What’s a Naked Lady Doing up on a Bull? Breisach, Germany…

Peggy and I are coming to the end of the blogs on our Rhine River cruise. Today, we will take you to Breisach, Germany. Our final Rhine River post will be on the Black Forest. After that, it will be off to the Nile! All photos in this post were taken by either Peggy or me unless otherwise noted.

Photo of roof tops in Breisach, Germany by photographer Peggy Mekemson.
Breisach was the final town we visited on our trip up the Rhine. It had everything we had come to expect: Color, history, and a great cathedral. I’ll get to the naked lady and the bull soon. And no, it wasn’t a new take on Lady Godiva. But I will give a hint: Naked ladies on bulls are a European kind of thing.

The history of Breisach follows the history of the other towns we have visited along the Rhine, dating back to ancient Celtic times, becoming part of the Roman Empire, and then part of the Holy Roman Empire with several countries laying claim since. The city saw extensive damage in World War II as the Allies invaded it from across the Rhine.

A photo from Wikimedia Commons of Breisach being attacked by Allied forces in 1942. St. Stephen’s Cathedral is burning at the top right side of the picture. 85% of the town was destroyed by Allied artillery.
Photo of St. Stephan's Cathedral in Breisach, Germany by photographer Peggy Mekemson.
Peggy and I went for a walk into Breisach to visit St. Stephen’s Cathedral. This is a view looking up from the town. Obviously, the cathedral, like the town, has been rebuilt since WW II.
Photo of Outsell Gate in Breisach Germany by Photographer Peggy Mekemson.
Our trip up to the Cathedral took us through Gutgesell Gate. Built in 1402, it was destroyed in WW II and has since been rebuilt. A sign on the side noted that Pope Johannes was arrested here in 1415. It was a time when three people were claiming to be Pope. The ‘official’ church position out of Rome was that Johannes was an antipope. It’s bad for business to have more than one Pope. It tends to confuse the flock and worse— split the donations.
Photo of street up to St. Stephan's Cathedral in Breisach, Germany by photographer Curt Mekemson.
The steep walk up to the Cathedral past brightly painted houses was worth it on its own.
Photo of flower box in Breisach, Germany taken by Peggy Mekemson
Flower boxes added to the color.
Toward the top, the road narrowed to a walking path. I found this old doorway and couldn’t help but wonder what treasures (or ghosts) might be found behind it.
An intriguing coat of arms was found above the doorway.
Photo of St. Stephan's Church in Breisach by Curt Mekemson
The view of St. Stephen’s that greeted us as we finished our hike up the path. Construction of the church started in the early 12th Century.
Side view of St. Steven's Cathedral in Breisach, Germany by photographer Curt Mekemson.
We walked around the church admiring it from various perspectives.
These pockmarks on the side of the Cathedral caught our attention. I wondered if they had been left from the artillery attack during WW II. Turns out that they were from an earlier bombardment from 1870. Apparently the church has a problem with avoiding the line of fire.
This chamber challenged our imagination. First there was the fence with what looked like a cat sitting on top, which I found amusing. Then there was the strange sculpture inside…
The stone mason makes sense. St. Stephans was the patron saint of stone masons. But what about the strange figure on the right? The dark side of medieval Christianity was, uh, dark.
For example, the door to the Cathedral featured St. Stephens being stoned.
Photo looking down on Breisach, Germany by Curt Mekemson.
The hill on which the church sits, gave us great views down into Breisach, as was shown in the first photo and this one.
Photo of bull at Breisach Cathedral by Peggy Mekemson.
And then there was the bull emerging from the bricks…
Photo of Europa and the Bull at Breisach by photographer Peggy Mekemson.
…with a naked lady standing on top.

Of course there is a story. Similar sculptures and other representations of the bull and woman are found throughout Europe. An ancient Greek myth is to blame. The bull happens to be Zeus. And the naked lady? She’s Europa, a Phoenician princess who Zeus seduced. Zeus seducing a princess isn’t news. He had a thing for maidens. His challenge was that his wife (and sister) Hera, the goddess of women, marriage and childbirth, disapproved of such behavior. Zeus went to great lengths to hide his activities from her, one of which was to transform himself into various animals for his seductions. Perhaps you’ve heard the story of Leda and the swan, where Zeus became a swan and seduced Leda. One version of the myth is that she laid two eggs, one of whom hatched into the beautiful Helen of Troy. With Europa, Zeus became a beautiful white bull who met the maiden while she was innocently picking flowers. Naturally, she had to pet his gorgeous white flanks and climb up on top of him (what maiden wouldn’t), whereupon Zeus charged off to the Mediterranean Sea, jumped in, and swam to Crete, where he had his way, so to speak. Minos, the King of Crete, was one of three sons born of the union.

The founding of the European Union led to renewed interest in Europa, given that the ancient Greeks named significant portions of Europe after her and the Europeans could claim that a 2500 year old myth provided some justification for the union.

We found several other things of interest on the hill:

This scupture had me scratching my head, but I figured it would make an excellent home for a bird, or possibly a raccoon.
Remember Mad Magazine and Alfred E. Neumann, the guy who always graced its covers? Now check out the dude on the bottom of the sculpture. I’m betting that the artist had a sense of humor.
This impressive sculpture of a water wheel/clock represents what is inside of the building it is attached to…
Photos of Water Wheel Building in Breisach, Germany by Curt Mekemson.
This is what the outside of the Water Wheel building looks like.
We found this fellow outside of the building. He seemed to be having a bad day. Possibly he had been a bad boy and was contemplating his fate inside…
A mural showed a prisoner being taken to the Water Wheel Building. It was used as both a prison and a torture chamber. Or, a prisoner might be assigned to operate the dreaded water wheel. Note the people screaming at the prisoner while others danced in the streets. It spoke to the times.
The huge water wheel located inside the building. The stools and the person sitting on the other side of wheel provide perspective. I’m not sure how the wheel was operated but human hamsters come to mind. The well is located beneath the wheel.
Photo of windowsill flower garden by Curt Mekemson.
But enough on dark images and thoughts, I conclude today’s post with another windowsill flower garden in Breisach, and…
Photo of Uniword Boutique river boat, the River Empress by Curt Mekemson.
Our riverboat, the River Empress, that was docked on the Rhine in Breisach. Next Monday, Peggy and I will return to our fall trip around the US. This time we will be in Custer State Park in South Dakota where the buffalo block traffic and the donkeys are bandits.

