Sunday, June 26, 2011

Nauvoo and Carthage, IL

This is also in non-Chicago Illinois, but it deserves its own post. In the 1840s, LDS leader Joseph Smith started a settlement here on the banks of the Mississippi as a haven for LDS church members who had been driven from Missouri at gunpoint. (Yes--the Missouri lawbooks carried a Mormon extermination order until 1973.) The site of Nauvoo was swampy and marshy. They drained it and built a permanent settlement, including many brick homes and also a temple on the hill. The city was second only to Chicago in size. However, in 1846, Joseph Smith and his brother were murdered by a mob and the decision was made to leave for the western US and to find a place where the people could live in peace. The temple was destroyed by a fire and a tornado. In the intervening years, a utopian commune tried to make a go of it there, and some wine growing has been tried as well. The modern town sits slightly off of the historical site and never regained its size and importance once the Mormons left. The LDS (and to a lesser extent, the Reorganized LDS church) have built up the area as a sort of historical park. Also in 2002, the temple was rebuilt and rededicated and is today a functioning temple. It's a beautiful and fascinating place to visit, especially considering that most homebuilding on the frontier (as it was in the 1800s) consisted of rough wooden homes. Possibly the large influx of settlers from Britain in the 1840s influenced some of the building styles?

The temple during a public open house in 2002, and a copy of a "sunstone" from the temple architecture (there are sun, moon, and star designs on it for architectural interest--the glory of God is like the sun):

Old newspaper office:

Possibly Brigham Young's house:

Nauvoo House. Joseph Smith lived here and also ran it as a hotel for people coming out to the "wild west" (that Illinois was at the time) to check out the area:

A bit of living history. You can watch people do handicrafts from yesteryear here.

The jail in nearby Carthage, where Joseph and Hyrum Smith were supposedly being kept to be safe from mobbers. Unfortunately, they broke through. Joseph and Hyrum were both killed, and others in the jail were wounded.

A monument commemorating the brothers stands outside:

Non-Chicago Illinois

Listening to Hollywood or the publishing industry, you'd think the US consisted of Los Angeles, New York, and a bunch of useless flyover country. The term "flyover country" gets under my skin quite a lot. LA and NYC are actually just a small fraction of the US. Millions of Americans live anywhere but. Not every location may be for you, but it's definitely worth getting to know the rest of the country before dismissing it.

Today's sampling is from central Illinois, deep in America's heartland. Illinois is very green and flat. The soil is excellent for farming, and they produce a TON of corn and soybeans.

There are four seasons with extremes--it can get (for short amounts of time) around zero in winter,

yet soar into the 90s (with 90% humidity) in the summers.

It's also in Tornado Alley. The countryside is dotted with small towns and railroad grain elevators, and the only dips in geography occur along river beds. I notice that some people are mountain people (that would be me) and really need mountains or at least hills towering around them, with the occasional chance to be up high and see everything. But other people find mountains claustrophobic, and want wide open skies. Another mountain/western vs. prairie difference is that in the west, there is plenty of public land with trails for hiking and snowmobiling and the like. In Illinois, all the land is privately owned. You may be able to go jogging on the sidewalks in town, but hiking opportunities are...well, maybe take a vacation elsewhere. But the people in Illinois are very nice and well-educated, so if you like small town life with high educational qualities, if you like to catch fireflies and listen to cicadas in the evening, and if gardening is your favorite thing to do outside, this may be a good location for you.

Champaign and Urbana are really two sides of the same town, and together they house the state's flagship university.

UIUC has the largest library of any public university in the US, with labyrinthine levels deep underground. (This is to keep shade off the state's first experimental corn field in the middle of campus.) To enter the main stacks you have to be a graduate student; undergrads may request material from there and pick it up in the undergrad library. Nonstudents *may* be able to take a guided tour of the stacks, however. Urbana's regular public library (photo here) is ranked in the top 1% in the US as well. And Savoy (which touches the southern end of the town) has an extensive independent bookstore, Pages for All Ages. Consider ALL your reading needs taken care of here! In addition, I've never seen anywhere with as many free pianos listed in the classifieds as here.

UIUC is a large school with many excellently-ranked graduate programs, so it tends to attract a lot of international students, many of whom live in the university's family housing area.

The buildings are not well built (although work requests are addressed immediately). The university rents garden plots to students, and the city of Urbana rents garden plots to residents, so you can see large, beautiful garden plots around town. There's also a good little public bus system. Depending on where you are going, you might be surrounded by people speaking Chinese and Urdu and Spanish and Arabic. It's fun. :)

In nearby Monticello, the university owns an estate and grounds called Allerton Park.

It's quite pretty, and you can check out their web page here.

Illinois towns are the kinds of places where Halloween decorations start a month in advance, where whole neighborhoods go crazy with the Christmas lights, and where the county fair and the summer sweet corn festival are big.

