Monday, August 13, 2012

Burger Search Continues

Thinking we had found a reasonable burger at Bubba's, we returned for a second opinion. The result was a very dry tasteless burger. The fries were still good. The burger looked good it just tasted terrible.

We've been told to try The Bird -- so that's the next restaurant on the agenda.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


Torgau was a small town I had never heard of before...but it was where the Soviet and the American forces met on April 25, 1945 and a few days later Hitler committed suicide...of course a lot of other stuff happened in between. At first the village was held by the Americans, but by July, 1945, it was given to the Soviets in order to be in compliance with the Yalta agreement.

There’s a huge Russian Memorial at Torgau celebrating the meeting of the two armies. Nowadays, Torgau is no longer part of East Germany--Russian is not being taught in the schools--and people are wondering if they should take down this monument to the 40+ year occupation of Russia in this little corner of Germany. Since there are few reminders of the horrors of World War II in this part of Germany, the people have decided to let the memorial remain, even though it is written in Russian and no one can read it any more! It still reminds folks that one time there was a ruler even worse than the Soviets!

Long before World War II, there was a castle in Torgau, called Schloss Hartenfels. It was renovated during the Renaissance! A huge set of stairs and windows were added to the Schloss, and apparently they have not been changed since then. Our guide said the windows still have their original blue paint on them. Is there a way we can manufacture paint that will last 400 years?

The Schloss was built on a slight hill, surrounded by a moat, and in the old days, the moat had 16 brown bears living in it, protecting the castle. A few years back, the citizens of Torgau decided they wanted their bears back and today 2 brown bears live in the moat. They are cared for by “Bear Mamas” local volunteers who make sure the bears are fed well (with bear food, not human food) and are given a stimulating environment to keep them active. Our guide said that many people volunteer to be Bear Mamas, but only a few get the chance.

I’m out of room for pictures! Who knew there was a limit. So I set up another blog. It’s called CruzTalking Two and it’s located at Maybe it will allow me to post pictures. If not, I’ll have to think of another way to post pictures online. I will not be allowed to add any more pictures to this, the original Cruztalking blog.

I hope to see you at my new blog! Thanks for reading!


 Can you tell that these are rooftops from two cities? One is Meissen the other is Prague. Can you guess which is which?
Both are old cities. Both are on the River. Both have an old church high above the city. Both have terra cotta roof tiles. 

If you look carefully, you will see that one city is a bit bigger...and that’s Prague, which is the bottom picture. I love the way the houses are “jumbled” together, packed ever so densely over a gently rolling landscape. BTW, I liked both cities! 

The Year is 1517

The Elbe River goes through Protestant Eastern Germany. The Rhine and Danube flows through Catholic Western Germany. While the country is now united, East and West are together as are Catholic and Protestant...the history of these areas is different. The seat of that “difference" is in Wittenberg, the home of a modest Theology Professor named Martin Luther who turned the religious world upside down. 

In 1517 Martin Luther wrote Ninety-Five Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences with the idea that the “Church” (i.e., The Catholic Church) would reform it’s ways. In those days, if you wanted your opus read,  you posted it on the door of the church! So, Professor Luther posted his Ninety-Five Theses on the Castle Church door. He had no idea that he would start a revolution. As we all know, those 95 Theses were part of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation!

It’s hard to view Wittenberg without learning something about Luther. He’s everywhere...there’s even an actor playing Luther who walks around the town (during the summer I guess). As you can see, modern Wittenberg has a “tagging” problem.

We saw the famous “door” where the Theses were posted. 

We walked into the BOC (Big Old Church), which started out as Catholic and now is Lutheran. There’s something about these BOCs  that I like. The craftsmanship shown in all the one builds a church (or any other structure) like this anymore!

After leaving Wittenberg we all had a better idea about Luther and how his ideas changed the country. The city is being “spiffed” up as in 5 years they are going to celebrate the 500th Anniversary of Martin Luther nailing the theses to the church door!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Peter The Great

Peter the Great (1672 to 1725) ruled Russia for 42 years. During that time he was determined to build a capital city to rival the capital cities of Europe and St. Petersburg was born.  In 1697 he started his “Grand Embassy” tour of Europe, incognito. One of the places he visited was Wittenberg. At the University in Wittenberg, where Martin Luther taught a century before, he sought more knowledge about “Lutheranism” and to prove that he was there, he signed his name on the lintel. Now Peter the Great was 6 feet 8 inches tall, so signing a doorway was not a stretch for this giant of a man! His signature has been preserved for all these years!


I’m trying to organize my pictures from the last trip and having little luck! My first problem was moving stuff off my hard drive so I would have room to download the pictures. I have managed to free up 47 gigs of today I downloaded 659 pictures from one SD card...still have another 400 to go. I did not take a ton of pictures on this trip! But, it looks like the ones I took are interesting.

I love to look at doors. In the village of Tangermunde, outside of Berlin, I found some amazing doors. Tangermunde is a restored medieval village. While not everyone has restored their home to 17th century standards, many have. Take a look at these cool doors.
This doorway is dated 1619! You have to take this into perspective! The Pilgrims landed in what is now Massachusetts in 1619. This is an old home! 

