We are grateful for the contribution of so many people to our journey. I told Christine of my intention to name those we met and those who have followed us. She replied, “How are you going to do that? You would have to name everyone on Facebook plus everyone who has subscribed to your posts!” Of course, she is right. I launched my “Thoughts” posts in February 2018 in anticipation of the start of our travels in March. As of this writing there have been over 16,000 visits to my posts. I really can’t select individual “followers” of our journey without risking offense to others who I inadvertently omit to recognize. I trust that you know who you are, and most of all I hope that you know that you are loved by us and that we know who you are. Thank you so very much for your replies, “likes”, comments, and even just silently staying with us.

For those who became a part of our journey, I want to recognize you individually and express our love and appreciation. It is likely that I will forget to mention someone. I apologize in advance for any omissions:

Beginning March 24th, we were guests for 3 days in Puerto Rico of hotelier Eddie Ramirez and his wife. It turned out that he had walked the Portuguese Camino in 2016. He arranged for us to receive Pilgrim Credentials issued by the Asociaciόn de Amigos del Camino de Santiago de Puerto Rico for our Camino. We were reminded by Eddie that, “In life there are no coincidences.

From March 27th to April 10th we sailed aboard the Viking Sea from Puerto Rico to Barcelona Spain. We met many wonderful travelers and we were wrapped in the luxury of a voyage at its most elegant. This would be in stark contrast to the rest of our journey. Aboard we enjoyed the services of an extraordinary professional staff and we were entertained by very talented young people.

Our needs were meticulously attended to by Augistino and Noni, who were our cabin stewards from Indonesia.

Among the shipboard travelers that we met were Mary and Gary Oesterle from near my hometown in Illinois. We greatly enjoyed their company and we look forward to continuing our friendship into the future.

We arrived in Barcelona on April 10th and during our 3 days in that wonderful city we connected with Neus Santacana and her family. Neus had spent time with us in the 1990’s as a high school exchange student. We met her in Spain during our 2013 Camino and we were thrilled to see her again.

On April 13th we were in Madrid for 3 days. We received a text message from Ron and Lena Meck asking where we were. We first met them during our 2017 journey in Alaska. It turned out that they were also in Madrid! It made for a wonderful chance reunion that I am sure will be repeated in the future, where is to be decided. “In life there are no coincidences!”

On April 16th we traveled by night train from Madrid to Lisbon. In the dining/bar car we met a wonderful young couple, artist Morgane Xenos and restaurateur Jerome Bollom. They had known each other since childhood and it was in adulthood that they discovered that they loved each other. We talked of life from both sides of the mirror, sharing laughter seasoned with wine and olives. Later we would rejoin them in Lisbon. They are special people. We suspect that we will meet again.

On April 19th we toured the Cathedral in Porto. The briefest encounter with two young University of Porto students, Mafalda Lemos and Rita Nogueira, proved to be one of the sweetest and most memorable of our journey. They thought that we were Canadian because we had such big smiles! They had taken our picture and were selling memory booklets at the Cathedral. Understanding that we could not carry the booklet in our backpacks they took it upon themselves to personally package and mail the book to us in the States. They have followed us on Facebook every day since. We hope that they will visit us some day in Kansas City. The world is in good hands with young people such as these!

Our 11 walking days on the Portuguese Camino began on April 20th. Each day included pleasant and memorable encounters with “Hospitaleros” (folks who provide accommodations), wait staff, merchants, and of course Perigrinos (Pilgrims walking the Camino). All contributed to our experience, but some are worthy of special mention.
April 20th was our first day on the Camino and with it came friendship with Kirsti Sergejeff and Sirkka Vikman, two Perigrinas from Finland. We would see them on occasion throughout the Camino.

There was Dortha, an expat from Poland now a citizen of the US residing in Maryland where she is employed as a scientist. Her Camino was cut short by very serious foot blisters that required medical attention. I regret that our last exchange of “Buen Camino!” was a parting without a real prospect for continued communication.

There was Jim, a respiratory therapist from Maine. Jim was tall… how tall was Jim? Tall enough that his feet always hung out over the end of the beds on the Camino. We encountered Jim throughout the Camino as he pursued his search for a bed that fit.

The walk on April 21st brought an encounter with a troop of Portuguese Scouts. These boys and girls ran to us offering a free meal for us to carry with us. They were thrilled to be with us in a picture that I would post the next day on my website.

April 23rd was the day more dear friendships were created. We met and shared dinner with Irène Lässig and her sister Manuela Joseph, women from Switzerland. We shared the Camino with them over the course of a few days and felt a bond that was out of proportion to the time spent together. Irène reflected that perhaps such friendships had their start in another life.

The four of us went to dinner that evening at a charming restaurant near our lodgings in Balugães Portugal.

