Vienna

Recently I had a chance to visit Vienna, Austria. You know Austria. It’s where Julie Andrews sang to the hills in the 1965 movie, “The Sound of Music.”

The sound of music really does describe a lot of Vienna’s history. Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Schubert and Johann Strauss II, among others, were associated with the city. You can visit a room where Mozart, a precocious youngster and musical genius, dazzled his audience with his virtuosity. There are concert halls that have heard the premieres of some of the finest music known to man.

There is a lovely opera house, the Wiener Staatsoper, first built in 1869 (and rebuilt after WWII).  It was popular during the Third Reich with frequent performances of Wagner’s operas. Ironically the last performance before Allied planes started to rain bombs on the city was Wagner’s Götterdämmerung. The title “refers to a prophesied war among various beings and gods that ultimately results in the burning, immersion in water, and renewal of the world.”  The bombing of Vienna must indeed have seemed like götterdämmerung.  In February and March 1945 alone there were 80,000 tons of bombs dropped on the city.

I’m a bit of a history buff, especially about WWII, and I can’t visit Europe without reflecting on the horror of that war. It’s especially easy in Vienna because the streets seem so familiar from documentaries and movies. The mind’s eye can easily visualize Nazi troops marching down the broad strasses (streets) and brave partisans lurking in bombed out buildings.  When I find myself in these places that have seen such awful destruction I often will think of a line from the Joni Mitchell song The Three Great Stimulants, “No tanks have ever rumbled through my street/And the drone of planes at night has never frightened me.” I have lived such a blessed life and certainly the #1 blessing is to have not experienced war first-hand. It is a wretched business and I am infuriated when someone of Donald Trump’s ilk throws out threats to Iran or North Korea or Venezuela. War is almost always a result of male egos.

But I digress. Back to beautiful Vienna, thankfully well recovered from world wars. It is vibrant and lovely.  I was in the city for a medical cannabis conference and I had one day for sightseeing. I spent most of that day on a “hop on/hop off” bus which I rode around the loop twice. I was just seven weeks removed from having a hip replaced and my stamina was not what it could be. I was grateful to have made the trip at all so seeing Vienna from a bus that was filled (off and on, of course) with happy people speaking languages from around the globe did not seem that bad to me. Along the way I saw lovely boulevards, historic architecture and hot rods…yes, hot rods, miniature hot rods. Out of place?  Definitely.  I laughed out loud.

 

I knew I had one good foray in me in terms of walking and enjoying a particular site. It was a difficult choice. Friends who have visited the city before urged me to visit the opera house, or the Schönbrunn Palace, or one of the multitude of art museums, or the Lippizzaner stallions. But once I saw the Naturhistorisches Museum, the Natural History Museum, and learned that it has the largest display of meteorites in the world I knew where I wanted to be.

The building is imposing, with 94,000 square. It opened in 1889 and was built to hold the collections of the Royal Habsburg family. Like so many institutions of that time the design exalts art and beauty. Entering the main hallway is like walking into enlightenment.

Obviously I did not manage to visit all 94,000 sq.ft. The meteorites were up the stairs and through the mineral rooms which had an extraordinary array of rocks, ores, and gems.

 

Just getting through the minerals was hard work but the gem room led to the Meteorite room and I must admit the museum has an extraordinary collection of cosmic debris.

The Knyahinya meteor, I have learned, is not exactly the largest meteor known to man but it was in 1866 when it fell to earth in the Carpathian Mountains in quite a spectacular fashion. The meteor weighs more than 600 lbs. and is quite lovely.

untitled-0090

Knyahinya Meteor

The Meteor Room, fittingly, led to the dinosaurs and, once again, the Vienna Natural History Museum did not disappoint.

This room was populated mainly with excited children who dashed from one model and display case to another. They were too hyper to sit which left the benches more or less open. Those who did sit were tired parents and contented grandparents. Perhaps some of them, like me, were reflecting on life’s fragility. One minute you are in Eden, the largest beings on earth, munching leaves and grass contentedly when a bright light above you seems to portend a change.  Another götterdämmerung…. ❧

Road Trip – This is the Wrap

 

Alice’s Route 4/23/17 – 6/4/17  — 8,710 miles, 42 days

The odyssey is over. Tango and I are safely arrived in Franklin, NC, where we will quietly enjoy the summer.  No road trips anticipated.  😀

Zeke, Kelli, me, Taryn, Orion, Skylar and Erin… Mother’s Day in Long Beach, CA

Brenann, Evan, Mike, Alice and Stacy..the O’Learys in Hailey, ID.

Tango in the Turnbull N.W.R. near Spokane, WA.

We traveled 8,710 miles! Honestly, I never expected that.  Side trips got added and the end result was many more miles than I anticipated. But those detours allowed me to visit with family, some of whom I had not seen in a long while.  That was grand.

