Tag Archives: germany

A Local Evening in Germany

A few days ago, my son came to help me put up Christmas decorations and, wanting to reward him, I offered to take him and his girlfriend to dinner at a restaurant of his choice. He chose a local family-owned German restaurant here in coastal, west-central Florida. We go there often and are friends with the owner and his lovely wife who immigrated here a number of years ago. Just stepping inside their restaurant always makes us feel as though we have traveled back in time and are journeying down memory lane, once more.

We were a military family and we lived in Germany for three years. Our home was in Morbach snuggled in the Hunsrück Mountains near the Mosel River and not far from Luxembourg. At the time, it was a rather small village with delightfully helpful people and was not an area known much to tourists. So, most of our friends were either fellow Americans or German neighbors or people we met while we were there.

Every chance we got, we traveled around the country, trying to cram in as much history, art and culture as possible and as I looked around the restaurant at all the beautiful objet d’art that decorated the rooms, I was reminded of some of those experiences. Folklore fascinated me and how it was manifested in artwork and in particular, woodcarving. In the Black Forest, I met an artist who sold me three of his works that he had hand carved. He explained that the styles might be different in each, but they were based on German fairy tales, folklore and history.

The first object was a witch with a cat sitting on her shoulder. It was 8 ½” tall and carved with large strokes of the cutting blade which, amazingly didn’t hamper the detail of her figure or face or of the little animal. This technique actually created shadows and wrinkles and character.

Witch with cat

Witch with cat

The next object was a mask about 11 ½” tall.  I was captivated by the fact that the carving totally followed the grain of the wood; the center was the tip of the nose. It had to take real planning to imagine ahead of time how to accomplish the carving. The kind of thinking-ahead required of a chess player, I thought. Amazing!

 Carved Mask

Carved Mask

And the last object was a mountain climber which measured 22” from the top of his upper hand to the bottom of his lantern.  The carving technique on this work was similar to the witch with the wider carving strokes and was also rendered from a single chunk of wood, except for the feather in the climber’s cap, and of course, the metal lantern. I found it enchanting that the lantern actually lights up and hangs from the ceiling by the climber’s rope. Since then, I’ve seen this piece often copied because of its uniqueness and popularity.

Mountain Climber

Mountain Climber

Germany will always be a special place to me. I have wonderful memories of good times, good people, and good experiences that I shall cherish always. Opportunities to spark those memories again and again abide in my local German friends. Thank you, Dagmar and Uwe.

Do you have a place or people that remind you of a cherished previous time in your life, just by going there and seeing it or them? I’d love to hear.

Coco Ihle is the author of  SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland.

Join her here each 11th of the month


Filed under Art, musings, Travel

Dream a Little Dreamcation for Me by Sherrie Hansen


Some of my best work and most extraordinary inspirations occur when I fly halfway around the world. I’ve always been a homebody at heart – it is quite traumatic getting ready to leave the nest even for a few days. And don’t get me wrong – I love what I do, and my  day to day work inspires creativity of a different kind, but there is something that opens my heart, mind, and eyes to new possibilities when I am away on vacation.


When I am at my B&B or at the parsonage with my husband, it is so easy to get caught up in the mundane details of everyday life that I forget to look at the bigger picture. When I fly far far away, I am jolted out of my comfort zone and forced to see the world in a different light.


New scenery, people and experiences not only intrigue me, they spur my mind to look at the world in a fresh way, and to realize that I and the pesky problems that occasionally plague me are not the life force of the universe, or even the end all to my existence.


My eyes are opened to new possibilities and different options. It’s freeing.


Sometimes, what I see, and the history behind it, makes me more thankful for what I have at home.


At other times, I see empty houses in need of renovation and abandoned storefronts waiting to be leased and think, I could do this! I could make a life here. I could start over, earn a living, make new friends, be happy here.


Not that I want to move – well, most of the time – but realizing that the world doesn’t revolve around my business, my frustrations, and my own particular agenda is like magic.