This cute doorway looks at a house built in 1618,  just a wee bit older than the previous door and every bit as pretty! 

Not every home has been restored in Tangermunde. Here’s a block that is waiting for some very tender loving care (not to mention a lot of Euros)!
And then, there are some people who have decided that restoring a door to it’s former glory will happen...but it might take some time. In the meantime, enjoy the cat!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

In Search Of the Perfect Burger

A few weeks back I wrote that our favorite hamburger joint, Billie's, in Jackson closed down. Since then we have been trying to find a decent replacement for those delicious Billie Burgers. So far, we have not been successful.

In Idaho Falls we had a giant burger at Red Robin. Red Robin claims to be the home of gourmet burgers. They are also the home of the bottomless basket of steak fries. The burgers are OK, albeit dry, while the steak fries are yummy. They served my favorite drink, which is Club Soda, and the service was excellent.

Today we tried another burger joint in Jackson. It has the unlikely name of MacPhail's. I was doubtful from the start--when a restaurant has "fail" in it's name you might have to consider that an omen.

MacPhail's uses fresh baked hamburger rolls, premium Angus beef patties, fresh cut Idaho potatoes made into fries, and crisp dill pickles. All of this sounded promising. The hamburgers are cooked so they still have some pink in the middle and they are juicy. But that's all I can say for them. The patty was so dense, I think it will be riding in my tummy for a week and the was flavor off. It was not a tasty burger! The fries were fresh, but too thin so they dried out quickly. And they did not serve my favorite drink. All in all, MacPhail's failed. I will not be tempted to go back.

It's a shame. A great hamburger is a thing of beauty, and right now we are still looking for a Billie Burger replacement. We have to try the Cheeseburger Factory in Alpine. It's next on our list.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Old Summer “Friends"

As you know, I love the summer wildflowers. 
As I was watering my petunias, I saw that my old friends are back. 

The geranium, paintbrush, harebell, 3 spot lily, red clover, cone flower, lupine and more, are blooming out their little hearts. Unlike the rest of the country, the mountains are not getting too hot nor too’s just about perfect here. I’d post all their pictures...but I’ve done it before...this is just a taste of what is in the front “garden."

Thursday, July 5, 2012

6 Weeks of Summer?

I keep a wildflower picture diary. It’s relatively easy to do--every time I take a picture it gets downloaded into a dated file. So when I go back in time, I can see when the geraniums or paintbrush or lupines started to bloom. Every flower seems to have a regular cycle and it seems to keep that cycle no matter what. This year, the cycle seems a bit off. The cone flowers are blooming early while the geraniums are late!

I’m sure all the flowers have a blooming cycle that is dependent on the weather, but one flower even has “local wisdom” that indicates it is a precursor of the change of the season. That special flower is the aster...and that’s the flower I do not like to see in bloom in the early summer.  Last year the asters were in bloom on the 27th of July. This year they are blooming right now! In fact I saw some asters blooming on the 2nd of July and did not think much of it...and then I remembered...asters are called the last flowers of the summer. Local wisdom says when the asters start to bloom there are only 6 more weeks of summer! We have a good crop of asters in bloom right now! If the local wisdom is correct, fall will arrive early (mid-August) and winter will soon follow. I hope that “local wisdom” is wrong!

The Fifth of July

I meant to write yesterday wishing our country Happy 236th Birthday, but I was having a good time celebrating that birthday instead. I saw part of the parade our adopted home town had! Living in small town America is a walk back in time. With horse drawn carts, decorated bicycles and golf carts, we all tried our best to celebrate the birthday of country!

Thank yous go to the brave men who signed the Declaration of Independence! Thank yous also go to the brave men and women in the military past and present who preserve our freedom. I’ve visited only 97 countries on this planet, and none can compare with the United States of America! 

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Bachelor's Button

I found it! The new-to-me flower is a Bachelor's Button! It’s also called a Cornflower or a Bluebottle. There’s a lot of folklore associated with the Cornflower too, if Wikipedia is to be trusted! In the “old days” if a gentleman wore a cornflower it told the world he was in love! However, if the cornflower faded quickly, it was an omen that the love would fade too! It was the favorite flower of President John F. Kennedy. 

What is it?

I have a new (to me) wildflower. It's the same color as wild flax and has a similar leaf as a carnation. I have a slug of books on Rocky Mountain wildflowers and I cannot find it. Can you help me out?