We made a completely unexpected trip to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho and met a family who I felt that I knew but had never met.  I wrote about that in my blog, “On the Road — Memories and Magic.”

There were three conferences–two on medical cannabis where I learned so much my head is still spinning.  This issue, that has consumed forty years of my life (see aliceolearyrandall.com), is simply exploding with new knowledge. The discovery of the endogenous cannabinoid system is a blessing for us all.  Lives will be better in coming years thanks to the tireless work of so many activists, healthcare practitioners and researchers.

To those shaking their heads and asking why a 69 year-old woman, and her faithful companion Tango, would undertake such an adventure I can only shake my head in return and ask, “Why not?”  Perhaps it was growing up with the weekly Dinah Shore Show in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Sponsored by a U.S. carmaker, the singing star would always sign-off with her catchy jingle,  “See the USA, in your Chevrolet/America is asking you to call/See the USA in your Chevrolet/America’s the greatest land of all.”  Darn right Dinah!  It is a wonder of a land and those who don’t take the time to visit its wonder are squandering their own wealth. And I can add this, if any of my fellow baby boomers are looking for those wide-open roads of our youth they still exist in the vast Western states of Montana, the Dakotas, and Idaho. (P.S. Stick to the secondary roads, they are the greatest.)

To my faithful readers – thanks. Your comments and observations made things all the more enjoyable. I’ll try to post some pictures from the trip in coming weeks.

Happy trails! ❧

On the Road – The Dakotas

Alice and Tango at Painted Canyon

If you enter North Dakota from the west, traveling from Montana along Interstate 94, one of the first things you will see is a billboard which simply says, “Be Polite.” I knew I was going to love ND.

The state has been on my radar for years but, let’s be honest, it is not exactly on the way to anything, with the possible exception of Canada. According to Wikipedia, “North Dakota is the 19th most extensive but the 4th least populous and the 4th least densely populated of the 50 United States.”  That translates into “big and empty.” I can confirm this to be true.

I wanted to visit North Dakota in order to see the Theodore Roosevelt National Park (TRNP), which is located in the western part of ND.  Even the TRNP is huge, with two sections, north and south, that are separated by nearly eighty miles.  The parks began to intrigue me three years ago, after I visited the Badlands N.P. in South Dakota. To a certain extent, the TRNP is an extension of those fabulous lands in SD. I knew I had to go there.

Teddy Roosevelt, our 26th president, actually lived in ND for several years following the deaths of  his wife and mother on the same day (just twelve hours apart).  He credits the land with revitalizing his spirit and I have no doubt that is true.  I found nature to wonderfully healing after the death of my husband in 2001 and during my work as a grief counselor I would often advise my clients to “get out doors.”

In Teddy’s case, not surprisingly, he had a “bully” outdoors to get into. The parklands where he once lived and raised cattle are as bold and dramatic as the man for which they are named. The rock formations, left by complex and dramatic geologic events many thousands of years ago, have created a colorful and magical land filled with canyons, hoodoos, concretions, and vistas. The Little Missouri River, a central character in the creation of this park, meanders peacefully through both parks.  Bison are plentiful in both units, as are wild horses and prairie dogs. The northern unit has, IMHO, the best vistas.  The scene from Riverbend Overlook (the most photographed spot in all of ND I was assured)  is breathtaking.

Riverbend Overlook in the north unit of TRNP.

I had hoped to spend two full days at the park but the weather turned hot overnight, changing the days from delightful temperatures in the high 70s to readings in the low 90s.  This posed a problem: dogs are not allowed on the hiking trails and it was too hot to leave Tango in the van.  Even the shortest of hikes was out of the question.  So we visited every overlook and sat enjoying the views.  Tango, being an absolute people magnet, brought some delightful people our way and we enjoyed short conversations with folks from all over the U.S. and some Asians.  All of us agreed that TRNP is spectacular, well worth the journey.

My epic journey is winding down. We settled for a day and a half at TRNP and this morning we turned the van east and headed for Fawn Hill in North Carolina. It was a long driving day and we are still in the Dakotas. It’s big out here, folks, but worth the effort.❧

 

On the Road – Four Great Days in Idaho

Tango and our van on Idaho Rt. 33.

Today Tango and I turned the van eastward and began our journey home. The magnificent Western mountain ranges that have filled my windshield for nearly four weeks — the Rockies, Sierra Nevadas, Cascades, Pioneers — are sadly becoming relegated to my rearview mirror, growing smaller with each mile.

Our weekend was spent in Hailey, a charming town located in the Sun Valley of Idaho. My nephew and his family–four decidedly South Californians (Michael, his wife Stacy and children Evan and Brenann)–moved to Hailey last summer.  Unusual?  Not at all. Californians appear to be moving to Idaho in droves. Michael explained it is a topic that often came up when they would get together with friends in Fallbrook but it was always a “some day” conversation.  For the Fallbrook O’Learys that “some day” was last July.

