"" Writer's Wanderings

Friday, January 18, 2019

Books For The Road--The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

While standing in an airport gift shop waiting for my husband to pay for a bottle of water, I perused the book shelf. The Tattooist Of Auschwitz by Heather Morris caught my eye. Ever since studying the rise of Hitler and the Holocaust in a college history class I have been intrigued with that era and the amazing stories of survival. This book is a novel but it is based on a true life story of a fellow named Lale who became a tattooist at Auschwitz and survived to tell his story.

When I began reading the book, I didn't realize it was based on a true story. I just thought the author was telling the story from the imagined viewpoint of Lale and the girl he meets in camp, Gita. Here is the tease for the book:

In April 1942, Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, is forcibly transported to the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau. When his captors discover that he speaks several languages, he is put to work as a T├Ątowierer (the German word for tattooist), tasked with permanently marking his fellow prisoners.
Imprisoned for over two and a half years, Lale witnesses horrific atrocities and barbarism—but also incredible acts of bravery and compassion. Risking his own life, he uses his privileged position to exchange jewels and money from murdered Jews for food to keep his fellow prisoners alive.
One day in July 1942, Lale, prisoner 32407, comforts a trembling young woman waiting in line to have the number 34902 tattooed onto her arm. Her name is Gita, and in that first encounter, Lale vows to somehow survive the camp and marry her.
Along the story line there is a short time Lale is moved to Mauthausen in Austria, a labor camp that we visited when we did a river cruise and Bratislava, Slovakia, visited on that same cruise, was the home of Gita.  
The story is amazing as are so many stories of survival. The unique perspective of one who had to tattoo the arms of the incoming prisoners made it quite interesting. It may be a little heavy reading for some for a vacation. It's not a totally feel good book but it does end well and it is made even more interesting when you read the son's account of his parents and the research and interviews that brought the story together for the novel. 

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Ohio's Castle

Palaces and Castles abound abroad in Europe and Russia and many other countries. In America many of our large mansions could probably qualify as being labeled palaces or castles. One in particular just outside Cincinnati, OH, in Loveland was built as an actual castle by a man named Harry Delos Andrews.

Andrews was a World War I veteran who enlisted in the service as a medic because he did not like the weapons of "modern day" warfare. He would rather the war be fought on a more personal level as in the medieval days of knights with sword to sword combat.

After a long bout with meningitis and a failed engagement to be married, he became active with the scouts. His troop began camping out on some land that was donated and when the tents and equipment his troop had established on the land was lost to weather and vandals, he decided his troop needed some "stone tents." He built two structures on the land from stone.

Troops in the day were given names like bears, lions, etc. Andrews troop was known as the Knights of the Golden Trail in keeping with his love of medieval lore. Eventually Andrews decided to build a caste for his knights and the Lovelenad Castle came to be in the 1920s.

Today the castle is still guarded by the Knights of the Golden Trail. Scout troops are allowed to book a stay overnight at the castle and there are tours of the castle and its gardens for the public. Check out the details at the Loveland Castle site.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Breakfast Included--What Does That Really Mean?

One of the reasons we frequent the Hampton Inns is because when they say "breakfast included" we have a pretty good idea of what that means. Now it will vary at times depending upon where in the country you are. We've found grits in the south, a lot more oranges in the fruit section in Florida, and some other regional goodies on occasion that are extra special. But we can count on fruit, cereal, oatmeal, some sort of eggs, meat, pastries, breads, and juice and coffee. and their famous DIY waffles.

Other hotels offer similar breakfasts but there are those whose idea of breakfast might only be what they consider "continental." To me that always meant juice, coffee, and a pastry. Sometimes it includes eggs or cereal or toast. There is no standard meaning to "continental breakfast." If it's truly important it's good to ask ahead before booking.

Also be aware that in different countries, breakfast is a whole different concept than the American idea. In Italy we found breakfast consisted mostly of cheeses, crackers and what we would call lunch meats--ham, salami, etc. Juice and coffee were available (and tea).

When we stayed in France, one of the hotels only offered coffee, juice, baguettes and some cheeses. Luckily one of the women in our group had brought a jar of peanut butter and we passed that around. I'm sure the French were not happy with us.

In England you may receive a full English breakfast with eggs, "bangers" (large sausages), toast, potatoes, and of course, juice and coffee. And included with that will be a scoop of baked beans (not the spicy kind).

Many hotels and B&Bs are catering to the American tourist and others who may be traveling from other countries and cultures. One such hotel in Tokyo offered one of the largest breakfast buffets I've ever seen. I don't care where in the world you came from or what your body's time clock said it was, there was food for you. Along with the traditional Japanese and American choices, I remember spaghetti too and cheeses that Europeans would enjoy. It was amazing.

In China, being a large group of Americans, our hosts usually made some kind of eggs for us and provided bread but it was accompanied by an unusual assortment of side dishes--even one morning, boiled peanuts.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Standard, Deluxe, Suite--What Kind Of Room To Book?

In many ways I think it's easier to figure out what kind of stateroom on a ship to book than it is a room in a hotel. Cruise websites usually have some good diagrams of room layouts and mostly the stateroom's position on the ship and whether or not there is an obstructed view are the main things you look for.

Hotel room descriptions are as broad and different as the types of hotels there are. A standard room is usually the lowest priced but even then they often offer different types of beds--single queen, two doubles and sometimes two queens. 

But some of those same rooms in another hotel might be labeled deluxe for a bed larger than a double or two rather than one. A deluxe label might be applied simply because there's a coffee maker or refrigerator and microwave added. The deluxe room is one that is compared to other rooms in the same hotel. What is deluxe room in one hotel is not necessarily the same deluxe in another. (While hotel chains try to standardize their room selections, we've found some differences among them as well.)

And then there's the suite. Just what is a suite? A suite can range anywhere from a room with a couch in it to a sitting room with the bedroom off to the side and/or a kitchenette. The kitchenette may be only a counter with a sink, small refrigerator and a microwave. Other suites we've found have had a full apartment sized kitchen. In one hotel, we were told we were being upgraded to a suite and it turned out to be just a larger room on the corner of the building.

Of course after you decide on your standard or upgraded room, there's always that little description "with a view." Sometimes that view may only be seen by putting a cheek to the window and looking down an alleyway to the "view." Ocean front hotel are notorious for calling it an ocean view if you can see even a sliver of the water from your window. 

As I always say, do as much homework as possible before you book especially if it is for more than a night's stay. I can do with most anything for one night but as we discovered years ago on our first get away trip after the twins were born, two nights of looking up at a ceiling that was water stained, peeling and bulging was too much. When I cried myself to sleep, Bob booked the rest of our stay in a nicer hotel and we enjoyed a much nicer stay even though we stretched out budget thin.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Fish Names

There are scientific names for fish and then there are the names commonly given to them those of us without a degree in marine sciences use. Back home some of the more common fish names are:

  • perch (did someone see them perched somewhere?)
  • rock bass (these guys usually are found hiding in the rocks)
  • walleye (hmm, eyes?)
Here in Florida the fish we catch off the dock have some common names too:

  • snapper (these come in a variety of color names but were they named for snapping at something?)
  • needlefish (that's easy. They look like a needle)
  • grunts (this is an easy one too. Watch the video and listen closely. They grunt.)

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