Hot Oregon Summer – Berlin Next

Gendarmenmarkt Berlin –

Gardening and Wildfires

It’s been a restful, contemplative summer in Oregon working in my garden with deer, wild turkeys, annoying yellow jackets, and a stray Gothic-looking black cat. Sadly, dry and windy conditions combined with record-breaking heat resulted in raging wildfires all around us.

Garden Visitor

Cute Stray Cat

The massive Carr Fire near the California / Oregon border created terrifying “fire tornadoes“. They occur when a fire acquires “vertical vorticity and forms a whirl”. Fire tornadoes can “grow to gargantuan size with winds of over 90 mph”.

Fire Tornado –

Carr Fire Chopper – The Mercury News Bay Area

The Carr Fire ignited in late July. A month later, after “torching more than 200,000 acres,” it’s about 90 percent contained!  Smoke from fires in Oregon, California, Washington, and nearby Colorado and Canada creates a surreal aura, bringing an eerie atmospheric haze, poor air quality, and vivid sunrises and sunsets.

Wildfire Sunset San Francisco Bay –

Wildfire Smoke at Sunrise – Jonathan Hayward Canadian Press

Brave Wildfire Fighter – Charlie Nash Photography

Next Long Trip

I’ve started getting into the specifics of my next travel adventure. No matter what, this time I’m traveling with one piece of luggage!

Berlin Boroughs and Districts

Like in 2017, I’ll begin in Europe and eventually make my way back to South Africa. I decided to start in Berlin – a new city for me. I’ve studied Berlin’s East and West boroughs and have a few leads for rental apartments in well-located areas near attractions and transportation – Mitte, Charlottenburg-WilmersdorfFriedrichshain-Kreuzberg, and Neukölln. Rents are reasonable, and the apartments look comfortable.

Museum Island River Spree – Stock Photo

Return to South Africa

I’m apprehensive about violence in many parts of Africa – Congo, Mali, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, et al. Although I’ve never experienced violence during my travels in Africa, but six cities in South Africa – Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth, Pietermaritzburg, Rustenburg, and Johannesburg – made the top ten list of the most dangerous cities on the African continent. Xenophobic related violence in South Africa is disturbing. Here in the US, we clearly have our own problems and brand of political tension, civil unrest, violence, and a vast chasm between “left versus right” ideologies…

Berlin Cathedral – 

Thankfully Day Zero in Cape Town’s drought is now pushed out beyond 2019, but the government’s move toward land expropriation without compensation is a concern. More than two decades after the end of apartheid, land ownership remains a “highly emotive” subject for South Africans – that may be an understatement. According to the ruling ANC government, white people own 72 percent of private land, black people 4 percent, and other ethnic groups 24 percent.

Berlin Cathedral at Museum Island –

Land expropriation is said to be “the most pressing social issue in the country”. However, some think high crime, corruption, and the “triple-time-bomb of poverty, unemployment, and inequality” are the real issues keeping South Africans awake at night.

Kayelitsha Township Outside Cape Town – Dan Kitwood Getty Images

Julius Malema Leader Economic Freedem Fighters (EFF) -blouinnews

Julius Sello Malema Leader Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) –

The ANC-led government and members of the militant, aggressive Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party differ in their approach to land expropriation.


South Africa’s EFF – founded in 2013 and led by outspoken Julius Sello Malema – is a self-proclaimed “radical leftist, anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist movement that draws inspiration from the broad Marxist-Leninist tradition”.


Mmusi Maimane – Leader Democratic Alliance

The Democratic Alliance (DA) – the ANC’s official opposition and second largest political party – accuses both the ANC and EFF of “misleading the public on land expropriation”. They claim to have the best land-reform plan. DA leader Mmusi Maimane says, “there can be no new dawn for South Africa until the ANC is out of power“.

My extended South African visa expires in 2020 – a regular entry (tourist) visa issued at the airport is good for 90 days. I haven’t decided whether to pursue the rigorous renewal process. The “retirement visa” has allowed me to make long trips (up to five years) to explore and better understand South Africa. I especially enjoy the Western Cape, hiking Table Mountain, volunteer work with young children, and vibrant Cape Town – a special and dear place to me. South Africa is a strikingly beautiful but complex and sometimes difficult country that can’t possibly be understood without spending extended time there.

Unter den Linden by Night –

During this period of rapid change, the National Development Plan (NDP) is the country’s detailed proposal addressing key issues for uniting South Africans.The lofty NDP goals to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality are to be implemented by 2030. What little I know of the NDP, it seems overwhelming, but I’m digressing – back to Berlin

Clouds Over Table Mountain from Signal Hill Cape Town – Erik Pronske Getty Images


The NDP’s goal is to “unite South Africans, unleash the energies of its citizens, grow an inclusive economy, build capabilities, and enable the state and leaders to work together to solve complex problems”…


Staatsoper Unter den Linden

Berlin State Opera Staatsoper Unter den Linden – Wikipedia

Berlin This Fall

I plan to arrive in Berlin in September. Their fall weather is much like Oregon’s with cool but mild temperatures. When winter comes and it starts getting really cold, I’ll move south – not sure where yet. I’m considering exploring new places versus returning to more familiar areas. New countries of interest include Romania and Albania, but Italy and Spain also have moderate winter climates.

