several buildings. The church is a popular wedding site and has several traditions. It is good luck for the marriage if the groom carries his bride up the 99 steps before ringing the bell inside the church and making a wish. The wish will come to true if the bell rings three times on one pull of the rope.

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After returning from the island, we walked the 3-mile (5 km) paved path circling the lake. The walk provides beautiful views of the island, the castle, the town, hotels, and relaxing views across the calm water. Along the way we passed the Slovenian Olympic Rowing Training Facility. Lake Bled has hosted the World Rowing Championship 4 times.

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High on a cliff above the lake sits Bled Castle – a medieval castle that protected the people since 1004. Today, the castle houses exhibits, a museum, restaurant, wine cellar, chapel, banquet hall, and a printing shop – but it also provides outstanding views of the lake, the island, the town of Bled, and the surrounding countryside.

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Enjoy this very short video (17 seconds) of Bled Castle at night.

 

We were told that Lake Bled is very busy in the summer months. We were fortunate because our visit was in early October – the crowds were down and the weather was excellent. The boat ride, the walk around the lake, the hike to the castle, lunch at the castle, and a group meal was a delightful way to end our Rick Steves’ Europe tour – but, for us, our vacation was not over! Meanwhile, enjoy the 2-minute video about Lake Bled by Rick Steves.

Next Stop: Trieste

Click here for past posts of this tour.

On Christmas 2018

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On these pages I have stressed this point many times: “I believe the majority of the people in the world are good.” Regardless of the bad news we receive on any given day from any given place, I continue to maintain that statement as an important mantra.

Not only to I believe the majority of the people in the world are good, I also see Santa as the Spirit of Goodness because it is that spirit that touches all.

It is the season of Christmas across Christendom – and yes, Christmas is a religious holiday – and yes – I am Christian – and yes, I embrace Christmas a secular holiday for all.

Whereas some Christians (and I believe the minority) complain about the commercialism while proclaiming, Put Christ back in Christmas, I say there is plenty of room for everyone in a secular Christmas because Santa – the Spirit of Goodness – is for everyone. Santa is for Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Atheists, Agnostics, Humanists, Naturalists, Christians, and anyone and everyone else.

During our recent trip to the Czech Republic, were told (multiple times) that the vast majority of Czechs today do not identify themselves as religious – let alone associated with a religious community. Yet – they embrace Christmas. I’m confident the Czech example if not unique – but rather very common because they embrace the Spirit of Goodness that the season brings.

Mannheim Steamroller’s version of Silent Night is one of my favorites. Below are different videos to the same song. I hope you pick one (and let me know).

May the Spirit of Goodness be with you not only during this holiday season, but throughout life.

The original

 

Beautiful painting of the season and live wildlife

 

Featuring the Aurora Borealis

 

More religious