Finally I’ve spent time on Minnesota’s north shore and it was beautiful to look at and relaxing to enjoy. Doug and I arrived at Cove Point on the day before Thanksgiving, staying in a Fjord Cottage a short walk from the main lodge. (I’m writing this a week later while snowed in in Chaska. Glad we went the week before.)
The drive there from Excelsior was clear and beautiful, but shortly after we arrived it began to snow, creating our first of the year winter wonderland. Inside the unit it was warm and cozy with the gas fireplace.
For dinner we took a short walk through the snow covered path to the dining room at the lodge where the menu gave great satisfaction to my Swedish heritage appetite. I ended up with a first course of herring salad and a stuffed portobello mushroom for the main meal. They very kindly substituted quinoa for the gluten free rotini. And for desert they gave me what I asked for — a scoop of vanilla with lingonberries. It was all good!
Doug enjoyed tomato basil soup and crumb crust walleye -crushed pretzels, mustard, wild rice pilaf and green beans. For desert he chose the root beer float they were offering free at the bar.
See what I mean? It was relaxing – no rushing off to “see the sights.” Later, back at the unit, Doug began the project of teaching me cribbage on a hand carved board in the shape of a fish. Just one of the toys provided.
Thanksgiving morning I awoke to the sight of a lovely sunrise over the lake.
and the lake waters greeting the snow covered rocks on shore.
We made our own thanksgiving dinner in the kitchen beautifully supplied with everything necessary. I’m not including the photo of our cooked chicken, even though it was beautiful in “person,” because the photo had something equivalent to red eye, except it was red crust. Looked weird.
The rest of the day was a hanging-out day except for a brief walk to the lodge, a quick swim in the pool, and a soak in the whirlpool. Then more cribbage. Whew. And seconds on the pumpkin pie.
We did go see some sights the next day. First it was the Split Rock lighthouse – a beautiful structure, in use from 1909 t0 1964, or was it 1946? Oh well, Here it is.
We couldn’t see the inside because it’s only open in the summer months, but we did see a brief film of the crashes that brought about its being built in the first place. And we got a sense of what life was like for the keeper and his family.
Later, on our way to Gooseberry Park we got a glimpse of it again through the trees.
Then it was on to Gooseberry Park where I did get a photo of the frozen falls. Actually there was some small amount of water still running, but not a lot.
I was particularly taken with what seemed like a tree that nature had decorated for Christmas.
And then another relaxed evening at the unit.
On our way home from Cove Point we stopped in Duluth to visit the Glensheen mansion. Here are a few quick photos. First, the entry.
And the dining room.
Plus a lovely tiled fireplace.
and one of the rooms.
As you can see,it was decorated for Christmas. Referring to a guest who had visited from Radcliffe, there were costumed guides at several points on the self-guided tour to elucidate what the guest would have seen, and what delight she took in being there.
I loved seeing it, but I wouldn’t want to live there. I guess because if I did, I imagined cleaning it all myself. But they had servants, and very pleasant servant’s quarters.
And so, I’m back to work today — more fun rehearsals for “The Sound of Music,” gift wrapping, trying to keep up with e-mail, friends, and clients, and telling myself each day that I’ll get back to work on selling “Mrs. Job” and writing “My Father’s House.” A snow day does help.
So much of what I loved in Bulgaria could not be photographed – the beautiful insides of cathedrals – but there is still much to share from a country that opened my eyes to a culture of which I had not been familiar.
First of all: where we lived for a week — a unit at Balkan Jewel Resort. Unlike the sites in Portugal, Austria, and France, there was an intimacy in its very design. Its U shape embraced not only the pool, playground, and restaurant, but also the people. The sense of community was powerful, perhaps a result of the country’s history.
The following photo is a view from our balcony where the only table available encouraged us to be outside and in the company of others.
Near our resort was evidence of another, sadder, fact of the country’s current situation. Nearby there were so many buildings — intended resorts, I think — that were left unfinished, no doubt when funds ran out with the most recent recession.
There was optimism as well in the new construction we saw, especially at the Melnik winery.
We arrived at an unscheduled time, but were kindly given a tour by the owner and her son. Not a thing was missing, at least from our point of view, including elevators taking us to various levels of the building where we had excellent views of the workings. The winery is built on land that belonged to the family for years counted in the hundreds, removed at one point into the Ottoman empire and later into the communist state, but ultimately returned.