Berlin Brandenburg Gate at Dusk –

I’m looking for a three-month rental apartment in the Berlin-Mitte borough, the central section of former East Berlin. “Before the war and division of the city, Mitte was the center of Berlin. It’s regained its former pre-eminence to such an extent that many visitors never see the western side of the city.”

Bode Museum Mitte –


Mitte is the oldest and most historic part of Berlin with many cultural attractions and “ever-expanding restaurant, club, and arts scenes”.


Strandbar at Bode Museum Mitte

Mitte begins at Potsdamer Platz and the Brandenburg Gate on the east side of Tiergarten Park. The grand boulevard, Unter den Linden, is lined with 18th- and 19th-century palaces and monuments.

Mitte – VanDam StreetSmart Maps

Tiergarten Park –

Komische Opera House Berlin –

I’m excited to attend theater performances and the Berlin opera! Berlin is teeming with performing arts theaters, cabarets, and clubs. The Staatsoper Unter den Linden, Berlin’s main opera house, and the Komische Oper, the third largest, are both in Mitte. Berlin’s Philharmonic Season begins in late September. Other major attractions in the area include Gendarmenmarkt, a neoclassical square, Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathedral), and Museumsinsel (Museum Island) with five major museums. Frivolous activities that top my list are – mingling with locals, hanging out in cafés, overnight side trips, and exploring less-traveled backstreets.

Christmas Berlin – 

Germany’s festive Christmas Markets are legendary. These are the top five:

  1. Weihnachtszauber at the Gendarmenmarkt
  2. Berliner Weihnachtszeit at Roten Rathaus
  3. Wintertraum am Alexa
  4. Winterwelt am Potsdamer Platz
  5. Weihnachtsmarkt am Gedächtniskirche

Christmas Markets Berlin –

I don’t speak German but am learning key phrases and pronunciation rules hoping I don’t butcher the language too much. During past travels in Germany, English was spoken everywhere. Mehr später…

Monbijou Park Embankment River Spree

Oregon Respite

Enjoying every moment of my quiet Oregon respite!

Plants in bloom, deer and squirrels everywhere, and the wild turkeys are in mating season (I think). Every time I see a spectacular tom strutting his stuff, I don’t have a camera… Their gobble is impressive and loud.

Wild Tom Turkey

I’m planning the next travel adventure but cherishing the sleepy, wonderful rest and tranquility of Oregon – to be followed by more exciting foreign destinations!

Oregon Ice Storm

Mother Nature had her way with Oregon this week as plunging temperatures and freezing rain delivered havoc with an onslaught of fallen trees and damaged power lines. We love our trees but they come with a price. Beautiful icy vistas were the unexpected outcome of the treacherous weather!

My area in the south hills was without power long enough to get everyone’s attention. The severe cold coupled with the sound of falling branches and cracking, splitting tree trunks continues. Temperatures remain in the 20s to low 30s as we listen to the sound of occasional thawing icicles falling on the roof. It’s unnerving being surrounded by frozen, skyscraper-sized trees bending low from a heavy coating of ice.

Side of House

Side of House

I ventured out yesterday and delighted in the beauty of dramatic skies and sunshine casting a halo-like glow on the ice-laden trees! It was like being inside a magnificent ice palace. Too dangerous to stop for photos while driving I managed to photograph a favorite area near my home – photography does not capture the magnificent show!

Cleanup begins as soon as things thaw out a bit. So far my roof and skylights have survived unscathed but maybe it’s too early to say.  Can’t help thinking about the beautiful beaches and warm summer weather back in Cape Town!

Cape Perpetua Hike Oregon

Cape Perpetua Oregon

Cape Perpetua Oregon

Enjoyed a gorgeous Indian Summer day along the Central Oregon Coast yesterday! Since returning from my long trip to South America in June I’ve been hiking mostly nearby places – Mt. Pisgah and Spencer Butte. Yesterday I joined the Obsidians for a beautiful hike in the old growth forest above Cape Perpetua – it’s about a 1.5 hour drive. We hiked for almost 4 hours, first deep in the woods and then along a ridge overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The weather was spectacular!

Chanterelle Mushroom

Chanterelle Mushroom

Wisdom Tree

Coastal Vista

Deep in the Woods

Some in the group collected chanterelle mushrooms and we finished the day with late lunch in Yachats, a small seaside town. Fantastic weather and great company!