The Grand Tetons… Mountains Close to Perfection

Photo of Gran Tetons by photographer Curtis Mekemson
If I were in charge of making mountains, I would use the Grand Tetons as a model. A blogging friend of mine told me that the first time she saw them, she started crying. They inspire that kind of awe.

Just before we reached Yellowstone NP on our four month trip around the US last fall, we drove through Grand Tetons National Park. I’ll be featuring photos Peggy and I took of the Grand Tetons and the Absaroka Range today.

As Peggy and I drove across the 9,658 feet (2,943 m) Togwotee Pass, we were excited. We were in the Rocky Mountains and had just crossed over the Continental Divide. We were back in the West! Rivers would now be flowing into the Pacific Ocean. Soon we would get our first views of the Grand Tetons— not that there was anything shabby about the scenery on pass. 

Photo of Togwotee Pass by Peggy Mekemson.
As we passed over the Continental Divide at Togwotee Pass, our excitement grew. This area receives over 25 feet of snow a year, a figure that can climb as high as 50, which I suspect it has this year.
Photo of Aspens near Togwotee Pass by Curt Mekemson.
It was in October and the aspens near the pass were displaying their fall colors.
Photo of The Absaroka Range and aspens taken by Peggy Mekemson.
The Absaroka Range, which can be seen from the pass, provided a backdrop for this grove. The range serves as the eastern boundary to Yellowstone NP.
Photo of The Absaroka Range by Curt Mekemson.
My father once painted a picture of the Absaroka Range.
Photo of Herb Mekemson by Glen Fishback
Professional photographer Glen Fishback took this photo of my dad painting the Absaroka Range in the 1980s. Pop, as we knew him, had wandered around the country with his sister, Eleanor, a few years earlier. I took this photo through glass so I couldn’t capture it as well as I would have liked to. Glen used my dad as a model and this photo ended up in a national photography magazine.
Photo by Peggy Mekemson.
A final Highway 26 road shot of the Absaroka Range. The Grand Tetons were waiting.

The Grand Tetons are a baby range, relatively speaking, less than 10 million years old. Compare that with the Rockies at 50-80 million years or the Appalachians at over 300 million. That’s what gives them their rugged, good looks. Erosion hasn’t had time to wear away their jagged peaks. Earthquakes along the Teton fault on the east side of the range are responsible for their height. Plate tectonic movement, which is stretching the region in an east west direction, is responsible for the earthquakes. When the tension becomes too great, an earthquake takes place, usually of 7 to 7.5 magnitude, i.e. big. Seesaw-like, the mountains rise and the valley next to it falls along the 40 mile fault, with each earthquake averaging around 10 feet of up and down movement. It is estimated that the mountain range has risen some 26,000 feet with 6,000 feet showing above the floor and 20,000 buried under it. Geologists estimate that the last major quakes were about 5,900, 8,000, and 10,000 years ago.

Photo of Tetons by Photographer Curt Mekemson
The Tetons were looming above a dark conifer forest in our first views with a hint of the colors to come.
Photo of Grand Tetons by Peggy Mekemson.
Aspens were soon adding larger splashes of color. The high peak in the center is Grand Teton, after which the range is named. It has an elevation of 13, 775 feet.
Photo of Mt. Moran by photographer Curt Mekemson
Mt. Moran dominates the northern section of the Tetons and rises 12,605 feet above sea level. The orange colored leaves are from cottonwoods.
Photo of Jenny Lake and Grand Tetons by photographer Peggy Mekemson
Our road ran next to Jenny Lake and provided some great views of the Tetons.
Ducks were busily eating on the lake.
Photo of Grand Teton National Park by Peggy Mekemson.
The only photo we took of the park that didn’t feature the mountains.
Photo of Mt. Moran by photographer Curt Mekemson.
A final photo of Mt. Moran from Jenny Lake. Next Monday’s post will be on the German town of Breisach along the Rhine River.

A 5000 Year Journey Back in Time… Featuring Cairo, Alexandria, and the Nile River: Intro

Photo of Egyptian camel at Giza pyramids by Curt Mekemson.
What better way to begin an Egyptian journey back in time than this ‘ship of the desert’? There was no lack of camels at the pyramids, or offers for camel rides, or camel photos— all for money, of course, preferably in dollars. The Egyptian pound had tanked and was worth three cents on the dollar. I caught this handsome face for free. The camel didn’t object and the owner was busy hustling someone else.

Peggy and I have just returned from our three week exploration of Egypt and invite you to join us as we explore the 25 million people mega-city of Cairo with its ancient pyramids, journey by riverboat up the Nile from Luxor to Aswan, and conclude by visiting the ancient city created by Alexander the Great. Along the way, we will wander through ancient temples, meet powerful gods and pharaohs, explore King Tut’s tomb, visit one of the most impressive mosques of Islam, stop by a factory where they pursue the ancient art of making papyrus, and have many, many more adventures. We were wowed by the history with its incredible temples, tombs and statues, impressed by the friendly reception of the Egyptians we met, captured by present day Egypt, and amused by the humorous stories our guide Sabaa shared along the way. Today’s post is an introduction, an appetizer if you will. The series will start in mid-April when I conclude our Rhine River trip. It wouldn’t do to confuse the rivers. Right? All of the photos in this post are by either Peggy or me unless otherwise noted.

