The Year in Pictures

As the year is winding down, I am sharing a few more photos. They either show favorite places, or activities, and have not made it into my previous posts. I am trying to embrace the motto expressed on a historic clock in downtown Colorado Springs: Dum Vivimus Vivamus. While we live, let us live.

I hope you had a good 2016, and I wish you happiness, good health, and peace for the coming twelve months.

JANUARY

Snow Mountain Ranch, YMCA of the Rockies, near Granby, Colorado. Our preferred destination for Nordic Skiing.

Snow Mountain Ranch, YMCA of the Rockies, near Granby, Colorado. Our preferred destination for Nordic Skiing.

My favorite view in Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs, Colorado. January often does not have snow along the Front Range

My favorite view in Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs, Colorado. January is often snowless along the Front Range.

FEBRUARY

Snowshoeing at Mueller State Park, Colorado, with view of the Western Mountains.

Snowshoeing at Mueller State Park, Colorado, with view of the Western Mountains.

Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum, one of my favorite places.

Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum.

MARCH

Pasque Flowers, some of the earliest spring flowers along the Front Range.

Pasque Flowers, some of the earliest bloomers in Colorado’s foothills.

Heavy spring snow along Colorado's Front Range. I wonder how the Pasque Flowers fared.

Heavy spring snow along Colorado’s Front Range. I wonder how the Pasque Flowers fared. And I hope the birds will find enough to eat.

APRIL

Blooming crabapple tree and Barker House, Manitou Springs, Colorado.

Blooming white crabapple tree and Barker House, Manitou Springs, Colorado.

Blooming crabapple tree at Evergreen Cemetery, with view of Pikes Peak, Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Blooming pink crabapple tree at Evergreen Cemetery, with view of Pikes Peak, Colorado Springs, Colorado.

MAY

Yellow Warbler. By virtue of its location at the border of the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains, springtime is a haven for migratory birds in Colorado Springs.

Yellow Warbler. By virtue of its location at the border of the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains, the Front Range is a haven for migratory birds in springtime.

Spring brings new generations of Cottontail Rabbits into our neighborhood.

Spring brings new generations of Cottontail Rabbits into our neighborhood.

JUNE

Manitou Lake with view of North Face of Pikes Peak. Teller County, Colorado. The snow has not been gone long at this elevation.

Manitou Lake with view of North Face of Pikes Peak, Teller County, Colorado. The snow has not been gone long at this elevation (7,700 feet).

Heron rookery near Manitou Lake.

Great Blue Heron at Heron rookery near Manitou Lake.

JULY

Colorado Blue Columbine (Aquilegia caerulea), our state flower. June through August are best for viewing wildflowers in the mountains.

Colorado Blue Columbine (Aquilegia caerulea), our state flower. June through August are best for viewing wildflowers in the mountains.

Mariposa Lily (Calochortus gunnisonii).

Mariposa Lily (Calochortus gunnisonii).

AUGUST

View of the Front Range during a typical afternoon thunderstorm from the plains that abut Colorado Springs.

View of the Front Range during a typical afternoon thunderstorm from the plains east of Colorado Springs.

Clark's Nutcracker in an aspen tree in the mountains of Colorado.

Clark’s Nutcracker in an aspen tree in the mountains of Colorado.

SEPTEMBER

Fortuitous photo-op during sun- and birdrise.

Fortuitous photo-op during sun- and birdrise.

Black-tailed Prairie Dog. This iconic rodent of the Great Plains often is the victim of development.

Black-tailed Prairie Dog. This iconic rodent of the Great Plains often is the victim of development.

OCTOBER

City Hall, Auxerre, France. I visited my best friend and her family.

City Hall, Auxerre, France. During my trip to Europe, I visited my best friend and her family.

Auxerre is situated along the picturesque Yonne River.

Auxerre is situated along the picturesque Yonne River.

NOVEMBER

Landscape of my childhood. Rhine River with fall colors, Germany.

Landscape of my childhood. Rhine River with fall colors, Germany.

More fall impressions from my dad's hometown in Germany.

More fall impressions from my dad’s hometown in Germany.

