Ancient Near East
I know things are a little hot there right now, but if you ever get the chance I recommend a visit to the cradle of ancient civilization. Mesopotamia. Including the ancient states of Sumer, Akkad and Babylon. Modern Iraq. Significant expeditions have been led over the years by various institutions and artifacts are on display at major art museums throughout the world. A good alternative given the political situation there now.
- University Museum.Philadelphia. http://www.penn.museum/long-term-exhibits/iraq-s-ancient-past.html date accessed 11/12/13
- University of Cincinnati. Department of Classics
- University of Chicago. Oriental Institute. http://oi.uchicago.edu/research/pubs/catalog/as/as6.html date accessed 11/12/13
- Louvre, Paris: Standard of Ur, Stele of Narum-sin, Law code of Hamurabi, Sargon of Akkad
- Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: Ashurnasirpal II
- British Museum, London: Layard excevator of Nineveh and Nimrud, Assysia, Leonard Woolley
- Berlin Museum: Ishtar Gate of Babylon
- Ancient Near East 101: Akkadian (jdbeltz.wordpress.com)
- Ancient Near East 101: Ancient Egyptian (jdbeltz.wordpress.com)
- http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/meru/hd_meru.htm date accessed 9/18/14
- http://oi.uchicago.edu/research/projects/diyala-project date accessed 9/18/4
What is your favorite travel destination? Please share your travel experiences.
Who is your favorite painter?
Is breakfast your favorite meal of the day?
Berlin and Istanbul are both considered divided cities, but in a different way. Explain.
I spent a year abroad in Germany 1977-8
Morocco and Spain (NASA, International Space Station, 12/31/11) (Photo credit: NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center)
I flew from Chicago with a group of eight for Luxembourg LUX on Icelandair with a stop in Reykjavík KEF.
I left in August 1977. It was the summer Elvis died. I set out to visit every country in Europe. The only place I didn’t go was London. Many people in my group were sceptical. You can’t just get on a train and go somewhere by yourself. You’re in Europe. Others disagreed.
You’re an American. You can go anywhere you want. Why are Americans so unpopular? It wasn’t always the case. I never believed in the Ugly American. The tangled history of Germany after WWII left Germany partitioned among the four victorious allied powers including the Soviet Union. In 1953 they Illegally made their zone into the German Democratic Republik or East Germany. I asked my friends, if they thought Germany would ever be reunited. Never in my lifetime. Regensburg, in the Fulda gap was closer to Prague than Cologne. They figured if the war ever started, it would be run over before we knew it had started. Poland received one-third of former German territory East of the Oder.
Our director met us at the Bahnhof (train station.) He took us to our dorm two at a time.That’s alll that would fit in his car. A blue Audi. It was one of the few times we got to ride in his car that year. Most of the time we took public transportation or walked. I was the only American on my floor. I’m staying at the Vitusheim. All dormitories in Germany are student managed. I share a kitchen with the other students. We do our own cooking. There is a student cafeteria or Mensa. The meals are subsidised. It is German food. Bavarians eat lots of starch and potatoes but Sauerkraut-not so much. It is about a 15 minute walk from the dorm. I do have a sink in my room which is nice and a large wardrobe.I brought a calculator and three cameras from home including an old Zeiss Ikon and a mini Minox spy camera. I inherited a radio and some pots from the previous occupant. I’m making good use of them.There is even a pub. There is one TV and one telephone for the whole dorm. Cell phones, video games, PC’s all in the future.
If you want to call the States you have to go to the main post office downtown, book the call then wait for your turn. I only called home three times that year. We do get mail three times a day. Snail mail, of course–no email or internet. I’m Sharing the facilities with the girls. I’m the only male on the floor. They don’t seem to mind it’s going to take some getting used to for me.
There was a group of exchange students studying German from Lyon in France. They were all girls except one boy. They are nice. They are all in their twenties like me. The Americans are taking a special six-week intensive language course. Most of the German students won’t arrive until classes start in November.
Holland The first overnight trip I went on was to Amsterdam for a local festival. Not well publicised How did you hear about it, Nikolaustag? St Nikolaus is not the same as Santa Claus, who makes his traditional return from Spain by boat in November. OriginallySt. Nicholsaus is from Turkey, his feast day is December 6th.