The owner of the restaurant, Edwardo, projected a strong sense of admiration for me as I sat at table with 3 lovely ladies. He declared me his “Amigo!” and brought me a snifter of his best house brandy, thereafter holding court at our table in Spanish that Irène could thankfully translate.

That same day we met 3 gentlemen from Germany at our lodging. One of them, Sven Münster later befriended Christine while she waited alone for me in Ponte de Lima Portugal. She had gone forward by taxi still recovering from a migraine that resulted from choking on a large insect that decided to fly down her throat. Our path pleasantly intersected with Sven’s throughout the rest of our journey on the Camino.

April 27th was the day that we met more German pilgrims, lots of them! They became the voice of the Camino for me, albeit in German. I pressed my resources from high school German class to the point that I found myself dreaming in the language! There was physician Reiner Vogt and his wife Ina Massing who manages a firm specializing in prosthetic limbs. Faris Abu-Naaj is an internet expert who would later lead a group of people struggling with obesity on a Camino pilgrimage. Stanislaw Mowinski, a German citizen originally from Poland, would stay in touch with us and rejoin us for an afternoon in Berlin.

Then on that day there was Grzegorz Polakiewicz. “Greg” spoke no German, but what made his friendship with all of us remarkable is that he was walking his second Camino with one leg and assisted only by his two crutches. Discussions at table, interpreted by “Stanley” resulted in arrangements for him to travel to Germany where Ina and Reiner would arrange for him to receive a prosthetic leg. I would have called this encounter an amazing coincidence, but I am reminded, “In life there are no coincidences!”

On April 30th a random comment to us from a Canadian couple turned into a nonstop conversation that seemed to transport us across 10 kilometers in the blink of an eye. Tom Shillington and his wife Nanci Burns were our doppelgängers from Ottawa Canada. Each topic revealed a new thing or experience that we had in common. It was uncanny. It is a friendship that extended through the end of the Camino and that we hope will endure long thereafter! (Tom, please see my “PS” at the end of these Acknowledgements.)

I don’t play the guitar and I don’t speak or for that matter sing in Spanish. Yet on May 4th in Santiago we were watching an evening performance outside of the Cathedral by a very talented Mariachi band. As I was videoing the performance one of the guitarists gave me a sly look. A few minutes later he grabbed my smartphone and thrust his guitar into my hands. Overcome by the “moment” I began my one (and probably only) stint as a Mariachi band member. The guitarist continued to video, capturing my “moment” about 2 minutes into the video. Christine laughed so hard that she almost passed out.
This is a link to that most memorable performance.

Our walk on the Camino ended on May 3rd and we departed Spain, bound for Ireland on May 6th. May 8th and we arrived in Waterford Ireland for our pre-planned meeting with longtime friends from Wales United Kingdom, Huw and Nina Thomas. It had been 11 years since we last embraced but the bonds of friendship melted away the years that parted us. We spent the next 5 days on a wonderful tour of Ireland with these dear friends.

Upon parting with Huw and Nina we continued our wanderings through Ireland and Northern Ireland, departing for Scotland by ferry on May 18th. Our next memorable encounter was with a most remarkable family in Glasgow Scotland. It was there in a restaurant that I was approached at the bar by Garry Clifford, his oldest son Sean, and their friend John Curran. After a brief conversation they treated us to drinks… for the rest of the evening! Garry’s wife Kathleen, Sean’s wife Julie, and John’s wife Carol completed this impromptu gathering of Scotland hospitality at its best. Within 24 hours we were all Facebook friends and the 6 of them have since followed our journey. We look forward to the day that Garry and Sean may stop in Kansas City as they pursue their dream to cross the USA on Harley Davidsons. Of course, we hope to welcome the rest of this wonderful crew into the hospitality of our home!

On May 20th we traveled by train to Fort William in Scotland’s northwest Highlands. Our host in an Airbnb adjoining her home was Shana. I mention her because she graciously met us in the rain upon our arrival at the train station and drove us to her home. She did our laundry, twice! She prepared a traditional Scottish breakfast for us on the day of our departure together with sandwiches for later in the day. We met her mother and her son. Her hospitality made us feel that we were much more than boarders.

We were in Edinburgh on May 28th when we had a prearranged meeting for lunch with “Mickey” Ferguson, the granddaughter and daughter of longtime friends from the legal community in Kansas City. She and her boyfriend, Ben Wright, are students at the University of Edinburgh. Mickey is studying archeology and is looking forward to participation in excavations this summer. Both of these young folks impressed us as smart, talented, and very personable. I will say again that the world is in good hands if left with young people such as these!

In 2013 we walked the French route of the Camino de Santiago. In the course of that 820km pilgrimage we met many like-minded people and established a number of enduring friendships with folks from around the world. Among them was Jacobien Ubbink of the Netherlands. On May 29th Jacobien invited us as guests into her home near Amsterdam. We met her family and enjoyed her personal guidance through the sights of Amsterdam. We are grateful to have had the opportunity to spend time once again with this good lady.