Robin's Egg Blue

As I was watering my "tame" flowers (the wild flowers have to fend for themselves) I discovered this tiny egg. It's not often you see this color blue in nature. So pretty and so sad. I wonder why the egg was on the ground?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


We are home. The flights were good but there were 3 of them. When all was said and done, we were up 27 hours! I don't care how much sugar coating you can put on that statement -- it's a long time and today we are paying for it. Needless to say we awoke early but we did not start anything for about an hour. Then we started on the laundry. I sorted stuff by color and there were 7 loads, so I combined loads ending up with 4. The laundry is done now. We are unpacked. Now we need to tackle jet-lag and the day to day process of living on our own. No one is cooking gourmet meals for us nor is there anyone making up our room or cleaning the shower. It's time to get back to reality.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Castle Church

The huge church at the castle in Prague was built over a period of centuries, like many of these great old churches. This church is an example of classic gothic and French design, so you see hints of Notre Dame in Paris. The details are wonderful with ferocious gargoyles, colorful glass, and shiny mosaics. Churches like these are never going to built again. I happen to love these grand edifices so I take lots of pictures of them.


In Germany you use the Euro (€) but in the Czech Republic you use the Koruna or Crown. There are about 19 Crown in a US dollar. Czech paper money is pretty. We only saw 100, 200 and 500 notes as we were here a short time. The coins were strange but alas I spent every last one of them getting on the tram so no pictures.


Czech is an impossible language. Some words have no vowels while others have vowels in the wrong places. Given that, we used the public tram system today and we got it to work. We had to read the signs, get the ticket kiosk to work, and board the tram at the right locations. We needed help and the friendly folks were willing to help two vacationers out. Grand Circle calls this a "Learning and Discovery" moment...and that explains it well. Now that I've done it I can do it again.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Dresden at Night

We sailed into Dresden about 10 PM. The old city was ablaze with light. We could not make out the individual structures or the exact detail, but we did see the wedding cake outlines if old Baroque-type buildings. The night was dark, the water was relatively calm and the reflections upon it were wonderful.


I was under the impression that Dresden was completely destroyed in World War II. I was wrong! A lot of Dresden was destroyed, but quite a bit survived.

We had a tour of the city and saw the old Opera House, as well as many museums and churches standing with the scars of the war proudly showing.

We learned of the "rubble women" who had the job of sorting out the broken stones into piles so they could be reused. We also learned a bit of what life was like during the Soviet era of the DDR.

I'm unclear as to when the rebuilding took place, but it did happen. Dresden is filled with treasures of the past, such as a Meissin tile wall that depicts the Saxon Princes who ruled the area from 1200 to 1876. You can also see an over the top museum/music complex and an old Lutheran Church that clearly shows the results of the firestorm that swept thru the city in 1945.

BTW, a semi-final soccer game was played last night. Soccer is huge in Europe, but when your team is in the semi-final, soccer is "huger." Germany beat Greece 4 to 2 last night! What excitement. People were watching the game in a huge outdoor stadium as well as in local pubs and cafes. When Germany scored the whole city screamed with joy--when Greece scored there were an equal number of boos. When the game ended there was one heck of a party!

Thursday, June 21, 2012


We went to the Meissin Factory where the fabulous porcelain is made. What a place! We saw a potter at his wheel as well as 2 types of artists then we were lucky enough to spend some time in their shop. We just spent time as no one had money for these works of art. Since everything is hand made, it's possible to spend several hundred € on a plate or cup. It was still fun to see everything.

From there we walked to the Square, looked at store fronts and window shopped.

A trip to the Dom (aka, big old church) was necessary. The Dom is built on the top of the hill and the view into the city was fantastic.

A good day.


Neon signs are not a big deal on 17th century restaurants and pubs. Instead you see intricate metal signs that depict the business inside oneway or another. Here is a small collection of such signs.


We have seen a lot of towers along the river. I've posted a few below.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Torgau--Miscellaneous Musings

The beginning of the end of World War II happened in Torgau when the Russian and American troops rolled into town. It's a tiny town on the Elbe. The bridges that crossed the river were wired with bombs awaiting the bad guys. On April 26, 1945 the good guys came.

However Torgau has seen a lot of history the past 600+ years. The old Schloss was remodeled in 1534. Peter the Great visited the schloss and determined it had one of the best towers he had ever seen. Martin Luther's widow, Caterina, is buried in St. Mary's church. For the last 2 days I've been hearing a lot about this remarkable woman who might have been as revolutionary as her more famous husband.

The town square is huge and is anchored by a beautiful Rathaus. While we were walking in the square a group of school children arrived. We were expecting noise and instead we received a surprise. The group went into a gelato shop, bought one scoop cones and very orderly walked out to the fountain in the square and ate them. We kept waiting for "typical kid behavior" to emerge and finally, after 10 minutes they started to climb all over the fountain and run and scream. Kids are kids!


One of the joys of cruising is the food. Included in the food category is dessert and we are getting two desserts a day, not counting ice cream when we visit a town.

For lunch today we had our choice of Bab-ah-rhum or Ice Creme Romanoff -- both were wonderful.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Wittenburg, Part 2

Aside from the religious history of the city, there's a secular history too. The town is old. It has some well preserved homes, a beautiful city square and Rathaus (city hall) and a good ice creamery. We sat outside at the ice cream place and watched locals shop on Markt Strasse. Later we went back to the River Allegro (our home on the Elbe River) and started sailing toward Torgau.