DECEMBER

Frosty view of Pikes Peak from the deck at Fountain Creek Nature Center, south of Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Frosty view of Pikes Peak from the deck at Fountain Creek Nature Center, south of Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Virginia Rail near Fountain Creek Nature Center.

Virginia Rail in Fountain Creek Regional Park.

Click here for the German version/klicken Sie bitte hier für die deutsche Version:

https://tanjaschimmel.wordpress.com/2016/12/28/das-jahr-in-photos/

Happy Holidays

The month of December seems to magnify the distance between my current home in America and my childhood stomping grounds in Germany, but whenever I am overcome by wistfulness, carrying on some of my childhood customs is a comfort, and intertwining traditions from my two worlds an enrichment.

Our festive holiday season in Colorado typically commences with the flickering of the first of four advent candles. In Germany, we used to have advent wreaths, braided from coniferous boughs, with tall wax columns, but ever since my best friend from France presented me with a brass version, we burn votive or tea lights, which gives my husband occasion to rekindle his skills as candle maker. The stellar shape sits on a doily fashioned by my mother many years ago, and I console myself with the thought that she would be pleased with the knowledge that we cherish it, while we remember and miss her.

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The daily surprise hiding behind a door of the advent calendar between December 1 and 24 has always been one of my favorites, usually because it involved chocolate. Lately I have preferred the chocolateless variety, and look forward to being greeted by a sweet critter from behind each flap, instead of the stale Easter-bunny-turned-into-advent-calendar-morsel of cacao.

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December 6 used to be anticipated with some trepidation. It is the day Sankt Nikolaus makes his rounds with his assistant, Knecht Ruprecht, with a sack of goodies for the good kids over his shoulder, a switch for the bad ones in his hand. Even though I usually deserved the latter, somehow my parents always put in a good word for me, and I escaped a spanking. Nowadays, next to fruits and nuts, I get to enjoy my mother-in-law’s scrumptious sandies and date bars.

I no longer have to wait until December 24 for our Christmas tree, as was our wont in Germany. Many American families decorate theirs on or shortly after Thanksgiving, but we tend to acquire and adorn ours a week or two before Christmas, and keep it until January 6, known as Epiphany. On that day, in many countries, children dressed up as the 3 Kings, Wise Men, or Magi parade through the streets, collect donations for a good cause, and conduct a blessing of the house and its inhabitants, by writing the initials of their names (Caspar, Melchior, Balthazar) on the lintel above the entrance, together with the year (e. g. 20+C+M+B+17).

In recent years, the procurement of our own tree starts with a visit to the local National Forest Office in Colorado Springs to purchase a $10 cutting permit, followed by the one-hour drive west on Highway 24 to the Pike National Forest outside of Woodland Park which offers sweeping views of the north face of Pikes Peak.

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Within the designated cutting area we park and peruse the perimeter of our chosen circle for Ponderosa, Lodgepole, or Limber pines, Engelmann spruce, or Douglas fir. It’s a win-win situation: we get to select our own affordable arbor and help the Forest Service thin out the sylvan growth, thereby lowering fire risk, a constant threat in the drought-stricken West.

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We are only allowed to take trunks measuring up to 6 inches and it helps not to expect symmetry. Despite the theoretical benefits, severing a healthy stem from its roots always creates pangs of conscience which we allay by thanking our chosen tree for its involuntary sacrifice. After we carry it back to the car and trim enough branches to make it fit, we chauffeur it home, with the radio tuned to the Christmas music station. My repertoire of seasonal songs has definitely become more sophisticated. How I ever lived without hearing the Chipmunks sing Jingle Bells is a mystery to me.

Long ago I gave up any hope of a color-coordinated conifer. The storage box from the basement disgorges an eclectic collection: primeval baubles from my husband’s grandmother, antediluvian globes accumulated over the course of decades by his parents, and hand-made ornaments from his elementary school days, and each piece continues to be honored. At least I was allowed to replace tinsel with straw stars and painted wooden figures. Fire danger finally convinced my husband to replace the ancient light string, even though a battered star from a different epoch still crowns the arboreal pyramid each year. The possibility of fire also rules out open flames on the tree, a favorite practice in Germany. Instead, paraffin in a variety of shades and shapes and sizes is spread throughout the rooms and provides a festive glow during this, the darkest month of the year, thanks to the candle creator in the family.

