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Monday, April 23, 2018


Old Salem has got to rank toward the top of the many terrific places to visit in North Carolina. Old Salem offers a treasure trove of knowledge.   Its development as living history, a place where you can visit the original sites and see many of the original buildings recreated BASED ON ACTUAL RECORDS just makes you burst with conversation and questions—many of which can be answered by the knowledgeable docents and staff.

We lucked out. Got there on a beautiful Spring day just made for exploring.

Located in Winton-Salem, North Carolina, Old Salem is an historical district, a community founded in 1766 by Moravians, German-speaking Protestants whose church bought 100,000 acres and set up several separate religious communities.  Old Salem was established specifically as a Trade Community, and only Moravian tradespeople were allowed to live there.  Moravian farmers, for instance, might come to buy things, but they were not permitted to reside.  Non-Moravians could also come to do business, and if they needed to remain overnight, there was a tavern in which they could rent a room.  Moravians, other than the carefully vetted tavern keepers, were not permitted in the tavern although they were not teetotalers.  Facts like these REALLY pique our interest and raise many questions.

Visiting this craftsman’s village, today’s visitor is in for a lot of surprises and some very beautiful workmanship on display. There’s beauty in every building, inside and out..

From the informative Visitor Center, we crossed the covered bridge to the village, walking under the Moravian Star, a universally recognizable Advent symbol I’m sure most of us have seen even if we didn’t know its origin.   

The 110 point star probably originated as a geometry lesson
at a boys' school in Germany in the 1830s

At the other end of the covered bridge, we enter another world.  The docents are dressed in period costume as is the staff at the Salem Tavern where we have lunch.

Our visit begins at the Frank L. Horton Museum Center (where photography is encouraged), a significant collection of work not only by the craftspeople of Old Salem which is assembled in one gallery but also, in another gallery, a collection of work coming from seven other Southern states, exhibiting the beauty and skill of early American society.  Additionally, if one is intent on research, the center contains over 85,000 craftsman files and 20,000 object files.  The Moravians were organized and careful record keepers.  We spent a lot of time at the museum, talking to docents, asking questions and leaving the building with a lot to think about.

The Salem gallery is divided into sections by trade.  The names of the chief tradesmen or women are listed.  Meticulously kept records give this information.  The work was beautiful.  I'd like to share some of it with you.  It's merely a small sampling.  We spent quite a bit of time there.

Music plays a huge part in the lives of the community.
Music was part of the religious services.  There were brass bands, organs, other instruments and choirs.
Several of the finest organs were crafted by Moravians, and two pipe organs were in Salem.
Look at the beauty of this work
Intricate patterns on silverware, serving pieces, and decorative pieces. 
Weaving, sewing, all manner of needlework.
Not woodworking 101.
Wouldn't you love a secretary as beautiful as this one?

This watercolor and ink on paper dating to 1775 is one of very few pieces with a religious theme.
The leaves represent all the Moravian congregations around the world at that time.
They hang on branches of a grapevine nourished by Christ's blood.

Our first period stop was the reconstructed African Moravian Log Church from 1823 and its next door neighbor the original St. Philips African American Moravian Church from 1861 with an 1890 addition.  Nearby is the African American and Strangers' Graveyard (1772-1859.  Non-Moravians were known as Strangers in this closed community. 
African American Log Church

St. Philips African American Moravian Church
The history of African Americans among the Moravians is perplexing to me.  Both free and enslaved people lived with the Moravians, were addressed as “Brother” and “Sister” as the Moravians addressed each other, spoke German as the Moravians did, often were educated as the Moravians were, sometimes were baptized as Moravians, but still retained their positions as enslaved or hired.  

There was concern about slavery among the Moravians, so it was the Church that actually owned the slaves and then leased them to the tradesmen.  Yes, you read that right, and then, as the Moravian community began to absorb the racial prejudices of the South, they began to separate the races more and more by not worshipping together and by not being buried together, etc.  The docent in the Single Brothers House, however, said that black and white men shared rooms there but that as segregation laws from outside the community were enacted, the Moravians followed them and separated the black and white men.

Today, in reconstructing Old Salem as it stood in history, archeologists and researchers try to learn more about how the enslaved people were treated, for whom they labored, where they lived, and how they worshipped.  Throughout the town are signs about these people as well as written accounts by enslaved people of different eras in an effort to make the depiction honest and true history and to educate those who visit.  History is not being erased; it is being revealed and taught. 