Photo of Egypt's Nile River and Cairo Tower by Peggy Mekemson.
Our tour company, Uniworld Boutique, put us up in the Ritz Carlton overlooking the Nile River while we were in Cairo. Peggy and I arrived a couple of days early and stayed a couple of days afterwords. This was the view from our window. We spent a lot of time watching the river traffic. No surprise. You are looking at the Cairo Tower on the left. It’s a major Cairo landmark with an amusing CIA story connected to it that I will relate later.
Photo of Egyptian Museum by photographer Curt Mekemson.
The Cairo Egyptian Museum was out the back door of the Ritz, a five minute walk away. We did our first tour there and will take you inside. BTW, see the raised figure above the two heads…
Photo of Cleopatra by photographer Curt Mekemson.
It’s of a rather voluptuous Cleopatra, the last ruler of the Ptolemaic reign in Egypt who had a child by Julius Cesar and a tragic love affair with Mark Anthony. She’s holding a lotus flower, a symbol of Upper Egypt. Focus guys.
Among the thousands of treasures inside were these canopic jars made from alabaster to contain the lungs, intestine, stomach and liver of people being mummified.They wanted them on hand to use later. Alabaster, Sabaa, told us, is great for preserving organs. I’ll keep that in mind.
Tahir Square was also located just behind the Ritz. Peggy and I walked over to check out the Obelisk. Plain-clothed police stopped us from entering the square. They were located at every entrance. It turns out that Tahir Square is the go-to place for Egyptians wanting to start a revolution. The police were there to discourage such activity. Nobody— but nobody— was going to make their way onto the square and start shouting slogans, including curious visitors.
Cairo is a city of attractive mosques and the Alabaster Mosque is a jewel among them. I’ll do a full post on the Mosque.
The inside is even more beautiful than the outside.
We discovered this ultra-skinny cat outside vociferously warning a large dog to leave its few scraps of food alone. The dog wisely decided his dinner was located elsewhere. Who wouldn’t? The cat was obviously a descendent of Bastet, the cat god of ancient Egypt. Not someone to trifle with.
From Cairo, we flew to Luxor where our riverboat, Uniword’s Tosca, was waiting for us to board.
Our Upper Egypt trip both started and ended at Luxor. A week, or a month, could easily be spent exploring the area. On arriving, we visited the Temple of Karnak…
The Temple of Luxor at night. It was opened specifically for Uniworld guests. Translate: We had it all to ourselves. Usually, we had to work to take tourist-free photos.
The Pharoah Ramses II.
We were greeted by a huge statue of Rameses II who was one of the most important pharaohs of ancient Egypt. That’s a cobra on his forehead.
Several Pharaohs have their tombs in the Valley of the Kings outside of Luxor. Peggy is pointing toward the pyramid like mountain that was an important factor in the kings’ selection of the valley. BTW, the tomb of King Tutankhamun, where so many treasures were found, is at the base of the mountain. Peggy and I will take you into the tomb where King Tut’s mummy still resides. I’ll even show you King Tut’s toes. I’ll bet you can’t wait for that? They aren’t pretty. There’s a chance I might have to face the revenge of the mummy for displaying them.
The folks on the Tosca, both our fellow travelers and the staff, were special. This is a photo of Steve and Carol Jones with our excellent guide, Sabaa at the Valley of the Kings. Steve and Carol, like so many of the followers of this blog, are world travelers. Both engineers, they quit their jobs at 45 and have been wandering the world for the past 20 years.
Photo of Valley of the Kings Tomb by Curtis Mekemson.
A photo inside of one of the tombs we visited in Valley of Kings (not King Tut’s.) It was packed with hieroglyphs designed to guide and protect the dead pharaoh on his dangerous journey.
The temple of Queen Hatshetsup, one of ancient Egypt’s most powerful Pharoahs, is located near the Valley of the Kings.
Photo of Queen Hatshepsut from the Egyptian Museum by Peggy Mekemson.
Beards were an extremely important part of a pharaoh’s look, as all the statues, paintings and reliefs show. Even Queen Hatshepsut had one, as this bust from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo shows. It was fake news, but a beard none-the-less.
Nile photo by photographer Curt Mekemson.
A significant part of our journey was our riverboat trip up the Nile from Luxor to Aswan and back.
Along the way, our journey took us past numerous villages and towns, all with their mosques and minarets, from which Muslims are called to prayer five times a day.
Photo of Nile River fisherman by photographer by Curt Mekemson.
We were able to watch fishermen and farmers plying their trade in much the same way as they have for thousands of years.
Photo of Nile River and desert by Curt Mekemson.
And enjoy the scenery. This photo serves as a reminder that just beyond the narrow strip of rich farmland beside the Nile lies the Sahara Desert that stretches for 2000 miles to the west. The ripples are being made by our riverboat, the Tosca.
Photo of mummified crocodile at Kom Ombo by photographer Curt Mekemson.
On our trip up and down the Nile we stopped at temples. One was at Kom Ombo, the temple of Sobek the crocodile god and Horus, the falcon god. A museum there, features mummified crocodiles. Sobek was responsible for fertility and the creation of the Nile, among other things. Gods had several responsibilities— and forms.
Photo of Dendera Temple by photographer Curt Mekemson.
One of the most beautiful temples we visited along the Nile was the Greco-Roman temple of Dendera. Both the Greeks and Romans played important roles in the latter days of ancient Egypt. Among other things, this temple featured signs of the Zodiac on its ceiling. I’m thinking Taurus above.
Photo of Peggy Mekemson on a felucca by Curt Mekemson.
One of the must-dos in Aswan, was to go on a Felucca ride, a sailboat dating back to ancient times on the Nile. Peggy had to get her hands on the rudder. I noticed that the boatman didn’t take his hands off of it, however. Grin.
Photo of feluccas in Aswan by photographer Curt Mekemson.
Several feluccas were out enjoying the sunset in this photo which we took from an outdoor dining area of the Cataract Hotel in Aswan.
Photo of hight tea at the Cataract Hotel by photographer Curt Mekemson.
We were enjoying high tea at the hotel.
Photo of Peggy Mekemson in Old Cataract Hotel by Curt Mekemson.
Peggy, being a great fan of Agatha Christie, had to have her photo taken in the Old-Catarack hotel, which was featured in Christie’s novel, “Death on the Nile.”
Photo of Blue Heron at Aswan Egypt by Peggy Mekemson.
An evening bird watching tour on a small boat included numerous birds and a very enthusiastic bird expert.
Photo of spices in Aswan market by Curt Mekemson.
A walk through Aswan’s large local market featured, among many other things, spices. The top three baskets on the right are buds for making jasmine tea.
Photo of Philae temple by Peggy Mekemson
While at Aswan, we also visited the Philae temple…
Photo of Abu Symbel by Peggy Mekemson.
And flew up to the border between Egypt and Sudan to see the temples of Ramses II and his beautiful wife, Nefertari at Abu Simbel shown above. Abu Simbel was threatened to be buried under rising waters of the Aswan Dam and was saved by a world-wide effort by moving it rock by rock to a level above the water line.
Sphinx photo by photographer Curt Mekemson.
We finished off our Egypt tour with a visit to the city of ancient Memphis and to the pyramids at Giza. This features the Sphinx and the Great pyramid of King Khufu.
Photo of Peggy Mekemson on the Great Pyramid by Curt Mekemson.
Peggy climbed a short ways up the side of the Great Pyramid to demonstrate the size of the rocks used in building the pyramid…
Photo of tunnel under pyramid of King Khafre by photographer Curt Mekemson.
And we both journeyed far under the pyramid of King Khafre, sometimes bent double because of the low ceilings.
Photo of tomb guardians in Alexandria, Egypt by photographer Curt Mekemson.
One of our major stops in Alexandria was at Greco-Roman era catacombs. This gruesome twosome, a crowned snake on the bottom and Medusa on the top, were guarding the major tomb against grave robbers.