The best part of the tour was the graciousness of Luka and her son Alex. Luka understood English and, I suspect, could speak it better than her confidence allowed, but Alex served as a really competent interpreter. (I think the English he knew was British English.)
Especially delightful was the private wine tasting, with mother and son hosting mother and son. (I’m not in the following picture for the obvious reason that I’m taking the photo.)
The wine was excellent and the price was right given the dollar/Lev exchange rate.
We were not allowed to leave without being gifted a fresh melon and bunches of grapes Doug got to pick when escorted by Alex on a visit to the vineyards.
Our next stop was the Rozhen monastery.
Of course, we were not allowed to photograph the insides, but I did sneak a peek into the chapel. The murals were outstanding, and I did get to photograph some on the outside as well.
The next day’s visit to the Rila Monastery was extremely moving for me. Still a bustlingly active monastery, it was here, as I understand it, that, under the protection of the Ottoman empire, Bulgarian art, history, religion, and culture were preserved for the 500 years of Turkish rule. The cathedral was beyond moving with its typically, but more-so, ornate physical interior and lovely chanting during what apparently were repeated sequential masses.
People were receiving the host with tears so meaningful it evoked the same from my eyes. It seemed like a visit to Mecca for Muslims, or to the Church of the Nativity in Israel for Christians.
I wanted a photo of the inside so badly, but none were available, not even on postcards at the souvenir counter outside. That, I believe, reflects the sacredness of the spot.
But I was able to photograph some of the external murals.
We spent the next to the last day in Bulgaria just hanging out because our planned tour was cancelled by the guide. It turns out the heat was too extreme. It was only when we got home that we realized we’d been living in a heat wave. Having too much of a good time to notice, I guess. But we were pretty much ready to ease off at that point.
And Doug managed a creative meal with one frying pan and one large pot.
Served on our delightful cozy deck.
Our final full day was spent in Bansko where there were some noteworthy things to record. One reminded me of the springs of mountain water we used to enjoy in Vermont, but much more central water supplies in the city.
And there was the recycling,
Especially beautiful everywhere, I thought, were the tile decorations as part of the architecture. Here is the second floor of one of the businesses. From another angle it’s included in the new header.
We also had the good luck to arrive in Bansko on the day of the international jazz festival. Our first inkling was the set up below.
And then front row seats (because we got there early) just behind the VIP section. The entire program was in English – I guess because jazz is primarily an American product.
We elected to stay in a hotel in Sofia the night before our flight home. On the way we intended to stop at a couple of recommended sites. One we never did find, which points up how terrible the signage is. It’s not just that the signs are not in English, there just was no clear indication at all. We missed one place totally, but quite by accident we did hit upon the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, one of the largest Eastern Orthodox Cathedrals in the world. Built to honor the dead in the war which liberated Bulgaria from Ottoman rule, it is truly an awesome sight — in the original sense of the word.
As with the cathedral at the Rila monastery, we were not allowed to take photos inside, and again I found no postcards or other sources of pictures. To tell the truth, though, it didn’t evoke the emotional reaction I experienced at the Rila Monastery with it’s place in Bulgarian history.
It was at this site that we experienced a rather sour ending to our journey. We were on a large plaza surrounding this tourist attraction. Seeing a lovely restaurant we decided to have lunch before leaving the area. We carefully moved the car to an area where there was nothing to indicate that parking was banned. And we avoided areas where signs that clearly indicated restriction to handicapped parking. Consider that we were on a plaza where tourists were clearly expected.
But after lunch we came out to find that our rental car had been booted.
Not knowing the language, and having no functioning cell phone, we had to rely on the folks at the restaurant to call the indicated number for us. The three minute wait we were promised became twenty minutes before the authorities came. We had to pay a fine of 32 lev (not a huge amount) but credit cards were rarely accepted in Bulgaria, and we had been spending down our levs, so Doug was sent off to an ATM machine while the boot cops went off to free someone else, returning after about fifteen minutes to accept the levs Doug had acquired.