Idaho is beautiful.  Not being a winter person I can’t say that I would want to live there year-round.  This past winter gave my nephew’s family a baptism by snow.  All records were shattered. In Ketchum, just a few miles up the road from Hailey, they recorded 112″ of snow. For the math-challenged readers, that’s just 8 inches shy of 10 feet.  TEN FEET OF SNOW!  But at the present time it is gorgeous with mild temperatures and long days.

I had not seen my nephew in fifteen years. A shocking admission in today’s age I suppose but there has been a continent between us for all those years. As I drove today I reflected on communicating with far-flung family. I passed Goodale’s Cutoff, a place where emigrants drove their wagons across the high desert, trying to get around the massive lava flows that now make up the Craters of the Moon N.P.  For those hearty souls there was little hope that they would ever hear from the loved ones left behind, much less have a visit.  As I cruise along in my well-appointed van my mind often drifts to those extraordinary people who risked it all to find a better life.  Much has changed in the intervening 150 years but the quest for a better life remains and leads some to Hailey. I think they have the right idea and I wish them well. ❧

Brenann, Evan, Mike, Alice and Stacy..the O’Learys in Hailey.

New Zealand Memories

Too long between posts here.  My bad.  I love posting on Alice’s Wanderland and have been annoyed with myself for not getting here more often.  But that’s a waste of time. Best to move on and get my life re-adjusted so that I have time again for this labor of love.

For a while I tried to post some new image or video every time.  But the fact is, I have a lot of old photos and videos that also deserve posting.  And I have come to realize that blogs give us a chance, paraphrasing Paul Simon, to preserve our memories because, increasingly, they are all that is left.  Like most people these days I have so many pictures and tapes.  I can’t post them all but this discipline of a blog forces me to choose the best.  I can share AND have a spot where I know my memories are safe from cluttered hard drives and paper stacks.

Today’s post is one of my all time favorites.  It is a short video (5 minutes) that I put together following my trip to New Zealand in 2006.  The pictures are all mine.  The music is from an electronic group called AeTopus.  On their website it is said, “With subtle, pastoral elegance, AeTopus reveals a world that is simultaneously foreign and familiar – an aural mosaic rich in spiritual contemplation, seasonal variance, and ancient ritual.”  That is a perfect description of their song “Psychic Slumber.”  It is also a perfect description of New Zealand.

October in New Zealand is equivalent to April in the Northern Hemisphere.  It is spring.  So we saw flowers and snow, waterfalls galore and lots of baby lambs.  And we saw penguins, in the wild, following a rather harrowing hike through trees and streams…in the pouring rain.  It was cold.  I have rarely been so ecstatic.  When you see the final image of the video you might understand what I mean.❧

 

 

Image #313-Red-legged Pademelon

Red legged pademelon

Tell someone you’ve been to Australia and you can expect to hear, “Wow! Did you see any kangaroos?”  The answer is, “Yes!”  But the ‘roos I saw were not what we think of here in the USA.  On my first trip, in 2001, I did see one of those big ‘roos, hopping down the fairway on a golf course!

On this trip the sightings were less dramatic.  We saw several Red-legged pademelon (Thylogale stigmatica) which Wikipedia describes a “a marsupial rainforest kangaroo.”  They are quite shy and hang in the shadows which makes photographs difficult.  This little guy  is probably an adult which means she/he is about 2 1/2 feet tall when upright.  Because their habitat is rainforest the range of the species has shrunk and Wikipedia says it is a vulnerable species.  Australia has many preserves where these charming creatures can live but we humans, frankly, are crowding out everything.  It would be too bad to lose a creature with such a lyrical name. ❧

Image #312 – Alice Down Under

20151122

 

That’s me in Australia and that thing above my head is a Stag Horn fern — a relatively small one.   They grow like weeds Down Under.  Same with Birds’ Nest Ferns.  It is a magical place. This particular picture was taken on Fraser Island, just off the Sunshine Coast.  It is the largest sand island in the world and is listed on the U.N. Heritage Sites which means, hopefully, it will remain as pristine and special as it is today for generations to enjoy.

Australia is quite keen on ecology and environment, as well they should be.  They have been able to protect so much of their unique flora and fauna even with the massive amount of global travel and commerce.  In one park we visited, another U.N. Heritage site, there are machines where you clean the bottom of your boots with a disinfectant and brush before hiking so as not to track in contaminants.  Despite that effort there are invasive species of plants and fungi.  Still, you must do what you can do.

Today I am back in the States, finally emerging from jet lag and trying to “get back into it.”  That won’t be easy, especially as I begin the sorting of my 2,000 pictures.  Stay tuned…plenty of Aussie pictures coming soon.  ❧