We learned on May 31st that while we were touring the Rijksmuseum with Jacobien on the previous day another friend from the 2013 Camino, Henk Kaspers, was at the museum as well. It saddens us that we missed this opportunity to see this good man and his wife. This same missed opportunity occurred during our April 7th tour of the German Reichstag in Berlin. We learned the following day that another dear friend from the 2013 Camino, Gabi Pfauth, had been there that day.

During our 2013 Camino we met a pilgrim from Colorado, Kris Ashton. A friendship of such proportion developed that over the next 5 years she and Christine would refer to each other as “sisters”. That friendship expanded to Kris’ husband, Dennis Waite. We have since spent time with them in Colorado and as recently as this last February they were guests in our home. Kris and Dennis visited Fort William Scotland mere days after we were there. On May 30th, while hiking on the Isle of Skye, Dennis became the victim of a tragic accident, falling to his death from a trail. The loss of this friend and the devastating impact on his wife Kris profoundly directed our thoughts over the remaining course of our journey.

On June 4th a dear friend from my journey through adolescence passed away after a lengthy illness. Dean Ortinau welcomed me into my new high school as a mid-year freshman transfer. He was an established “native” of my new community and welcomed me as if we had been friends throughout childhood. Our adult friendship built upon those early roots.

In the passages of Dennis and Dean I am reminded that life is temporary, life is a lottery. Don’t put off until tomorrow the things that you may then find you are no longer able to do. They never did.

During a 1991 vacation in France we met an extraordinary young lady who was then 14 years old. We maintained contact with her and were thrilled to again see her over a quarter of a century later. On June 1st Bryony Ulyett greeted us as we exited our train from Amsterdam to Brussels Belgium. She gave us her weekend, accompanying us in our visits to both Brussels and Antwerp. Friendship is timeless.

During the 1995-96 school year we hosted an exchange student from Slovakia. Svetlana Rosinova went on marry Milan Rosina, make their home near Bratislava, and bring 2 darling children into the world. She also established herself as a psychologist treating troubled children. On June 4th she and her husband welcomed us as guests into their home. She still refers to us as “Mom and Dad” and we in turn feel great pride in the accomplishments of our Slovak daughter and her family. We look forward to the day that they may visit us in Kansas City.

On June 7th we arrived in Berlin Germany where we were greeted by our first high school exchange student “son”, André Lieber. André spent the 1992-93 school year in our home. He now works for the German Ministry of Finance and is fluent in 6 languages which include Japanese and Chinese. André met his Japanese wife Asuka while they were both studying Chinese in Beijing. They have established their home in Berlin where they are raising their 2 children who primarily speak Japanese to mom, German to dad, and are learning English. We remain “Mom” and “Dad” to André and will forever treasure the time that we spent with him and his family in Berlin.

On June 11th we exchanged a tearful farewell with André and his family in Berlin for a joyous 4-day reunion with our 1994-95 high school exchange student “daughter” Hege in Oslo, Norway. Hege remains as full of joy and childlike wonder as she did nearly 25 years ago. Moreover, in her husband Jan-Cato she has succeeded in finding a soulmate who has the same zest for life. She and her husband, together with their 3 children, have established their home 40 minutes outside of Oslo. They are both elementary school teachers and we are left with no doubt that they are held dear in the hearts of their students and co-workers. As I am writing this I am receiving text message updates from Hege regarding their travels on vacation in the United States. We eagerly look forward to their arrival in our home in just a few days.

I have left for my final recognition the most important person on this Journey. On June 19th, while traveling in Iceland, Christine and I celebrated 41 years of marriage. We have known each other for better and for worse, while richer and poorer, in sickness and in health. Through it all we continue to love and cherish each other as we once promised 41 years ago.

Upon his return to Ottawa Canada from the Camino and European Journey with his wife Nanci, my friend Tom Shillington sent me a message. He cautioned that returning home after such a journey is like rising to the surface from a deep-sea dive. One risks suffering “the bends” if one does not take time to “decompress”. I now reply: Tom, the time that I have spent recounting the people that we met and the friendships that we made is therapy. I highly recommend it my friend!

(One more time) Peace Everyone! Pete

Our non-stop flight from Iceland to Kansas City touched down in KC the evening of June 22nd. Three days later and I am still catching up on mail, bills, time with family, and reacquainting myself with the marvels of my own bed and shower. My backpack and assorted items from the journey remain piled on a chair in our bedroom, demanding my attention. Perhaps later today, but first these closing “Thoughts” from the journey.

March 5, 2017 was the day that I “met” Carmen. She was the telephone agent for Viking Ocean Cruises. We talked for almost an hour, first about the details of booking a transatlantic repositioning cruise that would take us from Puerto Rico to Barcelona Spain, and then about life and family. We became Facebook friends and Carmen has followed our wanderings ever since. April 11, 2017 was the day that we booked the cruise and thus took the first tangible steps in translating a dream into a reality.