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As every child in Germany knows, the Christkind brings presents on Christmas Eve. Here, I have to show patience because Santa Claus, who takes over the job, makes everybody wait until Christmas Day, on account of his traveling on a reindeer-pulled sleigh, and the expectation that he savor cookies and milk at every chimney stop. To be fair, he has never overlooked me, and delayed gratification is probably a valuable lesson for me.

Whatever my faith, or lack thereof, my fondness for the holiday traditions endures. Whether we celebrate Winter Solstice, Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa, may our beliefs and rituals fill us with joy, and all of us with Peace on Earth!

Click here for the German version/klicken Sie bitte hier für die deutsche Version:

https://tanjaschimmel.wordpress.com/2016/12/21/frohe-feiertage/

Rock Ledge Ranch

Today I will add to the lore about General William Jackson Palmer, the founder of Colorado Springs. Based on numerous testimonies, he was a generous man. Only a few years after his marriage to Mary Lincoln “Queen” Mellen, his father-in-law died. Mr. Mellen had married Queen’s aunt, following the premature death of her mother when the girl was only four, which resulted in the gradual addition of seven half-siblings to Queen’s kin. After the patriarch’s passing, the General basically adopted the extended Mellen Clan, and they moved in at the Palmers’ home at Glen Eyrie for a period of time. William Palmer supported his relatives, even after most decided to live in England, and he continued to do so after Queen’s early demise at age 44.

Orchard House, frontal view

Orchard House, frontal view

During a stroll through Rock Ledge Ranch, adjacent to gorgeous Garden of the Gods, the stately Orchard House reminded me of the convoluted Palmer-Mellen family saga, and of the General’s character. He had purchased Rock Ledge Ranch, a former homestead, circa 1900 from the Chambers family. After one of Queen’s half-sisters, Charlotte (Lottie), went through a scandalous divorce and remarriage to the noted British zoologist William Lutley Sclater, the couple established residence in Cape Town, where he became curator at the South African Museum, until his resignation in 1906 when he and Lottie accepted the General’s invitation to relocate to Colorado Springs. Not content with securing his relation a teaching position at Colorado College, Palmer commissioned noted local architect, Thomas MacLaren, to build the pair their own domicile, Orchard House, in the Cape Dutch style of their former dwelling near the Cape of Good Hope — kindness and thoughtfulness taken to a high level.

Orchard House, back view

Orchard House, back view

The Sclaters’ time in the shadow of Pikes Peak coincided with General Palmer’s final chapters of life, following his horse-riding accident and ensuing near-quadriplegia. This did not prevent him from leading a vibrant life and Lottie was a great help and comfort to him for over two-and-a-half years, until his death in 1909, when the Sclaters returned to England.

Chambers House

Chambers House

Opportunities to explore Rock Ledge Ranch, now a living history farm and museum, abound. Multiple festivals throughout the year afford entrance into the former occupants’ residences, and glimpses into their lives. Mr. Sclater was an impassioned ornithologist. Because I share his fascination with feathered friends, an earlier visit to his office, and his collection of stuffed birds, left a lasting impression. At that point, I was not aware of his renowned two volume A History of the Birds of Colorado, published after he left the state. I would like to take a look at it, and an occasion will present itself soon. What I do recall are the delicious aroma and taste of Christmas cookies baked and served in the kitchen of the Orchard House during my last tour. As it happens, the annual holiday celebration will take place this coming Saturday, December 17, 2016, from 4 till 8 PM. For further details, please follow the link to the website here.

Click here for the German version/klicken Sie bitte hier für die deutsche Version:

https://tanjaschimmel.wordpress.com/2016/12/15/rock-ledge-ranch/

A Day in Speyer

For the first time in decades, while in Germany a month ago, I spend a day in Speyer, an easy one hour train ride from my father’s house. Only vague recollections of a former visit persisted in my memory, but as soon as I arrive at the Main City Gate (Altpörtel in German, literally: old portal), they are refreshed.