I know this has been long for an introduction, but believe me when I say it hardly touches on our experience. On Monday, Peggy and I will take you back to our fall trip around North America, this time featuring Grand Teton National Park, where the description ‘grand’ hardly covers the mountain range.

A Quaint Town and a Massive Cathedral: Boppard and Speyer… Two Stops along the Rhine

Today Peggy and I are continuing to post about the trip we took up the Rhine River last summer to celebrate Peggy’s 72 birthday. All photos are taken by either Peggy or me unless otherwise noted.

Photo by Curt Mekemson.
The town of Boppard, Germany, located along the Rhine River is both picturesque and historical. The coach with its horn blowing, top hat driver is what caught our attention here.

Whenever our riverboat stopped at towns and cities along the Rhine, Peggy and I would go exploring if we had the time. Wandering on our own, traveling at our own pace, and making detours whenever something captures our attention is our favorite way to travel. We also feel that it is also the best way to experience an area. This is true whether we are hiking in the wilderness, exploring a small town, or visiting a large city. We found Boppard, Germany to be an ideal walking town. It was picturesque, historic, and easy to explore in the limited time we had.

Its roots date all the way back to Celtic times. It became a Roman fort during the time of Julius Caesar. Bouncing back and forth between the various powers that occupied the region since, it thrived during the Middle Ages and has maintained its medieval charm down to today where it is noted for both its wine and tourism.

Photo by Peggy Mekemson.
An excellent example of late Romanesque architecture, the church of St. Servus was built on the site of an early Christian church, which in turn was built on the site of Roman military baths.
Photo of St. Severus Church in Boppard, Germany by Curt Mekemson.
The spires of St. Severus Church help define Boppard’s skyline. I don’t know who the figure perched in the air and looking a bit like the Statue of Liberty is supposed to be.
Photo of Carmelite Church in Boppard Germany by Peggy Mekemson.
The Carmelite Church in Boppard is also an impressive structure.
Photo by Peggy Mekemson.
Most of the buildings in Boppard have their own personalities. This is the Villa Belgrano.
Photo by Curt Mekemson.
This is another example of a colorful, historical building that we saw on our walk. I read that it was built in 1509.
Photo by Peggy Mekemson.
Even though these buildings are more modern and looked somewhat similar, they were each painted a different pastel color.
Photo by Peggy Mekemson.
Numerous trees added to the beauty of the town.
We really liked the contrast here between the white and green.
Photo by Curt Mekemson.
This metal plaque of harvesting grapes reminded us that we were in one of the Rhine’s prime wine-growing regions.
Photo by Curt Mekemson.
A minimally dressed, pair of colorful sculptures seemed to be checking out the tourists. The mosaic added even more color.
I was attracted to this hairy-nosed boar with an attitude.
Photo by Curt Mekemson.
A lone motorcycle came buzzing down the street and caused us to look up from window shopping. I snapped a picture of an object in the window…
It seemed appropriate.

Farther up the Rhine we came to Speyer and its massive cathedral. The Speyer Cathedral was built in 1030 and added to in 1077. It is considered to be an outstanding example of Romanesque architecture. Eight kings and emperors of the Holy Roman Empire were buried in its vault over a period of 300 years. They’re still there.

Photo of Speyer Cathedral by Curt Mekemson.
Peggy and I wandered around outside admiring the church and snapping photos.
Photo by Peggy Mekemson.
A side view of the cathedral. A worker provides perspective.
A front view of Speyer Cathedral take by Peggy Mekemson.
Looking at the front of the church. A winged lion, winged horse, winged eagle, and winged person, i.e. angel, surround the stained glass window and Jesus.
Photo of doors on Speyer Cathedral taken by Curt Mekemson.
A pair of massive doors awaited us at the entry.
Photo of owl at Speyer Cathedral.
An owl seemed to be guarding the entrance.
Photo of squirrels on Speyer Cathedral by Curt Mekemson.
Or maybe it was watching the pair of long-eared, amorous squirrels on the opposite wall. “Come on sweetie, give me your nut.” “Get your own, Bozo.” The owl was probably thinking dinner. After a thousand years, I imagine it was hungry.
Photo of Interior of Speyer Cathedral by Peggy Mekemson.
A view inside Speyer Cathedral.
Photo of rooster on roof of Speyer Cathedral by Curt Mekemson.
As we were leaving for our boat, I spotted a metallic, crowing rooster up on the roof. I wondered if it was a lighting rod. That would be something to crow home about. Cock-a-doodle-ZAP. I once knew a rooster that I would have liked to zap with lightning. He made a habit of crowing under my window at 5 a.m. when I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in West Africa. Instead, I threw a bucket of water on his head. Cock-a-doodle-SQUAWK! After that he would crow under my window and run like hell.