Oregon Bach Festival 2015


Johann Sebastian Bach

Last night I attended an Oregon Bach Festival (OBF) concert at the Hult Center. The OBF is a University of Oregon event that celebrates the works of composer Johann Sebastian Bach.

This year the festival runs from June 25th through July 12th with a fantastic variety of summer concerts and guest artists, including non-Bach-related programs. The OBF focuses on a choral-orchestral repertoire and educational activities such as a conducting master class with participants from all over world and a Youth Choral Academy.


Anton Bruckner

The concert last night was spectacular!  It featured the music of three composers – Anton Bruckner, Johann Sebastian Bach, and Johannes Brahms. The Bach and Bruckner pieces featured several guest soloists, Strangeland Family Youth Choral Academy, and the Berwick Chorus of the OBF. Matthew Halls was brilliant conducting the orchestra. Each piece of dynamic music was performed beautifully!

Johannes Brahms

e OBF began in 1970 led by German conductor Helmuth Rilling and Royce Saltzman, former president of the American Choral Directors Association. Initially, it was an informal series of classes and concerts at the University of Oregon. The concerts expanded to include full-scale choral-orchestral performances.

Matthew Halls

Matthew Halls OBF Artistic Director

In 2007, the festival included concerts throughout Oregon, including Portland’s Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall and Bend’s Tower Theatre. OBF collaborates with other regional arts organizations, including the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Portland Baroque Orchestra, and Eugene Ballet. The festival is a joyous event and an amazing venue for a small city like Eugene.

Berwick Chorus

Berwick Chorus of the OBF

In 2014 British conductor and keyboardist Matthew Halls succeeded Helmuth Rilling as OBF’s Artistic Director. Halls has made “significant conducting debuts with the Houston Symphony, Bach Collegium Stuttgart, Washington D.C. National Symphony Orchestra, Toronto Symphony, Berlin Radio Symphony, and Frankfurt Radio Symphony, as well as founding and leading the pioneering Retrospect Ensemble”. Halls has an impressive career and these are but a few of his engagements in North America, Canada, and worldwide.

Halls is known for “probing, vibrant interpretations of music of all periods”. In his mid 30s, Halls is one of the most brilliant and interesting conductors I have ever observed. His passion and talent is visible and it’s such a joy to watch him conduct.

Strangeland Family Youth Choral Academy

Strangeland Family Youth Choral Academy

The OBF is donor-supported with activities primarily at Eugene’s Hult Center for the Performing Arts and at the University of Oregon’s School of Music & Dance, Beall Hall. This June the OBF launched a new historically informed performances (HIP) orchestral academy led by Matthew Halls and guest director Masaaki Suzuki (founder/director of the Bach Collegium Japan). The three-week orchestral program is open to students and young professionals between the ages of 21 to 35.

Masaaki Suzuki

Next week I’ll attend another dramatic OBF concert featuring a suite from Igor Stravinsky’s Pulcinella, Mozart’s Symphony No. 25, and Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass. Masaaki Suzuki conducts the symphony and it’s sure to be another thrilling performance!

Home Again

From the Hammock

From the Hammock

My Home – Poem by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

This is the place that I love the best,
A little brown house, like a ground-bird’s nest,
Hid among grasses, and vines, and trees,
Summer retreat of the birds and bees.

The tenderest light that ever was seen
Sifts through the vine-made window screen–
Sifts and quivers, and flits and falls
On home-made carpets and gray-hung walls.

All through June the west wind free
The breath of clover brings to me.
All through the languid July day
I catch the scent of new-mown hay.

The morning-glories and scarlet vine
Over the doorway twist and twine;
And every day, when the house is still,
The humming-bird comes to the window-sill.

In the cunningest chamber under the sun
I sink to sleep when the day is done;
And am waked at morn, in my snow-white bed,
By a singing bird on the roof o’erhead.

Better than treasures brought from Rome,
Are the living pictures I see at home–
My aged father, with frosted hair,
And mother’s face, like a painting rare.

Far from the city’s dust and heat,
I get but sounds and odors sweet.
Who can wonder I love to stay,
Week after week, here hidden away,
In this sly nook that I love the best–
This little brown house like a ground-bird’s nest?



Home in Oregon for a few weeks now. Surveying the surrounding summer landscape it feels like living in a tree house. The only word that comes to mind is “green”. The deer, raccoon, squirrel, and wild turkey populations increased substantially during the 6 months I was traveling in South America.

Sadly none of them made it to the photo shoot this morning! At last count there were about 20 little turkeys following their mother and a large raccoon family with several new babies.



Woods Behind

Woods Behind

Eastern Oregon Hiking

Strawberry Mountain

Strawberry Mountain Wilderness

Mariposa Lily

Mariposa Lily

“The terrain in Eastern Oregon is completely different from Oregon west of the Cascade Mountains. Words used to describe it are desert, cattle ranches, wheat ranches, pine forests, wilderness, remote, sparsely populated to unpopulated, and in parts extremely rugged. You can drive for miles in some areas and not see another car, human being, or house.”