The train follows the Rhine. We got off in Düsseldorf, to look around. It was nighttime it was beautiful. On the way back from Amsterdam the customs got on the train with a drug sniffing dog. We met the world’s oldest hippie in a bar in Amsterdam. I wonder if he is still alive?
Freddie Heineken greets you at the Heineken brewery tour. It’s a video tape. Back then it was something new. Before you leave he offers you one for the road.
We get many sponsored trips. In November we went to Berlin. It was awesome. I must take my parents here. On the train through East Germany my friend offers the young border guard an orange. He shows it to the other young guard and brags, I’ve seen these I know what this is. You eat it. Once you cross the border and iron curtain there is no stopping or getting off the train until you reach West Berlin.
Checkpoint Charlie was on Friedrichstrasse, near Kochstrasse. It was the only crossing between West Berlin and East Berlin that could be used by Americans and other foreigners, and by members of the Allied Forces. The other six checkpoints were for residents of West Berlin or West Germany. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
We decide to do something nice for our German friends. We held a Halloween party. In November we cooked Thanksgiving dinner. We had to order the turkeys and pumpkin from the local army base here. Not common foods in Bavaria. The pies were the biggest hit. We had to be sure to clean up the mess. That’s a big thing here.
We took a trip to Neuschwannstein and the Alps.
There are four countries in the world where German is spoken Austria, Switzerland, Lichtenstein and Germany of course. Germany lost a lot of territory in both world wars.
- US ‘bugged Merkel’s phone from 2002’ (bbc.co.uk)
- We decided to go to Turkey for Christmas, Germany 1977-8 (mrted57.wordpress.com)
- AP United States History-America in WWII Part 3 (fasttracktohistory.wordpress.com)
- Angela Merkel Tells Obama: NSA is Like the Stasi (rinf.com)
The East German mark was officially valued by the East German government at parity with the (West German) Deutsche Mark, but it was never freely convertible. Beginning in 1964, the East German government instituted a Zwangsumtausch (forced exchange) (or Mindestumtausch — minimum exchange), whereby most visitors from non-socialist foreign countries were required to exchange a set amount of Deutsche Mark (or other hard currencies) for East German marks at the ratio of one Deutsche Mark to one East German mark for every day of their stay. Starting on 13 October 1980, Western visitors to the GDR were required to exchange a minimum of 25 Deutsche Mark for East German marks per day. Some exceptions were authorized: for example, tourists who booked hotel stays in the GDR that were paid in hard currency were exempted from the minimum exchange requirements. (Of course, such accommodation charges almost always exceeded the 25 mark daily exchange threshold.) At other times, West Berliners, retirees, children, and youth were granted either exemptions or were authorized reduced minimum exchange amounts. Members of the Western Allied military forces stationed in West Berlin were also exempt from these rules when visiting East Berlin, in part because the Western Allies did not recognize the authority of the GDR to regulate the activities of their military personnel in East Berlin; only the Soviet Union was considered competent to do so.
20 Mark coin featuring Karl Marx, 1988
On the black market, the exchange rate was about 5 to 10 M to one DM. In the mid-1980s, one could easily visit foreign currency exchange offices in West Berlin and purchase East German banknotes (in 50 and 100 mark denominations) at the rate of 5 (East) = 1 (West). However, the GDR forbade the import or export of East German currency (as well as the currencies of other socialist countries) into or out of the GDR, and penalties for violation ranged from confiscation of smuggled currency to imprisonment. The East German mark could not be spent in Intershops to acquire Western consumer goods;
Do we know what we are doing?