In the meantime, folks passing by expressed sympathy, and I searched but found nothing that looked like a “No Parking” sign. It turns out we should just have known that, to park in Sophia, one has to text the police and buy a one or two hour permit. Hardly a possibility for tourists like us with our language and cell phone limitations. It was clear there was no eagerness to make tourists feel welcome.
Still, I’d happily return for another visit with our new awareness. And, at the hotel restaurant we were treated very kindly by the host who brought us tap water and veggies even though we had declined to order them. With a smile, he indicated he knew we were almost out of levs. (Remember, credit cards are generally not acceptable.)
And so ended our four-week European adventure,with fond memories of Bulgaria in spite of the sour note at the end.
I won’t even bore you with the problems with our flight home. Well, just a hint, we were scheduled to fly from Paris to Minneapolis on a flight number that didn’t exist. Actually, we were lucky to get one the same day. Delta did give us some flight miles, but the truth is it was the fault of the travel agency, not the airline. So, thank you Delta.
Back in my college days, it was a pretty common sight to see a classmate sitting by the mailbox hoping the mailman (sic) would allow her to retrieve the letter she wrote in haste and regretted sending. Today there’s an even greater danger of doing something in haste that will be regretted later. That’s what I thought of as I decided to enter the following on my Facebook page. 4giveletGrow.
“WAIT! Don’t take action when you are in the midst of shock and pain over the wrong you have suffered. One of our forgiveness class members pointed out yesterday that e-mail heightens the danger; it’s so easy to press “send.” Wait! Process and wait!”
Today on 4giveletGrow:
“We can blame somebody and refuse to forgive him. But we cannot forgive him if we dare not blame him.” Lewis B. Smedes, page 77 in the “Art of Forgiving,” (my favorite book after my own.)
Yesterday on 4giveletGrow:
Today’s 2:00 a.m. thought. After the hurt two things are needed: grieving and rebuilding/restructuring – and they probably shouldn’t be done in the same place.
This morning I finished giving a four-session course on forgiveness to a wonderful group of about 15 people. I’ll miss them, but I’ll carry the good fruits of our relationship for a long time. And I hope they will too.
I know. I should have shared Bulgaria long ago, but the tail I’ve been chasing continues to elude me.
I have returned to entering stuff on my Facebook page, though. Please go to Facebook and search on 4giveLetGrow.
These are the entries from yesterday and today.
11/12/13: Finishing up a forgiveness course this week with a group of amazing people. One thought of many to follow. Forget about “Forgive and Forget.” You won’t forget, unless you’re extremely good at denial or repression. But you can find relief from the pain.
11/13/13: Picking up the pieces after the offense. hurt, confusion, anger — what did happen? Not at all easy, but the first step is to pull together the facts. What? When? Details. Maybe why? Any stories to share?
I’ve been chasing my tail, but I did catch part of it.
To tell the truth, I had thought I’d take the challenge of writing a blog entry every day, but it just didn’t work out.
Most recently I’ve finished a project called “If Mona Dies.” Yes, I got that from my big brother who did just that in 1998. but his humor stays with me.
What’s that? Well, I’ve been pulling together into one folder all the stuff my family needs to know “if I die” or become incapacitated. I had no idea what I was getting into. My life is just not that complicated, but it would be if someone else had to straighten out the pieces.
Don’t be alarmed. This is not an announcement. I’m planning on hanging around for at least another 20 years, but I remember what a blessing it was when my mother died with everything taken care of. All we needed to do was give away most of her stuff to the nursing home and take home a few small mementos. (a clock and a small leather change purse.) The rest had all been spelled out in the appropriate legal documents. Time to bid goodbye without frazzlement. (I know that’s not a real word, but it says what I mean.)
I want things to be as close as possible to that simplicity.
And I am grateful that I have this problem. Just as my hot morning shower reminds me of people who are deprived of that opportunity, so this activity reminds me how fortunate I am to have a home and all the stuff that’s in it.
Other things have been going on too. I’ve been teaching a course on forgiveness to an absolutely wonderful group of people at Mt. Calvary Lutheran Church in Excelsior. I’m still working at finding a new publisher for “Mrs. Job” or whoever she might become. And I’m still gathering data needed to write “My Father’s House.”
Oh, and in between, real life goes on.
My request to you. Please forgive me for failing to follow through on blog events.