My short-term problems become inconsequential and my worries fly away and my whole perspective changes.


Sadly, for various reasons, we have no grand vacation plans for this year. I dream of returning to Scotland, France and Germany. Mark is keen to visit his son in Romania. If we do head east, I would love to see Greece, and Bohemia, where some of my ancestors hailed from.



But instead, we are grounded by circumstances and obligations, and although we periodically think we see the light at the end of the tunnel, we are not there yet.


I keep hearing the word Staycation being batted around, which seems to refer to the practice of staying at home and relaxing, perhaps doing fun things where you are,  instead of going on a trip.


But for my husband and I, who live part time in a beautiful B&B, and the rest of the time at a lovely parsonage next to the church where my husband is a pastor, the concept doesn’t work very well. Since both of the places where we live are also the places where we work, I just don’t see a relaxing Staycation happening.


So – won’t you join me for a Dreamcation, perhaps to Denmark or Provence,  or Alsace Lorraine?


I prefer a place where my cell phone doesn’t work and internet connections are spotty. Someplace where no texting is allowed.


Perhaps a place with so many beautiful gardens, and quaint houses, and  tasty treats that I would soon totally forget what’s happening at home.


I can see it in my mind’s eye now… a villa in the south of France…


…or a half-timbered chalet in Alsace.


I promise you – the views alone will open a window to a whole new world!


Perhaps we will take in a flower market in Germany…


…or explore  a village here or there or anywhere, as long as it’s somewhere I’ve never been before.


Or perhaps you’d like to join me for a taste of Swiss chocolat?


I hear the patisseries in France are beyond compare.


Dreaming is my specialty, after all. It’s what makes me a good writer.  Won’t you please join me?


Sherrie Hansen is the author of 8 novels set in locales as diverse as Denmark, Scotland, the French Riviera, and Embarrass, Minnesota. Her books are available at the Blue Belle Inn B&B and Tea House, where she spends her days, all major online venues, and at http://www.SecondWindPublishing.com. All photos in this article were taken by Sherrie Hansen on her last trip to Europe in 2010.


Filed under Sherrie Hansen, Travel, writing

What I Learned From Angela Merkel (and Other Surprising Lessons from Forbes’ 100 Most Powerful Women) by Nicole Eva Fraser

AngelaMerkel laughing in groupSurprising Lessons
from Forbes’ 100 Most Powerful Women

…in which I dig beneath the veneer to find anecdotes that surprise and inspire.



At fifty-something, I find myself deeply longing for “wise elders” and peers—women I can learn from and turn to for spiritual and practical inspiration.

Recently I came across the latest Forbes 100 Most Powerful Women. The Forbes bios don’t dig deep, so I did—and in the process of my research, I uncovered anecdotes about Angela Merkel’s surprising wicked wit.

That led me to wonder what more I could learn from these 100 Powerful Women if only I dug through the media spins to uncover more of their real stories.

Here’s a sampling of the inspiration I found.


????????What I learned from Angela Merkel:
Zing them with your wit.

Angela Merkel is considered by Forbes to be The Most Powerful Woman in the World. Since 2005 she has served as Chancellor of Germany, the first woman in that elected position, and is considered the backbone of the European Union.

I found very little on the record of Merkel’s personality in either her public or private roles. As Chancellor, she isn’t flashy. Her political speeches are uninspired, some would say crushingly boring. They are usually delivered with a deadpan expression in a near-monotone. Independent

She also eschews the trappings of power and lives a simple, quiet life with her second husband, a reclusive chemistry professor (Merkel herself has a doctorate in physical chemistry). She is modest. She does her own shopping at supermarkets. She lives in the apartment in central Berlin that she occupied before becoming chancellor. CSMonitor

I kept digging—and was delighted to discover Angela Merkel has a wicked sense of humor. I applaud her surprising, unapologetic, quicksilver wit—because when it comes to edgy one-liners, I either bite my tongue for fear of getting myself in trouble, or I blurt them out, then tremble with apologies for fear of offending some delicate genius or another.