Christine and I have mused about an extended trip abroad since the early days of our marriage. Contemplation became earnest with our retirements in 2015 and the structure of such a journey began to take form in our discussions. With the completion of our goal to camp in 49 States, 8 Canadian Provinces, and the Yukon Territory it became our “next thing”.

August 31, 2017, we purchased one-way travel aboard an Icelandair flight from Oslo Norway to Kansas City, with a one-week stopover in Iceland. This secured the bookends of our journey. We now knew the date of our departure from Kansas City to Puerto Rico, March 24, 2018, and the date of our return to Kansas City, June 22, 2018. On October 22, 2017 we purchased Eurail passes that would allow 60 days of open rail travel throughout most of Europe. Except booking accommodations for our arrivals in San Juan and Barcelona the pages of our storybook journey would remain mostly blank until we were actually on the road.

Friends provided us with insights into their own travel experiences. We listened, learned, and a plan developed. Neighbors Charlie and Mary, and my friend Hugh provided us with insight into Ireland. Moira and Gene lent us maps and advise on Scotland. Cal and Nancy shared their own plans for walking the Camino Portuguese. We would miss seeing them in Porto by only a couple of days. Kris and Dennis provided us with details from their own experience walking the Camino Portuguese and their plans to walk the Highlands of Scotland. We would miss seeing them in Port William Scotland by less than a week. We will now miss seeing Dennis ever again in this lifetime as he tragically perished on May 30th while hiking in those Highlands.

One can pour over maps, talk with friends, cruise the internet and thus come to understand and anticipate the places and things that will unfold in the course of a trip, a vacation, or a journey. However, trips and vacations are primarily about places. A journey is also about people. There are no resources to anticipate the chance interpersonal encounters of a journey. Preparation for those encounters is a matter predetermined by one’s own interpersonal skills. Like flowers on the tundra which must adjust their lifecycle to fit within an abbreviated growing season, a journey compresses the time within which relationships can form. Our journey was filled with new relationships and the brevity of the encounters did nothing to diminish the depth and richness of the experiences. In another post to follow I intend to acknowledge as many of those relationships as my memory will allow and to extend my gratitude and affection to those who allowed us into their lives and thus became a part of our life “story”. But first…

For as long as I can remember I have enjoyed watching people. I love to be invisible to those around me and become a part of the wallpaper of a place. I imagine what they see as they cast their eyes about. I wonder who they are, where they have been and where they are going. I look for answers to those questions in the clues of their dress, gate, and facial expressions. If their eyes should pass across me I wonder how I appear to them. I ask myself the question of what they see when they look into a mirror and if there is a disconnect with what I and others see when looking at them.

By the numbers we have been outside of the United States and “on the road” for 91 days, traveled nearly 22,000 miles/35,200 km (a distance that nearly equals the circumference of the Earth) through 16 countries, and visited as many capitals. We have been exposed to media within those countries and the opinions of those who we have encountered. As citizens of the United States we have been a magnet for the expression of those opinions. We have had the opportunity to watch our Nation from abroad through the eyes of others. As a temporary outsider I have found myself wondering what the United States sees when it casts its eyes around the world. As a temporary outsider I wondered about the United States, where has it been, and where it is going. I have looked for answers to those questions in what the United States projects on the world stage, in the consistency of its policies, the effectiveness of its institutions, its reliability as an international friend and partner to its allies. I have asked myself the question, “What do the people of the United States see when as a country they look in the mirror.” Is there a disconnect with what those outside the United States see when they look at us? Our journey gave me pause to ask these questions and then to answer them for myself. I invite similar reflections from you.

Peace Everyone. Pete

41 years ago today we were married. The extent of pre-nuptial counseling that I received was the minister’s pragmatic advice, “If it doesn’t work out then get a divorce.” It has worked out, but then we continue to work at it.

In the context of the last 87 days this has been a good day, but not exceptionally so. In any other context today would have been spectacular beginning with lambs bleating beneath our window.

We visited a museum dedicated to Iceland’s pre-modern turf homes. Unfortunately the museum was closed, but we were able to enjoy views of the exterior and gain a sense of those pioneer times.

There were waterfalls…

Tall waterfalls…

hidden waterfalls…

distant waterfalls…

and really big waterfalls.

We left the interior in favor of the south coast and the community of Vik. We will be here two nights and then return to Reykjavík on Thursday in anticipation of our Friday flight back to Kansas City. Our lodging in Vik is a well appointed satellite cottage adjoining an ultramodern hotel with a top notch bar and restaurant. There is even a half price “happy hour” where beers are discounted to $7.00 from the usual $14.00. One does eventually get over the “sticker shock”.