Next Monday we will be visiting Grand Teton National Park and one of the world’s most beautiful mountain ranges.

Peggy and I just returned from our visit to Egypt and trip up the Nile River. Wow! What an incredible experience. We are excited to share it with you. I’m now putting together an introductory blog which I will post later this week. Several more posts will follow as I go to work on sorting though our experiences and some 3000 plus photos. Grin. My apologies for my absence the last three weeks. We had really thought there would be time for reading and commenting on posts. Ha.

There Is More to Yellowstone NP than Hydrothermal Wonders… Scenic Beauty

Peggy and I are wrapping up our visit to Yellowstone today from our journey around the US last fall with pictures of a few of the many scenic views found in the park. All photos are taken by either Peggy or me unless otherwise noted.

Photo of Gibbon Falls taken by Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
When it comes to scenic beauty, one can find plenty in the rivers that flow through Yellowstone National Park. This photo is Gibbon Falls on the Gibbon River.
Photo Gibbon Falls of Yellowstone National Park by Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
The river drops some 84 feet and then makes its tumbling way for a quarter of a mile to the Yellowstone Caldera. A paved trail leads along the river providing great views of Gibbon Falls.
Close up photo of Gibbon Falls in Yellowstone National Park by Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
A close up. Can you hear the roar? Having cut its way back from the Yellowstone Caldera, the rock will continue to erode its base leaving the Caldera farther behind and increasing in height.
Photo of Fireball River by Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
Looking positively serene in comparison to Gibbon Falls, this is a shot of Firehole River not far from Old Faithful and the main hot springs area of Yellowstone. Appearances are deceiving, however. toward the end of the photo you can see where the river narrows. It is about to go tumbling down…
Photo of Fireball River tumbling over rocks by Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
A side road runs along the Firehol River and provides views of the river’s rapid descent. I’d say we were no more than a few hundred yards below where we took the ‘serene’ photo.
Photo of rapids in Fireball River In Yellowstone by Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
This would probably make a white water rafter or kayaker drool.
Photo of Fireball River by Curt Mekemson.
If I were in a raft and turned around to spot this monster, I might have a heart attack. Can you spot the eyes, nose and mouth? Not to worry, however. Yellowstone National Park does not allow rafting on its rivers. The monster has to eat fish. There is a small section of the river between rapids where Peggy swam when she was working at Yellowstone in 1969. She apparently avoided the monster.
Photo of backdrop to Gibbon River taken by Peggy Mekemson.
The Firehole calms down when it meets up with the Gibbon River. And check out the wall. Isn’t it magnificent? Climb to the top and you will be out of the Caldera. Some rock climbing skills may be necessary. Grin.
Photo of volcanic rocks above Fireball River in Yellowstone NP by Curt Mekemson.
This close up of volcanic rock spires above the river provides a perspective on how rugged the cliffs above the river can be.
Picture of people fishing on the Madison River in Yellowstone National Park by Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
The Gibson/Firehole river then joins the Madison for a more leisurely pace and great fishing, which is what the two people on the left are doing. We also spotted buffalo and elk near the river.
Picture O Gardner River in Yellowstone National Park by Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
We found this little beauty on our way up to Mammoth Hot Springs and its travertine terraces. It was a bonus. Known as the Gardner River, it had carved out Sheep Eaters’ Cliff that we had stopped to see.
If this looks familiar, these are the same type of basalt columns that I featured on my earlier post about Devil’s Tower National Monument. The primary difference being that the columns at Devil’s Tower formed far underground and grew to gigantic size. These were part of a lava flow along the surface and are much smaller.
Photo of Sheep Eaters cliff in Yellowstone National Park by Peggy Mekemson.
I suspect you are curious about the name. I was. The cliff is named after a band of Shoshone Indians who were known as the Tukudika, or Sheep Eaters. They apparently found big horned sheep quite tasty. I get it. I presently have a package of lamb in our refrigerator that I am planning on turning into lamb curry, one of my favorite dishes.
Photo of Cut Mekemson at Yellowstone by Peggy Mekemson.
As we continued our journey toward Mammoth Hot Springs in the northern section of Yellowstone, we came on a wildly colored meadow painted with fall colors. I liked it so much that Peggy took my photo standing in front of it.
Photo of Yellowstone National Park taken by Curt Mekemson.
This comes close to my idealized view of the Western United States with vast distances topped off by impressive mountains. The soft colors of fall, the dark tree lines and gently rolling hills all added to the beauty. Over on the right, you can also see an aspen grove.
Photo of Yellowstone NP back country by Curtis Mekemson.
Another view of the backcountry on our way to Mammoth Hot Springs that we liked.
Photo of buffalo in Yellowstone National Park by Peggy Mekemson.
We even found a buffalo that seemed to fit beautifully into the fall scene.
Photo of Yellowstone NP road by Curt Mekemson.
Ever feel like you are living on the edge? The view around the corner was spectacular.
Yellowstone photo by Peggy Mekemson.
It was the sunlight on the peak that caught our attention. But note the avalanche path along side the peak as well. It has to be one of the longest paths I have seen. And finally, there was the splash of brilliant yellow from the aspens.
Photo of Aspens in Yellowstone NP by Curt Mekemson.
Speaking of aspens, I’ll wrap up today’s post with these beauties. They will also serve to wrap up my series on the Yellowstone National Park. In our next Monday post, Peggy and I will visit two scenic towns along the Rhine River. BTW, as you read this, Peggy and I are on a riverboat traveling up the Nile River in Egypt on my 80th Birthday trip.