A few examples of Merkel’s humor:

She’s known to mimic the leaders she deals with, from former US President George W. Bush to Russian President Vladimir Putin. When she was once asked to say what Germany, her homeland, evoked in her – clearly a journalistic query to elicit a rare sound bite – she answered, deadpan, “I think of well-sealed German windows.” CSMonitor

Wolfgang Nowak was once an adviser to former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, from the opposition Social Democratic Party (SPD). Mr. Nowak says that he was once asked to moderate a meeting among bankers, industrialists, and (Chancellor Merkel’s) advisers. He was struck, he says, that her aides didn’t participate during the debate. Afterward he thanked the attendees and told Merkel that, when he was a presidential adviser, he talked often during meetings. “That’s why your party is no longer in power,” she quipped. CSMonitor 

(Merkel) let this slip when she appeared in the Chancellor’s office to see the unveiling of a portrait of Gerhard Schröder, her predecessor and erstwhile enemy: “I knew I’d see the day on which Schröder was strung up.” Independent



What I learned from Dilma Rousseff:
Do the crime, do the time, endure, and transform yourself

Dilma Rousseff, 66, is president of Brazil, “the world’s seventh-largest national economy with a GDP of nearly $2.4 trillion” (Forbes) and the host country to this year’s World Cup and the Olympic Games in 2016. Last fall she famously cancelled a state visit with the U.S. after learning (thanks to Edward Snowden) that the NSA was intercepting her emails.

The daughter of a Bulgarian communist exile, Rousseff earned a Bachelor of Arts in economics. She served as Brazil’s Secretary of the Treasury and Secretary of Energy before accepting the job of chief of staff for President Lula da Silva, whom she succeeded.

That resume doesn’t mention her most extraordinary qualification: at age 19 Rousseff left home and became a political radical fighting the military government with car bombs and bank robberies; after her arrest at age 22, military officials tortured her with electric shocks before sending her to prison for three years; when she was released in 1972, she was physically—but not spiritually—broken.

Dilma Rousseff’s journey from ex-con to president of Brazil started there.

Forbes says that Rousseff doesn’t “marvel much at her improbable journey from prisoner to president. For her time and country, she says, it’s typical, ‘the 1968 generation.’”

So, not only did she oppose the all-powerful, do the unthinkable, and survive the unsurvivable—she simply shrugs it all off as a Sixties thing. No big deal to get tortured by the military, do your prison time, and reinvent yourself.

I want to be that centered, to possess that strength of self; to toss past horrors over my shoulder like spilled salt and walk on, confident I can achieve anything.


Melinda Gates

What I learned from Melinda Gates:
Always ask to hear a person’s “when we first fell in love” stories

Melinda Gates’ presence and power are staggering. She has cemented her dominance in philanthropy and global development to the tune of $3.4 billion in giving in 2012 (most recent data available) and more than $26 billion in grant commitments since she founded the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with her husband in 1998.(Forbes)

I’ve read and heard many interviews with Melinda Gates, am always inspired, admiring, and a bit overwhelmed by her combined superpowers of brilliance, compassion, international philanthropic dominance, personal fitness (she runs marathons and climbs mountains), marriage, and motherhood.

My feeling of overwhelm made it hard for me to relate to Gates on a human level—to connect with her instead of feeling so distant (and secretly inferior).

I wanted to break through that barrier—and knew if I could, my heart and mind would both benefit; I would better understand her sense of purpose, and be better energized for my own.