Rob and I need to return to take the guided tour of both churches.  Unfortunately, they were closed for lunch, and we never got to see the interiors.  We thought we’d return later in the day, but we had no idea how comprehensive Old Salem is and how much there was to see and do.  We did become members and supporters of Old Salem, and we will be back.  One day is not enough to see it all.

We did get to tour the T. Vogler Gunsmith Shop, and this was quite an exciting experience.  We met Blake Stevenson, the Assistant Director of Historic Trades at Old Salem and the Manager of the Gunsmith shop.  He and another gunsmith were actually making guns there. 

Timothy Vogler Gunsmith Shop 1831

The craftsmanship is amazing.  Watching these men is being in the company of artists.
A new visual experience for me, I was awed by the workmanship.  The long rifles were works of art, and Mr. Stevenson showed me how he was able to bring the beauty of the wood to the surface.  When I saw the raw wood of the rifle’s stock, I thought he had created the marks, but that was part of the wood itself.  With the different oils and varnishes he applies, he is able to bring out the natural beauty of the wood. 

Look at the beauty of the wood
Mr. Stevenson point out how he will work with this wood to create the finished product

Mr. Stevenson shows us a work in progress.

It was also fascinating to hear Mr. Stevenson talk to the children who came in.  Their wonder and attention was marvelous to see, his explanations and questions mesmerizing his young audience.

In a separate room, we saw the forge and other tools used to create these and other metal objects for the community.

At least part of the amazement, once again, is that art is incorporated into all these objects.  There’s nothing rustic or back-woods about Old Salem.

Despite the fact that Old Salem existed as a closed, religious community, apparently there was enough of a problem with raucousness that this sign was pinned to a board in the gunshop.  Just a touch ironic, I’d say.

Read this and shake your head.
There must have been a lot of jollity in order for this to be put in place.

There’s so much to see that one day is not enough.  The place is fascinating, and each stop at a home, shop, or Moravian building gave us ideas to discuss and questions to ask.  We have yet to visit, for instance, Salem College, the oldest private college for women in this country, God’s Acre, the Moravian Cemetery where people were not buried with family, but according to the “choir” to which they belonged.  See, what I mean?  Still a lot of interesting questions to answer. 

More on Old Salem in Part II.

Thursday, April 19, 2018


This is a memorial in Budapest entitled
Shoes on the Danube Promenade
It is a monument in honor of the Hungarian Jews
who were shot on the banks of the Danube in the winter of 1944-45.
As you quietly walk along the promenade, you notice how other
visitors are silent.  It is striking and heart-wrenching
but a site one must visit.

Friday, April 13, 2018


Spring is beautiful anywhere, but
in Washington DC, there's
The Cherry Blossoms.

Unless you live nearby, It’s probably too late to get down to Washington, DC to see this year’s cherry blossoms in full bloom.  It’s a magnificent sight made even more memorable by the history of these Cherry Blossoms.  Encircling the Tidal Basin are pink blossoms so thick that visitors use them as backdrops to their photos.  If the day is calm, the trees and monuments reflect in the water, and you are surrounded by beauty.  It’s a wonderful experience.

The history of this special DC times begins in 1912 when the Mayor of Tokyo gifted the city of Washington DC with 3,000 cherry trees.  Imagine.  The gift was to signify the closeness between our two countries.  Despite some initial setbacks, then First Lady Helen Taft and the wife of the Japanese ambassador planted the first two trees at the north end of the Tidal Basin in West Potomac Park.  (

Every year when the cherry blossoms are in bloom, there is the Cherry Blossom Festival.  The festivities this year are over this weekend when the blossoms have reached their glorious peak.  I wish we could go back.

The tidal basin is always a must-see venue in Washington DC.  The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Monument, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Monument, and the Jefferson Memorial are all located there.  Within your sight is also the Washington Monument, and, if you know, you also see the Curtis-Lee Mansion, Arlington House, across the river at Arlington Cemetery.

The beautiful Washington Monument 

A bit too early for full bloom
but gorgeous and enticing anyway

We were in Washington, DC the last weekend in March and spent a good part of a beautiful day, March 31st, walking the 2.5 miles around the Tidal Basin, admiring the not-quite-at-their-peak beauty, revisiting some monuments and seeing another for the first time.  It was a calm day, and definitely not one where you want to be rushed.  Plenty of people but plenty of smiles.