Those of my generation may recall a time in 1972 when the eyes of the world were focused upon two men and the chess board that separated them. The stage was Reykjavík Iceland and the players were Soviet Russia’s Boris Spassky and Bobby Fischer of the United States. The chess they played was at a level beyond the comprehension of all but a very few. The Cold War tensions seething in the workup to the match were palpable. It was not just white pieces vs black pieces but West vs East, Democracy vs Communism, Good vs Evil… National Pride on the world stage was at stake in a time that the United States still took pride in its reputation on the world stage. Bobby Fischer was our hero and he was victorious.

In 1975 Fischer forfeited his title and went into seclusion until 1992 when he and Boris Spassky played a rematch tournament in Belgrade Yugoslavia. The once heroic Fischer was declared a criminal by the United States, citing his participation in the match as a violation of an economic embargo that it had imposed upon Yugoslavia. The US issued a warrant for Fischer’s arrest and thereafter he remained a fugitive from the country that once adored him. He was eventually granted asylum and citizenship by Iceland where he lived until his death on January 17 2008 at the age of 64. He was buried in an obscure church cemetery surrounded by farmland just outside of the small town of Selfoss. It was there today that I found Bobby Fischer… “en passant”.

Peace Everyone. Pete

PS. We have gifted each other an upgrade to our flight on Friday from coach to first class. We have earned it.

Here are some additional pictures from the day:

After breakfast we asked a hotel staff person for some sightseeing suggestions. He gave us an itinerary of places less often visited by tourists.

Just down the road we visited the oldest hydroelectric plant on the River Sog. It was installed in 1937 and upgraded in 1944.

Next was the 6500 year old Kerio volcano cone and walked the circuit of its immense rim. It you look carefully at the top of the far side of the rim you can see some “specks” that are people. It will give some sense of the scale of the crater.

30 minutes down the road we visited a unique hydroponic tomato farm. A brief presentation and tour preceded a $23.00 bowl of tomato soup. It was worth it! This one farm harvests over 2,000 pounds a day, 365 days a year. They supply 20% of the islands tomato consumption. Their unique restaurant is situated within one of the working greenhouses. They do “everything tomato”, including cheesecake, and two different varieties of tomato infused beer!

Lunch concluded, we drove to the Fludir hot springs pool. The Blue Lagoon attracts throngs of tourists, so many that reservations are required. We were the beneficiaries of “local knowledge” that directed us instead to the oldest public bathing spring in Iceland. Hot water is hot water, and relaxation is much easier to achieve when one is not elbow to elbow with other bathers.

We visited another set of spectacular waterfalls that join at their base. Again, a careful examination of the images will give you an idea of the size of the falls.

Eye popping scenery continues to be commonplace. As beautiful as the pictures of the last two days have been, it is a tribute to the hand of Nature and not the photographer.

Tomorrow, June 19th, is special. In 1977 41 years seemed an unimaginably long time to me.. nearly twice as long as I had then lived. Today I look back on those 41 years with wonder at just how fast they have passed. We were married 41 years ago tomorrow. Much has changed, and much remains the same. We are a bit slower and a lot grayer. However, 41 years ago we embarked upon our life together with a 30 day honeymoon camping trip that covered 9 northwest States. It was Christine’s first camping trip and it was an epic journey for a young couple… Epic like the journey we are now concluding and epic like the marriage that we share.

Peace Everyone. Pete

This was our last full day in Norway. Christine and I have been guests in the home of Hege and Jan Cato Bjørnstad since the 11th. The home is located in Maura Norway, a pleasant community about 40 miles drive from downtown Oslo. The high speed train from nearby Gardermoen International Airport delivered the two of us into the center of Oslo in a mere 15 minutes.

Christine and I took advantage of the day for a bit of solo touring. The rain dampened but did not deter us from a bit of wandering. We visited the grounds of the Royal Palace, and the National History Museum.

We also enjoyed lunch under an awning near the National Theater.

We are steeling ourselves for the dining “sticker shock” that awaits us in Iceland. In the meantime, Norway isn’t far behind. Our lunch consisting of soup, sandwiches, and beverages for the two of us was over 700 Norwegian Krone, about $90.00. Prices outside of the central city are a bit lower.

The highlight of our visit was the National Gallery.

It was established in 1842, and has been housed in its current location since 1882. It is an art gallery of modest proportions, but what it lacks in size it more than makes up for in quality. The collection includes works by such international notables as El Greco, Monet, Cezanne, and Picasso. There are also many works by Norwegian masters such as Tidemand, Gude, and of course Munch. Here are some of my favorites:

An entire room was set aside for the works of Edvard Munch, including “The Scream”.

Valued by the Gallery as second only to The Scream is the famous 1848 collaboration work between landscape artist Hans Gude and Adolph Tidemand an artist of the Romantic Nationalism school. This painting, titled “Bridal Procession” attracted quite a crowd.