Eventually I uncovered a rare example of Melinda Gates sharing a personal anecdote:

“So just to take you back a little bit in time when Bill and I were first dating, which was very briefly after I was at Microsoft in 1987,we were in that getting to know one another phase, right, and so when you’re getting to know one another phase, you’re trying a lot of new things together and I was at the store late one night, I think it was at a drug store picking up some stuff and I happened to go by the aisle where there are puzzles. And I thought ‘hey, this is something my family has always enjoyed doing which are puzzles. Maybe – I don’t really know if Bill likes puzzles, but I will take one home and see what he thinks, right?’…” (click here to read the full transcript or watch the video)

And with that story, Melinda Gates morphed in my mind from rather intimidating to refreshingly real—a wonderful quality in a wise peer.

Coming on July 5th: More Surprising Lessons from Forbes’ 100 Most Powerful Women


Nicole Eva Fraser is the author of The Hardest Thing in This Worldreleased by Second Wind Publishing in October 2013, and I Don’t Think It’s That Simple, forthcoming in Fall 2014. She is developing two new nonfiction projects: Love, Loss and Legacy: 7 Influential Women Share Their Stories, and the personal memoir Search and Recovery: Stories of My Life.



Filed under writing

In Search of Inspiration… A European Adventure by Sherrie Hansen

In exactly 10 days, my husband and I will be leaving for Europe. We’re going for a much needed break, a vacation, to see the sights. But we’re also going in search of inspiration.

We’ll be flying into Stuttgart, Germany on April 6, where we’ll be connecting with an online friend – in person – for the first time.  While staying with her, we hope to enjoy seeing her neighboring areas – Rothenburg, Baden Baden, Strasbourg, France – and wherever she wants to take us. I haven’t been back to Germany since I lived there (1977-1980) and I can’t wait to see it again, especially through her eyes.

On April 11th, we will be picking up our rental car and leaving for Augsburg, where I lived for three years. I’m sure the town and surrounding countryside will have changed immensely, but I look forward to visiting my favorite haunts (those that still exist, and that I am lucky enough to find)! We’ll be staying at the Landgasthof Lindermayr.

On the evening of April 12, we will be at the Schloss Hotel Swiss Chalet on Lake Lucerne in Switzerland. If you are interested, you can have a peek.

April 13, we will be spending the night along the Italian Riviera near Genoa, at Hotel Villa Bonera.

April 14, 15,and 16, we will be staying at the wonderful Le Mas Perreal B&B in Provence, France.

On April 17, we head north again, stopping for the night at Le jardin d’ Elisa.

April 18th, we’ll be back in Stuttgart to say good-bye to Cristina. Then, on April 19th, we fly to Copenhagen, Denmark to see our Danish relatives in Hillerod and Slangerup. We’ll be staying at Rose-House. We leave to fly home on the 23rd, so we should have a lot of time to see our cousins, explore the area around Copenhagen, and even take a day trip to Sweden.

I have just finished Water Lily, the second book of my Maple Valley trilogy, which follows Stormy Weather. In fact, I just sent it off to my publisher (a wonderful feeling). The last book, Merry-Go-Round, is written in rough draft form, and needs a lot of revisions. As soon as I’ve completed it, I plan to move to Europe, at least in my mind.

I’ve already written a book set in Tobermory, Scotland called Blue Belle of Scotland. It is almost ready to submit. A second in the series, Wild Rose of Scotland, is about 1/3 of the way done, and was inspired after we stumbled upon St. Conan’s Kirk on Loch Awe, a wonderful church in the Scottish countryside. I really should finish itas soon as I’m done with Merry-Go-Round …

And then… who knows which of the countries or gasthofs we visit will become the setting for my next book…? I am so ready to be inspired… so open to new ideas… just waiting for the person, scene or occurence that will spark my imagination… and result in the birth of a new story.  I have no idea if it will occur in Germany, Switzerland, Italy, France, Denmark, or Sweden – maybe all of the above. But I know it will be there – the kernel of insight, a gem of wisdom, a beautiful vista – something will call out to me and an idea will be born.

Have you had a similar experience when traveling? If so, I’d love to hear where your story idea was born!


Filed under Sherrie Hansen, writing