Travels behind the Iron curtain Spring 1978
We made or travel arrangements in East Berlin, they were only too happy to help and take our western money
Actually, I was glad, because it made things a lot easier
After four days in Berlin, we wanted to go to Prague/Prag with a stop in Dresden along the way, about 100 miles/160 km. This would mean crossing into East Germany. We had entered East Germany at the checkpoint alpha on the Hanover Berlin Autobahn and entered West Berlin at the Wannsee crossing in southwest Berlin, the lesser known Checkpoint Bravo or Drewitz crossing. http://twocircles.net/2009oct22/leaving_east_germany_easy_alpha_bravo_charlie.html We had already used this crossing to visit Potsdam, San Souci and the Cecelienhof home of the infamous Stalin, Truman and Atlee conference in August 1945. As an engineer my father never really understood the intricacies of the communist system. If there was a closer highway exit to where you were it didn’t make sense to use one all the way across town just because it was the only one open to foreigners. The communist system was based on control not convenience. My mother related being surprised that all of the intermediate exits on the autobahn were barricaded.
Communism, in practice, was never based on logic despite dialectical materialism. In those days, it was very unusual for people to travel though East Germany on their own outside of Berlin, especially Americans.People were suspicious. Got to Dresden too late to do anything but we did have a nice dinner and stay at a nice hotel.http://www.hotel-dresdner-hof.de/hotel-zittau-zittauer-gebirge-oberlausitz Zittau is in Upper Lusatia home of the Slavic speaking Sorbs and near the German, Czech Polish tri-point. We couldn’t get rid of our East German marks before we left. We had the same problem after leaving Prag. My dad said you can only use so much food or gas. We cleared East German customs and drove about 100 feet and had to do the whole thing over again. The whole thing took about 3-4 hours. It was really terrible. http://naturpark-zittauer-gebirge.de/de/index.php
We didn’t get to do much sightseeing in Dresden but stayed at the Dresdner Hof, a very nice Hotel and ate at a very nice restaurant on the opposite side of the Elbe, the best in town. My mother desperately wanted to visit the porcelain factory at Meissen, but we were told emphatically that it was not posible. The next morning we walked around the center of town much evidence of war. Then we had to leave. My mom and dad fell in love with the city and have visited three times including the rebuilt Frauenkirche.
So much for the socialist brotherhood. The 60th anniversary of the great October socialist revolution. It was only 75 miles to Prag and it still took all day to get there. Prag is a beautiful medieval city with a cathedral, castle and even an ancient Jewish cemetery, also the home of Franz Kafka. It was a center of the Protestant reformation. This was, of course, before the split of the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993. Czech was known for its Olympic athletes, fine porcelain and crystal. We visited some of the fine taverns in downtown Prag such as U supa and sampled the fine draft beer and wine.
It was the time of the ice hockey world championship, Eishockey Weltmeistershaft and very hard to get a room. We let fath out of the car and after an hour he came back with a room. Some people saw the L on our car and were convinced we had driven from Lebanon. They had never heard of Luxembourg. That’s where my parents had picked up the car just outside of Trier. Another point my mother remembered was breakfast at the Park Inn Hotel. http://www.parkhotel-praha.cz/default-en.html A four star hotel. It’s still there. Not far from downtown on the Vlatava. The base of the old Stalin monument which was removed shortly after his death.Apparently some of the ice hockey players were staying at the same hotel. They were huge from the eastern bloc . . . And one athlete ate as much as the three of us. St. Vitus is the name of my dormitory in Regensburg. The main cathedral in Prague is also named after St Vitus. Originally from Sicily, St. Vitus is revered as a saint in Germany and Latvia among other places, especially Nuremberg and Bavaria. He is one of he Vierzehnheiligen or holy helpers.
Our room at the Park Hotel, a big fancy place on the other side of the river. I think it is still there. The base of the Stalin statue was still there but the statue has been removed. We checked into our rooms and turned in our passports. This turned out to be a big mistake. As Dad pointed out 35 years later, we were soon asked to change to a different room. When you turn in your passport they put it in the slot for your room. When we changed rooms they forgot to move our passports. When we went to check out they said they couldn’t find our passports. So there we were behind the Iron Curtain without our passports. I had forgotten about this but Dad said he won’t forget it as long as he lives. We also visited the famous Karlsteyn castle outside of Prague. http://www.hradkarlstejn.cz/castle-road/
Drove from Tabor in southern Bohemia; this was all behind the iron curtain to Vienna. We crossed the border to Austria at Nova Bystrice and Haugschlag in the Waldviertel in Austria, somehow missing Czeske Krumlow and Budevice (Budweis.)