Wallowa Mountains

Wallowa Mountains

The description above is appropriate for Eastern Oregon where I recently spent time hiking, enjoying the scenery, and visiting friendly communities along the way. Mountain ranges in the area include the Elkhorn, Strawberry, Wallowa, and Blue Mountains. The area is popular with hikers, backpackers, cyclists, campers, and fishermen. The scenery has rich history and abundant wildlife and vegetation. My favorite – mountain lakes, streams, and waterfalls – are nature’s special jewels.

Strawberry Falls

Strawberry Falls

Strawberry Lake

Strawberry Lake

Eastern Oregon covers almost 40 percent of the State. Tourists enjoy big skies and unspoiled natural beauty in a peaceful environment which produces a never-ending feast for the eyes. Wildflowers include Buttercups, Mariposa Lily, Shooting Star, Indian Paint Brush, and Yarrow. Wild berries, including Huckleberry, Gooseberry, and Thimble Berry, are abundant.

Meadow Near Enterprise

Meadow Near Enterprise

Wallowa Butterfly

Wallowa Copper Butterfly

Obsidian Summer Camp was about a 300 mile drive and we passed through Bend, Prineville, Mitchell, Dayville, and John Day. This year camp was at Logan Valley in the Malheur National Forest which is part of the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness. We took our time on the way stopping for lunch in Bend, visiting the colorful John Day Fossil Beds, and hiking trails of the spectacular Painted Hills.

Painted Hills

Painted Hills

The Strawberry Mountain Wilderness supports a native population of elk, mule deer, antelope, black bear, sheep, coyotes, cougar, pine marten, beaver, and other wildlife. Almost 400 kinds of birds are found there, including ruffed and blue grouse, woodpeckers, nutcrackers, eagles, hawks, and many more. August isn’t an ideal month for bird watching but the birders in our group spotted many birds and butterflies.

Hikers on the higher more strenuous hikes saw mountain sheep and goats. Curious California Big Horns surrounded one hiking group when they stopped to eat their lunch. The close-and-personal encounter delighted them and is a rare experience! One hiker saw a bear and many spotted deer, coyote, marmots, and chipmunks.

Hiker's Break

Hikers Taking a Break

Desert Landscape

High Desert Landscape

Lostine Corridor Creek

Lostine Corridor Creek

The weather was warm but pleasant with afternoon thunderstorms often accompanied by lightning. The days began with breakfast at 7:30 a.m. followed by hikes of varying difficulty. Accessing some of the remote trail heads involved driving on rugged mountain back roads. Because of the heat and altitude, I picked moderate hikes of around 6 – 7 miles. My favorite was to Strawberry Lake and Falls – both breathtakingly!

Indian Paint Brush

Indian Paint Brush

Several of us spent a day exploring nearby towns and historical sites like the Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site in John Day. Most evenings we sat around a large campfire and listened to reports summarizing hikes completed that day. The gatherings included lots of laughter, making s’mores, and sharing incredible sunsets followed by clear skies and moonlight.

We just missed the phenomenal super moon that appeared on August 10th. According to astronomers it was the second of three consecutive super moons this summer. The first was on July 12 and the final show will be September 9.  Super moons appear bigger and brighter and take place when the moon becomes full at the same time it’s closest to us in its orbit around Earth. A big, clear mountain sky is one of the best places to admire the moon.


Wild Yarrow

After summer camp some of us continued on to the Wallowa Mountains and Eagle Cap Wilderness area near the Idaho border. We passed through small towns including Prairie City, Baker City, Joseph, Enterprise, Lostine, and Wallowa. The Wallowa tramway lifted us to the summit where we hiked the rim admiring Wallowa Lake and magnificent views of the surrounding mountains.

We missed the Wallowa County Fair in Enterprise and the Joseph Blues & Brews Festival but enjoyed outdoor markets and several live performances in local parks, restaurants, and pubs. Terminal Gravity Brewery & Pub in Enterprise is fantastic. During summer their outside seating in a grove of Aspen trees is a wonderful euphoric atmosphere.

From Wallowa Tramway

View from Wallowa Tramway

Monument Rock

Hikers Posing at Monument Rock

Active wildfires in the area were the only negative aspect of the trip. We planned to visit Imnaha and Hat Point in Hell’s Canyon overlooking the Snake River but wildfire danger forced the Oregon Forest Service (FS) to close access to the area. A river hike in the Strawberry Wilderness and one outside Wallowa were also diverted when the FS closed several hiking trails and roads leading to trail heads. On the bright side, the smoky skies created extremely colorful, dramatic sunrises and sunsets!