After our return to Maura we and the Bjørnstad family went out for dinner to celebrate Hege’s birthday. Following that we visited her parents and enjoyed a traditional Norwegian cake, the name of which appropriately translates to “World’s Best Cake”.

We depart tomorrow for a week in Iceland. This would be another sad parting for us except that the Bjørnstad family will be our guests in Kansas City in about 2weeks.

Peace Everyone. Pete

Before I launch into a description of this marvelous day I want to make an acknowledgement in a picture worth a thousand words. Our German “son” Andre’ and his wife Asuka are the proud parents of 11 year old daughter Helena and 4 year old son Moritz. During our time in Berlin I became especially close with the little boy. Perhaps it was because he spoke better German than me, or maybe it was my special talent making “fart” sounds with my hand to my mouth. In any case we shared a bond that is best explained in this picture.

It’s 9 days before my own bed, but who’s counting? (Spoiler alert: me.) As tempting as it is to focus on that future, today put those thoughts on hold.

When I was eleven I read “Kon-Tiki” by Thor Heyerdahl. Its 250 pages chronicled the 1947 voyage of Heyerdahl and his 5 man crew aboard a balsa log raft from Peru to Polynesia. The Norwegian adventurer sought to establish the possibility that such voyages could have populated the south seas islands. The voyage was a success, and in the process of its telling he populated the imagination of an 11 year old boy with visions of travel and adventure. 55 years later that little boy stood in Oslo, awestruck before Kon-Tiki and Heyerdahl’s later vessel, the Ra-2.

Norway has produced many of the world’s greatest navigators, adventurers, and shipwrights for more than 1,500 years. Heyerdahl was just the start for today. The Kon-Tiki Museum behind us, we walked less than 100 yards to the Fram Museum which housed not one but two of the word’s great vessels of early 20th Century polar exploration.

The smaller of the two vessels, Gjoa, measures 70 feet long by 20 feet on the beam. She was a stout ship capable of withstanding the crushing forces of the arctic ice pack. Her Norwegian captain, Roald Amundsen, and a crew of 6 were the first to successfully navigate the fabled Northwest Passage, completing the 3 year effort in 1906. They spent two winters icebound in the arctic but occupied their time engaged in serious scientific study and measurements.

The second and larger vessel, Fram, (127 feet long by 34 feet on the beam) is famed as the wood hulled sailing vessel to have sailed both the farthest north into the Arctic (86° north in 1896) and farthest south into the Antarctic (78° south in 1912).

Each of these ships have been magnificently restored and are exhibited with a wealth of information concerning polar exploration throughout the centuries.

Next, we were off to the Viking Ship Museum. The reputation of these 1st millennium Scandinavians for barbaric savagery has eclipsed their accomplishments as shipbuilders and navigators. Archeologists and Sociologists have established that Viking exploitation extended west to pre-Columbian North America, and as Far East and south as Russia and Turkey. They were as fearless sailing the oceans in their fragile appearing ships as they were in battle.

Their ships were anything but fragile. They were graceful, seaworthy, and at over 10 knots they were capable of twice the speed of the ponderous ships of “more civilized” people.

The Viking Ship Museum features 3 large excavated and restored vessels, together with smaller boats of the time. There are wonderfully preserved sledges, wagons, and carvings that cast an entirely different light on these explorers.

Finally, we drove to Oslo’s Frogner Park to see the work of another famous Norwegian “explorer”, sculptor Gustav Vigeland. He was an explorer of human relationships and emotions. Between 1924 and 1943 he sculpted in both bronze and stone 212 works which detail hundreds of human figures and are exhibited over 80 acres within the park.

The figures are mesmerizing in their depictions of human interactions.

Chief among these works is the appropriately named sculpture “Monolith”. It is a 46 foot tall single block of granite that depicts 121 seamlessly interwoven bodies… men, women, old, young, exhibiting the full spectrum of human emotion. This piece took 14 years to complete! It is surrounded by other larger than life figures arranged in tiers like spectators at an exhibition. It is no wonder that the Park attracts nearly 2 million visitors annually.

Peace Everyone. Pete

After a two hour flight from Berlin we landed at the ultra-modern airport located near Oslo. We were greeted there by Hege who was the third foreign exchange student that we hosted. She lived with us during the 1994–95 school year.

Hege, all 6’1” of her, remains as a bubbly and full of life today as she did 25 years ago. (Here is 25 years ago)

We will be guests of her family for the next four nights. This is Christine standing next to Hege and Jan’s 15 year old son!

She, her husband Jan, and their three children plan on visiting us in Missouri later this Summer. Every member of the family speaks fluent English, however the children seem to make fun of their father’s English which they consider to be less than perfect. We disagree!

Hege and Jan are both teachers in a nearby elementary school. They both have a pleasant lighthearted demeanor that must endear them to their students. Hege has explained that she is assigned a class in the first grade and then follows that class as their teacher for the next seven years. She becomes very close to the class members as if a member of their own families. I asked Hege if she ever had students that she found “challenging“. “Of course,” she replied, “it just means that I have to try harder.” I have no doubt that she does, and successfully.