For more (and much better) photos, I recommend taking a look at professional photographer Larry Kanfer's work.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Charleston, SC--Charlestown Landing

Charleston was founded in 1670, but not on the current site. They first settled on Albemarle Point on the Ashley River. The local Native Americans welcomed them at first because they were small tribes and were hoping the English would ally with them against their larger enemies. Well, it didn't work out quite the way they were hoping. The English stayed there for ten years and then moved to the peninsula they currently occupy because it was easier to defend. Today, the place is a park that you can visit. They've rebuilt some buildings (none of the originals remain), have a replica of a period boat, and also a sort of zoo where you can see the animals the settlers found when they arrived. You wouldn't expect it, but there were cougars and buffalo in SC in the 1600s. The alligators are still there, and part of the natural wildlife, not bound by the zoo boundaries.

A replica of the Adventure:

Houses currently on the property, including a wide path lined with live oaks:

Examples of what the building was like in the colonial period:

And sometimes the visitors are interesting to observe as well:

Monday, June 20, 2011

Charleston, SC--College of Charleston

The College of Charleston was founded in 1770. It sits right smack in downtown Charleston, and like so many buildings around it, it has its own historical charm. It is very much Old South. It used to be a women's college, I believe (as opposed to the Citadel, also in town, which was until a few years ago only for men). Today men and women both attend. Graduation involves the circular patch of ground in front of the Randolph building (the Cistern), and women wear white dresses. The men wear coats of some kind. Not associated with graduation in particular, whenever the trustees meet, they all wear these light colored jackets and bow ties. It's an interesting place. The buildings end up in films, too, especially this building. Just drape a Confederate flag over the railing and you're set.

As you can see, the inside is pretty swanky. This building used to house the foreign languages/classics department before it was taken over for administration.

There's even a gate post you have to pass through to get there (no one is in it anymore, though.)

The back of Randolph:

Also in the courtyard behind the building is this interesting clock:

The courtyard can be rather atmospheric on a rainy day:

A view through the gates of the university library:

Sunday, June 19, 2011

More of the Other in Germany

The Romans weren't the only foreigners to come to Germany. Today a lot of people from all over live there. Some tracks, past and present, of international residents:

Russian. There have been several waves of Russians. (Actually, there have been German settlements in Russia as well. It goes both ways.) One group of Russian settlers came with the army that was trying to chase Napoleon back to France. A group of them got tired of traveling and parked themselves in Potsdam just outside Berlin. You can see their traditional wooden houses and Russian Orthodox church here.

Then there were the Soviets after WWII. They've left their mark on Berlin and the former DDR as well.

After WWII, Germany was basically flattened, and so they invited foreign guest workers to help rebuild. Today there are something like four million Turks living there. The Turkish influence is a way of life--the most popular fast food in Germany is the Döner kebap.

Another large presence in Germany after WWII was...the Americans. Today the many military bases are due to joint projects by the two countries, not occupying forces. Here is the Stimson Memorial Chapel in Plittersdorf (a part of Bonn), which, as you can see, looks totally New England.

There are other groups, too. Germany is pretty welcoming of peaceful demonstrations, so a lot of people do them. Well, we did live there when a not-so-peaceful Kurdish demonstration happened, involving cobblestones flying through the air... But this is a peaceful hunger strike.

People come to German for all different reasons, and during a time like the World Cup, you can always see people showing their colors. You can see Sweden (yellow cross on blue) and Croatia (red, white, blue with checkered shield) here, alongside the German flags:

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Roman Germans

Everyone knows that Germany looks just like Neuschwanstein, right? Riiiight. (Actually, Neuschwanstein was due to Ludwig II of Bavaria being just a little bit crazy about fairy tales, and building things to fit his fantasies.) Or Epcot. And of course, all Germans are supposed to be blond and blue-eyed and dress in traditional outfits while they cruise the Autobahn, that one and only magical street without speed limits, as they head from Berlin to Oktoberfest. Um...

The truth is, Germany has always been a place where people of different origins mix. Slavic tribes from the east left place names and darker hair, Celts from long ago still leave their mark in freckles of modern Germans, and today's Germans include a fair population of Turks, Italians, Russians, and Czechs. If you want to eat Turkish food, definitely go to Germany!

But this is a photo blog mostly, so today we're looking at one special group to spend significant time in Germany: the Romans. Yes, they had some significant presence here. In fact, in some towns like Trier (which vies with Cologne and another city to claim the oldest city in Germany title), it's illegal to dig around much in your yard. You might find Roman artifacts and then your property will have to be declared an archaeological monument, so it's best just to let sleeping Roman coins lie.

In Bonn, we have casts of Roman grave markers all set up on the Rheinau:

In Trier, we have the Porta Nigra:

Constantine ruled from one of these buildings, which is now a Lutheran church, ironically.

The Romans also had their own entertainment in Trier. An amphitheater they could fill with water and float boats in (not pictured), as well as a variety of baths (below).

I don't have my own photos of it, but you can also look up the Limes, a wall built by the Romans to defend themselves against the "barbaric" Germans. It runs through the Taunus mountains in Hessen. And if you go to Cologne, there is a museum showing all kinds of Roman things they've dug up accidentally.

The thing is, there is always more to a place than what you think.