It was a gray, humiliating and time consuming experience including a minimal currency exchange unlike the instant border crossings we were used to. It’s difficult to grasp what this actually means. It was the same for the Soviet Union. See yes there is more
There was often intense pressure from friends and family not to go at all and support the communist system. Border crossings definitely interfere with sightseeing and other things even in Hungary and Bulgaria.
I was a boy when the Red Army invaded the CSSR in the spring of 1968, but I remember vividly talking to my father about it. Many of the custodians,. At my school there were refugees from the 1956 Hungarian uprising. back then we called them janitors a reference to the Roman god of the household Janus more at January They knew when they left it was forever. They would never be allowed to return to Hungary.
There is more to come . . . .
More travels behind the Iron curtain and Munich to Istanbul on the Istanbul Express
Return Athens to Regensburg January 1978
The only member of the Warsaw pact I missed was Romania. I have not been there to this day. Albania was closed and impossible to visit plus it was cold, winter and I had run out of time. JAS Bond again. Yugoslavia, including Skopje, not safe to go there. Loved Belgrade Orthodox Christmas Sofia, Plovdiv and Istanbul. My neighbor in Cincinnati said “I’ve never heard of Bulgaria and you’ve been there.”
The Visa scam you had to buy a visa and make a mandatory exchange of currency which had to be spent. Just try doing that in this wasteland of consumer goods. After working all day people stand in line to buy something without even knowing what it is. You also had to book your room in advance and always at a higher price than residents.
Personally I was always uncomfortable if I saw a sign, book or newspaper I couldn’t read. Indeed all alphabets including the Latin and Greek date back to the Phoenicians. That’s when I started my lifelong love of languages
Created with Microsoft Office OneNote 2007
One place for all your notes and information
- Why Germans are moving to Poland (bbc.co.uk)
- UPDATE 4-Merkel romps to victory in German election (xe.com)
Carter was President and making a mess of things. He didn’t figure it out until his buddy Brezhnev double crossed him by invading Afghanistan. The Brezhnev doctrine stated that it was the duty of all socialist nations to aid brother socialist nations facing reforms or threats to communist rule. Strobe Talbot said in Time magazine, it was a war the Afghans could never win. Jack Matlock, whom Katie and I would meet our senior year at Vanderbilt at the impact symposium had a different idea. He would also become ambassador to the Soviet Union. We also met a funny man from Texas who said he had run the CIA and been US ambassador to China–George HW Bush.
Carter ended up pulling us out of the 1980 Moscow Olympics. I guess the Pashtu’s aren’t the Hungarians and Afghanistan isn’t a flat country you can just run over with tanks in a few hours. Obama I hope you are listening. The Germans were alienated and thinking of deploying their own nuclear missiles and neutron bomb. Daily propaganda broadcasts came from over the Iron curtain from Czechoslovakia and Radio Luxembourg (Pirate Radio). America did its part with Radio free Europe.
If you’ve been reading my BLOG you know I lived in Germany.
My first time in Germany was in 1975. I took the train from Paris through Belgium and Aachen to Cologne. We took a Rhine cruise from Cologne to Mainz and then went to Heidelberg and Lucerne in Switzerland by bus. We ran into the health teacher and her husband from my high school. We had not arranged it. They were celebrating their wedding anniversary. I have always loved that stretch of the Rhine. I even took my parents and my wife there on separate trips. One of my first paintings was of the Rhine a huge mural which now hangs in my basement. When I was in high school the German club painted another mural on the wall in my classroom.
1977 August Leave for Regensburg. Eight of us left Chicago for Reykjavik and Luxembourg via Icelandic Airlines and then on to Regensburg by train after a few days of sightseeing in Luxembourg. The allied military cemetery is very impressive as is the rock fortress, the rock of the bock.
I learned a very import word in German umsteigen it means change trains that is get off of the train you are on walk to another platform with your luggage and change to a different train.
Lived in Regensburg Germany in Bavaria for a year studying Chemie, Germanistik and Philologie (linguistics) and Arabic because Chinese was offered at the wrong time. I believe in taking advantage of every opportunity as it presents itself. I continue this philosophy to this day. My specialty is starting new things. I’m the one to ask what to do when you don’t know what to do.