Norway has approximately the same population but twice the land area (5.2 million and 149,000 sq miles) as the state of Missouri (6 million and 69,700 sq miles).

Norwegians enjoy one of the highest standards of living in the world, ranked sixth worldwide in per capita gross domestic product (USA is 11th), and 1st in the International Human Development Index (USA 10th) which seeks to quantify factors such as the delivery of healthcare, education, infrastructure, housing, nutrition, life expectancy, and personal freedoms. Our 30 minute drive from the airport to Hege’s home community visually confirmed these statistics.

We are approximately 400 miles from the Arctic Circle, the farthest north thus far on this journey. We are also nearing the summer solstice. Therefore, it was still “daylight” at 11 pm and it never did get totally dark. At 2 am the brightening skies forced me to get up and pull down the blinds.

Today is a “chill out“ day so we are doing laundry, catching up on a little reading, and I’m trying to figure out how to make my iPad “cooperate“ again. I am currently typing this on the annoyingly small screen of my iPhone. No pictures today, but I hope to remedy that tomorrow when we travel into Oslo to tour the sights that might include the Viking Museum and the Kon-Tiki Museum, dedicated to Thor Heyerdahl’s epic 1947 voyage from Peru to Polynesia on a pre-Columbian raft.

We have 10 nights to go before we are home in our own bed.

Peace Everyone! Pete

This was our last full day in Berlin. I am writing these “Thoughts” in the early morning hours of June 11th. There are 11 nights of this journey yet before us, 4 in Oslo Norway, and 7 in Iceland. Yesterday afternoon at a local cafe we met our friend from the recent Portuguese Camino, Stanislaw Mowinski, together with members of his family.

It was a wonderful reunion that integrated our recent friendship with “Stanley” and our decades long friendship with André.

Before that meeting we toured the Berlin Neues Museum. Built between 1843 and 1855, it is located on Berlin’s “Museum Island”. It was heavily damaged during World War 2. It’s restoration was finally completed in 2008. The museum houses a remarkable collection of prehistoric, early history, and ancient Egyptian artifacts. The iconic 3,350 year old bust of Nefertiti is the most treasured object on display.

Although photography was allowed throughout most of the museum, it was forbidden in the chambers that housed the bust and very ancient documents. Those documents included early Christian writings, 5,000 year old Egyptian papyri, and even a tablet from the 4,000 year old “Epic of Gilgamesh”, believed to be the world’s oldest surviving work of literature.

I was allowed to photograph the working models that were excavated from the workshop of the artist that sculpted Nefertiti. They appear incredibly modern in their form and detail, in spite of being over 3,500 years old!

The following image of the bust of Nefertiti is an internet image.

I was captivated by the extent and quality of the collection. Among the statues were 4,000 year old poses that conveyed the most natural of modern relationships.

Our tour ended and we adjourned to a nearby cafe and then on to André’s home where we rejoined his wife Asuka and daughter Helena. We enjoyed dinner with the family and then said our goodbyes.

A series of seemingly insignificant events brought André into our family. We all agree that those events altered the course of our lives, and continue to do so today.

As a gentleman said to us at the start of this journey, “In Life there are no coincidences.”

Peace Everyone. Pete

PS. My iPad has essentially shot craps. I have posted this note using my iPhone. Writing narrative, downloading pictures, transferring and then organizing the pictures on the website is very difficult with the small device. If I cannot get my iPad to behave then it is quite possible that this will be the last posting before we arrive home.

Here are some images from our day in Berlin:

By the way, this is the REAL Budwar “Budweiser” beer from the Czech Republic, not the Dutch owned “American King of Beers”.

Berlin is a city fettered to the tragedies of its 20th Century past. The people of this city could have easily turned their back on this past, or worse declared it to be “fake news”, but they recognize that ignorance of history merely perpetuates the malignancy of the past. This city lives the lesson taught in 1863 by Spanish philosopher George Santayana that, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” There are current world leaders who could benefit from that lesson.

The people of Berlin have taken the fetters of the 20th Century and made them into the jewelry of the 21st Century… their version of beating swords into plowshares. Take for example Herman Goehring’s Luftwaffe headquarters. When built in 1935 it was the largest government building in Europe. It was one of the few centers of Nazi government to survive the bombs of World War 2.

Today, it has been modernized into a clean and efficient center of finance. Facing it across the street is a large information display that declares its use under the Nazi and Communist regimes, and its proximity to the events surrounding the Berlin Wall.

The Reichstag, a focal point of government under the Third Reich, retains its classic exterior but the war destroyed interior has been replaced by an ultramodern interior. 20% of the cost of reconstruction was dedicated to art, much of it pertaining to the tragedy of the Nazi past. Among the displays was a 20 foot portion of the tunnel that played a part in the mysterious fire of 1933 that the Nazis used as a pretext to suspend many personal rights within the country.

