Are you ready for some history accompanied by pictures? Well then, get yourself a cup of tea, coffee, or if it’s that time, something a bit stronger and relax as I take you through some hidden Tuscany gems. This journey will be in a few parts. I tried to narrow it down the best I could regarding the pictures, and choosing those that represent the places we visited, along with objects or people as well.
Our road trip started from western Germany, heading south toward Austria, and then Italy—approximately a 15-hour drive. We arrived in the evening, so the later part of the journey through the mountains was in the dark, and when I say dark, I mean dark. There are no street lights to guide you on the narrow roads. And, as a warning, drive at your own risk. I believe Italian drivers consider speed limits are suggestions.
After a good night’s sleep, we woke to a sunny Tuscany. This is the place and area where we stayed.
We chose the town of Poppi in the Province of Arezzo, which is on the eastern side of Tuscany; east of Florence and Northeast of Siena. I pictured rolling hills, vineyards, and olive groves, but Tuscany is more than that. Poppi is rugged with mountains and forests, whereas other parts of Tuscany taper off into the vineyards and olive groves. Ruled by the Guidi Family from the early 1000’s until 1289, Poppi’s medieval town still embraces years gone by.
First mention of the Castle of Poppi was in 1169. A picture of an older couple looking out onto the hills
This man was painting over old lettering. I don’t know if this is a craft or what the process is called.
The next day we decided to do some hiking in the Pratomagno mountain range. The Arno River runs on both sides of this range and its highest peak is approximately 5,226 feet. Of course, we drove through the mountain range and walked 600 feet up.
This is my husband, his aunt, and Shakespeare hiking up the mountain.
And this is what we were walking toward.
There were wild horses roaming around. To my surprise, they were friendly and kept following my husband’s aunt because she had an apple in her backpack.
We did a day trip to Siena, which is about 2 hours from Poppi. The historic center is part of the the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Like many areas in Tuscany, Siena was first settled by Etruscans, approximately around 900 BC, by a tribe called the Saina. Local legend believes the town was founded by Senius and Aschius, who were the nephews of Romulus whom Rome was named after. They fled Rome after Romulus killed their father. This pottery store was built within a cave. This is a sculpture on the wall. This is the University’s courtyard. And last, a tired Shakespeare ready to crash in the car.
And this ends this part of our trip. Stay tuned for a few more Tuscany travel posts.
Oh, it’s been a crazy year, right? Between politics, social media, and natural catastrophes, it’s no wonder we’re all not twitching and aimlessly wandering about screaming obscenities. Well, maybe some of you are.
I’m going to get it out of the way, so here’s a quick run-down of my take on a few things. I don’t care for the way the U.S. politics operate with two polarized archaic parties. In my lifetime, I hope to see a change in government to include more ideas and voices (more parties) representing the ‘average’ American. For now, my blog will not comment on politics.
In the past 2-1/2 months, I’ve disconnected from social media and my life has improved. Yes, I deleted my Twitter and Facebook account. Twitter has become a bullying platform. A place where lynch mobs exist and where one can accuse, judge, and sentence someone in 140 characters. Facebook is no longer a place to share your life. It’s a dumping ground for bullying and grammatically incorrect memes. As an unknown Indie Author, this might not have been the best thing to do, but my happiness and health is much more important.
As an expat, I will continue to write about my experiences in Germany, good and bad, and make comparisons to the U.S. I’m not politically correct to the extreme, so my take on life in Germany and the U.S. might offend.
Which leads me to the last issue—opinions. I’m a believer that everyone has a voice and an opinion. As long as you’re not spewing hate, people have a right to their views. Opinions have NOT morphed into racism and hate because you don’t agree with mainstream visions. When you try to silence someone with different beliefs, you’re not only doing a disservice to them but to society. We’re all different. We have feelings about certain topics and we have a right to those feelings. It’s time we LISTEN to those opinions instead of dismissing and bullying the person.
Now onto more pleasant things that have happened this year to me. It’s been a better year. Our management company started gutting old flats a block away and a new construction project began across from where we lived. Since we have to move in early 2018 for renovations, we decided to get out quick and down the street, far enough away from the construction. It was kinda sad because it was our first flat together since we decided to make a life for ourselves in Germany. We loved the big windows and the scenery. We don’t mind where we live now. It’s okay for the next few years, until we buy land and build a home, so this is our transitional place.