We actually lucked out and found parking along the river, right across from Arlington National Cemetery.  In the distance we could see Arlington House, the Custis-Lee Mansion high up on the hill.  Kayakers were on the river as well as tour boats.  A perfect spring day.

That's Arlington House (Custis-Lee Mansion) high up on the hill.
Those tombstones on the side are part of Arlington National Cemetery.

Taking the path that first headed toward the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, we stopped so many times to take photographs—as did almost everyone else.  It is so beautiful.  People in paddleboats were out on the water, and around us were the sounds of many languages as visitors commented to each other.

The FDR Memorial consists of many structures.  Waterfalls.
Quotations that remind us of our duty to our country and of our country to
its citizens.
Each quotation gives one pause to stop and to think.

At the southern end of the FDR Memorial stands a gift, a pagoda dating back to the 1600s and weighing 3,800 pounds!  It, as the cherry trees, was a gift from Japan, from the Mayor of Yokohama, commemorating a peace treaty between our countries signed in 1854.  It has been in place since 1957. There's a sign giving The Pagoda's history as well as an explanation of  its symbolism.  

What I liked about it was its modest size set among the giant monuments yet demanding in a humble way, for visitors to stop, to read, and to think about the symbolism of the layers.  Apparently I was not the only one who felt this way, as I had to wait to get close to the sign.

Our next stop was the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial.  We'd never seen this monument before as the last time we were up at Cherry Blossom time, this monument had not been built.  

It is magnificent.  Strong, with Dr. King's quotations on the walls.  As I stood looking upward to gaze at his profile, the Washington Monument rose in the distance, and I was struck by the importance of this place, of the importance of both men in founding something for this country and then working tirelessly to make their dreams become reality.  

This area was as crowded with people as the FDR Memorial had been.  Both men were persuasive and important speakers who inspired citizens to get through the rough times and strive to make lives better for all.  The connections, if one knows American history, were phenomenal.

Continuing our walk past groups of tourists, food trucks, and even people posing for wedding pictures, we rounded our way along the Tidal Basin until we reached what I would say is the hallmark of the monuments--The Jefferson Memorial.  There it stands, looking over the water, a noble and mighty structure beautifully designed.  The pink of the cherry trees and the curve of the path accented the whiteness of the building.  

From some angles, a visitor can look across the water and see the figure of Jefferson, tall and stalwart, looking out over the land.  Impressive.  Awesome.

If you cannot make this year's Cherry Blossom Festival, plan ahead and see if you can get down to Washington DC next year.  You’re in for a big Spring treat.

Thursday, April 05, 2018


Rafting on the Snake River

Tauck Tours really knows how to arrange a grand finale, and that’s exactly what happened.  We stayed in the Jackson Lake Lodge in a beautiful room looking out over the flats to the Tetons.  The view was inspiring and magnificent.  We’d heard, however, that there is nothing compared to watching the sun come up.

I’m not a sunrise person.  But what choice did I have? This was my one chance, and I was not going to blow it!  We stood on the deck at the back of the hotel, coffee in hand, quietly waiting.

The sun, rising from the east, is behind us, not behind the Tetons which we face.  We cannot see the sun.  As it rises, it slowly sends its rays toward the mountains in front of us, gradually, hitting the peaks first, spreading downward, crossing the valley and eventually to where we stand, a slow, beautiful turning of the earth to coral and pink and then lighting the awakening world. 

At the beginning there is just the sun's pink coloring behind the mountains
As the sun ascends, the mountains capture the pinks and corals of day, and the light
spreads across the dark valley bringing color to it as well.
I’ve never seen anything so magnificent.  The experience makes us feel very happy to be up and alive and able to enjoy the glorious morning.

Not to be outdone, the Snake River offered up its view of the Tetons as we went rafting later the same morning.  Our guide told us stories, pointed out the importance of sights along the river, and answered a myriad of questions as we all tried to get answers before leaving for home.

Notice how those same peaks are always with us.  Just glorious.

The afternoon was ours to enjoy independently, and Rob and I took the Lunch Tree Hill Loop Trail beginning behind the Jackson Lake Lodge and rising up to a ridge overlooking the valley. 

The top became a favorite of John D. Rockefeller, Jr. who visited it in 1926.  The view is splendid.  The site serene

We're actually on a hilltop, high above the Lodge.  Magnificent.
Don't see views like this one in the East.