Heidelberg Castle: Perched above the City

Continuing our exploration of sites we visited on our family Rhine River trip last summer, we will explore Heidelberg Castle today. All photos are taken by either Peggy or me unless otherwise noted.

Towns along the Rhine 3/13 (1)
Perched on the hill overlooking Heidelberg, the castle waited for us.

Visiting Heidelberg Castle can make you feel like one in a million. That’s the number of people who tour the castle each year. We dutifully waited our turn on the funicular railway that would take us the 260 feet (80 meters) up to the castle and the beginning of our tour.

Photo by Peggy Mekemson.
Our daughter-in-law Cammie and grandson Ethan (Tasha’s son) on the funicular train to Heidelberg Castle. Masks were still required at the time for covid.

Heidelberg Castle was built in the 13th and 14th centuries. There were originally two castles, an upper and lower, but lightning and fire destroyed the upper one in 1537. The lower castle has since seen its share of wars requiring frequent renovations. It, too, finally succumbed to a lightning strike and fire in 1764— making it fair game for people to use its stones in building their homes, a custom of repurposing that has existed since time immemorial. A serious effort began in 1800 to preserve what was left. Sections have also been renovated. Regardless of its past history, the present structure is very impressive.

Photos of Heidelberg Castle taken by photographers Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
There are statues galore, mainly of past royalty. There’s no doubt about this fellow’s pedigree. He holds a scepter in his left hand representing his kingly power and a ‘globus cruciger ‘ minus its cross in his left hand representing his religious power. A grouchy lion, also a symbol of medieval power, has curled around his legs like a kitty. And then there is the humongous sword and the ‘don’t mess with me’ look in his eyes. Take a look at the various figures on his clothes/armor. I spotted Mercury on his upper left thigh.
Photos of Heidelberg Castle taken by photographers Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
Speaking of lions, there may be more scattered around the castle than those living in East and South Africa. The ‘globus cruciger’ (orb bearing cross) still has its cross here.
Photos of Heidelberg Castle taken by photographers Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
I only saw one imperial eagle but it certainly looked ferocious, which, I might add, was reduced somewhat by the bird poop on its head. I noticed that all of the lions in the photo above and the eagle are sticking their tongues out. I wonder if it meant what it does today.
Photos of Heidelberg Castle by photographers Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
Like all good castles, it has a tower with a flag on top. You can see the tower on the left in the blog’s introductory photo.
Photos of Heidelberg Castle taken by photographers Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
Vacant windows adorned by statues speak to the Castle’s past glory. Again, it is interesting to look closely at the figures. Can you find Mercury?
Another perspective…
Photos of Heidelberg Castle taken by photographers Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
Another photo where the damage done to the castle is obvious. The face of a clock can be seen on the tower to the right.
Photos of Heidelberg Castle taken by photographers Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
As I recall, it actually was a quarter of five. Note the lightning rod up on top! A lesson learned. As for the hands, I am thinking sun, moon, and star.
Photos of Heidelberg Castle taken by photographers Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
While we’re on clocks, check out this beauty. It’s a sun dial. Its strange shape is due to the fact that is vertical. Most are on the ground. As for reading it…
Photos of Heidelberg Castle are taken by Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
This impressive building known as the Friedrichsbau, is named after Elector Friedrich IV who had it built in the early 1600s. Lady Justice is perched in a niche top center. Other niches contain generations of Palatine Prince Electors.
Here’s Justice holding her scales to determine who is guilty and who is innocent with her sword ready to whack the guilty– or is that smite? One of the princes can be seen on the left. A dragon spout is beneath her.
Photo of dragon spout taken by Peggy Mekemson.
Here’s a closeup of the dragon spout, On a church it would be considered a gargoyle. At Burning Man it would be shooting out fire. (Peggy and I are hoping to return this year.) The scales of justice can be seen in the upper left and another elector is on the right. The scales have holes in them. How just is that?
We passed through this gateway on our way to visit the huge wine barrel I featured in an earlier post.
Lions hold a cross bearing orb while fair maidens hold bouquets of flowers in their hands and in cornucopias. The one on the left seems, um, a bit provocative?
Phot of window at Heidelberg Castle by Curt Mekemson.
This window is here because I liked how colorfully it reflected its surroundings in an abstract sort of way.
Hmmm. Maybe our grandsons had seen enough of castles for one day. Grin. So, I’ll conclude here. Cody, Tasha and Clay’s son, is on top. Chris, Tony and Cammie’s son, is on the bottom. In our next post we will journey back to Yellowstone National Park for a look at some of its scenic beauty.

The Travertine Terraces of Mammoth Hot Springs: Yellowstone

Today, Peggy and I are continuing our exploration of Yellowstone National Park, which we visited as part of our four month, 12,000 mile exploration of the US between September and December this past year. All photos in this post were taken by either Peggy or me unless otherwise noted.

Photos of Yellowstone National Park taken by photographers Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
If you are visiting Yellowstone National Park, be sure to visit the colorful travertine terraces of Mammoth Hot Springs.

Located 50 miles north of Old Faithful, the travertine terraces of Mammoth Hot Springs are one of the most unique and beautiful of Yellowstone’s hydrothermal created landscapes. The terracing is a result of underlying limestone. Hot water dissolves the limestone and deposits it on the surface. The bright colors, like the colors of the hot springs in the Yellowstone Caldera to the south, are created by thermophiles, tiny microorganisms that thrive in the hot springs. Different types of thermophiles have different tolerance for the heat and come in different colors based upon their exposure to sunlight. Those that can tolerate the most heat live deep in the pools and tend toward blue and green. The ones living on the cooler outer edges are more in the brown and yellow range.