Altpörtel

Altpörtel

The prospect before my eyes must be one of Rhineland-Palatinate’s, if not of Germany’s, most iconic. This medieval gate with foundations reaching back to the 13th century, opens onto an ample avenue, named Maximilianstraße, the main west-east artery.

Maximilianstraße with Cathedral

Maximilianstraße with Cathedral

It is bordered by an amalgamation of age-old and modern buildings and culminates in the heart of this city, which is also one of Central Europe’s most awe-inspiring edifices: The Imperial Cathedral of Speyer. This exemplifies one of three sacred structures in the state built in the Romanesque style, alongside Worms and Mainz. Among those it is the tallest, most spacious, and, in my humble opinion, most beautifully colored. Its polychrome sandstone hues offer a warm welcome, even when it’s raining cats and dogs, as is the case when I am there.

Imperial Cathedral

Imperial Cathedral

Romanesque architecture reached its acme in the 11th century and is characterized by semi-circular arches, as opposed to the pointed equivalents of the Gothic design which followed it. To me, the former appear more massive and create a down-to-earth feeling, compared with the soaring sensation engendered by the latter. Indeed, upon entering through the heavy bronze door of this colossus nearly a thousand years old, I feel dwarfed and awe-struck, an effect most likely intended by the builders.

Choir and apse of Cathedral

Choir and Apse of Cathedral

After my steps and gaze travel through the towering central nave, choir and apse, I descend the stone stairs into the crypt whose geometry and dimensions wow me no less. The sheer size of this subterranean space also sets it apart from the cathedrals of Worms and Mainz. What all three have in common are hefty stone tombs in which the remains of former secular and spiritual rulers rest for eternity.

Crypta

Crypta

One of the chapels is dedicated to relics, body parts of saints, a custom as alien to my understanding as it is intriguing.

Relic of Saint Paul Josef Nardini

Relic of Saint Paul Josef Nardini (1821-1862)

I would linger longer at this church if the Emperor’s Hall with its famous frescoes, and the observation platform in one of the towers were not closed for the winter season. I am not alone in my admiration: In 1981, the cathedral was added to the illustrious list of UNESCO’s World Cultural Heritage Sites.

In close proximity to the main thoroughfare, additional destinations abound. I direct my steps past churches from more recent centuries, as well as memorials to prominent citizens. One of them, hitherto unknown to me, was Sophie la Roche (1730-1807), a woman writer who achieved fame in the 1700s. Her novel, Geschichte des Fräuleins von Sternheim, catapulted her out of oblivion, and into the limelight of the German literary stage. She founded the first German women’s magazine, Pomona: For Germany’s Daughters, and had significant interactions with and influence on the likes of Wieland, Klopstock, Goethe and Schiller. How I had never heard of her I do not know, but I am currently remedying my ignorance by reading her biography.

Sophie La Roche's Former Residence and Museum

Sophie La Roche’s Former Residence and Museum

Speyer, Worms, and Mainz represented major centers of Jewish learning and culture in the Middle Ages. They were known as ShUM cities, an acronym derived from the initial Hebrew letters of their medieval names, Shpira, Warmaisa, and Magenza. All three suffered similarly in the wake of the Anti-Semitism that ebbed and surged throughout the ages, which resulted in the repeated destruction of residences and places of worship.

Mosaic of Medieval Speyer at the Museum

Mosaic of Medieval Speyer at the Jewish Museum

The Judenhof (Jewish Courtyard) commemorates the horrendous history of the local Jewish residents with a museum, the ruins of the erstwhile synagogue, and the oldest ritual bath north of the Alps. The synagogue was completed in 1104 and served the Jewish community for nearly 400 years, until one of many waves of banishment.

Ruins of Synagogue

Ruins of Medieval Synagogue

The structure was then repurposed by the town fathers. Except for surviving portions of the walls, it was destroyed in the Palatinate War of Succession in 1689 which wreaked havoc on vast expanses of this state. The ritual bath (mikvah in Hebrew) dates to 1120. Its second use as municipal arsenal after 1500 protected it from hostile interventions, and its underground position from the conflagration of 1689.