For summer vacation, we drove to London (using the Chunnel). London is one of my favorite cities. There is so much to see and do there and the food markets are FABULOUS. Yes, my husband and I are into food. LOL!
After vacation, I returned full-force into revisions for my crime mystery novel, Artful Revenge, and my husband is still trying to adjust to the early hours. We’ll be driving to Tuscany and enjoying the scenery for the two weeks fall vacation. SQUEE! I love Italy.
As for blogging, I hope to slide into it slowly, and then start up regularly in 2018.
Well, that’s the quickie of my life—a bit more than 140 characters.
What have you been up to this year? Chime in about anything.
I apologize for the lack of posts—the lack of communication. This came about from a tragic, unforeseen phone call. On April 16, I received a call that my sister, Vivian Anderson, had passed away suddenly. She was 52-years old. That day, my sister had called me but we were in Holland. By the time we got home and settled, it was 9:00 pm in Germany, so I didn’t call her back. I figured I’d call her the next day. If only…
Death is profound—we immerse ourselves in anguish and reflection. Things we hadn’t thought about in decades floats to the surface of our conscious. Good and bad memories sift through continuous feelings with a few ‘what might have been’ or ‘what if’s’ tangled in between. People tell me that the pain will subside. The truth is that the pain burrows itself in my heart. I learn to live with every loss.
Four years prior, my mother passed away. My sister and I lost a piece of who we were that day. The void nudged its way in—a numbness that made whatever was important in our lives become insignificant. What we wanted before was no longer a desire. Death tends to be a turning point. We both found new meaning, new lives, in other parts of the world; hers in Arizona, and mine in Germany. Although we lived over 5,000 miles away, we kept in touch on a weekly basis. Through hardships and joy, we let each other know what was going on. We were each other’s lifeline to our mother.
When Vivian died, I not only lost my one and only sister, but the link to my mother. It pulled forth the pain hidden in my heart, adding to the current anguish. A perpetual silent suffering that will be provoked from time to time, enhancing the moment of loss, and triggering years of memories.
My sister and I shared a room. We brushed each other’s hair, played Barbies and jacks together. Teen posters of David Cassidy decorated her side of the room. A child of the 70s, she liked disco, long straight hair, and Angel blouses. I wanted to be like her. Vivian taught me how to ride a bike. She helped me get my license. I was her maid of honor in her wedding, the godmother to her first-born, and spent many years with her and the children. I loved that my sister made me such a big part of her life because it left me with so many memories.
Vivian was a strong, positive person, and in the face of conflict, she always saw the light at the end of the tunnel. She wore joy on her sleeve. She had two beautiful children, Renee and Zachary, which she was forever proud of. My sister was loving, caring, and smart when it came to the medical field. She was an EMT for many years, and the best phlebotomist you could ever have drawn your blood. While watching ER, she would rattle off what was needed for the patient before the actors did. As I worked on my current manuscript, I’d send her text messages asking her medical questions.
In 2007, we went to Gatlinburg, TN together. We had a great time with many laughs. I even convinced her, even though I was afraid of heights too, to take the ski lift up into the Smoky Mountains. I told her she might never get the opportunity again. A remembrance I’ll keep close to me forever.
I write this to you today, trying to catch up with life, making the things I put on hold somewhat relevant again. After reading this post, I hope you walk away knowing a little bit about my sister, Vivian, and a lesson about life and loss. Don’t be afraid to hug or say “I love you” to your loved ones. Don’t just text people when you have the opportunity to hear their voice. Make sure those that matter to you know it through words and action. And lastly, make every moment count.
Back in 2012, when I was still living in the States, I remember listening to the news about the people of Syria. Extremists were slaughtering hundreds of innocent women and children daily. Slaughtering. Innocence. Maybe it was because I had recently lost my mother, but this really upset and bothered me. I mentioned to several people that I didn’t understand why the U.S. or other countries weren’t helping these people. One of my friends asked, “Why should we?” In return, I said, “Because it’s the right thing to do. It isn’t any different from the Holocaust. We’re still talking about the horrors of the Nazi regime, which took place over 70-years ago, yet the horrors are still taking place today. Countries should be in there stopping these mass killings.”