Peggy and I took a day to drive up from where we were camped in the town of West Yellowstone to visit Mammoth Hot Springs. On the way up we saw a lot of great scenery that I will feature in another post and two hydrothermal features I haven’t covered in this series yet: mud pots and fumaroles.

Photos of Yellowstone National Park taken by Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
Mud pots occur when hot thermal water is flowing under a layer of clay that blocks the water from escaping to the surface. Steam from the water, however, is able to make its way through the clay. Certain microorganisms convert the sulfur dioxide in the steam to sulfuric acid which turns the clay into a gooey, sticky consistency. Bubbles are created as a result of the steam bubbling up through the goo. It sound like plop, plop, plop.
Photo of an exploding bubble in a Yellowstone mud pot by Curt Mekemson.
I included this exploding bubble in an earlier post. I liked it so much you get to see it again.
Photos of Yellowstone taken by photographers Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
A fumarole is similar to a geyser but lacks the water to create eruptions. Instead, the heat from the volcanic rocks turns what water is available into incredibly hot steam that escapes from vents and ranges in temperatures up to 280°F (138°C). It can be noisy. This is a shot of Roaring Mountain that received its name from the noise created by the escaping steam. It could be heard from miles away in the 90s. It’s quieter today.

And now it’s time to visit the terraces of Mammoth Hot Springs. A convenient road takes you around the terraces. Walkways off the road take you to the lower terraces. The following photos were taken from the walkways.

Photos of Mammoth Hot Springs by Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
Canary Springs is one of the most popular sites along the lower terrace trail at Mammoth Hot Springs.
Photos of Mammoth Hot Springs taken by photographers Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
A broader, softer perspective of Canary Springs.
A view of the travertine terrace just above Canary Springs.
Photos of Mammoth Hot Springs taken by photographers Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
Another perspective of the terrace just before the water flows over the edge.
Cupid Springs. I don’t have a clue on how it got its name.
Umpteen shades of grey.

The road snakes around the upper terrace. There are several pullouts that allow close up views of the various formations.

Photos of Mammoth Hot Springs taken by photographers Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
This section is known as Angel’s Terrace. I’m assuming it’s because of the white travertine, which is how the dissolved lime comes out of the ground.
Photos of Mammoth Hot Springs taken by photographers Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
Another perspective. Like stair steps.
Photos of Mammoth Hot Springs taken by photographers Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
We really liked the contrast of colors here.
Photos of Mammoth Hot Springs taken by photographers Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
It was the colors, shape and tree that caught our attention that had us pull out our cameras.
Photos of Mammoth Hot Springs taken by photographers Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
This unique dome is known as Elephants Back.
Photo of hydrothermal mound in Yellowstone NP taken by Curt Mekemson
We were driving back to West Yellowstone when we came across this very colorful small dome. The steam coming from the back suggests a fumarole. We simply had to stop and photograph it. That does it for today. Our next post will be on Heidelberg Castle. After that, it will be back to Yellowstone and its scenic beauty.

Heidelberg: The City

Today’s photo blog features Heidelberg, which we visited on our family trip up the Rhine River last summer. All photos are taken by either Peggy or me unless otherwise noted.

The Heidelberg Castle provides great views overlooking the city. Our son Tony included his wife Cammie in this photo. BTW, Cammie was recently named the CEO of the Safety Harbor, Florida Chamber of Commerce.
Another view from the walls of Heidelberg Castle. The prominent Church of the Holy Spirit (Heiliggeistkirche in German) was built at the end of the 14th Century. The bridge in the background, known creatively as Old Bridge, crosses the Neckar River.
Pictures of Heidelberg taken by photographers Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
I liked this closeup photo of the Neckar River and the Old Bridge because it featured Heidelberg’s red tiled roofs.
Pictures of Heidelberg, Germany take by photographers Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
We started our visit to Heidelberg by walking through the historic part of the City. We then made our way up to Heidelberg Castle. This photo features the Gateway to the Old Bridge. The brass monkey we showed on our last Heidelberg post was just off to the left.
Pictures of Heidelberg, Germany take by photographers Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
This good looking fellow was sitting on top of the railing of the Old Bridge for everyone to admire. We dutifully paid our respects.
Pictures of Heidelberg, Germany take by photographers Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
Our guide pointed out that the mansions that were in the background of the doggy photo were where Heidelberg’s wealthy had lived and apparently still do, a fact that we had surmised on our own. Several were undergoing renovations.
Pictures of Heidelberg, Germany take by photographers Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
Bright red umbrellas provided an interesting contrast to Heidelberg’s historic Town Hall located on Market Square.
Pictures of Heidelberg, Germany take by photographers Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
The Coat of Arms on the Town Hall caught my attention. It featured the usual lions and other symbols of power and heraldry. I was more intrigued by the cow, however. Did it symbolize milk?
Pictures of Heidelberg, Germany take by photographers Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
This interesting building located on Market Square is the historic Ritter Hotel, and I do mean historic. It was built in 1592 as a home and has survived ever since, including several wars. It even did a stint as Heidelberg’s town hall.
Pictures of Heidelberg, Germany take by photographers Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
As in so much of Europe, many buildings are adorned with flower boxes. I think that this was a corner of the Town Hall.
Pictures of Heidelberg by photographers Curt and Peggy Mekemson
No watch (or cell phone), don’t worry. Several clock towers are prepared to tell you the time in Heidelberg. This one is connected to the University of Heidelberg. As I mentioned earlier, the University, founded in 1386, is one of the most prestigious in Europe, and the world. 33 Nobel Prize winners are associated with it.
Picture of Tasha Cox taken by Curt Mekemson.
“Hey Tash,” I called and our daughter turned and flashed a smile as I took her photo. She is framed by her son, Ethan.
Pictures of Heidelberg taken by Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
The Hauptstrasse is Old Town Heidelberg’s main shopping street. Stretching for over a mile, it has been set aside for pedestrians and bicyclists. In addition to a wide variety of shops, the colorful buildings provide a very scenic walk.
Heidelberg Castle perches on the hill overlooking the city. We will be visiting there on our next Rhine River post— after we take you back to Yellowstone and Mammoth Hot Springs. But first, jumping ahead a bit and in recognition of tomorrow, we were walking thorough the town of Boppard, Germany along the Rhine when Peggy and I came upon this scene:
Photos of Boppard, Germany taken by Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
It was perfect, right down to the heart. Happy Valentines Day!