Of course there is the 5 acre Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe,

and the outline of the Berlin Wall.

There is Checkpoint Charlie,

and the nearby “Mauermuseum” dedicated to the history of the infamous Berlin Wall and the spirit of those who sought to escape it.

The Brandenburg Gate, is adjoined by a Room of Silence, a place for silent contemplation of the past.

The “Palace of Tears” was once a border crossing between East and West Germany at the Friedrichstrasse Train Station. It is now a museum to that past and juxtaposes images and films produced by each side concerning events of the times.

Of course there is much more. My point is that the beauty of Berlin is not limited to its architecture. It extends to the soul of a people who are committed to remind themselves and the world that the 20th Century is a recent past and the bigotry, xenophobia, and State sanctioned criminality of that time may become the heritage of any country that ignores the lessons of that past.

Peace Everyone. Pete

PS. Our exchange student “son” Andre shared with us two large and well organized volumes of memorabilia from his yearlong stay with us in 1992-93. There were pictures, news clippings, and the other items common to such personal collections. It was great fun to be reminded of our own youth (40 at the time!) and forgotten family times.

One item held my attention. In 1992, 16 year old Japanese foreign exchange student Yoshi Hattori was shot to death in Baton Rouge Louisiana by Rodney Peairs. Yoshi was on his way to a party and went to the wrong house by mistake. The homeowner, Peairs, was acquitted upon his testimony that he thought the boy presented a threat to him. The tragedy and the outcome of the trial were addressed in a letter to the other exchange students. It is as relevant today as it was 25 years ago.

For more details on Yoshi’s death and the string of similar tragedies that followed here is a link: The Death of Yoshi Hattori

I am typing this in the early morning hours of June 8th. Before us are 13 more nights on the road and then home. In the meantime we continue to enjoy local cuisine, in this case real Vienna Schnitzel.

The June 7th night train from Vienna to Hannover with connection to Berlin did not depart until nearly 9 pm. We took that as an opportunity to spend the day wandering the cultural center of Vienna Austria, and what sights there were! Our 7 mile sojourn left us certain that we would return some day to see the treasures contained within the monumental structures that we passed. The 12th Century St. Stephen’s Cathedral was the only building that we entered, and there we ascended one of the towers for an overview of the central city an to see the “Plummerin” (bell) which weighs nearly 50,000 pounds and is the third largest swinging bell in Europe. I apologize for not including information about the buildings in the following pictures. We felt like ants wandering in a land of giants. Perhaps details will come with a future visit.

We were in Ireland when I made arrangements for the night trains. This was the one part of our journey that I wish I could have planned earlier. I secured the last available first class cabin for out inbound transit to Vienna but only a second class sleeper was available for the outbound. The difference is significant. Unlike the privacy and amenities we enjoyed in our 2 person first class cabin, the second class “couchette” is a cabin for 6 passengers with the beds arranged 3 high across from each other. I and one of the other passengers ascended to our top bunks by a narrow metal ladder and had to be careful not to sit up quickly lest we bang our heads on the ceiling. The cabin was warm but tolerable down below, however near the ceiling it was 10 degrees hotter. In deference to the privacy of the other 5 passengers I took only a few pictures looking out on the countryside from our carriage.

André Lieber was our first foreign exchange student. He was a part of our family for the 1992-93 school year. He still calls us Dad and Mom. André met his wife Asuka as students studying Chinese in Beijing 18 years ago. She was a Japanese national. Among the languages they spoke they held only English and Chinese in common. They have since also learned each other’s native tongues. They and their two darling children live in Berlin where André is employed by the Ministry of Finance and Asuka by a private corporation. The children are bilingual in German and Japanese, also now learning English. Theirs is truly a world family!

André met us at the train and we immediately began a tour of Berlin. He was able to arrange a rare private tour for us of the Reichstag, Germany’s center of government. The Bundestag was in session so our tour did not include the actual parliamentary chamber.

The Reichstag was severally damaged during World War 2. This rebuilt structure is ultramodern but retains much of its historical facade. Atop of the Reichstag is a huge glass dome containing double-helix ramp-ways to ascent and descend the top of the dome.

We saw much in our overview walking tour with André. I will end this note with our moving visit to the 2003 Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. It consists of a grid work of 2,711 slabs covering nearly 5 acres. Beneath the field of “stelae” is a museum that somberly details the stories of the 7 million victims of Nazi genocide between 1933 and 1945. In one room brief recorded biographies of the dead are read aloud in German and English 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. These biographies are being compiled in Israel and it is estimated that the current collection will take over 7 years to read aloud.

Our day concluded with registration at our comfortable hotel, and a 2 minute walk to André and Asuka’s apartment where we enjoyed dinner with the family.

Peace Everyone. Pete