Mikvah

Mikvah

Successors to the medieval synagogue were destroyed by the pogroms of November 1938, known as the Night of the Broken Glass. Since 2012, Speyer has a new Jewish religious home, a hopeful symbol of acceptance and peaceful coexistence. Because of their legacy, the three sister cities are being considered for world heritage status by UNESCO, and a decision is expected in 2021.

New Synagogue

New Synagogue

I regret that the fading hours of the day put an end to my exploration. The verdant park surrounding the cathedral which links it to the promenade along the nearby Rhine River, the Historic Museum of the Palatinate, and further alluring sites will have to wait for a future trip.

Click here for the German version/klicken Sie bitte hier für die deutsche Version:

https://tanjaschimmel.wordpress.com/2016/12/08/ein-tag-in-speyer/

Time Travel

     Colorado is known for its outstanding natural beauty and wildlife, but it is also nearly impossible to wander anywhere without stumbling across historic relics. Castlewood Canyon State Park is among our favorite destinations which afford glimpses through the window of time, and insights into the lives of those who left their tracks on this landscape. Located about 40 miles north of Colorado Springs, it occupies 2300 acres of rugged rocky ravines and prairie habitat, and straddles the meandering early course of Cherry Creek which eventually joins the South Platte River in Denver, at present day Confluence Park.

Cherry Creek at Castlewood Canyon State Park.

Cherry Creek at Castlewood Canyon State Park.

     During a visit a few months back, one of the many hiking trails led us to the ruins of the Lucas Homestead whose appearance took us somewhat by surprise. We expected a toppled log cabin, or an old foundation, but faced instead the residual walls of a concrete, church-like structure.

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Former Lucas Home

Its occupants, Margaret and Patrick Lucas, probably perpetuated the architectural style of their native Ireland in their adopted country. They homesteaded 160 acres in what is now the northern fringe of the park, from 1894 until 1941, when Margaret moved away to Denver, six years after her husband’s death. A path connects their former residence to remnants of buildings indispensable for their self-sufficient lifestyle, such as the spring house covering their well, used to refrigerate perishable food, and dairy products from their cows. I was most touched by a surviving apple orchard whose gnarly trees continue to bear fruit more than a century after the Lucas’ planted them. In my mind’s eye I saw Margaret collect, wash, and slice ripe green globes, like the ones on the branches in front of my eyes, before baking apple pie for her husband and their ten children, the mouth-watering aroma wafting through the open door, beckoning hungry mouths to the kitchen, most likely the favorite room in their dwelling.

     We were relieved to learn that their family survived a major catastrophe that befell the area in 1933. In 1890, Cherry Creek had been dammed, in order to entice settlers with the assurance of a reliable water supply for irrigation. According to all accounts, the construction leaked from its inception, and despite multiple repairs was never completely watertight. After decades of concerns about the dam’s safety, and repeated appeasements by engineers, the naysayers were, unfortunately, proven right. When it rained for three consecutive days in early August 1933, the walls gave way, and 1.7 billion gallons of water and debris poured out of the breach at 1:20 at night. By seven in the morning, it reached downtown Denver, over 30 miles away, where it wreaked havoc: inundating buildings, washing out roads and bridges, and burying the floors of Union Station under two feet of mud.

Historic photograph showing the flooding in Denver

Historic photograph showing the flooding in Denver

Thanks to rapid responses by the dam keeper and the telephone operator, a warning about the impending flood alerted communities downstream, so that “only” two people perished. The Lucas house, less than a mile below the dam, was elevated enough to remain unscathed, even though some of their land and livestock might have suffered, because numerous wild and domestic animals lost their lives. To this day, the ruins of the dam and the scoured walls lining the creek bed serve as sobering reminders of that calamitous incident.

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Remains of Cherry Creek Dam. The field behind it would have been flooded when it was in place.

     We are spoiled with a wide variety of outdoor attractions along Colorado’s Front Range, but Castlewood Canyon State Park holds a special place in our hearts, always rewarding us with a fascinating visit.

Click here for the German Version/klicken Sie bitte hier für die deutsche Version:

https://tanjaschimmel.wordpress.com/2016/12/02/reise-in-die-vergangenheit/