Fast forward to 2015, and people are pissed, and oppose taking in refugees. I say to all citizens in the U.S. and Europe, turn your anger toward your government. If all these governments hadn’t sat on their asses for years now, letting the extremists build in strength and slaughter thousands, the people of Syria wouldn’t have left their homes. Other countries wouldn’t be arguing over taking in refugees. Wouldn’t it be smart to put out the fire instead of people fleeing and other countries feeling an economic strain?
I have spoken to several people in the U.S. regarding the refugee crisis. They heard how Germany had taken in hundreds of thousands, and could sympathize with Germans who oppose the refugee migration.
The one thing that really bothers me is when people claim fear as a reason to refuse refugees into the country because some might be terrorists. But terrorists are the least of the U.S. problems. Obama and past presidents keep talking about the horrors of mass shootings yet haven’t taken action. One should think we would have woken up after Columbine and the government should have made it a priority. Sandy Hook. Twenty killed and the others scarred for life. Government should start working on the important issues: gun control, gangs, mental illness, and illegal immigration.
Instead, mass shootings increase each year. Shootings are considered a mass shooting if 4 or more are shot and/or killed, not including the shooter. In 2015, there were over 300 mass shootings in the U.S. – http://www.shootingtracker.com/Main_Page: 367 killed and 1,317 injured.
The fear of refugee terrorists doesn’t have much validity when you look at the bigger picture. Just like Donald Trump doesn’t have much validity, but is using fear to gain ground in politics. He is suggesting the outrageous because … well, he is outrageous, just look at his hair. When we give into fear, we will wind up imploding.
The problem isn’t the refugees coming into the country, but militant extremists who had left to fight with ISIS then returned. Those people are a threat to national security, not the ones running for their lives. Make it known to all U.S. citizens and permanent residents that if anyone travels to extremist countries, they will not be allowed into the U.S. for a year and will be monitored. This doesn’t affect their rights because we already do this for diseases. Citizens are tested and quarantined regarding outbreaks, such as Ebola. Terrorism is an outbreak too.
Merriam Webster’s definition of refugee
“one that flees; especially : a person who flees to a foreign country or power to escape danger or persecution ref·u·gee·ism play \-ˌi-zəm\ noun”
I have a friend who isn’t happy about the refugee crisis. She doesn’t care for Angela Merkel, especially her decision to open Germany’s borders to the refugees. My friend and I were discussing the refugees in Germany. She started complaining about Romanians where she lives, who throw their garbage all over the place. I stopped her and said that Romanians are part of the EU. They are allowed to live in Germany as long as they can earn their keep. If not, then the government sends them back. It’s not fair or correct to lump them in with refugees. These people didn’t want to leave their countries, but had to for their own safety. They’d love to go back home. On top of suffering through the elements to get to safer lands, there are anti-refugee groups in Germany wreaking havoc on some refugee camps.
I understand the frustration (U.S. has their own welfare issues) knowing some people migrate to Germany to live off the welfare system, but those are EU migrants taking advantage of the situation. Germany has taken in around 1.1 million refugees (Syrian, Afghanistan, and Iraq). Due to slow processing, others have hopped on the coat tails of the refugees.
It’s taking so long to process these refugees, but it’s partly the local government’s fault. Where I go for my German Visa, the offices are only opened until noon, except for one day. Maybe if they extended their hours during this crisis, the processing of refugees would move much faster. Plus, tweaking the policies a bit to fit the crisis would help too. While they’re waiting, give these people some community work for a small compensation, so they’re not sitting around day in and day out. It would help them get to know where they’re at and spruce up the city. Trust me, there’s lots of garbage all over the place that could be cleaned up.
On top of slow processing, it’s mandatory for all children and teens to attend school. My husband is teaching German to one refugee class, and the school is receiving two more classes, but other teachers are teaching Physics, Math, etc. Some of my husband’s colleagues can’t believe how clueless the refugees are in their subjects. Really? How the hell is anyone supposed to take different courses when they don’t even understand the language? Concentrate on teaching German, integrate them into society, and then worry about other subjects.
The refugee crisis is frightening because of the sheer numbers pouring in. But governments, who we all vote for, are responsible for keeping us safe, along with taking care of those in desperate need. That’s why we vote for them, so we should also hold them accountable. Don’t point your finger at someone who is struggling, when chaos occurs because of poor government choices, planning, and organization.