Interesting history.  Can you imagine being out here as a trapper?

Here's another view from the top of the trail.
You can see the roof of the Lodge off to the left.

That evening we had a farewell dinner for our small group, and we sang “Happy Trails to You” to our friends from Great Britain.  You remember the one who, as a boy, went to the Roy Rogers Riding Club every Saturday morning to watch the TV show.  It was a beautiful ending to this trip.

I add that we’ve booked another Tauck Tour—The Canadian Rockies and Glacier National Park. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2018


One last early morning look at Old Faithful
before we head out of Yellowstone
Traveling with Tauck Tours, this Legends of the American West adventure meant waking each morning with excited anticipation.  On this day, leaving Yellowstone National Park meant arriving at Grand Teton National Park.  We followed the Snake River, began to hear about the majestic mountains, and got an inkling of the vastness of the grasslands and the kinds of people who saw the ruggedness of Wyoming as a welcoming factor--enough to call it home.

Here's our first bit of amazement.

Imagine an imaginary line beginning in Alaska, running through western Canada, crossing the continental United States and continuing to Mexico.  That imaginary line is called the Continental Divide.  It’s not the halfway mark between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.  It’s the winding line separating the waters that flow into the Pacific Ocean from the waters that flow into the Atlantic Ocean. 

Incredible to think that such an imaginary line can exist, but that’s not all.

Where we crossed the Continental Divide in Wyoming is a lake named ISA LAKE. 

Don't try to work out the pronunciation.  It really Is A Lake.

How did Isa Lake get its name?  No one could decide if this body of water was a lake or a river, so someone finally stomped a foot and proclaimed it “IS A LAKE.”  (true story or legend of the old West?)

Lovely and Peaceful and Unusual
What is so special about Isa Lake?  It empties into both the Atlantic and the Pacific, and it does so BACKWARDS; that is the eastern part drains into the Pacific while the western section drains into the Atlantic.  You might want to read that sentence again and shake your head in wonder.  This is not a legend; this is true.

Our first stop in Grand Teton National Park is the Colter Bay Visitor Center, and there we have our first views of the majesty of the Tetons towering 7,000 feet above the valley floor.  Their massive presence, steel grey with spots of glacial ice, dwarfs the trees, grasslands, and lakes that lie below.  I am stunned by the magnificence of nature and of creation.  Surely this valley is one of the most beautiful places on earth. 

We also learned that the mountain have names,  Please remember these names for the next post I write because these peaks are with us throughout the rest of our trip.

Photos cannot begin to show the enormity of these peaks,
but this scene was with us for the rest of our journey.
It was nice to be on a name basis.
Later, when we talked about glaciers, it was easy to identify the different kinds on these mountains.

Next stop--Jackson Hole.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming earns it fame in many ways, but driving in to the city is quite an experience.  It doesn’t look like the typical town, and in the center, the square is anchored by arches made of elk antlers.  Beautiful.  If you’re worried about the source of these antlers, put that aside.  One thing Jackson Hole is famous for is its cold and its skiing.  It gets so cold in the Tetons that animals cannot survive, and the elk migrate down out of the mountains and come into the valley.  They do not have the natural coats of the buffalo.  In fact, there is a National Elk Refuge established in 1912 to offer a winter home to some of the largest elk herds in the country.  The refuge is home to approximately 7,000 elk each winter.  As bulls shed their antlers, a program began to allow Boy Scouts to collect and sell them at auction.  That is where the antlers for the arches originate. 

Beautiful.  Amazing.  Jackson Hole's unique signature.  Four arches entering the town's park.

Even in summer, Jackson Hole is a tourist’s dream.  Restaurants, art shops, mercantiles and western stores are everywhere, and it’s a great place to roam when you’re not out enjoying all that nature has to offer in the mountains, lakes, rivers, and in the valley. You might even spot some very famous people.  I did.

Interesting town.  Look at those magnificent ski runs up the mountains.

One of the great store, the Mercantile, with a moose out front.
We had lots of fun inside too, and emerged with some "souvenirs."

There really is an atmosphere of the untamed west.
Right in the middle of town--Lewis and Clark exploring the continent.

Who should I meet but Mark Twain and his young friends Huck  Finn and Becky Thatcher

Here's a chance to pose with those famous Ohioans
who flew for the first time in North Carolina
Wilbur and Orville Wright
It truly was a wonderful day, and I highly recommend visiting any of these places, any time of year.