During the American occupation of Germany after the second world war there was a feeling that elitist tendencies among universities in Germany had contributed to the rise of Hitler. To counter this the Americans demanded a radical increase in the number of universities; thus in a country that had about a dozen universities before the war there were now to be 20 or so in Bavaria alone.
Thus although Regensburg is one of the five oldest cities in all of Germany its University was started in 1965 with the first lectures held in 1967. Plans for a University at Regensburg had been discussed as early as the 17th century and before. Thus the University of Regensburg now 40 years old I was a student there in 1977 when it was just 10 years old and everything was brand new. There was no MacDonald’s in Regensburg at the time and the A3 Autobahn had not been built and was just in the planning stages.
Regensburg has a town charter dating from 179 ad from Marcus Aurelius. It was originally a Roman garrison on the Danube, Castra Regina in the Roman colony of Rhaetia with its capital in Augsburg. Regensburg did not suffer much bombing damage during the war and is one of the best preserved medieval cities in Germany. Regensburg became a bishopric in the early 8th century.Regensburg was a major city in Germany in Europe by the 10th century. By the 1100’s with the only bridge over the Danube it was making a fortune on salt trade with Kyiv and Venice, until the Mongol invasion put an end to that. The richest woman in Europe Gloria von Thurn und Taxis lives in a castle in Regensburg. The current pope Benedict XVI is from Regensburg. His brother still lives there and was the director of the cathedral choir for many years.
Holy Roman Empire Imperial Diet meets in Regensburg for 150 years.
Protestant Reformation N. Germany the 30 years war was a disaster for Germany
Napoleonic Wars Napoleon is wounded here for the first and only time. He took a bullet in the knee.
He levels half of Regensburg in revenge. That’s the part east of Maximillianstr. dating from 1807 that’s the “new” part of the city. Robert Browning memorialized it in famous poem.
Bonn is the capital of divided Germany. It is a city on the Rhine. It has a University and is the home of Ludwig von Beethoven. It is not far from Cologne home of the great gothic cathedral and Conrad Adenauer the father of modern Germany.
November Berlin This month our group made a trip to the divided city of Berlin. About 30 of us. Sharon had to stay behind because her father is in the military. Fears of blackmail, kidnapping and the like. Because our director is German we have to cross into East Berlin at Friederichstr. Or Checkpoint alpha. Checkpoint Charlie is for Americans only. I’ll cross back into West Berlin there later that night.
Berlin is dived into four zones of occupation since the end of WWII, British, American French and Russian, Since 1949 the French British and American zones have been untied into the free city of West Berlin. The German government has subsidized our trip lest people abandon the citizens of W. Berlin which lies well into the territory of East Germany.
When my parents visit me in the Spring we visit West Berlin and then Drive to Potsdam and Dresden. It takes hours to cross the border into the DDR in our car. We also visited Prague and Vienna on that trip. I was ready this time. Munich, Salzburg (were I spent my 21st birthday), the Black Forest, Stuttgart–the ancestral home of my great-grandmother, Trier and the Rhine and Regensburg of course.
Staying at a German Gasthaus way out on the Heerstrasse. Our director has negotiated to get one bath per day instead of once a week, including breakfast.
Amsterdam visiting with Ted D.
Vienna—Fall 1977 didn’t meet Gigi there it was too soon
Wien, Austria visited twice that spring 1978
1978 Easter City of Aachen home of Charlemagne.
April Berlin I liked it so much I took my parents
Nuernberg met my Granparents and took them to Regensburg by train with their friends the Smiths
ITALY:Trieste, Verona, Bologna, ARCO Lake Garda, Roma
1988 ACHEMA Frankfurt a M
1989 Envitech Duisburg/Duesseldorf
1991 ACHEMA Frankfurt a M again
Flew to Berlin via Hamburg from Atlanta then on to FFM by train
1999 Berlin Kiel, Ostseekanal Rostock
- Regensburg, Bavaria: My German Home (markalmquist.wordpress.com)
- Ted Gast is an American artist (mysterysim.wordpress.com)