An Explosive Subject… The Geysers of Yellowstone

It’s only right that I start this post featuring Peggy photographing Old Faithful. She worked at a restaurant in Yellowstone in the summer of 1969 as a college student. Its large picture windows opened out on Old Faithful, meaning that she got to see it erupt several times a day.
The family dining room that Peggy worked at has now become a cafeteria, but it’s large picture windows still give diners a great view of Old Faithful erupting.

Erupting geysers are one of Yellowstones best known features. In fact, half of the world’s active geysers are located in the National Park. Peggy and I photographed lots of them when we visited last fall on our four month trip around the US.

Have a few geysers and fumaroles! Including the small ones, I counted over 30 in this photo.

The reason behind Yellowstones record breaking number of geysers is that much of the park is located in a giant caldera, a collapsed volcano. Semi-molten rock exists in some areas as close as 2-5 miles below the surface. This extremely hot rock heats ground water flowing near it and creates Yellowstone’s hydro-thermal features including geysers, hot springs, fumaroles and mud pots. We featured hot springs two weeks ago. Today is the geysers’ turn. They erupt when the super hot boiling water creates pressure in channels leading to the surface that erupts as steam out of a vent. As the pressure is released the geyser subsides until the process is repeated. They come in all sizes. The most famous is Old Faithful, given its name due to the regularity of its eruptions.

Photos of geysers erupting in Yellowstone National Park by Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
Peggy and I arrived just as Old Faithful was beginning to erupt. She jumped out of our truck and began snapping photos.
I was a bit farther away. Can you imagine how many photos of Old Faithful have been taken? They have to be in the hundreds of millions if not billions. In other words, we aren’t the first. Grin.
As the pressure inside the vent subsided, Old Faithful lost its steam, so to speak.
As I mentioned in the beginning, the geysers come in all sizes. From this little fellow…
To larger…
We had a sense of ‘dancing water.’
Each geyser had its own personality.
These geysers combined to be tall and skinny.
I conclude today with this pair of more hefty twin geysers. Next up, Peggy and I will return to Heidelberg, variety being the spice of life. 🙂

Heidelberg, Germany: Weird, Beautiful, and Historic

Photos of Heidelberg by Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
If you’ve been hanging around my blog for long, you know I like weird. This brass Heidelberg monkey fits the bill perfectly.

When Peggy and I, along with our two kids and their families, did our Rhine River trip this past summer, one of our favorite stops was Heidelberg, Germany. It seemed to have it all: An ancient castle looking down on the city, a river running beside it, one of the top universities in the world, a fun, lively, historic downtown, impressive churches, and plenty of weird, like the brass monkey who hung out next to the Old Bridge across the Neckar River. The photos are all taken by Peggy and me unless otherwise noted. Today, we will be focus on weird.

The monkey was designed to serve as a mask for those bold enough to climb into it. Our grandson Connor took on the challenge. A poem suggested the possibility of one monkey looking out at all of the other monkeys standing around, a reminder that we are alike more than we are different. The pedestrian Old Bridge across the Neckar River can be seen in the background on the right. (Family photo.)
Photos of Heidelberg by Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
These brass mice were found next to the monkey. It is said if you rubbed them, you would increase your fertility. Rubbing the mirror the monkey is holding will bring you money, rubbing its fingers will help assure your return to Heidelberg. I stayed far away from the mice.

I found plenty of other weird stuff around Heidelberg to keep the monkey and his mice companions company.

Photos of Heidelberg by Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
“These boots were made for walking.” Blue boots and a plethora of other blue shoes covered the town’s main square.
Photos of Heidelberg by Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
The blue shoes, it turned out, were an art project of students from the University of Heidelberg. They seemed to be all walking in the same direction. Maybe they were escaping the weird sculpture behind them…
Photos of Heidelberg by Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
It was amply strange. Check out the ‘guy’ standing on his head with his feet becoming the head of a serpent and his head who knows. And what the heck is on the left? I’ll leave it for your imagination.
I found this walking lion with his wonderful tail up in Heidelberg Castle. A magnificent, but weird, creature, indeed, complete with a curly mane and globus cruciger, i.e. cross-bearing orb. Both were symbols of power in the Middle Ages. Think church and state.
Photos of Heidelberg by Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
This knight with shining armor, features a codpiece. A what, you say? Cod apparently meant scrotum. Originally meant to protect the genital area, they became something of a fashion statement reaching maximum size and um, peak, in the 1540s.
Photos of Heidelberg by Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
While I’m on cod, there seems to be something fishy about this fish. It appears to have a coin in its mouth. I looked up ‘fish with coin in mouth.’ Apparently it relates to Jesus and the miracle of the fish outlined in the Gospel of Matthew. I wondered if the strange baby romping around on top was supposed to be the baby Jesus. Christianity in the Middle Ages was all about symbolism, mainly because most people couldn’t read.
Photos of Heidelberg taken by Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
Nothing weird about this if you are a Catholic. It’s the Virgin Mary with her crown of 12 stars holding the baby Jesus. She is stomping on a serpent while the baby Jesus stabs it with his cross. “Take that you snake!” He is blessing the world with his free hand. It looks to me like the serpent has an apple in its mouth. There were several of these statues spread around the historic town.
Photos of Heidelberg by Curt and Peggy Mekemson.
On a lighter note, how do you like your wine? If you prefer quantity over quality, this wine barrel might be your thing. It’s said to be the largest in the world and hold 220,000 liters (58,124 gallons). Our grandson Ethan provides perspective on the size. That does it for today. My next Heidelberg post will be more focused on the beauty and history of the city. First up, however, Peggy and I will take you back to Yellowstone and its geysers including Old Faithful.